Category Archives: Role-playing

Strange Stars- A Fantastic Voyage into Space Operatic RPGage!  

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the PDF version of the book for review purposes- which was very generous of Trey, because I planned to buy this bad boy anyways- but there you are. 



Coffee- Check

Anthrax play- no wait- now it’s Iron Maiden playing- Check

PDF open- check

Notes ready- check

Went to the bathroom- check… probably have to go again soon because of coffee


Alright- it’s review time.


Set a Course for Warp Fucking Awesome and Engage

Strange Stars Cover

Recently “Mr. Bad Ass” Trey Causey (here’s his blog) released his very delicious book Strange Stars on Drivethru RPG and for POD.  Many talented hands went into this book, including Jez Gordon, David Lewis Johnson, Lester B. Portley, and many others.  Strange Stars pays homage to the glory days of space opera adventures (which can clearly be seen just by looking at the front cover).  Just by flipping through the book you can see inspiration from Star Trek, Star Wars, Flash Gordon, 2001: Space Odyssey, Aliens, Farscape, Cowboy Bebop, and even new adventures like Guardians of the Galaxy (movie trailer below) or the Mass Effect games (although I know Trey hasn’t played these).  It is a setting that begs to be played with a group of high-octane heroes engaging in galactic acts of daring-do; a cigar resting in between their teeth, a wry smile on their face, and a massive repeater blaster rifle in their hands, cutting down hordes of hideous alien creatures…


Some people may balk at the book being only 30 pages for $9.99- but it’s important to realize that that this book is a dense and beautiful 30 pages.  There is no wasted space in this book and there is gorgeous artwork on every single page.


If you are looking for a book filled with rich histories, detailed customs and lifestyles of each planet and race- then this might not be the book for you.  Strange Stars is a gazetteer that gives the GM just enough enticing information to get their imagination going.  Trey says just as much on the back of his book (for the full statement from the author see below): It’s meant to provide the imagination fuel — and the freedom — that watching Star Wars did when the world beyond the film consisted only of evocative details like “the Clone Wars” or “the Spice Mines of Kessel.”  While reading Strange Stars, excitement and inspiration flooded my brain.  I liked that the book was simple, flowed, and I didn’t get bogged down with tons of fluff that I would have to try to remember or conjure up later.  It is for me to decide the customs, lore, lifestyle, etc. of each race after knowing the building blocks of what Trey has given.

Strange Stars Alliance ver3

The setting is system neutral, but enough description is given about a particular race’s special abilities that a GM can quickly create mechanics for their chosen ruleset.  Trey is currently (with help from others) writing companions for both Stars Without Numbers (here’s the free version) and FATE Core.


So What is IN the Damned Book?!


The book opens with a quick historical overview (two brief pages), then delves into categories of “sophonts”- basically the categorization of all the alien species that a group of adventures will run across in their adventures.  There are three categories: biologics, moravecs, and infosophonts (pg 5).


  • Biologics- “Biologics include the descendants of organisms that evolved naturally (either on Old Earth or some other world), created organisms, and bioroids (biologic androids).”
  • Moravecs- “Moravecs (their name is derived from the surname of an Old Earth scientist-prophet) are self-replicating, sapient robots.”
  • Infosophonts- “Infosophonts (sometimes called ai) are digital minds independent of physical -form. Some choose to live entirely in the noosphere, while others wear one or more bodies.”


Edi from the Mass Effect series is a perfect example of how the lines are blurred between sophonts

Edi from the Mass Effect series is a perfect example of how the lines are blurred between sophonts

Aside: I really dig this breakdown- makes everything quick and easy. 


Strange Stars then does a quick blurb about starships and space travel Strange Stars Connection Mapbefore proceeding to the largest chunk of the book, sectors of space.  This area has nice little summaries of planets, organizations, governments, etc.  Again it’s all bare bones meant to illicit an imaginative response rather than bogging you down this needless details and information.

SS Outer Rim Spread

Finally there is a page outlining psi and psionics and a page describing pronunciation and terminology.



