Sunday, September 4, 2011

Always Tinkering, Supers Edition

I've been tinkering with the Resolute engine some more as I've been thinking of adapting it to Army Ants, and that lead me back around to tinkering with the supers version of it again... it's a never-ending rotation of fiddling with the system.

Anyway, here are some stats I've been toying with for some popular supers characters you might have heard of... I am also playing with re-structuring the character point cost of abilities (to bump after 3 instead of 2 ranks; so +1 to +3 are 1 CP each, +4 to +6 are 2 CPs each, etc.). I put the CP cost for each ability in brackets to show my work...

THE HULK (75 CPs/ 110 wounds)
Brawling +7 [12]; Evade +3 [3]; Invulnerable +9 [18]; Might +9 [18]; Rage +4 [5]; Resolve +5 [7]; Toughness +7 [12]
- Hulk has Might +9, but when he rages, this shifts to +10 in the first round, +11 in the second round, +12 in the third round and forward. He must spend 1 turn to rage willingly, or he automatically rages at half of his total wounds as a free turn (55 or fewer)
- Toughness (FYI) gives you rating x5 bonus wounds.

Brawling +4 [5]; Counter Attacks +4 [5]; Evade +8 [15]; Intuition +4 [5]; Precision +7 [12]; Resolve +4 [5]; Speed +9 [18]
- Flash would use his resolve to stack speed with any number of things; he stacks it with precision to land a hail of blows; he stacks it with evade to perform incredible dodges; he stacks it with brawling to make his fists operate like jackhammers.
- Counter attacks allows him to take a bonus to hit a foe that has just missed him in melee combat; he takes a bonus = to the foe's margin of failure, maximum +4.

Brawling +4 [5]; Evade +4 [5]; Flight +7 [12]; Precision +7 [12]; Resolve +9 [18]; Ring +9 [18]
- His ring allows him to deal concussive bursts of energy; he attacks with the ring, dealing damage with precision; however, he often uses his resolve to generate objects with the ring. For example:
- a suit of armor that grants invulnerable +9 for the rest of the scene.
- A melee weapon that stacks with brawling, dealing +13 with each successful strike (attacks made with precision)
- a huge object that stacks with his precision (a huge mallet that deals +16 damage)

Armor Piercing +4 [5]; Brawling +6 [9]; Claw +6 [9]; Intuition +5 [7]; Invulnerable +4 [5]; Precision +7 [12]; Regenerate +5 [7]; Speed +2 [2]; Stealth +4 [5]; Two Weapons +6 [9]
- Each round, he gets to attack with both claws (+7/+12 with the first; +6/+12 with the second); four times per scene, he gets to completely ignore his target’s armor (allowing no soak roll at all; target takes 0 for soak result).

I tried Superman, but he came out at about 165 CPs, making him basically unplayable... although Superman probably is unplayable, isn't he? That's sort of the whole point...

Friday, August 26, 2011

And There I Go Again

I guess that I'm writing a new game... I started with some notes, and before I knew it I had about 15 pages of ideas on the new edition of Army Ants! Here are some of the things that have come from this:

- It's essentially the Resolute game system, although I've limited the number of core abilities (I have a list of ten I'm working from right now), and everything else is an application linked to one of those abilities. For example, stealth will not be a distinct ability; it is an application of your intuition.
- Its big deviation from Resolute is the lack of a referee; the role of narrator is shouldered primarily by one player, but other players take turns narrating scenes depending on what's happening. I've got notes in place for a system whereby you randomly generate events as you go (inspired by reading about the Mythic Game Master Emulator, although I still haven't ponied up the $ to actually get a copy of that and read it). I like how it feels so far, but until I actually play test it with other people, I won't have an idea of how it actually works.
- I'm going through all my previous edition of Army Ants and taking the stuff that worked from each edition, and trying to make it all fit. I want this to be the COMPLETE game; I want to include every foe, every predator, every vehicle, every weapon, and every option from every edition of the rules I've published in one book. The Resolute engine presents information in such a condensed form that I can pack a lot of information on a single page. I'm thinking of the 160-page range right now. That's a total guess. I want it to be a digest-sized book. I've always wanted an Ants RPG printed in digest size; it's my big chance!
- The book has to be available as both a print edition and a PDF.
- When it's finally ready, I'll also be releasing the complete Army Ant comics as a digest-sized book, assuming I can get all of that into one book (it's over 300 pages). If not, I'll have to break it over two volumes. Don't know about the logistics of that yet.
- There is NO chance this is done anytime soon (as in 2011). Look for it some time in 2012. I want to do a better job marketing this as I go, and this blog is the first step. I know that it's a bad idea to announce a project when you don't have more than a few pages of notes and a spark of inspiration, but I've written enough games at this point that I am pretty confident it will eventually get done- and I'm not looking for kickstarter money or anything (yet... although that's definitely a possibility... hmmmm). I'd really like to hear about anyone's experiences with kickstarters, and how that turned out (either as a consumer or creator).

Thanks and happy gaming.

The Ants as Characters

The ants represent ‘normal’ in the game. The ants are the common insects by which all other species are measured; the weirdness or oddity of other species is proportionate to the relative normalcy represented by the ants.
However, this also means that the ants are the most malleable. For instance, all potato bugs have some mysticism inherent in them; furthermore, they cannot use such things as cybernetics. Their attunement to the spiritual world makes them incompatible with technology that would augment their abilities. However, you could conceivably have a psychic ant with a cybernetic arm and who carries a satchel he stole from a spider that allows him to control flame.

Design-wise, an army ant grunt starts with a limit of +5 in any ability; although he can buy any ability he wants. If he wants to go further than this, he has to make some decisions. I see the grunt ‘class’ (speciality?) as I saw the adventurer archetype for RTSR… it’s a jack of all trades approach that allows you to only go so far in each thing you do.

I see the scale of the game somewhat smaller than RTSR and the supers game… a top-level ant is only going to hit about 50 CPs. This is exceptionally experienced and knowledgeable. I don’t see 50 as a hard cap for the game necessarily, but it could end up that way. I like the idea of 50 CPs being the normal cap, but every augmentation you take (for example, cybernetic arms, replacing an eye with one you recover from an undead beetle, or wearing a mystical pendant that increases your evade) increases your cap by 5 CPs. With the three augmentations, you’d be able to increase your character up to 65 CPs.

This means that ants should have fewer rated abilities available to them. You’d buy all sorts of special things as applications of your abilities that allow you to progress further. For example, your might is normally limited to +5 (9 CPs). However, if you purchase cybernetic arms (2 CPs), you get to increase your might further. Hmmm.

Actually, the better way to go with this might be to build in an automatic limitation to your ability (so you don’t take cybernetic arms for 2 CPs; you take it for free, but get a limitation that piggy backs with the benefit). For example, if you use mysticism to increase your might, you draw upon ancient spirits to drive your might; so, if you botch a might action roll, your might fails, and you lose 2D CPs from might for the rest of the scene (as a for instance). If you have cybernetic arms, you are now susceptible to electrical damage, or you can actually have your might completely negated by being electrocuted or running out of battery power. There are many possibilities, and I could easily see each having a short table of sample limitations. Since I’m thinking cybernetics, here are some options:

Cybernetics Limitations (Roll D6)

1-2. Power source. You need to re-charge your batteries over time. The referee rolls at the beginning of each scene (target 13), with success meaning that your power source dies, and you default to your +5 max until you can recharge. Each consecutive scene you go without charging your batteries on a power source increases the roll +1; if you have gone 5 scenes without charging, the referee rolls 2D+5 (target 13). The referee gets to determine when in the round your power runs out (or rolls randomly; D6 for the round in which your power source fails). Now, for only 2 CPs you can purchase improved power source, which increases the target to 16 for this roll, giving you longer stretches wherein you won’t run out of juice.

3-4. Surge Susceptible. Whenever you take electrical damage, you have to roll the ability (target equal to the wounds you suffered) to keep from shorting out and defaulting to +5 until you can get repairs made. If you suffer 15 wounds from an electrical strike, you have to roll might (target 15) or have your cybernetics short out until repaired. Repairs require a weapon tinkering roll (target equal to 7+ your rating) to fix. If you have might +7, you or an ally needs to make a tinkering roll (target 14) to fix your cybernetic arms.

5-6. Water Susceptible. Your cybernetic device needs to stay dry. When you come into contact with water, you have to roll 2D + the intensity of water (target 13) or have your cybernetics short out for the rest of the scene (default to +5 rating). A moderate rainfall is a +1 modifier, while being caught in a downpour would be +2, and actually submerging your cybernetics (diving into a river) is +4. The device is designed to keep water out, but the mechanics of it aren’t perfect…

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Epic Fails: Ants Style

Let’s talk about why the ants haven’t been a huge success…

Primarily, there’s been a considerable disconnect between the world of army ants as I see it, and the way I ultimately portray it in the games I’ve written. Here’s why:

1. The scope of gaming is far bigger than military insects going on missions. The world includes mysticism, giant intelligent animals, cyborgs and super soldiers; I see this as Challengers of the Unknown more than GI Joe.
2. I’ve never successfully presented it that way. There are two reasons why: a) I’ve never been able to develop a game system that fully supports everything that I want to do with it and b) I’ve always viewed the core rules as setting up the basics of the army ants, and future supplements (that I start but never finish) fleshing out other parts of the world.

