February 29, 2012

Eleven Interesting Elements

Normally, not one for these sorts of posts, but I thought, 'eh, whadda'ey.' So here's what it be, and according to the wee list of rules, I've got to put them out to be seen by all, along with tagging about 11 if you, (which I hope don't mind too much) and answer the 11 questions asked of me by my tagger, in turn asking 11 new ones of you I choose. Without further ado:

The Rules Are:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Post eleven fun facts about yourself on the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you've tagged.
4. Tag eleven bloggers, however, you can break the rules and tag fewer people if you want. Make sure you hyperlink their names/blogs.
5. Let them know you've tagged them!
6. Have fun!

01 - What made you decide to write a blog?
The thought that by making ideas or presenting them to the public eye, would boost and augment my will to be more productive within and without my hobby. Basically, if I give myself a reason to hit some rough estimate of a deadline, that I might encourage myself to do it often enough to get somewhere.

02 - What would you say has been the highlight of your blogging career to date?
Most likely that there's at least a few people following my blog that at least consider some of its content interesting, or useful for rumination.

03 - Name your favorite animal.
Damn, now that's a tough one. If we're talking mammals, it would be somewhere between a Burmese cat and a regular old badger. Reptiles would see either a leopard gecko or the local green/yellow garter snakes of my residence. Birds? Hands-down, pelicans of any sort. As for my favorite? Either the cat or the gecko, cause both are lovely, curious little critters that like perching on my shoulder.

04 - What has been the best thing to ever happen to you?
Though beyond corny I'm sure, either my cat or my best chum. Both are always there for me, and keep the warmest of company. Living is an excellent thing that happened to me too.

05 - You are in a lift with a Nun, a middle-aged business man, a Karl Marx look-alike, a twenty-something female charity worker and Stephen Hawking. The lift shudders to a stop, the lights go out. There is a high-pitched scream followed by a thud. The lights come on and the Nun is lying dead on the floor with a knife in her chest. Who did it and why?
For starters, I can imagine anyone who knows anything about Communism (or at least believes they do) would accuse the Marx look-alike. But that would be baseless, as he only looks like Marx, and doesn't necessarily hold anything against religious people, let alone any interest in killing a nun. Everyone would assume it wasn't Hawking, and he would very agree to their logic that he couldn't have possibly done it. The business man could be a hit-man from a local mafia, an assumption made entirely based on his attire and age, but he wouldn't want blood on his good suit. The charity worker is most likely a good person, given what her occupation is, but perhaps she is scorned by the church taking up all of the people's potential charity, and goes for a take-that.

The assassin would have expected and preferred to make their strike when easily picked-out stereotypes could lead people away from the true killer, which would leave the less likely as the true murderer. Which would in turn breed questions of any one person's true motives, or if they really are what they appear to be.

Possibly there was a hidden ninja above the elevator cab, which would explain the sudden loss of visibility, and easy killing of the nun. But there's one crucial mistake: a ninja leaves no trace behind!

So who did it? My character, who just plain outright hates the clergy, haha! Who will glib his way to innocence.

06 - Name your favorite colour.
Burnt orange.

07 - What has been the scariest thing to ever happen to you?
My vehicle stalling at the top of a large hill heading into right-of-way traffic one very cold morning. Not the brakes, nor the power steering work if the thing dies! Blew right through an 4-way intersection, cranking the wheel left and right, then ended up in the parking lot in front of the Chinese food place.

08 - You are about to break the world record for the tallest house of cards in front of a crowded room of onlookers and world press. All of a sudden, some idiot parent allows their errant child to charge over, knocking into your table, sending your world record beating attempt crashing around you. What do you do next?
I'd tell them all, that if I could get it that high before, I'll build it greater again! But will certainly wait some time (weeks at least) before bothering ever again. I don't think I'd get too mad or anything, it's friggin' cards, after all! I think I'd get more sour about having to clean them all back up after everyone leaves.

