Monday, December 26, 2016

Helkaraxe: for StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins

I am working on a support thing for StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins. I had a problem with Ruins - basically, because of the lack of an outer gas giant in either of the two systems, it is impossible to fly directly between the two with the typical short range space ship, which typically needs to use outer system gas giants for slingshotting to speed up or slow down into or out of systems, so travel between systems was only by long range ships.

So last night, I dreamed about Helcaraxe.

Helcaraxe is from Tolkien's Silmarillion, which is the holy book of the Ruins setting. It means the Grinding Ice, and it was the means for those Noldor who couldn't leave Valinor to return to Middle Earth.

In my dream, Helcaraxe was a rogue gas giant - that is without a sun. It was hot, but that was not enough to heat its moons which were all covered in ice. It had eight moons, and four of them had space stations orbiting them. the stations were mining ice and breaking it into hydrogen and oxygen, and mining minerals for their stations.

And that was the solution to my problem. Going into and out of Helcaraxe would be easy - no big ass solar gravity well to fight! - and with the stations to refuel them, they could, by stopping at Helkaraxe, reach the other system with enough reaction mass to brake in.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

StarCluster 4 - Sabre & World

I asked on Google Plus what the next StarCluster 4 game should be, and only one person answered - and there you see the immense amount of fascination my games engender - so Brian Isikoff, you are getting a game designed just for you! Announcing *StarCluster 4 - Sabre & World*, a Sword and Planet game for StarCluster 4. Here is the character sheet - I almost always start with a character sheet - in which you can see what I aim to do with this game: 1. The typical damage boxes are gone, and the State boxes are greatly increased. Each state is tied to an attribute or a resource. States tied to boxes when checked indicate the attribute is at -2 from normal, so if your AGY were 10 and you were Hobbled, your AGY would be down to 8. States tied to resources - i.e. PSI or LUCK - when checked indicate the resource is unusable.

2. There is no weapon damage, just range. All fighting results in a hit or a miss. If you take a hit, you must check a State box. So, if you take three hits, you will have three State boxes checked - for example you are now Shaken, Exhausted, and Confused.

3. There is now a big section on Relationships. There are three white background relationships - Love of Life, Trusted Confidant, and Boon Companion. You write in the names of one person in each of them, if that relationship exists. You can only ever have one of each - you can have a million friends, but only one Love of Life. If the person named is in danger, you can, once a session, check that box and uncheck two State boxes.

There are two relationships on gray backgrounds - Respected Elder and Protected One. The names of these change from session to session - these are roles of responsibility. If the person named is in danger, you can, once a session, check that box and uncheck one State box.

There is one relationship on a black background - Hated Enemy. There is only at most one Hated Enemy at a time, and once that relation is named, then only the death of the Hated Enemy can change it, and even then only in the next session at the soonest. If the person named is facing you, physically present, you can, once a session, check that box and roll two extra dice.

Not also that "Company" is changed to "Politics" in the upper right background stuff. This is an indication that politics and factions will be very important in this game. The game world will be city-states, the rulers of which can be - but are not necessarily linked to one of eight factions, which each represent a philosophy, like a combination league and political party. Each character will possibly also eventually choose a faction they favor. If so, this is where you put it.

And here is the character sheet. :D

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Fragments of Air and Stone

Something that has been available for a while in pdf, but I have just released it in print - Fragments of Air and Stone, the supplement for Volant that shows you how your Association can build up and improve a fragment - those smaller chunks of floatstone that break off a skyland.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Epimas 2017 and a Review of StarCluster 4 - Zero Stage

Merry Epimas all! This year StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins is in the Cheer bundle! Have fun!

also - RPGPundit reviews my StarCluster 4 - Zero Stage:

Saturday, December 10, 2016

StarCluster 4 Web Page

Getting confused by the flood of StarCluster 4 games? Here's a page with all the StarCluster 4 games I have released since this summer:

I will add in the Toolboxes (5) Magazines (2) and Classic Setting products (2) as I can.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

StarCluster 4 Toolbox 4 - Characters Released

Also released a new StarCluster 4 Toolbox - Toolbox 5 - Characters. This covers a lot of Character-oriented stuff, like: Pre-birth augmentation Martial Arts for Characters Custom Chargen Template Trees Character Hobbies Cosmetic Implants and More!

in print from Lulu -

in pdf from Precis Intermedia -

in pdf from One Book Shelf -

StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins Released

Released a new game today! StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins. Out of the Ruins is a new game set in a new universe. The Humans are gone, and the New Humans and a bunch of other successor species are trying to expand. It features a tech much like today's, but with FTL-accelerated Atomic Rockets. Oh! And their Holy Book is The Silmarillion.

For print at Lulu -

For pdf at Precis Intermdia -

For pdf at One Book Shelf -

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins IRC Game

So, next weekend I start a second StarCluster 4 - Out Of The Ruins game, this one on Sundays over IRC. After the new year I will be switching between that and our extremely long running Classic Setting IRC game every other Sunday. I have been running this game since 2003, through StarCluster 1E, 2E, 3E, and now 4th Edition.

In the Out of the Ruins game, we will be doing an exploration game of a new solar system. The Association has bought up an old license to explore the Valinor system and now the PCs are going to interpret it widely and creatively to use it to explore the new Numenor system on the cheap, while the official Church sponsored expedition is hitting cost overruns and production delays.. :D

In the Classic game, we are playing the four grown up heirs to our old Beginner's Luck crew, three years after the crew disappears - they "mis-jumped" into Jeshen Space, and have no idea how to get back! The four girls were rescued from a life as age-retarded sex workers - they were given a drug at a very early age that slowed their aging, and looked 12 when they were over 18 - and adopted by the crew. The were in their second year at college when the Luck disappeared. Now they have graduated, and are about to unleash themselves on the world.

Friday, November 25, 2016

StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins - NeoDogs

So, NeoDogs. I was originally going to have only one kind of dog uplift in StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins, but... Dogs are so... Malleable. Protean. Klaxon convinced me to open that up. All NeoDogs are the same species, but they voluntarily create breeds - or most of them do. More on that later. Breeds emphasize one aspect of the dog so they become very different. We went for six breeds - Two big dogs - English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds, two medium breeds - Malamutes and Border Collies, and two small breeds - Terriers and Corgis. Each one has a separate species sheet.

Now for the 'almost all' bit. Some NeoDogs refuse to breed this way. They have become a separate people. Still NeoDogs, but refusing to play the past of the faithful companion to New Humans, insisting on breeding naturally, going their own way. This seventh non-breed are called - in accordance with the Tolkien theme - Wargs. Wargs are mutts - tending to the median, the wolfish unspecialized dog look. Wargs are fiercely independent, and make no compromises.

Here's a Terrier NeoDog for your enjoyment!

Monday, November 21, 2016

StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins Campaign

My Out of the Ruins campaign got off to an excellent start Saturday! Four characters, each one of the Ea Clade - a NeoDog, a Corvoid, a Roo, and a New Human - are partners, running an Eldar relic hunting business, which they have just sold to Weyland-Yutani. Now they work for the company they started, because they enjoy the work. They are searching the planet Varda - once inhabited by the Eldar, but now heavily glaciated - for relics of their former masters. These relics are technological items - the Eldar were incredibly advanced before they disappeared. Anyway, they are looking for areas to search that are not all picked over, reasoning that the choice stuff will be in these pockets. The session sent very well. The four partners are all interesting characters, and their relationships are also interesting! This should be a lot of fun! :D

StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins Campaign

My Out of the Ruins campaign got off to an excellent start Saturday! Four characters, each one of the Ea Clade - a NeoDog, a Corvoid, a Roo, and a New Human - are partners, running an Eldar relic hunting business, which they have just sold to Weyland-Yutani. Now they work for the company they started, because they enjoy the work. They are searching the planet Varda - once inhabited by the Eldar, but now heavily glaciated - for relics of their former masters. These relics are technological items - the Eldar were incredibly advanced before they disappeared. Anyway, they are looking for areas to search that are not all picked over, reasoning that the choice stuff will be in these pockets. The session sent very well. The four partners are all interesting characters, and their relationships are also interesting! This should be a lot of fun! :D

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins Cover

Finished the cover for StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins tonight! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins - Layout

OK, Out of the Ruins is about 95% complete. I have to do some illos, and a techno-device generator for the "Eldar" relics. I have placed everything in the "infographic" style layout I have been playing with. Previous StarCluster 4 games were partially in this style, but with substantial chunks in ye olde text style. This game will have everything in the new layout. In the meantime enjoy a zero-G NeoDolphin in a wet suit. :D

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

World Pages for StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins

Here is the way I am laying out world information for StarCluster 4 - Out of the Ruins. This is Varda, named for the Vala in the Silmarillion the Elves call Elbereth. If you remember, the Holy Book of this setting is Tolkien's The Silmarillion.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The New Humans of StarCluster 4 - The Ruins

So my latest project is called StarCluster 4 - The Ruins. It's about a successor culture to the Humans, who have departed, leaving their ruins behind. The various playable character species come from various backgrounds, aliens, uplifts, and a bioroid, but there is also the New Humans. New Humans call themselves just Human, and think they are the same people who left the ruins, but they are not, not quite. They are an offshoot of Humanity left behind while at a very low Tech Level. They were created using the Alien and Uplift creation tool, as were standard SC4 Humans, but each time the choices were different. Old Humans were Endurance Predators, while New Humans are Arboreal Omnivores; which leads to a very different species. The most obvious external difference is New Humans have a Nictitating Membrane and Prehensile Tails. Compare:

StarCluster 4 and Atomik Add Ons!

