Saturday, April 14, 2018

Designer's Notes for Barbarian Suns v2

The Avausim. The memetic representation of the Milky Way galaxy.
Preface :: These are my designer's notes for Barbarian Suns version 2. I think that BSv4 will have a better chance of getting published but it may take a while. Therefore I present my designer's notes here as a way to prelude the thinking behind the game design. Please note that both versions of the game (v2 and v4) play on a grid; v2 is on a square-grid and v4 is on a hex-grid.

Additionally, any mentions of SH2156 is in regards to my Superhero '44 Campaign.

There's a blog post describing what that means.

Designer Notes

A. Conception

It was a cold night in that cellar at Dan Pellerino’s house. Just myself, Dan and Damon Williams. None of us had any money to spend, and we were a bit hungry. In order to bide the time, we decided to create something a piece of graph paper. We didn’t have dice, so we modified our pencils into “Egyptian dice” by adding pips to each of the six sides. That was back in 1987. We didn’t have a name for it at the time, but we knew that the idea didn’t yet exist any where else in the gaming industry.

The basic game concept was actually formulated during my military years in 1983-86 in order to
support a strategic view of the SH2156 RPG game universe. As a science-fiction super-hero
role-playing game, SH2156 tried to meld the worlds of military gaming (a la Marc Miller’s
Traveller) and fantasy gaming (a la Hero Games’ Champions) into something more tangible.
This is understandable since it grew from the game I created in 1977 as a child to something
much larger when I revisited it after the USMC.

The adult that revisited the game needed to make it a bit “more”. So the background had to expand, and had to focus on events external to just interstellar warfare and comic-book heroes. Part of the background was to show that the events within the RPG were a small but critical part of a larger intragalactic war.

So, that night in the basement was something that we all hoped would be fun to play as well as
something we could continue to develop over time. What started from simple rules on scratch
paper and make-shift “pencil dice” has now grown into a comprehensive gaming experience.

B. Design Choices

All of us involved with refining the concept of an intragalactic conflict simulation game were
unsatisfied with the take of existing games like Stellar Conquest or Cosmic Encounters. Each
seemed to be on the opposite extremes of accounting practice or over-simplification. What we
wanted was something that could capture the sense of an RPG with all of its attention to detail,
but with enough martial constraint as to make it seem like a serious wargame.

We didn’t want a parlor game but we also didn’t want to have to learn a lot rules. We did want
something that was light, but could be played with seriousness between experienced players –
like a chess game but with spaceships and dice.
  • First. The first design choice was the board. It could have been a hexagonal board, or even a grid like it is now – but with more cells. What we decided was to have a small board such that any military movement would have a great impact, without having to resort to a large number of markers. In this way, any military movement became critical because the number of potential bottlenecks increased dramatically.
  • Second. The second design choice was the concept of movement. We realized that if we were to use a square grid, units would need to account for diagonal movement. Normally this is done by forcing a 1.5 movement point cost across diagonals. However, we decided that it would be too much math and also problematic in order to track which units had fractional movement points remaining.

    So a solution was to devise Movement Technologies” and to limit diagonal movement to an advanced form of intragalactic drive. Since the SH2156 RPG already had the concept of “Tunnel Drives” which would allow units to create worm-holes for unprecedented movement ability, we opted to allow diagonal movement under that guise.
  • Third. The third design choice was the concept of accounting. We didn’t want to have to track all of the improvements that we associated to each player in a large matrix or note pad. Other games of the time allowed for such, but we felt that it would be too much information.

    When our system sectors received improvements, we decided to instead show that information on the mapboard itself. At Dan’s, it was just a special symbol drawn on the mapboard, but soon there were too many symbols to draw. This necessitated the creation of System Improvement Markers. It’s one of the unique things about Barbarian Suns that makes it fun to play; look at the mapboard and you can instantly assess your worth. When it came to creating the military units, we encountered the very same problem all military conflict simulation games have to address; too many markers.

    Some existing wargames had thousands of markers to account for specific variations or order-of-battle appearance. We had to drop the concept of an Order-of-Battle tree; too limiting. We also didn’t want to have three variants of the galactic equivalent of the Panzer III. We did want to have units that could be improved; but how to do so without adding more markers into the game?
  • Fourth. Our fourth design choice addressed this by allowing nearly all technological changes to be accounted for via “technology” cards[4]. Each card would represent a specific rules alteration that could account for the addition of either new units onto the mapboard, or the modification of an existing rule or unit. In this way, if we wanted to improve a Dreadnaught[1] unit into an Ultradreadnaught[1] unit, it was only a matter of possessing the card indicating such.
  • Fifth. The fifth design choice we made was the System Ownership cards. Again, we didn’t want to have to do a lot of paper work; we wanted a game in which the pieces and the statuses could be displayed via some other mechanism. The System Ownership cards allowed us to identify and account for what we owned much like the “Title” cards in Monopoly. An added benefit was like the Technology cards; any system-specific rules could be written upon the face of the System cards.
  • Last. The last design choice came about after play testing. We had to create the Turn Order cards in order to offset the advantage a player had by going first each time. Initially we randomized this with a die roll, but we found ourselves re-rolling several times in order to beat ties that would occur.

    Additionally, once the dice were cast we were expected to memorize our order of play or else write them down. Since we wanted to avoid accounting work, we brought in the cards. A very large amount of play-testing went into the game to help refine its balance and the abilities of each unit and technology.

    For a game of this scale, it is really impossible to balance every aspect, but we tried to focus on three primary aspects; economic warfare, martial warfare and technological warfare. What I’ve discovered after several hundred hours of play-testing is that its best to capture a “feel” than to use numbers.

So, each Frigate[1] matters. 

One Minor System can support the creation of a Frigate. One Frigate can conquer a Minor System or control a Sector of the game board. The economy should be able to be grown via territorial conquest, as well as infrastructure development (“Boost”) and also via technology (“Economy II”, “Merchantry”). In this way, the player that sits by himself will also be able to compete with the player that aggressively conquers territory. This bodes well for that third player in a 3-player game.

