All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team.

In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games.

Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

Game Maker Studio

Again I am breaking one of the rules that I wrote down when I started this blog. Today I want to write about a topic unrelated to pen & paper RPGs. While pen & paper RPGs are my primary hobby, there are other things I enjoy doing very much. Writing software is one of these.

Of course I am no professional programmer. Back in the 1980s I wrote simple programs in BASIC on my Amstrad CPC 464. Those were exciting times. With a few lines of code you could achieve pretty cool things (at least I thought it was cool back then). Later I switched to Turbo Pascal on the PC. I wrote a couple of pretty crappy games, a simple engine for text adventure games and a database application for my dad.

In more recent years I mostly dabbled in some web-based programming (mostly PHP, some JavaScript). I still enjoy writing code very much, but it has become much harder to be motivated to do so. Generally it has become much harder to come up with worthwhile projects that are also easy enough so I don’t get frustrated too quickly. I always wanted to dabble in game development, but it’s definitely one of the more advanced subjects when it comes to programming.

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Recently I stumbled upon a YouTube playlist by Tom Francis who developed the awesome indie game Gunpoint. He used YoYoGames GameMaker software, which is basically an engine for 2D games with it’s own development enviroment and it’s own programming language called GML. The huge advantage of Game Maker Studio over similar products is that you can get things done very quickly and easily. Of course something like Unity is vastly superior in most aspects, but it also has a much steeper learning curve.

In the free version of GameMaker Studio I was able to write a simple Asteroids clone in about two to three hours. Of course the game is far from being polished. Heck, it doesn’t even has a score counter, no highscore list, BUT you can fly around in a little spaceship, shoot at asteroids and it’s actually fun doing so. So far I think GameMaker is a perfect tool if you want to get results quickly, especially if you prefer the “quick & dirty” approach. The code I wrote definitely doesn’t look pretty and some of the solutions I came up with a at least quirky, but I had a blast adding new features and coercing the PC to do my bidding. Smiley mit geöffnetem Mund

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By the way, if you want to have a look at the latest version of my game (please note that I disabled background music, because it got annoying pretty quickly), feel free to download the Windows executable here (Some antivirus solutions like Avira’s may report the file as potentially malicious, but that’s a false positive – you can trust me). Please let me know what you think.

First Look: Strange Stars

Strange Stars by Armchair Planet is a game setting book of a kind you don’t see that often nowadays – it’s system-less. The 32-paged PDF contains a complete space opera universe for you and your friends to play in, with whatever rules you deem fit for the task.

imageThe artwork and layout of the book are top-notch and the artwork has a strong 1970’s vibe. The setting mixes elements from the golden age of space opra with more modern ideas like transhumanism.

You might think that $9.99 might be a bit much for a 32-paged PDF but considering the high quality of the artwork and the cool ideas contained in these pages, the price is more than fair. I included a piece of artwork to the right as an example. I guess it also shows what I meant with “a 1970s vibe”. Zwinkerndes Smiley

What I really love about this little book is that it doesn’t provide you with a complete setting, but with broad strokes of a setting with some details thrown in (like the character in the image above). There’s definitely enough material to get you started, but not enough to choke the GM’s imagination. The “bottom up” approach taken in the book helps to evoke images of a huge universe players can explore – much like throwaway lines like “I made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” etc. made the original Star Wars feel so much greater.

imageStrange Stars assumes hyperspace gates which allow travel of interstellar distances and the book provides several maps which show how the various systems and sectors are connected. Each of the sectors and planets is described in some detail, so that you have a general idea of how the Strange Stars look like.

The majority of the book gives some information on the various planets, alien species, and interstellar empires of the setting. The emphasis is on “some” here, because no aspect of the setting is fully fledged out, there’s always enough space for your own ideas. The information which is there is often weird, exciting and just plain awesome. Leafing through Strange Stars feels much like watching Star Wars for the first time. Trey Causey, the author of the setting, did an awesome job creating something which just screams “PLAY ME!”.

If you don’t mind that the book doesn’t contain any mechanics, it’s an awesome value even for its rather high price. The artwork contained in the book is definitely worth the money and the setting itself is just awesome with a capital A. Alas the only weak point of the product is the cover artwork. For some reason it just doesn’t look as great though it’s still fine. As far as I know there are at least two books planned by Armchair Planet containing rules for Strange Stars: one for Stars Without Number and another for Fate Core, but I am pretty sure a veteran GM can easily adopt the setting to any system.

P.S.: Strange Stars is currently part of RPGNow’s Science Fiction Month Sale. You can get it for the reduced price of $8.49 now. This deal is valid until the end of the month.

An Elegant System For A More Civilized Age

Most of you probably remember the line “An elegant weapon for a more civilized age” from 1977’s Star Wars. So it’s probably no surprise that this post is about the rules of the original Star Wars roleplaying game by West End Games.

Released back in the late 1980s the game used an updated and modified d6 System which premiered with the Ghostbusters RPG. If you compare it with the later editions of the Star Wars game and other d6 System games you’ll notice quite a few differences. While a lot of people prefer the more recent editions of the game system, I still have a soft spot for the Star Wars 1st Edition rules.

Overall the 1st edition rules were simpler than the 2nd edition rules. 2nd edition not only added the Wild Die (which could lead to some very epic results and as epic failures), but also tweaked scaling, changed movement speeds form dice codes to a fixed value, changed the damage and healing system, and last but not least added Advanced Skills. Do the changes make the system better? Maybe. Do they make the game simpler? Definitely not.

Especially if you’re looking for a fast system which doesn’t get in the way of roleplaying the old 1st edition rules are probably your best choice. I am actually not surprised that the creators of the Heavy Gear d6 conversion chose to model the rules after this system instead of using the more recent d6 Space as a basis (which is pretty close to 2nd Edition Star Wars).

What I’d really like to see is a generic SF RPG modeled after the original Star Wars ruleset. In my opinion it’s closer to what I personally would like to run. Perhaps I’ll have to do the heavy hauling myself one day, if noone else does it. But you never know.