09 - If you had to spend a month on a tropical island, what four luxury items do you take with you?
-big Tupperware box full of science fiction and fantasy novels
-paper for drawing and writing
-12-piece pencil set
-bag of polyhedrons

10 - Once on your tropical island you are allowed to have one person of your choice to stay with you. Now this can be anyone famous, living or dead, fictional and from any period of time/history - loved ones are not allowed - who do you choose and why?
Quite possibly James M. Ward, or David Arneson, and make them referee for the whole dang shebang! Though maybe Simon Pegg, just 'cause he's an awesome dude, who's gotta' be awesome to hang out with.

11 - What has been the worst impulse purchase of a totally useless item (one you convinced yourself into believing you needed, but didn't)? What was it, and do you still have it?
Well, I'm sure, like any other buyer and collector of miniatures, would be all the ones I only bought because they looked cool and didn't actually serve any use in my games at all. Ever. For example, I own just about one of everything Copplestone currently has available, and only actually use, let alone have painted, less than a dozen figures. Hundreds of dollars sit carefully tucked away for that year when I finally get back to them...

Again, hopefully they don't mind, but here's those I've considered worthy of tagging, and cheers too all!
Now, for my questions eleven:
  1. What... is your name?!
  2. What... is your favorite colour?!
  3. What... is the average airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?!
  4. If any, what is your absolute favorite game, (tabletop and otherwise) and what makes it greater, or at least more better for coming back to, than others?
  5. Is there greater value in having good friends at the table, or amazing players, and why?
  6. Gorgonops or Shuvuuia?
  7. If there was any great, wonderful and amazing period or setting you'd love to play a game in, what would it be, and what sort of character(s) would you have?
  8. Is a post-scarcity society one you would be comfortable living in? Why?
  9. Do some of these questions remind you of stuff from English class?
  10. Would you reckon there is still, or at least was, life, however small it may be, on the planet Mars?
  11. Where can I get fried meal worms and apple-candied scorpion lollies? I forgot.

February 20, 2012


Hello All!

Just a shout out to any of you interested in aerospace, or science fiction films, and especially space suits. Steve over at Say; Hello Spaceman, has a lovely blog that continuously brings to light more and more gems from space opera past and used-futures present, and he could use some more viewers methinks! Maybe some of you can even give him suggestions to showcase.

To the Gods, Uncaring and Bemused.

Where then have we gone, to abandon the oracle; hoard the boons; and cast out the traditions of cleromancy? Do we no longer seek mysticism and atmosphere? Is there a wanting that consumes us that ever dance to the clatter of knuckles, that we would rather turn to unsavory practices of fudging and dishonesty? Surely not!

Roll yer' damn dice and leave them were they fall! If it's the tank's day to be eaten by a grue, than so be it; and swift Char-Gen to those now dead.

Consequently, random tables are lovely things.

February 15, 2012

With a tip of the palm...

...And the roll of a die.

Traveller was always a system and a setting that appealed to me, yet always out of my grasp. It's very hard to play a game if you're the only one that wants to. But what really kept me was how the game played. I like my big bag of many polyhedrons, don't get me wrong, but the call of the days when only the six-sided die consisted my collection is strong. I've always been a great fan of rolling multiple dice in place of single, higher-value dice; it gives better results. Do take note however, that I'm not big on absurd rolls like 12d4 or 20d6, yikes!

From every mechanic, generation table, character statistic and action with randomized outcome, one would need nothing but the common die in classic Traveller. From shooting a walking bulls-eye to succeeding at one of the character's few trained skills, only two sixers were ever needed. This created a bell curve of success, which tied in fluidly with the human-centric feel of Traveller, in that we as squishy organisms usually only do so well, on average. The average roll of '7' guaranteed that characters still maintained a measure of success with basic skill levels. Because generally, we succeed at things we know (flat DC is usually '8'), while still allowing room for potential failure. A stark contrast to the very random nature of rolling a single d20.

