Thursday, June 6, 2019

On The Fly Design Testing

Two weeks ago, my daughter Grace said she wanted to try playing one of my games...

After I picked my jaw up off the floor and stopped crying tears of joy, she rolled up a superhero and I took her through a short adventure. She actually liked it.

Then, last week, she said she wanted to try the fantasy game, and she made an elf scout, and I made a dwarf myrmidon. We went through part of the introductory adventure from the core rules and had fun. She wanted to play again tonight...

I decided to play test a system that I have had on the back burner for years, and which I think I read about somewhere else, but I have no idea where (I am not claiming originality on this; I am sure one of you can point me to where I got it from).

Roll 2d6:
3+  Probably
5 + Likely
7+  Maybe
9+  Unlikely
11+Very Unlikely

A roll of 2 is always NO; 12 is always YES.

You build the dungeon on the fly by asking questions and rolling 2d6. Before you roll, you decide the likelihood of an event happening... Is there a door? (Maybe, so yes on a roll of 7 or better) If so, it it locked (probably, so yes on a roll of 3 or better). Is the lock trapped (unlikely, so yes on a roll of 9 or better). Once the door is open... is there a monster in here (Maybe). Does the monster have treasure (unlikely). Is there anything else interesting in the room (unlikely). Is it a magic pool (very unlikely)... and so it goes...

Here's the map of the adventure we created in this way. I planned NONE of this, but we ended up exploring an underground river behind a waterfall in elfin lands that used to be a dragon's lair. We found the bones of the dragon (long dead), were attacked by a pack of swimming rats, and encountered three water-spirit elves at the base of a 10' waterfall that attacked us but then gave us a figurine of wondrous power when they realized they were going to be destroyed. It was a great adventure that I never would have designed on my own, and as we went Grace started asking questions and deciding on things without my prompting, which was fun to see as well.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Number Crunchin Time (Dollar Edition)

One of the things I wanted to do last month was release a whole bunch of product and see what stuck. I wanted to get a sense of how much interest there was in my stuff. Here's a recap since March 1 for five releases:

Stalwart Age Issue 1 (149 Downloads; $23.60 Gross Sales)
Stalwart Age Issue 2 (96 Downloads; $5.16 Gross Sales)
B1: Dungeon Denizens (181 Downloads; $8.65 Gross Sales)
C1: Trove of Treasures (114 Downloads; $4.00 Gross Sales)
D1: Against the Goblins (96 Downloads; $3.05 Gross Sales)

However, for context, there are two other important figures:

Sentinels of Echo City Deluxe Edition (9 Downloads; $78.11 Gross Sales)
A1: Tales of the Splintered Realm Core Rules (44 Downloads; $3.00 Gross Sales)

It's hard to take away anything concrete here, but there are a few general observations about these trends:

1. The primary purpose of the PWYW supplements is to drive sales of the core rules. Since the core rules for Tales of the Splintered Realm are also PWYW, that breaks the whole model. The benefit of Stalwart Age is not necessarily the sales of those supplements, but the way it drove sales of a game that is over a year old. At this rate, each PWYW release for Sentinels could be reasonably expected to generate 3-5 downloads of that game, which is nothing to scoff at. Making $20-$30 for releasing an 8-10 page supplement is a good business model from my end.

2. Stalwart Age 1 did remarkably well; earning over $20 when none of the other PWYW releases got to $10. That's maybe the first issue effect or something, since sales for 2 were in line with other PWYW releases.

3. The fact that the monster book had twice as many downloads, and over 2x the sales, of the adventure was surprising. I guess that the takeaway is to come out with more monster books than adventures; I didn't expect that, but I suppose that's already the model that D+D pretty much established; core rules sell the most, monster books and player guides second, and adventures in third place. My own small sample shows this trend to be true.

What all this means is that I better get going on Stalwart Age #3... that's in the early stages, but I hope to have it out by the end of the month (so I can still put May on the cover). I have a handful of story ideas for it, but I'm working out long-term plot stuff that will help the unify the whole thing later on a little better.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Let's Go Against the Goblins!


Module D1: Against the Goblins is now for sale. Here's the elevator pitch (for a really, really slow elevator)....

