Tuesday, April 26, 2016

An Update on all things Desing

I've been flying sort of under the radar lately, and there's a good reason. I have recently been accepted into the doctoral studies program at Grand Canyon University, pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership K-12. My end goal is to move from being a classroom teacher to a building or district level administrator, and ultimately into the role of superintendent of schools somewhere.

My journey has already started, and the initial reading is already daunting. Everything I have read and encountered suggests that I am going to need to make this a key focus of my life, putting all of my free time (and much of my currently allocated time) into my studies... for the next three and a half years.

So while this doesn't mean that I will not be writing any more RPGs or publishing any more game content, it means that I am shifting my priorities around considerably, and I don't see any way that I will be able to publish with any frequency or consistency.

I'm very glad for the decision I made to publish games under a creative commons license. I hope that the games I have published continue to live on and grow despite my relatively minor involvement in their development for the foreseeable future.

I plan to try to maintain a weekly schedule with Teaching Ted, since that requires a minimal commitment at this point to keep it rolling. I'll be taking down my Patreon page in the next few days (to keep people from being charged for next month), and I'd expect that I'll be even scarcer of a presence here.

I wish you all well on whatever path your road continues to lead you. I would truly appreciate your prayers as I head down mine.

All my best.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Lincoln Station Stories

+Christopher Cortright has posted his supplement for Sentinels of Echo City, a city sourcebook called Lincoln Station Stories. It's a solid city resource (and is more fully developed than my own setting, Echo City, which has only been presented in broad strokes so far). Just reading through the book I had a half dozen ideas for adventures, and he's got some cool, unique concepts throughout that give the setting flavor. You should head over to rpgnow and throw a few dollars his way!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Lulu Free Shipping

Dang. Wish that I was finalizing a Kickstarter today... although for you it might be a good time to get caught up with some books you're missing. Just saying.

Lulu has free shipping today. Here's the e-mail they sent me...

It's everyone's favorite discount - free mail shipping. That's right, the books you want delivered free. Here's a tip to save money and make it easier on your postman, divide your larger deliveries into smaller orders. 

Today only, enter code GLOSHIP75 at checkout and get free mail shipping. Expires tonight,  March 22 at 11:59 PM. Remember, coupon codes are CASE-SENSITIVE.

The fine print: This offer is applicable to listed products only.  Weight and destination restrictions may apply. This offer cannot be combined with other offers and cannot be applied to previous purchases. 

Order today and save on shipping.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Teaching Ted Kickstarter

So I've launched a KS for something completely non-gaming related. I'm collecting my webcomics for Teaching Ted into one volume, and I've got some teacher swag to go with it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Twitter Stuff

I don't know how many of you care about twitter, but I have an account there in case you want to follow along with my occasional musings and comic updates:


Kirby from the new ants comic has set up his own account as well:


And by the way, a new ants page is up today. So there's that.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Get Yer Free Shippin Here!

Thanks to +magehammer Chad for the heads-up. You should be able to use code MARSHIP to get free shipping at Lulu for the next day or so... it looks like it's US only, but now might be a good time to stock up on some books... just sayin'.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Shards of Tomorrow Revised and in Print

Look at me, a whole 50 minutes early!

The revised pdf for Shards of Tomorrow is now available on RPGNow. This includes minor corrections based on the errata that people had suggested or which I had found. I ended up not including an appendix on companions, because I wasn't really happy with how it was turning out, and I decided to save it for the next issue of Splintered Realms Magazine.

You can also order your copy of the print edition now, BUT if you purchased the pdf, you should follow the link in the revised file (bottom of the last page) to get the $5 discount on the print edition.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Splintered Realms Magazine #1 Now Available

The first issue of Splintered Realms Magazine is now available as a pay-what-you-want download.

This ongoing publication is your go-to resource for the old-school games Saga of the Splintered Realm, Sentinels of Echo City, and Shards of Tomorrow. Resources for all three of these B/X-inspired games will appear in every issue.

Even if you don’t play these games, the resources herein can be used for any old-school game with minimal tinkering. And, because it’s all released under either a Creative Commons License or the Open Game License, you can take the content and use it anywhere, and anyhow, you want.

