Wednesday, June 30, 2021

July 1 is Nigh - Patreon is Now

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

Still Tinkering

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.

The Final (Maybe?) Stat Block Format

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

And the Other End of the Scale

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.  

Rogues Gallery

I remember seeing a print at the Warner Brothers Studio Store of the villains from the Batman Animated Series... it is one of my favorite images of all time, and I would have loved to get it (but $700 was a little steep)... here is my stab at it, using the villains who will appear in the core rules... from left to right we have Foxy Loxy, Killer Cockroach, Gila the Monster, and Lab Rat. This is a really good assortment of starter villains: the clever manipulator and master thief, the technological wonder, the brick, and the mad scientist. I could see these being the villains of the first four issues of a new hero's comic. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Army Ants Return!

I was thinking about the kind of stories that might have been in the backup stories that appeared in the Golden Age Doc Stalwart comic series, and I realized that a war story would have been appropriate; this was kind of the vibe of comics of the time (the military books are a little later historically, but I can tweak it and make it fit well enough). And I was thinking... I've already published a war comic of sorts...

The idea is that the army ants appeared in the backup story several times, and one issue later in the run (maybe issue 14), had the army ants cross over with Doc - he is hit by a shrink ray and goes on an adventure with the ants.

But, I'm also thinking that later writers would 'wink wink, nudge nudge' to the Golden Age. There is an adventure where Doc is hooked up to a dream machine, and he visits, you guessed it, the army ants. This would make them 'canon' for Doc's universe. So I am creating a shared universe for all of my creations, finding a way to fit them into the massive sand box I'm making.

This is some next level s***.

Simian Prime RISES

I actually felt pressure drawing this guy. I wanted him to be 'just right'... he's my game's version of Luthor or Doctor Doom - he's not the most powerful foe, but he's still probably the most dangerous one. He can go toe-to-toe with Doc Stalwart. He commands an army of bio-engineered apes. He's got a bottomless hunger for power. He is... SIMIAN PRIME. (I picture a Macho Man Randy Savage sort of entrance here. Cue Pomp and Circumstance).  He ended up looking a little like Kang, which was not intentional, but that kind of works for him, too.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

It's not a Game - it's an Experience

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.

Second Location Now Open

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 - 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

Map of Midvale

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.

Character Profile: Gloaming


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Back Issue Archive

Overviews of the 250 issues of Mighty Doc Stalwart are linked below:

Issue 137: An Arrow In the Dark (October, 1974)


Heroes (in Alphabetical Order):

Villains (in Alphabetical Order)

Supporting Characters (in Alphabetical Order)

Oberion for President

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. 

Sample Layout

In order to give a peek, here's a layout for a page. Still needs a few edits and tweaks, but this is pretty far along...

Variety Is the Spice of Something or Other

I like the variety that the game affords. In just a few small changes, I really do feel like an encounter with one villain will feel very different from another. Here's another character who is a little out there - he's somewhere between Loki and Bat Mite - but he fits in perfect with the new way I'm framing out Doc. The 'fact' that Doc's adventures have been published through different eras of comics, and by different creators, means that there's no single, narrow genre he has to adhere to. One issue, he's battling a petty street criminal, and in another he's on an inter-dimensional jaunt to foil Oberion. All in a day's work for the Mighty Doc Stalwart. 

I'm thinking he's got really high PWR (like 24) with sorcery, hex, and that controlled chaos talent. Probably also has serial immortality, because he blows himself up a lot. The limitation is that he cannot appear until the next blue moon (or something like that). I like that Doc is always watching the phases of the moon, and has the next several appearances of Oberion circled on his calendar years in advance...

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Prototype vs. Eldritch

Prototype has been dispatched on one of his first missions with Project Javelin: He is to bring in Eldritch for an interview, screening, threat assessment, and analysis. Eldritch has not been answering the letters he has received, and Project Javelin has upped its game – Prototype is to bring him in, willingly or unwillingly.

They meet high over the city, where Prototype has called him to avoid a big crowd… “we need to talk”. Despite his persuasive efforts, Eldritch refuses to come in – the apprentice to the Overlord of the Mystic Veil and Keeper of the Eldest Gate answers to no mortal.

Sigh. That’s what he was afraid of. It’s initiative. Prototype wins.

Round 1

They are distant 60’ from each other. Prototype is going to emit a volley of energy bolts: He rolls 16, 26, 11, 13, and 15. He hits twice. He rolls damage, getting 14 and 12 damage, for a total of 26 points. Eldritch is already down to 14 hit points left. Hmmm. He didn’t have a chance to get any protections in place with spells, so I think that’s a big deal. He could spend resolve here to soak some of that. Actually, he will do that, spending 2D8 to soak damage, and he neutralizes 8 points of that. He is down to 22 hp.

Eldritch gets to go (those resolve points were free). He has magic… he’s going to cast a spell, erecting a barrier that will soak damage that comes at him. He is effectively solidifying eldritch energy, so he must attempt a PWR check CR 24 (but he has +22, so this should be easy), and gets 10 on the die. No sweat. He rolls 6D6 and gets 18 points. The barrier will soak the first 18 points of damage that should affect him, and then the rest will carry over to him. Okay, now he feels safe to attack. He casts 4 eldritch bolts, 23, 14, a natural 20, 18, and 11. He hits three times, one of which is a critical hit. He rolls damage, and gets  10, 13, and 7 points of damage from the three attacks. After invulnerability, Prototype suffers 6, 9, and 3 damage, a total of 18 points. He is down to 37 hp remaining.

At the end of round 1, Eldritch has 3D8 resolve and 22 hp left; Prototype has his full 4D6 resolve and 37 hp.

Round 2. Prototype wins initiative again.

He opens fire on that barrier, attacking five times and getting 21, 27, 22, 14, and 26. He rolled really well. He hits with 4 out of 5 attacks. The barrier will soak the first 18 points, but then Eldritch suffers the remaining damage. Prototype deals 8, 9, 16, and 8 damage, a total of 41 points. The barrier spells soaks 18, but 23 get past it. Ugh. Eldritch uses a resolve die to soak some of that, soaking only 1 point (eek). He uses another resolve die, soaking an additional 7. He now has 7 hp, and 1 resolve die left.

