28 March, 2017

Building up a Composite Scene

Step 1: First a 3D render of the key items in the scene is generated. This render handles things that need to remain consistent in the scene. Typical examples include the Lawbringer cycle, common vending machines, and in this articular example. an arcology corridor. This ensures the perspective is right and the setting doesn't vary for no apparent reason.   

Step 2: This is meant to be a city with over half a billion people living in it. The vast majority of those people are faceless masses that don't mean a lot to our stories except as context. So I add in some silhouette figures always in the background.

Step 3: Add some posters, some signage, some graffiti... Generally I like to make sure that these elements tell a bit of a story in themselves. S the signage is the sort of thing you'd find in a tyical dystopian setting, while the wall graffiti implies the sinister cults that I've mentioned in the rules.

Step 4: Now I apply the first of a few threshold effects. Everything lighter than a 50% shade is turned white, and everything darker than that 50% shade is turned black. This example is a pretty dark one.

Step 5: I apply a few more threshold effects. typically at the 25% and 75% brightness levels, but in this case the darkness needs more nuance, so I play at the lower levels. This threshold effect occurs at 37.5%

Step 6: The lowest threshold level is at 25% in this example.

Step 7: I turn the various threshold effects to 50% opacity and overlay them.

Step 8: Compressing those layers, I can move forward with additional effects. The first of t\which is applying a half-tone filter to make the image look more like something from a newspaper. That starts to give it the lo-fi effect that I'm after for this setting.

Step 9: On another layer where I duplicated that compressed image, I run the Photoshop "Photocopy" filter, it basically highlights the edges and maintains a bit of texture.

Step 10: One of the final stages in this particular image is to take the "photocopy" filtered image and place it over the layer with the "half-tone" filtered image. The "photocopy" layer is set to multiply itself over the "halftone" to bring out the outlines with a darker black.

But the image was looking too bright, so I took a duplicate of the 50% threshold layer (from back in step 4) and applied it over the top again, multiplying it again to only make the image darker, but turning to opacity down to 30%.

That gives us a final image like this.

All it needs is a few foreground characters who will be drawn in later.

27 March, 2017

Last Image of the Lawbringer

The Lawbringer needed a few features to make it feasible as a vehicle for our Agents of the Law. It needed mirrors, headlights, indicators, seat cushioning, footplates, display consoles, and handlebars.

To add a bit more to it. I've also added Department of Law insignia (to the front, and on each side at the back), and some cooling fins to the main engine at the rear wheel. I'm working on the assumption that these bikes will be electrically driven, so there's no real need for a massive engine assembly in it. 

Applying the previous filters to the image, I get something like this...

...and I think we're basically done.

Now it's time to move on to the uniforms of the Agents of Law, and their two signature firearms (the taser used by training agents and the multi-purpose multi-ammo assault pistol used by full agents). 

26 March, 2017


Agents of the law have signature equipment. Often these pieces of equipment have the word "Law" in their title somewhere.

"Law-keepers", "Law-masters", "Law-bringers"

The vehicles that bring Agents of the Law to the scene of a crime are the "Law-bringers". These are lightly-armoured, highly-maneuverable cycles designed for high speed alley chases and highway patrol. There are generally four types of Lawbringer Cycle; one is a base model that most agents start with, and three are upgraded variants assigned to sergeants and captains of the department. The three upgraded variants either have heavier armour, AI navigation systems, or are hovercycles.

I've been working on a design for a cycle. I haven't decided if it's the general cycle, or the AI version (it certainly doesn't look to have heavy armour unless it has some kind of integrated force shield...and it has wheels, so it doesn't quite fit the idea I have in mind for a hovercycle).

Here's what I've got so far.

It still needs a lot more work, but once I've got the shape right, it will be easy to generate imagery by rendering up the cycle in an appropriate scene, then applying the various filters that will give the game imagery it's signature look.

Speaking of which, here's another air of background images I threw together.

Now it's back to uni assignment work, and in a few days I might have some more image updates.

23 March, 2017

Another background image for the Law

This is starting to get closer to what I'm after

Still needs more layers though.I want this to remind me of my trip to Tokyo, massive density, things going everywhere, elevated motorways and mass transit systems, this is meant to be a city for half a billion people to live in...and it needs to look like it. Not only that, it needs to look like the people in charge of town planning have the same level of regard for the general populace as Donald Trump does....and people like that have been in power for decades. This setting is dark, mean, might unclean.