If I was going to do army ants right, here are a few things that I’d have to consider:

- the rules could not worry about ‘balance’ as a primary concern. All sorts of crazy stuff can happen (look at this as low to mid-powered supers gaming), but would have to be flexible enough to allow for all sorts of craziness (Resolute does this- check)
- The core rules would have to give you all of the options. This could not (and should not) be a 20 or even 40 page book; right now, I’m thinking of a page count in the 100-150 range to fully flesh it out.
- Every part of the design has to reinforce the variety and texture of this world. It has ladybugs with a massive intelligence network, spiders who dabble in sorcery, potato bugs who use the martial arts and ancient mystical practices to defy the natural laws of the world; it has a wasp empire with its tyrannical grip over all corners of the land; it has centipede overlords ruling over underground cities where gladiator pits set insect against insect; it has garter snakes of incredible wisdom hidden in the far reaches, primeval lizards prowling lost islands, ancient artifacts hidden in distant ruins, and cybernetic anomalies that hard-wire innovative technologies into their carapaces to boost their natural abilities. I’ve never really been able to delve 20% of this in the games I’ve published for army ants; I’ve only delved about 50% of it in the comics I did. Right now, I’m thinking shifting points of view might be a good way to go; you get a potato bug sensei telling you about the potato bug mystical practices; you get a ladybug intelligence report on current activities in the back yard; you get a field map from a new recruits handbook as your back yard map; that sort of stuff.
- players have to have many options beyond a military force going on missions, although that should be the default assumption of the game. I’m thinking sort of like Star Wars gaming; you can choose to serve the republic/rebellion (depending on the era), but the game and world allow you to play mercenaries, smugglers, bounty hunters, and all manner of interesting vagabonds. Army Ants the game must do the same.

Of course, the failure of the game to take root is also based on my lack of support for it; I haven't really shown it off (I don't think I've ever posted a session from Army Ants to an actual play), and I haven't hounded the message boards with Army Ants stuff. Those things I can fix...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Have You Ever?

You know that feeling when you get inspired to write/create/forge something? You get all amped up, and start to put ideas on paper, float things amongst your friends, and even step into a bookstore (or comparable online locale) and you feel that inspiration swell to near overwhelming heights…

And then you start to thumb through works comparable to your own vision… it could be a set of RPGs, or a novel section, or magazines racks, or comics collections, or whatever. And then it hits you. You’ll never be this productive; you’ll never be this good; what you want to do has already been done, and probably been done better than you can do it. You’ve had a reality check. Welcome to my world.

Let me tell you about the three ideas that keep pulling at me, and the ‘reality checks’ that keep kicking me in the gut.

As for fantasy gaming, this is where my heart is. It’s the thing I end up thinking about all the time; it’s where I want to spend my imaginary time the most. It encompasses the worlds that I feel most drawn to. It’s what got me into gaming, and it’s what keeps bringing me back. However, there are several reality checks here. In fact, there are probably dozens of them. Here are the two big ones: many great games have already been written and (even more damaging) there is a TON of FREE content that is as good as my best stuff. As I look at what’s being published just among the OSR group, I find the depth and quality of content staggering. As a fantasy gamer with a game I like, I can’t imagine anything that would propel me to change game systems now. There are virtually no new people coming into the hobby, and almost everyone has their fantasy game of choice already; new games that come into the market and are competitive have a license and production values that bring a market (Lord of the Rings, Dragon Age). I cannot challenge either of these.

Supers gaming is probably second; I like it (and sometimes love it), but I end up feeling like the genre itself is too limited, and ultimately becomes self-referential. I know it doesn’t have to, but it feels stale to me. Maybe that’s because I haven’t followed comics seriously since 1993, so I don’t have many fresh ideas about it. There are fewer systems that have nailed supers gaming, although (as with fantasy gaming) most supers gamers now have their go-to system. I was struck particularly last year when I released Resolute Supers 2E within 8 weeks of Icons, BASH Ultimate Edition, and another 2-3 systems that, although different from my game, endeavored to do the same thing: give you a rules-lite, fast and intuitive system for supers gaming. I felt behind the eight ball from the outset. I still feel that way: what can Resolute offer that ICONS cannot? I don’t know… I haven’t actually read ICONS (yeah, bad on me I guess), but the vibe I get from the game and its supplements is a similar vibe to what I was going for with Resolute Supers… so, what to do about that?

Army Ants has always run in third place. Even though I’ve re-invented Army Ants gaming and comics several times over the last 20 years, I’ve never followed through with support for the game. However, Army Ants doesn’t have the reality checks in terms of other systems and games; no one is producing something quite like Army Ants, especially done right. Honestly, I’ve never even done it right; it’s never found the perfect fit of system with setting with writing. The comics have a certain vibe about them that I haven’t quite been able to replicate in a game system; the most recent incarnation (although lightly structured) is closer. It really needs a full treatment.

Sales numbers don’t help me at all. Both Resolute supers systems sold over 100 copies, whereas nothing Army Ants has ever sold more than 30 copies, and most fantasy stuff I released sells in the neighborhood of 30 to 70 copies; however, that’s for core rules. Once I look at supplements, regardless of the system, I rarely sell more than 15 copies of anything that’s a sourcebook or adventure.

I’ll stew on this for a while, but next time I’ll get into some of my thoughts on more of the reasons why…

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fort Morovar

Fort Morovar is the starter home base for heroes in Timbervale. It was once a goblin stronghold, but humans took it during the Great Reckoning, so now it is home to loggers and frontiersmen who see Timbervale as a great resource waiting to be exploited. Of course, the various races of the forest, the druids that protect it, and the goblins who were kicked out don't see things the same way, but we can't all be happy, can we?

FYI, This is the first post that I'm affixing tags to... I figured as I near 150 posts, that I should really start thinking about organizing this blog for posterity (or at least for people who might want to actually use it as a game resource!). I'll be going back and tagging some previous posts as well (maybe all of them ultimately) for a better user experience.

Your tears of joy are thanks enough.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Now that the Abyssal Labyrinth is out of my system (although I still plan to put together the Rubik's Cube for it at some point)... I'm on to working on Timbervale. This one is a more of a traditional sandbox setting; it will include the general area, a frontier keep, some small dungeon crawls/ruins, some new spells, some monsters... you know.

To get you into the vibe of the area, here's the unkeyed map of the area.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chronicle #1 Now Posted

Chronicles of the Splintered Realm Volume 1: The Abyssal Labyrinth is now posted on RPGNow.

The great dungeon of the world of Del Anon, the Abyssal Labyrinth is a nearly infinite dungeon that connects all realms; it was commissioned by the god of death, but ultimately claimed by the Minotaurs. Within, you will find:

- An overview of the dungeon complex
- Descriptions of the five factions dwelling within the Labyrinth
- Random tables to quickly generate monster encounters, pools, traps, and statues
- 20 new monsters for Resolute: the Splintered Realm
- 36 original dungeon geomorphs

The Chronicles of the Splintered Realm are designed for the Resolute game system, but much of the content is easily converted to your favorite system.

Chronicles of the Splintered Realm Volume 1 is 17 pages for $1.
I'm almost done with final edits on The Abyssal Labyrinth, so it should be posted on rpgnow in the next day or two... in the interim, here are two more of the 36 geomorphs that are included within:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hand-Drawn Maps

For a long time, I drew maps by hand because, well, that was the only option I had.

A few years ago, I started using Paint to make maps, creating grids and then dropping colors and simple icons into the grid to create 'classic' looking maps that echoed D+D modules from the 80s. I liked these quite a bit... however...

In moving back to drawing by hand, I've discovered a few things:

1. The final map feels more organic and 'lived in'. My computer maps look sterile and pre-fabricated; my hand-drawn maps look like someone actually took a pick and dug out the side of a mountain.

2. I have to think more as I draw, and this leads to better maps. As I'm drawing a twisting passage or plugging in a statue icon, I'm simultaneously thinking about who dug that passage, why that statue was erected, and building stories into the maps as I go.

3. The final maps also end up with cool little fiddly bits that the computer just wouldn't allow for without more sophisticated mapping software. I know that there's better programs that will allow me to do more, but the simplicity of Paint was one of the things that I liked best about it.

Oh, and here are two more geomorphs to get you ready for the Abyssal Labyrinth.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Labyrinth Maps #1

I know I've been quiet for a few weeks, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy! While I've been pretty tied up with family/work/life stuff, I have still managed to crank out a few dozen maps, some drawings, and a good chunk of stuff for the first two Chronicles...

I figured for today I'd give a preview of the Abyssal Labyrinth with two of the facets (geomorphs) that will be in the set. As you can see, they take more than a little inspiration from Dyson Logos.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What If...

You took a Rubik’s Cube… and 54 geomorphs each reduced to exactly the size of one square on the cube… and you glued them on. Every time the heroes leave a facet and come into a new one, you grab the cube and give it a few random turns. If and when the heroes step off the edge of the cube, you have a chance that they:

1. End up in a portal leading out of the Labyrinth
2. End up in one of the major lairs of powerful creatures that rule the Labyrinth.
3. Wrap around the corner and go to the next facet.
4. Hit a piece of unshaped ethereal space that the Minotaur King has yet to discover. If the heroes are powerful enough (or have recovered a fragment of the true map) they can actually shape this to their will, creating a home within the labyrinth that they can lay claim to.
5. Jump to the next Rubik’s cube you’ve developed, that has 54 different geomorphs affixed to it… (come on, you know you have the free time!)
6. Step off the edge of the universe and fall into the bottomless gulf at the edge of eternity.

Wow this is freaking me out.

I HAVE to build this thing.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Abyssal Labyrinth

I blame Dyson Logos.

I was halfway through my draft (along with several maps) for the Chronicles of the Splintered Realm: Timbervale volume, when I started working on a series of dungeon geomorphs based on Dyson’s challenge… and that got me thinking about how these would go together… and this got me thinking about the Abyssal Labyrinth… and that got me thinking about Minotaurs… and that got me thinking about the Great Reckoning, and the part they played in it… and that got me writing… and that got me a dozen pages into a draft of a chronicle for the Abyssal Labyrinth, and as of right now, 24 geomorphs into my Labyrinth starter pack.

So, you see, it’s all Dyson’s fault.

My first chronicle is going to be for the Abyssal Labyrith, and it will be out some time in the next week or two. I’ll post some of the geomorphs once I fire up my scanner in the next few days, but I’m having a great time working through this. Let me give you the elevator pitch (this elevator pitch assumes that the elevator breaks down for a while, and you have time to kill to explain the whole thing):

Before the Great Reckoning, the Fates gave Bael (god of evil, twin of Yahalla, ultimate bad guy) a vision of the splintered universe to come. He commissioned one of his key lieutenants, the Minotaur King, to create a massive labyrinth within a huge (nearly infinite) tessaract that exists outside of time and space, and which Bael could then use after the Reckoning to ultimately re-unify the various realms, building a bridge between them that he would control. However, he didn’t account for two things…

First, he ended up trapped at the far fringes of Pandemonium after the Reckoning, beyond even the reach of the Labyrinth.

