Monday, July 29, 2013

Loving Life and Plugging Away

Well, the only promise I haven't been keeping lately is updating the blog. I suppose that would help, but I'm just too busy writing and polishing the game. I can tell you a few things right now with some certainty... although not 100%:

- The book will be 160 pages.
- It has over 120 illustrations, many new, and others that I've had for a while but which almost no one has seen...
- I've managed to squeeze every little cool thing I've ever wanted to put into the game in here somewhere. It's a very dense, tightly-packed little game. That doesn't mean that the layout is cramped - I've worked to break up the pages with some variety, and to leave some white space so the whole thing can breathe.

As of right now, the illustrations are 99% done (I may do a handful of spot icons for the various ant hills that are profiled in the rules, depending on space as I get closer to the); the writing is 99% done (I have two short adventures to write the endings for, and I think I might have room to squeeze in an appendix on running 'soldiers of fortune' campaigns) and editing is about 50% done (I've done my second-final edit of the first half of the game, and I've done a rough edit of the second half of the game).

I ran a play test the other night of some optional rules for a zero-level funnel ala DCC, and it went so much better than I could have ever imagined. I'll post the play test notes when I release the rules (as a way to generate some traffic for sales), but I cannot believe how clean the system runs in play, and how it operates exactly the way I want it to.

I keep thanking my Kickstarter backers, and I want to do it one more time... you all have given me the freedom from pressure to write and work without the shadow over me of whether or not anyone will every buy or play this thing. To be honest, that is often the largest force hanging over a project for me - whether or not anyone will care at the end. I have read a bit about KS creators feeling pressure because there's now an expectation or some sort of stifling of creativity that happens. For some reason, I've found this whole experience has done just the opposite. The initial surge of enthusiasm and the ongoing feedback from the community as I've worked has been an incredible gift. I get to sit here and listen to the Shins and plug away at a game I love. You've all justified the time and energy I've invested, and I truly appreciate it. I hope that when you see the game in a few weeks, you'll be glad you jumped in when you did.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Year of the Ant PDF now available

The pdf edition of the Year of the Ant graphic novel is now posted on Drivethrucomics... and we're in the midst of Christmas in July, so you can get it for 25% off! Act while supplies last and all that good stuff (see that's the joke... it's a pdf, so supplies are theoretically unlimited... although I'd love to be the one to test the theory)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Original Art For Sale

Now that I've fulfilled all of the Kickstarter orders, I've started to sell some of my other original art pages. I figured I'd test the waters with ebay, and put up a few pages as auctions. I may ultimately post more pages as buy-it-nows, although I assume that some pages will be more desirable than others - pages where the ants are doing cool stuff are going to (I assume) be more desirable than a page where you have the sun setting for 9 panels. What do I know? Maybe the sun setting for 9 panels is EXACTLY what you've been looking for in your den. Here are links to the two pages I have up right now...

Issue 11, Page 1

Issue 11, Page 2

Friday, July 19, 2013

Vince Statted Up

Remember when you first played D+D and you tried to stat yourself up? You argued with your friends over who had the most Constitution and what yours would be rated. I remember these conversations always ended up invoking ‘well I totally ran a mile last week’ or ‘I worked in the yard for three hours and barely broke a sweat’ to justify that 18 you thought you deserved. Okay, tell yourself it didn’t happen. That’s fine. LIAR.

Anywho, here is the problem that I run into with Vince. He’s me in the ant universe, so trying to put him in game statistics is a bit, well… weird. I’m basically trying to say “I’ve been working out, you know.” So, let’s just use the comics as our guide, and see where we go. He’s Level 3, so this only gives him 18 CPs to work with. I expect that these will go quick.

Like Sarge, he’s good at everything and great at nothing. Vince is the ‘leader’ between him, Phil and Slab. If the three of them are ever alone together, Vince gets put in charge. That doesn’t happen much. However, he has had to make some decisions, and has some emerging leadership tendencies. I’m thinking that he’s almost a younger (not nearly as tough, but maybe a bit smarter) version of Sarge. He’s carried an AM-16 often, so he needs Body D8… he’s pretty smart (like me – see? Make It Stop!) so he ends up with Mind D8 (although I totally have Mind D10 – just saying). He has not done anything particularly spirit-based or intuitive, so we’ll keep that at D6. He’s managed to go through a long time shooting things pretty well and never getting shot himself, so Prowess D8 seems justified.