More image experimentation to do.

21 March, 2017

Here are the images

The following images were meant to accompany the previous post.

Here is the raw render of the test buildings

And here, it is after fiddling with it in Photoshop a bit.

Here is the raw version of the Law Agent's badge that I'll probably be going with...

Here it is filtered to look like it is appearing on a low quality vid-screen...

And this version is grittier still, but verging on illegible. Some days I think this is exactly what I'm after, some days I think that this has pushed things too far.

Depicting the Urban Blight

While I've been busy working on university stuff, I've had backup computers rendering collections of buildings that I've made in 3D modelling software.

I think I need more building types to add into the mix...many, many more building types,...because everything is looking a bit too regular at the moment. Sure, there need to be some areas of regimented order, but the setting isn't about that...the setting is about a world contstantly on the brink of anarchy and rioting. There needs to be more chaos.

19 March, 2017

Law Imagery

A few days ago I shared my current work in progress, The Law.

It didn't have any images in it, so it's time to start remedying that situation.

The first images I've started on are the badges of the Agents of the Department of Law. I'm not sure they're quite right yet, but they are close to what I'm after.

The armoured uniform is giving me a few more issues. I'll post those images soon.

17 March, 2017

Crossover Potential

One of the things I liked about the World of Darkness was the specific potential for telling very different stories in the same world. I guess that D&D was doing that for years previously, where you could cross dark stories into any setting by applying the Ravenloft rules to whatever setting you regularly played (or Spelljammer if you wanted pseudo-spacefaring, or Planescape if you wanted something a bit more metaphysical). But the World of Darkness claimed to produce distinctly different urban fantasy horror stories all set in a single rich world that didn't require jumping between worlds or planes to change the tone of each story. In this alley, werewolves were ripping apart a corporate executive who had greenlit a gas-mining exploration plant in a delicate ecosystem, while two alleys over a pair of vampires were delicately settling a blood feud that had been ongoing for centuries (by similarly pounding the crap out of each other).

In theory, you could run alternate weekly games with different sets of protagonists and different genres of story, but the same rotating roster of NPCs. In this vampire game Old Zeke is just a homeless guy who happens to have useful information about the local city blocks...in that werewolf game he's actually a kinfolk shaman who doesn't mind the vampires because they serve a role in the local city's ecosystem, and as long as they don't step out of line or become to powerful, he doesn't have to call in his big furry family members to put them back in their place.

It only ever got messy when the two genres actually did come into contact. What takes precedence, extra actions from Rage or Celerity? This power says it works against that attribute, but the other guys don't have that attribute... Every book seemed to have a new way of translating things between games, which worked well in tandem with another book, but contradicted two or three others.

The nWoD tried to remedy this with a core book, then making all of the creature games spin-offs from that basic structure. In that way, I thought it was good (in every other way, I found something to dislike about it... "WHAT NO KITSUNE! I'm outta here" [slams the door] )

My basic point here is that this new project "The Law" is basically very close to the direction I was heading with my earlier project "Familiar". Where one deals with keeping the peace in a crime ridden city, while the other deals with keeping magic alive in a city where the very essence of mysticism is dying. Agents of The Department of Law deal mainly with criminals, their goals are to maintain the peace and ensure the safety of citizens; this is done through investigation, establishing relationships with the local community, and dealing immediate justice when necessary. Familiars deal mainly with mystics and outsiders, their goals are to find artefacts and tomes of magic, containing them when dangerous, and releasing the energies within when the metaphysical balance needs realigning; this is also done through investigation and establishing relationships with the local community, but often needs to be done in a subversive manner to avoid the attention of the authorities.

Both games are about keeping the world in balance, one maintaning a balance of law, the other maintaining a balance of magic. Both try to keep dark things from spilling over into public view, but when one is a game about police, and the other could generally be considered a game about heists, it's easy to see how they could come into conflict. It would be just as easy to throw a few other types of games into the mix... perhaps a noir story system about private eyes who live in a grey area between the authorities, the criminals, and the metaphysical outsiders... perhaps my Tom Waits inspired game about gritty and rusted morality, focused on angels in a world where belief is both a cherished treasure and a sign of insidious insanity.

