Showing posts from November, 2018

Do we really need attributes?

I look at games like Risus, or like the work I've just done with The Fen, or even looking back at earlier work I've tinkered with (Catacomb Quest comes to mind). There are plenty of other games that also don't use attributes at all, so it seems a bit odd to simply be including attributes because it's tradition to do so.

I've been looking over the work for The Fen, and one of the first things that came to mind was applying a system of races, cultures and occupations to it. Then I thought I should apply an attribute system... and that's when it hit me. Do we really need atttributes?

The ideas that led to this were an attempt to tie the basic system to the Other Strangeness project that I abandoned a while ago.

I initially thought that I needed the stereotypical races... human, elf, dwarf... because these make an easy point of entry for players who are used to the standard fantasy paradigm, but humans tend to be the vanilla, which gets flavoured more strongly by t…

NaGaDeMon failure

I guess it's not really a failure, I definitely spent a bit of time doing game design work during this month, but I've had so many other things happening that I really haven't managed to complete any of my intended game design projects.

The Quartermasters Files which functions as the basic equipment guide for The Law saw a bit of progress, so did the Most Wanted NPC guide.

The Fen went from a vague nebulous concept to an almost workable game that won't take too much effort to reach a playtestable state.

There was also a decent amount of drawing done for various projects.

10 Influential Games

Today's thing seems to be writing a list of 10 roleplaying games that have been influential in a person's interactions with the hobby. I've seen a few people writing the list with no further comments, I've seen others adding notations to their lists. There have been lists in order of most to least influential, there have been others written in chronological order of exposure or of publications.

I like the idea of doing it in order of exposure, and adding a bit of notation to explain why it's influential to me, so I'm going to write my list that way. There are probably other games that have had a significant impact on me, and there will be a list of honourable mentions at the end.

1. Dragon Warriors
This was the first RPG I owned copies of. I never played many games with it, but it's what started the whole journey.

2. Middle Earth Role Playing
This was one of the few RPGs that my parents allowed me to own, because it wasn't D&D and it wasn't "…

Pulling Apart and Recombining

One of the things about my design cycle is that I'm always shooting off on tangents, then I try to pull those tangents back into other projects.

This recent Fen project has had an idea that I've pulled from certain LARPs. It relates to the way weapon and armour works.

In those LARPs, there are simp,y some types of armour that are too protective for lesser weapons to penetrate. Instead of giving extra hit points or adding toughness, these armours simply say that if you aren't using a high enough level of weapon, you don't do a thing. So heroic knights wade through throngs of poorly equipped peasants and cut bloody paths of destruction through the masses... it's the wet dream of many libertarians and supremacists (as long as they're the ones in the armour).

The version in The Fen is slightly more nuanced.

Basically, you get certain thresholds of power level.

Let's say 'unarmed fists' counts as offence level zero and 'bare skin' counts as defen…

Another Step of the Journey has been Taken

I started retraining in 2012, when I began a college course in Fine Arts. From 2013 to 2015, I did a bachelors degree in Sociology and Linguistics [with minors toward teaching], because they offered the course that I thought I wanted, and I already had studies in Engineering and Industrial Design under my belt. From 2016 to mid 2018, I did a Master of Teaching degree, and began the process for formal accreditation as a teacher of Industrial and Visual Arts. After struggling with bureaucracy for eleven and a half months [during which I've done an additional college course in Photography], I've finally been approved to teach.

Now to start looking for teaching jobs...about three weeks before the school year ends. Hopefully this means I'll start teaching at the beginning of next year's school year.

More Fen Images [NaGaDeMon 2018]

I'm certainly not going to get this project finished this month, but it's going in the right direction. 
I still haven't completely decided what a lot of the monstrous creatures in the Fen actually look like, so I'll focus on a few more of these reference images.
I also haven't particularly determined what the survivor characters actually are. The original concept was to simply have them as humans, and this is certainly the easiest option, but it crossed my mind that the swamp-bound survivors could be goblins or kobolds, or something else entirely. I also considered the idea that the survivors could be left deliberately vague, something for players to decide.  