Second, the Minotaur King learned that Bael planned to destroy him after the Labyrinth was completed; so, the Minotaur King launched a pre-emptive strike and stole the keys from Bael, leaving him unable to navigate his own network, and leaving it totally under the control of the Minotaur King, who still lairs at its very center, deep within a complex network of facets.

I see the Abyssal Labyrinth as a sort of Rubik’s Cube… every time you encounter it, and for everyone who encounters it, it’s different. Basically, the randomization of the geomorphs is its central design component; unless you are a Minotaur (or are being guided by one), you can only travel backward one step, and you can never be sure where your next step will be. It’s a little complicated, but it makes total sense in my head. Let’s see if I can break it down…

You enter the labyrinth through a gate in Del Anon (let’s say an opening at the bottom of a tomb), entering a facet (geomorph) from the ‘west’. As long as you are in the first facet you’ve entered (the first geomorph), you can always turn around and go back… once you move off of this facet in any direction except where you came from (to the next geomorph ‘north, ‘east’ or ‘south’), you cannot go back- the gates that once led backward have been randomized, now sending you in a new direction.

In short, there’s always a random chance that the next facet (geomorph) will be the one you want to get to, but the chances are really, really, really (really) slim. Again with the Rubik’s Cube- you might be able to solve it by turning it randomly, but odds are against you.

There’s a lot more about this, and I’ll drop tidbits in the next few days leading up to the release of the volume.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chronicles of the Splintered Realm

I’ve been plugging away for the last few days, going through boxes of old notes, finding maps I’d forgotten that I made, and generally unearthing a large chunk of material I’ve created for my games over the last few decades. In short, I like it, and I think that it’s lead me to a solution to my problem of ADD that I discussed last post.

While the Dragon Magazine approach was the one that appealed to me the most, I felt that even that was too schizophrenic, and it felt that way when I was creating material for my previous magazine efforts: Mythweaver Magazine and Mythweaver Adventure Journal. Yesterday, I actually started a layout for Resolute Adventure Journal, thinking that was the way I was going… and then it all came together in my head.

The answer seems to be a series of modules examining different parts of the splintered realm of Del Anon, through the eyes of an adventurer traveling the land. This would give first-hand accounts of places and people, while introducing new things each module: classes, races, magic, monsters and adventure locations that would be specific to that region. This wouldn’t be a highly-focused series of gazetteers, primarily insofar as you don’t get consistent content from issue to issue (or volume to volume seems more appropriate).

My goal is to have Chronicles of the Splintered Realm Volume 1: Timbervale done my August 1. I’d love to get one out monthly after that, but if I can go bi-monthly, that would be a win. I think that a reasonable expectation for each of these chronicles would include a checklist to the effect of:

- at least 1 adventure (or a few short ones)
- at least 6 new monsters
- a sizeable addition to the game’s magical background (a new spell book with 5 spells one chronicle; a dozen potions when the area boasts a powerful alchemist; special armors when I outline an important dwarven community of smiths; etc.)
- something for players (a listing of new abilities; a handful of new races; lifepath character builders)
- something for referees (rules for specific situations; a handful of trap designs; encounter or location generators)
- a significant contribution to the flavor of the realm itself. This could be an essay on the realm, a viewpoint of a particular creature, relating an important historical event, or an in-depth discussion of beast lore about a specific creature or creatures as a companion to the monsters listed.

While I see these chronicles being somewhat themed; if I detail a section that borders a large waterway and relies on water-borne trade, I could see ship rules, water-breathing races, sea monsters, and an adventure involving pirates all finding their way in.

This feels like it accomplishes all of my goals for the game, and gives me a chance to work on everything at once.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hi, I'm Mike... and I have Gamer ADD...

I know that I’m not alone in my gamer ADD. I get a few pages into a project, and I get an idea for something else, and start jotting notes… and before I know it, I’m a few pages into the next project. I’ve got a bunch of material done for Resolute, but it’s all over the place and I’m not sure what to do with it… for instance:

- I have several pages, maps and a ton of notes for a campaign guide to the north coast. This would be an updated and expanded gazetteer to the lands of Del Anon immediately after the Reckoning.
- I've got pages and pages of notes on the City of Beldin Mere
- Ditto for Jurris' Crossing
- I've got several different starts and drafts for a book of monsters
- I've got a few pages of notes for a player/hero companion that could be included with, or could be separate from, a book of magic
- Adventures I've got several short adventures in various states of completion, and a handful of longer adventures with the foundation going...

I am trying to decide how best to build the game. My instinct right now (as of this minute that is- this is subject to change before I go to bed- and then again at 3 in the morning- and again tomorrow during breakfast) is to focus on adventures. As a kid, I liked that each adventure you purchased not only came with some cool maps, but also included a handful of new monsters, some magical items, a piece of the world (with some historical background and maybe even a town or city map). You got chunks of it at a time, and eventually started to piece it all together. I already see how all the pieces fit; I’m just trying to figure out how to put it out on a consistent basis. The only things that don’t fit here are the expanded notes for players, although those could easily be a one-off micro-book.

Going the adventure route, I could work out rules for sea travel and boats in the expedition to the lost island, and I could work out overland travel and hostile environment survival for the adventures in the Vale of Eternal Winters…

But, I also know that this gives you drips and drabs of ‘new content’ for the game, rather than solid books. At this point in the game’s development, a full round of monster/hero/gm books is probably in order, if for nothing else than to solidify a base of content for players…. Hrmmm…

See, I was wrong. It didn’t even take until bed time to change my mind again!

Lastly, I could go back to the magazine route, with each issue having some monsters, some setting material, some spells, and the whole Dragon Magazine vibe that everyone and his brother is trying to do right now... the only difference is, this one would be me!

Okay, now that's the one I want to do! See?! It's driving me CRAZY.

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Adventurer Archetype: House Rules

Unlike the other archetypes that give you access to a unique ability, the adventurer archetype gives you access to all abilities from every archetype; however, your role as ‘jack of all trades’ also includes the limitation ‘master of none’, meaning that you can never invest more than 9 CPs (a +5 rating) into any one ability. Your lack of focus limits you from achieving mastery in any one field. However, the adventurer archetype allows you to use an aura of healing while swinging your sword (in which you are specialized), using your arcane bolt after stealthily moving in on a foe.

You may use magic (from items and spells) to increase your ability ratings beyond this +5 threshold, and your racial bonuses apply normally.

Since the game doesn’t allow you to cross-class, this becomes the cross-class archetype; the meeting place of all the archetypes. Now you can make your elfin fighter/thief/mage without figuring out the best archetype for it; good luck finding enough points to make it work, though!

Here’s a 30 CP adventurer trying to do everything…

Arcane Bolt +3; Arms +2; Aspect +2; Aura +3 (Healing 2/Evade 1); Burglary +2; Evade +1; Intuition +2; Might +3; Resolve +1; Stealth +3; Weapon Specialist +3
Sword attack (attack +3/damage +5)
Spell attack (attack +3/damage +3/range 3)
Soaks +2 physical/+3 magic

Conversely, here’s a 30 CP fighter who just wants to be good at fighting…

Arms +5; Evade +2; Might +6; Resolve +1; Weapon Specialist +4
Sword attack (attack +6/damage +9)
Soaks +5 physical/+0 magic

And here’s a 30 CP magician who (you guessed it) focuses on magic

Aspect +4; Arcane Bolt +6 (2 spells); Evade +2; Lore +3; Resolve +2
Spell attack (attack +6/damage +4/range 6)
Soaks +4 magic/+0 physical

- The adventurer has an average attack of 10 and average damage of 9.5
- The warrior has an average attack of 13 and average damage of 16
- The magician has an average attack of 13 and average damage of 11.

On the whole, the adventurer is going to give you less damage output (in terms of pure combat ability) but has so many cool things he/she can do. In a small group (or solo), the adventurer is going to be exceptionally handy to have around; in a larger group, the adventurer is going to play second fiddle to everyone...

By the way, if we take our sample adventurer above and push each of his abilities to +5 (9 CPs), that puts him at exactly 99 CPs, the human limit; this doesn't factor in picking up some spells to link with arcane bolt, shield use, two weapons, or a little bit of lore to supplement his arcane knowledge. In short, the character is going to be about difficult decisions with every CP you get...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stacking and Bonuses: House Rules

I’m thinking about shields, auras, and gear. Basically, as I’ve been playing (managing up to 6 heroes and 4 villains at a time), I’ve found the numbers a bit unwieldy when it comes to shields, auras and gear.

Here are the problems:

The way the numbers crunch (especially in play) becomes a bit cumbersome. I like the crunchiness of the numbers (since it gives you a great deal of granularity in spite of the limited total ratings inherent in the system)… however… I find that this is a lot of math to do in play. I’m also somewhat dissatisfied with how magical items (armor and weapons specifically) feel in play; you pick up a magical short sword, but it is no better than your normal short sword, because you are already at your cap. Unless the sword (or another item) actually increases your arms rating, you can’t get a benefit from this weapon at all. That feels wrong. Finally, I’m finding that every time I go to build a hero, I don’t want to take shields, only because it means I’ll have too much math to do in play. This is wrong… Similarly, the math with auras gets tricky in play; if you activate an aura of might +3, you have to figure out every hero’s existing might (including full CP investment), and then add +3, and re-calculate. When you switch between multiple auras during a fight, this gets to be a bit of wrangling.

