Tag Archives: Game Design

VOID Update July 10th, 2014…

Dan_DYT3So I promised an update on the various projects on the block and I thought I’d start with one folks have asked me about recently: VOID (Vanguard Operations in Interminate Darkness), formerly known as Void Hunters (which I found was already taken by a computer game, unfortunately).

After having gone back and rewritten the mechanics from the ground up, I have started to type out the formal text for the demo version of the game. The character creation chapter is now complete, and I’m going back over it today to make sure everything is in order before moving on to Chapter 2, which covers the basic rules. Once those are done, I’ll create a set of Pregen 1st level characters, equipment & Psionic Power cards and a starter adventure and lay the whole thing out before placing it up for grabs on my RPGNow account. Then we’ll see what folks think of it.

My long term plans include finishing writing the full text within the next three months and then converting the whole kit and kaboodle into a basic Digital Table-top RPG for mobile platforms. If I can find an artist, I’ll release a PDF version as well.

As for the design, there have been major changes. I still want to keep that DCC feel, but I wanted to start over mechanically to make a system for sci-fi, not to shoe sci-fi into an existing fantasy system. So there is still a ‘funnel’ in the game, for example (which is called a 0 Level Mass Conversion, to give it that sci-fi feel). I have also retained the classic d20 structure of Attributes, Levels, Hit Points and Saves, but the way these are all realized mechanically is structurally different.

d20 BECOMES 3d6

One of the first major changes was to move from the eponymous d20, with it’s flat probability line, to the 3D6, with it’s glorious bell curve.


I did this for numerous reason, but one of the main ones involved the weight of attribute modifiers. In a d20 game, a +1 is not really all that important when it comes to comparing two characters. It is much more consistently significant in a 3d6 system, however.

Changing to 3D6 also allows me to play with the individual dice more. Every career class has a Specialist Die that can be used to replace on of the dice in the 3d6 roll, and which grows as the character levels. It functions in much the same way as the Attack Die from DCC, but is now expanded for different roles in the game and actually widens the bell curve instead of adding directly to it as a straight bonus (which is much more powerful in 3d6, as I mentioned).

I have further taken advantage of the 3 die roll to create a hybrid of the Advantage and Disadvantage mechanic(from D&D 5E) and the Dice Chain concept from DCC. In VOID, when you have an advantage, you shift one of the dice in your roll up to the next highest die type, a d6 to a d8 (up to D30), for example. For disadvantage, you do the opposite, reducing it down, from a d6 to a d4 (down to no die at all, if things are that bad). You’re still rolling three dice, you still have a curve, but you are changing the shape of the curve and shifting it up or down instead of adding flat modifications.

The practical upshot of this is I’m going to be able to keep the range of Difficulty Levels tighter and more consistent. No more rising Levels chasing rising difficulties. An average task will always be the same difficulty, and there is always a chance you will roll triple 1’s and fail miserably, no matter how good you are. A David can beat a Goliath if luck favors them (and especially if they abuse the Advantage/Disadvantage system), and no character will ever get too complacent in the harsh environment of the void. And best of all, no more summing ridiculously large chains of modifiers! Hooray!


Grit represents the characters ability to roll with a blow to minimize damage from various sources as well as to endure fatigue and other physical stresses. When a character is reduced to 0 Grit, they are exhausted, possibly unconscious, and vulnerable to serious injury or even death, which is represented by any further damage being applied to Endurance (equivalent to CON in d20 games) directly until they are dead. Grit recovers quickly, and a character can recover up to half that lost in a particular encounter by resting afterwards (as in BoL and D&D4E) but Endurance damage represents serious injuries that take a long time to heal and prevent full recovery of Grit.

darkstarEgo is Grit for the mind. It represents the reservoir of will and mental energy that keeps a character from giving up or going insane, which is why Psions, who rely heavily on it to power their abilities, often teeter on the edge of mental collapse and madness. Losing all your Ego means you go out of control and start picking up psychosis. It recovers much more slowly than Grit, and only after the character has returned to a place of stability. One of the character careers, the Voivode (formerly the Officer)  specializes in Ego recovery, like a Cleric for the mind.

Credit is what allows you to make large scale purchases with the understanding that you will be bringing back a hefty return on investment. In cases where a military or corporate backer is providing you with material assistance, it is your Credit that will determine what resources they are willing to risk for your mission (and how easy it is to get extra equipment from corrupt quartermasters or black market sources).Space travel and the exploitation of alien worlds is an expensive business and your Credit will take hits any time you exercise it. It also only recovers when you actively replenish it (by exploiting and selling resources). Team members can pool their Credit scores to make even larger purchases (like ships and ship components) and, if they manage to secure a Patron, they will find their Credit ratings go a lot farther (at the price of obligations).


I’m doing away with XP as a means of reward. In large-75VOID. Characters will earn from failure as well as success by leveling after completing a number of adventures equal to their next level, regardless of the results. So a 0 Level Red Shirt need only survive their Mass Conversion mission to achieve Level 1 whereas a Level 2 will need to go on 3 mission to advance to Level 3.

In game rewards will come in the form of Resources that can restore credit and even increase it in certain circumstances, Patronage that will allow access to otherwise unattainable goals and, eventually the power to become a Patron themselves. Not to mention the thrill of adventuring, which should be the point of playing.


So the game has taken a pretty hard departure from DCC as I strike out to make something that is familiar to DCC and d20 players but is still unique in its own ways. Some may ask why I’m not going all out original and the answer to that is simple: because the general mechanics are well known and tested, easy to tweak and easy to sell as a small press company. Plus, nothing better reflects 1970’s gaming ethos like a game that tweaks the mechanical underpinnings and re-purposes the design concepts of the games from that era.

I’m still open to opinions, of course, so feel free to comment below…


What’s Going On…?