But the aim at the moment is to get one game working right.

14 March, 2017

An analysis of a text

+Paul Stefko has put together a series of blog posts describing his reflections on reading the original Vampire the Masquerade book, now over 25 years old.

At this time of writing this blog entry, he is up to the fourth installment and has basically finished the core text, with a promised post to reflect on the whole book, and where it basically went after that point.

It's one of those things I've tried to do a couple of times here, I can't remember if I actually completed it in any depth, but I know I've done a few cross comparisons of how different games are laid out. It's interesting to see so eone else's take on the subject matter. 

I never managed to get a copy of the first edition Vampire book, I have copies from second edition onward, and most of the other Storyteller Core Books from first edition. There was something fun about those early editions, where there was more scope for changing the game to suit a group's needs, and a lot of little jokes in the text, or elements that were simply removed from late editions of the game because they didn't fit the grim dark narrative of the setting. It's a bit like the Warhammer products from Games Workshop in that regard. This is an analysis of a book that was written as an experiment, before it gained critical acclaim and reshaped gaming for a generation of players. With all the OSR stuff that has been going on for the last decade or so, it might be interesting to see new products replicate the games of this era. The purchase White Wolf's intellectual properties by a new and enthusiatic game producer might see some of that revitalisation, but I doubt it.

Either way, it's an interesting read.

13 March, 2017

Image Free Player's Guide

Here's a copy of The Law.

It doesn't have images in it, but just imagine dark-gritty-noir-cyberpunk-2000AD-Dredd inspired images all through it.

I've thought long and hard about the extra things I want to add to it, but most of those things are probably better suited to a GM/Dispatch guide. Such things include...

  • details about how to actually guide agents through a patrol
  • ideas about different types of scenes that could be played through (vehicle chases, interrogations, negotiating with kidnappers/terrorists/corporate-management, etc)
  • twists in the story that could be inserted when agents cause certain situations to unfold (eg. discovering later in the story, that killing a certain gang member a few scenes ago was a bad move)
  • ideas for the Department of Law R&D labs, and how they can offer untested equipment to agents if a requisition roll is made
  • ideas about linking multiple patrols into an ongoing story
  • ideas for developing quirky gang members and citizens who aren't necessary threats but are instead fun story elements in their own right.

These are things that players don't really need to know.

There could be a whole lot more to add to this. But I need to stop somewhere, and this basically works as a core concept that's really close to where I was aiming with my "Familiar" game, so it's won't take a whole lot to adapt the work here back into that game idea.

For the moment, back to University work.

12 March, 2017

Requisitioning Equipment

It was the mid 90s, a few RPG companies were starting to experiment with settings and work with derivatives that ventured beyond their bread-and-butter game lines. It was the first time I was at University, and I had started going to RPG conventions to explore games outside my element.

Specifically, I'm thinking of 1995...White Wolf had designated it "The Year of the Hunter". Eachof the Five main game lines had a sourcebook released, each specifically linked to the theme year. I can't remember if this was their first in the "Year of..." series, there was a similar "year of the Sidekick" (or some such thing) that came just before or just after this. Late there was a "Year of the Lotus" with Asian themed versions of all their game lines.

But, "The Year of the Hunter" series is where I'm focused. It was a moment at one with the pop culture zeitgeist, perhaps a little ahead of the curve. The X-Files was at its peak of popularity, and Buffy would be coming out shortly thereafter.

One of the things that a lot of these quirky supplements did was play with the rules in some way, most commonly through the Background traits or the optional merits and flaws, that could be acquired by different characters. Things like military ranks (which could be adapted to ranks in a police force) which gave a new system of status separate to the machiavellian struggles of the vampires, or the power-integrated system of the werewolves (and other shifters). There wee odd little mechanisms that modified die rolls, granted extra dice, or manipulated story elements independently of game mechanisms. It was all very arcane and my 20-year-old brain loved the intricacy.

