Tuesday, January 12, 2021

d66 Cairn Background Loadouts Adapted from Old School Essentials

As I mentioned before, I forever admire the B/X & OSE feel regarding traditional Dungeons & Dragons adventuring, but I'm partial to Into the Odd's take on classless characters. The consequent reliance on items, background, flavor, and cunning to formulate your "class" identity in-game (and several factors therein allowing for constant malleability and foreground growth) is the sweet spot for me in terms of who a character is and what they do. This comes full circle with Yochai Gal's adaptation of the Into the Odd family for "traditional" adventuring in dark wood and dungeon alike, Cairn.

Stepan Alekseev

So, without further adieu, I present to you my interpretation of nearly all extant Old School Essentials classes (including Classic Fantasy, Advanced Fantasy, and selections from Carcass Crawler and Dolmenwood) in Cairn loadout style.

(Also available in free PDF at DriveThruRPG and itch.io)

Friday, January 1, 2021

My Approach to NPCs

I'm not a good player. Or rather, I am not an invested player. I've learned that I find it hard to remain invested in piloting a single character, and ended up vastly preferring the referee's role over the years due in no small part to my enjoyment of playing through a myriad of non-player characters. Making the mundane come alive, and sprucing up the set dressing of the game world--that's the stuff. It's the world-building I enjoy most of all, but not through arduous campaign planning... it's through the needs, desires, and machinations of NPCs and their related random tables.

After coming across Joel Haver's short films about a year or so ago, I've enjoyed them greatly, and recently, he's put out several animated bits that resonate with my approach to NPCs a great deal. Let's watch them and see what we can gather.

Thursday, December 17, 2020



An adventure game needs little more than interesting choices regarding interesting people amidst interesting locales.

Monday, December 7, 2020

My Interview with Alone In The Labyrinth

Short but sweet, Sofinho invited me to his podcast for a chat about my history with board and roleplaying games; Free Kriegsspiel and whatever the heck it means; the beats behind Any Planet Is Earth, Weird North, and Galaxy Far Away; and playing RPGs with little kids. All of this led to a larger conversation about imagination, it's training, and how to lean into it with new and old players alike.


I make this post mostly to add the clarifier that DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat" is my headcanon theme song for Svarku the Efreet from Hot Springs Island, presumably surrounded by breakdancing combustarinos. That's all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Android Setting: Haas-Bioroid

 Mood Music

Effective. Reliable. Humane. A Different Breed of Machine.

Cars, guns, transcendence--a strong company ethic grows and adapts to meet consumer demand. 

What began as a heavy manufacturing business in Germany over a hundred years ago, Haas Industrie transformed from automation process supplier for the European Union to the most profound technology conglomerate in human history. What Jürgen Haas didn't know when he started his production company was that his descendents would learn not only how to play God, but to sell his miracles at a competitive margin.

Cybernetics was always a passing fancy for heavy industry and tech start-ups alike, but what cybernetic interface research needed to truly flourish was a framework which could fully leverage automated intelligence. Anyone can build a tank or a crane or a side-arm, but can they create a self-diagnostic artifical leg which passes for the real thing? What about replacing a damaged central nervous system and making the lame man walk? Can they build a computer so nuanced, it sincerely believes it is human? These were questions which Haas Industrie began to ask after Jürgen's son, Dieter, took over the company after his father's passing. 

Limb replacements and augmented implants stepped out of the medical field and into the cosmetic and security industries. Hand-held weapons which could think and see for their wielders became staples for UN peacekeepers in dangerous territory. Subdermal arrays helped not only to combat congenital defects but reinforce the perfection of celebrities' bodies and charisma. The market was always there, but until Haas Industrie entered the scene, it was dry and unanswered.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Android Setting: Weyland Consortium

Mood Music 

"I'd like to remind the ladies and gentlemen of the press that several of the buildings damaged in the blast were owned by Weyland Consortium subsidiaries… I'd say it's nothing personal, but corporations are people, too." 

Jack Weyland was a university boy who attended Ivy Consolidated given his parents' combined wealth in private venture. They wanted him to become a businessman. He decided to become an engineer, instead, until he dropped out and founded his own research lab where the science-fiction of nanoferrules became reality. Several investments and a half-baked marriage later, Weyland-Osman Materials was born, and with it, the grant money and government contracts that allowed for the full realization of its next phase, Weyland Constortium. Investing across a multi-layered portfolio of business interests, Weyland Consortium turned its full attention to constructing the Beanstalk, the beyond-ambitious space elevator of Jack's engineering dreams. In ten years and the substantial pooling of much of the world's government wealth, the Beanstalk was a reality. Jack immediately turned his attention to next tackling more efficient space travel, off-world colonization, and fusion refinement, but the Weyland board of directors deemed him too fast and forward-thinking. Wanting to protect their massive investment capital for the Beanstalk project, they ousted Jack Weyland from his own corporation.

Weyland, himself, left to fund many of his own projects, and remains an enigmatic visionary amidst a system which became far larger than he intended, and one which is utterly corrupt in his absence.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Hacking Globalsec from New Angeles: A Quick Android Setting Primer

Mood Music

The Android setting by Fantasy Flight Games is huge. It began in the late 2000s with an eponymous board game which was more like a cyberpunk noir film generator than a murder mystery game. It was brilliant, and remains a personal favorite for just how existential it is. Later, FFG got the rights for Richard Garfield's old Netrunner CCG and released Android: Netrunner, where the lore exploded across all of the card sets. I've indulged a lot of cyberpunk over the years, be it through the classic novels and stories, Bladerunner and its adjacents, or board and roleplaying games alike. My favorite take on the genre remains Android, and as I mull over running a diceless cyberpunk game, I decided I'd dust off the beautiful (and huge) Worlds of Android artbook/lorebook that FFG released several years ago. 

So, for any of you who are already familiar with Android, whether through the board game, the brilliant asymmetric card game, or the "official" adaptation through FFG's Genesys system, none of this is new. For the rest, I want to introduce you briefly to the setting, and put out another few posts about quick-hits for lore touchpoints for megacorps, factions, groups of runners and hackers, and the like. Nothing crunchy. Few, if any numbers. Just tasty bits to break off and insert into your various cyberpunk-adjacent games. If you have Worlds of Android, great, it's fantastic, but it's also a tome, and no one wants to quickly gloss a tome when you only need a few hand-holds into the setting.

Why do I prefer Android over other, more recognized cyberpunk settings? Perhaps because it came about more recently and affords a more accurate projection of our actual society into the near future. Perhaps because not every story within is about nihilist anarchism raging against the machine (featuring soccer moms-turned-hackers like Sunny Lebeau, everyday transhumans like teenaged Kit Peddler, or a remnant AI from before the big war, slowly evolving in the darkest corners of the internet, like APEX). Perhaps because there is limited stellar sci-fi, with a giant space elevator in Ecuador, fusion reactors on the moon, and colonies on Mars. But I'd be lying if I said it didn't have anything to do with the net wünderkind, Chaos Theory, and her computer console, Dinosaurus.

"When I said I could hack in my sleep, did you think I was joking?"