In Conclusion

I really like Trey’s approach to this book.  It makes me WANT to play (well I’ll be the one running it for my group) this game.  I understand that, as the GM, I have to do most of the heavy lifting because it’s only bare bones, but I really like that.  I like that it’s got that nebulous approach because I can add whatever other races, monsters, aliens, I fucking want.


I love that I can hand my players this 30 page book and say “feel free to read this- or don’t, but point out the race you wanna play be the pictures.”  Boom!  Done!  I don’t have to explain a bunch of stuff- I can just go with the flow.  If one of my players wants to play a fucking Andorian from Star Trek or Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy- easy peasy.


I like that, to prep my players for the setting, I can just tell them to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, or knowing they’ve seen Star Wars and Star Trek- they are already good to go.  “Oh you’ve played Mass Effect?  Perfect!”


I know that’s the same with fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons, “Oh you’ve seen the Lord of the Rings movies?  Awesome!” However more often than not with this example  I find that there are more alterations and notes to keep track of “Well this is like LotR, but the elves in my game shoot fire out of their nostrils when angry and dwarves are actually made of stone that tastes like cheese when they die.  Blah blah blah.”  While I think that this can be thrown back in my face about using Guardians of the Galaxy or whatever- I feel it’s minimal by comparison (but that’s just me and my own interpretation).


The only gripe I did have (and I voiced it to Trey) was the lack of a quick mission/adventure generator in the book.  Trey was good enough to post one on his blog (and it’s a good quick generator), but I do feel that not incorporating a 1-3 page quick mission was a small lost opportunity.  It’s not a HUGE issue- just a niggle.  I’m hoping to see something in the Strange Stars companions that are coming out.  All in all Trey accomplished exactly what he set out to do and I think he did a great job!


I am planning on running a Strange Stars campaign for my group using Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition and the Sci-Fi Companion…  It’ll be easy to mold Strange Stars to the fast and furious ruleset!


Lastly here is a link of various things Trey has also written for Strange Stars.

This is the description from the back of the book:

”Strange Stars is a far-future space opera setting where Earth is only a legend and humanity’s myriad descendants and creations have spread throughout the galaxy. It’s a setting of classic space opera adventure like the works of E. C. Tubb or Jack Vance updated with elements of modern transhuman science fiction as written by Alastair Reynolds or Hannu Rajaneimi and presented with the visual aesthetics of ‘70s sci-fi films and comic books.


In 30 pages, this book is an introduction to the setting, not an exhaustive treatment. It’s also structured differently than a lot of role-playing setting books, owing more to things like the Galactic Encounters series and any number of reference works for popular sci-fi franchises. It takes more of a “bottom-up” approach — focusing on characters and interesting details, building the wider world by implication — rather than a “top-down” approach of giving the big picture and then painting in the details. It’s vague in some ways but vague to a purpose. Hopefully it will inspire you to create your own version of the setting rather than to establish a canon. It’s meant to provide the imagination fuel — and the freedom — that watching Star Wars did when the world beyond the film consisted only of evocative details like “the Clone Wars” or “the Spice Mines of Kessel.”


This book is also systemless and (with the exception of this introduction and the credits) written from an “in-world” perspective, so it can be used as a resource for players at the gaming table. Future releases will give rules for adapting the setting to a couple of different game systems and more coverage on some setting elements that may seem obscure here. There is also a short glossary and pronunciation guide on page 29 of this book.  More information about the setting can be found at the “Strange Stars Index” on the Sorcerer’s Skull blog ( One post also in cludes a list of inspirations and influences.”


The Murder Hobo- A 5e Halfling Subrace

The Murder Hobo

Murderhobo 1

As a murder hobo Halfling, you revel in the suffering of others- especially when you’re the one inflicting it.  Other Halfling races tend to shy away from you and your unpleasant demeanor.  You weave in and out of combatants and tense situations, attempting to cut as many hamstrings and do as many kidney shots as possible, muttering an unsettling laugh all the while.


