Friday, December 31, 2021
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
Friday, December 24, 2021
It has been a ROUGH couple of months. Ugh.
Maybe I'll talk about it at some point, but for now, let's just talk gaming, eh? I decided to try some solo gaming at a slow crawl just for something to occupy my mind, and made a level 1 bard. I figure he can build a team to go adventuring. I decided his first set of magic will be in arcane, but looking at the spell lists, I realized that the level 1 spells don't really have a lot of useful spells. My inclination has always been to make level 1 spells that are just introductory versions of more powerful spells ("this is just a really tiny version of fireball"), but for this character, I'm been leaning in to the idea of making level 1 spells (and maybe even some level 2 spells) more about utility. You can be useful as a caster rather than straight-out nuking foes. I drafted up three spells that I'll be trying out, considering my character is going to be a 'hit and run' kind of dude.
Evanesce (Arcane I; self) Use 1 action to produce a puff of smoke at your feet; you may immediately attempt a free sneak (or sneak at +4 with existing sneak) to travel up to your move in any direction (that you can normally reach). You cannot evanesce to the ceiling or through the floor, but you could evanesce behind a nearby rock or around a corner.
Extend Shadow (Arcane I; 30’) Use 1 action to grant one character +1D6 to sneak attack damage (as a thief) for 1 turn. If cast on a thief, this grants +1D6 to existing sneak attack damage.
Glamour Weapon (Arcane I; 30’) Use 1 action to provide an illusory effect upon one weapon that makes it appear exceedingly magical and powerful for 1 turn. Those struck by the weapon must attempt an immediate morale check at -2 or flee. Those who make a successful morale check do not need to attempt this again.
Sunday, October 31, 2021
Well, that's some serendipity.
I finally finished worked on Doc Stalwart #259, and it is posted to the comics archive on the Doc Stalwart blog.
This ended being a Halloween-themed issue of sorts, so it's appropriate that it is released on Halloween. However, it is also one of the earliest Doc stories I wrote; I had about half of this done for the past two years, but never could figure out how to work it in to the larger narrative I was working on, or how to work all of the various pieces in that I wanted. I think this one has had more drafts and revisions than any Doc story I've written; I spent the last several days changing just a few words at a time until I got it right where I wanted it.
SPOILER ALERT: Read it first before continuing below. Unless you don't really care, then keep reading, I guess :)
This issue is the culmination of several stories; Jynx and Zirah were never going to be permanent residents in the comic, and I always expected them to fade into the background at some point. This issue ends one part of the larger narrative I've been working on, and the next issue is (in my head) more of an epilogue to the larger story here. I see 261 as starting a 'new' storyline, where Doc will go in search of his daughter and he and Mikah will be traversing the Null Zone. I don't know what is going to happen there yet, like I only have the broadest of strokes done, but I have a few beats I need to hit. Next issue (260) I hope will be a payoff of a few other threads I have lingering, and I hope that it feels like a complete arc when it's done. I don't know that it will be long enough to release as a 'graphic novel without all the pictures' (or whatever I'm thinking of it as), but I do want to find some way to gather the whole thing together in some meaningful way.
Sunday, October 17, 2021
I had a little trouble getting this one right; it's a transitional issue, and I didn't want it to fall flat. I'm happy with how it turned out, even though it is far more character development and setting things up than it is straight-up adventure. I figure there's a lot of straight-up adventure I'm setting up...
Saturday, September 25, 2021
While I'm all about Shakespeare Deathmatch right now, and I'm still in transition back to school mode (first time teaching English 8 and brand new to middle school, so whew), I did find a little time to update the Stalwart Age Character Database, adding two undersea characters, Prince Aquari and his arch nemesis Lord Lamprey. There are a lot of titles being passed around in the deep, obviously.
Saturday, September 18, 2021
It took about two weeks, but the third draft of the deck of Shakespeare Deathmatch came in - and the cards are perfect! I'm so happy with the printing, and I finally banished all of the little layout gremlins that were messing with the cards. I'm going to go through to dot I's and cross T's on the DriveThru site, and the cards should be up for sale in a few hours. I can't wait for people to start playing this game.
By the way, I recommend the hard plastic box for an extra dollar - totally worth it.
