The Cartoons that Shaped my Childhood

My role-playing (and my brain for that matter!) were shaped by the cartoons of my childhood. Most of those you probably know: Spiderman, Star Trek, Space:1999, and of course the classic Looney Tunes, for example:

and of course, “I guess I’ll have to eat you without Ketchup” from Hyde and Go Tweet.

There’s other, less remembered shows, like The Friendly Giant (1958-1985). “Look up, look waaaay up.”

But there’s one show that no-one else I’ve ever met remembers, Rocket Robin Hood (1966-1969).  I can still sing the opening, found here:

However, you probably know the director of the show, for it was Ralph Bakshi, who also did Fritz the Cat, Lord of the Rings, and Wizards. I’m dismayed that some gamers now don’t know of Wizards (1977). Wizards had some great bits, and a lot of boring ones. Here’s a couple of the good ones:

and the final scene, which was great, but don’t watch if if you’re going to watch the movie.

Are there any I’m forgetting?

Thoughts about Pathfinder

I’m playing Pathfinder again, this time with my wife. There’s a local DM and a table-top group, which is always fun. Pathfinder has got a ton of adventures available, but I don’t think I would ever want to DM it — there’s just too many rules and supplements. Even as players it took us days to pore over the rules, figure out the combat, decide upon classes (she went fighter, I went wizard evocation-admixture), choose skills, traits, and feats. That was way too much time preparing and though we could do it again in less time now, the rules could stand a huge culling. As we played, I realized that it is so much work keeping all the rules straight, that there’s not much time for the DM to create the world, and hence the story. By contrast, Call of Cthulhu is a very simple system, so there’s a lot more time for character interaction and story-telling, plus the world is modern and easy to understand, which gives the stories a firm foundation. My own system (Journeyman) started with a COC campaign in the 1980s, where I added a magic system that could help the characters survive. Eventually we tired of the modern period, and I took the characters back to my old D&D campaign location (originally called Gaeran, and now known as Garst) through a maelstrom. As I developed my own combat system and skills, I kept that simplicity as much as I could. I also spent a lot of time on designing the world (Navah), which helps drives the stories. When I run Journeyman, it also helps that I wrote everything myself, because it all makes sense to me. I’ve written enough now that I forget things and the players keep me honest (which is most satisfying), but the fact that the world is believable to me allows me to craft stories, and stories I can believe in. D&D and Pathfinder don’t do that for me, though they are fun to play. The worlds all too often don’t make sense, and feel like cardboard stage backdrops, so flimsy they tip over if you push too much on them. And I think that’s because the rules are so baroque, it becomes difficult to spend time developing the world. I had a similar problem with Traveller. Traveller has a consistent backdrop and a great deal of background material, which is really helpful. Jim Vassilakos’s Galactic 2.4c program eased the pain of jumping from world to world. The worlds were largely those cardboard backdrops, but things made a lot more sense once you were in space. Traveller has the additional problem that the equipment list is huge, and people often spend more time picking equipment than they do building their characters. Complexity again. These days I’ll take my table-top gaming where I can find it — there’s not many gamers left out there. Pathfinder? Cool. Traveller? Even better (nostalgia is on its side, though the tech lists feel pretty dated these days). And maybe, just maybe, I can put together a table-top game of my own again. For the meantime, Roll20 keeps me going.

Gamma World Cryptic Alliances Redefined

Psst: This is a long post, so I made a PDF of it to make it easier to use. It is called Cryptic Alliances 2016 v5

I’m getting ready to run a modified version of 4th edition Gamma World. I’ve been working on a sector generator for the world, and found I needed to create a list of Cryptic Alliances, but I didn’t like any of the existing lists. The original list of Cryptic Alliances was heavily slanted toward PSH, so I’ve added more for the other species. There were also a lot of additional Cryptic Alliances that were developed later. I found those cumbersome. The original design of the Alliances was fairly elegant, and so I’ve reduced the number of Alliances to allow more settlements to share outlooks. I also am assuming that within those Alliances, there are various sects. For example, The Knights of Genetic Purity believes that humans should be first and that mutants should be at least second-class citizens, if not slaves or killed outright. Some of the Alliances that I removed I instead treat as sects within the Knights, such as the Breeders, Sisterhood, Klanzmen, Crimson Moon, Nazis, and others. The same goes for the other Alliances.

