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Your Final Destination – Exiting a Void Jump – November Blog Carnival – part 2

My last post on Void Sickness along with reading Mike Bourke’s second portal article (I’m still a week behind but I’m catching up!), got me thinking about another aspect of Void travel that I like to use but which I don’t see talked that much about: where you come out on the other end.  And since I’m approaching it as something you can’t completely control, the exact location is somewhat unpredictable and can have unexpected results.  So this will be another entry into the November RPG Blog Carnival.  Enjoy.

Never the Same Place Twice

Last time I played with the Disruption parameter.  This time I want to talk about Repeatability.  When I was defining void travel in the previous post, I stated that the repeatability was “vague” which was defined as “A new Portal from the same origin may be directable to some point near where the old one was” in the original portal article that sparked my first post.  In his second article, he added, “but the exact same destination is unreachable” to the end of that when he summarized the detailed definitions.  In that second post I liked the definition he gave for “unpredictable” which was “A new Portal from the same origin will connect with another point completely at random, uncontrollably, within the destination plane of existence, perhaps restricted to a significant region.

My idea of void travel falls somewhere between those two.  It’s not that reaching the exact same location is impossible, it’s just very unlikely.  You’ll always end up close (on a cosmic scale) unless you make a major mistake but probably not in the same location.  And in truth the chances of actually starting in the same place are slim to none as well depending on your definitions of location and the scale of what constitutes the “same origin” (Are you measuring in meters, kilometers, or AU?).  Given the two summarized definitions I’m actually leaning a little more toward unpredictable but both work.  The point is, the place you come out is always going to be different.  Let’s look at that and what it may mean for your game.


So why is it not possible to come out in the same spot?  From my perspective this comes down to two factors that related to how I treat void travel.  In my interpretation of how void travel works, whatever vector you have in the real universe when you enter the void is the vector you maintain in the void.  You can’t change your direction and you move in a “straight” line.  Which means you need to be lined up exactly right or you’re going to go way off course.

Stay on Target

Just how exactly do you need to be lined up?  Let’s look at a couple of examples.  Take a piece of paper.  Draw a small dot on it no larger than half a millimeter.  Now hold that up at arm’s length.  See how big that dot is?  Depending on the size of your dot and the length of your arm, that dot covers an angle of about 2-3 arc minutes.  If your direction vector were off by that much, how far off would you be at your destination?

I’m going to be generous and assume you drew a small dot and have a long arm and go with the 2 arc minute number.  Assuming you make a small void jump, say 4.3 light years, the distance to the nearest solar type star, Alpha Centauri, you’d be off target by only 5.5 billion kilometers.  Space is big, that’s not too bad, right?  Well, that’s about 36.7 Astronomical Units (the distance between the Earth and the Sun).  Which means if you were shooting for Earth, you’d be out by Pluto.  Depending on how fast your ship is, that may take a while to compensate for.

But an error of 2 arc minutes is pretty big.  We can do better than that.  Let’s say we can get our error down to the size of an arc second (1 degree = 60 arc minutes = 3600 arc seconds).  That’s equivalent to putting your dot about 24 feet (7.2m) away.  If we do that and make the same jump to Alpha Centauri, we’d still be off by about 46 million kilometers or 0.3 AU, roughly the distance between the Earth and Venus at closest approach.  (By the way, an error of 1 arc second means your ship moved laterally 4.8 mm after traveling 1 kilometer).  And if you make a jump twice as far, the error will be twice as large as it is really just the direction error (in radians) multiplied by the distance traveled.  Double the distance, double the offset.

Just based on that, you can see that you’re probably not going to come out at the same place at your destination no matter how hard you try.  Getting your vector to that accuracy is going to take some effort.  But there is another effect, the time spent in the void.

How Good is Your Clock?

The other aspect of determining your position is how long you spend in the void and how far you travel in a given amount of time.  If there are errors in your time keeping, this will translate into errors in the distance traveled.

Let’s use the example I gave in my earlier post: void travel occurs at the rate of one light year per second.  Now, a light year is 9.4607×1012 km.  That means that an error of a millisecond equal a distance of 9.4607×109 km (63 AU, roughly twice the distance to Neptune).  A microsecond error reduced that by a factor of 1000 and an error of only a nanosecond reduces that by another factor of 1000 or down to an error of only 9460.7 km, less than the diameter of the Earth.

Modern computers can get to about a 10 nanosecond resolution which means an accuracy of about 95,000 km roughly 1/4 the distance to the moon.  Depending on the technology you allow in your setting (and what you allow to work in the void), the accuracy could be better or worse than this.  But even with a microsecond error, the distance you’ll be off is only 0.063 AU.

So while there is an effect, and you probably won’t end up in the same spot, it is much less than the effect you can expect from an error in the velocity vector.  Depending on the story you’re trying to tell, that may or may not be negligible.

Impact on Your Game

We’ve seen what the scale of the effect is, what impact does that have on your game?  While the details will depend on you exact setting, here are three ideas off the top of my head.

Travel times

Given the natural variation in arrival locations, you are typically going to be off target which means the actual travel time to the destination is going to vary.  It will no longer be “three days” but “three to four days”.  You can’t really plan on exact time tables.

To put some numbers to that, assume you were off by the 0.3AU distance from earlier.  Assuming your ship is traveling at 1% the speed of light (3,000 km/s, just under 11 million km per hour), it will take you about 4.25 hours to cover that extra distance.  If you’re off by more or going slower, it will take even longer (and that’s ignoring a bunch of real world physics about changing direction and such which will only add to the time).

This means that you have to plan for and account for the extra time and it may add tension to a situation.  We only have 100 hours to reach the destination and stop the “big event”.  The jump and associated travel time takes 80+2d10 hours to just get to the location where the big event will happen.  Do the characters arrive with hours to spare or are they landing with only minutes until they have to spring into action?  What impacts will this have on their preparations? Will it limit what they can do or bring to bear in the situation?

Space Piracy

Again ignoring real world physics of matching velocities in space, the result of non-repeatability of void jumps means you’re probably not going to have space pirates lurking in the outer system for ships to appear and then pounce on them.  Even if you had hundreds of ships entering a system every day, the odds of one appearing near where a pirate vessel was lurking is really, really small.  The pirate ship could sit out there for years and never have an encounter.  This means that piracy, if it occurs, will happen near the population centers, at remote, fixed outposts, or on the outbound leg of a journey before the void jump when the routes are much more predictable.

Arriving in Formation

Remember this scene from Return of the Jedi? (0:43-1:04 is the relevant part if you don’t want to watch the whole thing).