If it’s been a bit quiet around here lately it’s because I’ve been very busy putting things together, working on rules, creating graphics and otherwise building on games in order get them ready for release. As a one man production band (who is also trying to join university faculty at numerous schools and do the odd job to keep the green flowing) this means that I tend to neglect the social media more than I should, so here is an update for those worried that their favorite projects might be vaporware (short answer: I never produce vaporware, it all gets done)…


Quarterback Blitz is reaching the end of the prototyping stage. I plan to start shopping it ’round to production companies at the end of this month. All that really remains is finishing the miniature prototypes, but in the meantime, play-testing is going along at full speed with the makeshift models I kludged together out of electric football players and assorted gaming bases. I even managed to get the cards done up professionally by a great printing company in Hong Kong (who printed and delivered my cards in 5 days total). Here are some images of those below:

20140630_10121520140630_101237So QBB is going gangbusters, if the enthusiasm shown in play-testing is any indicator (even with people who don’t like football as a rule), and has most of my attention at this time. It looks to be a winner with sports fans and gamers and a big seller for JM and whatever company agrees to produce it.


SpikeI have spent the last few months really debating with myself over whether or not this company will make RPGs anymore. A variety of catalysts from the state of the industry, to the behavior of the customer base, to the financial viability of making anything more than pizza money off of all the blood, sweat and soul that goes into making a good RPG, were pushing me to say to heck with the whole hobby. Seriously. It is, frankly, easier, cheaper and more rewarding to build board, card and electronic games, and wit them, good transmedia friendly IP.

After a good long think, I decided to go ahead and finish at least two of my RPG projects and see where they go before giving up on the industry altogether and just focusing on all those other things. Fortunately, I have some willing partners who are going to help me see those two games to life as the first all digital table-top RPGs.

Void Hunters is now going by the title VOID: the RPG of Seventies Science Fiction and I have completely divorced it from Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics game. I loves me some DCC (seriously, if you haven’t tried it, get your butt to their site and join the band), but the restrictions were too stifling and I’ve decided to design my own mechanics while adopting some of the attitudes of that great game: Red Shirts dying by the dozen, player characters struggling to survive in a hostile universe, unforgiving patrons and merciless horrors in the dark, all of this will be part of the experience. It is at the back of the line, development wise, but I add material to it daily and should have a demo to show soon.

BoHM is my passion project and one of the main IP concepts I want to develop along transmedia lines. As a result, I’m looking to do a lot of different things with it, including seeing it materialize as a Digital TTRPG. But first, I’m going to be working on smaller, non RPG games to develop the background and prototype systems for what will be a mechanically unique take on RPGs. Can’t say much on that  right now, but as soon as the QBB prototype is finished and the proposal sent out, I’m getting right on a slew of material set in the BoHM universe. Watch this space.


SampleHeroesFor Glory! is done, it is just waiting on production. That requires money however, and, in the course of considering gaming in the 21st century and the old models of doing things, my partner and I have decided that it is ludicrous for us to go the route of, say, Ticket to Ride or Small World and build a physical game first and a digital version later. The up front costs of production and distribution are so ludicrously high these days, we have decided that it is better to do the digital version first and, if sales justify it, use some of the money from that to produce a physical copy. The up front costs for digital games are so much lower, the entry level so much cheaper for the consumer, and the ability to automate and expand so much more convenient for everyone, that I’m all about digital devices as a board gaming platform (and have been for a number of years). So I’d expect to see For Glory! released on a tablet near you before a physical copy rolls off the presses.

The one exception to this seems to be card games. My experience producing QBB’s cards has shown me that there is a much better chance of a return on your investment with sufficient quality to justify physical card games. As such, the Pirate Game, which was formerly planned to be a proper board game, is now being redesigned using a new system I’m developing to function as a card based wargame. As this system will be the basis of the larger BoHM plans I mentioned earlier, I will be working heavily on this after QBB is wrapped up for the month.


Kark01Some of you may remember this project from last year. It is an actual video game, not a table top  board game or RPG, and it has been waiting for mobile technology to catch up a bit and the right production team to come along. Well, the good news is that I am in final negotiations with a company to finally finish it. Most of the design work is done and all that is left is programming and testing, so I look forward to this tearing up a tablet near you soon.


So that’s what’s on the block. Fortunately, a lot of it is well on its way to done, so we should see 2 or 3 of these out by the end of the year with the rest following up shortly thereafter in 2015. In the meantime, I’ll try and get some more specific updates on individual games up later this week,,,

Quarterback Blitz Demo (March 22nd, 2014)…

20140322_133543   It was a great day for gridiron action over at Madness Comics in Plano last Saturday, as we demoed the new Revision 5 rules of QBB! Some of the changes in this Revision:

  • Movement has been greatly simplified. It’s more abstract, but the play is much faster for it.
  • Tackle Zones have undergone a massive change, allowing players to have a larger influence on the field and open up the defensive line a bit so it is more realistic.
  • Blocking has been consolidated and streamlined. Every Block works the same, but the end results are different for stand up blocks, tackles and (a new result) Jamming, depending on the timing and location of the hit.
  • Pass Blocking and Tackle are now Passive Skills, i.e. they function to affect the skills or rolls of other players, instead of creating new rolls, so less Dice Rolling there.
  • Probably the biggest change, Kicking has totally been simplified and streamlined so that now you handle Kick-Offs, Punts and PAT Kicks with a few simple rolls instead of playing them out (a boring and laborious thing to do and I’m really hoping they introduce the new 7/6 PAT rule next season). As a result of the changes, the Special Teams Unit is now represented by a single Card instead of a series of individual player cards, which also reduces the part count considerably.

The other big change is that the Penalty System is now card based.as well as dice based. We had a problem in that the previous two systems were kicking out penalties at an absurd rate (well, for Pro Football, it would have been just right for College and High School) along with the fact that some penalties are incredibly specific and these weren’t being taken into account without unnecessarily overburdening the main rules with exceptions. Cards allow exception based ruling to be used without having to actually remember the exceptions just to play the game. All the info is on the card.


The new system is pretty simple. If a Penalty Flag comes up during a roll and is not rerolled (as above) the opposing player is allowed to either play a Penalty Card from his hand or draw one from the Penalty Deck.


As you can see, Penalty Cards have a bit of information on them. The first bit is the description, which tells you what the penalty means. The next bit is the Timing (also represented by a small icon on the bottom left) which tells you when you can play that penalty. If the timing isn’t right on any of your cards, then you can’t play any. There may be a Special Rules section with specific instructions on what happens when the card is played and, finally, there are a number of whistle icons at the bottom right side of the card. These not only tell you the yardage penalty (5 per whistle unless the Special Rules say otherwise) but are also used for a Penalty Check.


