Friday, November 30, 2018

North of P'Bapar, West of Dobyo: A Gazeteer of the Shadesh West

So, recently, most of my creative energy has gone towards my hopefully-soon-to-be-published work for Kenzerco, The Shadesh West.

As the title says, it concerns the Sanakir and Shashyf Hills, the Padiras River Valley, the Western Brindonwood, Mount Keypar-Urtha (the mountain that lies between the Padiras River and the Western Brindonwood), and Lake Tetzlmere, the long, narrow lake between Keypar-Urtha and Du'Kemp Swamp. Much of the area is underdeveloped, and it seemed like a fun area to expand, especially since it's so near to northern P'Bapar, where Frandor's Keep is located. Like the P'Bapar books, it will be released in several parts. I also converted an adventure, already set in the northern Sanakirs, which should be available as the rest of the material is released.

I'm really excited about this. As you may know, I first proposed this series to them in 2016, but didn't here much back from them until recently. Now, I've produced 55,000 words about goblins, orcs, werewolves, gnomes, hags, wyrms, and wargs. There are holy places, lesbian halfling communes, and an arm of a vast kingdom of goblins. Giant spiders do war with a lone dragon-kin.

I really look forward to being able to share it with you.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Sixteen Credits

A short filk about college debt I co-authored with Steven Brust.

I will admit to a degree of squeeing that I get to do this sometimes. My years of writing weird lyrics to existing songs pays off!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hackmaster Surprise Example

(Another post from the KenzerCo message boards, here for easy reference)

Let's say 4 goblins ambushs 4 PCs. The goblins will use standard goblin stats; he humans will be, for our purposes, a Man-at-Arms, a Brigand (with Improved Awareness), A Laborer, and a Sedentary ('cause they're all together in the HoB).

Goblins are in a prepared ambush, have their weapons ready, and are going to go. They will be rolling d3+3 for initiative (because Goblins have a +3)

The Brigand (B) and the Laborer (L) noticed the goblins; the Man-at-Arms (M) and the Sedentary (S) (engaged in a petty argument) do not.

Initiative rolls for the party are:
L d8+5 ("Can hear opponents in a concrete direction, but not see them", p 216 of PH)
B d6+2 (Same as the Laborer, but he gets 1 initiative die smaller)
M d12+4
S d12+3

Everyone rolls their die and gives their total. Initiatives are:

G1: 1+3=4
G2: 2+3=5
G3: 2+3=5
G4: 3+3=6
L: 4+5=9
B: 5+2=7
M: 9+4=13
S: 10+3=13

Because the Brigand rolled poorly, all the goblins will get to act before he does and, unless the first goblin hits someone, the goblins will all act before the party. If Goblin 1 hits someone, that person will go on 4 (the goblin's initiative) +2 (page 217, last paragraph of second column), or 6, which is the same time as Goblin 4. We'll say that the Sedentary got hit by Goblin 1. Goblins 2 and 3 fire normally on an entirely surprised party, but they miss. Goblin 4 also fires, but S is not surprised when he does so. If this were melee combat, surprised characters would be rolling a d8 defense die, with no bonus... but since the goblins are shooting at moving (walking) targets, the party still gets a d20 defense die (p. 218 of the PH). L & M might get the cover value of their shields, depending on their arc of defense (p. 224, 225 PH).

So, Goblin 1 hit S, whose new initiative is 6. S is a bit of a wuss, and starts screaming bloody blue murder (he's been ToPed, but you can still start screaming "I've been shot" while ToPed, IMO, which counts) on 6. This means he is "Raising the Hue and Cry" (p. 217 of PH), and everyone's initiatives drop by 2. This doesn't affect the goblins... they've all gone. With an 8 speed on a snapshot, the Goblins will be going again on 12, 13, 13, and 14. Normally, G1 would be able to fire on a surprised M with his second shot, but S's Hue and Cry means that the new initiatives are B 7 (it decreased by 2, but can't act before the second after the Hue and Cry), L 7 (dropped by 2), and M 11.

Now, with B moving towards them (and probably telling his friends where they are), the goblins might wind up changing their next actions entirely... if B and L start walking towards G1 on 7, G1 will have a couple seconds to drop his bow and ready his weapon... and he doesn't really need any, since he's got a Small weapon, which takes 0 seconds to ready. G1 drops his bow and draws his short sword on 7 (it's a 0 second action). G2, next to G1, also draws his short sword; G3 and G4, on the other side of the cavern, decide to keep firing. L & B reach their goblins on 9 (L is NOT readying his shield, since it will take too much time), and there's a brief reach comparison, which G1 loses (he's a goblin, they're humans). L and B start smacking goblins on 9; With a speed of 8, B will get his next attack on 17, and L will get his on 19 with his speed of 10. G1 and G2 will get their next attack on 18... since they had a shorter reach, they have to wait until second 10 to attack (p. 223).

On second 11, M gets to act. He stays put, standing over S until he's better, readying his weapon and shield. Readying a shield takes 1d4p+1 seconds; he'll have his shield readied on 15, but his sword will be readied on 12 (1 second ready time; p. 218). This means G3 (count 13) and G4 (count 14) will get shots on an unshielded M, who only gets to roll a d12 for defense (since he's standing over S). This is why you wear armor, kiddies.

