Monday, February 22, 2016

Spada Sabre: A New Weapon for White Star

"Challenge accepted." Don Diego Astronomo's perfectly waxed moustache lifted in a sneer as he ran a single gloved hand down his cheek where Captain Orion had struck him. He was no man's fool and such a public outrage would not go unsatisfied from the likes of this rabble.

Orion's blue eyes flashed when he realized what he'd commited himself to in a moment of anger. He steeled himself. Perhaps Astronomo would choose pistols, mono-swords or fisticuffs. But in his heart, the Captain knew it was futile. Astronomo was the best duelist in the Sterling System and here at Lord Adlar's christening ball for the new Galatus Space Station, Orion was about to be made into an example.

Three words sealed Orion's fate as they slipped cool and calm into the air. "Spada Sabres at dawn."

When the galaxy was ruled by more noble men and Star Knights were not outlaws, a small sect of idle nobles from the civilized star systems of the galaxy took up danerous pursuits. Dueling was common enough among the listless rich, but mono-swords were broad bladed weapons favored by military men and did not suit aristocrats looking to play at being swordsmen. They looked instead to the flashing blade of the Star Sword. But whether it was a simple lack of discipline, a desire not to outright kill one another, or simply wanting to set themselves apart from the more genuinely noble Star Knights, these rich playboys and dilettantes developed a new weapon: The Spada Sabre.

Built in a fashion similar to Star Swords, the Spada Sabre appears to be little more than an ornate sword hilt until it is activated by pressing a small button on its grip. In an instant a thin telescoping rod of metal springs forth from the handle and begins to crackle with electrical energy. The weight of the electrical rod allows those able to wield mono-swords and other modern melee weapons the ability to wield the weapon without the training required to fight with the deadlier Star Sword.

In addition, the Spada Sabre does not inflict deadly wounds. Instead it renders its victim unconscious from the shock. This meant that duelists could play at being warriors and retain their honor without killing one another. Soon Spada Sabre Fencing Academies sprang up across the galaxy and numerous fighting styles were developed. Spada Dueling has fallen out of favor over the years, but among some noble circles it still remains the method of choice to solve matters of honor without bloodshed or death.

Any character class able to use the mono-sword or Star Sword is able to use the Spada Sabre. Characters who are not able to wield the Spada Sabre can train at a Spada Fencing School for three months gain the ability to wield this weapon. Such training costs 1000 credits and requires the character to sacrifice 500 Experience Points.

Spada Sabre
100 cr
2 lbs
*Spada Sabres inflict non-lethal damage. Any character reduced to 0 hit points by a Spada is rendered unconcious for one turn. Spada Sabres can have a "inhibiter chip" installed for an 100 credits, which allows them to switch between lethal and non-lethal damage by flipping a switch on the weapon's handle.

Spada Sabre Training Schools
While many different styles of Spada Dueling exist across the galaxy here are a few examples. A character wishing to learn one of the Spada Styles must find a teacher who is already a Master of the style they wish to learn and earn the right of apprenticeship. Sometimes this can be as simple as paying the required fees, but many Master Spada Sabre Fencers require their students to prove themselves worthy through rigirous training, heroic deeds, or by performing a great favor for the Fencing Master. This is in addition to the listed cost in credits and experience points.
After a character has spent the necessary time and sacrificed the listed amount of XP for each rank in a style they gain the benefits described below when fighting with a Spada Sabre. However, a character cannot benefit from more than one style at any given time - though they can change between any known styles at the beginning of each combat round before initiative is rolled.

Spada and Cloak
When fighting in the Spada and Cloak style, the fencer wields a Spada Sabre in their primary hand while using a long cloak for distraction and deception, keeping their foe off balance. Masters of this technique are even capable of wrapping their foe in the cloak in the middle of combat, immobilizing the target before they move in to strike.
250 XP
500 cr
Catch the Eye: By distracting their opponent with a wave of their cloak, the fencer is able to strike first in hopes of defeating their foe before retaliation can occur. They gain a +1 bonus to Initiative when fighting in one-on-one duels.
500 XP
750 cr
Billowing Cloak: Keeping their cloak in constant motion they are able to make sure their opponent remains unfocused and off-balance. The fencer spends one round waving his cloak about in this fashion. Their opponent must make a saving throw or suffer a -2 penalty on all “to-hit” rolls for the next 1d6 rounds.
1000 XP
1000 cr
Gift Wrapped: The fencer manages to wrap their cloak completely around an opponent, preventing them from attacking for a short period. The fencer spends one round wrapping the cloak about their opponent. The opponent must then make a saving throw or be unable to attack for 1d6-3 (minimum 1) rounds.

