Wars of the Worlds

I recently received by copy of WWII: Operation WhiteBox by Peter C. Spahn. I read most of it last night before bed. Short review: It’s nearly perfect. Do you like the OSR and/or do you like historical roleplaying games? Then go purchase WWII: Operation WhiteBox as soon as possible if not sooner.

Best of all from my perspective is that WWII: Operation WhiteBox is fully compatible with the Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox fantasy RPG. Thus…

Worlds Wars, Too

Portals exist between two worlds torn by war. The mad sorcerer Amon-Gog commands armies of orcs, gargoyles, and giants. The mad ruler Adolf Hitler commands armies of soldiers, planes, and tanks. Both seek to purify their worlds with blood and fire in lunatic quests for imagined utopias. Against these rapacious hordes stand stalwart allies: the United States, the Lorian Confederation, France, Ironspyre, the United Kingdom, the Four Shires, the U.S.S.R., and the Buyan Steppes.

The Heroes

Make up a character using either Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox or WWII: Operation WhiteBox. Your character has a new ability, Link, which represents his connection to his native world. Link starts with a d6 rating.

You Got Your Fantasy in My History!

Magic does not work in the world of WWII: Operation WhiteBox except for in the proximity of a portal or significant relic/artifact. Similarly, no modern technology works in the world of Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox except in the proximity of a portal or significant relic/artifact. That magic wand in France? It’s just a stick. Those grenades in the Lorian Confederation? You can throw them, but they don’t explode.

A few exceptional individuals from both worlds can violate these restrictions, at least for a time. This is why your character has Link. When your character does something that violates the reality of the world he’s in, such as a Fighter using a magic sword in Poland, he must roll Link. When your character uses something that violates his own reality, such as a Combat Engineer using a magic sword in Ironspyre, he must roll Link. On a 1-2, his Link decreases by one die type. His action works regardless.

If your character’s Link decreases to less than a d4, your character has lost his Link. He’s become severed from his reality. He can no longer use forbidden items or abilities to his native world. (Yes, I’ve shamelessly taken the idea of Usage Dice from The Black Hack.)

Order of Dice: d4 < d6 < d8 < d10 < d12 < d16 < d20

Repairing and Improving the Link

When your character gets a chance to rest and recover, his Link repairs by one step (up to its normal die type). When your character reaches 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 10th levels, his maximum Link increases by one step.

December 1st, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

Initiative in The Four Color Hack

Action in The Four Color Hack doesn’t happen in rounds. Oh, no. It happens in Panels. Each Panel is a word picture that describes what happens right before the consequences of a hero’s decisions. What follows is an excerpt from the rough-draft rules about initiative in The Four Color Hack.

Whose Panel Is It?

When it’s necessary to determine what order heroes, villains, and whomever else act in, determine initiative using a normal deck of 54 playing cards (that’s 13 cards per suit plus two jokers). At the start of a scene, deal one card to each player. Deal one card for each villain or mob, plus a number of additional cards equal to half the heroes in the scene (drop fractions). Order of actions is determined by cards. Ace is the highest, two is the lowest. Ties are broken by suit, which are in descending order hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades.

What If I Want a Different Order?

If you want your hero to go earlier or later then what your card indicates, you might be able to convince another Writer or the Editor to trade cards with you. If not, resign yourself to the card you received and make the most your hero’s action when its your Panel.

Why More Cards for the Editor?

The Editors is responsible for more of the story than any individual Writer. For example, each Writer has to make decisions about one hero, but the Editor has to make decisions about the villains, mobs, important supporting characters, and often the effects of Elements (described below under The Splash Page). Each important non-hero character or mob in a scene gets a card just as if that character or mob were played by a Writer. The additional cards represent the narrative advantage of the villain or crisis.

Check out the fight depicted at this link. The villain, front and center, throws down with two heavy hitters while four other heroes fight lesser villains or mobs in the background. If this were happening during game play, each hero would get a card. Each villain and mob would get a card. Those cards represent the specific actions of the heroes, villains, and mobs, played out in the order determined by the cards’ values. The Editor gets three other cards since there are six heroes in the scene. He uses these extra cards for additonal actions from the villains or mobs, or for introducing complications related to Elements.

