Saturday, May 30, 2020

Tales of the Splintered Realm FAQ

People have questions! I have (some) answers. This feels like a FAQ... because it is!

Could you clarify sundering?

Sure! You make a single attack roll once per round, targeting all foes in melee range (up to 4 of the same size). You can hit all, some, or none of those foes. If you hit any, you make a single damage roll against all foes.

Starting at higher levels

When starting at higher levels, measure starting cash in gold instead of silver, and multiply by level; a level 3 starting character has 3d6 (x30) starting gold, or 90 to 540 gp. Roll for 1 magical treasure per level; a level 5 character would roll for 5 random items as if from a level 5 monster. The character can then buy and sell as needed from there.

What impact does size have on the game?

Size impacts hit dice (see the top of page 27, first bullet) and number of creatures you can attack at a time (see page 18 under range and distance). The bigger you are the more HD you have, and the smaller the fewer. You can engage in melee with 4 creatures of the same size; I would subtract 2 for every category smaller, and add 2 for every category bigger; a wyvern is huge (2 categories larger than humans) so up to 8 humans can melee against a wyvern at once. A rat is small, so only 2 humans can attack a single rat at the same time with melee attacks.

Gnomes and stoutlings are medium (but at the very, very low end of medium). I toyed with having them be small and giving them D4 hit dice, but that made them much less playable. So I tweaked the sizes a little. Wood trolls are large (hence the D8 hit die). A few monsters have abilities that vary by size ('can swallow a creature medium-sized or smaller on a critical attack'), but that's about it.

If you want more variety in your smaller folk and their mechanics, it's an easy plug in:

New Talent: Little Folk. You have learned to leverage your smaller size in combat with larger foes. Any foe larger than medium size takes -1 to attack rolls against you.

What impact does armor have on spell casters? Are there penalties for wearing armor?

There is no relationship between armor and spell casting. As a magic user, you haven't spent any time or energy learning how to wear armor or carry a shield, because it's just not your priority - not because of rules. Specific bonuses/penalties for armor/spell casting rules were a little to crunchy for my taste for where the game is. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dungeon Map In Progress

The dungeon from the core rules for Tales of the Splintered Realm continues to grow. I've played through the core rules level with my solo character, and then my daughter Grace joined me as we explored the Kobold Den (the south west extension of the dungeon, that also connects to the sewers). Today, I drew up the eastern part, which is a ruined tomb for those D'Ro who had led something of a rebellion against the D'Ro leaders, with disastrous results. The southeast corner still needs to be added to, with a section that will connect both to the sewers and to a secret door in one of the tombs that I will be adding.

It's a work in progress, and will be added to (of course). I'm thinking that the three components of the rest of level 1 will be the first supplement for Tales. I need to create some new monsters and spells to add to these as well. I might be able to get each one to a one-page handout, which I would think is ideal. I'm trying to follow the format for the first section from the core rules; a few keyed encounters, but also some random options.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Lairs and Locales #1

I finally got around to finishing Lairs and Locales #1 and it is now live on drivethrurpg. I had it done over a week ago, but I wanted to do a final edit, and I have been back into dissertation purgatory this week, since I had to do another major revision. I think this might be the last one, and then I can spend all of my time on gaming material with that pesky doctoral program finally behind me.

I played with the layout, and came up with what you will see here. It's formatted landscape on 8.5 x 11 paper so that it's easy to print now, but also so that it's easy to re-format into a larger book later on. I have continued the visual aesthetic of Sentinels of Echo City Deluxe, so that the two books will ultimately look and feel the same.

Ultimately, I'll be re-formatting some things (for example, all new game rules and mechanics will be in one part of the book, and the adventures will be in another part). I will also be writing a thread that unifies these into a single, large campaign (the Search for Doc Stalwart). I wrote that first hook for this adventure, but then decided not to include it. I need the freedom to create more open-ended environments for now, and then I can add that campaign thread later when I can see all of the finished books... I may want to change the order of presentation once they are all done, and I'd rather not write myself into any unnecessary corners right now.