Overview

It seems like an easy enough task: cleanse the mound of the goblins. Not so fast there, buster brown. These goblins are bat-poop crazy. Maybe from eating all the bat poop. It’s time to take arms against the goblins.

Against the Goblins is designed for a fellowship of four heroes of level 1. This is designed for use with the free Tales of the Splintered Realmrules, or you can easily adapt this to the OSR game of your choice. I’m not saying you should do that, only that you can.

About the Goblins

These goblins are… different. They had a decent thing going here with a fortified mound. But then they discovered the slime pools… and the enchanted mushrooms… and then they started consuming bat poop.

It’s a whole thing.

The result is that there is a mound full of crazy, magically jacked-up goblins that live a paranoid and chaotic existence. As with all Tales of the Splintered Realm releases, this is a pay-what-you-want offering.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

You might remember that I posted this map a few weeks ago. As I have been writing up the adventure, I felt like the map was a little... cramped. I also didn't like how pieces of it were fitting together with each other in terms of the 'flow' of the adventure... so I gave myself a do over.

May I present the goblin's burrow version 2.0:




Sunday, April 14, 2019

Playing With Isometrics

I was showing Grace some maps online (she thought the isometric designs were cool) and I showed her how they are made. Whipped up this little map, and I thought I'd share. I do tend to find the isometric designs a little more evocative; I can feel the cold of the walls and squint into the shadows more easily when looking at isometric designs.



Saturday, April 13, 2019

Get Your Treasures Here

Splintered April rolls on. Tales of the Splintered Realm Module C1: Trove of Treasures is now available. It's pay-what-you-want, so I don't want ANY excuses for why you didn't get a copy.

Roll a percentile die. Get treasure. It's that easy.

Well, I mean, you probably have to kill some monsters first. But other than that, totally easy.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

I Have Stuff I Should Be Doing

So I was looking at the classic World of Greyhawk map, and I decided to try my hand at that style, considering all of the cool stuff my new Surface Pro can do.

This turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. It is for the upcoming sandboxy adventure set in the Desert of Despairing Souls (which is going to be my first 'super module', and I'll probably give it some moniker like "S:1-3" or something just to be cute). It's going to be my riff on the Desert of Desolation series... I mean, it has towers, tombs, an oasis, and a sea of glass for goodness' sake.

Get your sunscreen ready.

I TOLD You April Would Be Busy

The second issue of Doc Stalwart's adventures has been published, and it includes a bunch of creatures and rules for underwater adventure. I was planning this before I saw Aquaman, but seeing Aquaman sure helped me to get inspired to finish it... and may have had something to do with a certain heroic underwater hero who gets a write-up in the book.

I'm not saying, but I'm just saying.

Pick up your copy of The Stalwart Age #2 right now.

Friday, April 5, 2019

49 Dungeon Denizens Now Live

The good news: I posted a day early!

The bad news: I ended up cutting from 66 to 49 monsters.

My original idea was that the books would be a title page, 6 pages of content, and the OGL. I like that model. I thought I could squeeze 66 monsters into that, but I was wrong. I just barely got 49 in. I could have expanded out two more pages, but I actually like how this feels, and it's sustainable: I can make a few more of these with themes and create 49 monsters each time. I already have the outdoor one (wanderers of the wild or something) started, and I assume there will be an outer-planar one after that. I don't know if 'dwellers in the desert' gives me enough ideas for 49 monsters, although I am thinking of doing a riff on the Desert of Desolation series, and that would either be an appendix to that, or a special release with the monsters that will be used in that particular set of adventures.

I digress. Module B1: 49 Dungeon Denizens is now live. Go get yourself a free copy. If you feel like dropping a tip, that would be great.

Now, I'm off to work on the Stalwart Age #2... going to try and post that this weekend.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Stalwart Age 2 Almost Here

In addition to the four releases for Tales of the Splintered Realm, the Stalwart Age continues unabated... here is the cover for issue 2. The book itself should be up for sale by the end of the week.

I am REALLY digging this design for the covers, and look forward to seeing 5 or 10 of these side-by-side to see the whole tapestry of Doc's adventures as they come together...


