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Showing posts from March, 2014

Real Oriental Adventures

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I've long been a fan of Asian inspired settings, I've written a few games with Asian inspired setting myself. But it's great to see someone from this part of the world giving us the lowdown on how these settings should be done right.

Alexander Osias over at Hari Ragat Games has started a series of blog posts about Building South-East Asian Settings, and I hope this post is the first in a long series. [EDIT: It's actually Dariel Quiogue at Hari Ragat Games...Alexander just shared the link]


The first post is pretty comprehensive and a great grounding point for the concept.
Good work, Alex Dariel.

(P.S. To answer the opening question in the post...the reason I haven't written more South-East Asian inspired gaming material is because of all the people screaming "cultural appropriation" in recent years.)

Back on the Hottest List

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It's always nice to be on the RPGNow Hottest Titles list.

It's been a while since I've had a product there, but then again it's been a while since I've released a product. I hope that this means the experiment is working, even if it isn't then there should be a few people seeing the new mechanisms that drive this game and that might help inform further game designs in future.

Now it's just a case of waiting until the first batch of reviews come through, hopefully the game makes sense to other people and it's not just an incoherent jumble of crap.

The Experiment Has Gone Live

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I don't know how well this idea will work, but unless you try something new, there's no way you can ever advance.

So, as an attempt to push the envelope, I've launched my new project over on RPGNow.

Voidstone Chronicles
You can choose to pay a cheap price up front to help support the development of the product, or you can wait until a more polished version of the product becomes available (and pay a bit more once it's ready). I won't say too much more here, just go over there and have a look.

An Idea that needs an Application

I was driving the car today and an idea struck me...I have no idea what to do with it, or how best to implement it. So I'm throwing it out there as a concept that anyone can take.

The basic concept is that a player has a hand of cards, they play a card from their own hand and the GM draws a random card from their hand. If two characters are going up against one another, each player draws a single card from their hand, and then draws a random card from the remaining hand of their opponent.

What happens now?

I'm not sure, it's just a kernel of an idea.

Maybe a player compares the cards in some way. An action might have a difficulty, and the player needs to select a higher card to beat that difficulty...if the random card is higher still, they get an extra degree of success on their action...or maybe, if the random card is higher, they get a success but don't have to sacrifice something in the process.

At this stage, it's just something else to throw in the toolkit wh…

Maps, Character Sheets and Fun for "Tooth and Claw"

I've just added a few new accessories to the Vulpinoid Studios RPGNow store, character sheets and other play aides for "Tooth and Claw". They're free downloads (but you might need to spend a coup,e of dollars on the game to make them useful).

Visit it here.

There's no excuse for Bad Art

A quick look through some of the home brewed RPGs shows a mix of great artwork, but there is also some terrible imagery.

I know that a lot of independent designers are one-person operations, and there are only a very few people can be a great at all aspects of publishing (writing, editing, layout, artwork, marketing), but this doesn't mean artwork has to suffer.

Even if a game designer doesn't have artistic talent, or a doesn't have a budget to hire someone for the job, there is some awesome public domain art available.

I've done a quick search for "public domain fantasy images", and found enough links to get anyone started...as well as a few forum posts that link to new avenues for research.

The Google Search Result
(EDIT: A quick look at some of these images shows a few that I recognise from various sources and are probably not public domain...but you can narrow down the search with Google, perhpas limiting the results to those with "labelled for resuse…

Inverse Bell Curve

There has been a tendency to produce games using bell curves recently. Roll 2 or 3 six sided dice and add the results together, you end up with a pattern where there is a higher probability of getting central values, and a lower chance of getting outliers (either high or low). The FATE system is similar, using dice that generate results of "+","-", or "0", you roll a bunch then end up with values centred around zero, gradually getting less chance of extreme positive results or extreme negative results. 
But is it possible to come up with the exact opposite? A method of randomising results that has a lower probability of generating these central values, and more chance of extreme outcomes (whether positive or negative)?
I've been contemplating this for a couple of hours and haven't been able to come up with a good solution yet.
"Why would you want this?" I hear you ask.
There are a few reasons.
Firstly, because "middle of the road" i…

What the hell is happening to D&D?

Since yesterday's post regarding Apocalypse World basically went ballistic (400-odd views and over 30 comments in less than a day), I fugured I'd have a look at my other successful posts over the years.