About Those Jokers

If a joker is dealt to any player other than the Editor, return it to the deck and give that player a replacement card. Only the Editor gets to use jokers, and he can assign a joker to any villain, mob, et cetera, active in the current scene. What’s more, the joker is a wild card, meaning the Editor can interrupt the sequence of Panels any time he wants the character with the joker to act. The joker represents some unexpected development, sudden revelation, or other event detrimental to the heroes. Worst of all, no hero earns a Bonus Hero Die for the Editorial Control.

November 30th, 2016  in Product Development No Comments »

Diesel’s Running Strong

I’ve talked a little bit about The Four Color Hack on Facebook and G+, but not here. The Four Color Hack is a superhero game that rips the heart out of The Black Hack and transplants it into a Frankenstein’s monster game system. Below is a sample hero made up with the version 1 hero creation rules.


Back & Fore: Alfredo Ortiz grew up in a large family in south Texas. His father Carlos worked as a high school coach, and his mother Maria was a nurse in a hospice ward. Alfredo was an unremarkable student except for his industrial arts classes where he showed a combination of interest and talent that resulted in high grades and summer job offers with local repair shops. Life was good, and Alfredo seemed to be on his way toward a bright future after high school graduation. During summer vacation in between his junior and senior years, Alfredo worked full-time at Anthony’s Garage. Anthony Enright was a good boss. He didn’t know as much about automobile repair as one would think he should, but he had a good head for business and a list of steady customers from all over the county. Anthony was quiet, hard-working, and took care of his employees. What only a handful of people in the state knew was that Anthony’s real name was Antonio Gabrielli, that he’d been an accountant for the Salvaggi crime family, and that he was currently in the Witness Security Program.

The hitmen showed up early in the morning. Alfredo was the only employee present when the shooting started. He’d been given the responsibility of opening the shop and prioritizing jobs. Anthony was dead by the time Alfredo made it to the front office. The hitmen shot Alfredo three times and left him for dead. Before they left, they poured gasoline on the floor and set the shop ablaze. Alfredo managed to drag himself through the fire into the back lot. Burned and bleeding, Alfredo was nearly dead by the time the fire trucks arrived. He was rushed to the hospital, and his family gathered, expecting the worst.

The worst never arrived. Instead, Alfredo made a startling recovery. His burns healed, and the new skin that grew was tough, flexible, and metallic. He packed on the pounds with muscle growth. Somehow, the trauma of that morning unlocked something hidden in the recesses of Alfredo’s genetic code. Just a week after he had been admitted to the hospital, Alfredo left very much changed.

Motivation: Alfredo’s not sure he wants to be a superhero, but his physical appearance and the publicity behind his transformation make it hard to imagine living a normal life. Also, Alfredo liked and respected Anthony, and it haunts Alfredo that he couldn’t save him. What’s more, Alfredo worries that the Salvaggi crime family might return to take out the only witness to Anthony’s murder. Leaving home for the big city to fight crime as Diesel just seems like the right thing to do for more than one reason.

Nota Bene: For the origin story, motivation, and picture, Wes received 3d12 Hero Dice.

Ability Scores: STR 16, DEX 15, CON 18, INT 11, WIS 9, CHA 13. Health: 55. Spirit: 39.

Skills: Mechanic.

Nota Bene: Diesel’s starting ability scores were STR 13, DEX 13, CON 13, INT 11, WIS 9, CHA 11. Wes exchanged 1d12 for 2d10. He rolled those 2d10 and scored 14 points to improve ability scores and purchase skills. He put 3 points in STR, 2 points in DEX, 5 points in CON, and 2 points in CHA. He purchased one skill for the other 2 points.

Powers & Abilities: Made of Steel (Metal Skin d10, Running d8, Super-Strength d12+d8).

