Star Wars The Force Awakens – Beginner Game Review – More in the Box than You think

Hello fellow Nerdarchist and Star Wars enthusiasts.  It is ground breaking time here at Nerdarchy.  We swr09_sample2have been blessed with getting an advanced copy of the Force Awakens beginner game from Fantasy Flight games.  It is not even available to pre-order and we already have our copy.  This is a first to get a review copy from a major publishing house like Fantasy Flight Games, so a big Thank you to them.

Dave and I each have our own copies of each of the other box sets.  You can check out the reviews I did on them here: Star Wars Edge of the Empire beginner game, Star Wars Age of Rebellion beginner game & Star Wars Force and Destiny beginner game.

Taken from the website:

Enjoy all-new adventures in the Star Wars universe with The Force Awakens™ Beginner Game!

The perfect entry into the Star Wars roleplaying experience for players of all skill levels, The Force Awakens Beginner Game introduces a complete, learn-as-you-go adventure that carries you from the sands of Jakku deep into the heart of a mystery that could change the course of the galaxy.

Note: Unlike our other Beginner Games, The Force Awakens Beginner Game will not be followed by a new Star Wars RPG game line. Instead, it draws upon the core mechanics shared by Star Wars®: Age of Rebellion, Star Wars®: Edge of the Empire, and Star Wars®: Force and Destiny. Players interested in continuing their Star Wars adventures can do so through any of these fully compatible systems. More →

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World of Darkness: Silent Striders

World of Darkness werewolvesThe lean Garou before me has eaten most of what I had planned to be my dinner, but that is okay. As is the custom, I offered him respite on his travels when he came knocking. The thing is, I had an ulterior motive to wanting to host this traveler, as this would be a once in a lifetime chance to break bread with one of the enigmatic Silent Striders.

Sipping his hot tea, I notice he has not spoken since he got here, his silence causing me to fall on an old nervous habit of running my mouth while the room is silent. The Garou listens and narrows his yellow eyes, watching me spin the tale of my encounters with the other tribes. It takes a good long while, but I tell of it all, and then he speaks.

His voice is deep, accented with something Middle Eastern but obviously very well-educated. His ability to speak eloquently in Crinos form surprising despite his clawless hands betraying he is a Metis, “I see you have traveled far and learned much. You have heard many speak of the way things will be and the way things are. But have you listened to the way they were? The Silent Striders do not hold their tongue out of a religious text, but out of knowledge that one must be silent to hear the world breath. Each action you take tells a tale, and that applies to everyone. Now shut up and listen, I have a question for you about a certain Shadow Lord you met recently…, What do you know about abominations?”

-Maja’Rabi; Silent Striders Metis Ahroun

Silent Strider werewolvesThe Silent Striders are, without a doubt, one of the coolest looking tribes I have ever had the chance of taking a look at. Remember the hieroglyphics of Anubis, Egyptian god of Death? Well… That would be these guys when they have high pure breed. Their Fetishes, Talons, and back story is all based in and around Egypt to the Middle East. This makes them the only tribe to be in Africa as a base of operations. This may not seem like much but Africa has a lot going on in the World of Darkness. Between multi shape changer species genocidal war, to the poaching and pirate industries, the shape changers have their hands full on the dark continent. Not to mention all the other corporation things lead by the Wyrm. I think even Martha Stewart’s and a certain sue happy, hotel owning presidential candidate would be owners of sweat shops that seep Wyrm corruption into its workers souls until they become Fomori.

The thing is, the Silent Striders were exiled from their home land in some vaguely described altercation with a Vampire named Sutekh, It does not state so in the 20th Anniversary book but I know it is a Follower of Set Vampire of extremely low generation. I don’t think, but will admit I don’t know for sure, that Sutekh survives to the current day. For obvious reasons, these guys hate Vampires on a level most cannot even fathom. Easy source of rage points and rolls. None the less, the Silent Striders have a kinda universal motif when you meet them that makes roleplay advice easy. Most Garou will not see more than a handful of this tribe in their life. The odds that they are found in groups are like winning the lottery the day your mother in law dies leaving you everything. They follow no pack normally, and when they run with a pack it is the exception not the rule. This means that the Silent Strider has made the choice to be around, and is reflected in how he regards his pack. Kinda a, “the rest of the world is nuts but you guys are alright.”, thing.

I digress, the point I was trying to make is that you won’t have enough experience with these guys to tell an Ahroun from a Philodox on most occasions and thus the easy role play comment. How to role play a Silent Strider? Be silent, and stride. Yes, that is two defining characteristics and it is that easy. Constantly feel the need to move, claim no land that is not your by right, and listen far more than you speak. This may not seem like much but as any councilor can tell you, most people will hear you but will be thinking of what they want to say next. What you need to do is be an active listener. An intense stare can do wonders, as can a regal stature. None the less, by not speaking often and making sure what you say is important when you actually do speak, you can be sure those around you will learn to listen. For the Lupus, another facet should be considered.

