Character Development: Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition

Today’s game is the third incarnation of Mutants & Masterminds from Green Ronin. Mutants & Masterminds is a super-hero role-playing game that permits you to take on the persona of a super-powered being fighting for truth, justice, and the American way (or whatever you want to fight for)! The first step to building a Mutants & Masterminds character is a concept. If you just go in willy-nilly, you’ll quickly lose your focus because there are so many options, so take a few minutes to consider the type of character that you want to play first.

The great thing about Mutants & Masterminds is that you can play literally any character that you can imagine. The system is so versatile that I’ve used it for fantasy, post-apocalyptic settings, and for super-heroics, and I suspect that it will work equally well for space-based campaigns. After all, what are spells and psionics if not super-powers with a different name?

For those who can’t find a copy in your local stores, Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition is available through the Green Ronin storefront or through Amazon.

So, let’s talk character. I’m envisioning something a bit different. I thought about doing an all-American Superperson, but I think that I’m going to try something a little more complex. I am envisioning a fallen angel of vengeance, complete with flaming sword! He fights against evil but isn’t afraid to kill to make a point.

Let’s start with stats. There are eight stats in Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition. Strength, which is a measure of sheer muscle power and your ability to use it. Stamina is health, resilience, and overall physical endurance. Agility is balance, grace, speed, and overall physical coordination, while Dexterity measures hand-eye coordination, precision, and manual dexterity. Fighting measures the character’s ability in close-combat. Intellect covers reasoning ability and learning. Awareness is common-sense and intuition, and Presence is force of personality, persuasiveness, leadership ability, and to a lesser degree, attractiveness.

I imagine that a fallen angel would have decent strength and stamina, so I’ll set those at 3 each. A score of 3 is a bit above human average (0), so that’s pretty good, but still within human limits. As a Power Level 10 hero (which is the default), I have 150 points to play with, and every 2 points put into attributes buys one rank, so I have spent 12 points already. Agility and Dexterity are going to be 2 each, Fighting should be pretty good, and I can go as high as 10 without exceeding my PL cap, so 10 it is. Intellect I will leave at human average, but an angel needs good Awareness and Presence, so I’ll set those at 4 each. I have 94 points left to spend.

Now I’ll turn my attention to advantages. I think I’ll take Assessment, which lets the GM make a secret Insight check for me to determine an opponent’s capabilities as compared to mine. Diehard lets me automatically stabilize when dying, which fits my concept as a difficult-to-kill divine being. I’ll also take one level of Improved Initiative and that’s it for now. I can always revisit if I need to. Each advantage costs 1 point, so I have 91 remaining.

Turning to skills, every point put into skills increases a skill by 2 ranks, and skills in Mutants & Masterminds are very broad. I’ll add 3 points to Intimidation to boost it to +10 (6 ranks). I’m also putting 3 points into Athletics, bringing that up to a +9. That should suffice for skills, so we’ll move on to powers, the meat of the build, and we have 85 points remaining to play with.

Okay, first, I know that he is a fallen angel, so he’ll need wings. That’s easy. We select the Flight power and boost it up a little until we reach the level we want. Each level of flight costs 2 points, and level 6 grants flight at 120 mph. But… that’s for flight with no visible means of support. To set up winged flight, we select the Wings limitation, which reduces our cost by -1 per level, so instead of costing 12 points, our wings only cost 6! For flavor, let’s give this power the name Angelic Wings, (as opposed to the generic Flight).

For his sword, we’ll make a Device, which can be equipped or unequipped. A sword is a Strength-based Damage device, so we’ll start with that. I don’t envision the damage as being too excessive, so I’ll make it Strength plus 4 ranks, which makes the save DC 22. As it is a divine weapon, I’m going to give it two ranks of the Affect Incorporeal extra. This will permit it to have full effect on incorporeal as well as corporeal targets. This raises the cost by a flat 2 points. No problem, we can afford it. I also want the sword to be more dangerous, because of its edge. To accomplish this, I’ll add the Improved Critical advantage to the weapon. This means that it scores a critical on a 19 or 20. Finally, we need to simulate the fact that it is flaming. The easiest way to do this is to add Energy Aura to the Device. I’ll add it at level 5, which due to the Reaction extra that comes with that ability, is 20 points.

The cost of the weapon is 27, but since it is removable, I get a -1/5 points, mitigating it to 22 points. Just for giggles, I’m making the weapon indestructible, which is another +1 to the total, which brings us to 23 points for the sword. That leaves us with 56 points to spend.

I did say that this was an immortal, divine being. Let’s reflect that with some Immunities. Immunity to Aging, Life Support (which provides immunity to poison, disease, environmental effects, suffocation, starvation, and thirst) and sleep costs a total of 12 points.

I’m also adding the Immortality power at level 5 (10 points), which allows him to return to life 1 day after gaining the dead condition. With 34 points left, I think that I will use the remaining to balance out saving throws and defenses.

