Wild Stars and TTRPG Patron Play

Been thinking some about Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars. In some ways, it is, in fiction, the closest you get to something as off-the-wall as a #BROSR-style 1:1 time game with patrons in space with multiple factions, pieces on the board and off the board, all in motion simultaneously.

Left to Right: Carthage, two Brothan, Daestar, and Mack

One of the reasons why it’s hard to pitch is that it’s SO off the wall and chaotic, it’s not easy to either compare it to other works or really capture in a nutshell what’s going on. How would you elevator-pitch the narrative of what’s going on in #BROvenloft right now?

Wild Stars VII [which we’re serializing next year]: With adventuring hero-teams still regrouping, the Wild Star patrons Strazis off the board still and Erlik dead, you’re left with the Artomique Space Nazis who control earth, the Space Pirates, the telepath guild, and the psionic T-Rexes vying for control of known space.

The God Father is back, but his faction [the Purple Order] is out of commission until he can breed more with other immortal women. Phaedra is in play and gathering her own allies to wreck the Artomique / Pirate alliance.

We haven’t seen much of the Brothan (space werewolves) lately. I’m sure they’re still out there, though, but the Black Star Reavers (Space Lizardmen) are a new wildcard faction that may or may not be allied with the Artomiques, but not the telepaths guild (or vice versa).

Carthage, the renegade Wild Star, who was a Patron from the Brothan for awhile, has been factionless for some time, but he’s still around in some capacity due to Dalucar, the Saturnian.

The crabmen’s influence is still being felt across the galaxy, and their evolutionary spike that landed on Mars led to the ascendance of the telepathic T-Rexes. We haven’t seen them directly, though, since the flashback to the 20th century in the prologue of Wild Stars V.

In the context of this Patron Level game, the Ancient Warrior/Strazis is an ascended PC who went from sword & sandal Fighting Man to name-level patron for an interstellar confederation.

If you were to run a Wild Stars Braunstein, though, you’d need the following factions:

  • The Artomiques (Achilles Hister)
  • The Wild Stars (Strazis)
  • Atlanteans [specifically the pre-Wild Stars Atlanteans and those who did not become Wild Starriors after the exodus](Broadwater)
  • The Brothan (Brotah or Carthage)
  • The Five-Thousand-Fingered Hand (the Madam)
  • Space Pirate (Red Queen)
  • The Saturnians (Dalucar)
  • The Purple Order (The God Father)
  • Phaedra’s coalition (Phaedra)
  • The Black Star Reavers (?????)
  • The Marzanti (?????)
  • The Dire Griefs (?????)

And that’s just off the top of my head and for starters. Each of those Patrons has henchmen [such as Genghis and Georgian, Achilles’ two main mooks] as well as a number of adventurers.

Erlik

Because within those various groups, you have Erlik, who is Strazis’ son and one of the main leaders of the Wild Stars, his wife Daestar, who’s a member of the Five Thousand Fingered Hand (telepath’s guild that is actually a rival faction against Strazis’ Wild Stars).

Earth faction, you’d have Bully and Risky Bravo and their other family members, who are off adventuring on behalf of both earth and the Wild Stars, or, in Bullson’s case in the last volume, the Artomiques.

Different “PCs” are constantly forming, disbanding, and reforming adventuring parties against the backdrop of the machinations of the various factions vying for control of the Galaxy.

Anyway, Wild Stars VI: Orphan of the Shadowy Moon is being currently serialized in Cirsova Magazine. Part 3 just dropped. Parts 1 & 2 are on Amazon now.

We also recently published the collected edition of Wild Stars V: The Artomique Paradigm, which also reprints an original 1970s Wild Stars short story from The Multiversal Scribe that serves as a prelude to next year’s Wild Stars VII: The Gold Exigency. Plus, it contains some TTRPG write-ups for some of the major characters in case you would be interested in trying out a faction-based Wild Stars Braunstein.

Random Freemasonic Title Generator

Oh, hey, finally some D&D content on Cirsova, amirite?

Last night, I had the idea for a freemasonic title generator.

[optional superlative] [adjective] [administrative title] [location east of Crete and south of the Black Sea]

Roll 1d8 on each of these tables to determine your poobah’s title!