Further on, we see the system continuing its variety of uses for the pairing of 2d6 with generation charts. Using one die in the tens, and another in the ones, to the similar effect of 2d10 for determining percentile successes. Each of these tables generate 36 possible results, which while small compared to 100 for 2d10, this again allows for a bell curve effect. The result places more common encounters nearer the center of the curve. So instead of truly random encounters in the sense, we can see an increased chance of more common mooks arising with more interesting and rare things turning up with a probability to match.

Maybe I'm still just too much of a wargamer at heart, but the simplicity of using fewer varieties of polyhedron while still maximizing their potential can be just as fun as throwing pyramids and buckyballs about the tabletop.

February 14, 2012

Character Skill versus Player Skill

While many blogs have already discussed and dissected what both 'character skill' and 'player skill' are, lets look at why they're different and why they're also used differently.

As most that play just about any version, mutation or blatant rip of D&D know, in the beginning the game gave characters statistics of their raw potential, some perks and abilities that differentiate the classes, and very specific character skills for the thief. Beyond this more rules-light appearance, characters would go on adventures, relying heavily on the goodwill of the dice gods and the mental skills of the player, and hopefully wouldn't die as a result. This approach let the faculties and imaginations of the players steer their destiny, and often led to moments of "outsmarting" or "besting" the DM and his well-thought-out encounters and puzzles. It also lead to a large number of retarded things that players have become infamous for to those inside and out of the hobby.

On another end, we encounter the later editions that bring new light and focus on character skills. This focus became so acute that eventually the rules systems themselves became intricate and complicated, pushing out player skill, where suddenly the character needed to invest time and thought to allow themselves certain abilities not readily available at level one. Suddenly Tarzan needed to take the feat Brachiation just to get around, and even then he had to roll against a difficulty class, or hit the nearest tree trunk. Whether intentional or not, the realm of pen & paper seemed to be turning the way of the new-wave video game role-play.

So, do you find one to be better than the other? Regardless of what side of the fence you lovely readers may sit, I will take a sledgehammer to said fence. Both of these approaches have their uses and the most obvious use, to me, is the perceived value of education present in the game, and its setting. When playing D&D I enjoy knowing I won't be made to roll for every 5 feet of rope I climb, for fear of the eventual and impending critical failure of a '1' of the d20. And when playing Star Frontiers I'm without worry of the percentile roll for one of my character's skills; it's easy and straight forward. Both of these settings mentioned and the skills presented cover two different areas; climbing rope is not beyond anyone with bodily strength, but writing a program into a science fiction computer requires knowledge and training, where still yet such a task comes with the chance of human error. Even without rush it can be as simple as one too many letters in a string of code that crashes the system.

So what do I think? A proper balance of both player and character skills makes for a good system when it pays attention to the setting. Characters are only as perceptive as their players are because they rely so heavily upon direction, while the character may be more fluent in conducting major surgery on alien species that the player could not even begin to comprehend their anatomies. Dungeons & Dragons is (generally) placed in a realm where knowledge is as primitive as medieval (or renaissance) times, where much went to faith, and common sense was the measure of the day, and is a skill that only players bring to the table. Star Frontiers is a universe where technologies easily surpass our modern world (zeerust aside) and the characters themselves bring the skills to the table. This is why they play different, but still both utilize some of one and more of the other category of skills.

Curses to the Cursed!

Reading through some of 'The Book of Marvelous Magic' earlier rekindled a pet peeve of mine: cursed items in fantasy role-play. Why, say you? Simple: they're nothing but a dick move by the DM unless handled properly.

Now before we get far I want to point out that I have nothing wrong with the idea of the cursed item, but rather how it is implemented. Just like any good magic item, a good cursed item needs to have a reason for its existence. Otherwise it is little more than DM fiat and the source of sour expressions turning to the crook behind his screen.

Furthermore is the cursed item a dick move when we have this item not only "just" in a pile of assumed loot, but it also appears exactly like a very useful and beneficial magical artifact. Sure, this is a fun lure for your resident meta-gamer, but there is no reason for it to imitate another object, if only to make player characters suffer.

