Showing posts from 2017

The Tutorials are Accumulating

I've got about 20 pages of these now...but more to come. Then I just need a decent working computer to scan and compile them into PDFs.

Making Good on a Promise

It's been two years since I've been promising to create new map-making tutorials. Now that I'm having computer issues again, and it's that quiet period between Christmas and New Years, it has felt like a good opportunity to start drawing. Once I get a decent computer working again (rather than the tablet I'm writing on now, or the second backup laptop which sits beside me on the floor while my wife uses backup number one), then I'll be able to scan the images digitally.

Forward, Backward, Still?

In the last couple of weeks, I've watched two movies that have swept through popular culture with massively polarising effects. I'm not going to post specific spoilers about them, but what I write generally with regard to themes and concepts in them could be considered spoilers. The two movies were... The Last Jedi and Bright In both cases, a subset of people I'm linked to have voiced specific dislike of the property. The two groups voicing their dislike have different reasons in each case, and mostly the groups are exclusive of one another. But in both cases, the movie is a bit different to things that have come before, and that seems to scare certain types of people or just annoy them. A certain subset of fans didn't like the previous Star Wars movie "The Force Awakens", claiming that it was basically a rehash of everything we've seen before. They wanted something new... yet when "The Last Jedi" gave it to them, they didn

Idea Necromancy

A while ago, I was working on an idea to run a computer driven game where characters were defined by a string of alphanumeric characters. It got a bit of interest, but I never really took it anywhere.  Post 1 Post 2 Post 3 Post 4 Post 5 Actually, digging back through those posts, it's actually where I was thinking of heading. I've been having a bit of trouble maintaining the motivation to regularly upkeep the LARP in recent months, so it might make things easier to automate the whole thing. To generate characters via a basic website, to track factions based on which characters belong to them, and to map the influence of those factions across the map of the LARP world.

Career Paths (Part 2)

It's been a couple of days since the last post. I've been discussing a few ideas with various communities, including game design groups, the LARP community I'll be running with, a few wider LARP groups, and a local NERF group. It looks like a NERF driven LARP is enough of a novelty tnat people are intrigued. That means brand new players. I also showed some of my existing players some minimalist rule sets, such as this one, and they were shocked at how such things could be called a formal set of rules. So, once again we're aiming for a sweet spot of "not too heavy, not too light". Lots of people seem interested in the idea of a formal game economy, and a decent system of development for both characters and equipment. It feels like I'm on the right track. Three is the magic number. I'm looking at three general categories that define a character (race, culture, and occupation/career), and three levels of progression before mastering something.

Real or Fake?


Career Paths

I've seen two common ideas for character progression in LARPs. The first is the point buy system, where players accumulate experience points (or whatever other name the system uses) over the course of play, then spend those points to improve their character, often finding that more potent upgrades have a higher cost. The second is the levelling system, where players gain a level in a profession for each game they attend, or maybe earn experience points toward levels in a manner similar to a D&D game. There are variants on these two options, where some levelling games allow multiclassing, and others don't... or where some point buy systems vary the costs for different things depending on the nominal "class/profession" or "race" of the character (eg. Dwarves are known for using axes, so they get 20% off their Axe skills, Elves aren't known for using axes and might have even made an ancient pact with tree spirits to avoid using them, so they pay 20% mor

New Basic LARP Mechanism

In the LARP I've been running for the past two years, I introduced an economy that I called Soul Notes. The idea behind felt pretty simple to me. Originally the game that we based our LARP on used a series of skills that automatically worked, but could only be used once per game. If you wanted to use "diplomacy", you had to have an appropriate skill card with your name on it. You flashed the card in the middle of a deal-making session, and either the opponent agreed with you or they lost a life. It all felt a bit heavy handed and trite to me; so when we broke away, I shook things up a bit. My variant developed an "economy of fate" which gave everyone 5 "soul notes". These notes reflected agency in the world, and were used with a range of skills, including Diplomacy, Picking Locks, Escape, and other things like activating magic items. A player could indicate how much they of this fate energy they want to infuse their action with, while their target

Evocative Names

I think a setting lures people in when it has evocative names associated with it. These names might be places, occupations, people in the setting, specific powers. I remember that the first thing that intrigued me about Rifts (back before it had even hit the shelves), were the names of some of the classes... "Juicer", "Glitterboy", "Psi-Stalker". The orders of Space Marines in Warhammer 40k, and even the creatures they commonly fight against, all have names with an emotional intensity to them. The quirky OSR products that are all trying to outflavour one another with their outlandishness, each naming their locations in ways that highlight the esoterica, the psychadelia, or the grimness of their setting. Hell, even Apocalypse World did it with the short punchy names given to the various playbooks. So, I'm thinking about the twisted new setting for our LARP. It's a fantasy post-apocalypse setting. A savage wasteland of super-tech and magic, where a

Dark Crystal Creature #3

Swarms of Scuttlesnipes are said to have first appeared in the ancient woodland just after Olus the Fleshtinkerer blew up her tower and disappeared from the world. For centuries they have worked their way into the ecosystem, successfully becoming scavengers who inject enzymes into dying and dead animals, liquifying their innards to be drained when they return hours later. The toxins riddling the bodies of the Scuttlesnipes mean they are rarely preyed upon for food, but provide a valuable source of ingredients for hunters and alchemists. This will probably be the last of the Dark Crystal critters, since the competition closes tonight.

