Monday, January 15, 2018

Trauma Surgery for Classic Traveller

In Classic Traveller, you die when all your three physical characteristics fall to zero. The following alternative rules, however, allow the mortally wounded character a second chance in life - typically at a terrible price. A good surgeon, following timely first aid and triage, can sometimes save a critically injured traveller from certain death.

Under these rules, a character whose all three physical characteristics fall to zero is not necessarily dead, but only possibly so. There is still some hope - given prompt medical attention.

The key is to bring the mortally wounded character to a hospital within the "Golden Hour" of trauma medicine – that is, within one hour from injury. Even with advanced first aid, critically injured characters whose three physical characteristics were reduced to zero will not survive without trauma care within an hour of injury.

Ordinary medbays common on most starships will not suffice – a dedicated hospital, whether shipboard or planetside, is the only facility capable of such medical operations. If no hospital is reachable within one hour, the only way to preserve the wounded is to place them into a low berth. Note that the survival Medic check upon thawing the frozen character also applies here. Also note that characters killed by vehicle-scale or starship-scale weapons cannot be resuscitated.

Once on the operating table, the surgeon treating the critically injured character throws 2D + their Medic skill, modified by the DMs below, and consults the following table.

Note that a TL15 Autodoc, costing MCr1, can perform trauma surgery. It has an effective skill of Medic-3.

Trauma Surgery Table
5-Patient is dead
6-7Significant internal damage 
8-10Radical measures required
11+Normal recovery

Trauma Surgery DMs:
  • DM-2 if no first aid provided within 10 minutes of the injury.
  • DM-2 at TL7-; DM+2 at TL12+.
  • DM-2 if injured by an explosion.
  • DM-2 if patient has END 5-, DM+2 if patient has END 10+.
Trauma Surgery Results:

Patient is dead: character dies on the operating table. No further resuscitation attempts possible.

Significant internal damage: multiple organs severely damaged. Permanently subtract 1D from each physical characteristic. If any of them reaches zero or less, the character dies.

Radical measures required: Throw 1D:
1-3: internal organ removed. Permanently reduce one physical characteristic by 1D. Character dies if it reaches zero or less.
2-3: leg amputated. Movement halved (given a crutch) and the character may either act or move during a given round. TL8+ cybernetic replacement costs Cr25000 and restores full functioning.
4-5: arm amputated. The character obviously cannot use this arm for any purpose. TL8+ cybernetic replacement costs Cr20000 and restores full functioning.
6: eye removed. DM-2 to all actions requiring one eye, including all attack throws. TL8+ cybernetic eye costs Cr7500 and restores full vision.

Normal recovery: heal as normal for a seriously wounded character.

Looks brutal? Always remember that without these merciful rules, your character would be automatically dead.

Tentative ACKS Sorcerer spell list

In my previous post, I presented the sorcerer - a spellcaster inspired by sword & sorcery literature, who is beyond the dichotomy between arcane and divine magic. Here I will list the sorcerer's initial spell list.

As noted, these are the sorcerer's spell type categories:

Blast - as cleric
Death - as mage
Detection - unavailable
Enchantment - as mage
Healing - as cleric
Illusion - unavailable
Movement - as cleric
Protection - standard as cleric and mage
Summoning - 75% of mage! The sorcerer's big forte.
Transmogrification - as mage
Wall - as cleric


* denotes a reversible spell
Italics denote a spell from the ACKS Player's Companion

Level 1:
Charm Person (Black Magic)
Choking Grip (Grey Magic)
Cure Light Wounds* (White Magic; the reverse is Black Magic)
Detect Magic (I include this despite being a Detection spell, for flavor reasons)
Protection from Chaos* (White Magic; the reverse is Black Magic)
Remove Fear* (White Magic; the reverse is Black Magic)
Resist Cold (White Magic)
Shield (White Magic)
Sleep (Grey Magic)
Summon Berserkers (Black Magic)
Unseen Servant (Black Magic)