Monday, August 30, 2021
I knew that beyond the four basic attack cards, I wanted something that would change play; I wanted there to be unexpected events, twists, and turns that could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. I didn't want this to be random, but I wanted there to be a bit of strategy and luck combined. I ended up with two things: trickster cards and when revealed effects.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
The game ended up in a sweet spot for me of 'medium' complexity. I've played a few card games that were quite complex (if you didn't know how every card you had worked together, and you didn't know how every card your foe had worked together, you were at a significant disadvantage). I've also played a lot of games that were quite simple (UNO). I wanted to end somewhere in the middle. I wanted it to be complex enough that it was interesting and it challenged you to apply some strategy, but not so complex that you had to enroll in community college to keep up. I will record a demo video at some point, but I thought in the short term I'd talk through a few rules... the basics are this:
Saturday, August 21, 2021
The genesis of the game design for Shakespeare Deathmatch comes out of a theory I have that unifies his plays; he often plays with the four elements, and ties these thematically to a set of motifs that recur across his plays. When you see what he's up to with the four elements, you can quickly get some insights into what's happening in scenes, between characters, or within characters. For example, I think I've been able to solve two questions of "Hamlet" (why does it take so long? Why the pirates??) by layering this theory over the play.
A few simple rule changes (on reveals, you discard any cards in your damage pool that do not count as damage to your character) is a BIG motivation to reveal. It frees up cards and increases tension. It's a nice touch.
The whole idea of damage pools becomes a key part of the strategy. You are dropping points in the damage pools of others just to get them out of play so they cannot be used against you. Sure, my 3 Letters card will not harm Macbeth (it must be of woman born, I guess), but if it's in his damage pool, he cannot use it to inflict further injury upon poor Ophelia. She's been through enough already.
The trickster cards can make big shifts suddenly. Grace ended the second game by having Macbeth (appropriately enough) play a card that killed both of our characters; she was about to be defeated, so she figured she may as well take me with her :)
There's an attrition of resources; as better cards get locked up in the damage pools of others, the one and two point cards becoming increasingly valuable as the game grinds on. I like that a card that is perceived of as a throwaway card early on can become quite valuable down the home stretch. When you have a bunch of one-point cards in your hand, but so does someone else, and you only need to drop a point on someone to win, that becomes a very valuable little card.
I received my demo deck yesterday, and cracked that bad boy open! I learned a few things right quick...
The layout was a little 'off'. Each card was slightly skewed to the left, for whatever reason. The live area was much smaller than I had anticipated, meaning that the cards were pretty scrunched, and had no borders to speak of.
The backs look uneven, and it is next to impossible to get that black border to appear 'just right'. I thought it was spot on, and it wasn't even close.
I spent a few hours re-formatting some cards, adding some settings and tricksters, and re-building the entire deck. The work in progress is above.
But, we also got to play the dang thing. FINALLY. Here are my takeaways:
Holy crap this is a great game! We played three games, and each time new little strategic choices appeared. Do I play this card now, or do I hold it another round to see if I can get more value from it? Should I reveal this scene, or wait until next scene? Should I play a card, risking losing it having it be used against me? How can I manage my resources the best? How can I force someone else to reveal their character? It FEELS exactly like I want it to feel. Thematically it is spot on for where I wanted to go. You know the whole time that you are playing a Shakespearean game, with Shakespearean characters, in a Shakespearean environment.
My wife and daughter both like the designs of the cards. They like the art, the layout, the formatting, and the presentation. All win! They both actually enjoyed playing. I think my daughter will be requesting this in regular game rotation with our other regular family games. That's huge.
There just aren't enough cards. I didn't think about how many cards would end up being bogged down in peoples' damage pools. However, I have added a number of base cards to the deck, and also added a rule that clears out your damage pool (unused cards) when you reveal your character, so that will help a lot with just having enough cards on hand to play. The base deck has gone from 52 cards to 84.
The game takes longer than I had anticipated. I expected a play to last maybe 15 minutes; we were averaging over a half hour with three players, a little less with two. We were going slow and talking rules and gameplay as we went, so it might end up being a lot faster once people know the cards. That said, there are still a lot of moving parts and subtleties, sudden changes and unexpected events, and sudden turns about you didn't see coming. I really, really love it. I'm sending in for a second proof deck in the next day or two, and expect to have the game on sale by middle September.
Sunday, August 15, 2021
The Stalwart Age blog has been updated with a new story in the comics tab (Issue 257), and three new characters in the characters tab (Carrot the Stalwart Bunny, and the villains Brutakus and Gorillo). You might want to read issue 257 before delving those character blocks too closely... consider your spoiler alerted.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
I love having my Stalwart Age blog so much I made one for Shakespeare Deathmatch. While there aren't any real game updates yet (it's still being printed and shipped, so I'm about a week away from demo-ifying that thing), I've put up the first five chapters of my Shakespeare Deathmatch Novella. They are a work in progress, and I may liberally edit as I continue to work on this, but I figure I like where it is at the moment well enough to share the first 1500 words or so...
