All posts by Clyde Lee Graham

This week’s Character…

I’d done a Twitter survey, and the three people that responded voted for Mutants & Masterminds for this installment of Character A Week. This would be the first point based character gen I’ve done here and it’s taken me a bit longer than anticipated. I hope to have the walkthrough posted tomorrow, but here’s the stat block for the moment,

Unnamed Hero – PL 10

STR 3, STA 3, AGL 5, DEX 5, FGT 12, INT 1, AWE 6, PRE 1
Powers: Analyze Style 1 (1st degree: Vulnerable, 2nd degree: Defenseless, Resisted by: Will, DC 11; Increased Range 2: perception, Insidious, Subtle: subtle; Limited: vs. your attacks, Limited Degree), Chi Mastery 1, Nerve Strike 6 (1st degree: Dazed, 2nd degree: Stunned, 3rd degree: Paralyzed, Resisted by: Fortitude, DC 16), Restorative Chi 6, Stone Fist 5 (DC 23; Penetrating 8; Inaccurate: -2), Weightless Step 3 (Leap 60 feet at 16 miles/hour), Movement 1 (Alternate; Trackless: vision 1). Advantages: Accurate Attack, All-out Attack, Benefit, Wealth (well-off), Daze (Intimidation), Defensive Attack, Diehard, Evasion, Fast Grab, Fearless, Fighting Style: Jujutsu, Grabbing Finesse, Great Endurance, Holding Back, Improved Disarm, Improved Grab, Improved Hold, Improved Trip, Languages 1 (English, Japanese), Move-by Action, Prone Fighting. Skills: Acrobatics 4 (+9), Athletics 6 (+9), Close Combat: Unarmed 3 (+15), Expertise: Philosophy 6 (+7), Insight 6 (+12), Intimidation 6 (+7), Perception 6 (+12), Treatment 4 (+5). Offense: Init +5, Analyze Style: Affliction 1 (DC Will 11), Grab +12 (DC Spec 15), Nerve Strike: Affliction 6 +12 (DC Fort 16), Stone Fist: Strength-based Damage 5 +10 (DC 23), Throw +5 (DC 18), Unarmed +15 (DC 18). Defense: Dodge 11, Parry 12, Fort 9, Tou 3, Will 11. Totals: Abilities 72 + Powers 21 + Advantages 19 + Skills 21 (41 ranks) + Defenses 17 = 150

Complications: Honor, Motivation: Doing Good

Character A Week: High Fantasy

High Fantasy Rulebook

I’m still working on older games, but this one is fairly obscure. High Fantasy, from Reston Publishing (Prentice-Hall), was published in 1978. I likely would have never heard of, let alone, owned it if it were not for the fact that it was published through the book trade and found its way into regular bookstores.

I have two books, High Fantasy and Adventures in High Fantasy. Several standalone adventures, and later, some fiction were also published but I have not seen any of those in person. One of those standalone adventures, Fortress Ellendar, is also included in Adventures in High Fantasy. Alas, as far as I can determine, there is not a legal source for this game in PDF format, and the books are long out of print. That said, you can generally score a copy on eBay or through an Amazon affiliate.

The main rulebook is a digest sized 200 page softcover that includes character gen, magic, combat, a bestiary, a solo adventure, and a fair number of charts. The art is average to good for its era.

All in all, the book is utilitarian, which I honestly prefer. I love sharp design, but game manuals have more in common with text books than anything else. Organization and discoverability should be a primary design goal. Therein ends my personal preference rant… 🙂

I confess that I never got anyone else to play this one with me, but I’m well acquainted with the solo adventure that was included in the main rulebook. The default setting seemed to be a mix of standard swords & sorcery tropes mixed with pre-Columbian and Hindi influences. It’s not Tekumel, but it’s not Lord of the Rings either.

In the process of trying to find some more info about this one, I stumbled upon the author’s website. The author goes into some detail on why the game all but disappeared. I’m not personally convinced that it would have been more successful, but he did have a strong grasp on how to structure a solo adventure… and that’s a niche I wish had not all but died. In any case, there is published fiction set in his world. Check it out if you’re interested.

So anyhow, character creation…

Character creation is an eleven step process, but since not all classes have magical abilities, for instance, you may end up skipping some of these steps. I decide to make an Alchemist (they get primitive gunpowder firearms), so I will be skipping steps 3 & 4.