That just isn’t going to happen with void jumping.  Even assuming that you can get the velocity vector the same for all the ships, which might be hard but could be possible (although not with everyone dodging in and out among each other like the fighters in the beginning of that clip) the timing variations between the ship computers will scatter everyone across tens of thousands of kilometers of space.  You will need time to regroup.  Which means you probably want to appear further out in the system to allow yourself that time which in turns means longer travel to your destination and a greater chance for discovery.

Or if you do allow for piracy to occur in the outer reaches of the system,  merchants and their escorts may be separated on arrival.  The convoy scattered across space.  Can the escorts get back to their charges before the pirates attack or do they only arrive in time to extract revenge for damage done?

Void Travel is Unpredictable

From the above thoughts, it’s fairly obvious that this method of FTL travel has the potential to add some randomness and unpredictability into your game.  Whether to add tension or just flavor, there is no real reason that void travel should be routine.  Are there other ideas for impacts that come to mind because of the unpredictability?  Let us know in the comments below.



Void Travel Sickness – November RPG Blog Carnival

RPG Blog Carnival LogoUpdate: I hadn’t intended for this post to be part of the November RPG blog carnival, the topic of which is “The Unexpected“, even though the timing of it was inspired by a blog carnival post. However, in discussions with Mike Bourke, the host of this month’s blog carnival topic, he felt that it would be fine for inclusion. His argument was that since the degree to which (and even if) you are affected is unknown each time you travel, it fell within the realm of the topic. If the guy running the show agrees, who am I to argue? So this is now my entry into the November RPG blog carnival. Thanks for the encouragement, Mike.

In most sci-fi games, we typically take interstellar faster than light travel for granted with no individual consequences.  What if that wasn’t true?

This is actually something I’ve thought about off and on for the past few years.  It even makes a subtle appearance in my book, Discovery.  I was reading an article, The Unexpected Neighbor: Portals to Celestial Morphology 1/4, on Campaign Mastery and the discussion about disruption triggered me to think about my Void Travel Sickness mechanic once again.  I thought I’d write it up.

Defining Void Travel

Ship exiting a Void JumpFirst we need to start off with what Void travel actually is.  Basically it is a way of quickly traversing vast interstellar distances nearly instantaneously by traveling through another dimension (the Void). The ship plots/calculates a “Void jump” and then somehow engages the physics of the universe to move from real space to the Void, travel a bit in the Void where distance is greatly compressed relative to real space, and then shift back to real space at the destination.  Since distances in the Void are so compressed (or is it time?), a short trip in the Void corresponds to a long trip in the real universe.

The is the type of interstellar travel used in Star Frontiers (at least in the Knight Hawks ship expansion), basically stating that when traveling at 1% the speed of light (the mechanism to invoke the physics), one second travel in the Void, moves you 1 light year in the real universe.

In terms of the parameters Mike defines in his article, these Void jumps can be considered mono-directional, temporary, immense, stable (relative to the ship), safe, and vague (relative to the endpoint location) portals.  I want to play with that safe part.

What happens to the participants during that brief time spend in the void is up to the GM or the designer of the game system.  In my book, I described it thus:

Everything on-board the ship went crazy.  Colors seemed to invert.  Any displays that had previously showed empty space outside the ship just seemed to just vanish.  Sounds were distorted.  The sense of touch just disappeared.  It felt as if they were being pulled into their seats and weightless at the same time and everyone felt a strong case of dizziness, as if you had been spinning incredibly fast and then just stopped, and had to walk a straight line but couldn’t.

“What’s going on?” Allison asked, looking around a little wildly.  Her voice sounded muffled, as if speaking under water.

“I don’t know,” Alex replied his voice also distorted.  “You’re the expert on …”  And then the effect was gone.  “the jump process,” he finished.  The strange effect was gone but it was replaced by alarms and sirens going off throughout the ship.

“That was weird,” he added almost to himself.  While the strange effect was gone, Alex still felt a bit nauseous but it was passing quickly.  Looking at Allison, the slight greenish cast to her complexion indicated that she felt it as well.

but it really could be anything you want.

Void Travel Sickness

What if the effects of Void travel weren’t just brief and temporary disorientation and nausea but could be something more serious?  How do you decide if you’re susceptible?  Is it a binary option, i.e. you either get sick every time or not at all?  Does it get progressively worse? Can you prevent it?  This are all things to think about.  I’m not going to answer all of those questions in this particular article as some of them depend on the game system itself and I’m just going to cover general principles.  The ones I miss I’ll revisit at a later date when I implement a final version of the system in my Designing Out Loud series.

For my version of this, everyone is potentially susceptible and no one is completely immune.  However, even if you are susceptible, it doesn’t mean you experience the effects every time and just because you aren’t susceptible, it doesn’t mean you won’t occasionally be caught by it.  You might go for several jumps without any ill effects, and then be floored by the next one.  And I want it to be a progressive condition, meaning that as time goes on and you make more jumps, you become more susceptible, no matter where you start on the susceptibility spectrum.  So let’s start looking at details


Not everyone succumbs to void sickness as easily as others.  Some people just seem to be immune to it while others get hit every time they make a jump.  Each character should have a susceptibility score that represents the probability that they will succumb to void sickness on any give jump.  Because I want this to be fairly fine grained and want the increase in susceptibility to be very gradual, this roll should be percentile (d100) based and the susceptibility score should range from 1-100.

The easiest way to initially determine susceptibility would be to make some sort of constitution or stamina check the very first time you make an interstellar jump.  For characters in a sci-fi campaign, where you can assume they have made jumps in the past before adventuring, you could make the check as part of character generation.  Passing or failing this first check indicates whether you tend to be immune or susceptible to getting void sickness and you can then determine your starting susceptibility score.

You start by determining your base score.  In a d100 system, like the one I’m designing or Star Frontiers, your base score is simply your constitution characteristic, in this case Stamina.  If you’re using this in a d20 or 3d6 characteristic system, you’d want to multiply that characteristic by five first. to put it on the same scale.  If your game of choice uses some other scale for ability scores, multiply by the appropriate factor to get the value on a scale of 1-100. (i.e. a 2d6 game would multiply by 8).

To this base chance you simply add your “first jump modifier”.  If you passed that first check, give the character a +20 to their susceptibility score.  They are fairly immune.  If you failed, give the character a -20.  They tend to suffer from void sickness more often. This becomes your character’s susceptibility score for the game.

Increased Susceptibility

I also want the chance to succumb to increase the more jumps you make but not very quickly.  (This is why starship captains are all young an dashing and admirals are all old, stay home, and only travel grudgingly :-) ).

The mechanic for this is straightforward.  If you fail a susceptibility check, your score drops by one.  If you pass, nothing happens.  This is why I wanted the check to be percentile based, so that the change is small on any single failure.  If it was d20 based (or something similar), a single point change is a big effect.