Level 2:
Alter Self (White Magic)
Create Water (Grey Magic)
Deathless Minion (Black Magic)
Delay Poison (White Magic)
Hold Person (Grey Magic)
Resist Fire (White Magic)
Snake Charm (White Magic)
Summon Animals (White Magic)
Summon Winged Steed (Black Magic)
Summon Hero (Black Magic)
Wizard Lock (White Magic)

Level 3:
Call Lightning (Grey Magic)
Conjure Oozes (Black Magic)
Create Food (White Magic)
Cure Blindness (White Magic)
Cure Disease* (White Magic; the reverse is Black Magic)
Dispel Magic (White Magic)
Feign Death (Black Magic)
Infravision (White Magic)
Insect Plague (Grey Magic)
Levitate (Grey Magic)
Protection from Chaos, Sustained* (White Magic; the reverse is Black Magic)
Protection from Normal Missiles (White Magic)
Remove Curse* (White Magic; the reverse is Black Magic)
Summon Weather (White Magic)
Water Breathing (White Magic)
Web (White Magic)

Level 4:
Call Dragon (Black Magic)
Charm Monster (Black Magic)
Command Plants (Grey Magic)
Confusion (Grey Magic)
Conjure Elemental (Black Magic)
Control Undead (Black Magic)
Cure Serious Wounds (White Magic; the reverse is Black Magic)
Growth of Plants* (Grey Magic)
Magic Jar (Grey Magic? Is this Summoning?)
Massmorph (Grey Magic)
Neutralize Poison* (White Magic; the reverse is Black Magic)
Polymorph Other (Grey Magic)
Polymorph Self (White Magic)
Sticks to Snakes (Grey Magic)

Level 5:
Adaptation (White Magic)
Animate Dead (Black Magic)
Control Weather (White Magic; I read this as a Summoning spell)
Curse of Swine (Black Magic)
Dimension Door (White Magic)
Dispel Chaos (White Magic)
Feeblemind (Grey Magic)
Flame Strike (Grey Magic)
Hold Monster (Grey Magic)
Invisible Stalker (Black Magic)
Summon Djinni (Black Magic)
Sword of Fire (White Magic)
Transmute Rock to Mud* (Grey Magic)

Level 6:
Anti-Magic Shell (White Magic)
Death Spell (Black Magic)
Disintegrate (Black Magic)
Flesh to Stone* (White Magic; the reverse is Black Magic)
Haste* (White Magic, the reverse is Grey Magic)
Passwall (White Magic)
Reincarnate (Grey Magic?)
Torpor (Black Magic)
Trollblood (White Magic)
Wall of Fire (Grey Magic)
Wall of Ice (Grey Magic)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Initial notes about an ACKS Sorcerer

Art by Hannah Saunders (c) 2017 Stellagama Publishing
First post of 2018! Happy new year!

Sorcerers. The dread of normal men, who huddle behind their walls in fear of the feared men and women who wield unearthly power. Scourge of the stalwart warrior and barbaric brave, who cower from the sorcerer's eldritch might. Horror of eternity, steeped in the occult in life, terrifying in eternal undeath when they transcend the grave.

Sorcerers are the latter half of "Sword and Sorcery", the first half being the courageous sword-wielding barbarian who dares face such magical power. An archetype of a spellcaster, in many cases a monstrous villain, but sometimes a valuable ally.

The mage given in ACKS Core emulates a sorcerer to a certain degree, but its roots still stay in the old Dungeons & Dragons magic-user. Sorcerers in fiction often have powers similar both to these of mages and those of clerics; they transcend the dichotomy between arcane and divine. Indeed, they study tomes of ancient lore, but often have dealings with all sorts of deities.

This is why I am writing up a sorcerer. It can serve both in a traditional Sword & Sorcery ACKS game, as well as in my Blighted Future post-apocalyptic setting - where "exotic" quantum breached reality and allowed the occult forces of Chaos to pour through.

Right now this class uses rules from Aurach's Axioms Issue 1 - a highly recommended product for ACKS. The final version of the sorcerer will, itself, include all necessary rules (thanks G-d for the Open Game License and the creativity it inspires).

