Showing posts from May, 2015

The adventure begins

I've just finished up an illustration for my character in the new Pathfinder campaign I started during the week.

Well, it's not quite finished, but it'll do for the moment. If the game actually goes for more than a couple of weeks (and I finish drawing the other characters in the group), I might come up with a more refined version of the image.

At the moment it's looking a bit like a promo shot for a comic book.

Resolution of the Threat

About a week ago, I threatened a post on the gaming mechanisms inherent within the Eurovision Song Contest. Now it's time to make good on that threat.

Those who were worried about spoilers should have heard the news of Sweden's win by now, those who don't care about the contest won't be bothered about who won.

This year the announcers made reference to a new algorithm, his is interesting, but we'll get to that shortly. To a new viewer this algorithm made no real difference, because they had nothing to compare it to. To a new viewer the whole voting procedure is strange, it's built from an attempt to be unbiased, but is never-the-less incredibly biased and political.

Countries vote for their top ten performances, with the top three allocations stepping up by 2. Basically, what I'm trying to say here is...

10th place = 1 pt
9th place = 2 pts
8th place = 3 pts
7th place = 4 pts
6th place = 5 pts
5th place = 6 pts
4th place = 7 pts
3rd place = 8 pts
2nd place =…

Powers in a Game of Heroes

Superhero games rarely manage to capture the real feeling of the comics or movies they claim to emulate.

+Ron Edwards wrote an awesome post about this a few weeks ago, it's been sitting in the back of my mind ever since then. My thoughts have related to two projects I've been hoping to complete this year, the first is my "Other Strangeness" mutant animal RPG, and the second is a variant set of rules for FUBAR *(work in progress title...Four Colour FUBAR). I'd link to Ron's post if I could find it, but it basically promoted an idea where the power is less important than it's effect on the story, and the way the power is reflected in the narrative. The ability to throw a fireball is less interesting if it is defined by a damage of "4d6" (or something similar for the game), more interesting if it is defined by things you can do with it, and even more interesting if it gives you an outer range of potential and lets you play within those boundaries. I…


A half orc barbarian with massive intelligence but no formal training in how to apply it (think of him like a pseudo-medieval/fantasy mythbuster who likes to pull things apart and blow things up).

A human monk with a penchant for hanging out in bars after recently leaving his order.

An elven wizard who focusing on herbalism and alchemy, who has decided to become the core of the region's drug empire (hoping to absorb other existing drug cartels into his ring, or annihilate them)

A gnome rogue who can diplomatically persuade and charm almost anyone, after spending almost an entire human lifetime on the high seas as a specialist in the piratical art of the "parlay"...and who rides a combat training giant gecko.

That's where we started. Character generation started at 7pm, and used a single copy of the Pathfinder rulebooks between four people (two of whom had never played a tabletop RPG, only computer RPGs...and a first time GM). By the time we had an understanding of wh…

Critique of an Online Controversy

I've made some comments over the past few days indicating that I was writing a research paper into the #GamerGate controversy as a part of my university coursework. This drew a bit of attention from a few different directions. For those who were interested, here's a link to my current paper.

Character Assassins and Social Justice Warriors

I'm fully aware that there is a bias in the title, most articles and papers do have a bias like this in the attempt to show how things have been read. I'm also aware of the scope of the data set used to draw my conclusions, I hope this has been adequately conveyed in the paper. I just hope it's a reasonable discussion on the matter based on the analysis I've conducted, and there are no major leaps of faith needed for a reader to reach the conclusions I did.

Back to our regularly scheduled posts shortly.

A Grand Annual Game

This was going to be a quick post about Eurovision and the way there seems to be an underlying game element to the voting system. But I realise a lot of people haven't seen it, still intend to watch it, and this post would be full of spoilers for them.

The post is still coming, but it might appear tomorrow.

Mage 20th Anniversary Edition

My favourite all time mindbending chaos journey is back. I've had the chance to look at certain bits of it, and it's the same game I know and love, but with everything turned up to 11. It's full colour, and that's great for a game that's about exploring the limits of the imagination, most of the artwork I've seen is great, but there are a few pieces that are a bit ordinary.

