Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book 2 is Now Live

Saga of the Splintered Realm Book 2: Adventures is now live. It's a pay what you want download, features dozens of maps, hundreds of encounter areas, and a few bonus levels by +Erik Tenkar. I'm sure there is a good reason you wouldn't get it, but I can't imagine what that is.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cut at the last minute

I'm doing FINAL edits (yes, you read that right!) for the second book, I ended up cutting this 'essay' by an esteemed mythweaver of the Splintered Realm. I thought I'd post it here for posterity... poor Teo is going to be so disappointed that his submission was rejected at the final hour...

An Essay: On Time, Space, and all things Conceptual

Delivered by Teo the Scribe to the Elders of Beldin Mere
the 22nd day of Winter, in the 227th Year after the Reckoning

Note: I might suggest you skip this section entirely. The composition of it put me into something of a stupor for several days. Puzzling over an enigma never did anyone any good. You have been warned. I don’t suppose I can convince you to turn back.

Our realm once adhered to a strict order. An equal balance once existed between our goddess Yahalla and the universe she had created. It was a single strand of oneness, starting from the chaotic roots at the base of creation and stretching upwards, through the great tree, and resting in the great firmament wherein her mighty palace dwelt. The land of Del Anon, the third of five realms, set in the middle. I would say rested, but it was no land of rest. Del Anon served as the battle ground between the forces of law and those of chaos. As law pulled upwards, chaos pulled downwards. As Yahalla reached down to guide mortals upward, Bael clawed from below, tempting mortals to darkness and suffering. The rise of the Cavarian Empire signaled the alignment of man with the will of Yahalla… and its terrible fall signaled its collapse into chaos.

The death of Yahalla changed all things. Her destruction didn’t signal a victory of evil; it signaled the end of balance and order. The entire framework of creation collapsed in upon itself, shattering into myriad pieces. It was a great mirror that now lay scattered across a huge expanse of floor. Each piece caught a fragment of illumination; each piece showed part of the larger image; each piece was a perfect fit to one, two, ten or even twenty other pieces. But each piece was scattered, set apart, and alone.

Some pieces were large – continents, great seas, entire regions – while others were tiny – a single island, a part of a city, a lonely tower, a single field. Other pieces were obliterated entirely, reduced to dust and ash in the shattering of creation. Nearly invisible tendrils still bound these pieces together, however. These are portals, rifts, mirrors, pools and spirit doors that turn up from time to time. Some are permanent, others appear only at certain times. Some open for a day. Others for a year. Some for but an instant. Others, seemingly permanent, close suddenly with no clear reason.

Our land is a broken mirror, and it cannot hold the entire image, no matter how hard it tries.

Friday, April 24, 2015

It's All Dyson's Fault

I blame +Dyson Logos for this whole thing. I do. We've only had a handful of online interactions, and he always seems a decent enough chap. However, he keeps setting the bar for mapping, and I keep wanting to try and throw myself at it headlong.

For Saga of the Splintered Realm, I am including a map of my 'signature' city of Nethil Bay with the core rules. I have a map I made several (as in 15) years ago, and it always struck me as serviceable if a bit boring. I was going to use it, maybe touching it up a bit before scanning it... As of about 10:30 this morning, here it is:

I mean, it's okay, right? Not bad. I can use this. Then I decided, NO, this is my game. People paid a lot of money for this. I want this map to be used for the next twenty years. I'm re-doing it by jango (not Fett, though. Just any other jango). So I took out two normal sheets of graph paper, and started working. But within 15 minutes, I realized I couldn't get the scale I wanted. So I moved to four sheets and (re)started working:

Cool. Looking good, and it's only a little after noon. However, as I worked, I realized my proportions were going to be off... I wanted more of a landscape map, and a larger area... it was going to be too square and wouldn't look right on the posters I wanted to make. It needed something more. So, more graph paper:

Now this is shaping up. Sure, it's about 3:00, but I'm making progress. It's coming together. After a few breaks to rest and re-focus, I ended up with this about 5:00...

