Chris Gunning

StickGuy, the Roleplaying Game Setting Contest Rules

Thursday, April 21st, 2005

Official Results of the StickGuy Setting Contest

Submission to the StickGuy setting contest constitutes acceptance of the 1KM1KT Submission Guidelines

You do NOT talk about Fight Club.

Submissions must be at least 1, words and use the StickGuy Roleplaying Game rules-set as the basis for the setting. There is no maximum word count.

The more creative and fun the setting is, the better. Seriously, have some fun writing for StickGuy. The judges are setting junkies.

A setting should include a list of factions (if any), associated new rules or rules tweaks, and background – lots and lots of background. Character examples are also a definite bonus, but not a requirement. Art and maps are welcomed as well (just remember to keep it in the StickGuy mood). Make sure that any art you submit is your own work or that you co-submit with the permission of the artist. There is a good chance your submission will be posted at some point on after the competition is closed and we would all like to avoid those nasty copyright questions.

There?s no crying in baseball.

Please submit your setting as a .doc, .rtf, html, or .txt file. Pictures may be submitted in .gif and .jpg formats.

Send your submissions, questions, and artwork to

The 1KM1KT Forum is an excellent place to seek advice or ask questions about StickGuy Roleplaying Game.

Multiple submissions are A-OK.

Multiple authors are OK as well. In the case of multiple authors/artists, please indicate a primary author for your submission. Understand that only the person listed as the primary author will be eligible for the prize should your submission be selected as the winner.

Please make sure the idea you submit is your own.

The final winner will win US $4 which will be sent via PayPal. Winners must have an active Paypal account to receive their prize.

The deadline for submissions is August 31, 2004. The final winner will be announced on September 6th, 2004. Should there be an overwhelming need to change these dates, 1KM1KT reserves the right to change the dates of the final submission and announcement of winner with at least 1 week public notice.

1KM1KT is conducting this contest in good faith with the hope of garnering some fun and creative additions to StickGuy the rpg. Contestants are asked to participate accordingly.

1KM1KT reserves the right to edit all submissions prior to publication.

RPGs Off My Shelf – February

Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

Its been a little bit. Life has a habit of getting in the way of my internet life. I know I am not the only one, but it still annoys the hell out of me. So, time to get back into the swing of things. This month, I am working on one of the other major roleplaying game genres – horror. Let me be up front, I normally really dislike horror rpgs. I have yet to see horror treated in the same manner in rpgs as novels or movies – those two mediums pick up the feelings that horror creates so much better than most roleplaying games. While I think rpgs are the ideal medium for Sci-fi and fantasy, not so for horror. For my money, there are very few quality horror rpgs out there, but here are few that I’ve found that are worth your time.

However, the good horror rpgs' I mean the really good ones, knock my socks off and rank as some of the best rpgs ever produced. The key to being one of the great rpgs is twofold: 1) the rpg has to have a great setting, and 2) the rpg has to lend itself to some great gamemastering. Now, as a setting junkie, we’ll address this first. The best horror rpgs are going to be the ones with the great settings. The second part of my criteria is much harder for me to articulate since the game needs to lend itself to a good gamemaster using the rpg and forming it into something creepy' something scary. Rules, setting, mood, and, most importantly, a good gamemaster are the things that make an rpg lend itself to good gamemastering (a bit circular, I admit).

So, with a concentration on my first criteria, but with an eye towards my second let’s get to the meat-and-potatoes of this article:
My Top Five Horror rpg settings
Honorable mention:

Nightmares of Mine (I.C.E)- not actually a setting, and just barely an rpg supplement, this book is absolutely invaluable to a horror gamemaster. Ken Hite hits a homerun in his analysis of the horror genre and advice on how to treat it with respect in horror rpgs. Buy this book if you run (or want to run) a horror rpg.

Kult 3rd ed. (Paradox Entertainment)- Three incarnations and still going strong. It takes a heavy dose of Gnosticism and the creepy parts of Christianity to create a nifty dystopic otherworld. Think Hellraiser and you are not far off.

Wraith (White Wolf): Someone else said it better than I ever could: Wraith I the greatest game no one plays. While it has some wonderfully creepy ideas, the mechanics and weird setting hurt the playabilty of the game.

Obsidian (Apophis Consortium): So close, yet so very far.

5. All Flesh Must be Eaten (Eden Studios). The zombie survival rpg. Anytime you think of a game that will feature zombies heavily, this is the game that should be at the top of most lists. AFMBE is a toolbox game, everything you want or need to run the game is in the core book. Right from the start AFMBE presents a lot of options for creating zombies and the book is that much stronger for all those options. I am a fan of zombie flicks, and it took me a while to finally admit AFMBE is the game for zombies- but it really is. Eden did a great job with the game.

The Unisystem engine for AFMBE is quite solid and there are a lot of people who think the Unisystem engine is second-to-none. Part of the reason AFMBE is such a good game is how seamlessly it works with the Eden engine. From tense escape sequences to full fledged firefights, Unisystem handles the possibilities of AFMBE well.

The art in AFMBE is great. I am under the understanding that AFMBE was co-imagined with Christopher Shy, and his stellar artwork is all over AFMBE (including the cover). Interspersed with some solid pencil work, the feel that AFMBE conveys is quite appropriate for the genre. The writing is pretty mechanical, with the occasional additions for color. All-in-all, AFMBE does a fine job in creating the basics for games with zombies.

My problem with AFMBE is that it is too general. There are options for settings (some of which are great, others are uninspiring) but nothing that reallt defines AFMBE as a great horror game. The addition of some really off-the wall options (while useful), and some really kitsch settings hurt the ability to really create a creepy atmosphere. As a toolbox AFMBE has no equal, as a horror rpg it has potential, but is left behind.

The current in-print version of AFMBE is the 2nd edition. Either edition is okay though- the tweaks to 2nd edition are nice but not a deal-breaker. The supplements are all solid with one exception. I would avoid the Book of Archetypes 2 (it is too repetitive and uncreative when compared to the 1st).

4. Orpheus (White Wolf). I really, really like Orpheus. It was developed by one of most favorite personalities in the rpg industry, Lucien Soulban. Mr Soulban has been the creative force behind some of the best rpg supplements in existence (Vimary for Tribe 8 and Montreal by Night to name two). When I heard he was going to be at the helm of the 6-book limited run of the Orpheus line, I could not have thought of anyone better for the job. Much to my delight, Mr. Soulban did an excellent job with Orpheus.

Orpheus is a full game line, setting, and epic adventure wrapped up in a tidy 6-book set (the core book and five supplements). The game’s setting almost begs for some great games to be run. Basically, you play operatives for a private company (the Orpheus Group) that hunt ghosts. The thing that makes Orpheus stay in business is the fact that its operatives can project their souls into the spirit world- ensuring their “ghostbusting” lends results. Of course, this is a White Wolf game, so you as PCs you get all sorts of nifty powers to go along with projecting your soul.

The successor to the Wraith line (see above), Orpheus was, in my opinion, a successful way of making Wraith playable. Much of the backstory and metaplot of the Wraith line carry over into Orpheus, slowly bleeding over into a truly marvelous campaign. As the campaign unfolds over the five supplements, new powers, new character options, new enemies, and new revelations are revealed- making the Orpheus line fit together seamlessly. Because the supplements work so well together and help create a full campaign that progresses over time, Orpheus is arguably the best use of metaplot used in an rpg. Quite useful, especially for a horror rpg.

Orpheus is at times Creepy, mysterious, and tense. The art is largely quite good, some of the best art in a White Wolf line, ever. More importantly, the art reflects the text quite closely (something I really appreciate)- helping create an idea of what the horrors of Orpheus look like. A nice touch, really. The text is filled with lots of color entries, balancing the art to help add even more description to the world.