I’ll spend 8 points to boost Defense to 10, and Parry is already a 10. Punching Fortitude and Will up to 10 costs a total of 13 points, but Toughness is still lower than I would like (3). Since we can’t boost Toughness directly, we’ll need to add another power; Protection. By adding 7 points of Protection, I boost Toughness to 10. That leaves me with 6 points to spend.

Looking over Advantages again, I feel like an Angel should know Latin, so I’ll give him Latin for 1 point. As drawing a weapon is normally a move action, I’ll make it a free action by adding the Quick Draw advantage, so he can get his sword out quickly. And just because, let’s give him Power Attack, which permits him to sacrifice some of his chance to hit to add damage to the blow. For one more point, I’ll add Favored Environment, which gives him an advantage in his favored environment (air). With only two points remaining, I’ll boost Perception by 4 and that will almost finish him up.

According to the rules, I must have two complications. For him, I think I’ll go with Honor and Motivation. Honor represents his personal code of honor in that he will never take undue advantage of an opponent (no sneak attacks, hitting someone who is down, etc.) and Motivation is justice. He fights for justice and what is right, defending the innocent.

Other than details like hair and eyes, height, weight, and costume, he’s done. I’ll give him shoulder-length blonde hair, tied back in a ponytail, blue eyes, and he will stand 6 feet tall and weight 185 lbs. His costume is a black bodysuit with white boots and a flaming sword on the front. Here is how his stat block looks:

Unnamed Hero – PL 10
Strength 3, Stamina 3, Agility 2, Dexterity 2, Fighting 10, Intellect 0, Awareness 4, Presence 4

Assessment, Diehard, Favored Environment: Aerial, Improved Critical: Flaming Sword, Improved Initiative, Languages 1, Power Attack, Quick Draw

Athletics 6 (+9), Intimidation 6 (+10), Perception 4 (+8)

Angelic Wings: Flight 6 (Speed: 120 miles/hour, 1800 feet/round; Wings)
Flaming Sword (Removable (indestructible))
Damage: Strength-based Damage 4 (DC 22, Advantages: Improved Critical; Affects Insubstantial 2: full rank)
Flaming Aura: Damage 5 (DC 20; Reaction 3: reaction)
Immortality: Immortality 5 (Return after 1 day)
Immunity: Immunity 12 (Aging, Life Support, Sleep)
Protection: Protection 7 (+7 Toughness)

Initiative +6
Damage: Strength-based Damage 4, +10 (DC 22)
Flaming Aura: Damage 5, +10 (DC 20)
Grab, +10 (DC Spec 13)
Throw, +2 (DC 18)
Unarmed, +10 (DC 18)

Motivation: Justice

English, Latin

Dodge 10, Parry 10, Fortitude 10, Toughness 10, Will 10

Power Points
Abilities 56 + Powers 58 + Advantages 7 + Skills 8 (16 ranks) + Defenses 21 = 150

Hero Lab and the Hero Lab logo are Registered Trademarks of LWD Technology, Inc. Free download at Mutants & Masterminds, Third Edition is ©2010-2017 Green Ronin Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

Which brings me to my final point. If you’re going to be doing a lot of Mutants & Masterminds, you might seriously want to invest in Hero Lab, a software character generator from Lone Wolf Development. It makes the process sooo much easier and will help keep track of errors, points spent, and everything else.

Character Development: d20 Modern

Today, we’ll be looking at d20 Modern, a system that became big during the d20 boom of the early 2000’s. Right after Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition came out, everyone wanted in on the cash grab. The market was oversaturated with products for Wizards of the Coast’s d20 System, driven by the popularity of the Open Gaming License. This eventually led to a collapse in the market when Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rendered many of the 3.0 products obsolete.

Where Dungeons & Dragons was designed to roleplay in a fantasy world, d20 Modern was meant to represent the modern world and the changes in the rules reflect this. Later supplements would include Urban Arcana, adding magic and fantasy races to the mix, d20 Future, and d20 Past. For our purposes today, we’ll be concentrating on the core d20 Modern rules.

If you missed the chance to get your copy during the d20 movement, you can pick up the PDF at Drive-Thru RPG. They also have other books in the series, such as Urban Arcanad20 Past, and d20 Future.

There are several ways to generate your attributes in d20 Modern but today I’ll be using the traditional method of rolling 4d6 six times, dropping the lowest roll, and recording the scores, then putting them in the order I wish.

My rolls are 15, 15, 12, 8, 6, 16. Well, I don’t like the 8 or the 6, but the rest of the scores are decent, so I’ll go with it. I’ll line the stats up as follows, looking to make a tech-savvy hacker.

