Saturday, September 8, 2018

One of my goals

For a long time, I have admired Dyson Logos and his incredible skill. I have sometimes wondered why I even bother making maps, when he produces so many that are so strong, and many of these he releases under a creative commons license so that I could just pick 'em up and drop 'em into a module. His maps are consistently excellent, inspiring adventures that I wouldn't have thought of otherwise. However, sometimes he goes next level on me and I cannot even handle it. This is one example.

This map doesn't just inspire an adventure, but an entire series of modules. Suddenly, I have the idea for a campaign (loosely inspired by the Desert of Desolation Series) where the PCs are wandering the Astral Realm in a celestial skiff searching out pieces of an artifact while investigating all sorts of strange strongholds such as this that hold all manner of weird possibility.

This is just fantastic stuff.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Tales of the Splintered Realm Now Available

The core module for Tales of the Splintered Realm is now live. Go ahead and get your pay-what-you-want download for free, and when you realize that it is totally worth a thousand dollars, go ahead and plunk that down later on.

Let me know what you think of it, and I would be very appreciate of any reviews people would care to post. It's the best of Saga of the Splintered Realm, but even cleaner and more direct.

I am going to try for monthly module updates, and at only 8 pages a piece, that should be pretty doable. I have the first four or five planned out, but let me know what you'd like to see and I'll try to get it into the pipeline.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Simplify, Simplify: FEATS

So, the game has, since its inception, had two types of FEATs: those you roll against the static target of 20, and those you roll against another creature; you are trying to pick a lock, so that's resisted statically. You are trying to sneak by the guard, so that's resisted actively.

Except it doesn't have to be.

The thing is, this really only matters for sense checks. Everything else falls onto the static continuum. However, I can bump sense a little bit; instead of rolling a Feat, you instead impose your sense modifier as a penalty to the opponent's FEAT check. So, the guard with keen senses imposes a -2, the elfin master hunter imposes -4, and the elder dragon guarding its massive hoard imposes -6.

Easy to the peasy.

That just took out a LOT of language about how to determine FEAT ratings, how to resolve ties...

And, again, it better aligns with the source material. Red Box expected the thief to try to move silently or hide in shadows as a percentage chance of success; the foe you were hiding from was of secondary import.

Why I'm Excited About Tales of the Splintered Realm

I know that I get excited about each of my releases, and that I have a bit of a bias towards something that I've invested time and energy into. That said, I have a few reasons to be particularly excited about the rules for Tales of the Splintered Realm.

1. I have a plan for updates that I can actually, you know, UPDATE. The reality of online game publishing is that you need to be turning out new products and updates in order to keep the game alive. People are going to move on. It's the nature of the beast. the reality of my life is that I have neither the time nor energy for routine updates of 20+ pages. The entire model of the game is predicated on having the ability to constantly provide smaller niche updates that move the game in new directions. The 'core' of what you need is right here in 16 pages. It's all of the basic rules, and enough character archetypes, magic, monsters, and treasure to get you started and keep you playing for a while. It's the best of the red book of D+D. When paired with the existing SSR rules, which are still a pay-what-you-want download by the way and easily backwards compatible (I'll post about conversions soon), you have a WIDE range of options.

2. I have an actual plan to get YOU involved in growing the game. As I've been thinking about it more and more, one of the things that has allowed D+D to grow and thrive was that it was not just one vision for the game; D+D was the messy stew of a hundred different designers all pitching in. This was a big part of what has made D+D so wild and chaotic over the years. If you have ideas and a Paypal account (you will need both), I will publish your work (and do the layout; and provide a little art if you'd like); you can publish expansion modules through Splintered Realms Publishing as 'official releases'. I'll say more about this soon. I am thinking of this as the "Ed Greenwood" model; he started by fleshing out parts of his game world through shorter pieces in Dragon Magazine, and eventually created an important corner of the larger D+D universe. You could decide to publish your own collection of monsters, or spells, or items, or an adventure... and start building your own corner of the Splintered Realm. And, if it sells a million copies, I guess you've just made a lot of money. I figure that people will want my core rules to get your amazing supplements, and I get to keep all of the yummy publisher points so I can roll advertising forward, so it's a win/win.

Of course, you can also publish your own expansions on your own, and I'll soon share the template that I use so that you can just go in and plug in your own content and build you competing empire that sells millions of copies and when you get the designer of the year award at GenCon and you don't even mention my name and I'm crying in a corner somewhere I will bring up this blog post and tell everyone about it and no one will care because you are so cool.


