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Not a Secret Project

I am always working on a new project, especially when a previous one fails. This time, I am mostly taking the advice of Kevin Crawford of actually writing all the text before before attempting to publish anything. (I'm in the editing phase of the current project.)

Some time ago, I mentioned the OSR Tinkerer's Toolkit and making a quarterly zine called Odd Duck. The idea is that I am testing the toolkit to come out with a different game based on the toolkit. One new game or setting will be in every issue of Odd Duck.

The rest of the pdf will have pieces of the Toolkit in smaller articles. This includes things like mini-encounters, new monsters, new magic items, spells, playable races, magic systems, and a place to discuss a particular mechanic.

For example, in issue one, the theme is Armor. There will be an encounter with naturally armored creatures. (The answer to the encounter will not be kill them all, although that is certainly one option.) There will be two new armored creatures detailed in a monster article. There will be a demonstration of using the Alternate Combat Sequence Method No. 3 that is more visual than number-crunching. Another article details the use of spidersilk and integrating spidersilk workers into a setting. Of course, there will be spells and magic items mixed in as well.

The game for issue one will be my final version of Lorica, a large vehicle game inspired by Battletech, Centurion Legion, and various mecha.

In writing the text, Lorica has changed from the various posts here. Nanites play a big roll in the repair, management, and manufacture of various machines. There are still lots of different kinds of weapons, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The system to create your own machines is still largely the same. I won't include the 50 types of mecha I have already created in the issue, but I'll publish them here on the website.

The machines themselves are not the bulky metal-and-wires mecha I loved in all our games  of Battletech growing up. Instead, the huge machines are semi-intelligent artificial life forms. The internal structure is a type of supergel that distributes weapons damage efficiently throughout the mech while nanites effect regenerative repair. The outside will still feature ceramic outer armor. In many ways, the mech will be an extension of the pilots' own body.

By the way, it uses the alternate combat rules discussed in a separate article.

There's more to come. I recently recovered a lot of gaming journals and notes that I thought I had lost. This includes a setting I sketched out called Circles of the Nine Songs as well as various psionics systems, old dungeons, MSH characters, and NPCs galore. There is plenty to write about.

One other thing is that I use Microlite20 as part of the tinker's kit. M20 is great at prototyping and it is used for the limited testing I am able to do. All in all, I think I have finally embarked on a project that is doable and sustainable. As I said, the first issue is in editing. The second issue (which is about Magic) will be the best of the Magic Project I started in January. I won't have the spell building system (that utterly failed), but I will have article about using different mechanics for types of magic systems.

Okay, maybe there is a secret project coming. It has nothing to do with Odd Duck and it will not benefit me directly at all. All I'll say is that it has to do with M20, but I'll say nothing else. Unlike Odd Duck, I don't know if I will be able to do this project like I impicture it.

Anyway, the insanely busy season is passing for me. I haven't written anything in over two months and I am ready to go. Wish me luck!

Another Stat Block for SOTU

I discovered another older ruleset where monsters/creatures have a separate, stat block from characters. In fact, it is a one line stat block, just like older editions of D&D. Granted, it is slightly longer with eight fields, but it is still much smaller than a character sheet.

Before continuing on, I discovered that Footprints #21 came out a couple weeks ago. It has nothing to do with SOTU, but it does give me a chance to say "Thank You" to Alfons, writer over at Mage of the Striped Tower. Thanks also for wishing me luck.

As far as my original point, yes, I am talking about Star Frontiers. The stat block for creatures looks something like this:
Funnel Worm: MV Slow, IM 3, RS 25, STA 200, ATT 70, DM d10, SA Hits automatically from ambush, SD Undetected until it attacks

I did not ever play this game growing up, but thanks to the folks at DWD Studios, I am enjoying reading through it. Especially with my gears spinning around Searchers of the Unknown, I was happy to see a similar dichotomy between character sheets and creature stat blocks.