STRength 8
DEXterity 15
CONstitution 6
INTelligence 16
WISdom 12
CHArisma 15

From this, with a range of 3 to 18, we can see that she (an arbitrary decision on my part) is smart and has a great personality, but not is very strong, and probably gets sick a lot. I could have made her a bit sturdier, but it would have meant sacrificing her Dexterity or Charisma, and I want both to be higher.

In d20 Modern, in place of the fantasy classes like fighter and rogue, you have the strong hero, the fast hero, the tough hero, and so forth. As should be obvious from looking at her stats, this character is going to be a smart hero.

The core rules of d20 Modern only permit humans as races, so she (let’s call her Alice; not her real name, of course) is human. As a human smart hero, she starts the game with 6 hit points, plus her Constitution modifier (which is -2), so she has only 4 hit points. That’s okay, because Alice is a hacker, not a front-liner. I envision her doing her thing behind the scenes.

She also begins with 5 Action Points. Action Points are a mechanic that allow a player to alter the result of a d20 roll to aid in dramatic scenes. Spend an Action Point and you get 1d6 to add to your roll, which can make the difference between success and failure! Her Reputation modifier, determined by her class, is +1.

Everyone in d20 Modern has an occupation; what they did for a living before becoming an adventurer. Occupations grant extra class skills and/or feats, based on the occupation selected. Alice spent much of her time as a Technician, which grants her three skills of her choice as class skills. She selects Computer Use, Craft (electronics), and Knowledge (technology). Since these are all class skills for her (no coincidence there), she gets a +1 bonus on each, rather than making them class skills.

She also gets to choose a Talent. She could choose from Savant or Linguist, and I think that she will take Savant, which gives her a bonus equal to her Smart hero level to a skill chosen from a list. She chooses Computer Use. With the +1 bonus to Computer Use from her occupation, she is shaping up to be a good hacker.

Next up, Alice needs some skills. Since she isn’t going to be a front-line hero, she must have something to contribute to the team. Obviously, she wants to have Computer Use. She gets a total of 9 plus her Intelligence modifier times 4 plus 4 skill points (all humans get four extra skill points), so she has plenty of points (48) to work with.

Computer Use will be her first skill, and since it is a class skill for her, she can put up to 4 points in it. Each point put into a class skill buys one rank, so she has 4 ranks in Computer Use. I also see that Craft is a class skill for her, and as a hacker, she would probably know her way around a motherboard. I’ll also give her Craft at 4 ranks, specializing in electronics. She should also be up on current events, which is a specialization of the Knowledge skill, which also happens to be a class skill for her. She’ll take 4 ranks in Knowledge (current events). That uses up 12 of her 48 skill points, leaving her with 36 points to spend.

To round out her class skills, she will pick up Repair, Research, Knowledge (technology), and Knowledge (popular culture) each at 4 ranks as well. In the realm of non-class skills, each point put into skills counts as half a point. She finishes out her skill list with non-class skills at 2 ranks in each: Concentration, Drive, Gather Information, Sense Motive, and Treat Injury. Note that she did not have to put 4 points into each skill, I just found it easier to do so. Had I wished, I could have put fewer points into some skills and gotten others.

Now for her feats. She gets one feat right off the bat. Everyone starts with Simple Weapons Proficiency, permitting use of weapons like knives and baseball bats. She’ll pick up Gearhead, giving her a further +2 on Computer Use and Repair checks, and Personal Firearms Proficiency, because a girl must be able to protect herself and without it, she suffers a -4 penalty when using firearms.

Next, Alice must choose her allegiances. In d20 Modern, you don’t use alignments; instead you select allegiances for your character. These are groups, individuals, organizations, countries, or philosophies to which you pledge your loyalty. Alice, being a grey-hat sort of hacker, pledges her allegiances to chaos and to her hacking group, the Grey Mousers.

All that’s left is for Alice to pick up some gear. d20 Modern is different from Dungeons & Dragons in that instead of tracking cash, you have a Wealth rating, determined by rolling 2d4 and adding your wealth bonus from your occupation. Alice rolled a 4 and gets a +3 Wealth Bonus from Technician, so she has a Wealth rating of +7. In game terms, she can afford pretty much anything with a rating of 7 or lower. For more expensive items, she will need to make a wealth check.

She gets some items that she knows won’t cost her over her wealth level, including a flashlight (4), a small handbag (4), and a cellular modem (6). None of these exceed her Wealth rating so her Wealth rating is unaffected.

Now, I’d like for her to have a notebook computer (when the game was written, things like tablets and smartphones were future tech). Unfortunately, the cost DC for a notebook computer is a DC 23. She might make the roll (she gets a +7 on the d20 roll), but it’s going to temporarily reduce her wealth rating if she makes it. She roiled a 17, plus 7 is 24, which exceeds the cost of a notebook computer, so she has her notebook! However, because it was so expensive, she loses 1 point because the DC was higher than 15, and she loses another 2d6 points because the DC was 16 points or more above her Wealth bonus, so she loses a total of 8 from her Wealth bonus. Her bonus can’t go below +0, so she is at +0 now. She would like to try to pick up a weapon (a 9mm pistol has a DC of 18), but she has no more purchasing power right now and can’t buy anything with a DC of 10 or higher.