The game is done, but I'm spending a few days on edits so that this little package is wrapped up with a bow. I don't want a single typo, and at only 16 pages (one of which is the OGL), I should be able to do this.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

K.I.S.S. the Splintered Realm Hello

As I refine and refine, I keep going back and forth on a few issues. In the end, I think I am going to go with the simplest option for each problem, because the simplest is the easiest to remember, it takes up the least space, and at the end of the day you don't lose anything from the play experience by taking the simpler option that the more complex option would have given you...

FEATs. FEATs have grown a bit since the original SSR rules. In the supers game, the DT of a FEAT is relative to the power and level of the foe; Magneto's magnetic control is more difficult to resist than the Magnet Kid's (I just made him up, so (c) that immediately and wait for the royalty checks to roll in) magnetic control would be. By the same token, the breath weapon of a huge elder dragon is more difficult to resist than the breath weapon of a young wyrmling. Except it doesn't need to be. In several situations the FEAT is only allowing you to minimize the damage; you still get hit, and you still take damage, and this as scaled based on the level of the foe. Okay. Then there's this problem: if your FEAT modifiers scale with the foes, you basically always have the same chance of success; you never 'feel' like you are getting better, because the difficulty of the situation is also getting harder. In that case, why have FEATs at all? Why not have everything be a 50/50 chance? If I got to take +7 at level 1 to pick DT 20 locks, and now at level 6 I take a mighty +12 against DT 25 locks... I am no better off. The game is more complex, sure, but for no notable gain, and possibly for a loss. It's much easier to say that the DT for all Feats is 20, and then create a few basic modifiers; a good lock is always at -2 to the FEAT. This is how it is in the original SSR rules, and it's staying. I toyed with the Sentinels model, but it doesn't make as much sense here. This target 20 actually aligns better with the source material; your saving throw vs. Dragon breath is always the saving throw. It gets better as you get better, and is rarely dependent on the specifics of the dragon who is doing the breathing.

Magical Bonuses. This is always one of the big bugaboos. How do you balance magical benefits? I don't like the complex array of stacking; this item gives a benefit, unless it is with this item, then you take the better of the two; but in some cases, you get to take a third bonus, but only if the first bonus is not from a ring.
I am thinking of a simple hard cap on magical bonuses. You are limited to a magical bonus to any ability, attribute, or quality of + your level. At level 2, your magical bonus to AC can be no better than +2 altogether. This could be from a ring that grants AC +1 and a shield that grants +1 AC, or from a spell that grants +2 AC. Doesn't matter. You cap at your level. This means that a level 6 character could conceivably run around with magical +6 to attack, damage, attributes, Feats... okay. These are endgame characters. I'm cool with that. So, a level 1 character can pick up a sword that gives +3 to attack and damage, but he cannot use the full power of the sword yet; he just isn't powerful enough to wield it, so he gets +1 to hit and damage. I actually like this a lot, because a character could start with an heirloom weapon or suit of armor and not know its full benefit until a few levels are achieved and it stops getting better...

Magic. I have WAY simplified the magic system. I like it. As a caster, you can cast one spell of each spell tier you have per turn. If you are a level 3 primary caster (like a magic user), you get a tier 1, 2, and 3 spell each turn. You want to throw fireball every turn? Fine. You only get one, so I hope it counts. This at least requires some level of diversity. In fact, this better aligns with the movies that I often try to emulate; a wizard never just stands there delivering the same spell over and over. The wizard draws different spells from his repertoire, throwing an assortment of different magic at his foes. Mechanically, the game will support this approach. And, this solves the problem of a level 2 magic user have a grand total of 2 spells per DAY. Ugh.

The draft is coming along nicely. I should have it out in the next few days.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Three Tombs

I am pretty sure I've posted... several times... about how I do my best thinking while mowing the lawn. Anyhow, today was lawn day, which means it was also brainstorming day. After I came in, I drew this map which is going to be the introductory adventure for Tales of the Splintered Realm, the new game (an update to SSR with a few flourishes from Sentinels of Echo City, and a few new things as well) that is a system I totally love right now. It's an entire game in 16 pages, and it's pretty much everything that Saga can do, only simpler, cleaner, and even more direct. TSR takes a step away from its B/X roots and a bit more towards an original design, but which is still compatible with OSR stuff. It should be out in a few days... to whet your appetite, here is a map of the Three Tombs, a little bit of the Caves of Chaos, but also a campaign starter for a story I'll be weaving through later modules (at least, that's the plan...)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Archetypes Redux

I mentioned in the last post that I was going to look at archetypes as being less generic and more specific. My current thinking is that each archetype is set up with a unique progression of skills, talents, and abilities... and inspired by Sentinels of Echo City, I am thinking that player characters routinely bust out of the cap of 12 on attributes. The great wizard has superhuman intellect, the mighty barbarian has superhuman strength, and the stealthy elf archer has superhuman levels of agility and coordination. That fits the more medium/high fantasy tone I prefer.