Saturday, March 30, 2019

It's Splintered April


This April, I’ll be releasing not one, not two, not three, but FOUR updates for Tales of the Splintered Realm. Each of these 8-page supplements will be a pay-what-you-want expansion for the niftiest RPG ever inspired by the niftiest RPG ever. Each of these will be released on consecutive Saturdays, starting with April 6:

Module B1: 66 Dungeon Dwellers. This ain’t your momma’s monster manual. (unless your mom is THAT cool). Drops on Saturday, 4/6.

Module C1: Trove of Treasures. A list of treasures. A percentile die. Fo sho. Drops on Saturday, 4/13.

Module D1: Into the Lost Halls. It’s a big dungeon. We’re just living in it. Drops on Saturday, 4/20.

Module E1: Against the Goblins. These goblins are bat poop crazy. That’s probably from the bat poop. Drops on Saturday, 4/27.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

More Mapping... This Time With GOBLINS

I wanted to make an introductory adventure with goblins that was fun and kind of offbeat. I think I have succeeded. Here's the elevator pitch: when a goblin chief goes bat poop crazy - from consuming too much bat poop - he makes a plan to protect the bat poop he loves, and his own immortality.

I plan to release this in the next week or two, but for now here's the map:






Wednesday, March 20, 2019

On Solo Play

So this morning, I decided to start a solo game and take my character through the introductory adventure in the core rules. Here are a few basic takeaways before I get into the specifics of characters:

It's a fun little adventure. I like the little seeds of things that can get you going further without much effort.
The rules are nice and fast and loose. I really like this iteration. It's fluid. I was able to run the entire adventure in about 2 hours, and that is with rolling up two characters as well!
I created a few house rules on the fly... which prompted this morning's earlier posting about house rules.

Characters:

I ended up making two characters for this adventure; a stoutling defender and a red gnome trickster. Basically, I wanted to play the stoutling, but I realized about halfway through that he was going to be tough to play solo for a long time; he has no ability to take on multiple foes at once, so any time there were more than 2 or 3 foes, he got wrecked pretty quickly. In addition, as he scales up, his abilities are going to be largely supportive and defensive. He's a GREAT guy to have on your team; he's not such a great guy to have AS your team.

The red gnome trickster is a much more capable solo character. He has multiple ways to get past obstacles (he can try a STR check if the burglary doesn't work to open a door); he has ways to do some crowd control (sleep), and he has some ways to quickly deal some automatic damage. He'll scale better for solo play; he can sneak by really tough foes and scout things out, get extra damage with his sneak attack... he has more options for how to manage a variety of situations. I found that I really needed that if I was going to pursue solo play.

FYI, here are the two character sheets: Sty has he was in progress, and Myth as he had finished the adventure (I spotted him about 30 xp to get to level 2; yeah, I know...)





TSR House Rules

This post will be updated with house rules I am using for Tales of the Splintered Realm. Use or don't use as you see fit:

Gameplay Rules
  • Automatic damage effects (like the heat from a fire ant) are capped at 2 points per round; if four fire ants surround a character, that character does not suffer 4 hp damage per round.
  • In melee combat, no more than 3 creatures of the same size can engage you at once. No more than 2 creatures of any size larger, and no more than 4 creatures of any size smaller. A normal human could be attacked in melee by up to 4 rats, 3 gargoyles, or 2 ogres at once. This would limit sundering to only affecting those total targets as well. I found this was necessary to keep my solo stoutling defender alive; when he took on 7 rats, he was going to be killed quickly if not for the quick application of this rule :) This will also keep him alive later on, when he's taking on many undead at once.
  • For solo play, I am ruling that drinking a potion counts as a minor action, allowing one attack at -2 (because my character is going through healing potions like CRAZY to stay alive).
Purchasing Scrolls

The rules state that scrolls must be found on adventures. I rule that scrolls may be purchased in some places. A small country shrine may carry tier 1 scrolls, while the temple in a major city may stock scrolls of up to tier 3; you would have to journey to the Library at Asgoth's Summit to find a scroll of Tier 5.