Hmmm. Options, options, options. Eldritch is thinking about either teleporting away (seems a legit option right now), or doing something dramatic. The best defense is a good offense, they always say. Okay. He’s going to cast a stun spell, effectively dazing Prototype and causing him to plummet to earth. Well… He has to attempt a PWR check, and he gets 8+22=30. That’s fine. Now, it’s a stun effect, so Prototype attempts a Feat, CR 26 (20 base +6 from Eldritch’s power modifier). He rolls and gets 10+12=22. That would fail, but he has resolve he has not used… and this seems like a good time to leverage that. His first resolve die gives him +2, so he needs more; his second resolve die gives him +6, so he’s good. He shakes off the stun effect. That was his spell option for the round, so now it’s just attack or run. He will attack; he throws four eldritch bolts, rolling 27, 23, 13, and a natural 1 (but not a botch, since he recovers with a natural 20 from it). He hits twice, dealing 12 and 11 points… the invulnerability soaks 4 from each, meaning Proto suffers 8 and 7 points of damage, leaving him at 22 hp.

At the end of round 2, Eldritch has 1D8 resolve and 7 hp. Prototype has 2D6 resolve and 22 hp.

Round 3 begins; it is initiative. Eldritch wins by 9… Prototype considers spending his resolve to try and win initiative here, but is not sure it’s worth it. He has less than a 50% chance of winning, and then would be completely out of resolve. He’s going to let the wizard go first.

Hmmm. Eldritch could try a stun spell again… I mean, there’s no rule saying he cannot keep trying the same spell until it works. But… let’s try something more creative. I think that maybe he will try to charm Prototype, convincing him to go back and tell everyone this was a bad idea. Or, he could go all in on the fight and try to win. I feel the competitive juices flowing. He’s going to go with multiplicity here; he casts a spell to create 6 duplicates. He attempts a PWR check and gets 13+22=35. Easy peasy. There are now 7 of him. He still gets 4 bolts, and each of his duplicates also gets to fire 1 bolt. Daaaang. That may be overpowered. Ah well. That is 10 attacks. 6 of those are only at +4/1D6, but it’s still a lot of dice being rolled. Okay, bolts away: Results are 10, 26, 22, 26 (for him) and 6, 8, 15, 19, 10, 13 for duplicates. All of the duplicates miss (but they are mostly there as a distraction, anyway). He hits three times, dealing 13, 8, and 10 damage. After invulnerability, this is 9, 4, and 6 damage, for a total of 19 points.  Prototype is down to 3 hp… hmm. He will bank those resolve dice, but he’s getting anxious.

Prototype has to make a sense Feat to see which of the 7 sorcerers facing him is the true Eldritch. He rolls 15 against a CR of 26. That is a big fail. He could use his resolve to try and get there, but he needs to roll 11 or better on 2D6. Not. Gonna. Happen. He just hopes he hits all 5 and then wins initiative next round. He attacks and gets 26, 26, 23, 25, 17. He rolled GREAT; too bad these were all against phantoms. He takes out 5 of the duplicates, and there is one remaining with the true Eldritch.

At the end of round 3, Eldritch still has 1D8 resolve and 7 hp. Prototype has 2D6 resolve and 3 hp. I think that initiative will decide the winner.

Round 4

They both roll; Eldritch gets 18 and Prototype gets 21. Eldritch has 1D8 left in resolve. He could try to bump up his initiative, but he knows that Prototype has more available resolve, so he probably can’t win. He’s going to wait and try a last-ditch stunt with his final resolve, if possible.

Prototype can fire 5 times. He does so. I forgot about his automatic repair system… he has recovered 3 hp and is now at 6 hp. He attacks 5 times, and gets 18, 28, 27, 13, and 23. He hits 4 times. Ugh. Okay, Eldritch uses his final Resolve to try a stunt; he wants to throw up another quick barrier to try and block these attacks as they are coming at him. He uses his last resolve die to do this; he wants to use the resolve for the result (how many hp it soaks) and not the action. This seems reasonable, so it’s allowed; He casts a spell and gets 25 on the check vs the CR 24! Ugh. He rolls for the value of the barrier, and gets 13 hp. That. Is. WEAK. Oh well. For damage, Prototype rolls 8, 15, 13, 12 – a total of 48 points. The barrier soaks 13, but as the barrier shatters, Eldritch is peppered with energy bolts. He is defeated, and Prototype brings and unconscious Eldritch in for questioning, as ordered.


Again, the fight was dynamic, and had a lot of options for the players. A few rolls one way or the other changes things dramatically… there is a lot of resource management that goes on during a fight like this. I like that. You have meaningful decisions to make every round. If you lead off and burn your resolve early, you can be in real trouble later on. If Prototype botches on that resist roll against the stun early in the fight, it’s over right there – it’s possible he doesn’t have enough resolve to offset it. It was a good, close fight (which it should have been between two level 4 characters) that went into round 4. I like how sorcery works and how battlesuits work. I made a few tweaks to the rules as I was play testing, which was good – I think this ended up being balanced. Originally, multiplicity was too powerful, and battlesuits were too weak. Now, I feel like they are both about where they need to be.

Good fight between two moderate heavyweights. I was rooting for Eldritch, but it just wasn't his night.

Some Big Picture Thinking

I have a rough outline for the next couple of steps, including a 'business plan' such as it is:

The core rules (32 pages) in glorious full color is released in PDF on July 1. A print edition follows shortly.

The month of July updates the archive of Doc Stalwart's comics, with an update a day (a profile like the one I did for the Twilight Archer introduction).  It's a brief overview of a single issue from the series, with the main characters, plot, and important contributions to the larger Doc Stalwart story.

July 1 also sees a cleanup/refreshing of the blog. I'm going to use the blog as the central clearinghouse for game support. I like working in the blog, and I like how things are formatted and organized. I think I can maximize some of its features and put everything here; there would be links to resources such as:

  • Links to the store (of course).
  • Links to a character sheet. I would like to put a character sheet in the core rules; but I cannot really justify giving a full page (of my 32 precious pages) to something with so much white space. Plus, I'd like to drive some traffic to the blog; if people need to come here to download a character sheet, that's a win for building awareness and a stronger player base.
  • The issue archive: individual write-ups for all 250 issues of Mighty Doc Stalwart (and the 17 issues of The Amazing Adventures of Doc Stalwart) will eventually be archived. July will give me a head start on putting together a decent foundation (getting over 30 issues into the archive).
  • New Doc Stalwart stories (starting with Issue 251). I will clean up and re-release the existing three issues, and I should have at least issues 254 and 255 ready by then. I've figured out how the first arc works and what the larger story is here; it all ties together quite neatly, and sets Doc up for the next phase going forward. Spoiler alert: not every current character will survive!

September sees the release of the Official Handbook of the Stalwart Age, Volume 1. This is a compendium of characters, items, and locations from the comic series. These would largely reference the first 250 issues, drawing connections back to the archive pages published throughout July. (This might be pie in the sky to get this done in two months. I may have to go later... we'll see how summer goes) 

November (again, maybe a bit ambitious... we'll see how the fall goes) sees the release of The Citadel of Tomorrow. This expands the game in all directions, exploring the various sub-genres within comics, including rules for such things as supernatural, mythology, time travel, machines... the greatest hits are here.  