The core rules are leaning towards a heavy LOTR influence (as is only right)... with that in mind, here is the working draft of the wood elf scout... by level six (the cap level for the game), this dude (or dudette) could be walking around with DEX 18 (+6 modifier), firing his/her bow 4 times per round, sprinting 70' per round, and taking a total modifier of +16 to Feats to notice stuff. Sounds like someone from that particular book/movie series whose name rhymes with LEGO Bus...

Wood Elf Scout
Light Armor
Heavy Weapons
Level 1
+1 DEX; +1 to sense Feats; +1 missile weapon attack per round; +10’ to move
Level 2
+2 to DEX; +2 to sense Feats;
+20’ to move
Level 3
+3 to DEX; +2 missile weapon attacks per round
Level 4
+4 to DEX; +3 to sense Feats;
+30 to move
Level 5
+5 to DEX; +4 to sense Feats;
+40’ to move
Level 6
+6 to DEX; +3 missile weapon attacks per round

Saga of the Splintered Realm Feedback Wanted

I have started some notes for a revision of Saga of the Splintered Realm. My notes thus far take a lot of what I've done with Sentinels and strip the game down even further. Right now, my working approach is to go with a totally modular approach to the game. Instead of a core rulebook with general classes and rules, the whole system would be predicated around the idea of there being no 'generic' anything. The monsters and creatures in the core module would be somewhat archetypal, but by no means generic.

I am thinking right now that I go with a larger size (8.5x11 pages) and each module is only 16 pages long. This allows people to play the core game with only a handful of pages of rules, and then use any module that they want. Each module would require only that module and the core module, and each module would be themed in some way. While the second and third modules would be monsters and GM guides respectively, the additional modules might be on elves, dwarves, the underworld, giants, elemental flame... pretty much anything. Each module might include 4 new playable classes, a few dozen monsters, a few dozen spells, a handful of magic items, and an adventure locale.

I am looking for something I can get wins in around my hectic life schedule, and I have the itch to work on fantasy stuff again.

I will post here as I work on design stuff, and I'd welcome your feedback on things that you didn't like from the SSR core rules.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

SoEC Deluxe Resources

I decided to put together a master blog post (that I can keep updating) with a list of specific resources for Sentinels of Echo City's Deluxe Edition...

The Core Rules in Print
The Core Rules in PDF

From the Core Rules
Art Released Under a Creative Commons Share-Alike License
Character Sheet
Echo City Map in Black and White
Echo City Map in Color

Demon by Rick Hull
Space Ace by Rick Hull
Star Child by Rick Hull
The Cat by Rick Hull

Print Edition

The print edition of Sentinels of Echo City Deluxe Edition is now available.

Let the Wild Rumpus begin.

Echo City Rules Update

The updated version of the core rules has been posted. There are dozens of minor changes (mechanics, grammar, consistency) across the rules. There is also a new picture for Myrmidon, because I realized that the write-up for bleeding attack was in there twice!

There are no actual rule changes, just a whole lot of clarification and consistency. Thanks to Max Traver and Rick Hull for all of the editing help! You guys helped out a great deal.

I am still hoping to have the print edition out this weekend, and am also working on a revision to the blog itself, with revised links for support. I'm also working on fiction in the world of the game, and this will be a regular feature in the bi-monthly magazine that launches in May! There's a lot going on...

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sentinels of Echo City Deluxe Now Available

The complete book for Sentinels of Echo City Deluxe Edition is now available! Whew.

I wanted to lay out the game plan for the near future...

There will be a print edition in a few weeks. I have been through this with a fine-tooth comb. That said, there is probably SOMETHING that I missed. I want to give it a few weeks to go back with fresh eyes before putting it in print. It is much easier to update a pdf than to tell people the print book they just ordered has some errors.

I have a plan for long-term sustainability. I plan to release a 24-page game update bi-monthly. I have notes for the first six of these. I didn't include the second Echo City Team Up characters, setting, and adventure in this core rule book, because these are going to be part of a larger 'under the sea' supplement that will be in the first few updates. The first one is going to focus on the Powers Family, and we'll be going under the sea in the second or third update. I don't have a title for these yet... I do love the name "Echo City Team Up", so I may just go with a second volume of that... I decided on a $9.95 price point for the book, because A) it is significantly longer than the other games I've done, and B) all supplements for it are going to be pay-what-you want, meaning that this is the only investment you'll ever have to make, and everything else will be optional.

I'd love to hear your feedback, and I'd welcome any help to spread the word about this book. It's all open content, so you are free to make, share, and publish your own updates. Please do! Tell your friends!

