Wandering Monsters High School (cover image)

Does that cute medusa in Lair Economics really have her eye on you? Can you possibly get your grade up in Common Tongue class while spending so much time in Slamball practice? Who’s bringing the cupcakes for the Undead Poets Society bake sale? And what do you really learn when you sign up for Armor class?

Wandering Monsters High School is a humorous fantasy roleplaying game where you take the roles of monsters going to school. Inspired by wacky teen comedies and the silliest bits of fantasy gaming, WMHS is an all-ages game that anyone who’s attended school can relate to.

Wandering Monsters High School is available in print for $15.99 from Lulu.com or in PDF for $7.49 from RPGnow.com. Get your copy today!

(whew! at last!)

Next Saturday I’m going to be running more outer-space adventures at Pasadena’s D&D meetup, using the 4lternity variant of 4th edition D&D I’ve been working on.

In the spirit of the recently announced 5e D&D/D&D Next, here’s a description of 4lternity broken down into modular components.

Module: Gamma World Math

D&D Gamma World showed that you could simplify 4e D&D by fixing the math used on player characters. Instead of scores (defenses, skills, attack rolls, etc.) being based on this:

Attribute + 1/2 Level + Extra Bonuses (feats, items, class bonuses, etc.)

In Gamma World they’re based on this:

Attribute + Level

This gets rid of the need for “enhancement bonuses” on weapons, armor, and neck slot items; for “feat taxes;” for “inherent bonuses;” for tier-based scaling bonuses; and other little fiddly bits.

Module: Alternity Skills

4th edition D&D has 17 skills. Alternity has 40 skills. 4lternity uses the vastly expanded Alternity list for skills, because that’s what a science fiction game requires for distinguishing characters.

The features of the Alternity skill module are:

  • Your race gives you 6 skills for free.
  • Your class gives you more skills, chosen from your list of class skills.
  • You get to choose bonus skills (those which aren’t necessarily class skills) as well, with the number modified by your Intelligence modifier.
  • Each skill has subskills called specialties.
  • You choose your specialties from your list of class specialties.
  • You get bonus specialties with the number modified by your Wisdom modifier.
  • Gamma World math: If you’re trained in a skill, you get Ability Modifier + 2 + Level as your skill roll. If you’re trained in a specialty, that adds an extra +2.
  • Alternity skills aren’t just non-combat, but include skills that you use when making attacks: Modern Ranged Weapons, Primitive Ranged Weapons, Unarmed Combat, Melee Weapons, Heavy Weapons. (This accounts in part for why the skill list is longer than D&D.)

Module: Alternity Classes

The classes for 4lternity are adaptations of the original five Alternity character classes to 4e D&D rules — with the classes primarily built as subclasses or variants of the existing Essentials classes. The classes are:

  • Combat Spec: A variant of fighter, with a defender aura that’s modified for use with ranged weapons.
  • Diplomat: A variant of warlord with a focus on directing the battle, and a free “multiclass” into one of the other classes.
  • Free Agent: A variant of rogue with sneak attack and backstab abilities, plus fast talk for getting into or out of a jam.
  • Mindwalker: A variant psion with a broad range of mental powers based on 5 psionic disciplines.
  • Tech Op: An Int-based martial controller with specialization in a field of technology or science.

Module: Alternity Races

The standard D&D races are replaced with:

  • Humans: as per 4e D&D.
  • Fraal: psionic “grey” aliens.
  • Mechalus: cybernetic pacifistic aliens.
  • Sesheyan: winged jungle-born aliens.
  • T’sa: quick, reptilian aliens.
  • Weren: large furred aliens.

See my player handout Welcome to the Verge for better descriptions of the Alternity races.

Module: Alternity Equipment

The weapons and armor from Alternity actually extend the 4e D&D list instead of replacing it. Stats for “primitive” weapons or armor such as swords, bows and chainmail remain the same as in 4e D&D; the list just expands onward to cover more advanced weapons and armor.

  • Weapons do either “impact” damage or “energy” damage, instead of D&D’s plethora of typed damage. (There’s also “bleed” and “psychic” damage types in 4lternity.)
  • High tech armor provides resistance against impact and/or energy damage.
  • There are a number of new weapon properties such as energized, autofire, and piercing which are used to stat up futuristic weapons.
  • Weapons have an accuracy rating (-2 to +2) instead of a proficiency bonus; the math works out the same but comes at it from a different angle.

WMHS artwork: Taylor Made, Iron Golem cheerleader

Does that cute medusa in Lair Economics really have her eye on you? Can you possibly get your grade up in Common Tongue class while spending so much time in Slamball practice? Who’s bringing the cupcakes for the Undead Poets Society bake sale? And what do you really learn when you sign up for Armor class?

Wandering Monsters High School is a humorous fantasy roleplaying game where you take the role of monsters going to school. Inspired by wacky teen comedies and the silliest bits of fantasy gaming, WMHS is an all-ages game that anyone who’s attended school can relate to.