At this point, everyone (except S) is up and engaged and the regular combat continues. Due to a rough roll on B's part, the goblins had 3 seconds of surprise... had B rolled a 3 (5 total), G1 would've been the only one with complete surprise. Had B rolled a 1 (3 total)? He might have thrown a dagger on 3 (0 ready time, plus a snapshot), injuring one of the goblins, and catching THEM by surprise.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Oriental Adventures Styles in your AD&D campaign

So, I like the martial arts styles created in Oriental Adventures (and, subsequently, in the Complete Ninja's Handbook). While the Complete Fighter/Combat and Tactics styles are fine, they're also very generic, and don't add neat special abilities to warriors, like wizards and clerics get at higher levels. So, I started thinking about using the old OA styles in a non-Asian-flavored campaign setting. This uses the mechanics of OA Martial Arts, but presumes that practically everyone serious about combat will have a martial arts style. If your fighter favors a longsword, he might have a Weapon style that focuses on its use... or he may use a style that focuses on Blocks, and takes full advantage of his shield. Or a style that focuses on movement, unlocking feints, leaps, and superhuman speed.

Conversions between AD&D and Hackmaster

This is something I developed on the Kenzerco Message Boards, as "How do I convert material from AD&D to Hackmaster" is a not-uncommon question. These are not perfect guidelines by any means; they're a means to get you "in the neighborhood", balancing the different mechanics.

General Conversion Rule For Monsters:

Base HP: 10 + size modifier (0 for tiny, 5 for small, 10 for medium, 15 for large, etc), plus normal HD, plus any bonus HP the regular creature has.
Base Attack: HD of original creature
Base Defense/DR: Look at the AC of the original creature; decide how much is agility and how much is toughness. For agility, double that and make it a defense modifier. For toughness, apply the equivalent armor as DR (if they have a 2 AC just from toughness, don't give them an 8 DR, but the DR of plate)
Base Damage: Double what it was in AD&D.

As others will say, there's more art to it than science... while those guidelines above WORK, they need to be looked at and tweaked.

Sample Conversion using these guidelines:

The Ogre.  (They're a simple creature, and available in the free Hackmaster Basic PDF)

An Ogre in 2nd edition AD&D had 4+1 HD, an AC of 5, and did 1d10 damage (or "By weapon +6"). They are size L.

So, we know its HP are going to be 10+15+4d8+1, or 26+4d8. It's AC is 5, but that's going to be all toughness... the equivalent of Chain Mail. Looking at Chain Mail, they have a DR of 5, but -5 defense, +2 initiative, and +2 speed.

Their base attack is going to be +4 (for their HD). We can either call them 2d10p or give them a big weapon and add +12. I prefer the second method for ogres, so we know their strength will be prodigious... assuming the PH chart continues, they have about a 25 strength, meaning a +23 FOS.

A few other things... It's 8 intelligence, so we'll stick its wisdom there, too, giving it a -1 to attack, +3 to intiative, -1 to Defense and Mental Saves. No particular reason to Buff Dexterity, so we leave it at 10.5, for another +2 to initiative. The starting HP assume a Con of 11 (10, +1 because of it's 4+1 HD). That's low, but we'll leave it for now.

So, arming my ogre with a Bardiche (because, in Phantasie III, my brother's epic Ogre Fighter Fogey used a Bardiche), we get something like this...

Hit Points: 26+4d8
Size/Weight: L/650 pounds
Fatigue Factor: +0

Physical: +4 (base HD)
Mental: +3 (base HD, modified for wisdom)
Dodge: +4 (Base HD)

Attack: +4
Defense: -2
Damage Reduction: 5
Damage: By weapon +12
Speed: 16
Init: +7
Reach: 6'
Trauma Save: 5

This looks a little puny, so I'm going to buff it up... instead of counting it as 4th level, I'm going to count it as a 4 HD fighter, or 8th level, which will give it better saves and a bit of a reduction in speed and initiative. I'm also going to kick up its assumed Constitution, to 15, which gives it 4 more HP, a better TOP, and a bonus to Physical saves.

Hit Points: 30+4d8
Size/Weight: L/650 pounds
Fatigue Factor: -2

Physical: +10 (base level, plus con bonus)
Mental: +7 (base level, modified for wisdom)
Dodge: +8 (Base level)

Attack: +4
Defense: -2
Damage Reduction: 5
Damage: By weapon +12
Speed: 15
Init: +6
Reach: 6'
Trauma Save: 7

A fair bit stouter, my naked ogre with a big axe.

How does he stack up against a HoB ogre? Here's the same numbers, with the HoB number and commentary in parentheses

Hit Points: 30+4d8 (34+4d8; the HOB seems to assume a 19 constitution, not the 15 I went with)
Size/Weight: L/650 pounds (L/550#; mine may have a lower Con since he seems to be a bit of a porker)
Fatigue Factor: -2 (-2/-1)

Physical: +10 (+8)
Mental: +7 (+2)
Dodge: +8 (+4.... seems my calculations were a bit off, here)

Attack: +4 (+5)
Defense: -2 (-1)
Damage Reduction: 5 (4)
Damage: By weapon +12 (By Weapon +6; I aimed a bit high, it seems)
Speed: 15 (8)
Init: +6 (+4)
Reach: 6' (long; I think I'm on target, there)
Trauma Save: 7 (9)

So, the HoB Ogre assumes about 4 more points of Con than I did, but about 6 less points of strength. My calculations for saving throws a pretty off, which means I need to revisit them... probably make more sense to base those on HD, not level, since my first numbers were closer. Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with my quick-and-dirty conversion of the ogre, following the above principles. It's not perfect, and there are a couple of clear places where I made mistakes (WAY overinflated their strength and saves; my weapon choice leaves this ogre very slow), but close enough that I'd use it without problem.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Star Wars: Orbastra's Planetary Peril!