Saturday, August 7, 2021
I've been so busy posting things for my lords, rings, and stoutlings game, and for Shakespeare Deathmatch, that I fell a little behind on keeping up with Stalwart Age stuff. Fear not, true believer! I have updated the database over at the Stalwart Age page with four character profiles, including three heroes and one major villain - and one of the heroes is my beloved Teddy Bear Seymour, who I am so happy is making his triumphant return. I figure if Marvel can have Howard the Duck and Rocket Raccoon, I can have a sword-wielding teddy bear, gosh darn it!
Friday, August 6, 2021
Compare my original design for the Shakespeare Deathmatch Logo from several years ago with the one I did today... and you can see that I probably hit my classic 10,000 hours at some point in the interim. Then, I was trying to draw well, and sort of fumbling through it. Now, I got exactly the image I wanted then.
I am submitting a draft of the deck for Shakespeare Deathmatch (revised) to DrivethruRPG to get a demo set and try it out. It's frickin' sweet. It does everything I wanted it to do three years ago, but wasn't quite sure how to solve. You've got your character, you are trying to deceive others, you have a lot of ways to deal damage, surprising things can occur, the setting has an effect on the game, and it is structured to sound and feel like a Shakespearean tragedy as you play it. It uses all of my crazy Shakespeare theories and little acting/directing things I learned about Shakespeare and his plays baked right into the core rules. And, it is quite expandable: I set things up that I can release 10 to 20 card boosters based on individual plays (maybe 2 new characters, 2 more settings, 2 more trickster cards, 4 special attack cards... and maybe a full set of basic attack cards just to fill your deck a little more each time).
Sometimes I impress myself. Seriously. This is a fantastic game. Cannot wait to demo it for people.
Thursday, August 5, 2021
Here is a sample character card for Hamlet, the GOAT of Shakespeare characters. There are so many cool little fiddly bits in this game - it's really a nifty game, if I do say so myself. A quick description; he can sustain 8 points of blades damage and 4 points of coins damage before being slain. His card is hidden; other players do not know what will damage him, so they try anything they can to force his hand. Once he has sustained a bit of damage and is in peril, he's going to have to reveal himself, which will temporarily relieve some of the damage he has suffered, but open him up for a more direct and focused attack, now that everyone can see his weaknesses. I may have to move the numbers around a bit (getting rid of one card may not be very much, and I might want to go as far as two cards. We'll see when we play test), but it's a good working draft for now.
On my Patreon, I posted about Shakespeare Deathmatch (The card game that's a novel - the novel that's a card game!), that is one day going to be a Hollywood blockbuster starring Matt Damon as Horatio (LET ME HAVE MY DREAMS). You can go there and read about it for free. Then you can become a Patron and read even more cool stuff! Hooray, you.
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Sunday, August 1, 2021
Saturday, July 31, 2021
Sunday, July 25, 2021
Over on Patreon, I've posted a lost interview from 1983 with the one-man army who created Doc Stalwart comics for several years, on a legendary run that ended with issue 250. This is a public post, so you can see the benefits of being a patron! (Nudge, nudge)
Saturday, July 24, 2021
Over on the Stalwart Age Comics Database, I have added a summary and overview of issue 250, as well as the prose adaptation of issue 255. I won't quite call the database 'robust' yet, but it's filling out nicely, and I am happy with the variety it represents. If you are a Patron (and I hope you think about becoming one if you're not), you've already seen the next few things that I'm planning. Patrons get to see things at least one (and sometimes several) weeks before they go live, and also get to take part in behind-the-scenes conversations around the development of Doc and his world.
One of the things that I've introduced in the summary to 250 is the idea of a larger universe around the Doc comics that is also part of my own experiences; I loved the comics, but I also loved the interviews with comics creators and the letters pages of the comics. I allude to both of these in the historic notes to 250, and these are something I plan to explore in the future. Some of my favorite teenage memories are spending time reading the in-depth interviews in The Comics Journal and seeing under the hood of how the industry worked (or at least a glimpse of how it worked). At the time, I was all in on wanting to make superhero comics as my livelihood, and I was just as interested in what it was like to be a writer or artist as I was in reading the comics themselves.
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
I've got a few Doc Stalwart side projects I'm working on... if you are on Patreon, you already know what I'm talking about... so you can sign up to get in on the conversation. But, in this process, I was thinking about the history of Doc and his story. In many ways, I'm looking at the story starting at issue 251 as establishing 'new' canon. One example of this is the character of Simian Prime. Simian Prime first appeared as a Doc Stalwart villain in the golden age comics, and his origin was always tied to Doc in the silver age comics... but starting with 251, he is ret-conned to have been an enemy of Hartland, 25 years earlier. I know that this seems like a mistake, but it's actually not. The current writer of Doc Stalwart (me, but not me, of course), has decided to revisit 'classic' Doc elements are re-imagine them. It is a soft reset of Doc's world; effectively, the John Byrne's "Man of Steel" of Doc's Superman history. One of the writer's goals from 251 forward is to create a definitive storyline that works out all of the contractions in Doc's publishing history. Comics have a proud history of making narrative messes and then working hard to clean them up; if I wasn't doing the same, I wouldn't be creating an 'authentic' homage.