Don’t worry overmuch, her wealth rating will increase again as she goes up in level, and will, in fact, fluctuate throughout her entire life.

That takes care of everything, so the final version of “Alice” looks like this:

Alice: CR 1; Medium-size humanoid; HD 1d6; hp 4; Mas 6; Spd 30 ft.; Defense 12, touch 12, flat-footed 10 (+2 Dex); BAB +0; Grap -1; Atk -1 melee (1d3-1 nonlethal, unarmed strike); Full Atk -1 melee (1d3-1 nonlethal, unarmed strike); FS 5 ft. x 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.; AL chaos, Grey Mousers; SV Fort -2, Ref +2, Will +2; AP 5, Rep +1; Str 8, Dex 15, Con 6, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 15.

Skills: Computer Use +11, Concentration +0, Craft (electronic) +8, Drive +4, Gather Information +4, Knowledge (current events) +7, Knowledge (Pop culture) +7, Knowledge (technology) +8, Read/Write English, Repair +9, Research +7, Sense Motive +3, Speak English, Treat Injury +3.

Feats: Gearhead, Personal Firearms Proficiency, Simple Weapons Proficiency.

Talents: Savant (Computer Use).

Possessions: Notebook computer, flashlight, handbag, cellular modem; Wealth +0.

Of course, she has other skills, but these are the ones in which she is trained. “Mas” in stats block above stands for Massive Damage Threshold, equal to your current Constitution score. If a character takes more than this amount of damage from a single attack, they must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or drop to -1 hp immediately. This means that Alice will need to stay out of combat as much as possible, and when the bullets start flying, she seeks cover!

To finalize the character, I’ll say that she has raven black hair, green eyes, and she adopts a British accent, even though she is American. She stands 5’6” tall and weighs only 108 lbs. She maintains several different online personalities, both male and female.

Review: Dark Hold Goblin Adventures

Today’s review is of Dark Hold: Goblin Adventures for the Savage Worlds game system. This is a 72-page volume from Rebel Minis, written by Ian “Lizard” Harac, Chris Huddleston, Andrew J Lucas, Kyle Morgan, Jennifer R. Povey, Josh Vogt, and Jacob Wood. Cover art is by John Dotegowski. Dark Hold: Goblin Adventures retails for $19.00 USD.

Upon opening the book, we are greeted by the tale of Buzulg the goblin. This sets the stage for what is to come. The next chapter is devoted to the world of the Dark Hold, a setting within a setting. The Dark Hold is a valley that was once inhabited by dwarves who held the goblins as slaves. When the dwarven empire collapsed, the goblins took over two high valleys and the upper levels of the Dark Hold itself (because no one dares venture into the depths). The goblins then negotiated trade with the humans who hold the pass across the mountains.

After the full description of the Dark Hold comes the chapter on playing goblin characters. From appearance to personality to food and drink, every aspect of being a goblin is addressed in loving detail. There are new rules for crystal magic and for crafting. The gods of the Dark Hold goblins are then discussed. Finally, we get to the meat of the book; the goblin template, new Edges, and new Powers. There are three new Background Edges, a new Combat Edge, and a Leadership Edge, as well as a new Power. Following this is a discussion on playing low-power characters, a treatise that wise players will give heed to, as goblins are particularly low-power.

This is followed up by an introductory adventure, and several other adventures. “The Goblin Faire” introduces us to a typical goblin faire at which several goblins will vie for the hand of the “fair” chieftain’s daughter. In “Pursuit of the Perfect Pig,” our heroes carry on a quest to find a magnificent flying swine and his human companion. “Should We Eat It?” is the big question when a humanoid baby is found on the road. “Kitchen Chaos” ensues when something is eating all of the food for an upcoming festival and must be stopped. You’ll also have the chance to tag along on a “Pig Hunt.” “Tomb Raider Raiders” pits a handful of goblins against clever traps to recover an artifact. Finally, we’ll visit the mushroom festival in “Mushroom March.” Rounding out the book are appendices containing a multitude of new creatures, items, and several sample characters, including representatives of all traditional fantasy adventurers.

The interior artwork, also by John Dotegowski, is beautiful and really helps bring the book to life. Conceptually, this is an original product for Savage Worlds; I can’t say that I’ve seen a book devoted to playing goblins for that system. The ideas provided herein are fresh and were enough to pique my interest in the possibilities. I did find a number of small errors, such as word spacing, misspellings, and similar mistakes, but they were few and far between and did not detract from the product overmuch. Overall, I think that this is a welcome breath of fresh air (or maybe not-so-fresh; these are goblins, after all) and a good value for the money.