For the aggressive player, we decided to allow numerous fleet units to be built and of a variety of form. Many of the variations would not be available unless technology for them was first had, but the pay off would be to provide capabilities that would make a great impact. An example of this is the Dreadnaught[1] unit. As a basic fleet unit, it would be available at any Shipyard[2] or Capital[2]. By itself, it is quite formidable. But when upgraded to a “Deathmoon”[1], it acquires just that “extra bit more” which makes it a unit worth employing in the place of dreadnaught. The best thing about it is that once “Deathmoon”[1] technology is achieved, ALL dreadnaughts become “Deathmoons”…

As for the System sectors, I wanted them to be able to be built into huge resources over time –
and so we created stages of advancement; Province, Minor, Major, Mega and Nexus. In this way, the player that can dig-in would be able to upgrade their few systems into something a bit more formidable.

As for the Technology trees, I wanted this to be completely different from existing games[4]. I
wanted technology to make an impact in the game. I didn’t want long technology trees because I didn’t view revolutionary technology to behave in that manner. Each step of technology research had to generate a definite edge in game play. In that way, a non-aggressive player could force the game to be one of “technological warfare” if the other players weren’t aggressive enough.

In order to help add more flavor to the game, I created four different kinds of Nexii to suit the
playing-style of each player. This theme we carried to even the Basic Fleet units and to the
Color cards. The premise works well in play – align the playing style with the proper Nexii, fleet
types and Color cards and the player will acquire a distinct advantage over those that don’t do
the same.

C. Artwork Choices

The first real complete set of playing pieces created for Barbarian Suns was done in 2-day
frenzy by myself while working the weekend as a physical security guard in late 1987. There
really wasn’t any artwork and nearly all of the original pieces were cannibalized from existing
games like SPI’s Starsoldier and Outreach. The game board was drawn within a 30-minute
flurry that next day with lack of sleep; using Prismacolors, acrylic line-tape for the grid and axis
labels; acrylic paint and a toothbrush in order to draw a simulated shape of the galaxy. This
was all done while my date was sitting in the car in front of Ray Wisneski’s apartment when I
gave the excuse to go and “use the bathroom”.

Since then, the game has gone through at least five redesigns of the artwork and pieces.
Raymond, Robert Curtis, Richard Frausto each of created one compete set of the game by
painstakingly gluing the laser printouts of my vector art to poster-board and carving them out
with a matt-knife. I think Richard created three sets and Robert two. Regardless; I lost them or
“accidentally” cannibalized them each time.

In this last iteration, the actual art itself is heavily influenced by a “meta-concept” I conceived to
tie in the SH2156 and the Barbarian Suns game. I call that the “Ovodium Cosmogos”. Using
the basic concepts of “memetics”, I fused fractals, art nouveau and baroque into a design basis
for all of the artwork. The result of which looks like the popular, “edgy” gothic tattoo work
employed by today’s youth. It wasn’t intentional, but there it is.

The single item where this comes together well is the mapboard which shows the four
metamemes by their colors (red, blue, green, yellow) overlaid upon a fractal mandragora
pattern of the galaxy, overlaid upon a digitally quarter-mirrored galaxy (actually M51), overlaid
upon some symbols representing the inner circuitry of the galaxy.

D. Pseudo History

The story of the “Ovodium Cosmogos” is the background for the game of “Barbarian Suns”. It’s
a lot more comprehensive than what is shown here, but the simple outline shown below pretty
much captures it. 

The fundamental reasoning for all of this is as follows:
  1. IF Man is special
  2. IF there exists other intelligent life in the universe
  3. IF super-science exists
  4. IF there exists a Great Force which control the behavior of the universe
  5. THEN what would happen when Man begins to conquer the universe?
My take on this is that the Great Force would either want to enhance Man’s ability to conquer
the universe, or hinder Man. Unfortunately for Man, a vote had already been cast, and action
has already been taken to shut the Milky Way galaxy off from the rest of the universe so that
Man can’t spread any further. What remains within the galaxy are sub-sets of that Great Force,
each striving to collect absolute control so that they can then focus on re-connecting the Milky
Way galaxy back to the rest of the universe.

In game terms, each player assumes a sub-set of the Great Force (here, “Dios Primin”) known
as the “Colors” and are identified by a color (red, blue, green, yellow). The Standard Victory
Condition for each game scenario is then assumed to be the goal of achieving absolute control
of the galaxy. The victor in this case would then be able to – as a choice - reconnect the Milky
Way galaxy (here, “Spermanova Lucifix” or “The Solidness”) to the rest of the universe (here,
“The Eventine”) according to a common ideology (“metameme”).

The only thing preventing them would then be the multi-forking time hysteresis loop known as the “Codon Barrier” put in place by the Dios Primin which prevents all information from escaping back into a single time stream (hence “even tine” – a single tine of a fork utensil). In story terms, this is handled by the having the Lesser Magellenic Cloud (here, “The Visitor”)[3] interrupt the Codon Barrier and thereby provide an escape route for information (“codons”) from our galaxy to the next and beyond.

Barbarians Suns then is a game about the personification of the natural forces and events
surrounding this galaxy and the beings within.

[1] These are all military vessels ranging from the smallest and fastest to the largest and slowest in this order; Frigate, Destroyer, Cruiser, Dreadnaught, Deathmoon.
[2] These are build centers which allow construction of military vessels.
[3] I now think that a better choice would be the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy.
[4] This was before the arrival of a game which did something similar named Twilight Imperium.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Latest Paint-ups


Just before winter break I had a chance to set up a painting workstation in my living room and took to painting as many figures as I could in order to reduce my back-log. I think I was able to paint about 60 figures. I've got probably another 200 in my boxes.