How do you react to the sudden urge to run without a pack? How do you deal with one of your most basic instincts suddenly not being there when your newly enhanced cognitive senses (since a Lupus thinks like a wolf until their first change) recognizes the instinct was there but is now absent. The Metis on the other hand has one of two things typically happen. More often than not, they are raised by the non Silent Strider parent and are part of that tribe. The few who are raised by the Silent Striders are secreted away and taught the nomadic life style from an early age.

Often being stashed from place to place until they are able to function on their own. The Metis more than any other Silent Strider, has no sense of connection to others and is aloof in comparison to even their own tribe due to never having a part of their life when they belonged. No matter your breed, remember you are the outsider no matter where you go. Some would say they have the clearest perception of a situation due to them looking from the outside of Garou society inward.

Looks wise, this tribe can be very different depending on what Garou has been sniffing around what area. The universal feature is that the entire tribe looks athletically lean. Like… lowest body fat percentage you can think of lean. Now remember the whole Anubis thing? Yeah, when these guys have pure breed they look like him. Even a bit of pure breed and these bad boys are rocking yellow eyes. This may make them look like jackals instead of wolves but this is just a coincidence or could even be intelligent design on the part of the Garou. None the less, they look and act differently than the typical Garou.

Now as mentioned before, these guys are cursed. No Silent Strider can find home, caerns, or even rest within their homeland of Egypt. This bugs them deeply, but they have grown to accept it as the reality for now. They would not pass up the chance to rectify this though. This curse sadly causes them to be pursued by spirits of the dead at every turn. These spirits are not necessarily hostile but they are a nuisance when the Silent Strider seeks to find peace. As such many Silent Striders will stop occasionally to help the spirits in their endeavors so as to get them to move on. The reputation for this curse precedes the Silent Striders in two ways. One is that it is customary to offer accommodations for the Silent Strider while he is traveling through, for it is usually only a day or two. The other is the fear that if the Silent Striders are pursued by some curse of woe, than will the curse befall the homes they visit on their travels? So though the are hosted, they are often gently encouraged to make it temporary.

silent strider world of darknessSilent Striders are built for the road. In fact their speed is legendary amongst even supernatural creatures. Some allow them to far exceed the speeds of vehicles made by man. Here is some of the gifts they possess I think are extra spiffy.

Heaven’s guidance gives you a built in compass. Kinda handy level one ability.

Silence allows them to muffle their sound. Partially where they get their namesake from.

Speed of Thought doubles their running speed of whatever form they are in. In Lupus one could possibly outrun a car with this.

Visions of Duat allow you to seen the spirits of the dead clearly.

Blissful ignorance is borrowed from the Ragabash but it makes it harder to detect the Garou with all senses.

Messenger’s Fortitude allows the Garou to run at full speed for three full days without rest, water, or food. Rest is needed after.

Tread Sebek’s Back lets you pull a Jesus and walk on water.

Adaptation allows you to live anywhere. Poison, pressure, disease, etc. Are all ignored.

Mark of the Death-Wolf allows you to purposefully haunt up a place with restless spirits.

Attunement allows the Garou to speak to the spirits of the city or the wyld for guidance. You must pick one or the other.

Black Mark allows you to cause someone to be a beacon to the restless dead. Yep… you poltergeist the poor bugger.

Dam the Heartflood is an example of this tribes hatred of Vampires. With this you shut off their ability to use any magic (and some storytellers would say disciplines too) that are in any way connected to blood.

Speed Beyond Thought is a game changer when you need to travel fast. You go ten times your running speed. If you are familiar with the Flash, you are not surprised to learn you have to eat after using this.

Gate of the Moon is one my players recently came across. Namely, it opens up a Moon Bride (spiritual wormhole) between two places. This one is so cool.

Reach of the Umbra is another game changer. Namely, you can now freely travel between reality and the spirit world known as the umbra. Good luck keeping a Silent Strider captive with this one.

Logo Tribe Silent StridersAlrighty, think I hit all the major points on this run through. Heh, get it? Run through? Oi! Tough crowd. As always you are welcome to comment, ask questions, or do the electric slide in the comments section. If it is not obvious at this point, I need sleep. I am going to hop a plane to Tibet as next week we are visiting those naval gazing Garou, the Star Gazers! I can’t wait to see how this turns out, can you?