Sorcerers summon. They do not control the domain of psychics, namely detection and illusion spells, but they are particularly potent in calling allies from beyond this world, far beyond the ACKS Core mage. They are not very flashy casters - and far from mastering blast spells - but have a strong grip on matters of life and death.

Using the Axiom rules, I have built Sorcery as a magic type. They are somewhat more potent than clerics, but significantly weaker than mages. This, however, allows them a far lower XP cost, as well as having full sorcerous power at 2 class build points (as per the ACKS Player's Companion). A sorcerer can, thus, wield weapons or have varied non-spell powers as common in sword & sorcery tales. Alternatively, the all-out sorcerer, at sorcerer class level 4 and at the hefty cost of 3,200 XP to reach level 2, is a powerful caster - enjoying a large number of spells per day.

Here are my notes for building the sorcerer's spell list. This refers to levels, not actual spells; for example, "casts blast as a cleric" does not mean that it is limited to divine blast spells as given in ACKS Core, but rather that its spell power level in regard to blast spells follows the cleric. The spell categories are as per the ACKS Player's Companion.

Blast - as cleric
Death - as mage
Detection - unavailable
Enchantment - as mage
Healing - as cleric
Illusion - unavailable
Movement - as cleric
Protection - standard as cleric and mage
Summoning - 75% of mage! The sorcerer's big forte.
Transmogrification - as mage
Wall - as cleric

A "full" sorcerer class category is at 2 build points and 800 XP. For example, a sorcerer with reasonable fighting abilities - Fighting value 1 and Hit Point value 1 (both at 500 XP) will require a mere 1,800 XP to reach level 2 - faster leveling than a fighter. My intention for the base "sorcerer" class is to do just that, though I'd be tempted to use the Thievery 2 class value instead - that version of the sorcerer will be weak in combat, but will level fast and will enjoy a wide variety of non-spell powers.

Sorcerers are studious - they gain their spells from study like mages and receive bonus spells for high Intelligence.

Like mages, sorcerers can perform magical research:

Research spells at level 5
Scribe scrolls at level 5
Brew potions at level 5
Create permanent magic items at level 9
Cast ritual spells at level 11
Create crossbreeds at level 11
Grant unlife at level 11

Sorcerers advance in saving throws slowly - by 2 points every 6 levels.

They may use magic items intended both for clerics and for mages.

A sorcerer's prime requisites are both INT and WIS.

Sorcerers cost an additional sum of 150,000 XP per level after the 8th level.

Sorcerers use the Shades of Magic code of behavior. At sorcerer class value 2, this grants them the ability to rebuke and command undead as a cleric of their level, as appropriate to a dread necromancer! The price, however, is that some spells are designated as Black Magic - especially summoning creatures from thin air and animated the dead; these have a corrupting influence on the sorcerer (sorcerers are good in summoning, but certain summoning spells are black magic - and usually powerful - so the temptation is huge). There are Grey Magic spells, such as transmogrification spells cast at unwilling targets, which may be corrupting if used against Lawful or Neutral sapient creatures, and non-corrupting otherwise. Finally, there are White Magic spells, such as healing spells, which are safe.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Come the ACKS-Pocalypse (Blighted Future): Technology in the Blighted Future

Two weeks ago I wrote here about my new setting idea for ACKS: a far-future post-apocalyptic setting which I now call Blighted Future. This takes place an indeterminate number of centuries into the future, after an apocalyptic war involving nuclear, chemical, biological, nanotechnological, and "exotic" quantum (read: reality-bending) weapons. The world regressed to a medieval society, where the majority of resurgent humanity toil in the fields in meager subsistence farming, ruled by feudal lords. The wilds are vast and dangerous, and ancient technology awaits in long-forgotten bunkers. In other words, this is "usual" ACKS set in an apocalyptic future.

The subject of this post is that of technology. Before the war, humanity was very advanced - capable of producing highly durable goods, energy weapons, wonder drugs, semi-sentient (or sentient in some cases) robots, and reality-warping "exotic" quantum weapons.

All of this went up in radioactive smoke when the bombs fell.