The place where Orpheus trips up as a horror rpg is in the non-horror elements that creep in to most of the supplements. Some of the creatures that are introduced are patently not scary or creepy- but simply silly. Also, as the plot progresses Orpheus moves away from its horror roots to be a bit more of an action-adventure game- which hurts the mood set by earlier books. Understand, this is the goal of the Orpheus line- to grow and change with the metaplot. However, taken as a whole, Orpheus loses too much of its horror roots to be ranked as one of the top three horror prgs.

3. Call of Cthulhu (Chaosium and various publishers). The father of all horror rpgs. HP Lovecraft was as much surrealist as horror writer, and the two aspects of his writing work remarkably well together- not only in his rendition of the Dreamlands, but in creating creatures that man was not supposed to know. Many of the tropes and core assumptions found in subsequent horror rpgs first started with Call of Cthulhu. There are reams and reams of discussion on Call of Cthulhu and HP Lovecraft’s work, so I will refrain from going to deep into the relative merits of the game. Rest assured, it is a nifty setting that works exceptionally well with the BRP (Basic Roleplaying) system.

Call of Cthulhu is a great setting that, unfortunately, has not aged well. Cthulhu is no longer scary in my mind. Unfortunately, through no real fault of Call of Cthulhu, the Mythos just isn’t mysterious anymore. Part of what makes the mythos great as antagonists is the mystery that surrounds them- they are supposed to be unknowable- beyond the understanding of normal men. However, to get the feeling of mystery and awe that Call of Cthulhu elicited over a decade ago, you have to start moving beyond the mythos as defined by Lovecraft or start anew with a new setting (as we will see below). CoC is a victim of its own success.

Don’t get me wrong, CoC can still be run as a scary rpg, but it takes a lot of work on the part of the GM and a savvy group to help move beyond what they already know and assume about the mythos to get really scared by a game. The key is having a really good gamemaster that understands the themes behind Lovecraft’s work- however; a gamemaster of that skill could make any horror game scary. In CoC’s case a good gameaster is more necessary than most other games- and so it gets the third spot.

2. Delta Green (Pagan Publishing). Delta Green is Call of Cthulhu, updated and made sexy (“sexy” like in the smoldering eyes of a goth chick who you know is nothing but trouble). Delta Green is widely regarded as one of the best rpgs on the market, and deservedly so. DG takes the tropes and themes of CoC and uses them to take the mythos into new and exciting (and mysterious) directions. The end result is a new game that brings the tense and terrifying atmosphere of Call of Cthulhu back. Still based on the standard (if uninspiring) BRP system, the real gem of this game is the setting.

In Delta Green you play a government agent (or other suitably well established PC) that is slowly confronting the mythos. Delta Green is a disgraced secret branch of the U.S, government that is now part of a grand conspiracy that fights the mythos. Delta Green is a loose alliance of likeminded individuals (of which the PCs form a cell) that have seen things that should not be and whose lives have changed as a result. Delta Green is about mystery and discovery, and the ultimate costs for those discoveries. There are malevolent intelligences at work against Earth, and the PCs are the unwitting vanguard that fights against those intelligences.

The genius behind Delta Green is that it gives the characters the mundane tools to defeat the mythos- and it falls to the PCs to discover that those tools are still inadequate. Minor aspects of the mythos are emphasized in DG, giving the mythos a bit of a different feel' different enough to make it new and cryptic. Moreover, there are new aspects to the mythos that are introduced, and are done in such a way as to blend with the existing mythos wonderfully. The key is that the writers (some of the best in the business) understand the background to the Lovecraftian mythos and can extrapolate the horror inherent in that background.

Delta Green’s setting is spectacular. If it is the setting that really makes a horror rpg scary, you simply cannot go wrong with Delta Green. The only reason this is not number one is that I think my number one choice holds to the horror genre a bit more firmly- not straying into possible action/adventure as can potentially happen with Delta Green.

1. Little Fears (Key 2). This is my favorite horror rpg, bar none. Jason Blair, the man behind Key 2 is one of my favorite writers/developers along with Lucien Soulban- and part of the reason I like both of them is my unending respect for how they handle the horror genre. With Little Fears Mr. Blair created the definitive horror rpg, staying firmly within the genre while creating a wonderfully evocative setting and suitably colorful system to complement the setting. Little Fears is amazing stuff.

In LF you are a child no older than 12. You face a frightening world, literally. The fears f your childhood are real, and they have a very malevolent reason for wanting your child PC dead (or tortured, or whatever). Shadows are things to be avoided. Under the bed the breathing you thought was the wind is actually the creature’s breath your mom told you does not exist. The closet is' well, lets not even talk about the closet. As a child, you stand alone. In LF your PC is under-equipped, under-trained (obviously), and with none of the resources of society to help you in your desperate fight. Now that is a horror setting.

One of the big things that makes Little Fears my favorite horror rpg is the gaming system. Basically, it is a rules light system that relies more on description and imagination to help drive task resolution. The character sheet is suitably simple but also help create the right atmosphere of isolation and helplessness (honestly, I can’t think of another character sheet that helps promote the feel of the game better than the little two page character sheet in the back of LF).

The writing in LF is suitably creepy and disturbing. The art is overall pretty good, and again, follows the text pretty closely. Little Fears is one of the few games I really consider a product that should only be used by mature gamers- simply for the disturbing themes it promotes. Little fears has all the elements of a great horror rpg- good art, great and descriptive writing, a suitable system, and an amazingly horrific setting.

Get a good GM, turn off the lights, and play a game or two for Little Fears. You will be part of those rare games that you end up bragging about at conventions.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to pop over to the forums and voice your opinion.

Thanks, and see you in a bit.

Chris Gunning

RPGs Off My Shelf – September

Wednesday, September 8th, 2004

Well, its official, “Off My Shelf” is now a series- at least, if you count two issues as a “series.” This week I want to get into a topic near and dear to a lot of roleplayers out there, D2. The D2 engine, highlighted in Dungeons and Dragons 3/3.5 edition has been nothing short of a movement. Good or ill, a lot of the rpg content produced in the last 4 years or so are lumped into two broad groups; D2 and non-D2. While I know there are a lot of people that really resent D2 for either poor mechanics or adopting a Microsoft type of business model, the simple fact to me is that a lot of quality rpg content would never have seen print if not for D2. Admittedly, it takes a little bit of work to make it through the D2 signal to noise ratio- but the gems, when you find them, are very worth it. So, this month’s review article is all about those rpg diamonds in the D2 rough.

Because D2 lends itself to fantasy settings, expect to see a focus on fantasy this time around. While D2 does have some nice entries in the non-fantasy genre, it is the fantasy settings that really stand out in terms of D2 quality.

My biases up front; I like deep settings with lots of supplements. I am a collector more than I am a player (much to my chagrin), so rpgs with lots of high quality books are more of an asset to me than single “core” books. Right or wrong, I see lots of supplements as a sign of a healthy line. And with lots of supplements come lots and lots of ideas, most of which, I assume, help flesh out the world. I also like settings that twist standard assumptions into new ways. As you can tell from my July article (Sci-Fi Settings) I not only dig in-depth settings but also setting innovation and quality production values.

(A bit of a disclaimer: due to the open gaming nature of D2 this article looks at D2 and OGL products together as one family)

So, knowing all that, here are this month’s rankings.

My Top Five D2 settings.

Honorable mention:

Iron Kingdoms (Privateer Press)- While a great game, I helped write parts of the setting and so I remove it from contention.

Oathbound; Domains of the Forge – A setting specifically designed to handle characters from various worlds. A bit like Planescpae meets Fraggle Rock meets the Running Man (no joke). There are a lot of goofy elements and some occasional bad editing gaffes that keep it just off my top 5.

Eberron (WotC)- nifty setting that still needs more definition before I can rank. The core book is great, but the quality of the supplements has yet to be decided.

Warcraft (Sword and Sorcery)- a quality translation of the wonderful CRPG. The key to this line is that the supplements are getting better (not worse as is the norm) as the line continues.