Number One on the list is an innocuous post entitled "Obligatory 5e Post", looking back on it in retrospect I guess that it was a bit of a clickbait thing as well...but it was posted in January of 2012. That's got me thinking...it's over 2 years later, and I still don't know what's happening to the elusive new edition of D&D. I've designed games, abandoned them, designed new games, and then revisited abandoned designs in that period. The thing that slows me down is typically the fact that I'm only one person and I can't spread the workload. What can be holding up a project that is meant to be the quintessential flagship product for our hobby? Surely, WotC has more than just a single person working on the product...frantically typing awa…

The Ten worst things about Apocalypse World

I seem to be the only one in forums who casts a critical eye on certain "Indie darlings"...maybe I'm just someone who likes to tip over sacred-cows in the middle of the night...maybe I've just got a thing about sacred cows at the moment.  It's not that I don't appreciate what these games are trying to do, it's not that I think they're rubbish; it's just that I think people should get over them...they aren't the be-all and end all of gaming existence for the whole world. They don't need to be hacked, re-hacked, appended to other settings, praised for their incredible versatility (even though they may have been only designed to do one thing well). I just think that people get lazy when they see something cool, the same could be just as easily directed at "FATE", "Burning Wheel"...pretty much any of the games that have had half of the posts on the front page of Story Games dedicated to them at one time or another.

People n…

What do you do with the corpse of a sacred cow?

If we work on the analogy that a game is a body. There are certain fundamental concepts in the game that could be described as its skeleton, these are the immutable parts that hold everything together and give the game structure. Then there are parts that could be described as the muscles, they allow the game a degree of flexibility, and configure the bones in ways that allow work to actually be done.
In FUBAR (and by extension, Walkabout), the skeleton consists of the "otherkind" mechanism where players roll or draw a series of random outcomes then allocate their results to different categories before applying the result back into the story. That's clever, it's not mine (and credit has to go to Vincent Baker for that one), and a lot of people love that about the games. Another bone is the pool of tokens that represent the challenges to be overcome as the characters work their way to the climax...this one is mine, and it also stays.
The bits that cause the dilemma are …

Killing your Sacred Cows!

There comes a time when a person has to bite the bullet. An idea that seemed really good when it first arrived needs to get tweaked when it hits the real world, perhaps it doesn't integrate with the other ideas it is linked to...perhaps a few extra tweaks make the idea no longer resemble its original incarnation.
I've come to this point with FUBAR (and by extension, Walkabout). A single concept in the rules seemed really elegant at the time; but when the game is actually played, the rule tends to be ignored because   it's too fiddly and breaks the flow of the game.
After dozens of play sessions at conventions and at home, I realised that there was a problem with this core aspect of FUBAR, and I generally tended to avoid it. Most players didn't notice the difference (or didn't say anything to me), probably because they didn't understand the idealised version of the game that was floating through my head...they only knew the experience I was providing at convention…

Religious Symbolism in Fantasy

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What kinds of symbols would religions use to signify themselves in fantasy settings?

I guess it would be much the same as the assortment of symbols found in our world. Some religions might use stylised weapons to represent the martial prowess of their deities (a hammer, a scimitar, a bow), other religions might use symbols that embody the virtue of the religion (a feather, a sun, a mirror) or provide allusions to the way the religion views the path of it's practitioners (a wheel, a footprint, ladder).

More literally minded religions (or naturally based ones) might find a commonality in using animal symbols to represent totem spirits, or reflect the virtues traditionally attributed to specific beasts. Or they might use ideograms representing holy places (mountains, waterfalls, trees).

More esoteric religions might work to obscure their symbolism in highly stylised forms (spirals, geometric forms), and eventually those symbols might become so stylistic that they lose any affiliation…

A new game format - The Pocketscroll

I'm thinking of doing something small, but not in the pocketmod format.

The basic idea at this stage is printing out an entire game on a series of small scrolls. It's probably going to come in three parts: a player's guide, a GM's guide, and a setting text. Each of these would be printed together on an A3 sheet, cut into thirds lengthwise. You would then roll up each of these strips into a little scroll about 10cm wide, and 40cm long. 

The whole idea is to create something that's a bit more evocative and immersive than a booklet.

What do you think?

For the right game, it might be a winner.

Map of the Little Ones

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"Tooth and Claw" is a little game I wrote at the beginning of last year. It's a game about ferrets and since the characters call humans "Big Ones", it only makes sense that they'd be called "Little Ones".

One of the things missing from "Tooth and Claw" is a series of easy access play aids...maps, trait cards, character sheets.

But what would a ferret map look like? What important things would it include?


Here's the first idea for a ferret map, vaguely based on my own home.

Inspiration Image

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I love this juxtaposition. The idea that something which is the "finest" is thrown away as rubbish.

When I saw it, I had to get a photo of it.

I want to use it for something, but I just can't think of anything at the moment...besides, I've got a few other unfinished projects that need attention before I should start anything else.

Cards or Booklets

For Voidstone Chronicles, the majority of the rules are contained in a series of pocketmod booklets.

Players also get a small range of cards for easy reference to their equipment, their conflict actions (attacks, defences, spells, prayers, etc.)