Now you can use Precis Intermedia's line of Atomik Add-Ons - generic supplements for magic, psionics, cybertech , etc. - with our StarCluster 4 games! Check out the Atomik line here!

StarCluster 4 and Atomik Add Ons!

Now you can use Precis Intermedia's line of Atomik Add-Ons - generic supplements for magic, psionics, cybertech , etc. - with our StarCluster 4 games! Check out the Atomik line here!

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Alish, from StarCluster 4 - The Ruins

Latest alien for StarCluster 4 - The Ruins setting: The Alish. A hive-minded, fleet marine predator.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Bintaur - From StarCluster 4 - The Ruins

For my latest project, codenamed StarCluster 5 The Ruins: A Bintaur - a created creature, a bioroid - long gone feral and evolved. Ruins is all about a SF successor culture built atop a post apocalyptic event.

Monday, October 24, 2016

StarCluster 4 - Classic Aliens

Today I released StarCluster 4 - Classic Aliens

This is the classic StarCluster 2 setting Advanced Aliens - those capable of spaceflight. Also includes extended essays on three of these aliens.

Lulu - For print copy:

One Book Shelf - For pdf:

Precis Intermedia - For pdf:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

StarCluster 4 - Sweet Chariot

Today I released StarCluster 4 - Sweet Chariot as an upgrade to Sweet Chariot 2, so all of you who bought it in the recent Steam Powered bundle can get a free upgrade

. Otherwise, it's available from:

One Book Shelf in pdf:

Precis Intermedia Games in pdf:

and Lulu in print and pdf:

This was a fun project for me, and one of my all-time favorite settings to run a game in! It brings the number of StarCluster 4 games out there to 7, 3 new games and 4 new editions!

StarCluster 4 - Sweet Chariot

Today I released StarCluster 4 - Sweet Chariot as an upgrade to Sweet Chariot 2, so all of you who bought it in the recent Steam Powered bundle can get a free upgrade

. Otherwise, it's available from:

One Book Shelf in pdf:

Precis Intermedia Games in pdf:

and Lulu in print and pdf:

This was a fun project for me, and one of my all-time favorite settings to run a game in! It brings the number of StarCluster 4 games out there to 7, 3 new games and 4 new editions!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sweet Chariot tl;dr Page!

Worked on tl;dr pages for Chariot nations today. Klax suggested a tl;dr page for Chariot itself. I thought that was brilliant! Here is the result! Chariot under normal circumstances would be a prison planet...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

What I'm Working On Now

Working on Classic Setting Aliens supplement. I've translated the old classic setting aliens into StarCluster 4 aliens - which means I have recreated them from the ground up, using the old versions as quidelines. Right now Albert is writing an in depth article on one of the aliens.

Also working on layout and editing for My son Klaxon's supers game - Look! Up In The Sky! Mechanically, the changeover from SC3 to SC4 is done, by Klax - now I need to lay it out in the one-page-infographic style of StarCluster 4!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

StarCluster 4 - Toolbox 4: Engineer's Guide Released!

OK, people! Yeah, I have another release to announce! But first let me talk! The last release I made was Tuesday, StarCluster 4 - Toolbox 3: Starships. After I released it, I remembered a supplement I wrote for StarCluster 2 back in the last decade called the Engineer's Guide. I found the source files and realized with a little work, this could be a great resource for StarCluster 4. I began working away all day Wednesday, and finished up late last night. Then I began thinking...

I have already sold a number of Toolbox 3's, and this, in a sense, does much the same thing. It allows you to create spaceships. Now Toolbox 4 does it in a different way - an old school, math-heavy, system by system and subsystem by subsystem way, where Toolbox 3 was choose from these hulls - choose from these options - add stuff up - done.

So, I should have named Toolbox 3 "Quick and Dirty Starships"! I got that! Too late now! Anyway, if you bought Toolbox 3 and were wanting something more like Toolbox 4, let me know by PM. I will send you the pdf for Toolbox 4 gratis. Anyway, here's the blurb:

StarCluster 4 Toolbox 4 is a tool designed to let you create and control every system and subsystem of the starships and stations for your StarCluster 4 Game. Unlike Toolbox 3, Toolbox 4 is math heavy and incredibly detailed, but yoou can do whatever you want, at the price of detailed calculations. You can create:

Tech Level 7, 8, 9 and 10 ships - not just TL 10

Arbitrary sized ships - not limited to certain hull sizes

Armed military ships - not limited to just unarmed civilian ships

Matter-Antimatter Drives - for enormous power

Atomic space drives like Orion and Nerva types

PDF from One Book Shelf:

PDF from Precis Intermedia:

Print book from Lulu: 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

StarCluster 4 Magazine 2: Technology Released!

This should have been posted yesterday!

So it's Monday! I *MUST* have some new gaming material to publish, right? Well here you go! The second StarCluster 4 Magazine! Only a complete and utter geek would read this!

StarCluster 4 Magazine 2 contains eight essays: Overview of Cluster Technology, StarCluster Materials, EM Bottles, Standard Implants, Tech Level 9 Technology, Force Fields, Fusion Propulsion and Energy Productions, and Biotechnology. Go into the new StarCluster in DEPTH!

PDF at Precis Intermedia:

PDF at One Book Shelf:

Print at Lulu:

StarCluster 4 - Toolbox 3: Starships Released!

Where are my manners? I've gone and done today's release and not mentioned it! In case you haven't noticed, I've been busy writing and illustrating lately. Today's release is StarCluster 4 - Toolbox 3: Starships!

In StarCluster 4 - Toolbox 3, we have a starship creation method, and the two sheets for these starships - a control sheet for running a ship - fuel use, cargo carried, passenger cabins occupied - and a damage sheet for dealing with damage in a way that makes sense - every hit damages some system, and you can see how much damage each system has.

For PDF From Precis Intermedia:

For PDF from One Book Shelf:

For Print from Lulu:

Friday, September 23, 2016

StarCluster 4 Toolbox 2: Setting Tools Released

Alright! Today's_ StarCluster 4 release is StarCluster 4 Toolbox 2: Setting Tools! This baby contains a revamped Association setup tool, a rewritten Creating the Cluster tool with a new Politics section, to make completely different kids of clusters! No FTL, Star Empires, Diplomacy, New Colony... all sorts of variations! Also a whole slew of culture and city creation tools. Enjoy!

PDF from OneBookShelf:

PDF from Precis Intermedia:

Print from Lulu:

The End of the Line for StarCuster 2

I have taken down - "made private" - all the StarCluster 2 support material that was out there. There was a ton of stuff, and it sold really well - most of it was at least Copper at RPGNow - but screw it. StarCluster 2 has not been for sale since 2011, and not been available at all since this spring. Hell, StarCluster 3 is no longer available! SO I cleaned out my StarCluster back-catalog at Precis Intermedia, One Book Shelf, and Lulu. All gone! :D

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

StarCluster 4 Magazine 1: Social is Out!

"Well, clash..." you say. "You have finally gone off the edge haven't you?" I shrug and nod. "I'm still falling," I reply, "And... I... I kinda like it."

Announcing StarCluster 4 - Magazine 1: Social. For once I release something for reading, not directly for play. These are all articles and essays written about the StarCluster 4 universe, if you want to get deeper. Brindella's Guide to Active Fashion, Starship Crews, Marriage Customs of the StarCluster, the Diaspora and Cultural Emulation, and Religions of the StarCluster. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

StarCluster 4 Magazines!