Illustrating The Fen

I mentioned in a previous post that this project was going to be done white on black, to accentuate the darkness of the Fen. That means the illustrations will also follow the white on black theme.

I'm not necessarily going to run with anything too realistic for this project, instead opting to draw the illustration in my "comic" style. The whole rules for the project will also be written in the font that I generated out of my handwriting a few months back.

Stat Blocks [NaGaDeMon 2018]

The Fen is designed to be played without a GM, because it's more of a co-operative survival game than a roleplaying game. As a result it draws a little from the idea of Fighting Fantasy books, by having a procedural set of rules to define how opponents will confront the characters. I've tried to develop a few 'opposition AIs' in the past, and they always start getting a bit fiddly because I often try to incorporate too much into the decision trees defining how the system reacts to player activities.

If anyone has good suggestions of how other games handle this sort of thing, I'd love to hear them.

At the moment though, I'm trying to get the feeling where different types of adversaries confront the characters in different ways. This is handled by giving the various opponent types a specific attack output, and a few key points indicating how they work strategically. Some opponents prefer to use ranged attacks, some hunt in packs, some prefer a straight up fight.

Character Development [NaGaDeMon 2018]

The survivors in the Fen have a few objectives. Primarily, they aim to survive as long as possible, hoping that one of the games victory conditions or escape clauses activates. Other objectives basically just support this in one way or another...

Explore to find new resources to gatherGather resources to make tools, equipment, weapons, and armour.Make tools and equipment to improve survivability, and make hunger/thirst/injuries easier to addressMake weapons and armour to hunt, or to avoid the worst when being hunted.Increase knowledge about the Fen, to know where new safe areas might be found if the encampment is destroyedIncrease knowledge of the self, improving the ability to engage all those other objectives with a greater chance of success.

It's that last one I'm thinking about.

The general setup of the game gives every player one or more "aware" survivors.

1 player = 3 aware survivors
2 players = 2 aware survivors each (for a total of 4)
3 or more players = 1 aware …

Things to Make and Things to Find [NaGaDeMon 2018]

I've been working on an item listing for The Fen. Basically the aim here is to provide a range of things that will help characters survive, not necessarily provide a list of anything and everything that characters in the fen could make. I was thinking of adding metal items to the lists, but decided that this ended up detracting from the potential game with too many choices.

FOUND COMPONENTS [these may be found by anyone] Blackblood, Carapace, Fat, Flint, Fungus, Herbs, Leather, Meat, Obsidian Shard, Spider Silk, Resin, Tar, Teeth, Weaving Fibres, Water, Wood
MANUFACTURED COMPONENTS [a character must have the ‘crafter’ trait to make these] Charcoal [wood]  Cloth [weaving fibres] Point [crude] [obsidian shard or flint] Point [good] [obsidian shard] Silk Cloth [spider silk] Spikes [carapace, teeth, or wood]
FOOD [a character must have the ‘cook’ trait to make these] Clean Water [water, carapace pot] – [anyone may make this] unless water has been boiled [and made clean] it can cause disease Coo…

Denizens (NaGaDeMon 2018)

Abberations, Undead, Planar entities, Dire creatures... D&D has all manner of categories for the entities that players may face in their travels. Each has expected traits and common abilities, even they do cover a wide range of options within those categories.