Once a penalty is played on a player, you place the Penalty Card on the Player Card. Once the play is over, you make a Penalty Check, using the yellow Penalty Dice (seen in the upper left corner of the above pic with a single Whistle showing). If the number of whistles on the dice match the number on the card, the player is penalized.

This new system seems to have really captured the feel of penalties in a real game without overly unbalancing the table-top game and making it more about ‘who got penalized when’ over ‘who had the best tactics.’


Overall, the streamlining of the rules.has sped up the game considerably and even a seven year old kid grasped the concepts and got into the game (and was very disappointed when I had to leave). So I’d say that we have maybe one more revision to go. With that and some original sculpts for the models, QBB will be ready for prime time!

Void Hunters: Redshirt Occupations…

9f42ce34b1d7af6fda9264fb60adebf4Every Redshirt has a regular job before being sent to meet their destiny in The Meatgrinder, and in Void Hunters there will be three separate tables to generate one for your level-0 character: Military, Corporate and Civilian.

Which table you use will be up to the guy running the game. They may want to keep character generation focused on one table for their campaign, which may be specifically centered around military expeditions to expand the borders of the empire, corporate survey teams seeking new resources for exploitation or civilian traders prospecting in the void to find the big haul that will make their fortunes and allow them to retire in style. On the other hand, they may not care where your characters come from and may allow Civilian Contractors to sign on the Military Ships with Corporate survey teams.

Some of the tables allow for cross pollination of occupation types, so a military expeditionary team  may well find a Corporate Liaison on board their ship and there is special occupation, Weird, on all the tables that allows for the more off the wall possibilities, like Rogue Synthetics, Alien Infiltrators and Corporate Spies.

All occupations start off with some very basic equipment and some, like Synthetics, have special rules or abilities. For examples, check out the Military Occupation Table…








COMBAT DRONE Plasma Rifle, Combat Knife Full Combat Armor Synthetic – STR+3, AGL+3, END+3, PER-3, LUCK 0Tech Base – CombatInhibition – Follow orders of direct COC and deactivate when given code word by those in direct COC.


PROTOCOL DRONE Stylus Translation Matrix Synthetic – STR-3, AGL+3, END+3, PER+3, LUCK 0Skill Focus – Linguistics & ProtocolInhibition – Cause no intentional offense


RESEARCH DRONE Laser Probe Portable Scanner Synthetic – AGL+3, INT+3, END+3, PER-3, LUCK 0Tech Base – ScientificInhibition – Do not deviate from scientific method, gather all data


TRANSPORT DRONE Ballistic Pistol, Combat Knife Vehicle Synthetic – STR+3, AGL+3, END+3, PER-3, LUCK 0 Tech Base – TransportInhibition – Get passengers to destination without harm.


MEDICAL DRONE Laser Scalpel Med-Kit Synthetic – AGL+3, INT+3, PER+3, LUCK 0Skill Focus – Medical DoctorInhibition – Allow no harm to come to patients.


PYRO Flame Pistol, Combat Knife Matches Psion (Pryokinesis), Rank – 2nd Lieutenant


CHUCK Combat Knife Steel Ball Bearings Psion (Force Throw), Rank – 2nd Lieutenant


SHADOW Pistol, Garrote Silencer  Psion (Mind Cloud), Rank – 2nd Lieutenant


SNIFFER Stunner Migraine Pills Psion (Read Thoughts), Rank – 2nd Lieutenant


MP Stun Pistol Mag-Cuffs Tech Base – Combat, Rank – Private


TROOPER Assault Rifle, Combat Knife Full Combat Armor Tech Base – Combat, Rank – Private


TECHNICIAN None As Chart Rank – Private, Skill focus – Roll on Random Maintenance Skill chart


QUARTERMASTER Assault Rifle, Combat Knife Data Scroll, Inventory Data Patch Rank – Sergeant


WARRANT OFFICER Ballistic Pistol, Combat Knife Data Scroll, 1 Random Data Patch Rank – Warrant Officer


PSYCHOLOGIST None Data Scroll, Personnel Data Patch Rank – Captain, Skill Focus – Psychology


PRIEST None Data Scroll, Personnel Data Patch Rank – Captain, Skill Focus – Theology


ACADEMY GRAD Ballistic Pistol, Combat Knife Data Scroll, Sun Tzu Data Patch Rank – 2nd Lieutenant


ASTRONAUT Ballistic Pistol, Combat Knife Data Scroll, Astronav Data Patch Rank – Captain, Tech Base – Astronautics


PURE SCIENTIST None Portable Scanner Rank – 2nd Lieutenant, Skill Focus – Roll on Random Science Chart


VEHICLE TECH Ballistic Pistol, Combat Knife Vehicle Repair Kit Rank – Private, Skill focus – Roll on Random Transport Type chart


ROBOTICS SPECIALIST Ballistic Pistol, Combat Knife Robot Repair Kit Rank – Private, Tech Base – Robotics


SYNTHETIC SPECIALIST Ballistic Pistol, Combat Knife Synthetic Repair Kit Rank – 2nd Lieutenant, Tech Base – Synthetics


DOCTOR Laser Scalpel Med-Kit Rank – Captain, Skill Focus – Medical Doctor


INTEL ANALYST Ballistic Pistol, Combat Knife Silencer, Data Scroll, Intel Data Patch Rank – 2nd Lieutenant, INT +1


PENAL LEGION SLAVE None Bomb Collar One random PC controls the Bomb Collar.


CORPORATE LIAISON None   Roll on the Corporate Occupation Table


WEIRD  Roll once on the Weird Table and then roll again on this table.

Quarterback Blitz now in Playtesting…


Humble beginnings: The Play-test Set… (Picture © Wendi Kavanaugh 2013)

While For Glory! is being readied for a spring Kickstarter, playtesting has started on Quarterback Blitz, the table top miniature game of Professional Football.This will not only be another exciting new future product from Jabberwocky, but is also a Thesis Project for my MFA, so it is going to be scrutinized with academic intensity as well as my own OCD like attention to design detail.