An Epiphany

I am working on my game (you know, the supers one) at 2 in the morning. The girls (being my wife and daughter) are at gymnastics camp, and my sleep schedule is all off, and here I am plugging away at my game.

And I suddenly realized who Doc Stalwart is. He's my version of Odysseus. Yes, he's brave and strong and athletic - but his greatest asset is his cleverness. His keen intellect is his most formidable trait. I also see him traveling the world (and beyond), interacting with all sorts of strange and wonderful creatures. He fights monsters, and meets entities of cosmic power. He's flippin' Odysseus.

I realized it while drawing this image of the Emerald Queen. I was thinking that she's complicated - she's not a villain, but she's not exactly a hero. She rules a pocket realm. She has to rule with a strong hand, because it's a chaotic place with lots of danger. She has a thing for Doc. She's totally Calypso to Doc's Odysseus. And the floodgates of what I can do with this series opened up to me. I mean, I already had all of these pieces in my head of what he's up to, but knowing that there's a template I'm echoing helps me so much.

A Snippet of the New Rules

Here's an updated drawing (from the sketch I posted a few weeks ago) for Messenger. Because I have a message for you. That was a segue.

I'm having so much fun writing these rules. Here's a snippet to whet your appetite (I did mention I'm aiming for a July 1 release, right?). I just love the VIBE of this game. I have gone all in on the concept. I keep thinking about the Who's Who in the DC Universe (that I also collected religiously, even though it refused to tell you how much Superman could lift - the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe was SO much better). That poor guide had the task of putting a serious character like Vigilante in the same context as a character like Matter Eater Lad. And somehow, it all worked. Heck, they could use a wormhole and anomaly in time to go on a buddy adventure together, if you really wanted them to. Only in comics...

Here's from the GM section:

Designing New Gifts

As the game goes on, you may decide to add custom gifts to the game, reflecting unique powers and abilities that you craft. When you are developing a gift, look through the existing gifts to see if there are any that may have some similarity. In general, a gift is going to be linked to an attribute or to a character’s Feat rating. Consider how the gift is used, how it may be resisted, and what inherent limitations there are to the gift. 

In Play: Matter Eating. You want your character to be able to eat stuff and destroy it. That’s weird, but it’s your character. This is kind of like disintegration (I guess), so you start there. Disintegration requires a PWR check and allows for a Feat for living creatures. You decide right away that your matter-eating gift (you really want this? You’re sure?) is going to be tied to your CON instead – your digestive system has to be able to process whatever zany thing you decide to eat. You also decide that you only use the gift for non-living stuff. And it’s got to be able to fit in your mouth (again, you really need to re-think if you want this gift. I mean, you can roll again. Really). So if it’s not alive, and if it fits in your mouth, you can eat it and destroy it entirely. The CR is going to be entirely dependent on what you are trying to eat. A plastic bottle? CR 20. A rock? CR 28. A fragment of eutonium that will cause a ripple effect that will unmake the space/time continuum if it spontaneously combusts next turn, which it is almost guaranteed to do? You probably don’t want to eat that. But, if you do, it’s going to be CR 36 to get it through your small intestine.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Thinking More About Villains

 I am brainstorming the options that only villains would have. Here's what I have so far...

Tenacity. I included this in my play test earlier this week and loved it. A villain gets opportunities to negate successful actions by heroes against them, by attempting a Feat. This is totally the Terminator.

Henchmen. You have a group of mooks that will take attacks for you. You attempt a CHA check, and if successful a mook is there to pull in front of the energy blast or throw on the grenade (quite literally). Joker, Penguin... 

Controlled Chaos. You have a wild die to roll once per round; it can either go really well (exploding for extra dice if you roll max) or really bad (things go bottom up on a 1). Joker and Harley have this.

Weaponsmith. You have a new super weapon every time you appear; this could be a mech (I mean, it's probably a mech), a single-use battle suit, an experimental walker (which is kinda like a mech, if we're being honest)... a tank. You get to build this thing and it is at your level. There would have to be examples of how to apply this, although the GM should have a LOT of leeway here. This is Luthor thing.

Escape Plan. You always have your exit plan in place. Any time the battle turns, you can attempt a Feat to beat a hasty retreat. I don't love this one mechanically (because it doesn't make sense that the villain is suddenly gone), but it happens in comics... too much. I don't know how much I like this. It is source material, but it's also going to make players really, really mad. Every time they are about to beat the villain, he uses an action, attempts a Feat, and is GONE. 

Just these five cover a lot of ground, and give variety. Before, the idea that villains might show up with a battle walker was kind of (okay, completely) hand waved. Now, there'd be a very loose (but clear) set of expectations for how to build a device for a weaponsmith. I did some reading around archetypes, and I don't know that I want to structure archetypes specifically; villains would also have origins and a purpose statement, so these are enough to frame out the villain. Going with more concrete and structured archetypes for villains doesn't align with the freeform approach to hero building that is already in place. I definitely want a few more mechanical options for villains, but this is a decent starter list. 

Notes From Rob

 My friend Rob sent me this suggestion in an email...

To balance things out for superhumans (or Anyone else) have you considered using “What’s your Kryptonite?”  The players pick something in advance, roll on a table, etc for something (or someone) that will nullify, limit, remove, knock them out, etc. the use of their power.  For that matter, each use of the powers could build up in a pool of dice or something until a threshold is met that causes an unexpected side effect (perhaps a good way to go with mutants), or an inability to control their powers or something malfunctions.  Lots of roll play options here.

I figure there are already mechanics in place for both limitations (things that tamp down or set frameworks around your powers) and drawbacks (generalized problems you have such as a phobia, secret, allergy, or susceptibility to an attack form). I think I have things in place, or that will be in place, to address most of these ideas. Stunts are things that push your powers beyond their normal limits, but which come with a potential cost.

However, I liked the idea of some chaotic sort of thing... I don't think it's a gift (necessarily) ... it could be a talent. Or a drawback. Not sure yet. Here's the pitch:

When you roll a resolve die, there is a chance the die is wild; a natural maximum result (6 on D6, 8 on D8, etc.) is a wild die; keep the result, but roll again and keep adding results as long as you keep rolling the top result. However, if you roll a natural 1 on your first die of any resolve attempt, something chaotic and bad and messy happens... you suffer damage, or your powers stop working, or you knock yourself unconscious...