  1. Basic Offense & Defense are set stats that will increase over time as you level. I record 100 and 30.
  2. Your Innate Ability is a simple percentile roll + 1. As you level, that plus will increase. I roll a 41, so my Innate Ability is 42.
  3. Skip
  4. Skip
  5. Roll d100 for Strength & Coordination. These stats may modify your offense and defense. I get a 69 for Strength, and a 21 for Coordination. No positive or negative modifiers will be applied after consulting the table.
  6. Roll d100 for Quickness and then compare roll to table to determine Innate Quickness. I rolled a 66, so my Innate Quickness is 16, which is actually decent.
  7. Roll d100 for wealth. I will be starting with 66 silver tams (sp).
  8. Buy armor. Being an alchemist and not really all that strong, I buy a leather jerkin.
  9. Buy weapon(s). As an alchemist, I will start with an arquebus, but some sort of melee weapon is still a good idea. I buy a dagger. This is not really meant to be a melee focused character.
  10. Step 10 is optional, but here you calculate your encumbrance tiers. I’ll spare the specifics, but you multiply your strength roll by a modifier listed on the character sheet for each tier.
  11. Total your numbers, and choose a subclass (never mentioned previously, shows up in the next chapter)
  12. I thought you said it was eleven steps? More optional rules follow for talents, which include personal background skills (Acrobatics, Business Sense, etc.) and the five basic senses (Hearing, etc.).

After all of that, we finally get a description of the classes and then a list of subclasses as well. I choose to be a Jeweler for my subclass.

Basic Offence: 100
Basic Defense: 30
Innate Ability: 42 (d100+1)

Strength: 69
Coordination: 21
Quickness: 16 (66 on d100)

Starting Wealth: 66 silver tams

Leather Armor (+5 def) Cost 10, weight 100
Dagger cost 5, weight 25
Arqubeus (free), weight 300
Alchemist Kit (free), weight 200

Acrobatics 24
Business sense 60
Climbing 64
Diplomacy 72
Languages 82
Musical 66
Nautical 70/41
Riding 35
Running 45
Swimming 40

Final Stats:
Strength 69
Intelligence 63
Charisma 50
Hearing 66
Sight 50
Feeling 50
Taste 98
Smell 78
Appearance 66
Coordination 21

Jeweler sub class

Gamma World follow up

Thumper, Mutant Jackalope

My long time buddy, and All of the Above alumni, Dan (Smif) Smith did this character illustration of Thumper for me.

Dan is available for commissioned art and you can find his Deviant Art page here: Smifink.

Character A Week: Top Secret

Top Secret was, to the best of my knowledge, the first dedicated espionage RPG. Others, notably the licensed James Bond 007 RPG, soon followed. Alas, neither the original Top Secret, nor the followup Top Secret S.I. are available for purchase in PDF at this time. However, there is a new version with radically different rules, recently published called Top Secret/New World Order.

My memories are that it was a fairly crunchy game for its time, and that it was a better commando action game than it was an espionage game… that last part may be more due to our style of play than the game itself.

Character generation starts with your primary personal traits: Physical Strength, Charm, Willpower, Courage, Knowledge, and Coordination. Stats are generated with 1d100, but there is a modifier chart to skew the results higher for player characters.

I roll 20, 35, 79, 41, 33, and 45. This gives the adjusted stats of:
Physical Strength 45, Charm 50, Willpower 84, Courage 56, Knowledge 48,  & Coordination 60.

You then calculate your secondary personal traits, which are calculated from your primary traits, and all fractions round up. There are a number of these…
Offense is an average of Coordination + Courage, so 58.
Deceptions is an average of Courage + Charm, so 53.
Evasion is an average of Charm + Coordination, so 55.
Deactivation (of traps, etc.) is Knowledge + Coordination, so 54.
Life Level is Physical Strength + Willpower / 10, so 12.9 which rounds to 13.
Movement Value is Physical Strength + Willpower + Coordination, so 189. This is compared to a chart, and my Movement Value is Average.

Then there are your tertiary personal traits, which are calculated from both primary and/or secondary traits. These are:
Hand to Hand Combat Value is Evasion + Physical Strength, so 100.
Wrestling Combat Value is Offense + Physical Strength, so 103.
Surprise Value is Deception + Evasion, so 108.

Like a lot of games for its time, it very much assumed that many if not most details, such as height, age, handedness and whether you needed corrective eyewear, should be randomly determined. I’ve decided that my character is male, so after rolling I determine that I am 5′ 11″ tall, I am 31 years old, and I have normal vision. No corrective eyewear is required.

Yeah, I can’t figure this out…

Interestingly, in the main rulebook it was assumed that the player could choose their sex, and that there were no stat differences between men and women… but the Top Secret Companion seems to have changed this. They added a random chart for sex, and an unreadable modification for stats that is unclear as to whether it’s meant to apply to men, women, or both. There are also random rolls for blood type and a number of other things. I consider the Companion to be optional, and won’t be using much from it.