Anoat, once a world poisoned by the Empire, still has influential citizens on Bespin... citizens whose mercantile might is enough to warrant some deference from Governor Adelhard in the wake of the Imperial collapse and the Iron Blockade. Chief among these citizens is Cincinatus Orbastra, scion of a noble house and environmental engineer. Inspired by the historical restorations of Taris and Telos, Cincinatus Orbastra suggests a bold plan to cleanse Anoat of its poisons: Siphon the atmosphere completely from the planet, and replace it with the atmosphere of nearby, and officially deserted, Hoth.

The plan is bold, yet deemed feasible. Using the ice of the planet Hoth, two enormous, 1000 kilometer in diameter spheres would be created; one above Hoth, the other above Anoat. The atmospheres of both planets would then be siphoned into the ice spheres, and  Hoth's clear air towed, through hyperspace, to be placed on its new planets, with the ice of Hoth contributing the hydrosphere of the newly revitalized Anoat. The poisoned air of Anoat will be simply discarded... why haul an ice box full of poison to place on a nothing world? While this plan will cause a near-total loss of life on both planets, it will leave Anoat ripe for resettlement... with Governor-General Adelhard and Cincinatus Orbastra as the chief beneficiaries of the new world.

When this plan comes to light, it will be vehemently opposed by several factions. The Anoat Sector Rebellion, cut off from the galaxy by the Iron Blockade, still uses Hoth as a waystation and salvage yard, as do many smugglers and more legitimate businessmen. Furthermore, anything that damages Adelhard's regime is good for the rebellion, and so teams will be sent out to hinder the creation of the Ice Spheres, and to damage the pumps that will be necessary to turn the planets into giant vacuums. If this plan succeeds, what too could it mean for the galaxy, where one world may be robbed of its very breath so another might flourish? What other worlds, deemed "undesireable", would have their atmosphere stolen to create a biosphere on some Imperial or corporate rock?

Orbastra must be stopped.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


New Skill: Trapping
Relevant Abilities: Intelligence and Dexterity
Cost: 6 BP
Universal: No
Prerequisite: Novice level Hunting, Novice Level Animal Empathy
Materials/Tools: Yes

Trapping is the skill of placing pre-made hunting traps, and creating snares, deadfalls, pits, and other natural traps. Trapping requires some basic knowledge of hunting, but is developed separately. A skilled trapper not only makes a snare, but knows exactly where to place it to catch the game they’re after; like hunting, trapping is limited to a specific climate. Also, like hunting, trapping does not always provide you with a dead animal, merely the opportunity to kill one.

Traps are oriented towards a certain size of creature; a pit trap that will catch a bear might be safely hopped over by a rabbit, and a snare that will catch a rabbit will do little more than annoy a bear. Depending on the size of creature sought, and the skill of the trapper, a trap can be created in minutes to hours. The difficulty of trapping varies with local conditions, but trapping for meat is usually an Average check. If you wish to preserve a saleable fur, it becomes Difficult; an Average trap will destroy (5-DR)d10p% of the pelt.

Novice Tiny: 60 minutes, Small/Medium 60 minutes, Large 4 hours, Huge 8 hours
Average: Tiny: 45 minutes, Small/Medium 45 Minutes, Large 3 Hours, Huge 7 Hours
Advanced: Tiny: 30 Minutes: Small/Medium 45 minutes, Large 2 Hours, Huge 6 hours
Expert: Tiny 15 minutes, Small/Medium: 30 minutes, Large 90 minutes, Huge 5 hours
Master Tiny: 10 Minutes, Small/Medium 15 minutes, Large 1 Hour, Huge 4 Hours

Note: Huge creatures are generally only vulnerable to pit traps or deadfalls; effectively creating a pit trap for a Huge creature requires Mining. These times are in addition to the necessary time to excavate enough earth or stone to create an effective pit trap. Deadfalls for Huge creatures often involve dropping hillsides on them.

Materials required vary, but usually start with a knife or hand axe, and some wire or twine. Not having these bare requirements increases the difficulty by one step. Having a premade mechanical trap makes the base difficulty Easy, and reduces the time for all mastery levels to 10 minutes per trap, regardless of size (though premade traps are seldom made larger than Large).

Hunting snares can be effective mantraps, but are relatively easy to spot. Observation checks to locate mantraps set by trapping are +50% if the trapper is Novice, +40% if they are average, +30% if Advanced, +20% if Expert, and +10% if Master. This bonus does not apply to wild animals, but domesticated animals trained for hunting do receive this bonus, as do humanoids and any creature with an Intelligence of 7/01 or higher.


The Outdoorsman is a woods-wise warrior, similar to both a ranger and a barbarian, but with key differences. Unlike the ranger, they do not necessarily have a dedication to the health and safety of others… outdoorsmen might be poachers, smugglers, or marauders, happy to devastate a township or simply quickly move illegal goods over the land. Unlike the barbarian, however, there’s no necessary component of chaos in their alignment; an outdoorsman could equally be a King’s Forester, responsible for catching those poachers and smugglers, or stopping marauders along the road. Or an outdoorsman may be a tribesman, not quite so tough or superstitious as a barbarian, but still capable of living off the land and surviving the wilderness.

