Review of Star Trek Adventures RPG

Star Trek RPG
Put on your red shirt and prepare to beam down

I have to admit, I was excited that Modiphius Entertainment was putting out a new Star Trek RPG.  This stems from a few places.  First, I have been a Trek fan since the original series (yes, I’m that old.)  Second, one of my first writing projects in the gaming business was for FASA’s Star Trek RPG back in the 1980’s (yes, I’m that old part II.)  I wrote support books, rules, and scenario packs back in the day. I’ve even gotten to write game walk-thru books for several of the computer games for Star Trek. Third, we’ve been in a weird glut of Star Trek RPG’s.  There have been some good attempts in the past to rekindle this franchise into a game – but they all more or less fizzled.

So I pre-ordered the game and slotted some time to play at Gen Con. I lightly read the rules before Gen Con and I’m glad I played the game to clear up some of the ambiguity in the book.  That brings me to one point, some of the rules and examples are not entirely clear.  I struggled a bit with some of the core concepts until I played.

The rules can be a little confusing.  So if I made any mistakes, those are on me (and the gamemaster that led us on our adventure).  Once I got into the game there were some bits of brilliance here along with some, “what the hell?” moments reading/playing this as well.

Something brilliant – the use of momentum and threats poold.  This is a pool of points that you build by over-succeeding on tasks.  They are a group pool you can leverage to roll extra dice to try and succeed, or to up the ante (so to speak) on a certain situation.

The counter to that is the threat pool which his owned by the gamemaster.  This is the ying to the momentum pool’s yang.  The gamemaster can leverage this pool to his advantage, allowing him to toss in complications such as NPC’s recovering faster from damage.  The two pools interact with each other but are critical to the play of the game.  It does open up some questions from time to time as to whether a character should leverage the pool or not – but this forces good teaming with the players.

The game system itself is very simple.  But there are some strange things embedded in here.  For example:  The damage your phaser does is not just the weapons listing, but factors in your Security Discipline.  So if you are a red shirt using a phaser, you might do more damage than someone who has a low Security Discipline. This makes sense on a “to hit” roll, but not on damage.  Weird eh?

Star Trek
Starfleet needs a new crew because these guys are dying

There were other things that seemed a little lopsided in play.  I had an Advisor Talent with my character, which meant I could lean over your shoulder and help your character perform a task. The thing was, there’s no real limit to it.  So I helped a pilot navigate an asteroid field, helped coach a fellow officer in disarming a bomb, and even acted as an Advisor when someone was shooting.  It allowed players to re-roll a die for a task but this simple Talent feels like it needs some boundaries.  There were only so many times I could say, “Atta Boy!” while being an Advisor.

The game isn’t about killing but incapacitating.  I am changing that with my players.  Red shirts die – look it up.  It’s an easy hop to turn the damage into hit points.

The rules have a lot of fluff text (easily 1/3 of the book).  It safely presumes you know the Star Trek universe.  While the system is set up to play in all but the new films eras, there’s not a lot of guidance about what is different from a gameplay perspective.  The fluff text is great stuff, wonderful little nuggets for Trekkers, but these nuggets take you all over the place.  There’s no comprehensive timeline to help players only familiar with one era to jump in.

The rules for starship combat work but are pretty abstract. Your skills apply to combat situations, so it does work.  I still long for the old FASA system and may revert to that for my players.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of Modiphius Entertainment – or the one.

Some rules seem missing – or at least I haven’t been able to track them down.  When they talk about Reputation for characters, they have a table listing the number of Responsibilities that a character has.  They never really explain this and the table seems contrary to Star Trek, “I have the lives of 430 crewmen I’m responsible for!” According to the table Captain Kirk, you’re only responsible for 17-20…17 to 20 what, I have no idea.

Go to the index you say?  Yeah, good luck with that.  The index is one of the biggest weaknesses in this rulesbook.  It is only four pages-ish long and far from complete.  I hope Modiphius releases a comprehensive one online soon. As it is, this index is worthless and frustrating.

The book is graphically laid out with good artwork and a LCARs Star Trek interface.  That’s nice.  With a black background the white lettering can be a little hard to read at times.

One minor nit – there’s no ship blueprints here.  I don’t need a Constitution Class ship – I’d setting for a Danube Runabout.  Yes, you can score these things online with no problem, but it seems lacking. As a sidebar, the Danube Class ships are shown as a graphic image, but no game stats for them appear in the book – another minor nit.

Star Trek Adventures is destined to be hard to run.  Players that know Star Trek can go down a lot of rabbit holes and whip out a lot of technical stuff that can imbalance play (I know, I’m one of those people!)  It’s a big universe so things can get out of hand quickly.  This is one of the few games where your inside knowledge of hundreds of hours of TV and films can force your gamemaster to pull out his/her few remaining hairs.  This means you have to craft your adventures very carefully.

So is it worth $58 dollars US for the book.  I think so.  I heard a lot of people griping online that the game is too pricy.  It is no more than any other high end RPG.  There’s 384 pages of stuff here, so there is a bulk value.  I love the star maps in the end pages, which is very useful and kind of fun to read. You will pay this much for almost any game system out there these days and this is on-par with the Star Wars RPG, though I found that system more technical than Star Trek – which favors true role playing.

The manufacturer is releasing miniatures for the game – but seems to be skipping the Star Trek II Wrath of Khan figures, which easily had the best uniforms we saw in Star Trek.

I have already prepped two adventures for my player group to go through.  So I like the system enough to continue to play it.  I hope they (Modiphius Entertainment) are planning some good sourcebooks to refine the rules for the eras.

Red Shirt 2

Out of five stars, I would give this 3.9.  I love the momentum/threat pool system and there’s a lot of simplicity here that makes it relatively easy to learn.  I am hopeful they will supplement this system to fix some of the rough edges.

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: To the Gellesian Fields Part 16

monks

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters.  For me, it lets me do a little creative writing.  Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one.  Enjoy!

 

Althalus…

That cockatrice bite gave me a limp with my leg that was irritating.  A large portion of one thigh had turned to stone, gray, impervious to pain, but heavy and hard to move.  It made my hip hurt, and I feared the ailment might spread.  The time had come to see if anyone had a cure.  The apothecary had proved useless in this, all of their bottle and nothing to cure cockatrice bite.  That left me with one choice, one I was loathe to make.  The church.

I am not anti-religion.  I just see them as an enemy.  For the record, they started it.  Years of hunting down magic users like myself instilled a strong disdain for priests.  They are always friendly and cordial, but would sell out warlocks like me in a heartbeat for crucifixion or worse.

While the others stayed at the Copper Horse, waiting for Theren and Bor to return from court, I decided to visit the temple.  The moment I left the inn I spotted that bald headed, blue-robed monk that had been shadowing us since we had arrived in Karn.  He seemed harmless enough but I didn’t trust him.  Trust is not my strong suit.  I coyly watched him as he trailed me through the city.  Why was he so interested in our little party?

I was impressed by the temple when I found it.  It only slightly modest on the outside, high quality stonework from what I could tell. No doubt the stonemason’s guild had to donate their considerable services to build it.  The inside was ornate, with gold-leaf covered statues of angels and an ivory embedded cross.  Braziers with incense burned from their hooks, filling the air with a sweet smell. So much for their coppers going to help the poor.  The hypocrisy was not lost on me.

The white robed pastor stepped forward.  “I am Pastor Galt,” he said with an all-too charming tone to his voice.  He had black hair and was easily 20 years my senior. “What brings you here my son?”

“I am in need of healing pastor,” I said, opening my robe and showing him my gray splotch of stoneskin. His brow furrowed when he looked at it.

“What is your name my son?” he said, stooping and looking at it more closely.

“Althalus.  I am here from Whiterock.  I had a bit of a run-in with a cockatrice.”

“So it would seem,” he said rising.  “Very rare, such a wound.  Cockatrice are rarely found in these parts.”

“I am not from these parts,” I countered, “Can you cure it?”

He was noncommittal in his shrug.  “Perhaps.  I most certainly can try.”  He paused for a moment, which seemed awkward.

“I appreciate it,” I finally said.

“I understand,” Galt said.  “It does require a tithe to church my son.”

“Oh,” of course it did.  “Forgive me father, but I am unsure of how much such a cure might cost.”

“It is not a cost, but a payment from the heart.  Usually it is what someone can afford,” the pastor said.  “But this is complex.  I think a donation of fifty gold pieces might help in such a case.”

Lexa Lyoncroft had nothing on the church when it came to robbery!  I paid him, counting it out slowly.  He ushered me to the altar and I climbed up.  Galt traced an outline with his fingernail of the stoneskin and began to chant.  His hands felt hot on my thigh.  I watched as he massaged the skin.  At first I felt nothing – and I wondered if he had failed.  Then I felt his hands touching me through the skin.  I had feeling again.  After ten minutes or so he stopped.  “I have done all that I can my son,” he said with a ragged voice.

I looked at my thigh and saw the gray skin.  I touched it and felt my finger.  Swinging my leg over the altar I tested the leg.  I had control again, though the spot was sore and a little unsteady.  “What about the gray color?”

Galt shook his head.  “There isn’t anything I can do for that.  I have restored your ability to walk and feel, but the color will remain I am afraid.”  It made me wonder if I had paid more, if that could have been fixed as well.

He walked me to the door and I thanked him.  As I opened the large oaken door I saw the monk across the street.  “He’s still there…” I muttered.