So tonight I finished writing and editing the first two StarCluster 4 Magazines. I had to rewrite one article entirely, and added some to a few more. I actually found a factual mistake on a technical essay by Albert - he had inadvertently switched the anode and cathode on a description of a fusion drive - so now that I have sent it to him for fact checking I am sure he will find a dozen idiotic mistakes in my technical articles!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

StarCluster 4 Toolbox 1: Peoples

Klax and I have finished with all three species creation tools in the StarCluster 4 Toolbox 1: Peoples. We have fined down Aliens and Uplifts, Robots, and Created Creatures: Androids and Bioroids until they work easily and intuitively, and produce very similar output. Here are an uplift, a robot, and a bioroid, and you can see how similar the results are.

StarCluster 4 - Dark Orbital released!

Just released! StarCluster 4 - Dark Orbital! If you ever wanted to play a broke, somewhat criminal uplifted racoon with cut rate implants that don't... always... work quite as expected, this is your game!

BTW, this is the sixth StarCluster 4 game I have released this year.

For the print game:

For the pdf:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Another new robot model, this one the JeshenBot Model from Jorbara Robotics. It is designed by Jeshen to fit in among Jeshen seamlessly, even to the extent of the extraordinary vision and taste capabilities, able, like biological Jeshen, to taste intent in a casual setting. Although this model could be made to look like a "real" Jeshen, the company prefers to avoid any uncanny valley problem by giving the bot a hard, protective ceramic exterior.

Created with the StarCluster 4 Toolbox 1!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Toolboxes and Magazines

OK! I have three StarCluster 4 Toolboxes done, waiting for Lulu to get me proofs. Last night I finished two Magazines, Culture and Technology. That clears my backlog of articles and essays! I'm sure more will come up soon!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

StarCluster 4 Toolboxes

I am currently working on StarCluster 4 Toolboxes - short, focused collections of tools available in pdf and print; 32-64 page saddle stitch is my range. Right now I have Toolbox 1: People with Aliens and Uplifts, Robots, and Created Creatures - Androids and Bioroids; and Toolbox 2: Setting Tools with Creating the Company, Making the Cluster, and Setting Generators, both between 32 and 64 pages. Toolbox 3: Spaceships is more distantly in the works as well. Toolbox 4: Things and Toolbox 5: GM Tools are at the conceptual stage.

I am also looking to create some "Magazines". These would be similarly-sized, but essay-based rather than tool-based, where I or one of our other authors delves into various subjects in some detail. Right now I am looking at Magazines on Technology, Social, and Rules topics.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

StarCluster 4 Senses

A customer asked me about how senses work in StarCluster 4, and I realized I hadn't put anything in the game about how they work! I have upgraded all 6 StarCluster 4 titles - including Dark Orbital, which is almost ready for release - with a single page on Senses, along with a few typo fixes. Here it is if you are interested!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

StarCluster 4 - FTL Now

A new edition of the old favorite from 2006, using the StarCluster 4 game engine. Here is the new cover, which I think is really striking.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

First Five StarCluster 4 Games

The first five StarCluster 4 game books in print, including a pre-release proof copy of Dark Orbital! All mine! All are under $20, with Zero Stage under $10 and Free under $5. All released since the end of June.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Drusilla Singh-Wu

One of the characters I created yesterday for Dark Orbital:

Drusilla Singh-Wu

Drusilla is currently an exterminator, which gives her a Poor Lifestyle, though she has been a courier and an actress on the Yakker net in the past. She kills rats and sells the meat. Her feet have been cut off and replaced by integrated in-line skates, making her very fast, though walking and climbing are awkward. She has a lot of other cheap ass modifications - a built-in Yakker Comm, An Adrenaline Surge pump, A Blood Oxygenator so she doesn't need to breathe for 15 minutes at a time.

She also has a permanent Augmented Reality game in her brain, her skin can change color arbitrarily, and implanted chromatophores and squid neurons to control an animated snake tattoo that slithers over her body. She also has had her hair replaced by snakes recently, but that changes over time. She has also had chinchilla fur and a feathered crest at other times. Dru is a slave to fashion, though she does her best to create it.

She is fully genetically human, and is 27 years old.

Note I didn't give you her attributes and skills - why would you care about those? :D

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

StarCluster 4 - Dark Orbital

I am basically done with StarCluster 4 - Dark Orbital. I will start playtesting it this weekend. You can play this game two ways, I think. Most people will probably play this all grimdark. I - on the other hand - will be running this as black comedy. I personally really dislike grimdark, but it's apparently very popular, while comedy of any kind is really unpopular for RPGs. So, my advice: If you find yourself somehow tricked into running this thing, because I'm sure that's the only way anyone is going to run it, remember to put away your sense of humor first!

Two Steps. More coming!

Step 1: I have added the StarCluster 4 Developer's License to StarCluster 4 Free. Now you can use anything and everything in StarCluster 4 Free in your game, publish it, and rake in the megabucks! Step 2: StarCluster 4 Free is now available at cost in print, with the Developer's License.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Transitioning from StarCluster 3 to StarCluster 4

I have removed StarCluster 3 and StarCluster 3 Light from availability. I have replaced SC3 Light with StarCluster 4 Free. Now I have to decide what to do with the old game - well, not that old! I released it in 2011! I made SC2 available for free when I released SC3, but that was stopped when someone reviewed SC2 and gave it one star on RPGNow. I don't need that when I am averaging 4.5 stars on my reviews. Should I release it for free? Release the Developer's Edition for free with the license? Give out a new developer's license with SC 4 Free? Please comment and let me know what you guys think!

At RPGNow:

At Precis Intermedia:

Friday, August 5, 2016

Some Text Illustrations from StarCluster 4: Dark Orbital

The Free Clinics:

Gendy brought the bloody boy in to the Tors Clinic. “I found him.” she said. “I found him in my alley. Like this.” she gestured, “Well, whaddya want,” growled the clinician. “A fucking prize?” “No, duh! You gotta fix him up!” The clinician looked down at the boy. “I dunno, he looks like a lotta work.” He pushed the boy with his toe. “Covered in blood he is.” “Yeah, well...” Gendy hesitated. “He had this on him...” She handed the clinician a bag with a few tokens in it. The clinician looked in the bag and looked at Gendy, frowning. “And I was saving this, for a special occasion, y’know? But you can have it.” She handed him a bottle of scotch. “It’s the real deal. Still sealed.” The clinician cracked the seal, sniffed, and sipped. “Alright, deal.” Gendy looked sadly at the bottle. “He’s gonna owe me big!”

Getting Prosthetics at a Chop Shop:

“Uh oh! Shit!...” said the doc, Jasmine “Rocky” Raccoon. “Uh oh what?” cried Mungo, the patient. “This new IR eye is too big!” said Rocky. “I had to order it from my cousin Joey... I mean the Tinker! A month ago so it would be ready today!” “Gaddamn it! You already took my eye out!” complained Mungo. “We’ll just have to make it fit!” reassured Rocky, revving up the grinder. “You gonna grind down the eye case?” querried Mungo. “Hell no! That’s too delicate! I’ll grind out your eye socket!"


Ulmet Striper waddled down the alley. There it was, L18-U46-5224J. He measured - a definite wobble! Pretty good shape otherwise! Not that anyone would detect it - his instruments were much more discriminating than human senses, and technically all grav plates wobbled a little - but he could confidently say it was faulty, and bypass the lie detectors. He whistled as he assigned the plate to scrap. He set up work barriers, and pulled the plate up from the street grid and replaced it, logging the number into the grid. All fixed! He headed back to Maintenance HQ. Of course. in Hellmouth Alley, he met his buddy Frank, and set the plate aside while he chatted. He very carefully did not see the plates switched. He said goodby to Frank, and headed to Scrap to hand in this sadly worn and dinged up plate, which was, as far as he knew, L18-U46-5224J. He whistled happily. It was good to be a conscientious worker!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Righteous Tired!

Yesterday and this morning were such a blur! I was able to release all three games yesterday on DTRPG/RPGNow, and today on Lulu and PIG. I also ran a game yesterday and another one today. Tired now, but pleased! Now they will fall away into the mists of nothing matters-ness! :D

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Announcing StarCluster 4 - Zero Stage, SC 4 - Cold Space, and SC4 - The Necklace

Announcing the release of StarCluster 4 - Zero Stage at Rpgnow/Drivethru Rpg. This is the first new StarCluster 4 game release. Zero Stage is a SF game set in a ten star system network of stars owned by the Jeshen, in which humans are welcomed refugees.

Also we are releasing a new version of the venerable Cold Space RPG, StarCluster 4 - Cold Space. This is an update of the original Cold Space game released back in 2005, using the new StarCluster 4 ruleset - vastly simplified and re-laid out.

