Saturday, May 23, 2015

Well That Escalated Quickly

Okay. It's as official as I can make it... Sentinels of Echo City is my next game project. I managed to live in pseudo-denial for almost two days about it, but I just can't help myself. The rules are almost writing themselves at this point. I already had a solid working draft for a supers game using D6s (along with a sandbox campaign setting), but when I layered that setting on this rule set, it was like putting peanut butter on my chocolate.

My best guess is about 128 pages, with half of it rules and half of it setting. My best guess is some time next month. Of course, my best guess a week ago was that I wasn't going to work on a game for a few months and take a break, so what do I know?

Friday, May 22, 2015

What If: Not the Cover

This is not a potential working cover for a game that does not and will not exist. Heh. Man, my love of 1980s comics is all over this thing... or rather, it's NOT all over this thing. Since this thing doesn't exist.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"What If" Issue One: Checks

Thanks +Christopher Cortright! The whole "What If" comics format has the 1980s vibe I want... man, that's a cool idea. Okay, here in issue one of "What If: An OSR Superhero Game", we discuss attributes and checks.

One of the problems with attributes is the whole idea of scaling... a character with STR 12 (a really, really strong normal dude) can't lift a car up over his head. It's not going to happen. A character with STR 16 (a superhero with 'Incredible' strength), is going to be able to lift a car over his head with some effort and luck. That's only a 4-point difference in ratings, but a HUGE difference in what they can do. If we set lifting the car at target 30 (for instance), this means that the guy with STR 12 can lift it on a roll of 18 or better (so 15% of the time), but the guy with STR 16 can lift it on a roll of 14 or better (so 35% of the time). Neither of these is right. 

So, we introduce the idea of 'super-human checks'. We keep all of the granularity on the player end (with STR ranging from 2 to 25, Professor X to the Hulk), but we put checks on two very simple scales... anytime you want to try something 'super-human', you need a rating of 14 or better to try it. STR 13 and want to lift the car? No chance. STR 14? Grab those dice and let's see! There's a gulf between 13 and 14 for game purposes. The default check for a super-human task is 30, with a modifier of either +4 (pretty easy by super-human standards) or -4 (tough for even a super-human). On this scale, we have three simple designations for STR checks:

+4 to the roll. Up to 10 tons.
no modifier (vs. target 30). Up to 100 tons.
-4 to the roll. Over 100 tons.

That car is under 10 tons, so it's target 30 with +4. That super with STR 16 rolls 1d20 +16 +4, target 30... he now needs a roll of 10 or better to lift the car over his head (so he has a 55% chance of success). DING. We have a winner. This is reasonable.

And the big HULKy guy with STR 25? He can lift that car on a roll of 2 or better (he just can't botch), can lift up to 100 tons with a roll of 5 or better, and needs a roll of 9 or better to lift in excess of 100 tons. That sounds pretty hulky.

And, the GM always has the option of giving +2/-2 instead if we're in the murky area... if something is 15 or 20 tons, I'm giving +2 to the roll... if it's 120 tons, I'm giving -2.

This goes against my love of granularity on the check side of things, but makes for a fast game, and still allows a 1-point difference between STR scores to matter on every single roll. I know that there's a big difference between 25 and 75 tons, but at the end of the day, you don't want to sit there with your laptop trying to figure out how much a bulldozer actually weighs. This gives you a ballpark where you can make informed decisions and keep the action moving.


Another character for the game I'm not writing

Let’s try another hero and see what happens… 4d6, keep highest 3:

10; 7; 9; 11; 14; 17

Much closer to a ‘normal human’ except for that 17. Interesting…

I roll 2 for origin. Construct. Gets +1 to AC. Okay then…

I roll 6 for powers.

08           Burglary
30           Fear
75           Serial Immortality
44           Healing
47           Leaping
83           Stun

Okay. He’s totally an animated scarecrow. It’s not even close.

I could trade out, but it’s more fun to try and make sense of this all. I’ll also keep the stats I rolled and won’t bother min/maxing.