Ladron de Spada

This style focuses on leaving an opponent without a weapon. After all, if an enemy has no Spada Sabre he cannot possibly win a duel. This style is highly effective, but is regarded by many as cowardly and dishonorable. Most practitioners simply think of it as pragmatic an effective.
150 XP
100 cr
Defensive Posture: The basics of Ladron de Spada focus on defense and avoiding being hit while a fencer sets his opponent up for the disarm. The fencer receives a -1 [+1] bonus to their AC in melee combat.
300 XP
500 cr
Disarm: The fencer attempts to disarm an opponent they are facing in melee combat. If the fencer makes a successful melee attack with their Spada, the target must make a saving throw or immediately drop whatever weapon or object they are holding. Targets holding an object in two hands receive a +2 bonus to this saving throw.
1200 XP
1000 cr
Blade-Catcher: This very difficult technique allows a fencer to not only disarm their opponent, but also catch the weapon their opponent drops by sending it sailing into the air and landing in their own hand. The fencer must make a successful melee attack. The opponent suffers no damage if the attack is successful, but must make a saving throw or any object they are holding in their hand is immediately knocked free and lands in the fencer's off-hand. If this object is a weapon, the fencer may immediately make an attack with the caught weapon at a -2 penalty to their “to-hit” roll.

Astronomo Style
Don Diego Astronomo is regarded as one of the greatest Spada Sabre Duelists in the galaxy. He developed his own style which is focused on a relentless assault that leaves an opponent dazzled from a barrage of attacks and unable to keep up with their relentless foe. Only Don Diego himself teaches the style and only to the most promising and dedicated students.

750 XP
1000 cr
Precise Strike: Astronomo Style begins with mastery of the basics of a powerful offense. The wielder gains a +2 to all “to-hit” rolls made while wielding a Spada Sabre.
1250 XP
2000 cr
Drive Back: By keeping an opponent at bay, an Astronomo duelist prevents themselves from ever being in danger of an attack as well as positioning an opponent in optimal striking position. Whenever the fencer makes a successful attack with the a Spada Sabre, their opponent must make a saving throw or be driven back ten feet.
3000 XP
4000 cr
Whirling Blades: The Master of Astronomo is a whirlwind of attacks, able to make two attacks each combat round while wielding a Spada Sabre.

Pirata Style
Not so much a style as a system of fighting developed by space pirates and Brimlings, Pirata style uses dirty tricks, sucker punches and cheap shots to keep an opponent dazed, confused, and always exposed to new and unsportsmanlike attacks.
200 XP
150 cr
That's Gotta Hurt: By striking an opponent in a vulnerable area, the Spada duelist is able to inflict more damage than most. They receive a +1 bonus to all damage when wielding a Spada Sabre.
400 XP
300 cr
Cheap Shot: Whether it's a sudden cuff on the jaw, a quick fist to the nose or a knee in the groin, Pirata Duelists fight dirty. They can choose to inflict only half damage when making an attack with a Spada Sabre in order to use this ability. If the attack is successful, their opponent must make a saving throw or suffer a -1 penalty to all “to-hit” rolls, a one-point penalty to their Armor Class, and reduce their movement by ten feet for the next 1d6-3 (minimum 1) rounds.
600 XP
750 cr
Sweep the Leg: By bringing their Spada Sabre around and behind their opponent's knee, the Pirata Duelist puts their enemy on their back. When making a successful attack with a Spada Sabre, the fencer can attempt this manuever. Their opponent must make a saving throw or be knocked prone for 1d6-3 (minimum 1) rounds. Prone opponents cannot move and anyone attacking them receives a +2 bonus to all “to-hit” rolls made against the character.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Greatest Adventure: Inspirations for The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey is born of many sources. Its mechanical roots are firmly set in Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, which is evident to the point of being present on the front cover. I built the game to draw on the things I loved from the various fantasy games I'd played over the years: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay found its way into the way race impacts a character. AD&D 2nd Edition took hold in the diversity of classes and the interior design. Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox is the forms both the foundation and the framework of the game. AD&D 1st Edition grabbed hold when it came to Secondary Skills. Taking attributes and modifying them from a base on the "Core Six" was inspired by Dungeon Crawl Classics.

But I tried not to just throw it all in a blender and pop out a fantasy heartbreaker. Like any other gaming author, my inspiration came from a blend of fiction, films, music and art. While White Star drew from classic sci-fi pulp films and art, The Hero's Journey was created with the literature of high fantasy in mind. Not Lieber, Moorcock and Howard - but Tolkien, Lewis, and even a bit of King Arthur thrown in. These were the novels I had read as a boy and that had launched my imagination when I couldn't get to a gaming table. As a boy, I had a nearly two-hour bus ride to my school and I spent much of that time in these and other fantastic places.

