Posts

Showing posts from January, 2013

Skills as Switches

Two options: On or Off.

Do you have the skill? Yes, then you gain a bonus in situation X (maybe you get a bonus to your die roll, or maybe it opens up a new sub mechanism or game option)...No, then you just roll your flat attribute (or maybe you just can't perform this type of task at all).

I've played with this idea a few times in my game designs.

FUBAR basically does this...if you have a trait that's relevant to the task at hand, you add an extra die to your pool (conversely if you possess a trait that's detrimental, you either take a die away, or add a negative die if you're all out of positives).

Ghost City Raiders does this. The basic mechanisms simply get you to draw a card versus your attributes in a series of basic situations. New skills allow you to gain bonuses across a range of situations, or allow you to open up new situations.

Tooth and Claw does this, by simply allowing an extra die to be rolled if you've a skill appropriate to the task at hand.

T…

How many attributes are enough?

Classic D&D has six attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma.

Classic World of Darkness has nine attributes (don't get me started on nWoD), three each in three categories: Physical (Strength, Stamina, Dexterity), Social (Charisma, Manipulation, Appearance), Mental (Intelligence, Perception, Wits).

Palladium's System has eight: Intelligence Quotient, Mental Affinity, Mental Endurance, Physical Strength, Physical Endurance, Physical Prowess, Physical Beauty, Speed.

I vaguely remember Rolemaster having ten attributes, but I don't have a copy any more and it's been years since I played, so don't ask me to name them.

Monsterhearts has four: Hot, Cold, Volatile, Dark
(and most *-World games seem to also have 4, but the specific four are based on the tone of the game).

Big Eyes Small Mouth as three: Body, Mind, Spirit (where everything social is handled by character advantages and disadvantages)

And among my own published games..…

Alternate combat system

Image
Every once in a while we hear about a game with a "revolutionary" new combat system. I've heard it said about dozens of games that might simply use a d8 instead of a d6, or maybe an armour system that absorbs damage rather than increase the chance of a damage saving throw. People often think mundane things are revolutionary if they haven't encountered anything beyond the vanilla systems of rolling a d20, then rolling damage.

When I developed Ghost City Raiders, I really wanted something different from the game. I wanted something fast...so I created a set of hit locations and a series of combat stances that could be adopted by characters as they faced off against one another. This idea made the basics of combat quick and intuitive...Do you pick a defensive stance or offensive? Do you aim for the high parts of your opponent or do you strike low? Simple, you just pick your character's stance from the to and bottom edges of the character booklet and present it to yo…

Game Mechanism of the Week [Neo Redux] 4: Saving Throws

I've been playing Mordheim with Leah over the past two days.

The games have been just the way I remember them. You get the fiddly start up where you try to generate an optimal team without the full resources that you need to do it (so you end up making a team that generally fits what you're aiming for, but you hope that a few games will generate the funds needed to truly create the team you want). Then you get the actual game play where strategy, team synergies, and quirky skills can give you an advantage, but a string of good (or bad) rolls can easily overcome player skill or strategy.

We've both decided to play four teams on a semi-random play selection roster.

Each players uses a team, and once the game is over each player lines up the leaders of their three remaining teams then rolls a d6 to determine which team to play next. 1-2: Team A, 3-4: Team B, 5-6: Team C. It means you don't get the one team played constantly, there's always a change-up. Eventually one …

Mordheim Lessons

Image
Last night, my wife Leah said..."I'm bored, let's play Mordheim tomorrow".
So today we did. We dug up the old rulebook, the town criers, the annual (can you really call it an annual if there was only ever one of them?), and our assorted print outs that have sat in untouched folders ever since we moved house over two years ago. We've played other miniature games in the meantime, not many, but a few. But Mordheim was the game that hooked Leah into the hobby of lead figures (she still hates plastics with a passion, I dislike them too and we've been put off several games that use plastic figures).
Mordheim is a fun game and its design concepts have played a major influence in several of my designs, but it has it's problems.
The mechanisms of the game are heavily derived from Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Combat consists of many interconnected rolls...first a roll to hit, then a roll to injure, then a possible roll to save versus that injury, and then a roll to se…

A Game Logo

Image
What sort of game play do you expect from an RPG with this logo?


Character Images

Image
For those interested...here are the range of Ghost City Raiders character images so far. 
Many more to come.
























Taking things further in the Post Apocalypse

I've been doing some work on Walkabout again, as well as the spin-off game Ghost City Raiders (which has ironically been released first).