STR 11 (+2); INT 7; WIS 9 (+1); DEX 17 (+5); CON 14 (+4); CHA 10 (+2)
AC 16 (10 base +6 from DEX +1 from Construct); hp 10; Feat +9; Move 30’; punch +3/1d4+2

He was created by a powerful magical princess in a fairy tale land (an alternate dimension) after she read a bedtime story about scarecrows, and she didn’t like it that they were mean and snuck into your house in the middle of the night. Sure, they did that, but only because they liked people and wanted to heal them. They don’t actually kill anyone, just stun them. That makes them nicer. He was created, and then fell (or was pulled) through a wormhole into our world. He’s sort of lost without his princess maker. He can be killed (he dies at 0 hp), but is instantly reborn at the beginning of the next turn, emerging from the closest pile of straw (even if the closest straw is thousands of miles away).

His name is Straw Man

Again, this is a very weird character that I would never intentionally make through a point build system... but it's also a much more interesting character than another variation on the Thing.

I think I need to put together a few characters of mid level and run some superhero combat against a big bad or two. Not that I'm play testing. Because that would mean I'm writing another game. And I'm just not going to do that.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Saga of Splintered Supers (Not A Working Title)

So, I was admiring the book for Saga of the Splintered Realm, and it hit me that this engine would make a pretty sweet old school superhero game. The concept is that the makers of the FASERIP system used B/X as the inspiration for their game rather than developing a new game altogether. Before I knew it, I had about 15 pages of notes…  let me show you what I have so far:

Let’s make a character… for fun! This will NEVER become my next game project. No. It won’t. I have to keep telling myself that...

1. Roll 4d6 6 times, taking the best 3 dice:                             

13, 8, 8, 13, 18, 17                             

Wow. That’s pretty good!

2. Roll 1d6 for origin.

1. Artifact. You possess an item that grants you powers. Take +1 power.
2. Construct. You were made, not born. Take +1 to AC.
3. Cyborg. You have been updated with technology. You have +1d6 hit points.
4. Mutant. You were born with your abilities. Take +2 to your Feat rating.
5. Mutate. You used to be a normal human, but have been changed. Take +1 to any attribute.
6. Outsider. You are not human, native to another land, world, or realm. Start one level higher.

I rolled 1. My character uses an artifact, and takes +1 power.

3. Roll for powers and abilities.

Roll 1d6 for the total number of powers/abilities (+1 because I use an artifact). I roll 5+1=6. I roll % dice 6 times (I made a list of 100 powers using notes from my other supers projects), and get:

28           Counter Attacks
71           Pilot
77           Resist Cold
34           Driver
32           Disintegrate
35           Elongation

Wow. This is soooo weird. Okay, so he has elongation, disintegrate and resist cold… but he also has counter attacks, driver, and pilot.

I could min/max on powers as well (trade two I don’t want for one I do want), and I am tempted to drop counter attacks and driver to get invulnerability… in fact, I will do that.

I’m thinking this guy is (or was) a decorated military pilot who went on a secret spy mission over the north pole, and ended up finding an alien crystal that turned him into some sort of frosty crystalline creature who can morph and change. He is composed of constantly shifting crystals, and he can (once per turn) focus his energy into a disintegration beam that comes directly from the crystal (which is now his heart) and destroy stuff.

Wow. This is weird. But AWESOME.

He’s a physical guy, so STR, DEX and CON are going to be important. I see INT, WIS and CHA being less important … I am going to do some min/maxing with one of those 13s, taking it to 11 to bump the 17 to an 18.

STR 18 (+6); INT 8 (+1); WIS 11 (+2); DEX 13 (+3); CON 18 (+6); CHA 8 (+1)

His invulnerability allows him to add his CON modifier to his AC (as well as his DEX modifier), so he ends up with AC 19 (10 base + 3 + 6 = awesome). He has a Feat rating of +10 (4 base +6 from highest attribute modifier), will start at max hit points (6+6=12). His punch allows him to attack at +7 (LM 1 +6 from STR) and deal 1d4+6 damage (all supers deal base 1d4 physical damage unless they take the strike power upgrade).