I'm thinking of doing something similar with The Fen, where I'm already up to about 40 different creatures that might be encountered, but these are generally categorised into

Blackblood - these creatures are infused with a parasitic black fluid  that mutates and transforms them in unnatural ways. They take extra damage from  weapons coated in a specific blend of fungus.
Fen - these are natural creatures of the fen, they may not be typical creatures on Earth (such as Fen Shamblers), but there's nothing particularly supernatural about them. 
Shadow - these are empowered by the perpetual darkness enshrouding the Fen, such creatures would effectively live forever if they weren't killed by violent means. They are fea…

Confrontation in the Fen [NaGaDeMon 2018]

There is always going to be confrontation and conflict in the perpetually darkened swamp-lands of the fen.  
I'm open to feedback here. I'd like feedback here. 
Basically our characters are defined by a range of skills that either give them a new way to roll dice that other characters don't possess [such as healing, crafting, or fishing], advantages to standard actions [such as being better at combat or scavenging], or some quirky one off ability [which might ignore certain penalties, or provide advantages when certain situations arise]. The amnesiac characters get one skill, while aware characters get a name, 3 skills, and a memory fragment that provides some special bonus while revealing something about their past. 
Ranged If there are characters at ranged distance with ranged weapons, ranged attacks are launched in descending order of initiative. Roll each ranged attack [roll a single d6 unless either combatant has an effect that says otherwise] [1] weapon is lost [2-3]…

White on Black (NaGaDeMon 2018)

No, this isn't a post about racial hate crimes. It's about page layout and developing mood in a text. 
In a game where the characters awaken in a swampland locked in eternal darkness and threatened by creatures of the murky shadows, it makes sense to me to have thed rules be as dark as possible. OneBookShelf has trouble with printing black text onto a gradient, or even onto greyscale (because the greys come out either over or under exposed, and the mood is instantly ruined). So I'm thinking of running with white text and line art on a black background.  I'm not going to keep writing this post that way, because the formatting is just bugging me here on the blog.

This idea isn't particularly innovative, I remember the Lasombra Clanbook doing it quite some time ago.

I do think the idea is still uncommon enough that it makes a nice novelty and quirky feature for this particular game.

Generally, things seem to be falling into place for the game. I should have a playable …

Types of Actions (NaGaDeMon 2018)

To keep things simple in this game, I'm going with 4 basic types of actions, and two starting types of survivor. The survivors are either Amnesiacs (who can do basic things and assist other characters in their tasks), or Aware (who have enough self-awareness that they can engage in more specific tasks). Each player gains control over one or more Aware survivors, while the Amnesiacs are basically a pool of assistants. As they perform deeds and gain experience, Amnesiacs may become Aware.

2 Actions anyone can do, regardless of whether they are Amnesiac or Aware....

Tending the Fire (successfully keeping the fire alive efficiently)
Recuperating (resting, eating and drinking )

2 Actions are initially limited to Aware survivors.

Exploring the Swamp (each hour a new part of the swamp may be explored, trudging across a previously explored part of the swamp takes half an hour)
Collecting Components (taking the time to specifically scavenge an area for a variable number of firewood pieces, cra…

Iterative Mapping (NaGaDeMon 2018)

We know our survivors are in a swamp trapped in endless night, but what does the swamp look like?

I'm thinking of a procedural system here where every game will generate a new piece of swampland.

We'll generally start with a blank hex grid.

But ee know that the characters are in a relatively safe part of the swamp at the beginning of play, so we'll add some positive modifiers to the central territories.

We also know that they start in a wooded area, to give them an easier time to collect dry wood at the start of play.

Going any further requires exploration, which not only uncovers other parts of the swamp, but also finds potential risks and rewards.

I'm thinking of a few basic types of swampy terrain... waterlogged copses of trees, long grass, boggy marsh, and wasteland. I haven't fully worked out thd symbols for these, or how many there will be... maybe 5, and if you roll a 6 on the die the new terrain is the same as the last terrain the explorers were in.


System Elegance (NaGaDeMon 2018)

If you've been a regular reader of the blog over the years, or even if you've just read a bunch of the posts about game design that I've made in that time, you'll note that I strive for elegance in systems. That doesn't mean striving to make simplistic rule sets, but it also certainly doesn't mean introducing complexity for the sake of it. I like sturdy, multifunctional rules that apply a common method of resolution to a variety of situations while feeling natural in those situations.