“My son?”

I turned to Galt and bobbed my head in the direction of the monk.  “That man in the blue robe has been following my friends and I since we arrived.”

He snorted a grunt of disdain.  “The Blue Robes.  They arrived here and set up a friary next door.  They are men of God, I will give them that, but little more.  They make people nervous, the way they flutter about the fringes of the city.  Their agenda is that of the church…and their own I fear.”

“The friary is next door?”

“Yes,” Galt said pointing to the right.  “That is their friary.  Perhaps Friar Rez can provide you the answers you seek.”

I thanked him and went next door.  The friary was not as conspicuous and austere as the church.  It was much more simple in its construction, less permanent.  The air stung with a sweet smell, and a touch of must and honey.  The door was open but I knocked on it the sill.  A man wearing a royal blue robe approached me.  “Hello.  I am Malgorzata Rez, the friar here.  How may I assist you?”

“Well, I was just wondering.  I mean, one of your men has been following us,” I turned to point to him but he was standing right behind me.  How did he move up so quickly and quietly?  “I was wondering why?”

Friar Rez began to gesture with his hands, and I half-wondered if he was about to cast some sort of a clerical spell.  The stocky monk replied with hand gestures of his own, leaning his quarterstaff against his body as his hands flew about the air.  It went on for a good two minutes before the friar turned back to me.

“Brother Dimitrios has had a vision that has profoundly changed him.  Apparently you have a part in what he has seen.  I believe he wishes to accompany you.  He has conveyed that your trek is one that is filled with darkness and death, and feels you may hold sway on the dark days that are to come.”

I wasn’t sure what to say.  He seemed harmless enough.  I didn’t fear the dark days, I intended to bring them about. The church used such talk to instill fear and obedience. “I guess that’s okay,” I replied.  “Does he have some sort of vow of silence or something?”

“No,” Rez replied matter-of-factly.  “He has chosen to not speak.  He can at any time.”  I looked at Dimitrios and he nodded.  I turned back to the good friar.  He stepped into the friary and came back with a small wooden keg in his hands.  “This may help.”

I took it and it was heavy and full.  “What is it?”

“Mead of course – the best in the lands. I offer it for the man that would help Dimitrios fulfill his vision.”

I chuckled.  “I thought you might offer me a prayer, not something to drink.”

“Well know, we both know that a prayer might be wasted on you, don’t we?”  There was something in the way that he said it that told me that he knew I was a warlock.

“Thank you,” I replied and turned to Dimitrios.  He had his quarterstaff back in hand and was ready to follow me.

We walked back to the Copper Horse and I saw that Bor and Theren had already arrived.  “How did it go with Lord Sklaver?” I asked.

“You’ll love this,” Arius said sarcastically.

“Oh, it went well,” Theren said.  “We passed on the message as planned.”

“Great, we can go home then?” I said.

“Not exactly,” Bor replied with a hint of hesitation in his voice.

I looked back at Theren.  “What does that mean?”

“Well,” the druid said hedging his voice slightly.  “It’s like this.  We have sort of been drafted into the royal guard.  Temporarily of course, but we need to accompany reinforcements going to the Gash.”

“Drafted?  I don’t like the sound of that.  How temporary of a time are we talking?”

“Well, if our message was right, we’ll be released once we arrive there.  If not, they will likely kill us.”

“Like I said,” Arius quipped, “You’ll love this Althalus.”

“Okay,” I replied, putting down my small keg of mead on the table.  “No problem.  We go to the Great Gash, then we go home.” I knew it was not going to be easy, but at least we were traveling with soldiers rather than wandering afield alone.

“Who’s your friend?” Theren asked, quick to change the subject.

“This is Dimitrios,” I gestured to the blue robed monk who bowed his head to our small party.  “He’s going to be joining us for a while.”

The monk began to gesture with his hands.  Theren, much to my surprise, did the same thing.  I waited for a moment then asked.  “Can you understand him?”

“No, I was just waving my hand around.”

I immediately felt a headache come on.  Druids…a combination of hemp, cheap philosophy, regret and dirty fingernails.    

monks2

I hope you have enjoyed the saga thus far.  Here are the previous parts if you have missed any installments.  Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: To the Gellesian Fields Part 14

Dice-Hate-Me

Arius…

I have to admit, we were all a little mad at Galinndan for selling us out to the Thieves Guild, but none more than Bor.  I don’t blame him.  He had become quite attached to Skull Ringer. He muttered something about making the rogue’s skull ring. We thought he was joking, but you never could tell.

Galinndan and Althalus joined me for our designated meeting with Vizir Krolf Lorraine.  We went to the keep and were forced to disarm ourselves in front of the guards. The castle was situated in the center of the city, with plenty of clear ground around it.  My experience told me that those parade grounds and grassy areas would be deadly fields of fire in the event of a siege.  From the growth of vines and moss, it was clear that Karn had not seen military action for some time.

From what Matthias had told us about this Vizir, he was a man to not be trusted.  We were led to the door of his office.  His desk and chair were on a slightly raised pedestal, almost throne-like.  He was a tall man, lanky, in flowing purple robes.  His face was capped with a jet black goatee and mustache that was finely waxed.  His skin was dark, almost leathery, and there was something in the way he moved that told me that Matthias’s assessment of the man was not far off.

He invited us in and extended to us his hand to kiss his ring. I saw this for what it was, an act of domination. Galinndan hesitated.  I made the appropriate gesture, then drove right to the point.  “We desire an audience with Lord Sklaver.  We have message from a killed Gray Rider that is for his eyes only.”  I explained to him how the Gray Rider had come to our village and had died, and how we had been asked with his dying breath to find his stolen message and deliver it.  Krolf Lorraine was clearly unimpressed.

“His lordship is far too busy to waste time with a pack of mongrels wandering in from some backwater town with a mysterious message.  Still, I am curious.  Why not provide me the message and I will pass it to him when I have a chance.  That should satisfy your alleged need to deliver it.”  He waved his hand in the air as if to wave us off.

“We were told to deliver it to the Lord himself.  We traveled to the Gellesian Fields at the request of the rider before he died.  We have traveled far to complete his ride.” I stood firm.

“Why would Lord Sklaver act on the word of farmers from Whiterock?”

“How do we know we can trust you to deliver the message?”

“How did I know you did not kill this Gray Rider and seeking to profit from delivering his message?” Galinndan replied.  I almost whistled.

The Vizir clearly was not used to being questioned.  “You are dismissed.  Begone!”  Our rogue hung his head low and sulked out of the chambers.  Lorraine turned to us the moment that the door closed.  “Who would kill a Gray Rider?  Such an act would bring the wrath of The Herd down upon them.  No one slays a rider…they become marked men.”

“It was a woman, Lexa Lyoncraft.  She’s the one that stole the message,” I replied.

“Lexa Lyoncraft…well, now I know you are liars.  She is nothing more than a rumor on the wind.  The Church recognized the threat that the Sisterhood of the Sword presented.  They purged them in the name of the faith.  All were put to the sword except the handful whose names keep coming up.  I doubt she exists…I think it is someone using that name to instill fear. “

“Say what you will, I am speaking the truth.”

“Your story is fraught with flaws and lies woven within your lies.  The Gellesian Fields are at the end of our realm in un-ruled lands – the wilds.  Our patrols near the edge of that accursed place say that it is haunted land where the dead wander at night.  I doubt that farmhands such as you had the mettle to go there, let alone go and come back alive.”

Althalus weighed in on the debate.  “We have faced near death many times to deliver this message.  We only seek to pass it on and leave.  Why would we lie about meeting her and making up such a story?”

The Vizir sneered in response.  “You have constructed your little story quite well.  But there are mistakes.  Namely I have had agents who have seen you consorting in the city with a known man of low repute – Matthias Blackshear.  Drummed out of the Royal Guard for failing to perform his duty, any associate of Blackshear’s is presumed to be one of the dregs of society – not worthy of wasting the time of Lord Sklaver with.

“Why would we make up such a story?” I pressed.

“Perhaps you seek to lure away troops from the city, leaving us exposed.  Many lords would love the opportunity to seize control of our realm.  No.  You shall not have an audience.”

I was not surprised.  This had been anticipated by Matthias.  “You assume responsibility for us not delivering our message,” I curtly warned.

He laughed a deep almost crackling chuckle that reminded me of the story my mother told me as a child, a Vizir named Jafar.  “I do not think the realm is any lesser for your failure.  If this message is so important, you can give it to me.”

I shook my head. “Thank you sir,” I said bowing as little as possible.  We left and returned to the Copper Horse.  “How did it go?” Theren asked.

Althalus smiled wryly.  “Galinndan got himself kicked out of the audience.”  All eyes drifted to the rogue who was clearly embarrassed.

“As Blackshear predicted, he wouldn’t let us in.”

Theren nodded.  “Then we go with our fallback plan.  This afternoon, we go to court.”

 

I hope you have enjoyed the saga thus far.  Here are the previous parts if you have missed any installments.  Enjoy!

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

 

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: To the Gellesian Fields Part 12

Joxer
Every party needs a thief.

Galinndan…

The celebration at Omsford, where Matthias Blackshear lived was incredible.  The families were so overjoyed at recovering their lost children they threw us a feast!  It was the first time other than my annual day of birth that anyone had thrown a party in our honor.  I’m not counting that time we killed those Owlbears.  That was not a feast but more of a drinking event.  Many a chair and table were broken that night! Compared to this meal, the whole Owlbear incident was nothing more than a fading memory.

