Tag Archive: free

Pulp Sci-Fantasy

“Humanspace Empires” is a work in progress. You can go download the “playtest draft” for free over at “http://ixians.blogspot.com/“. For an incomplete game, this PDF has serious substance. Packed within 55 pages is a most marvelous blend of genres. The rules lend themselves to a tone ranging from whimsical to preternaturally dreadful. My group’s first quest took them inside the hidden internal organs of a planet; a planet both sentient and malevolent. I also tried to hint (albeit subtly) that the planet was aware of the adventurer’s intrusion, but it might be too early for them to have picked up on that.

The game’s focus is on weird character classes and powers. Almost every class (excluding the warrior) has some access to psychic abilities. The list of playable alien species is also particularly exhaustive. These aren’t your standard fare men with green skin martians. Many of the aliens aren’t even bipedal, which is something I really appreciate. If I want to play an alien in a game, I don’t want to play something vaguely human (but thats just me, nothing wrong with doing otherwise).

I think the game is so successful because it manages to fulfill both my fantasy and sci-fi needs as a gamemaster. Last night’s game might have been the most fun I’ve had running a “retro” game since my interest started. The “Gamer Achievement Award” goes to Basq, the group’s astronaut. Last night, Basq managed to recover from a staggering blow, only to take a shot in the dark, devastating the space-orc who left him for dead (gotta love lightning pistols). It was one of those game-stopping moments at the table where everyone just started clapping.

“Humanspace” promises several upcoming supplements, including a bestiary. Last night I modified some OSRIC critters to fit the setting. I had orcs in divers suits wielding slug-cannons. I had “orcinations” – abominations crafted from the corpses of several orcs to create a centipede-esque monstrosity that spits acid as well as opens a hidden stomach-maw (with a ravenously hungry fetus-orc waiting inside).  Last night my gamers described my narrative style as “Post-Cthulhu.” I have the elegant frame of “Humanspace Empires” to thank.

But whatever your style, I would guess that “Humanspace Empires” has something to offer any old-scool game that has a tendency toward the weird. If you need a break from throwing magic missile’s for a while, why don’t you roll up Scientist with a Z-Ray projector in “Humanspace Empires?”


Music & PnPRPG’s

I don’t usually listen to music while I play RPG’s. The issue of becoming distracted is the most obvious reason. However sometimes music can perfectly enhance the tone. In grittier fantasy settings – black metal is usually the way to go.  A couple years back, (when DnD 4 was new) my friends and I decided to play-test the game in an “Underdark” campaign. We wanted something sweeping and epic.

Ulver’s Kveldssanger fit the bill perfectly. Ulver has genre hopped a lot in their career. Some of their  black metal is the absolute rawest desecration. However, Kveldssanger is Ulver’s folk album. And it  has become my go to album for fantasy settings. These guys sound medieval (and I mean that in the  best way).

However when I’m playing a sci-fi, I’ve had the most success with Cloudkicker. This guy writes uber-  prog on his computer – and man, is it exciting. I thought I was over my “prog-metal phase” after I  graduated from high school. But Cloudkicker’s album, Beacons brought me back in.

The relentless severity of some of these songs added a real height to drama in my “SWN” campaign  (see my earlier review for more on “SWN”). My buddy Mike’s first response was a drawn out,  “Whoooa.” And I think that his comment adequately describes the feel.

I’ve got a metal radio show on Skidmore College’s WSPN (shameless plug, I know) that plays from 8-  10pm on fridays. You can listen here.

Much of the music I play might be useful in your own campaign, so give it a listen if your interested.

It’s worth mentioning that Cloudkicker gives away his entire discography for free. So get on that!

Who do you listen to while you game?

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“Stars Without Number” is another grognard inspired game that is really going to turn some heads. The “sandbox” elements inherent in the game, allowed me to port much of the setting my friends and I created in “Diaspora” (see my earlier review) into this game system. The post-society collapse and psionic emphasis in “SWN” softens the sci considerably – and in my opinion serves a perfect balance. Each character in the game feels distinct in that everyone has a background and profession even before a class is chosen. This allows for a vast array of archetypes, and adds a significant level of re-playablity.

The system is skill based, and moves fast. Slowdown is never an issue in this game, and the characters always have something to do (by default because motives are a necessary component of character creation). I haven’t examined the faction leadership section of the book too thoroughly yet – but I’m very excited by the possibilities.

So far I’ve only had the chance to run one session of the game (which is my fault mostly for advertising other RPG’s to my friends), but as I’m writing this I’m realizing how solid this game really is. The psychic class in particular really excites me. Every psychic has the capacity to be either a specialist in their school, or a jack of all trades. The game suggests that it is rare for characters to survive past level 10… which I love – because I have an obsession with re-rolling characters with new stories. This might be my favorite game I’ve run all year. This is a definite buy, if you like the idea of playing a bada** space marine, a cocky starship gunner, or back-world witch. It’s all here, really.

O yeah, and its free… what the heck are you waiting for?