Saturday, July 17, 2021
This week's update is all about a certain mummy. Tessek the Terrible has ended up being a more powerful foe than I first conceived him; he starts pretty powerful, but he gets increasingly powerful as he gathers his artifacts. He could work as a big bad for a campaign, since hunting down his relics and fighting him with different power levels is on the table. Each encounter with him can be a little different. The Stalwart Age databases have been updated; his character profile is in the characters tab, and the summary of his first appearance is in the comics tab. Head over and take a look.
Friday, July 16, 2021
This version has a little bit of updated art, a few clean-ups throughout, and some minor tweaks and edits. There are no changes to gameplay, but I found (or had pointed out to me) a number of minor errors that I wanted to address. I also tightened up the layout throughout, getting rid of a little bit of white space and pushing the images to be a little bigger throughout.
If you already ordered the pdf, check drivethrurpg for an updated file and a link to the discounted edition. Remember, if you have already purchased the pdf, I am giving you a link to a discounted edition at 9.95. The link will be in the revised document, at the bottom of page 31.
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Sunday, July 11, 2021
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Here is your weekly update on all things Stalwart Age.
Over in the comics database, I have added two things: an archival entry for Doc's first meeting with Ro the Ravager (issue 77), and a prose adaptation of his more recent meeting Ro and his newer assistant (issue 254).
Meanwhile, in the character database, I have added a character profile for the Voice of Ro, for those times when you need a pretty powerful cosmic character to show up and lay the smack down.
FYI, this is the model for how I plan to build the game going forward. Every weekend, I plan to add 2-3 new things to the larger Stalwart Age database. I will endeavor to thematically tie these together; if you get a new Doc story, you probably get stats for one of the characters who appears in the story, or an adventure write up of the location from that story. I would like to move both the larger narrative and the game forward one step each week. I think, before long, there will be a pretty robust database at hand of both story and game material to draw upon. I already feel like the database is shaping up nicely, with 19 characters, 8 comics, and a bunch of resources there already.
And remember, if you sign up as a patron, you get early access to all of this; I am already several weeks ahead with patrons, and they already have access to the next two Doc Stalwart comics and previews of two past issues that will be added to the database, along with other crazy goodness. Even a dollar a month will go a long way to keeping Stalwart Age content flowing. Thanks!
Friday, July 9, 2021
Max T has jokingly (I think) referred to my work as 'the Desingverse', which I suppose is my own sort of universe where my stories exist. Up until now, I didn't think much about the moniker (although I found it flattering), but I've started to realize that I can unify everything I've done in this one milieu - or at least my comics work.
My first comic book was called Seymour, about a fantasy world and a sword-wielding teddy bear who is on a quest. A few months ago, I started sketching Seymour again, and actually created two pages of a comic. I knew he was on a quest in a dark land, and that he was protecting a baby girl. I didn't really know much else. It hit me today; he is an important link in the story of Vesper. She is the princess of the Shadow Realm, but is currently deposed (she and Oberion can get together and complain about it some time). However, she was originally trapped there as an infant, and her subconscious mind created Seymour to protect her and get her out, into the mortal realm. He is still there, waiting for her return. He cannot leave the Shadow Realm (he is part of it), but he's still there fighting the good fight. He's met Doc Stalwart a few times.
I already fit the Army Ants in. They were a backup feature in the golden age stories, and have appeared in dream machine sequences in his present adventures.
Teaching Ted was a comic strip I did about a teacher named Ted Zeitgeist who is trying to make his way through his first few years of teaching. However, Ted has a side hobby - he is the world's biggest collector of Doc Stalwart merchandise, and he is publishing a book about Doc Stalwart, taking a scholarly approach to documenting and analyzing Doc's adventures. He is 'me' in the world where Doc Stalwart comics are being published. I almost think that he is the one writing the prose adaptations, not me... if that makes any sense. So his comic strip has actually happened to him in the world where Doc Stalwart comics are being published (but where superheroes and Doc Stalwart are entirely fictional). The Stalwart Age is the world's most popular RPG in that world (as it should be in this one, but I digress...).
Thursday, July 8, 2021
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
A few Stalwart Age pieces of business and updates:
- The print edition is still nigh. I am waiting on a physical copy so I can approve it before putting it live. I just want to make sure that everything looks good in print, and that the covers are lined up, before I start selling this. There are no 'do overs' on physical books.
- Speaking of do-overs, I will be releasing an update to the game when the print edition goes live. The update will have a few relatively minor changes (see below). There will also be a link for the discounted print edition, for those who buy (or have already bought) the pdf.
