Okay, I’ve become the Stereotype…

My last post on this blog has been over a year ago? Okay, that officially makes me a slacker.

I’m going to be 60 in just over two weeks. One part of me is still getting over having turned 50; I’m not as adaptable as some y’all, I guess.

Here’s a question–how many blog posts are out there apologizing for not having posted for a long time and promising to do better, only to be followed months later by more of the same?

Let’s not go there. I have a iPad now (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and there is no reason I can’t post often.

What about gaming?

I will be playing, writing, and running this year. That is all.


What’s The Game Plan for 2018?



Okay, another year has slipped by with little gaming done. Not that I’ve been idle. Between ordinary life plus the extra challenge of caring for a disabled person, I have been reading a little, writing a little, and thinking a lot. Some of those thoughts have resulted in my gaming resolutions for 2018.

First off, I will be gaming again this year, as a player if not as the game-runner.

Second, I plan to run a game of some sort. 

Third, I will be experimenting with running an on-line game, probably on Roll20.

That’s it. I plan to keep it simple. How these three interact remains to be seen. What kind of games? You’ll see.

Space Rangers for GURPS: Part Four

Roleplaying Tips: How to be a Ranger in Seven Easy Lessons

“All right—Listen up!” Ranger Sergeant Riley Quinn faced the new recruits. “You all passed your physical, mental, and psychological screening—such as it is,” she said. “We’ve covered—and will continue to cover—law, unarmed and armed combat, emergency first aid, and all that. Right now I want to talk about something much more important. About how to be more than just a cop. It’s about being a Ranger. Not everyone here will get it, and until you do, you’ll never really fit in. It takes a while. Most of you will be really, really experienced before it will really sink in. When it does, the job will start to make sense. Well, at least most of the time.”

“You’ve studied the regulations. The Patrol is heavily into regulations. We Rangers have something more. These are the seven unwritten laws of the Space Rangers. It’s a big universe, and there aren’t as many of us as there should be. The Senate keeps wanting to shut us down, or make us part of the Patrol. They didn’t this year. Two years from now, who knows? It doesn’t matter. While the Rangers exist, follow these seven rules.”

1. Always get your sentient being

“Were law officers. That’s what we do. If there’s a suspect or escapee, and you’re on his trail, get him. You don’t give up when it gets hard. Believe it or not, when people believe were going to get them, eventually, they’re less likely to try to kill you. They know we’ll get them and they’ll pay. It’s also about just doing your job.”

2. Take care of your own

“You know to watch your partners back. That’s just the beginning. Your fellow Rangers are your brothers and sisters. If a Ranger’s having a tough time, you’re there for him. You never leave a wounded comrade behind. You visit them in the hospital. You always recover the body, if there is one. No widow of a Ranger has ever gone hungry, and if a Ranger dies leaving kids behind, those kids always go to college, if they choose to. There’s a darker side too. If one of your fellow Rangers goes bad, it is your sacred responsibility to bring him in. Dead or alive. If he’s gone over, then we have to bring him in. No one else. That’s another way of taking care of our own. We cant let a bad Ranger off. That wouldn’t be taking care of all the straight Rangers.”

3. Hold the line

“We represent law, and civilization, and a lot of good things. Hold the line. Never let it be said that things got worse in your sector while you were there. make them better. If that’s not working, at least hold the line.

4. Use enough gun

“The decks stacked against us as it is. Plan ahead, and make sure you have enough firepower—and other equipment—to achieve your mission. Just don’t get soft and rely on it.”

5. Never let the Patrol get the last laugh

“They have shiny uniforms and lot of equipment. They have those fancy academies, and a budget hundreds of times bigger than ours, and they’re always being voted more money. There are six different video shows about them right now. But if it hadn’t been for us, the Commonwealth wouldn’t have been able to establish the Patrol. We were holding the line—hell, drawing it—long before them. Were not military, were under budgeted, but don’t ever believe we don’t count. Do your job better than they do theirs.”

6. Remember what side you’re on

“Were the good guys. That can be frustrating. The instant you start beating people up or cutting corners, or taking gifts or money to ignore minor infractions, and telling yourself it’s okay because the bad guys get all the breaks, you’re not A Ranger anymore. You’re a crook, and we’ll get you.”

7. Remember the Tradition

“There’s a long line of Rangers before you. They gave up a lot to do the job: marriages, careers, their lives. Just remember them, and act accordingly.”




Space Rangers for GURPS Three

Building Characters: Skills


Any skills appropriate to a TL 9 Space campaign are allowed, though the GM has the last word on what is appropriate. The following skills are just suggestions; there are many other skills that might be worthwhile. All of the skills below are in common use in the Commonwealth, but not all of them would be the kinds of skills the typical Ranger would have. Then again, Rangers tend to be atypical people.

Pay attention to those skills that require specialization. These are followed by the designation “(type).” For example, the skill of Engineer requires specialization. Engineer (Jump Drives) and Engineer (Maneuver Drives) are really two separate skills and should be treated as such.

Below you will find a listing of the different skills that fit in this campaign, but remember that it is not a complete list. There are other possibilities, and if something you want is not listed, just ask. You won’t find Mechanic (Diesels) listed, but there is no reason you can’t have it if you really think you need it. Few skills will be barred outright, but some might be a total waste of points. Most of the skills listed below will be useful in the Space Rangers campaign. The only limitation will be the Tech Level 9 limitation, and even that will change a little during the long-term run of the campaign.

Area Knowledge (type) (Mental/Easy) Defaults to IQ-4

To know an area in detail, choose this skill. It is possible to know a small area in more detail than a larger area. Area knowledge of a planet, say, will give a broad knowledge of the world and its provinces, cities, and cultures. This will not tell you where to get the best bagels on the planet. Area Knowledge of a city or town will tell you things like that. The smaller the area, the deeper the knowledge.

Armoury/TL 9 (type) (Mental/Average)      Defaults to IQ-5, (weapon skill)-6

The skill of building and repairing weapons and armor. You have to choose a specialty. Appropriate choices might be:

Rifles and Handguns

Body armor

Beam weapons

Gauss weapons

Vehicular weapons

Spaceship weapons

Spaceship armor


There are other versions of the skill available.

Astrogation/TL 9 (Mental/Average)   Defaults to Navigation-5, Astronomy-4

The art and science of navigating a spaceship, including starship jumps.

Battlesuit/TL 9 (Mental/Average)    Defaults to IQ-5, DX-5, Vacc Suit-3

As a rule, Rangers don’t use battlesuits in ordinary service. Battlesuits are widely used by Commonwealth Marines and Navy Special Forces, and some of them join the Rangers after they leave the service. This skill allows you to use a battlesuit (powered armor) and its weapons.

Beam Weapons/TL 9 (type) (Physical/Easy)     Defaults to DX-4, (other beam weapon)-4

A gun skill for lasers, blasters, stunners, or any weapon that throws a bolt of energy rather than a physical projectile. If your IQ is 10 or 11, you can add a free +1 to the skill. Add +2 if your IQ is 12 or higher.

Boxing (Physical/Average)                                                                                         No default

A scientific unarmed combat technique, Boxing falls between Brawling and Karate when it comes to precision and finesse. Boxing punches add 1/5 of the character’s Boxing skill to damage. There is no bonus for kicks. Boxers parry at 2/3 their Boxing skill, but at -3 against weapons other than thrusting attacks and at -2 against kicks. Boxers are also good at dodging. They can add a bonus of 1/8 their Boxing skill (round down) to their Dodge skill against unarmed or thrusting attacks.

Brawling (Physical/Easy)                                                                                 No default

Brawling is unscientific close combat. When attacking with bare hands or feet, roll vs. Brawling skill to hit. you can add 1/10 of your Brawling skill (round down) to the damage you do. When defending with bare hands, you may parry twice a turn at 2/3 your Brawling skill, but only against hand and foot attacks or close -combat weapons (e.g. knives, brass knuckles); you cannot parry other weapons this way.