I'm really not sure if the game prelude I wrote earlier is a good fit for the direction I want the game to take. It's one of those many starts that could be a false start or it could be something that I use later, perhaps as the prelude text for a player's guide or GM guide.

This still leaves me in a dilemma about the voice for the text. I want it to be easy and fun to read, but also informative and definitive.

Maybe I'm just overanalysing things.

In news for Ghost City Raiders, I'll be releasing a series of interconnected trios over the next couple of months. 3 characters sharing a theme or a faction, combined with a three act storyline specifically designed with these characters in minds.

The first ideas I have in mind here are a trio of specifically female characters, a trio sharing the "Rust" trait (as mentioned…

Game Mechanism of the Week [Neo-Redux] 3: Bell Curves and Straight Lines

Image
We could blame Apocalypse World for the resurgence of games that use "2d6+Modifier" as a core mechanism...But that's probably a bit harsh. The notion of rolling a pair of dice (or a trio) ad adding up the results before applying a modifier has been around for decades. I toyed around with it when I was in high school because it seemed to "work better" but I didn't know why.

With a bit more perspective, I can start to see why it seems to work better than a "flat die+modifier", or at least better in certain situations.

It's all about statistics. I'm not going to get too heavily into it, there are plenty of bloggers who've analysed this notion in deep complexity over the years.

While I've called this weekly game mechanism Bell Curves and Straight Lines, I'm mostly focusing o the pros and cons of the bell curve (not the straight lines).

Description:
When a die is rolled, there is theoretically an even chance of getting any result off…

Walkabout: A New Prologue

In the days before the darkness, it is said that the people in their cities were fed their entertainment by vast communication networks of metal wires, glass fibres and broadcasts of radio waves. They would sit in their houses passively watching screens displaying the mundane lives of people who were famous simply for being famous, they would be pacified by humorous half-hour programs, they would believe the news feeds distributed to them as they ate their meals in front of their view screens at night. Some engaged in more active entertainments, using controllers to move the images on their screens, or even interacting directly through the movements of their eyes or the fluctuating energy patterns echoing through their minds. These were times of great scientific advances, yet they were also times of great ignorance.
In these times we do not have the luxuries of that golden age before the dark days.  
The networks of wires and glass fibres have been torn up or have long ago rusted into …

The Voice of the Text

I haven't seen my copy of "Castle Falkenstein" in over a decade (I think it was actually lost in a rather hasty house move at the start of 2002) years.

One of the things I do remember about it was the was the first half of the book was written an a travel journal. It was literally written from the perspective of someone writing their diary in a strange reflection of our own world, pulled there by magic and now interacting with the people and places  of the pseudo-Europe with their summoner as a guide.

I've seen this sort of things in children's books, James Gurney's "Dinotopia" comes to mind, so do those "Dragonology", "Pirateology", and other "-ology" childrens books that describe a secretive world in easily digestible terms...in truth, this sort of conceit is a literary tradition that has gone back to at least the Victorian era. It's just uncommon to see this presentation in a game book.

Jeremy Keller's "…

Reworking old ideas

Image
I'm hoping that one of my themes for this year will be to complete unfinished works...I've certainly got enough of them.

Walkabout is definitely on the agenda, and I've got a deadline in place for that one.

Hell on Eight Wheels should be available in prototype form very shortly.

Ghost City Raiders is complete, but will be an ongoing process as new supplemental characters and scenarios are released over the course of the year. Tooth and Claw will be getting more love as well.

Two of the other projects I've been meaning to get back to are...


First Quincunx, the game of supernatural hunters on a reality TV show, each sponsored by shadowy corporate conspiracies. This has seen evolution between RPG, board game, card game and numerous other forms. It seems the nature of that project is flux...it seems like trying to nail down jelly ("jello" to those Americans who might be reading). Once something seems right, I try to swing the hammer to nail it in place and the conce…

Social Class

I got into a stoush the other day on G+, I could have escalated things to a full on conflict but I just wasn't in the mood. It related to the social order of the corporate world.

The general idea was simple.

Original Poster: Good CEO's are worth every cent we pay them.
My Response: Then why do we pay the bad ones the same amount?
Original Poster: Hmmm??? We don't, do we?
Third Party: Any CEO job is hard work. If you don't believe me, just become a CEO.
My Reponse: Just become a CEO?? WTF? Are also you the kind of guy who kicks homeless people and tells them to get off their arses and get a job?? Most of the CEO's I know got into the position because they knew people already in power, so they just walked into the job.
Original Poster: You liberal, occupy supporter...I hate it how everyone thinks those people in high corporate positions just got into the job through toadying and nepotism...some of them worked really hard to get there.

