Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Google Community for SSR and SoEC

I've set up a Google Community to consolidate discussion/thinking around Saga of the Splintered Realm and Sentinels of Echo City. I THINK I set the community up the right way, but feel free to tell me if I screwed something up. Go ahead and post there... or you can also post on the Forums on

If you leave here with something to write about that you didn't, you can't blame me!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A New Home

I've been thinking about how to unify my various creative projects in one place... trying to support three RPGs and two webcomics takes some juggling, and thus far I have had everything all over the place. I have this blog, two webcomic sites, and a variety of links on RPGNow, Createspace, and In an effort to consolidate and clean up, I've launched in order to give my work a central hub. 

Please stop by and check it out! While you are there, post to the new forums. I would especially love it if others would post some of the content they have created to share with other players. I'd love to see the games develop a community of players who help each other out.



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sentinels of Echo City Now Updated and Available in Print

Sentinels of Echo City is now available in print, and the core rules have been expanded to 128 pages. You can order your softcover edition or your hardcover edition now.

If you already purchased the pdf, keep your eye out for an e-mail from me via rpgnow, or go to your orders on RPGNow and get the updated file - this includes links for the discounted print editions. Remember that by purchasing the pdf, you get the print edition at $5 off... so I would definitely get the pdf first, and then the print edition after.

Thanks and happy gaming!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Sentinels of Echo City: Last Call for Errata

I have finished the revision of the core rules of Sentinels of Echo City, and the print proofs should be at my door later today or tomorrow, so I'll be able to make final tweaks and re-publish the core rules pdf as well as setting up print editions this weekend.

If you have any concerns/comments/confusions about the core rules, today will be your last chance to speak before they become set in stone (or at least print) for the foreseeable future.

Just so you know, here are the corrections/adjustments I've made to the core rules:

- Cleaned up language throughout so that modifiers (as much as possible) apply to the roll and not to the target; for instance, instead of setting a target of 25 for a check, the target is (almost) always 20, with -5 to the roll. There were a few places where the moving target was more intuitive and made things much easier, but those are exceptions.

- Cleaned up the language on a handful of other traits.

- Added two appendices: rules for exceptional humans and an overview of one wing of Aegis Prison, including stats for 10 more villains (because you can never have enough villains).

- A few minor very minor tweaks (mostly grammar) throughout. I didn't change any of the math/rules/mechanics.

- Adding the link for the discounted print editions to the last page (once those are done).

Monday, June 15, 2015

SSR Map Pack #1

The awesome backers of the Saga of the Splintered Realm Kickstarter made it possible for me to create a metric ton of maps (many of which were posted here as they were completed). Recently, a conversation on the Dragonsfoot Forums lead to the idea that I should collect those maps in one place.

Well, duh. That seemed obvious once it was pointed out.

The Saga of the Splintered Realm Map Pack #1 is now available as a pay-what-you-want download. Now, I'm not a math wizard or anything, but that means you don't have to pay anything if you don't want to.

You sly dog, you.

It's 30 maps in a zip folder, including a lot of dungeon real estate, a few wilderness areas, a city, a few towns, and a keep. Not bad for nuthin'. Reminder that all of these are released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution License, so you can use them as you will, even for commercial projects.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Origin of the ... Midnight Detective?

It’s going to be a long time before I get Zealot to the point where he’s a high-level character to play test to see how this holds up for a high-level character (although I suspect pretty well), and I’m curious anyway… here’s a character you might recognize. We’ll go with the ‘no armor’ standard comics version, instead of an armored version that could show up in movies (for example)… I have to bend the rules as written to give him 11 traits… an exceptional human hero starts with up to 8 + profession (so 9 total).