Carousing (Physical/Average)(HT)    Defaults to HT-4

Purchase this skill using HT rather than DX. This is the skill of being a party guy, having drinks and being fun. A successful carousing roll gives you a +2 on reaction rolls for getting information, asking or help, or general reactions. A failed roll mans you make an ass of yourself; most folks will react at -2 after that. If you’re buying, you get bonuses.

Computer Hacking/TL 9 (Mental/Very Hard)  Defaults to Computer Operation-8 or        Computer Programming-4

The black art of hacking into computer systems that you do not have legal access to. You must make a successful role each time you want to access a new account or system, or to find or change a given piece of information in a computer system. On a critical failure, you not only don’t succeed, you leave some sort of evidence of your tampering.

Computer Operation/TL 9 (Mental/Easy)     Defaults to IQ-4

The ability to operate a computer, call up files, run existing programs, and so on. Not to be confused with Computer Programming; that is a much harder skill. Modifier: -3 for an unfamiliar computer or unfamiliar software.

Computer Programming/TL 9 (Mental/Hard)   No default

The ability to write and debug computer software. Successful rolls will let you find bugs, determine a program’s purpose, answer questions about computers and programs, or even write a program (given time). Modifiers: -5 if rushed; +5 with ample time; -5 (or worse) if you are using an unfamiliar language.

Contacts    Variable

Every good law enforcement officer has contacts. They can be within the Rangers, in other Commonwealth agencies, in business, or in the underworld. See p. B234 for details.

Criminology/TL 9 (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-4

The study of crime and the criminal mind. Can be used to find and interpret clues, guess at a criminal’s pattern or behavior, or attempt to predict his actions.

Disguise (Mental/Average)     Defaults to IQ-5

The ability to make yourself look like someone else. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour to disguise oneself. Roll a quick contest of Skills (Disguise v. IQ) for each person (or group) you have to fool. Professionals in law enforcement or intelligence may roll vs. Those skills instead. Modifiers: +2 if you have professional materials available (except on default); -1 to -5 to disguise yourself as someone very different from yourself. Similar modifiers if you are distinctive-looking.

When combining Disguise with Acting, you need only make one roll for each person or group, but it must be the harder of the two.

Electronics/TL 9 (type) (Mental/Hard)     Defaults to (other Electronics)-4

This is electronics engineering—designing and building electronic gear. Successful rolls allow you to figure out a strange device, diagnose a malfunction, design a new system, or improvise a gadget to solve a problem.

Modifiers:+5 to build a device if the player can describe accurately what he wants to do; -5 without proper tools; -5 outside your own specialty.

You must choose an area of specialization. Here are a few (there are others):



Shields & Deflectors


Security Systems



Note that this skill does not automatically make you an expert at using the devices you work on; Electronics Operation defaults to Electronics-3.

Electronics Operation/TL 9 (type) (Mental/Average)         Defaults to IQ-4, Electronics-3

The operation of electronics gear within a given specialization. For ordinary use no roll is required. Rolls are needed for emergencies, abnormal use, or use of complex gear by the untrained. A successful roll also allows repairs. The GM decides how much time I required. Modifiers: -2 without plans or diagrams; -5 without proper tools,; -4 outside your own specialty. Note: electrical motors come under the Mechanic skill.

You must choose an area of specialization. Here are a few:



Shields & Deflectors


Security Systems



Engineer/TL 9 (type) (Mental/Hard)  Defaults to Mechanic-6

Prerequisites vary; see below

The ability to design and build complex machines. Engineers must specialize, and there is usually a prerequisite. Here are a few specializations and their prerequisites:

Spaceship Maneuver Drives (Mechanic)

Jump Drives (Mechanic)

Life Support Systems (Chemistry)

Vehicles (Mechanic)

There are others that may be appropriate; consult the GM

Escape (Physical/Hard)  Defaults to DX-6

This is the skill of releasing oneself from physical bonds like ropes, handcuffs, and other restraints. The first attempt requires one minute; each attempt thereafter takes 10 minutes. Modifiers: the better or more thorough the restraints, the greater the penalty the GM will apply to the roll. Modern handcuffs, for example, would reduce your roll by 5. Characters with the Double-Jointed advantage get +3 on this skill.

Fast-Draw (type) (Physical/Easy)    No default

The skill of quickly bringing a weapon into play. There is a separate Fast-Draw skill for each type of weapon: Knife, Blackjack, Sword, Two-Handed Sword, Arrow (including crossbow bolts) Pistol, Rifle (including submachine guns, shotguns, and the like), Magazine (quickly drawing and loading a clip into an automatic weapon), and Speedloader. A version of Fast-Draw can be invented for any other weapon that is different but can reasonably be drawn quickly. The skill is used whenever the character needs to quickly ready a weapon from a holster or scabbard.

A successful roll means that the weapon is instantly ready; this does not count as a maneuver. You may attack with the weapon (or load it in the case of arrows) in the same turn. A failure means that you ready the item normally, but you can do nothing else that turn. A critical miss means you drop the weapon.

Characters with Combat Reflexes get a +1 on fast-Draw skill.

Fast-Talk (Mental/Average)    Defaults to IQ-5, Acting-5

The fine art of talking others into doing something against their better judgment. Fast-Talk skill at 20 or better gives +2 on Reaction rolls any time you are allowed to talk. The GM will require you to give the details of the story used in the Fast-Talk.

First Aid/TL 9 (Mental/Easy)

Defaults to Physician, IQ-5, Veterinary-5 or Physiology-5

The ability to patch someone up in the field. it is not intended to replace proper medical care, just to help the person survive to receive such care. See p. B56 & p. B127

Forgery/TL 9 (Mental/Hard)    Defaults to IQ-6, DX-8, Artist-5

The ability to make up fake documents, including identity papers and negotiable certificates, including bank notes.  You must make a successful Forgery roll each  time a forged document is examined, unless the first such roll results in a critical success. For details on time needed to forge a document, and modifiers to the roll, see p. B65.

Free Fall/TL 9 (Physical/Average)   Defaults to DX-5, HT-5

This is the skill to handle yourself in free fall (a.k.a. zero gravity). One roll is required when first going into free fall; a failure means you become spacesick and must roll vs. HT to avoid choking. Further rolls are required whenever attempting a complex maneuver, but failure does not mean spacesickness; the maneuver just fails. Contrast this information with the Spacesickness disadvantage.

Gambling (Mental/Average)                          Defaults to IQ-5, Mathematics-5

You are skilled at games of chance. this includes knowing the game or games, being able to know the odds, spotting cheaters, and being able to spot other gamblers in the crowd. See p. B63 for more detail.

Gunner/TL 9 (type) (Physical/Average)             Defaults to DX-5, (other Gunner)-4

The ability to fire a heavy weapon, including vehicle-mounted weapons. make this roll every time you attempt to fire the weapon. If your IQ is 10 or 11, you can add a free +1 to the skill. Add +2 if your IQ is 12 or higher.

You must choose the type of weapon for each version of this skill you take. See p. B50 for the full story.

Guns/TL 9 (type) (Physical/Easy)    Defaults to DX-4, (other Guns)-4

The skill of using handheld weapons that throw a solid projectile instead of a beam or bolt of energy. This includes normal pistols, rifles, and shotguns. If your IQ is 10 or 11, you can add a free +1 to the skill. Add +2 if your IQ is 12 or higher.

Holdout (Mental/Average)      Defaults to IQ-5, Sleight of Hand-3

The art and skill of hiding things on one’s person, including weapons, valuables, and contraband. There are many details affecting use of this skill, so read the complete details on p. B66.

Intelligence Analysis/TL 9 (Mental/Hard)  Defaults to IQ-6

The skill of analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating intelligence information, especially in terms of determining enemy plans and capability.

Interrogation (Mental/Average)      Defaults to IQ-5

The skill of questioning a prisoner and obtaining useful, reliable information from him or her. It need not (and among professionals, usually does not) involve torture. It involves a complex of Quick Contest rolls; see p. B66 for the whole scoop.