I like the idea of a simple (6 and under)/(7-9)/(10 and over) mechanism like the one found in Apocalypse World, and for some tasks it feels natural, but in my experience it finds it's limits quickly. This is especially true when it comes to the variant difficulties of tasks, or the variant skill levels of characters. The way that people tack new sub-rules onto the base to accomodate these issues indicates to me that the core rules were never meant to work in certain ways, and …

Gauging Play [NaGaDeMon 2018]

The Fen isn't designed to be a completely open ended roleplaying game, but it has roleplaying elements. It's a game where there always need to be risk, but that risk needs to creep up. 
To make sure this works, the game needs to start with the players at a relative degree of safety with a buffer zone between them and the creeping (but gradually accelerating) difficulty.
Here's how I see it...

If the players screw around, or don't successfully perform actions on a regular basis, they'll find that the difficulty factor bring a potential end of game after about 50 turns, and if we assume roughly 2 minute turns that means the game could end in under 2 hours... of course the early turns don't have a lot of options or complexity to them, while the later turns involve more strategic decision making, so this is really a rough estimate.

If players do perform well, they might get enough ahead of the curve that they can last 75-80 turns, and if we note that those later t…

It's all different

All designers have an idea about how they envision their games being played. I know that I run games in a specific way, I know that different designers have their own play styles in mind when they write their games. So it's always interesting to read something written by someone to highlight how they perceive a particular game to be different to others.

Symbaroum is one of those games that has been on the periphery of my notice for a while. When I saw that Paul Baldowski had written a blog post about how he saw the game behaving differently to others in the market, I naturally had to read through it. There's a lot of good points in the article, and it's always fascinating to see how someone perceives a work to be read and utilised.

Reading through the post, I'm now more interested in giving Symbaroum a more careful read. I'll have to download the OneBookShelf app that organises all the purchases made from that site, because I might have already purchased it, but I …

Actions have Repercussions

"Hey look at me! I'm edgy and causing controversy!"
"Oh, oops, I went too far? Who would have thought that being controversial might lead to trouble...people are saying bad things about me... no, no, I didn't mean it... yes I like that guy you think is an arse, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't like me."

Yep. I called it. I don't necessarily like calling it, but I feel it's a moral obligation to call out people who are causing problems.

Some folks are leaving the LotFP banner.

...and the fearless leader really isn't apologising over it, he's just sorry that his creative partners are leaving.

Quite a few of us have been pointing out for a long time that the shock-and-awe model of publicity really wasn't doing much to endear that pillar of the OSR community to the wider gaming world, but it's a bittersweet situation to see things unfold the way they have.

I'm hoping this will be the end of it, that people have learned …

Observing the Fox

I don't often take selfies...

...but I'm relatively happy with the way this one turned out.

Turn-by-Turn Storytelling (NaGaDeMon 2018)

The Fen as I originally envisioned it, is a game about a group of survivors, seeing how long they last in a wild swampland bayou locked in perpetual darkness. Each turn is an hour, and during each turn characters can perform tasks such as tending to the campfire that keeps them safe, exploring the swamp, gathering the food necessary for ongoing survival, scavenging and foraging for components, and crafting items from those fomponents that will make ongoing survival easier. Once enough things have been done, the characters level up, gaining new skills (or remembering old ones as their amnesia fades away), and revealing elements of their past which might influence future turns.

It's intended to be a game that one player could play to weave the narrative of a group, but could just as easily be a game where multiple players collaboratively work together to survive as long as possible. It's generally intended to be open ended, but I'm wondering whether a natural conclusion poi…

Fish in a Barrel

In case I needed further proof that Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a confused beast, and those behind it are attention starved controversy hounds who promote right wing agendas, this just falls into my lap.

I'm sure the same people (predominantly white, cis, male) will tell me that it doesn't mean anything, yet again. But the dog whistles are dropping in frequency, and coming more often.

Don't get me wrong, it's not just LotFP where this sort of regressive gaming and attention whoring lingers.