The number of languages you can speak is based on your knowledge level, and your proficiency in each is randomly determined. Your primary language is 3d10+70, and any additional languages are straight percentile rolls, but must be lower than your native language. I decide that my character’s native language is English, and I choose Nepali as my second language. My English proficiency is 92, and my Nepali is a 91. I figure my nationality is British.

Now we move on to Areas of Knowledge. These are mostly useful for establishing or maintaining a cover. You have one or more superior areas of knowledge based on your Knowledge score, divided by 10 and rounded up… so I have 5. I get Metallurgy, Medicine, Law, and two ‘Player’s Choice’, so I pick Political Science, and World History/Current Affairs. Honestly, the random rolls don’t make a lot of sense, but okay…

My score in each are determined by percentile roll and adjusted by a table. My final scores in each are: Metallurgy 68, Medicine 105, Law 104, Political Science 129, World History 87. From the Companion, I choose Political Science for my education, and have a Bachelor of Political, Economic, and Social Sciences. I choose a cover occupation as a Diplomatic aide, which leverages my knowledge and education well and gives plenty of opportunities for travel.

Also pulling from the Companion, I decide I was in the military, specifically the Royal Navy. With my degree I enter the service as a Midshipman, and with one six year tour, I exit the service as a Lieutenant.

You then choose your Bureau classification, which is basically a character class (I choose Investigation) and then you spend money on personal effects. My starting funds are $4400. Gear for your mission is handled separately, and I’m not going to bother with gear. I will note that based on his background, he would be qualified with the Glock 17, and the SA80/L85 service rifle.

Name: Joseph O. Fraser
Codename: Gambit

Background: Mr. Fraser joined her Majesty’s Royal Navy as a Midshipman after graduation from university with honors. Assigned as liaison officer to the Queen’s Gurkha Signals due to strong language skills. Honorable discharge.

Sex: Male      Age: 31    Nationality: Scottish (United Kingdom)
Height: 5′ 11    Weight: 170 lbs
Skin: White     Hair: Brown    Eyes: Brown

Military Service: Royal Navy, Lieutenant, ret. NROTC
Education: B.P.E.S.S., Cambridge University
Languages: English (92), Nepali (91)
Areas of Knowledge: Metallurgy (68), Medicine (105), Law (104), Political Science (129), World History/Current Affairs (87)

Bureau: Investigation
Experience: 0

PS: 45, Charm: 50, Will: 84, Courage: 56, Know: 48, Coord: 60
Offense: 58, Deception: 53, Evasion: 55, Deactivation: 54
Life Level: 13
Movement: Average

HtH CV: 100, Wrestling CV: 103, Surprise: 108

His cover is not Mel Torme…

Character A Week: SPI’s DragonQuest

DragonQuest was one of the first non-D&D fantasy RPGs that we tried out in high school. It was well advertised, SPI was a well known company, and they were trying some things that weren’t exactly standard game design at the time.

It was a point buy system for stats, but there was a random roll to determine how many points you could spend and what your maximum score in a stat could be. The more points you started with, the lower your max score for a stat. It also was an action point economy based game, which was based off of your agility and determined how many actions you could perform.

You could always choose to be human, but if you wanted to play one of the other available fantasy races, you had to roll a percentile to see if you qualified (my least favorite rule in the game). Roll well and you could be a shapeshifter or even a giant. Roll poorly and you were stuck with human. You also determined your birth aspect (zodiac-ish), birth order, and social standing randomly.

Interestingly, you didn’t necessarily start unexperienced. Once you had your social standing and birth order you could determine both your starting wealth, and how much experience you started with. You could then spend (or choose not to spend) both before play even began.

Experience is spent on weapon skills, spells if you’re a practitioner of magic, or on professions… but don’t worry about professions at start, because Rank 0 in a profession costs more than you’ll start with.

The magic system in DragonQuest is definitely not “standard” Vancian magic ala D&D. You learn individual spells related to the Spell Collage you’ve chosen, and casting costs fatigue.

Overall, the books follow the wargaming model of numbered rules sections (2.0, 2.1, etc.) but is otherwise somewhat poorly organized. Character creation and combat rules are in book 1, but the sections for gear, skills, and how fatigue & experience work are in book 3. Magic is in book 2, but again, you’ll be jumping back to the fatigue rules at a minimum. It’s a bit of a mess, honestly. Second edition seemed to fix some of that, but also made changes to things that aren’t immediately obvious. My memory is that third edition was basically second edition, with the demons removed from the rules.