Me likey! Then the scanning started... and continued... and the layout started... and continued. And now, just after 7:00, I have the final product!

The city map I have always wanted, but never could make up my mind to dedicate an entire day to. I have to tell you, I wouldn't take today back if I could. Thanks to Dyson for inspiring me, and thanks to the Kickstarter backers for supporting me and encouraging me to make something like this. If you are a backer getting print editions, you'll be getting a poster of this with your shipment (hopefully in a few weeks...).

Now, the Splintered Realm world map is nagging me, asking if it's getting re-drawn, too. I may need to rest for a few days after this one.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

And even MORE mapping

This afternoon, I decided I didn't like the map I had for Jurris Crossing... and so created this (which is actually the third map I've ever made for the Crossing, but maybe the last. I really like this one). I have learned to really enjoy mapping... it forces you to spend time thinking about who lives there, what they do, and what their motivations might be.

Here are some examples: there was once a wall, but it was shattered in the days leading up to the Great Reckoning - the new keep in the south 'breaks out' of the old town proper (which rubs locals the wrong way), the tower in the southeast is rumored to be haunted (no one goes there if they can help it), and the river to the north has long served as a source of food - but also of worry for local mothers, as its fast waters have claimed many young lives over the years. In just a few details, I have a richer and more interesting locale than just 'a nice town' and 'important crossroads' like I had before. Mapping caused me to think of those things...

Friday, April 17, 2015

More Mapping?

As I finish work on the second book of the Saga of the Splintered Realm (which has earned a new title... Book 2: Adventures in the Splintered Realm) I decided that I needed an area map for the northern corner of the world where the Vault of the Goblin and Fort Morovar (the default starting locations) sit. It's effectively a blowup of a section of the larger map that I've had done for several years of the larger Splintered Realm, detailing some of the smaller locales in the region. And it's going to be part of the free maps packaged with the final product, thanks to the Kickstarter backers. This has become the KS that keeps on giving...

By the way, work on this book is getting VERY close to being done. It's 144 pages, and I'm working on edits for the last 1/4 of the book now. The entire thing is written, so I expect (crosses fingers) to send out for a proof copy some time next week... Good Lord willing, and the creek don't rise.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Saga of the Splintered Realm Review

A great review of Saga of the Splintered Realm was published on RPGNow. I'm pleased that the reviewer responded positively to some of the pieces of the game I am most proud of, especially the talents system. It's such a simple plug-in that adds so much to the game. If you haven't picked up a copy of the game yet, I'm not sure what you're waiting for... it's a pay what you want download, so that means if you want to get it for free, you can do that!

FYI, Vault of the Goblin is coming along nicely, and I'm very happy with the variety and flavor of encounters throughout. I think it's a fun dungeon crawl, and the expansion material around the dungeon is going to make this a handy guide to running a campaign in general. There's going to be a good amount of stuff here for a new group to dig in and keep playing for a long time.

Monday, April 6, 2015


Book One is now in the can (which is a LOT better than 'on the can'), and I can cross it off of my to-do list. The book has expanded to 144 pages, and now has over 30 more monsters, three appendices, and tightened up editing throughout. You obviously should download it for free if you were a KS backer, but I'd appreciate it if you'd post a short review once you get a chance to peruse it no matter who you are!

You can download a free copy right now at RPGNow. As a KS backer, you will eventually get a clean pdf (with none of that pesky watermarking), as well as access to the word document original. I'll be updating all of that at the end of the project. You'll also get updated access to the art, although you should still have access to the dropbox folder from a previous update that had much of the art in it.