On to the promo blurb (and yes, of COURSE it is inspired by the Hall of Doom):

This release is in support of Sentinels of Echo City, Deluxe Edition. 

Boondock's Hideaway is the place to be if you are a villain; and the place to avoid if you're a hero. It's a dome that is full of villains that is secreted deep in the swamps. Because that's how villains roll.

This book has rules for reputation, an overview of the Hideaway, six villains for your game, and some random encounter tables to see what crazy stuff is happening tonight. 

As a pay-what-you-want download, feel free to check it out for free and throw some loose change in the tip jar later if you are so inclined. Thanks!

This product uses the Open Game License.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Few Things

An assortment of things:

1. Erik Tenkar (of Tenkar's Tavern fame) has shared that he has some health issues going on. I am praying for him, and hope you do, too. He's a good guy, and I hope he has a speedy recovery.

2. Aldo created a fantastic fillable character sheet for Sentinels of Echo City. It's linked to the left. You'll want to download that :)

3. If you are having any trouble with your discounted copy of Tales of the Splintered Realm, please let me know (mtdesing at roadrunner dot com). If you purchased the pdf, you should be getting the print edition for a base price of $10. In the 'thank you' message from drivethrurpg, there is a copy to the direct link for the discounted version. If you cannot find that, I'll send you the link directly via email. For some reason, drivethru is not super excited about helping me sell games on a different site. I would use their POD builder, but the last time I tried I found it impossible to use. Maybe it's better now...

4. I am VERY grateful for the all of the enthusiasm and support people have shown for my projects over the last few weeks. It's been a lot of fun to log on every day and see what people are doing with the games.

5. I am THIS close to being done with my doctorate in educational leadership. I am on the FINAL review stage, and have one more set of edits to do to my dissertation and I should be truly and absolutely done with that beast. Whew.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

LULU Update

The print editions are live on Lulu - and just FYI, Lulu has a 15% off print editions coupon ONEFIVE that ends at midnight on 5/14, if you want to take advantage of that, too.


Print Copies In Hand

A few print copies of Tales of the Splintered Realm arrived at my doorstep this morning! I will be reviewing it and setting up the discounted copy today, creating the codes, and contacting people who have purchased the pdf with a direct link for the $10 version. This book is gorgeous. I'm so happy with it.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Rogue's Gallery

The text for the first supplement is written. It is an overview of Boondock's Hideaway, which is the 'tavern' of the superhero world, populated by criminals. It's got a very intentional Legion of Doom HQ vibe, but it also has its own things going on. The next step for the book is the creation of a motley assortment of villains who tend to hang out in the Hideaway. I've been trying to come up with unusual, unique villains as I go, but a) that's tough, and b) this may not be the place for that. I almost think that for this supplement, I am better off hewing closer to familiar tropes as I stock the common criminals who linger here. I would like it to feel like a combination of Spidey and Batman's rogue's galleries, giving an assortment of level 1-3 villains to throw into the mix. I like the way that Reputation has been playing into my design work; villains come here to see and to be seen, and reputation is the currency of the place. The more infamous you are, the better access you get, and the more other villains tend to linger in your shadow. None of them are the mastermind sort. Here are my rough outlines for some villains:

- A boomerang or baseball throwing guy- athletic, trick weapons, maybe a utility belt, some gimmick. Boom-A-Rang was alluded to in the core rules, so maybe he can appear here.
- Light suit of battle armor with a bug theme. Killer Cockroach or something like that.
- Fox-themed girl with claws and sneak, and maybe empathy or even charm powers. Foxy Lady seems a little too on the nose.
- Electrical themed minor villain (a la shocker). Surge Projector?
- Green Goblin, Hobgoblin, and Jack O Lantern are my favorite Spiderman enemy trope, so I want something like that. Maybe go headless horseman theme but make the 'horse' a sky cycle of some kind? Throws explosive pumpkins. Carries a sword? I could call him Sleepy Hollow. Meh. Horseman of the Hollow is better....
- Just some basic muscle. A 'light' brick who carries a weapon like a wrecking ball or a crow bar or something like that. Pretty straightforward. I could maybe make three of these and call them the Destruction Crew or something. There is the wrecking crew in Marvel, and this is basically a variation on those guys. Maybe they have some synergy when working together? Like they each get +1 to attacks and damage when within 30' of one other, and each gets +2 when within 30' of both others. That would be something, and adds a little strategy to battles with them.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Reputation for Sentinels of Echo City

I am working on the first setting supplement, for Boondock's Hideaway, and was thinking about how helpful it would be to have a 'rating' for how well a hero or villain is known. I started tinkering, and came up with a system I like and will be play testing - this is not "official" yet, but an official set of rules will be with the first supplement in this series. Feedback is most welcome!