I love the idea that the game doesn't define anything, it's basically a toolkit to define your world with, just like the magical powers that the characters play with, and manipulate through their will. I like that the traditions now have a choice of magickal spheres to focus on, and the concept of the internet as we now know it has been integrated into the game (while it was thought to take a very different form back in the early 90s when the game was first written).

It's interesting (in this version that i'm reading through), that certain editorial issues have slipped throug…


Not much time for typing now, just taking a quick break from data analysis for a university course.

The data I'm analysing is the cesspool known as Gamergate. I'm analysing it from a linguistic/pragmatic perspective to determine where insults occur, how those insults work and if we can really determine whether it's about misogyny or about ethics in games journalism. Individually, certain elements of data look innocuous, but certain patterns are definitely forming.

I don't want to talk about this too much.

I think I'll need to shower,and maybe disinfect myself by the time I've waded through all the vitriol.

Then I'll be able to go back to discussing more pleasant topics, like hideous space mutants, psychic fungal toxins, and ways to inflict slow, bleeding, lingering death on player characters.

Randomness in NPCs

Something I was really thinking about when in the early stages of designing the Hold Em NPC Generator was the fact that I wanted the NPCs to be "balanced", whatever the hell that means.

The way the first three cards of the flop work out, it reminds me a bit of the old Shadowrun character generation system where you get a bunch of categories and you get to prioritise them. One can be at the best level, one at the second best, moving down through the ranks. Everyone has the same levels to play with, but they may prioritise them in different ways.

The problem with the Hold Em method (if you see it as a problem), is that you get dealt three random cards from a deck, and you might end up with a J,Q,K or you might end up with a 2,3,4. You still get to allocate these cards in different ways, but both of these characters will be very different, and if the card ranks say anything about power levels at all then the first character made with face cards will be far more powerful.

I came…

...and we're live.

The Hold 'Em NPC Generator for Modern Characters has just gone live on RPGNow/DrivethruRPG.

Here's the link

Hopefully it sells a few copies in the next couple of weeks, that'll certainly get me motivated to create a few more generators along these lines.

Next project

Over the weekend, I went to "Comic Gong", a comic festival run by the council of the city of Wollongong. It was held in three venues, the city library, the city art gallery, and the town hall. Entry was free because it was all organised by the local government (which meant venues were cost the convention nothing to use). Despite free entry, it was a lot less crowded than most comic conventions I've been to. I even managed to track down some of the organisers about setting up a table at next years convention, expecting a typical $200 fee for the chance...but this year the local vendor tables were free as well (next year there might be a $20 fee).

Long story short #1, I need to get stuff together in the next 12 months to display to the world.

Long story short #2, I met a bunch of great artists who I'd love to share money with by launching some crowd-funded projects and getting them to illustrate for me. I've even found a local miniatures sculptor who said he'd …

Text Done, Now Images

Just letting everyone know that I've almost finished the Hold 'Em NPC generator.

The text is complete, now I'm just trying to search through my hard drives for some suitable images that might be appropriate to scatter throughout it.

It could probably do with some decent cover art, but that might need to be something I take care of when a few more have been generated and a hardcopy is crowdfunded (or made available for sale through DrivethruRPG/RPGNow).

I'm pretty happy with this little project and I hope other people will be too.

One more project almost knocked off this year's "to do" list.

Regarding votes and polls

About 8 hours ago I posted my first poll on G+, I've seen plenty of other polls on subjective things like "Who do you think is the worst companion on Nu-Dr.Who?" or "What's the best D&D setting?", but I thought I'd do something a bit different. I created a rendered CG form that I'd been working on, stripped away all the context, and asked people to pick a size for it.

HandheldThe size of a single person escape podMaybe the size of a small shuttleA cruiser (maybe 100m)Massive (a kilometre or so)
Here's the image.

It was proposed that maybe the form was the size of a tablet "Take two of these an call me in the morning" (+David VC), and certainly that was a size option I hadn't added to the mix.

