Out of Character

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Star Trek: Discovery Characters

As one of the main characters in Star Trek: Discovery Lieutenant Commander Saru fascinates me, he’s extremely different from most of the other characters we’ve seen on Star Trek over the years. For one thing he’s the first Kelpian to join Starfleet, but we’ve had many first officers over the years on other series. Data, Worf, and Nog were all the first members of their species to join Starfleet, but Saru is also the first member of his species we’ve even seen.

Another distinction is that he is far more cautious and willing to take the safer course than virtually any other character we’ve met. I think that will annoy some fans who will call him a coward, but I think it makes him an interesting member of the crew.

A lot of what came up during character creation was very different from when I made Michael before. I had to create a unique species and make some assumptions about Saru’s background that may not be accurate, so apologies if that proves to be the case.


Step 1: Species

So Saru is a Kelpian, a prey species from a world with dangerous predators. He’s also the first member of his species to join Starfleet. I used that tiny bit of information to choose what abilities would be enhanced. I went with +1 bonus to Fitness, Insight, and Reason. As a Prey species on a dangerous planet Kelpians would have to be reasonably fit to stay alive, Saru seems pretty insightful, and of course a species would have to be reasonable to survive under such harsh conditions.

For a trait I went with the Kelpians ability to sense death, which some people seem to love and others seem to hate. I can certainly see a scientific explanation for this ability despite all the naysayers. Kelpians may be able to sense the electrical activity present in a living creature’s brain, and they get an instinctive warning when that activity changes in a way consistent with brain death. This would certainly be a handy ability for a prey species to have, and it could come in hand for Starfleet officer.

When it came to their Talents I went with the way a sentient prey species would evolve, and came up with something old and something new.

Like Harry Dresden said, if something is trying to kill you being able to run away is always a good option. With that in mind I whipped up the talent Prey Species. Adapted for flight over fight responses Kelpians are capable of running at high speeds for prolonged periods of time over unforgiving terrain. You may take the Sprint Action  as normal with the following differences. If successful you may move two zones rather than one, and one additional zone per Momentum spent (Repeatable). Also, you ignore Terrain factors that would increase the Difficult of this Task.

The fact that Kelpians have hooves seems to support the idea that they can move one they want to, and thatthe terrain on their homeworld isn’t the most hospitable to sandals or going barefoot.

The second talent I came up with was What Your Species Calls Cowardice Mine Calls Caution. You may reduce the Difficulty to sense another beings true motives, or to detect a trap or ambush.

I chose not to have Saru use either of these talents as he isn’t your typical Kelpian, and I felt there were other options to explore for him. However if you want to make a Kelpian of your own and you do use those please let me know how they work out. The first Talent I chose for him was Quick to Action, allowing him to react quickly in a life or death situation thanks to his survival instincts.

Step 2: Environment


We don’t know much about Saru’s background yet but given that he is the first Kelpian in Starfleet I think it is safe to say he grew up on his homeworld. At this point I gave him a +1 to Reason and a +1 to Science. For his first Value I chose “You’re Either Predator or prey. My Species is Prey.” His instinct to survive certainly influences many of his choices.

Step 3: Upbringing

94b711aa8424076e7800c70e6f8dc53b59069ac2Here’s where I had to take a leap and try to draw some conclusions about Kelpian culture and Saru’s background. For now I am assuming they’re world is beautiful but deadly, and that the Kelpians are advanced enough to have wrap technology, but they’re still struggling for survival at home.

With that in mind I embraced the idea that Kelpian society is Agricultural or Rural for the most part. If they’re not preying on other creatures to survive they have to get their food from somewhere, and with predators hunting them I imagine they are nomadic or isolated.

Now we know Saru is a scientist, and being the first to leave home for a life in Starfleet it seems reasonable to say he rebelled against the norm of what is expected of his species. I He gained a +1 in Presence, a +2 in Reason a +1 in Engineering and a Focus in Botany. Although he hasn’t great knowledge of life sciences yet it seemed like a reasonable first choice for him to study up on.

For his Talent I chose Intense Scrutiny as he definitely the type to take his time getting the right answer rather than jumping to the wrong conclusion.