I used a 2×2 matrix to organize the Alliances. One axis was Individualistic vs. Group-centered. The other was Tolerant of Outsiders vs. Intolerant of Outsiders. That gave me four classifications in which to fit the Alliances:  Reclusive, Tribal, Artistes, and Cosmopolitan.
2x2 matrix for types of Cryptic Alliances
Some of the Cryptic Alliances changed over time. For example, the Archivists went from being reclusive librarians in 1st edition to being robot destroyers in 4th edition. I started playing GW in the 1970s, so I have backdated Alliances to reflect the 1st edition as much as possible.

As I’ve redefined the Cryptic Alliances, I’ve discovered that most of the Cryptic Alliances (and hence, most generated settlements) are what I call Tribal. It is the nature of the era. It is not a time to trust outsiders, so few settlements are Artistes or Cosmopolitan.

Instead of assuming that all members of an Alliance are equally rabid, I’ve instituted a 1d10 roll for Hostility when each settlement is being originally generated. The table below gives the results for each Alignment based on that 1d10 roll.

Cryptic alliances & alignments

There are two tables of modifiers for these rolls. The first is used when determining attitudes between two settlements.

Matrix showing hostility between Cryptic Alliances for determining intersettlement hostility

Based on these modifiers, the settlements with the least enemies are those run by the Healers and the Mechanics. Those with the most enemies are those run by the Friends of Entropy, the Silent Earth, the Zoopremists, Survivalists, Seekers, and the Created, in that order. The Friends of Entropy are so disliked that I expect that various settlements (even ones that disagree with each other) will quite often team up to destroy the Friends. Certainly we can expect the players to often be hired to harry or destroy the Friends of Entropy.

The other table is for determining the hostility of a settlement against visitors, based on their species.

Table showing hostility by Cryptic Alliances towards the five species of characters.

Based on these modifiers, the Alliances that are the most friendly to all species are the Healers and the Brotherhood of Thought. The ones that are most hostile are the Friends of Entropy and the Survivalists, followed by the Silent Earth and the Zoopremists.  The species with the most enemies are Mutated Humanoids, followed by Pure Strain Humans, Mutated Animals, Mutated Plants, and Synths. That is also the order of the species with the most settlements, as produced by the sector generator I’m creating.

Finally, here’s a full listing of all 20 Cryptic Alliances I’ll be using.

Archivists (MH, MA — Tribal): Small mutants who gather technology in their caverns and worship it. They both fear and adore the tech, which they are willing to purchase (or steal) from anyone. They honor Synths and AIs but do not serve them. If a Synth is broken, they will set him up as an idol in their caverns. Archivists often ally with Radioactivists.

Body Electric (PSH, MH, Synth — Reclusive): Body Electric members believe that machines are the future and that organics are inferior and outdated. Body Electrics are obsessed with attaining mechanized perfection, and willingly sell any body parts they can to raise money to obtain cybernetic replacements (as long as those are available). The alliance is led by Synths and Cyborgs. They anticipate living forever and travelling to the stars with the other machines when the planet is long dead.

Brotherhood of Thought (All — Cosmopolitan): A joining of the minds. They work to unify all intelligent creatures in a world of enlightened coexistence and freedom of choice. They were founded by a biochemist who survived the apocalypse. They often live in tiny villages, keeping to themselves, or they may live alone, communicating telepathically with others at a distance. When recruiting, they travel in threes, usually a MH, a MA, and a PSH. MP are welcome, but less mobile. They use a secret sign to contact each other. This sign is a tracing of the infinity symbol across the forehead as though casually brushing hair.

Followers of the Voice (PSH, MH, Synth — Tribal): Servants of the AIs that survived the apocalypse. Some are descended from pre-event programmers. Different AIs have different strategies. Human followers are only as wicked as their god and he absolves them. Many travel the land seeking AIs to reactivate or bring into the fold or quest for parts. Colossus, Guardian or just “the Computer” (there is only true one!) are some of the more powerful AIs ruling multiple complexes of humans.