Intimidation (Mental/Average) Defaults to ST-5, Acting-3

This is the skill of hostile persuasion. The essence of intimidation is to convince the subject that you are able and willing, and perhaps eager, to do something awful to him.

Intimidation may be substituted for a reaction roll in any situation, though it is at a -3 penalty when used in a request for aid. A successful Intimidation roll gives a Good (though usually not friendly) reaction. A failed roll gives a Bad reaction. On a critical success, the subject must make a Fright Check at -10!

The exact result of a successful roll depends on the target. An honest citizen will probably cooperate, sullenly or with false cheer. A low-life may lick your boots (even becoming genuinely loyal). A really tough sort may not be frightened, but may react well anyway: “You’re my kind of scum!” The GM decides, and roleplays it.

When Intimidation is used against a PC (or, at the GM’s option, against a NPC), this can also be rolled as a contest of Intimidation vs. Will. See Influence Rolls, sidebar, p. 93.

Modifiers: Up to +2 for displays of strength or bloodthirstiness, or +3 for superhuman strength or inhuman bloodthirstiness. The GM may give a further +1 bonus for witty or frightening dialogue, but should apply a penalty if the attempt is clumsy or inappropriate. The GM may apply any level of penalty if the PCs are attempting to intimidate somebody who, in his opinion, just can’t be intimidated. This includes anyone with the Unfazeable advantage (p. 237).

Specious intimidation: If the PC can make both a Fast-Talk and an Intimidation roll, and roleplays it well, he can appear to be intimidating even when he can’t back it up. This is the only way to intimidate some people (martial arts masters, world leaders, bellicose drunks). Success on both rolls gives a Very Good reaction. Success on one and failure on the other gives a Poor reaction. Failure on both gives a Very Bad reaction.

Note that Interrogation skill can default to Intimidation-3. It will not help you tell a good answer from a bad one, but it can get people to talk.

Judo (Physical/Hard)    No default

Dodging, grappling, holding and throwing.

Karate (Physical/Hard)  No default

Scientific unarmed combat. Includes both punching and kicking.

Language (type) (Mental/Varies)     Defaults to IQ (native)

Most human languages are average; some alien languages are hard or very hard.

Law (Mental/Hard) Defaults to IQ-6

People in law enforcement should know at least some law, right?

Leadership (Mental/Average)   Defaults to ST-5

The ability to coordinate a group in a dangerous or stressful situation. See p. B63.

Lockpicking/TL 9 (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-5

Sometimes the good guys use it too, although it isn’t quite legal even then.

Mechanic/TL 9 (type) (Mental/Average)     Defaults to IQ-5, Engineer-4

Basically what it sounds like—maintaining and repairing mechanical equipment. You must specialize. Here are some appropriate areas of specialization; there are others.

Fuel cells & electric motors

Spaceship systems (non-drive)

Spaceship drives  Starship drives


Navigation/TL 9 (Mental/Hard) Defaults to Astronomy-5, Seamanship-5

This is limited to navigation on a planet’s surface. For navigation in space, see “Astrogation.”

Photography/TL 9 (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-5

Always useful in investigations.

Piloting/TL 9 (type) (Physical/Average)   Defaults to IQ-6

Piloting flying craft. You must specialize by picking a particular type of flying craft. Choices include (but are not limited to):

Space shuttle

Contragravity craft

Fighter spacecraft

Large spacecraft

Free Fall and Vacc Suit skills are prerequisites for any kind of spacecraft skills. You may also choose Piloting skills in almost any kind of flying vehicle—see a more complete list on p. B69.

Planetology (Mental/Average)  Defaults to IQ-5, Geology-4, Meteorology-4, other Planetology-3

This Scientific skill is the overall study of planetary makeup and conditions—geological, meteorological, climatic, atmospheric, hydrographic and ecological—of one general planetary type. Pick one skill:

Rock/Ice Worlds: Mercury, Pluto types (also most moons, asteroids and other small, airless planets).

Earthlike: Essentially, all habitable worlds.

Hostile Terrestrial: Titan types.

Gas Giants: Jupiter, Uranus types.

Planetology can be used in place of several other skills. Geology and Meteorology default to it at -3; Botany, Ecology, and Zoology at -4; Survival in that world’s major terrain(s) at -5. For detailed information about a world, consult an expert in the pertinent scientific skill—Geology, Meteorology and so on. GM may assess penalties for worlds that differ greatly from the norm for their type.

Psionics (Mental/Very Hard)   No default

No Psionic character will be allowed at first; it might be possible to learn Psionics later on.

Research (Mental/Average)     Defaults to IQ-5, Writing-3

Any good investigator needs this.

Scrounging (Mental/Easy)      Defaults to IQ-4

This is the ability to find, salvage, or improvise items and materials. Each attempt requires an hour. This skill just goes as far as locating the item; being able to obtain it might be another thing entirely. If it’s an old iron rod it might very well be lying in an abandoned lot, but an engine block might be on the other side of a barbed-wire fence and guarded by a pair of Dobermans.

Shadowing (Mental/Average)    Defaults to IQ-6, Stealth-4

The skill of following somebody through a crowd without being spotted. It can also be used to learn if somebody is following you, and to lose them if they are.

Shipbuilding TL9 (Starship) (Mental/Average)    Defaults to IQ-5, Shipbuilding-5

The ability to design and build starships. Mental/average because starship building is made easier through the use of computers and other automation.

Speed-Load (type) (Physical/Easy)   No default

The skill of quickly reloading a gun. It is not the same as Fast-Draw. One can Fast-Draw a magazine or speed loader and then use Speed-Load to load the weapon. You need a different Speed-Load skill for each weapon type, and each will affect loading time differently. See p. B52 for all the details.

Stealth (Physical/Average)    Defaults to IQ-5, DX-5

The ability to move silently or hide. It will allow you to follow somebody without being noticed. Shadowing skill is for crowds—it’s about not being noticed. Stealth is about not being seen or heard at all. See the rules on p. B67.

Streetwise (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-5

the fine art of getting along in rough company. Successful rolls can let you find out where any illegal activity is going on, which cops or officials can be bought, how to contact the underworld. This does not include having regular contacts; see the Contacts advantage for that.

Survival (type) (Mental/Average)    Defaults to IQ-5, Naturalist-3

The ability to provide yourself with food, water, and shelter in wilderness environments. A different Survival skill is needed for each type of environment. These might include:

Desert            Woodlands

Plains              Jungle

Arctic               Island/Beach

Mountains      Swamp

Radioactive (no default)

Survival (Urban) (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-5

This skill covers the physical part of staying alive in a city. It is a specialization of the general Survival skill.

Tangler (Physical/Average)    Defaults to DX-4, Pistol (any)-4

Tanglers are bulky, so Fast-Draw is impossible when using them. Otherwise, treat this skill as any of the handgun versions of the Guns skill. +1 to skill if IQ is 10 or 11; +2 if IQ is 12+.

Thrown Weapon (type) (Physical/Easy)      Defaults to DX-4

This skill specifically relates to throwing hand weapons like knives and daggers. weapons like spears, boomerangs, and shurikens that are specifically designed only for throwing usually have a separate skill.

Vacuum Suit/TL 9 (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-6

This is the ability to use a “spacesuit” in environments where there is no breathable air. It also includes basic maintenance like recharging power and air supplies.

Wrestling (Physical/Average)  No default

This is a Western sport that can also be useful in combat. Wrestling teaches how to take down opponents, pin them and to apply some holds and locks. While not as effective as Judo, this skill gives its user an edge in Close Combat.

You can use your Wrestling skill to replace DX in Close Combat, just as for Judo. You also add 1/8 of your skill to your effective ST to attempt a Takedown or a Pin, to Grapple, to use an Arm Lock (see GURPS Martial Arts) or to Break Free (see p. B112). This bonus does not apply to defaults.