If you bought the original Cold Space from RPGNow/DTRPG, you should have been notified of this update as a free download. Please download it! It should be a much more pleasing experience!

We are also releasing a new version of The Necklace RPG - StarCluster 4 - The Necklace. This is an update of last year's SF RPG The Necklace, using the new StarCluster 4 system to replace the original StarCluster 3 system.

If you have already bought The Necklace in it's old form from RPGNow/DTRPG, this should be a free upgrade - just download it.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Flats and Mirrors of Dark Orbital

There are four slice-of-pie shaped areas between the spokes of the old wheel. These are called flats. They were one open to space, but are now enclosed with a floor and ceiling, each equipped with A-grav plates. There are buildings on the floor of each flat, and buildings on the ceiling, and people live on both. The A-grav fades out at a 40 meter wide area in between without gravity called the Dead Zone. It is possible to stand on the roof of a building, jump up into the Dead Zone, coast through the Dead Zone, turn around, and land on the roof of a building on the ceiling.

Some people like to fly in the Dead Zone, using cloth wings. The living areas on the ceilings of the flats are called mirrors. Each flat is named, Tors Flats, Spinner Flats, London Flats, and Alkali Flats. Mirror Alkali is the ceiling of Alkali Flats.

The poor live in the flats. The flats are wild, and unpoliced for the most part, and when police come in, they don’t hesitate to use deadly force. Commerce flourishes in the flats, there are several markets in each flat, and everything belongs to somebody. The trash bins, for instance, belong to the Spotted Pack, a family or clan of uplifted hyenas. Everything broken is recycled, fixed, and resold, and the Spotted Pack gets it’s share of the proceeds. Spoiled food never goes to waste. Hyenas can digest virtually anything.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

from StarCluster 4 - Dark Orbital: Cosmetic Implants

These implants have no game effect, and the characters can just have them if they want them. There are other implants that have actual game stats and such, but these are just free. Here are a couple examples: AR Game Implant "Mu" This implant consists of a brain interface unit and direct optic connect package. It is for a popular Augmented Reality game called “Mu”. Mu is a conspiracy game, and uses mundane locations and actions as in-game locations and actions. Points are awarded for strange activities, and odd, creepy, and disturbing tasks are given. Rumor is it is all actually real, and that there is some end game that all this actually is supporting. Theme Music This implant plays theme music for you, which changes when you do different activities - the music for walking is different from the music for tense situations, which is different from resting music. The music never stops. You choose the themes from among millions of free public domain songs, or pay for current songs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

StarCluster 4 Games Zero Stage and The Necklace Coming!

I am really excited! Starting the first of June, I sent out StarCluster 4 Zero Stage for beta test. From the wonderful feedback, I have continually been refining the game - I have actually recompiled the pdf over forty times since 6/1. I want to release it so badly - I mean even though I know it will drop out of sight like a stone dropped into the Atlantic, I'm still really proud of this game! - but I am determined to wait it out a bit more, for hopefully more feedback. In any case, I have converted The Necklace from StarCluster 3 to StarCluster 4, and am working on another new setting, Dark Orbital. The Necklace will not need further playtest - the setting was proved with the original testing, and the system is almost identical to Zero Stage, so I will release it when I release Zero Stage.

Friday, July 1, 2016

High Strung Reviewed!

Yay! RPG Pundit reviews my High Strung Rock'n'Rollplaying game!

As usual when I get really focused, Pundit doesn't quite know how to approach it, but he is an excellent game reviewer, and pulls it off. :D

Here's a link to the game:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Volant Podcast Review

Just in time to ride on the wave of stuff +Levi Kornelsen has been putting out for Volant/Keelstone, Joe Wolz does an awesome review of Volant on the 2GMS1MIC podcast! It's amazingly thorough, and I think you all might enjoy it! :D

Sunday, June 26, 2016


I've been wicked busy lately. I've been firming StarCluster 4 Zero Stage up both from Beta tester comments and from internal (Klax, Albert, and I) ideas. It is at 116 pages now, and probably won't grow much at all. There's a two page intro, then everything up to page 52 is character stuff. There are two pages of system stuff, and them it's all setting from page 53 on. Almost everything up to page 52 is one page per concept, like an infographic. Most of the setting, too, it one page per world, though more text oriented. Pages 53 to 71 are the only standard text type presentation.

Klax has changed the underlying system for his Look! Up In The Sky! supers game from StarCluster 3 to StarCluster 4, as it really simplifies a lot of things! This necessitated a complete rewrite of the game by Klax, which meant a complete new editing pass for me. I like editing. It's very different from writing, but interesting in it's own way. LUITS! is much larger than StarCluster 4 Zero Stage. It's almost 200 pages. I have run at least a dozen separate campaigns with LUITS! - in fact I'm currently running two weekly - so it's extremely well play tested. Now it needs to get out to Beta testers!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Setting Creation by Microstory

Some setting snippets, to create my super cops in spaaace setting:

The InterGalactic Police - or IGP - are the Hand of the InterGalactic Council, taking care of investigation and arrest of violators of interspecies peace. Everything from con men to mass murderers is handled by the IGP, provided it is between two different species! The Meta-Human Branch takes on the toughest customers, those with talents and powers far beyond the norm, and brings them in for justice. The IGP headquarters is the massive space station in Kura System, in the Core Sector. Police teams are sent out from there to do their work.

For millenia, the Great War between the Yigil and the Houmai has consumed countless lives. Tragedies, massacres, treacheries, assassinations, murder most foul - it has happened again and again, from both sides, to both sides. Unspeakable evils have been perpetrated. Planets have been destroyed. Entire populations have been enslaved. Both sides have deep and everlasting mines of vengeance crying out. Recently, however, the governments of both sides have agreed to patch together a peace, and both sides have agreed to arbitration by the InterGalactic Council. Hatred simmers, and occasionally boils over, in their various worlds though!

The Gamirabi are space wanderers, without a known world to call home, though some say there is a homeworld that is kept very secret. They migrate throughout the galaxy, and wherever they go, tensions rise and things disappear. The Gamirabi claim they are innocent victims of fear and hate. The locals claim the Gamirabi have strange notions of property and propriety.

The Tonchinados are a gang of high stakes thieves and con artists. They are an interspecies criminal group, and whatever they do interests the IGP. They pull off big projects, and disappear, only to change identities and set up a new operation. Recently, they have begun to recruit members who are not just thieves and con artists, but also meta-human, using their powers for illegal personal gain. All gains are shared equally, but reputation depends on what projects you have taken part in, and reputation is everything in the Tonchinados! Rewards are high for these bastards.

The Pandisho are a group of terrorists, who pull high visibility nastiness with very high body count and a specific focus on body horror. They dump random mega-mutagenics in water supplies, spray aerosol in crowded commuter trains, and let it all happen. 99% of those affected die horrible deaths, but a few, a very lucky few, are transformed.

A substantial chunk of the galaxy is occupied by the Fanisher Autocracy. This is a multi-species empire run with an iron hand by Orton Hegris. Hegris does not acknowledge IGP authority in the Autocracy, and forbids any IGP travel through systems he controls. On the whole, though, since Hegris' methods of dealing with criminality involve rather drastic measures, it isn't exactly a criminal haven. Sometimes IGP routes lie through Fanisher Autocracy territory. If so, IGP members are warned to lie low and not attract attention as they pass through.

There have been a few reports of a glossy silver android chasing down and capturing people throughout the galaxy. The large spatial distance between these apparent kidnappings and the fact that there is no apparent connection between the cases other than the android, which has been reported by several witnesses, has delayed connection between the cases. The android may also have been possibly involved in other disappearances where no witnesses have come forward. The Galactic Council has forbidden use of the term "Human" and "Humanity" other than as an umbrella term covering all Homo Sapiens Sapiens-derived species. Terms such as "Old Stock Human" and "Pure Strain Human" are no longer legal terms. The Galactic Academic Standards Board is frantically searching for a proper replacement genetic term.

Researchers fron the Kura Institute have declared that Jobarians, AKA "Space Whales", are sapient, under vigorous protests from the Mornbari Combine, which claims a targeted harrassment of ancient Mornbari culinary customs. The Kura institute has filed an injunction in Galactic Court forbidding hunting of Jobarians for meat. The Mornbari Combine government has responded by issuing Jobarian hunting licenses for research purposes.

The Hastur Megalantic Corporation has patented a Homo Sapiens Sapiens-derived genetic stock which guarantees sub-sapient brain activity. The so-called Downshifts have been approved for servant work and meat supply by the Galactic Licensing Board, as they meet sapience criteria for the defintion of animals, and their meat is both medically harmless and palatable. This has raised a storm of protests in the Courts and the Council, but Licensing Board members have dismissed such protests as "scientific bunkum" and "sentimental drivel".