Image

[disclaimer: this is just for fun. please do not report me to the Orient of Arkansas]

Also, be sure to check out our Kickstarter for Julian Hawthorne’s Strange Recollections of Martha Klemm!

“D&D is Lord of the Rings: the Game”

Every once in awhile, you get someone who comes along and insists that despite all of the evidence to the contrary, Dungeons & Dragons is nothing more than Lord of the Rings: the Game–everything that is not taken from Tolkien is just window dressing that Gygax added because he was sued by Tolkien’s publisher to distract from the fact that D&D is just Lord of the Rings.

To these people, challenging this notion that Tolkien is the be-all, end-all of Dungeons & Dragons and “the basis of all fantasy” is the same as hating the man and denigrating his works.

It’s so very tiresome…

But what if D&D were “just” Lord of the Rings? How much of the window dressing would you have to strip away?

Well, we’ll start with the PCs:

Hobbits and Dwarves are in, naturally. I think we can keep them without any real changes.

Fighters? Yes! Fighters are very much a hallmark of Lord of the Rings, and you don’t see them in very many other fantasy works.

We’re off to a great start!

Now, Wizards and Magic Users… are out, because Wizards are actually a race and there are only like five of them, and they don’t really cast spells from the spell list. So, uh… NPC Wizards only.

Elves: this should be easy! I mean, we’ll have to give them all 6-12″ in extra height, but that’s no problem! But they’re all fighters except for the NPC elven kings and queens who have access to very subtle magics.

Thieves: these guys are pretty universal, but I don’t recall a lot of traps or locks that needed dealing with in Lord of the Rings.

Clerics are right out because there was no organized religion in Middle Earth since the second age, and there aren’t that many undead to turn, and since nobody has magic except for the Maiar and the eldest of the Elves, no humans, dwarves, or hobbits could be clerics. Maybe give 1st level cleric spells to NPC elven kings? Oof, this is starting to get not very D&D-like!

You’d probably have to roll Ranger’s woodcraft abilities into some kind of non-magic proficiencies, and without religion, no Paladins, either…

Um… let’s go to monsters! Maybe we’ll do better there!

  • Goblins – check
  • Orcs – check
  • Nazgul – check
  • Wights – check
  • Balrogs -check
  • Ents – Check
  • Wolves/Wargs – check
  • Giant Spiders – check
  • Trolls – well, they’re radically different from D&D trolls, but we’ll call this check
  • Dragons – no check…? There’s only one dragon left in the Third Age and if you’re playing a “Serious” Lord of the Rings game, he’ll probably have plot armor. You might find more if you play in a First or Second Age game, but that’s not “Lord of the Rings” is it?

Okay, you’ve got a decent basic monster list, but you’ll probably have to leave out the overwhelming majority of monsters D&D is best known for if you’re going to go with “D&D is just Lord of the Rings.”

Great Review of Wild Stars and the Wild Stars 5e Supplement

Swords & Stitchery just posted a really glowing review of Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars, as well the RPG Setting Supplement recently published by Troll Lord Games.

Since we’re going to be serializing The Artomique Paradigm next year, now would be the best time to get caught up on all of the Wild Stars goodness!

We recommend having at least read the Wild Stars comics collected in Book of Circles, since that first introduces and chronicles the Artomique’s initial invasion of our timeline following the destruction of their own. But if you like kitchen-sink pulp science fiction adventure in the vein of Gardner F. Fox with a healthy injection of Burroughs, you’ll definitely want to pick up the Wild Stars 35th Anniversary Omnibus in hardcover! This tome collects all of the Wild Stars comics, two novels [Force Majeure and Wild Star Rising], the novella [Time Warmageddon], several short stories, AND includes a comprehensive encyclopedia of the Wild Stars universe.

Right now, get 15% off the hardcover with promo code THANKS15

…and Almost Finished with Game Content!

I spent a pretty good chunk of the evening working on bonus content for Mongoose & Meerkat!

The result is roughly 3,000 words of gaming content, including:

  • How to drop the Battlefield of Keres into your hexcrawl map
  • Suggestions on how to run a short adventure based on Brandy & Dye
  • Scenario for Sword of the Mongoose
  • Encounters in Terzol
  • Statblocks for monsters and encounters, ranging from the Hands of the Bursa and the Terzoli Remnants to Isak Yan and his undead to  Keres’s magical anomalies
  • Much much more!