The Midnight Detective (Hero 10)  Resources 18
AC 18; HD 10d6 (hp 80); Feat +11; Move 40; Strike (+10/1d6+3)
     STR 12 (+3); INT 12 (+3); PWR 7 (-)
     DEX 12 (+3); CON 12 (+3); CHA 10 (+2)
Traits: Contacts; Driver; Martial Arts; Pilot; Profession (Detective); Pummel (1d6); Quickness; Sneak; Utility Belt; Wealth; Weapon, Trick
Talents: Expertise; Fortitude; Improved Critical; Initiative; Second Wind; Surprise Strike

His utility belt has every available item, with maximum numbers of each item from the core rules.
He carries a series of trick boomerangs (1d6, range 60’), with one each of the trick weapons listed in the core rules.

The Midnight Mobile
AC 20; HD 3d8 (24 hp); Move 900’; Control 13; Invulnerability 6
Fits only the driver and one passenger.

The Midnight Jet
AC 18; HD 4d10 (hp 40); Fly 6,000’; Control 12; Cannon (+2 to hit/1d12/500’);

2 rockets (+3 to hit/3d10/1 mile). Fits a crew of 2.

A little housekeeping

I've updated the link list on the side of the blog to reflect all of my current projects. The RPGNow side of things has seen a cleanup as well, since I have decided to only sell the games I currently support. I was very confused about what was compatible with what, especially since I had used the terms Mythweaver and Resolute for so many different games/engines/systems that it was difficult to keep track of it all, and to know what worked with what exactly. Now, I've got it down to two systems - the mechanic derived from B/X that drives Saga of the Splintered Realm and Sentinels of Echo City, and the engine that drives the Army Ants RPG. All other products have been retired... to make way for all-new material! It seems like smaller, pay-what-you-want downloads (maybe only a page or two each) are the way to go. In fact, 'one-page dungeon' format pieces are probably ideal, since I can create one of these in a few hours, and include a map, a new creature or character, a short adventure, and maybe even a new item. I can quickly grow the game in a number of directions by releasing those regularly.

Soon, I'll be cleaning up the print edition interface as well. I currently use two different vendors for my print editions, but I should really get it down to one. In general, Lulu offers slightly superior quality, and also offers hardcover books, so I have to go with Lulu. I'll be re-launching books from CreateSpace over to Lulu in the next little while, once I get the print editions for Sentinels of Echo City all done and ready to print.

Compatible with Sentinels of Echo City

Updated April, 2018...

I've added a version for the new edition. You can still use the older ones if you want...

Here are two (older) images that you can slap on the cover of any project you create that's compatible with Sentinels of Echo City... grab and use these as you wish, on either free products, or products you charge for. Since Sentinels of Echo City is released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution License, you have free reign to do what you want with the system... remember that the OGL applies to system-specific mechanics as well.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Origin of: Zealot

So, my ‘original’ comic character was named Renegade, created when I was 13. I created 50 issues (not kidding) of his adventures. These were drawn on loose leaf paper, and ultimately filled an entire 2-inch binder with his adventures. He was a doppelganger of Captain America’s sidekick Nomad from the late 200s issues; Nomad was Marvel’s answer to Nightwing (at least to my mind), and was all the better for it. He actually battled some of the characters who ended up in Sentinels of Echo City (Cybron was his primary villain, and he’s remained as one of the key villains of Echo City). I didn’t include him in the core rules (since I decided Twilight Archer better served the role I would have cast him in), but I still want to stat him up and play him… so here we go. This also gives me the chance to test out the exceptional humans appendix that I’ll be updating SoEC with soon…

1. I roll 3d6 (keeping the better 2) for attributes, with a default 7 in PWR: 10, 6, 8, 8, 9

2. I roll for traits (1d4+1) and get 3+1=4. I roll on the limited list for exceptional humans, getting:

  17: Shield
  3: Companion
  6: Determination
  23: Weapon, Trick

And… I just rolled up Captain America. I mean, he’s not nearly as cool as Cap, but he wants to be Cap so bad that it hurts (hey! Just like Nomad)… I really want to trade out some of these to tailor him more. I actually want to delete this whole thing so far and start again. Okay. I’m trading… 

Companion and Trick Weapon are gone, in favor of Melee Weapon. I am going to give him an obsession (fighting crime, duh – his name is Zealot) in order to pick up another trait. Since I get to choose, I’m going to take utility belt (so he has some gadgets and gizmos to add variety to playing him).

