Showing posts from July, 2016

The Carcosa Golem Shuffle

The characters are remnants of an occult war in a city that sits between the realms of the waking and dreaming world. War machines lie strewn across the streets, but these are not obstacles, they are sources of potential strength. The characters themselves are cobbled together war machines...their minds embedded in a biomechanical matrix, constantly require mystical energy to remain psychically active, and more mystical energy to empower their bio-mechanical bodies. The characters awaken as the last of the living soldiers from ancient warring empires take their final stands against one another. They have no memories of the war, and must struggle to make sense of the events around them as the dwindling resources of the war (and their chance at survival) is scavenged by others like them, and desperately reclaimed by the living soldiers who were once their masters.  Around them are new limbs to attach to their frames, new frames to attach their biomechanical matrixes into, new psychic

Fantasy RPG Design Challenge 3

This game design contest came across my radar this morning, and I'm really tempted to give it a shot if I get a couple of free hours over the next two weeks. Fantasy RPG Design Challenge 3 I've got so many discarded ideas in this area of play that could be quickly cobbled together into something playable... it's just a case of seeing whether I'll have the time to actually assemble those bits. It'll be interesting to see what other designers come up with.

The Variable Sandbox

I really haven't posted much this month, but that hasn't stopped it being one of the periods when the blog has seen the most activity from visitors. Strange!!? Anyway, I've been thinking about the traditional form of play known in some cicles as the Sandbox. It's basically where you don't really have a specific story laid out, instead the GM provides an environment, perhaps some relationship maps, plants a few seeds here and there and lets the players go exploring for themselves (through their characters). Its the way I typically try to run LARPs, because it can be impossible to be a GM everywhere all the time, drip feeding story to every cluster of players. It's also generally the way I envision Familiar to be run. The players help construct a region, a small town, even a ghetto in a large city. It's a community where dozns of stories interweave, and there is always more to the picture than can ever be seen by a single person (magical or otherwise). Act

Getting into the mood

A few more pictures for the Familiar game. I'm trying to get a feel for it in my head as I finalise certain bits and pieces. This is not a clean, neat and tidy world, not a place where tragically-hip beautiful people pose for the camera, staring off into a vague middle distance with contempt. It's a world where things happen, where people do things, where familiars linger on the edge, prompting the movements of the world, for good or for ill.  It's a world where the stasis of the overwhelming has settled, hardened, and finally started to crack. It's a place where the rebellious spirit is sick of being oppressed and finally has the friends and the tools at their disposal to make a difference. But this is not a game about those rebellious spirits, it's a game about the enigmatic beings who grant them the power over reality, and the dangers these enigmatic beings face as hybrid entities caught between a dying world of dreams and nightmare, and a static wor

Images in Progress

I think these have an appropriately "urban fantasy meets rentpunk" vibe to them. A few more images like this. then I'll mix things up by having a number of illustrations in a different style. The next few images to round out this series will be focusing on characters of different ethnicities.


You can be an awesome artist, and unsuccessful because you don't "know the right people". You can be a terrible artist, and yet be successful because you do "know the right people". The same applies to music making, game design, or just about any other artistic endeavour. I'm not saying that all of the popular and successful people in various creative fields are actually rubbish, I'm saying that there are a lot of truly creative people who should be successful and should be far better recognised... but they don't because they aren't a part of the "in-crowd". If we divide someone's life into percentages...  There might be a person who spends 100% of their life refining their craft, and no time networking with the people around them. Their work doesn't get seen at all, maybe if they are incredibly lucky someone they know might also know someone, and the news of their work is shared to the outside world...through no effort of their

Getting the Imagery Right

I've been trying to develop my own style of imagery suitable for the Familiar game. I've got a few default styles, some of which are more "anime" inspired, some use more photographic referencing, others are just freehand following of concepts as they unfold in my head. I'm still trying to work out what's going to work best for this game, and while these images are in the general ball park, I'm not sure they're exactly what I'm after.  The first image is an example of a typical mage and familiar, perhaps meeting one another for the first time and only just starting their metaphysical journey together.  This is more like a page from a grimoire, bestiary, or other tome of mystic knowledge. Perhaps describing the true forms of the familiars as they exist in the spirit realms, perhaps describing metaphysical threats that bring horror or chaos to the mundane world.