Body D8; Mind D8; Prowess D8; Spirit D6

That’s 10 of my 18 CPs. He gets both Munitions and Moxy bumps, so invested 2 CPs in each of those makes sense. He needs some aim, and he’s got emerging intelligence and leadership skills that he’s developing.

Aim +2
Intelligence +1
Leadership +1
Munitions +3 (2 CPs/ +1 shift)
Moxy +3 (2 CPs/ +1 shift)

He’s Level 3 (75 XP like Phil), and was just made Corporal (A-3). This gives him 150 Clout to work with. He’s infantry, so he starts with:

AM-15 rifle; boot knife +1; 1 field grenade; basic aid kit (D4); satchel; basic provisions; bedroll; entrenching tool; standard fatigues (olive drab); basic flashlight (3 cm); canteen; utility knife

He definitely upgrades to the AM-16 (a difference of 15 clout) and he picks up two fragmentation grenades (20 clout total), a flash grenade and a stun grenade (another 20 clout total). He can also afford 2 full aid kits (50 clout). That still leaves him 45 clout to put in the team pool with Sarge (which becomes an investment of 50 clout into the requisition pool).


Level 3 Infantry; A-3 Corporal
Hits 72; Feat +2
Body D8; Mind D8; Prowess D8; Spirit D6
Aim +2; Intelligence +1; Leadership +1; Munitions +3 (2 CPs/ +1 shift); Moxy +3 (2 CPs/ +1 shift)
Modified AM-16 Assault Rifle (damage D8+3; range 7)
boot knife +1; 1 field grenade; basic aid kit (D4); satchel; basic provisions; bedroll; entrenching tool; standard fatigues (olive drab); basic flashlight (3 cm); canteen; utility knife; 2 fragmentation grenades (D6+D8); flash grenade (D6+D8); stun grenade (D6+D10); 2 full aid kits (D12)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Seven Fields Mapped

I've spent a good chunk of the day finally getting the area of Seven Fields mapped. This turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. This game is cruising into high gear now. I still haven't released the player's guide, because I keep making minor tweaks to various traits as I go, and I'd rather not release the player's guide until I am 100% sure nothing else is changing. Therefore, I probably won't release the Player's Guide until within a few days of release of the full game. It is what it is.

Now, here's the map!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sarge on Deck!

Sarge is the most well-rounded ant on the team, and he’s also in charge. I’ve always thought of Sarge as the second best at everything; he’s the second-toughest, the second-smartest, the second-most intuitive; he’s the go-to guy in a pinch for anything. He’s able to mentor the other ants in each of the things they do well, giving them some pointers. I’ve learned this about teaching – a student can be more naturally gifted than I am, but as long as I have some skill in something, and I understand how it works, I can give valuable advice to do things that I can’t do. Sarge is a teacher. He’s Level 8, so has 48 CPs to build from. If that’s not enough, I don’t know what to do…

Attributes are easy. He’s D8 across the board.

- Body D8 (3 CPs)
- Mind D8 (3 CPs)
- Prowess D8 (3 CPs)
- Spirit D8 (3 CPs)

As with Gunner, by rule he’d be shorted by 4 points in attributes. Glad that I’m dropping that requirement. This leaves him 36 CPs to purchase traits. Hmmmm:

- Aim +3 (4 CPs)
- Intelligence +4 (6 CPs)
- Leadership +5 (9 CPs – this is kind of his thing)
- Medic +3 (4 CPs)
- Melee +1 (1 CP)
- Moxy +4 (4 CPs/+1 shift from ant)
- Munitions +4 (4 CPs/+1 shift from Infantry)
- Toughness +3 (4 CPs)

Wow… that worked out surprisingly well. I didn’t have to make too many tweaks to get Sarge to fit.

As far as Clout… Sarge takes a totally different approach. He carries almost nothing – his basic supplies, the best pistol he can afford (that he’s souped up considerably) and a really nice lighter for his box of cigars (which have no Clout value in the game, so those are just gimmes).