Part of my problem is that I'm trying to do quite a bit. Just in terms of MEST Tactics I'm trying to cover at least 6 established genre between myself an Aggro; Retropocalypse, Gothic Horror, Mythos, Dark Fantasy, Dunjon of Death, and Victorian Sci-fi. Between  myself an him we've got enough but there's always more to build out.


Additionally, for those who follow this blog I'm concurrently working on several other game systems and features;

MEST Campaigns + Character Progressions, Barbarian Suns v4 (BSv4), Superhero 2044 Second Edition Revised (SH44SER), Mech, Beast, and Infantry (MBI), and quite a few more in the skunk-works or those with low-priority such as Sarna-len Role-playing Game, Giant Robots of World War II, Hemo Rage (MEST zombies), and Cold Steam Empires (MEST Campaign setting + VSF ship battles).


Here's just a bunch of quick pics. I'm a lousy photographer and I'm just using my Android camera with three light sources. Some of the figures show up shiny but that's because I didn't get to re-spray them with low-gloss finish.

I've added captions to show more context. So here they are in no particular order of presentation.

My Ruga-ruga for Victorian Sci-fi. I plan to get some Askari and Zulus as well. My British Colonials are currently work-in-progress. All of them together will be low-fantasy, but I intend to get some steampunk figures for the named figures once I finish the main bulk.

I purchased Reaper Mouslings about 3 or so years ago. I finally got to paint two of them.

These are my newly painted Mythos cultists. Some are shiny-glossy; I'll need to re-spray them flat. The two with the yellow is my attempt at representing a light-source.

All of my Mythos cultists together. I think I have another 5 in the back-log. I also have 5 cult-leaders which are on the workbench.

My nuns. I think they are Mythos nuns. The color is historically correct for "Blue Nuns"

Some VSF clock-work soldiers.

Some Mageknight repaints. Dark Fantasy genre.

My Celts for Dark Fantasy, which I can use for Dunjon of Death.

One of my Mi-go.

Both Mi-go and a human figure for scale.

A Dungeons & Dragons repaint with a human for scale.

All of my Deep Ones for Mythos. The three new ones are those armed with weapons. That Reaper Bathalien can be used as a cult-leader for the Deep Ones, or be used in Dark Fantasy as a per se mind-flayer.

Some dakka-dakka stuff I got at the flea-market. These can serve as my Retropocalyse Vault warriors and also be used for VSF as steampunk soldiers.

More Mageknight repaints.

The two on the left are repaints. The one on the right is from Pulp Figures. These three form part of my Mythos Amateurs faction. 

A few more repaints. Again part of the Mythos Amateurs. I can also introduce them into the Derring-do genre (1920's). I think the one on the left actually is Marvel's Juggernaut figure from HeroClix.

Two more repaints. I can use these in VSF as well.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mech, Beast, and Infantry - A primer coat

see part I here
see part II here


I got a chance to revisit my workbench for the Mech, Beast, and Infantry figures. I just added a black primer coat.

This is upon some cheap foamboard. I use this outside to spray down.

This is after moving to my MDF workbench tray.

The rules are still WIP (Alpha Phase, Alpha Set) which I've shared on Delta Vector forums. There's been no progress since I posted them there about 6 months ago because I've been too busy with SH44SER, MEST 1.6.x, and BSv4 ... among other things.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Barbarian Suns v4.x :: WIP

Barbarian Suns v4

I was inspired to try another solo play-test of my Barbarian Suns game.

This is the version 4 of the entire game system and is my attempt to update a beloved design. It is a revision of the version 2 which I covered here


Barbarian Suns arose as a way for me to express the back-story of a galaxy-wide war in the Superhero 2044 universe which I built with my friends. It forms the conceptual background for all of my game designs. The idea is that this war encompasses trillions of living creatures, billions of starships, millions of planets, across thousands of star systems. 

It is meant to be epic in scale.
  • Version 1 - This was an ad hoc design way back in late 1980 or early 1990. I'll find my designer notes and post it when I can.  Basically hand-written rules and components.
  • Version 2 - This is what is seen at the link above. It took the v1 and formalized everything; rules book, game pieces, elements. Everything was done using the (then) desktop publishing tools like Aldus Freehand (soon Macromedia, soon Adobe Illustrator) and Aldus Pagemaker. My circle of friends built about 4 play-test kits and we play-tested the heck out of this; possibly about a 100 game sessions between all of us. This completed design came together before anything else like Twilight Imperium ever exist.
  • Version 3 - This was my attempt at building an electronic version of the game using Visual Basic 5. I started it before I met my wife and had a family. I tried to revive the effort using Adobe Flash but then life hit me with long work hours. meh.
  • Version 4 - This is my current effort. It saps free time from my other efforts, but I really am enjoying visiting revisiting this concept.


Barbarian Suns v2 lay dormant for a few years. I wanted to publish it at one point and checked pricing (this is early 1990's) and became disenchanted with the publishing costs. That would including shipping, distribution, marketing, etc. So it lay upon my bookshelf for a while. 

However, I began to discuss a revised concept with one of my friends who was one of the original play-testers. As a result, it inspired me to render this concept:

Original inspiration for BS v4.
A solo play-test session. Small game for two players (red and yellow). 


The new design is an effort to incorporate newer game design elements taken from European designer games. Here's a small list of features;
  1. Remove dice. Replace with a hand of "dice cards" which are numbered 1 through 6 and given "dice dots" which are 1-2-3 dots either white or black. This provides greater utility to bluffing and power-plays.
  2. Technology tree is represented by simpler object-oriented micro-rules. This was already upon cards in BS v1 but by BS v2 the phrasing was too complex.
  3. Revenue generation is similar to "exhaust this card". In BS v2 this was instead using poker-chips for tracking revenue. The revised version keeps revenue tenuous until required to be spent.
  4. Modular board. In BS v2 the board was a fixed 12x12 square layout which would allow small games to be played on a subset of that such as 8 x 8 squares or 10 x 10 squares depending on the number of available players. The modular board instead provides greater flexibility. Each player receives 4, 5, or 6 "megahex" tiles and lays them out to build a galactic map.
  5. System traits. A system is representative of several thousand star civilizations. These are now icon-based micro-rules which allow combinations of abilities for each "cluster" of star systems in order to provide further depth-of-play and replayability to the game.