- Stat blocks are being updated with colons instead of hyphens between the attribute and the rating (Thanks, Rick, for the suggestion). I have updated the character archive on the Stalwart Age site with corrected stat blocks. I also upgraded Ro slightly to show he truly is at the peak of measurable game attributes. He is Ro, after all.
- I am going to add a small tweak to the focus talent. I was toying with some rules for popularity when I was writing the game, because I really like that as a concept (as well as infamy for villains), but I didn't have a good way to plug it in in an economical way, and I also didn't like how it kind of becomes redundant with CHA. I realized a few days ago that I can leverage the focus talent to give you a +3 CHA bonus when you can use your name or reputation to your advantage. Villains then can access infamy, which grants a +3 CHA bonus to use their name and reputation to intimidate or coerce. It's a nice, clean, mechanically-sound way to solve the problem. I updated Doc's stat block with this talent. I thought about doing this for Simian Prime as well, but decided against it... I don't know that his reputation is greater than just the fact that he's a talking ape in a battle suit. Popularity/Infamy should be REALLY special.
- There's new content on the Stalwart Age Page! There's a new adventure location (Junkyard Dawg's lair) on the resources tab, and there's a stat block for Junkyard Dawg on the characters tab. Of course, if you are a patron through Patreon, you already got these a few days ago... you can sign up as a patron to get early access to new content, and also to get some behind-the-scenes looks at my thought process as we build the game together going forward. Just this week, patrons got to see Doc Stalwart 1994, met Harvyst, got a preview of content featuring Tessek the Terrible, and got to read the next two chapters in Doc's adventures. Those things will be rolling out on the Stalwart Age site in the next few weeks.
I know... it's my game, and I wrote it, so of COURSE I like it. That's kind of obvious.
But there are things that are baked in that are not necessarily intentional, but are cool side effects of the design philosophy I've employed. You can play the game 'out of the box' as is, or you can toolkit the whole thing and start tinkering. Someone over the Supers RPG forum on FB was asking about building custom powers for his character, and we ended up going through about four different ways he could solve the power set for his character. The game allows any of those pathways to work, and to customize the gift that best fits his character concept. Instead of having clear lines between gifts, there is significant bleed between some gifts so that two characters with different powers could do similar things; and two characters with similar powers could have them present in fundamentally different ways.
But the other benefit is that powers (and even origins) have various levels of complexity. In D+D, if you want to keep things simple, you play a fighter; if you want to have some complexity, play a Drow magic/user thief, and you'll have all sorts of fiddly things to play with. In many ways, Stalwart Age is that concept on adrenaline. Cyclops and the Thing are simple. You shoot stuff with your eye beams or you are big and tough and strong. Those are easy to conceive of, and easy to play. At the far end, you can have the Scarlet Witch, with myriad ways to apply her powers. I also like how 'comic-booky' this ends up being. I was reading through some old FF comics (from Byrne's run, of course) and in the letters column someone pointed out that Sue was more powerful now than she was before; the editor replied that she always had those powers, it was just that she (and JB by extension) were finding new ways to apply them. In comics, the powers of supers change depending on who is doing the writing; the powers as applied in the game change depending on how the player is interpreting them. How I use sonic energy control and how you use it might be different; we read the same small block of text and get different ideas about how this might work and the types of things we might do with it. This is actually not a weakness of the game; it is a strength because it better emulates the source material, and our shared experiences in spending time in that source material.
Monday, July 5, 2021
Over on Patreon, I posted a cover for an upcoming Doc Stalwart comics update that includes the Bronze Beacon, and Rick suggested that the Bronze Beacon needed a logo. I played with this for a little bit, and decided the one with the red arrow pointing to it feels the strongest, simplest, and most iconic. Thoughts?
Sunday, July 4, 2021
I was working on the cover for Doc Stalwart #77, the first appearance of Ro (this is NOT it, by the way), and I was very happy with how it turned out. I'll be sharing it next week, but if you sign up for my Patreon, you get to see it immediately. Cause that's how that works :)
However, I was thinking of how the backstory works, and how drama happens behind the scenes, and I was thinking that it would be fun if in the late 60's (or early 70s) there was a Saturday morning cartoon based on Doc Stalwart, the Doc Stalwart Action Hour. It had a lead feature (15 minutes long) featuring Doc Stalwart, but the writers of the show picked and chose things from the series. The breaking point for Lee Stanford (Doc's creator and writer) was when they did an episode where Ro appeared, but they had him talk. That went against everything Lee thought about the character, and he almost quit the series in rage (not for the first or last time, either). He had already been mad that Doc had been given a bunny sidekick (Carrot the Stalwart Bunny), and that Simian Prime kept making ape sounds whenever he would talk. But Ro talking (and speaking like an angry toddler - "Ro no like that! Ro destroy planet!") put him over the edge.