Ability Score Increase. Increase your strength score by 1.

Murderhobo 3

The Smell of Blood.  The thought of inflicting pain on another creature gets blood of a Murder Hobo Halfling pumping, and impatient to get into the fray.  You have advantage on initiative rolls.

Murderhobo 2

Pin Cushion.  Murder Hobo’s enjoy inflicting pain.  On your first attack you against a target deal an extra point of damage.

Murderhobo 4

Unsettling Laugh.  Murder Hobo’s have an unsettling laugh that makes people uncomfortable (see video below).


Thoughts on a New 5e Campaign- Thanks for the Inspiration Jez Gordon!!!

Setting Idea



The high elves empire was at its pinnacle, yet desired more power.  The high elf king entered into a contract with ancient and forgotten gods in the hopes of advancing his empire even further.  Instead of delivering on their promise, the elder gods brought chaos and death to the world.  The high elf empire was destroyed and horrid portals opened in the sky, flooding the world with abominations.  The various kingdoms of the world fought a losing battle for decades and watched in horror as each of their allies were toppled one by one.  Plague and chaos reigned for decades.  The divine was cut off from the mortal realm, leaving clerics, priests, and paladins unable to perform miracles and heal the ailing.


Vault 1

Dwarven vaults

Eventually the dwarves and dragonkind came up with a plan they hoped would save the few remaining humanoids.   The dwarves delved into the earth and created massive vaults capable of housing thousands of beings.  Humanoids were placed in specially crafted and blessed chambers and put into a deep sleep, and the vaults were sealed.  Those that volunteered or could not fit inside the vault stayed in the outlying dwarven outpost as guardians of the vaults.


The dragonkind knew their time was upon them and offered up one final and mighty prayer to their divine god, Bahamaut, to save the world- offering up their own lives as sacrifice.  The combined offering of all dragonkind reached Bahamaut, who agreed to the offering.  In a flash of light- all dragonkind vanished, as did the divine touch of Bahamaut and other gods, but the deed worked.  The portals that the elder gods had opened were sealed, but the damage was done.




The sacrifice of the dragonkind will never be forgotten.

The sacrifice of the dragonkind will never be forgotten.



The deity Bahamut is still worshiped as the savior of the world.

The deity Bahamut is still worshiped as the savior of the world.

Millennia have passed and those in the vaults slumbered.  Five hundred years ago those slumbering in the vaults awoke to find themselves in a less than ideal situation.  Many of the vaults were broken into by beings of the underdark, taking slumber bodies into the depths for food, slaves, or worse.  The vault-dwellers fought to establish order to survive in their new confines.  Many battled with horrors leaking up from the bowels of the earth, while others collapsed into the chaos of fighting amongst themselves.  Fifty years ago the vaults doors opened, allowing the survivors to step out into a world that none have seen or touched before.


You are a survivor of one such vault, located in the wild and savage jungle of the southern continent of a world that is completely unknown to you.  Many survivors busy themselves by fighting off hordes of vile creatures and abominations while slowly rebuilding the fallen city of Vabittra piece by piece.  Others defend the vaults from enemies that leak up from the underdark, or venture into the underdark themselves looking for much needed ore and material for the city’s reconstruction.  While others, and those that tend to be the most suicidal, venture into the wilds, mapping out the surrounding territories, delving into ancient ruins in the hopes of finding some trinket of worth or piles of gold.

Angkor Wat

The massive and ruined city of Vabittra.

Angkor- Lost city 3 Angkor- Lost city 2




Available Races

Dwarf (both sub-races available)

Elf (only wood elf and drow)

Halfling (both sub-races available)


Deva (only one per campaign)- There are 10 Deva in Vabittra, which is where the Deva hail from as their capital.  They claim to be the last of the deva on the planet.

