Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I Love BRP

I want to say something.  Because it needs to be said.

I love BRP.

I flat-out LOVE it.

It is the simplest, most logical, most straightforward, most elegant RPG system I have ever come across.  Period. 

If BRP was a dancer, it would amaze me with its moves every time I saw it dance.  If BRP was a musician, it would make my jaw drop every time I heard it play.

I’m being a little bit facetious and hyperbolic there, but really that does describe how I feel about it.

I love the big gold book.  One cover.  300+ pages and its got 99% of everything I need to run any kind of campaign I could want.  Say it’s too long, or too overwhelming.  Sorry.  I don’t agree.

And, by the way – I love the Resistance Table, and Strike Ranks.  Yes – I mean it.

A year or two ago, I acquired a huge cache of D&D books – from original to 3.5.  Oh, and Pathfinder stuff, too.  I got kind of intrigued.  And I decided to not only check them out thoroughly, but, for fun, to convert my favorite old AD&D characters, long ago mothballed,  to 3.5/Pathfinder.  And also to BRP.  It was an enlightening experience.

Certainly, 3.5 improves on a lot of things from clunky old AD&D.  It’s a lot more streamlined, quite a bit more logical and flexible, and it flows much more nicely.  

But as I began to adapt these characters, I found myself getting irritable.  It’s a lot of work.  All the tables, the feats, the skill system, the levels.  Why don’t the experience levels and the spell levels of magic-using characters sync up?  Wouldn’t it make more sense if a being 10th level meant you could cast 10th level spells?  Why is the combat system so damn complicated?  It still looks like miniature warfare rules.  In fact, it looks more like miniature warfare rules than the AD&D combat system!  I would never want to play it.

And then I converted them to BRP.  And it took mere moments.  Because there’s so much I don’t have to think about.  Break down the characteristics, calculate derived stuff, assign the skills and – boom – you’re done.  Nothing is lost – it’s all there – just a hell of a lot simpler.

A few years back I got GURPS Cabal, an interesting occult RPG setting, and looked at with an eye to doing a BRP adaptation.  The biggest revelation was the magic system. 

See, the Cabal magic system is built on occult arcana, and there’s a host of modifiers that will affect the outcome of any spell.  It takes a whole (lengthy) chapter to detail it all. 

And yet, looking at it, I realized that the entire thing could be boiled down to a single, simple table of modifiers.  One table. One page. 

Why do people like to complicate things?

That’s another thing I love about BRP.  It’s ridiculously simple to add to or subtract from.

If you must.

Still, I keep seeing posts about adding things, like “feats”. 

I can’t see the purpose – when I converted those old characters to 3.5 and then BRP, there was nothing in “feats” that couldn’t be covered by skills and skill levels.

Oh, “advantages/disadvantages” – I see that one come up a lot.  I once gave someone great offense on yog-sothoth.com when I said I couldn’t see any real benefit to adding them to the game.  And I can’t.

Hey don’t get me wrong – if you really like “feats” or “advantages/disadvantages” – by all means – add them.  But you’ll never convince me they’re necessary, or make the game better somehow.

Okay, I admit, I’m feeling a little bit like, well, let’s put it this way…

Lately I’ve been reading my way through the run of The Dragon magazine.  It’s sometimes hilarious to see Gary Gygax’s infamous rants about players monkeying with his game, foaming at the mouth over things like critical hits, hit locations, point-based magic systems, weapon proficiencies, monsters as player-characters, etc etc etc.  And how the game was perfect and you would screw it up royally if you changed or added any little thing (of course, strictly speaking Gygax wasn’t totally wrong – AD&D didn’t have a lot of flexibility and any changes always seemed to feel bolted-on) (I should also note that many rules-variants that appeared in The Dragon were pretty awful). 

Well, I won’t say BRP is perfect.  I don’t believe in perfect.  But its perfect for me.  It’s the closest thing to perfection I’ve seen.  I won’t say you can’t or shouldn’t mess with it – actually, it’s a lot easier to mess with than many (most? all?) other systems.  But I will say I don’t feel the need.

