Simplifying Shadowrun

Shadowrun is an awesome setting. The amount of world-building that the source material contains is amazing. I love the cyberpunk fantasy and I’ve loved it since I discovered it years ago. The problem being that the rules have always held me back from learning it. Fifth Edition is the first ruleset that I’ve actually got my hands on. With access to a Virtual Tabletop I finally have the chance to play the game.

That being said, it’s freaking complicated. I’ve tried to read the book a number of times, but it’s put together horribly. After watching a few Youtube Tutorials and Play-Sessions I’m still lost.

This leads me to my current option: Simplify Shadowrun.

D&D 5e is a wonderfully streamline compared to the 3.5 I learned in the past. Compared to Shadowrun it’s a freaking bullet-train. There has been a bit of pushback from the community at the thought. I’ve been told that D&D can’t run the ‘complicated mechanics’ of Shadowrun.

Astral Projection, decking, rigging, and combat that is always deadly. Wow, yeah, there’s no way that a fantasy RPG can’t get those things to work.

Deckers (1980’s Hacker who plug their consciousness into a matrix) could be adapted from Wizards. Swap the flavor text for tech rather than magic, change a few things around, and that’s setup.

Astral Projection is laughable. Spirit form =/= air elemental, but it’s close enough to Druidic stuff to make a the conversion.

Rigging controls drones, vehicles, and turrets. Wow, if only the Range-Beastmaster class made that jump laughable.

http://themurdernerds.com/ Has made some steps into their own efforts. I’m planning on tossing that work in a sack & doing my best to push ahead. Here’s hoping I can get the formatting right to post.

 

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SpellJammer

For those who don’t know, Spelljammer is a D&D setting that take the adventure into space via magic. This allowed players a new avenue of play and gave them a chance to explore other settings: Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Realms, and others. The ships were magically propelled through space using Helms and there was a multitude of races, monsters, and ships to experience. In truth, converting the rules isn’t really the issue here. Getting the flavor right is important and everything else is easily swapped over.

Here is my flavoring:

  • No Clerics

Each pantheon works with the sphere of influence of that planet. The old rules state that for a god/goddess to have power they need at least 200 followers in a sphere. Considering this, divine magic seems kind of silly. A cleric without magic become a lack-luster fighter. Not saying a Cleric/Paladin can’t hop a ship to another planet. This is directed for crew-members. Healing would be done via potions or other magical means.

  • Personal Bubble

A ship has a bubble of atmosphere to keep the crew and passengers alive. For my version, each person has a one hour residual bubble if they leave the ship. This is recharged once they are returned to a ship/planet/atmosphere.

  • Charging the Helm

Helms are the way ships are able to fly through space. It requires a spell-caster to do so. To keep the ship in the air, and the atmosphere, the Helm needs to be charged by a magic-user once per 30 days. More if the spell-caster is untrained in the technique or lover than level 5. After charging the Helm the caster cannot use any spells beyond cantrips for the next 24 hours.

  • Helms Guild

Due to the fact that a trained Helms Mage can keep a ship flying indefinitely they are part of a guild. There they are given secrets and techniques to make their jobs easier. Also, any member is considered protected and killing one is an offense even the most dreaded pirates would think twice about.

  • Practically All Playable Races

Your party consists of a Kender, Warforged, Drow, Turian, and a Minotaur? Sweet that works. Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Ebberon, and just about anything you can think of is open to the players. Within the limits that you have set that is. I tossed in a Mass Effect race in that list, does this mean that they have advanced armor and sniper rifles? No, but you can say that they were encountered during an earlier time than scientific space travel.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Thoughts, comments, and suggestions would be great.

 

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The Last Guardian By David Gemmell – Book Review

The Last Guardian is the second book with Jon Shannow as the lead character. It’s the fifth in the series, but I’ve never read the first three. The final book in the series Bloodstone is not one I’m going to re-read. It was the weakest of the three and felt tacked on.

In the second book we join the Jerusalem Man on his quest to find the city. The story picks up where Wolf in Shadow left off and he is injured. Batik unfortunately doesn’t make the trip with him. New characters Beth, Nu, and the Dark Lady, are introduced along the way to fill in where the others departed. Beth is a mother and a widow traveling with her two children to find somewhere to settle. Nu, oddly enough, is from Atlantis and is fleeing persecution from the king as he prophesied a coming catastrophe. The Dark Lady is a scientist and scholar Beyond the Wall who is working to find out why people are turning into lions. Yes, you read that correctly.

This book was a delightful surprise. Reading the previous story made me realize that the character of Shannow was a little flat. This book fills him out and makes him more than just the Lone Wanderer archetype. He is tired of the road, he doesn’t want to keep cleaning up after townsfolk, and he is starting to question his quest.

The action is solid, the plot moves along at a nice clip, and this is the strongest of his three book arc. Its ending feels like a good place to leave the series and that’s what I’m going to do. I can’t say more for fear of spoiling the plot.