As you can see from the image above, the game focuses on the one on one tactical interactions of individual players on the field, each one of which has his own Stat Card, describing his stats, skills and special abilities, like so:


Player Cards (All Images ©2013 Jabberwocky Media LLC)

For each card, there is a corresponding miniature: currently, I’m using Tudor Electric Football models, clipped off of their stands and placed on 20mm round bases. They’re fairly small, and the models I plan to have made for the final game will be smaller still to fit in with the 1:72/25mm scale of the game, which everything is scaled to including the marks on the field. As such, jersey numbers will be kind of hard to see and, for the first time player, might not really define the position and where that player fits into the grand strategy of the Offense or the Defense. To provide for that, I’ve created specialized bases for each model:


Figure Bases (All Images ©2013 Jabberwocky Media LLC)

Each Base has three vital pieces of information:

Player Position: Above we have a Quarterback, a Mike Linebacker and a Split End (a Wide Receiver on the weak end of the line). These are all represented by the actual letter codes used in most coaches’ playbooks so that when you look down at the field, you will see the play in physical form. A great tool for teaching basic formation structure.

Player Number: Another identifier that keys the player to the card, so if you have numerous non-specialized Linebackers or a gaggle of Rookie Tackles, you can tell them apart.

Mobility Ring: This ring, broken into three zones, determines turning radius as well as situational awareness when passing, receiving and avoiding blocks and tackles.

Other that that, the game has relatively few other pieces, the vast majority of which are specialized dice, including a set for Passing/Kicking, Ball-Handling, Blocking and Sprinting, as well as time, ball deviation, injury and penalty dice. Each set will have special icons instead of numbers (well, the deviation and time dice will have numbers) like those shown below:


Dice Icons (All Images ©2013 Jabberwocky Media LLC)

The game in play is a slower, more deliberative game that concentrates on the strategy of Football. This means that it is not only a more mental game that all ages can enjoy, like chess (as opposed to just those with fast-twitch muscles on a video game console), it is also an excellent tool for teaching newbies the fundamentals of football, the ins and outs of plays, positions and how they function, and why they’d name a position something as silly as Willy (A: he’s the Weak side LInebacker).

In addition, it will be a hobby game, like Warhammer Fantasy Battle or Flames of War, in that you will be able to paint your models to fit your team colors (real or made-up) and build a custom stadium for home games. Alternately, if you can’t paint a lick, there will be pre-packaged and painted Expansion Teams (including real NFL teams), with a set of cards and models for 50+ players, a whole team in a box, including the history of the franchise and special stadium rules for their home field. Other planned expansions include:

Dirty Tricks & Exceptional Plays: This card deck expansion would contain special plays and events that occur in football but cannot be accurately reflected using  miniatures rules, such as the events that lead to the Immaculate Reception: balls bouncing off shoulder pads, miracle catches made when surrounded by the opposition or attempting to goad other players to anger so they’ll start a fight and get thrown out of the game.

Dallas Cowboys v Pittsburgh SteelersQBB Coaching Kit: This expansion adds a whole new level to the game as we introduce the Coaching Staff who affect the field game from the sidelines with coaching skills, the ability to call time-outs, challenge calls, and treat exhausted, demoralized and injured players.

The Coaching Kit also introduces the Playbook with associated Play Deck. With these you can plan out special plays that give your players an advantage on the field so long as they follow the play. A perfect way to learn the overall strategy behind the tactics seen on the field.

QBB Franchise Kit: Ever wanted to be Jerry Jones and build a Super Bowl winning franchise? This expansion shows the effects of the Stadium, fans, and money on a teams fortunes. Draft the best players to build your team, buy free agents to fill in the gaps and enhance the training facilities in your training camp to produce the absolute best gridiron warriors in the league. And don’t forget the endorsements, you need money to make all that happen…

FOR GLORY! Print & Play Demo is Available…


The Kickstarter for For Glory! has been moved back to February (my Thesis is just taking up way too much time for anything else at this point), but in the meantime, we’re making a Print & Play Demo available for download for those who would like to give it a try and all for the low low price of absolutely nothing at all. You can find it here:


Print it up, put it together and play a few games and then let us know what you think over in the forums. Those who are particularly helpful will find their names added to our credits Edda and, if they have a really cool idea, might even find a custom card with their name on it! That’s how the Lemurs of Lemuria card ended up in the set…

Void Hunters: The Commanding Officer…

1372028638894The Synthetic is a unique class that really didn’t have any analogies to DCC in specific or OSR games in general, but it is not alone in that regards. The Commanding Officer is another class that doesn’t really fit neatly into the OSR pigeonhole.

It’s like a Cleric, but the healing abilities are all psychological not physical. It’s like the Warlord, with excellent leadership abilities that enhance the party, but more educated and skilled than combat intensive.

It is the lynchpin of any team, and, like the Cleric and Warrior, its absence is sorely felt when no one takes up the role. Here is the current version of the class…




Combat Die

Bonus Attack




Other Abilities








Educated, Lead from the Front




































General, Combat, Transport


Officers are more highly educated, and have access to knowledge that is typically restricted to specialist crew-members. At level 1, they may choose any one additional Tech Base.


Officers have a Combat Die just as Soldiers do. Although it is smaller, it functions in the same way.

alien-tom-skerritt-dallasLEADERSHIP DIE

Each Round, an Officer may add their Leadership Die to one other character who is within communication range (verbal or visual) and actively following their lead. This die may be added to that recipient’s Action Roll for that Round only (they may not be saved from Round to Round).

Actively following the Officer’s means that the Officer Character has given the recipient some instruction at some point before their Action roll and they are actively carrying it out.

At level 3 and above, the Officer may ‘split’ their Leadership die into two or more smaller dice. The only restriction is that a D3 is the smallest die that can be split off in this manner and any remainders are lost (a D10 split 3 ways would become a D3, D3 and D3, for example). They may assign these extra dice as they see fit, but may only assign one to any single individual per Round.


collision_coarseInstead of using their Leadership Die for the round to give orders and encouragement, the Officer may lead by example, passing their Will save to do some extremely unnerving task like entering  and alien infested hulk, leading a charge against a band of space pirates, or any other daring act the inspires their comrades. They may do this a number of times per Mission equal to their Level.

Any character (except Synthetics) following them and doing the same Action gains a x1 Enhancement on their roll for that Round only.


