Category Archives: Legacy D&D

Fixing XXVc


First things first: XXVc is not necessarily a broken system. I am sure there are GMs and players who are perfectly fine with the system. But for me and my group it doesn’t really work that well.

I also have to admit that I was in a pretty bad mood in the last few days. My old friend the black dog (aka depression) came for a visit and definitely overstayed its welcome. After a good night’s sleep things look already way better and I am more open to find solutions instead of throwing everything out.

I also want to thank everyone who posted their comments, advice, and ideas on Google+, Facebook, and here on the blog. Your comments really helped to put things into a perspective and gave me a shove into the proper direction. I want to send out special thanks to Joseph Wolf who basically came up with the solution I might be using.

So, here’s what I want to do:

  • Out with the skill system
    Undoubtedly XXVc skill system has its issues. Several people have recommended replacing it by Peryton’s system for attribute checks and knacks.

    This system is actually pretty close to what D&D 4e and 5e used (when I am not mistaken). To make a successful check your roll plus an ability score modifier plus your level divided by three must be equal or higher than a difficulty number set by the GM. Knacks are skills you have some talent for. When you have a knack for something, you use your whole level as modifier, not just one third.

    You also don’t write down all possible skills, but only the ones you have a knack in. That is simple, should work well enough and is easily implemented. Instead of using XXVc’s skill list I will probably resort to more broad categories. The Rocketjock will probably get a knack for Piloting, the Medic a knack for Medicine etc.

  • Action points
    The game’s lethality is an issue. Not only does it frustrate my group, it also doesn’t fit the game’s theme. Action points could alleviate this problem. Each player character starts the game with a number of action points they can use to make re-rolls, avoid damage, max out damage, etc.

  • Faster Healing
    Healing in XXVc is a big issue. Joseph recommended borrowing a rule from Barbarians of Lemuria which let’s the characters heal half of the HP lost in the last combat when resting. I will also have to come up with new healing abilities compatible with the Peryton skill system.

    OR I could grant the Medic class a kind of “spell-like ability” which allows them to heal without making any kind of roll. On 1st level they start with Cure Light Wounds and on higher levels they get access to better healing abilities. The Medicine knack can then be used for things like First Aid, Diagnosis, Medicine-related knowledge checks, etc.

  • Adding more technological gadgets
    There are a lot of things missing from the game. As I wrote in my last post, there should be magnetic boots which help with failed “Maneuver in Zero-G” checks, some kind of “healing potion”, and other technological wonders which help to make the game more futuristic and which make things easier for everyone at the game table. I also want to implement some kind of artifact equipment (like special weapons and armor) to spice things up a bit. In the coming weeks I will then add more stuff as needed. If the players think they need it, and if I think it fits the setting, I’ll add it in.

This sounds like a lot of work, but actually it shouldn’t be that bad. I’ll present these fixes to my players tonight. I am really glad that I was able to wrestle down the dreaded black dog, come up with some possible solutions for my problems (with your help) and move things forward instead of giving up! Thanks again!

XXVc: It’s Complicated …


I have been running TSR’s Buck Rogers XXVc for a while now and slowly the problems inherent with the system start to show. At first glace the game seems to work quite well. But the longer you look at it, the more it comes apart at the seams. I still love the setting, but the rules are starting to give me serious headaches.

The dreaded skill system
I didn’t believe it at first but the skill system has serious issues. Even if you take great care to put skill points in only the most important skills starting characters will still suck at everything. This is not only frustrating to the players but also makes the game extremely lethal.

The Medic is the only class able to heal wounds but you can only treat each wound once and it’s only successful if you roll below your current skill rank. Medics get no bonuses to their skills (Rocketjocks get bonuses to piloting skills for example) and so the chances of a starting character to heal a dying friend is close to nil.

Overall you have the problem that there are way too many pretty narrow skills and not enough points to put into these skills. I guess this is less of a problem at higher levels, but a starting character has basically no chance to succeed at anything. Sure, I could ask for Easy skill checks most of the time to make things easier, but this totally messes with immersion.

Several times during the last weeks I have considered throwing out the skill system completely, it feels pretty tacked on after all.

Deadly combat
The Buck Rogers XXVc setting reads as if it should support a cinematic playstyle right out of 1930’s pulp magazines. Alas the AD&D 2e ruleset doesn’t really work for this kind of gameplay. This shows in combat which is usually pretty lethal. The introductory adventure is especially lethal with opponents wielding weapons which could easily kill a character with a single shot. The armor classes in XXVc are usually a bit better than in AD&D 2e, but IF your are hit, 2d6 still hurt quite a bit. Staying at the back doesn’t help either, because everyone is using ranged weapons anyway.