Saturday, July 3, 2021
I've posted the two-page plug in for solo gaming. The idea is that I will be releasing locations (one-page adventure starters) that would work perfectly with the Super Solo Framework. Or, you can just use the framework to completely make up your own comic stories. I recommend building them an issue at a time, and labeling your series (and keeping copious notes. And publishing them. Yesss. Excellllleeent).
My Patreon page now has issue 254 of Doc Stalwart's adventures live - and you get to meet a certain Ravager of Worlds in person. This will go live to the Stalwart Age site next Sunday. Thanks to those who are Patrons, and sign up today if you want to see content a week before anyone else.
Friday, July 2, 2021
Jimmy F at the Splinterverse (love the title, as you'd imagine) does game previews, and he mentioned my new book in his latest podcast. You can stick around for the full thing (he does a nice job talking through each of the games he previews), but you can jump to the 1:40:30 mark if you want to see what he says about previewing my book... I appreciate the signal boost!
I opened the Solitaire Framework file yesterday, expecting to dust it off, give it a once-over for language, and then put it up on my Stalwart Age page as as support for supers solo play.
But as I tinkered, I realized that it's pretty good for fantasy, but not so great for supers gaming. One of the big problems is that the primary motivations for fantasy gaming and supers gaming differ. At its heart, the Solitaire Framework assumes you can run entire campaigns around the idea that your character is there to kill things and take their stuff. All you really need is to generate who the things are, where they live, and what their stuff is like. The environment is reactive; the heroes are making the decisions, and then the scenario, in effect, responds to those choices. Goblins gonna do what goblins gonna do. They sit there and stand guard over their loot until heroes show up to take it. I'm not saying it's logical - I'm saying it's game logical.
I was reflecting on how superheroes are largely the reactive ones (at least in comics). Spidey is on patrol when he hears the bank alarm. Reed Richards is working in his lab when the dimensional status sensor goes off (there are lots of alarms and sensors in the world of superheroes). You can predict (in large measure) what Spidey is going to do. If the bank alarm goes off, he's going to investigate. He's going to foil the robbery so he can save the day and get home to Aunt May in time for dinner (or to school for the test, or to Mary Jane for the date, or to the Daily Bugle to keep his job...). That's usually what he's trying to do.
But what if the basic idea is that you are playing the villains? I mean, they have the active motivations - to take over the world. To rob the bank. To gather an army of mutant rats (and take over the world). To lure the hero into a death trap.
In effect, the paradigm shift is that you don't use the Framework to emulate the GM - you use it to emulate the player. It might be a 'villain of the week' setup. You KNOW who the hero is going to be (because you are leveling up Kid Zealot), but each time you play, you play a different villain, with different motivations, in a different scenario. You know that Kid Zealot is going to appear - you just don't know how or why when you start.
And now the choices get more interesting. Kid Zealot is not looking for a vat of acid to be pushed into, but Simian Junior (Simian Prime's rogue sidekick that you created - hey, it's your game) always has his radar up. Maybe this old factory has a vat of acid sitting around. I mean, it's worth rolling the dice to find out.
Some excellent comic stories have taken this focus - you don't frame things from the hero's point of view, but you look at it from the criminal's perspective. I can randomly determine what the super is doing much more easily, because there are fewer logical choices. Since I am playing the villain, I can use the dice to emulate the environment around them - and now things can get CRAZY.
The only problem I see is the motivation piece as a player. I mean, if my hero is Kid Zealot, I don't want the villain actually succeeding - because that would mean KZ dies.
But again, this doesn't necessarily undermine comics narrative 'truth'. I mean, I know that Spiderman is not going to die this issue. I'm sure of it when I pick it up. The only thing I'm really reading is HOW he's going to escape this villain, or HOW he's going to overcome this obstacle.
I guess that maybe the focus should be on generating conflicts. Yes, the villain is one of the conflicts, but heroes can face other conflicts, too.
I have this theory (I have a lot of theories by the way - I've been teaching ELA for 20 years and have had too much time to think about this stuff) that ALL conflict is actually internal. Any external conflict you face is really just a manifestation of some internal conflict you have to overcome. Dangers in the environment are really just battling fear. A foe is just a projection of something you don't like about yourself. Being hunted by the law is really just an opportunity for you to work out your personal issues with authority figures. If you are focusing on playing the conflict, you are actually doing some deep character development by proxy.
Now, I'm playing the burning building. My motivation is to trap as many civilians as possible and to destroy the structure - I'm rolling to see how and where the hero intervenes to stop me. Meanwhile, the hero is working through their deep-seated anger, as reflected through the element of fire, and I'm just here to help.