Alternate Dark Crystal Usage

I've been drawing a few critters for the contest aimed toward the Dark Crystal setting. But if they don't manage to go very far in that contest, I might just end up using them as the starting point for a bestiary of exotic beasts in a new setting. I've already started thinking of other predators, carnivores, herbivores, and a food web that might exist within a fantasy woodland. But, we'll see how things go. 

Dark Crystal Creature #2

A second critter for the contest The tongue of a Snootwomble is a curious thing. Covered in sticky slime, it typically protrudes from the creature's multi-hinged jaw. The maned Snootwomble digs holes in the soft forest floor, inflating it's tongue above ground in such a way that it appears like one of the smaller forest plants. When small herbivores and insects attempt to graze on the plant, the sticky tongue is retracted, entrapping the unwary prey, and the Snootwomble leaps forward with the rest of it's body to consume it's meal.  

Dark Crystal Creature

A few days ago, I indicated my intention to create a creature for a contest relating to the new Dark Crystal TV series. I've finally managed to get an image together. The Northern Tree Squiggon is one of the few arboreal Squiggons, and one of a small number of subspecies who live the majority of their lives out of water. It spends the majority of it's time dangling from branches, often growing lichen and moss over it's body, blending into the trees of the woodland. With spring-like musculature in it's neck, it shoots it's head at unsuspecting prey in the undergrowth, snapping with it's beak and lifting prey back up to the branches, where a tentacle or two are used to strangle the victim, while the beaks rips the flesh. Like most squiggons, this subspecies is a predator of opportunity, and generally ignores or hides from larger forest  creatures. 

Thor Ragnarok and Justice League

I went to the movies yesterday to see two superhero movies. They say that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Thor Ragnarok was awesome. A few little quibbles here and there, a couple of parts where it felt like there should be more, but were obviously cut out for time, or other reasons, a few easter eggs I was aware of but when I sat there and looked for them, I missed them... definitely one to add to the DVD collection. 

Sneak Preview of Dispatch Guide

For those who are interested in the progress of the next book to be released for The Law, here's a sneak preview of the current status. Here's the first few pages... It probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense without a copy of The Law, so here's a link to that.

Sourcebooks, Splatbooks, and Expansions

I'm working away on the formatting for my "The Law - Dispatch Guide", which is basically the GM's guide to the game. It includes ideas for how to run a coherent investigation, how to keep things interesting, how to use equipment (and create new pieces of equipment), and a final section on relationship mapping. The book I'll work on after this is an "Agent's Guide", which is basically the player's guide with a description of the Department of Law hierarchy, a few option character variants within that hierarchy (such as SWAT, Internal Affairs, Undercover Agents, PSI-Squad, etc.), maybe a lifepath system to flesh out a character as they are being built, and a few ideas for how games by be run outside the regular shift structure to reflect an Agent's life when they aren't on patrol. Beyond this, I'm thinking of a series of Splatbooks to flesh out the setting, or more accurately provide tools that a group can use to flesh out the setti


I may not like something, but I can still appreciate the technical expertise behind it. In this way, I could be referring to a piece of music that doesn't stir any passions in me, but I can understand why other people like it... on the other hand there could be a formulaic piece of drivel with auto-tuned lyrics in the top 40 and I might be more inclined to wonder who slept with whom, or how many dollars changed hands to get such a high public presence for the song. It works for music, for visual arts, for game design... for just about anything where people put their passion into something. I know what I like, I know that other people like other things, but I feel there is something beneath the surface facade that has the potential to turn something into a classic. Then something comes along and helps to explain those instinctive thoughts about quality and goodness. It doesn't give all the answers, but it does give a fresh perspective. I've been thinking more about tha

The Lightbulb

I could make links to numerous reviews like this one , saying that this particular game powered by the apocalypse, or that particular game powered by the apocalypse are terrible. But that would just be cherry picking the various sites, blog posts, forum comments, and other elements of the internet that fit my views while ignoring the numerous other opinions which state that these games are wonderful and innovative. I really wish I could find the post where Vincent Baker claimed that he wanted a game where only the rules as written were the game, anything else should be expressly forbidden from being added to it...for pure genre emulation you shouldn't need anything else. But after a couple of hours searching, I can't find it at all. Instead I have found something of his that I like , and particularly a comment by Ron Edwards below it. The basic gist is that a game is like a lightbulb above a table. The whole scene is  uolt up in layers. The filament of the lightbulb is

But what's the game about?