Current blighted future technology ranges from stone age to early Renaissance. The average, and most common, technological level resembles the Dark Ages. Dark ages with shields made from old traffic signs and plate armor made from pre-war boilers, that is. Crop rotation and stirrups, but nothing mechanized beyond the windmill and arbalest level. Bloomeries for smelting scrap metal, but rarely blast furnaces.

In terms of arms and armor, some city-states can manufacture firearms out of scrap, but these never exceed the flintlock level. Even then, unreliable trade means that the various materials necessary to manufacture good gun powder and firearms are expensive and in short supply. Most people use swords, bows, and spears - which are far easier to make from low-grade scrap or local materials. Scrap also allows primitive armor, but high-grade plate mail is rare as it requires better steel and craftmanship, which are uncommon.

Scholars, particularly sorcerers, sometimes learn how to manufacture wondrous technology resembling pre-war achievements. However, these are expensive and complicated beyond imagining. This has two reasons.

The first is that modern technology requires a vast manufacturing infrastructure. A village in early 21st century Afghanistan can manufacture AK-47s. However, this requires parts and materials produced by industrialized countries. Low-grade scrap is common in the blighted future. However, materials and tools good enough to assemble pre-war technology - even a good revolver, not to mention a laser rifle - are exceedingly rare and no living person or organization can produce them. The only exception are sorcerers in their abodes - and even they require high-grade pre-war parts for any complex technological project.

The second is a cargo-cult attitude to science and technology. Science is a way of thinking, and so is engineering. A modern-day scientist or engineer approaches problems in a skeptical and rational manner. Based on scientific knowledge, he knows how to deduce solutions from evidence. Not so in the blighted future. Centuries of primitive subsistence eroded this crowning achievement of modern thought. Instead, people approach problems from a mystical point of view and cannot separate superstition from fact. This includes sorcerers. Thus, they approach problems not from their underlying principles, but from their appearance.

For example, Blattus, a 9th level sorcerer, wants to build an assault rifle. He spends many sacks of gold on excellent scrap parts brought by adventurers from old ruins. He then researches the many texts written by previous post-war sorcerers on this subject - as pre-war blueprints are both impossibly rare and baffling to the sorcerer. Such tomes arose from experimentation. This experience includes a vast amount of superstition. For example, a previous sorcerer built an assault rifle, but during its construction he prayed to a dread idol. The gun worked, so he wrote down that this prayer helped. Add many layers of such flawed "deduction", and the entire production process becomes arcane.

In short, the lack of a technological base and magical thinking (which sometimes works! notice the "exotic" quantum weapons and their effects...) makes advanced technology indistinguishable from magic.

Thus, making technological items follows the magic item creation rules in ACKS.

The other way to acquire advanced technology, of course, is to delve into ancient ruins and bunkers...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Streamlined ship combat rules for Classic Traveller

One problem I always had with the Classic Traveller Book 2 (and Cepheus Engine) space combat system is the number of rolls per combat turn. Think about it - even the small Patrol Cruiser has 3 turrets with 3 lasers each. This means no less than 9 attack throws per round! Now imagine a small battle between a Mercenary Cruiser with a full complement of turrets and two Patrol Cruisers...

My players generally love rolling dice but this means far too many of them, not to mention a huge amount of attack throws by NPCs.

Classic Traveller Book 5: High Guard solves much of this, but serves for large-scale naval battles between multi-kton battleships better than for small-ship scuffles as envisioned by Classic Traveller Book 2.

Therefore, I propose the following streamlined rules. Their main purpose is to make combat a little bit more abstract and thus facilitate games in which the PCs are bridge crew of a medium to large (in small-ship universe, that is) starship. I recommend using the core CT Book 2 rules when refereeing battles between a few lightly armed small ships, such as a Free Trader ambushed by one or two pirate ships.

Turrets and Batteries

Each turret makes one attack, regardless of the number of weapons it carries. All weapons in one turret, with the exception of the lone turret of a 100-ton ship, should be of the same type. Two weapons attack in one roll with DM+2; three, with DM+4. damage is as usual for a single weapon. This reduces the rolls by a factor of 3 right out of the box. (this is inspired by a house rule posted by tbeard199 on CotI).