Officers may use their Leadership Die (or dice if they split it) once in the Psychosis phase to help a crew member (except Synthetics) to either avoid picking up a new permanent psychosis or to help remove an existing one.

Void Hunters: Character Classes…

All characters in Void Hunters start out as Redshirts. A Redshirt is a level-0 character with a lowly occupation, and they go through the same Character Funnel winnowing process as DCC characters. After this, Void Hunters assumes that they receive some sort of promotion and spend some years training for, and gaining experience in, a new career: their Class.

Void Hunters will introduce 6 new classes for science fiction gaming using the DCC rules set. Classes not only determine the basic DCC sort of things, like Action Dice, critical tables and special abilities, they also determine the type of technology the character is familiar with, their starting equipment and the particular type of mental instabilities they are prone to while out in the void.


large-75The Soldier is the DCC Warrior in many ways, with the best, all around fighting ability of any class (including Mighty Deeds of Arms) and the highest Hit Die. The resemblance ends there, however, as Soldiers are not just talented fighters or fierce barbarians, but highly trained combatants, most with a military background of one sort of another, be it regimented army sergeant or gun-for hire mercenary.

They are, of course, trained in Weapons and Armor, but they also possess the MOS special ability, which allows them to pick up some very specific training as they rise in level, A Soldier does not start with Transport as a Technology Base, so they will never. for instance, be the all around driver, pilot and mechanic that someone with Transport is, but they might have an MOS in Tanks, giving them a d20 Action die in the repair and operation of those types of vehicles. They can even pick up very specific bits of Experimental technology with enough experience, like learning how to use and maintain a particular alien weapon. At higher levels, they can even pick up a special ability from another human class (i.e. not Synthetic) for a soldier who is incredibly stealthy or one who develops a single psychic power, for example.

SCI-TECH (formerly Scientist)

silentrnng4This covers all sorts of brainy folk with a very wide range of scientific and technical skills. They will have the widest Technology Base of all the classes and are the only class that get the Experimental Tech Base, which gives them the ability to decipher and deconstruct, bypass or utilize alien tech and then try and pass on that understanding to other classes. They will only start with a number of these, however, which will determine their specialty (starship engineer, research scientist, transport officer, etc.), but they will have the opportunity to learn more of them as they advance in level, until they become versatile in pretty much everything but fighting.

They are, pound for pound, the worst fighters of all the classes, having spent so much time amassing scientific, technical and esoteric knowledge that they have had little time for combat training, but they make up for it with their Gadgeteering special ability, which allows them to improvise devices using whatever is handy and lying around.



Jack Holloway from H. Beam Piper’s ‘Little Fuzzy’ is the inspiration for this class.

The Point Man for exploration teams, the Scout is a survival specialist who is also good at identifying potential dangers before they can do harm. Scouts are the second best fighters and also possess a wide Technology Base that allows them to function on their own for long periods of time. Their special abilities include an increasing bonus to AC (a sixth sense that helps them to avoid danger) and improved Stealth skills.

When it comes to dealing with sentient aliens who are not automatically hostile, the Scout also functions as a First Contact specialist, giving them a bonus on the Reaction Table when to trying to communicate with and befriend them.


tumblr_lt27szJ0T21qaye4so1_500The Officer is the team leader. In D&D 4E terms, you’re looking at a Warlord sort of character, whose abilities help to bolster his team, especially if he leads from the front.

Officers in Void Hunters also serve as the team psychologist, as the ability to lead a team in deep space is only as good as one’s ability to understand their innermost fears and desires, anticipate their behavior and head off any potential issues that might lead to…SPACE MADNESS! As such, some of their special abilities will revolve around ministering to the mental health of their team and helping to cure short term psychosis before it can fester into long term insanity. They are, mentally, the toughest members of the team with the highest Will Save for that reason.


hr_giger_dreadsThis is an optional career, and the GM may forbid them on the grounds of realism, especially if he is running a campaign in a hard science fiction setting. They are, in effect, the Wizards of the Void Hunter game, but with very different power levels and restrictions.

Psychic powers are going to work in much the same way as DCC Magic in that there will be a ‘Psychic Roll’ based on Personality, and the result will be looked up on a table. There will also be corruption in the form of ‘Psychosis,’ various temporary and long-term mental disorders that the Psychic can pick up and may eventually drive them totally insane (and there are some things in the darker corners of the universe that will speed up that process).

The tables remain, but they will have a much different slant. Hard Sci-Fi Psychics are a recent evolution of the species, their powers barely understood by science. This means, mechanically speaking, that the curve of effect on the tables will be much steeper (and the tables much shorter as a result). The low end of the table will be rife with poltergeist effects and misdirected mental energies, with only the lowest results costing the Psychic the use of their powers for a time or knocking them out from the strain. On the other hand, unlike Wizard Tables, the higher end of the Psychic tables, the ones where a Psychic shows truly massive power, offer a chance for corruption/Psychosis just as the low ends do. At level 5, a psychic might truly start to frighten their team-mates, whom the Psychic no longer relates to in the same way, and a level 10 Psychic risks turning into an insane being of god-like power with every use of their powers!

Psionic abilities will also be grouped into Disciplines, and Psychics will be defined by a single discipline until they gain higher levels (3, 5, 7, 9), at which point they might branch out. This means that they will be much more focused than wizards and their role in the game will vary from character to character. One can imagine a Telepath being part of First Contact team (or used as an interrogator in a War Amongst the Stars setting, ala Starship Troopers); a Telekinetic acting as the ‘thief’ in a Hulk Recovery Mission, using their powers to unlock doors or grab potentially dangerous artifacts from afar; while a Pyrokinetic would serve as ranged fire support for a Military Special Ops unit.

So psychics are more limited than wizards in some ways, but they don’t have to make deals with supernatural patrons, find arcane manuscripts to gain new ‘spells,’ and may eventually recover from their ‘corruption’ over time with the right psychiatric care. Like Wizards, however, their ticks and psychosis will slowly make them peculiar in a way that will make it harder for them to deal with the ‘normals’ that surround them. One day, they find themselves totally unable to relate to what are, essentially, dumb apes in comparison to them, from an evolutionary point of view, and may even find themselves at war with their previous team-mates and friends who are terrified of the Psychic’s power.