In my worlds, even if the players lack a wizard or other source of discovering, or recalling the lore of magic items, I will refrain from placing any magical object in the world that doesn't have a reason for existing. It could be a simple sentence of description for a minor thing, or a good paragraph dedicated to the wizard, Pelacelcus the Dimple-Foot and his need for a ring of martini summons. But all the same, there is essence to the object, and not just a convenient/inconvenient item drop.

But what this means for cursed items is a reason for why they are cursed to begin with. Perhaps they were mundane possessions in times passed, later saturated with hateful magicks in an ancient battle against a mage. We could even apply this logic to items that appear as others to explain their dastardly trickery. And maybe yet, some of these items aren't truly cursed in the sense, but act as so when wielded or in possession of those that shouldn't have such things. Like Sauron's One Ring.

Or yet still, a small number of these evil objects were simply made to cause havoc for the victims of circumstance. Like a necklace of strangulation, or barrel of poverty. These are the lamest excuses for killing characters ever; a player should be the death of themselves, not the determination of the one other player, the DM.

Maybe it's just 'cause I'm not the sort that uses lurkers above and floor and wall mimics, nor executioner's hoods, and am rather conservative in my application of killer bed sheets?

February 8, 2012

Disruptive Force and Criticals

Following the trend of providing a look into how I handle hit points, attacks, and general bodily-harm, we now turn to the tactics of 'called shots', or as I prefer, 'disruptive force'.

In systems, where they are utilized, the 'called shot', "aimed shot" or other, is the focused effort of a character to maximize and severely hamper his opponent through a high-risk, high-reward method of taking a full-round action, or simply a -4 to hit in combat, or other similar variation. If successful, results can be anywhere from boosted, doubled or tripled damage that is basically an alternative to rolling a critical hit. The benefit of a called shot however, is that the caller can specify which area of his opponent's body he chooses to strike. Which can have dire consequences to encephalized beings when head-shots are landed, or chins are smashed on ball-chineans.

Now what does that mean for my system with its version of hit points? Dirty fighting: elbows, groin shots, eye-jabs, and sprained or bruised limbs. Similar to Third Edition and newer's -4 in combat for unarmed strikes, the character between his many thrusts per each six-second round takes the effort to land an unpleasant blow against his foe. Damage is often doubled of normal attack/weapon damage for the attacker, as it is assumed s/he would use their preferred method of reducing his foe's abilities, hastening the opportunity for a killing blow. It may be smashing the haft of a pole-arm, decking with a sword pommel, head-butts, knees to the kidneys, and other injuries that are more painful than truly harmful.

Compare to called shots with fire-arms, which are instead treated as damage directly to a character's CON score, or monster HD. This works well as a way of explaining why fire-arms do comparatively unimpressive hit point damage to melee weapons in role-playing games. That 2d4 damage pistol doesn't look so piddly when it lands a called shot, now doesn't it?

As mentioned before, criticals are rolled for on critical charts that I keep stuck to the DM screen. One of the table results is full normal attack/weapon damage directly to a character's CON score. When this result affects monsters, the attack instead outright kills anything with a HD equal to half or less of the attack's damage. Everything else is generally larger monsters under the jurisdiction of hit points as physical damage threshold, and will instead suffer a number of six-sided dice in damage equal to the maximized attack (with strength modifiers). So a weapon that deals 1-8 damage in the hands of a barbarian that also deals 3 additional damage based on his strength, will outright kill anything with 5 HD or less, or will deal 11-66 damage to 6 HD+ beasts. This is one of (usually) 12 results on the criticals table.

Building Better Blades

An idea I've always fancied for representing "masterwork" and other such high-quality weapons is something more dynamic than a simple +1 to hit. Because while in theory, a masterwork weapon may be easier to wield and use, or aim, I was never very keen on the constant and infinite scalability of modifiers in Third Edition and newer. It just seems too lazy and repetitious.

