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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Superhero Design Work

I had a lot of fun designing Cupcake Scouts (which you should totally check out, by the way), especially in terms of some of the visuals of the monster design work. I started playing with silhouettes as the primary way to convey images, and I ended up liking them quite a bit. They end up giving you more iconic interpretations of monsters. Just for fun, I did some of the same stuff for a theoretical second edition of Sentinels of Echo City, and these are the things I knocked out in a few hours... I like it for exactly its archetypal, iconic approach. These are not particular characters: they are iconic sorts of characters, although they also somehow evoke quite a bit. I somehow know a lot about each of them, without knowing anything at all.

An Army Ants Page... Just Because

For some reason, I felt like drawing an Army Ants page for the first time in three years... so I did. What the heck, right? I decided to play with color a little bit. I'm getting more confident and a bit cleaner in using color. My first few dozen tries at color have almost universally been a bit muddy. This is starting to look a little bit sharper...

And no, I don't plan on doing anything with this. It's just a page.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cupcake Scouts the RPG Now Available

The Cupcake Scouts Song

We are the cupcake scouts
We’re brave and kind and smart
And when a vampire tries to bite
We stab it in the heart.

We are the cupcake scouts
And baking brings us joy
But sometimes we go to graveyards
The undead to destroy.

We are the cupcake scouts
We learn our lessons well
But if a demon rises up
We send it back to Hell!

Cupcake Scouts is a roleplaying game for two or more players. One player takes on the role of the Scoutmaster, the kindly spirit who sends the scouts to slay foul creatures and makes sure that they tuck in their shirts. Other players will take on the roles of cupcake scouts, girls who have joined a troop to make friends, learn how to bake, and drive the dark blight of chaos from this world.
            To play the game, you need this book, a few standard 6-sided dice, pencils, some index cards or paper, and an activate imagination. You should probably have some cupcakes or brownies, too, because those make everything better.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Next Project

I've been working on a project for the last month, keeping it sort of on the down low... I am exceedingly proud of it, and I am excited to share it with you. I will tell a bit more shortly, but here's an image I drew today, an Imp Trickster.

More to come...