It’s a negative or positive value that reflects how well known a character is. While CHA is your ability to use your personal charm and influence, reputation is your larger popularity in the game world.

Reputation ranges from -20 to +20. It is used as a check in any situation where you might get a public response to your name. Every time you do something that might affect your reputation, attempt a 1d20 check. If you roll on the OPPOSITE side of your reputation in the relevant direction, it moves 1 point that way. When you do something good, you want to roll above your current reputation. It is hard to maintain a strong reputation in either direction; if you want to be greatly feared, you better not accidentally help someone out - you might get caught on camera and have people say nice things about you. A 20 always ‘succeeds’ (moving in the direction of the check) and a 1 always ‘fails’, moving you towards reputation 0. Villains do bad stuff and want a 20 to get 'more negative' in their reputation, and heroes do good stuff and want a 20 to get 'more betterer' in their reputation. Or something like that.

For example, as a new hero, you have a reputation of 0. You rescue a kitty from a tree. The old lady who you helped immediately posts on social media (yeah, old ladies have Facebook, too.) You attempt a check, with a target of rolling over a 0. As long as you don’t roll a 1, you succeed; good news, 95% of the time you are at reputation 1. After several adventures, your reputation is now 7. You are rocking it. Unfortunately, you get some bad press when you get into a fight with Mr. Awesome (it was a misunderstanding that you totally worked out). Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t see it that way; You roll 1d20, and you want to avoid rolling below your current reputation; if you roll 6 or less, your reputation drops 1 point; a roll of 7 or better doesn’t help you (because this is a ‘negative’ reputation check) but at least the only fallout from the fight is literal fallout from the thermonuclear device that was set off over the Pacific (it was a BIG misunderstanding). 

Reputation in Play

Reputation allows you to make a reaction check when you aren’t there, or when your name alone is being used in some context, but you are not the one making a CHA check. In many situations, you are trying a reputation check before a CHA check. “You’ve never heard of Magnet Master? Oh. Well, look guys… if you could help me out this time, I’d really appreciate it…”

You attempt a check based on your reputation rating. While a reputation of 1 is going to make it unlikely for something special to happen, a reputation of 10+ is going to be helpful. Reputation also works for epic checks; with reputation 14+, you can do amazing things. “Because Lord Wrack threatened to attack the America’s Day Parade, we are canceling the whole thing - and all parades forever until he is in prison.”... “Normally, we don’t just hand out F-16s to civilians, but you are Doc Stalwart after all…”

The default setting for reputation for existing characters would be level x3. Therefore, Lord Wrack as a villain 5 starts you game at -15 reputation, and he's trying to really, really hard to get to -20.

New Talent: Popular

You start with 1d4+2 reputation. You score critical success on a reputation check with a roll of 19 or 20, and you may attempt a Feat to avoid reputation loss when you roll a botch on a reputation check. You automatically receive +1 reputation every time you level up.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Campaign Hook and Some Character Building

Mikah the Chronicle opened a filing cabinet. It was amazing he knew which one. There were hundreds - no, thousands - of filing cabinets here. They sat in rows and rows, each filled (presumably) with file folders. Mikah the Chronicle produced one. He handed it to you. You read the label: “Last Known Location of Doc Stalwart.”

Campaign Hook: The Search for Doc Stalwart

At the end of the Stalwart Age, Doc Stalwart was the greatest hero in the world. He had overcome incredible challenges, defeating many of the most powerful villains in the world. And then, at the height of his fame and success, he disappeared.