I’m going to play with house rules that simplify these abilities. Here’s what I’m going with:

For auras, you have a total number of bonuses from auras based on your rating, but you can never have more than half of your aura points in one aura. For instance, with auras +8, you can have an aura of healing +4, and aura of evade +3, and an aura of might +1; this restores 4 wounds to allies when active, gives a +3 shift to allies when evade is active, and gives a +1 shift to might of allies when active. Everyone gets the same shift, whether it’s based on a +0 rating or a +10 rating. I’m a bit concerned about a hero with aura +10 granting a +5 shift to might (since this grants upwards of 25 CPs of might), but since it’s hard capped at +13, that solves the problem to some degree. It also limits the effectiveness of healing, which I rather like… aura of healing can now end up no better than +5. Previously, to get aura of healing +5, aura of evade +3, and aura of might +2, you spent 15 CPs, but odds were good that the people you really wanted to get the boost from might and evade, your main front-line fighters, had abilities beyond these bonuses anyway, and they were wasted. Now, everyone gets that +2 might; the magician with might +0 and the fighter with might +9 both benefit.

For shields, you get a progressively better shield based on your melee arms ability, not your might; a hero with low might ended up with no shield, and I found that the heroes I wanted to have the best shields were those who were trying to compensate for low might with something else; it became counter-intuitive.

- With arms (melee) +1, you can wield a small shield (a level 1 item), granting +1 to all evade rolls against enemy attacks (physical and magical).
- With arms (melee) +3, you can wield a medium shield (a level 3 item), granting +2 to all evade rolls against enemy attacks (physical and magical).
- With arms (melee) +6, you can wield a large shield (a level 6 item), granting +3 to all evade rolls against enemy attacks (physical and magical).

Further, magical shields, swords and armor are going to be rated based on their magical power:

- Enchanted items (DR 10) grant a +1 shift to the rating. Considered 2 levels higher.
- Mystical items (DR 20) grant a +2 shift to the rating. Considered 4 levels higher.
- Relics (DR 30) grant a +3 shift to the rating. Considered 6 levels higher.

The DR is for rolling as part of a treasure; when a weapon, armor or shield is found, roll 2D + foe level (modified by treasure rating); at 10-19, it’s enchanted, at 20-29 it’s mystical, and at 30+ it’s a relic. A dragon of level 14 with treasure +4 has a slight chance of having a relic hidden in his lair (needing a roll of natural 12 on the dice), and anything less than that won’t have a relic in its lair. This makes sense. You don’t find relics just sitting around.

A character with arms +1 can wield a dagger +1, but he can also wield an enchanted dagger +1/+1 (dealing +2 wounds), a mystical dagger +1/+2 (dealing +3 wounds), or a relic dagger +1/+3 (dealing +4 wounds).

- A normal dagger is a level 1 item, valued at 1 gold
- An enchanted dagger is a level 3 item, valued at 10 gold
- A mystical dagger is a level 5 item, valued at 100 gold
- A relic dagger is a level 7 item, valued at 1000 gold. It is quite unlikely that anyone would bother making one of these... the bonus far outstrips the item itself

(and I think I'm going to house rule as well that relics have to have at least a +3 base rating... if not higher. It makes sense to me that enchanted items could be as low as +1, while mystical items would be at least +3, and relics would be at least +6). The last thing you want to have happen is for your fighter of level 2 to decide he's putting aside his magnificent Dagger of the Valhallan Archangels +1/+3 because he can pick up a bastard sword +4 in a shop in Beldin Mere that will do the same thing...

Now, there’s a bit of benefit for a hero with lower ratings to take enchanted weapons; for instance, a young fighter with a short sword +3 (linked to his arms +3) finds an enchanted long sword +4/+1. He can only get +3 from the base weapon (his rating, the same as his short sword), but can now get the benefit of the +1 enchantment, giving him a +1 to his existing damage rating; when he increases his arms to +4, he gets another +1, and now uses the weapon to its full potential. The weapon is effectively as powerful as a +5 weapon, but can be used by a hero who normally could only use a +4 weapon; however, the weapon costs as much as a +6 weapon if you were to purchase it in store (which in Del Anon you can’t).

I am somewhat concerned about shields specifically here, but I think I can accept it; to fully abuse the system, you take arms +6 (12 CPs), you take shield use (2 CPs), you take evade +6 (12 CPs), you take auras to +6 (12 CPs) and designate +3 to evade; you purchase/find/beg, borrow or steal a relic large shield +3/+3 (shields have to be the exception to the rules I listed above... darn. I'll have to work on this). Your evade is 6+3+3+3=+15… you would be hard capped at +13. You’ve invested a great deal into being able to evade your enemies (an investment of 38 CPs), but you are virtually untouchable. You may as well only have an aura of evade +1, since you’ll hit your hard cap of +13 anyway. You are VERY difficult to hit, although at this level (looking at 50+ CPs at minimum to get this many points to distribute), you are going to face foes taking at least +8 to their attacks, giving them a chance (albeit a slim one) to hit you; foes will need at least +10 to really have a shot, although I’d suspect at this level you’ll be facing many of those; as well as foes who can charm, stun, mesmerize, breath weapon, paralyze and generally impede you in other ways that your shield cannot stop. If a foe is dumb enough to walk up to you and try to go toe-to-toe, that’s its fault.

Capping Out the Game

I've spent the evening jotting some notes... here is post 1 of 2 for the night:

I’ve conceived of 99 CPs as max level for the game, and this is all well and good, but I think that the realistic high end for gaming is going to end up in the 50 CP category. I basically see every 50 CPs as approximating an old school D+D level 10, based on this:

5 CPs = level 1
10 CPs = level 2
15 CPs = level 3
20 CPs = level 4
25 CPs = level 5
50 CPs = level 10
100 CPs = level 20

This means that Resolute characters cap out just before achieving ‘level 20’ in D+D terms. It also means (as I always felt with D+D back in the day) a hero hits his max playability around level 10 or so (i.e. Resolute level 5, or 50 CPs) and beyond this, becomes quite powerful and difficult to truly challenge. Resolute appears to do the same thing, on the whole. At 50 CPs, with access to excellent gear, you can build a killer character who can take on pretty much anything. I'm using this as my rationale for some of the house rules I'll be proposing and playing with over the next while...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mount Brim Keyed

Here's the keyed map of Mount Brim, for your reference...

Magicians and Spell Books

I've been working on finding a good balance for magicians, their spell books, and resolve. In the rules as written, magicians have access to any spell in their book with a resolve point; the magician can choose to cast an spell from a scroll/book on his/her person as long as a resolve point is available.

I'm playing with limiting this to the magician's casting stat; you can have a number of spells at the ready based on your arcane bolt rating. If you move one of these to your prepared spells (through upgrading as an application for 2 CPs), you move it out of your repertoire, and this frees up another slot.

For instance, you play a magician with arcane bolt +4, and you have 7 spells in your spell book. You spend 2 CPs to purchase 1 spell as an application. This means:

- You have your basic bolt spell that you can cast at will.
- You have 1 known spell that you can cast in 1 turn, once per scene. This spell, by virtue of being a known spell, allows you to use a resolve point to increase its power or effectiveness.
- You have 4 repertoire spells; these are written in your spell book (or notes, or you carry scrolls); you can cast these in 1 turn by using a resolve point, but you cannot further upgrade these spells with resolve.
- You have 2 spells that you cannot use in combat unless you are willing to read the spell directly from the book or scroll, erasing the spell from your book/scroll in the process.

I like the variety of this for magicians, and it makes them more tactically interesting to play; even though you start with 5 spells in your spellbook, your arcane bolt +3 at level 1 is still going to force you to make some decisions; and every time you pick up a new spell scroll, you're going to have to wait until you increase your arcane bolt rating before you can use it in combat.

This hits a great balance for me between the open-endedness of spontaneous spells in Mythweaver and the more rigid system in D+D. It also means, just because two magicians have a copy of Heldack's Arcanum, they aren't necessarily going to have the same spells in their repertoires.

I'll be play testing this as I go.

Friday, July 15, 2011

In Play 02

I've decided that instead of posting the full actual play results here (they're a bit long to read on a blog), I'll only post the design notes and what I've learned from the session (a recap) rather than the full post. Those I'll throw on the forums, where they are easier to navigate and read.

That said, the two sessions I've run so far have shown me several good things about designing only what you need as you go. By leaving a number of entrances into the dungeon from other places, I can create any number of means by which others entered, and I can leave all sorts of dangling plot hooks for later.

I also see the huge benefit of actually play testing the adventures you design; you learn all sorts of cool little things once you actually pick up dice and play it out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In Play 01

From Garth’s Journals:

After a long night of talking strategy with Uncle Trom (as we have come to call him) and an aggressive discussion of both the name of our group and Trom’s cut, we’ve arrived at the following agreements.

- Trom is a full member of the group; he gets 1/5 share, or an even share among survivors. We will all cast lots for order of selection on items. If you die, you and your heirs get nothing. We all agreed.
- Someone can be voted in or out of our fellowship only by unanimous agreement (of course, kicking someone out requires unanimous agreement of the others- your vote doesn’t count in that case!)
- We argued over Trom’s Hammer, Trom’s Fist, Trom’s Torch and Trom’s Echo as names for our team, but none could agree on any. Ultimately, we went with Trom’s Reach, despite some minor objections. It was getting late, and we were all a little tired at that point.
- We decided to set out at first light into the dungeons below; our first objective is to recover the Axe of Echoes, and bring this back to Trom.

Scene 1: Into the dungeons

From Xeric’s Journals:

The morning brought with it our descent into the cavernous underbelly of Beldin Mere, the tunnels that remained of the once-fearsome prison complex of Mount Brim. The rudimentary library of Beldin Mere had granted little by way of lore regarding this complex, and I determined to record as much as I could for posterity. The first thing one must notice is the smell of brimstone that hangs in the air, polluting the cellars of the Inn of 99 Ears as soon as the capstone over the shaft opens. We descended carefully into the 3’ wide shaft, deciding that this would be our order of progress through the tunnels:

Ziroh, Runyon, Me, Garth

We descended carefully, arriving at the western end of a balcony that overlooked a temple. The temple had a handful of statues in various poses scattered beneath. We checked around the area carefully before we made our decision…

In Play:

Since I know all of the obstacles that are here, it’s not reasonable that I’d be able to role play as well and think through problems. I’ll assume that my four heroes represent the full range of options. In general, I’ll roll 2D6 and get results that I’ll generally interpret like this:

2-4 The most dangerous or foolhardy course (Runyon’s view)
5-6 A risky or somewhat unknown course (Ziroh’s view)
7-9 A moderate course with some risk but possible reward (Garth’s view)
10-12 A conservative, safe course (Xeric’s view)

So, if I roll 2, the heroes just go for it; if I roll 12, they are exceptionally cautious, crossing their t’s and dotting their I’s before progressing. Sounds good.

