Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
"I can remember as a child reading with breathless fascination the Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. . . . I can remember spending many an hour in my boyhood, arms resolutely outstretched in an empty field, imploring what I believed to be Mars to transport me there."
-Carl Sagan (1934-1996)
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
As I re-read several of Burrough's Martian books while working on Warriors of the Red Planet, I was surprised to note just how much action takes place in what we gaming fans would consider to be "dungeons". In fact, nearly every book features some sort of Underworld action. Burroughs was not alone; from the great cavern-factories of Kline to the mountain hive-cities of Norman, from a strictly literary perspective, "dungeoncrawling" seems more a part of Sword & Planet adventure than most "standard" fantasy fiction! To name a few:
The "Pits" - First introduced in A Princess of Mars, the martian gaol, or "Pits", is a maze of underground corridors and cells. Typically, these are huge complexes, but the martians seldom utilize more than a small area of them, leaving the rest to grow wild and frightening, inhabited by nameless, unseen horrors that feast upon forgotten prisoners. Most are also honeycombed with tunnels gnawed by the ulsio, the fearless, repugnant, hairless martian rat, a creature about the size of a large terrier and with the disposition of a wolverine. No prisoner may sleep peacefully in a martian dungeon for fear he will awaken with an ulsio trotting off with his arm in its mouth! Also, the gaols often feature hidden shops and laboratories, or may intersect with the buried ruins of long-dead cities.
Underground Rivers and Lakes - There are no true above-ground rivers or seas on Barsoom, but deep below ground are many tributaries leading to the River Iss, a mighty subterranian river. When the long-lived martian grows weary of the bitter struggle of life, he or she ventures into the underworld to follow the Iss to the martian paradise, the mythical Valley Dor, where they may rest amid peaceful surroundings (see Gods of Mars for more on this!). The course of the underground river is fraught with fearsome predators and natural hazards, and few indeed make it as far as Dor.
Ice Caves - The great glaciers of the north are riddled with tunnels and great caverns, many haunted by the fearsome Apt, a bloodthirsty predator. It is rumored that inhabited lands beyond the icy walls may be reached via these tunnels (see Warlord of Mars for more on this!).
Underground Cities - Some two miles beneath a great volcano lies the black underground sea of Omean, and on its shores and burrowed into its walls is the fables city of the Pirates of Mars, once rumored to come from the nearer moon of Mars. The city is a maze, with great chambers, flooded passages travelled by submarine, a great arena for gladitorial combat, sunless gardens of unearthly beauty, great temples that revolve with the passage of time, and trap-filled secret corridors and concealed doors linking every thing together. Elsewhere on Mars is a great underground city of tunnels, populated by repulsive, crablike creatures which ride headless humans like horses, and still elsewhere a buried, lost city populated by ancient undead who nonetheless believe themselves to be alive!
"Lost Worlds" - Subterranean cavern complexes and deep, shadowed valleys offer rich opporunties for the fearsome monsters of bygone ages to pick out an existence feasting on the occasional traveller or sacrificial victim. In Fighting Man of Mars, the adventure follows a cavern and underground river haunted by monstrous reptiles. Fighting through this only leads to the even more fearsome Valley of Spiders!
Megadungeon - Obviously, the potential for a Megadungeon in a Sword & Planet setting is immense, just drawing from a few resources like those mentioned above. A Martian Underworld location like Omean, perhaps a version conquered and left in ruins ages ago, to be populated only by rampant monsters, the degenerate remains of the original city's inhabitants, and the obscene, failed experiments of a mad scientist still plying his trade in the deepest Pits, would make for an immense dungeon that could span many campaigns worth of adventuring! Imagine an area like this:
Area 2.33: The Vault of Seven Chieftains -
The staggering dimensions of this natural cavern are almost too huge to define. Far above, ancient globes of irradium light still dimly illuminate the glittering strata of platinum and rubies that run through the ceiling. Opposite you, set into the wall, are forty-foot-high steel doors inscribed with the heiroglyphics of a bygone age. A crystal bubble filled with gold and silver clock-work gears joins the two doors together where a handle and keyhole would normally be set. A forest of stalacmites and stalactites obscures the far reaches of the cavern to either side of you, but you detect a hint of movement, and something dark scratches at the corners of your mind...