This mechanic has a couple of impacts.  First, those with high scores (i.e. immune) will often pass their checks and have little change in their score.  Those that are susceptible, however, will deteriorate much quicker as they fail more often.  Also, as time goes on, the rate of deterioration increases as they fail more often, regardless of where they started.  This was intentional as I wanted the overall effect to be that there will come a point that you decide that you’re done with interstellar travel or willing to accept that every jump will be a miserable experience.  However, I didn’t want that to come too quickly.

If fact, for player characters, instead of rolling, I’d probably declare that they are all void sickness “immune” and just start their susceptibility score at STA+20.  To goal is to have it be an occasional but real concern to add some suspense and drama but not really debilitating (at least to start).

On Any Given Jump

To see if you suffer the effects of void sickness, simply roll d100 against your susceptibility score with a 100 always being a failure regardless of the susceptibility score.  Success means a brief moment of disorientation/nausea/whatever the minor effects (if any) are.  Failure means more debilitating effects.  This is going to be system dependent.  However, there is the question of scale.

One option is to just make it a binary solution.  Success = no effect, failure = some fixed effect.  In this case the magnitude of the effect is independent of the degree of failure.  Everyone who fails suffers the same effects.

A second option is to have the effects be dependent on further die rolls.  Maybe the effect has a variable time frame (i.e. -10% on all skill checks for 1d10 hours) or varying severity (i.e. -1d6*5% to all skills for an hour) or both (-3d10% from all skill/ability checks for 1d6 hours).  Or it could be anything that the system designers/GMs want to implement.

The final option would be to have the effects dependent on the degree of failure with the difference between the roll and the susceptibility score determining the magnitude of the effect.  Thus you could fail by just a little on only suffer minor effects or fail spectacularly and be down for a while.

The first and second option are good if you want those with high susceptibilities to potentially suffer serious effects when they do happen to fail while the third one plays into the idea that those with strong resistances don’t suffer too badly while those that suffer chronically suffer extremely.  It just depends on the flavor you want.

Prevention and Treatment

I’m not going to cover this topic in this particular post as it really depends on the game setting and what the GM desires (if adding this to an existing system).  Maybe there are medicines or techniques that can boost your immunity.  There are most likely medicines that can be used to counteract the negative effects.  What they are will depend on the game.

A sci-fi needleless syringe

A Work in Progress

This is obviously a first pass at the design.  As I test it out and look at it more closely there will probably be other refinements and details I’ll make.  What do you think?  Have you ever implemented a void (portal passage) sickness in your game?  What worked and what didn’t? What would you add or change to what I described?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Creating Star Maps – part 3

In this installment we start adding bells and whistles to the star map generation process I described in my earlier posts (part 1, part 2).  Specifically, drawing connections between star systems and labeling them with the distances.

It’s been a while since I posted on this particular topic as I simply haven’t had a chance to work on it.  Between work, family, school, and finishing up issue 14 of the Frontier Explorer, I have been completely swamped.  There is currently a lull and I’m taking advantage of it to work on some of my other projects, including this one.  So let’s dive in.


My goal for this part of the project (and for the project in general) is not to have a completely finished and perfect map at the end.  Rather to have something close to finished but editable that I could tweak into final form.  Get the heavy lifting out of the way and just have to tweak the details.  Up to this point, the final result did not need tweaking after the program generated it.  This one definitely does.

Part of the reason for that is that people have different ideas on how to connect star systems.  Should there only be a few connections?  Do you need connections at all?  Should there only be short ones? Do you allow the occasional long ones?  Do you have connections between all stars?  Only certain spectral types?  This particular aspect really depends on the setting you are going to use the map generator for.

Ideally it would be nice to have settings that the user could adjust to impact some of these things.  For now, I’ll be going with some that I choose in order to get the basics hammered out.  Improvements can come later.

The other reason is that there are just so may moving parts as you start adding in more details and labels that coding for every possible outcome is often sub optimal, especially if you are only going to use it a few times.  Looking at the results you can find and fix errors much faster than it would take to develop code to find all the edge cases.  As long as the result is easily editable (and I think SVG files definitely are) you just need to get close.

My Choice of Parameters

So what parameters did I select?  There were actually only two.

First.  I was only going to draw connections between systems that had stars with F, G, and K spectral types.  These are the stars most likely to have actual earth-like habitable planets and I definitely have a “realism” bent in most of what I do.  Plus this also limited the number of connections on the map as there are typically not an overwhelming number of these system (notice I said typically, see examples below).

Second. I was only going to draw connections there were less than 15 light years in length.  I like the idea that long jumps are hard and if you want to go long distances, you make a bunch of small hops.  It provides more strategic value to some systems as they might be the only way to get from one side of the map to the other or may control access to a cluster of stars, etc.  Plus it helps somewhat on keeping the map from being too cluttered with connections.  I actually started with a distance of 10 but that was not generating enough connections for my liking.  And it’s easier to remove unwanted connections than to add in needed ones.

Obviously all of this can be changed if desired and you can always add any additional connections desired (or remove ones you don’t want) after the initial map is generated to suit the game or star sector you want to have.


While you could do this in a single pass through the list of star systems, I chose to do it in two passes.

The single pass method would be to start with one star system, see if it has the right spectral type star (i.e. on of the ones I’ve designated as habitable) and if it does, compare it to every other star system to see if they are 1) within the desired distance and 2) have a habitable star.  If so draw the connection.

The option I chose was to first make a pass through all the systems and check for habitability.  If a system had a habitable star, I’d save it into a new list.  Then working with just the list of habitable systems I’d loop over all of them looking for systems that were within the correct distance and then draw the connections.

Not that it really matters because the number of systems we’re working with on these maps is fairly small, but it is overall more efficient to do it the second way.  (Warning: computer sciencey speak here, feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph if you’re not interested in computational complexity discussions) If we have N total systems and M habitable systems, the first method requires O(N2) habitability checks and O(N*M) distance checks.  The second method only requires O(N) habitability checks and O(M2) distance checks.  Since M << N, the second option is much faster.  In practice, it doesn’t really make a difference, the program returned as soon as I hit enter to run it.  Doing it the “slow” way may have taken a second instead of a fraction of a second.  This way was just easier to think about.

Once the decision was made to draw the connection, a line was drawn from the center of one system to the center of the other, the mid point of the line was computed, and the distance (in integer light years) was drawn at the midpoint, offset somewhat based on the slope of the line so that it wasn’t falling directly on the line itself.

