Sunday, June 14, 2020

Shards and Species Design Work

I’m toying with a random generation system for character species in Shards of Tomorrow. You roll for four different qualities of your character, receiving 1d4 results in each quality. The final category, dispositions, is the tendency and reputation of a species; you don’t have to be these things, but they should flavor your decision making in character design. Maybe your species is arrogant, but you’re the outlier who just happens to be really self-conscious and self-deprecating. I rolled up a species to see… and rolled 4/3/3/4 for numbers of qualities in each category. Wow. This is going to be an exceptional species…

Abilities: +1d4 DEX, +1d4 CON, +1 AC, +1d6 hp
Talents: Chameleon, Flight, Shape Change
Characteristics: Webbed hands and feet, scales instead of skin, mammalian appearance
Dispositions: Violent, spartan, self-disciplined, tolerant

Description (made up based on what I rolled above):

The Volok consider themselves a vastly superior species, but they show a remarkable patience with the ‘inadequacy’ of lesser species. In their natural form, they are a scale-covered people that resemble flying monkies, but they are continually changing form and color, blending in with their surroundings and assuming the forms of other species. They are highly prized as spies and assassins, but are also greatly feared for this. Some planets have enacted laws requiring Volok to retain their ‘natural’ appearance at all times, making the activation of their natural abilities an illegal act. In general, suspicion of Volok runs high among most species, and a Volok in his or her natural form is likely to be greeted with suspicion in most places.


I like this. It feels a little more like the supers game in terms of character building, but it definitely hews towards the source material (which is Star Wars. Duh). I have struggled in the past with creating game balance between Wookies and Ewoks; now I don’t bother. Wookies are awesome, and Ewoks are lame. That’s just how it goes.

It's a galaxy with thousands of stars, and tens of thousands of planets. There are a lot of species to choose from.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Some Shards Thoughts

I have been kind of quiet, but that doesn't mean I'm not working on stuff. I've actually run a few solo sessions investigating level 1 of the Vault of the D'Ro, and have been mapping and stocking that dungeon. I expect that to be the next update for Tales, and should be out once I finish it... I've got all of the notes together for it, so it's just a matter of doing some layout and writing. No big shakes, once I get around to it...

That said, my free time today was spent cobbling some notes for a new edition of Shards of Tomorrow. It's hard to see this game even making it to 48 pages to be honest - big chunks of the Tales book are magic, treasure, and monsters. Between them, these three things account for 29 out of 48 pages! Instead, Shards would have:

1-2 pages on mysticism. This is much more flexible and open-ended, working a lot more like powers in Sentinels of Echo City and far less like one of the magic fields in Tales. Basically, apostles (Shards Jedi) get access to mysticism, attempting a number of mysticism checks each turn equal to their level. You can do things like a light heal, a simple command, a light telekinetic push or pull, levitate, jump a short distance, or boost an ability for a short burst. Once you have WIS 14+, you can attempt an epic check once per turn with one of your attempts, completely healing yourself or an ally, moving huge objects with telekinesis, levitating everything nearby, jumping huge distances, boosting abilities for a turn.

1-2 pages on commerce and relics. The monetary system will be important, and there will be mystical relics of the distant past to recover, but the availability of magical items has to be more limited due to the setting. 1 page of relics is probably plenty. 20 relics sounds like a good number to start with.

Only a few pages of monsters. There would be some sample monsters, along with some guidelines for generating monsters... and that takes me to character creation:

Character creation is the big change from the original Shards, and from my other games. I have expanded the size and scale of the region that encompasses the game; there are now hundreds of settled planets with thousands of different species. So, when you roll up a character, you are probably rolling up a unique species. Writing the supers game was good for forcing me to cast off such quaint concepts as game balance, so that comes into play here. You could get really lucky and roll up a species that is like a Wookie - bigger, stronger, and faster than everyone, with solid pilot skills, a cool weapon, and mechanically inclined. Or, you could roll up a Tuscan Raider, and get a bonus when in the desert. I'm trying to echo both Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy here, so having a motley crew of adventurers with an assortment of backgrounds and abilities is at the heart of the game. Like the supers game, character creation becomes a mini game within the game, as you roll up exotic and weird alien species to populate your galaxy. Then, you join with other freaks to zip around the galaxy in the shadow of the Void. The availability of talents will be a bit wider as well; you start with a random number of talents at level 1, rather than just getting 1.

That brings me to the idea of the Junker. I hoped that every group would end up with a junker in Shards, but the game didn't demand it. Now, it will. Your team starts with a junker, and everyone rolls at character creation; high roll gets it as 'their' property, and then you roll randomly to see how you got it.

Of course, the game needs some setting material too, although I really like the approach from Tales... a starter location, a starter adventure, and a broad strokes (1-2 page) overview of the explored galaxy. I suppose that this could get expanded by a page or two, and another page or two of history... and the Void Imperium needs its own section... so maybe I could get this bad boy to 48 pages after all.

Half of the book is already written, since the mechanics and game play for Tales will basically just be re-skinned.