So, yeah, I love BRP.  And I’m going to play BRP.  And nothing else, really.  Because as I said – it can handle any setting or genre I care to throw at it.

I hope that Chaosium will continue to support it.  But if they don’t – well – for years before the big gold book came out, there was a community out there – well not really a community, just a bunch of us out there in the wilderness -  who basically adapted our own versions of it, cobbled together from RQ and COC and Stormbringer, et al.  We played BRP even though it was barely on the market. 

And so, I’ve done it before.  I’ll do it again if I must.

I love BRP (said it again) and I have great, great affection for Chaosium. 

But I’ve got what I need if they decide to shut the taps off.

And by the way, Chaosium – with all due respect, CoC didn't need "fixing". 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Empire of the Imagination

I'm probably the wrong person to review this book.  But I'm going to.

See, I've been very intrigued by books like Of Dice and Men, books that talked about the history of the games and peoples' personal experiences.  What they remember.  What their campaigns were like.  Similarly, I was a big fan of James Maliszewski's Grognardia blog, for much the same reason.

So, when I saw Empire of the Imagination by Michael Witwer staring at me from the new book shelf of my local library, I took it home.  And polished it off - because its a quick read - not because its that much of a page-turner.

So review it I shall.  But be warned... I come not to praise but to bury. Just so you know.

As a book, its pretty lightweight.  It is not so much a biography as a series of (to quote GoodReads) "fictionalized vignettes" built around key moments in Gygax's life, or to illustrate his character.  Some of it seems to be drawn from actual research ... and some of it doesn't.  No matter how you slice it, this isn't exactly biography as we know it.

A bigger problem is that, frankly, Gygax's life wasn't exactly the stuff of great thrills.  We're talking about Gary Gygax, here, not T.E. Lawrence.  Gygax's personal flaws or mistakes aren't nearly as interesting as, say,  H.P. Lovecraft's appalling racial beliefs.  Even his "wild years" in Hollywood are pretty tame compared to, say, Iggy Pop.

The biggest problem though is, I must confess, I don't buy the adulation of the old EGG-head.  This is not to say he was a bad person (he sounds like a decent enough man, with some admitted failings), or that he wasn't, really a (the) seminal figure in the story of role-playing games.  But some big claims are made for him here and elsewhere, by those gamers out there who still idolize the guy (and Witwer is clearly one of those).  So let's try putting a little perspective here.

Gygax's story is hardly the tale of a great success in any field or function.  He was a high-school dropout, had a brief and undistinguished stint in the military, was a mediocre insurance salesman before getting laid off/terminated (Witwer puts this down in part to a ruthless co-worker, but also admits Gygax was prone to using company time and materials to work on wargame-related projects).  His only real passion seems to have been gaming - and it was enough of a passion that it actually helped crumble his marriage.  Yeah - Dungeons and Dragons was an enormous, and lasting, commercial success.  But it was his only one.

Nothing else from his company even came close (though some wargames were commercially successful - by wargames standards).  Once he got wealthy the money got squandered.  Aand while Gygax loved to declaim about how the folks back in Lake Geneva were blowing money left and right, he was living high on the hog in Hollywood, in a mansion, stuffing coke up his nose and rubbing elbows with celebrities. In other words, he squandered plenty of that money himself.  His attempts at mounting a high-quality D&D movie to compete with Star Wars et al went nowhere (we got a cheap-ass Saturday morning cartoon out of it instead).  He was forced out of the company he founded.  In response, he tried some new business ventures.  They went nowhere.  He wrote a stack of undistinguished fantasy novels that even his staunchest admirers admit are, at best guilty pleasures.  He wrote some new game systems that never caught on (one of which quickly gained a rep as a laughable disaster).

This is hardly the bio of a successful guy.  Its more the story of a guy who caught lightning in a bottle.  I'm not even sure how much of D&D's success is based on anything Gygax actually did as far as marketing it or anything else (though selling the books in toy stores was definitely a good idea).  It seems to have been simply the right thing at the right time.