Everything thanked us, shoot our hands, even kissed our cheeks.  This was what it was to be a hero – one of the greatest thieves in the land.

Matthias’s granddaughter Miley stayed close to him and her mother, Clarissa.  She thanked me three times, so we all know what that means…she was in love with me!  I saw her eyes catching mine, and that smile.  I remembered Guild Rule #88  Never pass up an opportunity to make a new friend, especially if she is cute.

After my third ale I asked Matthias, “Is your daughter married?”  I saw no ring nor sign of a husband.

He didn’t answer. He just glared at me with squinted eyes and flashed his gritted teeth.  I got the impression he was offended.  How could that be?  I was a hero like him and the others! Surely Clarissa could do no better in this tiny farming community.  Blackshear stalked off.

“You had better watch it,” Arius said.  “He’s likely to take your head off.”

“I think I could seduce her,” I added as I finished another tankard of ale.  “Besides, she’s cute.”

Theren heard our conversation and shook his head.  “We’ve done a lot to win these people’s trust Galinndan.  Don’t do something that is going to get us killed.”

“What—killed?  All I’m saying is that I think we could hit it off.  Me helping rescue her daughter and all.”

“Do you really want Blackshear as a father-in-law?” Arius asked.  “You slip up one time and your head will go bouncing like that Amber Elf he decapitated.”

That was a good point.  Over the years I had become quite fond of my head and neck and they were right, Matthias seemed to be a bit over reactive at times.  I settled on giving Clarissa a wink.  She didn’t return it but I could tell, she wanted me.

Blackshear pulled us aside an hour later as the party began to break up.  “We are only two days travel to Karn.  Sleep well and tomorrow I will escort you there myself.”

We thanked him for his hospitality.  My father had gone to Karn before, usually to pay taxes and homage to Lord Sklaver. I always wondered why he had never taken me.  Our home was but a village.  Karn was a small city, or so I had been told.

The next morning there were potato cakes and we found our haversacks stuffed with dried meats and fresh fruit, compliments of the citizens of Omsford.  We set out and saw little more than a farmer with an oxcart who we passed along the way.  The next day five riders approached us, all in full armor, glinting with the morning sun. Their armor was matching, as was their slung shields.

Blackshear rode out a few yards ahead of us, meeting them men.  One of them was a lanky fellow with a flowing yellow beard that poked out from under his helm.  “If it is isn’t Matthias Blackshear,” he sneered.  The other men seemed amused.  Two put their hands on their swords.

“Blondebeard,” Matthias spat back as if it were a curse.  This had to be that Syrus Blondebeard that he had told us about, the First Knight of the Royal Guard.

“Where are you going old man?” Blondebeard asked.

“I am taking my friends here to Karn.”

“I thought you were banned from there,” one of the men said half-jokingly.

“Who would stop me?” Blackshear countered. “You?  You’d piss yourself the moment I drew my sword – we both know that.” He turned back to Blondebeard.  “What are you doing away from the whorehouses and taverns?”

“There have been reports of Amber Elves roaming the countryside.  We are merely doing our job – your former job – searching for them.”

Blackshear flashed a grin of pride.  “Well you can turn your pansy-asses around.  We found them and recovered the children they had kidnapped.”

“Really?” Blondebeard said suspiciously.

“You doubt me Syrus?”  His jaw set firm.

There was an awkward pause, I sure felt it.  Finally Blondebeard spoke, not to Matthias, but to us.  “You men have thrown in with a dangerous man.  I’d advise you to part ways with him now.  He’s not welcome in Karn, which means the same will apply to you.”

Theren spoke for us.  “Thank you…but we will stick with him.  We’ve shed blood together.”

“Your choice then,” Blondebeard said.  “You watch yourselves in Karn.  That is our city…our rules.”  He and the other men in the patrol passed us without further comment.

“You make a misstep in Karn, you’ll be dealing with me, Krolf Lorraine, or Adrian Kraverhall.  None of us have much use or patience for farm boys causing trouble.”

Farmboys?  We had been to the Gellesian Fields, had battled ogres, cockatrice, and had even been tested by a member of the Sisterhood of the Sword. Not to mention the Amber Elves.  If anyone was a yokel, it was this Blondebeard.  Armor made men pompous – I saw that.

“He sure doesn’t seem to like you,” I said.

“Mounted pile of shit wearing armor he doesn’t deserve to polish,” Blackshear replied.  “I trained that arse in everything he knows – and only half of it stuck. Now he and the guard are nothing but playthings for the Vizir. Look at them, riding out five days too late.  When they were under my command the Guards were there to protect the citizens.  They would have driven off those yellow-skinned bug-suckers days ago.  Now they hide in Karn.  It is getting more dangerous to live outside of the city every year.”  There was a longing in his voice, the first time I had heard it from him.

We arrived at Karn later that day.  The road leading to the city was dotted with farm houses and cottages.  The city itself was surrounded by a stone wall that was very old.  Vines and moss clogged every mortar seam in it, given the twelve foot walls a green shimmer.  The gate was manned by five guardsmen, though I thought none of them looked too impressive.  They seemed to notice Blackshear.  One of them said, “We don’t want any trouble,” the oldest of the guards said.

“No one ever does,” Matthias said in response.

At the inner portcullis we were told to stop and to read the sign.  It was red lettering painted on a white background with the rules for visitors. I presume that the red lettering was supposed to instill a sense of warning or threat.  It was faded and chipped.

Murder, arson, or rape is punishable by death administered immediately by the City Guard.

Theft is prohibited in the city limits.

Fighting is frowned upon.

Laying of hands on members of the royal family or the City Guard is prohibited.

Magic of all kinds outside those of the church is prohibited.  Violators will be turned over to the church for justice.

All dangerous animals are to be kept secured.

Horse thieves will be whipped in public.

Have a glorious day!

Theren pointed to the theft line and gave me a knowing wink.  “I think that means you.”  I had no intention of stealing here – not now anyways. Doing so without checking in with the guild would result in punishments that I didn’t know the details of, but feared nevertheless.

As we entered the city the smell gave it away first.  Unlike our home Whiterock, it was a stink of sewage, dampness, and dirty feet that stung at your nostrils.  Smoke mingled with the odors and I swore I could smell rotting meat too.  There were people walking through the cobblestone streets, more than in our village.

Blackshear pulled us into a huddle.  “Alright ladies, here’s the plan. For you to get to Lord Sklaver you have to do it through his bloody Vizir.  Krolf Lorraine is as crooked as Wilding Creek.  I may be able to get you in to see him.  You’ll have to work your way past that greasy weasel to get to Lord Sklaver.  I don’t trust Lorraine in the least…for reasons I’ll tell you about sometime.

In the meantime – I’d recommend you stopping by Grayson’s Maps.  Chester is well known and worth stopping by the see.  No matter what, you should go to Odd-Bob’s too.  Robert is, well, strange, but always good for a story or two.  Stay away from the Wayward Knight Inn if you go and seek a drink.  Try and get a room at the Copper Horse – I’ll find you there later.”  With that Blackshear waded into the people on the street, most of them parting to get out of his way.

Arius stabled our mounts at Kurn’s Stables for what seemed like a lot of money.  We made our way through the twisting main street of Karn, finally spotting a sight for Grayson’s Maps.

The inside smelled musty with a hint of old man.  Rolled maps stored in wooden tubes lined the walls, along with books.  In the center of the building was a skylight directly over a large table where an old man leaned over a map, looking at it with a magnifying glass.  “Just a moment,” he said as he moved his pen over the large parchment on the adjustable table.  Then he looked up only out of the corner of his eye at us.

“What are you working on?” Theren asked, genuinely curious.

“A map of Tempora,” the old man said, dipping his pen in ink and continuing to work.

“What is Tempora?”  I asked.

“The lost city of the dwarves to the north of the Gash. I found some references to it in a book I recently purchased and wanted to add to the map that I started.  Tempora has been lost for ages, it was said to be a great city that could only be accessed on the path of blood…whatever that is.  A lot of adventurers have tried to find it, only a few have come back and none of them sane.”  He set his quill on a stand and turned slowly to face us, flashing an instant smile.

“Ah, visitors!  I am Chester Grayson.  Welcome to my humble cartography works.”  He waved his hand to point to the maps.  “What are you looking for?”

“Matthias Blackshear told us to stop here,” I said.

“Matthias? Is he here in Karn?” the old man’s voice got excited.

“Yes.  He’s helping us,” Theren said.

Grayson smiled.  “Friends of Blackshear – well, you must be travelers from afar.”

“We’ve been to the Gelllesian Fields and back,” I said with pride.

“Marvelous.  Did you happen to make a map of your journey?  The fields are difficult for many to navigate.”

I shook my head.  “Sorry.”

“Well then, you are travelers, so you need a map of the realm,” he climbed off his stool and shuffled over to a tube, pulling out a map.  “This is one of my best sellers – the most accurate map of the realm.”

“How much?” Airus asked.

“Fifty gold…but well worth it.”

“Not exactly the ‘Friends of Blackshear’ price,” I said half-under my breath.

Grayson heard me.  “I will also give you a map of the city.  If you are new here, it may help you.”

“Done!” Airus replied, dolling out the money.  I checked my own funds and was surprised.  I had a bag of copper pieces where there had been gold.  It was the coins we had found in the fields, in that offering urn.  Damn!  I guess I should have not stolen the contents of that urn.