5. Forgotten Realms (WotC). This is the quintessential D2 kitchen-sink game. It has taken me a number of years to come around to really enjoying Forgotten Realms. Originally I played in Ansalon (Dragonlance) and for a long time Forgotten realms lacked the luster of Dragonlance. However, with D2 and the reproduction of Forgotten Realms as the flagship setting of Wizards of the Coast, I ended up buying the core book and have never regretted the purchase. 3/3.5E Forgotten Realms has some absolutely spectacular plot elements highlighted by a series of books that are, arguably, the highest quality rpg products on the market. In all honesty, the 3E Forgotten Realms books are beautiful and the art is extremely evocative.

While kitchen-sink setting are usually not my preferred settings, 3E Forgotten realms does everything just right to get me to really want to play in Faerun. The introduction of the Shades (elite Shadow corrupted humans) and the Kir-Lanan (anti-divine gargoyles) were two small additions that really caught my attention. The fleshing out of the Thayans to more than simple evil magic users has also helped make Faerun a much more interesting and compelling setting. All told, there is a lot of interesting plotlines presented in the core 3E Forgotten realms book- so much so and of such a quality that I can overlook all the craziness thrown in to really focus on the interesting aspects.

4. Conan (Mongoose Publishing). Who doesn’t dig Conan? This is a largely faithful translation of the original Robert Howard stories into the D2 mechanic. Usually, I am very skeptical of Mongoose. They really seem to rush their products and end up with some inferior products. Case in point, is the first edition of Conan (Hyborean edition). Riddled with errata, the game was seriously hampered in playability. However, Mongoose immediately made good on their promise to remedy the situation and, in time, released a new edition (Atlantean edition) with cleaned up rules and text. All that said, Conan D2 is a nifty setting.

There are some fundamental changes to the D2 mechanic as presented in the PHB, but still, Conan D2 is at its heart, a 3E game. Conan takes sword and sorcery, distills it down into its core elements and then rebuilds according to Howard’s compelling setting. It is a world of Barbarian kings, eldritch and sometimes uncontrollable magic, and of adventure. There is a rawness to Conan that is reflected very well in the D2 game that I really enjoy. Strikes against Conan are the original problems with errata as well as it being a licensed setting- in the end, while it is a worthy addition to the Conan body of work- my preferences lean towards original settings.

3. Scarred Lands (Sword and Sorcery Games). This is a very compelling setting that a lot of people have missed. The body of work so far is impressive, and while some of the books could do with a re-write (rather than a simple edit) the vast majority of what is out there for Scarred Lands is really interesting and fun. The Scarred Lands take some of the best parts of the Forgotten Realms, like the conflict between the Gods, and really highlights those elements. Scarred Lands as a setting, is interesting because of the way it was created. Rather than trying to force an existing idea of a setting into the D2 mould (such as with Conan) the designers looked at the core mechanics of 3E and designed a world that helped make sense of those mechanics. Thus, alignment makes a lot of sense in Scarred Lands. Similarly, the various classes each fit very nicely into the Scarred Lands setting- something that just about every other setting fails to do. Druids, Paladins and Monks, normally an afterthought in D2 settings, each play integral roles in the Scarred Lands. I really like the integration of the classes.

Scarred Lands as a whole is an interesting place to adventure. A land recently ravaged by a war between the gods and their followers, the world is still trying to recover. This is post-apocalyptic fantasy at its best, where the heroes do what they do because the designers made sure to emphasize that the world really needs heroes. The Scarred Lands is very big (4 full continents and counting) and there is a lot of room for adventuring to be had- certainly a plus for any role-player.

The downsides are few but important. There are a number of edits and errata many of the books need. Similarly, like I mentioned above, a couple of the books are simply not very good and hurt the playability of the setting. Still, the overall quality of the setting outweighs much of these problems (indeed, it is that much fun IMO).

2. Rokugan (Alderac Entertainment). I loved the original Legend of the 5 Rings but really hated the 2nd edition and I stopped paying any attention to the setting as 1st edition was left behind. Then, Rokugan came along as part of the redesigned D2 Oriental Adventures and I was a very happy boy. D2 and Rokugan mesh quite nicely. The new classes all fit the pseudo-Japanese style of Rokugan and I really dig the inclusion of the Courtier as a core class (showcasing that D2 is not only about hack-and-slash). Even more appealing is the Samurai core class, the Daisho ability really makes them the highlight of the setting while not quite overpowering fighters as a useful combat class.

Rokugan is a lot like Japan of the warring states era (Sengokujidai), except in this world, you have magic and the gods playing their role. Populated by a handful of Great Clans under the direction of the Emperor, the world is a constant flow of shifting alliances, border skirmishes and political intrigue. Humans are the primary race, with all other races marginalized. No quick synopsis of Rokugan would be complete without mentioning the Shadowlands – a corrupted land to the southwest where a broken and vengeful god plots his revenge against humanity.

The supplements have all been extremely useful. The “Way of” books have done a nice job of covering the various and disparate aspects of Rokugani society and the “Secrets of X” books did something that the previous Clan books did not- help define the landed regions of Rokugan as well as give a little more definition as to what life in the Clans is like. Overall, Rokugan is a very deep setting, with complex alliances and plotlines that all but scream to be role played. This is a setting where the characters can become bigger than life because the world almost begs them to develop into deadly Ninja, honorable Samurai, crafty Courtiers, and mysterious Gaijin.

Rokugan has some of the most interesting and detailed NPCs around. Where other settings are set around compelling wars, conflicts or regions, it is the personalities behind the NPCs of Rokugan that really give the setting shape. I once heard that the original developer saw the whole plot unfold before his mind’s eye because of his vision of one of the core NPCs, Bayushi Kachiko.

The downside to Rokugan is the same as its biggest asset; the involved world. The body of Rokugan info, from the original 1E and 2E games and from the constantly evolving Collectable Card Game. Simply put, if not played with an eye to consistency, the world can potentially overwhelm the GM or the players. Still, recognizing that the world of Rokugan grows and changes just as the characters do helps put the style of play into context- and if you take the time to get into the world, it ends up being very rewarding.

1. Midnight (Fantasy Flight Games). This setting is head and shoulders above the rest, IMO. I have a penchant for dark and gritty settings, and they do not get any darker or grittier than Midnight. The best description of Midnight is Middle earth if Sauron won. That one line description alone creates all sorts of interesting roleplaying opportunities- add to that a very well thought out world, nifty classes, some fun new mechanics, and you get my favorite D2 setting.

The default playing style is a group of PC freedom fighters- fighting the good fight in an unconventional way against the forces of darkness that seemingly stand on the verge of victory. Everything else aside, the oppressive setting immediately creates some difficult questions- such as where the term freedom fighter vs. terrorist diverges. Also inherent in the setting are questions such as who is an enemy or potential ally and if victory is really an attainable goal against such a powerful evil. All told, it is these difficult and complex questions that really make Midnight shine.

To its credit, Midnight goes beyond these implied questions to help develop the world in a very fascinating way. Even without Izrador (the dark God) and the forces of Shadow, are the conflicts between the various races and cultures. In the core book alone we get a lot of information of the peoples of Midnight, providing a good deal of useful tidbits to help make a number of different types of characters (including, naturally, evil ones). Beyond the core book are a host of solid supplements. One thing that I really like about Midnight is that FFG has focused on creating a regular series of low cost but useful supplements. Most Midnight supplements hover around $16 and focus on things like Midnight specific monsters, magic, locations, and heroes. The art is pretty good throughout the line and very consistent, a big plus in my book. Oh, and one of the supplements is a boxed set- how cool is that?

The new mechanics in Midnight are second to none. Magic is pretty radically changed in the setting, fitting in nicely with the desperate feeling that should be core aspects of any heroic campaign. To help offset the nastiness of the setting, PC heroes have access to “bloodlines,” s sort of destiny mechanic (such as “steelborn” and “beast friend”) that grants bonuses as the character advances. Bloodlines not only help grant useful and setting appropriate bonuses, but also help further define a Player’s character from other characters of the same class. Nifty.