Step 4: Starfleet Academy

vlcsnap-00013-1I don’t imagine Starfleet was much fun for a younger Saru. Being the only member of his species there, and the first ever to attend the academy probably made him pretty isolated. Those things probably influenced the adult he grew to become more than a little, he’s always going to be at odds with the non-prey species, but he’s learned to work with them. Being a Science Officer Saru clearly followed the Sciences Track at Starfleet. He gained a +1 to Insight, +1 to Control, and +1 to Presence. He gained a +2 in the Science Discipline, a +1 in Con, and a +1 in Engineering. For his focuses I stuck to sciences to expand his areas of expertise as much as possible adding: Computers, Astrophysics, and Spatial Phenomenon.

I’d imagine young Saru threw himself into his studies and excelled, but he never managed to stand out as much except the Kelpian cadet.

For his Value I chose “I Am the First Kelpian to Join Starfleet, That is Courage Enough.” I’d imagine he’s proud of what he has achieved, and he sees it as a courageous act to leave his world to explore the stars. However, he does’t seem himself as foolhardy or brave as a rule.

For his Talent I chose Cautious (Science) as he is definitely willing to err on the side of caution when it comes to discover or hypothesis.

Step 5: Career


As with Michael Burnham I decided to make Saru an experienced officer, he has experience but he isn’t yet a veteran and he’s got a ways to go before getting there.

For his Value I added “If You Don’t Survive the Act of Discovery There’s Little Point to it.” I think a career in Starfleet has shown Saru more than he could ever imagine, and he has been witness to some amazing phenomenon and discoveries. At the same tie, he’s seen officers taking risks they didn’t need to, and more than one probably dying as a result. He’s a scientist first and an explorer second.

For his Talent I chose In the Nick of Time, giving him the ability to gain more benefit from taking longer periods of time to complete his work.

Step 6: Career Events

With Michael Burnham I outlined the events that took place during the first episodes of Star Trek Discovery to form her career events. I did the same thing with Saru, only this time the events played out from his perspective to form a very different narrative.

Event 1: Conflict with a Hostile Culture


Saru was also involved in the battle with the Kilingons, although far less directly, and more reluctantly than his Captain and First Officer were. He still gains a +1 in the Fitness Ability and a +1 in the Security Discipline. For his Focus I settled on Shipboard Tactical Systems. I think Saru certainly has a working knowledge of how the tactical systems work, and while he’s unlikely to be called upon as a tactical officer he can help improvise better defenses and offensive maneuvers.

Event 2: Called Out a Superior


When Michael attempted to override the Captain Saru sensed something was not right, and he stood up to his First Officer. This is a major moment for Saru. Everything about him up to this point suggests he’d keep his head down and follow orders, but he steps up and holds true to the orders his Captain has given, and the ideals of Starfleet. He gained a +1 to the Reason Ability and a +1 to the Con Discipline. For his Focus I went with Starfleet Protocol, he definitely knows the rules and when they’re being broken.

Event 3: Required to Take Command


I had a few options here, and while we don’t know Saru took command of the ship during the conflict at any point he was certainly on command on the bridge, and he may have been in charge after the captain died as one of the most senior officers. I went with that because it provided more growth to his character, and in my mind made more sense than the other choices available. He gained a +1 to his Daring ability and a +1 to his Command Discipline. For his Focus I chose Composure as Saru never lost his head during the crisis.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

To finish him off I gave Saru +1’s in both his Control and Presence abilities, as well as +1’s in his Science and Con Disciplines. He’s a capable officer who can fill in a number of roles aboard a starship, but he is definitely best suited to being a Science Officer.

His last Value is “You’re a Valuable Asset, but You’re Dangerous.” After his encounter with the Klingons and the betrayal of the captain I think Saru is a bit less trusting of his fellow officer’s motives. He does still see the value in cooperation, but his guard is up more than it was.

His Stress ended up at an 11, his Damage Bonus is a +2.

We can see how different the two characters to survive these events really are, and how that might influence the way the develop over time.

Saru character sheet

If you liked these last two entries please let me know. As more episodes of the series come out I may create character sheets for more of the crew if there is an interest.


Star Trek: Discovery Characters

After watching the first two episodes of Star Trek Discovery I found myself with the desire to whip up some of the characters for an RPG. I broke out my copy of Star Trek Adventures from Modiphius and put myself to work. Please be warned if you haven’t seen the show yet there will be spoilers contained below so please stop reading now.

First up, Lieutenant Commander Michael Burnham former first officer of the  USS Shenzhou.