This first issue includes new archetypes and a campaign setting for Saga of the Splintered Realm, a cosmic adversary and GM guidelines for Sentinels of Echo City, along with a guide to bounty hunters and stellar random encounters for Shards of Tomorrow.

In the long-standing tradition of comics artists, the cover of this issue is a tribute to the frontpiece of the greatest edition of any game ever published.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Revamped Ants Site

The army ants site has seen a complete overhaul, and is about ready for the launch of my new series, Venn Golrik: Last of the Ants. I will be updating this twice a week (the plan is Tuesdays and Saturdays), while I continue to update Teaching Ted on Monday/Wednesday/Friday every week. The ants strips will be in full color, so I simplified the layout and color palette of the site. I still have some work to do on the data files page (as in, creating one) and I still have some lingering pieces of the old navigation menu on the main page that you can eventually hover over if you try. However, I'm happy with how it's turned out, and I'm especially happy with the revised collage cover page, which I decided to re-format after I changed around some characters and realized it should be formatted landscape for the page.

Now, I have to finish work on the update to Shards of Tomorrow, and the first issue of Splintered Realms Magazine...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Venn Golrik Cover Poster

I've wanted to do a movie-style poster for one of my stories for nigh on twenty years.
Today I finally did it. I'm really digging where this is going :)

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Patreon Appeal

I don't do a lot of pitching of my Patreon Campaign, but I've been thinking a bit about this, and how I want to use it. I've been somewhat idiosyncratic about it, since I do a lot of things. Am I a cartoonist? A game publisher? Both? On one hand, I'd like to come forward with a polished, clear 'this is what it is' sales pitch, but the fact is that Patreon itself is designed around the concept that it's NOT a sales pitch. It's a chance for people to support a creative person who just does what he does.

So, I want to continue to be a creative person who just does what he does. I am asking you to help me do that.

I produce several things with some regularity:

- This blog serves as the hub for my gaming publishing activities. I've finished my 'triple crown' of games, but would really like to spend the next phase of my game publishing career creating support material for the game, and (even more important) empowering the community to generate their own content. I see the Patreon page as a place where I regularly post content for others to use. For example, I would like to post regular (weekly?) stock images under creative commons for the community to take and use in their products. Instead of drawing content for my publications, I'd actually post it for yours. This would include stock art for all of my games, as well as maps, ship schematics, etc.

- I've got a regular (three-day-a-week) comic strip about life in public education called Teaching Ted. It's a fun strip that I enjoy doing, and which allows me to do something productive with the frustrations that arise from seeing how public education works from the inside.

- I'm launching a new strip in the world of the army ants set in the far future. This is still in its infancy, but I'm excited about the possibilities for it.

I'm literally asking you to consider signing up for a dollar or two a month. It would mean a great deal to me.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

So all of my many projects have come together in the last few days, as I've realized that one of the stories I've always wanted to tell of the Army Ants works even better when set in a future where the ants have been completely wiped out... and I've just published a game where the main nation has been wiped out. In the future.

Basically, I'm launching a comic strip set in the world of Shards of Tomorrow, but the entire thing is shrunk to the perspective of an ant. I've even taken my main character from the game, Golrik Venn, and made him an ant named Venn Golrik.

The strip launches soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Comic Thing

This evening I was thinking about all of the things I love, and ended up starting this... I don't know what it is going to be yet, if anything, but I guess that it's something right now.

LEGO Update

The Shard Drifter continues to come together, although figuring out how all of these angled plates are going to ultimately work together is something of a mystery at present... and then the whole stability/swooshability issue will have to be solved. But, it's progress... and I am especially proud of the little escape pod/scout ship that fits in the engineering bay at the back :)

Also, Grace decided to make her own junker, the Nastia, named after the famous gymnast.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

LEGO Shard Drifter

So Golrik Venn has been hard at work on his junker, and it's coming along nicely. Here are steps one through three of the construction process... 1) I set out the basic layout; 2: I linked the pieces together on the undercarriage for stability (along with the loading ramp); 3) I put on the framework that will hold the deck in place; and 4) I put the floor in.

I had to turn my Star Destroyer to scrap for this to happen, but I don't have room to display it anyway, and it's been in pieces for a bit.

Good times.

