Sunday, January 31, 2021

Bots and Junkers

 I really like the rules for junkers from the first edition - they are one of my favorite things from that game. So, I'm keeping those largely intact, although I'm streamlining some of the mechanics around them. I'm also changing the basic idea of how a junker is found; in the first edition, you had to have a character who got a junker to get one. Now, every team will start with a junker (or make their first adventure about getting one- the default game assumption). However, the junker is ultimately 'owned' by the whole team; the same is going to be true of a bot. The team will have one bot that follows them around on their adventures; it might be connected to the junker, or find some way to happen along with the crew. The purpose of the bot is to be a GM-played character in the group who doesn't do much except provide comic relief, act as a sounding board, and give strategic clues at key moments. It's a non-living but still somewhat self-aware plot mover!

Your bot has the following stats:

AC 1d4+12; HD 2d6+6; Feat +8; MV 1d4+1; no attacks

Bots have impervious 1d4 from their metal shells

Bots have 1d4 talents


Roll 1d6 to see how much the bot resembles a terran;

1 = nearly a synthezoid; 6 = completely mechanical.

On this scale, C-3PO is at 2, R2-D2 is at maybe 4 (still has ‘legs’),

and BB8 is 5 (I man, he kinda has a head and a body I guess).

Roll 1d6 for Communicates: 1-3 = mechanical sounds/code; 4-6 = via speech

The bot’s original purpose

  1. Butler. Open doors, fetch slippers. 

  2. Culinary. Make delicious meals.

  3. Librarian. Maintain records, organize, 

  4. Logistics. Shipping and receiving, processing.

  5. Medicine. Medical procedures and technologies.

  6. Pilot. Operate vehicles (generally in non-combat situations).

  7. Science. Assist with research and data processing.

  8. Technology. Interfacing with other technological systems.

I’m rolling up a bot. This is a science bot, which is designed to assist with research and data processing. Makes sense. It is somewhat human. I’m thinking of Twiki from Buck Rogers. He is bashful; this is a very shy bot who is a total nerd and gets nervous around living creatures (especially female ones). His name is K1RB, or Kirby.  I roll randomly for stats, and end up with:


K-1RB (Kirby), K-Series Research Companion Data Bot

AC 16; HD 2d6+6 (hp 15); Feat +8; MV 2 

Communicates via Speech

Impervious 3; Science Talent 

Kirby is 1 meter tall.



Saturday, January 30, 2021

Play Testing Begins

I'm ready to roll up a character... characters don't have a 'class' per se. They start with a lineage (where they came from - maybe a species, but it might be something else)... then you focus your character as you go. I like the idea that character creation in Sentinels is something of a game within a game, so I'm trying to replicate that here with the swords and planets vibe...

1. Roll for Lineage. The first step is to determine what talents are possessed by the species that is your ancestry. You are basically creating a species as you go… there is no ‘default’ species. There are Terrans, but they have been exposed to cosmic radiation that has caused any number of changes, so all bets are off. I start by rolling 1d6 to see how ‘close’ I am to human; I roll 1. This guy is identical to a human; he is a Terran, albeit one who may have been exposed to radiation. I roll 4 traits; I roll 18, 10, 88, 57. These (for now) are elemental resistance (cold), regenerate 1 hp per round; poison breath; emotion control. I’m thinking that he was a Terran who was part of a cryo project to equip terrans for mining work on Banquo’s Maw. This would mean that he would have a reason to find a junker, and to be on the moon in the first place. That’s a win. His power even lets him ‘cool’ the emotions of those around him. This will be a limitation of his emotion control power; he can only de-escalate heightened emotions. 

2. Roll for limitations. There is a 2 in 6 chance of a limitation. I already took one to one of my abilities, but I roll 1. I select susceptible to heat damage, since it makes the most sense. Any time he suffers heat damage, he sustains an additional +1d6 damage.


3. Roll for attributes. Now I’m ready to decide on my attributes. I roll 2d6 for each, rerolling 1s, and get: 6, 8, 8, 10, 7, 6. Nothing too great, but it’s fine.


I know that the 10 is going to improve (it will be the favored attribute), so it will be pretty good. While CON makes the most sense, it is the least fun… I’m thinking either DEX or INT, but CHA would be okay too. I am curious what a random roll would give me (but I’m not locking in to it), and I get INT. Hmmm. So he’s a thinker more than a fighter. That’s okay. Scientist. Explorer. Okay. INT it is. I’m starting to think of him as a kinder version of Mr. Freeze. Like if Mr. Freeze was a Vulcan. I’m going with low WIS because he is quite practical and has little patience for such things as yoga or vegan dieting. That poison breath is actually frost breath, of course. I think this guy is actually bio-engineered and not actually a terran at all.


STR 7 (-); INT 11 (+2); WIS 6 (-); DEX 8 (+1); CON 8 (+1); CHA 6 (-)


4. Roll for starting credits. I roll 80 starting credits. He takes a blast pistol (30 credits), a starter pack (20 credits), and a stun rod (10 credits). He has 20 credits remaining.


5. For talents, I get to start with three. I will take science (specialize in cryogenics), mechanic, and fortitude (+5 hit points). I know that he will need pilot, but I can wait until level 2 for that. 


6. Stats: I start with 2d6+1 hit points (roll 11), +7 Feat, Move 4 (I am changing up movement rules to get them to work in meters and km; so 3 is number of meters he can travel in one action while doing other things with no penalty; 5x this is his run speed in one round doing nothing else; this is also the km he can walk in an hour at a comfortable pace). Blast weapons are relatively cheap, but they are relatively weak and are only good at short ranges. 