I’ll be putting the finishing touches on it soon then will be running it by Jim Breyfogle for approval.

Once he gives it the OK, it will be added to the Appendix of the hardcover.

In fact, we’ll be adding all of the bonus material to the hardcover [except for the list of backer names, of course] this week, at which point the hardcover will be officially Almost DoneTM.

Once we have a page-count, we can do the layout for the hardcover’s dust-jacket.

No promises, but this could begin fulfilling by as early as June!

6 x 9 cover

Maze of Nuromen, Breaking the Speed of Light, and 2020 Advertisements

Maze of Nuromen at Arkansas RPG Con

Over the weekend, I ran the Blueholme introductory module, Maze of Nuromen. It’s called The Necropolis of Nuromen now, but I’m Old SchoolTM.

Michael Thomas of Dreamscape Design was kind enough to not only send us some player guides, he also sent a copy of the updated module [which turned out to be a lot of help]. I made sure to let everyone there know that DD had sponsored the game and gave out the Prentice rulebooks as gifts to my players.

We ran the module DCC style, with each player having 3 characters. I gave everyone a Fighting Man and let them pick two other classes; these two other classes were where their “goals” came from:

  • Elves and Dwarves looking to retrieve the Elven Crown
  • Magic Users looking to find the Book of Power
  • Thieves looking to find the chest of the Master Thief
  • Halflings looking for the body of a long-ago halfling adventurer [which I made Yolo Swaggins from my B/X B4 game]
  • Clerics looking to find and destroy an unholy bible of the ape god

Fighters were hired muscles to act as the “front row”.

This is the first time I haven’t used minis for a Basic game, but this setup made it easy to do things Final Fantasy style–unless there was a “boss” or unique circumstances, fighters get hit, then folks in back as characters go down. Worked out nicely, actually.

My players made surprisingly good progress on it for a con module that lasted roughly 3 and a half hours. If I didn’t have to go run some errands and could’ve stuck around another hour, they might have even finished it.

So quick rundown:

They got into the Maze without any real problems; for some reason, I always forget about the goblins in the first room, so I just handwaived that they’d hidden behind rocks when they heard nearly two-dozen adventurers gathering around the tower entrance. The party crossed the stream and wisely ignored the bottomless pit. Surprisingly, the character they sent to secure the rope across the stream only had dex 7 but he made the check.

Some elves in the main hall told them that they’d seen a boatload of goblins in the dungeon, so they’d been hiding and waiting for a moment to make a run for it.

The party got hit pretty hard with the Harpies’ charm person in the dining hall–the PCs that made their saves managed to pull everyone out, but at least one MU got nabbed and torn to shreds.

They explored the prison corner to little avail [it’s a trolly dead-end with almost no loot and just some encounter bait].

The barracks proved a bit more of a challenge, but some lucky rolls and good choices helped them survive it. A shrieker attracted a gelatinous cube, but they wisely didn’t mess with it–unless you’re determined to get yourself killed by a jelly cube, they’re pretty easy to avoid. The skelies didn’t prove much of a problem, either.

While the party was pretty uninterested in the pantry and kitchen, they smartly guessed that they could use the wax for the candles to plug their ears so they wouldn’t be affected by the harpies’ song. Sated on mageflesh and fairly outnumbered, the harpies were content to leave them be as they skulked out of the dining hall.

A fighter got green slimed near the savage garden, but since he was wearing plate and helmet and it was a VERY SMALL green slime [ended up like 1hp], the fighter took more damage from having it burned off his armor than from the slime itself. The party didn’t poke around the vegetation, and the dwarf kept everyone from tripping up the water features, so fire beetles kept to themselves.

The party raided Nuromen’s apartment, found the keyword to open the door to his lab and made their way there. They messed with EVERYTHING.

At least two characters got blown up by the alchemy lab trap, someone got hurt by the frog, they found Yolo’s stuff, and the trap doors.

With all the magic users dead, no one achieved a “goal” from the Tome of Power, but an elf got permanently infused with Detect Magic. One of the clerics thought the Tome of Power was the evil book they were trying to destroy. It wasn’t, but it unleashed a chain reaction that permanently enchanted their mace with light. If any MUs had been alive, they would’ve lost their mind over it, but elf didn’t really care.