Shard Drifter

Although the Void Splicer was my first 'junker' for Shards of Tomorrow, it was a little small and limited, and I didn't really like how it worked for long-term play. It was an 'ultra-lite junker', all things considered. I've decided to upgrade to a different ship with more nooks and crannies. I present to you the Shard Drifter... a ship I am probably going to make out of LEGO at some point soon :) When I do, I am totally posting pictures...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Freemaker Adventures

So I'm maybe a little TOO excited about the Freemaker Adventures. I could never get all that into the Rebels show (not sure why), but this seems right in my wheelhouse. Basically, the concept for this show is almost exactly how I picture an ideal Shards of Tomorrow campaign running. Swap out the dad for a gnorom tinker (I wanted to do a drawing of one where he has a big wrench on his shoulder, just like that... but I'd already done an ant image like that a while back)... so the mom is the terran adventurer, the son is the terran templar, they have a S-Series service bot, and they're flying a junker. It will take every bit of my willpower not to immediately stat up these characters and their ship after watching the first episode.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Some Shards Actual Play

I actually got to play this afternoon with my friend and his son, and we made a few discoveries...

My friend played a synthoid. Their omni-knowledge is AWESOME if played well. He had INT 14 (we started at level 3) and was able to interface with the computer aboard the orak gunship from the core rules. In a few seconds, he had completely overridden their controls, and had gathered all of the information from the ship's database. He was able to remotely trigger a self-destruct mechanism as they were leaving aboard an orak interceptor. Seriously cool stuff, and easily supported by the rules (it was both challenging and awesome, requiring a roll of 30. He rolled 17 on the die with his INT 14, so he snuck it through the uprights).

His son played a terran templar, and the stunts balance very well. He tried to use a suggestion on one of the guards but failed, and then had to wait until next turn to call his sun blade to his hand, and cut himself out of the chains, which worked. 

We played with the rules for generating junkers, and we ended up with a junker that had a dependability of 2! It broke down twice during a short combat, and only escaped because he was able to get the jump drive back online and win initiative before three interceptors finished the ship off. It was down to 2 hp when it jumped.


I'm giving the rules for XP some serious thought. I wanted to honor the original XP system from Saga of the Splintered Realm, but a different XP system may be in order, closer to the one in Sentinels of Echo City. Right now, I can see that any Junker is going to require the credits to be coming in hand over fist just to keep it running, and the XP balance on that is going to be somewhat difficult. Plus, the game lends itself to making off with vehicles valued in the tens of thousands of credits, meaning that you'd be getting routine (and unbalancing) XP spikes. This will be addressed in the March 1 update. 

Shards of Tomorrow Errata

As I hear from players and spend more time in the rules, I'm sure that more things that need to be corrected/clarified will rise to the surface. I was intentional in waiting a month to release the print edition, because I knew there would be something somewhere that would need a tweak. On this thread I will post all of the errata for Shards as it comes up:

- Junkers start with a dependability of 2d4.
- Junkers start with speed of 1d10+10.
- The Junker Profile will be updated with these two attributes.
- Synthoids can survive in the vacuum of space; they do not need to eat or breathe.
- The nuaru must be lawful. There is a comment about chaotic nuaru, but that will be removed.


Also, some changes I know will be coming with the March 1 update:

- An additional appendix will outline followers: your first mate, wingman, or best friend; that guy who is always by your side. The player classes will be available for the role, but I will also include a few other besties, including an advanced bot and a myconoid fungus dude.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Banner for Shards of Tomorrow

Here's the banner I'll be putting up on RPGNow tomorrow... after I launch the game tomorrow afternoon! It needs one final editing sweep before I feel comfortable releasing it into the wild (putting it at roughly 99.9% done), and then you'll be able to pick up your very own copy. I think the banner below is hi-lar-ee-ous, but Mary sort of shook her head at me. Maybe I've been working on this too long...

Obligatory 99% Done Post

Shards of Tomorrow is at 99% done, and only needs a final editing sweep, page numbers citations throughout, and an index. That, my friends, is what we call nearly in the books.

There is a LOT I love about this game, but my favorite thing is the rules for rolling up and playing your own junker. This game within a game of keeping your starship going and just keeping up with the basic maintenance is just so much fun... here's the character sheet for your starship...