At this point, I've had 53 votes in the following pattern

Generally, that gives high votes around the small shuttle or cruiser size. I can see that, the level of detailing might need to be higher in a larger form, the bulbous fo…

Online Tabletop Gaming

Today I intended to spend an hour or two watching a roleplaying game being played out over a Google+ Hangout. It was being hosted by +Kyrinn S. Eis, pretty similar to something that I've run at conventions before (characters with little understanding of who they are, waking up from cryostasis, we then explore the characters as we explore the world), but using her own system (something that I offered some suggestions on during the week).

In her time, it was 8.30pm on Saturday night, which made it 10.30am on Sunday for me. My wife Leah was sick, so I didn't go along to my regular Sunday LARP, and the recent upgrade to our internet has made Google+ Hangouts vaguely possible. I hadn't really participated in one before, but watching it seemed a good way to put my toe in the water. I engaged the hangout just after the starting time, and became swept away in the game, with two other players (+Ethel B and +Keith Bailey). The biggest issue I had was a sick wife at the far end of th…

Welcome to Darkhive

While I was painting, my computer was working away rendering some CGI. These are for the long term work in progress tentatively titled "Darkhive", a ruined hulk deep adrift in astral spece, inhabited by the descendants of it's original crew and numerous other races who have become caught in its gravity well.
The basic ship is a dyson sphere within a dyson sphere. At the centre is a sub-black hole, maybe a neutron star, may a fragment of a white dwarf,or a naked doesn't really matter except that this power source is immense and will continue producing powered for hundreds of thousands of years.
The major open habitable zone of the ship exists between the dyson sphere layers. Above and below this zone are complex labyrinths of passages, chambers, and arcane technologies that sustain the ship. The problem with living in the major habitable zone are the mutated predators (some swim, some fly), so most people live in the passages above and beneath.

A Day of Painting

Not really a game design post today. Instead, these are some images I posted today on G+ and Facebook. I basically started with a blank canvas and posted a Work-in-progress shot every half hour or so.

Still a bit more work to do, but I'm pretty happy with the result from today's painting session. 
Maybe a painted book cover might adorn an upcoming game product.

NPC Generator Preview

I've started laying out the first Hold 'Em NPC generator.

Here's a peek at the first few pages for anyone who is interested.

More to come soon.

Rates of Change

In the last couple of days I've been looking at the total number of people in a setting, and how those people might break down into leaders, heroes, allies, and regular plebs. Previously I looked at starting levels for characters, they all vaguely tie together into the demographics of a setting and the types of inherent tales that might be told within that setting. Another factor to consider is character advancement, that's something else I've been considering a bit lately.

Rate of character advancement is definitely linked into the power levels, the number of people at those respective power levels, and what needs to be done to get between one level and another. This isn't a discussion for people who want iron-clad definitions of game balance, the very nature of having one character more powerful than another brings asymmetry to the table. It's also important to consider that power may be defined according to a few different metrics.

In super hero games it's o…

How many heroes?

My last post, entitled "How many people?", basically looked at a closed ecosystem population. It looked at the minimum number of people to generally be sustainable before problems occured. The post didn't look at these things from a "scientifically accurate" set of statistics, but more to get a general vibe for what might be a good minimum number to work with from a storytelling perspective, and how those number might reflect the distinct cultural groups that might form in a closed environment. It was a part of my background thoughts for the "Darkhive" project, but also informs the population levels in the post apocalyptic "Walkabout" setting.

"Darkhive" works on the assumption that all of the people in the setting are mixed blooded descendants of an original "Astral Cruiser" adrift for millennia in the furthest reaches of hyperspace, it works off the standard minimum numbers for a "generation ship". New blood o…

How many people?

A self contained "mega-dungeon" ecosystem contains enough people to prevent inbreeding, I vaguely remember that the absolute minimum population for this was 2 to the tenth or eleventh power (therefore 1024 or 2048 people). This would prevent inbreeding chances from cousins, second cousins, or even third cousins interbreeding, it would even ensure multiple generations had numerous viable options for breeding without genetic complication.