I first wrote WMHS as a 24-hour RPG challenge in 2005; start to finish, the game was done in less than a day. You can read the original version for free on the Web.

Why a new version? The revised Wandering Monsters High School game features an updated (and better) dice mechanic, new artwork, expanded rules on social interactions and student goals, more classes and extra-curricular activities, status symbols, a map of the school campus and walking tour, and more. What’s more, it’ll be available in print for the first time, as a 120-page digest-sized paperback.

Why a kickstarter? After a few years of work on it, the new WMHS edition is almost done, but there are some things that I simply can’t do by myself — such as proofreading, additional artwork, the aforementioned campus map, and so on. To get that stuff done and get the book in your hands, I need to get help. And since I want to make money by selling WMHS, I want to pay for the assistance I’m getting. And I want a way for interested parties to pre-order their copies of the game!

Who’s involved? The writing is by me, Caoimhe Ora Snow (also credited as Kynn Bartlett); I’m a game designer who has been playing roleplaying games for over 30 years. I’m also the developer of Heartbreak & Heroines (will be returning in 2012!). The WMHS art is primarily by cover artist Lea Hernandez, comics artist and webcomics pioneer. Additional artwork was contributed by Louis LeClerc, and Robert Altbauer is our cartographer.

Who’s the cheerleader? That’s Taylor Made, iron golem cheerleader! She’s one of four example characters featured in the WMHS rules.

Here are Taylor’s WMHS game stats:

Taylor Made
Species: Iron Golem
Year in School: Junior
Gender: Female
Niche: Brainy cheerleader
Clique: The Inn Crowd
Grades: Citizenship B, Fitness B, Hygiene A, Occult D, Scholastics B, Vocational C
Classes: Simple Weaponry, Lair Economics, Magic and You, Draconic Language, Music, Geography (elective)
Gifts & Talents: Natural Armor, Breath Weapon, Really Strong, Spell Resistance
Special Needs: Metabolically Challenged, Inept (spells)
Extra-Curricular Activities: Cheerleading Team, Monster Chorus, Papers & Paychecks Guild
Status Symbol: Pompoms of power
School Supplies: Notescroll, backpack, cheerleader outfit

Taylor is a cheerleader and is pretty flexible for someone made of solid metal. She’s unable to use magic well due to being an iron golem, but is otherwise quite smart and does well in school. Taylor enjoys getting her hair done at the local blacksmith, often changing her style from day to day. She has no idea why Karvathas hasn’t asked her out yet.

For more details, see the kickstarter project!

I recently picked up the Madness at Gardmore Abbey boxed adventure for 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. It’s better than I thought it would be and looks to be lots of fun. I’m running a weekly game based on Gardmore Abbey at Game Empire Pasadena on Monday nights.

After playing through most of this season’s D&D Encounters, I decided the game would be more fun if characters in Gardmore Abbey had specific hooks into the game, like the character themes introduced in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting book.

So then, here are my homebrewed themes for Gardmore Abbey:

Errant of Mithrendain Questing eladrin knight
Gardrin’s Heir Descendant of Gardmore’s founder
Guild Organizer Field agent for adventurers guild
Iron Circle Deserter AWOL mercenary
Pawn of the Eye Driven mad by a cult
Pelor’s Faithful Devoted to the light
Reclaimer of Saruun Khel    Restoring the Golden Temple
Tigerclaw Seeker Following a vision quest
Valthrun’s Apprentice Student of the prescient sage
Vile Rune Survivor Family was murdered by orcs
Wild Card Crossed paths with the Deck of Many Things
Winterhaven Regular One last mission for the town guard

Complete descriptions for each theme can be found in the following PDF file.

Download Gardmore Abbey Themes Now!

Update: Here’s my post-session-one report on session one of Gardmore Abbey, at meetup.com.

GloopadoopHere are two previews of material from the upcoming release of Wandering Monsters High School (2nd edition):

Enrollment (character creation) chapter draft — 55K PDF

Student Report Card (character sheet) — 36K PDF

Look for more WMHS content here and available commercially in 4th quarter 2011!

Update: Here’s the quick-play character creation guide, letting you create basic WMHS freshmen:

Early Enrollment Application (quick-play character creation) — 314K PDF

 

I’m starting up a home game of Al-Qadim using the 4th edition rules, here in Alhambra, California. These are the download files for use by players in my campaign.

 

Heartbreak & Heroines is a fantasy roleplaying game about adventurous women who go and have awesome adventures — saving the world, falling in love, building community, defeating evil. It’s a game about relationships and romance, about fairy tales and feminism.

You play a fantasy heroine (or hero, if you prefer) whose heart has been broken. She’s experienced some loss so great that she’s taken up her sword, her tome, her staff, or her wand and walked away from her place in society — by becoming one of its defenders, fighting back the darkness that endangers everyone.