But hey, non-vancian magic, no classes, weapon skills that level up individually, and some semblance of social standing rules. It was, however, more focused on the tactical combat side of things, not unlike Metagaming’s Fantasy Trip (Melee & Wizard).

So I start out and roll a 16 on 4d5. Checking the chart, that gives 94 points and a max score of 21. The minimum score for any stat is a 5.

4d5 you ask? I’ll come back to this. 

Primary stats are: Physical Strength (PS), Agility (AG), Manual Dexterity (MD), Endurance (ED), Magical Aptitude (MA or APA), Willpower (WP). Secondary stats (calculated) are: Fatigue (FT), and Perception (PC). If you want to add additional stats like physical beauty you can add them, but there’s little guidance beyond that they should be determined randomly.

Fatigue is based on Endurance, and regardless of what you play, you will want as high of a Fatigue score as you can manage… so I set my Endurance to 20 (there’s no difference between 20 & 21 for Fatigue)… The rest of the points I spend how I wish… and clearly I’m planning on playing a magical adept. I put one extra point in Agility, as that will give me 10 action points.

My final score array is: PS 12, AG 13, MD 12, ED 20, MA 19, WP 18. This gives me a Fatigue of 22. Perception starts at 5 (2nd ed says 8).

Sadly, DragonQuest came from the same mindset as Gygax’s AD&D in that “realism” requires that female characters take a -2 penalty to PS, but get an extra point of MD and Fatigue. Additionally, you can choose to play your own gender, but if you wish to play a different gender you need to roll 25% or less. And, of course, there are no provisions for anything other than binary gender. If I were running a DQ game of my own, I’d toss this right out the window… but the exercise is to create by the rules, so…

And even that gets complicated. There were three editions of DragonQuest, and there are subtle differences between each of them. As an example, first edition uses 4d5 to generate stats. Second edition uses 2d10. It’s the same numbers, but a four die curve is not nearly as steep… but I digress.

Back to character creation… my next step would be to determine if I will play a non-human. The only race that interested me with these stats was Elven, which is a 30% chance. I roll a 76, so I will remain human.

Next step would be my birth aspect, and then heritage. I roll a 27, so I am Vernal (Spring) aspected. This will occasionally effect percentile rolls when times are favorable (or not so much). For heritage, I roll a 61, and then a 07 and so I am the bastard child of a Craftsman or Adventurer.

Those results directly influence my starting experience and starting money.  I roll a 87 for experience, and a 65 for starting money. Applying the modifiers for parentage and birth status, I begin with 250 XP (200 * 1.25 for bastard) and 138 sp (55sp * 5 for station / 2 for bastard).

At this point we would start spending experience and monies. Note that because my MA exceeds 15, I get a 5% deduction for every point above 15. Sweet, magic will cost me 20% less.

I buy rank 0 in Dagger and Quarterstaff. I start with Stealth and Horsemanship at rank 0 for free, and I decide to be an adept of the College of Sorceries of the Mind (Mind Mage). That means I start with all of that College’s general knowledge spells, and its general knowledge rituals at rank 0 as well. I decide to raise my ESP and Control Animal spells to rank 1. This leaves me with 15xp unspent, which I leave in the bank.

DragonQuest is not a game friendly to beginning characters… you’re not going to feel heroic, so much as you’re going to feel like a n00b. Chance of success is pretty low at first. Again, if I were running this game today, I would likely give all of the PCs more beginning XP. In the game’s defense, it does hand out XP reasonably quickly, and you can earn XP during downtime between adventures as well.

And finally, we spend money on gear… and the gear listing is sparse. A GM will need to flesh that out because I can guarantee you one of your players will want something they didn’t include a price for.

I opt for a Roman flare for naming, and our young apprentice mage is named Gaius.

Name: Gaius
Race: Human

PS 12, AG 13, MD 12, ED 20, MA 19, WP 18
Fatigue: 22,  Perception: 8, Action Points: 10

Dagger 0, Quarterstaff 0, Stealth 0, Horsemanship 0

Magic: College of Sorceries of the Mind
Spells: ESP 1, Limited Precog 0, Mind Cloak 0, Empathy 0, Hypnotism 0, Control Animals 1, Control Person 0
Rituals: Bind Will 0

Dagger, Quarterstaff, Tunic, Pants, Boots, Backpack, Waterskin… and some writing materials at a minimum.

Finally, due to SPI being acquired by TSR and TSR wanting to focus on D&D, DQ eventually died as a product. As such, you can only purchase it used these days, and there is not a legal source for PDFs of the game.

So, A Question…

How important are the actual character sheets? So far, the games I’ve done have been relatively simple and so actual character sheets haven’t been necessary. As I move on to more complicated game systems for character generation, I’m not sure that will remain true.