That was twenty years ago. Eventually, people accepted that he was gone. Probably dead. Maybe at the bottom of the sea. Or at the edges of the solar system. Or in a far-off dimension beyond mortal reach. But now, he’s alive. Several mentalists have felt his presence in the world. 

The campaign is a loosely-connected series of location adventures wherein the heroes undertake a quest to find Doc Stalwart. As they go, they may amass clues that will allow them to find him and restore him to life. Or, maybe they won’t.

My idea right now is that I am going to write the adventure locations one at a time, and plant a seed in each one about the quest for Doc. I am going to make a character to maybe play test with...

Judah Jynx. The son of the ghost Zirah - Judah has supernatural powers.  I'm thinking a ghost as the character theme.

Let’s see what I get from random rolling:

Altered human. +1 to one attribute, +1 Feat rating.

4 Traits:

He’s like the invisible girl, but with a stun instead of the telekinesis. Hm. I need some way to do damage (right?) I don’t really like invisibility or swingline, but I’d rather have teleport. Actually, I am going to swap invisibility and swingline for blink. So, I have stun, blink, and phasing. I’m sort of a proto-vision kind of character. Definitely works with my ghost theme.

I’m going to take a drawback and pick up one other trait… not sure what. I need a way to deal damage, so I’m thinking a weapon of some kind (a sword like his mom?) He doesn’t need the sword - he is bound to the realm, unlike his mom - but he THINKS he does. He has panic attacks when the sword is not on him. 

He will take melee weapon, sword, with his bonus trait. So, he has:

Stun, Phasing, Blink, Melee Weapon

Rolling for attributes:

12, 14, 15, 12, 13, 12

Wow did I roll really well! I’d like to bump up that 15 to a 16, and while it doesn’t make sense to drop 12s, I don’t need secondary attributes that high. I’m actually going to drop the two 12s all the way to 10, giving me 2 points; I bump the 15 to 16, and the 13 to 14. Noice. I arrange as follows:

STR 12 (+3); INT 10 (+2); PWR 16 (+5)
DEX 14 (+4); CON 14 (+4); CHA 10 (+2)

For hit points, I roll 12 (I rerolled a 2 and got 6). That gives me 16 starting hit points.
My Feat modifier is +8.
My talent will be enemy (?) I don’t see this character having an enemy, but I guess he would… sure… hmm. Have to think on that more.

Armor class is going to be 15. 

I have to do some math on my traits:
My sword deals base 1d8 damage. Happy with that. It cannot be thrown (and if it could be, he wouldn’t; he’s got that anxiety about being separated from it, so intentionally winging it at someone else in combat doesn’t make much sense).
When I phase, I’m going to take +5 to AC (bumping it to 20), get +5 to hit and damage with my sword (instead of the +3 I get normally), and I can attempt a PWR check to move through solid objects. Dang that’s nice… I extend this to my blade (of course) which partially phases with me (or which channels some of my natural energy; something like that).
I have a stunning glare (to 90’) that forces a target once per turn to attempt a Feat (DT 25) or be stunned for 1d6 rounds. Nice.

He’s going to be a hero, and his purpose is going to be to honor his mother (who is trapped in the Shadow Realm, and is only accessed via a special mirror). He was born in the shadow realm, but then was brought over. I was going to go with his name (Judah Jynx) for his moniker, but I looked up ghost in the thesaurus and found Ether. I modified that for a moniker. And, reviewing my notes, I see that I forgot a +1 to one attribute. Oops. I throw that into DEX.

Judah Jynx; Hero 1
AC 15 (20 phased); hp 16; Feat +8; Sword (+4/1d8+4 -or- +6/1d8+6 while phased)
STR 12 (+3); INT 10 (+2); PWR 16 (+5)
DEX 15 (+4); CON 14 (+4); CHA 10 (+2)
Enemy: The Shadow King Asigoth (and his servants)
Blink (as a free action, up to 160’, 5x per turn)
Phasing (one action once per turn; PWR check)
Stun (one action; force target within 90’ to attempt Feat CR 25 or stunned 1d6 rounds)

I wanted a character a little bit like Nightcrawler; I think I have him. He’s definitely different, but he makes sense. 