For the shield, I roll 1d4+1 and get 2+1=3. Eh. That’s okay. He carries an aerodynamic shield of high-grade tempered steel that he can also use as a melee weapon (and I roll 1d8 for his damage with it, so that’s something). That determination is nice, giving him 1d8 for resolve rolls, and +1 to resolve (so 2 resolve points per turn at level 1… not bad). Again, this fits with the idea of him being a Zealot – his willpower and determination, and absolute refusal to back down or step away from crime – keep him operating at peak efficiency most of the time. This is a hero who bloodies his knuckles. Nightly.
For his talent, I’m going to let the dice decide: I roll and get fortitude; I will gladly take an extra +5 to hit points. This again reflects his refusal to surrender. I’m liking this kid more and more. I wouldn’t want to have dinner with him, but I’m glad he’s out patrolling the streets.

That 10 is going into DEX, 9 into CON, 8 into STR and INT, 6 into CHA. He’s not especially likeable or personable.

I roll for the utility belt and get a re-breather, 3 bolas, 2 tracking devices, and 1 set of caltrops… not exactly what I was hoping for. These are all useful rather than being very directly applicable in combat. I would have liked some smoke grenades, or even regular grenades, but oh well. He gets max hit points at level 1.

Zealot (Hero 1)
AC 16; HD 1d6 (hp 12); Feat +7; Shield (+2/1d8+1/30’)
STR 9 (+1); INT 8 (+1); PWR 7 (-)
DEX 10 (+2); CON 8 (+1); CHA 6 (-)
Shield gives +3 to AC
Determination gives +1 bonus resolve point per turn (2 total), both at 1d8
Utility Belt includes: 3 bolas; 1 set of caltrops; re-breather; 2 tracking devices

Purpose: to patrol the mean streets of Echo City and save the innocent from the not-so-innocent.

Let’s see what happens… Zealot comes across 2 thugs attempting to rob a purse from a girl in an alley. You’d think those girls would learn to avoid alleys. Sigh. Maybe he should do some PSAs about this instead of patrolling. He’d probably see greater returns on his investment. Oh, well. For now, there’s an innocent to save.

I’ll give him surprise. Of course, he wastes it by telling the two thugs to stand down. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It’s initiative. Zealot rolls 4+7=11, and the thugs roll 4+4=8. He wins!

Round 1

Zealot throws his shield at the first, rolling 7+9=9 vs. AC 11. He misses. Hrm. I’m already going to use a resolve point here, since this is his first appearance, and he needs to make a good show of things. He rolls 2 on the die (eek) and gets to 11, barely tagging the thug. For damage, he rolls 8+1=9, and has great success… the shield appeared to miss, then ricocheted off of a dumpster, against the thug’s chin (breaking his jaw and knocking him out) and back to Zealot’s hand… just in time for gunfire from the second thug…

The second thug fires his pistol, rolling a natural 20. Wow. Okay, then… for damage, the Thug rolls 6 on the die, doubled to 12. Well, that was quick. He shoots Zealot in the shoulder, and drops him like a bad habit. Zealot has to use his second resolve point here, or he’s done. I’m going to attempt a stunt. I don’t want to use the bystander, or even the other thug, as a living shield for this attack… of course, he does carry an actual, you know, shield. I want to see if I can get the shield back in time to parry the attack away. I use the resolve point and attempt a Feat… rolling 19 + 7 on the die! Success. Woot. I needed a 13 or better, so I’m surprised that worked. Okay, just as the bullet was about to rip through his throat, he brings the shield up, and the bullet grazes his cheek. I’m going to say that leaves a permanent scar. He’ll remember this fight.