Stay Nerdy,


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“Island In The Storm”- Out of The Box D&D Encounter #12

For those with access to one, the Dungeon Master’s Guide has a tone of great encounter tables. Chapter female_ghost_by_jubjubjedi-d56evvb5, pages 108 and 109 have two great ones. Each item on these tables can generate a good encounter. Mixing them can generate a great one.
  The following idea combines Monuments #19 (circle of standing stones), and Weird Locales #16 (skeletal ferry captain) and #20 (floating earth mote). Next, it’s important to note either the special abilities of monsters or NPCs, and pay special attention to any flavor text. When all the pieces fall into place, you can really have an encounter with depth. The intent is to give your players something unusual and thought provoking.
  Now your encounter will create a moment where your players will ask more questions than receive answers. They’ll struggle with how to proceed socially and may even have moral or ethical questions. This will add depth to the player character dynamic. That’s the basis for this whole encounter. You might even use something like this to start an adventure, or expose character background features. How you fully utilize it is up to you.
Environment: Any.
Suggested level: Any
One evening as the players are settling in for a night, they will witness an unusual event. Fog will build all around. In the distance, they will witness a green flash. They will then see a small bobbing green light slowly approaching, no bigger than a lantern.

More →

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DnD torch totch

Torches: Not so Bright an Idea!

Torches were a useful thing to a warrior of the past. They allowed for the easy transport of  relatively DnD torch torchstrong flame, which could be useful for several things including the rather deadly and destructive use it had in burning towns and buildings and such. This was especially useful in the past, where fire fighting was a fairly uphill battle (and still is to some degree) and when a single fire could burn entire cities at times. The point of this article is not to say torches are useless but to say instead we’ve all been using them incorrectly, be they in movies, games, or just about anything else. Essentially, torches were many things but they were not especially good at lighting your way.

Torches do not make good light sources nor, more importantly, did people of the past (for our sake lets say medieval people since this site and myself mostly talk about fantasy games) attempt to use them for light very often at all. They last about thirty minutes, create a massive amount of smoke, and there are better options, namely lanterns, lamps, and candles. Torches created so much smoke you would likely soon die if you took it deep underground since you would fill up the entire cavern/dungeon with smoke. Also note though that night blindness is very real, and torches are an undirected bright light that constantly shines in your eyes.

It would be extremely hard to see anything beyond twenty feet or so. One might argue that in a fantasy setting, like the ones many of us play games set in, the components making up torches are made of better and less smokey (and less smelly) materials than the smelly tar that made up a lot of what made historical torches flammable (modern torches are different). To which I say….fair enough and I have no counterpoint except to say games like DnD seem to at least imply their real world items are supposed to be historical and only their magical/fantasy items are intended to be taken as completely made up. More →

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Blast from the Past: Big Trouble in Little China

blast from the past
Jack Burton, center, has plenty of pals backing him up as he prepares to face down the evils of Lo Pan. And remember, if they’re not back by dawn, call the president.

This month 30 years ago, a movie decades ahead of its time came out in theaters. I am talking about Big Trouble in Little China, directed by John Carpenter.

At the time, Carpenter was perhaps at the top of his game. He was coming off a streak of what in an earlier age could have been labeled B action or horror movies, but ones that filled audience seats and even brought along some of the critics. Movies like Halloween, The Thing, and Escape from New York, these and others had thrilled movie-goers for nearly a decade at that point.

Unfortunately, Big Trouble in Little China at the time seemed to be a stretch beyond what movie audiences were willing to accept as viable entertainment. The theaters weren’t exactly packed for this film. However, with the birth of at-home video, first with the VCR and later with digital, Big Trouble in Little China found something of a cult following, one that has grown over the years until this movie practically has become a legend.

And why not? Featuring Kurt Russell at his finest and funniest, this film offers some of the wittiest dialogue to hit the big screen during the 1980s. There’s also plenty of action and fantasy to keep the story moving, as well as more than a touch of cheese that easily brings a smile to one’s lips.

big trouble in little china
Lo Pan in all his finest glory. Indeed!

In case you’ve not seen the movie, here’s a brief, hopefully spoiler-free synopsis: Kurt Russell is Jack Burton, a truck driver who pays a visit to an old friend, Wang Chi, portrayed by Dennis Dun. Soon after the two meet up, Chi’s girlfriend is kidnapped and our pair of heroes go on a search for her in the seedier parts of Chinatown. Matters take a turn for the worse when Burton’s big rig, the Porkchop Express, is left behind during a gang battle in the middle of the streets, a gang battle in which first appears mystical wizard Lo Pan and The Three Storms, warriors of a sort with strong magical abilities. Burton and Chi then regroup at Chi’s restaurant, and there they gather with others in hopes of finding out what has happened to Chi’s girlfriend. Along the way our heroes receive some help from Egg Shen, played by Victor Wong, who at first seems little more than a dabbler, a hedge wizard, but in truth has more than a little power of his own. Also helping are Gracie Law, Burton’s sort-of love interest as played by Kim Cattrall (way before her Sex and the City days), and Eddie Lee, a friend of Chi’s who is played by Donald Li. One thing leads to another (yes, I’m skipping a lot here) and Burton and Chi lead a small army into the heart of evil wizard Lo Pan’s hideout, with Lo Pan acted by James Hong.