Nine Hrecha lurk in the far corners of the room, waiting for their master, Bors Borsinn, a 5th level Mentalist, to summon them to the feast. At even intervals around the cavern are seven crystal sarcophagi containing the perfectly preserved bodies of long-dead chieftains with faintly purplish skin (a race that died out eons ago). Their jewelled harness and ornate weaponry are worth in excess of 1200gp, but each sarcphogus is trapped with a gas that causes a slow rot (1hp per turn damage for 3d4 turns) to any standing within 10', failing a save. The bubble on the door can only be opened telepathically by reading a series of nineteen formulae inscribed upon the door. The heiroglyhics may be deciphered by a Scientist of 3rd level or higher. The skeleton of a Great Albino Ape lies just to one side of the door, covered in some faintly-glowing green fungus.
Hrecha: HD 5; HP 30, 25x2, 22, 20x3, 12x2; AC 5; Atk 4 claws (1d4) or 1 bite (2d8); Move 6 (fly 18); Save 13; CL/XP 5/240XP; Special: Fly-By Attack (-2 to hit flying Hrecha).
Bors Borsinn, Mentalist Lvl5; AC 5; HP17; Powers 3/2/1; Irradium Pistol, Gas Belt, 22pp.
reposted from here.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Here are some monsters to terrorize your scoundrels and scientists with! Note that these are early versions, which use the Swords & Wizardry-style "Challenge Level / XP" system. Since then, WotRP has slowly grown its own xp system (more on that later!).
Atk Bite (d6+1)
Vranx are translucent, insectoid predators with razor-sharp mandibles. It is rumored that their green, glowing, many-faceted eyes can see into multiple dimensions. They can teleport short distances without error and attack, often from behind an opponent for +2 to-hit, all in one action.
Atk Pseudopod (2d4)
Special Paralysis, immune to electricity and cold
Argoroi are non-sentient, transparent, amoeba-like creatures created by the scientists of a lost city to serve as guardians. Long ago, they turned on and destroyed their masters, and have since multiplied and greatly expanded their hunting territories. Their bodies are highly acidic and they exude a paralytic poison, immobilizing victims who fail their saves for 1d6 turns.
Atk 2 claws (d6) or longspear (d8)
Half-man, half-beast, the gray-hided Mantaurs are wild, tribal predators that brook no trespassers in their territory. They wear broad, leather sheaths containing a dozen or so longspears they can weild in melee or expertly throw as needed. They possess a sort of savage honor, however, and will sometimes accept barter or friendly combat between appointed champions.
Atk Bite (1hp)
Special Paralytic Poison (+4 to save)
These fleshy, purple-skinned swarms of predators run about surprisingly quickly on their seventy-seven legs. Their toothy bite injects a mild paralytic poison (save at +4 or be immobilized for 2-5 rounds) as they like their prey living while they feast. There is also a giant version of this horror!
originally posted here.
Friday, October 29, 2010
In additional to the new martial classes, Warriors of the Red Planet provides GMs with two alternatives to the tradional Cleric and Wizard for their Mars/Venus/Center-of-the-Earth/etc campaigns: the mind-bending Mentalist, and the Scientist: master of inventions and gadgets of wonder and terror. This week you get a sneak peek at the early play-test versions of just a few of the Scientist's wide array of potential accoutrements.
Science, 3rd Level
Range: 40 ft
Duration: 24 hours
When activated by manipulating a small dial behind the left eyepiece, these midnight-blue, wire-frame lenses allow the wearer to see in total darkness for 24 hours.
Science, 6th Level
Range: 240 ft
This outlandish looking contraption looks like a multi-barreled Irradium Pistol covered in tubes and wires. When activated, the 60’ cone of sickly-green energy waves can kill up to 2d8 creatures of 6HD or less.