By the way, I'm thinking that one of the ads for the game is a starship bumper sticker that says "I got 99 problems, but my junker ain't one of them."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Introductory Adventure Map

For the starter adventure, I wanted to give a scenario that GMs would be able to use in a variety of ways. I decided that the opener has to do with an Orak Gunship. I'm going to stat it up, and then provide a few different hooks for ways to use it, rather than a single linear adventure. Here's the map of the gunship... my favorite iteration has all of the Orak turned into zombies, and the PCs sent to steal the five Orak interceptors for a local guild master; their payment would be that they'd be allowed to keep one of the interceptors. This has a lot of potential for fun.

I have a hand-drawn map of the interior of an Orak ship, but I like this one (computer-generated) better than my hand-drawn style for the game. Starships would be more mechanical and precise than the more earthy Dyson-inspired maps I usually do...

A Nomenclature of Planets

In developing the campaign setting for Shards of Tomorrow, I am working on names for planets and other heavenly bodies. I want something that sounds both familiar and unusual, classic and yet offbeat. I think I've come up with a solution that checks all the boxes and fits my personality... Shakespeare!

The suns would be named after the main characters for a number of plays, with the planets and planet-like objects named after other characters from the plays. These are easy to remember, evoke the right feeling, and actually suggest some of the relationships between planets or their nature... for instance:

Prospero is the original system of the Confederacy, and was once the most settled and prosperous, but now is (largely) in ruin. The vast celestial sea connects the thousands of small fragments of what was once the planet Ariel. The planet Caliban is a wild planet of monstrous lifeforms, and home to the kobo. Miranda is a settled and colonized world, the new home of terrans after the destruction of Ariel, and the homeworld of the gnorom.

Romeo and Juliet are binary stars. Two of the largest planets, Montague and Capulet, are powerful trade worlds in competition with each other. Tybalt is a planet at war, barren and hot. Friar is a small planet of deeply religious philosophers, and homeworld to the nuaru.

Hamlet is a system in conflict. Ophelia is a watery world, home to the Trog. Laertes is a tempestuous planet. Polonius is a gas giant. Claudius II is the new homeworld to the Orak, who were moved there as a prison colony, but they rebelled and took the planet over.

Macbeth is a dark and backwards system of savage peoples. The small planets orbiting this relatively cold star, Banquo, Macduff, Duncan, all share the qualities of being generally inhospitable and barren, with a variety of challenging climates. Malcolm and Donalbain are more hospitable but relatively unsettled planets, with rich natural resources and pockets of civilization.

Othello was the system of the Orak, but it is now destroyed. It serves as the location of the Shadow's Rift, the black hole leading into the Void. Two planets orbit the black hole, Desdemona and Iago. Both are barren worlds teeming with dark forces. However, both also have the remains of valuable artifacts and relics of the times before buried deep underground.

See? It just all fits together so nicely. Shakespeare provided such a nice variety of characters and settings for his plays, so borrowing these provides instant variety and consistency to the planets. That, my friends, is what you call a win.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Love It When A Game Comes Together

Shards of Tomorrow is coming along quite nicely. I'm somewhere in the vicinity of 90% done with the rulebook, and the heavy lifting is pretty much done. I like where it's gone, and it has a nice blend of my favorite sci fi tropes without being especially beholden to any one brand. It has some heavy elements of Star Wars for sure, but there's enough Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek in there, along with smidges of Firefly and Guardians of the Galaxy, to give it a real comprehensive feel while still being internally consistent. I can't say it's my 'best' work, because I don't even know how I'd measure such a thing, but it feels very complete and focused. I'm looking forward to releasing it into the wild. I need a few days for writing, and a few more for editing, and it really needs another half dozen or so illustrations, so I'd expect a few weeks yet, but you never know.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Okay. Now I'm Done. I'm Dropping the Mic and Everything

Here's a FINAL layout of the various ships that will be in the core rules for Shards of Tomorrow. Even if (or rather when) I draw a whole bunch of additional ships, I'm still stopping here for the core rules. This gives a wide range of starcraft to cover almost any situation you might run across. I added a few details to some of the ships, popped in the new ones, measured, named and categorized them all. This process has really helped me to understand the various forces involved, and the ways in which they interact. Obviously, the Confederacy of Systems was the major producer of starships, but the forces of the Void have produced two, a big carrier and smaller interceptors, and the Orak have produced two as well, a gunship and an interceptor. I see the Orak ships as heavy duty but slow, while the void interceptor is exceptionally light and quick, but easy to destroy once you lock on with your blast cannon.