While able combatants, most Outdoorsman favor tools over weapons; they might learn to use a sword, but facility with a hand axe, spear, or bow is a lot more practical. While they benefit greatly from the physical attributes of Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, they also find Wisdom to be of great use, given its relation to key skills such as Hunting, Survival, and Weather Sense.

Unsurprisingly, those Outdoorsmen who are religious favor deities such as The Traveller, The Great Huntress, and the Bear, but there’s not restriction on their following other deities or no religion at all. Most are moderately suspicious of magic, especially those of a tribal background, but it seldom manifests as a true phobia, as one sees amongst barbarians; it is simply something beyond their ken, and so they may have little use for it.

Monday, March 5, 2018



Basic Investing for HackMaster

There comes a point in many games when the characters simply have too much money. They may have purchased everything the GM will let them purchase, may be on the move and unwilling to buy real property (houses, bars and the inevitable stronghold), or may simply be wanting to make more money when they’re in that limbo between being having to scrape every last copper and being able to destabilize the local economy without half trying. Some mercantile-minded players may turn their minds towards investing some of their rewards in commercial ventures, hoping for a return in wealth and influence. Unless you truly wish to be playing HackTrade, however, most GMs will seek to abstract this process a little, letting the game flow without preventing the character from spending his wealth as he sees fit.

For the purposes of this article, Investments are of two different types: caravans and in-place businesses. Caravans are limited-duration ventures, and investment money usually goes to hire guards, drovers, and stock, moreso than the actual goods for sale. In-place ventures tend to be investments in existing businesses, either letting a business owner expand, hold a special event, or start up. Many of the same principles apply to each, but some modifiers will have different effects depending on whether or not the business venture travels.

Lastly, these rules are designed primarily for PC investment in NPC businesses, but it is possible to adapt them to PC (or detailed NPC)-run businesses; there are some notes at the end on using them as such.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


As mentioned in the post about psionics, Dave Kenzer has said he's done a lot of work on Illusionists. As such, here's the version I came up with before he said that.


Illusionists supplement basic mage spellcasting with a powerful, flexible ability to create illusions… false images of light, sound, smell, even the perceptions of touch, taste, and heat… that fool the senses.

There are two basic types of illusions, with some very key differences. Mirages, also called holograms or, more confusingly, “true illusions” create and manipulate actual light, smells, and sounds for all to hear; a holographic thunderclap can be heard for miles, and might have people checking the skies briefly to see if rain is coming. It is not necessary for someone to believe a mirage for it to have an effect on them; even if you know your opponent is an illusionist, you are still being buffeted by light and sound; they simply do not have the sources you may be led to believe. Targets may realize that the image they are being shown is false, but that does not dismiss the image; an Illusionary Mural that you can’t see through still conceals anything behind it, even if you know it’s not real. Mirages are very poor at tactile sensations and heat; they can create the impression of them, but cannot generate scorching heat or the violent blow of a sword. This type of illusion is known to mages, with the simplest being Illusionary Mural and Audible Clamor.

The second type, variously called fictions, hallucinations, and phantasms, target a single individual with the perception of their senses being stimulated. Little is actually created; outsiders watching someone fighting a phantasmal warrior may see shapes and shadows engaging their ally, but will more likely see nothing at all, even as the target reels backwards from a mighty blow or curls up under a blast of phantasmal flames from a fictional fiery foe. Fictions can kill, but seldom cause wounds; a successful saving throw against them frequently dismisses the effect entirely. A simple mage spell that makes use of fictions is Phantom Irritation; no one else will hear the buzzing or feel the tickle, but it will be enough to distract the target.

Why study illusion magic? The magic of a regular mage is very powerful, and has real effects. But it is also relatively inflexible. If you do not know the spell, you cannot do the effect. A mage who does not know Illusionary Mural will not be able to create an illusionary mural. If they know it but have not prepared it, they will be unable to use it to its full effect. Illusionists, by contrast, have studied the fine art of illusioncrafting, and are able to create the mirages and fictions they wish, at the expense of the higher secrets of mage magic.


The Marshal is envisioned as a fighter/rogue; someone who combined martial talent with the ability to command troops, be it a brigade of warriors or a small unit of tomb-robbers and temple-despoilers. Many Marshals will be officers, commissioned or non-commissioned, but others will have gathered their knowledge more haphazardly, in kobars and barracks, wherever warriors congregate, talk shop, and look to others to make the decisions and take the blame.

Marshals tend to be Lawful, but are not restricted from other alignments. Many favor the Old Man, but his worship is likewise not required.


Prefatory note: Dave Kenzer has said he's done extensive work on the official version of Hackmaster psionics, so I figured I'd post my own version.

Making the Most of the Least Mental Powers

Psychic powers are accessed via first possessing the Psychic Ability Talent. This talent costs 30 BP, and represents a character having a glimmer of psychic ability, but not having any specific, developed abilities. This glimmer of psychic ability manifests as a touch of precognition, and an inability to roll the highest number on the initiative die (i.e. if their initiative die is 1d12, they will be considered to have rolled an 11 on an 11 or 12; if their initiative die is a d3, they will be considered to have rolled a 2 on a 2 or a 3).