Technology Cards

One of the key features of Barbarian Suns since its inception was the use of "technology cards". Each card presents a set of micro-rules which mutate the game play. The key design goal was to force players to race each other in acquiring disruptive advantages. For BS v4 I wanted to incorporate "deck-building" and allow multiple "tech cards" to be inserted into a "tech deck" of 24 cards at the start of each game according to the individual whims of each player. Many technology cards will stack, where if multiple versions are purchased during game-play their effects increase in magnitude.

I had several versions of how this would work, and I finally settled upon a simpler compromise. 
The compromise was to simplify all verbiage on these cards and spread the effect across multiple cards.
An earlier design for technology cards. The ideas was to use an icon-based "language" to represent the capabilities of each card. I liked the idea because of its elegance, but the visual language represented by the icons is a learning barrier.

The current version of technology cards as used within BS v4. The number of rules per card is dropped. Cards such as "Warp Drive" and "Weaponry" have multiple copies and will stack thereby increasing effect.

System Cards

Another desire was to include a simplified way to differentiate star system "clusters" by adding abilities on their control cards ("system ownership cards"). In BS v2 this was some heavy verbiage and I felt that the mutators on those full-sized playing cards (68.5 x 88 mm) was not done very well. In BS v4 the icon-based attempt allowed me to shrink the size of each card.  Here's what they look like now:

The BS v4 System Ownership cards. "Humani" is representative of the thousands of star systems in the "cluster" of stars surrounding our planet Earth. Each icon is a trait representing a micro-rule which affects game-play.

Additional Work

There's yet much work to do. 

The prototype shown at the top of this blog post is very minimalist and I may actually want to set up a Gamecrafter account to facilitate downloads of the design for others to assist in play-testing.

I'm not sure how long all of this will take before I'm confident the design is publisher-ready, but as I get more information I'll post it here. Once the rules are more "solid" for my alpha I will post them.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Side-note :: Gladiator Battles


Clarification; I've recently been dreaming about building out some new terrain.

One of my wandering thoughts deals with building a 25 to 28mm scale Roman Arena for gladiatorial battles. At present, I have my 1:18 Schleich figures for the MEST Fantasy Gladiator build out, but these require about a 6 x 6 foot area to play properly ... maybe more if I were to truly challenge the Centaur and the various cats (all sprinters).

Anyhow, I've got some inspiration from watching these gladiator combat schools (German and Italian) where re-enactors employ their training. There's some really cool action clips.

Here's a bunch together:


What I find interesting is the use of the net and trident by the setarii. The nets are thrown for distracting the opponents (usually a secutor) and the tridents are used in attempts to pull the legs from under the secutorii. This is quite different than how I imagined them being used; to disarm the opponent and to stab them.

I also noticed; the use of spears is amazing. It gives a greater reach (as in MEST "Reach" trait), but also it can bypass defenses. The single-hand use is very common for that. So; two hands for stabbing, but one hand for reaching over shields.

Lastly, tall gladiators have a fairly visible advantage. Their longer reach mimics the spear in some cases; allowing them to bypass shields.


I'll eventually build my arena, and then I'll get some figures to match. I'm thinking of building out a ludus campaign for managing gladiatorial battles and it may become another genre + setting within MEST. However, this will probably be months if not years from now given my current pace. =)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Superhero 2044 Second Edition Revised :: Combat System


Old School

At the time of its first publishing in 1977, Superhero 2044 originally had four different combat systems; Transformation, Mental Combat, Direct Physical Combat ("melee") and Range Combat.  These used a D6 for resolution, and for "melee" and "range combat" involved the use of a D6 for hit-location. The "range combat" was not an opposed die roll, the "mental combat" mimicked "melee" but used Mentality stat ("Prime Requisite") instead of Stamina.

The second edition rules introduced two new ways of combat; using a D100 for "melee" and "range combat", and then a D100 for hit-location.


I have decided to make everything more consistent.

There are still four combat systems, but they all hinge upon the use of the "Universal Mechanism" which is a D10 roll against a target number (usually 6 or higher) written as D10=6+. Effectively these rolls are all "Saving throws" and received dice modifier (DM) adjustments against the target number (TN) according to a Simplified Score representing a +1 per every 5 Prime Requisite value above a value of 20. For example, a 20 PR gives a DM +0 but a score of 30 gives DM +2.

Of course, the Referee will have access to a slew of sensible dice modifiers for success such as DM -3 if target is behind cover or DM +2 if shooter is focussing effort on an attack.



The primary feature of the combat resolution mechanic is that it has an accuracy roll which is always an opposed check. What this means is that each character, the Attacker and the Defender, make a D10 roll. The Defender's roll comes first and, after applying any modifiers, becomes the Target Number for the Attacker.

The Attacker then rolls its D10 against that TN for success. The Attacker of course gets its own set of DMs to adjust its roll. 

The Referee will note the Margin-of-Success [MoS] or Margin-of-Failure [MoF] and this affects the outcome of damage. Should the Attacker roll higher than the Defender's TN, the MoS will adjust the amount of the effect of the attack. 

Handling Damage

Damage from all attacks automatically cause damage; there is no Opposed damage roll. 

For example, a Psychic Blast 10 will do 10 Damage to the target character's Psyche; causing Stress damage. An average character could take about 4 of those blasts directly. Each MoS will allow an additional D6 of damage.