This mechanically almost feels like Joker/Harley insanity; they have points that they can throw into things that can work out great or terrible for them. I'm almost thinking that this works better as a villain ability. I like the idea of having a set of villain-specific gifts that help to emulate villain types. I mean I could just call it 'controlled chaos' or something like that. It could be as simple as once per round, you get to add 1d6 to any one action, resist, or result roll. If you roll 6, the die explodes and you get to roll again. However, if you roll 1, the action goes horribly wrong. 

It definitely feels like this belongs in the villain list. I like the idea that there are a significant number of mechanical options for villains so that a battle with Riddler feels different from a battle with Joker, or Mr. Freeze, or Catwoman... you get the idea.

Something to continue to mull over.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Time Is On My Side (Yes, It Is)

 Max over on the MeWe community board was asking about turns and rounds, and I answered... but then I thought about it, and asked if it had to be that way, and why? 

I have had time be a round of 6 seconds, a turn of 1 minute (10 rounds), and a phase being the part of the round in which your character attempts all of their actions for that round. In theory, this means that four participants would suggest phases of 1.5 seconds each... firing four arrows in 1. 5 seconds is fast, but these are superheroes.

However, I then thought about how turns are rarely going to expire. Combat is likely to last 2 to 6 rounds... so getting to round 10 or beyond is very unlikely.

However, if we switch up the time on rounds, moving them to ten seconds each, we do a few things. Now, that sequence of combat with four characters means that a phase is 2.5 seconds, which is a little more reasonable... but it also means that we change the turn (still one minute) to 6 rounds; this means that there is a much better chance that abilities refresh, effects end, and things shift mid-fight. It means you have track where things happened (if you are stunned for 1 turn at the beginning of round 2 in turn 1, you are done being stunned at the beginning of round 2 in turn 2). This makes combat more dynamic, interesting, and possibly exciting more often. That's a win. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

From the Database: Issue 137

The Mighty Doc Stalwart Issue 137 (October, 1974)

An Arrow In The Dark

Summary: Doc Stalwart is summoned to help with a medical emergency. The sister of an Olympic athlete is dying - and the cause is unknown. When Doc realizes that she is being pulled into a shadow dimension (called ‘a world of shadow’ here), Doc sets off to free her. Arik dons a costume, becoming the Twilight Archer. They free her ‘spirit form’ from shadow creatures that are trapping her and return safely.

First Appearances: Twilight Archer; Vesper (as ‘Arik’s sister’); the Shadow Lands (as ‘a world of shadow’)

Historical Note: The character of Vesper would not appear as such until the backup story in issue 144, when she is called the Twilight Archer’s ‘kid sister’, but exhibits powers for the first time, helping him to foil a bank robbery. 

Vesper and Retro Vibes

As I was working on this drawing of Vesper, I was thinking about her origins, and the origins of Twilight Archer, her brother. And I was thinking about Kirby Krackle... and my own variation on it for her darkness control powers. I like this image. But I also made myself smile thinking about the first appearance of Twilight Archer... here's the first stab at it.

Doc Stalwart Issue 137: An Arrow in the Dark

When a middle school girl comes down with a mysterious, and dimension-shifting, illness, Doc Stalwart tries to help. When he discovers that the girl is being pulled into the shadow realm, he sets out to travel into that realm to free her in this one. He is accompanied by her brother, an Olympic athlete who takes on the title of Twilight Archer.

I can even picture the first appearance panel in my head. There's a reveal as Doc looks up (he's shadowed in the foreground) to see a full panel of Twilight Archer in costume... and the dialogue goes, "You don't need Arik for this mission - you need the TWILIGHT ARCHER." I love the idea of creating these random panels supposedly from comics published forty years ago. I think I"m going to go do that right now :)

Slaying Multiple Avians with Singular Projectiles

As I was driving around (I had a lot of driving to do today), I thought about two problems that persist. One is that I don’t know how to present character generation options… because there are a lot of ways to generate a character, and I didn’t know whether to include one option in the rules, or to give lots of options. Too many choices is as bad as not enough.  

I keep moving abilities around, including things that were slotted for origins. Some things end up being purely cosmetic. You get a +1 to CON for being a construct? Great. I mean, I could just give you a general +1, because you can already move attributes where you want them, so that +1 may or may not end up really affecting CON. And that +1 to Feats for being a mutant gets more and more powerful the more I rely on Feats to solve problems. It has to go. 

But what if your origin determined how you roll dice?

  1. A superhuman rolls 3d6, rerolling 1s, arranging as desired. This is the basic origin, and the basic generation process. This gives an average of 12. It protects you from having very low results (you will not get lower than 6), meaning that you are at the very least slightly above average in everything. (Also, see my edit at the bottom)
  2. A mutant rolls 4d6, taking the best three, arranging as desired. You are going to end up with more variety in scores - a little wider range for mutants; a mutant could have a 3, which fits the idea of those with INT 3 or CHA 3 (or DEX 3, like Professor X). This gives an average of 13.
  3. An outsider (godling, alien, amazon, mermaid) rolls 3d8, arranging as desired. This gives an average result of 13.5, with higher and lower options. You COULD hit 24 here… 
  4. A construct is going to be a point build (because that thematically fits that origin - see?). You start with 60 +2d6 points to place where desired. This gives an average result of just over 11, but gives you total control of your character.
  5. A bearer has something that comes through them. Roll 1d6. This might be sorcery [1-3] or a mystical, alien, or other-dimensional object of great power [4-6]. Bearers roll 3d6 straight up for STR, INT, DEX, CON, and CHA (arranging as desired), but roll 12+2d4 for PWR. This results in lower general stats (average of 10.5), but in exceptional power (average 17). 
  6. A prodigy rolls 3d4 for STR and CON (arranging as desired), has PWR 4, and rolls 3d6, rerolling 1s, for INT, DEX, and CHA (arranging as desired). A prodigy also rolls 1d6 and gets a battlesuit [1-2], utility belt [3-4] or trick weapon [5-6] automatically.

Let’s Try It Out...