Yeah. I don't know if this is going to fit on one page.
Thursday, July 1, 2021
And then Marcy says she’s been home brewing her own supers game and wants to run that this weekend instead of fantasy. She wants to do an homage to issue 250, and she thinks you should play the Messenger character (maybe calling him ‘the Red Runner’. Not sure yet). You say you’re in. You’re totally in. Your parents say you can stay all day, and they give you money for pizza. Everyone is going to be there.
This is going to be EPIC.
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
The Stalwart Age launches tomorrow! In the interim, I've been working on my 'business plan', such as it is. I have found over the last few weeks that I LOVE doing micro content - I get an idea for a back issue and cover, or for a character, or for a short scenario... and an hour or two later I have content posted. This is the way I want to work going forward. I run into trouble when I think in terms of developing entire splat books; I get 8 or 10 pages in and run out of ideas, or don't feel like I have enough thematically to support a whole book. However, this model
So, I've launched a Patreon to support it. I want to keep it simple - there are two tiers, and you can get early access with either tier, but you get a personal drawing of your character with the upper tier. I hope you will consider joining and supporting the game financially as it grows.
I have about ten more pages of final edits to do, and then I will be launching tomorrow - probably later in the afternoon.
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
You'd think that with the game coming out two days from now, I'd be done tinkering with the rules. You'd be wrong. Building a bunch of characters has pointed out some needless complexity to the movement rules, and some things that just don't make sense in the long term. As it is, characters automatically have speed scale as they level up; a level 6 character automatically moves 120' per action, even if they are not a 'fast' character in any meaningful way. It doesn't 'feel' right.
Furthermore, the rules for hyperspeed and flight are a little different; hyperspeed is (basically) overpowered as is. It gives you a bunch of extra actions and a tremendous burst of speed with each action; flight only gives you the travel (albeit in any direction). I think the game needs an additional talent that would take over for the bonus actions... I don't care about some powers being cooler than others (I mean, wall crawling is inherently not as cool as energy solidification, so balance has never been the goal). Here's my working solution:
All characters have a default movement of 50' per action. You can take a limitation of 'slow' that cuts you to 20' per action.
Quickness (talent) grants +1 action per round, each time you purchase it; you can only purchase it once per level. I like this, because it comes down to resource management and priorities; everyone would LOVE to take this every level, but something has to give; then you don't pick up an upgrade to your damage die, or to your resolve pool, or a bonus to hit, or a bonus to your STR, or a bonus to your ranged attacks... you get the idea. Messenger has this every level as his first buy; Gila the Monster has other priorities.
Hyperspeed changes your movement rate from 50' to your PWR rating x10'. With PWR 15, you can travel 150' per action. Messenger has PWR 22.... he's level 4, so has Quickness 4 as well. This means that he gets to attempt 9 actions per round (level +1, +4 from quickness), and gets to travel 220' with each action; he could therefore travel almost 2000' in 10 seconds, meaning that he travels almost 2 miles in one minute. I would think that he could use resolve or a stunt to push this, which works as well.
Flight works the same way, which helps.
This is a nudge, but it's a helpful one. It cleans up and simplifies some rules, which is always better to me than adding more complexity.
So... I went back and changed the stat block format one more time. I just saw so much white space in these, and as I was putting together the layout for the book, they just looked kind of ugly on the page. There was also some information that didn't need to be there that cluttered the look of the thing. It was all bad. So, I've gone back and tinkered again. Now, it fits in one column, so it doesn't dominate the page quite as much. I still can only four to a page (at best), but it is what it is. I now have to go back and fix all of the stat blocks I've already posted, but that shouldn't be too bad. I really want the archive to be very useful for people and to have a lot of clean, easy-to-navigate content.
Monday, June 28, 2021
This morning, I posted a lineup of starter villains. Now, here's the other end - a cosmic entity of exceptional power. He was a key player in issue 250 (though maybe not the way you might think). He's got Kirby Krackle around him, so you KNOW he's powerful. I have a story written with him already (out next week I think), and I know a few times he's appeared in Doc's comics. He's so powerful that he cannot be a regular guest... a guy like this shows up once in a while to let you know things can get really serious if needed. I think he will be the last character I add to the database before the game goes live, just to give a glimpse of where the game is able to go at the top end.
Sunday, June 27, 2021
Saturday, June 26, 2021
In talking to people about school culture recently, I've been talking about how we need to look at high school as an 'experience' that students have. How do we align class work, extra curriculars, and events to create an experience for students?
I realized I want to do the same thing with this game. I am not trying to get you to play a bunch of statistics and modifiers and dice results; I want you to have an experience. Here's a draft of my promo piece for this game...