Round 2
Zealot whips his shield at the thug, rolling 4+2=6 to hit. Nada. The thug saw what happened to his friend, and sidesteps both shield and ricochet.
The thug fires again, rolling 14+1=15 to hit, vs. AC 16. Again, the shield gets back in the nick of time…

Round 3
Zealot leaps and attacks with the shield, taking -2 to his attack, but getting into melee range (so that the thug can no longer use the pistol, and has to switch to his knife). He attacks, getting 17+2=19 to hit. Aces. For damage, he rolls 8+1=9. He can’t hold back, and really wallops that thug. He’s been a little scarred by this first brush with heroing.

He makes sure the girl is okay, tells her to call the police and file a report, and then runs for his life. He gets back to his home with his adrenaline out of control, a burn from a bullet casing on his cheek, and a swell of pride at his first successful adventure as a ‘super hero’. He earns 6 XP… 2 each for the thugs, +1 for saving a civilian (his level x1), and +1 for his purpose (to protect the people of Echo City).

Whew. It’s been a day.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sentinels Appendices

So I already have some stuff for appendices to Sentinels of Echo City. I'll be culling comments for the next little while and making sure I dot i's and cross t's before releasing an update to the pdf, but for the moment, I can tell you this:

Appendix A will include a brief overview of how to play exceptional people in the world of superheroes, with rules for creating an exceptional person as a player character.

Appendix B will provide an overview of Aegis Prison, along with stats for another twelve or so villains. I was going to release this as the first source book, but it feels like it fits in the core rules, and you can always use more villains, right? Unlike the ones listed earlier in the book (who are all 'at large'), these are, at least theoretically, incarcerated.

Plus, these will put the book to 128 pages total, which was my original goal!

Here are two images from the appendices: a portion of the prison complex, and one of the guards that Project Javelin has assigned here...

And thank you to everyone who has helped Sentinels of Echo City make it to #3 on RPGNow's sales chart! That was pretty exciting to see this morning.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sentinels of Echo City Now Available in PDF

Sentinels of Echo City is my love letter to 1984. It is the game that answers the question, “what if the designers of FASERIP used the B/X system instead?”. It is the game that I wish I could get into a time machine and take to myself when I was 13 years old. It’s an old-school superhero game jam packed with love for the genre. It’s fast. It’s loose. And it does it all.

In the long-standing tradition among comics artists, the artwork pays tribute to the great comic artists whose work inspired mine, starting from the cover, and continuing throughout. The game also serves as an homage to the exceptional work of game designers who put their hearts into the fantastic RPGs that filled my childhood.

And maybe yours, too.

Sentinels of Echo City is released under the Open Game License (for the system) and a Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution License (for the game world). You can create derivative work and publish it. I hope you do!

Your purchase of a pdf copy of the game means that you will get a $5 off coupon towards the upcoming print edition, which will be available in softcover or hardcover in a few weeks. I will notify you with the coupon code when the print editions are ready.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Wormwood Station

Sentinels of Echo City wouldn't be complete without an introductory adventure. Instead of being a specific adventure, I'm trying to think in terms of 'adventuring locales', with several hooks for how and why the supers might get involved there. It's full of bad people doing bad things. It's near the sewer system. Do good people ever build their hideouts near the sewer system? I think not.

This is the first try at a 'modern map' in my evolving map style. It turned out pretty swanky.

If you are a patron of my Patreon campaign, you already have access to a high-quality copy of this. That's in addition to the undying gratitude that you have already received.

Edit: Oh, yeah... it's released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution License. Rock on.

Final Tribute Piece: Wreckage

I've finished my tour of favorite artists, ending at probably the most influential of all: John Byrne. He was it for me - everything I wanted to be and do as a comic artist. Here I echo his classic cover to Fantastic Four 249. I tried to channel my inner George Perez for the wreckage across the bottom of the image and just started noodling. It actually turned out okay. On a scale of 1 to Perez, I give it a 3. Perez is somewhere around 1,215,879.

And with that, and the editing I did earlier to the section on traits (powers and skills), the game is DONE... I need to put together an index, do all my page # references throughout, and give the whole thing one more read through before publishing it. It's 114 pages, over 37,000 words, and oozing with goodness. I am excited for you to see it.