But, much to my surprise, music inspired me more than anything in the writing of The Hero's Journey. OSR gaming seems heavily influenced by metal these days, and understandably so. I listened to plenty of metal as a young gamer and still do as a man. But The Hero's Journey wasn't built on the axe of metal. It was built on the strings of a more melodic, but no less epic sound.

I'm reluctant to use the term Progressive Rock or Folk Rock, but that's probably the most accurate term when it comes to the "sound" of The Hero's Journey. There's a sense of wonder and of hope present in this music that really captures the game. I find it inspiring and uplifting.

Now, I already know that folks will call The Hero's Journey a game that simply reskins Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox and a game that's "too deadly." They're not totally wrong, but I feel like they're coming at it from the wrong point of view. Yes, The Hero's Journey holds characters at a lower hit die than even Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox. Yes, heroes stop getting hit dice after 3rd level. But the heroes of these stories were just that: Heroes. They were not super heroes or gods. They were men and women, still bound by mortal limits. A horde of goblins was still a threat, even if they were "high level." Creatures like dragons and giants were fantastic and terrible, to be feared and faced at a risk of certain death - yet still there was hope of victory. A fool's hope. A hero's hope. If only someone had the courage to take up the sword against them.

So if you're kind enough to pick up The Hero's Journey, please keep these design considerations in mind. If you don't like them, change them. Modify the game to suit your table. I wrote this game to weave stories I wanted to tell, the way I wanted to tell them. I just hope you'll come along for the ride.

Update: Change to cover for The Hero's Journey

Well, after some consideration and realization that even though it's being published The Hero's Journey is really a personal project and I wanted to make it look like something I really liked. My partners in crime on this project, VanDyke Brown (who did the cover art) and the amazing layout work of +Michael Herrmann threw an idea at me for a different cover. We went for it, and it's awesome. So here now is the updated and officially official cover for The Hero's Journey Fantasy Roleplaying.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Looking Back Fondly

It wasn't intentional, but its appropriate that this is my 100th post. A small milestone of sorts, I suppose. My brother introduced me to gaming in 1987 and I spent hours pouring through his AD&D books and not really understanding. While Star Wars was the first RPG I really got, I truly came into my own as a D&D player in 1991 with the release of the "Black Box."

My then friend Doug and I spent endless weekends exploring the dungeons of Zanzer Tem, he as the DM and me as the player. No matter how many times I kept dying I always made a thief and I always went back. Over and over and over again. It was absolutely glorious. Well, today I received an ebay purchase in the mail. It is "The Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game," which is a reprint and reorganization of the black box. It was a glorious, beautiful time machine of a product. From the first page it came flooding back. The things I'd forgotten sprang into my mind. I smiled as I recalled delivering the lizard to Tem's dungeon - "Oh yeah! That is how it went!"

It was just pure, unfettered joy. The kind a 12 year old kid experienced in 1991. And it was awesome. It still is, to be honest - even though age and mileage have taken their toll on me in the intervening 25 years. A big part of the OSR and its appeal is definitely the nostalgia factor, but that's not a bad thing. Nostalgia is about the freedom and joy of youth. Those bright, eager smiles and that sense of wonder all came flooding back as I read through this little box set again. It was, and still is, awesome.

Oh! Speaking of wonder, the sell included a copy of The Book of Wondrous Inventions. A basic D&D release I'd never heard of. It's a book of crazy, foolish and almost impossibly useless items that were clearly written as a lark or a joke. Not something I'd include in my games these days, but back then? Twelve-year old James would've had those crazy contraptions all over the place.

Why? Because they're cool.

Come to think of it, maybe I will slide one or two of those items into a game sometime in the future. Twelve-year old James would, and he had a helluva good time.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Comic Book Musings

So, I've always been a fan of comic books and superheroes. When I was younger I gravitated towards really like Robin during the Robin III run. Robin did everything Batman did - but without the money, the training, or the experience. That was a character I could relate to as a kid. The little underdog.
The classics, in particular Spider-Man and a few other more obscure heroes like Darkhawk. I grew to really love Batman because he was an ordinary man who took justice into his own hands and from Batman I grew to

As I've grown up, my love of superheroes hasn't diminished, but it has changed. My father took me to see The Rocketeer as a boy and introduced me to the pulp heroes of the 30s and 40s - which I love to this day. An extension of that, I developed a love of superheroes from that era. As I age and settle into my everyday life I come to love more "boy scout" superheroes. Captain America, The Rocketeer, and much to my surprise, Superman.

There's something endearing to me about the absolute certainty in characters like Captain America and Superman. They know they're doing the right thing, the good thing. My gaming style has followed. I prefer Lawful Good characters. Stout halflings, dedicated knights, and noble warriors. The theme remains the same on both fronts.