Xenobiology (Mental/Average)  No default

This is the overall study of life of all kinds, native to any one general planetary type. Pick one skill:

Terrestrial: Earthlike planets.

Hostile Terrestrial: Titan types.

Gas Giants: Jupiter, Uranus types.

Xenobiology can be used in place of several other skills. Zoology, Ecology and Botany default to it at -3; Genetics, Biochemistry and Physiology at -4. For detailed information about a life form, consult an expert in the pertinent biological skill. GM may assess penalties for worlds that differ greatly from the norm for their type.

Xenology (Mental/Hard)  Defaults to IQ-6

This is an overall knowledge of the major alien races in the known universe, their cultures, lifestyles, mores, societies and psychology. It identifies an alien’s race, and gives information about its culture, physical makeup, attributes and possible behavior patterns once identified; it provides very basic information about aliens of new races. It would also be useful in a fantasy campaign in which the world is largely unknown and contains dozens of different races.

A successful Xenology roll is required before use of Diplomacy with aliens; for very alien races, even Merchant, Tactics, etc., will be different and will require a Xenology roll first. If the Xenology roll fails, the actual skill being attempted is at a -4.

Modifiers: +1 or more for familiar races; -1 to -6 for “very alien” races. Difficult questions should carry an appropriate penalty. Prolonged observation should give a bonus, especially for new races. A xenologist may specialize in a particular alien race, getting a +5 on rolls for that race and a -1 on all others.

“Depth” of a xenologist’s knowledge will also depend on the number of races known to science: -1 for 5-10 races, -2 for 11-50, -3 for 51-100, -4 for more than 100. This applies only to remembering facts about an already-known race. When contacting new races, experience with a wide variety of aliens is an advantage: +1 if 11-50 races are already known, +2 if more than 50 are known.




Space Rangers for GURPS: Part Two

GURPS Space Rangers:Building Characters

Advantages and Disadvantages

Creating Rangers

In this campaign, all characters will be members of the Commonwealth’s oldest and least conventional law enforcement agency, the Space Rangers. The only requirements are that Rangers must take the “Ranger Package” described below and be mentally and physically able to perform their duties. It is thus recommended that the character have no mental or physical disadvantages that might either interfere with their duty or cause them to be of a character unfit for law enforcement. Examples of appropriate and inappropriate disadvantages are given below. Where page references are given, plain numbers refer to this booklet. Page numbers preceded by a “B” (e.g. “see p. B245”) refer to pages in the GURPS Basic Set, Third Edition. Page references preceded by “CI” and “CII” refer to pages in the GURPS Compendium I and GURPS Compendium II respectively.

For best results, create most Space Ranger player characters using 100 points. this will result in a superior individual, but by no means a superman. It would pretty realistically represent the type of individual that would succeed as a Space Ranger. To be a Space Ranger also means taking the 0-point Space Ranger package (see below).

The Ranger Package      0 points

To play a Ranger character, it is necessary to take the Ranger package, which consists of the Legal Enforcement Powers advantage (10 points) and the Duty to the Rangers disadvantage (-10 points). There may be other advantages and disadvantages appropriate to a Ranger character; see Ranger’s Code of Honor and Sense of Duty: Rangers for two very good examples.

Legal Enforcement Powers      10 points

Ten points of the Legal Enforcement Powers means that the character has jurisdiction throughout the Commonwealth, including any Commonwealth planet anywhere in Commonwealth space. Within this jurisdiction the Ranger has the power to arrest suspects for any crime (which right even the Patrol does not have), to carry out covert investigations, and to carry a concealed weapon.

The police powers of the Rangers are limited by the Commonwealth Constitution, which is very similar to the US. Constitution of the late twentieth century. The major difference in civil rights is that suspects can be held for up to ten standard Terran days (or 240 hours) without charges. The increased holding time allows the authorities enough time to travel between star systems to produce witnesses, evidence, or information. Even this increased holding period has a limitation; if it is abused, the suspect can file charges against the arresting officers. The Rangers in particular are allowed to play a little fast and loose, even though they are no longer considered the front-line law-enforcement agency in the Commonwealth. This does stop short of violating people’s Constitutional rights, and had better be backed up with results.

Duty to Rangers   -10 points

This disadvantage means that a Ranger character has a responsibility to do his duty to the Commonwealth Space Rangers organization. The GM will roll to see whether the Ranger will be required to be called to a particular duty. This is not the same as simply having to show up at work. Rangers patrol, and stand watches, and are sent out on calls, but or the most part they are able to decide their own projects at least part of the time. However, on a roll of 12 or less, there is some task, mission, or other duty that must be done regardless of the Ranger’s wishes. When this is not the case, it is assumed that the Ranger is still doing his or her job; it’s just that he or she can do it his or her own way. This Duty is externally imposed and should not be confused with the Sense of Duty disadvantage, which is a strong sense of having to do one’s duty properly, and perhaps beyond the call. This Sense of Duty is self-imposed.


There are many advantages that might be appropriate for characters in a Space Rangers campaign. Some are clearly inappropriate or might not fit the style of this campaign.

Acceleration Tolerance  10 points

A character with the Acceleration Tolerance advantage can better withstand the sudden heavy g-forces experienced during extreme acceleration or maneuvering. It allows +5 on the HT rolls required to avoid the effects of acceleration. It is not to be confused with Improved G-Tolerance, which is listed below.

Bionics     Variable—consult the GM

Bionic technology exists, and people use it. However, this campaign is not about bionics, so a starting character with bionics would not be in keeping with the spirit and style of the Space Rangers concept. It will be possible to get Bionics later, though, when and if one has one’s leg shot off.

Contacts    Variable—consult the GM

Rangers, like most law enforcement agents, use contacts to get information. Contacts can be in business, in police or military organizations, or on the street. They can also be of any level. Thus, you can have a low-level member of the local Mob or his chief, a secretary or a CEO, the planetary militia commander or the guy who guards the gate. Point costs vary; choose carefully.

G-Experience      10 points

This advantage assumes that the character has enough experience in different gravity fields to have learned to adapt to them. A character with the G-experience advantage only suffers half the DX penalty in an unfamiliar gravitational field.

In situations where the unfamiliar gravity would help, G-experience allows the character to roll at his or her normal DX, plus whatever modifier the gravity lends, plus an additional +1 for the G-experience. Example: if a character on a low-gravity planet gets a +1 or his fencing roll, a character with G-experience would have a total +2.

This is treated as an advantage rather than a skill because some people, no matter how many times they change gravity fields, are not able to adjust easily, while others can. This makes G-experience more like an advantage than a skill.

Improved G-Tolerance    5/10/15/20/25 points

The character with Improved G-Tolerance can operate within a wider spectrum of gravity than the average human. Average human G-tolerance is measured in .2 G increments. That means, for instance that the average earth inhabitant can operate fairly normally in gravity from .8 to 1.2 times Earth normal gravity. Anything higher or lower and penalties (or sometimes bonuses) come into play. Those adjustments increase with each additional .2 G that the gravity differs from what the character considers “normal.”

For 5 points this differential can be changed to .3 G. An increment of .5 G costs 10 points. 1 g costs 15 points, 5 G costs 20 points, and 10 G costs 25 points

Example: Helga Highwater has 10 points of Improved G-Tolerance. This means she can operate normally in any gravity between on half Earth’s gravity (.5 G) and one and a half times earth normal (1.5 G). She suffers a penalty with each additional .5 G she encounters.

Legal Enforcement Powers      10 points

See “The Ranger Package.”