Outside he saw some men pass and Chester Grayson winced.  “Blue Cloaks!”

“What are they?” Theren asked.

“They have been here for a year or so.  Strange monks.  They make people nervous more than anything.”

I watched them in their hooded azure cloaks.  These were bald men shifted in and out of the people on the cobblestone street, almost blending in – but not quite.  There was clearly more to these men then meet the eyes.  I had heard of monks before, but these were the first I had ever seen.

We huddled over the map and for the first time realized how far we had traveled.  I focused on the Great Gash.  That was tied to that message we had gotten from Lexa Lyoncroft.  It was a like a nasty scar on the map.  I wondered for a moment what had happened to those paladins.

“Come on,” I said.  “We need to find the guildhall and Odd Bob’s.”

The Campain Part 1 Player Map

Karn3.png

I hope you have enjoyed the saga thus far.  Here are the previous parts if you have missed any installments.  Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: To the Gellesian Fields Part 11

Oddball
Not every paladin wears glimmering armor

Arius…
“These soulless yellow-skinned spawn-of-the-gash have kidnapped my granddaughter.  I could use some help, good men with swords, to help recover her,” Matthias Blackshear said painfully.

A kidnapped child?  This was a cause that made my heart leap!  My life as a holy warrior was based on faith and an understanding of my role in the balance of the world. “Who are these Amber Elves?”

“What?  Are you not from around here?”

“Nay.  We harken from Whiterock.”

He winced, suddenly making me feel like a farm boy or a dullard…or worse, a heathen bard. “Yellow skinned bastards,” he spat back. “They travel in wagons, moving from community to community. Always singing and putting on little skits.  Friendly enough, while they pick your pocket, steal your crops, and kidnap your young.  They are the worst kind of vagabonds.  That’s why I use these,” he pointed to the cotton balls jammed into his ears.  “You can’t listen to their music.  It’s enchanted.  You listen to it and you are under their spell.  That’s how these thievin’ scum-sucking dregs work you.  They play their little tunes and the next thing you know you are tied naked to a tree, robbed of your worldly possessions – or worse.”

It did not take a lot to imagine what “worse” could be.  His warnings about their songs spoke of bardic magic, minstrels whose spells were interwoven in song. Galinndan spoke up.  “Maybe we should be stuffing cotton in our ears.”  I ignored him.  None of us had brought cotton with us, though I did see Galinndan cutting up some of his own shirt and stuffing the wads of cloth in his ears.  They hung out like dog’s ears from his own.

“We haven’t seen them,” I said to Blackshear, “But we did come across some wagon tracks a ways back.”

“Wagons…” the hulking Blackshear pondered for but a moment.  “That had to be them.  Show me.”

We didn’t talk about helping this man, it was not necessary.  Even if my brothers in arms had refused I would have helped him.  The Third Tenant of my holy order, demanded giving aid to those in need.  We backtracked down the road to where the wheel ruts crossed the dirt path.  Blackshear knelt down while Theren moved alongside.  “They’re heading northwest.”

Theren looked at the tracks that crossed the road as if he could somehow ascertain the same information, but could not.  “How do you know that?”

“The slave markets of the Amber Elves are in Bahshir in the western reaches.”

“There is only two sets of wagon tracks,” Galinndan pointed out.

“Common practice with these dirty bug-suckers.  They go in column to hide their numbers.”

“Like Sandpeople,” Galinndan added.

“Who?” Blackshear asked angrily.

“Never mind,” Galinndan replied. He realized the childhood stories he had been told of the mythical Sandpeople had no bearing here, nor did Matthias Blackshear have the patience for humor.

We trudged on into the night and made a hasty camp.  “They can’t be more than a few hours ahead of us.  That means if we press on, we can catch them tomorrow,” Blackshear said as sat on a log before the small fire.  He propped up his massive sword and axe next to him.

“Your weapons are impressive,” I said looking at them.  That sword was different – long, thick at the handle with only a slight taper to it.  Both bore the nicks of battle damage that could not be simply pounded out by a weapons-smith.

“This is Render,” Blackshear said patting the sword the way one might a loyal dog. The shadows of the firelight showed the scars on his arms and hand “This is Reamer,” he gestured to the battle axe proudly.  “When I was a First Knight of Royal Guards I captured these fighting a band of marauding minotaur’s in the eastern slopes.  Killed their leader DeSaul.  They have served me well over the years.

It has been said that naming a weapon gives it strength, taps the power of God.  It is also said that only honorable men should do such things.  I understood that all too well.  “You served in the Royal Guards?”

“Damned right I did.  Until they ran me off.  Stupid boot-licking dung-puckering arseholes.  The guards isn’t what it was when I led it.  Now they are more interested in attending balls and escorting pansy-ass-kissing gentlemen rather than protecting the innocent.  A bunch of glorified pig-fucking tax collectors…that’s what the Royal Guards have become.”

“Why’d they run you off?”

His eyes narrowed with a rage he was somehow keeping in check.  “The little lordling…the heir to the Sklaver throne.  Little shit wasn’t fit to polish my codpiece.  He got his pasty white ass in trouble he did.  A man would have resolve the situation.  He expected us to bail him out.  His father wasn’t raising him to stand on his own, I let him try and resolve the matter.  Little paper-butt got knocked about – but the bastard had it coming.  He had his father remove me.  Said I was a coward.  A flagging lie!  He started it with those men and by God he should have finished it himself, not turned to us to save him.  They ran me out after that.  Said I had disgraced the Guards. It was greasy Syrus Blondebeard and the bloody Vizir, Krolf Lorraine; they were behind my disgrace.  They wanted someone with less backbone than me, someone to do their bidding.  Blondebeard is perfect for that role…the spineless, chamber-pot-licker.  Well they got what they wanted – someone to suckle the little lordship’s tit.  They couldn’t take my honor from me and they damned well couldn’t take my pride.”

In the dim light of the fire I could see the pride in his face, it was etched in every scar and wrinkle.  There was nothing about this man that showed even a hint of fear.  “We will rescue your granddaughter,” I vowed.

“You do,” he said with stern glare, “and I will get you to Karn myself.”

The next day we pressed on crossing the tree-dotted plains, following the wagon ruts in the grass.  That evening we came across their camp, in a low swale, surrounded by trees.  I half-expected the big warrior to insist on rushing into the camp, but the safety of his granddaughter clearly governed his sword.  “We need to know how many of them are down there…where my granddaughter is, before we act.  Moreover, we need a plan,” he said with a calm that told me that lives were about to be lost.  The only thing that kept me focused was the fact that what we were doing was right – saving a young damsel in distress.

Theren spoke up.  “I can shapeshift into something small, a rat perhaps.  I can infiltrate the camp and see if I can find her.  If nothing else, I can learn their disposition.”  There were nods and we watched as he paused, pressed his hands together, and closed his eyes in thought.  I had my doubts.  Theren had been talking about shapeshifting, but a rat?  That seemed preposterous.

The outline of his body shimmered, blurred in the evening, and seemed to collapse.  We looked down and saw a rat where Theren had stood.  We had never seen him do it and I could not help but wonder what kind of dark magic he was using.  This is why the church had purged the druids, no doubt. I was sure that every time he used that accursed magic it would cost him some his mortal soul.  That was faith and fate.

Rat/Theren scurried off but came back a short time later, resuming his human form, wet with sweat and covered with blades of grass.  “There are five wagons, all parked facing outward, like a star.  They have a few archers poised in the trees.  I was able to chew my way into one wagon but I could not see your granddaughter Matthias, only some women.  They have a campfire in the middle. What I could tell there are at least a dozen men – perhaps that many females.  The men don’t seem armed with anything more threatening than lutes and rapiers.”  He sketched out the camp in the dirt.

I didn’t disregard his comments about rapiers, they could kill a man just as easy as a cutlass when wielded by the right man.  Blackshear stared at the configuration of the camp.  “Typical for the Amber Elves.  They do it so they can scatter if attacked, brilliant positioning on their part.  Those archers, they are a problem – but the real threat will come from their magic.  We need a diversion.  I can take out five of them, if I can get in there. “

Galinndan grinned.  “I can fire on the archers.  That should keep them busy.”

“We can move in and try to unharness the horses, prevent some of them from scattering,” I offered.

“We must take care…no harm must come to the hostages,” Blackshear warned.  I hated to think what he might do if his granddaughter were harmed, either to the Amber Elves or us.  We all nodded nervously.

Carefully we crawled towards the camp, coming at it from three directions to help block any flight they might try and undertake.  The signal was given with a wave of Blackshear’s beefy hand and the battle began.

I rushed in, swinging my flaming sword at one of the men, cutting him deep and setting him afire, if only for a moment.  I spotted Althalus emerge but suddenly stop, as if paralyzed.  I saw a distant elf, strumming his mandolin, staring at the warlock, trapping him for a moment in some sort of charm.  Blast it!  I struggled with my elven foe, his blade tearing across my chest armor with a rattle that shook me.

Blackshear rushed in, swinging the massive blade of Render – cutting the head off of one elf, sending it bouncing in torso of another.  Arrows filled the air, all aimed at Galinndan.  Theren cast one of his black spells, some sort of whip of thorns.  It snared one elf and tossed it into the one that was concentrated on charming Althalus.  The disruption shook the magic that held the warlock.  He grinned and prepared to unleash a blast of his own magic.