I think this comes from living in a world where seeing what is good and what is evil is not always so easy, but can still be seen. Choosing to do good over doing what is easy. Maybe its because we live in a world where easy choices are the expectation and hope is the exception. But characters like Superman, Captain America, Samwise Gamgee and so many others tell us that it doesn't have to me. It comes down to a choice we make. It doesn't matter whether are powere by a yellow sun, a simple gardner, or an everyday person. Being a "Boy Scout" is an act of hope, an act of defiance; in a world of endless grays we can choose to see black and white - if we have a bit of hope.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

As Sharp as a Blade: The Beauty of Simplicty

I've been pondering a bit of gaming theory today. In a bit of a paradox I am not a fan of Monks in D&D, but really like Kensai. And what are Kensai? They're really just sword-wielding Monks. So I got to thinking "Hmmm... that's a class I haven't tackled. How would I do it?"

After a few moments of pondering, I realized I didn't need to do it. It was already covered by the Monk class in most games. How? It's simple. You swap out the Monk's benefits that are received while fighting unarmed for the bonuses while fighting with a sword. The sword damage replaces the normal unarmed damage until such a time as the unarmed damage meets or exceeds the weapon damage. At that time, it replaces the weapon's damage. The Monk no longer receives increased damage for fighting unarmed. He is master of the sword now, not of the fist. He is Kensai.

What about the other abilities? Factor a sword in them thematically. Deflect arrows with the edge of a sword instead of the palm of the hand, for example. The other trappings fit just fine. Increased movement, lack of armor, natural AC bonuses, improved physical acrobatics. It works as is. The lack of rules allows for this flexibility. That and the inherent gentleman's agreement and trust between Player and DM/Referee. And that trust holds.

God, I love OSR gaming.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Really James? ANOTHER Retro-Clone?

So, with the draft now complete at 62,000 words, I can come up for air. The open text document of Swords & Wizardry complete is somewhere around 30,000. So that means I've averaged right around 3,000 words a day for the past ten days. Now, I can come up for air. That's how I work. I write like a fiend in explosions of energy. White Star's first draft was written in six weeks too. I'm weird like that.

Anyway, so the question I've asked myself the whole time I've been writing The Hero's Journey is "Why bother?" There's already a plethora of fantasy RPG retro-clones out there, after all. Do I really need to add another one to the stack? What does my game bring to the table that Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, or any of the other clones out there don't?

I wrote The Hero's Journey first and foremost for me. I wanted a copy of my house rules for Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox compiled into a single volume and cleaned up to look real pretty. Hell, I wasn't even planning on publishing it originally - but enough folks expressed interest that I decided to go the full nine on the project. In the same way +Jason Paul McCartan has made himself an indispensible partner on the White Star line, +Michael Herrmann has become critical in the presentation and look of The Hero's Journey. Seriously guys, this book is going to look slick.

I was genuinely shocked when I got inquiries from others expressing interest or even excitement at my little pet project and an interest in owning a copy for themselves. I've tried to stress over and over that a lot of material from The Hero's Journey has already appeared in things like White Box Omnibus and other White Box products I've done. To me THJ isn't a new game, it's a refinement and compilation of material already out there.

That's not to say there isn't new stuff in it. There's all kinds of new stuff. The hit die progression of player characters is different. The way races and attributes are determined is different. There are new attributes. Combat is different. Magic spells, nah - they're pretty much the same. Except being a Wizard is a lot harder (It requires an Intelligence of 15, and I provide rules for magic item creation). I added some new magic items. I wrote about what it means to run THJ vs. other OSR games and the feel THJ is aiming for.

So, I guess the answer to "Why bother?" is the same reason I'd write something like White Star: For me, because I think it's a fun game. I want a copy of it on my shelf: A cool digest I can pull out, throw in a messenger bag with a few dice, and be ready to game at a moment's notice. And I hope those who have expressed an interest in purchasing it will think so too.

The Hero's Journey - How Much is too Much?

OK, so now that The Hero's Journey is progressing along nicely, I realized that I've kind of created a monster. My initial plan was to do the book and include and adventure and very vague regional map to facilitate a campaign springboard.

Now, I'm definitely keeping the game in digest format, which means the game's 61,000 words so far make it a pretty big damned digest.

I still really want to do an adventure and a broad setting, but the adventure I've got planned is pretty big. A villages and 4-5 location maps, plus a regional map. That's in addition to the broad setting write-up. So, the question is this...

Should I continue adding to the monstrosity or release it as the first supplement? I don't want the book to become too unwieldly, but at the same time most gamers are always asking for more content and I'd be glad to fold it all into one book - but that'll be a big damn book.