Sarge is Level 8 (we will put him at 400 XP) and is a Sergeant Major (A-8), meaning that he’s earned an additional 200 Clout, for 600 total. He also turned in his AM-15 for an AM-57C that he has upgraded through Munitions (he owed 5 clout on the exchange). He is a no-frills bug, so he will purchase nothing with hit Clout, leaving him 595 banked clout points. He spends his clout every mission on what the team might need – he can requisition a helicopter, get a case of grenades or deck the team out in scuba gear as needed. I’m thinking of including a special rule for a character who does this; you allocate a portion of your Clout to ‘requisitions’. You get a 10% bonus to the Clout you place in the requisitions pool, but you cannot requisition the same thing two missions in a row; you could requisition a helicopter every mission, but you would at the least have to alternate the two helicopters you requisition. You can pool clout in a requisition pool in this way as a team. If three team members each pitch in 30 clout, your 90-clout pool becomes worth 99 clout (someone will throw in 1 more point to get to 100).  

As far as Hits, Sarge will also be quite above average. If we say an average result of 6 per roll, +3 toughness = 9 per level, x8 levels =72 Hits. We’ll keep that. By the way, here’s the (slightly) revised character stat block. I decided to remove tables from character and creature stat blocks, and go more old school with the block text:


Level 8 Infantry; A-8 Sergeant Major
Hits 72; Feat +4
Body D8; Mind D8; Prowess D8; Spirit D8
Aim +3; Intelligence +4; Leadership +5; Medic +3; Melee +1; Moxy +4 (4 CPs/+1 shift from ant); Munitions +4 (4 CPs/+1 shift from Infantry); Toughness +3
Modified AM-57 Pistol (damage D8+3; range 6)
boot knife +1; 1 field grenade; basic aid kit (D4); satchel; basic provisions; bedroll; entrenching tool; standard fatigues (olive drab); basic flashlight (3 cm); canteen; utility knife

Friday, July 5, 2013

Phil is in the Hizzy

Phil is pretty much the polar opposite of every other character on the team – he has almost no combat functionality at all (at least in terms of attacking others), so the challenge is in making him a playable character who can do something in combat, rather than just whiffing over (and over, and over, ad infinitum) again.

He’s a communication specialist.
Since we’re putting Phil at Level 3, he only has so many points to spend, and he’s got some big investments to make ‘right out the gate’. Level 3 gives him 18 CPs. Here is the first run of his attributes:

Body D4
Mind D10
Prowess D4
Spirit D6

He’s weak. He’s a clutz most of the time. He sometimes missing the big picture. But, he is smart as a whip. Okay. So far, I’ve spent 7 of my 18 CPs. Let’s take our 11 remaining into traits:

Luck +3 (4 CPs - There has to be some way to explain why things seem to go well for him for no apparent reason)
Security +1 (1 CP – he knows a little bit about security systems)
Technology +4 (6 CPs – and he will get the +1 communications specialist bump to +5)

It was very easy to spend all of my points on Phil, but of course he is only Level 3. What if Phil were Level 6 like Zak and Gunner? Could I spend all of my points and still have him be ‘Phil’? I see him moving into the development of armored mech suits, so let’s give him a strong mechanic score, too, since he’d have to develop that, and it’s a nice fit with Mind.

- Body D6
- Mind D12
- Prowess D4
- Spirit D8

Spent 14 CPs on Attributes

- Luck +4 (6 CPs)
- Mechanic +4 (6 CPs)
- Security +1 (1 CP)
- Technology +6 (9 CPs invested/+1 shift)

Spent 36 CPs without even breaking a sweat! Okay, it can be done… (and now I need to write some rules for mechs!)

Back to the ‘real’ Phil… He’s Level 3 (we’ll put him at 75 XP) and he’s earned promotions to the rank of Private First Class (+50 CPs). He has 125 total. He would have traded in his basic communications kit for the best available (10 Clout redeemed vs. 100 Clout spent = 90 net Clout) and he picked up two field grenades (10 Clout total). He’s spent 100 of his 125. We will say that he carries a full aid kit as well, since he’s the most likely to be hurt.

His standard issue gear is: AM-38 light pistol; basic aid kit (D4); satchel; basic provisions; bedroll; entrenching tool; standard fatigues (olive drab); basic flashlight (3 cm); canteen; utility knife; basic communications kit. He only has Body D4 and he’s level 3, so we’ll give him an average of 3 per die (with max at Level 1), or 10 Hits. No wonder he falls over so easily!