About the Shadow Realm (also called the Vale of Shadows): This is a mystical dimension of dark energy. It is controlled by the Shadow King Asigoth, who seeks to cross over into our realm and touch all corners with shadow. His efforts were stopped by Zirah, who intentionally made herself a barrier between lands, preventing him from crossing over. 

On Superhero Worlds

On a suggestion, I found a pdf of the original version of Aaron Allston's Strike Force and skimmed through it - and I didn't love it, at least not in terms of what I want to do. I thought that the practical discussions around running supers gaming were good, but other than that it's mostly a roster of characters. I suppose that what I keep reacting to is that many supers gaming supplements are 'here are my/our cool characters' rather than 'here is where your cool characters live'.

It is one of the key problems with gaming in Marvel's or DC's worlds - it is awesome to be where Batman is and to fight some of Batman's enemies, but when Batman keeps showing up, he kind of takes the spotlight from you. I have addressed that by having all the great heroes be also kind of dead. Ermugurd, there were all these incredible heroes who did tremendous things, but now there's a bit of a void and we hope you'll step up, because they didn't take any of their villains with them when they died.

And, the fact that they're dead almost makes me want to avoid creating stats for them. How powerful was the Emissary? How much could Magni lift? What was Eldritch able to do? They assume a more mythical status if I don't tell you how powerful they were - because of that, you are always just a little bit in their shadow. And it's always just a shadow.

I'm interested in the stories of before and after those heroes lived. I'm actually not all that interested in telling stories about the greatest heroes at the height of their powers defeating overwhelming threats.

And again, my focus is on creating a living gaming environment, not a fixed world that has already had the coolest stuff happen.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Stalwart Age Stories

Doc Stalwarts ongoing comics also have prose adaptations. 
These are linked below.

The Unfinished Business Storyline

Sentinels Locations - First Thoughts

Doing some brainstorming for this project:

Nexus Rings are 50’ wide metallic bands composed of an alloy derived from several meteoric metals. These rings have been distributed throughout the known galaxy by the same alien race that created Doc’s ship. They require a complex activation sequence and possession of a ‘key’ that is composed of a comparable alloy. Note: There is an ancient alien race of scientist types who were good-natured, and who put a lot of things in place. They were kind of Ancient Rome on a cosmic scale, but they are now extinct. A lot of technology is their ancient stuff that is just being found now.

Introduction: Standard Locations (6-10 of them). These would be common ‘sorts’ of locations. There would be general commonalties, and maybe 3 sample floor plans for each one. Maybe a page of information, and a page with three floorplans… so a total of 2 pages each?
  1. Bank Floorplans
  2. Warehouse Floorplans
  3. Factory Floorplans
  4. Manufacturing / Processing Plant Floorplans
  5. Office Building Floorplans
  6. Goonsquad Fight Clubs
  7. Tunnels in the Depths