It’s the future! Where are all the nifty gadgets?
Sure, XXVc has a lot of cool elements. I love the gennies, the almost plausible rocketships, the nifty materials in the box set, …
But then you realize that there’s a lot of stuff missing. For starters there is no health potion equivalent in XXVc. There are no magnetic boots which help with failed “Maneuver in Zero-G” rolls, no exciting artifact weapons and armor…
Again I want to stress that the setting itself is pretty great, but I advise against trying to run the game without some serious preparation. One part of that preparation should be finding ways to put the “magic” back into the game. XXVc is pretty much AD&D 2e with the magic ripped out. According to the Technology Book medicine is so advanced that everything less serious than heart surgery can easily be fixed by swallowing a pill or using some kind of spray-on skin. unfortunately this isn’t reflected in the game mechanics at all (see above).

The solution?
At the moment I am not sure how to solve these issues. I could either try to fix the game and add stuff I deem important or just throw everything out and try to run a game in the XXVc universe using different rules. I have to admit I am not really fond of either solutions. Both approaches are a lot of work and will probably take a lot of time. On the other hand I could just ignore the problems and soldier on, but I feel this will end in a game neither I nor my players will enjoy.

This Thursday we will take a pause from the game and I hope to discuss my concerns with the group. I’ll let you know if we come up with a viable solution.

Is SWN The Better Traveller?


Yes, the title is a bit clickbait-y, but this is actually a pretty good question. In my recent Traveller post I was looking at the various Traveller editions available and I gave my reasons why I eventually picked TNE as the game I want to run.

If you have been living under a rock in the last few years you might have missed Stars Without Number, Kevin Crawford’s science-fiction roleplaying game. The title quickly catapulted Kevin’s Sine Nomine Publishing into the limelight and now he and his company are pretty much household names, especially if you are interested in everything OSR. In SWN Kevin did something very clever. He combined the combat mechanics of old-school D&D with a Traveller-inspired skill system, and a lot of material for GMs to create sandbox games. SWN is pretty close to perfect, especially considering that it’s digitally available for the low price of nothing. Yep, it’s a complete old-school SF RPG for free. Of course you can also get it in print, and there are quite a few supplements available, which are very high quality.

The setting reminds me a bit of Traveller’s New Era, but instead of a sentient computer virus it was a psychic phenomenon which severed the links between the countless human colonies in space. But instead of using the implied setting you can easily replace it by your own or use another published setting. The rules are simple and flexible enough that you can easily use SWN for any kind of RPG set into a far future. So it’s no surprise that people have used it successfully to run games set into Traveller’s Third Imperium. Sure, you might have to use the ship construction rules to build starships fitting the OTU, but all the pieces are already there – no heavy lifting is needed.

There are only a few things which bother me. Some of these things are actually directly related to the fact that SWN was heavily influenced by certain editions of D&D. SWN uses three classes, one of which is the Adept, a person having psi abilities like telekinesis, telepathy, etc. In a Third Imperium game, where psionic abilities are rare and often illegal, the Adept class might not be as useful as the other two.

The D&D-like combat system uses descending armor classes (the lower the AC the better) which was common with the early editions of D&D, but more modern versions and even most retro-clones use ascending ACs instead – or at least offer them as an alternative. Not that SWN’s system is unplayable, but some gamers might find it unintuitive.

SWN’s great strength on the other hand are the tools for building a sandbox campaign. Even if you are not actually interested in using the rest of the rules, the GM section of SWN is definitely worth a look. You quickly need a faction, planet, etc. in your game. In most cases SWN has a generator suited for the task. The advice on how to run sandbox games is also very helpful and definitly worth a read.

So is SWN the better Traveller? It depends. If you want to play in the Third Imperium it might actually be easier to just use Classic Traveller instead – or Mongoose Traveller if you are looking for a currently supported system. If you want to run a game like Traveller but you are more comfortable with OD&D-style combat, SWN might be a great alternative. Regardless of your decision, SWN’s sandboxing tools and GM advice are useful in any SF game!

By the way, this is definitely not the last Traveller-themed post here on Stargazer’s World. I still have a few posts up my sleeve and there might even be a couple of surprises for you, so stay tuned!