Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Battlechangers, by Puzzled Vikings

Daniel, writing at, just posted a review of Battlechangers. This is great, because Battlechangers is one of those projects I did purely for fun. In 2010, after spending WAY too much time on, I designed a diceless, quick-play game based on Transformers. It's flown under the radar after that, which is why I'm so happy to get a review of it this week.

Here's a repost of the review.

Whoo boy... Every time I write one of these reviews, I try to be as fair as possible. Often, that means I point out flaws, real or perceived, though I try to be as professional as I can.

So what can I say about Battlechangers? Well, we'll find out after the jump.

Created by Chris Field, and distributed by Skortched 'Urf, I was originally a bit wary of the game. Mr. Field is an unknown to me, but I've had the chance to read other Skortched 'Urf Studios products, and admittedly went into this purchase biased.  So, what do you get for seven dollars?

Touted as a "Quick Play, Transforming Robot RPG", Battlechangers is an 89 page diceless game that reads like the labor of a true fan. All the elements are there for a Gen 1 romp, with names changed to prevent lawsuits.

How is the game? Before I dive into the mechanics, let's talk layout.  As I said, there's obviously a lot of love and excitement in the product. Unfortunately, that love did not extend to such concepts as formatting. Organization is, to be blunt, a mess.  While presented in a two-column style that's easy on the eyes and has a mostly acceptable gutter, there's no real concrete break in the writing. Each section is separated by a header, and the general progression of the book flows in a logical order.  However, lack of variation in header size, and the fact that the text does flow, made it difficult to find certain things while generating a character.  The lack of an index (acceptable in a small-press game) or a Table of Contents (a very big no-no, no matter how small your product is) only exacerbated the situation.

Despite this, the system was for the most part easily understandable. Some placement of text proved frustrating, but this is a game I can enjoy. Definitely one I'll be running with my local group when given the chance.

Mechanically, Battlechangers is a simple 'compare the numbers' game. Each Battlechanger has nine specifications (better known as stats or attributes in other games): Strength, Speed, Armor, Lifeforce, Endurance, Fuelon, Firepower, Intelligence and Charisma. Much like the old "Power Cards" that once came on Transformers packaging, these specifications are rated 1-10, with a score of 4-5 being average. When a specialty's rating is compared to a skill (more on skills in a moment) the end result is the number used for task resolution.

A point buy system, players will choose a 'caste' for their robot which gives a pool of ability points (I'm assuming the writer meant 'specification points') to modify their specifications. Specifications are further modified by the robot's Faction,  Size, and Role. These are exactly what they sound like, and I won't touch on them save to say that the list of roles covers anything you can think of, and includes guidelines to create more roles should the GM desire (I should make a quite note here.  The game breaks immersion here in a manner similar to the Fight! RPG. Where, in Fight! you design combos around button sequences, in Battlechangers you approach building your Battlechanger as if you were creating a toy in a fictional toy line. Points are listed in US Dollars, and constant references are made to 'molds', 're-sculpts', running campaigns as 'seasons' etc. While in its own way amusing, this hurts a good deal of the immersion of the implied setting, though it does strike a few nostalgic chords.). More powerful characters will cost more points, usually outside the starting range (have to save up your allowance to get the neater toys, after all!).

On to Skills! Skills are rated in one of three levels: Novice (which gives a +1 bonus), Veteran (+2), and Master (+3). Players acquire Skills through their Roles, or through purchasing ranks (why this is in the gear section, and not the skill section, I'll never know).  If a benchmark (the target number for task resolution), is too high, the player has three courses of action.  Trying again (lowers the benchmark by one each time), Effort (Spending Fuelon to raise the skill total), or Database use.  Databases are one area where unkind players might abuse a system's goodwill. Mechanically, Databases act like effort, but don't cost Fuelon. With no ceiling set in place, there's really nothing stopping someone from pushing their total well past the most difficult benchmark. This seems to be the intent, as Databases are limited to the number of times per scene (encounter) they can be used.

The rest of the book is rounded out with hazards and examples of characters from the game's universe. Some of the characters caught my eye, others seemed bland, but that's really just personal taste.

So, now that we've reached the end of the review... Is Battlechangers worth it? Poor layout and lack of references (or a character sheet), hurt the game badly. However, Field's decision to release Battlechangers as an OGL product means that folks can take it and turn the game into whatever they want. Obviously a labor of love, there are several diamonds in the rough to be found, and for short campaigns, or even one-shots, I've yet to find a better choice. So... for fans of Transformers, I'd say give it a go. Click here to purchase your copy, happy gaming!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"Fan Art" By Amanda Webb

Tonight I got some fucking hillarious art from Amanda Webb. One of the projects I had her illustrate is an shot of the Lifer idol singer, Strangelet. Strangelet is a major character in the upcoming Solomon Station city book, and quickly turned into one of 'Manda's favorite characters, along with Hiemdall, from Frontlines of Choice.