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Last night, the Wednesday Conclave assembled to decide what game we were going to play. A variety of my games were discussed, but as a consensus, the players decided on playing Klaxon's Look! Up In The Sky! supers game as a space game, a la Guardians of the Galaxy/Legion of Super Heroes. This is the first time I've ever had a consensus pick! Usually we actually vote, with a weighted vote so that the winner usually ends up being the least divisive option.

They created their association, the Meta Human Branch of the InterGalactic Police, bought a couple of spaceships, a share of the IGP space station, medical facilities, various information databases, a PR man and a lawyer. They didn't spend their budget, so leaving some for spur of the moment purchases,

Some of you - of the half dozen who are actually going to read this :D - may remember I am also running L!UITS! in my Saturday, face to face game. In that one we are running it with Klax's edits making it compatible with StarCluster 4, where this Wednesday night game over IRC will use the StarCluster 3 compatible version. Why? Because the conversion is in notes written out in longhand, and lines through items on old printed tables, and none of it is integrated. The older version is in a clean and orderly pdf I can send everyone electronically.

Anyway, this should be fun! They want me to use a Manga/Anime playstyle, which I have never used, not being a big fan of the genre, so I asked Klax to help keep me on track, and send me a note if I get too far away from that playstyle. :D

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

StarCluster 4 Zero Stage

The feedback so far from the Beta testers for Zero Stage has been nothing short of sensational! By far the best set of feedback I have ever gotten! I am so happy! I am already making revisions and changing things for the better! :D

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Looking for Feedback - StarCluster 4 Zero Stage

Whelp, it's that time again! I need feedback on my latest creation, *StarCluster 4 Zero Stage*. This is the first iteration of StarCluster 4 to escape the labs, and it's mission is very particular. It is designed to be ready to go, lacking only adventures, which I am terrible at making. Ir is short - currently just over 100 pages. It is a traditional RPG, neither a story game nor OSR. I am not interested in making either, so that is that. Much of the system is presented in self-contained single page info-graphics. This may cause some confusion. I need to iron that out. The vast majority of the game is setting and background.

If you are interested in giving feedback, I will send you the Beta test document when you send me your email. You can send it to me at clashUNDERSCOREbowleyATyahooDOTcom, or PM me.

Here is the wicked cover painting, from Juan Ochoa. Enjoy! :D

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A plea for help!

So, I am getting real close to finished with the version of StarCluster 4 that is to be locked down - fully described setting, all players to be part of a given organization, small subset of weapons and equipment available, only one resolution system... I have been calling it the Default version, as in "This is the default, no choice version designed not to intimidate people like StarCluster 3 did."

It's going to be 100-150 pages, as opposed to 470 for StarCluster 3 DE. All the choices and generators I stuffed into SC3 will be removed to supplementary materials, along with background and tech stuff.

Here's the thing: I think "Default" is an awful name! But what the hell should I call it? In desperation, I beg you people to please come up with something better!

Thank you in advance!

Monday, May 23, 2016

IHW Napoleonic Naval Session - Awesome Player Salute!

Yesterday, in our Napoleonic Naval IRC game, the party's ship had previously captured a pirate ship and two of it's prizes in Sabine Lake, between the new American territory of Louisiana and Spanish Tejas. Mr. Woodland had taken the cutter to find where some of the pirates had fled to in their boats. Pirates are lousy fighters, and seldom do much to a well-trained warship.

While the pirate's ship was repaired - the PC's HMS Avalon had pounded its larboard side into one gaping hole with devastating fire - Mr. Woodland and the crew of the cutter poked into bayou after bayou draining into the lake's eastern shore. Most quickly petered out, and none had any sign of recent passage. Then they found one with torn vegetation along the nebulous banks. Something had come this way!

They found a long shack on stilts above the floodplain with three ship's boats tied up to the legs and smoke coming from a smoke hole in the roof. The lieutenant called for sneaky volunteers to go in and scout the place out. I as GM asked the other players if the wanted to play these volunteers. They all agreed, and four ex-thieves slipped forward though the swamp towards the shack.

They were GLORIOUS! They were AMAZING! They were funny and touching and brave and opportunistic, and SO MUCH FUN! They caused mayhem, rescued two prisoners, slithered through outhouse holes - one of them was a practiced chimney thief nicked Smokey AKA Father Christmas - and signaled the rest to come in at the perfect time, after they threw lit grenados into the shack and caused death, fires, and panic.

I salute my awesome players! Well done! Well done!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Progress on the StarCluster 4 Default Version

The StarCluster 4 Default game is now up over 100 pages, at 102. I still haven't done any equipment aside from weapons, but that should not be much more. The majority - literally, at 60 pages - is the setting. The Skill Trees takes another 21, so you can tell what takes the space! I would estimate it should come in well under 150 pages when done.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Unifactoid World

Unifactoid World is a moderately-sized asteroid some 22 km on it’s long axis, in orbit 2 around Wahoo, just outside of Hound City’s orbit. It is covered in grass, trees, and water, inside an envelope of air retained artificially by extensive gravitic plating. It contains one city, Unifactoid City, 8500 people strong. All employed by Unifactoid, which owns the hotels, the spaceport, the casinos, the building, the housing, the asteroid, the air, and the water.

The entire asteroid is easily accessible by ground vehicle - even bicycle. There are some lovely places sculpted into the little world, popular for picnics, camping out, and general recreation. Crater Lake, The Ripples, Corkscrew Falls, and The Glade are all popular destinations. The area around the Spaceport remains airless and gravless, so big ships can come right in.

Unifactoid World is how The Agency maintains its independence from politics. The world is technically an Allied Human world, and as such is a free agent, by Jeshen Space’s own laws.

As for being wandering, the Agency maintains a fleet of 10 identical 250 ton News-ships, one stationed in each system of Jeshen Space. There are also 3 identical 600 ton News-ships, which go wherever the news is most urgent. All the ships are news agencies in miniature, with investigative, illustrative, and disseminative services. They also legally constitute the Space Navy of Unifactoid World - and can be called on in emergencies as Allies.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Unifactoid Peripatetic Headline Intelligencer Agency

Commonly called Unifactoid, or The Agency, by its people, this organization is the largest news gathering organization in Jeshen Space. It is the employer of your characters, the organization they all work for.

Peripatetic means wandering, and this news agency is just that, sending out its ships and reporters everywhere in Jeshen Space. The Company Headquarters is Unifactoid World, a grav-modified asteroid in the Wahoo system. It is entirely owned by The Agency, and everyone on it is working for the Agency.

Unifactoid is a publicly traded company - it’s stock is sold publically all over Jeshen Space. It is a huge company, and your characters are a small, but important part of it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

StarCluster 4 = Making an Individual From a Species

And here is another one page layout. This is How to make an individual character from a species. I've included the Human species sheet so you can see how it all works. Enjoy!

StarCluster 4 Psionics

Here is StarCluster 4's optional PSI system in One Page format!

Monday, May 2, 2016

StarCluster 4 Damage Allocation

Here is the StarCluster 4 Damage Allocation page. In keeping with Levi Kornelsen's one page=one subject dictum, I am working through the StarCluster 4 system. By the time I finish, it will be ridiculously short. This really keeps me focused on making subjects as simple and clear as possible!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way!

"Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way!"

God, I hate that phrase!

I don't want to lead anyone. I hate the idea of people following me. Go do your own thing!

I don't want to follow anyone. I'm perfectly happy doing what I want to do.

I won't get out of your way. I was here first, go around me.

On the other hand, if we are going in the same direction for a while, I would be glad of the company!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Humans and Jeshen

Why Are Jeshen and Humans So Alike?

In Jeshen Space, there are three main popularly held opinions for why Jeshen and Humans look so very much alike:

Convergent Evolution

Like a Tasmanian Wolf and a Gray Wolf, the two species evolved to be externally very similar because of similar successful responses to evolutionary pressures, despite their dissimilar origins. Humans and Jeshen just happen to appeal to each other.

Directed Evolution

Some advanced culture pushed Humans and/or Jeshen to evolve their external similarity in their respective prehistories, for unknown reasons. They were designed to appeal to each other.


Many religious folk believe that god meant for Jeshen and Humans to find joy in each other’s company. They were meant to appeal to each other.

There is no conclusive evidence for any one of these opinions. Most people don’t ever think about it, and just accept it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Jeshen Space Setting

I finished the Jeshen Space setting last night - at least to first draft. It runs to 60 pages of information on the Jeshen and Teruvar, some background on Jeshen Space, the ten star systems, and the main worlds in each system. I ran a game in a previous version of this setting over IRC for a year, and it worked very well.