They check the balcony, and find nothing. They scout out the west, and find a hallway that continues on, although they cannot see beyond the 30’ of torch light.

Xeric’s Journals:

We decided to first examine the statues below. They seemed to be of remarkable craftsmanship, and we wanted to inspect further…

In Play

They lower themselves without a problem, noticing the northern door is ajar, and the southern door is apparently sealed. As they search, there is a 1 in 6 chance that the cockatrice rolls in… I roll and get a 6. Nope. The cockatrice is unaware of the visitors. I also roll for wandering encounters, and get 3. Also no wandering monsters this scene.

The heroes investigate the statues. The conservative course is to leave things as they are; the careful course is to move the statues around so that they face the walls away from the heroes (maybe giving them more time to get situated should they come to life), and the reckless course is to smash the statues. I roll and get 7. They collectively decide to leave the statues be for the present, since they aren’t sure what’s going on. They move carefully to the north door, and Ziroh decides to sneak in and check the room out (area 2). He rolls 8+2=10, and the cockatrice rolls 8+2=10. Ties go to the action, so Ziroh barely slips into the room to see the cockatrice picking at its feathers in the northeast corner of the room. He comes out and tells the rest of the team… Xeric rolls lore to see if he knows anything about cockatrices… he rolls 6+2=8….

Xeric’s Journal

I knew little about the cockatrice, and had only minimal suggestions; it turns its foes to stone, so the statues herein must be its victims. How to turn them back, and how to fight a cockatrice, I had no idea. I knew that some creatures had to touch you to turn you to stone, while others could do it only by sight. I suggested that we move back to the balcony, prepare ranged attacks, and use one of the statues (I suggested the spider) to draw the creature into the room, avoiding its gaze if at all possible.

In Play

There is a 1 in 6 chance that the cockatrice comes in as they prepare (since this takes several minutes). I roll 2, so they finish just as the cockatrice is about to go for a stroll. They position themselves so that Runyon is to the west (in case creatures entered that way), Ziroh is to the east, Garth is to the north, and Xeric is to the south. Runyon and Garth will work together to pull over the spider statue (using ropes they tie to it), ducking beneath the balcony side, while Ziroh and Xeric pepper the creature with ranged attacks. Ultimately, both Runyon and Garth can throw rocks at it, as needed. They both gather a handful from the chamber (they aren’t hard to find, from pieces of broken statues)

Pulling over the spider statue is DR 10. Between them, they have 8 CPs invested in might (+4), and Garth’s +1 shift brings them to +5. They roll and get 6+5=11. They easily topple the statue, and it smashes to pieces on the floor in a loud crash. The cockatrice enters carefully, investigating the room, moving around the pillars towards the center. Once it crosses between the pillars on the west side, the heroes attack.

For sequence, they roll:
Garth rolls 7+0=7
Runyon rolls 6+0=6
Xeric rolls 7+1=8
Ziroh rolls 9+1=10. He also rolls for stealth, getting 6+2=8.
The cockatrice rolls 10+2=12. Additionally, it rolls to notice Ziroh’s stealth, getting 8+2=10. It sees him up on the balcony right away.

Round 1:
- The cockatrice will leap at Ziroh, attempting to bite him and turn him to stone. It has to move 3 units and leap 2 more, so this will be a considerable effort… leaping to the 15’ balcony will normally require a DR 15 might roll, but the cockatrice (although it cannot fly) can use its wings to ‘flutter’ to one of the statues, and again to the balcony. I rule that this will be its full action this turn, if successful, but will put it in melee range for its next turn. It needs two might rolls (both DR 7) to make it to the balcony. It rolls 9+5=14, and easily gets atop the statue. It then rolls 5+2=7, and narrowly perches on the balcony rail, next to Ziroh. There is a 50% chance that this action knocks over the statue. We’ll say evens on a D6, and it falls. I roll and get 4; it falls! Evens it’s the fighter, and odds it’s the scout. I roll and get 2; the fighter falls to the floor with a heavy crash, shattering his statue. The cockatrice prepares to bite Ziroh on its next turn.
- Ziroh fires a bolt at the cockatrice in midair, as it prepares to land on the balcony. He rolls 4+3=7, and the cockatrice rolls 4+3=7 to evade. He narrowly clips it with a bolt in midair, and rolls 4+1=5 for damage, but the cockatrice soaks 7+0=7 wounds. Ziroh fails to wound it, but a flurry of feathers cascade to the floor below.
- Xeric throws an arcane bolt; he rolls 5+3=8 to hit, and the cockatrice rolls 2+3=5 to evade; Xeric hits by +3, and for damage he rolls 9+3+2=14 wounds, and the cockatrice soaks 5+0=5; he deals 9 wounds, leaving the cockatrice at 11.
- Garth will use his turn to close for melee. He has to move 3 units, so he can travel and still strike at -3. He does so, rolling 7+4-3=8 to hit, and the cockatrice rolls 6+3=9 to evade. He misses. He’ll save his resolve point in case he really needs it later.
- Runyon cannot cross the chamber in one turn, but he thinks about using the rope that the heroes descended from; I rule that it’s anchored near him, and he can use it to swing to the cockatrice as a single turn (with a -3 attack linked to it), on a successful roll. He needs to roll might, DR 10, to cross the expanse. He rolls and gets 8+4 (from the aura of might) =12, and manages to traverse the room, leaping from the rope and he swings with his sword at the cockatrice, getting 10+4-3=11, and the cockatrice rolls 7+3=10 to evade; he hits by +1. For damage, he rolls 2 (blech) +4+1=7 wounds, and the cockatrice soaks 5; it’s now down to 9 wounds remaining.

Round 2
- On its turn, the cockatrice bites Ziroh, as promised. It rolls 8+2=10 to hit, and Ziroh rolls 6+2=8 to evade. The cockatrice hits by +2. For damage it gets 8+2=10, and Ziroh soaks 5+1=6, so he takes 4 wounds and is down to 6. He also has to resist the petrification; he rolls 6+1=7. He has no resolve, so he turns to stone. One down!
- Ziroh uses his turn to look like a handsome narglyn statue. He succeeds (no roll required).
- Xeric throws an arcane dart, getting 7+3=10 to hit, but the cockatrice rolls 9+3=12 to evade, and Xeric misses.
- Garth swings his hammer, getting 8+4=12 to hit, and the cockatrice rolls 7+3=10 to evade. He hits by +3, and for damage rolls 4+2+3=9, and the cockatrice rolls 7+0=7 to soak. It’s now down to 7 wounds remaining.
- Runyon swings his sword, getting 10+4=14 to hit, and the cockatrice rolls 3+3=6 to evade; Runyon hits by +8! For damage, he rolls 6+4+8=18 wounds, and the cockatrice soaks 7+0=7 wounds. The cockatrice suffers 11 wounds, and dies, falling from the edge of the balcony to the floor below in a pile of feathers and blood. Its head has been severed.

I’m going to house rule that you have to make a ‘system shock’ roll of sorts to recover from petrification. This would be a might roll, with a relatively low DR… we’ll say DR 7. The gnome is not yet an ally, so gets no bonus to this, but by virtue of being teamed with Garth, Ziroh has a might of +2 from the aura. The gnome scout rolls 6+0=6, while Ziroh rolls 8+2=10. Ziroh makes it, but the gnome is not going to… Garth uses a resolve point to allow the gnome to be part of his aura of might, so that the gnome makes the roll and survives.

For defeating the cockatrice, the heroes each earn 3 XP. For saving the gnome, they will get an extra +1 each, so all heroes are now at 4 XPs.

The gnome does not want to stick around. The heroes tell him how to get out, and he gladly takes the escape- but not before he tells the heroes that he suspected that his partner was ready to betray him, and he hid a small treasure in the area he and the fighter had used (19) as their safe haven.

Design Notes:
- The cockatrice is a capable foe against level 1 heroes; it took out Ziroh in one attack, and odds were in its favor with each hit beyond this. I was tempted to add a second cockatrice (returning from wandering the halls to find its mate in battle) at some point, but decided against it because this is the first encounter in the dungeon (or at least it is likely to be), and the encounter already presents the possibilities of adding a spider, fighter and maybe even a gnome to the combat depending on how things go… in this case, the heroes got lucky and handled things well, so the encounter was easier. If that spider had sprung to life, if they’d been battling on the first floor, or if the gnome had died instead of the human fighter, we’d have a very different situation here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Heroes 2.0

I’m going to trade out one of my heroes; instead of a forge gnome, I’m going to make my scout a narglyn. I’ll change his name to Ziroh Zanisak. Instead of a bonus to evade, narglyn get a bonus to precision; as such, I’m changing out his weapon from darts to a crossbow. Additionally, I changed out Runyon’s axe for a sword; at least one hero should be a sword wielder, and I know that Trom collects axes, so it’s a good swap out.