Party dropped down the trapdoor to the temple of the ape god and found the back-way into Nuromen’s ancestral tomb. While the party made pretty short work of the three zombies, Nuromen himself killed 3 party members with Magic Missile and level drains. They managed to drive him off by, of all things, hitting him repeatedly by throwing the silver puppet at him and then dousing him with holy water.

That’s where we called things.

Funny thing, for how many goblins were crawling around the Maze, they never actually encountered any because they never found the room where they were camping out and goblins never came up on the Random Encounter table.

Great part was DMing for old school guys [including Shane Stacks from Shane Plays] who were demanding more blood and more PC death, even saying that it would be great for things to end in a TPK [because Con Game]. It was a blast.

Wild Stars: Breaking the Speed of Light 

This comes via Wild Stars author, Michael Tierney:

When I wrote my first Wild Stars novels back in the 1970s, three of concepts that drive the mechanics the Wild Stars universe challenged the accepted views of our reality. One was that mankind made our first migration into space and colonized planets circling the brightest stars in the night sky some 75,000 years ago. Then, around the year 2000, geneticists cracked the human genome and discovered that the human population crashed to only a few thousand people alive on Earth around 75,000 years ago (the Wild Stars explains where the rest went). The other two were the often mocked concepts of time travel and starships that can travel faster than the speed of light. A couple of weeks ago, this story was released:

https://www.thescienceandspace.com/2019/10/breaking-researchers-at-cern-break.html?fbclid=IwAR1kOX72AAKnHrp_U6wdY86MNRGAOkpMMFSSrRlEjnA9KLKz_sYQcwYT_aQ

Also, Michael’s shared the following tidbit about author sales rankings:

For anyone who ever wondered how the rankings work on Amazon, here is today’s snapshot of my sales in Science Fiction, superimposed with new works released at the time. Amazon recalculates hourly, who what might be an upwards spike in the morning could end up as a rankings dip by the end of the day.

michael's sales rank

2020 Advertising

We’re opening up advertising for 2020 a little bit early so we’ll have enough money to buy stories for next year. John E. Boyle has already claimed the back cover slot for the Spring Issue [#3], but there is plenty of interior space.

Details on ads are here: https://cirsova.wordpress.com/cirsova-magazine/advertising/

Why are we trying to get our hands on as much capital as quickly as possible?

I need at least another $3k monies to buy all of the stuff that we’re wanting buy for 2020 and still be able to replace the ductwork in my house. I’d rather not have to take out a loan; I mean, I’m probably going to have to take out a loan anyway, but I’d rather it only be for a few thou than

ductwork quote.png

 

Sunrider: Liberation Day Review

Okay, I’m finally getting around to my review of Sunrider: Liberation Day!

Sunrider did a weird episodic-gaming thing, where episodes 1 & 2 were included in Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius and then they scraped and rebuilt the entire engine for episode 3.

Some [most] of the changes were justified and for the better, but the shift leaves Mask of Arcadius something of a shaggy dog.

The good: Getting rid of the cutscenes for every attack was great, and makes the tactical portion of the game much more playable.

The change to how command points are handled allows for some interesting strategies and flexibility—something that is needed to make the large fleet battles in this game more varied.

The bad: A total reset on all mech and ship specs and improvements. You’re given a default set of improvements to your Ryders and the Sunrider, so if you heavily favored one unit or one particular strategy in the previous episodes, it might take some work to get back there.

For what the system is doing, it should not be so juddery running on a potato. Mask of Arcadius had some minor hiccups, but not like Liberation Day. And considering that we’re talking more or less Panzer General II level graphic, it’s probably more to do with inefficient code/language [I’ve heard that RenPy has some issues on Windows 10].

Okay, this is not really bad, but the decision to have the game fully voice-acted in Japanese was an odd choice, given that it was originally partially voice-acted in English.

The shocking: It’s mindblowing how little effect the Visual Novel portion of Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius has on… well, anything!