Military Rank     5 points/level of rank

The Rangers have fewer ranks than other services like the Patrol. This reflects their rather nonmilitary history and tradition. The Military Rank advantage, therefore, does not mean much for a Ranger. Ranger ranks reflect one’s seniority and responsibility in a given jurisdiction, not necessarily a military chain of command. The Rangers have only five rank levels:

Rank 4: Chief Ranger

Rank 3: Ranger Captain

Rank 2: Ranger Lieutenant

Rank 1: Ranger Sergeant

Rank 0: Ranger

Most Rangers spend their careers at Rank 0. They often work independently, for example staffing the Ranger office in a small colony, sometimes as the only Ranger on a space station or even an entire planet. In most cases, though, a given world, province, or installation will have a group of Rangers working out of the local Ranger station. Rangers will work in pairs most of the time. (The tradition of sticking by one’s partner is as old as organized law enforcement.) Each pair of partners will belong to a larger administrative unit known as a squad, though in most cases what squad one belongs to makes little difference. Squads as a whole will be assigned to big cases or work as a larger team in emergencies. Squads can be made up of as few as four Rangers and as many as ten or even twelve, though many Ranger stations will have fewer than twelve Rangers. Sergeants lead squads. Sometimes an entire planet will have no more than four or five Rangers on it, led by a Ranger Sergeant.

The basic division of Rangers is known as a “Section.” This is loosely defined as all the Rangers within a given jurisdiction. The leader of a Section is always referred to as “the Chief Ranger” even though he or she is just as likely to be of lower rank. Some “sections” are only the size of squads, while others may consist of several squads. This sometimes leaves bureaucrats scratching their heads. For example, in one jurisdiction, a mining colony, there was a “section” of only four Rangers, led by a “Chief Ranger” who was in fact only a Sergeant. In the adjoining jurisdiction, a busy planet with much interstellar trade and busy starports, The Section had four squads, all of them counting about eight Rangers. The “squads” in the latter were bigger than the “section” in the former.

After Rank 4, Chief Ranger, there are no higher ranks, just more responsibilities. Chief Rangers are appointed to head sections by the local Commonwealth Attorney’s office. The Commonwealth Attorney’s office also has Rangers attached to it. They are responsible for inspecting and overseeing the operations of all Ranger Sections in the Sector. Commonly called “Inspectors,” they are nevertheless only of Chief Ranger rank even though they have considerably more clout than the Chief Ranger of even the biggest Section. Promotion is possible beyond even that level, but it usually involves transferring to a civilian administrative position in the Commonwealth Attorney’s office for that sector or some other post in the Commonwealth’s Justice Ministry.

Patrons     Variable

A Patron is a powerful person with a special personal interest in helping the character out. While some patrons are organizations, simply being a member of the Space Rangers does not make them your patron. While the Rangers do take care of their own, a patron will go to greater lengths. It might be that a high-ranking Ranger has taken a personal interest in you, enough to go to bat for you when you are in trouble or to give you extra help in an investigation. Perhaps a Patrol admiral whose son you rescued might give you more than the usual amount of support. In any case a Patron, whether an individual or a group, will give you more than the ordinary amount of help.

Reputation  5 points per +1

The reputation advantage is completely open to Ranger characters. Remember that the reputation will be an individual one, not one that comes automatically simply from being a Ranger. Cost varies based on how good the reputation is, and by how many people it affects. Reputation can also be a disadvantage; if your reputation is a bad one, it can prove to make working with people or getting their cooperation much more difficult.

Status      5 points per level

While the Commonwealth is mostly democratic, it would be a lie to say that it is not very status-conscious. Most ordinary people have Status 0. Starport bums might have Status -1. Status is based on one’s position in society, much of which comes from one’s income. While it is possible to have a millionaire playboy join the Rangers, it is most unlikely. Most Rangers will probably Have status 0.

3D Spatial Sense  10 points

An enhanced form of Absolute Direction, 3D Spatial Sense allows the character possessing it to know which way the ship is pointed, how one’s orientation relates to the galactic disk, and so on. It isn’t much help during a jump, but the rest of the time it lets the character intuitively know which way is up. It adds +2 to Astrogation skill and +1 to spaceship or starship Piloting.

Inappropriate Advantages

Since this is a space opera campaign, any advantage appropriate to the genre can be selected, though the GM has the right to put the kibosh on anything that might make the character unwieldy, excessively powerful, or interesting enough but not appropriate for the story I am telling. Besides, I believe there is more challenge in making a hard-working Ranger with an ex-wife and kids come to life than there is in playing a seven-foot, fire-breathing vampire ninja. Which one needs more courage to go down a dark alley after an armed drug dealer?


Some of the GURPS disadvantages might fit in a Space Rangers campaign. Some will be inappropriate for PCs in a campaign of this style.

Acceleration Weakness   -5 points

This is the opposite of the Acceleration Tolerance advantage. Characters with this disadvantage get a -3 adjustment to HT on any roll to avoid the effects of acceleration.

Duty to Rangers   -10 points

See “The Ranger Package.”

G-Intolerance     -10/-20 points

This disadvantage means that the character can function under a narrower range of gravity than the average human. Normal human G-tolerance is measured in increments of 0.2 G. Increments of 0.1 G are worth -10 points. Increments of 0.05 G are worth -20 points. See the “Improved G-Tolerance” advantage for an explanation.

Jump Transition Disorientation      Variable

A certain amount of disorientation during an interstellar jump is normal. The Jump Transition Disorientation disadvantage means that the character suffers from a more serious form of it.

Such disorientation occurs any time that a sentient being makes the transition from normal spaceflight into jump drive or from jump drive into normal space. A roll vs. HT must be made to avoid the effects. Here are the effects and their respective costs.

Nuisance: the character is mentally stunned and must roll against HT – 5 to recover. Only one attempt is allowed per ten seconds. This is only dangerous when emerging into hostile situations. Everybody suffers from at least this. 0 points.

Mild: The character is mentally stunned and takes 2 dice of Fatigue. -5 points.

Severe: The victim must make a HT roll. On a success, he is mentally stunned for 1dx10 minutes. On a failure, he is stunned for 1d hours. A critical failure doubles this time. – 10 points.

Very Severe: As above, but the victim also takes damage: 1 HT if the duration is less than an hour, 2 HT if the duration is an hour or more. -15 points.

Nightmare: this is a mental effect that a few people get. In addition to the whatever physical effect the character suffers (at least Nuisance), the character also must make a Will roll. On a failure, he or she has intensely disturbing visions. Go to the Fright Table and roll as though he or she had failed a fright check by twice the amount the Will roll was missed by. -15 points.

Critical: The sufferer takes 1 die of damage, and then makes a HT roll. If it is a failure, he or she takes another die of damage. Shock and knockdown effects are as for normal injury. This can kill you. -20 points.

Intolerance -5/-10 points

In a universe filled with a myriad of species, it is quite possible that a character may turn out to be intolerant of others unlike himself. This is probably not the best thing for a law officer to be, even more so a Ranger, because of the nature of the Ranger’s duties and contacts. Nevertheless, it is a possible disadvantage for a Ranger character—but it will cause problems!

If the intolerant character is intolerant of just one race, culture, or faith (whatever is appropriate), the disadvantage is worth just -5 points. If the target of intolerance is rarely encountered, it is worth even less, all the way down to a -1 point quirk for very rare creatures. Even on a positive reaction, the intolerant character will never be at ease or friendly with the disliked being; the best he can do is a stiff civility. Most intelligent beings will notice this intolerance, and react to it negatively.

It is possible that a character will be intolerant of all races, cultures, or faiths other than his or her own. This type of intolerance is definitely worth -20 points.

Primitive   -5 points per level

A Primitive character comes from a world with a Tech Level lower than that of the Commonwealth. Since the overall Tech Level in the Commonwealth is TL 9, anything lower than that would be considered Primitive. The cost of this is -5 points per Tech Level below 9.

A character with this disadvantage cannot have any knowledge or default skills relating to equipment beyond his or her own Tech Level. Starting skills or equipment must come from his or her own culture. It is possible that more high-tech characters may look down on the Primitive character, but that would be a separate Social Stigma disadvantage.

The character may not learn mental skills relating to high-tech equipment until this disadvantage is bought off. Physical skills, such as Driving or those using weaponry, may be learned at no penalty.