Manifesting more potent psychic powers, however, requires development and training in one of several psychic disciplines. Those psychics who have developed their talents more fully are able to achieve more, while those who devote themselves to several endeavors can achieve a wide variety of effects. Much like a fighter must choose between becoming a master of a single weapon, or competent with several, so must a psychic choose whether to focus their powers, or be widely capable. Much like a craftsman must choose between working in several mediums or specializing only in one, so must a psychic choose between becoming a virtuoso of a single psychic art, or a handyman capable of getting by in several.

Monday, January 29, 2018


HackChoice is an alternate character creation method designed to allow players to choose their race and class in almost any allowed combination, at the expense of the possibility of fantastic, or even above mediocre, attributes. If the Gamemaster allows HackChoice, then it replaces steps one through five of character creation; beginning with Step 6: Calculate Starting Honor, character creation begins as normal.

Step One: Receive Building Points. A HackChoice character receives 90 building points.
Step Two: Receive Ability Scores: A HackChoice character begins with three ability scores of choice at 11/01, and four ability scores at 10/01. Choosing HackChoice precludes exercising the Shopkeeper rule; a great many HackChoice characters will fail to have an attribute above 13.
Step Three: Choose a race. This race may alter the attributes received in step two.
Step Four: Purchase a class. Based on the race selected, pay BPs from your initial allotment to receive the class of your choice. Note that, if the character wishes to play a barbarian and their race does not modify the attributes sufficiently to meet minimum requirements, then attributes must be raised during step five to meet those requirements.
Step Five: Finalize Ability Scores and other Adjustments. Spend remaining BPs, if you wish, to improve ability scores. Adjust Charisma as necessary according to your Looks. You may make adjustments to your ability scores after this step, but they do not count towards starting honor.

Interaction with Zero-Level Rules: HackChoice characters who are played from zero level are handled somewhat differently from other zero-level characters. They receive the initial allotment of 90 BPs, as all HackChoice characters do, but must pay the entire cost of their class at 0th level, and lose all BP (from the allotment of 90) above this amount. They retain any BP granted by quirks, flaws, or priors and particulars. At half level and first level, they receive one-half of this amount back, rounded down. For example, a HackChoice Dwarf Mage would receive 90 Build Points at 0th level, and immediately spend 75 to purchase their class. They would then lose the remaining 15 build points. At half-level, the Mage would receive 7 Build Points (not 25), and 7 build points at 1st level (not 25). In all other respects, including bonus die rolls for attributes at half level and level one, and the bonus hit die rolls at those levels, HackChoice characters are considered the same as other Zero Level characters.

Sidebar: Why HackChoice?
HackChoice is offered specifically for those players who wish to play a specific race or class combination, but don't want to give up the bonus BPs offered to those who choose not to rearrange their attributes. It is especially useful when a given race or class combination is expensive; to play a dwarven mage or halfling assassin, the player cannot rearrange attributes and still afford the class. HackChoice guarantees that your character will be a shopkeeper before (and likely after) racial modifiers are applied; but they will qualify for the race and class combination you wish in most cases (Barbarians, Knights, and Paladins being the obvious exceptions).

Lucky (Trait)

Lucky (15+)

Due to the blessing of Risk or some kind fate, you are exceptionally lucky. Each level, you have 5 Luck Points, which may be used as a thief's luck points. If your class already grants luck points, add these to your total. Unused luck points are discarded with each new level, and may not be saved. This talent may be purchased multiple times, each time adding 5 luck points to the total. However, each purchase after the first adds 15 to the cost; so the second purchase will cost 30 BP, the third 45, the fourth (and final) 60.

Notes: At that point, you've got 20 Luck points per level, sure... but you've also put 150 BP into luck points and only luck points.

More Priors and Quite Particular

EDIT: I created a new version of this that I am far happier with.

I really do not like the official Priors and Particulars charts; I'm not a huge fan of the ones below, but they're better. The initial Priors and Particulars charts really only allow there to be one kind of family... you were either raised by one or more parents, or... nothing. We have no idea what happens to those whose parents were unknown. There's no guidance of what happens to the orphaned or abandoned save that they have half the starting money. It also fairly narrowly defined half-orcs and sil-karg... all but 5% of half-orcs were the result of rapes, and those were the children of prostitutes; there was no chance that someone just found a half-orc baby and raised it, either not knowing they were half-orc (recall, many can pass as human), or dumping it on a temple. Sil-karg had a whopping 5% chance of being foundlings but, otherwise, it was rape and prostitution.

This reorganizes those tables for more nuanced options. There's a chance that an illegitimate child's parents simply never married. If someone is abandoned, there's more nuance and story in what their background was like. The original tables had the plurality of illegitimate children being abused.

Like I said, I'm not a huge fan of the tables below; I think it might be better to tear down the entire table and rebuild it from scratch. But this at least provides more possible outcomes, and allows the possibility that not every half-orc is the product of rape.

The Hackmaster Race and Class Costs and Encounter Reactions table

As it's a largish bit, and something I update as I go along, below is a link to my spreadsheet outlining the class costs for the different races (including the PH races) for Hackmaster; on separate tabs, you'll find it reorganized so race is across the top and class is down the side, and a table laying out the different racial reaction modifiers, based on the PH's table, but including my created races.

