Saturday, August 29, 2020

Ballpoint Map

It has been a very challenging couple of weeks here (and that is a bit of an understatement), so gaming stuff has been way off the priority list, but I've been tinkering with things in the background. Over the last few days, I wrote the first few pages of what could become a fantasy novel (never going to happen, but I can start one anyway) and today I made a map. I just took out my graph paper and a ball point pen and started drawing. 

I had an image of Tomb Raider style caverns in my head, and started doodling. I usually don't like symmetrical maps, and try to avoid them, but this one just kept demanding it. I decided it is in the depth of a swamp or jungle, an open, airy sort of dungeon at the edge of a small lake, with many openings for creatures to come and go. I also decided to explain the symmetry - it is the temple / followers' tomb for a two-headed snake deity where each of the heads has a unique identity. While the main statue in the south center is of the two together (as they are), the left side is dedicated to one aspect of the deity, and the right side is dedicated to the other. I just dropped two random tables on the side, and decided I could always just use the solitaire matrix to populate this thing and figure out more as I go.

Parenthetically, I used to spend hours and hours working up a dungeon for an evening of play. I spent about thirty minutes on this, and with the solitaire framework, this map, and a copy of Tales, I could run an adventure in here for hours. Parenthetically (part two), I like how organic the ballpoint pen makes the whole thing. I can feel the vines coming through the ceilings and smell the mist the lingers in these halls (often about mid-knee level, so you never really know what is slithering around at your feet)...

Monday, July 13, 2020

No Update for You!

I kid, here is an update.

1. Not much on the gaming front. I haven't had time to get much gaming work in over the last few weeks. I have done a little bit of tinkering with Shards of Tomorrow and I flipped through my books once or twice, but that's been about it... because...

2. I finished my doctoral program! I successfully defended my dissertation a little over a week ago, and had to do another big round of edits to get the dissertation ready for form and formatting - and then I needed about three days just to sit and stare at a wall and realize I was finally DONE. That, and I had a job interview for a building principal position (and I have a second round interview tomorrow), so that has been taking all of my time and attention. Finally, I promised a friend I'd do some editing on a project of his (that is pretty sweet), and I have to get that done before I get back into my stuff. I hope that I can get back to more gaming stuff in the coming weeks.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Shards and Species Design Work

I’m toying with a random generation system for character species in Shards of Tomorrow. You roll for four different qualities of your character, receiving 1d4 results in each quality. The final category, dispositions, is the tendency and reputation of a species; you don’t have to be these things, but they should flavor your decision making in character design. Maybe your species is arrogant, but you’re the outlier who just happens to be really self-conscious and self-deprecating. I rolled up a species to see… and rolled 4/3/3/4 for numbers of qualities in each category. Wow. This is going to be an exceptional species…

Abilities: +1d4 DEX, +1d4 CON, +1 AC, +1d6 hp
Talents: Chameleon, Flight, Shape Change
Characteristics: Webbed hands and feet, scales instead of skin, mammalian appearance
Dispositions: Violent, spartan, self-disciplined, tolerant

Description (made up based on what I rolled above):

The Volok consider themselves a vastly superior species, but they show a remarkable patience with the ‘inadequacy’ of lesser species. In their natural form, they are a scale-covered people that resemble flying monkies, but they are continually changing form and color, blending in with their surroundings and assuming the forms of other species. They are highly prized as spies and assassins, but are also greatly feared for this. Some planets have enacted laws requiring Volok to retain their ‘natural’ appearance at all times, making the activation of their natural abilities an illegal act. In general, suspicion of Volok runs high among most species, and a Volok in his or her natural form is likely to be greeted with suspicion in most places.


I like this. It feels a little more like the supers game in terms of character building, but it definitely hews towards the source material (which is Star Wars. Duh). I have struggled in the past with creating game balance between Wookies and Ewoks; now I don’t bother. Wookies are awesome, and Ewoks are lame. That’s just how it goes.