Translating the block, MV is movement rate. IM is the Initiative Modifier. RS is Reaction Speed, STA is Stamina, ATT is an attack value, and DM is damage. Remembering that Star Frontiers is essentially (but not totally) a roll under d% game, this makes it a potentially very interesting alternative to SOTU. IM pertains to Initiative directly. Reaction Speed is something like a Saving Throw, but also answers the question, "Which one of you drew its weapon first?" STA can function like hit points and the Attack value is pretty self-explanatory.

As I continue to absorb the rules, that may change, but we shall see. I'm still not sure how I would roll reaction speed, or if I would at all. Anyway, I hope to present the Star Frontiers creature stat block as a variation of Searchers of the Unknown.

As far as the original rules that I am working on, I believe I have a bunch of spells 80% converted for use in SOTU. Work continues on. I hope to post something more definitive by this weekend.

That's all for now. More in the next post.

First Look at Searchers of the Unknown

Searchers of the Unknown is a great concept for a lite game. Characters use a OSR D&Dish stat block, just like the monsters. The original SOTU rules define only fighters, so it offers limited options for characters. Basically, you can be either a Fighter or a Thief. This limitation allows for a tightly focused ruleset for the roles required in the game. Magic is implied to be a scroll, potion, ring, or miscellaneous magic item type of thing. The rules state very early on that Clerics and Wizards do not go delving in dungeons.

Like many mini-RPGs, add-ons and expansions began appearing all over the net. Some changed the ruleset to Target20 and D20, some added spell casters, and others changed genres. You can get a collection of these expansions on Randall's website here. Just like Microlite20 Legacy, a small ruleset begs for filling in perceived gaps. I am not immune to this desire.

When I look back on the history of D&D, the rationale for the creature stat block was partly to conserve space. A bigger reason, though, was that monsters function differently from characters. Up until 3e, characters had stats, but creatures did not. Making monsters was an entirely different process from creating characters. For SOTU, this means that there is a shift away from this separation. Creating characters is a lot more similar to creating monsters.

Looking at character creation this way, how do you create characters with different abilities without importing rules from the players' sections of d20 or OSR games? SOTU is based on D&D, but it is a different game with different mechanics. The biggest change comes in determining success with stunts. In exploring SOTU, I'm going to add-in special abilities like Turning Undead, Potion Creation, and more into the stunts rules. Part of the appeal of the original game is that characters can do just about anything but cast spells. I aim to change that as little as possible. The obvious exception is that I'm going to provide a way for spell casters to escape their cloisters or laboratories and get into dungeons.

It's easy to say something is missing from SOTU. Like I said earlier, its size invites house rules and sub-systems. However, in any stat block from D&D based games, many monsters have something equivalent to a Special field that demonstrates some ability that is different from just the listed attack. For example, medusae can turn others to stone, dragons have breath weapons, mummies have a rotting disease, etc. Monsters of the Unknown (part of the collection mentioned earlier) adds a sentence below certain creatures to represent special abilities. For now, I'm just going to add a field with a three or four word description of that power instead of a small paragraph below the stat block. In other words, I'm adding a stat to the block.

So how do we know what the special ability does? The different supplements offer contradictions with each other (and the SOTU core document) about various abilities. Spells in SOTU have limited choices for range (one dungeon room), area of effect (one dungeon room or 1 person per caster level), and duration (one fight or one day). Other supplements, however, provide range in feet, duration in various units of time, and other variations. Mutant Scavengers of the Ruined Earth, however, offers 20 special abilities, called mutations, with effects defined within the constraints of the original rules. Starting with these 20 special abilities, it should be possible to offer spells in the same way. Coming up with powers, though, will likely require a second page with "reference" information. Maybe I can shrink it down.

Here's the bottom line: SOTU is a very interesting experiment. I plan on playing with it to see what I can invent. I want to add spell casters, but beyond that, I think it is possible to add a variety of player abilities without expanding the rules with a bunch of sub-systems. I also want to stay as close as possible to the original rules. Why? SOTU really is a different game from D&D or Swords & Wizardry. It is not a straight clone and the mechanics for certain things are quite different. I want to see if it is possible to create different games and supplements for it. Don't get me wrong, the existing add-ons are great. I may not be able to write anything nearly as good, but all the fun is in the making, right?

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