I couldn’t really find anything that I intensely disliked about the product. Just skimming over the adventures that are included makes me want to try this campaign just to run the adventures; they look like a good blend of action and humor. As a setting within a setting, this should be easy to drop into your existing fantasy realm with little or no problems. I strongly recommend that you give it a look.

For more information, check out You can get your own copy of Dark Hold: Goblin Adventures at

Rating: ****

Character Development: Traveller (Mongoose Edition)

Ttraveller_coveroday’s game will be Traveller. Traveller was one of the first role-playing games, debuting in 1977 from Game Designer’s Workshop. Marc Miller is the man behind the setting and mechanics. Traveller is a science fiction roleplaying game of the far future. Humanity has gone to the stars and found them crowded with other forms of life and other sentient races, and science and technology have advanced vastly over the present day – but the essential nature of humanity is unchanged. Life continues as it does today, only spread out over the sea of stars. A mighty Imperium unites thousands of star systems under a single rule, but it is beset by enemies both internal and external.

We’ll be using the Mongoose Publishing edition, which is heavily based on the original Traveller (also known as the little black books or Classic Traveller), but character generation doesn’t have to be quite so lethal. Classic Traveller is well-remembered as a system wherein your character could die during creation, before they are ever played. Mongoose uses a Mishap table to cut down on lethality. When we play, we use a house rules that states if a character suffers a career-ending mishap, you toss a d6. On a roll of 1-3, the character dies. On a roll of 4-6, you roll on the Mishap table (of course, your character may die anyway due to an injury).

If you are interested in checking out Traveller, the Mongoose Edition is available on Drive-Thru RPG. Classic Traveller is also available in PDF form through Drive-Thru, as well. With that said, let’s get started.

I’ll begin by generating my attributes, rolling 2d6 six times and assigning them as desired to the six attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education, and Social Standing. My rolls were 10, 9, 5, 6, 5, 6 and I want to try for a naval career as a fighter pilot, for which I will need Dexterity and Endurance. Of course, I’ll need Intelligence to make it into the Navy in the first place. I decide to arrange my stats as:

STRength 6
DEXterity 10 (+1 DM)
ENDurance 6
INTelligence 9 (+1 DM)
EDUcation 5 (-1 DM)
SOCial Standing 5 (-1 DM)

I’ve already decided on a name for my character; Anya Cordova. From this, we can see that Anya has average strength and endurance, good intellect, and superior dexterity. Because her Deterity and Intelligence are so high, she gets a +1 Dice Modifier on each. Unfortunately, her low Education and Social Standing mean that she suffers a -1 Dice Modifier on each. Still, I think that she stands a good chance of getting what she wants. We’ll see…

Now I need to decide on her homeworld. There are literally thousands of worlds available in the Traveller universe, and after consulting with my GM, I get permission to randomly determine her homeworld’s attributes. (Some GMs may have a list of planets for you to choose from or may prefer that you come from the same world.)

For world creation, we roll on a series of tables in the rulebook. I’m not going to go into further detail here, but the results are below:

D52443A-6 S NI, Po

This means that the planet is about 8,000 km in diameter (slightly smaller than Earth), with a surface gravity of .45, a very thin and tainted atmosphere, a temperature below -50 degrees Celcius, and about 36% to 45% water in the form of ice. Even so, it’s home to some 10,000+ inhabitants. The government is largely a self-perpetuating oligarchy with very strict laws against imports and off-worlders. A class-D starport means limited repair facilities, with unrefined fuel. The overall tech level is 6 (The system does support a Scout base, however.) The world is both Poor and Non-Industrial.

Looking on the the Background Skills table, being from a Poor world gives her Animals at 0. Her education DM of -1 means that she gets 1 other skill, and I’ll take Engineer 0. So, she enters the world at 18 years old with the skills Animals 0 and Engineer 0. Next, she’ll try to get into the Navy.

To qualify for the Navy, she needs to make an Intelligence throw with a +1 modifier (for her Int DM) and get a roll of 6 or better. A roll of 8 plus 1 is 9, so she is the newest cadet in the Imperial Navy! She begins her career as a crewman.

During her first term in the Navy, she picks up the core skills that she will need to be a pilot. She picks up Pilot, Vacc Suit, Zero-G, Gunner, Mechanic, and Gun Combat, all at level 0 (in Traveller, level 0 indicates base proficiency). For her term of service, she will focus on her specialty (flight). A roll of 1 gives her Pilot (any). Since she already has Pilot at level 0, she now has Pilot 1 and must specialize. She chooses to specialize in Small Craft, since I envisioned her being a fighter pilot.