That offset was what was giving me the most fits, and I’m still not completely happy with it.  There are still a few cases where the number is drawn too far from the line for my tastes.  I have some ideas of how to fix it but that can wait as the number of tweaks are usually small.

Some Examples

Before we go any farther, lets see some of the raw outputs from this algorithm.  (All of these images are included at half resolution since the site won’t accept the full sized files (plus they down load faster).  They are also included as PNG files although the program creates SVG files since mobile devices typically don’t have SVG renderers.) Comments on each map follow the images.


This first map shows a sector with a typical number of stars and connections. As you can see, there are a few stars relatively close together in the middle of the map that generated a bunch of nearby connections that are all overlapping and hard to read.  This is not surprising based on the algorithm used.  We’ll come back to this map later.

Star map with two clusters and only one star joining them

The next one shows two groups of systems with a single star connecting the two groups.  (I really like this one and may just use it for a game or story with a few edits.)  Just glancing at the map, you might wonder why the two blue (F) stars just above the single connecting star aren’t connected.  Looking closely, you see the star on the right is 12 ly below the plane of the map and the one on the left is 11 ly above it.  So the real distance between those two stars is 24 ly, well beyond the range limit for connections.  The system that is the single connection would have a huge strategic value as whoever controls it controls the flow of people, goods, and information between the two clusters.

Map with two clusters of stars with no connections between them

This one shows two small clusters of stars that are not connected at all.  The closest connection is the right most star of the left group and the top star of the right group at a distance of 16 ly.  In both of these last cases you, as the map maker, might want to make a long connection or a pair of shorter ones through one of the small M star systems in between.  Or maybe you want to keep them isolated.  Either way, this gives you some setting details that you can use to develop the story behind these systems.

Map with way too many connections to be readable

Here’s a final map that is just way too cluttered.  It’s perfectly usable but you’d probably want to do a lot of editing and connection removal and develop a story to go with why you can’t move willy-nilly between all the systems (or maybe why you can if you leave them all in).  This is one of those maps that had an unusually high number of habitable systems.  (Note that this image file is smaller than the others due to file size restrictions on the web site :( ).


As I said at the beginning, the generated maps were never intended to be the final versions and it was my intention that I would be editing them once they were done.  This is why they are generated as SVG files.  In that format, each star, each line, each number is just an object that I can move, delete, change, etc. as I wish.  Just fire up your favorite vector graphics editor (I use Inkscape) and get to work.

There are basically three main edits you might make:

  1. Deleting connections – You’ll almost always want to do this one as there tend to be several routes that are close or overlapping that you might want to delete or maybe you just decide to get rid of some of the longer connections.  In this case you just select the connection and delete it.  Since the connection and associated distance are grouped in the SVG file they move and delete together.
  2. Adding connections – In come cases you might want to add some longer connections or connections through other stars systems not used by the algorithm.  This to is fairly easy as you just draw the line, compute the distance, and add the text to the map.  You’ll have to play with the z-ordering but typically moving it all the way to the bottom and then up 2 should put you above the black background and the grid but behind the stars, which are drawn on top of all the connections.  (at some point I’ll go in and make the file have layers: at least one for the background and grid, one for the connections, and one for the stars)
  3. Moving text – As I said before, some of the distance labels fall a little too far from the lines for my liking and there are often times where the connection lines overlap the height coordinate for the star.  In both of these cases you’ll want to move the text slightly to make it look better (or be visible at all).  In these cases you just grab the text object (ungrouping it if necessary in your program, you don’t have to in Inkscape) and move it to its desired location.

Of course you can make any other edits you want at this point but that typically covers the major things you might want to do.  Here’s that first map again after I edited it to my liking.  I removed some of the longer connections in the middle of the map and moved some of the text around but didn’t add in any new connections on the map.

The original map with some of the connections removed and the text moved to improve readability

What’s Next?

Next up I’ll probably tackle a text output so you have the data on the systems the map represents.  Right now, it’s just a pretty picture but there is information there that you could use that the program can just create for you instead of you having to interpret it from the image.

Also, for those that are interested, here is the Python code for the current version of the program. ( – 7kB).  Just run the file to create a map.  It currently spews a bit of debugging information to the console and writes a sampleMap.svg file as output.  One of these days I’ll make a gitHub repository for it.  The code is in no way pretty or even necessarily organized optimally.  (I’m running up my technical debt to get it working.)

What do you think?  Do you like the distance connections or do they cause the map to be too cluttered?  What algorithms would you like to see implemented for making connections?  What other suggestions do you have?  Let me know in the comments below.

Frontier Explorer Issue 14 Now Available

Since this has been consuming all of my free time for the past several weeks, it is only appropriate that I announce it here. So, without further ado:

Hello Explorers!

Frontier Explorer Issue 14 CoverIssue 14 of the Frontier Explorer is now available from the Frontier Explorer website and DriveThruRPG.

This issue contains all the usual entries from equipment to spaceships to races to creatures to stories.  It also branches out a bit in that one of the ships presented is primarily designed for Starships & Spacemen 2ed but has a Star Frontiers conversion.  In addition, we have some articles by a couple of new authors including one of our Patreon supporters, Scott Holliday.

The contents of this issue are:

  • The Space Clans
  • My Friend Jurak and Fat Max
  • The Artificers
  • The Opening Act
  • Ion Engines of the Frontier
  • Remus Shuttle & Romulus Runabout
  • Scarecrow Bot
  • Limp Softly Carrying a Big Stick
  • Titian Rising: 2299 Comic
  • Got Gas Giants?
  • The Astral Horizon
  • Creature Conversions
  • Paxac the Puncher
  • A Wedding Tale
  • Grimz Guide Comic

So grab your copy and dive in. And always remember to keep exploring.

With that done and out of the way, hopefully I can get back to some more regular posts and content.  Enjoy!

Down for the count

Well I almost made my goal of posting once a week for a year.  But as you may have noticed, I missed last week and the last month or so has been all over the place for the time of posting instead of hitting my regular Tuesday morning schedule.  I almost posted a “no post this week” post but felt that would have been a cop-out and for the most part, want to make my posts at least peripherally relevant (although this one is kind of stretching it).

I’d like to say that things will pick up and get back to normal but unfortunately that isn’t going to be the case.  My school load and family stuff have been extra heavy this semester and have seriously cut into any time I have for blog and game related stuff.  Plus I”ve been sick.  So much so that my magazine, Frontier Explorer, is likely going to come out late as well for the first time in 14 issues (over 3 years).  I’ve been putting every spare moment into that and it’s still a couple weeks behind schedule.  On the flip side, I’ve been working with the old Star Frontiersman editor, Larry Moore, and we’re working on a new Star Frontiersman offering in a new and smaller format.  Stay tuned for more information as we figure everything out.