That was quick. Two weeks ago I was joking that I wasn't even going to write this thing. Buh. Dang.

Sentinels of Echo City Character Sheet

Here it is, a variation on the character sheet for Saga of the Splintered Realm, albeit a little stripped down and cleaner.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Everything Comes Full Circle

So this project has become a love letter to my childhood love of superhero comics, and the pieces within have become tributes to my favorite pieces by my favorite artists. I have one more to do (an homage of the John Byrne cover to FF 249 for an interior piece), but the cover was still eluding me. Instead of thinking about individual drawings, I went through a list of artists who I had wanted to grow up to be. And I realized that I hadn't included George Perez. He had some great covers. Iconic pieces. I was thinking about some of his Teen Titans covers, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and some of his Avengers covers. Just stellar stuff. All of it. So much to choose from.

And then this project came full circle.

Instead of an homage to a comic cover... I have an homage to a comic rpg cover, drawn by one of my favorite comic artists, from the time period I am trying to write a game for.

Mind. Blown.

Of course, I had to fudge the perspective on the characters a little to get them to fit (I keep looking at the drawing, and can't figure out how he got all of that visual information into the frame), and I realized that NO ONE can draw a pile of wreckage like Perez. I mean, it's unreal. I got close enough to it so that it looked like disconnected scrawling. I can't see the pattern or technique in it. But it's there. You pull back and it's suddenly wreckage. Go in close, and you can't figure out what he was thinking as he was drawing. I mean, it's like wreckage just comes out of his pencil on to the page. I have no idea how. For that matter, no one draws bricks... or buildings... or muscles... oh, man. That guy is a genius.

I'm seriously not worthy. But I wanted to at least give it a shot. I learned some things, had a fantastic time, and ended up with a nifty cover design. I hope you like it.

The book itself is 100% written, and is in need of 1 more piece of art (at least... it's a little light now, with a total of maybe 10 pieces), some editing, an index, and maybe an introductory adventure.

This thing may be done sooner than I thought!

No School Like The Old School

Since this is an old school game, it needs an old school cover. I'm very excited about what I'm up to (and it's different than it was a week ago... I'll reveal soon), but for now here's the logo design. I haven't sat and designed a logo like this since I was 13.

My parents have been moving out of the house I grew up in, and they ended up sending me a whole bunch of my old stuff... including hundreds of pages of really bad superhero comics I drew. I spent so many hours designing logos for my superhero comics... it was so much fun to do that again. And the little tribute to Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider Man covers puts this over the moon for me.

I can't even.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Another Tribute Piece

This week, I came across one of my all-time favorite images, a Frank Miller Daredevil piece. I don't think I ever saw it finished and colored as a kid - the pencil drawing was on the cover of a fanzine that I got at a con as a wee lad. I spent so many hours trying to figure out how Frank Miller did that perspective, and how he managed to capture the movement of Daredevil falling upside down.

It's almost 30 years later, and I still don't know how he did it. My tribute is in the ballpark, but if Miller's piece was a home run, I'm going to say I got a gimme that put me at first base. Still, it was fun to work on, and I learned some new things about perspective and use of solid blacks, so it's a win. This piece will end up somewhere in Sentinels of Echo City, which I hope to have done and published by the end of the month.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Granularity in Sentinels of Echo City

My goodness but this game is sweet. Look, I've been posting for nigh on five years now, and have posted several hundred ramblings about my games and what I write. I use 'I' in too many sentences. My own games have a special place in my heart. I think that MTDAA the RPG is a fine RPG. It does what it sets out to do, has some nifty mechanics, and is a lot of fun to play. Saga of the Splintered Realm is a great retro-clone/pastiche/homage to B/X, and does exactly what I wanted it to do. It emulates old school gaming for me in exactly the way I want to experience it, with just the right amount of rules for me. It's the fantasy RPG I want to play.

I love those two games. I also have some fondness for other games I've written. There are some cool things in the various editions of Resolute. Some of my other fantasy games have had cool mechanics or a some clever ideas.