Thanks for the enthusiasm for this game. If it wasn't for people asking for it, I probably wouldn't have gotten around to doing it, and I am REALLY proud of the final product.

- Mike

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Echo City Map

I absolutely love the map that Michael Hansen did a few years ago for Echo City. It created a visual for the city that was different than the one I had in my head, but it was also a thousand times better. In putting the book together, I went to include that map. However, I realized that the file was a bit small, so it became grainy when I blew it up for inclusion in the book. Even more, though, I realized that I couldn't do anything with it... it was a finished file that I didn't have the ability to modify, add to, or tailor further. It was a finished product. I figured it would be worth the time to do my own version of it, breaking the files up so that I could manipulate them and create various layers of the pieces of Echo City, but also in a large enough file that I could go to the street level and put in actual buildings or places of interest as we go forward, updating the primary map. I present to you, the map of Echo City 2.0 (and the black and white version that will be inside the rule book):

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Character Sheet Update

Here is the revised character sheet for the Deluxe Edition... I got it back to a half-sheet, which I prefer. I expanded it for Absolute Power, but kind of missed the old half-sheeter. It is a little bit tight, but I like it. You can see how I trimmed a little bit of the fat from the game, but didn't lose anything in the bargain.
The draft is finished. The book is going to be 192 pages. I still have to put together the index, do all the page references throughout, and do one more good edit. However, I don't see any reason the book shouldn't be available by the end of next week. It's a nifty looking package. It has over 40 pieces of art (including maps), which are almost all new pieces. It has everything from the core rules, absolute power, Echo City Team Up #1, some GM notes from Splintered Realms Magazine #1, and a pretty solid update to Echo City (which was from a guide to Echo City that I had half written but never finished). The mechanics are streamlined and updated, and I have added a few tweaks here and there, including a 3-page section on battlesuits and a 3-page section on magic.
Here is the new character sheet to tinker with...

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Battlesuit Examples

I remember looking through the Weapons Locker supplement for the Marvel Superheroes RPG and being amazed at how the different armors worked, and how there were so many different varieties of armor for Iron Man. I thought it was cool to have a character who could put on different battlesuits depending on the situation. However, I'd never been able to design a system that allowed for that level of variety while still having some semblance of game balance.

Until now.

I present to you, the Persister Battlesuit, including generations to get to level 3, and the three alternate suits for level 3:

Persister Battlesuit Mark 1
(base suit at level 1; 12 BPs); Grants +4 hp
STR 14 [-]; CON 14 [-]; PWR 12 [4]; Body Armor [-]; Bolt (1d6/30’) [2]; Flight [2]; Imperviousness (1d4) [2]; Strike (1d6) [2]

Persister Battlesuit Mark 4
(base suit at level 2; 25 BPs); Grants +8 hp
STR 15 [2]; CON 15 [2]; PWR 14 [8]; Body Armor [-]; Bolt (1d8/60’) [4]; Flight [2]; Imperviousness (1d6) [3]; Strike (1d6) [2]; Trick Weapon System (30’) [2]

Persister Battlesuit Mark 9
(base suit at level 3; 40 BPs); Grants +15 hp
STR 16 [4]; CON 16 [4]; PWR 16 [12]; Air Supply [2]; Body Armor [-]; Bolt (1d8/90’) [5]; Electronic Countermeasures [2]; Flight [2]; Imperviousness (1d8) [4]; Strike (1d6) [2]; Trick Weapon System (60’) [3]

Persister Battlesuit Mark 10: Bruiser Battlesuit
(first alternate suit at level 3; 40 BPs); Grants +18 hp
STR 20 [12]; CON 18 [8]; PWR 12 [4]; Body Armor [-]; Bolt (1d8/60’) [4]; Flight [2]; Imperviousness (1d10) [5]; Strike (1d12) [5]
This suit is for situations requiring a lot of muscle.

Persister Battlesuit Mark 11: Infiltrator Battlesuit
(second alternate suit at level 3, 40 BPs); Grants +12 hp
STR 14 [-]; CON 14 [-]; PWR 18 [16]; Air Supply [2]; Body Armor [-]; Bolt (1d6/60’) [3]; Chameleon [2]; Electronic Countermeasures [2]; Imperviousness (1d6) [3]; Sneak [2]; Sonar (3 miles) [4]; Utility Belt [2]
This suit is for situations requiring stealth.

Persister Battlesuit Mark 12: Explorer Battlesuit
(third alternate suit at level 3, 40 BPs); Grants +21 hp
STR 16 [4]; CON 20 [12]; PWR 14 [8]; Air Supply [2]; Amphibious [2]; Body Armor [-]; Bolt (1d6/60’) [3]; Imperviousness (1d8) [4]; Snare (60’) [3]; Utility Belt [2]
This suit is for non-combat situations: rescue or peacekeeping.