It's 1984. Fourth period. You're supposed to be studying for the math quiz seventh period (It IS just a quiz), but Ron cannot stop talking about issue 250. Mighty Doc Stalwart 250 came out yesterday (his cousin got it a week early because he goes to the flea market and gets new releases first there. Such a jerk) and it is all any of your friends want to talk about. For some reason, Dave is fixating on Doc lifting up that bridge. The Official Stalwart Age Handbook says that Doc can lift 70 tons under normal conditions, and Dave's father says a bridge section like that would weigh at least 200 tons. Dave is all about it. Says it ruins verisimilitude. Whatever. It was awesome.
But not as awesome as the end. Like, Emissary died? For real? Did NOT see that coming. And Mark is hung up on how Doc came back from the dead and he's not sure it makes sense to him, but you can feel it. It's justified. It's earned. It felt right. All of it. This huge, epic battle and lots of stuff got blown up and you did NOT see the twist with the Ravager coming. But it all makes sense and feels complete. And you just want to keep lingering in that place.
And then Marcy says that she's been home brewing a game, and wants to run a supers session this weekend instead of fantasy. She wants to do an adaptation of issue 250, but with her own characters (of course), and she thought you might want to play the Messenger character. She thinks he might be called the Carrier or Crimson Carrier, but that seems weird. Doesn't matter. You say you're in. You're totally in. And you have a thesaurus at home, so that should help.
Your parents say that you can stay all day (they're taking your brother to the zoo), and her parents are going to get pizzas, and you have some new dice you've been dying to try out. Everyone says that they can make it.
This is going to be EPIC.
In considering how to best support Stalwart Age going forward, I decided to create a new blog dedicated to just that game. I figure that I will probably keep designing and working on other things, and some of my conversations on here, even if about the game, are not really direct support... therefore, I've started a simpler, cleaner blog over at stalwartage.blogspot.com - so you can head over there to get your support materials. I am not going to post game support here any more - it will all be on that blog. So, for instance, today's entry for the Messenger is going to end up posting there, but not here. I'm going to try and avoid double-posting as much as possible.
Stop over there and let me know what you think :)
Friday, June 25, 2021
Here's the map for Doc's home town. I think I've found a solid solution for living in a world full of supers... while Doc was born and started his career here, Midvale is a medium-sized city with a growing crime problem, but no full-time heroes. Doc appears once in a while to help as needed, but he's pretty busy with cosmic and global threats - this opens an opportunity for the player characters to become the heroes of this city. The larger world can fade into the background, with other supers dropping in and out, but when trouble arises, odds are good the PCs will be needed.
Monday, June 21, 2021
Sunday, June 20, 2021
I love Oberion SO MUCH. Here are the top four reasons why Oberion may be the best villain of all time:
1. He appears during a Lunar Occultation (when the moon eclipses one of the other planets in the solar system). He appears at the Occultation, and remains for up to 24 hours.
2. He can only be banished by waiting out the 24 hours, or by getting him to die by his own chaos. You can damage him, but he will stay at 1 hp until he suffers damage from his own machinations. He has to roll a 1 on a chaos attempt in order to be banished. Otherwise, he's here for 24 hours, causing all sorts of mischief.
3. He's the 'deposed' king of the Sprites. So he is constantly upset and broody and throwing himself around that he has been deposed. I see lots of temper tantrums.
4. He's got an INT of 3 and the impulsiveness of a 7th-grade boy. It's probably not hard to trick him into doing something stupid (although he KNOWS that he is constantly tricked into doing something stupid, so he watches out for the obvious things, but then easily lets his guard down). If you tell him you've got a special, magic-proof box, and trying to use magic on it will automatically cause him to be dispelled, he might believe you - and spend hours trying to figure out how to get the box open without using magic, finally doing something really dumb (like jumping off a bridge with it under his butt to land on it and break it open) that will get him dispelled.
I have an idea for a story where the whole thing is about Doc just running out the clock. I have another idea where he does something SUPER chaotic (at least, Doc convinces him it is) - saving the world as its greatest superhero, Oberion the Oblivious (which Doc convinces him means 'really, really powerful - and super smart'). There are SO many great story ideas embedded in this character.
I mean, I've got a page in my head where he's just rescued a cat from a tree, and he's trying to scare the little girl who owns it (because Doc has convinced him that she is deathly afraid of cats, and this will cause her all sorts of therapy later on), and as Oberion is trying to scare her and tells her to 'TAKE THE CAT" (gleeful that he is inflicting all of this psychological harm) Doc is over his shoulder behind him pantomiming to the girl to say things like "oh jeez no" and "please stop. Oh goodness me" - but she is super monotone and not getting into character at all and completely deadpan; however, Oberion doesn't get it and thinks he's just committed the most evil crime of all time.