Gnomes- Nope…  Not located in this part of the world


Half orc




Available Classes




Clerics- The touch of the divine is gone in the world.  Clerics now enter into the servitude of spirits of the world.  The manner of the spirit represents the domain that the cleric chooses.  Clerics will be called upon to do favors or leave offerings to the spirits.  Angering or denying the spirit its pleasures will result in the cleric losing class abilities until they atone.

Druid- tend to be more savage and hostile since the world has been corrupted.

Fighter- Occult Slayer as well as other fighter paths in PHB.

Monk- One school of monk survived in the vault, the Silver Skull (all three paths available- each representing an aspects of the skull- way of the open hand, right eye; way of the shadow, left eye; way of the four elements, mouth).

Paladin- Not available.  The orders of paladin have been lost

Ranger- Undead slayer and Arcane archer in addition to archetypes in book

Rogue- All good in the hood.

Sorcerer- bloodlines available- wild magic (PHB), bloodmagic and Oracle

Warlock- Ok

Wizard- Very few wizards exist as the knowledge has been all but lost in the chaos leading up to the vaults.  In Vabittra there are 8 wizards of note, each with two apprentices (if a player desires to be a wizard- apprentice you shall be).


Goal- Players rediscover areas lost to chaos and time, delve into the underdark and discover new territories, sources of ore, ruins, etc. or help retake the massive fallen city of Vabittra, which (except for a few areas that have been reclaimed in the last 50 years) is largely a hostile set of ruins that are filled with monsters, forgotten knowledge, and items.  Death, mutilation, and mutation are constant (even in 5e) threats, but dammit they’ll have fun trying.

Borderlands 1



The campaign will be a high octane meat grinder action adventure of exploring a world that no one knows about, discovering interesting and terrible relics best left forgotten- encountering creatures and monsters that are unknown, and shaping the world with every action.  New factions and government will sprout up as people vie for power, supplies, territories, and material.  Metal weapons are cherished as most use bone, chitin, and the like.  Metal is highly sought after as it is rare (mines have been lost after the world “ended” after all).



The campaign model will support a regular Google + group, a live group, and possible flailsnails games.

Inspiration- Indiana Jones, Jez Gordon’s “Welcome to the Jungle setting, Earthdawn, Dark Sun, Unsettled Expanse (Hubris), Vornheim, Skyrim, Dragon Age, Dark Souls, and Borderlands

The Deva- the 5e Hack

The Deva

Deva 1

The deva is a specific type of assimar that has been bound to mortal bodies.  Some believe that these angelic beings angered their god in some way and were thrust from the heavens and forced to live in the mortal realm.  While the body of a deva is mortal, their soul is divine and can never be truly killed, save by the Wish spell.  When a deva is killed their soul is reincarnated into a new body.   When a deva is reincarnated, the one that perished is lost.  The new being has new skills, goals, and personality.  However the memories of past lives lingers in the subconscious mind of the deva and can sometimes be accessed.

Most people find the deva haughty and insufferable.  Many deva, due to their immortality and divine nature, consider themselves superior to other humanoids and do not hesitate to boast about their grand nature.

The sinister secret of the deva: It is not common knowledge that when a deva is reincarnated lives must be paid to fuel this divine energy.  Each time a deva is reincarnated a number of humanoids die equal to the number of times a deva’s spirit has reformed.


Ability Score Increase.  +1 to Wisdom and +1 to Charisma

Deva 2 

Age.  A deva ages as a human.


Alignment.  Deva’s are divine beings and are guided by good.  Those that wish to return to the light of the heavens and adhere to old religious scriptures tend to be lawful good.  Those that enjoy the delights of mortals and seek to learn more earthly knowledge are chaotic good.


Size.  Medium.


Speed.  Your base walk speed is 30 ft.


Touch of the Divine.  You are able to cast the cantrip Guidance a number of times equal to your Charima modifier and cast Protection from Evil one time per day.  You must take a long rest to regain expended uses.

Deva 4 

Astral Resistance.  You gain advantage on any save to resist necrotic damage.  You also have resistance to radiant damage.