Verdict: Worth the read.

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Wolf in Shadow by David Gemmell- Book Review

This book is one that I have read many times. It was one of the first books that really had an impact on me. The main character, Jon Shannow, was one that a lot of my stories emulated for a good stretch of my younger years. To be perfectly honest, I was a little nervous to read it again. There had been a few other books that I’ve re-read only to find that my memory of them was much better than the actual story. Wolf in Shadow isn’t a bad book. Reading it again didn’t make me wonder how I could ever enjoy the story and it was interesting to see it again.

Reading it through this time, I found some interesting things. For one, the main character is one of the weaker aspects of the story. Jon Shannow, the Jerusalem Man, doesn’t have much depth beyond his quest. Even when asked why he seeks the fabled city his answer is fell flat. The setting is a post-apocalyptic world where one of the major books to survive was the bible. Shannow believes the words to be true and therefore thinks he can find Jerusalem as a glittering city with jeweled streets and ever-lasting peace. Another contingent of people think that since the world ended it is now the end times and the devil won so they worship him. These are called the Hellborn and are the main villains of the story. Shannow walks through bad guys like an 80s action movie and there isn’t really a time when you feel that he’s in any real danger.

The character that I found most interesting was Daniel Cade. He’s introduced about half-way through the book and it cuts back to him on occasion. Cade is a former brigand, bandit, who starts taking refugees in and protecting them from the Hellborn. His motivations and character arc was much more satisfying.

Donna, Griffin, and Madden are all part of the same plot line, but that’s handled nicely. Unlike some of the other characters they actually get addressed in the end of the book. Even the character Shannow picks up along the way, Batik, is more interesting than the main character. He’s a former Hellborn now being hunted by a group called Zealots who are able to telepathically control animals. He has a decent arc to his character too and I wish there was more time with him.

There are a couple of side characters that are kind of one note, and even the big bad seems a little hollow. He’s the leader of the Hellborn, he’s the bad guy, ta-da character. Ruth is another one of the characters that isn’t the best. She does have some development, but I found her lacking. The biggest failing of the book would have to be the character of Archer. He’s a scholar that Shannow meets along the way. He could have done for more page-time as the small glimpse we had of him was rich. Then there are a couple more minor characters that are hardly worth mentioning.

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Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight- Review

Swords and Scoundrels – Amazon

I will do my best not to spoil things. The story opens on Kacha and Vocho, two duelists who have fallen on hard times and have taken to being highwaymen. They’re brother and sister who happen to be the two best in their field. That was until Vocho supposedly killed someone he was paid to protect and they had to flee the city. What follows is adventure, intrigue, and more than a few deep interesting characters. The set dressings were cool, the overall plot had me invested, and the action was fun. Knight did a good job at keeping the swordplay moving without getting into blow-by-blow details.

This book had me hooked from chapter one. On more than one occasion I wanted to slap a couple of characters, but that wasn’t a bad thing. The character had flaws. Each person presented in the story wasn’t just some cutout plopped onto the page as a plot device. By far my favorite character was Petri. He starts out as what looks to be just a hatchet man, but there is so much more to him.

If you like The Three Musketeers, or swashbuckling stories in general, I would heartily suggest this book. It found me completely at random on Amazon, which doesn’t happen often. Finding new books is usually saved for trips to the store rather than online, but the cover, blurb, and sample had me hooked.

I look forward to book two.

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The Last Witch Hunter – Movie Review

The Last Witch Hunter, in theaters now, is the latest Vin Diesel flick. If you haven’t seen the trailers, it’s an action fantasy set in modern New York City. Kaulder is an 800 year old Witch Hunter who has been cursed with immortality.

I will do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum.

The movie starts out in with OG Kaulder and some of his fellow Vikings hunting down The Witch Queen. The opening sequence rang true to 13th Warrior, which I enjoy, and had some really cool parts in it. Kaulder gets cursed with immortality and it cuts to modern day.

There are so many parts of this movie that could have gone wrong. They could have made Kaulder too serious and pout over everything. They could have made him tech-phobic, or just someone who slaughters witches without a thought. They didn’t and I was so incredibly happy.

Vin Diesel plays Kaulder cool. He’s lived for years, he’s seen the world change, and he’s changed with it. He mourns those he’s lost, but that doesn’t define his character. So many times a character that’s long lived is put in scenes where they just mope around.

This is a fun movie. I’d suggest seeing it in the theater. It’s kind of like Constantine, but I liked this movie better. The Witch Bar was really cool. I’d like to see a sequel, or two, to expand the world they touched on.

There could have been a few little things that pushed the movie from a fun movie to a truly great one. The witch world could have been explored more. Elijah Wood and Michael Caine could have done with a bit more screen time, their stories were kind of rushed. Rose Leslie really shines -speaking of, she’d make a great Rachel Morgan if they ever do a Dead Witch Walking movie. Honestly, this movie could have done with another twenty minutes on run-time.