I've noticed a few conversations again,where one group of people say that they love the way social gaming occurs within traditional D&D ...then a second group of people say, that this comment doesn't make sense because traditional D&D didn't really have any rules for social interaction... then the first group says that they love it because social play develops in spite of the rules, not because of them. Yes, I know, there is a Charisma stat in traditional D&D , there are rules for gathering retainers and henchmen, there are even rules for npc reactions based on random rolls and modifiers if you start digging into things. That's not really the point of the discussion. The point is probably the fact that rules are there, they are promptly ignored by the players, and a simplified modelling of social interaction occurs at the table. It's a bit like the old notion of the "fruitful void" that was big in Indie design circles a few years ago, except

Holistically Intertwined Stories

One of the members of the board of directors for the Aboriginal Education Consultancy Group recently told me...(and I'm paraphrasing here). It really doesn't matter whether we wanted our stories connected to those of the white mob who came here. Now those stories are tangled in ways that can never be untangled. The Dreaming still goes on, it always has, it always will. Like it or not, animals introduced to our lands like dogs, cats,rabbits, foxes, they're all a part of the Australian Dreaming now. Like it or not, if you set foot in our land, you become a part of our dreaming too. Whether you consider them symbolic of mystic insight, or whether you think the dreaming is simply the interconnectedness of personal stories and the relationships between them, those were powerful words. It's not like when you meet a Christian for the first time, and they say "You aren't a Christian, therefore you're going to hell... Here let me help you see the light"

No Dot Art!!!

None of this! This may be an international stereotype of the artwork produced by Indigenous artists in Australia, but it's actually only the tradition of a very specific tribe in Central Australia who were generally targeted by a white art teacher who went out to their community in the early 1970s and wanted to keep their traditions alive by transferring their artwork from fragile and degradable ochre-on-bark to a more resilient acrylic-on-canvas material. Other communities across the country have their own distinctive styles that haven't been as widely recognised, and many of those communities are still having their artistic styles suppressed because Westerners expect all Australian Aboriginal art to be dots. The elders of the community I've been working with over the past four years have their own symbols and techniques, but much of that has been pieced together from what they can find in archival sources, and a lot more of it is obscured in artwork, only to be ex

Design a Creature

I hope one of the wonderfully creative people I know wins this contest. Actually, I want to win this contest, but if I can't win it, then I want someone I know to win it. Here's the link. I'm going to be thinking about this tonight, and might post a couple of the design sketches I come up with over the next couple of days. 

The Stockade

There's a link over on the side of the blog, it says that I'm a proud member of "The Stockade". The link goes to a dead Wordpress blog, with a last post dated 2011, it indicates that The Stockade has moved to a new site when you open it...but even that "new site" seems to be old and forgotten... there's just a DNS error message on my screen when I try to open it. Maybe it's time to get rid of that link on the side menu... new collectives of Aussie game designers have arisen, so maybe I might replace that link with a couple of connections to those groups.

Reflecting Culture in Gaming

I've been looking over the 7th Sea: Khitai Kickstarter , and it got me thinking. Instead of the standard attributes, it uses a range of character virtues, and assuming it works like the old 7th Sea rules (derived from the original L5R RPG), I'm guessing it's a "roll and keep" system where in this case you'd add together the virtue and a skill to determine a dice pool, and then keep the best number of dice equal to the virtue used. Back in L5R it sort of went halfway with this idea, by basing the attributes on the elemental forces of the setting. It's a way of getting a cultural feel into the way the game plays. I think Smallville and the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying System (both Cortex oriented games) did similar things by pulling attributes away from the traditional "strength/constitution/dexterity/intelligence/...etc." model and making the rolls of dice more related to the types of stories being told. This way you can have Superman or the Hulk r

NaGaDeMon 2017 (Part 2) #1 - Where next?

I had three projects I wanted to complete during this month's NaGaDeMon. NOIR is done, but what were the other two...??? Option 1. Cleaning up the print versions of The Law (both Lulu and DrivethruRPG/RPGNow versions). That should really be my priority... Option 2. Revisiting Voidstone Chronicles . That one is far messier, but I've got an idea. A fragment of sheer awesomeness that could be plugged into the existing systems to produce something that's pretty close to one of my eternal white whales. Of course here's where a nagging thought wanders through the back of my mind... ...when you get really enthusiastic about a system design that you've come up with, it can be really tempting to put it everywhere. When I first developed the engine that runs FUBAR , I really wanted the to be the core system that all my games would run from. But before long I noticed the bits where it needs to stretch, and the areas where it started cracking because it re

NaGaDeMon 2017 #10 - Noir Live

Between assignments and other work, I've been putting together the complete card set for NOIR. Hopefully in the next 24 hours. the game will be available as a pay-what-you-want product on DrivethruRPG/RPGNow, and I'll also have a minimal overhead version available on those sites as a print-on-demand set of cards. Time for the next project.

NaGaDeMon 2017 #9 - The Characters

Here's where we currently stand. Going with a neo-noir theme, I've generally drawn the images from the 1940s, with a few from the 30s, and 50s, and a couple of later images that were taken with that era as their inspiration. The thing about the era is that most of the people in Film Noir are white, with the males being slit into debonair types or hard boiled detectives, while the females are attractive dames and femme fatales. I've deliberately made sure to counterbalance this with a range of images of non-white characters in the mix. Now I just need to make duplicates of these images depicting the characters in prison.