This of course, assumes that they live long enough. There are things in the void that hunger for the minds of the ‘gifted’…


david8-102I deliberately used David 8 from 2012’s Prometheus as my illustration because while Ash, from that movie’s seventies predecessor Alien, is actually the same type of Android from the same setting as David, I think Michael Fassbender captured that ‘not quite human’ aspect so much better, and that is the image I want people to have of a Synthetic.

Game-wise, the synthetic class is the ‘demi-human’ class of Void Hunters. Better than humans in oh so many ways, but with a built in rarity that comes from a very limited place on the 0-level occupation table and a specific set of weaknesses or vulnerabilities that hinders them in unique ways as well. Being programmed to obey specific humans, for instance, and not being able to ‘heal,’ relying on others to repair them in many cases. I’m still noodling on this class, because I don’t want it to become an Uberclass, but I don’t want to betray their literary underpinnings by artificially weakening them, either. A few ideas I’ve had on how to approach them include:

1. Treat them as an Elf, basically giving them the abilities of two classes (Soldier and Sci-Tech seem the most likely) and slow down their XP gain in some manner to represent their lack of insight (the Basic D&D variation) or give them some serious vulnerabilities like the Elf’s aversion to iron (the DCC variation), or some combination of both.

2. Give them bonuses in STR, AGL and INT, but really nerf Personality and give them an automatic Luck of 0.

3. Some combination of the previous 2.


Those are my first rough concepts for the character classes for the game and, as you can see by the change of scientist into sci-tech, they are still evolving as Void Hunters simmers in the back of my brain. Some, like the Soldier and Sci-Tech, are very simple to design and will go quickly, while others, like the Psychic and Synthetic, will need careful crafting to make sure they are fun for everyone.

Note that I didn’t say, ‘balanced’ for everyone. I like classes to be powerful in their own, unique manner, even in situations outside of their sphere of influence where clever players, none the less, come up with unusual ways to utilize their abilities to overcome the challenges before them. Balance is a holy grail I do not pursue. Fun is my grail, and as long as everyone can play a different class and feel they got an equal amount of that, I’m a happy game designer…

Void Hunters: New Rules for DCC…

As this is a supplement for Dungeon Crawl Classics, it will use the bulk of the DCC rules set for basic stuff like Attributes, Combat, Skills, etc. As a silence fiction game, however, we will need to add a few new rules to the game that are specific to that genre (as well as alter some of the existing systems, which I’ll be talking about more extensively in later posts), in much the same way as I did in Barbarians of the Aftermath.


AstronautPerhaps the biggest difference between a fantasy setting and a science fiction setting is the growth in the complexity of technology. Most people can be assumed to able to use almost 99% of fantasy technology (hammer & iron spikes, lanterns, tinder-boxes, ten foot poles, etc.) with specialists in a few specific trades, like blacksmiths and wainrights, and the most advanced technology, reading and writing, only available to those with the proper education.

In the modern day, however, we are constantly being reminded of how much there is to know and how little of it we actually understand. Sure, the smartphone is ubiquitous, but how many people can strip and clean a firearm? And of those, how many know to do the same with military grade weapons? And how many military weapons  are so complex that you can’t repair them in the field? We could make the same point about driving a car being different from flying a plane to flying a fighter jet and the differences in programming a website versus programming an operating system, but you get the point: technology has turned mankind into a species of specialists. So in the game, it just doesn’t make sense to let everyone use every piece of technology equally.

As such, each PC will have a Technology Base that will be gained from their class, based upon the type of technology they are trained and competent with. Their 0-Level Occupation will also provide them with one, very specific, piece of technology they are familiar with, which may or may not fit inside that Tech Base. In a way, you can think of the Technology Base as a skill set for the operation, repair and basic understanding of the principles behind devices that fall within that base (including alien tech that bears a strong resemblance to it). Those familiar with the tech roll a d20 as their Action Die. Those unfamiliar with it (but, considering the level of knowledge and experience needed to brave the void, probably cross-trained in it) roll a d10 as their Action Die, just as with skills in DCC.

Each piece of equipment will have one or more Tech Categories that define where it fits within the class structure of the game: General (which is available to pretty much everyone), Combat, Transport (planet-side vehicles & mechanics), Scientific, Robotic and Astronautic (spacecraft & engineering). There will also be three other Tech Categories that are so specialized that only those classes that possess them can figure them out and use them: Experimental (weird super-science type gadgets and alien tech), Psychic and Synthetic (everything to do with androids).

Of course, it should go without saying that these Technology Bases not only represent technological competence, but overall skills sets as well, so a character with training in Transport is probably a general mechanic as well as a driver, which means he would be the guy to call when the base AC is on the fritz. Need to fix a Cybertank, however? You’ll need a guy who is knowledgeable in both Transport and Robotics to get the d20 Action Die..


160d21128da98dc567406f7e2442d9ec-d53u2f1Another difference in the two genres is that characters who pillage the void are not going to come home with ready to spend piles of shiny coins. They are going to come home with resources that they must sell, and nothing that you spend weeks and years risking death in the void for is going to sell for cheap. Combine that with the fact that certain equipment, like spacecraft components, are going to be exorbitantly expensive, and you can see how keeping account of money in bits and pieces can become a bit unwieldy.

Instead of that, each character will have a Resource attribute, which works like the Luck Attribute in DCC, in that you will have an Attribute Score that goes up and down as you use your resources and add to them, as well as a modifier that doesn’t change (to represent your lifetime credit rating based upon your past dealings) and is used for when you try to get things above your current Resource Attribute level.

Buying things is simple: if you have the Resources, you take it and then reduce your Resource rating accordingly. Characters can also pool their Resources to buy bigger things. You want that fancy new fuel converter for your ship? Better pool your resources, team!

If the item is outside of the individual or team’s current available Resources, you can always make a Resource Roll, which represents buying things on credit. In this case, with an added difficulty based upon the difference between the cost and the available Resources. The character with the highest Resource modifier gets to add that to the roll. If you succeed, you get the item on credit with minimal to no initial outlay, but must pay back the remainder with interest the next time you come in from the void, or else: consequences (which can mean a variety of things based upon the situation and nature of those with whom the characters did business).

Resources are also used when you are trying to use the power of your wealth to influence others. In such cases, a Resource roll is made just like a Luck roll and, if it succeeds, you reduce your Resources by 1 and get your way.


