Monday, May 31, 2010

Star Blades and Dune

Star Blades is an RPG compatible with original d&d. It evokes the vast universe of the Dune series, and I've been enjoying reading through it. While it does not attempt to clone Dune, it is better described as "inspired by" Dune, and you can see hints of other science fiction and science fantasy in it, even a little bit of Star Wars and maybe some Traveller.

I'm not sure I'd play it as is, but I think it is a good starting point if you wanted to play a Dune style campaign with OD&D rules.

Star Blades assumes you are playing a human (though an addendum adds other races) with the choice of 5 different classes: Empath, Face Dancer, Mentat, Telepath and Star Warrior.

Empath is a healer and defensive class. Roughly analogous to a cleric in traditional D&D.
Face Dancer is a thief/assassin. If you've read Dune Messiah you will recognize the inspiration from the character Scytale.
Mentat: is a human computer
Telepath: is a sort of psionicist
Star Warrior (Fighter): this is basically a catch all for a Sardauker or Fremen warrior type character

The odd character class choices don't quite fit, where is the Bene Gesserit class? and Fremen warriors should be different from Sardauker or Harkonnen troops.

Some characters have access to Powers. These are described much like spells in classic D&D, and even many of them are identical to spell descriptions.

There is an enjoyable section near the back called "In the Halls of Power" which attempts to simulate the political intrigue for imperial control like in the books. I would like to have seen the great houses described in game terms.

Art
Unfortunately most of the images are clipped from a hodge podge of sources such as screenshots from Star Trek or the Dune movie, giving the product an inconsistent feel. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to picture in my mind's eye while playing.

One thing I like about the rules book is that it is similar to Swords & Wizardry in its brevity and conciseness.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dune would make for some great old school

One of my prized possessions is the Dune roleplaying game published by Last Unicorn Games. More specifically it was published by Wizards of the Coast after they bought LUG. It was a limited print run of something like 1000? copies. I got it at my first Gen Con where I snagged 2 copies (1 for a buddy and the other for myself). I had high hopes of a series of Dune rpg products, but apparently the relationship soured between the Dune licensors and Wizards.

I have recently reread the original and am working my way through the sequel Dune Messiah. I recall not caring for Dune Messiah when I first read it as a teenager. My opinion isn't moved much, but I do like it ever so slightly better than I did. It certainly requires a more mature understanding of politics and life in general to appreciate. Still, it is an ephemeral shadow of the remarkable original. Recollection tells me that Children of Dune is better than Messiah, which about half way through gets really good, nearly to the level of the original. And I do remember loving God Emperor, Heretics, and most of all Chapterhouse Dune. So I'm looking forward to seeing how they hold up for me now over 20 years later.

I didn't find the various spin offs done by Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert to be quite as compelling.

My first exposure to Dune was the 80's David Lynch film, which I liked so much that I was compelled to get the books. I suppose if I had read the books first I'd hate the film, however now I think of the movie as the "Visual Guide" to the book (with very little else to do with it).

It occurs to me how very old school Dune could be as an RPG. It has classes, races, and levels, and a spirit to it that I think would perfectly fit in a modified Swords & Wizardry game. As great as Dune is I wish it had been exploited more as an IP. I could happily fill my house with Dune products as much as I love that universe.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Advanced Edition Companion

We've begun using Goblinoid Games expansion to Labyrinth Lord: the Advanced Edition Companion. So far so good, I'll have a longer report once we get a feel for it. I like the tone of the writing and the content, but my first observation is I'm not a fan of the various inconsistent modifiers for different stats. This is one thing I think AD&D got wrong and wasn't fixed until 3rd edition. So we are ignoring that, and using the standard modifiers as presented in Moldvay basic D&D. I don't know what ramifications it will have on "play balance", but we'll compensate as issues come up. Oh, and I don't care for the gothic "flavor font" being used on headers and in too many other places. But that is just a quibble, the rest of the graphic design and art are perfectly retro feeling.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My antiquated RPG is now retro

As early as jr. high school I was trying to design my own RPG. One of the brilliant things about D&D was the way it inspired many to become game designers in an attempt to tinker, "fix" or improve on the original. Not long ago I uncovered a box in our garage that stored those booklets I had made way back then. It brought back a flood of memories, I could see in them the earliest seeds that would one day become Dungeoneer, my first published game.

While attending college I worked at a print & copy shop where I had access to desktop publishing equipment, and in my spare time I retyped and laid out my first RPG into a larger format. One of the challenges to finishing this RPG is that I've always been as interested in the art as in the words. Since I have a little skill as an illustrator I tended to spend as much time, or more, making illustrations as in playtesting and writing. So the going was always slow, and I never managed to quite complete the RPG. To this day I'm still working on it!

I have long since lost the data for that edition of the RPG, and I only had one printed test copy. I recently took the copy apart and scanned it in so I could have a digital version for safekeeping. Here is a page from the monster section:

In the late 90's this design was becoming very dated, and I lost interest in finishing the RPG. Instead becoming excited about making a card game version. But here we are 14 years later, and contrary to being antiquated, the design is actually quite retro!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Passing of a Legend

Frank Frazetta created some of the most powerful images ever put on canvas. He was an inspiration for myself and so many artists.

 He joins his lovely wife Ellie, but he'll be greatly missed here.