Nota Bene: Wes had 2d12 Hero Dice remaining. Wes decides all of Diesel’s powers derive from being Made of Steel. Within this container are three powers. He exchanges another d12 for 2d10. He exchanged 1d10 for 2d8. This gives Wes a d12, a d10, and 2d8 Hero Dice. He really wants to pump up Super-Strength, so Wes assigns d12+d8 to that power. He assigns the d10 to Metal Skin. This leaves him with a d8, which Wes gives to a third power simply called Running. For the curious, Diesel can lift nearly 30 tons.

Weakness: Doubtful (roll with Disadvantage against effects that play on uncertainty and inexperience).

Idioms: New to the City, Uncertain Hero.

November 29th, 2016  in Product Development No Comments »

The Freakshow Four Complete

Yesterday, I introduced Benjamina Stern, a member of the Freakshow Four, a super-powered quartet of heroes who travel the highways and byways of the U.S. and Canada in the early 20th century, fighting crime and entertaining people with their remarkable abilities. All four members of the FF gained their powers after being bombarded by cosmic radiation from the Aurora Borealis while camped just outside Anchorage, Alaska. All members of the FF were made using Atomic Sock Monkey’s Trust & Justice. Here’s the rest of the team.

Elizabeth Hermann

Background: Elizabeth Hermann grew up in a close-knit German-American family where she learned to enjoy six meals a day plus substantial snacks during those times between meals. Young Elizabeth developed a prodigious appetite by the time she was six. She preferred playing with candy rather than toys. Her parents soothed Elizabeth’s hurt feelings over teasing by her peers with even more home-cooked food. By the time Elizabeth dropped out of school — in part to escape the teasing of her classmates but also to help contribute financially to her family — she weighed nearly 300 pounds. By her early 20s, she weighed nearly 400 pounds. To help her family, Elizabeth held a variety of jobs. She worked in factories, sold cosmetics, and worked as a manicurist. It was while working in the latter job that Elizabeth met Jacob Moore (see below), who was in town for a show. It was love at first sight. Elizabeth and Jacob were married after just a few weeks, and Elizabeth joined the circus.

Motivation: Serve those she loves and feels responsible for.

Qualities: Expert [+4] Beautiful Contralto, Expert [+4] Firm Resolve, Good [+2] Jill-of-All-Trades, Poor [-2] Grace and Speed

Powers: Good [+2] Siren’s Song, Good [+2] Sonic Beam, Good [+2] Sonic Force Field

Stunts: Good [+2] Auditory Illusions (Sonic Beam Spin-Off, 2 Hero Points); Poor [-2] Flight (Sonic Force Field Spin-Off, 0 Hero Points)

Limitations: Siren’s Song is a form of Mind Control, but it requires that Elizabeth sing and that her targets both hear and understand her. Her Sonic Beam and Sonic Force Field also require that she be able to vocalize.

Hero Point Pool: 5/10

Jacob Moore

Background: Although normal for most of his childhood, Jacob Moore began irreversibly losing weight at age 12 after feeling ill after swimming. The gradual weight loss continued throughout his life despite having a healthy appetite. Always a bright young man, Jacob studied mechanical engineering until his poor health forced him to withdraw from university before completing his studies. After this, he bounced around from job to job, but his illness kept him from holding any job too long. Jacob found steady employment with the circus, where he billed himself as the Original Living Skeleton. Jacob’s poor health required him to constantly take in nutrients. His health was in such a poor state that he often carried milk in a flask around his neck, from which he would sip this from time to time to keep himself conscious. Since the Aurora Borealis event, Jacob’s illness has vanished.

Motivation: To use his wits to solve people’s problems.

Qualities: Expert [+4] Inquisitive Mind, Good [+2] Mechanical Engineering, Good [+2] Love for Elizabeth Hermann, Good [+2] Stage Actor, Poor [-2] Absent-Mindedness

Powers: Expert [+4] Omni-Skeleton, Average [+0] Elastic Skin, Average [+0] Regeneration

Stunts: Jacob’s Omni-Skeleton is a Meta-Power based on his ability to reconfigure, grow, shrink, and otherwise alter his skeletal structure.