After skimming through the core rules, here are some sample locations that I want to develop:
  1. Harvyst’s House of Horrors. A maze of traps and illusions to drive visitors insane, crafted by the criminal Harvyst.
  2. Boondock’s Hideaway. Booncock, his bouncer Knuckles, and several of the villains who routinely stay there (just some more general villains for your use).
  3. The Penthouse Stronghold of Cybron and his criminal empire.
  4. The Jungle Abode of Simian Prime. The ape’s treetop fortress along with his mechs, battle suits, creations, and various apish minions.
  5. A school of young supervillains being trained by someone evil. Maybe an evil Hogwarts?
  6. The Volcanic Fortress of Marog Kyl. Set atop of volcanic spire on a distant world, inhabited by magma creatures, preparing to wage war as Marog tries to activate a Nexus Ring that sits in the shadow of his fortress.
  7. The Ruins of Demascus Station – a fragmented space station filled with strange and wonderful objects gleaned from a hundred worlds, now controlled by a strange sentient race.
  8. The Undersea Temple at Poseidon’s Beard. A vast undersea temple complex now held by a race of underwater militants and their various allies.
  9. Antiquity Isle. An island in the Bermuda Triangle populated by dinosaurs, protected by a dinosaur-riding savage, and watched over by a technological complex hidden deep in a volcanic crater, where scientists carefully monitor the isle’s inhabitants. Game stats for dinosaurs, prehistoric beasts, and savage peoples.
  10. The Powers Family Sky Fortress. The base of operations for the Powers Family.
  11. New Valhalla’s Fortress.
  12. Underground Mutant Stronghold in Meridian (map of Meridian? List of encounters?)
  13. First Family Dojo (See page 115).
  14. Vigilance Dam and the Hall of Heroes (see page 119).
  15. Witch Alley? (page 123)
  16. Arkovian Bunker where a villain holds sway. (see page 124)
  17. Marakevian fortress (see page 124)
  18. Part of Saltmere? (page 124)
  19. Part of Zualu (page 124)
  20. Mystic Tower of Zan Zelak. The center of the Keeper of the Mystic Veil, a well of all worlds, and the elder library of all known things. Stats for the Chronicle.
  21. Ro the Ravager’s Celestial Tower. Ro, the Voice of Ro, his various creations, and a whole bunch of weirdness.
  22. Ruins of The Tomorrow Complex. This could be its own section of the rules, with several sample levels. These could be themed with time travel, the undead, alternate worlds, and various strange laboratories. This could be five sections easy.

Sentinels Campaign Setting

I have decided to at least try to develop a Sentinels of Echo City campaign book, but I still am not sure how to focus it. Let’s set out some goals for the project and then discuss how one might approach such a thing…


A campaign guide, to my mind, should do several things. First of all, it should provide a relatively comprehensive backdrop for gaming. This is different philosophically from developing an encyclopedia of the known world. It is not Wikipedia of Stalwart Earth. It is a roleplaying game supplement, and I want to approach it that way. It is supposed to provide a foundation for ongoing play, not lay out an existing universe in detail.

I also don't want it to be a catalog of characters. It is not the 'official handbook of the Sentinel Universe' or anything.

One issue is that I already did a ‘general’ overview in the core rules. It’s 20 pages long, and gives a pretty solid, albeit cursory, overview of the game world. I don’t want to just take that, write it again, and add ten layers. I feel like the primer that is there is pretty good – I could add a whole bunch of miscellaneous detail, but it wouldn’t significantly add to the game or the world. What you NEED to know is already in the core rules.

Focus on the idea of hooks. Every element should include hooks – not only what is it, but how you might use it in play.


Maybe I could think of it on the whole as expanding section 10: Adventures. Rather than writing linear adventures, I could provide 20+ settings within and connected to Sentinel Earth that may provide a foundation for adventure. These could range from the small to the large, from street level to cosmic. Wormwood Station, the Junkyard Dawg’s Compound, and Aegis Section Delta (from the core rules) all provided a map to explore, visit, invade, defend… a few of the characters that inhabit the location, and hooks for how you might set an adventure there. This would allow me to ‘dip my toes’ into dozens of locations, exploring each of them in significant depth while skimming past other places. These then become iconic, archetypal locations that suggest what similar locations might be like. This also allows me to build on the core rules while basically eliminating redundancy, which I like.


These ideas lend themselves to a modular approach. I could work on these one at a time, each at about 4-8 pages. I could release them as pay what you want downloads as I do them, trying to knock out one every few weeks. Once they are all done, I could go back and bundle them together in one master book. An average of 6 pages with 20 of them would be 120 pages, so targeting a 128-page supplement is not out of line. The core rules are 192 pages. To create another book that long, I'd need to create about 30 different locations... I do think that a version of the Solitaire Framework would be at the front of the book, and that the whole idea would be that you use the Solitaire Framework to build adventures as you explore locations. There is not a lot of 'he is sitting on his throne counting gold coins when the heroes arrive' type of text; it will be more along the lines of 'the villain is likely to be working in his lab, but is possibly in any other location in the complex.'


The visual design should be the same as Sentinels. I don't want to create a 'new' look for the game. I want to build on what I've already done, and have a second book that looks and feels like a companion to the original.