Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Superhero Art

Throughout Sentinels of Echo City, the art is going to alternate between original pieces (mostly high-contrast black and white images of 'iconic' characters and poses), I'm going to create pieces modeled on some of my favorite superhero cover designs. I've already shared the cover, based on Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars #1 (from 84, baby), but this piece is an homage to this cover of Action Comics 810 by Bullock. I'm really happy with this one...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Starting a New Campaign

In talking with one of my best friends last night, he suggested that he and his son (who is 8) would like to play a few games of Saga of the Splintered Realm... and as we talked, we realized that with summer nigh, we could schedule a weekly game that would go at least for a few months. They're both new to RPGs (although both have played a lot of miniatures games, so they have some grounding in what goes on, and I've run two sessions before, one of my game and one of the intro scenario in the new D+D boxed set). This is the first time they want to sign on for something longer with brand new characters starting at level 1.

Suddenly a campaign was born.

Right away, I knew I didn't want to use anything from the two books for SSR... he and his son may end up playing later some time, and it would be great that they have resources available to keep playing. If they have already run through the Vault of the Goblin, then they will have less fun the second time around. This means I get to design an actual campaign for real players for the first time in almost 20 years.


Since they don't read the blog (I know, right?), I figure it's safe to talk about the design of the game here. My initial thoughts...

- This happens (or at least starts) in a pocket realm disconnected from the Splintered Realm proper. Eventually, the characters will probably end up there, but for now they're (quite literally) in their own little corner of the universe.
- The pocket realm is VERY loosely inspired by the original Ravenloft module. There's a magical valley, a small village, a ruined castle, and a few small outposts of demi-humans spread around.
- Almost no one realizes this is just a pocket realm. They assume that there's a larger world beyond the mountains and southern gate held by dwarves. They are wrong.

The hook is this: the elder of the village (who magically kept the whole place in check) has recently died. He was actually a very powerful sphinx (some form of elder sphinx, I assume) that took human form, but no one knows this. He was 'the wizard'... the only magic-using human of the entire valley (as far as the people know)... he had put up magical wards that protected the village and kept the vampire lord (or maybe lady?) of the castle from taking over the village. Now, he's dead, and he has left in his will some... odd things for the player characters (who both had some tie to him in life). I'm not sure exactly what yet, but I keep thinking about a pocket dragon who just happens to cough up a fur ball ('scale ball'?) a few days later. In that half-digested mass will be a key... I want to wait until I see what kind of characters the two players create, but I've got a hook for almost any character archetype. As long as they don't both want to play thief grave-robbers, I should be able to make it all work. 

I assume I'll post maps/play materials/etc. as I make them up. First thing up will be an area map, and probably a map of the village. The castle itself is a bit further down the line, but I've already got ideas for the dwarven gate, the elfin tree fort, and the ruined stoutling hamlet.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Sentinels of Echo City Sample Super (that's alliteration all y'all)

Let’s take the hero Bedrock (a standard ‘brick’ type) from level 1 (a new hero) to level 6 (an ‘average superhero’) to see what happens… using the alternate point buy system where every hero starts with 60 points to distribute, and is capped at a range of 3-18 in attributes at character creation:

Bedrock, Hero 1 (Altered Human)
AC 17; HD 1d6 (hp 16); Feat +8 (+13 physical resist); punch (+7/1d8+6)
STR 18 (+6); INT 7 (-); WIS 8 (+1); DEX 10 (+2); CON 16 (+5); CHA 5 (-1)
Qualities: Invulnerability; Striking (1d8)
Talents: Fortitude (+5 hit points)

Level 2: Adds improved dice, moving striking to 1d10; hp to 21

Level 3: hp to 26; punch now at +8; Feat now at +9 (+14 physical resist)

Level 4: adds expertise, taking STR to 19; hp to 31

Level 5: hp to 36; punch now at +9; Feat now at +10 (+15 physical resist)

Level 6: Adds expertise, taking STR to 20; hp to 41
AC 17; HD 6d6 (hp 41); Feat +10 (+15 physical resist); punch (+10/1d10+7)
STR 20 (+7); INT 7 (-); WIS 8 (+1); DEX 10 (+2); CON 16 (+5); CHA 5 (-1)
Qualities: Invulnerability; Striking (1d10)
Talents: Fortitude (+5 hit points); expertise (+2 to STR)

I like the way that levels allow for slow, incremental progress for a character without any world-shaking changes. Characters don’t have the opportunity (in the rules as currently presented) to ‘buy’ new powers. You have what you have, but you can get better at it as you grow. This aligns with the comics I’m trying to replicate. 

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.