Suddenly the warlock shimmered and for a moment I thought he had disappeared.  No, far worse, he had changed into a raccoon. What kind of madness was this?  I swung again at my foe, knocking him back, but he still clung to life.

The air filled around Theren with a flurry of magic swirling daggers, which he emerged from angered and more frustrated.  He stood face-to-face with one of the elves who held up his hands to the sky.  Suddenly the air around both of them filled with raining jagged javelins of ice and frigid death.  Both took some damage, but it was enough to shake Theren back.

“Stop the wagons!” Blackshear howled to the druid as he planted his battle axe in the chest of another elf.

I rushed forward and hit one of the elves, apparently shaking the spell that had held Althalus in the form of a raccoon.  He shook his head as if in a daze.

Theren, having heard the words of Blackshear, shimmered again but not to the form of a rat.  No, this time a massive black bear.  He rushed forward and collided with one of the wagon wheels, hitting it hard and sideways, breaking it off of the axle mount.  That wagon would not flee.

The warlock, Althalus, grinned, finally prepared to unleash his eldritch blast.  He fired at one elf but missed completely.  His blast seared into the bear-hide of Theren.  The bear disappeared, and what emerged through the magic shimmer was a druid with a burn hole in his side.

“Sorry,” Althalus said upon seeing the damage he had done to his comrade, turning back to the elf he had missed.   That elf disappeared, sidestepping through some sort of magic opening in the air.  He appeared behind Bor, who has hit by several arrows in the fight.  The elf stabbed him from behind, staggering the big warrior.

Blackshear rushed towards one of the wagons near the fire when one of the elves emerged from a wagon and raised his hands.  “Stop!  We wish to negotiate!  Parlay!”

Galinndan fired one more arrow, pretending he hadn’t heard the call for truce.  To my utter surprise Blackshear stopped his charge and raised his hand in the air, a sign for us to halt.  He gave Galinndan a scornful glare at the last twang of his bow, then focused on the elf.   “Watch your words elf-scum,” he spat.  “If you are attempting to use your magic on us, the rest of you will die.”

“No tricks,” the yellow-skinned elf said.  “Enough have been injured or slain this night.  What is it you are after?  I am sure we can arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.”

“What I want is my granddaughter Miley and others you stole from their homes.  I want them back.  Give them to us and you live.  Resist, I will kill all of you,” the former First Knight said.

The elf pondered his words for three whole seconds, making me wonder if the battle would be rejoined.  “Very well.  A misunderstanding I am sure.  No harm has come to them.  We were merely borrowing them.”  He opened the rear door of one of the wagons.  Looking inside it appeared empty.  Then the illusion disappeared.  Inside were five children, being held by another female elf, no doubt a sorceress herself.  It was brilliant.  Even if we had looked in the wagon, we would have not seen them.

He led them out and Blackshear’s granddaughter rushed to him.  “Pa-pa!” she wailed as she hugged him. I saw a tear trickle down the face of the big warrior and it filled me with faith – faith that we had fought the good fight and for the right reasons.  I silently thanked God for our victory as Bor and I gathered the others and backed away from the camp.

“If you know what is good for you, you will leave these lands.  The next time we meet, there will be no parlay.  There will be death.”

“We never cross the same ground twice,” the elf replied.  “It is our lot in life.”

We gathered up the children and carefully made our way out of the camp.  I saw the man I had downed rising and standing, healed already by one of their number. I silently pondered that if we had continued to fight if we would have prevailed.

Of course we would!  Our cause was just and God was on our side! There is no room in a paladin’s life for self-doubt.  

Roleplaying games are where the players are essentially writing their own fantasy sagas. I hope you are enjoying the chronicling of our D&D campaign.  Here are the previous parts of the story.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

Review of Falling Stars RPG and Tactical Game System by Lock ‘N Load Publishing

 

puke
I just notice that the female is walking away on the cover…which was a hint at what I should have done

I am an old school gamer.  I own dice older than most of the contemporary players.  I remember those heady days of Traveller – of my characters dying during creation.  I remember first edition Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha.  My first Star Wars RPG used six-sided dice…and I’m proud of that.  FTL 2448 was good too in its own weird way.  Then came Star Frontiers – and a plethora of other early game systems. For a while it seemed that space-opera-ish games were the rage.

The old games all had a framework they followed.  The universe was big.  Man was just one of the races.  There were aliens with psionics – which was the magic of the sci fi RPG genre.  Thanks to George Lucas, the games all had smugglers and aliens that were, for the most part, quasi-human.  You had to have cybernetics too – because that was a thing (thanks to The Six Million Dollar Man.)  They all claimed to be space operas (including the game Space Opera).  I always felt like most (with the exception of Traveller) just were cardboard-like clones.  “Take our fantasy RPG, swap out lasers for crossbows, psionics for magic, and ta da!”

So when I saw Falling Stars, I thought, “Hey, maybe this is a new spin on space operas, with some grit, some depth, some cool stuff.”

God I was wrong.

I rarely blast game products in reviews but this one compelled me to change that policy, if not for me but to save someone the cost of purchasing this system.  First off I’ll tackle the elephant in the room.  The book is 462 pages paperback and costs $54.99.  It is grossly overpriced for what you get.  The layout is a san serif font at around 14 point that looks all boldface, which just made the book too long and hard to read visually.   No RPG should make your eyes hurt – yet this one does…on multiple levels.

The game is well written, but it breaks no new ground.  In fact, it is boring retread of a lot of classic space opera stuff and things lifted from popular media.  The difference here is that the game universe is flat and dull.  Guess what, there’s cybernetics and a psionic race.  Wow. The cybernetics are nowhere as cool as Shadowrun.  The races are uninspiring, unthreatening, and dull.

The combat system is skill based except for a confusingly written Setting the Target Number set of rules. It’s supposed to be a big differentiator for them.  It’s not exciting.  In fact, I wanted to get clarity on it but, and here’s a surprise, there’s no written example in the combat chapter on a few rounds of combat.  I’ll grant you I’m no genius, but I’ve written a LOT of game books (and designed RPG’s myself) and I find examples to be, I don’t know…USEFUL.

The character classes are so bad I felt as if I threw up a little bit in the back of my throat when writing this review.  Example of the fluff text.  “Their cargo is technically considered to be contraband and subject to seizure without warning and for no reason other them being who they are.  Even with all of these dangers and pitfalls, most smugglers tend to make a very good living.”  How is this the case? We’ll never know – there are no rules for merchants and smugglers.  Oh, and the class bonuses?  “Never tell me the odds…” “She can make that run in a unit of measurement that doesn’t actually apply to this analogy.”  I’m not kidding.  This is no homage to Star Wars where they clearly lifted their inspiration – it’s an expensive knock off that lacks any depth.

The spaceship building rules work, but have all of the complexity and thrills of an Excel spreadsheet.  At least with BattleTech there are inherent tradeoffs you have to make – armor, speed, firepower.  With this you purchase modules and I guess they just fit in your spaceship frame.

The artwork is okay – actually, it’s a redeeming feature in the book.  It is all done by the same artist so everything has the same look at feel.  That was good.  What sucks is how they abused the art.  To describe extra arms, they took an image of an alien with extra arms (used elsewhere in the book) and faded everything but the extra arms.  It was as if the designers felt that people wouldn’t know what extra arms were so they gave you a visual reference.  I will grant you, some players may struggle with that concept – but not at my table.

This game needs and overhaul or, better yet, needs to die the same death of many of its other predecessors in the genre. No burial.  Cremation is the only solution for this system.

My review is one out of five stars and I am struggling to be that generous.  There are some interesting nuggets here, but the price to get to those concepts is far too high.  I won’t even taint my other RPG’s by putting it on the shelf with them.  This book should have been titled, “Failing Stars.”  As my mother would say, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

RPG Humor – Famous Last Words

tpk

I remember seeing some lists out there years ago, so I thought a fresh perspective might be in order.  This applies to a wide range of role playing games (with an emphasis on fantasy games) and is provided solely to give you a chuckle.  I didn’t cheat and look at the old lists out there, so any similarities are coincidental.

He’s got to be out of offensive spells at this point.  Let’s rush him!

He’s probably only got a few more hit points.

No, I’m not familiar with a polymorph spell.  What does it do to me?

They will never expect us to come at them from this angle.

We can survive in a vacuum long enough to pull it off.

They’ll never see us coming.

That dragon is bluffing.

Don’t worry – we’re well out of range of their (fireballs, catapults, arrows, trebuchet, ballista, machineguns, BattleMechs, lightning bolts, spears, lasers, missiles, etc.)

We have them right where we want them.

Ignore them, it’s a diversionary attack.

Gas?  No problem – we’ll just hold our breath as we fight.

The only thing these guys understand is brute force.

If we run fast enough through the fire it should minimize the damage.

Let’s pile all of the ammo crates in one spot, real close to our position.

Liches are not nearly as tough as you might think.

If we rush them, they can’t possibly hit all of us.

I don’t know what this wand does, but we’re about to find out!

I thought you said it was just a bunch of farmers in this village?

Freeze.  If we don’t make a sound or move, they’ll go right on by us.

We’ve got to win…we’re the good guys.

Don’t worry, it can’t get any worse than this.

What do you mean, “That’s no moon…?”

I’m only a little bit on fire…

Why yes, I give that lever a good hard yank.

(To the enemy) I dare you to use that wand again!