Step 1: Species

This step as usual in this system was pretty simple Michael is a human. I chose to give her +1 bonuses to Daring, Fitness, and Presence respectively. For her first talent I chose Resolute. From what we saw of her early years these options made the most sense to me.

Step 2: Environment


After her family was killed by Klingons Sarak adopted Michael and raised her on Vulcan, This is a clear case of Another Species World so I chose that. Since she’d be raised by and among logic driven Vulcans I thought it best to giver her +1 here to Reason, I also gave her a +1 to the Science Discipline.

Her first given Value is “I Know the Klingons.” This represents her knowledge of the brutality with which the Klingons killed her family, and how their actions continue to influence hers to this day.

Step 3: Upbringing


Raised on Vulcan where she would one day be the first human to graduate from The Vulcan Science Academy Michael clearly excelled academically despite struggling emotionally. The Vulcans clearly tried to instill emotional control and logic as pillars to hold her up through her life. I gave her a +2 to Control, and a +1 to Reason respectively.

Since her focus was scientific study I also added a +1 to her Science Discipline.

I made her focus here Computers for a couple of reasons. One, it is a handy skill that most characters can find a use for. Two, we see her interacting with various computer systems on multiple worlds during the course of two episodes.

For her Talent I went with The Vulcan Nerve Pinch, which requires GM approval for non-Vulcans, which I kindly approved.

Step 4: Starfleet Academy

dsc-919-2vids-head.jpgHonestly I’m not 100% certain Michael ever went to Starfleet Academy. We see her arrive on the   USS Shenzhou as an adult, but we never see her go to Earth for an extended period to attend the academy. So, she either got her education from the Vulcans and Captain Philippa Georgiou directly bypassing Starfleet, or that experience hasn’t come up yet. I prefer to think she mentored under the captain and Starfleet bypassed the requirement as a courtesy.

Here she gained a +1 in Control, a +1 in Fitness, and a +1 in Reason. This was the time when she’d be learning how to be around humans while performing her duties aboard a a Starfleet vessel, I imagine she’d fall back on emotional stability before cracking her Vulcan shell so to speak. We also see her aiding the captain on at least one physically difficult mission, and nothing makes me think she isn’t the physically active sort, so a bump to fitness made sense too.

For Disciplines I gave her a +1 to Command and a +2 to Science. She is a xenoantropologist and she goes toe to toe with the chief science officer on a regular basis, so she needs to now her stuff. In addition, she was learning to take command from a decorated Starfleet Officer so she definitely picked up a few tricks.

Her added focuses were Anthropology, Linguistics, Xenobiology, and a custom Zero Gravity Operations.

The Value I chose here was “The Vulcans Abandoned This Outdated Transporter Technology Long Ago.” This was one of the first things she said to  Captain Georgiou after coming aboard and is indicative of the admiration she demonstrates to Vulcans.

The Talent I selected was Spirit of Discovery. Like many Starfleet officers Michael does seem to love boldly venturing into the unknown, and I think that fact become more pronounced as she spent time with humans.

Step Five: Career


I decided to make Michael an experienced officer, she’s been serving under Captain Georgiou for 7 years so she isn’t new to the ship. However, at the same time she doesn’t have decades of experience so this seemed like the best fit.

The Value I went with here was “If You’re Afraid of Everything You’ll Never Discover Anything.” Michael is an officer who takes chances and sometimes ignores the wisest course of action in favor of results. Sometimes that boldness pays off, other times it doesn’t.

For her last Talent I went with Dauntless. She isn’t easily cowed, frightened, or intimidated and that is something anyone who wants to command a crew needs to be able to say about themselves.

Step Six: Career Events

Here I focused on the events that occurred in the first two episodes of Discovery.

Event 1: Mentored


We know for certain that Captain Georgiu took an interest in her career and planned to help her secure her first command. They were familiar and used to working together, if not for ranks one might have called the other a friend. This mentoring granted Michael a much needed +1 to Presence, and a +1 to Command. I chose the Persuasion Focus because she seems like the sort who is willing to try to win folks over rather than scream them into submission.

Event 2: Conflict with a Hostile Culture


So Michael comes face to face with her own worst nightmare in the form of the Klingons as these two episodes unfold. She witnesses, and precipitates, a war between The United Federation of Planets and The Klingon Empire. She sees ships destroyed, and crews killed as the battle unfolds around them.