I Need A Starship Intervention

Remember when I said I wasn't posting any more starships? I LIED!

Okay, I meant it when I said it... and then I opened MS Paint and kept playing. I absolutely LOVE how these are coming out. In order, we have...

1. A planetary aircar that would be used by local police forces for patrol.
2. A gunship of the Confederacy.
3. An Orak Interceptor.
4. An Orak Heavy Gunship.

In general, I'm seeing spaceships in this game being on the smaller side in regards to ships in sci fi pop culture. The largest ship I've designed so far is 465' long, so something on the order of the SW Blockade Runner. I suppose I view this a little more medieval in terms of starship design... we have the large ironclads that would have been around in the Civil War era, but the era of the massive battleship has not yet dawned. I'd say it would be a good campaign hook to be working on one, or trying to prevent the enemy from developing one...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Final Starship Post For a While... I Think

This should be the last starship post for a bit... right? I went through and re-scaled ships to show relationships between various craft, and this gives me a good variety of ships. I probably need to add one or two large starships (but not capital ships) to span the difference between the dropship and the smallest capital ship.

Starships of the Void

I've designed a number of terran ships, but I thought it was time to knock out a few ships of the bad guys, the fiends and undead of the Void. The first ship is a battle carrier (maybe 1000' long) that goes on deep-space missions, while the second is a ghoul interceptor (maybe 25' long), which is so named because... well... it's piloted by a ghoul. These things have the unfair advantage of having void-based weapons, which fire charges of anti-matter that do all sorts of badness.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

More Ships

Okay, now I'm just having too much fun. Here are a few more ships... the first two are my takes on something about the size of the SW Blockade Runner (about that size), what would have been an escort ship for one of the big Battle Carriers of the Confederacy. I see the first as a supply or medical ship, while the second would be more military in nature, but both comparable in size (maybe 700' to 1000' long). The third ship is a smaller dropship, but I could easily see these being prime candidates for retro-fitting by smugglers and mercenaries as personal craft, with jump drives bolted on and some of the troop hold filled with additional oxygen filtration so that the ship would be viable for long-term travel through space. I like the bulky look of the last one... and that it just has a single big, chunky cannon sitting on top.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Let’s break down weapons systems…

A pistol can fire twice per round, deals 1D; range is in feet (half range); cost x1

A rifle can fire once per round, deals 2D; range is in feet; cost x2

A heavy rifle can fire once per round, deals 3D; range is in feet (double range); cost x5. A heavy rifle cannot normally be carried into combat, and requires two operators to move (although STR 14+ would allow a character to wield a heavy rifle in combat normally).

A light cannon fires once per round, deals 4D; range is x1; cost x20; base targeting +1

A medium cannon fires once per round, deals 5D; range is x2; cost x50; base targeting +1

A heavy cannon fires once per round, deals 6D; range is x3; cost x100; base targeting +1

Blast weapons deal D6 damage, base range 60/1, base cost 25 sc

Pulse weapons deal D8 damage, base range 120/2, base cost 50 sc

Phase weapons deal D10 damage, base range 180/3, base cost 100 sc

Weapon Breakdown (damage; range; cost)
1d6; 30’; 25 sc
1d8; 60’; 50 sc
1d10; 90’; 100 sc
2d6; 60’; 50 sc
2d8; 120’; 100 sc
2d10; 180’; 200 sc
Heavy Rifle
3d6; 120’; 125 sc
3d8; 240’; 250 sc
3d10; 360’; 500 sc
Light Cannon
4d6; 1 mile; 500 sc
4d8; 2 miles; 1,000 sc
4d10; 3 miles; 2,000 sc
Medium Cannon
5d6; 2 miles; 1,000 sc
5d8; 4 miles; 2,000 sc
5d10; 6 miles; 4,000 sc
Heavy Cannon
6d6; 3 miles; 2,000 sc
6d8; 8 miles; 4,000 sc
6d10; 12 miles; 8,000 sc

For example, a planetary patrol vehicle is likely to have a heavy rifle position affixed to the top. A planetary tank or standard starship interceptor is likely to have a light cannon affixed. A medium freighter or similar vehicle may have a medium cannon, or a pair of light cannons. A heavy gunship may sport a pair of heavy cannons and eight medium cannons.