Sentinels of Echo City just blows them out of the water. It is doing things I didn't even know I wanted it to do. But, once I see that it does them, it makes me love it more. It's like the love child of B/X and FASERIP. It's like I got into a time machine and developed THE game I wanted to play when I was 13.

This is why. In every other game I've ever created, character creation is generally made as clean and direct as possible. I want you to get your character made and get on to playing. That aesthetic hasn't changed. What has changed is the honkin' GRANULARITY built into this thing. One of my favorite things to do when I was mowing the lawn at 13 years old was to make up superheroes. I'd be mowing the lawn with a notepad over to the side, and I'd stop and run over to the notepad, scribbling hero ideas. I always put them in FASERIP terms, because I liked the scale. You knew the Hulk was stronger than Thing, because he had Unearthy Strength, and the Thing only had Monstrous (yeah, ONLY monstrous. But you get my point). I liked that there was a difference between Iron Man (Incredible Strength), She-Hulk (Amazing), Thing or Colossus (Monstrous) and Hulk (Unearthly). Yes, I remembered those and did not have to look them up, in case you were wondering.

But SoEC has more granularity; by having attributes scale 2-25, and having a decisive break between 13 and 14 (human vs. superhuman), this game measures everything with considerable precision. I LOVE it that I can debate about whether the Hulk has STR 23, 24 or 25... you could argue any of them (I'd argue 24, shifting up to 25 when enraged, but you could argue 25 all the time, shifting to 26 and crazy land.. or you could argue 23 normally, but giving him a special form of rage that grants +2 and shifts him up to 25 when enraged. They are all defensible).   I love it that you can argue whether Spiderman's DEX is 18... or 19... or even 20. 18 and 19 are "Amazing" (his FASERIP agility), but you could argue that Spidey is borderline Monstrous (20). I'd go with 19 personally (high Amazing), but you could argue either 18 or 20, and not have to feel too bad that you were off base.

In short, this game allows me to create stats that reflect supers in a concrete way that defines them for me. I love that about it.

But I also love the flexibility and open-endedness on the GM/gameplay side. You see, a 'superheroic check' is a target 30 ability roll. For strength, this includes lifting any object between 10 and 100 tons. That's a big range. But, it's easy to adjudicate on the fly. However, the granularity on the character side makes a big difference in whether or not you can lift that tanker truck that weighs 60 tons; Spiderman (STR about 15) needs to roll a 15 or better on the die to do it; the Hulk (we'll go with 25 STR) needs only a 5. And, the Resolve mechanism (you get a pool of 1d6s each turn to add to rolls, based on your level) means that Hulk rarely needs to worry about failing that check.

Okay, enough gushing about my game... now back to work!

Elfin Prison at Chancel's Root Now Keyed and Ready to Go

I've posted the key (in both Word and pdf formats) on the Patreon Page for the elfin prison. I've also given it a new name... the last one was a little clunky. It is now the Elfin Prison at Chancel's Root, which is both more accurate (since Chancel is a huge tree, and it is buried into the root system of the tree), and a little cooler sounding. It's your classic win/win. I've posted this one for free, so that everyone can get it... the next few levels will be for patrons only. So, while you're on the Patreon page, you may as well sign up as a patron, and you could get regular updates of awesome stuff like this, too!

As with everything for Saga of the Splintered Realm, it is released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution License. The world is your oyster and all of that.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Prison at Et Chancel, Level 1

Here is the first level of the prison complex the heroes in this weekend's SSR game will be visiting. If you are a patron of my Patreon campaign, you already got this as a high resolution map, and patrons will also get a pdf of the key I use with it (after I finish it...).

It's included here for everyone to see as a lower-resolution version as well. As with all content for Saga of the Splintered Realm, this is released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution License.

Play Testing for Sentinels of Echo City

Here’s some play testing for Sentinels of Echo City, so you can see how it’s shaping up… I didn't post the first play test results, because they were, well, pretty bad. Some powers were broken right out of the gate. This turned out better.