My character is ready to go...     


Cryos Panek, Genetically-Engineered Proto-Terran Frost Trader

AC 12; HD 2d6+6 (16 hit points); FEAT +7; Move 3; Blast Pistol (+2/2d6/5) or Stun Rod (+1/Feat or stunned for 1d6 rounds)

STR 7 (-); INT 11 (+2); WIS 6 (-); 

DEX 8 (+1); CON 8 (+1); CHA 6 (-)

Talents: Science (cryogenics), mechanic, fortitude

Cold breath (once per turn, 3 meter cloud; 2d6+1 damage); Cold resistance (1d6 less damage from cold); Empathy Control, ‘cool’ (10 meters); Regenerate 1 hp per round 

Limitation: Heat susceptibility (+1d6 damage from heat) 


Next time we talk about bots and junkers!


Thinking about setting

One of the mistakes I make is in presuming that space is largely settled, mapped, and known. Some of the literature that I’ve been reviewing as I think about this game falls into swords and planet - explorers in strange lands that just happen to be planets they travel between. The whole things needs an air of the unknown.

  • Space is largely unexplored and uncharted. We don’t know most of what’s out there.

  • An ancient evil has been reborn. At one time, dark forces moved among the cosmos planting seeds and establishing footholds on a thousand worlds. Then, they disappeared. They have reawakened.

  • The ability to travel between worlds and between systems is a relatively new phenomenon. It is not stable and easy to use, but instead is unstable, unpredictable, and often dangerous to jump between systems.

  • More decadence, decay, and old stuff. Less new and shiny. 

  • Think of worlds as city-states, or as collections of city states.


I’m thinking that one of the major sources of junker ships is a junkyard moon where hundreds of thousands of old craft were sent to die. I think of the Ming Dynasty who sunk their own Armada to cut China off from the rest of the world. I can see a culture that assumed a high level of technological progress, and then intentionally cut themselves off from the rest of the galaxy and shut it all down. They are gone now, but there are thousands of working ships sitting in junk yards that can be grabbed. The society itself is also gone - but there may be clues as to what happened to them.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Shards of Tomorrow 2 Design Goals

 Let’s set up some design goals.

  • It’s a game - it’s not a movie or novel; the setting is not about telling a great story, but about equipping the players to tell their own stories. It should be open-ended and diverse; there isn’t one central story, but a series of interconnected stories that allow the player to jump into it anywhere. It’s not about the humans defeating the bad guys. It’s about an ongoing, unending series of conflicts that the player characters find a way to navigate within.

  • Use the system as presented in Tales of the Splintered Realm, but not be beholden to it. Freedom to manipulate the system to better fit the narrative. For example, I’m thinking of bringing in some elements from Sentinels of Echo City; I am thinking also of bringing in some things from Army Ants (getting more actions per round; weapon tinkering rules). It’s going to be a ‘greatest hits’ collection of the other games I’ve done.

  • Maximize value. In reviewing the first edition of Shards of Tomorrow, I noticed that I created new mechanics for different situations; just looking at spacecraft, there are different ways to resolve hit dice, values, upgrade costs, and maintenance costs. Since we already have one random element (hit dice), this same value can be applied in different ways; weekly maintenance can be hit dice in credits; upgrade costs can be hit dice x10.

  • Maximize space. I want this to be 64 pages, and formatted as Tales of the Splintered Realm, but have EVERYTHING for the full game. Rules for character creation, advancement, technology, creatures, vehicles, setting, and a solid starting adventure. 

  • Art. I have to accept that art matters. Presentation matters. The visuals matter. More illustrations, and of the highest quality I can muster.

  • Take my time. There is no hurry to get this done. I want to take my time with it. If it takes six months, no matter. It’s about the process, not the product. I like tinkering with systems and writing rules. I may as well spend time doing that.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Long Time No See

 To say I've been in a creative drought would be an understatement. I've been pretty meh about everything lately, but in the last day or two I've shaken some rust off of my brain and started tinkering again. I thought I'd post an update and share some ideas for a space game I'm toying with...

It's an upgrade and update of Shards of Tomorrow, but set in a different part of the galaxy, and using the refined mechanics from Tales of the Splintered Realm. As I was thinking about classes this morning, I am leaning towards abandoning classes altogether. You decide on a concept, you pick a primary attribute (this increases automatically each level), and you select a few talents to start you off. One talent is your primary talent (marked with *). You receive +2 to Feats with that talent. That's about it. I posted months ago about species, and I'd keep those thoughts going (except that as a Terran you get a few perks that other species don't get). The rules would give you some suggestions for common archetypes. For example:

  • Bounty Hunter (CON) Hunting*; Armor; Sharpshooter 
  • Disciple (WIS) Mysticism*; Parry (note: Mysticism counts as two slots)
  • Smuggler (DEX) Pilot*; Quick Draw; Sneak

The idea being that you build the character you want, but the rules give you a quick list of maybe 20 common archetypes as 'starter kits' if you want. However, you can go in any direction you want. You can even decide that your character has Mysticism, but is not actually 'all in' as a mystical warrior; you have the talent, but you don't make it your primary talent, and you may not have WIS as your primary attribute. This would include the 'sensitive' characters who can do mystical things but are not crushing windpipes with the power of their minds.


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.