He’s not so tough now…wait…what do you mean he stands up and starts grinning?

We’ve taken out all of their heavy hitters.

He’s just a tiny dragon.

I disbelieve!

What do you mean it’s no longer in my backpack?  Where did it go?

Those are just statues – not everything is a golem.

We’ll let them have the first shot, just to show them what badasses we are.

For the record, they started it…

I’m out of arrows…I didn’t know you were keeping track.

I moon them Braveheart-style.

I get a running start and jump the pit/gap/chasm.

I wonder what this rope is attached to?  (Tug)

I spit in Zeus’ face to show him I’m not afraid.

We have them surrounded – so why are they laughing?

As long as they don’t have a magic user, we should be safe here.

It’s storming?  I move under the tall tree for shelter.

You’ll never take us alive!

I bitch-slap the head of the Thieves Guild, just to get my point across.

We don’t have time to make the light speed calculations — punch it!

I wonder what that whooshing sound is?

I take off my armor to intimidate them and show them I am not afraid.

I kill our hostage – that should prove we were serious.

No, I didn’t take off my armor before I jumped in…why?

I never would have set it on fire if I’d known that was the only exit!

The dragon’s asleep?  This is going to be a cake walk.

What do you mean ‘that’s the controls to the airlock?’

Owlbear?  That sounds more cuddly than dangerous.  How tough could that be?

I drink all of the unmarked potion – what happens?

It’s just fog guys.

Don’t waste your time burning those trolls – we need to see what is in their den.

What do you mean I don’t see the pin on the grenade?

I’m not going to waste time checking for traps.

We can relax, this room is secure.

(To the DM)  Blah, blah, blah.  Skip the flavor text and start rolling some dice.  Daddy needs the EP’s…

I look that Medusa right in the eye and I tell her…

Who was watching the horses?  Where is he?  Where are they?

I thought you were keeping the map so we could find our way out!

No problem – I’m invisible.

It’s probably a bad time to remind you that I was against this idea.

That has to be an illusion.

(To the DM) No, I’m not familiar with Greek Fire.  Why?

What do you mean he shrugs off my 18 points of damage and winks at me?

When you say the cave floor is moist and squishy, what exactly do you mean?

The only way I can miss is if I roll a one.

Watch out for that crossfire!

They’re not fooling me with that diversion.  We stand our ground here.

Guys, this probably is a good time to point out that we apparently are standing on a pentagram.

Kevlar stops everything – right?

For this plan to work, I need a volunteer to act as bait…

(To the DM)  Did you say thirty orcs?  I thought you said thirteen.

Where’s that guy we just killed?

I smash the dragon’s eggs.  How does that leather-winged bitch react to that?

I make a run between the giant’s legs.

When you say I detect a trap everywhere…what do you mean by ‘everywhere?’

What kind of a sick bastard fills a pit with acid?

Why are you handing me a blank character sheet?  You haven’t even rolled for the damage yet.

Of course I’m reading the scroll out loud.

What do you mean my sword is missing?

Split up – they can’t possibly follow all of us.

I swear to God I didn’t know those things could fly like that.

I just start randomly pushing buttons – does anything happen?

Why do you want to know if I have swimming as a skill?

Liche?  No problem, I can turn the undead.

Quick mix all of the potions together and drink them.  It’s do or die time!

Did their captain just yell, “Leave no one alive?”

I’ve got a 17 charisma, so I naturally put the moves on the princess…

I saw this once in a Roadrunner cartoon…we can do this…

There’s five of us and one of him…this should be easy.

How was I supposed to know she was married/intended as a virgin sacrifice/possessed by a demon?

I wonder why they are all chanting?

We run across the rope suspension bridge to get away.

Don’t worry, we’re safe here in this keep.

We can do this, I saw this scene in (Insert movie or TV show)

We torch the forest/town/tavern/castle – that should get their attention.

I climb into the catapult and give the signal…

What do you mean fireball’s expand?

This is usually the part where they break and run…but this time they’re not.  Hmm…

You’re darned right I refuse to bow down to the king.  I didn’t get to fifth level by being a wuss.

If we don’t move, they’ll never spot us.

I’m hearing his voice inside my head?  That can’t be good.

Yes I AM trying to jump wearing full armor.  Why are you looking so puzzled?

I don’t know if the spell needs components.  Is that important?

(After ten minutes to hacking through the door) Do we surprise them?

What do you mean I am out of ammunition?

I quickly dive out of the window…wait…what floor were we on again?

I told you that it was a waste of money to pay for maintenance on the ship.

I run across the flowing lava really fast so I don’t sink in.

Why yes, I am holding the torch while I prepare the oil flasks to throw them.  Why?

I start the auto-destruct sequence to bluff him into standing down.

What do you mean you need a shit-load of D20’s for the damage?

I’m low on hit points, I’ll take the rear guard.  There’s no way they will hit us from there.

We’ll be safe in that cave/up those trees/in that house/etc…

Of course we have a campfire going, why?

Don’t worry, if these guys were any good they wouldn’t be city guards.

It’s just a ballista…it’s probably like being hit with an arrow.

(To the DM)  Why are you checking the starvation tables?

Yes, of course we are still tied to each other in case one of us falls off the cliff…why do you ask?

I don’t have to take that kind of backtalk from a wizard.

I yell to the angry mob and tell them to bite me.

You didn’t just kill the pilot did you?

It’s almost as if they are acting as bait for us.

(About the DM) When I said, “what else could he throw at us,” I didn’t mean it as some sort of challenge.

That bright light in the sky is getting bigger and brighter?  Hmm…

Slow down, what plane of Hell did we open a portal to again?

The vampire turns into a cloud of mist…so we won, right?

I told you it would be easy…look, they’re running away.

How many spears are incoming?

Avalanche, smavalanche…

The crew abandoned ship?  How hard could it be to sail a vessel in a storm?

He’s just a little Beholder.

I cross the rope tightrope-style.

How many vampires coffins are in the room with us?

Everybody try and hide!

The only way to get his respect is to insult his wife.

Sure, I agree to a battle of wits with him.

Which colored flare do I use to call off the in-bound air strike?

We leap off the cliff and aim for the lake.  Wait…how deep is that water?

We’re safe.  You’d have to be a ninja or a monk to climb those walls to get to us.

I’m telling you, that dragon has breathed its last blast of fire.

I’m calling in an artillery strike – danger-close!

Wait…how many giants did you say were running at us?

It’s just an earthquake.

Damn right I’m going to mock that stupid bard.

This is a hell of a time to be getting a physics lesson.

That’s not how you desecrate a temple — THIS is how you desecrate temple…

I think we lost them.

(To the DM)  What do you mean there’s no point in me rolling for initiative?

Screw the druid…torch the forest.

I stick my head above the battlement walls to see if they are still there.

I discrete their temple…that should get their attention.

They’ve walked right into our trap.

I’m sure we’re out of the blast radius.

Did he really just yell, “Release the Kraken!”?

I’m counting on it swallowing me whole so I can gut it from the inside…

I know I’m blinded – I’m casting the spell in the direction of his voice.

Everybody spread out, it will force them to divide their fire.

Yes I did just refer to the Drow queen as a ‘Hot Black Chick’…why?

So shaman can cast spells?

Stop wasting time in looking up its stats and let’s just get on killing this thing.

Why is that goblin hoard laughing at us?

I’ve worded this wish so well there’s no way the DM can screw with us…

So that’s why they call it the Prison of Souls…

I’m pretty sure we aren’t all in its cone of fire.

I’m taking it off, armor just slows me down.

(To the DM)  When you say ‘tornado,’ what exactly do you mean?

(After five days of desert travel)  Look, and oasis….we’re gonna make it!

Who cares what the impact is – I’m changing alignment right here and right now.

Give me a hand prying open that coffin.

Mindflayers sure don’t look very tough.

We will never surrender!  You’ll have to kill us first.

What do you mean there’s a duration on that spell?

No one brought flint and steel?

Which walls are moving?

I really wish I’d bought a copy of the Monster Manual.

(To the DM) Of course I’ve seen the movie Alien.  Why do you ask…ut oh…

Alright, I sit down to barter with that Devil.

Before you throw the switch, what is the percentage chance that the noose/rope will break?

I don’t care what’s carved on the floor, everybody into the room.

What do you mean he’s kicking that grenade back at me?

Yes I’m putting the moves on the barkeep’s daughter.

Then I say, “Are all the city guards as stupid or ugly as you?”

I can’t believe that none of us bought rope.

I can’t parry a lightning bolt?  Are you sure?

It’s never too late to beg for forgiveness.

(To the DM) There’s a chart for explosive decompression?  Why are you asking for it?

Dive into the sewer, we’ll be safe there.

These guys only respect you when you respond forcefully.

How close is that star?

Why are our scouts running back towards us?

When you said the Thieves Guild was coming after us, I didn’t think you meant the whole guild.

When you said the ship lost power, you didn’t mean the whole ship, did you?

When you say the room is getting hot – how hot is that?

This isn’t the time to get all Paladinny on me – kill her.

Why do you want to borrow my copy of the Dungeon’s Master’s Guide?

If Butch and Sundance can make it – I’m sure we can.

Was that a “morpal” blade he’s swinging at me?  Oh crap…

They’ve stopped chasing us, we’re in the clear.

What do you mean I didn’t damage him with a roll of a 20?

When you say “transporter malfunction,” what exactly do you mean?