Tier 1: 100 sp
Tier 2: 250 sp
Tier 3: 500 sp
Tier 4: 1,000 sp
Tier 5: 2,500 sp
Tier 6: 5,000 sp

Purchasing Weapons or Armor

The rules have no mechanism for purchasing magical weapons and armor. Larger merchants may have gained some through barter. The standard prices are:

+1 weapons or armor are the base cost in gold +100 gp.  (A +1 medium weapon would cost around 115 gp, or 1150 sp; a suit of +1 plate mail armor would likely go for around 400 gp, or 4,000 sp). The more powerful an item, the less likely it is that a merchant will carry it.

+2 weapons or armor are the base cost in gold x10, +250 gp. (A +2 short bow would cost around 500 gp, or 5,000 sp; a suit of +2 chainmail armor would cost around 1,000 gp, or 10,000 sp). Very few merchants would stock such items.

Purchasing Potions

Larger alchemical shops are going to stock some basic potions. Most potions sell for around 100 sp, but more potent elixirs may sell for upwards of 500 sp.

Selling Items

Use the prices above to sell items to vendors; you get 50% of the value in any item you sell back (including mundane items you purchase; when you upgrade your studded leather armor to chainmail, you get 10 sp credit from the studded leather towards the new price)


Sunday, March 17, 2019

TSR Update

Tales of the Splintered Realm has been updated. Updates include:
  • Added five archetypes, including the 'big four' classic class options
  • Expanded magic to include faith magic, with all 6 tiers of magic represented
  • Revised spell rules to more closely mirror the B/X spell system
  • Added a page of additional monsters
  • Expanded treasure rules

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

TSR Revised

The Tales of the Splintered Realm update is almost ready to go. I just want to give it another day of editing and clean ups, but I'm happy with how it's turned out. I upgraded from 16 to 20 pages, but in the bargain added 5 archetypes (including the 'big four'), added faith magic, expanded arcane and nature magic to 6 tiers, added a half-dozen monsters, and expanded the treasure rules to scale all the way to level 6 so that no additional treasure tables will be needed. I also revised spell rules to keep them simple and clean, but to make them better mirror class D+D spell casting with available spells per day.

I was working on a treasure supplement, and realized that higher-level treasures would require new or expanded treasure tables, and I didn't like that anything later would supersede the core rules. I would prefer that future materials would expand things; I was able to make a few modifications to the basic tables and organization to increase its usefulness as a foundation module that other modules now can expand on in any number of directions.

Oh, and here's a character sheet I made as well. Because. Character sheets. Amiright or amiright?

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Creativity is a Flowing

So I got a round of stuff done for Sentinels of Echo City, and I've got the next issue of Doc Stalwart's adventures well underway... and I've turned my attention to Tales of the Splintered Realm. 

The three big knocks against the system were that the spell system was pretty far removed from the classic D+D system, that the core rules don't include the 'big four' classes, and that there is no representation of faith magic in the core rules. All of these were intentional, but they are all things I've decided to correct. In creating expansion materials (I'm working on a dungeon crawl), I've realized how many basic things you need in place for dungeon crawls... things like curses, wizard lock, dispel magic, and turning undead need to be in the core rules, because including rules for these in supplements for dungeon crawls creates an unnecessary layer of material ("you can find the rules for this in module A1, the rules for that in module B3, and the rules for this is module C1")...

The core rules can be a central clearinghouse for all of the basics without adding any bloat. I am adding one page of character archetypes, 2 pages of spells, and a page of treasure. That will keep a solid foundational game in place, but only increase the page count to 20, which is still nice and light. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Totally NOT Captain Marvel, so I don't know why you'd say that


Just saw Captain Marvel with the girls. We all really liked it. Mary and I agreed that the only flaw was the banter between characters - it was clever, but rarely genuine, and sometimes a bit forced. The story was great, and the connections to the existing MCU were well done. On the whole, a strong offering.