The only issues I have with Midnight are that the bindings of some of the core books were pretty poor. I take good care of my books, but still had to send my copy of the Core book to Fantasy Flight to get a replacement (and like Mongoose, FFG was more than prompt in helping me get a new replacement copy). I also feel that the signature adventure “Crown of Shadow” is pretty weak- especially for a setting that is popping at the seams with great campaign ideas.

All in all though, Fantasy Flight has a winner on their hands. I cannot recommend Midnight highly enough.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to pop over to the forums and voice your opinion.

Thanks, and see you next month.

Chris Gunning

Chris Gunning writes copy for the “one thousand monkeys, one thousand typewriters” website, where they accept open submissions and provide publication resources for artists and writers in the fantasy, science fiction, and role-playing genres. His site can be found at:

Review: Heaven and Earth, Third Edition

Sunday, August 22nd, 2004


Once in a while, you come across an rpg that is worth more than just one read. Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition is just such an rpg. I’ve had the fortune to get access to a pre-release copy of the newest version of Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition and from my two initial read throughs, I can honestly say I am looking forward to the full release! This game is worth checking out, if only because it breaks free of a number of the typical assumptions other rpgs make.

Some of you may remember a television show from the mid-9’s called American Gothic. The story was about a small town out in South Carolina where weird things seemed to be the norm. Specifically, the story revolved around the Sheriff of the town who had connections to Hell and with a young and innocent kid who was the focus of much of the Sheriff’s machinations. All told, it was a great series that focused on a subtle battle between good and evil in a setting so innocuous it became compelling. I think very highly of American Gothic. Much to my happiness, I think I have found an rpg equivalent to the American Gothic series!

Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition is set in a small town called Potter’s Lake. The town is a lot like Mayberry R.F.D except that it serves as a sort of spiritual magnet for the weird. The thing is, the people of Potter’s Lake as a whole don’t seem to realize that there home is also a haven for the bizarre. They go on living their lives despite the large number of missing persons reports, spontaneous psionic manifestations, and a very healthy and robust series of hauntings. Basically, Potter’s Lake is a town where the creepy little rumors that circulate through the pre-teen crowd are all true.

Let me start by saying that Heaven and Earth touches on a lot of my favorite aspects of a well written setting. I am a sucker for settings that go for detail rather than generics. Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition takes the time to set up Potter’s Lake as a living and breathing setting, going so far as to not only detail the various locales of interest but also to give bios and backgrounds of 25 of the more intriguing people of the town. I like this kind of detail – a lot. It makes the job of the GM a whole lot easier and makes the environment for the PCs significantly more compelling.


Players of Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition create normal characters. That’s right. The game strongly suggests that exceptional or weird characters are not the default type of PC (as opposed to just about every other rpg on the market). Instead, the game provides character creation rules to help build normal PCs – doctors, park rangers, mechanics, school bus driver, etc. The key to divergence in PC generation from most other rpgs, is that the weirdness of Potter’s Lake is wonderfully juxtaposed by the mundane PCs. As the PCs grow and advance they get a chance to uncover the various secrets of Potter’s Lake, and with some good roleplaying, become just as odd as the rest of the town. This is another aspect of the game I really enjoyed.

Heaven and Earth is the first RPG that I know of that encourages normal starting characters with the implied promise that the setting and gaming will be interesting enough to keep the players motivated. Considering the compelling back story to Potter’s Lake, I have no doubt about this promise!


The back story to Heaven and Earth is one of its biggest strengths. Potter’s lake is weird. Its inhabitants are weird. However, there is a reason for all the weirdness, and it is a good one! Basically, all the oddities of Potter’s Lake link back in one way or another to the big secret behind the town – the secret that the entire game is based on. During my first read I was a little worried that the game wouldn’t justify why the weirdness seemed to make a home in Potter’s Lake, but my fear ultimately proved unfounded. Without ruining the mystery behind Potter’s Lake, let us suffice to say that it is becoming a pivotal battleground for the future of humanity!

And the best part? Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition assumes that the players are going to find out about the secret of Potter’s Lake. Instead of hiding the back story from the GM or the players, the game is built around the idea that, in time, the PCs will uncover the secret and work with it to their own ends. The most interesting parts of a lot of rpgs are their hidden secrets, and too often those secrets are withheld from the GM or remain undiscovered by the players.


The mechanics to Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition are pretty simple and encompass about 1 pages including combat. Basically, the harder a thing is to do the smaller the die type your PC has access to. Something easy will get a D2, while something damn near impossible will get a D4. There are of course modifiers for a character’s experience with the task based on the individual PC’s stats. There is also a nice little fate mechanic called “Destiny.” By expending one point of Destiny a character can re-roll a failed attempt, or with two points of spent Destiny, automatically pass a check. Two points of Destiny, while expensive, can be extremely useful for those situations where you are only rolling a D4. All in all, the mechanics of Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition walk a fine line between rules-lite and rules-heavy. There is a certain emphasis away from combat, so combat-wombles may want to stay clear (though, it should also be noted that the setting is not very combat friendly either).

Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition, while focusing on mundane starting PCs, does have rules for all sorts of supernatural events and creatures. Inside there are rules for spirits, mages (which operate metaphysically a lot like White Wolf’s Mage: The Ascension in that belief and will can warp reality), the Gifted (Heaven and Earth’s take on psionics), the Goetia (ancient spirits connected to some aspect of reality), Secret Societies, Angels, and Demons. There is a lot for Heaven and Earth to cover, and it does so quite well with specialized rules for each creature.

The big problem is that I really wanted to see the same loving attention to detail that was paid to the setting carried over to the creatures and spirits that live there as well. Unfortunately, clocking in at almost 13 pages there just was not enough room. However, it does whet my appetite to see what supplements will be coming out from Abstract Nova – if only to further define these creatures and their complex relationships with the people of Potter’s Lake.


Something else I really dug about Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition are the writers. Lucien Soulban, my all time favorite rpg writer, helped work on this version- a nice surprise for me when I leafed through the credits. Also credited are Lee Foster, Michelle Lyons, James, Maliszewski, and John R Phython. I am familiar with Lyons and Maliszewski (as well as Soulban) who are experienced rpg authors. Their background shows through in the enjoyable and entertaining style of the book’s writing. The prose and style of the writing is quite good, and the language is very accessible.


The art of Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition is above average, but not spectacular. I did appreciate that all the NPCs received their own portraits, obviously drawn by artists familiar with the text. In each case, the NPC’s picture reflects their occupation and general description, helping to bring the character to life visually. In fact, throughout the book the art largely reflects the writing specific to the page which is something I always appreciate. The art is solid and in a few cases like the NPC portraits mentioned above, really helps to bring the text to life. The cover is very pretty, but I noticed that the person featured on the cover has his eyes pointing in two different directions. While I think the funky eyes are intentional (the rest of the picture is very clean and symmetrical when it needs to be – leading me to think the artist would not have neglected the focus of the picture’s eyes) they get to me. I just do not dig on the two directions of the guy’s eyes – they make me go a little bit cross-eyed myself!


In the end, I was very pleased with Heaven and Earth, 3rd edition. It definitely seems to have been worth all three iterations. I liked this game a good deal, and encourage anyone that is looking for a little twist to their roleplaying experience to look into it. All the elements are there to make a game with Heaven and Earth a very enjoyable and refreshingly different experience.

I highly suggest looking for Heaven and Earth when it comes out in September.

RPGs Off My Shelf – July

Saturday, August 21st, 2004

Welcome to the inaugural column of what I hope becomes a regular event. This is “Off My Shelf” and is my opportunity to look back at the best and worst role playing games I have come across in my nearly 2 years of gaming. In that time, I have collected a nice size rpg collection, large enough for me to feel comfortable to list off my favorites (and least favorites) of the rpgs that I have come across in my experience as both a Game Master and a player.