The Table of Race costs and Reaction Modifiers

Sil-Karg Revisited

This addresses a few things about sil-karg that annoyed me. First of all, the text in the PH indicates that they're great physical specimens ("Most human societies distrust them, but value the impressive physical skills of fully-grown specimens should they live that long."), but that translates to a +1 to Dexterity. When compared to the hobgoblin stats in the HoB, they're further anomalous, since those Hobgoblins have a bonus to Strength and no penalty to Charisma... arguably, given their stats, they even have a bonus to Charisma. It is also noted in the PH that many sil-kargs are able to pass for human, but how they might do this is never explicated. Here, I give them a chance of passing based on their base Looks, with human-raised sil-karg having a bit of an advantage (since they, after all, at least come from a human culture). I also translated the PH's percentage penalties into the modifiers from the GMG, based on the Racial Preferences table.

I also added a talent for half-humans and halflings who want to pretend to be human.

Shapechanger (New Race)

Shapechangers are an ancient subgroup of human. Originally of Dejy stock, they have sufficiently interbred that shapechangers may arise in almost any human population, though they are quite rare among the Svimohz, who have less admixture with Dejy strains. In days long past, their ancestors angered a god… which one varies from telling to telling, and may, according to the tale, include all gods, or be limited to some powerful subdeity… who enjoined all other deities to turn their backs on the Shapechangers. A popular variation of this tale among Shapechangers is that they bargained with a god -- Sevyer (Risk), Bylenyr (The Bear), or Dofejy (The Huntress) -- for the ability to change shape, but lost the blessings of the gods in exchange (perhaps, when Bylenyr or Dofejy are the deity named, because the shapechangers cheated).

In the modern day, Shapechangers may arise among any human folk, though there is usually a family history of it afflicting someone in the line. Those families with shapechanging lineages usually have the same shape; if your cousin is a badger shifter, odds are good you’ll also be a badger shifter, not a robin or a woodchuck. Some families sweep their shapechanging kin under the rug, ostracize them, or even murder them when they’re found out. Other families quietly embrace the shapechanger, or pass them off to an “aunt” or “uncle” who knows more about it.

Lizardmen as PCs

Lizard Men at a glance
Strength +3
Intelligence -3
Wisdom -1
Looks: Special
Charisma: -3

*Low-light Vision
*Wide-angle vision (better die for initiative, 50% of backstabs are merely rearward strikes, defense die is always d12 or better)
*Natural Weapons: Speed 5 for natural weapons; 2d4p with claws, 2d6p for a bite. Bite may be used instead of the standard near-perfect defense. Attack routine when unarmed is claw, claw, bite (so, on second 5 they claw, 10 claw, 15 bite, 20 claw, usw)
*Natural Armor: 2 points of damage reduction. Wearing armor or using shields adds to this amount.
*Lizard Men fare well in warm climates. For purposes of heat stroke, they consider temperatures to be 20° F (9° C) cooler than they are; they do not begin accumulating penalties until it reaches 100° F (38° C).
*All lizard men receive a single purchase of Survival for free. Those from swamps and shorelines also receive a purchase of Swimming for free (the lizard men of the Khydobian desert are not noted for their aquatic skill).

Kobolds as PCs

Kobolds at a glance
Strength -5
Intelligence +1
Wisdom -1
Dexterity +1
Constitution -3
Looks: -2
Charisma: -2

*Empathic communication with canines; can extend to other animals with 1 day of work and a difficult Animal Empathy check
*Free purchase of animal empathy, further purchases at +2 to mastery die.
*Natural DR of 1 point.
*Low Light Vision
*Free purchase of Listening and Observation
*+4 Defense
*May make one purchase of Disarm Trap, Identify Trap, and Trap Design at ¼ cost; 4 BPs (each) for Disarm Trap and Identify Trap, 5 BPs for Trap Design. If they receive these skills as part of a class ability (e.g. Thieves and their multiclasses), they may still make a single purchase at this cost.

*Size is Small; this includes for Hit Points (5), Knock-Backs
*Reach is -1 foot
*Fumble-fingered: While Kobolds have clever fingers, they don’t have a proper thumb, which greatly impacts their manual dexterity. As such, their dexterity is considered 10 points lower when gaining mastery in skills that rely on manual dexterity; a kobold with a 13 Dexterity (+1 to Mastery Die rolls) calculates their mastery bonus as if they had a 3 Dexterity (-4 to Mastery Die rolls). This applies to Artistry (depending on type), Craft, Forgery, Leatherworking, Lock Picking, Pick Pockets, Pottery, and Rope Use. It does not apply to Disarm Trap or Trap Design; their talent overcomes their inability, in that case.
*Weedy: Kobolds are frailly built, even for small creatures. As such, their hit dice (derived from class) are all 1 die size smaller… d12->d10->d8->d6->d4->d3

Preferential Talent Access:
Kobolds may purchase the following talents at a 50% discount
*Attack Bonus, Damage Bonus, Parry Bonus, Swiftblade (for clubs, short spears)
*Crack Shot, Greased Lightning (for light crossbows)
*Improved Awareness

Reactions with other races:
Kobolds tend to Dislike every other race, save gnomes and halflings, whom they Hate. They Fear Grel, Half-Orcs, and Sil-Karg. When viewing kobolds, other races:

Dwarves: Disdain
Elves: Disdain
Gnomes: Hate
Gnome Titans: Hate
Grel: Disdain
Half-elves: Disdain
Half-orcs: Disdain
Halflings: Hate
Humans: Disdain
Pixie-Faeries: Fear
Sil-karg: Disdain

Character Classes:
Thief 20
Assassin 25
Fighter 30
Fighter/Thief 30
Barbarian 40
Cleric 40
Rogue 45
Mage/Thief 45
Fighter/Mage 50
Mage 60
Ranger 75