It's a galaxy with thousands of stars, and tens of thousands of planets. There are a lot of species to choose from.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Some Shards Thoughts

I have been kind of quiet, but that doesn't mean I'm not working on stuff. I've actually run a few solo sessions investigating level 1 of the Vault of the D'Ro, and have been mapping and stocking that dungeon. I expect that to be the next update for Tales, and should be out once I finish it... I've got all of the notes together for it, so it's just a matter of doing some layout and writing. No big shakes, once I get around to it...

That said, my free time today was spent cobbling some notes for a new edition of Shards of Tomorrow. It's hard to see this game even making it to 48 pages to be honest - big chunks of the Tales book are magic, treasure, and monsters. Between them, these three things account for 29 out of 48 pages! Instead, Shards would have:

1-2 pages on mysticism. This is much more flexible and open-ended, working a lot more like powers in Sentinels of Echo City and far less like one of the magic fields in Tales. Basically, apostles (Shards Jedi) get access to mysticism, attempting a number of mysticism checks each turn equal to their level. You can do things like a light heal, a simple command, a light telekinetic push or pull, levitate, jump a short distance, or boost an ability for a short burst. Once you have WIS 14+, you can attempt an epic check once per turn with one of your attempts, completely healing yourself or an ally, moving huge objects with telekinesis, levitating everything nearby, jumping huge distances, boosting abilities for a turn.

1-2 pages on commerce and relics. The monetary system will be important, and there will be mystical relics of the distant past to recover, but the availability of magical items has to be more limited due to the setting. 1 page of relics is probably plenty. 20 relics sounds like a good number to start with.

Only a few pages of monsters. There would be some sample monsters, along with some guidelines for generating monsters... and that takes me to character creation:

Character creation is the big change from the original Shards, and from my other games. I have expanded the size and scale of the region that encompasses the game; there are now hundreds of settled planets with thousands of different species. So, when you roll up a character, you are probably rolling up a unique species. Writing the supers game was good for forcing me to cast off such quaint concepts as game balance, so that comes into play here. You could get really lucky and roll up a species that is like a Wookie - bigger, stronger, and faster than everyone, with solid pilot skills, a cool weapon, and mechanically inclined. Or, you could roll up a Tuscan Raider, and get a bonus when in the desert. I'm trying to echo both Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy here, so having a motley crew of adventurers with an assortment of backgrounds and abilities is at the heart of the game. Like the supers game, character creation becomes a mini game within the game, as you roll up exotic and weird alien species to populate your galaxy. Then, you join with other freaks to zip around the galaxy in the shadow of the Void. The availability of talents will be a bit wider as well; you start with a random number of talents at level 1, rather than just getting 1.

That brings me to the idea of the Junker. I hoped that every group would end up with a junker in Shards, but the game didn't demand it. Now, it will. Your team starts with a junker, and everyone rolls at character creation; high roll gets it as 'their' property, and then you roll randomly to see how you got it.

Of course, the game needs some setting material too, although I really like the approach from Tales... a starter location, a starter adventure, and a broad strokes (1-2 page) overview of the explored galaxy. I suppose that this could get expanded by a page or two, and another page or two of history... and the Void Imperium needs its own section... so maybe I could get this bad boy to 48 pages after all.

Half of the book is already written, since the mechanics and game play for Tales will basically just be re-skinned.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Tales of the Splintered Realm FAQ

People have questions! I have (some) answers. This feels like a FAQ... because it is!

Could you clarify sundering?

Sure! You make a single attack roll once per round, targeting all foes in melee range (up to 4 of the same size). You can hit all, some, or none of those foes. If you hit any, you make a single damage roll against all foes.

Starting at higher levels

When starting at higher levels, measure starting cash in gold instead of silver, and multiply by level; a level 3 starting character has 3d6 (x30) starting gold, or 90 to 540 gp. Roll for 1 magical treasure per level; a level 5 character would roll for 5 random items as if from a level 5 monster. The character can then buy and sell as needed from there.