- I originally thought of the STR and CON ratings as being bonuses to your existing attribute. However, that REALLY skewed things when you started with STR 6 vs. STR 12 (both normal human range). If you are getting +10 to STR from the armor, one character is ending up lifting about 20 tons while in the armor, and the other is able to lift about 200 tons. When you look at how that range (attribute 6 to 12) magnifies, you ended up with a base rating of about 14 to 15 in the scaling. Putting all armor at a base rating of STR 14 (regardless of your human STR rating) makes more sense. It also keeps you out of the problem of 'what if Hulk put on the Hulkbuster armor? Does that magnify his STR?' In this case, no.

- It took some tinkering with the numbers to get it to balance out, but I think it works well. A battlesuit hero of level 6 is going to be VERY powerful. However, level 6 is Thanos level (the current Iron Man would be level 4 in the game, so 1 level up from the examples given here). I'd put this suit at the comparable level of War Machine right now. He'd be level 3 as well. 

- I LOVE the system for trick weapons, and when you layer this (or utility belt for that matter) into this suit, it's just fantastic. I will always use the random option: In play, I go to activate the flare rocket launcher; maybe I have a flare rocket left, or maybe I swapped those out for smoke rockets. The die is about to tell me...

Monday, April 2, 2018

Two Cover Mock Ups

Just for fun, here are two cover mock ups...

Powers Family

I'm working on edits to the character write-ups, and got to the Powers Family. I like them quite a bit, and after tinkering with them for a while, I decided to try and draw up an 'action shot' in the style I've been using for the rest of the book. This came out really, really nifty. I am not trying to channel Mike Mignola, but it's happening anyway... With a little bit of spot color, I could almost see this ending up as the cover design... I'll work up a mock-up of it, and see how it looks.

Friday, March 30, 2018


I have realized in the editing process that I'm hitting the point where Sentinels is no longer fully compatible with Saga of the Splintered Realm... it is 90% the same engine, but there are enough changes (level system, the exact math of FEATs) that the games were starting to diverge.

And then today I was working on time. I had already changed the base move to 50' instead of 40'. But, in reading about rounds and turns, I realized that these were not logical, and didn't reflect the feel of superhero comics. To say that it takes an average character 10 seconds to move 40', when that character is a superhero, was just off... so I have changed the length of a round to 6 seconds (and a turn to 1 minute from 10). Now, a character can jog 50' in 6 seconds (which most people can do), and can sprint 100' in 6 seconds (which is basically a 30-yard dash. That's reasonable). The old numbers make sense when you think about big dudes in heavy armor trying to slog across a slick dungeon floor; not so much when you think about Captain America running through the streets of NYC.

I want the game to 'feel' fast, and I think that this has a subtle but important impact on how the game feels... there is also the benefit of additional drama. Fights can last for more than 10 rounds, and this means that powers and abilities can refresh during the course of a fight. Near round 8, you might start just trying to hold steady for 2 rounds, because your heavy attacks are about to reset, and if you can survive long enough, you'll be able to really lay the smack down. Ten-minute turns make that impossible.

Editing work continues apace. Right now, the draft is near 200 pages in 6x9 format (and that's without any illustrations). I have some clean-up work to do, but it won't surprise me if the final version is over 200 pages. I went back and forth about the size, but I am pretty sure I've decided to stick with the 6x9 format. It's cleaner layout wise, and it looks much better on a device (which is how I expect that some people use it). I've made minor changes to the fonts and the tables I'll be using, which makes the game a little sharper looking overall (in my humble opinion, of course).

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Editing and Magic

In making my way through the edits of Sentinels of Echo City, I've noticed a few things:

1. Changing the mechanic from adjusting the roll to adjusting the challenge is much, much cleaner. The language flows so much better. I have just made about 30 edits where the language went from 'taking a penalty equal to your PWR modifier' to 'target 20+ your PWR modifier'. It speeds the language up quite a bit, and feels more intuitive. Not sure why I ever went with the other way...

2. The use of the word 'target' was very nebulous. The target was the person/place/thing you were trying to affect, but it was also the number you needed to roll... now, the second instance has been replaced with Challenge Rating (CR). Instead of rolling a check target 20, you now roll a check CR 20.

3. I am surprised at the number of really small typos that had made it through. I did several edits before publishing, but I've still found at least a half-dozen little errors that bother me. I am under no delusion that I will catch them all this time, but I will be closer...


In thinking about how magic works, it seems like there should be three options, and those options would be tied to three different attributes:

Sorcery is similar to how it is portrayed in Absolute Powers. You can replicate other traits, and you use PWR as the filter for it. This would be the simplest and most flexible option for including magic in your games. If you just want a really broad magic system that is easy to use, sorcery is your jam.