So here, in a quick sketch, is the story of the ultimate star-crossed lovers of the Otherverse mythos.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Upcoming Releases: Solomon Station, Galaxy Command and Endara

Right now, I'm working on three very different projects.

First, I've completed a draft of Guide to Near Earth Space: Solomon Station. This mid-length sourcebook is a complete city book focusing on adventuring in the blue collar Lifer-run colony orbiting Jupiter.

Amanda and John Picot have already turned in some art for this book. Expect Solomon Station in another month or two.

Next, I'm working on two big, pretty race books. I mentioned the Races of the Command Fleet a few posts ago. That is about 60-70% complete, and I'll start picking up art for it here and there.

Next I'm working on a mid-length sourcebook entitled "The Anthros of Endara" this book uses the Fursona character builder to create several new races for my Endara Setting. All these races are animal/human hybrids, similar to Buzz Off, Kobra Khan, Beast Man and many other characters from the original He-Man toon. This book will serve as a nice teaser to the setting, and solves a writing dilemma I'd been facing. I wanted to include a ton of anthro races in Endara, but I didn't want to minimize the work I'd done on Fursona. By releasing Anthros of Endara, you get full racial write ups, but using Fursona you can swap racial traits and modify the basic races presented as you see fit.

The Masters of Endara core book will, by the way, include a few more, non-Anthro races.

Talk to you soon,

Monday, August 13, 2012

From Abortioneers.Blogspot.Com: Ripping Paul Ryan a New Asshole

This was originally posted on Abortioneers, a blog I read pretty regularly, and I thought I should repost it here. 

 Sunday, August 12, 2012

Meet Paul Ryan, Or, Sound the Alarm Bell

If you haven’t heard yet, Mitt Romney has selected his running mate: Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan. He is a great choice - if you’re wealthy, white, and male. Otherwise, fuggettahhbouttit.
 Let’s review some key facts about Paul Ryan as they relate to his views on women.
  • He co-sponsored a bill, the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which defined a fertilized egg has a human being. If this horrible piece of legislation passed, it would criminalize most forms of birth control, including the pill and in vitro fertilization. 
  • He supports banning all abortions for everyone. No exceptions for any woman or situation. Doesn't matter if the mother will die, if the mother is 13 and was raped by her father, if the fetus has terrible anomalies would only live a few painful minutes. He doesn't care.
  • He voted for the Protect Life Act, which would allow hospitals to deny abortion care to women who would die otherwise. 
  • He voted to ban federal health coverage from including abortion. 
  • He supported the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act, which would allow employers to question women about what birth control they use and why, and to deny them coverage for birth control if they feel like.
  • He voted to provide funding to health care providers who do NOT provide information about abortion.
  • He has expressed support for states to prosecute women who have abortions as well as the physicians who provide the abortions. 
  • He voted against family planning information in US aid abroad. 
  • Like Romney, he wants to defund Planned Parenthood, which as we all know, is an important place for women and men to seek STD testing/treatment, breast, cervical, and testicular cancer screenings, birth control, etc.
  • He voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. So basically he doesn’t believe women deserve equal pay for equal work. 
  • He authored a budget that would dismantle many government assistance programs, like food stamps, which women and children disproportionately rely on.
But really, I should just let him speak for himself:
“I’m as pro-life as a person gets . . . You’re not going to have a truce. Judges are going to come up. Issues come up, they’re unavoidable, and I’m never going to not vote pro-life.”
!!! Okay then. Since there's no "trucing" on women's rights issues, the only thing that we can hope for is that Ryan's extreme views will turn off moderate Republicans, independents, and all women everywhere. (Besides the fact he is completely unsupportive of gays, minorities, students, seniors, the environment, etc.)

Paul Ryan: I do not like him.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Races of Galaxy Command

One of the projects I'll be releasing this fall is an expanded race book for Galaxy Command. I don't have many changes to make to the core GC races (because most of them are VERY mechanically sound), so consider this a 'rolling-revamp' focusing on expanding the options available to each GC race.

Expect more detail on major planets in the setting, expanded plot hooks, and rules mods like those in Zero Issue and the Otherverse America GMG that play up the various tropes of 70s sci-fi. I'm deleting the Mechamorphs (or at least not including them in the race book, and letting them fizzle out, though I'm not making any changes to the core campaign book). I've pulled in the Trius from Free20: Threeway and made them a core GC race, and I've added several new races already, including a race of crystaline intellectuals, and five variant Human tribes, from the Pacificans (inspired by Barbarella) to the Survivor Fleet (tough, rugged refugees inspired by Battlestar Galactica).....