What impact does size have on the game?

Size impacts hit dice (see the top of page 27, first bullet) and number of creatures you can attack at a time (see page 18 under range and distance). The bigger you are the more HD you have, and the smaller the fewer. You can engage in melee with 4 creatures of the same size; I would subtract 2 for every category smaller, and add 2 for every category bigger; a wyvern is huge (2 categories larger than humans) so up to 8 humans can melee against a wyvern at once. A rat is small, so only 2 humans can attack a single rat at the same time with melee attacks.

Gnomes and stoutlings are medium (but at the very, very low end of medium). I toyed with having them be small and giving them D4 hit dice, but that made them much less playable. So I tweaked the sizes a little. Wood trolls are large (hence the D8 hit die). A few monsters have abilities that vary by size ('can swallow a creature medium-sized or smaller on a critical attack'), but that's about it.

If you want more variety in your smaller folk and their mechanics, it's an easy plug in:

New Talent: Little Folk. You have learned to leverage your smaller size in combat with larger foes. Any foe larger than medium size takes -1 to attack rolls against you.

What impact does armor have on spell casters? Are there penalties for wearing armor?

There is no relationship between armor and spell casting. As a magic user, you haven't spent any time or energy learning how to wear armor or carry a shield, because it's just not your priority - not because of rules. Specific bonuses/penalties for armor/spell casting rules were a little to crunchy for my taste for where the game is. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dungeon Map In Progress

The dungeon from the core rules for Tales of the Splintered Realm continues to grow. I've played through the core rules level with my solo character, and then my daughter Grace joined me as we explored the Kobold Den (the south west extension of the dungeon, that also connects to the sewers). Today, I drew up the eastern part, which is a ruined tomb for those D'Ro who had led something of a rebellion against the D'Ro leaders, with disastrous results. The southeast corner still needs to be added to, with a section that will connect both to the sewers and to a secret door in one of the tombs that I will be adding.

It's a work in progress, and will be added to (of course). I'm thinking that the three components of the rest of level 1 will be the first supplement for Tales. I need to create some new monsters and spells to add to these as well. I might be able to get each one to a one-page handout, which I would think is ideal. I'm trying to follow the format for the first section from the core rules; a few keyed encounters, but also some random options.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Lairs and Locales #1

I finally got around to finishing Lairs and Locales #1 and it is now live on drivethrurpg. I had it done over a week ago, but I wanted to do a final edit, and I have been back into dissertation purgatory this week, since I had to do another major revision. I think this might be the last one, and then I can spend all of my time on gaming material with that pesky doctoral program finally behind me.

I played with the layout, and came up with what you will see here. It's formatted landscape on 8.5 x 11 paper so that it's easy to print now, but also so that it's easy to re-format into a larger book later on. I have continued the visual aesthetic of Sentinels of Echo City Deluxe, so that the two books will ultimately look and feel the same.

Ultimately, I'll be re-formatting some things (for example, all new game rules and mechanics will be in one part of the book, and the adventures will be in another part). I will also be writing a thread that unifies these into a single, large campaign (the Search for Doc Stalwart). I wrote that first hook for this adventure, but then decided not to include it. I need the freedom to create more open-ended environments for now, and then I can add that campaign thread later when I can see all of the finished books... I may want to change the order of presentation once they are all done, and I'd rather not write myself into any unnecessary corners right now.

On to the promo blurb (and yes, of COURSE it is inspired by the Hall of Doom):

This release is in support of Sentinels of Echo City, Deluxe Edition. 

Boondock's Hideaway is the place to be if you are a villain; and the place to avoid if you're a hero. It's a dome that is full of villains that is secreted deep in the swamps. Because that's how villains roll.

This book has rules for reputation, an overview of the Hideaway, six villains for your game, and some random encounter tables to see what crazy stuff is happening tonight. 

As a pay-what-you-want download, feel free to check it out for free and throw some loose change in the tip jar later if you are so inclined. Thanks!

This product uses the Open Game License.