Wizardry is going to be closer to Saga of the Splintered Realm magic, but also more in line with Harry Potter magic. You learn actual spells, and you cast those particular spells. Right now, I'm thinking of two things that distinguish it:
1. Wizardry is tied to INT, not to PWR. It is not your personal power you are drawing on; you are using your knowledge of occult lore to activate ancient powers. I might decide to tie this in some way to runes or something like that. I kind of like the magic system that I worked up for Cupcake Scouts, and might try to modify that a bit here.
2. I am thinking it's a spell point system, with a number of points per turn, and with spells rated by cost. As a wizard 5, you could cast spells of up to level 5 (spells go to level 6 like in SSR), and you'd have a base of 15 + INT modifier points per turn (5+4+3+2+1).  A spell costs a number of points equal to its level; as a wizard 5 with INT 14 (+4), you would have 19 spell points per turn, and could try to cast 1 spell of level 5, 4 spells of level 3, and 1 spell of level 2 (for instance).

Mysticism is more like natural magic or eastern magic... something a monk might use. This would be tied to CHA as the attribute. You force your will upon the natural world, communing with it. This would be more aligned with wicca or witchcraft (in the traditional sense). Druidic magic, almost. I don't know if this hews closer to sorcery or wizardry in its mechanics. Somewhere between the two... you know charms or incantations, and you roll checks to activate them.

I don't want the magic section to be too long (I'm thinking no more than 6-10 pages total), but it should be robust enough that it gives you significant flavor and variety. Again, I like that you can go with the simpler sorcery, or you can get fancy with wizardry or mysticism, as fits your play style. I am also thinking that the Wizardry component would reverse engineer nicely to Saga of the Splintered Realm, assuming that you'd be willing to cut the XP table there in half the way I'm doing for this version of Sentinels...

Sunday, March 25, 2018


I am working on big-picture edits. I have gone through and removed all references to level modifier, using level (scaled at 1-6) for the default modifier for AC, Feats, Attacks, and modifiers to various power ratings. That cleaned things up nicely.

Now, I'm on to checks. I went back and forth (and back... and forth... and back again) about how checks would work when I wrote the original rules. I decided (and the rules currently represent) that there are only two check ratings: 20 for standard actions and 30 for super actions. Everything else becomes a modifier to the check. Your target is always 20 or 30, but you can add or subtract several things to modify the roll to see if you hit that target.

I like it, but I don't like it. The alternative is that there are variable targets for checks, based on the situation. It really is an issue of semantics (the math works out the same either way) but - now that I'm reading the book a bit more holistically and not in the granular way of a later edit - this just feels heavier than it needs to be. To say that something is target 27 to accomplish is cleaner than saying that it is target 30, but you get a +3 modifier to the roll. Also, this doesn't align with the basic way combat works: all targets in combat are variable; each foe you face has a different Armor Class. It's not like there's one armor class rating for everyone, and you take a modifier to your attack, which is further modified by the foe's AC adjustment.

The problem is further complicated by the idea that the range of -4 to +4 to a check leaves a weird little spot between high end standard actions (which are target 24) and low-end super actions (which are target 26). This means that, mechanically, the difference between lifting a dirt bike and an armored car is 2 points... hrm.

What about this as a scale? (with an example weights, and for the Hulk's chances with STR 24)

16 - Simple Standard Check (lifting 50 lbs; succeeds unless a 1 is rolled)
20 - Standard Check (lifting 200 lbs; succeeds unless a 1 is rolled)
24 - Complex Standard Check (lifting 1,000 lbs; succeeds unless a 1 is rolled)
28 - Simple Super Check (lifting 10 tons; needs 4 or better on the die)
32 - Standard Super Check (lifting 50 tons; needs 8 or better on the die)
36 - Complex Standard Check (lifting 200 tons; needs 12 or better on the die)

This moves the center target for a super check up a little, but streamlines the whole thing and gets rid of that annoying bump in the middle. This also allows for a more complex table of targets (if desired) that scales the whole thing out. I think that the GM section has both... a table that spells out each of the 20 points along the continuum, with the recommended benchmarks (for most situations) highlighted. In effect, some GMs can say "well, that car weighs 2 to 3 tons, so it's a 27 target" while in another game, the GM says "it's a car: simple super check, target 28". This requires a considerable language edit, but I think it is worth it for clarity. It's a relatively small difference, but it can either help you make your game more granular or a bit simpler, depending on how you want to run things. 26 becomes the magic number. If something is target 26 or higher, only a character with a rating of 14 or better can attempt it, since it requires superhuman ability (although a Resolve point would allow you to bypass that rule... I was thinking about Captain America holding a helicopter in place in Civil War... no way does a character with STR 13 do that, but Cap is burning through Resolve like it's the end of his world... because, you know... it kind of is.).