Next she needs to make a Survival roll in order to remain in her chosen career. To survive, she meeds to roll a 7 or higher against Dexterity. I rolled a 6, +1 for her Dexterity DM makes 7, so she barely passes. Time to see what happens during this term. A roll of 7 on the Event Table indicates that she experiences a Life Event. A roll on the Life Event table dictates that she gains a Contact. I’ll say that she meets an officer who takes a liking to her and takes her under his wing; an Ensign named Karl Markov.

The next thing to check for is commission. She will need a roll of 8+ against Social Standing in order to earn a commission. Unlikely, but not impossible. The roll is an 8, but I have a DM of -1, so she doesn’t earn a commission this term. SHe might advance as an enlisted person, however. An Education roll of 10 (-1 DM) means that she beats the requirement of 5, and becomes an Able Spacehand. She gets Mechanic at 1 as part of the package, and can also make another roll for Skills and Training. This time she elects to roll on the Personal Development table and gets a result of +1 End. Thus, at the end of her first term, she looks like this:

Age: 22
STR 6 DEX 10 END 7
Animals 0, Gun Combat 0, Gunner 0, Mechanic 1, Pilot (Small Craft) 1, Vacc Suit 0, and Zero-G 0
Contact: Naval Ensign (Karl Markov)

In her second term, she continues in the Navy, rolling on the Specialist: Flight table and getting Pilot (small craft). This time she fails her survival roll. At this point, she must roll a d6, getting a 4 and having to roll on the Mishap table. At least she didn’t die outright. She gets a 1 and is severely injured in action. A severe injury means that she must lose 1d6 from a physical characteristic. She’ll choose End, wanting to keep her Dexterity. A roll of 6 means that it was a very severe injury. Her END is now 1.

Since she failed the term, she doesn’t get an Event roll and she must muster out of the service. Since she survived one full term, she gets one roll on the Mustering-Out Benefits table. She can either go for cash or a more tangible benefit. I’ll take the Other Benefit. A roll of gives her either +2 EDU or two ship shares. Two ship shares is a big deal, but I think that the education will serve her better. So at the end of her second term, Anya has:

Age: 26
STR 6 DEX 10 END 1
Animals 0, Gun Combat 0, Gunner 0, Mechanic 1, Pilot (small craft) 2, Vacc Suit 0, Zero-G 0
Contact: Naval Ensign, Karl Markov

Having been ejected from the Navy due to her injuries, she decides that perhaps the military is not an appropriate career for her. She’ll try instead to get into the Merchant sector as a Free Trader. She needs a 4 or higher on Int to make the cut. She gets a DM of -1 for each previous career, so with her DM of +1 for the characteristic, it’s an even roll. She barely makes it in with a 4.

Since she has already been through basic training, she gets a single skill from the Service skills table, and chooses Drive 0. Her first roll will be on the Specialist table for Free Trader and she gets a result of Vacc Suit. Her survival depends on a roll of Dex 6+, which she makes easily. For her event this term, she is offered the opportunity to smuggle illegal items onto a planet. If she accepts, she might get an extra Benefit roll and Streetwise 1, but she doesn’t want to take the risk and gains an Enemy in the criminal sphere. This is a minor crimelord named Lewis Shrek.

She cannot be comissioned, since the merchants are not a military organization, but she could advance in her career field. She beats the Int 6+ roll and becomes a free trader rank 1, gaining Persuade 1 and rolling on the Specialist table for Engineer. Coming out of her third term, she looks like:

Age: 30
STR 6 DEX 10 END 1
Animals 0, Drive 0, Engineer 0, Gun Combat 0, Gunner 0, Mechanic 1, Pilot (small craft) 2, Persuade 1, Vacc Suit 1, Zero-G 0
Contact: Karl Markov, naval ensign
Enemy: Lewis Shrek, minor crimelord

As she stands now, she is a pretty competent (if physically weak) character. She could quit while she’s ahead, but I think I want to squeeze one more term out of her. She stays for another term of being a Free Trader.

This time, she rolls on the Specialist table again, getting a result of Vacc Suit. She’s getting to be pretty handy with a vacc suit! She makes her survival roll and learns Engineer (J-Drive) 1 due to events. Furthermore, she makes her advancement roll and becomes a Free Trader 2 and also picks up +1 Dex off the Personal Development table. She now stands at:

Age: 34
STR 6 DEX 11 END 1
Animals 0, Drive 0, Engineer (jump drive) 1, Gun Combat 0, Gunner 0, Mechanic 1, Pilot (small craft) 2, Persuade 1, Vacc Suit 2, Zero-G 0
Contact: Karl Markov, naval ensign
Enemy: Lewis Shrek, minor crimelord

She’s starting to get one in years, now, and she will now begin making aging rolls. A roll of 7 minus 4 (the number of terms she has served thus far) is a 3, so she doesn’t suffer aging effects… yet. I think I can get one more term out of her.