Ships with 4 or more turrets may have batteries of 4 turrets each. Any remainder of turrets attack individually. Each battery has one weapon type and all turrets should be identical. Attack is with DMs as above for multiple weapons per turret. Make a single attack per battery using the battery commander's Gunnery skill. However, damage "explodes" - for every 2 points (rounded up) the throw exceeds 8, the battery makes an additional hit. For example, Effect 1 makes two hits, and Effect 5 makes 4 hits (this is inspired by the Striker automatic fire rules). A single battery can generate up to 4 hits.

For example, a 1000-ton Light Cruiser has 10 triple laser turrets. It makes 4 attack throws per round: one for each battery, and one for each non-battery turrets. This is instead the 30 throws it would have made under the baseline rules.

Weapons do damage as usual - for example, three hits from a pulse laser battery will mean 8 rolls on the damage table.

Fighter Mass Combat

Fighters operate in flights of up to 3 fighters. Two fighters make one attack throw together at DM+2; three, at DM+4.

Use the flight leader's Piloting skill as a -DM to hit the flight. Furthermore, fighters at 3G to 5G acceleration are at a further DM-1 to hit and at 6G, DM-2. Apply software DMs as usual. Any hit on a flight "mission-kills" one fighter.

After the battle, resolve the actual damage for mission-killed fighters - in many cases, the pilot survives, and/or the fighter is salvageable. Throw 2D, DM +the flight leader's Pilot skill. On a roll of 6-, the fighter is destroyed; 7-9; cockpit hit - throw 6+ to safely eject and avoid death; 10-11, fighter heavily damaged but salvageable; 12+, fighter knocked out but easily repairable.

Four flights are a squadron which attacks like a battery.

For streamlined combat, missiles move either in salvos of 3 missiles each, or in barrages of 12 missiles. Anti-missile fire targets the entire salvo or barrage. For each two points a single laser turret's anti-missile attach throw exceeds 8, remove one missile, up to a number equal to the turret's lasers (e.g. 3 for a triple turret). Batteries destroy one missile per single point the throw exceeds 8.

Any remaining missile hitting the target causes 1D hits as usual.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Revenant "Race" for ACKS

(c) Seamartini Stock Photography
Some say that death brings final rest and respite to man. However, some spirits cannot rest. Drawn to the living world by an oath unfulfilled or a mortal sin unconfessed, these revenants emerge, restless, from the grave to right the wrongs of their former lives. Many are monstrous undead, acting in vile ways to pursue the crimes they committed while living. A few, however, evade the dark grasp of Chaos and retain their free will. Some retain their own morality.

Revenants are undead, albeit free-willed undead. They must consume the blood and flesh of living or recently dead sentient beings to heal and exist. A Chaotic revenant will gleefully engage in cannibalism. A Neutral one, on the other hand, will steal corpses from coffins and gallows, feed on the flesh of evil men and beastmen, and drink some of the blood of the living while keeping them alive.

A revenant has a mission. This might be vengeance, or maybe redemption. Its player must choose a mission which will allow for a long campaign - a long-term mission rather than a short-term one. This mission will take precedence over other goals, as it alone keeps the dead character walking. Once completed, the revenant should usually die; alternatively, a Judge may allow continued play pursuing a new goal, especially if other player characters - spell-casters and their allies - have already turned into sentient undead through magical research, or plan to do so.

As noted above, revenants have free will. Enough free that a player would be able to play them as any other player's character. However, note that they are reviled by their very nature, and must take great efforts to disguise their true form, lest the living  cower in fear from this visage, or try to slay the unliving character. Thus, the prudent Judge should consider this race carefully, and only allow experienced players to play it.

By the Law of nature and Law of the Divine, a revenant shouldn't exist; death should be final. Thus, a revenant may be Neutral or Chaotic, but never Lawful, even if they walk the land to pursue a Lawful cause or calling.

A revenant must have Constitution and Wisdom scores of 12 each.