Hit Location

However, for "melee" and "range combat" actions; the Attacker will need to check the hit-location of the target using a D10, with "0" being the target character's head and "9" being the target character's "left-leg". If this is a "range combat" attack and the target was behind cover, a D6 is used instead which allows hit-locations to cluster around the target's upper body.

Standard Hit-Locations

Body Points

Each of the ten Hit-Locations on a target will have an amount of Body Points equal to that character's Vigor. This is standard in the original SH2044 rules. When the number of Body Points is reduced, this will affect the capabilities of a character. Having negative Body Points for the Head will kill a character, while having reduced Body Points for an Arm will make it less useful in lifting things or for using it to attack others.

Physical Damage

Depending on the Body Part hit by the attack, the Defender character may take more or less damage. Physical Damage is always Body Points (express as VIG or Vigor loss) and an accompanying amount of Pain (resulting in Fatigue loss).

For example, a Sword will automatically do an amount of damage equal to the Attacker's Vigor. So a VIG 20 character will cause 20 VIG loss against a target. Should the Hit-Location be the Defender's left leg ("Leg, Left"); that automatically loses 20 Body Points. Swords themselves have the "Cleave" keyword which would remove the target's leg from its body.


20 Body Points is a tremendous amount of Damage!

This is where protective armor gets to help the targets of physical attacks. At its most basic, armor is ablative; it will stop all damage less than its Armor Value. Therefore, AV 20 will stop 20 Damage. These AV20 could be Psychic Shielding which protects from Psychic Blasts, or Physical Armor which protects from "melee" and "range combat" attacks.

However, all is not so simple.

Physical Armor rated at AV 20 is fairly heavy armor especially if it were to cover the entire body. A mere Bulletproof Vest will cover just the "Torso, Chest"+ "Torso, Middle". A Bulletproof Jacket will cover as a vest plus the Arms, etc. When those 20 Damage come down to the Defender, the Hit-Location could be protected by Armor ... or not. That D10 Hit-Location roll then becomes critical.

Armor Values

Armor Values have a degree of effectiveness. This can be overlooked when attacking Minor Characters (being "Minor NPCs", "Minions", and "Mooks"), but becomes important for Major NPCs and all Player Characters (PCs).  
  • If the VIG damage is greater than the Armor Value [AV] by more than 5 then full damage goes to the target location.
  • If the VIG damage is less than or equal to the Armor Value [AV], then the armor stops it completely.
  • Otherwise divide the VIG damage by 2 and apply to the target.
Those three simple conditions make armor behave a bit more realistically against very powerful attacks by allow them to ignore lesser armor completely. Therefore Leather Armor (AV 5) would stop most punches, but shouldn't do a thing to affect damage from bullets and swords.

This scales up as well. Tank armor with AV 100 should ignore all Damage 100 and below. Damage 107 should not become 7 Damage after applying armor protection; it becomes fully 107 Damage.

As a result, players will be able to fully appreciate the benefits of armor and the deadliness of high-Damage weapons. This should encourage all characters within the game to avoid combat unless adequately prepared.


These are the bitter details used for when tracking Major NPCs and all Player-characters. The Referee is encouraged to ignore such rules as necessary ("wing it") in regards to lesser NPCs.

Body Points

All characters have an amount of Body Points for each Body Part location based upon their Vigor and their Mass (in kilograms). This comes to about 20 Body Points for the average adult human male. It could go much higher for characters like Marvel's The Hulk (1000 Kg and very strong ... high Vigor). Vigor is used within SH2044SER as the equivalent of "Strength"; physical power.


A character receives roughly 50 points at Ego 20, 100 at Ego 40, etc. Doubles every +20 value in Ego. Is reduced by Mental attacks, some Magic / Transformation Attacks, and by attacks involving a high amount of Pain such as from Bombs and Fire. Having little or negative Stress start curling up into a ball and crying, or run away from combat or the source of Stress Damage.


A character receives roughly 50 points at Endurance 20, 100 at Endurance 40, etc. Doubles every +20 value in Endurance. Is reduced by damage which causes Pain, and actions which cause actual fatigue. Radiation damage, doesn't cause (immediate) Pain, but a Punch in the face does. So does Fire (until the nerve endings are destroyed). Torture causes Pain but not necessarily Body Points. Having little or negative Fatigue puts a character into a coma; drained of energy. Characters which take large losses of Fatigue as a result of Pain become Stunned and may eventually pass out from exhaustion or curl into fetal position to try to avoid participation in combat.

Variable Damage by Hit-Location

I'm hoping the image above shows enough legible information. Basically, kicking somebody in the groin ("Torso, Groin") should cause more Pain than normal. And punching somebody in the bony chest ("Torso, Chest, Center") should cause less Vigor damage and Pain. Weapons and the method of attack will of course change all of this. A sword could slice through the thin bones of most humans, and an attack involving acid or fire would certainly cause additional Pain damage.

NPC Types

There's some lore I'm building out for the NPC Types (see here for the foo-foo).

There's tiers of NPCs ("non-player characters"). In the parlance of the rules for SH2044SER these tiers are, Major NPC, Minor NPC, Minions, Mooks, Cast of Thousands.  The tier system is an mnemonic aide to the Referee as to how much an impact to the game each NPC of a given tier could affect change. NPCs of lower tiers (Mooks and Cast of Thousands) would get promoted slowly upwards until they become Major NPCs. In game-terms they'll have more care given to their presentation and details as the Referee sees fit, but they shouldn't swing actively through their tiers during the course of a single session (a "scene") and should probably await completion of a campaign arc (an "story") before switching tiers.