Blast weapons are the most common, and the most readily available. The make use of fundamental energy production technologies to focus a burst of accelerated particles at relatively short range. They were the first energy weapons created, and have found renewed popularity since the Messari returned. Many gno tinkers have made a name for themselves as developers of blast weapons, hand-crafting these in their personal workshops.

Pulse weapons emit focused lasers, giving better range and effectiveness compared to blast weapons, but with greater cost. Pulse weapons were the heart of the Confederate army before the Messari, but many have been destroyed, and their production facilities have been all but wiped out. It is difficult to craft pulse weapons without considerable production facilities.

Phase weapons are somewhat controversial, since they rely on subatomic fusion, and may in fact channel some form of anti-matter in their processing. These are exceptionally rare, powerful, and expensive weapons. It’s not likely that you’ll be able to purchase a heavy phase cannon to strap to the top of your modified transport. These also require precise engineering, and are difficult to manufacture without exceptional resources.

I like this breakdown, because it clearly sets everything out and provides a lot of variety.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Minimalistic ship designs

In thinking about how to visually depict ships and other vehicles in the core rules, I am leaning towards the minimalist shadow forms like I used in the Army Ants rules. Here are some samples I worked up really quick... the first few are too small in terms of file size (I'll have to re-do those), but the last two are probably big enough files that they look good when reduced. The first few are too small and you can see the pixels, but the last two are about the right size.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

BSG and Star Trek Mashup Notes

In thinking about both Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, I came up with these notes to guide the next layer of the game...

Valhalla's Blade, the Last Battle Carrier
The last of the Heavy Battle Carriers from the Confederate Armada, Valhalla’s Blade returned from a three-year mission to explore the Frontier to find that the Confederacy had been wiped out. They have aboard a large number of military aircraft, a contingent of soldiers of the Confederacy, and a handful of Synthoid officers.

Synthoid are mechanical life forms. They are highly logical and incredibly intelligent. They are able to perform scientific and medical feats that most living creatures are incapable of, their synthetic brains operating at the highest levels of efficiency.

Synthoid Directives:
- Life is inherently valuable, and destruction of life must be avoided when possible.
- The mind is the greatest of all faculties.
- Adherence to lawful behavior is the best means for a just society.

Synthoids were part of the Synthoid project (now defunct) that sought to create a race of creatures that would be helpful to mankind, able to process information as a computer but interact as a human being. While only a few hundred synthoids made it into circulation among the fleet, thousands more remained in stasis.

Some ideas for Synthoid abilities:
+LM to INT
Science or Medicine as an innate trait
Immune to mind control, or any power that affects the mind
Immune to undead drain, or comparable abilities
+4 to all rolls to resist poisons, toxins, disease or other maladies

Aboard Yahalla’s Blade are 24 Synthoids ready for activation who are still dormant. The captain is weighing the need to activate these, and new player characters could be synthoids who he activates, or synthoids who were recovered from other locales after they were bombed/ruined by the Messari.

Delta 13, The Rogue Synthoid

Casting off his Terran name of Gregory, this synthoid (originally called Delta 13) changed his own programming, concerned that the value of life and adherence to law were innately incompatible directives. He was the first mate on the Battle Carrier Valhalla’s Call. He killed the captain and directed the ship to attack the moon of Vessex II, destroying a Confederate weapons operation on the planet that had gone on strike over payment disputes. When the crew mutinied, he changed the atmospheric calibration to slowly suffocate the entire crew, while he was able to adjust to the lower oxygen levels. He replaced the entire crew with bots, and continues to pilot the ship, seeking to mete out law and order on a grand scale.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Simulation Results for Shards of Tomorrow

So, instead of 'play testing' per se, I'm working on simulations... instead of making up a bunch of characters and having them explore, I'm playing with how well the game simulates what I want it to do. I know that the engine works, since it's the same engine I've refined over the last two games. However, I'm looking for subtle nuances and options that do a better job emulating the genre than just 'SSR in space'.

To that end, I ran a simulation of the Battle of Hoth today (well, the first three rounds of it... it's a big battle), and made a few discoveries:

The vehicle rules I have going so far are SPOT ON. The AT-ATs felt and behaved like AT-ATs in combat, the snow speeders felt and behaved like snow speeders. An AT-AT was able to one-shot a snow speeder, and the speeders had great difficulty penetrating the armor and shielding of the AT-ATs, but the numbers were all manageable and generally small.