However, come the first of the year (or maybe sooner, but not likely) I should be able to get back to my regular posting schedule and topics.  In the mean time, posting may be sporadic as I try to get everything done.  I’m hoping that by Thanksgiving things will have settled out but it may take as long as Christmas.

In the mean time, go check out the following blog posts by Joe Nuttall on his Explore: Beneath & Beyond blog (and then dig though his archive for a variety of great posts).  They are a discussion of when (and when not) die rolls are needed in gaming and dove tail nicely with some of the thoughts I had in my last post about die rolls.  He also has had a few posts about pre-game rolls so that he can make those secret checks without the players knowing but using rolls the players themselves had made.  All in all, some good advice and ideas.  Here’s the links to his posts on the topic:

Have fun and keep gaming.

Perception Checks and Other “Secret” Rolls

Note: This post was supposed to go up on Wednesday but for some reason the site was having issues and not letting me save the post or upload images.  Everything seems to be figured out now.  Sorry about the delay.

I was listening to episode 234 of the Gamerstable podcast which was about tension and mood. In the course of their discussion, they were talking about perception rolls and other knowledge type rolls and who should be rolling them and the effect that had on mood and immersion in the game.  I want to talk a little about making those kinds of rolls.

Two camps

When you hear discussions on this topic, it usually falls into two different groups which can roughly be described as “Players roll” and “GMs roll” with discussions of the pros and cons of each.  There is sort of a third camp, “No roll”, but to me that falls under the GMs roll category, i.e. the GM decides what happens. To run through them quickly, as I see it, the relative merits of each option are:

Players Roll


  • Player involvement – the characters are rolling to determine the success or failure of the character
  • Less data for the GM to track – the GM doesn’t have to keep track of the character’s skills/abilities to determine if the roll was a success or not.  The player make the roll and informs success or failure, and possibly by how much depending on the system.


  • Player’s know something is up – if you call for a roll, they know there is information to be had so if they fail, they’ll probably do something to keep trying.
  • May require prompting – players may not always think to make a roll when it is appropriate or when their characters should logically do so.

GMs Roll


  • Checks made any time – the GM can simply roll and let the players know if they noticed anything or keep quiet if they don’t
  • Results are hidden = more realism – since they didn’t know the roll was made, or even if they asked for the roll, they don’t know the metagame result of the die roll and have to assume that whatever information the GM provides is what their character knows or thinks they know and are not sure about the actual accuracy


  • Lack of player agency – if the GM is making the rolls, the players may feel that they are not in complete control of their character or that the GM is “forcing” certain results or interactions on them (also known as “railroading” to use a loaded term).
  • More work for GM – the GM has to be aware of all the relevant player stats if there are to be serendipitous checks without the players knowing.  If the players ask for the check, the GM can always ask for the relevant attribute or skill.
  • Trust issues – There has to be a lot of trust of the GM by the players for this to work.  This is partially related to the player agency issue as well.  The players have to trust that the GM is not forcing things on them and is playing it straight.

What I do

I’m definitely in the “players roll” camp.  I like to roll the dice as do my players and I want to let them.   So how do I mitigate the metagaming negatives of this method?  Well, I employ a variety of techniques.

Roll Early and Often

The first thing I do is call for and allow lots of checks.  Often the result is “you don’t notice anything”, usually because there isn’t anything to notice  (or in the case of knowledge based skills, “you don’t remember anything”).  Some may argue that this slows down game play especially if we’re stopping at every point along the path to make perception rolls.  However, I’ve found that it doesn’t really hinder all that much and the players learn the appropriate time to make the checks.  I’d rather have them asking for them a little too often than having to prompt them for them.

Related to this, although maybe not the often part, is that I will sometimes have rolls cover a longer period of time.  Thus they make one roll for their watch or for an hour of travel down the road.  I can then adjust the success or failure based on that roll and the difficulty of what comes up.

Everybody gets something

A forest scene that is clear on the left but gets progressively blurrier as you move to the right of the imageThis option was actually mentioned in the podcast and is the one I use the most.  Here I treat success and failure more as a quality of perceived information check than strictly success/failure.  If something is happening, or is in the location, everyone is going to know, the die roll simply informs how quickly they notice, and the amount of detail initially perceived.  And for perception checks, it also may inform action bonuses or who gets to react first. i.e. those that make the check can react while the others are surprised or confused.

Successes get details.  Failures get vague generalities that may or may not be completely correct.  There is always a kernel of something in the response.  The greater the failure, the smaller the kernel.  Or maybe that I describe the general scene for everyone, failed check or not, and then pass those that succeeded (or succeeded the best) a note with more details that it is then their job to share with the rest of the party or react to.  The basic idea is that there is information to be provided, the quality depends on the skill roll.

No Re-rolls

For these types of checks, I’m pretty particular that you can’t retry.  You get one chance and have to work with what you discover (or don’t).  If circumstances change, a new roll may be warranted and I’ll allow it. But if they just keep doing the same thing, the roll stands.

Why did they fail?

The other thing I like to do, especially with knowledge type checks is narrate the reason for the failure.  Maybe they failed a lore check but are from a different country so they knowledge doesn’t apply to the local area.  Maybe they were distracted by the cat nuzzling their leg and didn’t see the bandit jump out of the alley way. Or something else.  Failure is a lot easier to take when there is a story associated with it.

Unknown modifiers

The other thing I like to do is ask not only if they succeeded or failed, but by how much.  Typically everything has a modifier known only to the GM as to it’s difficulty or how it modifies the die roll.  The just because the player thinks they succeeded or failed doesn’t necessary mean they did.  This goes back to the trust issue with the GM rolling but as long as you’re consistent and honest about it, it works out.

Multiple checks, one roll

I especially use this one for knowledge checks but also for perceptions.  This one typically comes up with games that are more skills based like RuneQuest.  Here I have the players make a roll and tell me which knowledge or lore skills they succeeded at.  And then I provide them information based on what worked and what didn’t or maybe still a “no information” result if none of their skills applied.  This kind of falls in with the something for everyone idea.  Everyone will typically succeed at something and you can point out different aspects of the scene or information to the different players depending on what they succeeded at.

Wrapping Up

No technique is perfect and even though I’m in the players roll camp, sometimes the implications of knowing the metagame aspects still warrant me as the GM making the roll and I will.  However, by employing a variety of techniques, you can minimize the metagame impact of the players knowing if they succeeded or failed and keep the game flowing and interesting.

What do you do about perception and “secret” checks in your games?  Do you like one method over the other?  Other ideas that would work?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Salt Lake Comic Con 2015

I had the opportunity to spend three days last week at the Salt Lake Comic Con.  Most of the time I had this guy staring over my shoulder.