He's supposed to be a brilliant game designer.  In truth, even back in the day, us D&D players could see the rules were clunky and weird.  If his design for D&D was so remarkable, why are his rules long out-of-print, while the later editions (3 and on) remain the gold standard?  Yes, I know there are hold-outs who love his system, though most often it seems to be the original three books, not the later AD&D, that they cling to - or, more often one of the later homages such as Labyrinth Lord, etc. 
all due credit to whoever created this one and others
Witwer claims Gygax was a "genius", "off-the-charts in terms of [not only] his intellectual capacity" actually, while undeniably an intelligent man, he seems to have had a painfully narrow field of vision. 

Reading through the AD&D books now, I'm struck by the sense of expectation; the assumption that, of course, players and DMs are not only going to play the game the way Gygax envisions it (and them), but that they would, naturally, want to

Of course, and inevitably, inventive gamers soon found many different styles and ways to play the game -ways he hadn't anticipated.  And instead of going "Hey, wow - I'd never thought of that" or even "well, I wouldn't care to play that way, but what the heck - as long as they're having a good time," he ranted on and on in the pages of The Dragon and elsewhere about the heretical things players were doing with his game.(1) 

The alleged reason for Gygax's academic failure was that he just couldn't tolerate being forced to study subjects that didn't interest him (cue the violins, man).  He seems to have largely turned up his nose at any kind of learning or entertainment outside of his own field of enthusiasm or interest. (2)  These are all indicators of a limited outlook and a narrow mind.  Sorry - that precludes "genius."

In the epilogue, Witwer tries to make the case that Gygax is responsible for the popularity of fantasy in recent years - citing the enormous success of the Lord of the Rings films, and the Harry Potter phenom.  Nice try.  But Lord of the Rings has been hugely popular, since the 60's, and fans have been begging for a film from the day one (or, after the Bakshi and Rankin-Bass animations, begging for a good one).  As for Harry Potter - the bulk of the kids who make up the Potter audience probably never played D&D in their life.  Meanwhile, Terry Brooks and Stephen R. Donaldson's books and The Silmarillion were all on the best-seller lists at exactly the time the AD&D books hit the stores.  If you wanted to say that the success of D&D helped spread the appreciation and popularity of fantasy, you'd get no argument from me - it certainly did.  But it was part of a larger zeitgeist that was already happening - not the instigator of it.  Like I said - right place, right time.

So ... is Empire a good book?  Not especially.  Neither it is especially a bad one.  It's level of value, I suppose, comes down to how badly you want to read about the EGG.  If you're an loyal admirer, as Witwer clearly is, you might find this little love letter affecting.  If you're of a more critical bent, as I am, you'll probably find it a lot less enthralling.

(1) I'm making this a footnote because it's a major digression, but I also think its relevant and touches on several things I've stated above.  I'm thinking back on Gygax's "Drow" series of modules.  These modules were hot items when I was a kid, and, if you've ever read them, you may understand why I was genuinely shocked when I got my hands on them.  For those who haven't read them, here's the secret: there's not a lot of meat there.  "Descent Into the Depths of the Earth" gives us a vast labyrinth of potential adventure, then throws in a few wandering monsters and a couple detailed encounters and then ... leaves the rest for you to develop.  The third module presents a sinister Drow city (the horribly-named Erelhei-Cinlu - gawd EGG was bad at names [yes I know he based it on his kids' names.  How very sweet.  It's still a crappy name]), describes it (relatively evocatively) in a paragraph or two, and then, again, leaves the rest to you.  No details.  Not even a map of the city.

And this, depending on your perspective, is either its genius or its failing.  The modules are full of undeveloped, but tantalizing, ideas.  Essentially, Gygax gave the DM a big blank canvas, filled in a corner, dropped some cool suggestions and said "you do the rest."  

The "old school" crowd calls it great stuff.  Lots of cool ideas to develop and not a tiresome amount of needless detail.  The younger gen, raised on products of the last couple decades, considers it a rip-off, to put something so sketchy and incomplete out there.