For this term, she rolls on the Specialist table once more and gets Sensors. She barely squeaks her Survival roll this time, but it still counts. During this term, she is accussed of a crime she did not commit and loses 1 from her Social Standing. Even so, she manages to advance, and picks up both Jack of all Trades 1 and +1 Dex again. She makes the aging roll, but decides not to tempt fate and musters out as a rank 3 Free Trader.

She gets one benefit roll for each term, plus two benefit rolls for her rank, for a total of 5 benefit rolls, up to three of which may be for cash. She’ll try for cash first, getting 10,000 credits. I have a reason for wanting more, so she’ll go again with cash and this time, brings down 40,000 credits. That’s almost sufficient for my needs, but I’ll go one more just for good measure. This time she only gets 5,000 credits. Her last two rolls are for Other Benefits and she gets a blade of her choice and +1 EDU. She finishes at:

Age: 38 55,000 credits
STR 6 DEX 12 END 1
Animals 0, Drive 0, Engineer (jump drive) 1, Gun Combat 0, Gunner 0, Jack of all Trades 1, Mechanic 1, Pilot (small craft) 2, Persuade 1, Sensors 0, Vacc Suit 2, Zero-G 0
Contact: Karl Markov, naval ensign
Enemy: Lewis Shrek, minor crimelord

Finally, she decides to seek medical treatment to hopefully recover some of her lost Endurance. As a Mercant, she may be able to defer some of the costs of treatment. A roll of 8 on 2d6 + 4 (the number of terms she served as a Merchant) covers 75% of her medical bills. Since it costs 5,000 credits to restore a characteristic point, her total comes to 30,000 credits, of which she owes 25% (7,500 credits). After paying for her recovery, this is the finished character:

Anya Cordova
Age: 38 | 47,500 credits
STR 6 DEX 12 END 7
Animals 0, Drive 0, Engineer (jump drive) 1, Gun Combat 0, Gunner 0, Jack of all Trades 1, Mechanic 1, Pilot (small craft) 2, Persuade 1, Sensors 0, Vacc Suit 2, Zero-G 0
Contact: Karl Markov, naval ensign
Enemy: Lewis Shrek, minor crimelord
Weapon: Blade (2d6 damage)

She is a competent pilot and engineer, and her Jack of all Trades skill reduces her unskilled penalty by 1. She would be a welcome addition to any group of intrepid explorers. She could use a few implements of destruction, such as a pistol, but other than that, she’s good to go!

Character Development: The Black Hack

Welcome to a new series of weekly articles about character building. Specifically, I have literally dozens of RPGs, several of which I’ve never even played. As an exercise in creativity, I’m going to build characters for each system and post the results here. But I’m going to take it a step further. Rather than just post the finished characters, I’m going to walk you through the character creation process and give insights into how and why I made the decisions that result in the finished product.

black hackOur first system is The Black Hack, a relative newcomer on the scene. The Black Hack takes the core mechanic behind a certain well-known fantasy role-playing game and modifies it to create a distinct and unique system. Based around the original Dungeons & Dragons rules, it creates a very playable and user-friendly system that is easily modified to meet your personal needs, as indicated by the library of “hacks” that are in existence (such as The Drac Hack, which provides stats for “your favorite Gothic horror adventure” (yes, that one), The Pulp Hack, which puts the action into the 1930’s, or The Bikini Hack, which moves the story to a 60’s beach party). For our purposes, we’ll just be using the basic rules as described in The Black Hack. The Black Hack is available through Drive-Thru RPG for the incredible price of only $2.00!

To begin with, I’ll generate my six stats, in order: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. My first result is a 17. According to the rules, my next stat must be rolled as 2d6+2, rather than 3d6. After that, I return to 3d6 unless another 15 or higher is rolled. My other rolls are 5, 15, 4, 12, and 10. My stats, in correct order, are:

STRength 17
DEXterity 5
CONstitution 15
INTelligence 4
WISdom 12
CHArisma 10

I’m permitted to swap any two scores, and I think that, given my stats, the big, dumb fighter is probably my best bet. I’ll swap Dexterity and Wisdom, so my new array looks like:

STRength 17
DEXterity 12
CONstitution 15
INTelligence 4
WISdom 5
CHArisma 10

Next up, I need to choose a class. I’ve already said that I’ll go with the big, dumb fighter, so Warrior it is. A Warrior rolls 1d10+4 for hit points. I rolled a 6, for a total of 10.

Finally, I get 3d6x10 coins. A roll of 11 nets me 110 coins. Not a lot to purchase all that I need, but it will have to do.

I get a set of clothes and a 1-handed weapon as allowed by my class, so I’ll spend 100 coins on a set of leather armor. I’d like to have a shield, but I can’t afford one, so that will have to wait. With my remaining 10 coins, I’ll purchase a backpack, six torches, a set of iron spikes, and a flint & steel. I don’t have enough to purchase food or a waterskin, much to my chagrin. I’ll have to hope for the charity of others in the group, I guess.