With illustrations and maps, it's a chunk. I'm reasonably happy with it as is, and I am assuming it will only change for the better as the readers comment on this or that aspect.

If you are interested in reading and commenting, please get in touch! :D

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dark Orbital Setting

I'm thinking one of the settings I will be releasing for StarCluster 4 is Dark Orbital. Dark Orbital is a repurposed colony ship from earth, a gigantic fusion slow boat which spent centuries already in transit. It has been changed from a colony boat carrying some twenty thousand refugees from earth into a static habitat for millions circling around the star Cry-In-The-Dark.

It has changed a lot - the old living quarters which used spin gravity are all converted to grav plates now, no more coriolis force. The rich still live here - the richer you are, the more towards the outside your "house" is. The richest have private zero-G docks beneath their housees. The spokes are decked over and lots of poor people live in the "flats". Each flat has a mirror flat above it, and you can jump from the highest buildings in one flat to the roofs of the highest buildings in the mirror. Some of the old giant fuel tanks have been converted to grow greenstuff, while others have been converted into water tankage. The gravity profiles follow the inner skin of the tanks, with air in the middle. It's a big thing to go to the beach for a little recreation! Still others are dark and empty, and the poor kids play in them, in zero G.

The cops are corrupt as hell. Everyone knows it and everyone hates them. If you can't avoid them, you pay them off. Different gangs control services. The uplifted Hyenas control garbage collection, for example. Modern medicine is for the wealthy. The free clinics are vehicles to control the poor. Outdated and outmoded medicines and practices are dispensed here. Body Modification is a big cultural thing among the non-wealthy. Only wealthy people look really human.

So this is essentially a cyberpunk dystopia. I'm thinking this would be a lot of fun to play in!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Psionics in StarCluster 4

StarCluster has always had PSI, from the very beginning. In StarCluster 1E through 3E, it was actually required for Jump travel. For SC4 I am making PSI totally optional. I have eliminated PSI-oriented skills, so using PSI means using PSI + a regular skill. For example, use a PSI point plus the skill Communications, and voila! Telepathy! So if you don't want PSI in your universe, it's simple - don't use it. Everything is exactly the same. Ignore PSI points, and have a lovely time.

If you want PSI, though, there are some ground rules. The character can use PSI in as many ways as they have PSI points, and those ways are declared when making the character. So a character with a PSI of 4 might have Telepathy (PSI+Communications), Stun (PSI+Fist), Psychometry (PSI+Humanities), and Suggestion (PSI+Persuade). Note that skill use is limited to two ranks, unless the character specifically takes a Psionic Specialty - i.e. Communications+2 (Specialty Telepathy+4). Also, the character uses PSI points to power the ability, so it is a resource, renewable per session.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Human Species Sheet for StarCluster 4

Here's the Human Species page for Jeshen Space. Klax and I created the humans as an alien species with the alien creation tool. For comparison, here is the final version of the Jeshen species sheet. Jeshen are the main species in this setting - thus, y'know, Jeshen Space... :D

Friday, April 8, 2016

StarWars-ish: The Next Generation

So, there are three parties of characters in my StarWars-ish: The Next Generation Episode VII game starting Saturday.

Group one is three Stormtroopers who - inspired by Finn and tempted by promises from a prisoner - break away in the immediate aftermath of Poe and Finn's escape from the StarDestroyer. They steal an old Lamda Shuttle and book it away from the First Order, and head to Maz Kanata's place. The prisoner they escape with is a Holovid superstar who is ungodly famous, and is very sympathetic to the Resistance. In fact she held a big fund-raiser for the Resistance, which is why the First order captured her. She knows Maz Kanata, and says it's safe from the First Order.

The second group is two 'street Jedi'. One was a padawan in Luke's disastrous Jedi School, who escaped death but is running and staying low, and the other is a force sensitive who picked up an old light saber and is training herself. They have just arrived on Jakku looking for a Church of The Force which is supposed to be strong in the local villages on Jakku.

The third group is two scions of the old group of StarWars-ish characters, a young wookiee and a younger Twi'lek. They are here on Jakku because they heard about a StarDestroyer having crashed on this desert planet just behind a smaller ship. They think this is because of their parents, having both heard this story growing up, because... yes, it did happen with another star destroyer on another desert planet in our game, long before we heard of Jakku! They want to see this, because they never really believed the story.

The Twi'lek was also an escaped padawan of Luke's School, and yes, she knows the other ex-padawan. I expect groups two and three to merge the first day because of this. :D

Monday, April 4, 2016

New Armor Idea for StarCluster 4

Got a sweet idea for Armor in StarCluster 4! It takes from Klaxon's super's game Look! Up In The Sky! - The systems built into the armor are damage targets! So, you have a Penetration Value, which determines what can even damage this armor, and a Protective Value, basically a few damage boxes intrinsic to the armor - 1 to 8. Every sub-system the armor has is another damage box.

If a hit penetrates, you can assign it to a damage box, no matter how much damage it is, and check off the box. If you assign it to a Protective Value box, that's pretty much it. It's absorbed by the armor. If you assign it to a sub-system box, however, that sub-system goes out.

What really rocks here is the player chooses what box to check off, and assigning sub-system hits is making your armor less effective in interesting ways rather than just numbers.

Here's a couple of examples - a Flak Jacket with integrated Comms, and a suit of high tech scout armor.

So Here are my Saturday and Sunday Game Campaigns!

So, we are running Star Wars The Force Awakens using StarCluster 4 on Saturdays! We got three ex-Stormtroopers and a freed prisoner created in one group, and two refugees from Luke's aborted Jedi Academy, and two hard-knocks school "Jedi" in the other. The Stormtroopers took advantage of the mess Poe and Finn created to steal a Lamda class shuttle and get out of Dodge.

In my Sunday group, we decided on going back to In Harm's Way: Napoleonic Naval. The year is 1803, and the United States just purchased Louisiana. Jean and Pierre Lafitte are smuggling and pirating out of Barataria Bay, and things could get interesting.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Look! Up In The Sky Goes StarCluster 4

In the last few days, Klax has basically rewritten his supers game Look! Up In The Sky! to use the StarCluster 4 engine, changing from StarCluster 3. It makes certain things simpler, but required a conceptual breakthrough to understand.

He is using the most detailed damage tracking sub-system - where each attribute gets half the attribute (rounded up) in wound boxes. Each net success taken, you check off one box, and when all the boxes of a given attribute are checked, you lower the attribute by one and erase all the checks. The conceptual thing was that the boxes are superficial damage that the body will eventually heal. After a few nights of good sleep, you should be fine again. The attribute numbers, though, are real damage what rest and relaxation do not fix. To heal these numbers, the character needs medical attention or some higher healing power.

Regeneration by itself only acts as an accelerated rest. It clears boxes faster. There would be a separate power to heal numerical Attribute damage. Toughness - which previously increased the multiplier on your Constitution, now becomes a different multiplier on boxes - Daredevil has a really high Toughness, for instance. Armor can be represented in different ways - you can have armor with a high Penetration value to prevent damage, and you can have armor with a bunch of wound boxes to absorb damage, for example.

So far all interesting stuff!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Of Template Trees and Chargen

I did a bunch of template trees last night, nine I think. More than half of the bunch. I should have no problem being ready to go with the StarCluster 4 chargen by Saturday! Following is a Template Tree from Lowell Was Right, which is very similar to the ones from SC4 - in fact I am editing the skill names of the Lowell Was Right trees for this first pass playtest for SC4, as SC4 has a different and smaller skill list - only 24 instead of 30.

The idea is you can enter any tree by the base template - Athlete, in the top center here - of you have the points required (1) and meet the prerequisite (have either Athletics or Move already). You pay the point cost and take all the skill ranks and any Edge given by the template. The Athlete template serves as the prerequisite for any template with arrows leading from it to that other template (Star Athlete, Stunt Man, or Circus Performer) so you only need to pay the point cost for those templates.

From there you can continue on, taking any other template on this tree in the same manner, or you can take the base template on some other tree, so long as you have points to spend, and meet the prerequisite. This gives the character a flavor and back history, much like a Life Path.

Monday, March 28, 2016

StarCluster 4 Alpha Playtest Starting!

Started my StarCluster 4 chargen stuff last night. Finished my first template tree - Academics! Template Trees are my new go-to chargen device, with most of the goodness of life-path, but far faster, and with the added bonus of more coherent characters - no danger of a character picking only peripheral skills, resulting in soldiers who can't shoot or lawyers who know nothing of the law.