The goal of this column is not to review the rpgs I discuss here since I have no doubt that they all have been reviewed before. No, instead with “Off My Shelf” I would like to take the opportunity to compare and contrast what parts of the rpgs I like and dislike and hopefully encourage discussion as well as encourage gamers who are unfamiliar with the rpgs in question to take the time and check them out. If you are a sports fan, you may be familiar with's “Power Rankings.” If so, you have a pretty good idea of what I am looking to do with “Off My Shelf.”

As this column grows and progresses, you will get a feeling for who I am. With any luck, this will be more than a self-masturbatory project and will involve some discussion as to what I missed, what I ranked incorrectly, and generally helps prompt some lively discussion on the better qualities of the better rpgs out there. So, to help avoid making this a pointless narcissistic exercise, I strongly encourage anyone that agrees or disagrees with me to post their thoughts on the 1km1kt rpg forums. So, please, if you have any comments, feel free to share them.

So, rather than blather on, let me start this month with one of my all-time favorite rpg genre:

Honorable mention:

  • Stardrive (TSR) – solid and fun kitchen sink game.
  • Fading Suns – Similar in feel to Dune, but with aliens and arbitrary splats that I don't like much.
  • Traveler (SJGames) – the grand-daddy of sci-fi rpgs that I still buy loyally. The GURPS presentation is the best, IMO.

My Top Five Sci-Fi rpg settings

5. SLA Industries (Nightfall/Hogshead) – SLA Industries is a very dark rpg put together by a bunch of Brits. All in all, it is everything, in my opinion, that Warhammer 4K should have been. It is gothic, brooding, powerful, and generally oppressive. However, I take all those qualities as a good thing. SLA Industries challenges the players to come up with some nasty characters- equal part Rifts and Vampire. The game also fully embraces powergaming as a core aspect and instead of letting that style of play overwhelm the setting, SLA Industries is able to ensure that as bad ass as your character may be, there is assuredly at least a couple others out there just a little bit more bad ass.

I really like the tone and feel of SLA Industries and I really like how it encourages players to play badasses in the same way Exalted does the same for fantasy players. The editing is a bit sloppy and the sentence structure can get awkward at times keeping this as my number 5. I also feel like the powergaming aspect of the game does get a bit too much at times- a little restraint on some parts of the setting would have been welcome. Even with my problems, the presentation is solid and the world is fascinating.

Anyone interested in SLA Industries should be forewarned that there is a hidden backstory to the game that has been the core of some very nasty flamewars on the net. I like the backstory, but think the SLA Industires settings stands on its own merit without the beackstory. A little searching on the world wide web will turn up the backstory, and it is, indeed, nifty, but it has been the source for all sorts of consternation on the part of GMs, players, and the designer. You have been warned.

4. Jovian Chronicles (Dream Pod 9) – Jovian Chronicles (JC) is a skillful blending of hard sci-fi and mecha with just enough pulpy goodness to make sure the setting encourages gameplay a lot like the Gundam episodes that inspired the game. I like the feel of JC and I really like the larger-than-life mecha. In fact, JC has some of the best presented vehicles of any Sci-fi rpg and considering the genre, this is a major asset to the rpg. JC is supported well with a number of supplements that cover the different planets and vehicles of the setting. I respect JC for being a game that avoids dealing with FTL drives, and instead recognizes that the solar system can certainly be big enough to encourage all sorts of adventures. Plus, the politics of JC is quite juicy; a cold war between Jupiter and Earth looms and the inner planets play off one another to gain advantage. Venus is especially appealing to me, a hyper-modern militarized Japanese-like society- it plays a delicate game working with and against the Earth Imperialists.

The detractions of the Jovian Chronicles setting are the imbalanced presentation of the setting. As the supplements were developed (basically from SolaPol onwards) there was a shift in the Earth-as-simple-and-direct-bad-guys to Earth-as-potentially-misunderstood-and-not-as-bad-imperialists. There is also some really horrid numbers editing in the mechanical catalogs (vehicle books) that make the utility of some of the ships are bit harder to utilize- taking away from the setting as a whole. Still, the presentation and the sheer fun of the setting override the downsides.

3. Transhuman Space (Steve Jackson Games) – I am so very fond of this setting. When I first heard about it I thought it was an intriguing idea that would probably not translate well into a setting. Boy, was I wrong. Transhuman Space (THS) is all about taking the modern world and fast-forwarding it. The designer, David Pulver, seems to have taken all the really interesting bits from Popular Science and mixed them together into a setting. Technology is at believable levels, social and political development make sense (and, in some cases, do not make much sense- which, I think, is very appropriate), and the general presentation of one possible future for mankind is riveting reading. Transhuman Space does not pull any punches- rather, it seeks to explore the weird technology and society of the future. Philosophy, memetics and religion play major roles in THS- something I think is handled by the game quite well. I am also quite fond of the presentation of Artificial Intelligences and Ghosts/Emulations as potential PCs. All in all, Transhuman Space is the setting for those of us that like our sci-fi hard. An absolutely amazing setting.

While I am trying to stick to the merits of a setting independent of anything else, I must say that the art in the core THS book by Christopher Shy is both appropriate and evocative. THS is quite surreal at times, but just recognizable as to make it playable- and Shy's art complements that feel perfectly.

My minor problems with THS are the goofiness that plays into the setting (I really dislike humor that I can label 'goofy'). There are some really weird and humorous things inserted into the setting that I feel breaks the continuity of the setting. Sure, it helps lighten the mood of an otherwise very (VERY) serious rpg, but humor in rpgs needs to be very thoughtful and well done- and the occasional bits of humor in THS feels more like an afterthought or shallow parody of the modern era- neither of which I feel took a lot of time to think up and detract from the hyper-evolved setting of THS. Luckily, these spates of humor are few and far between and are pretty easy to ignore.

2. Blue Planet (Biohazard/Fantasy Flight Games) – I will forever be indebted to Fantasy Flight Games for taking the steps to make sure Blue Planet received the support it deserved after the untimely demise of Biohazard games. Blue Planet is another relatively hard Sci-fi game (see a pattern?) that focuses in depth on the development of a single planet (in this case Poseidon). I particularly like how Blue Planet does not seek to provide us with a whole grocery list of planets and star systems, and instead works to make their fictional setting as compelling as it can be. Like my admiration of JC for staying within the Solar System, I like Blue Planet even better for taking the philosophy of setting development one step further. Poseidon is one of the (if not the) most thoughtfully well developed single planet in rpg history.

The development of the ecology in Blue Planet and the interactions between native and Earth species are stories just waiting to be told. The technology is all sufficiently advanced while still recognizable to present any tech-head with the gadgets and gears to have a blast. The mysteries behind the aborigines are presented in such a way as to make it clear that potential players are to avoid that information while still being readily accessible to Game masters. The presentation of cetaceans and genetically altered humans is great and worth a look alone (Ancient Echoes is one of my all time favorite rpg supplements). All in all, a great setting that gets into the nitty-gritty of what makes an alien world interesting.

The only reason Blue Planet is not number one is my predilection for space opera. Otherwise, Blue Planet has just about everything a gamer could want.

1. Heavy Gear 2nd edition (Dream Pod 9) – Dream Pod 9 really does put out some quality settings. While the support can be haphazard in quality, the ideas behind the settings are second-to-none, and in my opinion, Heavy Gear is the pinnacle of merging fun ideas, mecha, science, space travel, politics, and space opera into a single compelling setting. The default setting, both pre- and post- advancement of the metaplot (which I will not spoil), is just dripping with campaign ideas.