Ziroh Zanisak, the Narglyn Scout (10 CPs) Soak physical +1
Arms +1; Burglary +2; Evade +2; Intuition +1; Precision +3 (2 CPs/ +1 racial shift); Stealth +2
Light Crossbow +1 (attack +3/damage +1/range 4), dagger +1 (attack +3/damage +1); leather armor +1

Runyon the Human Fighter (10 CPs)
Soak physical +2
Arms +2; Might +3; Resolve +3 (2 CPs; +1 racial shift); Weapon Specialization (swords) +2
Hide armor +2; long sword +2 (attack +3/damage +4)

Xeric the Moon Elf Magician (10 CPs) Soak magic +2
Arcane Bolt (eldritch) +3; Aspect +2; Evade +1; Lore +2; Intuition +1 (from racial shift +1); Resolve +1
Wand of eldritch +2 (attack +3/damage +2/range 3); cloak of warding +2
Carries a dog-eared edition of Heldack’s Arcanum; wears cloak of warding +2

Garth Thunderheart, Dwarf Disciple (10 CPs) Soak magic +1/physical +2
Arms +2; Aura of Might +2; Aura of Healing +1; Aspect +1; Intuition +1; Might +3 (2 CPs, +1 racial shift); Resolve +1
Studded armor +2; cloak of warding +1; war hammer +2 (attack +3/damage +2)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The map is done for level 1, and I absolutely love it… although I can’t claim credit for the design. I was more than inspired by this map; both the circular layout and the artistic technique in drafting it were things I emulated. You should check out Dyson’s blog- he’s brilliant. His work hits the exact sweet spot for me in evocative, helpful and clear design. I plan to cop his style for my future maps, and to limit the use of computer-generated designs as much as possible. The blocky designs have an old-school charm, but maps like this one are 5x better in all respects, to my mind.

Working from his original design, I cut down the number of crossovers from 4 to 3, cut down the total number of rooms, and added the natural cavern that includes a waterfall into the central pit. The heroes immediately have any number of choices in direction, and they can move around the thing with quite a bit of freedom.

Four immediate access points are in the northwest corner and in the west; these are both connections to rival dwarf mining clans. Both clans have established portcullises as a ‘fence’ between the dungeon complex (as unclaimed territory) and their mine complexes (as per official charters granted by the Council of Beldin Mere). Both clans clearly mark their borders, have magically-sealed portcullises, and leave guardians as well. There are several ways to get to the next lower level (an entrance at the bottom of the central pit, and the stairs on the eastern end are two ways), although others surely exist… eventually.

My group of heroes will enter through the temple complex at the far eastern end. This temple rests directly beneath the Inn of the 99 Ears, and Trom Trollslayer has petitioned for and been granted a ‘special writ’ granting him property rights to all land directly beneath the confines of his inn. He therefore claims the temple itself as his (by property right), and wants to explore further down, to see what else may be his by right. Further, he wants to live vicariously through a group of young explorers; his wife would never allow him to undertake such reckless activity as dungeon crawling, but he craves the excitement of the adventuring life, and he’s hoping that by acting as the brains behind a young team, he can relive his glory days. He’s intentionally picked young, inexperienced but relatively trustworthy and honest folk for his fellowship, and expects to be fair with them; he sees them eventually becoming part of his extended family, but also knows that the life can be dangerous, and that it’s quite likely some (or all) will not survive long.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mount Brim

I’ve had Mount Brim in my notes for several years, and I’ve decided to make this the location of my mega-dungeon. Here’s what I already know about Mount Brim:

- Surdur kept a fortress atop the mountain that was the symbol of his power and influence. While in the Barrens, he warred with Beldin Mere for two centuries; the two fortresses (his and the dwarf complex) were located at opposite ends of the horizon- so maybe 20-30 miles separated them in the Barrens. During the Reckoning, Mount Brim was moved intact, while Beldin Mere was cut loose and ended up floating through the Celestial Sea for some time (upwards of a year, I’m thinking) before crossing over into the lands of Del Anon.

- Once Surdur’s forces and the dwarves realized that they had all arrived in the same realm, the battle heated up again in all of its glory; however, this time it was different, seeing as the dwarves were 20 miles up, and 200 miles away.

- Eventually, the dwarves found a way to control the movements of their aerial city, and decided to set a course for Mount Brim. They launched the final volley in their battle when they positioned Beldin Mere directly over Mount Brim- and then dropped it. I stole this image from an episode of Battlestar Galactica, wherein Adama has Galactica drop into a planet’s atmosphere.

-The dwarves succeeded in taking out the entire upper prison complex, squishing the upper levels of the caverns below and collapsing large sections. They believed at the time that they had succeeded in destroying the bulk of Surdur’s forces. If this were true, would we be talking about this right now?

- They used the last of the magic that held the fortress aloft to keep it from totally falling apart on impact; the city sustained some considerable damage, although this was minor relative to the impact of the fall. Dwarf engineers and meticulous manipulation of storm magic prevented the entire city from imploding upon impact.

- Surdur kept power by pitting his lieutenants against each other. He had dozens of powerful servitors who, since they were evil to the core, would inevitably gang up on him in an effort to seize personal power; he prevented this by keeping them pitted against each other. This means that individual sectors of the complex were personalized by the individual wardens, and many are still individual lairs of the warden and his/her/its personal entourage.

- Surdur may or may not still survive. I think that he does in some form (although almost assuredly not as a normal fire giant). However, his direct links to his former lieutenants have fallen apart, so many are either dead, acting in the ways they think Surdur would have wanted, or working to claim the complex for their own.

- It has several access points (as any good mega-dungeon should).

- Its main gates are quite powerful, and should be for heroes of level 6+. I’ll design these later, although I have some ideas/notes about that already. All in good time…

- Two access points lead into the section I’m designing… one is located below the Inn of the 99 Ears, and the other is located beneath a tree on the mountainside (outside of the city proper) that is haunted by an evil spirit. New heroes can use either access point, or ultimately both. I think that mine will be using the one through the 99 Ears (since I am working up backstory for that), but I want to include the other as an equally viable option (that leaves the heroes untied to any secret benefactor, if so desired).

Who's the Leader of the Club?

Who exactly is my team’s leader? I suppose I should decide that now, too. Dran is motivated by traps and puzzles. This is not a bad motivation, but doesn’t necessarily make him a leader… Runyon is not much in the brains department as I see him, so I don’t like the idea of him making strategy. Xeric is a bit of a bookworm, and doesn't really have a mind for battle, so he’s out. Though he was the last hero I made, Garth seems the best fit for leading; he’s got the most ‘group utility’ in his build (he thinks of others), and he’s got motivation to go here; it was a dwarven prison complex, and he’s a dwarf. Let’s generate some rumors about the place that would hook Garth to seek it out:

• Surdur has become one with elemental flame. Since Garth would one day like to become one with elemental storm, he’d like to pick the old guys brains (preferably after removing them from the skull) to see how he did it.

• Garth’s father’s line met its end in the complex; he was the youngest son, so he doesn’t have the right to continue the clan. Only the eldest living son has the right to take the clan name; if any of his older brothers lives (and at least one must; he hasn’t received the mystical clan mark yet), he can’t carry on the line. Odds are good that someone is still imprisoned somewhere within; he has an obligation to attempt a rescue.

• Surdur had in his possession one of the six Hammers of Thunder, prized relics of the dwarves. Many believe that Surdur either has the hammer within, or disassembled it and spread its pieces throughout the complex (this one is better- keeps the heroes exploring every nook and cranny to find pieces of the hammer, and they get to feel a sense of accomplishment as they find pieces).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Revisiting the Early Days

As I’m working on my dungeon and its heroes, I have been reading about the old Greyhawk days and early adventures. I was struck by several things, but the one that really hit me was this- you always started at level 1, and you had to earn everything. I know that for many of you this won’t be much of a revelation, but I’ve fully embraced the idea of starting a new character at whatever level you want, and going from there.

If, by rule, you have to start new characters at level 1, and you have to earn every scrap of money, experience and treasure, a level 5 hero means a LOT more to you. For my own gaming, I think that I might go this way going forward.

I was also struck by how much personal pride Gary Gygax took in the dungeons below Castle Greyhawk; several things I’ve read have spoken to how much it bothered Gary when a player outsmarted part of the complex, or when they got past a particular challenge. It seems like there were two opposing forces at work in those early days: a general desire to flummox the player characters, and a strong ethic that it had to be fair. As the DM, level 1 had to be appropriate to level 1 characters; you couldn’t suddenly have a level 7 monster that could wipe the party out. On level 7, you had level 7 opponents. If the PCs were dumb enough (or didn’t take care) not to inadvertently end up on level 7 while they were still level 1, well- that was their problem.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Let's Build Us a Dungeon

With Resolute published, I’ve been struggling to decide what to do with this blog… it’s primarily a blog about game design, but the game itself is now designed… however, it’s time to add the next layer. For a fantasy RPG, that is dungeons. I’ve tried dozens of times to develop a ‘mega dungeon’, and have met with little (if any) success. I think I have about a dozen starts at trying this; I always get frustrated by the slow pace of design, or I get distracted by something pretty, and I give up or wander off. I’ve been relatively good about sticking to things here on the blog, so if I make this the center point of my design efforts, maybe it’ll bear more fruit.

I’m going to design the dungeon as I go, working out the lore, function, and individual areas of it as my group of heroes moves through. I’ll start with a team, and then take them in.

The first need is for a trap master extraordinaire. I don’t even necessarily care if he/she is good at combat; this character is all about locks, traps and burglary. Going with the scout archetype, and picking up some stealth to make up for lower abilities in attack, will keep him viable. I’m thinking of going with a gnome here, who simply loves puzzles, traps and other gadgets. This might end up being the POV character (since I’ll be working with journals here).

Dran Ficklefinger the Forge Gnome Scout (10 CPs) Soak physical +1
Arms +1; Burglary +2; Evade +3 (2 CPs; +1 racial shift); Intuition +1; Precision +2; Stealth +2
Leather armor +1; darts +1 (attack +2; damage +1; range 3)

Okay, I’ve got a guy who doesn’t really fight very well… so, I need someone who does!

A human warrior. His name is Runyon, and he was the son of a noble family who, when he was five, saw his family slaughtered by a tribe of trolls who attacked his caravan. Because of his moxy – Runyon challenged the troll chieftain to personal combat – Runyon was adopted into the family and raised as a troll.

Runyon the Human Fighter (10 CPs) Soak physical +2
Arms +2; Might +3; Resolve +3 (2 CPs; +1 racial shift); Weapon Specialization (axes) +2
Hide armor +2; battle axe +2 (attack +3/damage +4)

I need a caster.