Combined with cutting back to 24 base skills, six per attribute, with ad hoc specialties, this removes a large amount of the intimidation factor in StarCluster 3's chargen.

I need everything ready to playtest by Saturday, when we start up Star Wars-ish Ep. VII - we already had Episodes IV, V, and VI linking with, simultaneous with, and walking around in the background of those movies, like Marty McFly in Back to the Future II.

Hopefully, the Sunday IRC group will want to go back to Jeshen Space so I can get them to playtest SC4 too! :D

Two Campaigns Ending!

Two of my campaigns ended this weekend. My face to face game of Saturday was a high school supers game using the Look! Up In The Sky! rules. It ended with the big dance, wherein Velvet's date Ghost Wolf almost showed up naked and invisible in a protest, Travis T's date went despite her dad - a super called Stormcloud - refusing to let her go, and with Stormcloud showing up at the dance, a mafia hit going down at the dinner before the dance, and aliens attempting to abduct Travis and his date Rouge, cutting a hole in the roof of the dance hall and beaming them up. We plan to get back to this game later. Next on tap is StarWars-ish Episode VII, playtesting the StarCluster 4 rules, so I have to have this playable by next Saturday. :D

My Sunday IRC campaign was an Outremer game, where the PCs were relic hunters chasing down the Rod of Moses. It was found in a cave by a kid near Petra, but stolen by a Djinniya an Efrit Princess named Summarya. Summarya claimed she was forced to do it by a sorcerer, whom the PCs identified as the Vizier of the Emir of Aqaba, who commanded three personal Djinn as well as a giant mechanical roc, which he used to steal pretty prepubescent girls from all over Outremer. The battle royal included a terrible battle on flying carpets against the roc, bottling the weakest djinn, finding a way for one of them to get past the Efrit, and neutralizing the Marid so that the final battle was between the Sufi and the Vizier, the Sufi armed only with words and a token of flame from Summarya. The Emir was defeated by the Sufi's relentless religious logic, and recanted before dying. The PCs rescued over a hundred young girls, who will mostly be returned to their families - mostly because some will surely be refused as no longer virgin. We are deciding what to do next in our session next Sunday - possibly a return to StarCluster and Jeshen Space. If so, I may make them change over to StarCluster 4 rules, so I can be running two Alpha playtests! :D

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spaceships in StarCluster4

Spaceships in StarCluster 4 have at least one of three drives. Fusion drives are used in commercial ships, due to the safety of the fuel used - deuterium (heavy hydrogen). These drives are available in various sizes and configurations for different size ships. The drives are rated in G's of thrust for a particular mass, from fractional (0.33G, 0.5G) to multiple Gs (1G, 2.5G, etc.).

M/AM drives are used in warships and a few other quasi-governmental vessels. M/AM drives use anti-matter - anti-methane to be precise - and water to produce prodigous energy, but the fuel is intensely explosive, and a small ship could take out an entire city. M/AM ships are barred from atmospheric flight, and must be refueled in orbit. They are also available in various ratios of thrust to mass, but almost always are 1G or greater.

Jump drives are used to engage the wormhole network to travel between stars. The Jump drive must be used in certain places (Jump Gates) at exact vectors (Jump Vectors) to work, and instantaneously (to the crew and ship) move the ship through the wormhole to the exit point around the target star, retaining the Jump Vector, which is motionless relative to the target star.

Jump travel, while instantaneous to the crew, takes a varying amount of objective time - that is time relative to the systems connected by the wormhole net - depending on the number of successes the ship's Navigator has made for the transit. Jump Drives are rated in Factors, each Factor being 1*the current mass of the ship. A Factor of 2 would mean a ship could take another ship of the same mass through a jump safely, though Jump drives of Factors higher than 1 are extraordinarily uncommon on commercial ships other than Jump Tugs, which are used to ferry non-Jump capable spaceships between star systems.

Nomenclature note: Spaceships need only a Fusion or M/AM drive, as they only move in-system, whereas starships also need a Jump drive to move between systems.

Commercial ships are typically unarmed or lightly armed to fend off pirates or raiders. In wartime, commercial ships will sometimes be equipped with armament modules to better defend themselves, particularly if they are chartered by the Jeshen or an Allied Navy. Some smaller, more backward Human worlds will field a Navy of converted civilian ships. These are Fusion drive ships, and are slower, bulkier, and less heavily armed and armored than the equivalent purpose-built Navy ship. Others will buy refurbished retired ships from more advanced cultures which, while they may be a bit frayed around the edges and more or less antique, are at least constructed like proper fighting ships.

Monday, March 21, 2016

From the Jeshen Space Setting for StarCluster 4: Jeshen Races, Humans, Stereotyping, and Slavery

Stereotype: noun - a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

Jeshen do not have a history of slavery at all, let along slavery based on ethnicity. Any sort of coersive employment is anathema to Jeshen. They do have a history of servitude, though that is very rare now. They prefer non-sapient robots to servants currently.

Jeshen do tend to stereotype their own races, though it is understood individuals vary widely within a race. This takes the form of 'all other things being equal, this race is more like this than other races' rather than some hard and fast rule. Still, it is often used as a 'first pass filter', and some Jeshen resent it when that filter is wrong.

Humans in Jeshen Space, because of their conscious genetic diversity as a result of the selection process of their ancestors, have little to no racial stereotyping. Everyone is a mutt. On the other hand, stereotyping based on what world culture one is from is definitely taking hold.

On the other hand, many Human worlds in Jeshen Space consider sapient species as possible candidates for slavery. Commonly, sapient robots, uplifts, and designed bioroids can - and almost always are - legally be slaves on these Human worlds. Jeshen consider this disgraceful, and any slave who touched foot on Jeshen 'soil', including embassies and stations, is legally free anywhere in Jeshen Space.

Because Jeshen maintain that non-coercive servitude is not wrong - if one chooses to be of service one should be allowed to - Humans almost always implant a strong desire to be of service in their slaves. This clouds the picture for Jeshen - when the slave gets emotional fulfillment from performing a service, is it coercive or not? - so they have not as yet interfered in the Human system of slavery on Human worlds.

On most Human worlds, slaves are high priced servants belonging to the rich. They are not typically exploited for work, as most such work can be more economically done by sub-sapient robots. It makes for a tricky moral web, which is not at all simple to disentangle.

So the Jeshen maintain their strictly free worlds, and Humans maintain their legal slavery, and no one is perfectly happy. There are Jeshen organizations dedicated to freeing slaves of Humans, but when the slave finds fulfillment in service, most do not attempt to escape.

Friday, March 18, 2016

How best to handle a "Big Reveal"

OK, I have been stuck on how to approach something for my Jashen Space setting, the default setting for StarCluster 4. There is something which the player characters in the game should not know, and the GM should. How do I handle this? I hate "Big Reveals", and I don't think this is something earthshaking enough to be a "Big Reveal". It's not a gotcha thing. The people in Jeshen Space may not be affected at all by this. If you told them, it would be more of a "Oh, huh! That's interesting!" reaction rather than "OMG! EVERYTHNG WE KNOW IS WRONG!!!?!" reaction. Thing is, if they *did* know about this, they would collectively be approaching something important in a completely different way.

So, how do I handle this? There is no separate Players and GMs Guides. Do I put this off behind spoiler alerts? Do I put it in a separate product? Do I just throw in vague clues and hope the GMs can figure it all out? I hate interfering between a GM and players! GMs should be able to handle things like this in whatever way they wish.

This all goes back to the Levels thing - RPGs being created at three different levels, Designer, Group, and Individual. I like to stay on my Designer level when I am creating games, because I dislike it when a designer starts mucking about on my Group level when I am a GM. What do you think, my friends?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Updater post!

Just noticed I haven't posted once this month! I am continuing to work on the Jeshen Space setting for StarCluster 4. It's coming along. I have a lot of work cut out for me! I will also be starting work on the chargen templates. Once that is done, I will be testing the engine with a run of Star Wars-ish, set at the same time as Episode VII. This should be interesting! My Wednesday night Vanilla Volant game is moving into the end game, where things will be decided once the PCs make their move. My Sunday IRC Outremer game is just about to also move to end game, and it should progress quickly once it starts! My Saturday face to face game of Look! Up In The Sky supers High School is going well, but seems a bit aimless. The dance will be happening next week, so that may make some things move... :D

Sunday, February 28, 2016

StarCluster 4 Character Sheet

I've made a character sheet for StarCluster 4. The species creation will be adapted from Merchanters And Stationers, and the chargen from Volant via Lowell Was Right!. The Damage systems are new with StarCluster 4.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Armor in StarCluster 4

Some more work done on armor. This ties into the post I made on possibly dropping damage bonus by weapon. On that point, on discussing things thoroughly with my son Klaxon, my co-designer, I have decided to include a damage bonus by weapon after all , from +0 to +5. Civilian weapons and armor will be severely restricted as to penetration and damage, so I am not too worried. Civilian weapon penetration will never top 3.