Ritual Combat

A lot of this Familiar project is indirectly inspired by Ars Magica, and one of those inspirations that has certainly been sitting in the back of my mind is the idea of combat through formalised ritual magic. A ritual pattern is laid out, different centres of magic might have permanently engraved stones or tiles, or they might draw up new patterns with chalk each time a ritual duel has been challenged. There are certainly a variety of these ritual patterns, every centre of magic has a different one, and each have their own rules and regulations.  The common rules state that ritual patterns must be made up of at least three circles. These circles must be interlinked through arcs and lines, they may touch one another tangentially, they may even overlap...but as an additional mandatory rule, the whole shape is made from unbroken lines. Magic energy is contained within the corcles of the pattern and it could prove very dangerous if this energy were to leak out.  Ritual magic duels


Familiar is designed to be a pretty simple game. Something that kids could play, something to introduce non-gamers to the concepts of collaborative storytelling. Technically, a lot of my game design work is developed in that area, each approaching it from a different set of parameters, each using their mechanisms to focus thought patterns in different ways to produce different play experiences. Generally "Familiar" worked on the idea that a die roll might give a varying degree of result, fail, partial success, full success, and possibly a higher degree of success (multiple successes from a single roll). Once the roll had been made, a player could spend their characters traits to bump up the results, to ensure they succeed on the tasks that are important to them. Traits are more important and more significant than dice in this game, maybe...they work differently to dice. Dice can be used over and over, traits are spent and exhausted for the remainder of the scene. In t

Reworking the numbers again

Looking back over the die mechanisms I'd developed for Familiar, there was something that just didn't feel right. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but there was just a niggling doubt in the back of my mind that the numbers just weren't working at some level. So I've tried to consolidate some thoughts in the system. Everything basically now comes down to even numbers. If a character's die misses the difficulty by 2 or more, the attempt fails completely. Otherwise it has varying degrees of success. Thus, there is always a chance of failing completely (however remote that chance might be). Similarly under most circumstances, there is always a chance at success. Now, when a character draws on a metaphysical legacy, inherent skill/power, or item (mundane or supernatural) they simply add two points to their die roll. When advantages are at play, difficulty dice are decreased by a step (d12 to d10, d10 to d8, etc.) ...conversely, when disadvantages are at

More monsters

We had a few hous of blackout today, which gave me time to focus on a few artistic projects. That meant getting the LARP armour closer to completion, and getting a bit more work done for my monsters...well actually, these aren't monsters, they are more akin to spiritual NPC for the familiar game.  I still haven't worked out what they do.

A book of monsters

This is a time consuming process... All laying the groundwork for the Familiar game.  On the positive side, it's meditative.

Familiar Illustrations

I think I've found my second artist for the Familiar project. I've been doing a lot of work over the past fortnight for the Ferret Rescue Association of New South Wales, a club that my wife is starting up with a few friends who have all become disgruntled with the existing local ferret group. I've taken on the role of public relations officer for the club, I even have my own business card. Over the weekend we had our debut, I painted a picture for a lucky draw prize, and as a group we made lots of useful contacts. For game related stuff, one of those useful contacts was Samantha Poole, and she said she'd be interested in a commission for a few animal images. To have a look at some of her work, visit the Little Book of Sonders web page. She seems like she'll be a fun person to work with. Now to finish writing the game.

Different ends...or different paths to the same ends?

This familiar game has really made me think deeply about the way magic works in existing games, and how I should best make it work in a game of my own. I think of the spells used by magic users in D&D, each divided into different schools of magic, using a random assortment of game mechanisms. In that game paradigm (incorporating the OSR), there are also different classes that are capable of granting certain similar spells...for the purposes of game mechanisms the same spell appears in both lists, but the trappings might be slightly different. A sorceror might cast the spell instinctively, a cleric might call on their god to cast it, and a wizard might read a specific incantation and use ingredients to get the effect. Rifts does the same thing (but it's basically hipster OSR anyway... OSR before it was cool). I think of the Disciplines of Vampire: the Masquerade, each of which manifests in a different way, but basically accumulate in power along certain themes... Where the b