  • Major NPCs - Here to annoy and plague player-characters. Nemesis. Arch-villains. Rival heroes.
  • Minor NPCs - Side-kicks and second-in-commands to Major NPCs. Love interests, kid-brothers, etc.
  • Minions    - All of the bothersome NPCs encountered during gaming sessions which are useful during Handicapping Scenarios.
  • Mooks      - A variety of Minions meant to be SH2044SER equivalent of Star Trek's "Red Shirts". They'll not even have a name.
  • Cast of Thousands - If the Referee ever needs to blow up a building full of innocent bystanders, or maybe need to nuke a city ... these are they! A footnote in the history books.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Publishing MEST version 1.x

I'm going to (yet again) try to finalize the version 1.0 full-color document for MEST Basic. I've learned that for about $20 to $50 I can get an ISBN and self-publisher package (see here).

This will get me enough so that I can put an eBook on places like WargameValue and WargameDownloads.

I've also found some nice places to get low-cost hard-copy print-on-demand of the book. I will probably do a short run of 25 books and issue to hand out to first to requests to me, and give a copy to each play-tester and developer I've worked with. The rest will be given a link to download.

By doing the publishing route, I'll finally put version 1.x to rest so that I can correctly build out version 2.x.

Here's a sample price for a proof-copy (1 copy) from a POD service:

Bookbaby is one of the PODs I'm considering.

The price goes down to about $10 per book on a print-run of 25 books. That's quite affordable.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

MEST Basic Update


I really need an editor for all of my efforts.

Reading through my MEST Basic rules (the 1.6.x) I saw some inconsistencies with the plain-text and the full-color documents. I update all three files (the plain-text, plain-text booklet, and full-color).  In the full-color document this affects about 5 areas on 10 pages. If you've printed these out single-page you'll be fine. If they are back-to-back, it is pages 7-8, 13-14, 21-22, 23-24, 29-30, and 31-32.

Here's a summary of changes:

  1. Clarified that Hard Cover provides +1 Wild die for Defender Range Combat Test instead of +1 Modifier die.
  2. Clarified that Attentive is the opposite of Distracted.
  3. Clarified that Knocked-out [ KO'd ] is never Attentive, always Done, never Active.
  4. Clarified that Revive action can be applied to self.
  5. Altered plain-text to show that the Average Common Archetype is SIZ 3 instead of SIZ 2.
  6. Added Refresh Bonus Action into the full-color document; it only existed with the plain-text files.
  7. Added Revive action into the full-color document; it only existed within the plain-text files.
  8. Added Medic X; this is +X Base dice when using Revive on others and +X Modifier dice when using Revive on self. It is very powerful but it is about time to make it available.
  9. Added Healer for Common Effects; this is +1 Medic at 15 BP. For the Advanced Game, this is actually a +10 BP and +0.1 CR.
  10. Added Sharp Senses for Common Effects; this is +1 Detect and +1 REF for 8 BP.
  11. Added Smaller for Common Effects; this is -1 SIZ, -1 STR, and -1 FOR for -13 BP.
  12. Added Massive for Common Effects, this is +1 STR and +1 FOR for 15 BP.
  13. Corrected Night-vision for Common Effects to 8 BP instead of the shown 0 BP.
  14. Updated Concentrate action to show that OR Multiple is ignored, and that all ORs are doubled. This matches the v2.x rules.
  15. Updated Concentrate action to provide -1 FOR for Attacker Range Combat Test only if within Point-blank to target. Removed the -1 FOR from Attacker Close Combat Test since there are already enough bonuses available.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Superhero 2044 Second Edition Revised :: Bloomberg Map


Following on from my earlier effort for updating the maps within Superhero 2044.


I decided to pursue the inevitable; getting the Bloomberg City map refactored. To my surprise, the labeled scale for the original map is at 1 hex = 200 meters which is not the same as the label. So I was in a quandary because I had to make a choice to go with a larger scale of 125 meters per hex in order to fit into my scaling rules, or make the artwork be at 200 meters per hex. This is a logistics issue because I had already built the full island map and that took about two weeks worth of work.

I looked closer and the rendition of the original art and I discovered that there's also issues pre-existing on it. Take a look at the top-left (East); the roads I have from the 500 meter/hex scale don't fit with whatever was provided originally.

The RED roads are the accurate vector lines I used for the 500-meter map of Inguria Island. When overlaid upon the "200-meter" map of Bloomberg city, it can be seen that the roads (black lines) of the original artwork don't line-up correctly. BTW, that portrait box shows the extent of the 8.5x11 layout.
This made it easier for me to decide; I'll go with 125 meters per hex. At that scale, not all of the original map will fit into an 8.5x11 sheet were I to keep the dimensions of the hexagons I'm currently standardizing against. So, what I'll eventually do is create two renders; one for a letter, and one for 11x17 tabloid.


Another area where I wanted to make a decision was the suburbs. The original map has these tiny little ovals. I didn't know what they meant when I first started my campaign those many decades ago, and presumed that they were an abstract representation of a neighborhood. Sort of sparse.

This is a zoomed in image of the suburbs of Inguria. WTF are those ovals supposed to be? I decided that they've got to be circular streets. Any houses along these streets are not rendered.

I did some recent research on how neighborhoods are supposed to look within a planned community, which I presume that Inguria Island would have many such. I found that modern cul-de-sacs are more space-economic when they are using honeycomb designs. However, this arrangement can get pretty noisy for a game map.

An ideal arrangement for suburban streets is the honeycomb.

A very dense honeycomb neighborhood.

I decided to show just the main suburban access streets. It's about 140 single-family homes per street, with about 15 streets shown. That is about 2000 houses. According my drawing tool, I have 540 hexagons in that suburbs area. If I were to correctly decorate that area using honeycomb tiles with some variation where I add some marketplaces, social venues, fire-houses, etc.; I'd have a 10,000 buildings for 2.5 people (single person or married couple + 1 or so kids) . And this is presuming that the rocky hills of Inguria in that part of the island have been leveled and shaped correctly.