She gained a +1 increase to Fitness and a +1 to Security as those are the outcome of such an encounter. I chose to give her a Focus in hand-to-hand combat because we see her squaring off with multiple Klingons, and from the previews for episode 3 it seems like more fisticuffs are coming.

Event 3: The Death of a Friend

star-trek-discovery-georgiou-deathThe death of Captain Georgiu when she and Michael transported aboard the Klingon flagship was a major turning point for Michael. She’d betrayed everything to try and save the crew and her captain, only to see her killed right in front of her, and for their final mission to end in failure.

This event increases her Insight by +1, which makes sense given how much she learned from these events. It also increased her Medicine Discipline by +1. For her final focus I went with hand phasers which we see her use to avenge the Klingon who killed her captain.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

So we’re wrapping up Michael with a few last touches. I chose to increase her Daring and Presence by +1 each, and increase her Command and Con Disciplines by +1 a piece.

I allowed her to retain her rank of Lieutenant Commander for the sake of simplicity, but given her court marshal she will probably be demoted.

Her Stress comes out to a total of 15, and her damage bonus comes out to a +2.

Her last Value is “I Think About What Happened All the Time.” Recent events continue to haunt Michael, and probably will for the rest of her life.

Michael Character Sheet

Check back later for more Star Trek: Discovery Content, if people like these I might do a few characters.


Episode 102: Adventures in Middle-Earth Part 5 Shadows Gather Before the Dawning of a New Day

Episode 101: Psionics the Next Stage of Human Evolution

In this episode I review Psionics the Next Stage of Human Evolution, an rpg featuring psychic powerhouses who are on the run from shadowy government organizations.

Episode 100: Our Epic Summer

In this episode of the podcast Jade and I talk about our nerdy summer vacations, which consisted of Epic Nerd Camp and Gencon respectively.

Episode 99: The Beliefs of Saruman

In this episode I discuss the mechanics of classes, magic, and magical items pertaining to Adventures in Middle-Earth.

Episode 98: Adventures in Middle-Earth Part 4 Meetings and Murmurs in Mirkwood

From the white city of Minas Tirith, to the shadowed reached of Mirkwood, to the foothills of The Misty Mountains three adventurers set on their own paths begin to converge. Meanwhile old dangers begin to emerge from within Mirkwood itself.

Skill Check

The past few hours I was tinkering with ideas about skills checks, and a thought occurred to me.  If you leaf through most modules there are always instances where the GM will be told to ask players for a specific type of skill check, or a range of skills. There’s nothing wrong with a GM having an idea for a certain type of situation to call on a select range of skills, but it may deprive players of a chance to flex their roleplaying muscles. The example I thought up while I was wasting time at work today uses Dungeons & Dragons 5e, but the principle applies to any rpg with a skill system.

Imagine your players have entered a local pub looking for information, now let’s also pretend that this didn’t devolve into a ballroom brawl ( a certain monk and warlock I know could probably learn something from this come to think of it.) One of the patrons, a minotaur sailor known to have dealings with the black market, overhears them chatting up the crowd and takes an interest.

Maybe he’s been soured on smugglers after years of being cheated? Or perhaps he’s hoping to send some trouble towards his competitors? Whatever his reasoning he’s not inclined to impart information to anyone who he doesn’t trust. Stomping his way through the pub he proposes a challenge to test their mettle, in this case a pepper eating contest.

Now some GM’s would probably ask for a Constitution saving throw, but there’s plenty of opportunity for creative players to find a way to win out this encounter. A saving throw might favor the broad shouldered goliath barbarian, but the other members of the party could have a great deal more difficulty measuring up. Now there’s something be said for a comical failure and they certainly provide opportunity for roleplay, but let’s examine a few other possibilites.

The halfling bard might manage to deceive the minotaur, pretending that to him the pepper is no hotter than piece of bread. A dragonborn wizard skilled at sleight of hand might tuck the offending pepper into his sleeve. The elf druid might fallback on her knowledge of herb lore and attempt to make a nature check to see what she has on hand that might counter the burning sensation of the peppers.

Give your players an chance to get creative an approach the problem from a different angle. Now a GM also has to know when to say no, but saying yes present much more exciting results for the table more often than not.



Castlevania Part 1

After watching the new Castlevania series on Netflix  couldn’t help thinking it would make a great setting for a very dark Dungeons and Dragons campaign with some cool steampunk elements. I’m actually working on a short module that takes players through a brief adventure in that world. However creatures from that setting can be folded into almost any D&D game with a little imagination.