Immortal Origin.  When you are killed, your spirit returns to the astral sea for a number of days equal to 2d20+10.  Once that time has passed your spirit is reincarnated into the deva form somewhere else in the known world (and not in a place of danger).  The reincarnation isn’t free- each time a deva is reincarnated people die to fuel the divine act.  The amount of people that perish is equal to the number of times a deva has been reincarnated.


Each reincarnation is a new being.  Only vague memories of their past life exist.


A deva can only truly be killed with the Wish spell.


Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes.  You are able to tap into your past incarnations and gain insight into a skill you know.  Choose one skill and again advantage on that roll.  A deva can use this a number of times per day equal to 1+Intelligence modifier.

Deva 3 

Languages.  You speak common and celestial.

The Wrathofzombie Totally Unofficial Hack of the Alice Class From A Red and Pleasant Land

Recently Zak Smith released the amazing and awesome Red and Pleasant Land book (seriously it’s fucking awesome- get it).

Prior to the books release I asked Zak if he’d be cool with my hacking the Alice class for 5e D&D and he said sure- just wait until the books official release.  I did this hack right after the book came out, but I never got around to cutting everything out and making it look like some bizarre, butchered punk rock flyer.   I got off my ass this AM and get it done.

The 5e Alice Hack from Red and Pleasant Land

The Alice pic

Environmental Hazard Table- Desert Locations

Other hazard tables:





Roll 3d6- two of the same color (if you have that) and one you have designated as the “special” die.  Look at the result of the pair of dice and consult the Environmental Hazard Table- Snow.

If there is any doubles between the three dice, look at the number on the special die and consult the Extreme Environmental Hazard Table- Snow for the result.



Environment Hazard Table- Desert
Roll 2d6 Result Mechanics
2 High temperature Every hour that a person is active high temperature, a Constitution save must be made to resist becoming fatigued.  If in any metal armor, roll must be made every 30 minutes.  Threat of dehydration high.
3 Extreme heat Every 10 minutes that a person is active high temperature, a Constitution save must be made to resist becoming fatigued.  If in any metal armor, roll must be made every minute.  Threat of dehydration very high.
4 Sink holes Holes that are covered by sand  Intelligence check to notice.  Dexterity check to avoid.  Falling into one results in 1d6 damage and a successful climb check to get out.
5 High wind Wind makes hearing hard.  Can’t hear anything more than 10’away.  Missile attacks automatically fail.
6 High wind with biting sand Wind makes hearing hard.  Can’t hear anything more than 10’away.  Missile attacks automatically fail.  Targets take 1 point of damage per minute that they are out in the wind.
7 Dust devils Dust devils whip up unexpectedly.  There is a 35% chance one will form around a character.  If a target is caught in a dust devil they take 1d4 damage, are blinded, and must make a Constitution check- failure means they are unable to breathe and coughing for 2d6 rounds.  A target can pass out if the number of rounds coughing is greater than their Constitution score.
8 Sandstorm A storm of sand and dust blanket the area.  Targets with protective goggles can see 5’ in front of them.  No goggles results in blindness.  If a target has a filter/breather mask they are able to breath, but must make Constitution checks every 10 minutes or become fatigued.  Without a breather a target takes 1 point of Constitution damage per round until unconscious and then death.  Movement is reduced by ½ and a target must make an Intelligence check or become disorientated.
9 Sand dunes Must make a Dexterity roll to walk on a dune.  Failure means the target falls down the dune.  Moving across a done reduces movement by ¾.
10 Loose rocky terrain Movement is reduced by ¼.  1-in-6 chance of a mis-step and falling, resulting in 1d6 damage.  If a target states they walk carefully- movement is reduced by half and no chance of falling.
11 No forageable food or water The land is barren and dry in a 4 mile radius.  Chance of starvation or dying of thirst high without rations.
12 Deep sand Sand is up to waist height on medium creatures.  Movement for small creatures is reduced by ¾, medium by ½, and large by ¼.