I'll eventually add low-rise apartments in the suburbs as well; these should be able to support an additional 10-20 K people. My notes tell me that the middle-class population should be around 50,000 citizens. I'm guessing the majority live in the Central district. This I think will be OK; it would be similar to living on Manhattan Island in New York, NY which has a much higher population density; about 1.6 million people in 60 square kilometers (27K/KM^2). Bloomberg's Central City just needs to support about 150,000 people within its 7 square kilometers (21K/KM^2).

Anyhow, here's the 125-meter scale map of Bloomberg City. It's a work-in-progress.

Bloomberg at 125-meters per hex. WIP. Once I figure out the tessellation pattern for the suburbs I'll update the map.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Superhero '44 Second Edition Revised - Update

UPDATE: I'm naming my effort "Superhero '44 Second Edition Revised".  I'm over 100-pages of written material so far and I'm still adding to the background setting. On the Moh's Scale of Science Fiction Hardness I've decided to make the initial genre be harder; about a 2.5 or 3.0 ... still not as hard as GURPS Transhuman Space or Traveller which I'd rate around 4.0. I've also added some crunch to support that hardness so that it falls somewhere in the middle of GURPS | Hero System | Mutants & Masterminds.

The Maps

Every RPG enthusiast like maps, right? So, one of my first things to do was rebuild the maps for the original Superhero '44 game. I'll show them in order of relevance for the fans of Superhero '44.

Patrol Areas of Inguria. This is key to the Weekly Planning sheet.

Inguria with terrain. This is the sort of map that inspires people like me to play a game; all of the little "points-of-interest" make for prime material to conduct memorable games.

Melanesia near Inguria. I decided to place Inguria between Fiji and Vanuatu at a spot on a submerged ridge at 11°51'41.0"S 173°53'22.6"E. This also allows Inguria to be in an ideal location for commerce between two fairly populous island nations.

Oceania near Inguria. I'm still work-in-progress to convert this map into something I purely own, but currently it is an adequate hack of Oceania showing the nearby nations. Inguria is at the center. The purple areas are "radioactive fallout" zones where most life has been destroyed. People still inhabit areas around it and society has rebounded since the Six Day War, so I guess a thermonuclear holocaust isn't so bad.

The World of 2044. I've decided that the Six Day War took down all of the first world nations of 2003, but things got better! These 48 nations listed and numbered above are patron nations guarding or supporting minor nations with less infrastructure. World population dipped from 6 billion in 2003 to about 4 billion in 2008, but has since risen back to about 6 billion by 2044 if I presume a 1.2% growth rate per year.

The Play Aides

I'm still working on these as I solidify the rules. These are sort of teasers I suppose, especially because I'll need to refactor them once the I get more of the system into place; a lot can change.

This is the Weekly Planning Sheet. I intend to have a Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly variation as well. The thinking I'm pursuing is that each game session starts with a "Time Planning" activity where the Referee and Players perform "time skips" in order to quickly advance the story. These time-skips also allow training, research, and construction to proceed quickly.  Anyhow, the Weekly Planning Sheet above has little circles to identify Moon phases just in case it matters for espionage events, Lunar lunatics, and that sort of thing.

This is the front page of the character record sheet. I decided to do like all other modern RPGs and separate the character sheet from the other materials; the original rules had them together. What you can see here is that I've been working on how to organize information on the page, and to provide clear arrangement of "crunchy data" in places that can be quickly referenced. Look at the right-hand side and you'll see a character outline. This is not my art and I intend to replace it soon though I realize that in the digital age there's a lot of resources demonstrating better than anything I could provide. The idea is that there will be about a dozen such character outlines, and the players just pick the ones the want. At the very minimum I'll have one for male and female characters.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Superhero '44 Second-edition Revised

I've been working on a fan-revision of Superhero '44.

I'm naming it "Superhero '44 Second Edition Revised" or SH44SER. It combines my home brew rules from twenty-thirty-and-forty years ago with most of the original writings of both the first and second edition rules. After closely scouring those early writings, I can see why I became a software engineer and why Superhero '44 in its tone is very different than most other superhero role-playing games today. I think the only one that comes close to capturing the tone (actually surpassing it) is Arc Dream's God-like RPG.

Unlike in my campaign where I eventually evolved the setting into an intra-galactic hero story, I'm trying to narrow things down in this current effort to the roots; the world of 2044. Maybe this will inspire a new generation of gamers to start where I did, but with the better tools; go further than I did.

Here's my take on the seminal event of the background provided within the first edition rules. It becomes the foundation of the psyche of the survivors of the world in 2044. I'm at about 130 pages right now of mostly rules. I'll illustrate it myself where I can. I've also been working on maps and play-aides.


The Great Conflagration

Nobody was quite sure how this started; it could have been the USA, Russia, China, or any of the other larger countries. Some suspect it was a flawed electronic signal at a submarine near the Pacific shores of Los Angeles. Others think it was anarchists. Still others believe it was coordinated by networks of, maybe poorly programmed, rogue computer algorithms.

A bit of insanity occurred for a while for the first few minutes as witnesses in the controlling government bodies saw the military reports of swarms of inbound and ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads) came their way. It didn’t matter how the war started because the solution from the humans was apparent; take out your enemies before your nation is too disrupted to respond. So devastation was set loose into the skies in the hopes that retribution would occur. Some of the smaller countries in flawed rapid-fire decision-making chose to join into the fray and pre-emptively launch their own attacks against their legacy enemies before they themselves became annihilated.

This continued for six days. At least one frothing clergyman got it right and predicted this as The Great Conflagration. Hell on Earth.

The Six Day War unleashed megatons of radioactive horror upon each of the major cities, control centers, and military bases of the world. Energy production, business centers, and agricultural centers were also hit with bombs falling from the sky. Electronic circuits were fried, people and other living things were blasted into atomic dust, and cities were leveled into rubble. Hardest hit was the Mainlands; the member nations of the UNSC. Most of the smaller island nations were spared, but at least one missile struck each capital of those with the largest populations. Modern society collapsed as their infrastructure became degenerated through the destruction and radiation.