Tribune is taking on Gila the Monster and 2 alligators.

Tribune, Hero 7
AC 17; HD 7d6 (hp 60); Feat +11; Move 40’ (fly 250’); strike (+11/1d10+6)
STR 18 (+6); INT 7 (-); PWR 12 (+3); DEX 12 (+3); CON 16 (+5); CHA 10 (+2)
Invulnerability; Flight (100’); Leadership; Pummel (1d10)

Gila the Monster, Villain 4
AC 14; HD 4d6 (hp 30); Feat +10; Move 40’; claw strike (+6/1d8+4)
STR 14 (+4); INT 5 (-1); PWR 7 (-); DEX 10 (+2); CON 14 (+4); CHA 4 (-1)
Amphibious; Communicate with amphibians; invulnerability; Pummel (d8); Sneak

Alligator (CL 3)
AC 14; HD 3d6 (hp 10); Feat +7; Move 30’ (swim 30’); 1 bite (+3/1d8)

- The alligators wait just under the surface as Tribune enters the sewers. I will grant them surprise. They come up snapping…
- A natural 1 for the first (and fails his Feat, so loses his next action), but natural 19+3=22 for the second. That’s a solid hit. For damage, it rolls 1, and breaks a few teeth on Tribune’s skin (his Invulnerability soaks up to 5 points from every attack).
- For his action, Tribune takes a mook attack against both of the alligators, rolling 13+11=22; he grabs one by the tail and swings it into the other. Each suffers 2+6=8 damage. Tribune uses a Resolve point here, taking +1d6 to damage and dealing another +4. He knocks both alligators out.
- Tribune rolls a contested Feat with Gila to see if he notices Gila sneaking up on him. Tribune rolls a natural 1, and Gila rolls 13+10=23. Gila is all over him, taking +2 to hit. Gila leaps from the shadows, rolling a natural 20! For damage, he rolls 8 on the die, doubled to 16+4=20 points of damage. That’s the best he could possibly do. He rends his claws down Tribune’s back; Tribune’s invulnerability soaks 5 of this, but he suffers 15 hp damage, and is down to 45 points. He has to roll a Feat or be knocked back. He rolls 18+11=29. He’s just fine.
- Tribune decides to use an alligator as a found weapon, using a minor action to grab the alligator by the tail, and swinging around to cold-clock Gila with it. He rolls 14+11-2=23 to hit. Whammo. For damage, he rolls 3+5+6=14 damage; Gila’s invulnerability soaks 4 of this, so he suffers 10 hp damage, and is down to 20.
- Gila attacks with 15+6=21 against Tribune’s AC 17. He hits. For damage, he rolls 7+4=11 points. Tribune’s invulnerability soaks 5; he suffers 6 hp damage, and is down to 39.
- Tribune swings away with the alligator again, rolling 12+11=23. Smack (I feel like I need especially wet sound effects here). For damage, he rolls 10+4+6=20 points. Gila’s invulnerability soaks 4, so he suffers 16 hp damage. He needs to roll a Feat or be knocked back: he rolls 4+10=14, and fails. He is slammed against the far sewer wall, suffering 2 more points; his invulnerability soaks all of this. However, it’s time for a morale check. He rolls 6+10=16, and fails. He dives into the murky water, and makes his sneak roll (getting 12+10=22). He’s gone.
- Tribune, because he suffered fewer than half of his hit points, can recover to full health by resting for 1 turn. He does.

AND THAT, my friends, is how a super-hero game should run... at least in my mind. It was fast, a little zany, and had a cool moment (using an alligator as a found weapon) that is supported by the rules and easily implemented in play.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A New View on Hit Points?

Quite a bit of digital ink (inky bytes?) has been allocated to arguing about how hit points work. Are they purely physical wounds, or are they an abstraction of all things that go into keeping you in a fight (willpower, grit, toughness, savvy, etc). In general, players tend to agree that it's both, and 4E attempted to split it down the middle (if I understand 4E correctly - which I could be wrong, so correct me as you see fit) with 'bloodied' being a point halfway through your HP where first blood has been drawn.