Science, 3rd Level
Range: up to 240 ft
This rod-mounted, wire-and-crystal sphere emits a bolt of lighting almost ten feet wide, up to 240’. Anyone in its path suffers 1d6 points of damage per level of the Scientist (half with a successful saving throw). The bolt always extends a minimum of 60 ft, even if this means that it ricochets backward from something that blocks its path.
Science, 1st Level
Range: 150 ft
The standard sidearm of the well-equipped scientist, this pistol-like item emits a purplish ray of energy that unerringly strikes its target for 1d6+1 points of damage. At 5th level, the ray causes 2d6+2 points of damage, and at 9th it causes 3d6+3.
Invisibility Generator, Personal
Science, 2th Level
Duration: Until wearer is hit or attacks someone else.
This mountable gadget-box, covered in small brass dials, causes light to bend around a person or a thing, rendering it invisible. If the Referee is using the invisibility rules unchanged, the result is that an invisible creature cannot be attacked unless its approximate location is known, and all attacks are made at -4 to hit. If the invisible creature makes an attack, the effect is ended. Otherwise, it lasts until the gadget is turned off by the Scientist.
Science, 3rd Level
This small box of tubes and glass bulbs comes with a hose-attached syringe. If used to withdraw a sample of a diseased individual’s blood, it generates a colored capsule. Taking the capsule cures the diseased individual of their ailment.
Originally posted here.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
So, what does a character for Warriors of the Red Planet look like?
Pretty much like a character for OD&D, B/X, Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, or "editions" of that sort, and not too far off from close cousins 1E AD&D and OSRIC.
But there are a couple of notable differences.
Firstly, there are no classes here that you already have in any other books. Sure, some character classes are close, but not spot on by any means. One of the design decisions behind WotRP was not just to make it a complete game in an of itself, but also a book you could bring to the table right now, and plop elements you like right into your current game, whether its monsters, weird science, or you'd just rather play WotRP's Scoundrel or Warrior than the "standard" Thief or Fighter.
Second, there are a few "optional" rules here and there, that you may or may not want to adopt. These optional rules remain strongly in the arena of old-school gaming (and in many cases are loosely inspired by house rules from stuff like Arduin and Judges Guild), but are hopefully going to help you better reflect Sword & Planet conceits than the more traditional Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery conceits. The "optional" part means if you're preferring to use WotRP as more of a sourcebook for your current Swords & Wizardry game, for instance, you can ignore the farther ranging optional rules and just use the more traditional ones.
For instance, saving throws. Each character is presented with a "standard" Swords & Wizardry-style single saving throw progression, but there is also an optional WotRP multiple saving throw progression covering the common Sword & Planet hazards of Explosions, Mentalism, Energy, Poison, and Falls.
So here's an example WotRP character from an early playtest: Dorum Dor, a Scientist. The Scientist is a new class that specializes in weird science, and helps fill the sort of niche a Magic User or Cleric does in traditional fantasy games. Instead of spells, though, Scientists get "gadgets", and these get more elaborate and more powerful as the character levels up. Scientists, of course, are a fixture of Sword & Planet fiction, ready to help the hero with a new wonder of science, or secretly developing an army of super mutants to hasten the fall of civilization.
Scientist, 4th Level
AC 4 
Save 12 [Explosions 10; Mentalism 13; Energy 11; Poison 11; Falls 12]
Str 9(-); Int 17(+2); Wis 10 (-)
Dex 13(+1); Con 14(+1); Cha 8 (-1)
Gadgets Stunning Field, Flame Thrower, Interpreter Lens; Personal Invisibility Generator, Tissue Re-generator.
Equipment Simple weapon harness, Arm Bracers, Energy Pack, Short sword, Irradium Pistol, 10 bullets, Poison test kit, Magnifying glass, Sample vials, Herbology of the Throon Waste, Exploding Bullets (5), Anti-disease Syringe (3).