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.