Out of seven billion souls, two hundred million were lost in the Great Conflagration. The worst was yet to come.

The Fallout

After the Six Day War, the fallout both literally and figuratively completed the awful devastation. It took 5 additional years of turmoil as people scrambled for food, shelter, medicine, and some semblance of structure. Paramilitary groups formed, some aligning with the previous governments but most running amok as gangs of bandits. All during this time, deaths from radiation overexposure rose and birth defects and premature births increased. Many groups of people fled to the wilderness and began to hoard resources such as water, wood, and access rights to hunting in the wild. Some of the governments, with help of the remaining military, and in collusion with the paramilitary groups; these began to restructure society through violence in order to quell the amazing mayhem and disorder each society was experiencing. Despite their best efforts, it is estimated that nearly 2 billion lives perished in the war’s aftermath as the radiation took it's toll. Disease, illness, and famine was ever present and greedy.

Some of the remaining smaller nations were able to quickly secure their borders with surges in volunteerism, but many of those began to form dictatorships and took this period of disorder as a license to conquer their less organized neighboring nations. The madness was a bit less in the larger nations of the world as they were distracted with influxes of survivors desperate for refuge. Members of the original powerful nations did their best to mitigate problems by sharing resources, information, and manpower. Short-wave radio and foot-messenger networks during these years became very critical to coordinating information. There were several large clashes between strongholds lead by ideological cult societies, and then things calmed down for what it seemed a very long time; months, maybe because the records aren’t clear nor intact from these dark days. The economies of some of the countries began to rebuild, but the distribution of wealth, access to medical help, and access to simpler things like clean water, nutrition, or clothing was still disparate and unequal.

The Purge

Even though a decade has since passed; the deaths still rose, as did the birth defects and miscarriages. Mothers and fathers prefered to dash their deformed newborns against the floor than to allow these short-lived mutations to join them in the squalor of a post-apocalyptic earth. And then many of the parents voluntarily joined their beloveds as well, such was the despair. Indeed, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

A large majority of the paramilitary groups became less communicative, and in the middle of the larger countries where the groups had the most power there began a series of increasing tension with blow-out battles lasting a few short days each. The newly reformed secular government agencies with spokespersons pulled from the variously affected communities would try to calm the population. And each time this would be a ruse, or a poorly executed delivery on promises because only time can heal the ravages of war.

Soon, everywhere at once, this anger against the prevailing tattered institutions sprung up in surprise culminating with a violent Purge. It was bloodshed against the poor and deformed, and against the privileged and wealthy. Dissidents across the world sprung up with organized rebellions against their governments. Heroes were born and traitorous villains were recognized. Everybody cowered but nobody was safe. Fame was present but short-lived; names became recognized and etched in tribal memories as these groups tried to establish recognition before their bright-burning candles became subject to the winds of change. What little structure left in society, that which was scraped together from the ashes, seemed to being falling apart again under massive fires and the scattered piles of the dead. This took weeks and it seemed to be again the end of civilization.

The Agreement

The extreme violence only ended after many dozens of missives distributed through foot, road, and short-wave networks reached all parties. It was desperate, timely, and wonderful. People listened and learn, clearly recognizing the situation at hand. Soon enough, organized self-titled Adherents chanting, holding arms, with bullhorns and signs formed walking through each war-torn community risking their lives to deliver a single coherent message in all languages.

The message was peace on Earth.

In Terra Pax. 
el salam ala arad. 
yehi shalom al ha-aretz.
dharatee par shaanti.
Shìjiè hépíng.

This was the beginning of the Agreement lead by the Catholic Church and the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia. Other religious groups, depending on the regions of the world, also joined though the strong presence of the Church was the most felt. The Agreement was a long-term plan begun after the first bombs dropped; a contingency plan that should have never needed to be written or executed, first drafted in the late 1950s after several Jesuits became convinced that Nuclear War was not an option, and that mankind's whims would surely end the World. The message of the Agreement is that without Earth there is no future for the incubator of Man; that mankind could not prove itself worthy to God. The authors realized that they, with the great religious institutions combined, have the largest communication infrastructure upon the entire planet. In case something bad happened they would combine their efforts and help bring reason and hope back to the peoples of Earth. It was a long-shot plan, but the message was clear; no nation of man could hope to do this by itself without the steady strong hand guidance of God through His representatives. The goal was set; to rebuild the Earth with a new vision.

Voices of the Adherents

With the intervention of the two largest religious institutions in the history of world, even the criminals had something in common with the privileged; the goal of making the world better than in it was in the eyes of God. And this was the right time as no other time in known history. The Conflagration may have been God’s Lesson, or it may have been a mistake on the infant-like minds of Men; but it is an opportunity to rebuild. Therefore, for a time everybody tried to do better, and the pain experienced in life was a little less and the amount of hope and pride in works began to rise. The Agreement saw to it that the clergy had greater influence on the decisions of the newly reformed governments and their militaries.

Nearly four decades after the Conflagration every significant nation, even secular ones, has at least one subdivision of advisors, “Voices”; speakers the clergy of the Catholic or Islamic faiths. Critical decisions are made in deferment to those persons whenever it involves violence, punishment, media presentation, or social mores. Like all things before it; in many places this works absolutely well, and in others it causes more strife and friction than necessary.

The Agreement holds that all adherents will be treated fairly, and this is true; those places where the laws are severe and punishing to the peoples are visited with the greatest of all priorities. Soon, perhaps too soon or too frequently; there is often a regime change, an abdication, or a public apology offered to the peoples issued by whichever political entity is in power. Outsiders to these nations, those persons and observers which are not Adherents; they see nothing but the same problems as before the Six Day War. To them, having too much power concentrated in so few hands - the religious leaders - is bound to get the world broken yet again. For now, though; it is too early to tell. Society has begun to rebuild itself despite these worries.