But is it enough people for something to justifiably be called a "mega-dungeon", are there enough people for distinct cultures to develop? If a war broke out, how many people can we afford to lose before the population becomes unviable? I'm looking at a few interbreeding racial genotypes, and a few cultural groups that blend into one another at the edges (have a look at my Worldbuilding 101 series to get an idea of how that works).
At this stage, I'm thinking of 50,000+ citizens, divided into a couple of larger groups at abo…

It is coming

One of many backburner projects that is getting closer to a formal release is the "Hold 'Em NPC Generator", a quick way to generate background information for the background characters that protagonists interact with in their stories.

Here's one of the flop tables that will form the generator.

Role – Public Persona (you may not allocate the highest ranked flop card here, unless there are two cards of that rank)
X Hearts – Socialites Clubs – Enforcers Diamonds - Wealthy Spades -  Crafters A Pimp or Madame Gang Leader Pawn Shop Dealer Drug Source 2 Streetwalker Gang Member Drug Dealer Farmer 3 Local Gossip Thug Pencil Pusher Apprentice 4 Newsreporter Neighbourhood Watch

Renaming Things...

Maybe I should have titled that last post "Applying a Bell Curve to Any Die Roll".

1d8 with a bell curve

I think the gaming world is finally ready for this concept, a combination of ideas I've had for years.

I was thinking about the concept of an in-game economy the other day. Where Characters would come to town with a pile of resources to trade, they'd earn credit that could only be used in this town, then buy up new things once they left for trade in the next town.
If each thing is valued seperately but in a range, you could just roll a bunch of dice and the final result would fall into a bell curve.
Scrap metal is worth d8 credits in this town...I'll trade the ten bits of scrap metal on my wagon, and roll 10d8 to see how much they'll give me for it. Maybe (but highly unlikely) they give me less than 20 if they've got a glut of scrap metal in town, it's just as likely they'll give me 70 or more if it's in scarce supply. More likely they'll offer me a value in the mid 40s. 
It works well when you've got lots of items to trade, and the dice average…

Font Porn

I love it when I run across someone who collects links for interesting fonts.

That happened tonight, and I thought I'd share some of their links.

30 Font Pack
or these
Ah...I won't bother showing them all, just head across to the

It's funny looking through sites like this and seeing what other people refer to as "Roleplaying".

Map Creation Tools

For those interested in cartography, this just came across my radar.

20 Map Creation Tools

I'll be trying a few of them out shortly, and might offer some reviews if people are interested.

Urban Geomorphs

Just somthing else I've been working on.

Like the Hold 'Em NPCs I described in the last post, this is a quick method for setting up things during a game of "Other Strangeness", but generic enough that they might be useful for any game set in a modern oeuvre. I'm thinking of generating up a dozen or so different alleyway morphs (each in a daytime and a nighttime colouring, reversable on the printed tile), then a few other options such as sewers, streets, shopping centres/malls, parklands. After I get through these, there might be options for modular mix-n-match apartments for characters to explore and engage in conflicts.

The "Other Strangeness" game doesn't use grid based movement, these geomorphs are more designed to show the feel fr the area, and generally divide a conflict into "zones", how far is this zone from that zone (adjacent equals close range, being in the same zone is melee range). Throwing the grids onto the maps mkes them mor…

Hold 'Em NPCs

A few years ago I created a little thing called the "Hold Em Scene Generator", using the mechanisms of Texas Hold 'Em (3 cards first, followed by two more in sequence) to create a range of quick scenes that might be easily added into any medieval/fantasy campaign fairly seamlessly. It worked well, I was happy with it, I wanted to revisit the concept for sci-fi, modern, and other settings. But like many things, I got distracted and moved onto other projects that seemed more pressing at the time.

I've been doing a little work in that regard over the past couple of days. Not so much using Texas Hold 'Em to create scenes, but instead using it to rapidly develop interesting NPCs (their place in the world, their attitudes, their goals). This specifically doesn't include game statistics, I'm trying to make sure it's open and accessible to any game, but more to add the depth that many game systems don't think about.

The idea is still nowhere near complete…

Goblins Revisited

If you bought a copy of my Goblin Tarot Deck, some of these images probably look familiar. I found them again, and I'll be usng them to attach to my recent "200 Word RPG" design that is morphing into a board game.

I think that the goblin aesthetic suits the game pretty well. Give it a couple of weeks and it might be ready for playtesting.