I didn't want to continue the argu…

Some figures

Image
I've been in the mood to paint some more figures lately.
Like so many other gamers, I have one of the Reaper Bones sets coming my way in March, and I've tried to get on board the Malifaux kickstarter (but that's an ongoing set of new issues). While waiting for these, I've got dozens (if not hundreds) of figures waiting at home, hoping for a coat of paint on them. But I'm always interested to see some good new figures from companies I might not have heard about.
Scale75 seems to be a Spanish company that I've just found out about. They might be getting a bit of my money shortly. (Especially if I keep having trouble with this Malifaux project...)


What's happening to Kickstarter?

So, I pledged to the Malifaux RPG kickstarter last week...only to find that my pledge has been cancelled because of a payment issue. When I go into Amazon payments it says that the pledge is still active...but as an Australian, I find it odd that my address is now considered somewhere in the USA, and there is no place to change my country back to Australia. 

I've previously pledged and paid for projects through Kickstarter and Amazon payments, so this hasn't been an issue before. I'm wondering if anyone else from outside the USA is facing this kind of issue? Or is Amazon payments (and therefore Kickstarter) becoming a thing for the USA, by the USA, and excluding the rest of the world completely??

Game Mechanism of the Week [Neo-Redux] 2: Star Wars Obligations

Since it's week 2 of 2013, let's follow up that last post with another game mechanism.

This one is also from the new FFG version of Star Wars. I don't know if I should be posting about these mechanisms from a game that still sits in beta testing, but I didn't sign a non-disclosure agreement, and I'm not going to post the name of the player in our group who purchased the product.

Unlike the custom dice of the last post, today's mechanism is more easily portable to other game systems and campaigns. It is a framework for developing obligations as a narrative tool and game resource.

This mechanism has a complexity that could easily be split up into a half dozen subsystems, but for the moment I'll look at the whole thing and how it integrates into the storytelling experience.

Description:
Each character has links to the world around them, this might come in the form of tasks that people want them to complete, links to their family or a specific location, or somet…

Game Mechanism of the Week [Neo-Redux] 1: Custom Symbol Dice

Image
I've just finished playing our second session of the new beta test Fantasy Flight version of Star Wars.

In our first session (last week) we played the standard characters from the beta test play kit. This session some of us made some differences to our characters (the Wookie and the Human pilot changed a bit).

The game mechanisms are actually pretty good, they drive the story in clever ways with an innovative use of symbolism on dice rather than numbers. That's led me to consider a game mechanisms of the week series again for this year. Perhaps a bit more formal than the way I've done it in years past.



Description:
The Custom Symbol Dice used in the new Star Wars game are divided into two general categories. Good Dice and Bad Dice, each have a range of symbols on them. Good dice generally have successes and advantages on them, while bad dice have failures and complications (these aren't the specific terms used in the rulebook, but they give the right general meaning). I…

The Eyes Have It

Image
My sister-in-law is making monster roller derby dolls.

She asked me to paint a pair of eyes on her latest doll. I figured it might be a good opportunity to archive the way I normally paint eyes on figures. (Note that this is at a much larger scale than the figures I'd normally be painting, but the process is much the same.)

Step 1: Generate an assortment of eyes. She decided that the bottom right ones would be good.

 Close up of the head.

Step 2: Blacken in the outlines of the eyes.

Step 3: Eyes the colour of a dead television screen (or at least we used to have dead screens like that, now the screen's just black or blue so we don't have to see the ugly static). The shading of the eyes is darker at the top and lighter at the bottom to show the natural reflections within the eye.

 Step 4: The pupils are added in. In this case slits like a cat's eye. Adding in a bit of shading to the lips as well.