Once per turn he can attempt to disintegrate an object or foe, rolling a contested Feat against a creature, or a Feat against the DT of the object. His elongation allows him to stretch up to his Feat rating x 10’ (so 100’) each round. He can travel that far in a round as well. He is especially resistant to cold (from the power of the icy crystal), meaning that he takes +2 to Feat rolls to resist cold, and automatically takes half damage from cold-based attacks.

We’ll call him Clarion, the Crystal Man

A few notes:
There is a little bit of game balance built in… things like Feats, AC and modifiers range a lot farther here than they do for fantasy gaming, but they still stay in some check. The fact is that his hit points are still relatively low, his AC is still under 20 (so a creature with even a small bonus has a fair chance to hit him) and his Feat rating, while impressive, is still manageable. His disintegration beam is a bit of a game changer, but he can only use it once per turn, and foes get a resist (and there's got to be some built-in game consequence for disintegrating living creatures).

Honestly, this is so weird and funky, but also so old school, that I LOVE it. It has none of the inherent game balance that I’ve tried to put into my other superhero systems, but instead allows free range over this broad landscape of funky powers that have only a little bit of inherent balance based on character level. Even there, you are going to end up with some pretty wide ranges… for example, strike is a power that allows you to upgrade your unarmed damage… if you roll low, you end up with 1d6 base unarmed damage… but if you roll really high, you can get up to 1d10 base damage (and the two-handed attack upgrade will bump you to 1d12 base damage when you put your fists together and pummel a foe). 

I like that character generation took about 10 minutes and I ended up with a funky cool unique hero who is playable.

And NO this is NOT my next gaming project. I don't know why you keep saying that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kickstarter Post Mortem: Saga of the Splintered Realm

The Saga of the Splintered Realm Kickstarter is officially in the books; the boxed sets and final backer rewards shipped today, and should be finding their way to backers' mailboxes starting early next week (depending on where backers live). As a result, I feel comfortable posting links for the various editions. If you didn't take part in the KS, you can get the game:

In PDF (two different volumes)
In softcover (two different volumes)
In hardcover (one volume collecting both books)

About the Kickstarter

I like the transparency of the process of conducting a KS, so I thought I'd break down how the project went from my end:

Paid To (For)
Running Costs
Starting Balance From KS (after fees)
Artists for art budget
ULine boxes (for boxed sets; includes shipping)
3/22/15 (flash drives and dice for boxed sets)
Printing Maps/Character Sheets (+ shipping)
CreateSpace (publishing/shipping of SC books)
LULU (printing/shipping HC Proof copy)
LULU (printing/shipping HC to backers)
Shipping Backer Rewards: US Post Office
Shipping Backer Rewards: US Post Office

Approximate Hours Spent:
Writing and Editing                    200 hours
Creation of Art/Maps                  60 hours
Promotion/Shipping/Packing      40 hours

Approximate Time Investment:  300 hours (so about 2 months if working full time)

Summary: I made about $1,000 on the Kickstarter (so it was my most successful so far), but it was also the most labor-intensive (also by far). I created about twice as much content as I did for the Army Ants KS, and a good chunk of it (i.e. making the boxed sets) required a lot of time (adding to that promotion/shipping/packing total above).  I also found out that shipping costs had gone WAY up from the time I launched the project. I'd say that shipping was about 30% more expensive than it was when I did the Army Ants KS, and I didn't expect that escalation of costs. 

What would I do different? Not much. The project was 4 months late, but I'm playing the 'cancer card' on that one and don't feel too guilty about it. This was the first project I've done where other people were involved, and I was very happy with the contributions of everyone else who chipped in. Things went more smoothly than I expected in terms of getting art, writing and other materials done for the box. 

I'd say the project was successful all the way around, and I'm looking forward to finding out how people feel about the boxed sets when they arrive. In my humble opinion, they turned out pretty slick.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It's AWAY!

Saga of the Splintered Realm Complete Rules

The hardcover edition of the Complete Rules for Saga of the Splintered Realm (collecting books 1 and 2 in one volume) is now available at copies for the Kickstarter backers have already been processed, so now I'm opening this up for anyone else!

Links for the softcover editions will go up after those ship to backers (probably tomorrow), in case you'd prefer the game in softcover. Personally, I LOVE the HC, and it's my go-to edition for sure. It's fancy.