I’ll stop there. Anything more and I’d be giving too much away.

kurt russel big trouble in little china
Burton and Gracie Law eye some big trouble. Almost looks like they’re rubbing up against one another, doesn’t it?

I will say that one of the more enjoyable and humorous aspects of the movie is trying to determine between Burton and Chi who the actual hero is and who is the sidekick, because they are set up in such a fashion. The movie kind of sets it up for Jack Burton to be the hero, but he’s often quite ineffective while Wang Chi gets things done. When Burton is successful at something, it usually comes off as being more by accident than anything. Still, Burton has the swagger of a traditional cinema hero, and Kurt Russell plays the part to the hilt with gusto a great one-liners.

I was fortunate enough to see Big Trouble in Little China when it hit theaters in 1986, but I was only 16 at the time and didn’t fully appreciate it, though at the time I did think it an enjoyable enough movie. I’m not saying a 16 year old wouldn’t “get it,” but that the 16-year-old version of myself didn’t get it. The humor wasn’t exactly over my head, as the laughs mostly aren’t of the cerebral sort, but there was enough nuance and cleverness that I didn’t quite pick up on everything.

Fortunately I saw the movie several more times over the decades, usually on VCR though occasionally it would run on a movie channel. I fully came to love Big Trouble in Little China about the time I hit 30, so maybe by then I was grown up enough to appreciate the humor. Since then I have watched the film numerous more times, and each time fills me with excitement and downright giddiness.

Yes, I wrote “giddiness.” That’s just how funny some of the dialogue is.

Such as, “When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if you paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ole Jack Burton always says at a time like that: ‘Have ya paid your dues, Jack?’ ‘Yes, sir, the check is in the mail.'”

Apparently I’m not the only one to love this film, as its popularity has endured even beyond the movie business.

blast from the past kurt russel
Issue No. 6 of the Big Trouble in Little China comic book from BOOM! Studios. Each issue is better than having a six-demon bag!

For the last couple of years, publisher BOOM! Studios has been putting out a Big Trouble in Little China comic book, and recently the company announced it would release a special crossover comic bringing together Jack Burton and another John Carpenter protagonist, Snake Plissken from the famed Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. movies.

On top of that, BOOM! Studios has announced plans to introduce a tabletop game of Big Trouble in Little China. Not much information is available about this game as of yet, but it sounds as if it will be more of a traditional board game than a role-playing game, but we’ll all have to wait and see. Look for it in 2017.

Also, last year the company Funko began to put out action figures and Pop! vinyl figures based upon Big Trouble in Little China.

So, it seems this movie just won’t die. There are even rumors actor Dwayne Johnson (aka. The Rock) is working to develop a remake, and with Hollywood’s love of remakes this seems a sure bet at some point.

If you’ve not seen this movie, I highly suggest it. If you’re a role-playing gamer (which you are since you’re on the Nerdarchy site, right?), then you could do far, far worse for picking up campaign and character ideas. For that matter, you might even come away from Big Trouble in Little China thinking it seems something like the madness of a typical tabletop RPG session.

Now, go watch this movie!

And like Jack Burton always says, “It’s all in the reflexes,” and Stay Nerdy!

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Table Ready NPC – Cypher System Rules Shadowrun Troll Adept Dredge Hammer

This Table Ready Cypher System Rules non-player character is ready to drop into your next Cypher Cypher-System-Corebook-1-John-PetersonSystem Rules Shadowrun Game, whether you are a Gamemaster or Player.


Character Name – Dredge Hammer

Shadowrun Race and Class – Troll Adept

Cypher System Character Elements – Descriptor (Perceptive) Type (Warrior) Focus (Masters Weaponry Axe) and (Stands Like a Bastion)

TIER – 2



Might – 18 = 10+4+4

Speed – 10 = 10+0

Intellect – 12 = 8+2+2



Might – 2 = 1+1

Speed – 1 = 1+0

Intellect – 0 = 0+0



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World of Darkness: Shadow Lords

world of darkness werewolves“There is two type of Shadow Lords,” The impeccably well dressed man known as Mitchell “Midnight” Knight states to me as he faces his gargoyle lined Gothic fireplace. The fire’s reflection dancing in his cold blue eyes both in the figurative sense and literal. His hand swirls a glass of brandy worth more then my paycheck as he continues, “Those who have power and those who covet it. I was once the latter, and now am the former.”