So instead, my idea is that in place of adding a 'to hit' modifier, that the masterwork weapon, rather shift how it deals damage when it hits. Take for example, a weapon that normally deals 1d8 damage by itself, will deal 2d4 damage as a masterclass weapon. This allows weapons to deal greater averages in damage, which if using hit points similarly to how I do, this still works out as making it easier for the attacker to hit. If only because the attacked need dodge harder to avoid a lethal blow, wearing themselves out faster.

And if nothing else, it just makes for more dynamic weapons; though the potential for making attacks tedious becomes a possibility for weapons that already use two dice in attacking. As an advantage for magic-scarce games, the fighter can have a slightly better sword without it having to be a +1 or better magic sword.

Now How to Lose Hit Points!

Instead of sleeping I decided I should throw this next bit up too.

Now where we had previously left off was discussing my view of hit points and how they work, along with what happens when unfortunate adventurers and mooks run out of them. So, naturally, we must figure out how to go from the prior to the latter.

While I prefer one method of handling hit points, the game itself or even the players may ultimately determine what is what and where. For example, games like Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World both assume hit points are a character's physical capacity to survive damage, so we usually would stick to that when playing those. But when I'm having my way, a character's hit point total is divided in half. Monsters, however don't apply to this rule, unless they're hominids.

One side of this division represents a character's ability (in a combination of the facets mentioned last post) to completely avoid damage in combat. Any damage suffered to this value will completely generate post-encounter after five minutes rest.

The second part of hit points represent the character slowing and tiring as they once again avoid any meaningful injury, with the worst damage being light nicks, glances, and blows completely deflecting off or dragging along armour without harm. Despite this, the character is still not surviving injury with this other set of hit points in the standard sense, but is only fatigued enough to take minor superficial damage that at worse makes a conversation starter. The catch with this second value however, also as a way to balance the automatic regeneration of the first number, is that it regenerates like hit points traditionally do, based on the system being played. Which gives magical healing spells and potions the illusion of being more potent.

On the subject of critical hits and massive damage, my system turns away from hit points, as they do not represent physical damage threshold for characters. Instead, a critical is a roll on the critical chart, with the potential of maximum attack/weapon damage directly to a character's Constitution score, which is indeed threatening. Similarly, falling damage is dealt as 1d4 damage to Constitution per 10 feet, with a 2d10 roll against current CON or get knocked unconscious afterward.

Featuring Hit Points, and Having None!

Perhaps for all it is a completely different idea and representation, or simply abstraction, but for I, the concept of hit points is very much so the concept of 'not-getting-hit points', as someone else so eloquently put it. Furthermore, I like the idea of "death" at zero hit points. Lower down shall I expand my opinions.

For a hero that can't possibly become more sturdy with each level earned, the hit point, by itself is a representation and manifestation of the individual's luck, die-hard attitude, combat aptitude, and quite possibly his standing with the gods. This model goes well with the chaotic action of battle and oracular nature of the dice, and by their extension, the gods themselves. This is why fighters, followed by clerics, have better hit dice than other characters, as each demonstrates strong points in some of these elements, with backing in the others. Compare the unnatural and unlawful (in the stealing and meddling sense) ways of thieves and magic-users for why they don't fare as well. Through this angle, note I did not mention dexterity; this is a no-word. Dexterity already is used in a different abstraction known as Armour Class, or why mooks can't hit shit.  Contrast with the hit points of a war elephant, or other massive and non-maneuverable beast, that is instead a value of physical fortitude.