Class category values:
  • A revenant class may have any category value. However, it may not choose a spell-caster class with a Lawful code of behavior and it may not turn undead. In case of a Divine spell-caster, it must choose Control undead instead.
  • Revenants with an Arcane class cannot use spell research to become undead - as it is already undead.

Revenant 0 (100xp):
  • Relentless: The revenant is unaffected by the paralysis ghouls can inflict, and gain a +1 bonus on saving throws versus Petrification/Paralysis and Spells (reskinned Connection to Nature). 1 power.
  • Dead Soul: The revenant is dead and cursed and is beyond the capability of magic to return to life. It cannot be restored by Restore Life and Limb. Instead, this requires Animate Dead; after the spell is cast, roll on the Tampering with Mortality table. The revenant, of course, stays dead, but may be reanimated into undeath. Furthermore, it suffers a penalty on the 1d20 roll of the Tampering with Mortality table of -1 per level of experience.
  • Dead: a revenant is not a living being and thus it does not have to breathe. It also does not have to eat and drink except for healing purposes (see below). It is also immune to all forms of disease and poison including magical ones. 2 powers.
  • Sleepless: a revenant does not have to sleep, and cannot sleep even if it desires to do so. It is also immune to all sleep powers and effects. 1 power.
  • Reverse healing: a revenant is undead. Therefore, regular healing spells damage it, while reverse healing spells (such as Harm) heal it. Potions of Healing damage the revenant. -1 power.
  • Unholy: a revenant may be turned like any other undead of the same HD and are vulnerable to weapons and other effects (such as holy water) which harm the undead. However, their strength of will and the importance of their mission - which brought them back from the grave - allow them a save vs. death, with a +2 bonus, to escape the effects of turning. If this save fails, a "turned" result works like a fear spell; a "destroyed" result instantly slays the character; and a "controlled" result works as a charm effect. -2 powers.
  • Deathly Visage: a revenant suffers -2 on reaction rolls vs. any non-Chaotic beings, and enjoys +2 to reaction rolls with Chaotic beings. 0 powers.
  • Bloody Healing: the revenant does not heal naturally. Instead, it can only heal by magical means, or by consuming the flesh or blood of living or recently-dead sentient beings. One XP worth or creature eaten heals one hit point in the revenant. The revenant may also drink the blood of a living being. This requires a willing or incapacitated target, reduces the target's hit points by half of its regular maximum, and heals the revenant as if the target had half of its regular XP. -1 power.
  • Profane Endurance: like many undead, the revenant resists mundane damage. At 1st level, the character gains a +2 bonus to AC and decrease the damage from any non-magical attacks by 1 point per die. At 7th level, this protection increases to +4 AC and 2 points per die. At 13th level, the protection increases to +6 AC and 3 points per die. The damage reduction is applied per die. Damage can be reduced to 0, but not less than 0, on each die. this AC bonus from stacks with potions of invulnerability, rings of protection, and similar effects, but does not stack with armor. Attacks from monsters of 5 HD or more are considered magical attacks due to the monster’s ferocity; the same goes to silver weapons.
Revenant 1 (600xp):
  • Revenant 0 (100xp)
  • HD 1 (500xp)
Revenant 2 (1,100xp):
  • Revenant 0 (100xp)
  • HD 1 (500xp)
  • Fighting 1 (500xp)
Revenant 3 (1,600xp):
  • Revenant 0 (100xp)
  • HD 2 (1,000xp)
  • Fighting 1 (500xp)
Revenant 4 (2,100xp):
  • Revenant 0 (100xp)
  • HD2 (1,000xp)
  • Fighting 2 (1,000xp)
Additional XP requirement after level 8: 40,000xp.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

FREE character sheet for These Stars Are Ours!

FREE from Stellagama Publishing!

Character sheet for the These Stars Are Ours! (TSAO) setting; compatible with the Cepheus Engine and other OGL 2D6 Sci-Fi games.

Available in three formats: Standard PDF, Fillable Form PDF, and High-Resolution PNG.

Get it HERE!