  1. My sample superhuman is 9, 13, 9, 13, 10, 10, 11. Kinda meh. Don’t love it. I mean, these are kind of Captain America numbers (maybe), but he’d be a prodigy (with a trick weapon of the shield) and not a superhuman…. Maybe I could see Doctor Octopus or Green Goblin having these numbers. I can’t think of too many heroes that are mostly human that don’t at least have a 15+ range of Power. Human Torch, Invisible Girl… they are mostly normal humans, but their PWR rating is 18+. This character would need to put a 13 in PWR and start building it up right away. These are a little low, but not unbelievably low results. A lot of players are going to end up here. Hmmm. The idea is that this gives you the most chance for customization. You can drop some of the lower scores (2 for 1) to bring up scores you want. So, in the example here, the two 9s could drop to 7s without losing a +1 modifier, pushing both 13s to 14s, or one of the 13s to 15. Now I can see this as a Power Man type of guy… able to lift a few tons. Give him some growth or shrinking, moving one of those to Power, and you have a decent starting build… or now he could be Reed Richards with the hyper intelligence. I can see making this work once you consider min/maxing.  
  2. My sample mutant is 13, 12, 7, 12, 16, 15. I could make anybody with these numbers; a starting Colossus, Cyclops, Nightcrawler… 
  3. My sample outsider: 8, 15, 16, 16, 22, 12. That is Superboy at Level 1. 22 STR, 16 DEX and CON, 15 PWR, 12 CHA and 8 INT seems pretty solid as a starting Kryptonian.
  4. My sample construct rolls 68 points, so I’d distribute 19, 16, 13, 10, 5, 5. This puts the upper points at point breaks, and puts the lower results as very average human (maybe CHA and INT end up with the 5s, if I’m going for battle-readiness).
  5. My bearer ends up with PWR 18 and other stats of 13, 9, 15, 13, 11. This could easily be Green Lantern or Doctor Strange as a level 1 character. Not bad at all. Just for fun, I roll for what the source of power is and get 4: they carry an object of great power. (Again, I go random to the list that I gave and get mystical. Okay, my character is a bearer of a mystical item of power. Nifty.
  6. My prodigy ends up with PWR 4 (by default), with STR/CON options of 11 and 5, and with INT/DEX/CHA options of 9, 12, and 15. This could totally be Iron Man. INT 15, CHA 12, DEX 9, STR 5 and CON 11. That completely works. Could also be Hawkeye (swap INT and DEX). Heck, I could almost start to cobble together Batman out of this, but that 5 in STR or CON is a problem… I guess if I go with Martial Arts (swapping DEX for STR to hit and damage in melee), then STR 5 is not necessarily a deal breaker. But it’s close.   

Edit: I keep thinking that I need to give the superhuman something to balance it out: what if the superhuman gets one 'wild die' - you get to add 1d6 to any one attribute after you've set them up? This brings the superhuman in line with others, and makes sure you can shine. That solves all of my problems. :)

Villain Options

I have added two specific abilities for villains. These are mechanically nifty, and they capture the vibe of how villains work (at least, I think they do). They also give the "Joker" option; he has a really high CHA (I'd say 18/+4) so he has mooks who are willing to take damage for him, which allows him to keep on keeping on in fights he would normally be out of in round one... Since the Joker has both Tenacity and Henchmen, (and he's like level 4, so there's quite a bit of tenacity) he is actually really, really hard to pin down and land attacks on.


Villains do not have access to resolve; in its place, they have tenacity. A villain has their level tenacity points each turn. As a free action, a villain may attempt a Feat (CR 20) to use a tenacity point against any action that has negatively affected them. If the Feat is successful, the villain completely ignores the effect, damage, or consequence: the villain captures the arrow in midair, ducks the energy blast, or shrugs off the mind control. Like Resolve, this is an instant, at-will free action that can be used at any time; a villain can wait to see how much damage an attack deals before deciding whether to use a tenacity point to neutralize it. A villain may only attempt tenacity once per attack; if they fail a tenacity check, they cannot use another point against the exact same result.


Villains may take Henchmen as a talent. While any villain may travel with a cadre of na’er do wells, a villain with the henchman talent has a small group of devoted followers who obey without question. A villain with this talent travels with CHA modifier level 0 goons (see page xx). While at least one of these goons is in the fight, the villain can have a henchmen ‘take a bullet’ for them; once per round, a villain with this talent may attempt a CHA check (CR 20) as a free action; if successful, one of their henchmen will suffer the damage from an attack in place of the villain. Once all henchmen are incapacitated, the villain cannot access this talent. Henchmen cannot be used to soak mental attacks, but any physical attack can be blocked by a henchman instead of the villain.

Stalwart Age Actual Play 1 (Warning: LONG post ahead)

Here are the characters I’m using for this play test….


Twilight Archer – Hero 3 (Actions 4) Resolve 3D6

    AC 21; Hits 35; Feat +9; Move 90’; Bow (+11/1d12+4/160’)

    STR 10 (+2); INT 10 (+2); PWR 5; DEX 16 (+4); CON 10 (+2); CHA 13 (+3)

    Body Armor; Trick Weapon;

    Effectiveness (Weapon x3); Fortitude; Sharpshooter; Precision (x3); Toughness (x2)


Vesper – Hero 3 (Actions 4) Resolve 3D6

    AC 16; Hits 33; Feat +9; Move 90’; Shadow Bolt (+9/1d12+5/190’)

    STR 5; INT 5; PWR 19 (+5); DEX 13 (+3); CON 13 (+3); CHA 10 (+2)

    Shadow Bolt, Shadow Control, Levitate

    Capacity (PWR x3); Effectiveness (Shadow Bolt x3); Precision (x3)


Hewn – Hero 3 (Actions 4) Resolve 3D6

    AC 22; Hits 41; Feat +9; Move 90’ (leap 210’); Punch (+14/1D10+8) + Found Weapon (+1D8+1)

    STR 21 (+5); INT 5; PWR 5; DEX 10 (+2); CON 17 (+4); CHA 4

    Body Armor; Invulnerable (4); Pummel

    Brawler (x3); Capacity (STR x3); Fortitude; Effectiveness (Pummel x2); Effectiveness (Found Weapons); Toughness (x2); Precision (x3)


Battle Master – Villain 5 (Actions 6) Tenacity 5

    AC 25; Hits 75; Feat +12; Move 120’; Battle Staff (+15/1d12+6)

    STR 13 (+3); INT 12 (+2); PWR 10 (+2); DEX 16 (+4); CON 16 (+4); CHA 16 (+4)

    Body Armor; Contacts; Counter Attacks; Danger Sense; Nemesis; Utility Belt; Weapon (battle staff)

    Brawler (x4); Capacity (each Attribute +1); Effectiveness (Battle Staff x3); Fortitude (x3); Martial Arts; Prowess; Precision (x5); Toughness (x3); Wealth


Battle Master is doing something bad, like watching as a whole bunch of new recruits get jacked on Battle Juice. It’s a thing. The team breaks in and attacks him. Let’s just do a straight-up fight.

I’m going to give Battle Master the special foe ability: tenacity. He gets 5 opportunities each turn to neutralize an attack against him (attempt a Feat CR 20 as a free action). This is the villain version of resolve; you don’t get to do extra cool stuff; you just get to avoid an attack against you completely unscathed. Villains can use tenacity to shrug off mind control, knock aside a haymaker, or dance around an energy blast.

Combat begins. Initiative: I roll and the order is Vesper, Battle Master, Hewn, Twilight Archer. They are 150’ apart when combat starts.