Here's a preview of the WARSTAR template- which can be added to any character to make a 'bad guy' version of the race or concept. Expect more details about WARSTAR (the major bad guy faction in the setting, and support for WARSTAR based player characters). 


The WARSTAR Cultural Template

            The worst monsters in the known galaxy can be found behind the Iron Curtain of Space, serving as officers in WARSTAR’s endless legions. But beyond star-monsters and space pirates, almost every race common in Command Space can be found, in oppressed or debased form, within WARSTAR’s territory. There are Human (and Charioteer and even the occasional treasonous Survivor) officers commanding WARSTAR armada, Tal-Anon and Urlok tribes enslaved by WARSTAR, cruel, larcenous Gravity Cats serving the Tyrant as mercenaries, Star Droids programmed for sadism, and even more….

            A character with the WARSTAR template is a hero born behind the Iron Curtain of space. Only infamous rogues, mighty warriors and savage hunters are ever given the WARSTAR Template, which is a mark of pride, terror and honor among the dark empire. Ordinary citizens of the WARSTAR regime toil quietly, their status as star-slaves marked by far simpler designs than the body-wide crimson markings of a true WARSTAR hero. 

            Heroes and villains with the WARSTAR Template enter a strange conversion coffin, where in an agonizing process, every inch of their body is tattooed a deep blood red. Feathers, fur and hair are tinted a similar shade, or else dyed a dark grey or threatening black. Black sigils cover the WARSTAR heroes’ hands and torso, and a star-like design worn over the creature’s right eye (if the creature has eyes as humans recognize them) indicates the alien’s rank within WARSTAR’s legions. This star is a collection of jagged, threatening points with an empty center, laid over the eye itself.

Color and Number of Points of a WARSTAR ‘eye-star’ tattoo
Rank within WARSTAR
Black, four pointed (X-shaped) star
Low ranking grunts, disposable infantry.
1st level heroes, 1st-3rd level ordinary warriors
Black, five pointed star
Trusted non-comms and junior officers. 2nd-4th level heroes.
Black, six pointed star
Senior non-comms and low ranking officers. 5th-10th level heroes.
Black, seven pointed star
Veteran operatives, mid level officers, infamous or daring heroes. 10+ level heroes.
Golden, seven pointed star
Command level officers, nobility, generals. 15+ level heroes.

            Ordinary spacers born in WARSTAR territories often have similar, but much less extensive bio-tattoos marking them as the Tyrant’s property. Among WARSTAR civilians, these marks usually take one of the following forms:
  • A thick, blood red band tattooed around the throat.
  • Black or crimson circles around the eyes like a raccoon’s mask.
  • Sharp, geometric designs in black or red around the right eye.
  • A black or crimson star (with varying configurations and numbers of points) on the palm of one or both hands.
  • A three digit identification code, ending with an alien sigil, on the upper arm, breast or forehead.

            Acquiring the Template
This cultural template is added during character creation.

Ability Score Modifiers
+2 STR, +2 DEX, -2 INT.
WARSTAR raises its military heroes to be physically superior, but places little emphasis on creativity, innovation or cleverness.

            Combat Lessons (EX)
            WARSTAR Heroes are proficient with Simple and Martial Weapons and with Personal Firearms, as well as with Light and Medium Armor.

            Crimson Skin (EX)
            WARSTAR bio-tattoos provide the hero with a +1 natural armor bonus to Defense and Fire Resistance 10.

            No Lesser Fear (EX)
            WARSTAR heroes are cruelly, sadistically trained by WARSTAR taskmasters throughout their brutal childhood and early teen years. WARSTAR heroes are immune to fear effects. This trait is suppressed against fear effects caused by any creature with a WARSTAR allegiance which more Hit Dice then the WARSTAR character. Thus, a WARSTAR hero would be immune to the fear caused by some strange alien predator, but not to the effects of his old drill sergeant, a fearsome 12th level villain sworn to WARSTAR’s service.

            Savage Tactics (EX)
            WARSTAR teaches its soldiers a particularly reckless breed of courage- these overly bold warriors take many unnecessary wounds in battle just to prove their toughness. Anytime the WARSTAR hero suffers a wound, he suffers one additional point of damage per damage dice the attack would ordinarily inflict.
            WARSTAR heroes can never use the Total Defense action.

            Mistrusted (EX)
            WARSTAR’s agents- even supposedly reformed defectors- are justifiably feared in Command Space. The WARSTAR hero suffers a -2 penalty on all CHA-based skill checks, except for Intimidate made against any character with an allegiance to Galaxy Command.