A picture of me with a model of King Kong

Harley Quinn taking out King Kong with her hammer.Luckily I have a friend with a big mallet and she came and took care of him for me  (That’s my daughter).

I was primarily there to work at the Harold B. Lee Library‘s booth (that’s the library I work at as the Physical & Mathematical Sciences Librarian).  Somehow along the way I got drafted to manage the booth and keep and eye on it during the con.  If you’re wondering why we had a large King Kong model (which was made over the two weeks before Comic Con by some BYU students), it is because the HBLL has the largest archive collection of King Kong memorabilia in the world including the papers, scrapbooks, and photographs of King Kong’s creator, Merian C. Cooper.

While the final attendance numbers for the Con aren’t in yet, the number is expected to be over 120,000 and they did set the world record for the number of people dressed like a comic book character with 1784 people showing up for the attempt.  And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of everyone who was dressed up.  If I had to guess, I’d say it was close to 40-50% of the attendees were in some sort of costume.

It was quite packed, especially on Saturday and we had close to 6,000 people visit our booth over the three days of the Con.  We were averaging a person every 20 seconds the first two days and on Saturday that became about 1 every 1o seconds.  Luckily they would come in groups so we actually had time to talk to them.

This was the first Comic Con (or any game or comic related con) I’ve ever attended.  I’ve been to some large meetings but they were academic in nature and I’ve been to the Life, the Universe, and Everything symposium a couple of times but that is much smaller and focused on writing.  At some level the con was a bit overwhelming but at the same time, it is exactly what I expected.

I had a lot of fun and it was great to talk to people about the resources that the library had that would appeal to the Comic Con crowd.  There was a lot of “I never knew the library had that kind of stuff” type comments.  Which was the point of the booth.  We were there to showcase our collections and show that the library has resources that would interest anyone.  The main problem is often finding what you’re interested in.  We have over 10 million items in our collection and discovering what is there is not always as easy as it should be.

People watching was probably the best part.  It was fun to see all the different costumes and the way people would interact.  And the spontaneous photo shoots as someone would walk up to someone else in costume and ask to take their picture or take a picture with them.  My daughter was tickled pink that she got asked six times for a photograph by completely random strangers in the one day she was there.

The other really cool thing about the con was the number of kids.  There were lots and lots of them and almost all of them were dressed up to one extent or another.  It was also fun to watch their reaction to King Kong.  Many of them were quite fine or even excited to take a picture with the model while others were like “Nope, not going near that big scary monster”.  And it didn’t matter the age.  Although those under about 3 were much more likely to not want to have anything to do with it.  The students did a great job in making him look pretty scary.

The vendor booths were interesting but in the end held little that I was really interested in, although some of the Star Wars mashup images were very tempting.  But that’s probably because I’m a simple guy with simple tastes and didn’t really need anything there.

I did get to attend a few of the panels, mostly ones on writing, and they were quite good and gave me some good ideas to think about when I’m working on my writing (which I need to do more of).  The panels at the con covered a huge range of topics and interests and I know I only scratched the surface.

There was gaming at the con as both D&D Adventures and Pathfinder Adventure League had sessions going the whole time along with a local gaming store sponsoring a bunch of board game tables with lots of different games to try out.  Unfortunately I never had enough free time to try any of these out.

Would I go back?  If the library does a booth again next year, definitely.  If I’m going on my own dime? Maybe.  It was fun and I could spend more time in the panels and maybe even try some of the games.  I briefly looked into running a game at the con but in the end didn’t which was good because I wouldn’t have had time.  On the other hand, there wasn’t a lot that really appealed to me and I wouldn’t be heart-broken if I missed it.  It was fun but not “Oh my goodness, I have to go back” kind of fun.  I think I’d get a lot more out of a game focused con.  The problem is those aren’t local and take a little more effort (and cash) to attend.

How about you?  Did you attended a Comic Con this year?  Were you at the Salt Lake Comic Con?  What was your experience and impressions for any con you attended?  Let us know in the comments below.

Designing Out Loud – Structure Points

This post was inspired by my friend Wade Wilson who is working on a game system of his own.  It’s still a little disjointed since I’m still stewing over these ideas and will refine them in future posts but I wanted to get the initial ideas out to begin with.  It’s also kind of short and later in the week than my usual posts because I’ve been trying to get everything ready as I’ll be managing a boot at the Salt Lake Comic Con today through Saturday.

Some options

The topic at hand is structure points or damage to inanimate objects.  There are a couple of ways to go on this.  Wade is leaning toward a minor/major/totaled system.  Based on the damage rolled and the armor/damage reduction of the object you get one of the three results (with a no damage result as well).  What that means for the object depends on what it is.

I’m leaning much more towards structure points, basically hit points for objects.  I think that for me it is just conceptually easier to assign a hit point value to objects.  They could also have an armor value or just have heavily armored objects have more structure points.  The you can just treat objects like to do characters and subtract the rolled damage from their structure point total.  You don’t have to look things  up an a different table or do any other calculations.  The damage is simply applied.  There is probably a little more bookkeeping during play to track this but it’s not really that much more.  To my mind at least, this creates a single system for everything, not something different for characters/creatures and objects.

System Damage

The question is what to do about damage to internal systems of more complicated objects such as computers, robots, and vehicles. Although this could apply to things like weapons, screens, scanners, and such as well.

One option is to simply ignore it.  Everything has a structure point value and it works until you exceed that value in damage and then it doesn’t work anymore.  This is obviously the simplest way to do it but is not really realistic.

The minor/major/totaled system has the advantage that you can assign various penalties to the various levels but this could be done with structure points as well, by assigning thresholds.  Maybe under 25% is not penalty, over 25% is a minor penalty, and over 70% is a major penalty.  Or if you wanted you could apply more thresholds for more effects.  This is a pretty coarse system and you might have different effects for different types of objects or just a skill modifier based on the amount of damage.

The most realistic option is to have some sort of damage table.  However this would have to be customized  at least to the type of object if not for specific objects themselves.  And you need a way to decide if damage should be rolled on this table or not.

Penetrating Damage

One way to do this is to assign objects a penetration value. This could  be based on the type of material it is made of or the armor the object has, and maybe its bulk or mass.  Then the rule would be that if the damage from any single shot exceeded the penetration value, the damage got to the interior of the object and affected an internal system and you would roll on the table.  A non-penetrating hit would still reduce the overall structure points of the object but would not damage a “critical” component.

This would obviously require more work up front when designing the object although there would be basic guidelines that would allow you to make a quick judgement call during play if needed.