In any case, armor available to civilians also is drastically different from that available to militaries. Again, civilian suits will be limited to a penetration value of 3 at most. Particular suits can also have damage reduction as well as penetration.

Suits also have a lot of other variable - equipped sensors, number of available Comm channels, in-built programs, seal rating, interface used, mobility enhancements, skinability (cammo skins), Power and power taps available, and whether the armor improves or degrades particular attributes when worn.

Here's an armor sheet filled out. This suit is a civilian armor intended for the head of a small group - good comms, good protection, some programs, decent mobility.

This one is color coded - gray is determined by the armor material. Blue is based on the manufacturer's model design. Green are decisions based on the individual the suit is made for. In practice, the color coding is not needed.

Some options are not open to change once the suit is manufactured - this is indicated by the box being filled in. For example, the material cannot be changed without fundamentally changing the suit, thus the penetration value is fixed. Some programs are illegal for non-military personnel, so these are blocked by the manufacturer. Thus anything not blocked can be upgraded after purchase.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

No More Damage by Weapon?

I'm seriously considering dropping weapon damage entirely. Weapons determine the range, and armor penetration, but do not change the damage. A table knife can kill you just as quick as a machinegun after all. Reactions?

Monday, February 15, 2016

New Universal Damage Sub-System for StarCluster 4

One of the more complex sub-systems in pre-StarCluster 4 editions is the Damage Sub-System. This was a relic of StarCluster 1 and 2, both of whom used percentiles for everything. The Constitution, which was what damage points ablated, was a very large number, in order to accomodate a possible damage roll of up to 150 or more. In StarCluster 4, all the resolution mechanics return a number of successes. These successes can be used to determine damage in one of four ways. You can use any combination of these four methods as you choose - for example, you can use "Three Strikes" for mooks, "Ablating Attributes" for the PCs, "Attribute Pool" for the named opponents, and "Plus-Minus" for all conflict-scale resolution - all in the same encounter.

Three Strikes

With this variant, the character has three active states other than perfectly fine. They are: Hindered: The character has suffered a wound, and is at -1 Large Penalty Wounded: The character has suffered two wounds, and is at -2 Large Penalties Barely Conscious: The Character has suffered three wounds, and is at -3 Large Penalties Whenever the character is hit, the appropriate box is checked. When all boxes are checked, the character is out of action, and may be killed out of hand with a action, or may be patched up to retain life, or may be allowed to die by abandonment, depending on the situation, the other character actions, and the setting tropes.

Ablating Attributes

With this variant, the character has a number of check boxes next to their attribute equal to half their attribute, rounded up. When struck for damage, the player or GM managing this character may determine which attribute is affected, for example COOR, and check off the number of successes effected. If all the check boxes are filled, the Attribute goes down by one PERMANENTLY and all boxes are unchecked. This permanent loss can only be repaired by long hospital stays or mighty magic, and depending on the setting, may not be repairable at all. Checked boxes may be unchecked at a rate of one per hour of rest.

Attribute Pool

Add each Physical Attribute and place the total in a pool. All successes are subtracted from this pool. When there are no points left in the pool, the character is unable to the character is out of action, and may be killed out of hand with a action, or may be patched up to retain life, or may be allowed to die by abandonment, depending on the situation, the other character actions, and the setting tropes.


With Plus-Minus, each conflict has dangers (Minuses) set by the GM, which WILL HAPPEN unless bought off, and rewards (Plusses) which MAY HAPPEN if the character purchases them. Buying off a Minus or purchasing a Plus each cost a success. For example, Pola is covering the party's rear with a ranged weapon when the bad guys attack in this area. The GM states that this is a dangerous attack, and that Pola has three Minuses and three possible Plusses. the Minuses and Plusses will be described with a chart included in the game - and beautifully done by Levi Kornelsen - and Pola's player rolls four successes, buying off two Minuses and purchasing two Plusses. As a result, she is Hindered, but drives back the attack spectacularly.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sometimes You Eat Bear!

Last week, I talked about my dilemma in my Volant Vanilla game on Wednesdays over IRC. Several of you made suggestions on how I might get out of it. None of them quite worked for me. Anyway, last night I spent the first half of the night dealing with the brawl that got out of hand. That resulted in a reasonable self-defense plea, and worked out well enough. The PCs had to pay weregild for the three NPCs they killed. Everyone was OK, this was fair.

Then on the the Elven healer. I had to deal with this, and I had no idea how I was going to do that. To stall for time - and because that was the way he had dealt with the brawlers - the Duke asked the elf to present her story of what happened. She admitted seducing the young lord, but for some reason, decided to play the "scared and desperate woman who panicked" card. He didn't buy that. The body showed no hesitation in her attack, no defensive wounds, no sign of struggle, no panicky stabbity stab stab, just a single clean surgical slice across his throat from ear to ear - the elf was a healer after all.

I still had no idea what to do as he demolished her arguments and told her to stop lying. Then he mentioned that she was an Elf, or as he said, "accursed", and that there were no Elves in his land. I didn't know why he said it, but then it all clicked. My subconscious had found the key that my conscious mind had missed.

This game is very Tolkien-ish - not Tolkien-esque. The Elves and Dwarves in the setting - as in Tolkien - were respectively immortal and long lived. The Elves were immortal as a punishment from the gods for fighting against them, while the Dwarves were long lived, with a short and precipitous decline at the end, as a reward for their noble service. If killed, the Elves were reborn with their memories intact - there was the matter of growing back to physical adulthood, but what are a score of years to an immortal. They could not escape this life, even if they wanted to.

Thus, death for an Elf was not a punishment, but a temporary inconvenience. A slap on the wrist. If he was going to punish her, and the Duke needed to, for justice, death was not going to do anything. He told her he would give her her trial, which was going to declare her guilty of the assassination of her son. She could say what she wished about this in public. Then her sentence would be announced and carried out, and it would not involve death.

That worked out perfectly - and all with setting appropriate reasons. I did not need to get meta at all. She can continue on, but she will have to deal with real and severe consequences. The party will have to deal with these consequences as well. Her presence will hamper them in ways quite visible. And I worked it all out subconsciously, while I was in character talking to her.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sometimes Bear Eats You!

My Wednesday IRC game Volant Vanilla - a terrestrial Tolkien-inspired fantasy game run using Volant rules - went strange on me. Two sessions ago, a young dickwad lord and his retinue/posse popped into a local tavern and was a complete dick to the serving wench waiting on the PC party, as in he wanted her right then and lords don't have to wait. This royally pissed off the party, of course. Then one of the characters, an elf healer, decided to intervene. She seduced the lord and brought him upstairs to a room that was presumably rented by the quarter hour.

Meanwhile, downstairs, things went sour fast. What looked like a looming bar brawl changed when somebody on the Party drew steel. Suddenly, three of the lord's people were dead and two were badly wounded, while two of the Party were badly wounded. There were arrows flying! In a bar!

Upstairs, things went worse. I knew the elf was not actually attracted to this POS, but I was expecting her to sap him and embarrass the hell out of him. Instead, she sliced his throat... while he was on top of her! Premeditated murder! Assassination! And of the son of the local Duke in the bargain! I was hoping he would be an ally, but not this time! And their mission was to bring this country into a possible alliance, or maybe at least separate them from allying with their enemy...

Last session I took the other group - each player has two characters, so we can split up as necessary - on a simultaneous jaunt, partly because they needed some things, and partly to give everyone time to cool down and rethink.

This session, they argued over how to handle things. They could run away to an enemy of the Duke in another city, they could attempt a coup d'etat and take out the Duke and place one of themselves on the throne, or they could admit to the charges - they were totally true after all, give themselves up, and throw themselves on the mercy of the court. The elf decided to give herself up, which kind of decided the others in that way too.

Now the brawl-turned deadly will probably turn out OK. These things happen in bars, and there was no apparent intent to kill. Things just got out of hand. Weregild will be levied, families of the deceased appeased, and PCs will be contrite. These things happen. Nobody intended murder.

But the elf? She certainly planned it. She openly seduced him - there were plenty of witnesses - and then sliced his throat. No other wounds. It's cut and dried - no pun intended! There is no realistic doubt she will be judged guilty, and if guilty, she'll hang. Hell, she'll be drawn and quartered. I am trapped. I hate when that happens!

Meanwhile, the party's mission is off to a terrible start!