Ranger’s Code of Honor  -10 points

The Code of Honor disadvantage means more than just believing in a certain code of behavior; it means being willing to live by that code even at the cost of one’s life. It is also internally generated; you live by it even if nobody else cares. While there is a certain ethic to being a Ranger (see “How to be a Ranger in Seven Easy Lessons”), the Ranger’s Code of Honor goes further. It is possible to be an extremely good Ranger without this code; with it, life is more difficult and even other Rangers might find you difficult to live with.

Ranger’s Code of Honor: Never give up on a case. Protect the innocent, no matter what. Follow the law and legal procedure no matter how frustrating. Never let personal emotions get in the way of doing the job correctly. Always be trustworthy to fellow Rangers. Always take criminals alive if it is at all possible.

Sense of Duty: Rangers  -10 points

Unlike ordinary Duty, a Sense of Duty comes from within. You feel bound to be a loyal Ranger. You will never shirk your duty, abandon your fellow rangers, or fail to help them when they’re in trouble. This would even go as far as going out at 3:00 AM to sit with a fellow Ranger who is drunk and upset over his impending divorce—even though you don’t like the guy! He’s a Ranger, and he needs someone; that’s all you need to know. If this Sense of Duty becomes known, you will have a +2 reaction roll from all Rangers—they know they can trust you.

Please note that this is not identical with Ranger’s Code of Honor above. It is possible that a corner-cutting, dirty Ranger will still feel a strong sense of loyalty to his brother and sister officers. As a matter of fact, dirty cops in today’s world often have strong loyalties to other cops, even though they are incredibly dishonorable in many ways.

GM╒s note: If you violate the interests of fellow Rangers even though you have taken the Sense of Duty: Rangers disadvantage is bad roleplaying, and there will be a penalty. Don’t take a disadvantage you are not totally ready to roleplay.

Sense of Duty     -5, -10, -15, -20 points

In addition to the Sense of Duty: Rangers disadvantage, it is possible to have a Sense of Duty to other people or groups, for example your companions, the Commonwealth, and so on. See p. B39 for more detail.

Space Sickness    -10 points

A character with the Space Sickness disadvantage is miserable in free fall (a.k.a. zero gravity). Such a character may never gain the Free Fall skill, and must use the DX-5 or HT-5 default for Free Fall operations, whichever is better. Spacesick characters must roll against HT on entering Free Fall. If he fails the roll, he chokes as though he were drowning. He loses 1 point of fatigue and has to roll again in five seconds, and so on. When the character makes a successful roll, he makes a roll again after 1 minute. If that is successful, he can make rolls every five minutes. If the any roll is a failure, start the cycle over again.

In addition, the character will be incapacitated as long as he is in Free Fall. Every roll he makes on attribute rolls or to attempt to use skills will be at -5.

If the character makes the initial roll, he does not have this incapacitating effect, but he still makes all skill and attribute rolls at -2.

Inappropriate Disadvantages

While there are many disadvantages that make for interesting characters, some will no be appropriate for Ranger characters. Among these are Blindness, Bully, Combat Paralysis, Cowardice, Deafness, Fragile, Gullibility, Illiteracy, Indecisive, Jinxed, Lame, Lunacy, Manic Depressive, No Depth Perception, One Arm, certain types of Pacifism, Paranoia (I’ll supply that), Planetbound, Pre-Frontal Lobotomy, Quadriplegic, Sadism, Solipsist, Split Personality, Terminally Ill, Tourette’s Syndrome, Unfit, Unluckiness, Weak Immune System, or Xenophobia. It is assumed that these would cause a character to wash out of Ranger training. This is by no means a complete list, so please design characters appropriate to the campaign spirit. There’s still plenty of weird stuff that might make for wonderful characters.

Space Rangers: A Campaign Idea for GURPS, Part One

A good number of years ago, I decided I wanted to run a game of semi-pulp space adventure. I wanted it to be a little gritty, but mostly pulpy, with a crew of diverse characters trying to maintain law and order in a society that saw them as hopeless outmoded or completely useless. Of course, they would triumph, but respect would not be forthcoming and the odds would always be against them. Romantic and pulpy and fun: that was what I was going for. For a number of reasons it never ended up being run—but I still think it could have been great fun. And I had a really good story arc that I won’t reveal here, because you never know.

With that said, here is Part One:

GURPS Space Rangers


First, a story…

Mr. And Mrs. Levine, a nice older couple, were worried about their son. He had gone to a good school. He was bright, physically fit, and had friends. The problem was that he had no direction. He wasn’t interested in the family business. He worked, but never at anything for very long. He seemed more interested in going out every night than in deciding what he wanted to do with his life. Finally, the worried couple consulted their rabbi, who was a very wise man.

“It’s quite normal,” he told them, “for a young man to have difficulty deciding his direction in life. Wait and see–he’ll decide someday.”

“But we get so worried,” said the young man’s mother. “If only we could be reassured.”

“Try this,” said the sage. “Tonight lay out a law book, an adventure magazine, and a shot of whisky. Then wait until he gets home. If he takes the law book, he’ll be a lawyer, a politician–something like that. If he takes the adventure magazine, he’ll probably join the military. But if he takes the whiskey, then worry–he’ll turn out to be a good-for-nothing bum.”

The old couple rushed home and laid out a law book, an adventure magazine, and a shot glass filled with whisky on the kitchen table. Then they hid behind the curtains and waited for their son’s return.

The young man came home shortly and saw the three items on the table. His hand hovered briefly over the law book, and both parents, still hidden, smiled. Then his hand hovered over the adventure magazine, and they still smiled, even if it was a little less. Then he held his hand over the whisky, and they both felt unhappy.

Finally the young man picked up the law book, opened it, slid the adventure magazine into it, closed the book, and placed book and magazine under his arm. He lifted the whisky, drank it in one shot, and went upstairs to bed.

The boy’s mother gasped. “Oh my God! He’s going to be a Space Ranger!”

This campaign is dedicated to all those players who believe that no matter where humanity goes, and no matter how far it spreads, the spirit of adventure will always be alive. This campaign recognizes that culture and civilization will progress; that the Far Frontier will be settled, and that the wild ways of the pioneers who carve out new territories will give way to the urbane and settled ways of civilization. Nevertheless, there will always be those who don’t quite fit into a safe, settled culture. Some of them will be dreamers, living life like their neighbors, but always secretly dissatisfied. Some will turn against society, engaging in drug smuggling and piracy. A small few of them might form the thin line between society and those that would destroy it. Misfits though they are, in times of crisis, they might even be society’s last, best hope╔

Also dedicated to Robert Urich, Ice Pirate and P.I. for hire╔

Notes on the Campaign

Milieu: The Commonwealth

This campaign takes place in the far future. How far? It could be thousands of years from now, or it could be as few as two hundred. It takes place in the Commonwealth, a federation of different worlds connected much like the individual states of the USA. Not all the worlds are human (dozens of sentient species are members), and each has its own laws, customs, and traditions.

The Commonwealth is a fairly strong federal government. The Commonwealth Constitution grants civil rights to all sapient beings within its borders, regulates trade and defense, collects taxes, and oversees the individual planetary states, known as “systems.” Systems can make their own laws as they see fit as long as those laws do not violate the Commonwealth Constitution. Systems are usually a star and all its planets, although there are rare systems composed of more than one star system, and quite a few major inhabited planets that are systems unto themselves, with the rest of their stars’ planets forming separate systems.

The Tech Level in the Commonwealth is Tech Level 9.5. This means that most devices are of TL 9, though some TL 10 devices are being experimented with. The only exception is that anti-gravity technology is in use, though it is still rather expensive and needs both room and power. You won’t find it on smaller spacecraft, for example.