More to come

There is obviously much more that needs to be thought out about this and it needs to be balanced for playability and such but these are definitely ideas to ponder and start thinking about.  What is your favorite way of handling damage to objects and equipment?  What do you think works the best? Let me know in the comments below.

Creating Starmaps – part 2

So a couple of weeks ago I posted my initial foray in to writing a program to generate random star maps.  In that post I had figured out how to actually create the image file and draw the symbols.  Now it’s time to create the actual systems randomly and get them drawn on the map.

Number of systems

The program starts out with a few parameters set.  Right now this is coded into the program but eventually I’ll allow the user to specify them when the program is run.  These parameters include the size of the map (in light years in the x, y, and z directions) and the stellar density (which is currently in units of star systems per cubic light year).

By default, I’ve been using an x, y, z size of 44,24,25, which is the same as the hex maps I made by hand.   For a stellar density, I’ve been using 0.004 or 4 systems per 1000 cubic light years.  This is basically the stellar density in the vicinity of the Sum.  Although as I’m writing this, I think that is the density for the total number of stars, not the total number of systems.  But that’s not really that important.  All it really means is that I end up with a few more stars which is just the same as being in a slightly denser stellar region.

Based on the size of the region and the density, the program computes the number of star systems that should be generated.  These particular settings give me 106 star systems per map.

Stellar Muliplicity

a 4 star systemThe next step is to determine the number of star in each system.  I used the data in a paper by Tokovinin (2008) to compute the relative number of multiple star systems and generate the random tables to be used by the program.  The data is a decade old at this point but there don’t seem to be any more recent studies that I found in my relatively quick search.  In any case, this makes a good approximation that is fine for my intended purposes

Based on Tokovinin’s data, the resulting fraction of systems come out as follows:

  • 56% Single stars
  • 36% Double stars
  • 4.5% Triple Stars
  • 1.2% Quadruple Stars
  • 0.2% Quintuple Stars
  • 0.1% 6-10 stars

The program will generate up to a 10 star system but that literally has a 1 in a million chance of happening.  I’ve never actually had more than a six star system be generated yet without forcing the code to make larger star systems.

Spectral Types

a Hertzsprung-Russel diagram showing the relationship between the different spectral typesThe next step was for every star to generate its spectral type.  This is how hot and big it is and is also related to its age.  For example the Sun is a G2V star.

I actually created the random dice table for this bit for an earlier project that I worked on back in 2008.  I have a document that I created in December of that year that has all the probability tables in it.  It’s a little old at this point and probably needs to be updated but it forms a good starting point for getting the program running.

The tables generate all types of main sequence stars, as well as white dwarfs, brown dwarfs, giants, supergiants, neutron stars, and black holes.  All of which are generated at probabilities based on data take from scholarly papers on stellar surveys that were published in the 2007-2008 time frame.  There have been some new papers published that I need to review and update my probabilities from but that’s a project for later once the program is working and will only have minor effect on the map (probably producing more brown dwarfs).

For the purposes of the tables I generated, it only specifies the base spectral type (O, B, A, F, G, etc.) and doesn’t add in the numerical bit.  I have the data to do that and will do so at some point (like when I update the tables) but this is a good start.

Most stars are going to be M and K dwarfs on the main sequence.  They account for 81% of all stars in the sky.  G stars like our sun make up another 3%.  In my tables, brown dwarfs are 8%, F stars are 2%, white dwarfs are 5%, and all other stars (O, B, & A stars, giants and supergiants, black holes, and neutron stars) make up the remaining 1%.

The spectral types are generated completely randomly and there is no influence based on the other stars in the system.  There probably should be, but that too is a refinement for a later date that I haven’t looked into yet.  There are papers on the topic, I just haven’t read any of them.

Map Placement

No that we have all the stars, and the symbols for them, it’s time to put them on the map.

Single stars are easy.  Just plop them down in the center of their map grid location.  The fun comes when you have a multiple star system.  Binary stars are pretty easy too.  Although you need to account for the fact that the star symbols aren’t all the same size.  But when you get to 3, 4, 5, or more stars in the system, things can get a little dicey.

It turns out I worked this out a little bit by trial and error.  Typically I’d put the stars at the vertices of a n-sided polygon (i.e. triangle, square, hexagon, etc)  and then tweak the positions to something that looked okay.  In some of the cases, I’d use a smaller polygon and put one or more of the stars in the center of the system.  In each case, the program stores a list of offsets from the center of the system for where to draw each star when you have a multiple star system.

badExample1For systems with stars all the same size, this worked out pretty well.  However, when there are stars of different sizes, there were complications.  Large stars would almost completely cover smaller stars (see image at right), smaller stars would be floating off by themselves and be separate from the system, etc.

I solved this with two modifications.  First I assigned each spectral type a weight based on it’s color (bluer before redder) and it size (large before small).  I then sorted the stars based on this weight and drew the bigger, bluer stars first and ending with the small red ones.  This solved the big stars obscuring small stars issue.

Five star system drawn as described in text, there is a large K star, 3 small M stars, and a smaller brown dwarfThe second thing I did was adjust the position offsets based on the size of the stars.  Thus large stars would be shifted more off center than smaller ones.  This kept the smaller stars from floating off the cluster representing the star system.  The image to the right shows a quintuple system drawn with this new algorithm (it also has a label for the height above the map plane, more on that shortly).

Another problem was that with the different scales for the shifts, the star systems were no longer centered in the grid box (as you can see in the last image).  Again, this I handled by trail and error and created a heuristic that would shift the entire system based on the number and sizes of the stars in that particular system.  It’s not perfect but it’s pretty close.  It’s possible to calculate the exact size and center it if I decide to do so.

Z-axis Label

The next thing was to label the height of the star above or below the plane of the map.  This was done by simply putting the z coordinate on the map to the lower right of the system symbol with all positive values have a plus sign printed with them.

Multiple Systems at the Same Grid Point

One last issue is that it is possible for star systems to have the same (x, y) coordinate on the map but with different z coordinates. (It’s also possible to have the same x, y, and z coordinate but that hasn’t happened yet.  I should probably check for it though.)  When this happens the star systems are drawn on top of each other and you can’t really see whichever one is drawn first.

Two systems in the same grid location, on is shifted down to the left and the other up to the rightTo compensate for this, I again set up a series of offsets that simply moved each system to a different part of the grid square.  I’ve never had more than two systems in the same square but the program can handle up to four.  I’ll need to tweak this a bit for a hex grid instead of a square one but not by much.  An example can be seen to the right.  In this case it is a single and a double M star system but it even works for the larger systems as well.