I tend to lean to the "old school" view on this one.  There's a lot of seeds that good stuff could grow from here, and a creative, world-building GM could have hours/days/years of fun developing the Drow caverns and the city alone.

But there's the interesting conundrum.  Again, most AD&D players were young teenagers (or at best, college kids). At 14/15, we knew very little about life and the world.  We knew very little about fantasy literature (most of us were still working our way through the reading list at the back of the DMG - and making discoveries!).  Only the smartest, most creative of kids would have ever been able to develop anything really good out of these materials.

And so it seems, intentionally or not (I suspect not), Gygax - a smart, creative nerd, created something not only this module but really in the whole game itself, that essentially guaranteed that only the smartest, most creative, and most dedicated (in other words, nerdiest) kids would really get the most out of. Gygax once stated that the games he created were the kinds of games he himself wanted to play.  And that certainly seems to be a true statement.

(2) This leads me to another digression, which is that, as many have noted, Gygax was a very bad writer.  Overly verbose, florid, and turgid.  His love of arcane vocabulary suggests a guy very much in love with the florid and decadent styles of Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance (he was apparently particularly a fan of the latter).  Add to this an air of tiresome pomposity that seemed to color everything he wrote; Gygax's literary voice was that of a tiresome old poop, hectoring and lecturing from on high.  When he attempted to inject a little humor, it invariably fell flat.

This is no crime in and of itself.  Tastes are subjective, and some fans even like Gygax's style.  But it was a major detriment when trying to write game rules.  Case in point: while putting together some notes on using hex maps, I looked back to the original DM Guide for the entry on hex maps and hex mapping.  I remembered finding it hard to follow as a kid.  Damn!  Reading it today, I find it impenetrably obtuse - I still can't tell what he was trying to say.

My point here is: if you want to write, you have to read.  And you have to read everything - not just things you already know you like.  You have to sample the whole banquet.  You have to try out those great figures of literature and thought.  If you're like most, some will leave you cold, some you will hate - and some you will find thrilling and inspiring.  Beyond that, you have to learn editing: to be able to go back over your own precious words and ask yourself, "Did I make that clear?  Did I say that in a way that others will easily understand me?"  

Defenders of Gygax's prose often note that he was largely self-educated.  Fair enough.  But there's the rub - he didn't throw the net far enough.  He didn't learn to edit himself.  He didn't expose himself to enough that was outside his interest and comfort zone.  He limited himself.  Again ... not genius.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Giants in the Girth #2

Figured it was about time for another one.  Once again,  Note this is presented without permission purely for fun.  If you're the copyright holder and have a gripe, drop me a message and I'll take the post down. 


"Paranoid?  Probably.  But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face."  

Harry Dresden is a Chicago-based sad-sack private detective, and powerful wizard.  You can even find him in the phone book, listed under "Wizard."  He's noted as one of the most powerful wizards of his era, but also as one of the most unruly.  He maintains an uneasy relationship with The White Council, an ancient organization that monitors and regulates magicians (in later novels Dresden becomes a "Warden" of the Council, a kind of FBI agent of the magician world).  

Harry is a born wizard, the son of a wizard mother and a stage magician father (his full name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden).  Like another famous magician named Harry, both of his parents died while Dresden was quite young.  After bouncing around the foster care system, he was adopted by a wizard named Justin DuMorne, who gave him his early training, but also tried to lead him down a demonic path.  This ended in DuMorne's death, and began Harry's rocky relationship with the Council.


Harry is stubborn, a smartass, honest to a fault,  with a dangerous sense of honor and commitment.  This often leads him to pursue lost causes and go up against impossible odds in order to protect an innocent or a friend or ally.  He triumphs largely due to combination of blind luck, good allies, and a complete refusal to surrender.  Nevertheless he tends to emerge from these challenges much the worse for wear. Harry's cases invariably draw him into supernatural mysteries and confrontations with more powerful wizards, demons, and Creatures from the Beyond.  

Harry has a host of allies and friends, both mundane and supernatural, who aid him in his investigations.  He is also an avid fan of RPG's.