Limitations: Treat the +4 of Omni-Skeleton has a pool of points that can be assigned to powers based on skeletal changes. No power can be ranked higher than Good [+2] or lower than Average [+0]. An Average power costs 1 point. It takes Jacob an action or reaction to alter his skeleton.

Hero Point Pool: 5/10

Jeanne Charles

Background: Jeanne Charles was orphaned at the age of 10, and she found herself in the benevolently neglectful care of a home for girls. By the age of 15, she had runaway for the last time, making her way to the coast. Pretty and athletic, Jeanne found work as a dancer in a variety of less-than-reputable establishments, environments that encouraged her to think fast and live faster. She joined the circus first as an apprentice to the lion tamer, but she quickly showed a real talent for working with all manner of animals. Combined with her impressive skill as a dancer, Jeanne became one of the circus’s main attractions.

Motivation: Action and adventure for the common good? Hell yeah!

Qualities: Master [+6] Exotic Dancer, Good [+2] Animal Trainer, Good [+2] Daredevil, Poor [-2] Act Like a Lady

Powers: Expert [+4] Like an Animal, Average [+0] Animal Telepathy, Average [+0] Menagerie of Critters

Stunts: Good [+2] Acrobatics (Exotic Dancer Spin-Off, 0 hero points)

Limitations: Like an Animal is a Meta-Power. Treat the +4 bonus as a pool of points that can be assigned to various animal abilities. An Average power costs 1 point. Jeanne must touch the animal from which she gets the powers. She keeps an animal’s powers for a duration determined by the highest ranked power or until she decides to acquire a new set of abilities.

Miscellany: Menagerie of Critters functions as the Minions power.

Hero Point Pool: 5/10

November 23rd, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

Terrors, Truth, and Justice

Terrors of the Toxic Waste is now live for purchase at this link. If you want Terrors at a discount price of $1, click here instead. Either way, 21 new mutants stand ready for inclusion in your Mutant Future game.

Have you ever played Atomic Sock Monkey‘s Trust & Justice? If you enjoy superhero games, T&J probably has just about everything you’re looking for. It goes out of its way to stay faithful to the genre. Character creation is flexible and flows from the background made by the player. Game play is quick and has a hefty narrative focus. Before you plunk down money for the PDF, check out these freebies. Also, download the free PDQ Sharp!. The PDQ Core Rules form the basis of T&J. Indeed, the first time I played superheroes via an Atomic Sock Monkey product, it was based on the PDQ Core Rules, and a good time was had by all.

Here’s Benjamina Stern, a hero made using T&J:

Background & Origin: Before her transformation into the Strongest Woman in the World, Benjamina Stern was one of fourteen children born to circus performers Philippe and Johanna Stern. In her early years, Benjamina performed with her family. Benjamina’s father would offer one hundred dollars to any man in the audience who could defeat her in wrestling; no one ever succeeded in winning the prize. Benjamina once defeated the famous strongman Eugene Sandow in a weightlifting contest in New York City. Benjamina lifted a weight of 300 pounds over her head, which Sandow only managed to lift to his chest. Other feats of strength for which Benjamina was famous included lifting her husband (who weighed 165 pounds) overhead with one hand, bending steel bars, and resisting the pull of four horses. Now that she can lift more than a score tons, Benjamina serves as the Freakshow Four’s muscle and voice of reason. Like the other FF members, Benjamina gained her remarkable powers after being bombarded by cosmic radiation from the Aurora Borealis while camped just outside Anchorage, Alaska.

Motivation: Protect the weak from those who abuse their strength.

Qualities: Expert [+4] Bold and Brassy, Expert [+4] Professional Strong Woman, Good [+2] Voice of Reason, Poor [-2] Book Learning

Powers: Expert [+4] Super-Strength, Good [+2] Invulnerability

Stunts: Master [+6] “Time for a Whuppin’!” (Super-Strength Spin-Off, 4 Hero Points); Good [+2] Prodigious Leap (Super-Strength Spin-Off, 1 Hero Point)

Hero Point Pool: 5/10

November 22nd, 2016  in Spes Magna News No Comments »