I had to find a mechanical solution to "Luke gets an idea to trip the AT-ATs", and the solution solves many problems at once. Tinkering (the gnome ability... or whatever I end up calling Gnomes... right now I'm leaning towards the Gno because they 'know' stuff... get it?) will allow you to make a supernatural Feat (target 30) to discern a weakness in enemy mechanical instruments, or a mechanical solution to the problem.

I know that Luke isn't a gnome tinker (or maybe he IS... that's the big reveal of Episode 8, or so I've heard), but his use of mysticism allows him to spend a point to make a CHA check instead of an INT check to mimic a Tinker check by using 1 of his 2 stunts this turn. In this case, he has CHA 14 (he's just an apprentice still, probably level 3, giving a +2 shift to his starting CHA of 12 at character creation). He needs to roll a 16 on the die to make the check (not likely, but possible) and does. He intuits that the walkers are weak on the top, and they could be tripped with tow cables. The GM resolves it this way:

The GM reveals that a successful attack with tow cables (requiring an attack roll at -2) will allow the speeder to spend the next round winding cables around the legs. On a successful Control roll, the pilot will trip the walker, which will disable it, and give +4 to attack rolls against it, in a location that has no shielding, and where the hull is only 2 points (instead of the 10 points of the rest of the walker). Any successful hit against that spot automatically scores critical damage.

Basically, this allows only tinkers or templars to have a chance to do something like this (and Tinkers more often and with more success, because of their nature). Others (like Solo or Chewbacca) probably have picked up tinkering as a talent, and could also try this.

Even better, it gives the GM a lot of flexibility to decide things on the fly that will alter the outcome of a battle or change the dynamics in play dramatically. However, it requires a successful check by someone with exceptional training or ability to set the wheels in motion, and it can't be done all the time - there's some resource requirement to get the idea. In this case, Luke didn't just 'think of the idea', it was inspired by the living force.

The other takeaway (for the GM section) is that not all battles are about 'winning'. In this case, the goal is to hold off the walkers from getting to and destroying the shield generator that prevents bombing and dropships from entering from above. Your goal isn't to win... it's to keep the enemy from getting to a specific point for as long as you can, or holding them at bay for a certain amount of time until the rest of your group can escape.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made A Choice

I am waffling really badly on the various options for character archetypes in Shards of Tomorrow. On one hand, I'd like for the core rules to have 6-8 archetypes that give you a wide range of options for play. On the other hand, I'd like for the core rules to give you a handful of exceptional options. Right now, here's what I'm locking in on...

Terran Mercenary. This is the jack of all trades archetype. A good selection of weapons and armor, and exceptional access to talents. If you want to be a normal human, you play a terran mercenary and customize your archetype from there.

Terran Templar. Holy knights able to wield energy in a different way from the Nuaru Seekers. I like the balance that the Templar are the warrior arm of the church, and the Nuaru Seekers are the priestly branch. They would take automatic bonuses to CHA equal to their LM. They link their casting to CHA, making them more like paladins/bards than clerics in how their powers work.

Gnorom Tinker. Descended from gnomes, they are able to thief-type stuff but also are masters at machinery and tinkering weapons and vehicles, allowing you to get more out of your stuff. They get automatic bonuses to INT.

Nuaru Seeker. Descended from celestials and elves, these are the only pure casters. They are largely clerics, with the ability to compel those of the void and cast spells just like clerics. They take automatic bonuses to their WIS equal to their LM.

Trog Warrior. Descended from troglodytes, they are the pure fighters, with heavy weapons and armor. They are amphibious and regenerate 1 hp per round. They take automatic increases to CON equal to their LM.

These are familiar enough to be easy to conceptualize, but new enough to make them fun and different. I know that this is in large part a departure from some previous thinking, but I'm trying to balance out the archetypes and spread the various abilities around to make them all fun to play.

I see a number of other racial archetype possibilities (like the amoeba people, or creatures descended from the myconids, or a goblinoid race attuned to flame), but these all seem more marginal. The five archetypes above seem most fun, versatile, and general/specific at the same time.