My two favourite game lines were Werewolf and Mage, so it's hardly surprising that the key concept I'm thninking about here is the "Project Twilight" book which was where the hunters crossed over with the werewolves. In this book was an Equipment background, which basically allowed players to requisition items from a department central depot. We always played it in such a way that a character could "borrow" equipment up to a total point value equal to their "Equipment" background trait, and at the end of the mission you would hand it back, so that you could borrow new equipment for the next mission, where such items would be chosen based on the expected impending scenario.

This blew me away at the time.

D&D was all about spending gold on every single piece of equipment, then making sure you weren't over encumbered by it. Regular Storyteller system was all freeform, and if it made sense that your character would have something, then they just get it.

This was a flexible halfway point, and something that I've wanted to add into a game for a long time. But I needed the right setting for it to work. The Law is feeling like the right setting for that to work.

I'm using both "Rank" and "Requistions" in the game. Where "Rank" gives a core cluster of equipment, as well as giving a general status level for the characters, and a die used in comflict resolution. "Requisition", on the other hand, is a social/influence skill that certain characters have, allowing these characters to draw additional resources that might not generally available, or upgrade their core items.

In keeping with the Judge Dredd themes of the game, all characters have a gun, a motorcycle, and some armour. With each improved level of rank, one of these pieces of equipment is upgraded.

Junior Agent (Taser, Basic Motorcycle, Light Armour)
Field Agent (Lawkeeper Pistol, Basic Motorcycle, Light Armour)
Senior Agent (Lawkeeper Pistol, Basic Motorcycle, Medium Armour)
Sergeant (Lawkeeper Pistol, Upgraded Motorcycle, Medium Armour)
Captain (Lawkeeper Pistol, Upgraded Motorcycle, Heavy Armour)

Taser - multi-shot stun pistol. Never Lethal
Lawkeeper Pistol - variable ammo pistol. Where different types of ammo have different effects. Armour piercing, Incendiary, Scattershot, Rubber Bullets, etc.
Basic Motorcycle - high speed and manoeuvrable
Upgraded Motorcycle - either a Smart-Cycle (self driving), a Hover-Cycle, or a Tactical-Cycle (armoured and weaponised) [Agent's choice, but once chosen, it's fixed]
Armour - where each degree of armour adds an extra level of protection.

Players can spend their requisition successes on upgrading their equipment, or choose entirely different items to add to their toolkit for the patrol.

It's all still a bit vague, but it's starting to come together.

08 March, 2017

The Law

Pseudo-Dredd now has a name. 

But it has run into my inevitable quagmire of expanding word count.

The idea was to wrote up a basic 16 page comic, print it in the form of an '80s 'zine. Crudely printed on a photocopier, black and white, stapled...maybe with a cover using heavier weight coloured paper..again printed with a black toner photocopier. There would be enough in the rulebook to run a game, but it would be richer when added to a notebook filled with images of the tower setting, where a group could either buy the prewritten setting (where I scribbled over the pages describing the inhabitants and the stories within), or they could buy the 'blank' version of the notebook (which was still filled with maps and images, but had heaps of room for players to write in their own exploratory notes). 

I'm rapidly finding that the gameplay I want needs more than this, players in the game portray 'Agents of the Law', the GM role is referred to as 'Dispatch', indicating the way this role points characters to the trouble hotspots that need addressing. I'm looking at producing a complete 'Dispatch Guide' to provide grounding for the way stories might unfold in this setting, and to provide prompts about the way I would run the game in ways different to those commonly found in other RPGs.

At the moment, these 'Dispatch' notes are scattered through the main text but aren't awfully clear, and they are subtracting from the space where evocative images of the setting could be added in. 

I guess two 16 page booklets isn't too bad.

Besides, this design work has generated a few ideas that will be fed back into my "Familiar" project, as well as fusing ideas from my previous "System 4" discussions, and other unfinished ideas. 

07 March, 2017

Pseudo-Dredd (The First Bit)

The tower project I was working on a couple of months ago was a part of a larger plan...I don;t know if it was a part of a larger plan at the time when I was doing it...or if it was, I don't know if that plan is the same plan that it's now a part of.

Either way, another fragment of the grand plan is a fairly simple RPG, based loosely on a Judge Dredd concept (with serial numbers filed off).

Here's the first few pages.

Illustrations, character sheet and the remaining pages coming soon.