I’m beginning to think someone switched that road sign back there…

I have not begun to die!

Our line of retreat is blocked by what?

I ignore the radiation warning alarm and enter the room.

So that’s why they call them blink dogs…

Don’t listen to him, he’s just a bard.

I’m sure the “Rapids of Death” is just a name the locals use to scare travelers.

The joke’s on him – I cast featherfall.  No, it’s not slotted, why is that important?

That’s got to be the last charge on his wand/staff…

A demon – no problem – magic missile.

Who cares if they have the high ground?

These guys aren’t beating us – they’re tenderizing us.

Everybody into the portable hole!

I switch to my old trusty bronze sword.

I break the wizards staff over my knee.

I don’t need a physics lesson – just tell me how much damage do I take after a 300 foot fall into the river?

What do you mean I hear the sound of wheels?  They can’t have any siege equipment…

Don’t worry about him…he’s dead.

Why are you rolling that many dice for initiative?

(To the DM) I call foul.  That’s not in the Monster Manual.

They’re immune to fire?  Are you sure?

Bob – why are your eyes glowing?  Bob??

Wow…that was easier than I thought it would be.

Why is our scout running back to us so fast?

Set the self-destruct for a twenty-second count down.  That should be plenty of time.

I have a two for driving skill – why?

Hey guys, I think we’re standing in some sort of oil.

Yes I do remember being bit by that wolf…why bring it up now?

The ring can only be used once a day?

We can make it – I saw this on Survivor once.

On the count of three…one…two…

Finally, a safe place to camp.

That noise in the bush is probably just another rabbit.

I can’t be dehydrated…my character has been drinking regularly from his wineskin.

No my sword isn’t magical or silvered — is that important?

Death Stare – that’s a real thing?

Weapons lock?  Who’s locking onto–

What do you mean they can see in the dark?

I’m not wasting power on the cloaking device.

When you say giant snake – how big is giant?

I don’t care if he is standing in the same pool as the rest of our party – I fire lightning bolt!

Fine, leave us!  We don’t need your cleric anyway.

He gets how many attacks per round?

Who drank the last of the healing potion?

I taunt them, their mothers, and their sisters.

Is that incoming artillery barrage ours or the enemies?

Don’t bother me with the details.

Hey, why are our hirelings running?

You guys will back me up…right?

That abandoned mine should give us cover.

None of our spells or magic weapons work?  That’s impossible.

Who cares what my character smells?  Tell me something important.

Does anybody have any silver weapons?

Summoning that fire elemental may have made things worse.

The joke’s on you…I took my armor off to fight this rust monster!

Everyone run through the portal!

Ramming speed!

My ribs are now poking through my back?  That doesn’t sound good.

So he pulled the battle axe out of his chest and licked the blood off of it?  That can’t be a good sign.

What do you mean, I don’t detect that statue moving?

I’m tying the bag of gold onto my belt so I don’t lose them while swimming the river.

Boy, you kill one High Priest and the whole temple takes it the wrong way.

We’ve been fighting for an hour.  Maybe I can convince them to negotiate now.

I stand before the charging cavalry like Jon Snow and draw my sword.

If the dwarf thief says he’s disarmed all of the traps, then he’s disarmed all the traps.

Yes I’m concerned, that giant just sprinkled me with seasoning salt!

I’m not pulling the ripcord until the last possible second.

Quick, dive into this old lava vent!

It’s just a tiny hole (in a spacesuit, in a vacuum).

Did he just say he was calculating the in-flight velocity and splash radius of a fully armored dwarf?

They get how many attacks per turn?

Wait – did he just say that the mountain moved?

There was only one hag here a minute ago.

The joke’s on them.  It’s going to take a lot more than that to knock down that castle wall.

Sure it’s a 200 foot plummet but I’ll survive – I’m wearing armor.

I don’t have time to confirm the coordinates of that air strike.

You suck as a dungeon master…

zombie

To the Gellesian Fields – Part 7

druid

Theren Meliamne…

“You threw a flaming tent on us!” Arius spat, his face still covered with soot, his right eyebrow singed from the flames.

“By all that soars on the wind, you paladin’s always find fault with the world.  It wasn’t intentional.  My magic surges from the ground and air.  How it impacts the world, sometimes is beyond my control,” I responded.  So much for gratitude.  My eyesight was just barely coming back…blinded by some ring on her finger.

“Don’t yell at Theren,” Bor replied.  “You set me on fire before then,” he fired off at Arius.

“Let us move past this,” I offered.  “She got away even if her henchmen didn’t.”

“It’s worse than you thought,” Bor replied as he wiped the ashes out of his beard.  “She had the Gray Rider’s pouch.”

“Are you certain?”

“I admit, I was on fire which was a bit distracting,” Bor replied with a wry grin.  “But yes, I saw it.  She has the message we were sent to recover.”

“Curse her and the soil she treads upon,” I said.  I walked over to the unconscious form of Althalus.  “I suppose we should awaken them, if we can.”  There was a slight mumur of protest but I bent down and shook the warlock hard.  He snapped awake, as if in a deep dream, drew his blade and raised it to my throat, catching himself at the last moment.

I grinned, deliberately.  “Wake up sleepy…”

“What…what did I miss?”

“Everything,” Arius replied as Bor woke up Galinndan.  It took a few minutes to fill them in.  Whatever poison the female had used was potent.  They were wobbly on their feet still.

“We should go after her,” Bor said.

“We are in no shape for another confrontation with her,” I replied.  My comrades had the right spirit, but I could see the weariness on their faces.  “We can use their camp and tents tonight.”

My blood-brothers and I moved into the tents.  In one we found a small chest, iron-banded and locked.  Galinndan was thrilled.  “A locked chest, we have no idea what is in it.”

“You’re the rogue.  You have a pick in your tools – have at it.”  We all took a step back.  There are plenty of children’s stories about booby-trapped chests, enough that we exercised caution.

There was an audible click and Galinndan grinned.  “I’ve got it!”

“Maybe you should check for…” thook!  He opened lid and the small poisoned needle struck Galinndan in the right cheek.  “…for traps.”  Staggered by another dose of poison, he nearly dropped the chest.  Inside we found it filled with gemstones, all rough, but still worth a considerable fortune.  There was a scroll in there as well, for a spell of biting cold, and three potions that were horribly labeled.  I suggested caution.  Such potions could do anything.  There was a silver dagger with a ruby in the pommel.  While not much of a weapon against the living, it might come in handy against the dead.

Arius found a sack in the other remaining tent.  He checked to make sure it was not rigged with any devious device, the opened it.  A snake, brasshead, poisonous and deadly, lunged out at him, narrowly missing him and the already brain-muddled Galinndan.  “Maybe we should capture that snake?” he suggested.

“You can,” Arius said.  “I will have nothing to do with a poisonous snake.”  He dumped out the contents and found more gems.

“We’re rich!”  Galinndan said.

“I do not care for money.  I came for that Gray Rider’s message, and she took it with her.”

We camped in the bedrolls of our defeated enemies.  Bor said that was part of victory, but I felt no victory in hand.  That woman had made off with that pouch.

Before the break of dawn the next day, I proposed that I, Bor, and Arius set off after her.  The others would remain at the camp in case she circled back on us.  She had not concealed her trail.  After mile or so the brush and trees ended and we were in steep rolling plains of grass. We followed her horse’s hoof prints for a while.  I was not too worried about splitting up our party.

Hours later we came up over a rise and she was there, standing next to her horse, that incredible curved sword pointing down, her arms crossed on the pommel.

“I’m impressed you followed me this far,” she said with remarkable calm.  I turned and gestured that none of us needed to arm ourselves…yet.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Lexa Lyoncroft she replied casually.  “I am impressed with your talents.  You took out some of my best men that I had with me.  Good fighters are hard to find.”  I almost got the sense when she said her name that she expected that we would have heard of her.

“You were the ones that ambushed us,” I returned flatly.

“Indeed.  I brought down your fury on us.  A mistake I will not make again.  Not that I was concerned.  I could take you all out without even breaking a sweat.”  There was a creepy confidence in her voice.  She definitely believed her own words – this was no idle boast.

“What are you doing here in the fields?” I probed.

“My employer hired me to gather information, as well as rob those traveling the area,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Why?”

“There is an ill wind in the north…rumors of things that—well—are best left unmentioned.  My employer has his reasons.  Asking too many questions in my line of work can get someone killed.  Now then, why are you here?”

“We came,” Arius said, “For that pouch you have…the Gray Rider’s.  He showed up in our village and died.  We came to recover it – to complete his ride.”

She grinned and despite my vows, I swear, I could feel the energy come off of her.  “Well then, we seem to be at an impasse.”

“We have your treasure,” I offered.  “Perhaps an exchange is in order.”

“You wish to parlay with me?” she asked, as if she were intrigued that we would offer it…and perhaps disappointed we would not fight her.

“Yes,” I replied proudly.

“Very well, let us begin.  I cannot let you have that rider’s pouch or message.  Giving that to you would violate my agreement with my employer, and he is a man…uh, person, that one does not cross.”

“We have sworn to complete the rider’s mission,” I returned.

“What is your proposal then?”

“She is a dangerous foe, but we could take her,” Arius said in a low tone.

“You could try,” she replied.  “If you think because I am a woman I am easy prey sir knight, I assure you, I could filet you before you could draw my blood.”