Vesper gets 4 actions; we will have her lead off with four shadow bolts at Battle Master. She misses with 2, misses barely with 1 (rolled 16; needed 18) and hit with a natural 20. She will use a resolve die here to increase that 16; she rolls a 6 so gets the 2 points she needed. She deals 14 from her first attack and 20 from her second. Daaang. Battle Master decides to use 1 of his tenacity points against the 20 points of damage; he rolls 9+12=21, and barely evades that second bolt. He suffers 14, and is at 61 Hits remaining.

Battle Master gets to go. He’s going to close for melee with Vesper; he perceives her as the biggest threat (I am going to rule that he has not fought these heroes before so has no bonus from his Nemesis gift here).  He uses 2 actions to close the 150’ between them (it is beyond his movement, so he needs 2 actions), and then attacks 4 times; he hits all four times (her AC is 16; he gets +15 to hit; he only misses on a 1). He deals 7, 13, 19, and 14 points. She suffers a total of 43 Hits of damage; she uses her remaining resolve dice to soak as much of that as she can, rolling 2D6 and getting 8. She suffers 35 hits (she had 33) and is at -2 hits. Ouch. She is also out of resolve. She’s done for this fight.

Hewn leaps into the fray. He literally leaps (using 1 action) and then attempts to grab a found weapon; he does this as a free action, and rolls 19 on the die! He finds a big steel beam sitting around (because those are often laying around warehouses. Whatever) and starts swinging. He attacks three times, botching the first attack (he got too excited) and as a result loses the second; on the third attack, he misses entirely. That was humiliating.

Twilight Archer needs to do something to get this battle under control. He wants to grab a stun arrow from his quiver. I am having him do random results for finding arrows (I like that in play better), so I have him roll a Feat to see if he finds a stun arrow. Nope. Shoot. Well, actually not shoot. Because he cannot shoot a stun arrow right now. That’s a pun. I digress. He is going to pepper Battle Master (who I want to keep abbreviating as BM, but that would give the wrong impression) and misses 4 times. Battle Master has mad crazy good armor class. He is the Battle Master after all. One of the attacks was close, so TA (that’s not as bad of an abbreviation as BM) uses a resolve die to bump it up; he rolls a 4 (needed a 2) and hits with one attack. He deals 6 points of damage. Ugh. Battle Master is fine with letting that go; Battle Master is at 55 Hits.

Round Two

It’s initiative; I’d like to find a way to get Vesper back into the fight, but there’s really no way to do it. She has exhausted her resolve, and is at -2 Hits. She has 9 rounds to go until she can get back in the fight. Twilight Archer suggests that he’s been working on a special dark energy arrow to go in his quiver. He asks if there is a possibility that A) he has one in his quiver, and B) that he could use it to actually heal his sister, since she is partially made of shadow energy. The GM allows this as a free action, but requires a CR 28 Feat. It’s a BIG ask. TA has to roll a 19 on the die (or use Resolve). He rolls 5. Nope. Even the best resolve rolls would still not reach the target. Sorry, Vesper. You are out.

For initiative, the order ends up as Hewn, Battle Master, Twilight Archer. 

Hewn rolls for a found weapon, and gets 13+9=22. He finds another steel girder. (What are the odds? Two of those sitting around?). He attacks four times, getting 15+14=29, 2+14=16, 2+14=16, and 13+14=23. He will use a Resolve die on that last miss (since he only missed by 2) and gets 2 (whew). He hits twice. For damage, he rolls 25 points and 15 points, respectively. Hmmm. Battle Master will use a Tenacity point for that first one (since it’s a LOT of damage) and he gets an 18 on the die. He manages to evade that one altogether, but he still gets walloped for 15 on the second hit, leaving him at 40 Hits remaining.

Battle Master is already tied up with Hewn, so he’ll stay here; plus, he is not particularly afraid of arrows (but maybe HE SHOULD BE… or not). He will take his attacks; trying to hit Hewn five times. He only needs a 7 on the die to get past Hewn’s AC 22, and he gets 6, 2, 8, 5, 8. That is the most pathetic set of attacks EVER. He only hits two times, dealing 9 and 16 points respectively. Hewn’s rocky hide soaks 4 from each, meaning he suffers 5 and 12 points, a total of 17. He is down to 24 Hits. Hewn will hold on to his remaining Resolve dice.

Twilight Archer’s turn. He thinks about looking for a snare arrow, but decides against it for now. He may need that to keep Battle Master at a distance next round; if he uses it now, and then it wears off before Battle Master closes for melee, it will be wasted. He will just fire four normal arrows. He needs a 14 or better on the die to hit, and he rolls 2, 14, 10, and 16. Two of these hit. He’s going to save his resolve dice; he rolls for damage and gets 7 and 13 points respectively; Battle Master could attempt Tenacity against that second attack, but he will accept the 20 points of damage (for NOW), and is down to 20 hits remaining. 

Status Check. At the end of round 2:

Vesper is out.

Twilight ARcher is at full Hits, but he has used 1 die of resolve; he has 2D6 left.

Hewn is at 24 Hits; he has used 1 die of resolve and is at 2D6 left.

Battle Master is at 20 Hits; he has used 2 Tenacity, and has 3 left.

Round Three

Vesper continues to sleep. For initiative, it is Twilight Archer, Battle Master, Hewn.

TA fires another volley of 4 arrows: 5, 19, 1 - and a botch on that 1 with a failed Feat, so he loses his last action. Grr. He hits once and deals 12 damage. He might use the Resolve here to try and finish the fight, and Battle Master knows this. So, both characters have an ‘instant’ effect option here; even the 12 damage is a bit much, but Battle Master can sustain it; however, if he doesn’t use his Tenacity, TA will use his resolve dice to try and finish the fight now. If Battle Master uses Tenacity and fails, TA is DEFINITELY going all in with his resolve to see if he can bump this up. Okay, Tenacity it is. Battle Master attempts a Tenacity check (it’s always a Feat CR 20) and gets 15 on the die; he catches that arrow in the air and snaps it in half. So much for that.

Battle Master wants to finish up with Hewn. We’ll see how that goes. He needs a 7 on the die (still) and attacks five times, getting 20 (!), 6, 20 (!), 18, and 8. WOW. Good thing Hewn has some Resolve left… that might keep him from dying. We’re going to back this up a little… because he may forfeit attacks (or even go to his own bag of tricks) if Hewn falls earlier in the phase. For the 20, he deals 18 damage, and Hewn soaks 4; Hewn suffers 12 Hits and is down to 12. He uses a resolve to soak part of that, and gets 3. He uses his final resolve die as well, and soaks another 1 (insert sad face emoji here). He’s actually at 16 Hits. On that second natural 20, Battle (we’ll just call him that) deals 13, and Hewn soaks 4, suffering 9. He’s at 7. Hewn makes a mental note to buy more resolve. For the 18, Battle rolls 9 damage, meaning that Hewn suffers 5. He’s at 2 hits; on that last attack, Battle deals 14 damage; Hewn soaks 4, and then takes 10 right to the jaw. He’s at -8 Hits, and joins Vesper on the ground.