Raising an eyebrow I ask him the question he is obviously expecting, “And how did you come by this power?”

Smiling at what he views as an easy manipulation, “There is an old saying in the industry you work in, and not the industry that brought you here mind you, that authority is given but power is earned. I earned my power through daring and deed. Through seeing an opportunity and seizing it by the throat.”

Not one to be pushed around, I try to take him off balance with my next statement, “But what of those who claim you got here on the backs of your packmates, your dead packmates to be precise?”

The man turns to me so that half his face is covered in shadow, his stare freezing my heart as I realize he is not one to take jabs from a kinfolk. His voice as cold as those eyes as he responds in a tone that makes me feel that this is the final word, “Those who fell, did so for the greater good. The strong survive to serve Gaia, and to let the weak survive is not serving her or anyone else any good. Like a surgeon, I cut the diseased and weakened tissue in order to save the whole. Yes, it is not pretty, but it is better to be able to complain about a scar than to be silent and in your grave. War is not pretty, and we are at war. Do not mistake that. If your kin, be they the berserkers or the drunkards were to get in the way of saving Gaia, I would cut down every last one of them to save her and then sleep soundly afterwards. Your soft heart is a weakness, as is your reverence to past deeds of past ‘Kings’. Today and the deeds of those still living is all that matters. Your deeds show one that is willing to learn, so learn that what is needed is not always wanted and what is needed is someone with the strength and integrity to recognize the Wyrm’s influence where ever it rears it’s ugly head. The Shadow Lords are that, the surgeon and inquisition, ready to burn the impure to save the whole. Do not give reason for our eye to fall upon you. Oh, and you have roughly two minutes before I release the hounds. Be a dear and see yourself out.”

I gulp down a lump of fear and nod before gathering my items to leave, having found all I care to here. If you don’t mind, I am going to be a dear and see myself out now.

Shadow Lords werewolvesThe Shadow Lords are many things, and as one of my storytellers put it they are “well rounded assholes”. This Garou tribe is not the most beloved, and they don’t care to be. They are not the kindest, and do not see the reason they should be. They are often seen as bordering on corruption, power hungry, and covetous of the Garou crown. In fact, they are the greatest rivals the Silver Fangs have ever known. While the Silver Fangs rule through right of nobility and lineages that stretch back through generations heroes long since dead, the Shadow Lords are a tribe that weigh each Garou on the deeds in which they themselves have performed. This causes a few things that become readily apparent within the tribe. For one, the young are ambitious and tend to be prone to making grand moves in their bids for power. On the other hand, the elders have the power and know the cubs will do anything to get it. As my dad used to say, “there is brave ones, and there is old ones, but there is no old brave ones.” This statement is reflected in how the higher ranking Shadow Lords are the ones who learned to be patient, to be cold, and to calculate the precise time to strike. Like a stock-trader, there is always a time to act and a time to bide, survival is knowing which is which. Truly, the older ones are the pinnacle of power because they had to fight to get where they are and have the cunning to keep it. This meritocracy makes things stacked against the Metis from the start, but does not hold them back if they have the drive to succeed. The Lupus will often learn to dominate and cow his litter mates before he learns the ways of man. The Homid on the other hand, well…

Genetically speaking, the Shadow Lords hail from a stock with powerful builds native to what is now Eastern Europe. As such they very often come from Slavic or Germanic lines. Though they do breed with those of any type who show themselves to be sharp in mind and ambitious, the lineages are still heavy in that dark haired stock. Russia to Germany and Romania, the Shadow Lords have likely had a claw in every royal family or prominent mover and shaker. In the Americas, they shoot for the board rooms and lobby floors, or even as high as the White House if they could ever manage it. Woe unto those who find themselves in the courtroom of a Philodox of the Shadow Lords. They are just, but brutally so. One can expect the maximum sentence, if they are lucky enough to not have every sin and transgression laid bare as flayed flesh. Though what I think would be amazing to see is a detective or FBI member coming from this tribe.

This brings me to another point, the Shadow Lords are like the white blood cells of the Garou Nation. More times than not, a Garou rending the veil or breaking the Litany will find himself under the eye and thumb of a Shadow Lord. Those who are falling to corruption will find themselves sniffed out and brought to justice swiftly. It’s not pretty, as often the family or pack mates of the accused are not aware of the transgressions, but it is necessary. This “Spanish Inquisition” style of draconian justice makes the Shadow Lords one of the most disliked, if not out right hated tribes. Similar allegories could be made between the struggles of certain movements and the police forces of America. Where this hatred finds some ground though, is that the Shadow Lord will twist the knife and use the guilty to their own advantage if they can. Accessory after the fact I believe is the legal term, though I may be wrong. None the less, your skeletons in the closet are a weapon and tool to these Garou, don’t you ever forget it.