Level 3 Communications (A-2); Hits 10; Feat +2
Body D4; Mind D10; Prowess D4; Spirit D6
Luck +3; Moxy +1 (+1 ant shift); Security +1; Technology +4 (6 CPs/+1 shift)
- AM-38 light pistol (D4 damage; range 3)
- 2 Field Grenades (D6+D6; blast radius 1 cm)
- Basic aid kit (D4); full aid kit (D12); satchel; basic provisions; bedroll; entrenching tool; standard fatigues (olive drab); basic flashlight (3 cm); canteen; utility knife
- Full communications kit.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gunner Time

Zak was a challenge, but Gunner should be pretty easy. As far as characters who
would appear in the game, I think that Gunner has to be voted ‘most likely to be played’. He’s built to be tough and deal a lot of damage. He’s probably the most balanced character on the team, with the most combat-oriented skillset.

He’s got roughly as much experience as Zak, so we’ll put him midway through Level 6 as well, 36 Clout Points. Here’s my first run at his attributes:

Body D10 (6 CPs)
Mind D6 (1 CP)
Prowess D8 (3 CPs)
Spirit D6 (1 CP)

I’d like higher Prowess because of how much he fires a rifle, but the fact of the matter is that he’s not as agile as Zak (by a pretty wide margin – even the D8 is a little generous) but he’ll make up for it in aim. He’s a no-frills ant, so we’ll put him in the Infantry. I’m tempted to go with Reconnaissance for the Toughness, but he’s your textbook definition of a grunt who has started to learn some leadership. Infantry it is. He has spent 11 of his 36 Clout points on Attributes, so he has a lot left to spend on Traits (25 clout remaining). This actually goes against the basic rules for point allocation; at Level 6, he has to have at least 12 CPs invested in attributes… hmm. I suppose that I could ditch that requirement, since an ant with D6 across the board and incredible training is doable and should be a viable build. Okay, ditching that requirement. 

Traits… Gunner is all about two things: Aim and Moxy. I mean, he IS moxy. Here’s where I put my points:

Aim +4 (6 CPs)
Driving +1 (1 CP) (he’s driven a few vehicles in the comics, and is the go-to guy on the team for combat driving, although it’s by no means his area of expertise)
Leadership +2 (2 CPs)
Melee +2 (2 CPs)
Moxy +4 (6 CPs – and he will get the ant bump here to +5!)
Munitions +2 (2 CPs – and he will get the Infantry bump here)
Toughness +4 (6 CPs)

As far as his rank and Clout go, he’s not as far into Level 6 as Zak (we’ll put him at 225 XP). He has earned 5 rank promotions (he’s now a Sergeant A-5) and has earned an extra 125 Clout. This puts him at an even 350… this is far more than he will need, but I’ll see if I can spend it!

As a member of the infantry, he starts with an AM-15 rifle; 1 field grenade; basic aid kit (D4); satchel; basic provisions; bedroll; entrenching tool; standard fatigues (olive drab); basic flashlight (3 cm).

He trades in his AM-15 (35 clout) and purchases a snazzy AM-2C machine gun (160 clout). He’s now got 225 clout left. He will also pick up:

- 3 more field grenades (15 clout total)
- 2 phosphorous grenades (30 clout total)
- Medium body armor (40 clout)
- A flak jacket (25 clout)
- Camouflage fatigues (15 clout)
- high-power binoculars (25 clout)
- Armor piercing ammunition for his machine gun (40 clout)
- 2 field medic kits (15 clout each; 30 total)

This leaves him with 5 clout he hasn’t spent. This was part of his tattoo budget…  as far as Hits goes, Gunner is in GREAT shape. He rolls D10+4 each level. On average, this would give him 57 Hits, but he (like all of these guys) is considerably above average. If we put him at 7 per die, that puts him at 66 hits (exactly twice as many as Zak!). It’s going to be very tough to take out Gunner.

Level 6 Infantry (A-5); Hits 66; Feat +3
Body D10; Mind D6; Prowess D8; Spirit D6
Aim +4; Driving +1; Leadership +2; Melee +2; Moxy +5 (6 CPs/+1 shift); Munitions +3 (2 CPs/+1 shift); Toughness +4
- AM-2C Machine Gun (D10+4 damage/range 9) with armor-piercing ammunition
- Boot knife (D10+1 damage)
- 4 field grenades (D6+D6; blast radius 1 cm)
- 2 phosphorous grenades (D6+D12; blast radius 2 cm)
- Medium body armor (soaks 2 hits)
- Flak jacket (soaks 5 hits from explosives)
- Camouflage fatigues; basic aid kit (D4); 2 field medic kits (D8); satchel; basic provisions; bedroll; entrenching tool; basic flashlight (3 cm); high-power binoculars