I need to name my character now. Nothing too fancy, given his intelligence. I think that “Rolf” will do nicely. Rolf has always been a bit on the slow side, typically performing manual labor for his bread and butter. Recently, however, a group of strangers came to town and told him that they would pay him to come with them and fight alongside them. They gave him some coin and told him where to meet them the following morning. Rolf is now a proud member of the Company of the Four.

Fighter 1

STR 17
DEX 12
CON 15
CHA 10

10 HP

Leather (4 armor points)
Iron Spikes
Torches (6) [d6 usage dice] Backpack
Flint & steel
1-hand weapon (1d8)

That’s all I need to know to play. If you feel like there is something missing, there is, but all of that falls under game mechanics and the objective here is to create a character, not explain game mechanics (which are very simple). Pick up a copy for yourself and check it out!

Review: Heroic Maps

faewood loftIf you are an RPGer, then you know that the one thing you can never seem to have enough of is maps, especially maps sized for use with miniatures. Today’s RPGs are big on tactical situations, and many practically require the use of minis in order to better visualize the lay of things. But quality maps sized for miniatures are expensive.

Well, not anymore. Heroic Maps has dozens (literally) of beautiful, full-color maps of a variety of locations, all at a price that fits a working GM’s wallet. Whether you want a simple dungeon, a wintry landscape, or an entire drow city, Heroic Maps has you covered! They even have bundle packs that let you pick up several similar sets at a reduced price!

But let’s say that you have a dungeon of your own design that you need scaled to miniatures. Not a problem! Grab the modular dungeon set and get to creating! There’s also modular cavesmodular town, and modular sewer sets. And of course, these can be used with virtual tabletop programs like Fantasy Grounds or Roll20, as well.

Most of the sets contain a full set of maps, in both gridded and ungridded formats, scaleable to 25mm and 28mm sizes, as well as a PDF version. I’ve used them for Pathfinder, D&D 5th edition, and a variety of other systems to great effect. As a bonus, they can be used for Hero Quest, if you are so inclined.

I’ve spent probably close to $200 on my collection, and there are still sets that I want, and they produce a new set an average of once a week! I highly recommend this accessory for anyone who uses miniatures or VTT in their games.

Review: Ex Machina

ex machinaLights: 2015. Science-fiction drama. Rated R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references, and some violence. Runtime: 108 minutes.

Camera: Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Issac, Alicia Vikander, and Soyona Mizuno. Written and directed by Alex Garland. Music by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury.

Action: Ex Machina was a movie that went onto my list as soon as I saw that it was advertised. It looked like a work of thought-provoking science fiction, and I wasn’t disappointed in that respect. There is a lot to think about with this film.

It is the story of Caleb (Gleeson), a young man who works for the world’s largest Internet company, who wins a contest to spend a week at a secluded retreat with the reclusive CEO of the company, Nathan (Issac). Caleb is surprised to learn that he is expected to cut off contact with the outside world and sign a non-disclosure agreement before Nathan will talk shop with him. Upon signing the agreement, Caleb learns the real reason for the secrecy; he is to test a new artificial intelligence that Nathan has created.

Nathan’s home is an incredible place, filled with all the amenities (except telephones). Nathan lives alone, except for his live-in housekeeper, Kyoko (Mizuno) who speaks no English. Caleb’s passkey grants him access to every room except those Nathan has designated off limits. In fact, the only real oddity is the unexplained power failures that occur from time to time. Nathan is at a loss to explain them, but shrugs them off as inadequacy on the part of the engineers.

On meeting the A.I., Ava (Vikander), for the first time, Caleb is taken aback by her complexity and reactions to his questions.  This is no simple computer algorithm. The more he speaks with Ava, the more human she begins to seem. But when a power outage shuts down the cameras that Nathan is using to observe the pair, her demeanor changes. She warns Caleb that Nathan is not to be trusted; that he lies. This sets the stage for the remainder of the film, which further explores the relationships between Ava and Caleb, Caleb and Nathan, and Nathan and Ava.

The film is very thought-provoking, and the science behind it is fairly well-supported. One could almost accept that Nathan really has created something amazing, portrayed beautifully by Alicia Vikander. At the same time, there is a darker, underlying theme that pervades the film and leaves you vaguely unsettled by the implications that it presents.

One thing I should speak on is the special effects. When we first meet Ava, it is painfully obvious that she is a machine, as her midsection, arms, and legs are completely transparent, revealing wires, fiber, and components beneath. The effect is seamless with the actress’ real face and body and the overall effect is one of beauty and wonder.

Parents: Ex Machina features graphic nudity, including full-frontal and rear female nudity. Potentially objectionable language, including the f-word, is present throughout. There is some blood and some of the violence is rather savage, but there is almost no gore. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this one to children, but then, it isn’t intended for them and most would find it boring and difficult to follow.

Rating: **** (out of five)