Heavy Gear has, arguably, the best support of any sci-fi rpg out there (except for maybe Traveller). The thing that really gets me jazzed about Heavy Gear is the consistently interesting and coherent setting that is put together through the supplements. Not only do we have a very detailed core world in Terra Nova, but we also have the benefit of getting some detailed support for Caprice (a great setting in and of itself) and then some nice general support for a number of the other planets involved in the Heavy Gear setting. Heavy Gear creates a setting worthy of some great campaigns and is admirably established to handle all types of adventures- from military, to political, to criminal investigation, to exploration, to espionage, to just-about-whatever. Heavy Gear also presents an interesting political atmosphere that encompasses multiple factions on Terra Nova as well as a complicated web of alliances and enemies throughout the other colonies and Earth. I really like the political atmosphere of Heavy Gear.

The presentation of the technology is absolutely wonderful, with options for the military minded who dig on field variants of established vehicles, to people less interested in tech and happy to work with general stats for “generic 9mm Gyroc Pistol.” The high quality of Dream Pod 9's ability to translate science and mechanics into an interesting vehicle (highlighted by the Heavy Gears themselves) really shines through in the setting. And the Gears? They are probably the coolest and most believable mecha I have encountered.

I also enjoy the consistently high quality of the supplements. Each supplement dissects different parts of the Heavy gear universe and does so in such a way as to make each sub-section worthy of attention and campaign ideas. There is a lot to work through in the Heavy Gear body of work, but it is all worthwhile and each part helps craft a compelling larger picture of multiple worlds locked together in their respective destinies. In Heavy Gear, the sum of the overall picture is much larger than the component (and high quality) supplements.

I will say that Heavy Gear does have some problems, most of which involve the metaplot, but these metaplot generated quirks often work out to a better setting. Most notably, the advancement of the metaplot started before all the nations of Terra Nove were detailed- normally this would drive me nuts. However, the advancement of the plot made it so the last nation detailed, the Eastern Sun Emirates, is presented in a more fascinating situation than if it had been detailed solely before the metaplot was advanced. Additionally, the metaplot helped ensure we got to other planets- and thus, what helped move Heavy Gear into a game that both detailed a core world (Terra Nova- the default setting) as well as a web of other interesting planets. So, to Heavy Gear's credit, what would normally be a negative helps push the setting forward into better supplements.

For what it is worth, I am not as fond of Heavy Gear 3rd ed (linked to SilCore)- the support for the setting has been lackluster. If you want a spectacular sci-fi setting that gives you options and encourages some nifty gaming, then go find yourself a copy of Heavy Gear 2nd edition- I seriously doubt you will be disappointed.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to pop over to the forums and voice your opinion.

Thanks, and see you next month.

Chris Gunning
Chris Gunning writes copy for the “one thousand monkeys, one thousand typewriters” website, where they accept open submissions and provide publication resources for artists and writers in the fantasy, science fiction, and role-playing genres. His site can be found at:

So, why do a contest for StickGuy?

Thursday, August 5th, 2004

I am just going to let it all out on this, and hopefully give a little prospective to the entrants of the StickGuy setting contest. I want to set a standard right here and now for and myself, I want to add a little commentary (a blog if you will) to the major undertakings here at so that whoever drops by can get a little legit insight to what we are doing and why we are doing it.

So, why do a contest for StickGuy? There are a number of reasons:

Basically, we are doing this for the exposure. is still a very new site, and a lot of the people that deal with the site on a regular basis are the ones that helped put the site together. I’d like to see the website forums and contribution increase, and I can’t think of a better way to encourage the kind of people we want at to drop by than through a contest that asks people to have a little fun writing and use up a little bit of their creative juices. If we can get some people to drop by the site, post once in a while (maybe ask a few questions about StickGuy or whatnot), and generally help the site prosper, then great. We like and we hope other people will as well. Even better, if we can help make a haven for freelancers of all types, then we will be quite content with the site. The key, of course, is that we need creative people to drop in and help make a community here.

Basically, we are doing this because it is fun.

Honestly, this is a major reason for the setting contest. StickGuy is a fun little rules-set. It surely is not the end-all-be-all of role playing games nor is it even the best example of a rules-lite rpg. What it is though, is fun (and free). I think it is a versatile rules-set and want to see if anyone out there agrees. So, by putting together the setting contest we are encouraging people to play around with StickGuy, have a bit of fun, and put together some material that will help the StickGuy rpg grow. I think it will be fun to read all the entries and share them with other roleplayers out there. I think it will be fun to talk a little StickGuy on the forums. I think it will be fun to talk about all the oddball settings people will come up with. And, in the end, I think it will be a lot of fun deciding which setting takes the cake (in this case $4U.S.).

Basically, we are doing this to see if we can do it. is really a one man show. Keeton Harrington, a good friend of mine, is putting a lot of effort into the site as a bit of a pet project. StickGuy is my pet project' something that came about late one evening after I got home from working in a movie theatre. In both cases, our little labors of love have grown about as far as we can push them on our own' now it is time to see if we can encourage and StickGuy to grow even further. It’s a bit of a challenge, but Keet and I are not ones to give up.

So, here we are, offering a bounty of forty bucks to whoever can put the best setting for StickGuy together' and in the mean time, help us at complete a few personal goals of our own.

Thanks for your time,

Chris Gunning

Chris Gunning writes copy for the 'one thousand monkeys, one thousand typewriters' online publishing group, where they accept open submissions and provide publication resources for artists and writers in the roleplaying game, fantasy, and science fiction genres. His site can be found at:

Chris J. Gunning

Friday, July 30th, 2004

Legendary Hero, Reality Fulcrum.

Chris was born in the late 7’s (and to dispel the rumor – NOT the early 5’s) to the horror of a nation. He stands over seven feet tall and can eat a whole watermelon in one sitting. In stark contrast, he occupies comparatively little space to you or I. It is this efficiency that separates him from the animals. Chris defies an exact place of birth because I’ve never bothered to ask him. How would he know for sure anyway?

We do know that he was raised in Texas and dubbed it the Lone Star state shortly after his favorite holiday – The Day After Christmas. Chris has been with 1KM1KT since the beginning and maintains a steady vigil as lead-copywriter and protector of the innocent. Without his contributions we would surely be short one writer.

Currently, Chris is doing an unnamed service for his country in the foreign nation of Bangladesh, where he spends his time privately voicing concerns about the rainy season. Chris is known as the king behind the king, and sometimes the king to the immediate left of the king.

He makes no bones about anything.

A decorated writer, Chris has been published by such outstanding organizations as White Wolf , Privateer Press, Dream Pod Nine, and Majestic 12 Games. His contributions to 1KM1KT include the monthly column Off My Shelf as well as StickGuy the Roleplaying Game and a variety of Spycraft supplements.

He is an avid member of and where his posts are repeatedly replied to.

When asked where he wanted to be in ten years, Chris said:

“I want to move the professional basketball season to the summer. Have it start right after March Madness and continue on into the summer and early parts of the Fall. Right now, all we got during the summer is baseball and (ungh) NASCAR… so it will not be competing for the attention of the public as much as it does now (against Football, College Basketball, College Football, and Hockey). If you move basketball into the summer you have more access to the arena (since you are not competing with hockey games) as well as a general public that has less sports to watch. Plus, basketball is a summer sport… it makes sense.”

Which we found a little confusing.

Anywho, Chris – we like you. Thank you for being here.


StickGuy, the Roleplaying Game

StickGuy the Role Playing Game

Thursday, January 1st, 2004

A beer and pretzels (very tongue-in-cheek) rpg for people with absolutely no artistic talent by the guys at 1KM1KT

StickGuy is made to be a lighthearted romp into the world of roleplaying.A given game of StickGuy should be played in an evening with little to no preparation required. Just follow the rules, make a character, find a GM, copy the plot from some cheesy cable TV show, and go to it. StickGuy uses D4s. Why D4s Cause no one else uses them and they feel lonely.

Character Creation

Take a single D4 and roll it. The result is your POWER score. Record your Power on your character sheet (of course, in this case, character sheet refers to any available piece of paper that you have handy- or a cocktail napkin, or toilet paper, or your friends sweaty shirt, or whatever).