None of the character relationship points or leadership axis point have any effect on Liberation Day beyond one upgrade for Icari’s mech, one optional side mission, and whether or not you have to use the Wishall to get Cossette. Nothing carries over storywise except for how you won the fine battle [Legion Destroyed/Ava has an eyepatch | Legion not Destroyed/Ava doesn’t have an eyepatch]. And Liberation Day’s story is on rails; the branching endings are all in an epilogue that’s divorced from the game itself.

Liberation Day allows you to import the end-game save file from Mask, but it didn’t work, probably because I never finished the “side” [finger quotes] mission where you get the Wishall which creates an import exception. But you can just tell the game what choices you made…

 

While Mask of Arcadius starts out with very small piece counts and eventually ramps up to fleet battles, Liberation Day starts you right out with some pretty big fights that keep getting bigger. You can easily end up with fights where you have ~20 units on your side against a huge enemy force. The light battle cruisers, merc destroyers, and drone fighters not only fill out your ranks, they provide some very particular tactical advantages—the fun is in trying to figure out how to best use all the tools at your disposal to quickly par down any enemy forces and get the economy of action in your favor as quickly as possible.

The abundance of carriers and enemy support mechs is always a first consideration, since they are constantly pushing the economy of action in favor of the enemy. The trick is to use a combination of your command abilities and your normal units to knock these guys out in a way that won’t leave your flagship exposed.

Typical strategy I liked was picking a flank and putting the Sunrider there, offering a strong center with Kryska and some mid-sized ships with some other units holding the far flank—from there, try to crush the enemy flank [a Vanguard blast with requisite warps in and then out, if you can work out the command point numbers just right, can readily handle a large number of capital ships before they can get their first volleys off]. From there, try to push upward or downward, then regroup before enemy reinforcements [there are ALWAYS reinforcements] can get behind your lines.

Overall, I think that the battles in Liberation Day are a bit easier than Mask of Arcadius, but they’re a lot of fun and still pretty rewarding. Even if the VN portion of the game was railroaded until the epilogue, it was still pretty good all around.

Finally, onto the re-ranking of the characters! Spoilers for the playable VN epilogue within:

Chigara

Wow, they managed to make me hate Chigara more than Claude! That took some doing. For story purposes, they railroad the protagonist’s relationship with the Shinobu. So, not only is she kind of a cringy, eye-roll inducing trope, she turns out to be the traitor/villain/sleeper agent hinted at at the end of the first game. Apparently, there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the fandom that the hero was forced to hook up with worst-girl to move the story forward. While I didn’t think she was worst-girl in the original game, she was pretty close, and given that she turns out to be one of the main villains, she firmly and deeply entrenches herself in the worst girl slot.

Cossette

The game at least let me kill Cossette, so for that alone, she ranks above Chigara. I don’t know if she gets any worthwhile development if you don’t kill her, but she doesn’t have an epilogue path.

Kryska

This is a shocking and precipitous fall for Kryska! She becomes more of a background character in Liberation Day, and doesn’t get any characterization beyond being a hammy, dykey lesbian that’s bros with Icari. She doesn’t even feel like the same character from the previous game. One of the best moments in Mask of Arcadius was when she was trying to show the captain the humanitarian work that the Alliance was doing to convince him that even in the most cynical light, the Alliance was doing good and that good was what she personally believed in [then they had to fight their way out of a space pirate ambush]. Kryska gets nothing like that in Liberation Day, and there’s no path for her in the epilogue.

Note: her mech is solid as it ever was and usually the “center tackle” of any formation.

Icari

This is another surprising fall, but like Kryska, she loses out on a lot of development in this game. While she started out as this alluring and mysterious beauty, she ends up falling into the Tsundere trope something bad. To the point of being almost ironic/self-aware. Her mystique gets traded in for a lot of “not like I like you or anything,” and while it’s hinted that someday her depths will be revealed in a sequel, no one is holding their breath. Unlike Kryska, Icari has an epilogue path. It’s pretty “oh no bro”.

Her Phoenix is still probably one of my favorite mechs.

Claude

Claude is rescued from the scrappy heap in this game, not because she’s that much better, but because other girls cratered. Still, making the dumb big-booby ‘let me UwU you!’ character turn out to be Q was certainly an interesting twist.

With far more units with flak guns, her mech’s gravity gun attack is killer.