The Shadow Lords revere the Totem Grandfather Thunder, who is a blatant allegory of Odin. Old guy, very dominant and powerful, has ravens he sends out, controls the weather, yep… we got a link to Nordic beliefs. So it is not a big leap to see how the Shadow Lords have a “Might makes right” Darwinist belief system. That being said, they do have one thing going for them that most tribes do not. They are open minded about working with other supernatural creatures. In many texts it speaks of the relatively good report between the Corax and the Shadow Lords, likely due to them both having the favor of Grandfather Thunder’s raven’s Hugin and Munin. Vampires have even been known to broker deals with the Shadow Lords, though both sides expect and plan on betraying the other. Though I cannot find where, I recall one of the older books stating the Mokole have an intense hatred of the Shadow Lords, due to their efficiency at finding nests and smashing eggs during the War of Rage.

Worth it’s own paragraph is the Hakken of Japan. This is an off shoot of the Shadow Lords tribe that makes it’s home in Japan and parlays with the Eastern Beast Courts. The genetic link has little in ways of forming a common bond between the Hakken and Shadow Lords. In fact, they believe that the Shadowlords, and indeed the Garou Nation as a whole, is a group of blood thirsty barbarians. The Hakken believe the rightful way to be defenders of Gaia, whom they call the Emerald Mother, is to work with all other shapechangers as equals, not as players using pawns in a game. This cooperation spanning hundreds (thousands?) of years with the Beast Courts has granted the Hakken many strange and wonderful abilities. These Samurai like Garou can pull from the Hakken and Hengeyokai Gift lists on top of everything available to the Shadow Lords (breed, auspice, tribe). These powers come to bare in their role as the vanguard protectors of all that is good in the East.

Now as for Roleplay one should look to the ones who do the job you need done but don’t necessarily want done. To use comics and pop culture as a reference… A Ragabash Shadowlord would be like Batman, the ninja and detective who gets to the bottom of a situation and is willing to make the tough calls when it is called for. Do yourself a favor, check out when he stared down Darkseid and called his bluff. A Theurge Shadowlord would be like Night Wolf from Mortal Kombat. He channels the spirits and roots out corruption at it’s source whenever possible. A Philodox Shadowlord would be like Tuvac from Star Trek, coldly calculating but always for the greater good as needed. A Galliard Shadowlord would be like Thanatos from Gargoyles, fun loving but still darkly seeking power no matter the cost. An Ahroun Shadowlord would be like Judge Dredd. Judge, jury, and executioner of the Litany. Be harsh, be cold, be calculating. Others have time for fun and games, you do not. I’m sure there is other examples but those are some ideas.

werewolves world of darknessThe Shadow Lords are predators in the social and physical sense. As such they have been granted many gifts and aspects that enhance this role. Here is some highlights and my personal favorites:

Aura of Confidence is exactly what it sounds like and much much more. With it you never betray any sort of weakness and your aura is hidden from any who wish to see it.

Fatal Flaw allows you to gain a bit of an edge in almost any situation. The gain is small but every bit helps. The fact that it can be used infinitely and without cost is a blessing.

Seizing the Edge breaks an intrinsic game mechanic. Normally a tie goes to the defender but with this ties go to the Shadow Lord.

Shadow Weaving allows you to bend the shadows to aid you in many ways, not the least of which is to enhance your stealth abilities.

Whisper Catching allows all whispers within 200 feet to be heard clearly. Remember how I said these guys are good at catching the bad guys? This is part of why.

***Scary part? The above are all available at the start of the game and are rank 1.***

Clap of Thunder allows you to bring the BOOM! Crowd control is an amazing thing in any game, and this one works wonders.

Direct the Storm turns that nasty rage problem of Garou into a weapon, one you can aim.

Icy Chill of Despair brings all the terror one can instill in another to the forefront. Much like the scene in Lord of the Rings when Gandolf tells off Bilbo and scares him while he grows along with the shadows. “do not think me some conjurer of cheap tricks” or something like that.

Paralyzing Stare allows you to freeze a target in place with just a glance.

Shadow Cutting lets one attack their foes shadow but damage the owner. This is incredibly hard to defend against and the smart Shadow Lord will set up lights to lengthen shadows.

Under the Gun curses a target to have missiles literally change course and aim at the target of the curse. Like Dungeons and Dragons arrow catching shield, except… it’s the cursed one’s face.