The inverse of your Power score is your KARMA score. If you have a 4 in Power, you have a 1 in Karma. A 3 in Power gives you a 2 in Karma and so on. Write your Karma down on your sheet.

Draw a stick figure on your character sheet (using the Six Body Parts; head, body, left arm, right arm you know the rest). You are now over half done with character creation. What you have on your character sheet is the beginnings of a StickGuy character.

For those of you who are slower than most, here is an example of what you should have thus far:

Happy now

Now think hard. You must pick a PROFESSION for your StickGuy. Any profession will do. Label that profession in big letters and draw something onto your StickGuy to indicate that profession (ie: a player with a Traveling Salesman StickGuy would draw a simple briefcase).

The next step is to think of the things that make your stick guy special (special in this case probably referring to why your StickGuy rode the ShortStickBus to StickSchool). Pick three ATTRIBUTES that describe your StickGuy. Two of those attributes should be beneficial and the third should be a hindrance. Now, list those attributes clearly on your ever-so-complicated character sheet making sure to list the hindering attribute last (for Gawds sake, make sure it is last! This is easily the most important rule in StickGuy).

Please note that your character probably looks pretty plain right now. Take stock of your attributes and draw something onto your StickGuy to indicate each one of those attributes. For example, a Pretty StickGirl would have hair or a little skirt. An Angry StickGuy would have a frown and maybe some mean looking eyebrows (take note: never taunt an angry StickGuy. Trust us on this one). If you need more examples then you probably shouldnt be playing StickGuy.

The last step is to name your StickGuy. Pick 2 random pages in an available phonebook. On the first page select the first name you notice. That is now your StickGuys first name. Do the same for the second page. The second name is now your StckGuys last name.

There you are done. Seriously. Just to recap:

1) Roll a D4 to get a Power Score (as well as your Karma score)

2) Draw a stick figure and write down the Power and Karma scores

3) Give your figure a Profession- write it at the top and draw it on the figure

4) Pick 3 Attributes (2 beneficial, 1 hindering) and draw something appropriate on your figure for each attribute

5) Randomly generate a name.

Example Character:

Traveling Salesman of Doom,

James Peltier

Selected Attributes (reflected in the picture):

Deadly (wearing a ninja mask)

Strong (see the muscles)

Kinda Slow (untied shoelaces)

The Golden Rule for StickGuy:

Keep it simple. No elaborate drawings (and heaven forbid you include any detail). No complicated scenarios. No confusing backgrounds. No compound sentences. Nada.
At the point where you have to critically think about StickGuy then you are going about the whole game wrong. Rules debates are straight out.


First off, you are more than welcome to place the word Stick in front of any noun you would like during play. If you are crafty enough to place Stick onto a gerund or adverb- then bully for you. Of course, be careful, if you do add Stick to a gerund then you will lose experience cause you just made the game too damned hard (see the Golden Rule)

There is only one stat: POWER. That is it. No more, no less (okay, well, that isnt entirely true). Power measures your StickCharacters ability to get STUFF done. Stuff entails all sorts of things- just about anything you want your character to do in the course of the game. Wanna jump across a rooftop to another Your Power attribute will measure that. Wanna befriend a StickDog Power can do that too. Wanna win the lottery Well, if it is in StickTown, then yeah, Power covers that as well.

Besides Power there is Karma- which really isnt a stat, no matter what it looks like. Honest. Karma allows those StickGuys who got screwed in character generation to have their vengeance. Though more limited than Power, Karma points can be spent to turn just about any given situation to your StickGuys advantage. This is, perhaps, the most important rule in StickGuy.

In any event in which your attributes might come into play you can add a +1 or 1 as appropriate to your power. Thus, our Pretty StickGirl heroine who is flirting with the Surly StickGuy Mob Boss will get a +1 to her power cause the Lord of Organized StickCrime is impressed with her (because she is pretty). Alternately, a Stupid StickGuy might get a 1 to just about all situations- and yes, it is very possible to have a negative Power score in order to get Stuff done. Thems the breaks.

Getting Stuff done:

To get Stuff done the GM makes an arbitrary guess as to how difficult it is to do that Stuff. The harder it is to do, the higher the number. There, of course, is no upper limit, and difficulties of 16 are certainly not unheard of (and is probably encouraged for those bedamned players trying to make StickGuy into a real roleplaying game. Bah!).

The player rolls a D4 adding the result to the official StickGuy Power score of their character. The result, if higher than the difficulty assigned by the GM, is a success- and your Stickguy does his/her Stuff. If the result is equal to the difficulty assigned by the Stick GM (see how we just slipped that usage of stick in there Smooth as silk) then the action to do Stuff was not yet successful and the StickGuy character must wait another turn to do that Stuff.

Stopping Stuff from Happening:

To stop Stuff from happening you have two choices (both of which involve Karma- hey, we never said they were going to be good choices). Erase a Karma point from the character sheet and veto the Stuff. Thus, if someone tries to hurt your character, you can spend a Karma point and tell them No. That simple. Course, they could also spend a Karma point and veto your veto. Screw.

The second choice is to have someone loan you a Karma point. You can swing it however you want, but as long as you get some other chump player to say they will give you a Karma point and they do indeed erase that point then you gain a temporary Karma point to spend to prevent that aforementioned Stuff from happening. You may optionally yell fool and laugh at the player who gave you the Karma point (indeed, at this point it is not a loan. If they actually thought you were somehow going to pay them back then well maybe they will fall for it a second time).


To resolve a combat where StickGuys are trying to hurt one another (the horror!) you must have lots of pieces of paper handy. Post-it notes will do just fine. At the beginning of combat everyone needs to secretly draw what their character is doing on a sheet of paper. Feel free to add in props as appropriate, though the GM has an unending supply of Karma and so may veto any exceptionally stupid, outlandish, or complicated action. Also feel free to write names if need be to clarify beforehand exactly who you are laying the whammy upon.

Everyone reveals their piece of paper simultaneously. The player with the highest Power goes first- and their action is resolved (if two players have equal Power then a duel to the death is appropriate). The play then passes to the player (or NPSG) with the next highest Power and on down. Players may, at any time, feel free to spend Karma. This is, without a doubt, the most important rule in StickGuy.


If your character is hurt by something (well, just about anything) erase one the Six Body Parts and add an appropriate hindering attribute. When either the Body or the Head are erased, your character has gone to StickHeaven (which will be detailed shortly in a supplement).


If your character makes it through a game then they earn 1 experience point. If your character does something cool then at the end of the night you get 5 experience points (yes, even if your character dies you still get 5 experience points. Not sure what you are going to do with them, but there they are). The GM, at his or her whim, may hand at any other denominations of experience as they see fit oh, and since we are on a roll with this whole handin experience out thing then the GM gets 1 experience whenever they damn well please.

Now, what can you do with experience points Well, 1 experience point will allow your character to heal a body part. Other than that, it is up to the GM, its their game after all (and we here at 1km1kt are more than a bit lazy).


A StickGuy through adventuring may come up with some nifty equipment. At any point in a game, a player may announce they are picking up some piece of Appropriate equipment from their surroundings. Appropriate means anything the GM thinks fits the scene (see the Lexicon for an official definition). A banana in a Tropicana factory is Appropriate. Finding a Minigun in that same factory is not Appropriate. A StickGuy can only ever have four pieces of equipment at a time.

Often, a character may start with a piece of equipment if it is appropriate to their profession (and bully to you for being wily enough to weasel out an extra piece of equipment).

A StickGuy equipped with something useful in a given situation can gain a +1 to their roll. Something both useful and neat gains +2. This means that some items or pieces of equipment can be useful in one scene and both neat and useful in another it all depends on how the player explains the interaction of the equipment on the environment (yeah, its a drag having to be creative and all, but you gotta do something worth a full +2, no).

Using a crowbar you picked up in the last scene at a StickAutoBodyRepairShop to open a door will get you a +1. Using that same crowbar on a StickIncarnation of that fat purple bastard Barney will get you +2 cause that is both neat and useful.