Xeric the Moon Elf Magician (10 CPs)
Arcane Bolt (eldritch) +3; Aspect +2; Evade +1; Lore +2; Intuition +1 (from racial shift +1); Resolve +1
Wand of eldritch +2 (attack +3/damage +2/range 3)
Carries a dog-eared edition of Heldack’s Arcanum; wears cloak of warding +2

Xeric was not destined to serve as a wizard. He was born into a family of wine makers, and spent nearly 100 years making wine with his family, always driven by wanderlust and a general dislike of mundane city life. When his distant uncle left him a tattered copy of Heldack’s Arcanum, he found his true calling.

With three heroes done, I ended up with no dwarf, and also no disciple- hmmm. I suppose that I need a dwarven disciple! I can see him being the type of dwarf that would worship Thor (if dwarves worshipped any gods in this world, and if Thor was around). He is part of a dwarf pseudo-religious order that pays reverence to storm energy itself; they see this primal force as integral in their efforts to escape from bondage (since it was), and they see their ability to connect with it as a way to become one with an elder power… there may be a god that shapes it, but they don’t really care- attaining communion with storm itself is the objective.

This dwarven order ties this magic to Resolve; so in addition to picking up auras, these dwarves (stormcallers?) also purchase spells linked to Resolve. I’d see the ideal dwarf stormcaller picking up an aura of might, an aura of healing, high resolve, a spell that deals heavy magical damage (an aoe attack spell) and a spell that allows them to use lightning itself as a thrown weapon (linked to might).

Throw Lightning (Application linked to Resolve; dwarf only). You may use lightning as a thrown weapon; attack with might, roll damage with resolve. Targets soak as magical damage.

For now, since he’s a starting hero, he can’t take this spell yet (and he won’t have room for it in his build), but I put it on the back burner as something to aspire to.

Garth Thunderheart, Dwarf Disciple (10 CPs) Soak magic +1/physical +2
Arms +2; Aura of Might +2; Aura of Healing +1; Aspect +1; Intuition +1; Might +3 (2 CPs, +1 racial shift); Resolve +1
Studded armor +2; cloak of warding +1; war hammer +2 (attack +3/damage +2)

I don’t like that I don’t have a female hero in the group, although I suspect that sometimes my wife will drop in and play as well, and at those times I can plug her hero (a scout with a bow) into the group to round things out.

At first, I was thinking I could have one POV hero… but, it would probably be better to have multiple narrators, depending on what’s going on. If they encounter a trap, then Dran is center stage. If they encounter an ancient tome or magical device, then suddenly we crack open Xeric’s journals and take a look.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Congrats to Tenkar

I just wanted to give a shout out and a thanks to Tenkar (of Tenkar's Tavern) on making it to 1000 posts, and thank him for including Resolute in his celebration. Tenkar was kind enough to give the last edition of Resolute a plug on his blog, and he's been very supportive of my work. Stop by and show him some love!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Google Tags

I just think the way Google sets up ads is hi-larious. Over the last few days, I've seen a metric ton of ads on my blog for exterminator services and the like. I guess if you mention Army Ants on the Internet a few days in a row, you're going to draw the attention of the extermination industry... or at least you'll start alerting Google Adsense that you're discussing something that those looking to eliminate pests are going to want to read about.

So, if you've been lead here because you have an insect infestation and you're looking for a quick fix to your problems, I'm not your guy... but if you scroll down a little bit, one of the people listed below might be able to help.

Here. Ants termites fleas roaches.

There. That should get their attention.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Army Ant Referee's Guide Now Live

The Referee's Guide for Army Ants Resolute is now up on RPGNow. Tell your friends and neighbors. That OCD guy down the street who mows his lawn every two days really needs a hobby... (and apologies if you're that OCD guy... but you do need a hobby)

Formatting Army Ant Game Booklets

You know what happens when you assume…

I never put directions with the core rules for Army Ants regarding how you actually assemble the book once you print it… or even HOW to print it. That was a pretty big leap to assume that people would automatically know how to do this- especially since it isn’t obvious, and requires a little finagling.

First off, you want to print the two pages on a single sheet, back to back, with the same side ‘up’ on both. My printer will allow me to print duplex, but even when I forget to click that option, I can fool it by only loading one sheet of paper, turning that piece of paper over (re-loading as my printer flashes at me that it’s out of paper), and print the second page on the back side.

Here’s the layout that it will come in:

The Front is laid out:

Page 4/Page 5

Page 2/Page 7

The Back is laid out:

Page 6/Page 3

Page 8/Page 1 (cover)

You cut the paper in half horizontally (with 3,4,5,6 ending up on one half sheet of paper, and pages 1,2,7,8 on another). You lay out page 1 (the cover) over page 3 (in the core rules, it’s the page with Sample Ratings and the commando ant with the uzi). You can just fold it in half from there, or you can fold and staple it if you’re feeling really professional.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Army Ants: Slab Smash

I've posted Slab Smash as a free comic download. I hope that this serves as an introduction to the game world of the game, and helps to set the tone...

Additionally, I've decided (at long last) to archive my entire run on Army Ants (over 250 comic pages- I've never really added the whole thing up) into a Complete Army Ants comics, that I'll be releasing later this summer. It's going to be a project, but with the POD options that DriveThruComics offers, I really can't put it off any longer- I've wanted to see a digest-sized collection of the full run for years, and now's my chance. I'll post more as this gets closer.

Mythweaver: Reckoning Now a Buck

I’ve been trying to decide what to do with Mythweaver: Reckoning. While it includes a game system that I’m no longer working on, it also includes large chunks of my game world in a format I really like. I’ve been looking at going into the Mythweaver: Reckoning book and extracting the world/background things that I’d like to bring over to Resolute: The Splintered Realm, re-releasing these as a campaign guide. However, it seems that the better way to go is to simply bring the price down on Mythweaver and release a conversion document for the sections that are system specific – especially since some of you already own MW, it seems like a crass money grab to get you to purchase a book that has 90% of content you already have for the 10% that would be new or remodeled for Resolute.

Part one is done – Reckoning is now up for $1, and it’s a pretty solid game in its own right. I’ll be putting together a conversion document that I’ll package with it that you can use to port applicable content over to Resolute in the next few weeks. I’ve also put my entire back catalog to a $1 price point, since I had some books at $2.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Game Day Recap

I ran a Resolute: the Splintered Realm session for the middle school/high school group today. It was a blast! In short, 9 students (plus their teacher- shout out to Mrs. K for setting this up!) went on a dungeon crawl. Here are some things I learned:

- When you throw a puzzle based on a Fibonacci Sequence at a group, you’d better hope that one of them is not the class Valedictorian, or you have just wasted your time. He solved a puzzle in about 30 seconds that I expected to force them to at least struggle for a bit. This same student was able to bypass a major trap through his superior grasp of physics (compared to mine) and successfully argued (after diagramming it for me) that the fundamental design of my pendulum trap was flawed. He was a smart kid! Fortunately, another student had already walked into the trap, letting it grind him into so much raw meat, so it wasn’t a total waste…

- Trying to use a teleport spell to send a Skeletal Vanguard into the realm of elemental flame is a bad idea when you end up botching the action roll. The only thing left in Del Anon was the right hand of the magician that had been touching the vanguard… the rest of him was in elemental fire taking 30 wounds per second; he managed to use his last resolve point to get back before being totally immolated.

- Human shield (the resolve use) wasn’t intended to be used against your own team; of course, I never thought they’d talk about covering the team’s gnome fighter in peanut butter and lowering him into a cave to see if there’s anything down there, so what do I know? They were a quirky lot; which of course means that I liked hanging out with them quite a bit!

- The player of the disciple who pulsed the aura of healing liked that he could heal and also do something fun (like attack) on each of his turns. He was vital to the success of the team, but didn’t have to use every one of his turns to drop heals on the group.

- Defining resolve as an ability that ‘lets you try crazy things’ was an open invite to these kids to get as off the chain as they could. They got really into the cinematic mindset right away, trying to pull of all sorts of Legolas-inspired insanity involving backflips, drop kicks, and the like.

- The rules supported all sorts of wild things; one fighter decided to disarm a skull vanguard; he used a resolve point and pulled off the feat; then he used another to trump a turn and grab the vanguard’s blade… then he had to use a third to add his might an intuition resist roll to keep the berserker insanity that was part of the weapon’s curse from turning him against his team. In spite of the unorthodox approach to combat (and doing a lot of things I didn’t expect), I always felt like the rules gave me a firm idea on how to handle the situation. I never felt like I had to just wing it, even when things went way off the tracks. At one point, I turned to Mrs. K and said, ‘the craziest thing is that I actually have rules to cover this stuff!’

- Having each player develop a purpose for his hero was a great way to focus each character, and it created all sorts of genuine role-playing moments; each player really focused on making sure he’d get that +1 XP during the scene, making character-based rather than mechanical-based decisions… for example, the hero who wanted to collect a skull from every monster he fought kept pulling his punches, and encouraging others to do the same, whenever an attack could inadvertently crack the opponent’s noggin.

- The game balance issues I was concerned about came out just fine. It was about as smooth as you can get… the heroes won every encounter, although not without suffering at least some damage. The ultimate encounter (pitting 10 heroes each built on 30 CPs against an undead dragon built on 125 CPs), ended up with the each member of the team dropping below 10 wounds remaining at some point during the fight, and forced everyone at the table to burn all of their resolve. They beat the dragon in just about 2 full rounds, although this was only because the entire team trumped a turn simultaneously, just after a wizard’s turn in which she’d successfully put a hex on the dragon, forcing it to take a 2 on its next defensive roll; they argued (and I conceded) that if they all spent a resolve point and claimed simultaneously to be trumping a turn, that they could all take advantage of the momentary weakness. This was huge, and allowed them to lay out about 100 wounds in one time around the table. If they hadn’t come up with this solution, it may have been a longer day for them.

- Two things I didn’t particularly like, but didn’t see a way around, were that I had to modify some rules on the fly and I had to default to static 7 for all dice results on my part. As referee, I didn’t make a single roll all day. If I could do it over again, I’d replay the encounter with the dragon rolling all dice; this would have definitely increased the drama, and I suspect have caused some major changes in the way a few things played out. Similarly, I modified the sequence rules; the player who rolled the highest initial sequence result started the combat, and we went clockwise or counter-clockwise from that depending on the rolls of the people to the right and left of that player. It was a compromise that worked and made it easier to keep track of who was going when.