Hobgoblins as PCs

Hobgoblins at a Glance
Strength +2
Intelligence -1
Dexterity +2
Consititution +1
Looks -2

Hobgoblin Pros:
*One Free Purchase of the Mining Skill
*One Free Purchase of the Listening skill
*Low-light vision
*Free Laborer Proficiency

Hobgoblin Cons:
*Character’s native language is Hobgoblin - Kargi or Krangi as appropriate (must purchase any additional languages)

Preferential Talent Access:
May purchase the following talents and proficiencies at 50% BP cost:
*Fast Healer, Poison Resistant, Tough as Nails, Pain Tolerant, Resolute, Tough Hide, Armor Proficiencies, Shield Proficiency

BP Cost
Fighter 20
Ranger n/a
Barbarian 40
Thief 50
Rogue 50
Assassin 35
Mage 75
Fighter/Mage 50
Fighter/Thief 35
Mage/Thief 65
Cleric 50

Goblins as PCs

Goblins at a Glance
Strength -3
Intelligence -1
Wisdom -3
Dexterity +2
Consititution +2
Looks -4
Charisma -2

Goblin Pros:
*One Free Purchase of the Mining Skill
*One Free Purchase of the Torture Skill
*One Free Purchase of the Listening skill
*Extreme Low-light vision; Twice the range of normal vision
*+10% on Observation when smell is involved
*Goblins enjoy reduced-cost access to several skills. Each of the following skills requires 1 less BP for the first purchase: Animal Empathy, Animal Training (wolves), Hiding, Religion, Riding (canines), Sneaking, and Survival. Subsequent purchases gain no reduction in cost.
*+4 to Defense

Goblin Cons:
*Poor Reach (effective weapon reach is -1 foot)
*Due to their stature, goblins move at only half the rate of humans
*Light Blindness: -2 to attack and defense in full sunlight, -1 to attack at dawn, dusk, or when overcast, no penalty under storm clouds or by starlight.
*Size small with regard to HPs (i.e. 5 hp + CON + class roll)
*Size small for knock backs

Preferential Talent Access:
May purchase the following talents at 50% BP cost:
*Blind-fighting, Pain Tolerant, Poison Resistant, Tough as Nails

Special Note: Goblins with the Animal Antipathy Flaw for Canines gain an additional 10 BP; having wargs and wolves hate you in goblin society is will either kill you quickly or build character.

BP Cost:
Fighter 25
Ranger n/a
Barbarian 40
Thief 25
Rogue 55
Assassin 30
Mage 70
Fighter/Mage 50
Fighter/Thief 25
Mage/Thief 50
Cleric 35

Gnoles as PCs

Gnoles at a Glance

Strength: +5
Intelligence: -4
Wisdom: -8
Dexterity: +4
Constitution: +4
Looks: -8
Charisma: -8

Gnole Pros:
*Size Large for Hit Points (15), Knock Backs (20), and weapon and armor use. Gnoles may use Large weapons with a reach of less than 8 feet as one-handed weapons, and armor sized for gnoles is one DR heavier than that sized for humans, while maintaining human penalties to defense and initiative.
*Reach is by Weapon +1 foot
*Low Light Vision
*Communicate with hyaenas, wolves, jackals, and lions, including giant versions, as well as kobolds.
*Free Improved Awareness Talent
*Tough Hide: Gnoles have a DR of 2, in addition to any armor worn
*Improved Speed: Longer legs and a loping gait allow Gnoles to move faster than humans; Crawl 5, Walk 10, Jog 15, Run 20, and Sprint 25

Gnole Cons:
*Antipathy: Lions. Gnoles hate lions, and the feeling is reciprocated. All Gnoles suffer from Animal Antipathy: Lions.
*Native Language: Gnole. Any other languages must be learned.
*Poor Social Reactions: Gnoles are, at best, Hated by smaller races, and are frequently Feared by anything smaller than a human. Even among the larger humanoid races, their foulness and fractiousness means that they are most often Disliked or Disdained.

Preferential Talent Access:
The following talents may be purchased for 50% of their listed BP cost:
*Attack Bonus, Damage Bonus, and Swift blade (NOT Parry bonus) for Flails.
*Fast Healer, Poison Resistant

BP Cost by class
Fighter: 30
Ranger: 45
Barbarian: 25
Thief: 35
Rogue: Hahahahaha
Assassin: 50
Mage: No.
Fighter/Mage: No.
Fighter/Thief: 30
Thief/Mage: No.
Cleric: 75

Advice on Playing a Gnole: Gnoles are grotesquely stupid, with the impulse control of a roided-out toddler on speed. You know what you want, you take it. If anyone gets in your way, you make them get out of your way... unless they're bigger than you, then you are very nice to them until their back is turned and you've gotten some friends together. Gnoles have keen senses of smell, but are hampered by the fact that they and much of their surroundings are covered by secretions of their anal glands.

Malabar's Magical Make-up

Malabar’s Magical Make-up is something of a rarity; a spell created by a Rogue. Malabar himself was a magical prodigy; while he studied music and oration as a bard in Bet Kalamar, he took to Arcane Lore like an elf upon his first real exposure to it, instantly grasping quite complex theories and coming up with new insights that shocked his tutors. Over the years, he never really mastered spellcasting (he had only a rogue’s grasp of those mechanics), but several of his spells are still studied today as exemplars of spell design. That many of them are viewed as “frivolous” is a source of chagrin for “serious” scholars of magic… to study the pinnacle of your craft, you have to learn spells that deal with make-up, music, and play-acting.