Open Wounds turns the next attack into a Uwe Boll movie. The victim bleeds profusely no matter what aid is given.

Durance keeps some talons from being destroyed upon use. This can royally piss of spirits but may be necessary in some cases. Needs must when the devil drives.

Strength of The Dominator drains a targets rage into the Shadow Lord, again a gift that makes them the inquisitors of the Garou.

Obedience turns the Shadow Lord into the ultimate Alpha Wolf. His commands, his words, his will is law and must be obeyed.

Shadow Pack is an amazing tool when one needs reinforcements. Similar to the clone Jutsu of Naruto, you create copies of yourself that share all your skills and abilities but none of your property or gifts. Imagine a Raging Crinos splitting into many, all of which want to eat you. Yep… that’s a game changer.

Shadow Lords World of DarknessWell that sounds like a good breeze over on an interesting tribe and one of my personal favorites. You are highly encouraged to give these guys a try, as everyone likes the bad-ass anti hero. As always, you are encouraged to ask questions or make comments. I’d also love to hear who your favorite anti heroes are.

For now, I have to go prep Midnight for a showdown with my players that is coming soon. That and I have to get ready to roll out to Egypt to speak to the Silent Striders next week. The Striders are the an amazing tribe with a rich history. Plus they are the first tribe that stems from Africa, which we all know is home to an amazing amount of fauna. What does it take to be the alpha predator there? What does it take to kick that predator out of it’s home? We shall see! You enjoy yourself, I know I will.

Stay Nerdy my friends,


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“Rube’s Cube”- Out of the box D&D Encounters #11

Out of the box D&D Encounters Introduction:out of the box

Sometimes an encounter occurs because fo a single “what if”. It can lead in all sorts of unexpected directions. Imagine an illusionist’s castle, dungeon, or other lair. Imagine an environment filed with puzzles, tricks, and other dangers. Within such a confine, “Rube’s Cube” can exist.
For this encounter, I wanted to use an under-apprecited monster (ooze) in a way other than a hit point sponge or ambush predator. What followed was a series of “what if” questions.
What if a normally non-spellcasting creature had access to a spell or spell-like effect? In this case, I thought of Mirror Image.
No item to my knowledge creates such an effect outside of a ring of spell storing with the correct spell, so a little extra creativity was called for. What if you made such an item? In the end, you take what would normally be an ambush predator who may not survive more than three rounds, and you’ve created a mystical shell game with one ooze and one item. What if you take that creature, and that magic item, and place them in a room that is custom made for both in a fun way? Hmmm…
And so “Rube’s Cube” was born.

Environment: Dungeon
Suggested level: 2-3 More →

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dungeon crawler titanic miniatures

Titanic Miniatures for your Tabletop Roleplaying Game

Not everyone uses miniatures when you game but many of us do.  How amazing is it when the DM places titanic miniatures dungeon crawleran amazing model on the table and the mini is so much bigger than the party.  Do you worry that this is the time that the DM is finally going to bring you down?

Imagine how much more terrifying it will be when the mini is of colossal size.  Yeah those of us playing 5th edition know that they have removed this size category from the game but gargantuan is only limited by your imagination.  I for one love the large size.

I am a proud owner of the Collosal Red Dragon released by WOTC all those years ago.  You can Grab one here.  The red dragon is big enough that a standard size mini fits in its raised claws.  I typically display it that way for humors sake.  Dragons are a staple of the D&D game and any fantasy tabletop roleplaying game.  With that it is always great to have that looming threat that you can drop that mini on the table.

Until recently there have not bee many options other than this colossal red.  Either you had to have something that was a reasonable facsimile or you had to do painstaking work to make your own.  Based on the conversations with many gamers and DMs over the years there are far fewer DMs out that that take the time to make individual minis of that size to use as a single encounter.  even if they think that they will get to use it again later.  Do not get me wrong your crafters are out there.  I have seen some spectacular work, but in our diverse niche you are not the norm. More →

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Blast from the Past: Star Frontiers

My original Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn books and maps.

A little history

referee's screen
The original Star Frontiers Referee’s Screen.

In the early 1980s, the world seemed suddenly crazed for everything science fiction, especially space opera. Star Wars had been around for a few years at that point, kicking off the madness, The Empire Strikes Back had come to theaters, Star Trek had been revived in film, and even Dr. Who was making its way to the U.S. in limited markets.

TSR, the company which published Dungeons & Dragons products at the time, obviously wanted to get in on the science fiction fun. TSR had already introduced sci-fi games with Metamorphosis Alpha in 1976 and Gamma World in 1978, but neither of those were truly space opera, which seemed to have fueled much of the love for science fiction.