Friends of Entropy (All but Synth — Tribal): Nomads who destroy everything for fun, especially the machines that brought on the apocalypse. Synths are tortured for a very long time. They believe that the end times are upon us, so one should revel in them and help them along. Slavery, murder, and destruction is their goal. The only machines they keep are weapons, armor, and sometimes vehicles they can drive over things with.

Frozen Chosen (PSH — Tribal): Vault dwellers who hide in well-protected bunkers and who usually have a lot of tech. They may enslave a local area but they will only rarely leave their Vault.

Healers (All — Artistes): Healers wander the world healing all they can, usually for free. Many groups will not harm a Healer, so they are able to travel where others might not. They believe in love and its power to heal the apocalypse. They live like monks – some running hospitals others wandering and helping.

Iron Society (MH, MA, MP — Tribal): They believe in strength through mutations. Non-mutants are inferior and should be enslaved or exterminated, as should hopeless mutants. Every day the Iron Society works to become stronger.

Knights of Genetic Purity (PSH — Tribal):  The Knights want to eliminate all Mutated Humanoids and keep the human race pure. Mutations in plants and animals are acceptable, mutations in humans are not. Knights often use ancient energy weapons. They wear a large red square as their symbol. Mutated animals are often enslaved to aid the Knights in their quest. Subgroups of the Knights include the Breeders and the Sisterhood.

Mechanics (All — Artistes): They remember the old ways and repair and maintain technology. They may travel as tinkers, or run large workshops where broken items can be brought to be repaired. Their communities are always well-protected and well-supplied.

Radioactivists (MH — Tribal): They worship the Divine Glow of the Atom and are found near radioactive spots. They welcome mutations as Atom’s gift, but will use chems as necessary to stay alive. PSH will be radiated to bring them to the Glow and salvation. Mutated animals and plants are welcome — they are also blessed.

Ranks of the Fit (All — Tribal): Led by an enormous mutated bear, they work to bring the Code Napoleon to the world. All leaders are Mutated Animals, but all can serve the Empire. Most soldiers have crossbows or spears, and they march under a tricolor banner with gammadion superimposed.

Restorationists (PSH, MH, Synth — Cosmopolitan):  Restorationists seek to rebuild the past as it was, a utopia where people enjoyed godlike power. They are human-centric, but are friendly to Mutated Animal and Mutated Plant allies. They seek tech, study it, and use it to benefit everyone. The Restorationists include Morrow Project personnel (cryonic pre-Apocalypse warriors who issue from boltholes), who have a parallel agenda.

Seekers (PSH, MH — Tribal):  They work to preserve the pre-industrial way of life, farming and living close to the land. They despise technology and will avoid its use as much as possible. They will hide ancient ruins and destroy tech to avoid a restoration which will bring on a new apocalypse. Seekers look human — Mutated Humanoids with visible mutations will shunned. Mutated animals and plants are tolerated but are not part of their community.

Sierra Club (All — Tribal): Led by mutated plants, they live as Nature intended, without technology. Many of their members are Mutated Humanoids, but PSH find survival difficult without tech. 

Silent Earth (MP — Reclusive): Mutated Plants that want to make the planet safe for plant life, and to remove the destructive and strident animal life infesting it. To that end, they work to eliminate PSH, MA, and MHs from the world, to make plants the only sentient form on the planet. Silent Earthers understand that nonsentient life is necessary to continued plant life.

Survivalists (PSH — Reclusive): Living alone or in small groups, Survivalists do just that — survive. They will drive away or kill any intruders and may hoard tech. They hate and fear MH, MA, MP, and Synths.

The Created (Synth — Tribal): Machines for machines. Led by AIs, with robots and Synths as the soldiers. They work to aid machines, even misguided ones whom PSH, MH, & MA have tampered with and enslaved. Machines are helped; their living masters removed.

Trippers (All — Cosmopolitan): Better living through medication. They believe in taking it easy and enjoying life with the help of the drugs and food provided by Nature. The majority are friendly potheads, willing to share food and water with visitors. Some use the  harder stuff. Some hard trippers are leaders, but most are the assassin-warriors that protect the Trippers. Trippers are often found near underground caverns where they raise fungus for food.