Malabar’s Magical Make-up (4th level Mage Spell)
Base SP Cost: 80
Components: V, S, Special
Casting Time: 10 seconds
Range: Touch
Volume of Effect: One individual
Duration: 2 hours
Saving Throw: not applicable

Additional Spell Point schedule:
Increase duration: 1 SP/3minutes
Increased Bonus: 2 SP/5 fractional points (no more than 40 points may be spent this way)

Using subtle physical alterations, small quantities of conjured materials, and a deft eye, Malabar’s Magical Make-up enhances the Looks score of the target (with a concomitant rise in Charisma). The spell adds 1d4 to the target’s looks, plus 50 fractional points if the spellcaster is skilled in (Advanced Mastery or better) Acting, Disguise, or Seduction (each skill of sufficient mastery will add +50 fractional points to the final bonus). At the end of the spell’s duration, the bonus does not instantly disappear. While the physical alterations slowly return to place, the conjured cosmetics remain until cleaned off; the Looks bonus resets by 50 fractional points every half-hour, or by 50 fractionals every 5 minutes if exposed to water (even heavy humidity).

Malabar’s Magical Make-up does not have a material component, per se, but casting it upon oneself is difficult; without the aid of a mirror, any bonuses are halved. If the caster has a mirror (at least the size of their own palm), then the spell may be cast normally. It may be cast upon another without difficulty, provided the caster can see clearly to make the alterations.

Repair Flesh

Repair Flesh

Base SP Cost: 80
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 4 seconds
Range: Touch
Area of Effect: One creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None

Additional Spell Point schedule:
Additional Healing: 20 SP/+1 HP
Resist Effects: 80 SP additional saving throw

Repair Flesh is a 4th level Mage spell which restores 1d4p damage to a single wound each time it is cast. If more than a single wound has been taken, the magic-user must choose a single wound to be healed; if the healing exceeds the amount of the wound, additional points will spill over to another wound as days of healing (so, if a 7 point wound is cured for 10 points, one other wound will receive the equivalent of 3 days of natural, non-assisted, healing). If the wound was a source of poison or disease (such as the bite of a tick or the sting of a spider), the mage may spend an additional 80 points to attempt to repair that damage, granting an additional saving throw against the effect. This carries a risk, however, as the second result must be taken, even if it is worse than the previous result.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

VHT-1 Hover Tank

One of the second generation of vehicles developed by the Aeolians, the Veritech Hover Tank was the first production model land-based Veritech. Fast and maneuverable, it was nonetheless capable of projecting significant force, serving as more of a mounted infantry than a true cavalry.

The VHT is a variable fighter, able to change from a speeder-type configuration, utilizing ground-effect thrusters instead of repulsorlifts, to a fully humanoid "battloid" shape, to a two-legged “tank” mode, resembling a mobile artillery walker. The speeder mode is very compact, functionally speeder scale; the battloid and walker/tank modes are far less compact, functioning on the walker scale. In the last mode, the powerful main cannon is most useful; in other modes, it is either unavailable (speeder) or difficult to use (battloid). Someone who is skilled in Hover Vehicle Operation can make use of the speeder mode mode without penalty, and someone skilled in Walker Operation may make use of the "battloid" and tank shape with no penalty. Veritech Piloting (A) enhances the use of all these modes.

CVR-3 Armor and Cylcones

As the Aeolians made their journey to Tirol, in hopes of creating peace between Aeolis and Tirol, they brought with them an increased understanding of the technology that had led to their first variable fighters. The new technologies were smaller, without sacrificing any of their durability. Among their advances was the creation of a veritech powersuit, designed to function as personal transport and fighting vehicle for mounted power infantry, as well as a survival tool for downed pilots.

The “Cyclone” could fold into a storage cube for transport, or unfold into a two-wheeled conveyance, similar in function to a speeder bike. If the rider knew of its variable nature, and wore the Aoelian-standard interface armor (designation: CVR-3), they would be able to further transform the Cyclone into a powersuit, using inbuilt weapons, flight systems, and improved protection against damage to serve as mounted powered infantry. True to the Aoelian design aesthetic, several modular weapon systems were designed, allowing Cyclone forces to serve a variety of roles, from heavy fire support capable of dealing with walker-scale threats, to sabotage and espionage.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Minor Orders

Minor Orders

Lay Priests are those who are not fully anointed as priests, but still serve important religious functions. They may serve the church in a variety of ways; sacred craftsmen trusted to produce the raw materials of divine icons, teachers who spread the ideals of the church (be it mundane skills, such as the healers and bakers of the Caregiver, or actual knowledge of the religion), and even minor religious functionaries who stand in for a cleric when none is conveniently available, providing for burials and births "in the faith", and the occasional "impromptu wedding", as needs might arise.

It is possible for an appropriately skilled individual to have rank in several minor orders, should they meet the requirements. It is rarer, however, as those with that level of devotion frequently seek the clergy, though some exceptions exist (for example, in the Laugher’s congregations, many will be Cantors as well as another minor order, while the Cathedral of Light acolytes are also frequently Doorkeepers).

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Rifts: Savage Houstown

I wrote, some time ago, an expansion of the material about Houstown present in Rifts: Lone Star. With the release of Savage Rifts, I wanted to update my material to reflect that option. This is a simple conversion; I'll add a bit more material later, perhaps.