Moving on to our other topic: zero hit points, or why I didn't cry for mommy. Completely disregarding Third Edition and newer, hitting zero hit points, as the rules read, meant dead. Now, why is that so? And how is it that if hit points measure a character's ability to avoid injury, that they're just plain out dead and dead at the total of the dreaded big '0'? Simple: it's easy to kill someone, or at least think you've killed someone. We assume here that coming with a fantasy setting is often coming with a pseudo-medieval intellect. Something often considered very ignorant by modern Man's standards (which is pretty ignorant just by thinking that). Back in "Ye Aulde Adventurre Lande", medicine and physical know-how weren't exactly up to snuff, especially after the witch hunts destroyed hundreds of years of learned healing practices, and it was very easy to mistake someone for dead, especially if the healer wasn't all that knowledgeable in their field. Clerics can cast divine healing miracles like a Pez dispenser, but they're no physician, nor paladins with their magic fingers, and definitely not the man trained solely to kill! Those thought dead may very well perish from lack of attention, infection, or simply from being abandoned by the straining and hurting party. Even a proper alkaline poison might leave ya' stone dead-ish, but not in truth. All yerr frens know is ya' failed yer damn save!

So maybe this was insightful, and maybe it wasn't. But either way it's quarter after three o' the morn'. Peace out!

Latest Inspiration: Wizards (1977)

I was just finishing watching a film I'd not seen since I was a young lad (which was a forbidden fruit then). A film known solely as 'Wizards', a curious animated work of science fantasy crossed with the post-apocalypse and all bundled up as a "take that" with a number of small and brief references.

And why should you care, oh gentle reader? Because it's awesome. And gots a bunch of roto-scoping going on. And fantastic mutant-Nazis, androids, guns, swords, elves, magic, fae, swears and curse words, gore, and a Browning heavy machine gun! Though, surely I can't forget to also mention the main character: a red-bearded wizard that constantly makes a mockery of himself and smokes the stub of a cigar with his toes.

Though don't get me wrong with my butchered effort of a review (is it actually a review?). The film is a great work of effort that doesn't disappoint. The story is a swell mix of humor, tragedy, realism (in a cartoon? ha!), twists, and an awesome end to the cinematic climax. I won't say what, but such behavior I really do expect from anyone who plays role-playing games; I know I would. Snerk.

Now, without further a'do, to the left is a small selection of stills to hopefully inspire you lot to look into this film if you haven't already. And as usual, prod to expand.

February 6, 2012

Surplus Spells & Slings

And now, for another exciting installment of Surplus Spells & Slings!

    Ricocheting Orb of Distraction
Looking as if a large ball of glass filled with metallic flecks of multicolour, though pliable as rolled sap. When thrown, the ball bounces off all solid surfaces emanating a bright flashing light of colours all across the spectrum. When the blink seemingly is off, it is in fact displaying colours in spectrums invisible to the human eye. Beings exposed to this light are blinded for 1-2 rounds at start, and subsequently take -2 to hit so long as the ball continues to bounce around until resting to a halt or caught in hand.
    -rumors speak of the original being a full set of 2d8 balls, though most were lost by the original owner, a gnome from Derkschlund

    Fabricator's Pen
A bizarre fountain pen with a handle carved from a single piece of carnelian. The ink cartridge is thin glass with golden butt. When drawn upon paper, the pen will physically manifest any being drawn within with up to 5 HD. If the drawn thing does not physically exist, the DM must quickly design the creature based on his player's drawing, rolling 1d6-1, where a modified result of 0 means a less than 1 HD monster. Each cartridge may draw up to 2d4 images. The manifested images act as their monster, but is friendly toward the creator, and the creator alone, appearing as an inky mockery of the original creature. Each image lasts the inverse of its HD, with 1 HD creatures lasting 5 minutes, and 5 HD lasting 1 minute.

    Stones of Promotion
All products of a long-forgotten culture buried with time. Stones of Promotion are palm stones which each grant different and unique properties to the possessor, and are activated by the sweat of a clasped hand. These stones should be regarded as very rare and special by the DM, and not to be easily found, nor in any volume.