A Katana always is +3. Screw all those other rules, this is, unquestionably, the most important rule in StickGuy.

Lexicon (to help avoid too much thinking):

  • Power: The ability to get Stuff done.
  • Stuff: The stuff done with Power (there, clear as mud).
  • Attributes: The stuff that gives a StickGuy a bit of personality.
  • StickGuy: Denizens of StickWorld. The have Power and do Stuff.
  • Karma: Most definitely NOT a Stat.
  • NPSG: Non-Player StickGuy. The StickGuys under the GMs control.
  • Six Body Parts: Head, body, left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg and you do the hockey-pokey and you turn yourself around
  • GM: Gary Marchant of Egan, Minnesota he is the guy in charge (and dont you forget it!)
  • Profession: What your StickGuy complains about to his chums.
  • Appropriate: A fancy rpg way of saying whatever the GM damn well pleases.
  • Stat: Synonymous with Power and only Power, no matter what the GM says.

The Official StickGuy Setting:

The setting of Stickguy is just as serious as the character creation process. Be warned, this game is not for the feint of heart. In the city of StickTown there are all sorts of nasty things running around, not the least of which are the 1 lb Gorillas that people keep referring to.

StickTown is the only city on the planet in which the people of StickGuy live. It is a massive, sprawling metropolis, built upon the back of all sorts of crudely drawn laborers. In StickTown anything and everything is possible- just as long as the powers-that-be agree. You see, StickTown is not a carefree place where StickPeople run around, living their happy lives, and doing happy StickThings. Oh no. StickTown is a den of inequity, run by powerful organizations and driving the good people of StickTown under their heel.

and I bet you thought this was going to be a fun little game, huh

(Editors note: for those of you who care, and you know who you are, this is the first and only example of the StickPunk genre)

StickTown, in a nutshell, is a crude place, both in terms of the art and in terms of the political and social machinations that run the city. The city as a whole is ruled with an iron fist (though it should be mentioned that it is a tiny iron fist) by the Mayor. The Mayor is a ruthless man, determined to hang on to his power by any means necessary. He maintains his power through a whole host of contacts with the criminal organizations that operate within StickTown.

Under the Mayor are the leaders of the criminal organizations. In StickGuy the Mafia, the Yakuza, the Oganistazia, and Zombies all operate with the tacit approval of the Mayor.

Mechanics of the Factions of the City:

A faction may only be chosen for a particular character after that character makes it through their first game of StickGuy largely intact. A crafty GM will make membership in a faction worth experience (we here at 1km1kt suggest at least 5 character points make the players sweat a bit in that first game to see if they can get all that xp).

If you decide to make your character a member of a faction, then the character automatically gains access to that factions nifty mechanical benefits and abilities. The faction now becomes the characters profession and the character must adopt the appropriate corresponding attributes (there should be exactly one positive and one negative attribute associated with each faction). Joining faction means that you must also draw an appropriate addition onto your StickGuy. If you cant think of an appropriate drawing to add for your chosen faction then for gawds sake dont admit it and make something up. Youve come too far to admit that StickGuy is too complicated to your friends (theyre all going to laugh at you!)

The ability to decide on factions also means that at the beginning of any game you may decide to have your character affiliate themselves with one (and only one dont get greedy) faction. Yes, you may switch factions at the beginning of each an every game but be prepared to carry the wrath of lots of pissed off StickGuy factions (which, as we hear, is a really bad thing).

The Zombies:

Every night, when the moon reaches its zenith (or is that nadir), the Zombies emerge from the sewers. Now, these are not some mis-named gang of street thugs or a slang term for the homeless. Nope, these are honest to goodness brain eating Zombies- or at least as real and as scary as a StickZombie can be.

Bonus Ability: Brains! If a zombie character eats another StickGuys brains then they can regenerate a lost body part.

Bonus Positive Attribute: Relentless

Bonus Hindering Attribute: Nasty

The Yakuza:

They manage the waterfront, warring with the Pirates that constantly raid the shore. They are known to do all sorts of dastardly things, especially with their elite pajama clad assassins, the feared Ninja.
Bonus Ability: On an attack roll of 4+ the Yakuza character can select any one body part of their opponent to erase (except the body or the head).

Bonus Positive Attribute: Slick

Bonus Hindering Attribute: Cocky

The Organistazya:

They are like the Mafia, but wear cool furry Russian hats and speak with a much more impressive accent.

Bonus Ability: Cooler than the Mafia because of that Hat. Organistazya members gain +1 to all rolls when fighting Mafia or Yakuza.

Bonus Positive Attribute: Remorseless

Bonus Hindering Attribute: Cranky

The 1000 lb Gorillas:

They mostly just sit around, occasionally causing havoc and generally doing it is whatever Gorillas do. It is whispered that they are the true movers and shakers of Sticktown. Of course, it is the Gorillas that do most of that whispering.

Bonus Ability: If a Gorilla decides not to move, there is nary a force in the StickUniverse that can move said primate. A Gorilla may spend one Karma and make it so that they cannot be moved from their position- not even with other players expending Karma (note that by other players this, of course, does not refer to Gary Marchant.) Similarly, when not moving (and with the Karma spent) a Gorilla cannot lose their head or body in combat (Yes, they are that hard to move). This ability is negated if the player has their Gorilla move. Bonus Positive Attribute: Really, Really Strong Bonus Hindering Attribute: Slow

The Templars:

Yup, if you have the Yakuza and Zombies, it is only a matter of time before the Templars show up (cause you know what they say, when you mix the undead and a bit of Japanese style organized crime, you are bound to end up with a secret order of disavowed holy knights or something like that). Most people who know of the Templars think that they work for the Mayor- implying that the Mayor is probably Catholic.

Bonus Ability: No Templar worth their salt will go anywhere without a SwordBoy (or StickSwordBoy in this case). The player of the Templar may make a bonus StickGuy character to represent the StickSwordBoy. The StickSwordBoy only gets no Power and only one Karma- but they are there for the Templar to control. Oh, yeah, the StickSwordBoy only gets one attribute: Feeble. StickSwordBoys can never gain experience (unless the GM says so).

Bonus Positive Attribute: Holy

Bonus Hindering Attribute: Arrogant

The Pirates:

They live on their rickety wooden ships and occasional wander ashore for booty. They have the coolest acoutrements of any faction eye-patches, peg-legs, parrots, tattoos. The Pirates and the Yakuza are currently involved in a blood-war over some unnamed insult.

Bonus Ability: A Pirate starts with a cannon. A cannon is considered both neat and useful in any situation that involves water and/or boarding parties.

Bonus Positive Attribute: Resourceful

Bonus Hindering Attribute: Surly

The Mafia:

Think about those annoying door-to-door magazine salesmen. Now, give those same pushy salesmen guns. Now, imagine those salesmen, with guns, drawn as a StickGuy. There, now you have the Mafia.

Bonus Ability: A Mafia made-man knows how to get out of any jam. A Mafia character gets one extra Karma point at the beginning of the game. This karma, like all good things, is lost at the end of the game if it is unspent.

Bonus Positive Attribute: Remorseless

Bonus Hindering Attribute: Cranky

The Ninjas:

They are probably the true power behind everything and are allied with the Yakuza. Best advice Dont screw with them. RealUltimatePower and all that. The Ninja are rumored to be fleeing the predations of the vile Samurai but thus far the Samurai have not made it to the city. Damned Samurai.

Bonus Ability: The Ninja are everywhere and nowhere at once. They can use a cover identity and retain their original profession while still being a Ninja (and a subtle player can keep their faction a secret this way). This also allows a Ninja to hide their bonus Attributes. Additionally, a Ninja must be killed twice (this last part is left for the GM to interpret. Sufficed to say that the Ninja of the City are a lot like katana-wielding cockroaches).

Bonus Positive Attribute: Mysterious

Bonus Hindering Attribute: Mentally Unbalanced