At the moment this means there are a LOT of cards, and most players won't get to see even a quarter of the available options. I'm wondering if it will be easier to compile this information into booklets, or leave them as cards. If I was to take the booklet option, there might be a "Book or Imperial Weapons", a "Book of Armour", a "Book" for different cults and religions containing the relevant prayers, a "Book" detailing the spells available to a certain school...etc.

The idea is to make it accessible for players, but maybe this is just confusing things.

That's my rant for the moment.

A Colour Mapping Technique (Part 4)

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The last entry in this series about map colouring showed a process for applying depth to the passages and chambers of the map.
Now I turn the other layers back on, integrating the newly rendered passages into the map.

The depth of these passages certainly makes them stand out in comparison to the other flat areas of the map. That's what I wanted, so things are going well.

But things are looking a bit dreary. I think that the map needs something to lighten it up a bit, so that means a new layer for lighting effects. I still have the passages selected (or I select them again using the magic wand tool), I choose a light orange/yellow colour to give the impression of torchlight. This layer will be applied over the lower layers with a "screen" effect. Using a small airbrush tool, anywhere that I want torchlight in the map, I do a quick spray of colour.


That's about it for the map at the moment.

On a new layer (this time right on top, even above the drawn map layer), I u…

Trenchcoats and Katanas

I'll just leave this here...

http://ryanmacklin.com/2014/03/katanas-trenchcoats/
As someone who really got into the 90s gaming scene, this strikes so many chords with me...

A Colour Mapping Technique (Part 3)

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So far everything has just been flat layers of colour, often blended in some way. I'm sure that most people would be able to adapt the ideas I've presented in their own graphic programs (as long as they are capable of handling layers). Adding specific depth might be a bit trickier.

In Photoshop I use the "Bevel" layer style in combination with some of the techniques already discussed.

(Oh, before I go much further, I forgot to mention that the wood texture of the boats and piers had a rough monochromatic scratchy texture applied to it. A bit of texture always stops things looking too flat.)

To focus on the technique for the tunnels, I'll strip away all of the other colours that have been applied so far.


First, I apply a new stone texture to the corridors.In this case, it really doesn't matter what the texture is, as long as it's a bit jagged and rocky looking. A new layer is added (on top of all the other textured layers, but beneath the drawn layer), the…

A Colour Mapping Technique (Part 2)

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We left the map at the end of part 1 at an adequate state; but the image was generally a bit flat.
So, I decided to add a few more layers into it. Each of these providing a bit more information and visual stimulus.
First, immediately below the "sandy beach" layer, I add a "wet sand" layer.

When a material is wet it tends to be a bit darker, and a bit richer in colour (I could get into the properties of physics that determine this...things like diffraction of light and scattering of reflection from rough or smooth items, but just trust me on this for the moment). The layer style follows cues from the sandy layer, with a pattern texture of "yellow mums" at an opacity of 100%. To draw this layer I use an airbrush style of brush, big diffuse and black (colour doesn't matter because everything is going to be overlaid with the texture).

I spray along the coastlines where the beaches are, giving a vague impression that the sand continues down from these are…

A Colour Mapping Technique (Part 1)

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The following few posts use Photoshop, it's what I use, it's what I know. If you can use layers and filters in GIMP, then these techniques might work there as well. I don't know, I don't use it.

Colouring a map requires a starting point, in this case that starting point is a hand illustrated map. I drew up this map for the recent "Dungeon of Lost Coppers" event hosted by Dyson Logos. It was my second attempt at the event, so I wanted to do something dramatically different.

I decided to make the map as open as possible given the existing pre-defined sections of the dungeon. As I continued drawing, I couldn't decide between ruins or an island...I went with the latter.

The basic mapping style is the kind of thing I'd normally do (which coincidentally is pretty similar to the type of map that Dyson normally produces). I didn't want to add too many extra rooms to it, instead opening up the environment as much as possible within the constraints given.

S…

Voidstone Equipment

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Not sure how well these images will translate when posted to the blog, but here's where things currently stand with the images for equipment in Voidstone Chronicles.
The images are meant to be pixellated, but every time I expand them, they just end up blurry.











Map Tutorial 21: Roads

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It's been a while since we've had one of these.



This has been sitting on my pile of things to scan in and add to the tutorials.

I think that the next set of map tutorials will go through the processes I used for the Pirate Map in Dyson's challenge.

Cartographic permutations

If you weren't aware of the cartography contest run by Dyson Logos, it's all over now (except for the random "winner's" announcement). There were dozens of people who entered their interpretations of completion for an incomplete map drawn by Dyson...a total of more than 60 entries.

All of those entries are now posted at...

http://rpgcharacters.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/the-dungeons-of-lost-coppers/

One of mine is included (I've just asked about whether the other entry of mine will be added to the mix).

There is some awesome work among them, some great ideas that I wouldn't have ever thought of. If you want some mapping inspiration, go over and have a look.