I held my hands out to ease the tension.  “There is no need for swordplay or threats here.  We are in parlay.”  The problem with paladins – they always want some sort of justice.  “Perhaps we could merely read the note that that rider was carrying.”

Lexa paused.  “Interesting…that would allow me to honor my sworn oath to my employer.  What do you have to offer?”

“We could return your treasure,” I countered.

“And my pet snake Reggie,” she said.

“That bloody snake is gone,” Arius said.  “And good riddance.”

“That is disappointing…and I am afraid, not nearly enough.  I need to profit from this in order to justify my actions to my employer.”

“That is all that we have,” I returned.

She laughed, not a little laugh, but a belittling chuckle at my expense.  “You did not travel this far in the Gellesian Fields without finding something to line your pockets.  If you want to see this message, you have to offer me something more.  Otherwise this parlay is ended and we either part ways or shed blood.”

I paused, my mind racing for something we had that might entice her.  Then I remembered, there was one treasure we had found that might be worth something.

“What about a demon’s skull?”

“A demon’s skull?  Where did you get it?”

“We slew an ogre.  It was stuck on his club,” Arius replied.

“You slew Pot Head?”  Lexa seemed genuinely impressed and I stood a little taller at the compliment.

“Indeed we did,” I offered.  “I such a rare artifact worth something to you?”

That wicked and beautiful smile returned, like a snake coiled to strike.  “That may very well be of interest to my employer.   Bring it her and we can make the exchange.”

I paused and felt my face turn red.  “Well, we don’t have it with us.  We hid it several days ago.  We will have to go and retrieve it.”

She nodded.  “Very well.  We will meet in ten days atop the tallest of the Bailey Hills.  You bring my treasure and the skull, I will being the note.”

“Agreed.”

“This parlay is ended,” she said mounting her white horse.  “Do not attempt to cross me.  Better men have tried and died.”  Before I could assure her, she rode off.

Arius moved up next to me.  “I don’t trust her.”

“Nor do I,” I replied.  “But what choice do we have.  Besides, there are worse things.”

“Like what?” the paladin sneered.

One of us has to tell Althalus that we just used his precious demon skull as a bargaining chip.”

There was an audible moan.  Just then the remnants of our party arrived.  I cringed, knowing that telling the warlock he had lost that skull was going to bring about no end to his griping.  Frankly the rest of us were going to be glad to be rid of the thing.

I hope you’re enjoying the novelization of our current campaign.  I think the players are thus far.  Here’s links to the previous sections.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

To the Gellesian Fields – Part 5

geek

Sir Arius The Seeker…

We finished the last of the cockatrice and were winded from the fight.  Althalus was walking with a limp and I saw why.  The cockatrice had bitten him and he had a patch of flesh that had become petrified on his thigh – nearly twice the size of my sword hand.  He kept asking if it was permanent, as if any of us knew.  We’ve never faced these creatures before.  Looking at the statues around the base of what we came to call Cockatrice Hill, my assumption was that his condition was likely permanent.

I carefully cleaned the creature’s blood from my blade and we turned our attention to the den.  I do not know the properties of cockatrice blood – and have no desire to learn it firsthand.  Their den was nothing but a dank little hole in the ground at the base of the hill, carved out of the bones and stones.  White-gray cockatrice crap, baked in the sun, was like a foul concrete that killed everything it landed on all around the den.  And the stench!  There was little there that I would want to check.  “If you want to look for treasure in such a hell-hole, you are welcome to it.”

Our thief Galinndan, no stranger to foul stench (his cooking skills leave much to be desired), crawled in the musty hole and emerged with some booty.  Good and silver have allure to him.  With me it is only honor I seek.

He found a silver flask, encrusted with dung and filled with God only knows what.  There was a silver dagger with a ruby still in its pommel.  Eight silver pieces were all that the beasts had in their filthy little hole. I do not care for the treasure from such evil creatures.  Killing them only provided me with a trifling of honor.

We made camp – though I must admit, while that tall hill covered in the bones of the dead creatures of the Gellesian Fields provided us some cover on one flank, I could not sleep well that night.  The bones of the dead tend to stir men of my Order.  It was only my prayers that finally allowed me to get some sleep.

Althalus did surprise us all.  He said that he was leaving that accursed demon skull in the den of these creatures.  He muttered something about “…consulting with the skull…” then told us he intended to hide it there to recover at a later date.  As holy warrior it took all of my restraint not to smash it when he wasn’t looking.  He had not slept since prying that skull out of the ogre’s club.  Nothing good was going to come from that skull – the glowing crimson eyes were a warning – one up to now he had ignored.  Little did I realize the role that skull was destined to play in the days to come.

We proceeded onward, north along the road.  Traversing the Fields was unnerving.  It is hard to walk those lands and not think of the battles that tore up that ground so many years ago.  They say that not all of the Black Banner were driven into the gash – that there are places where the dead walk the fields. I heard the stories in my youth from my mother but laughed them off as I got older.  Now though, I can tell you, the stories are true!

In a cool drizzling rain we found ourselves assailed by four dead creatures.  Men and elves from what I could tell, adorned in rusted fragments of chainmail, I heard them at the same time I smelled the stench of rotting flesh.  They carried weapons and looked more dead than alive, but moved as if there was still fragment of life in their skulls.

I closed my eyes and summoned my holy energy – I could feel it flowing through my hand and into my sword.  My blade burned with holy power and I slashed, hitting one of the creatures.  Bor and I waded into these reeking dead men, sending bits of rotting flesh and rusted mail flying as we waded into them.

The battle raged all around us.  We would take these abominations down, only to have them rise again.  These lost souls were clearly soldiers that had fought here and had refused to die – even in death. Galinndan was bit on the lower neck and let go a howl that made my skin crawl.  Bor flailed off the arm of one of the elven monstrosities, sending it flailing in the air.  Althalus unleashed a blast of his accursed magic, missing the creatures but hitting poor Bor in the process – knocking him out of the fray.  I must admit, there are times I wonder about this warlock.  He keeps muttering about his need to fulfill a greater vision.  At what point will he turn against us to pursue his geas?  Is he doing that already?  Some of his misses make me wonder…

We would smite these walking corpses, only to have them rise back to their feet and come at us again.  It took us several minutes to hack them apart to the point where no ungodly power could hope to rise them against us.

I knelt at my sword and uttered a short prayer for Bor.  He had been hit by us more than these rotting horrors.  I came to realize that this was the least of the horrors we were destined to face in the Fields.

I hope you enjoyed this “novelization” of the party thus far.  Here are the previous episodes in case you missed them.

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/to-the-gellesian-fields-part-1-of-my-new-dd-campaign/

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/to-the-gellesian-fields-part-2/

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/to-the-gellesian-fields-part-3/

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/to-the-gellesian-fields-part-4/

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/my-new-dd-campaign-additional-character-background-stuff-that-you-can-use/

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/player-background-info-for-my-new-dd-campaign/

Review of Dystopia Rising RPG

dr

I want – desperately desire, a good post-apocalypse RPG.  I liked Degenesis and the old Gamma World (I’m talking VERY old Gamma World – first edition).  Mutant Year Zero was okay – but too rigid of a universe for me.  So I picked up Dystopia Rising.  It promised me a wasteland filled with zombies and zombie-offspring.  There are times that is appealing.

Apparently this is the tabletop version of a live-action game – which doesn’t really matter but it does make Googling reference material a bit challenging and sometimes confusing.  I picked this up for $24.99 off of Amazon.com and at first, I have to admit, I cringed.

It is done in Courier font – which is designed to look like you did it on a typewriter.  Why?  I have no idea.  I will say that reading it after a while is a chore.  Strike one.  Strike two, some of the artwork is, well, very Napoleon Dynamite-ish in quality.  That’s not a compliment.  Look, if I am shelling out $25, I want some sizzle.  I’m not saying I could do better, but I am also not an artist.

I have to admit – at first glance, it was looking grim.  Then I got into the rules.  I mentally erased the first two strikes.  This is a solid RPG with a pretty slick system.  When you generate a character, you pick a strain – which is kind of like a mix of character class, genetic makeup, and a clan.  The key is that these strains really give you some solid role playing aspects to work with.  Some don’t seem to make a lot of sense as a strain, but the advantages and disadvantages makes your strain selection critical to your characters survival.

Next comes your building blocks – or your attributes.  Agility, Appearance, Brawn, Endurance, Knowledge, Luck, and Wiles.  These work alone or in tandem to determine things like your health, defense, etc.  You need to really be careful in character creation to get the right balance.  Then comes skills – which is straight forward.  Next are advancement and detriments which are both pluses and minuses for your character.  Oddly, near the middle of the book are the Faiths or what your character believes in.  Think of these as churches – but some are more political than religious.

The game has psionics too. Yeah, it’s a little bit like magic, but what the hell.

The rules are remarkably well written.  I don’t mean that to be a shock, but once you get past the artwork and the font choices, I was surprised.

Combat is solid in this RPG, a mix of cards and dice which oddly works well for me.  But what makes this game purr is the mass combat system.  There are zombies here.  Fat ones, skinny fast ones.  Zombies in this game are hoard/pack creatures.  You don’t have to manage hit points on 20+ zombies in the game.  The mass combat system makes this happen smoothly and effectively, allowing GM’s and players to focus on role playing rather than complex hoard management.

I find myself liking this game system despite the poor presentation.

I give Dystopia Rising four out of five stars.  If you want to mow down packs of zombies – this could be a good game for you to pick up.