STR 17 CON 19 SIZ 18 INT 18 POW 25
DEX 14 CHA (APP) 14 EDU 20

Move:  10
Hit Points: 19
Damage Bonus: +1d6
Armor: 10 points AP  if wearing leather duster
Attacks:  Brawl (4) 87% 1d6+1d3
Heavy Revolver (5) 67% 1d6+2
Sword (6) 42% 1d8+1d6
Skills: Bargain 64%, Climb 69%, Command 64%, Dodge 75%, Drive 39%, Etiquette (Faerie) 59%, Etiquette (Vampire Courts) 59%, Fast Talk 69%, Fine Manipulation 62%, First Aid 136%, Grapple 77%, Hide 49%, Insight 65%, Jump 64%, Knowledge - Occult 85%, Listen 90%, Literacy 100%, Medicine 46%, Perform 64%, Persuade 74%, Research 85%, Ride 39%, Sense 70%, Spot 90%, Stealth 54%, Strategy 69%, Swim 67%, Teach 69%, Throw 69%

Powers: Soul Gaze (90%) - when looking directly into another person's eyes, Harry can perceive them at their deepest level - seeing into their soul and realizing their true nature, potential, abilities, motivations.

The Sight (100%) -  a true wizard can see the world as it truly is, on a magical and spiritual level, bypassing all veils and illusions and showing people and things as they truly are.   Using it, Dresden can, for example, see the true nature of a supernatural creature in disguise. Wizards are reluctant to use this skill as memories of whatever is seen as always indelible, and often painful.  

Perfect Healing (100%) - Harry heals at a normal rate, but normally permanent damage such as scars, burns, etc will heal over time and return tissues to normal - though it can take a long time.

Death Curse (100%) - A wizard's death curse is a devastating final act of magic they can unleash, usually in the seconds before their demise.  The existence of the death curse makes many reluctant to kill a true wizard.  The death curse requires all of the wizards POW, leaving him at 0 POW and, therefore, deceased.  The exact nature of the curse depends on the caster, it can be as simple as a blast of devastating force, or something more subtle, such as the death curse Harry himself received from another wizard - that he die alone.

Equipment:  Harry wears an assortment of rings charged with POW (assume 2d6 POW in each ring at a given time); a "blasting rod" which focuses his ability to send energy-based magical attacks (assume it adds +15%); he has a wizard's staff which serves a similar function, and conforms to the "Wizard's Staff" in the BRP rules.  He has a bracelet that doubles the effect of any Shield spell that he casts, and a necklace that also adds +10% to any spell casting (and +15% to any divination spells).  His leather duster is magically enchanted to serve as armor.

Spells: Fire, Perception, Protection, Tracking, Vision, Animate Skeleton, Ward - many others.

Harry's magic has a tendency to go slightly awry, and can be dangerous to innocent bystanders.  Assume his spells to be more powerful than expected.  

This depicts a rather early version of Harry Dresden.  Over the course of the several novels to date, his powers increase (and sometimes decrease) greatly.  Consider this a "generic" Dresden.

Further Reference:  Harry Dresden has appeared in 13 novels and 1 short-story collection, so far, by author Jim Butcher.  So far all of them have been terrific, very reminiscent of the "Unknown" style of pulp fantasy/horror of the 40's, which brought ancient supernatural forces into contemporary setting with a lot of humor that never undercut the spookiness.  I highly recommend the whole series to date.  There have also been some graphic novels (which didn't do much for me) and a short-lived TV series which totally failed to capture the spirit of the books (of course it has its followers).  Evil Hat also has an official Dresden Files roleplaing game on the market.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Conan the Missed-Opportunarian

So I watched the new "Conan the Barbarian" film last night, prepared to really hate it.  I got a little surprise because I actually found it fairly entertaining and not the hopeless piece of shit I expected.  It's much better than the 1982 version (which I enjoyed when it came out but now find unwatchable).  And it actually does capture a certain amount of the spirit of the stories and even the character, though not perfectly.