Saturday, March 24, 2018


In thinking about heroes who use battlesuits, it seems that there should be some fundamentally different feel to being an armor-wearing hero. This ties to the idea of an exceptional human. One of the things that I didn't like about the first edition (which I never resolved, and just accepted) was that INT and CHA are held to the same limit as STR, CON, and DEX. You cannot, as a non-super-powered character, have either INT or CHA in excess of 13. However, in one of the games I used as a model (Marvel Superheroes), really smart characters (even when they were normal humans in terms of their intelligence), had Reason of Incredible or even Amazing. There effectively was a different 'scale' in terms of Strength (which can lift 50 tons at Amazing) and Reason (which is actually comparable to some of the greatest minds who have lived). One is clearly outside of the realm of human potential; the other is not. Yet, they are both Amazing.

I am thinking that INT and CHA will do this in the new edition; they are capped at 19 instead of 13 for exceptional humans. Your mind is like a computer, or you exude such a power of personality that others are easily swayed by you. This stuff happens in the real world (or close to it).

This matters for Battlesuits, because generally the inventor of a battlesuit is likely to be the genius who also invented it. Tying battlesuits to INT in some measure makes sense; you are able to upgrade and maintain your suit at a higher level the smarter you are.

For battlesuits, you would roll up an exceptional human (who might have 14+ INT or CHA - or both), and would then build the suit with points.

Here's my first draft of this (literally just cut and pasted from my current notes)... BP is Battlesuit Points. You get 1d6 + INT Modifier BP per level (maybe):

If Anthony is a level 4 human with a battlesuit, he has 5D6 hit points
(with maybe a +1 CON bonus per level),
so he has about 20-25 hit points without his suit on.
You ‘buy’ features of your suit as you go up in level.

For example, the basic Man of Iron suit has the following enhancements:

Grants +10 (cap 20) to STR when worn (bumping his 8 STR to 18). (8 BP)
Grants +10 (cap 20) to CON while worn
(bumping his 6 CON to 16; grants +5 hit points per level) (8 BP)
Grants +2 to DEX while worn (increases his 7 DEX to 9, increases AC as well by +1) (2 BP)
Blaster: 1d10; 60’ (8 BP)
Invulnerability (5 from CON) (free)
Air Supply 2 (4 BP)
30 points total

Here are some things that might be included in a suit…

+2 base for free; 1 BP for each +1 thereafter
None included; 1 BP for each +1 to DEX
Included at 10 automatically; 1 BP for each +1 thereafter
+2 base for free; 1 BP for each +1 thereafter
+1 base for free; 1 BP for each +1 thereafter
None included; 1d6 (30’) for 2 BPs; each die shift or range increment is 2 BP
None included; each rating of flight costs 2 BPs
Included with CON modifier
Air Supply
2 BP for each rating

Possible Add Ons
Self-Repair. Recovers 1D at the end of every turn from self-repair.
The suit can ultimately repair itself to full hits,
but any damage dealt to the wearer must be recovered normally.

Other Powers (as applicable) are generally 3 BPs to purchase,
+1 BP for any upgrade beyond the foundational power.
Many are linked to PWR.

At the end of the day, part of the fun of building a hero with the battlesuit is in building the suit.
It’s in the little details, and how you allocate points.

Alternate Suits. As a talent, you can have multiple battle suits.
You are able to maintain a number of different varieties of suit equal to your level,
limited to your INT modifier.
As a level 4 character with genius-level intellect (INT 14 or better),
you are able to maintain 4 different battle suits.
Each is built with the same number of points.
You get to choose which suit you bring on any adventure.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Doc Stalwart

Doc is my first character to play test the new rules. In thinking about Sentinels Earth (or whatever the name ends up being), I have distinct eras in mind. There is a time between the first and second Messari attacks when there are relatively few supers; some of the ‘big guns’ have left earth for a time to go in search of the Messari (to wipe them out on their base at the edge of our solar system), and they have yet to return. I think it’s like a three-year period. I picture this as the late 70s/early 80s in comics (before the grim and gritty days), and stylistically the same as the first ten minutes of The Incredibles (or Batman the Animated Series).