And of course, it gets me thinking about how this sort of higher-end super-heroing works in game terms for Sentinels of Echo City. So, let’s give it a spin…

Uri the Cosmic Guardian (Hero 6)
Uri, Cosmic Guardian: Resources 14
AC 21; HD 12d6+36 (hp 101); Feat +13; Move 50’ (fly 10 miles)
Combat
Blast (+10/1d10+9/120’) or Punch (+10/1d6+4)
Attributes
STR 15 (+4); INT 11 (+2); PWR 24 (+9)
DEX 14 (+4); CON 18 (+6); CHA 12 (+3)
Traits
Flight; Cosmic Energy Control; Cosmic Blast (1d10); Invulnerability; Pilot; 
Pummel (1d6)
Talents
Improved Dice (x3) Iron Will; Prowess; Toughness
Drawbacks
Vow: To help the downtrodden
Purpose
To defend those who cannot defend themselves across the cosmos.


MeWe and Blogger Not Playing Nice

For some reason, I cannot get a direct link to my MeWe account to work. I have the link, and it works when I put it the browser field. I go right to my MeWe. But, when I create a link in the sidebar to the left, it comes up as an error. Help me Internet!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Stalwart Age #1 Now Available


It took only a year, but the first official release for the Sentinels of Echo City RPG (Deluxe Edition) is now available.

The Stalwart Age has its roots in many places. Its heart is in 1980s comics and pop culture serials of the early 20th century. It’s got DNA from Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers. It’s got a touch of Basic D+D, the Marvel Phile from Dragon Magazine, and a smattering of Star Wars. It’s a hybrid of my childhood. This first issue is larger than future issues will be: I needed some room to set up the central story.

Each issue will have an introductory piece (like this one), a short story set in the Stalwart Age featuring the iconic Doc Stalwart and his infamous rogue’s gallery, and some new material for the Sentinels of Echo City Deluxe Edition RPG, providing game stats and rules expansions that tie to the story for that month.
And yes, I plan for this to be a monthly release. I love writing about Doc and his world, and I am having a lot of fun fleshing out the history of the world that is outlined on the SoEC (Deluxe Edition) core rules.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Doc Stalwart's Sweet Ride

Here is Doc Stalwart's vehicle, the multi-purpose Beetle. It might even be capable of space travel... I'd bet on it, personally. This, along with several other things from Doc Stalwart's world, will appear in the giant-sized first issue of The Stalwart Age, available next week!


The Beetle (Cost CR 32)
AC 19; HD 4d10 (hp 36); Fly 5,000’; Control 24
Concussion Cannon (+2 to hit; 2d6; 500’)
Stealth Mode (fly 2,500’, Sneak +10); Sonar (100 miles)
Aquatic Mode (To depth of 1500’; Move 500’)





Friday, March 1, 2019

Man At Arms

I've got notes going for several projects at once here, so thought I'd share one thing. This is a draft of the human man-at-arms. It's a human fighter type, but Tales of the Splintered Realm is going to avoid 'generic' classes, so this will be one of many variations of the classic fighter.

Human Man-At-Arms
Starts with: Medium Armor, Heavy Weapons, Shield Use, Two Weapons, Two-handed Weapons
Level 1: +1 STR; +1 to all weapon damage rolls
Level 2: +1 DEX; +1 to all weapon attack rolls
Level 3: +1 STR (+2 total); +1 attack per round (2 total)
Level 4: +1 DEX (+2 total); +1 to all weapon damage rolls (+2 total)
Level 5: +1 STR (+3 total); +1 to all weapon attack rolls (+2 total)
Level 6: +1 DEX (+3 total); +1 attack per round (3 total)

He's a high offense medium defense fighter. I think he'd be fun to play.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Mapping With New Computer

So my new Surface Pro allows me to draw on the computer, which saves incredible amounts of time... and allows me to quickly create solid-looking maps. These move away from my Dyson-inspired style a little bit and towards a simpler, cleaner style. Here are a few variations of the map I created for the entry to the massive dungeon complex that I will be using for play testing... I am partial to the final one (black with grid) myself, but I'm interested to hear what others think. It's no great shakes to publish several of these. And yes, I know these are missing doors, stairs, and other elements... these are incomplete at the moment.

FYI, this is the upper tier of the dungeons beneath a fallen temple to Yahalla that has gone through several owners over many centuries. Most recently, this area was the home to a spider cult that left behind a lot of spiders, and a few undead. It's a level 1 area, and will be where my solo character starts his forays.