Ava

I still really like Ava and feel like she deserves better than what she gets [she’s really out of place in the Sunrider universe]. She could’ve held her top slot if she were not so emotionally non-committal in the epilogue. The appeal of a character like Ava is when they eventually open up; she never really does to the point where it would complete her arc, and when she does open up a bit, she close right up again. Maybe the epilogue does her dirty? The regular ending left me feeling a bit better about her than her epilogue ending.

Asaga

Asaga benefits the most after Claude, I think, from the drop-offs of the other characters, but her characterization also improves so it’s not static–she moves up while the others move down. Part of the main storyline is that as the Captain and Chigara go down their romance route, she starts going crazy due to a combination of her jealousy, combat fatigue, and repeated “awakenings” that are fracturing her mind. Her best friend has betrayed her [both in her crazy mind and in the very real sense that she’s a sleeper agent]. Asaga stops being the Genki Girl and becomes a much more complex and conflicted character.

Black Jack stays a workhorse mech, but some upgrades you get make it a bit better against capital ships than it has been in the past. One of the hardest missions is when you have to keep shooting down Black Jack over and over again when Asaga breaks in battle and tries to kill Chigara.

And the winner for best girl is…

Sola

300px-Sola_portraitA surprising dark-horse contender takes the title! Somehow, Sola manages to transcend being “teh Rei.” She’s kind of in the thick of things, with Asaga turning to her while she’s in her descent into madness. She’s the sympathetic and grounded friend who’s putting those around her above her own issues—and she’s got issues, but loyalty isn’t one of them. Her circumstance are probably as crazy or crazier than everyone else around her, but she manages to keep it together and be the one actual constant and reliable person in the crew.

Of all the pairings, Sola and the captain feels “right”. The main game ends with Sola and the captain spending time hunkered down together while the fallout of the Liberation Day Massacre gets sorted out; there’s a hook-up path in the epilogue for Sola, but the epilogue that loops more or less back to the regular game’s ending but with the Captain and Sola having spent a bit more time together and grown a bit closer and now looking forward to spending a month or so together alone in hiding feels like a “canon” ending… a “best” ending.

Why does it feel “right”? While Icari’s a tsundere for the captain, she’s also a tsundere for Kryska, and probably a tsundere for everybody; the characters never establish a real connection for each other. Ava’s the “old flame”, but she uses being “too professional” to mask being non-committal to where she’d only rekindle things with the captain when knowing the universe is going to collapse and there will be no consequences for reliving that romance one more time. Asaga works, too, because yeah, rescuing the princess, but the ending kind of snatches it away with the looming social/political gap between the characters. With Sola, there’s not that conflict of position but there is a shared commitment to those around them—there’s a sympathetic bond between two people who have both, as they say, “seen some shit”. Of all the pairings, this is the one where the writing actually reinforces the idea of a workable bond between two people who love each other, understand each other, and would do anything for the other. Sola feels like a writer-favorite, even if it’s a stealth favorite—she’s not supposed to be OTP, but ends up that way. It doesn’t hurt that most of her competition is terrible.

Like Sola herself, her mech needs some TLC. If you spend enough on the Seraphim to where it can shoot and move in the same turn, or even shoot twice in one turn, it can be a big damage monster. Generally, I keep it middle center, with a few light/medium ships between her and Kryska’s Paladin.

 

Free to Use B/X D&D Character Sheet

There are a lot of good character sheets out there for B/X, and a lot of them are free for private use. But I needed something for potential commercial use, and I didn’t feel like digging through the internet for one that had a commercial use license. So I made one of my own. It’s not all purpose [it’s for fighter/thief only right now], but my gift to the OSR is that it is free for commercial use without permission.

[Character Sheet Template]

Character Sheet Template.png

More AD&D Gaming Thoughts from Daniel J. Davis

The episode of Geek Gab that Jeffro Johnson and I were on talking about the implied setting of AD&D has sparked some incredibly thought-provoking posts from author Daniel J. Davis on his Brain Leakage blog.

http://www.brainleakage.com/home/between-appendix-n-and-pink-slime

http://www.brainleakage.com/home/the-implied-apocalypse-of-dungeons-dragons

This is seriously good stuff, and you ought to start paying attention to this guy.

Also, don’t forget, there’s only 5 days left to back Wild Stars, which is also being adapted into a setting for Amazing Adventures 5e!