 Step 5: Some highlighting is added to provide reflections that give the e…

Interlinked Scenario Stories

Image
I've got the rules and a decent range of figures for "Freebooter's Fate", but haven't had the chance to play a lot of it, on the other hand I have played quite a bit of Rackham's 2nd and 3rd editions of Confrontation.
Both of these games are story driven wargames (I'd have included Malifaux among these, but didn't for reasons that I'll make clear soon). In each game there are stories that can be told by feeding the results from one scenario directly into the next...did you get the captive? if so she'll join your team in the next game...did you capture the castle? if so, your team will be the one defending it in the next scenario.
I don't know of many games that specifically take victory elements from one scenario than feed them into the next to tell a consistent story. Malifaux provides specific victory elements for specific factions and characters, but so far it hasn't made an effort to link specific scenarios into longer campaign fo…

Apocalypse Diaries

Another of my White Whales...it's a single player game.
During the first phase of the game, the character’s life is good. They start with a sizeable pool of resources at their disposal but minimal character depth. During the course of the first phase, it is easy for a character to convert their resources to character depth; but for every degree of depth the character gains, the fewer the resources they have at their disposal and the harder it will be for them to continue to operate in the shallow and superficial world of socialites and glamour.  
At any time, the apocalypse will strike.
When this occurs, the second phase begins. Many of the renewable resources of the first phase become single use entities, others disappear completely. Now the character must rely on their depth to get them through the worst of the events that the Apocalypse might throw against them.
The game is played out with a single player writing out a diary of their character’s life in the world. Every day the …

It's nice to get a pair of good reviews

Image
One of the products I developed a while back hasn't seen a lot of love.



It's called the Hold 'Em Scene generator, it uses the game Texas Hold 'Em to develop random story seed ideas that could be inserted into a regular tale, or strung together to form complete stories.

I thought it was clever when I first developed it and I've been meaning to do more with it. But it generally got ignored, with only a few downloads, so I moved on to other things.

Yesterday I saw that the product had a positive review on it.

Opening it up, I found two positive reviews.

That's always nice.

Maybe I need to develop a few more genre lists for this idea to increase it's versatility. Perhaps it was a good idea after all.

Converting something simple to something else

Image
Tooth and Claw works.

I'm happy with it, and I can see was that the basic core mechanism can be used to reflect a variety of genres.

One of the things that seems to work well is the way that ferret emotions can influence how well they are able to perform different types of actions. If a ferret is confrontational, they gain a bonus to fighting, but might suffer a penalty to being sneaky (they're too busy wanting to bite the person they're supposed to be hiding from). Emotional stances are marked on a grid with two axes, on one hand you have the confrontational/empathetic axis, while on the other you have the considered/instinctive axis.

This idea could easily work for robots. On one axis you could get precision versus power, while on the other you might have an offensive/defensive axis, or maybe a sensor/servo axis.

Looking at specific types of actions with the first grid set-up...

Precision and offence might increase the chance of critical strikes
Power and offence might i…

Is it good to deconstruct stereotypes?

Here's the basic idea...

I'm thinking of a Ghost City Raiders expansion called "Scoundrels". The characters in this expansion tend to have personal agendas which earn them victory points for stealing things from other characters, or generally causing trouble.

A couple of the character ideas I have in mind are liars; one in particular is a master of bluffing.

This is the character that I think has some great story potential within the game; but I'm wondering how they will be taken.

The character-type is specifically of Asian descent, and reflects a few Asian people I've known (one of whom was ethnic Chinese, one Vietnamese and another Korean). This character exploits the stereotypes around them. Many people assume that since the character is "Asian", they "must know martial arts". The character does nothing to dispell that myth, and actually plays up on it.

In Ghost City Raiders, they get "bluff" and a range of other skills that …

The Good, The Bad and the Furry

Image
I've almost finished work on a simple expansion to Tooth and Claw.

It's a general players guide with a few ideas on how to get the most out of playing a ferret, and a few optional new rules that might make the game a bit more interesting. Leah and I have also statted up our rag-tag business of furry heroes, these will be released in two formats as a quick-play starter-set (ferret generation in the game is pretty quick already, but this would allow players to get directly into the action, or show people how a group of ferrets links together).


Just like the core rules, I'll probably be selling each of these for a dollar and I'll be directing half of the profits from these directly to the NSW Ferret Welfare Society. The society will be getting a fairly sizeable cheque (or cash donation) at this stage.

I'll also be writing up a GM's guide to Tooth and Claw some time in the near future, and maybe drawing up some sample maps of houses from a ferret's perspective.


Through the Breach

Image
I guess it's too late to advertise it now, but I've been bust over the last couple of days.

I'm happy that the Wyrd Miniatures Kickstarter project "Through the Breach" has done so well. The miniatures game is great, it's been a part of the inspiration for a few of my recent projects. I hope the roleplaying game is just as good, and certainly hope it's worth all the money that everyone has pumped into it.

I've got pretty good faith that it will be a good game based on the other work put out by Wyrd, I've just got my nagging doubts based on the forays of other miniature companies into the world of RPGs.

They've now got until September to produce something awesome.