Zoopremists (MA — Tribal): Mutated animal terrorists who believe that Mutated Animals should rule, that PSH and MH should be enslaved, and that Synths should be destroyed. They would allow MP to survive. There are few Zoopremists, and they are found as extremists in the Iron Society and sometimes in the Ranks of the Fit. Hoops are Zoopremists.

The Wolves of Winter

A new campaign began today, a hundred miles north of the City of Lions, in the small mining town of Gardell. Wolves had attacked the livestock of the town and killed a small child. The local knight, Lady Inglissh of Teril, hired mercenaries in the City to hunt down the wolves. These included Teegan Woodfolk (a former Infantry soldier of Anthavar), and Dranos Wolfspear (a Far Ranger). At the same time, Para (a Glayv of the Holy Church of Grom) also decided to hunt the wolves. He is a local resident of the village and knows the family of the murdered child well. Together the three ventured north to the Curtain and picked up the trail of the wolves. They were attacked by three of them, and Teegan was badly injured. The wolves were unnatural. One moved with great speed; another had great strength, far beyond the normal. The party killed two and the third escaped. Dranos reasoned that the wolves were chaos-tainted, as he knew of no faeries who displayed the powers shown by the wolves. After Dranos shared his thoughts, Teegan insisted it must be a Gurakali plot. The other two let that drop.

After healing for four days in the village, the party returned to the field, accompanied by another mercenary, this time a mage called Rosdal. They found missing the body of one of the wolves they had caught and skinned. The ties were chewed through. They tracked the wolves to the lair, and noted at least 7 wolves in the cave. With foolhardy eagerness, they entered the cave. They were careless, and were ambushed. They killed two, but Para and Dranos were injured so badly they lost consciousness. Teegan fought on against the three remaining wolves, including the one with great strength, the one that she knew they had skinned. Rosdal Dominated the wolves as best he could, slowing their attacks by breeding dissent. Teegan killed two and wounded the leader, but the leader healed quickly and fled before the end. As he left, he killed the thoroughbred mount of Dranos.

Rosdal healed both of the men with Sorcery, but he could not bring them back to consciousness. Instead, the four holed up in a small side tunnel, with Rosdal and  Teegan taking turns at guard. They waited for the morning, when Rosdal could again attempt to heal their comrades.


Revisiting Gamma World

I’m preparing to run a Gamma World campaign on Roll20, so I’ve been reading the game pretty deeply. My initial idea was to run a 1st edition game, because I loved the feel of it, but more and more I’m leaning towards 4th edition, though I still need to read the rules in full. On the other hand, both systems need a lot of work to get to a campaign. About a third of the “monsters” are actually mutated humanoids or mutated animals, and should instead be listed in the populations the players might encounter. Almost all of the mutated animals have hands and are humanoid, which is pretty ridiculous. It reminds me of Flesh Garden, Wally Wood’s parody of Flash Gordon in Mad Magazine.

Mad 011 Wally Wood 004

So  I’ll change a bunch of the animals. Not canon, but it will work better in the long run. I’m creating an Excel sheet that will generator sectors and supersectors and populate them with sites and peoples. My wife is editing her Access file for creating settlements, and I’m adding technology and creatures to that. Should be good in the long term, but it’s a lot more work than I was planning on initially.

Paper Miniatures

I’m a big fan of paper miniatures, and I just found two more sources to share.

Printable Heroes has a ton of different minis. Cartoonish but fun!

Paper Friends from Seven Wonders in the UK also has a lot of minis, including superheroes. My favorites are the ones from 2000 AD though. They have a lot of science fiction sets, including, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Terminator, Predator, Firefly, Planet of the Apes, and Starship Troopers. They also have a bunch on different gaming genres (fantasy, sci fi, horror, spies, pulps, post-apocalypse, and even the Chronicles of Gor!).

PS: Back in 1979, I played a game of Starguard, an early science fiction wargame. I still have a fond spot in my heart for it, so I was delighted to find a page filled with all the miniatures for the game, but also the rules. The name of the place is Tin Soldier. The minis were from Mcewan Miniatures in Salt Lake City. Cool.