Hewn uses his actions to drool.

End of round three:

Twilight Archer has all of his hits, and 2D6 resolve left.

Battle Master has 20 hits, and 2 Tenacity left.

Round Four

Battle Master wins initiative, and TA knows that this is pretty much it for him. Since he only lost by 3, he uses a Resolve die and hopes for a good roll; he gets a 2. Of course. He has to use his final resolve, and gets 6. NOW he gets that good roll. GRR. Okay, TA gets to go first, but he’s out of Resolve. 

On his phase, Twilight Archer tries to find that snare piece. He attempts a Feat, and gets 4 on the die. Stupid dice. Stupid game. Stupid stupid stupid. Okay. Normal boring arrows it is. He fires four of them, and needs 14 or better on the die to hit; he gets 11, 3, 3, and 1. That 1 is a botch (failed Feat) and Twilight Archer will automatically lose initiative next round. Not that it’s going to matter.

Battle leaps at the archer. (haven’t been tracking how far, so we’ll see if he can make a Feat to close the distance in one action). Battle makes the Feat with an 18 (because of course he does) and is able to lay the beat down on the poor Twilight Archer. He only needs a 6 on the die to hit, and he rolls 7, 11, 9, 2, and 18. He hits 4 times, and TA can do nothing to stop it, because he’s out of Resolve. Battle deals 11 (TA down to 24), 15 (TA down to 9), 13 (TA at -4)... and has one more successful hit left.

Okay, so this is interesting from a story perspective. Because I didn’t add this mechanically to Vesper, but it’s part of her whole character schtick; she has a ‘Dark Vesper’ persona that is linked to the realm of pure shadow. She also has a psychic link to her brother… so, Battle has won the fight, and has a decision to make… but first I want him to make an INT check. If he makes it, he knows that landing that last attack could kill TA and trigger Dark Vesper. He rolls and gets 11+12 = 23. He knows. Oh, he knows…. Since I was just play testing, I didn’t think this through ahead of time, but does Battle want to capture these heroes, kill them, or does he actually WANT to trigger Dark Vesper? LOVE the storytelling options here. 

For now, I’m going to say that he captures them all, and has won this fight. He doesn’t land a death blow, killing Twilight ARcher, and possibly triggering the emergence of a goddess of shadow energy that will try to pull the entire earth into her shadow realm. So that’s good. 


WOW this is awesome. I mean, mechanically it does everything. It FEELS like a superhero fight. There were a lot of options with resource management that were easy to track. The new rules for villains and Tenacity are perfect; the idea that he grabs the arrow out of midair and snaps it in half is SUCH a comic book moment. The mechanics of how Tenacity works allow this to happen. There were genuine strategic choices that characters had to make, and options that changed the flow of the fight depending on what they did and how they managed their resources. Best of all, this was easy and clear - I was never unsure of how to mechanically resolve something. Sure, I went with more specifically structured powers (Vesper didn’t get a chance to show off shadow control because she went out so early), but it was still a pretty good cross section. The fact that Battle Master won, but that it was a tight battle, makes a LOT of sense. He’s level 5; he is the equivalent of four level 3 characters, and he fought three, so he should have the advantage here. He’s equal to Doc Stalwart in terms of overall power.

I cannot explain how much I love this game.   

Next time I will play out the cover battle, with Eldritch vs. Prototype. That should be a little different 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Down the Rabbit Hole

How meta can we go?

Because here's the thing. You know what I've always REALLY wanted to do? I've wanted to create my own comic book universe: my own MCU. And, the game is an attempt to do that, to fashion a world that replicates a comic book universe.

But what if I go 'all in' on this concept? What if I create a fictional superhero comic series to go with it? Here's the pitch:

Doc Stalwart appeared in a comic series during the 1930s called "The Thrilling Adventures of Doc Stalwart". This clunky title lasted only 17 issues, as Doc mostly battled normal burglars and petty warlords. Notably, Simian Prime made his first appearance here, although he appeared as "The Simian Overlord" of an unnamed city of gorillas. He proved so popular that battling gorillas (and gorilla-like creatures, gorilla-shaped robots, giant gorillas, and other-planetary gorillas) has become a recurring schtick in his comics since. This was published by The Stalwart Publishing Company, which folded soon after the 17th issue was released. It teased "A new direction" starting in issue 18, but that never appeared. Rumors persist that it was actually completed, and the original creative team of Lee Stanford (writer) and Kirby Jackson (artist) still argue over where the pages went.  

Doc Stalwart's modern adventures started in "The Mighty Doc Stalwart", published in April of 1964, released by New Stalwart Press. The comic has continued publication monthly since then, although it has had several title (and theme) changes in the time since. It survived a few reboots, but continues on even today (today being 1984, by the way). Since it's been published monthly for over 20 years, it recently celebrated its landmark 250th issue. It's kind of a big deal. Kirby Jackson came out of retirement to draw the cover for the landmark issue. Lee Stanford has been more involved, acting alternately as the writer and the editor of the series at various times over its run.

The first 100 issues centered on Doc Stalwart as the hero of the city of Midvale. At first, it was a 'villain of the month' series, with Doc facing off against a wide range of costumed bad guys that became his rogue's gallery. Starting at issue 50, the 24-page Doc adventures were supplemented by "From the World of Doc Stalwart", 8-page featurettes of secondary characters and other heroes in Doc's world. Sometimes, these would also include stories of Doc's childhood, or even of normal characters in Doc's world who were notable in the main storyline.

After the first 100 issues, the comic was rebranded as "Doc Stalwart and the Victory Legion" starting at issue 101, in July 1975. Doc moved to the great city of Meridian, forming a team with several secondary characters who had appeared in the back pages of his book. Over dozens of issues, Doc continually met new heroes, often recruiting them for the Victory Legion. However, he continued to take part in solo adventures as well, but the nature and scope of his adventures expanded considerably. Starting around issue 150, the series took a cosmic turn, as Doc went on several adventures including other dimensions, planets, and realities. He engaged in time travel, met future descendants of himself, and even visited the beginning and end of the world. 

As an 'event' to increase sales, the 200th issue marked "the Death of Doc Stalwart!" This continued on for two years, as the Victory Legion became the center of the book, each issue focusing on a different character. However, sales lagged soon, and fan demand to bring Doc back lead to the 'return of Doc Stalwart' storyline starting in issue 220. 