However, I don't see any reason why you can't just say that half of your hit points are health, and half are combat savvy. It doesn't have to be a top half/bottom half sort of thing. If you get shanked by a surprise attack with a poisoned blade, that is physical damage, buster. That's coming off the top. That sword blow to the gut? Yeah, it's mostly physical, but there's a real pain that lingers, and that makes you want to quit. It's drawing upon both sides of the hp equation at once. And that dragon breath that you made your Feat to resist but still suffered 15 hp damage? Yeah, that only singed your beard, but MAN are you ready to throw in the towel after that.

Why is this important?

Healing. Recovery. Down time.

You see, I don't like down time, but I also don't like a lot of mechanisms to resolve it. However, in a short period of time (no, I'm not calling it short rest), you can recover your willingness to fight, your moxy, and your breath. Sit down, have a drink of water (or something stronger), get a talking to from your friends, make sure your sword isn't broken, and you'll be good to go. You also recover up to half of your total hit points. 

That bloody wound on your leg? That's going to take some time. Bandage it up all you want - you need to rest it for a while or get some supernatural healing. That falls into the 'other half' of your hit points.

So, as a hero with 20 hit points, you will recover up to 10 by resting for 1 turn. You only took 7 points of damage that fight? Great. You're good to go at full hit points after resting for 1 turn. You took 15 points? Sorry, bucko. You can get 10 back, putting you at 15, but that last 5 is going to require a good night's sleep, a potion of healing, or a friendly cleric. The fight that took you right to your limits and dropped you to 0 hit points? You can get back to 10 after resting for 1 turn, but that other 10 reflects some deep wounds and severe bruising. 

Yeah, this leans more towards 5E, but I think is a bit simpler, and is something I'm going to hard-wire into the mechanics for Sentinels of Echo City.

For me, this mechanic didn't originate in 5E (or even D+D for that matter)... as I was working on a wrestling RPG 20 years ago, I was thinking about how to reflect the recovery that wrestlers get when they tag out in a tag team match. A guy will be borderline out, ready to be pinned, and tag out. He rolls out, exhausted, collapsing on the floor. However, 30 seconds later when he's tagged back in, he's good to go, fresh as a daisy, and ready to rumble. Superheroes can do the same thing. Give em a few minutes, and they are ready to go back to work. This also helps to offset the fact that opportunities for healing are few and far between in a superhero game, and when you change scenes, supers are generally back to full health (or very close to it). They are more likely to be at or near full capacity when they hit that final showdown with the super-villain.

A Simple, Clean Gaming Machine

Sentinels of Echo City barrels along. Today's solution is the use of Feats and attribute modifiers in resolving many game situations. When you are attempting to use a trait (an umbrella term for all powers and abilities) to manipulate or affect a creature in a way that's not a direct attack (mind control, draining their attributes, teleporting them across the room), I had been resolving these as contested Feat rolls - you and the target roll a Feat, and if you are successful, your trait works.

I didn't like this, because it didn't tie into attributes at all. And, now that I have POWER as an attribute, I wanted to make sure that got some love. However, I was running into two problems: POWER can out-scale Feats a bit, and that can create some balance issues; the bigger problem was that contested rolls, while sometimes necessary, aren't really in the spirit of B/X. All magic that controls/manipulates allows a saving throw, but doesn't require a roll on behalf of the caster. You don't roll to affect targets with your fireball; you roll for damage, and the target rolls a saving throw (Feat in SSR parlance) to resist.

I've found a hybrid I'm happy with. When you attempt to control a target's mind, the target rolls a Feat (target 20), but this target is adjusted by your CHA modifier. If you have really low CHA (say 5, a -1 modifier), the Feat is against target 19. If you have high CHA (say 15, a +4 modifier), the Feat is against target 24. This is clean (only one roll to resist), keeps things on the same scale, is in the spirit of B/X, maintains balance, and allows for a difference between high and low attribute scores in how effective your traits are. Sounds like a win to me.