Verdict: See it. I look forward to owning it.

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Short Story- Inspection

Thalc pulled his breather mask into place. He took a moment to make sure it fit correctly on his face. The mist was thick near the edge and even after all these years it still made him dizzy. Any more than two deep breaths and he’d have to pull back out of the clouds and he’d need an hour or so to recover enough for another attempt. Some said that fact alone was proof that someone had made these floating lands. The builders being gods, man, or something else depended on who was speaking. He had lost count over the years how many scholars and priests had been lost to the mists trying to find answers. What about the thick mists made the lands float? Why did the lands stay to their gentle migrations? Was there something below the mists? The answer to those questions were variation of people falling to their deaths. Whatever caused the mists held up islands of varying sizes, but didn’t extend to hapless idiots who fell over the edge.

He hooked the latch on his belt to the lead once his mask was secure. The rail extended below the edge of the island. It connected to another sturdy pipe he’d shimmy his feet along. Thalc hated this part of the job. His post was at the edge of the mist and he’d warn people that got too close. Most of the time his daily task was a simple redirection of travelers to one of the raised bridges nearby. Today was not one of those days. No, today he had to inspect the chains.

Years ago, no one knew how long exactly, someone had bound smaller islands together. The links were easily as thick as his chest. They said that a few hundred normal sized chains ran under the lengths of the bridges, but those were built when he was a boy. Somehow the islands stayed in a close enough migration that allowed them to be linked without ever touching. Scholarly types attributed that miracle to the mists too.

Thalc checked his harness as he neared the edge. This was the worst part. He didn’t know why it even had to be done. Someone alone the way had decided the chains needed to be regularly inspected. Toss it to the mists that no one knew how they were built, or how to fix them if something went wrong.

He put his back to the edge of the island as he slipped down flat onto the ground. Slowly he shimmied back into the mist. For an eternity his booted feet hung out into nothingness. This was how his nightmares started. His feet dangling into the mist, the harness pulled taught, and then he’d fall. Luckily, this wasn’t his nightmares. His feet found the jagged edge of the island as the tether pulled taught. He leaned back, gripped the rail, and began his descent into the mist.

After this excursion to the chain he’d have forty days before it had to be repeated. That was unless someone complained. Some cloudborn noble inland would send it down the line that they wanted the chain inspected. The rainy season was the worst of it. A little hard thunder and people who had never even seen the edge thought the chains were shaking.

The tether clinked against the first joint. Thalc latched his secondary line onto the rail, swapped his main down to the new section, and continued his descent. For some reason once he was over the edge he didn’t mind the mist as much. It wasn’t something he wanted to to dwell on. Maybe it was because on the edge he could still see the land while down here it was just the mist. If he fell it wouldn’t be much different than the climb. The mask helped him see through the mist. It gave the world an amber tint and cycled his breath through two chambers.

He feet found the bar at the end of the tether. His hands moved in practiced motions to change the lines over. The progress along the bar was something of a dance. Step, step, pull, latch, and repeat. Tap, tap, brrip, click. Tap, tap, brrip, click. He found the little rhythm had worked into the small moments of his day. Tap, tap, brreng, clank.

Thalc looked down at the line. The lead had pulled away from the island. So much so that it curled back toward him and ended in the mist. He clipped his tether back to the secured section and pulled himself tight against the island. His heart thundered in his chest as he looked for any sign as to what could have done this. There weren’t any claw marks, which meant harpies and cliff birds were out. That was a small blessing. A harpy strong enough to pull the line would have had him for breakfast before he’d be able to scream.

He inched his way closer to get a better look at the ground where the bar had once been. Something big had scrapped along. It had to be a ship. Hopefully one set to drift. A ghost ship in the mists. It happened. Those hit by pirates, bad weather, or fallen to the beasts of the mists were left to drift in the mists until they were smashed to bits or pulled for salvage.

Thalc didn’t want to think about the other option, which of course meant that was where his mind went. He began his slow climb back up to the ledge. Smugglers weren’t uncommon. They’d fly in the thicker parts of the mist to avoid detection. He wasn’t against smugglers. Pirates on the other hand. Some said the mists drove them crazy. They said that their ships would simply appear. Death, pain, and terror was the only thing they traded.

He pulled himself over the edge, unhooked his tethers, and rushed out of the mist. His legs wobbled after a few steps. Thalc made it to his his guard shack. He shut the thick door tight, locked it, and slid down to the floor. Once his heartbeat returned to normal he realized his job was not yet complete. He carefully removed the clutter from around the signal light and tapped out a message. The message was brief. He stuck to the facts.

Inspection incomplete. Rail damaged. Signs point to crash. Thalc.

He looked inland and waited for someone to answer. Hopefully someone on the other side knew what to do.

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