The Commonwealth is still expanding, although that expansion is somewhat limited in some directions. In the region that this game is taking place in, the Commonwealth narrows to a rounded point, as does a similar corner of the Heptarchy, a rather repressive theocratic state about the same size as the Commonwealth, and the Renshithi worlds, a smaller but swiftly expanding empire ruled by the Renshithi race. More about these two nations later on. A parsecs-wide buffer zone separates these three political entities, in which none is allowed to enlist planets into themselves. Peace treaties are allowed, but the Buffer Worlds know that, sandwiched between three hungry superpowers as they are, they must play a very balanced game. The Buffer Worlds are also full of smugglers, pirates, and spies, as the military forces of the three superpowers are expressly prohibited from entering that volume of space. Law is left to the governments of the Buffer Worlds, which are generally divided and weak. The superpowers do engage in clandestine activities, but for those to become known might trigger war. A minor clause allows some rights to law enforcement agencies, but the Patrol, the main law enforcement group in the Commonwealth, is explicitly defined in the treaty as a military organization. Therefore, guess who gets to fly undermanned, outgunned missions into the Buffer?

The Space Rangers

That’s right! You guessed it in one. The Space Rangers is a law enforcement agency with a colorful past and an uncertain future. Founded over two hundred years ago, the Space Rangers are older than the Commonwealth. Founded in the early period of exploration and colonization, the Rangers attracted a rough, tough, ornery breed of lawman. Often, Some Rangers were not much better than the frontier scum they fought. Some noted–sometimes notorious–Rangers were in fact converted outlaws. Rough, often crude, the Rangers were nevertheless effective champions of law in a universe where the difference between community and anarchy was often a single Ranger with a quick mind and an even quicker blaster.

Things changed. Over a number of years, the Commonwealth united the differing worlds. The primary law enforcement agency is now the Space Patrol, an elite military service charged with patrolling space, rescuing damaged ships, combating piracy, and enforcing Commonwealth law. The Patrol attracts the elite of every world: bright, physically fit, dedicated. Commonwealth citizens need never fear; the sleek, powerful ships of the Patrol, manned by the firm-jawed, sharp-eyed officers of the Patrol in their immaculate black-and-silver uniforms are keeping watch–or so their publicity reads.

With the coming of the Patrol, the Commonwealth Space Rangers began to be considered anachronistic. They still man (or woman, or thing) remote settlements. About thirty years ago, they were reassigned to the Commonwealth Ministry of Justice. Their chief mission: to serve the federal courts. Thus, their missions are to serve court papers, provide security at federal courthouses, enforce court orders, transport extradited prisoners, and track down and arrest bail jumpers. It’s all a far cry from the adventurous tradition.

Except for one thing. The Minister of Justice at the time the Rangers were reorganized insisted on two little bits of fine print in the legislation that redefined the Rangers’ mission. One reads, quite simply, “and generally enforce all Commonwealth laws using any means at their disposal, subject to the approval of the Minister of Justice.” This is common boilerplate language, but further on, in a supposedly unrelated section, it reads. “Missions shall be assigned by the senior Ranger on site. In all cases, approval of the Minister of Justice shall be assumed unless said senior Ranger is specifically notified otherwise by the Office of the Minister.”

In other words, the Rangers are allowed to enforce the law as they see fit, short of violating the Constitution or committing crimes themselves. That is, when they’re not too busy serving warrants and legal papers.

By the way—that Minister of Justice was a retired Ranger. Seems he remembered the Rangers’ Second Law.

Tone and Style

I have a specific sort of feeling that I want this campaign to have: a feeling of freewheeling adventure and challenge. I see several elements as being important in achieving this goal. First, the world I am attempting to depict is a world of contrasts. Some places, like more developed worlds of the Commonwealth, are settled, civilized, and may seem boring. I assure you, there is crime aplenty, but in such places running gun battles may not be the best way to work a case. The cathedral worlds of the Heptarchy are dark, regimented places where the shadowed catacombs may provide the only freedom to be found. In such a setting, stealth and caution will succeed How does this make for freewheeling adventure?

It’s all tied up in one word: challenge. I believe that what makes a good game is drama. Drama comes from conflict, and conflict comes from character. More specifically, drama comes from characters motivated toward a certain end and faced with opposition. Opposition could be their enemies or it could be the frustrating law that states you need evidence before you can bust someone. Ideally, working a case as a Ranger should mean careful and intelligent investigation in most cases, mixed with the pure adrenaline rush when things go terribly wrong.

To put it more simply, I want this campaign to combine elements three basic elements. The first element is mystery. This means thinking and role-playing. There will be times when the limits to a Ranger’s power will make progress frustrating, but good thinking, clever investigation, and a few lucky breaks will lead to the information you need. It is going to occasionally need slamming some punk up against an alley wall, too; just be careful not to overuse that technique.

The second element is action. There will be times to shoot, punch, and blow things up. On many of the Buffer Worlds, going armed is the only way to survive. You will be dodging enemy fighters as you pilot a hijacked and rusty old hulk, which may explode, even if the enemy ships don’t get you. Heroic rescues, crash landings, brawls on rooftops–I love action, and I think most role-playing gamers do too. But too much of that turns into power gaming, and I want this campaign to be more fun and more interesting than that.

The third element is humor. Jokes, fun, and goofing offer relief from the tensions of a tough job. Rangers can have fun, and “down time” allows the characters to enjoy themselves. Duty will call soon enough.

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want…

Having watched both The Blues Brothers and Still Crazy, I realize that the most frightening words a person can say are “We’re getting the band back together.”

Okay, having acknowledged that, I want to start roleplaying again. And I would like to welcome back some of the people I played with back in the 20th Century.

Let me be honest. Since I moved to California almost 18 years ago, I have only played in a few campaigns that lasted any more than a session or two.

One was a long-running Call Call of Cthulhu game that lasted for years; it was run by a legendary GM whose credentials are impressive. More importantly, the game itself was detailed, plausible, and forced the characters to make choices that would occasionally come back to bite them. In short, really good stuff.

Another was a GURPS-based campaign based on the old “Pirates of Volturnus” adventure from Star Frontiers. It was a great series of sessions; Dustin, the GM, took a fairly pedestrian published adventure as his jumping off place and made it really plausible and exciting. Good stuff, again. That went into some sort of hiatus, and that was that. I moved, and I wonder if they appreciated me as a players or a person all that much—there was not too much effort to stay in touch with me. I have come off annoying to many; I know this about myself. It hurts, but how can I blame people? (1)

There have been a few others, but nothing quite like the fun I used to have…

So, here’s what I want to do. I want to start up a new gaming group, and run games regularly, but on a schedule that will work with the lives of middle-aged adults without being so infrequent that no one can remember what happened in the last episode.

I have a list of things I want to do. Mind you, this is just a list of things I’d like to try. Nothing here is set in concrete. And it’s not all going to happen at the same time. Obviously.

  • I’d like to try out the new Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition rules. It seems like this version is very similar to what we played back in the day, minus the guesswork and the fudging. It promises to work very well; I want to see if it makes good on that promise.
  • I like a lot of the ideas in FATE. I have both FATE Core and FATE Accelerated. I like the system, especially the way the game allows the players and GM to add detail and make the situations more dramatic. It seems to me that the best times I ever had roleplaying incorporated a lot of this sort of thing; I am intrigued by the possibilities and really want to try the FATE System. It seems like it would make for a pulpier, less “realistic” game, but I’m fine with that. There are many fames based on the Core System, and I am convinced that one could do anything with it; Spirit of the Century is just one excellent example of what can be done with FATE.
  • I have been running 1978-vintage RuneQuest (RQ) with my daughter. It’s a sound game system, and it’s brothers like the Basic Roleplaying System (BRP), Legends from Mongoose Press, OpenQuest, and some of the more recent iterations of the basic RQ are all mutually comprehensible to anyone versed in any of them. They are like dialects of the same language, and I like the simplicity and clean function they all have in common.
  • Firefly. I like Firefly and Serenity and I want to game in that world.
  • I’d like to include my daughter. She’s 14; we’ve been roleplaying together for a few years and she gets it. She has never played with other player characters, but I think she’ll be good to play with.
  • I want swashbucklers on steampunk airships. And Green Martians.
  • And I want you to come and help make this happen. I want to alternate with another GM, and I want lots of ideas from other players. You are someone I’d like to play with.