Speed_painted_sci_fi_pistol_by_torveniusOf course, firearms in science fiction would make a mockery of any fantasy arms and armor, magical or otherwise, due to high penetration power and rapid rate of fire often combined with a large area of effect. This of course requires a few new rules.

Damage for a firearm will be very similar to other ranged weapons in DCC. After all, they both poke holes in you, it’s just that one dose it faster, possibly does it to anyone else standing directly behind you and in line with flight path of the projectile and with little regard for cover or armor that isn’t specially designed to stop it.  Certain special types of ammunition might make hole a bit bigger (Dum-Dums) or even ‘splody (Gyrojet Rounds), but for the most part, the damage will range from d6 to d12 (with Hit Points representing more than physical damage, of course, but more on that later).

Rapid Fire is fairly easy to model and I’ll likely be doing that by allowing multiple attacks with decreasing die size. Soldiers will be penalized less in die size than other classes, making them a bit more effective.

Ranges are another thing you must take into account. The world record sniper shot is over a kilometer in distance, and energy weapons, like lasers, are unaffected by wind and barely effect by gravity so if you can see it and point at it you can hit it. As a result I’m thinking range is going to play little part unless it is Extreme, which I’ll probably define in the individual weapon descriptions.

Turning to the equipment side of Firearms rules, weapons will fall in line with their Barbarians of the Aftermath counterparts: general types and sizes, not specific makes and models. This, along with a number of upgrade kits, will allow for a wider variety of firearm types, with a minimal amount of rules,and without cornering the GM into any specific setting. I also intend for weapons to be sold in bulk. You spend a Resource point and get to outfit your character based on Armory points that can be spent on customizing your personal weapons stockpile (think Jane from Firefly). A team can do this to build up a communal armory for their ship.

As with Barbarians of the Aftermath, I’m not interested in turning ranged combat into an accounting exercise, especially considering the fact that a single Resource Point’s worth of ammunition could keep a platoon supplied for a month long operation. However, I do want to emphasize the Resource Management aspect of most dungeon-crawl style games. As such, I am looking at a method that mixes limiting carried ammunition but allowing for total reloads when the characters return to the ship.

When characters get into a firefight, no one calmly pulls the trigger for a single shot at their target. No, most folks throw a number of rounds downrange in the direction of their target without even thinking about ammunition expenditures, only stopping after the third or so ‘click click’ noise tells them their weapon is tapped. In the game this will be represented by an ammo check system built into the combat roll (in much the same way as Cleric Disfavor is built into their spell roll) which will occasionally empty their weapon. If they have reloads on them, they may take an Action to do so, but if they don’t, time to find an alternative.

Soldiers will have an advantage here. A trained soldier will learn to control their fire and keep track of their ammo expenditures. I’m thinking of either letting them reroll the first ammo check for a weapon or maybe reducing the number for every level they have in their class. Haven’t decided yet.


silent-running.jpgOld school fantasy RPGs have henchmen. Void Hunters will have Robots! Basically, a robot is a henchman who does exactly what you tell them, as soon as you tell them to do it. They still require ‘payment’ in the form of maintenance, and they are very limited in what they can do based upon their programming, but you can send them into the dark corners of the unknown a hundred times or more and they will never object or leave your service (unless they blown apart, eaten or otherwise destroyed by whatever was lurking in said dark corners). Servitors will have some specific types and rules, but for the most part, that describes them.

Do not confuse Servitors in the game with Synthetics, who are self-aware characters and, hence, a PC class. Outside of their programming, servitors are dumb as a box of rocks and not self-aware… or at least not the ones humans build (although it might make for an interesting adventure if one did become self-aware through some bizarre in-adventure phenomenon, and turned on the crew for their crass abuse of it and its brethren).


Psychics are, like Synthetics, an optional PC class which may or may not be allowed by the GM for their particular setting. I plan to base psychic abilities (‘powers’ seems an excessively fantastical word to use for the genre and level of ability I’m going for) on the DCC magic system with a few wrinkles to give it a totally different feel, but I’ll discuss this more in a future post dealing specifically with that subject.


PsychotechnicLeaguevincentdifateSpacecraft in Void Hunters are largely a way to get around the interstellar sandbox of a campaign, along with serving as ‘dungeons in space’ for hulk salvaging missions.

In the former case, they serve as a mobile base for the PCs, a base that becomes more and more useful and allows them to take on greater challenges as they upgrade it or sell it to buy an even better craft. In a way, it is like a group magic item that levels with them so long as they are willing to spend resources on it.

As such, spacecraft will be modular in design, a base hull with standard components and a number of attachment points for various upgrades that will provide a bonus to the team in specific situations.

The combat rules for spaceships will be highly abstract and focused on what each character does during said combat than moving miniatures about a map, which is not the best representation of combat in a 3D environment anyways. There will be a role for all the available classes to play in space combat, which will be spelled out in their class descriptions; a series of potential maneuvers that might be employed, and a critical system for ships, but other than that, I’m still thinking on this one and will go over it more in a future post.



Seriously. If you play RPGs, you need to see this movie.

Finally, Void Hunters would not be complete without a system for altering the mental state of the characters so that the effects of psychological horror can be brought into the game. After hearing about Torchbearer and how they are handling hunger, thirst and so on, I’m thinking of introducing a  number of mechanically defined states, like paranoia, fear, and so on that can be incurred during play.

Most will be temporary, and can be relieved by returning to the safety of the ship (if the ship isn’t harboring some alien monstrosity that is stalking the crew, that is) or by other means, like psychological counseling back at a friendly base station. Some, however, will have the potential for causing permanent psychological damage so characters who remain in the void for too long will start to mentally resemble the crew of Dark Star.

Void Hunters: Chapter 1…

In this post, I’m going to break down Chapter 1 of the book, because it answers a lot of questions about what, exactly, the essence of Void Hunters will be in look, play-style and overall direction. In summary, Void Hunters will be:

A Genre Toolbox Supplement for Dungeon Crawl Classics

That’s a mouthful, but describes the book pretty accurately.GMG5070-DCCRPG

First of all it is a supplement. Licensing rules for Goodman Games prevent me from including the core DCC rules in the book, so you’ll need the main DCC corebook to use it as intended. This is fine by me, as we really don’t need yet another retro-clone variation cluttering up a marketplace filled to the brim with minor variations on old school D&D. In fact, as DCC uses the D20 license and hews closely to OSR rules paradigm (without actually being a pure retro-clone, which is why I like it so much), you will find a lot of rules material in here that will easily translate to your favorite OSR game and the rest should only require minimal conversion.