I have a couple of options:

  • Hand fill out character sheet, and scan.
  • Scan character sheets, attempt to make them form fillable in Acrobat.
  • Get creative with a text editor and/or the WordPress editor.
  • Or, you know, just say fuck it and keep doing what I’m doing now.


Character A Week: Gamma World (2e)

Okay, running a bit late this week but I decided to go with Gamma World. Gamma World is an interesting subject, in that it’s very niche, and that to enjoy it you need to accept some of its odd, over-the-top nature. People generally “get” it, or they don’t.

At this point, there have been seven separate editions, the last of which was an odd combination of RPG and card game that didn’t really go anywhere.

At its heart, Gamma World is, effectively, post apocalyptic science fantasy. We’re talking a world with malfunctioning robots, ultra-tech weapons to be salvaged, mutated talking animals, and comic book radiation. Think Planet of the Apes, Jack Kirby’s Kamandi, The Herculoids, or Thundarr the Barbarian.

The first edition was, mostly inspired by Planet of the Apes, and Sterling Lanier’s Hiero books. With second edition, it’s clear that someone had been reading the Robert Adams Horseclans books.

There was an edition for d20, published by White Wolf… that is the only edition I do not own. There was an editorial decision to make a game that was more realistic… radiation doesn’t work that way after all, and much of the gonzo craziness was left out. I’m sure it was a great game, but it was Gamma World in name only.

There are some other games that fall into the same space, the primary and most successful of which would be Palladium’s Rifts, which embraced the spirit of Gamma World more than any other, I think.

Character creation is fairly straightforward. I’ve gone with 2e primarily because character gen is actually organized and easy to follow.

There are six stats, Mental Strength (MS), Intelligence (IN), Dexterity (DX), Physical Strength (PS), Charisma (CH), and Constitution (CN). The order of those stats are from the character sheet… NOT the order the book lists them in. I will follow the character sheet order. All stats are generated with 4d6, generally drop lowest, but Pure Strain Humans have some special rules.

There are no character classes, but there are three ‘races;’ Pure Strain Human, Humanoid, and Mutated Animals. PSH are Humans that, somehow, have not been exposed to the various mutagenic dangers of the setting. Humanoids are mutated humans with strange powers, and  Mutated Animals are anthropomorphic animals, possibly with strange powers as well.

You pick race first. I’m going to go with a Mutated Animal, and I choose Rabbit for my base animal. My stat array ends up:

MS 16, IN 13, DX 17, PS 13, CH 11, CN 11.

That’s actually a fairly impressive set of rolls, definitely above average. Hit point are generated with a number of d6 equal to your Constitution, or d8 for Pure Strain Humans. I end up with 35 hit points.

If you are not a PSH, you then roll a d4 twice to determine how many physical and mental mutations you have. This character will have one physical mutation, and two mental mutations. You then roll percentiles + either your CN for physical mutations, or your IN for mental mutations.

My physical mutation total ends up being 41, which means I have antlers… okay, I am apparently a anthro Jackalope. My mental mutations are Telepathy and ‘The Gamma Eye.’ Telepathy is fairly straightforward. Gamma Eye is a once a day attack where a black light shoots out of one of your eyes, rendering one opponent within 15 meters unconscious for one minute. I decide that my Jackalope wears a patch over it’s ‘evil eye.’

After that, you generate cash (Gold Pieces?) and I start with 100 and equip myself with an Axe, Shield, Leather armor, a backpack, bedroll, waterskin, rations, and some rope. I decide to name him ‘Thumper.’

And that’s about it… as I said before, there are no classes, nor are there levels. Instead you track your status within your tribe or the world as a whole.

Name: Thumper
Race: Mutated Animal (Rabbit)
Physical Mutations: Antlers (2d6 damage)
Mental Mutations: Telepathy 15m, Gamma Eye 15m
Hit Points: 35

MS 16, IN 13, DX 17, PS 13, CH 11, CN 11

Equipment: Leather Armor & Shield (6+), Axe, backpack, bedroll, 1 week rations, waterskin, 50′ rope

Gamma World 1e, 4e, the d20 6e version, and the card based 7e are all available in PDF format through DriveThruRPG.


I have a couple of options for next week’s character. If I keep trying to do things somewhat chronological, there are a few options.

  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons – I’d rather let that sit fallow for a bit.
  • SPI’s Dragonquest
  • FGU’s Villains & Vigilantes (1st or 2nd)
  • FGU’s Space Opera
  • Gamma World
  • Top Secret

If you have an opinion, please comment.