Doc Stalwart is a scientific explorer who ended up with a chunk of Messari Technology, and he used it give himself superpowers (he already was super smart) to fashion a utility belt, and to build a ship that would take him around so he could go and explore and fight and things. Here is his character sheet (I don’t have a new character sheet yet, so I’m going with ye olde looseleaf paper). Two things that are different from 1E already: I am changing Control to the default difficulty of a check when operating that vehicle. Rather than the default being based on the situation and modified by the vehicle, it’s set by the vehicle, and modified by circumstance. I don’t care what you are trying to do in a heavy tank. It’s a heavy tank. Any maneuver is going to be difficult. A sleek motorcycle is going to have Control 16, while an elite fighter jet might be 18, and a standard helicopter is around 22. This is somewhere between those two: a clunky design with advanced alien technology.

I went with 2d6 for hit points per level, and am using the new power Impervious that +cmdrcody 2000  suggested a while back… (oh, and Doc himself is the first silhouette from this post).

More Visual Design Work

Here are a few more character designs. I am really, really digging this approach to the visuals. These are, far and away, the best superhero designs I've done. These evoke everything I like about Batman the Animated Series without simply copying the style wholesale. I have not been able to get this level of design work out of full illustrations I've done of supers, but in this format I can leverage my cartoony style to elicit some cleaner, more iconic designs. I'm really, really pleased with how these pieces are coming out...

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sentinels Revision Wish List

Since I'm at least working on a deluxe edition of Sentinels of Echo City, I thought it was worth asking what people wanted to see in this edition... here are my priorities right now:

1. Merge the absolute power guide into the core rules, and clean up/add to the traits (powers) listings. As it is, it's a pretty substantial list, but there may be a dozen or so powers I can add. Go ahead and send ideas my way. Add anything useful that came out of the various small supplements I published (maybe specific rules for underwater, space, other dimensions...)
2. Clean up the level vs. level modifier thing (see my recent post on the topic).
3. Specific rules for Battle Suits (I'll post about that soon) and maybe a magic system that is more comprehensive and super-heroic and less D+D ish.
4. Flesh out the game world and Echo City more substantially.
5. Give more information for the Game Master and add another layer of meat for those running games.
6. Clean up the language (for example, the overuse of the word 'take' for any modifier in any situation. At least change it to 'suffer' for penalties)...
7. Add some more starter adventures.
8. All of the art in a consistent, iconic style. All of the images will be like these:

I also would like feedback on format. I go back and forth between an 8.5" x 11" book with 2-column pages (probably around 128-144 pages when it's done) or the 6" x 9" 1-column format of the original book (probably closer to 200 pages when it's done). I think if people tend to use print, the larger book is better; if people use devices to read and reference the game, the smaller format with single columns is better. I'm not sure what people would prefer...

Sentinels of Echo City Deluxe has begun...

Let’s talk about level and hit dice

One of the things I notice as I look over the rules for SoEC is the use of Level Modifier. It’s a little bit clunky. I mean, it’s only one mechanic, and it’s easy enough to remember, but why not just have it be level, and cut the level scale in half (going from levels 1 to 6 instead of 1 to 12)? There are a few reasons:

- Level sets hit dice. If you cut level in half, you are effectively cutting hit dice in half as well. That is problematic.
- Level sets attack modifiers for creatures that are not built like supers. A dragon of level 6 should be getting better than +6 to attack.

These are simple enough to solve.

Option one: you set every level as granting 2d6 hit points. This makes level 1 characters more durable (a good thing for supers) and makes each level a bit more significant (since you are earning all of your bonuses every level. That’s nice). It also means that minions and normals have 1d6 hit points, which sets them off well from the superhero population. You can also increase ability points to 2 per level (maybe with a limitation that they cannot both go in the same attribute). NPCs that aren’t built as supers take level x2 as their base attack bonus. The level 6 dragon is attacking at +12.

Option two: you set hit dice based on the size or type of the character, a la Saga of the Splintered Realm:

1d4    Small Creatures
1d6    Medium Creatures, Normal and Exceptional humans (Tony without Iron Man armor)
1d8    Large Creatures; Enhanced humans, standard supers (85% of supers)
1d10    Huge Creatures; Especially hardy or larger supers (The Thing, Superman)
1d12    Giant Creatures (Dragons, Giants, probably Thanos, maybe the Hulk just because)
1d20    Gargantuan (Godzilla, Galactus) or entities (Hela)

You start at level 1 with 2D hit dice, and add 1D of the appropriate type, each level thereafter.

Either way, this is my proposed revised XP progression chart (with the second option HD thrown in):
Level - XP - Hit Dice
1 - 0 XP - 2D
2 - 150 XP - 3D
3 - 500 XP - 4D
4 - 1,500 XP - 5D
5 - 5,000 XP - 6D
6 - 15,000 XP - 7D

This means that Thanos, as a level 6 foe with CON 24 (+9) has 7d12+54 hit points, and he rolls well, so this puts him well over 100 hp, probably close to 125. Eh... maybe he's level 7 or 8, and we cap levels for mortals at 6.