Extreme Environment Hazard Table- Desert
Roll 1d6 Result Mechanics
1 Khamaseen (massive sandstorm) A khamaseen is a massive sandstorm that is capable of burying an entire village in sand.  A khamaseen can stretch for mlies.  Targets with protective goggles can see 1’ in front of them.  No goggles results in blindness.  If a target has a filter/breather mask they are able to breath, but must make Constitution checks every 1 minutes or become fatigued.  Without a breather a target takes 1d4 point of Constitution damage per round until unconscious and then death.  Movement is reduced by ¾ and a target must make an Intelligence check or become disorientated.  Every round the target takes 1d4 point of from the sand that is hitting their soft flesh. 


2 Deep sink holes Holes that are covered by sand.  Intelligence check to notice.  Dexterity check to avoid.  Falling into one results in 2d6 damage and a successful climb check (hard DC) to get out.
3 Lightning storm Static electricity builds up and then is released.  Lightning lances through the area.  There is a 2-in-6 chance a target is struck by a bolt.  Targets can make a Dexterity check to avoid.  A struck target takes 4d6 damage. 

One bolt of lightning strikes per round.  The storm lasts for 1d10 minutes before dissipating.

4 Deadly heat Every minute that a person is active high temperature, a Constitution save must be made to resist becoming fatigued.  Anyone wearing metal armor takes 1d4 Constitution damage per round until taken off.  Threat of dehydration extreme.
5 Firestorm The still air is suddenly ignited in a bizarre flash fire.  All targets take 6d6 damage (Dexterity save for half damage).  Flammable items are immediately ignited.
6 Sand/dust in air The air is thick with sand and dust.  If a target has a filter/breather mask they are able to breath, but must make Constitution checks every 10 minutes or become fatigued.  Without a breather a target takes 1 point of Constitution damage per round until unconscious and then death.


The Barghest- Filled With Self-loathing and Hunter of Mortals- Monster of Hubris

Barghest: Init +4; Atk bite +4 (1d4+2), claws +6 (1d6+2); AC 14; HD 5d8; MV 30’; Act 2d20 + 4; SP Feed, Infravision 30’, Shape Change, Unluck, Spells- cantrip, charm person, ESP, invisibility (spellcheck 1d20+3d5); SV Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +7; AL C.

Barghest 1

The barghest is a vile creature that resembles an animalistic humanoid covered in thick, coarse hair, comical-looking bat-like ears, a shriveled nose, and a mouth full of sharp, yellowed teeth.  The barghest is an intelligent beast filled with constant hatred and self-loathing, and looks upon humans with jealousy and a yearning to belong.  Barghests tend to live in the fringes of civilized areas, often in abandoned houses, nearby forests, or even in ruins, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

Barghest 2

When possible a barghest will approach a lone target and attempt to ensnare their senses by casting charm person (DCC, pg 131).  If the target resists, the barghest will outright attack them, using their claws, teeth and spells to subjugate their prey.  Barghests are conflicted in their actions, acting violently against their victim, ravaging their body and mind as their flesh and soul are consumed.  Barghests sustain themselves by feeding on the flesh and memories of their victims.  Once a victim has been fully consumed, a Barghest gains access to all the memories and emotions of their prey, and are also able to sound exactly like them.  During this time the barghest is satiated and reveals in a false sense of belonging and contentment.  This state only lasts for one week, and once it has passed the self-loathing and hatred return.  The barghest will turn its sights on the victim’s family and friends, attempting to consume them one by one in the hopes of continuing the feeling of belonging and contentment.  If it cannot get to the family, it will simply find a new victim to consume.


A barghest can take the shape of a large black wolf at will.  It gains the stats and abilities of that creature while in this form.

Barghest 4

The despair of a Barghest saturates the area around it.  Any living target within a mile radius of a barghest is affected.  Things break, accidents happen, people tend to be more irritable.  All targets make Luck rolls two steps lower on the die ladder while in the affected area.  If a barghest has been in the area for over two months, targets also make all Personality rolls one step lower on the die ladder (no save).

Barghest 3


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