Besides, Game Designers’ Workshop had published Traveler to success in 1977, and that game featured space opera elements. In other words, there was money to be made for TSR.

Thus the company introduced Star Frontiers in 1982.

Originally the game came out in a boxed set which included fantastic cover art by Larry Elmore, two 10-sided die, a Basic Game Rules book, an Expanded Game Rules book, a game module, several maps, and cardboard counters which could be punched out. Soon, however, the game was released again with slightly different packaging and a slightly different name, Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn.

Why this occurred soon became apparent when a second boxed set was released, this one titled Star Frontier: Knight Hawks, and it included full rules for star ships, space travel, and combat between the stars.

Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space would be the last official Star Frontiers product.

During the next few years, a referee’s screen, miniatures, and a healthy number of game modules were released, including modules for the movies 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: Odyssey Two. Then in 1985 came Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space.

Unfortunately, Zebulon’s Guide seemed to be the death knell for Star Frontiers. The guide introduced some new races as well as plenty of new weapons and equipment, all of which was interesting, but it also brought major changes to game mechanics. Whereas before in Star Frontiers all character actions were resolved with percentile dice, now there was a chart. Perhaps Zebulon’s Guide had nothing to do with Star Frontiers disappearing from gaming and book stores, but it seems more than coincidental. In all fairness, TSR had a lot going on in 1985, including a new Marvel Super Heroes game, the original Oriental Adventures book for AD&D, and the rising popularity of Dragonlance products, so maybe the folks at TSR simply decided to focus on those projects.

Still, though there were no official products after Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space, Star Frontiers has kind of lived on. When Wizards of the Coast, the current publisher of Dungeons & Dragons, released its d20Future supplement to its d20Modern system in 2004, the supplement included a campaign model called Star Law which was basically the old Star Frontiers universe with the appropriate races, weapons, etc.


Pew! Pew! Pew! The gyrojet pistol from Star Frontiers.

Star Frontiers characters had eight ability scores, each of which was in a pair. Thus each character had Strength with Stamina, Dexterity with Reaction Speed, Intuition with Logic, and Personality with Leadership. Stamina determined how much damage a character could take, while other ability scores affected combat, initiative, skills, etc.

Skills came in three broad categories: Military Skills, Technological Skills, and Biosocial Skills. Within each of those categories were various skills such as Robotics Skill, Medical Skill, Computer Skill, etc. The Knight Hawks boxed set would expand upon this somewhat, allowing for different types of space travel and combat skills. The Zebulon’s Guide changed skills somewhat, but most notably added the Mentalist, which was sort of a skill that allowed for psionic abilities within the game.

Skills and combat, and many other actions, were determined by a percentile dice roll. The better a character was with a weapon or skill, the higher percentage chance they would have in being successful.


knight hawks
Want to know how to fly a space combat ship? Then you need the Knight Hawks box set for Star Frontiers.

Besides its own unique game mechanics, Star Frontiers also brought its own unique setting centered around a region called the Frontier in the middle of a galaxy, all with 17 inhabited star systems, 23 colonized planets and 21 unexplored systems.

Originally there were four races for characters. Humans, of course, but there were also the insect-like Vrusk, the animal-like Yazirians with wings that allowed them to glide, and then there were the Dralasites, sort of intelligent blobs which could grow multiple appendages. The Zebulon’s Guide later added a dwarf-like race known as the Ifshnit, the kangaroo-looking race called the Humma, a race with four legs known as the Osakar, and then there was a race of intelligent robots known as the Mechanons. A handful of other races were known, but they were considered rare and not available for play, including the evil Sathar, snake-like creatures bent on the destruction of all things in the Frontier.

With a huge variety of different governments and corporations available, there was no lack of potential for adventurers looking to hire out their services, though other forms of play were possible.

Star Frontiers and me

Star Frontiers was actually the first role-playing game I ever owned. It was not the first I played, which would have been Dungeons & Dragons, but I didn’t get my own AD&D books until soon after my dad bought me the Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn box set.

My poor dad. I was 12 and I made him sit through adventures of Star Frontiers, him playing a character and me as the game master, or Referee (as it was called in Star Frontiers). I could tell he wasn’t much into it, but at least he kept it up for my sake.

Eventually I also ended up with the Referee’s Screen and about a half dozen adventure modules.

I got to play Star Frontiers with a group of friends from school for about a year, but since then I’ve never had the opportunity. The game hasn’t aged all that well, I suppose, at least not compared to more modern RPGs. Still, it does have some fans who remain true, and they can be found out there on the Web. I’ve still got that boxed set, so maybe I’ll be able to play again some day, or perhaps I’ll even run a session or three.

And when that happens, I hope, like you, to Stay Nerdy!

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