Let’s start the conversation to make all this happen!

Exploring the Lost Cities of Geo

Here is something that I thought I’d never see again. It’s my first website! Like many people back in the late 1990s, I decided that the world needed to hear my opinions and sample my creative work.

Well, that hasn’t changed, apparently, but the level of sophistication has. To be accurate, the sophistication of the tools has improved; whether my thinking or my content has improved is really not for me to say.

Back then, kids, we didn’t have this fancy WordPress or Blogger; we had Geocities and you actually had to know a little HTML. Which is why the pages often looked so bad; we were not skilled enough in HTML nor experienced enough in design to make an attractive webpage.

To give myself a little credit, I never had red lettering on a chartreuse background. Nor did I use flashing text. There are limits even to my poor judgement.

Geocities was closed down in 2009. The operator, Yahoo, certainly gave us plenty of advance notice and we were able to download our materials. But it closed down, and the rest was history.

But there are those who wish to archive everything on the web, and there is a new Geocities: www.geocities.ws

And so I can go back and see my first website in all it’s glorious lack of consistency, taste, and value.

Actually, I am being too hard on myself. Other than big plans and small effort, it’s not really all that bad, but it never really got much of an audience, and I lost interest and became too busy to think of it much. This, of course, is how adult life goes. My front page gives the usual apologies for the lack of new content, and makes the usual promises of more activity.

And there it has sat for 11 years. The three-year-old child referred to is now a young woman of fourteen, I’m officially qualified as an old fart, and I still write at a snail’s pace.

Geocities.ws will actually let you reclaim your old pages and edit them. Unfortunately, It does this by scanning your page for email addresses and assuming that one of them is yours. One _was_ mine, but it was a _Mindspring_ address which has been purely defunct for many years. I am sure I can get control by contacting the good folks at the new Geocities.

But why bother? Let archives be archives. The old pages are there should anyone want to see them. My efforts should be going to newer work and I should be moving on. All the same, there they are. Look on my works, ye mighty, and be kind.

Putting it All Together 2: More Thinking (or, I Smell Peanuts Roasting)


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Hello again, Ludophilus!

In my last post I was talking about putting together ideas for a roleplaying game campaign. Before I get on any further, I should make it clear that one can only have a campaign with a successful series of games. My goal, therefore, is to put together a series of game sessions, three or four, and see if they turn out well enough to have the players want more. With a few tweaks, perhaps, an entertaining campaign will result.

Where We Left Off Last Time

In the last post—which, I want the reader to notice, was not six months ago—I set out a list of things I thought might be fun in a campaign. Looking for those Special Effects I’ve been talking about. This is my list; it is by no means complete and is completely subject to change. This project is still in the brainstorming stage. Here are the ideas, copy-and-pasted from the last post:

  • Detailed combat with hit locations and specific damage, not just point erosion
  • Dramatic, swashbuckling combat
  • Firearms of limited power–black powder or some equivalent
  • Swordplay would still be a very important skill
  • Characters can lead troops in battle on land or sea or air and make a difference
  • A dramatic and not particularly safe method of air travel
  • Different intelligent species and not just re-skinned elves, dwarves, and orcs
  • Magic, but it is hard to come by and rather dangerous
  • Remnants of older, mysterious cultures
  • Some over-arching major danger that has no apparent solution and that few people understand
  • A light tone with occasional peeks of darkness

Well, that gives us something to work with! Okay, let’s see what comes out of that.

Thinking About A Game System

First, the rather dramatic and detailed combat idea suggests certain game systems that might be appropriate. The first I think of are Runequest, Basic Roleplaying, or Legend. The most recent iteration of Runequest has more D&D-like combat, with a general pool of hit points to erode. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a relatively mild blow that still puts one’s better arm out of use for a while-that is more what I am looking for. So it makes me think of older versions of Runequest. Basic Roleplaying has optional rules for hit locations. Actually, it has all kinds of optional rules, and I am used to the Call of Cthulhu and Runequest systems that it is related to, so it should be pretty easy for me to get good at running it. Another system I am familiar with and like is GURPS, but that is a very complex system and is probably more than the potential players I can think of may want to take on. It may be more than I want to deal with. But GURPS is not entirely of the table.
Conclusion: I will probably use one of the Chaosium-style systems, either Legend or BRP, which is easily customizable. Legend may have the edge here, as the price is hard to beat, as you can see here.

How About These Things?

  • Firearms of limited power–black powder or some equivalent
  • Swordplay would still be a very important skill
  • Characters can lead troops in battle on land or sea or air and make a difference

There should be no problem with these. There are rules or systems in all of the above game systems to cover those.

These Should Require Some Work

  • A dramatic and not particularly safe method of air travel
  • Different intelligent species and not just re-skinned elves, dwarves, and orcs
Featured image

Perhaps safer than this…

The first idea just screams “Airships!” to me. But there should also be ornithopters. And weird planes maybe. Which makes me think of another campaign idea that has been bouncing around my brain.  

The second point is the one that is going to require some thought. But I am suddenly remembering how clever and friendly my pet rats were. Rats? Giant rats? How about regular-sized rats who are intelligent and have opposable thumbs? Rats who are crafters and rogues? There several ideas I have for other sentient races. All in good time.

Matters of Style

  • Magic is hard to come by and rather dangerous
  • Remnants of older, mysterious cultures
  • Some over-arching major danger that has no apparent solution and that few people understand
  • A light tone with occasional peeks of darkness

These are not difficult—mostly a matter of style. Of course, the players will have as much—or more—influence on that than I will.

Which brings us to the question of who our players might be. Which question we will tackle in the next post.

Starting to Put It Together: What I Like

All this bandying of ideas about moments of awesomeness and special effects is neither terribly original or extremely brilliant, but it does give one a handle on creating a game that will give the players involved what they want. Which means that one has to have a pretty good idea of what the players (including oneself) would find fun and exciting. I guess we could put the steps in some sort of order:

  • Decide who will be in the gaming group
  • Determine what those players will think is cool
  • Put together a game that will give them that

Does this sound entirely too obvious? Believe me, I often did this in many other ways, including:

  • Decide what I think is cool
  • Grab a game system that I like and preferably already own
  • Get players more or less as they come up

Now, I have had some really good game experiences that began that way. But I’m an adult now, as are most of my friends, and we do not have the plentiful free time and flexibility of schedule that even college students have. Jobs, social obligations, kids–the list of things competing for time is a long one. This means a game group will have challenges in scheduling. It is also imperative that the game be worth the time and effort it takes to be there. If people are going to arrange busy schedules to be there, one hould at least make it worthwhile, especially if you want those busy adult players to come back.

However, I have left out something: my own tastes, so I will return one of my old methods to the top of my list, like so:

  1. Decide what I think is cool
  2. Decide who will be in the gaming group
  3. Determine what those players will think is cool
  4. Put together a game that will give us that

Listing What I Think Is Cool

We’ll finish this post by dealing with number one in the list above. What do I think is cool and might be fun in a RPG campaign? Well, let me brainstorm a little.

  • Detailed combat with hit locations and specific damage, not just point erosion
  • Dramatic, swashbuckling combat
  • Firearms of limited power–black powder or some equivalent
  • Swordplay would still be a very important skill
  • Characters can lead troops in battle on land or sea or air and make a difference

Okay, that is a lot about combat. What else?

  • A dramatic and not particularly safe method of air travel
  • Different intelligent species and not just re-skinned elves, dwarves, and orcs
  • Magic, but it is hard to come by and rather dangerous
  • Remnants of older, mysterious cultures
  • Some over-arching major danger that has no apparent solution and that few people understand
  • A light tone with occasional peeks of darkness

All this is rather general; it could be fantasy, science fantasy, sword and planet, or even historical. But these elements are what I would like to play with.

I’ll be thinking about this. In the next post I’ll play with these ideas and see what will come of that.