Saturday, February 23, 2019

Magic Redux

One of the things that has generated the most push back from the TSR core rules is the idea that your spells reset every turn. I assume that many people are house ruling out of this… I didn’t want a complex spell chart (if one chart that goes 6-5-4-3-2-1 is all that complex), but it was one more level of logistics and charts in a game that is working hard to eschew those.

However, let’s try some options. What if you get a number of daily spells at each tier equal to your attribute modifier?

The warden is a secondary spell caster. At level 5, with a starting WIS of 12, the warden is going to have WIS 15 (+4 modifier), with access to tier III nature magic. This gives the warden 5 a total of 12 spells per day, with 4 each at tiers I, II, and III.

The wizard is a primary spell caster. At level 5, with a starting INT of 12, the wizard is going to have INT 17 (+5 modifier), with access to tier V arcane magic.  This gives the wizard 5 a total of 25 spells per day, with 5 each at tiers I, II, III, IV, and V. By comparison, a SSR  magic user 10 (the rough equivalent) has 15 spells per day…

This feels like too many.

If we go with the declining number of spells (you have a number of tier I spells per day equal to your level modifier, -1 spell per available tier thereafter, with a minimum of 1 spell per tier regardless of attribute rating/modifier)... we end up with:

The warden 5 has (4/3/2) for a total of 9 spells per day
The wizard 5 has (5/4/3/2/1) for a total of 15 spells per day.

This is spot on with the SSR magic user, but also allows secondary casters to be useful. I am thinking that the primary casters (druid, wizard, cleric) are going to get 1 free tier 1 spell per turn as a compromise on that spells per turn mechanic I like … so they get virtually unlimited small heals, minor spells, and the like. A wizard can detect magic, cast charm, and cast sleep all day long. This offsets a relatively light spell assortment.

Friday, February 22, 2019

On Momentum, and Blogs, and Community (oh...my...)

Hey there! I suppose I should give an update, especially because you all are very patient with me when I simply disappear for months at a time. I'm still deep (deep, deep) into my doctoral program in Educational Leadership. I have finished all of my course work, and I'm now on to the dissertation phase. I have written (and revised about ten times) the draft of my proposal. It weighs in at 185 pages right now, and includes about 80 references in the bibliography. It is called "How Veteran Teachers Understand and Leverage Grit: A Case Study". So, I have been reading and writing. A LOT. I just haven't done any of it in the world of gaming.

I've also been applying for and interviewing for jobs. I've been a high school ELA teacher for eighteen years now, but I'm working towards school administration, so I've applied for about 40 positions as either principal or assistant principal , and have interviewed for a dozen. I've been a finalist a few times, but have yet to land an administrative position. To be honest, it's been a pretty mentally exhausting few years, and I have not had the time or the mental energy to put into gaming.

However, my wife has been encouraging me to get back into it, and every once in a while (like the last few weeks) I get a flurry of activity with people contacting me about gaming stuff. I designed Tales of the Splintered Realm last year as a way to re-connect with gaming, and to do so in a way that is manageable. Then, everything kicked into the next gear and I got really moving on my dissertation, so gaming moved to the furthest back burner. I'd like to correct that. I have written some great games that I really love (especially Sentinels of Echo City), and it makes sense for me to support them. So, I'm going to try and do that. Let me know how that goes...

I had a considerable setback last month where my laptop died, taking everything that I hadn't backed up in several months to the grave. Then I realized that Google+ is going away, and taking a whole lot of community stuff with it. I realized today that every comment posted to my blog for the last five years is gone... so it's a bit... um. Wow. Yeah. Okay.

That said, here's something of a plan going forward:

  • This blog will remain my central hub. I like it here. So that's good.
  • I'll be updating the rules for Tales of the Splintered Realm with any mechanical fixes or little things I find that I want to clean up.
  • I'm going to make getting a few supplements for that game a priority. I'd like to get a monster book, a treasure book, and at least two character expansion books (all about 8 pages long, so no great shakes for any of those) out in the next little bit. The game desperately needs some rounding out.
  • I've wanted to publish a regular newsletter for Sentinels of Echo City that resembles the old Marvel Phile updates in Dragon Magazine. That's in the works.
  • I've set up a new community on MeWe. It will be evolving over the next few days and weeks. Stop by there and say hello if you are so inclined.