Still, the thing that bugs me (or more specifically, the frustrated film-maker in me, I suppose), is that it would be possible to make a truly outstanding Conan-based film, if someone just cared enough to do it right.

Allow me to elaborate -  my requirements for doing a proper Conan movie:

I. Casting

1. Cast an Actor as Conan - do not cast a bodybuilder, a pro-wrestler or anyone else whose background isn't in acting.  You don't need Laurence Olivier here, but you do need someone with the ability to emote and deliver a few lines with conviction.  Cast for acting ability - not physique.  Jason Momoa actually wasn't bad - much better than ol' Arnie's leaden performance in the first film - but when he opens in his mouth I hear a 21st Century American Dude - not a Cimmerian from a prehistoric world.
2. Conan Does Not Need To Be Musclebound - he needs to be big, imposing, and muscular.  He does not need to be huge.  Actually, again, I thought Momoa was just about right on this score, too - muscular and fit but not enormous.  Again, cast an actor - bulk him up in the gym before filming if you have to!

II. The Character

1. Drop the "Origin Story" - Conan does not have an origin story.  Howard never wrote one.  It isn't necessary.  All you need to know about Conan is pretty well established the minute he walks onscreen.
2. Conan Is Not Seeking Revenge for His Parents Murder - used twice now and it was stupid the first time.  Conan is seeking adventure and a few niceties of life (very few).  He's not Batman.  He doesn't have Daddy issues.

3. Conan Is Not A Clod - so don't portray him as one.  He's a man of action.  He's not unintelligent.
4. Get His Name Right - Conan's last name is not "Barbarian," and his middle name is not "The."  It is not necessary to have every character he encounters point out his "barbarian-ness" or call him "barbarian" in case we forgot.

III. The Story

1. Read the Howard Stories - or re-read them if you haven't,
2. Now Read the Howard Stories Again - in case you didn't get it the first time
3. Ignore All Conan Stories Not Written By Howard and Howard Alone - if it says DeCamp, Carter, Nyberg, Roy Thomas or anyone else - forget about it.  Go back to the source.
4. Ignore all Comic Books, Cartoon Series, TV Series, and Especially the Schwarzenegger Films
5. Adapt One of the Best Stories (and Do So Respectfully) - look, "Beyond the Black River," "Red Nails," "Rogues in the House," "People of the Black Circle" and "Queen of the Black Coast" - any of those stories gives you all you need to shoot a feature film.  You could practically work without a script, needing little embellishment and no trimming.  There's five possible films right there! You've got your whole series!  (Sadly, an animated film of "Red Nails" was started but apparently never completed, and Karl Edward Wagner wrote a screen treatment for either the second or the unproduced third Schwarzenegger film which also went unproduced).

The thing that people keep missing, I think, is this: Conan is the least interesting aspect of the Howard stories.

There, I said it.  I mean it.
Oh don't get me wrong - he's a good enough character, obviously.  But there's not much to him.  He's big, he's tough, he's occasionally funny in his sarcasm and to-the-point approach.  But really, almost the only thing Conan himself ever does that I find memorable is the hilariously over-the-top machismo of biting off the vulture's head in "A Witch Shall Be Born."
What makes the Conan stories memorable is what happens around Conan.  He's the eye of the hurricane, so to speak, as this fantastic world and events swirl in circles around him, and he observes and reacts.  What sticks with me about the Conan stories ---

* The demon in the woods in "Beyond the Black River"
* The opening of "Conan the Conqueror" with the magicians performing their sinister rites
* Valeria terrorized by the skeletal figure that emerges from the catacombs of the underground city in "Red Nails"
* The broken and dying Yag-Kosha in "The Tower of the Elephant"
* Conan stalking (and being stalked by) Thak through the halls of the Red Priest's home ("Rogues in the House")
* The black, winged figure launching itself from the trees, the disturbing realization that the handholds of the altar were not meant for human hands, Conan's eerie black-lotus induced dream, and, finally, Conan waiting in the temple ruins for a final (for one of them - and the point is it might well be for Conan) confrontation with the degenerate, evil demon  - all in "Queen of the Black Coast."