Many Irons In The Fire

In addition to the work I'm doing to wrap up Saga of the Splintered Realm, I also have two webcomic sites that 'officially' launched yesterday and today, respectively. I'm trying to use this blog primarily to talk about gaming-related stuff, but thought some of you might be interested in the other projects I'm working on... is a weekly adventure webcomic featuring my Army Ants characters in new adventures. The newest story line started yesterday, so it's a great time to jump in. launched this morning, and it follows the daily activities of a public school teachers. It's a classic gag-a-day strip with some political commentary thrown in for good measure...

Now back to editing. I am through page 110 of the revised rules and editing, and I've made MANY more changes than I thought I would... it's going to be a tight little game when all is said and done!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Of Two Handed Fighting and Weapon Sizes

I'm here doing FINAL edits of the Saga of the Splintered Realm core rules, and I ran across those pesky two-handed fighting rules again... and in cross-referencing them realized just how overly bloated and unnecessarily complex they are. Here are the problems (before I share my solution... I have to build up to it, you know):

1. Various melee weapons can be used alternately 2-handed, EXCEPT for the great sword, which always requires 2 hands. When you opt to use a 1-handed weapon 2-handed, you get a +2 bonus to damage. Great. Except for the fact that a longsword (1d8 damage) is inherently better than a greatsword (1d10 damage) when used 2-handed... and you can only use the greatsword 2-handed. No reason to ever get one of those...

2. The rules become even MORE complex for dwarves and stoutlings... they HAVE to use certain large weapons 2-handed, and can't get the 2-handed bonus with these weapons... opening up a category of even more weapons that suffer the same 'penalty' as the greatsword above. No intelligent dwarf (and I'm talking INT 3+ here, so the bar is pretty low) who wants to fight 2-handed would ever use a battle axe, because a hand axe 2-handed deals 1d6+2, while the battle axe deals a measly (by comparison) 1d8.

You can now perform an imaginary drum roll for my solution. Ready?

ALL melee weapons are 1-handed weapons by their nature! Can I swing a staff and hit someone while wielding it one-handed? Sure. Can I wield a greatsword one-handed? If I'm a fantasy world fighter, you bet I can.

BUT, if I elect to wield a weapon 2-handed (which only 'fighter types' like fighters, dwarves, elves and stoutlings can do), I get to shift up to the next die... so that greatsword deals 1d10 one-handed, but deals 1d12 if I go to town. Since there's no weapon category that deals 1d12, I don't have to worry about an awkward die shift up... and now a stoutling with a shortsword who's swinging that bad boy 2-handed still gets to deal a respectable 1d8 base damage, the same as he'd deal with a longsword 1-handed (which he cannot use, since he's just a 'lil guy). It's an intuitive fix that is EASY to remember and requires no cross-checking.

And by the way, I HAD to downgrade stoutlings after thinking about how they are just about the size of my six-year-old daughter, albeit with about 20 more pounds of body mass. She's half my height, and a longsword would be unwieldy for her, no matter how strong she was.

Basically, a magic user, cleric or thief can wield any of his weapons with one or two hands, but mechanically doesn't get an advantage to damage. He's not sufficiently trained to get a significant boost from the additional leverage. Gandalf can swing away with his staff either with one or two hands, but unless he's purchased a talent that upgrades his combat abilities (which he has done - he's flippin Galdalf after all), he's dealing that base 1d4 damage (poor guy).

This is also a nice little fix to keep fighters as the best fighters. They are the only ones who can get greatswords (or other obnoxiously large weapons) that deal 1d12 two-handed, so they are the kings of battle. This is also nice because they can opt to fight with a shield and great sword (if they are on the defensive) or drop that shield and let 'er rip (if the monster is chewing on someone else at the moment). It provides a little bit of tactical differentiation in combat without any mechanical bloat.

Okay. Back to editing... on page 67 of 144...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Proof of Life

The proof copy for the first Saga of the Splintered Realm book came in today, so the project moves along. I've put together a few boxes as I try out methods for making the individual boxed sets, and the dice came in a few days ago for the upper tier rewards. Progress!