Second of all, it will be a Toolbox for generating your own setting. A lot of the book will help you to decide what assumptions you want to make about technology, aliens even player classes, to make your ideal campaign setting with advice and even random tables for moments of indecision. Folks who have read my previous book Barbarians of the Aftermath will understand the kind of toolbox that I’m talking about.

That being said, Void Hunters will have a much tighter focus than BotA, which was a great deal more expansive in theme, covering every sort of post-apocalyptic scenario possible. Void Hunters will focus is on a very specific subset of Seventies Science Fiction (which I will talk more about in a minute) that revolves around my personal Appendix N, and does not include Star Wars type Science Fantasy or Pulp Science Fiction (cause Lord knows we have enough variations on those).

That being said, it is a supplement for Dungeon Crawl Classics, the premier 1970’s Style Fantasy RPG, so that means the rules will be totally compatible with anything you’d like to pull out of that book. You want Vancian wizards making Faustian bargains with elder gods who must not be named while flying about in spaceships with android companions and barbarian tribesman from the planet Mars? Well, if you have both Void Hunters and DCC (and an inclination for kitchen sink innovation) it will be as easy as picking something from column A and another thing from column B and throwing in a little bit of Column C for good measure.

An Homage to a Very Seventies Form of Science Fiction and Gaming

A question I’ve been asked recently is ‘What do you mean by Seventies Science Fiction Gaming?’ Basically, the style I’m talking about includes the following elements:

A Bleak, Uncaring Universe

Spaced Out Disco CD front

Look at this and try to tell me we were wrong to view Disco as a sign of the coming apocalypse…

One of the defining elements of the seventies is a darker, pessimistic (and some would say self-centered) view of the world that that was very much the ‘come down’ from the high of the sixties. Our psyches were darkened by the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, the Oil Crisis, global cooling (yes, that was a thing), growing pollution and overpopulation worries, the threat of nuclear annihilation and Disco (hey, once you’ve heard every damned thing, from the Star Wars theme to Donald Duck turned into Disco, you’ll feel the same). This, combined with the rapid advance in technology and a growing realization that the universe was a lot more destructive and weirder than we’d ever imagined, gave a more serious, humanist tone to the fiction of the era.

As a result, much of the science fiction of this era, in books, movies and magazines, focused on the frightening advance of technology, the terrifying (but often breathtaking) unknowns of space, and the very well understood and depressing tendency for man to screw over his fellow man, even when faced with the total extinction of humanity.

There was a heavy emphasis on realism as well: the technology tending to hew more towards what might be possible in the next century rather than light swords and laser crossbows. In the same way, the search for extra-terrestrial life turned into an exploration of long dead or devolved civilizations and fighting off super-predators waiting to prey on the unwary. Science fiction became, in many ways, Dystopian, a violent rejection of the Utopian visions of the previous decades.


Space in these stories is dangerous and uncaring. The unprepared will surely meet a gruesome end and, when so much is unknown, it is practically impossible to be fully prepared. Especially against the mad pressure of extended isolation in an infinite void, the dangers of previously unknown stellar phenomena and the predations of undreamed of alien life and your fellow man.

That is the very essence of space in Void Hunters and will probably be re-worked for the back cover blurb. The tiny caption on the movie poster to the left, from the quintessential dark science fiction movie of the decade, pretty much sums it up…

Seventies Science Fiction Gaming

Science fiction gaming in this era was best exemplified by three games: Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World and Traveller.


Metamorphosis Alpha was basically a game of D&D in space. Take the concept of the mega-dungeon (in which the players explore an expansive environment from top to bottom over a long period of time, slowly growing in power until they conquer it fully) and overlay science fiction elements on top of it. The players were the primitive, devolved descendents of humanity sent into space on a great space ark many centuries previous, exploring it and all the new creatures and peoples that have evolved since then, slowly recovering the technology and knowledge they need to take control of the ship and find a new home world. Very much in the vein of the early 70’s television show The Starlost.

thumbs_2493-gammaworld1978Gamma World was much bleaker and examined the dog eat dog world of survival after the near extinction of humanity in a nuclear apocalypse.It is the spiritual ancestor to Barbarians of the Aftermath in many ways. And while the post-apocalyptic genre really only took off in the eighties (when we were all certain we were going to die in a ball of nuclear flame or end up envying those who did) it got its gaming start in the seventies, and it seriously seriously struck a chord because, quite frankly, many of us didn’t think we’d make it to the eighties. The survival at any cost meme along with the man screwing over man theme was given cathartic life in Gamma World and influenced a generation of gamers.

Traveller was THE hard sci-fi game of the period, really pushing the realistic technology and humanist angles of seventies science fiction. Communication and travel were slow, so interstellar empires were non-existent or feudal in nature and player characters in the game Travellerwere experienced soldiers, explorers and traders in a universe that revolved around exploitation of interstellar resources. Characters were the epitome of humanity in seventies sci-fi, opportunists who  did not measure success by experience (the inexperienced and unlucky didn’t survive to become player characters, which was emphasized by the fact that your character could actually die during character generation) but by what they took from the universe for themselves.

Of these, I’m going to take the dungeon exploration aspects of Metamophosis Alpha and mix it with the stark realism of Traveller and the survival theme of Gamma World. to create the ultimate modern take on Seventies style science fiction style gaming.

 The Void Hunters Implied Setting

Void Hunters will bake all of these influences into the rules to create something that is a bit more than ‘DCC In Spaaaace!’ but retains that DCC feel of gritty adventuring in a dangerous setting. It will also be an exploration game set in a dark and uncaring universe where explorers, traders and military expeditions dive into the unknown and find new resources to exploit, the remains of ancient, long-dead alien civilizations to explore and unthinkable horrors to survive.


In my next post, I’ll talk about some of the new mechanics that will subtly change DCC into a science fiction game…