 Stones of Promotion Table (d12)
    #  Stone                  Benefit
    01 Blue Calcite        Restores 1 INT/turn, +1 HP for ALL healing
    02 Pink Calcite        Calms the mind, brings happiness.
    03 Gold Calcite        +1 AC, +1d4 temp HP, brings joy.
    04 Green Calcite       Brings acceptance of the new.
    05 Clear Calcite        2x caster level for purpose of spell power, 1 in 6 chance of detecting magic
    06 Carnelian             Protection from ESP, +1 Against disease & poison protects against fear,
                                     increases libido.
    07 Cat's Eye             Preserves youthfulness, promotes luck.
    08 Cat Iron              50% spell really won't fizzle, 1 in 6 chance of finding the path.
    09 Celestite              Clears speech, makes true, heightens awareness.
    10 Cerussite             Read Languages 1/day, protection against bugs.
    11 Chalcedony         Dissolves illusions & fantasies, banishes fear.
    12 Coral                  +4 to saves against rays, +1 HP to ALL healing*
*+1 HP to ALL healing only benefits females.

    Stones of Promotion II
All products of a long-forgotten culture buried with time. Stones of Promotion are palm stones which each grant different and unique properties to the possessor, and are activated by the sweat of a clasped hand. Like the first set of stones, these should be regarded as very rare and special by the DM, and not to be easily found, nor in any volume.

 Stones of Promotion Table (d12)
    #   Stone              Benefit
    01 Charoite          True Seeing 1/day, +1 HP for ALL healing, releases and sobers from alcohol                                 consumption.
    02 Chrysoprase        Lifts emotions, banishes greed, envy, selfishness, tensions, stress.
    03 Cuprite               Access a past life, heals relationship with father.
    04 Diamond            +1 temporary STR, Protection From Evil.
    05 Dioptase            Cleanses ulcers, +5% to experience points.
    06 Dolomite            Soothes pain, reduces the effects of PMS.
    07 Eilat                   A feeling as if floating in tropical waters.
    08 Fluorite              Helps concentration & grasping abstract ideas.
    09 Fossil                 Improves business, doubles abilities of ESP.
    10 Golden Beryl        Scrying 1/day, protection from telepathy.
    11 Kyanite              Facilitates better travel between the planes.
    12 Malachite           Shatters if within 60 ft of threat of 8 HD or greater than possessor's HD                                   (whichever is more).

On Convincing Life Design

Whether decking out an alien world with life in a game session, or story, it is important to know how best to suspend disbelief when dealing with non-Earth organisms.

Life can come in literally any imaginable, and unimaginable, shape, size and disposition. Whether it's how we know it or don't, life is an adaptable beast where change is what allows it to survive. Yet, life isn't entirely random and prone to inconsistencies. Because while the evolution of beasts brings about random mutation, only certain elements survive and continue.

Nature keeps many patterns, and follows them to the letter. And we shouldn't forget this when designing alien life on distant planets. It might have worked in old pulp comics from yester-decade where the male sentient was a ghastly beast of many limbs and hazardous body, while the female member was attractive, if not lacking in non-humanity.

There is consistency, design and purpose behind life and how it comes about. Let us look at our own organisms of Earth. Here we would find that vertebrate life, while often very different from each other, all possess four limbs, a head with eyes and mouth, tails or remnants, similar bone structures, genetalia positioned at the rear, and etc. So unless we're designing a very pulpy sort of alien ecosystem, we can expect to see various examples of divergence that also feature convergent form and utility, but this shouldn't discourage one from making everything too "samey". Rather, we should see worlds with a lot of invertebrate creatures, each filling their niche in life, or on the other hand, perhaps various vertebrate things where each runs on four to six legs, with some species instead using the fifth and sixth limbs for manipulation.

Whether it's spines, body structures, psionic powers, wings, or what-have-you, consistency in form and pattern makes for standardized and believable life, while divergence and biodiversity makes for realistic life. Stay creative, friends!

Alternatively, you can just give me the finger and continue on with ant-men and their sensuous babe-queen. 'Cause fun is what counts in the end, and not necessarily dedicating too many resources to one facet of an adventure your railroad-hating players might not even run into.