For folks who have yet to see the show please stop reading now if you care about spoilers.

I’d also like to let everyone know in advance I am not a longtime fan of Castlevania, I’ve been aware of the franchise for many years but I never played any of the games. If I get any of the terminology wrong please forgive me.

Also Castlevania is the property of Konami and the Netflix series is the property of Netflix, I claim no ownership of either. All of the art pictured here is from the Netflix series and belongs to their artists, it is also pretty great and definitely helps make the show worth your time. So without further ado…


I’ve seen these things called imps and goblins, to me they look like Red Court vampires from The Dresden Files. At any rate they seem to make up the bulk of Dracula’s demonic army.


Medium fiend, chaotic evil

Armor Class 13 (natural armor)

Hit Points 18

Speed 60 ft., climb 20 ft, flight 40 ft.

Str 10 (+0) Dex 16 (+3) Con 12 (+1) Int 8 (-1) Wis 10 (+0) Cha 8 (-1)

Skills Perception +2, Stealth +5

Damage Vulnerabilities Cold, radiant

Damage Immunities Fire

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10

Languages  Abyssal, Common

Challenge 1


Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) slashing damage.

Infernal Blast. Range Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, 60/100 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d8+6) fire damage. Creatures within 30 ft. of the target must make a DC 14 Dexterity Saving throw, on a failed saving throw they take half as much damage as the hit target, on a successful saving throw they take no damage. All objects in the radius of the attack that are not being held burst into flames.

Shock troops for Dracula these summoned monsters serve as the foot soldiers in his army. They are capable warriors able to spread violence throughout cities and the surrounding countryside with ease.

Please note, Infernal Blast is meant to be a powerful attack capable of dealing huge damage. It can kill or seriously injure an entire low-level party if they aren’t careful as well as setting fire to everything in the immediate area. I designed it that way because we see these things peppering cities with these blasts and setting them ablaze in minutes. You may want to warn the party by having one of these things fire off a round at NPCs or buildings before opening fire on your players.


I love seeing a cyclops used as a monster, and this one is a bit like a beholder crossed with a cyclops. Easily the best monster in the Netflix series so far in my opinion.

Stone-Eye Cyclops

Huge fiend, lawful evil

Armor Class 16 (natural armor)

Hit Points 82

Speed 20 ft.

Str 18 (+4) Dex 12 (+1) Con 16 (+3) Int 10 (+0) Wis 10 (+0) Cha 8 (-1)

Skills Perception +5

Condition Immunities Petrified

Damage Vulnerabilities Radiant

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12

Languages  Abyssal, Common

Challenge 5

Feast on Terror. The Stone-Eye Cyclops feeds on the terror of those it has turned to stone, it regains 1d4 hit points each turn for each living victim it has turned to stone. It also adds +1 to any roll it makes for each living victim it has petrified.

Thundering Footsteps. Creatures and objects within 5 ft. of the Stone-Eye Cyclops when it moves take 1d4 bludgeoning damage.


Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d8+6) bludgeoning damage.

Eye Ray. Range Weapon Attack: +0 to hit, 30/60 ft., one target. The target must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the creatures turns to stone and is petrified.  Petrified creatures can only be returned to normal by killing the Stone-Eye cyclops that turned them to stone.

Powerful guardians that can be utilized to protect valuables or locations from unwanted visitors these towering behemoths are terrors to all. Although they’re more than capable or tearing treasure hunters limb from limb whenever the mood strikes them, they usually prefer turning intruders to stone so that they can feed off of their fear. The lair of a Stone-Eye Cyclops is almost always marked by the petrified bodies of their victims.

As I said this thing is like a cyclops and a beholder crossbreed, which amazing and horrifying all at once. The eye ray requires the cyclops to hit the opponents AC and then the players gets to make a dex save to avoid being petrified. This is, again, a savage attack that can take a player out of the action in one stroke. The cyclops shouldn’t be able to sneak up on a party so they’ll have some warning of what is coming. I went this direction because unlike the beholder who slowly turns victims to stone I wanted to give a more cinematic feel to the cyclops.  A huge beam engulfs your wizard and they’re just gone in an instant.

Anyway I hope someone out there finds these amusing if nothing else, thanks for reading.

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