Current Status

So that’s where the program currently stands.  Here is a full map generated with the current algorithm:

Full Star map

Next up is connecting the larger star systems with lines showing their distances, creating a hex grid option instead of just the Cartesian grid, and printing out a text file with all the star system information.

Are there any other features you’d like to see?  Problems with the map above that I missed?  Comments or suggestions.  Let me know in the comment section below.

A Cursed Ring – RPG Blog Carnival

RPG blog carnival logoThe topic for this month’s RPG Blog Carnival is curses and cursed items.  The carnival this month is being hosted by Johnn Four at Role Playing Tips.  When I read the topic, I immediately knew I had to share the story of my first character as a new player in a new gaming group and his glorious (or more likely ignoble) death due to a cursed item.

The year was 1988, I was a junior in high school, and had just been invited to join a regular gaming group that met each Saturday.  They were playing a home-brewed version of RuneQuest, 3rd ed., a system I’d never played before but quickly fell in love with.  The GM was an older gentleman (late 30′s at the time, that’s old when you’re in high school) who ran the game at his home and who had been developing the world and running games in it since he was in junior high (and for those keeping score, that was before D&D came out).  But that doesn’t really have anything to do with the story.

Since I was a new player and had never played this system before, my first character was a simple fighter.  Sword, shield, armor, and bash things over the head.  It was a good way to get started and figure out some of the game mechanics.  I joined in just as the group was launching their final assault on some ruin or other.  I don’t even remember what it was.  Over the course of three sessions, battles ensued, the bad guys were vanquished, and we retired back to the inn that was our base of operations at the moment with the loot and other fruits of our labors.  Among which were 63 magical rings.

Two gold ringsThe wizards in the group were able to identify many of the rings, some of which were useful but most of which would be considered cursed in that they did things that as PC’s we didn’t what happening.  Some of the rings were things they had seen before and some contained enchantments that they could identify the nature of and make a good guess as to what it did.  However, there were about a dozen of the rings that had everyone stumped and they all seemed to be the same thing.

We could determine that the rings drew a little power from the wearer, and that they used come sort of communication spell, but beyond that their exact purpose was unknown.  So like all good adventurers, we decided to try one on.  After all, among the loot were half a dozen “remove curse” spell scrolls.  (They were actually a spell called “Cancel Arcane” that simply short circuits and destroys whatever magical effect they are cast on but it’s the same effect.  Remember this is a home-brew system with a home-brewed magic system.)

I should also point out here that in this world there are three different genetic types for humans.  The first is just your normal run of the mill human.  Standard in every way and could use the standard magic systems from RuneQuest.  The second was a genetic strain that was predisposed to the use of magic that could use the more advanced home-brewed magic systems.  The third was a genetic strain that has had the ability to use any type of magic (besides divine) bred out of them (long backstory related to the history of the game world there) and had a somewhat higher resistance to  magical effects.  In the post Harry Potter world, we call them muggles.  My character was of this third variety.

So naturally, I figured I’d try the ring on.  I’m resistant to magical effects and if I had to do something to actually activate it, it wouldn’t happen since I can’t.   I’ll admit that I wasn’t too attached to this character.  It was my first character in the game system and I’m partial to playing wizards anyway so I was willing to take a few risks that I normally wouldn’t.  Which was a good thing as we’ll soon see.

The wizards are all staring at me intently (using their Sense Aura skill to watch for magical effects) and I slip on the ring.  Nothing happens.  Well, it looks like a non-magical person like myself can’t use it or activate it.  So I try to take the ring off.  Nope.  I can’t remove it.  There is still nothing happening so they don’t want to use one of the scrolls just yet (they were pretty powerful and were the “nuclear” option).  One of the wizards knew the Cancel Arcane spell and tried casting it on the ring but it must not have been powerful enough because nothing happened and I still couldn’t remove the ring.

xenomorph alien from the movie alien

Imagine two of these popping out of nowhere right next to you (image by who-stole-MY-name on Deviant Art, click image to visit page).  It turns out that “battle demons” in this world are actually based on the xenomorphs from Alien.

It’s been about a minute of game time since I put the ring on and it suddenly gets a bit more crowded in the private conference room we were meeting in as two battle demons materialized in the room right next to me.  Well at least we now seem to know what the ring does (Summoning is a communication spell).

Needless to say things got a little crazy.  I dived out of the way and made for my sword and shield in the corner of the room while the battle demons engaged two other members of the group.  After grabbing my weapons, I actually had the presence of mind to remember that I was still wearing the ring.  Thinking that it might give me some control over the things it had just summoned, I tried commanding them to stop attacking.  It didn’t work.  I didn’t speak battle demon and they didn’t seem to speak my language so there was no response other than one of them turned to attack me.

I missed my first attack but managed to parry the creature’s attack with my shield.  The next round saw me landing a solid blow and discovering a nasty characteristic of these beasties.  Their blood is an acid and my favorite broadsword was starting to dissolve in my hand.  My next blow was a lucky strike (a critical hit) that kills the creature I was fighting but my sword broke in the process.  And guess what, it’s been another minute and two more appear, again right next to me.

About this time I’m thinking it would be good for one of those remove curse scrolls but the wizards are being a little hard pressed by the battle demons and are in no condition to work on that right now.  I grab my backup weapon, a long sword, and wade in.  At this point someone realizes that any magically enhanced blade seems to be immune to the acid effect.  Those with spells that can do that are frantically enchanting everyone’s weapons while those of us who can’t are fending of the creatures.  Which is good because our weapon supply was rapidly diminishing.

The battle raged on for a couple more minutes.  At some point I found myself up on the conference table in the center of the room laying into any demon I can reach.  Plus it put the newly arriving ones up where they could be targeted by the wizards.  I had killed four of the creatures and wounded a fifth when one of them landed a fatal blow, crushing my skull.  There were only two more of the creatures left at this point (in all 8 battle demons were summoned) and no new creatures appeared.  Killing the wearer of the ring successfully stops the enchantment from working.  And they never did have to use one of those scrolls.

The rest of the group finished off the remaining creatures but there was nothing they could do for my poor character.  At least he got to go out in a blaze of glory, even if the need was self inflicted.  The clean up was quite extensive and a good chunk of our coin went to the owner of the inn for repairs (One of the wizards was quite liberal in his use of the flare spell – think mini fireball – not to mention all the acid blood over everything.)

In the end, they stowed those ring away but didn’t destroy them.  You never know when it might be useful to summon an army of battle demons into a fight, especially if you can find a way to control them or at least direct them against your enemy.

So that’s how my first ever RuneQuest character died, after just three and a half sessions, killed by creatures he summoned by putting on a cursed ring.  Do you have a good cursed items or story related to one? Join in with this month’s blog carnival and share your experiences.