Starting with Issue 226, Doc helped to establish the Citadel of Tomorrow, moving his adventures there. The 250th issue of Doc Stalwart and the Victory Legion featured a massive battle with cosmic forces. However, the editors and fans agreed that it was time to bring Doc back to his roots, at the center of the series. Starting at issue 251, the series has been re-titled as "The New Adventures of Doc Stalwart", The stories I have released thus far are prose adaptations of issues 251, 252, and 253...

This means that a character's stat block will also include his or her first appearance. I would have to keep a separate spreadsheet going with the various issues of Doc Stalwart, who appeared, and what the basic plot was (and maybe even the fictional creative team that was at the helm - along with all the backstage drama that went into that issue). This would be so much work, and would include tons of stuff nobody would ever see, but it was be a BLAST to work on. 

I Think We Have a Cover


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Eldritch vs Prototype

When Eldritch, Keeper of the Eldest Gate, refuses to cooperate with Project Javelin, Prototype is dispatched to convince him. As you can see, negotiations are going really well.

I like this so much it might end up as the cover. If I have another half dozen images like this in me, this game is going to be the best thing I've ever published, by a LONG shot. 

Work In Progress

This one is titled Knight vs. Wizard... and it will be on the page with rules for battlesuits and sorcery, so it seemed to fit right in. I have spent about an hour on it at this point, and I am really happy on how it's coming together. The color version of this game is going to be pretty sweet.

I have a draft of the game that can probably fit snugly into 32 pages. I don't know how I feel about that - I both LOVE that I can get everything into 32 pages, while I'm also a little concerned that it might be perceived as 'too light'. However, that's almost the point - I want it to be a very light, but incredibly flexible, supers system. It is a robust 32 pages.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

More Stat Blocks - Because Why Not?

I think I have a plan.

I expect to be able to get this game DONE by July 1. I would love to launch then; I feel pretty confident that the core rules pdf will be available then. The print edition may take a little longer... we'll see.

I plan to make July my "Summer of Supers" event. I plan to post a different, new superhero profile every day on my blog for the month of July. This would be followed (I hope) by the Official Handbook of the Stalwart Age, which will be an encyclopedia of the game world, with entries for major characters, items, places, vehicles... you know the drill. The characters who appear throughout July would figure prominently in that book.

I have been putting together character profiles to see how these look with different characters. Doc's team will be in the Core rules as an appendix. One of the characters is Zirah, whose profile is above. I love how these characters are coming together; they are not straight up homages to other characters, but they're a piece of this character with an idea from there, sprinkled with something else entirely. 

Monument Redux

I didn't really like my drawing of Monument from last week - I felt at the time that it was a draft, and that I'd be revising him at some point. Today, I was going through and re-reading some of my drafts for Doc Stalwart short stories (which I'm going to be updating, cleaning up, and continuing as well), and found the story draft where he first appears. I think I might re-work that story entirely (because I actually have a cool idea for what I can do with the character that's a little different, and puts him a little more directly into Doc's world). As I was thinking about him, I did a new draft. I like this image much better.

I really like how my style is evolving with this project. I have found a sweet spot - the images are sort of iconic, evoke some of the black silhouettes of the previous game's edition, have echoes of the Batman Animated visuals that I love so much (and which have been mimicked to the point of exhaustion), but are still 'me'. They don't look like anyone else's images that I can think of (I see a leeeetle bit of Mike Mignola in there I guess) but still feel like they work. 

I've got ideas for a publishing plan going forward. I think I've found my ongoing project :) 

A little prose...

 I wrote this over a year ago. I was a little upset when I saw Loki the other day, because it is basically a story that I've been wanting to tell for some time. I thought I would share this draft with you, because I like this moment... and remember - I wrote this over a year ago, so it IS my idea and not just stolen from Loki :)


“How many stories are there?” Mr. Silvers gestured towards the filing cabinets. There were hundreds of them. Thousands. Row upon row of dull, cream-colored, three-drawer filing cabinets filled dozens of rows, with dozens of cabinets in each row.

“You can’t count it,” Mikah answered, “infinite. There are an infinite number of stories.”

Mr. Silvers paused. He drew a breath. “Try again.”

Mikah scrunched his nose. “I guess… I mean, if everyone who has ever lived has their own story, then it would be the same number as the number of people who ever lived. Whatever that number is. A couple billion? I don’t know…”

“Nope,” Mr. Silvers replied, scratching behind his ear.

Mikah drew a breath. He scanned the cabinets. Thousands of them. Each filled with tens of thousands of words. Stories within stories. But… “there’s one,” Mikah concluded at last, “there is only one story.”

Mr. Silver smiled. Pleased. “Explain.”

Mikah struggled. This seemed like an advanced thing to be asking a thirteen-year-old. Shouldn’t he be, like, learning about rocks or something? “Okay. There are all of these stories. But they all connect. I mean, you have your story, and I have mine, but at some point we cross over. You appear in my story for a bit, and I appear in yours. So, we are sharing the story. And that happens for everyone. Everywhere. For all time.”

“For all times,” Mr. Silvers corrected, “Yes. For all times. All one story. But there are… other drafts. Plot holes. Inconsistencies along the narratives.”

“Alternate realities,” Mikah answered. He had been learning from Doc Stalwart after all.

 Mr. Silvers nodded, “Yes. Alternate realities. But, there is someone. He is very powerful. There is someone who wants to… unify the narrative.”

“How would you do that?

“You destroy all of all the other drafts.”

More Stat Blocking

I keep playing with the format of the stat block. I changed the font in the rules to Times New Roman, which is about as clean as Garamond, but which takes up a bit less space and scales a little better to my eyes. I can read TNR at 10 point, but Garamond starts to get a little too small. With that change, and some re-arranging of the stat block, I am able to compress the original down a bit to where I can get three to a page, or two with a lot of supplemental text. I like that layout options this gives me; you could put a single character profile on a page along with a lot of backstory, or fit an entire team of five along with a brief overview and history of the team on a two-page spread. 

Feedback is still more than welcome :)

Stat Blocking

 Last week, I posted a stat block for Doc Stalwart, with the template for a block I was working on. I have worked up a new version (with changes based on rule tweaks as I go), for a different layout; the previous block was primarily landscape, and I could fit two to a page. This block is much denser, and I reduced the font size from 11 to 10, so I can MAYBE get four of these to a page if I'm really frugal. The problem is that this leaves almost no room for backstory or other character information in the block - so I don't love it. It feels more old school to me, and closer to one of the write ups for a character you'd see in the pages of Dragon Magazine, but it's still not perfect. I'd welcome feedback on either version.