It takes me back to my earlier post entitled "Old School Regressive?", which generated quite a bit of conversation. In that, I was remarking on the tendency of OSR games to be regressive in their attitudes to race, and I had a diverse group of people adding their support, or privately messaging thanks to me for voicing the opinion, and a fairly narrow (white, cis, male) demographic telling me that I was reading too much into it.

Between that post and this one, th…

The Fen

There are always ideas going through my mind where I combine the concepts that have been produced by other people, into something new, or maybe just a new interpretation of something that that I think wasn't necessarily executed as well as it could have been. I guess that's just the curse of being a game designer.

I'm currently working on the equipment book for The Law, but another nagging side project has begged to be written during the course of NaGaDeMon. I don't know if I've mentioned this side project before, but it's something that has been tinkered with for a few months now... it's working title is simply The Fen.

The basic premise of The Fen is bayou rentpunk.

A bunch of people struggling to survive, with little opportunitu to get ahead in the world, are simply trying to survive as they struggle from meal to meal, facing all sorts of environmental threats and hazards that constantly threaten to take them down. This isn't a game about heroes, or…

#Inktober Day 31 - Slice / Precious

Today, our Inktober journey concludes. Yes, it's a week late, but I wanted to make sure I finished.

It is said in some of the hidden texts, that immortals transcend the physical world to explore the metaphysical realms beyond mirrors, behind dreams, obscured by shadows, and echoed in myths. These texts also contain hints of another level of transcendence, where a soul may exist beyond even the pseudo-reality of the spirit realms. But the thing about metaphysical reality is that there is always something bigger, something nastier, something stranger, something less well defined. For all the horrors across the known planes of reality, there are more dangerous things outside reality, unnamed and unknown by mortals of the physical plane, and carefully ignored by even the most powerful entities who wage war across the corporeal and incorporeal realms. To acknowledge their presence gives them power, to name them gives them reality, to depict them gives them solidity, even if only in th…

#Inktober Day 30 - Jolt / Future

Sometimes technologies that never were drift across the cosmos between realms. The places where these items were created might gave been eroded into nothingness by maelstroms of oblivion, or maybe the items have drifted into our reality's metaphysical orbit after creation in other universes entirely. The most interesting (not necessarily the most powerful) fetch a high price on the ultraviolet market, and many are sought by collectors in all parts of the realms.

#Inktober Day 29 - Double / Technology

Those who exist in the most high-tech realms, rarely know that their lives are reflections of possible future realities and dreams. Existence for them is just the same daily routines that they have known all their lives. If reality shifts around them, their memories will change, and they will always remember things that may or may not gave been a part of their lives yesterday. Quantum ripples shift their existence, but they never feel them.

The awakened citizens of these realms know better.

There is a lucrative trade in technologies that have yet to be developed in the physical plane as well as those that should not ever be brought into existence. The ultraviolet market specialises in trading these goods to visitors who might scatter them across the realms. Such items might include energy infused bio-locked swords that might only be drawn from stones by those with the right DNA markers, or symbiotic realm hopping devices with chameleon circuits locked to match a 1950s British Police …

Something else to catch my eye...

I deliberately hold back on something to make sure it's done right.

I deliberately do extra research, years of extra research, by duscussing concepts with the communities related to the concept, modifying elements of the core, and playtesting iterations of the concept thoroughly.

I continually post elements of my work to show that the whole thing is still in development...

...then other people come along and do something in a similar vein.


An Afrocentric post-apocalyptic sword and sorcery rpg. I can't help but see parallels to my own long term project, Walkabout, which is an Australian-Aboriginal-centric post-apocalyptic rpg. Both draw on distinctly non-European roots, both are post-apocalyptic, both are about heroes pushing back a darkness that warps the world. Beyond those superficial similarities there are a lot of differences, as I would have hoped. I don't know how much acyual research that team has done regarding their setting, or whether they're just past…