These are what stays.  It was never Conan, but Howard's ability to evoke his primitive, ancient, sorcerous world so vividly, that made the stories so memorable.  And that's what the films so far have missed.  Maybe someday.  It took three tries to get Tolkein right, after all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Giants in the Girth #1

An aside.
I always enjoyed the old "Giants in the Earth" pieces in The Dragon, and decided to play around with a similar idea for BRP.
So here is the first installment.  Note this is presented without permission purely for fun.  If you're the copyright holder and have a gripe, drop me a message and I'll take the post down.
For our first edition, I present:


"I kill things ... it's what I was made to do. I'm rather good at it" 

Kane is an imposing figure - a massive, heavily-muscled man with shaggy red hair and beard, topped off by a pair of icy blue eyes. Those eyes are his most distinctive feature, as those who meet his gaze for more than a moment quickly perceive Kane's true nature - a ruthless butcher and killer.

Kane is a superhuman character, a man "who could master any situation intellectually, or rip heads off if push came to shove" in the words of creator Karl Edward Wagner.

Kane's origins are mysterious.  According to legends he was one of the first men, a man who killed his own brother and was cursed by the god(s) to wander the earth as an immortal, undying being, for eternity.  He may, in fact, be the biblical Cain, or, more specifically, the original source for the biblical Cain.  It is implied that he is the son of Adam and Lillith, the biblical Adam's first wife.

Most of Kane's written adventures take place in a prehistoric, Hyborian-age type world.  However, he has been depicted as being alive and active in the late 20th century.  In this case he would trade his swords and armor for guns and kevlar.

Whatever era he appears in, Kane is an amoral, if not outright evil, character.  Bored by his own endless existence and unconcerned with relationships (since all relationships are transitory - Kane will be around long after any comrades/lovers/enemies, etc are long gone), Kane freely uses and discards others in pursuit of his own interests - which tend to be the acquisition of power.  Kane frequently leads armies to their own destruction, pursues quests in which numerous companions lose their lives, fights in mad wars and wild conflicts, and dabbles extensively in sorcery and magic, and, later, organized crime.  Common morality has no meaning to him.  He is generally selfish and often cruel, though capable of heroism (if only in that he usually dispatches foes who are far worse than himself).

STR 19 CON 19 SIZ  18 INT 19 POW 20
DEX 17 CHA(APP) 15  EDU special

Move: 10
Hit Points: 19
Damage Bonus: +1d6
Armor: Favors a light mail shirt or similar, 5 points AP

Attacks: Greatsword (SR 4) 90% 2d8+1d6 (bleeding)
                   Heavy Revolver (SR 2) 75% 1d10+2 (impaling)

Skills: Climb 84% Dodge 82% Fine Manipulation 75% Gaming 70% Grapple 85% Knowledge (various sorcerous/occult matters) 65% Medicine 41% Navigate 80% Parry 91% Perform (Sorcerous Rituals) 65% Research 65% Ride 90% Sense 60% Spot 55% Stealth 55% Strategy 70% Swim 80% Throw 75% Track 60% 

Powers: Kane is immortal and cannot die from age or disease.  He can be killed by injury but has an uncanny ability to avoid that fate.  Kane heals at an extraordinary rate (1d3+3 hit points per game week). Kane can only be outright killed by reducing him to -19 hit points.   If reduced to 0 hit points or up to -18 hit points, Kane goes into a death-like coma and may appear to be dead to anyone not specifically checking to ensure his demise (assume a Spot or Medicine roll). He does not, however, die, and no emergency first aid is necessary.  

Kane is an accomplished sorcerer and may have any number of Sorcery or basic Magic spells at his disposal.

Further Reference:  Kane appears in a series of novels and short stories by the late Karl Edward Wagner.  All I've read (and that's 99%) are very good, as is most of Wagner's other fiction.  Here is a good website on Kane:  http://karledwardwagner.org/Kane.html

The image of Kane is snagged from the website of artist Richard Pace.  Please check it out: http://burningmonster.blogspot.com/2010/06/kane-sketch-card.html