- That said, in four hours they were able to learn the basic rules and go through an adventure consisting of 5 different encounters. Remember here that this was 10 people involved in combat, many of whom got somewhat… distracted… during play, and had to be hyped up with cheese doodles and Dr. Pepper to get them on task. Maybe in retrospect those weren’t the best things to give them…

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Quick Hits

Both Army Ants Resolute and Resolute: The Splintered Realm are in the top 100 games on RPGNow as of this moment (actually the top 50: 48 and 49 respectively). This is only the second time I’ve ever had two products in the top 100 at once; it helps that they were both released the same week!


This weekend, I’ll be running a large R:TSR game at a local high school. I’m very excited about this, because this will be the first time I get to run the most recent rules for a) a large group of people I don’t know, and b) a LARGE group. We’re expecting upwards of 10 middle school/high school students to show up, and I plan on running an adventure wherein all will be level 3 heroes on a big old dungeon crawl. Resolute isn’t designed (nor did I playtest it) to handle a group of 10. By rule, a group of 10 heroes each built on 30 CPs is a the equivalent of a creature built on about 165 CPs. I’m thinking that this has to end with a dragon, and I might build him on 150 CPs or so and see how the group handles it. This will really push the math and see how well the game handles large-scale combat on levels that I never intended it to. I always conceived of it as groups of upwards of 6… so a fellowship twice that size will push it to its limits. It will be interesting to see… I could see it going two ways: since you have ten turns against it for every turn it takes, it would be very easy for the heroes to quickly chop the dragon down to nothing; and it’s also quite possible through treating the heroes like the comparative mooks they are, a few shots of its darkness energy breath weapon will result in a TPK… or it could be a wash with each side giving as good as it gets. We’ll see!


I’ve got a whole lot of Army Ants supplements on deck. I already have written the Referee’s Guide, and I have solid drafts of the Ant Forces Player’s Guide and Into the Sandbox: A Campaign Setting. I'm not sure why, but after working on Army Ants for nigh on 20 years, I finally fully understand the world; the whole thing is clearly set out in my head. Not sure where this sudden epiphany came from, but it's right there. I'll keep jamming as much of it into little booklets as I can.

Talk About Cutting it Close!

Resolute: the Splintered Realm is now posted to RPGNow! I uploaded it at 11:59 pm... so I made my deadline by exactly 1 minute. Whew.

I'm off to bed. Let me know what you think.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Sandbox Inspiration

I forgot to mention one of the key sources of inspiration to get back into the saddle with Army Ants- sandbox gaming! I’ve been following a number of discussions/blogs on sandbox gaming, and it got me thinking about Army Ants- and how you could run a sandbox campaign in a literal sandbox!

I knocked out a few pages of notes a few weeks ago on how this would work, and ended up loving it. Sandbox style play lends itself quite well to the Resolute ruleset, seeing as the ability to wing a lot of stuff on the fly is one of the strengths of Resolute. A lay-over of Army Ants onto the Resolute rules was very simple. I decided to even further streamline the rules, so when you take a look at the final rules for Army Ants and the final rules for The Splintered Realm, you’ll see that the fantasy rules are more granular and crunchy, while the Army Ants rules are more sparse and direct. Seeing as the world of Army Ants has fewer opportunities to boost abilities (no potions, magical items, or classic casters), I was more comfortable working out a number of situations where you’d get a modifier using shifts (straight up bonuses to the ability) rather than boosts (wherein you increase the CP value, and re-calibrate the rating as a result).

I know that the rules for Army Ants are breezy, so I wanted to let you know a few things in case you had questions after looking the rules over:

1. Specialties are gone. Okay, they’re gone from the core rules- everyone is a grunt. They are NOT gone from the game. One of the first expansions will be an Ant Forces book that will give a starter group of specialties and rules for rank and promotion. These things are central to how I see the game, but they didn’t fit in the core rules as it played out. I had four specialties for inclusion in the core rules, but I cut these in favor of an introductory adventure. It’s okay if everyone is a grunt for the first few game sessions; it’s not okay if you have nothing to do, or the referee has no idea how to design a quick mission. That was a higher priority.

2. Moxy is the Army Ants version of Resolve. Resolve is a much more complex and multi-faceted ability; moxy is simpler and will ultimately be used in different ways. This really reflects the world better, too- in fantasy gaming, your ability to persevere and overcome adversity through willpower is what makes you a hero; in the world of the army ants, you just have to have a set of brass ones and go for it. The differences in the two abilities and how they ultimately play out over character growth are important differences in the two games themselves.

3. The format of the core rules (something I see primarily as an 8-page micro book assembled from one sheet of paper) will be the standard for the system. This gives me a very distinct design limitation; my hard cap is right around 2000 words. This is enough to fully explore one aspect of the world of the ants, and that’s perfect. I have had ideas for YEARS for expansions that didn’t really justify a longer book (over 5000 words) and which didn’t fit nicely together with other, comparable ideas. This format meets all of the needs for the game at once. Right off the bat, I know I want to do a lifepath character generator built around boot camp, a book on the wasp empire, one on the sandbox, one on mysticism and the underground city of potato bugs, and one on the Army Ant version of the Vietnam War. Ultimately, I’ll be working out a vehicles book and a technology book. Somewhere along the way I’ll put out a referee’s guide. Each of these has a different flavor and will allow me to build the game slowly over time; and the foundation I have in place right now is exactly what it needs to be to make that happen.

Needless to say, I don’t see me getting bored!

The Army Ants March Again!

In doing the final edits for Resolute, and in keeping up with what's going on in pdf publishing, I hit the perfect storm of a few things:

1. I wanted to keep an 'introductory' rules-lite version of Resolute out there. I wanted something that worked like a microlite version, but slightly more well defined.

2. I had been getting a hankering to work on Army Ants again.

3. Weird West came out, and the concept for the printable book blew my mind.

I put all three together, and ended up with Michael T. Desing's Army Ants, the Resolute Edition Core Rules... here's my press release info:

The little game of big military insect adventure is ready to rock your world! This streamlined game uses the popular Resolute game engine (based on 2D6 + ability) to resolve all situations. This core rulebook includes rules for making an ant grunt, rules for how to resolve common situations, and an introductory adventure to get you started right away.

Your download includes both an e-book reader version, and a mini-print edition. With the mini-print edition, you can print out the entire game on a single sheet of paper (double sided), cut it in half and fold it together for a pocket-sized edition to share with your friends! The mini-print edition is 4.25”x5.5”.

Let me know what you think. I adore it, and I hope you do too!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Build Strategy: Scouts

Scouts use stealth; this is their prime purpose. Although nothing in the rules says that scouts have to approach the archetype as a ranged attacker, the way stealth works creates a situation that benefits the ranged scout over the melee scout. Since stealth automatically drops when you enter melee with a foe, you will only see the benefit on the first turn you take; as a ranged attacker, you can continue to take bonuses from your stealth over time. I’m going to assume that you are building a missile-using scout.

• Arms. You’ll want to put some points here, and tailor this to maximize your missile weapons rating, letting both armor and melee slide. Look carefully at the break points for tailoring abilities; for example, the bump from arms +2 to arms +3 is only 1 point, but this allows you to tailor arms +1, meaning that as far as your missile weapon goes, you effectively see a +2 swing… the same is true at the break point between +4 and +5, and between +6 and +7; at +6, you can have up to +8 in your missile rating, but at +7 you can have +10. This is a relatively minor investment (16 CPs) to get what is, in effect, an ability worth 30 CPs.

• Evade is helpful, and a few points will go a long way when synergized with stealth. You can make a modest investment here and see big rewards, as long as you don’t get into melee combat with a foe.

• Intuition. Your stealth is going to often mean that you end up, well, scouting for your team. As such, you will need intuition to pick up the details and make sure you get things right. Additionally, being able to go first allows you to make better decisions about using your stealth and getting into tactical positions.

• Between might and precision, there’s no choice; it’s precision all the way. You could conceivably build a scout who uses thrown weapons in place of missile weapons, but the return just isn’t worth it to have the better utility of might; let’s do the math. You invest 16 CPs to get arms +7 (tailored to +10 in either melee or missile), and you invest 16 CPs to get either might or precision +7. With a thrown weapon, you have a range of 7 units (based on your might); with a missile weapon like a bow, you have a range of 17 units (precision + weapon rating)! You can hit someone up to 170’ away without taking a penalty to your attack roll. That’s crazy good. Against a foe with normal movement, this guarantees you 3 attacks before the target can even get in melee range, and then the target takes a penalty on its attack in the fourth round; if you’ve had your stealth up and you’ve done a good job hiding, you’ve just dished out a LOT of damage to that charging foe.

• Stealth. This is your signature ability, and you have to make the investment in it. You see all manner of benefits from stealth; your foes can’t see you, you get bonuses to attack rolls, you get bonuses to evade rolls; it’s a very powerful ability. You’ll never regret a high investment in stealth. Putting over 1/3 of your total CPs into stealth is not beyond reason, and is probably a good guide. At 30 CPs, you should have at least stealth +5 (9 CPs), and you can justify stealth +6 (12 CPs). In fact, you could be very aggressive, investing at level (so 15 CPs in stealth when you are built on 30 CPs), knowing that when you get to 32 CPs overall, you will put a 16th CP in stealth to get it to +7.

• Resolve may be useful in a pinch, but generally speaking, you don’t have as many options as magicians (for example), nor are you expected to save the team (like disciples), so you can afford to skimp some here.

• Other abilities and applications: Since scouts don’t need as many abilities as other heroes, they have some points available to pick up some other needs in the team. It’s always nice to have someone with burglary (and since you are going to be the point man anyway, it could be nice to detect that trap before you walk into it)… these give you a chance to further define your scout. A scout who takes burglary is far different in approach from one who takes nature (linked to intuition).