My friend Dwayne McDuffie passed away earlier this year. He was a comic book and animation writer who loved comics — but also saw they didn’t reflect his life as an African American man. Instead of writing a lot of essays and making blog posts (although he did both at times), he and went founded Milestone Media to create the kind of comics he wanted to enjoy. By doing so, Dwayne changed the comics industry and left a legacy that won’t be forgotten by fans of Static, Icon, Justice League, Ben 10, and other comics and animation properties.

I’m no Dwayne McDuffie, but I do want to change gaming by making it more inclusive — of women, people of color, LGBT people, and basically everyone. Using Dwayne as my model, I don’t want to just talk about inclusive gaming, I want to make and play games that push the window on inclusion.

Heartbreak & Heroines is first and foremost a fantasy adventure game. It’s not preachy and it isn’t a textbook about feminism, but it’s written from a feminist point of view. It challenges some of our assumptions about the role of gender in gaming but at the heart of H&H, it’s about being a heroine (or hero) and finding your way to happiness in a dangerous world. I hope to produce something that Dwayne would have enjoyed reading.

4lternity

Hi everyone, my current project is a series of documents for adapting the old Alternity science fiction RPG to 4th edition style of play. My take on the system is modeled in part on the Gamma World rules, and is also designed to keep as much of the tone of the Alternity system intact (and the books still usable) as possible, while using a more familiar rule system.

You can look at what I’ve got so far here:

boldpueblo.com/dazed/4lternity/

I’m going to be running a playtest in Pasadena, CA, next Saturday at the D&D Meetup. I’ll probably be making revisions up to and during the game session. :D

I love the old Alternity game to pieces (and 4lternity reflects that, and my affection for 4e D&D as well), but it’s hard to go back sometimes. (Especially with the rather funky dice mechanic in Alternity.)

All of my other proposals have been silently ignored. This one actually got read enough to get rejected, and give a personalized reason as to why it was rejected!

Hi Caoimhe,

Thanks for your runepriest article pitch. There’s been a lot of discussion on our forums regarding support for the runepriest. We have some stuff already in the works, so I’m going to pass on this article.

Generally speaking, we’re wary of articles that present new feats since the game is already suffering from “feat bloat.” That doesn’t mean we’re out of the feat-making business, but we’re introducing them sparingly — something to keep in mind for future proposals.

Cheers!

Chris Perkins
D&D Senior Producer
Wizards of the Coast LLC

Note that my proposal did include new feats for runepriests. I think it’s appropriate, mind you, because while many other classes, races, and so on are glutted with feats, runepriests are one of the classes that lack options. One mechanic specifically introduced for runepriests in PHB3 was “rune feats” — and yet we probably will not see any more of those ever, if this rejection letter is to be believed. Which kind of sucks.

On the other hand, it’s good to read that runepriests will be getting some kind of support in the future.

Here are the rejected feats, in case anyone wants to house-rule them for their campaign:

 

Rune of Stone [Rune]
Heroic Tier
Prerequisite: Runepriest, dwarf
Benefit: When you use your second wind, you gain resistance to all damage equal to the number of rune feats you have. This resistance lasts until the end of your next turn.
Rune of Reincarnation [Rune]
Heroic Tier
Prerequisite: Runepriest, deva
Benefit: When using memory of a thousand lifetimes to modify an attack with a runic power, you gain an additional bonus on the roll equal to the number of rune feats you have.
Words of Comfort
Heroic Tier
Prerequisite: Runepriest
Benefit: While you are in the rune state of the rune of protection, adjacent allies gain a +1 bonus on saving throws.
Words of Rebuke
Heroic Tier
Prerequisite: Runepriest
Benefit: While you are in the rune state of the rune of destruction, allies gain a +1 bonus to damage rolls against enemies that are adjacent to you or to any othter runepriests who are in this rune state.
Hasty Inscriptions
Heroic Tier
Prerequisite: Runepriest
Benefit: You can change your rune state as an immediate interrupt.
So yeah, basically, I’m just happy that I got a rejection letter.

Another monster from my friend and collaborator Tommie Johnson:

This creature is theorized by most non-eaten scientists to be from a timeline where birds took over as the dominant species when the dinosaurs died out. They were probably apex predators in their original timeline, and certainly are apex predators now, as they are some of the biggest, meanest, nastiest things to “grace” Gamma Terra with their presence.

They look like regular, ordinary ducks scaled up to a massive size, albeit with enormous teeth added to the mix, and come in the colors (listed in ascending order of aggressiveness) yellow, green and red. They are often captured by the Red Death to train as shock troops, most of them horribly abused in the process, as well as by the Gammarauders who find them excellent test subjects. The grens also like to train them as “Defenders of Nature”. Those who get eaten by said Drakeons are said to have not loved nature enough.

Download the Drakeon now!

Did you know that giant killer ducks aren’t just fictional? Scientists have discovered fossil evidence!