Monday, July 31, 2023


I have finished final edits, put together my master PDF, and finalized my banner. This will be running throughout August on DriveThru (or until I run out of credits). If I'm on DriveThru and I see this banner, I am buying a copy. It captures the essence of the game in the greatest possible way.

The game will be available tomorrow, August 1. Clear your schedule.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Cupcake Scouts Resources

Want to be your best Cupcake Scout? Of course you do! 

Rules - To play the game!
Sashes - To keep track of your badges:
Other Links - To expand your game.

Merch Store - because you need a new T-shirt

Cupcake Scout Sash Design

I'm going to be putting together a resources page (with a link on the left) for various Cupcake Scouts links and resources... and one of those is going to be to sashes you can color in. This is the first sash in what I expect to be a series of sashes that you can color. The idea is that you print these out, color in squares as you kill these monsters, and then color the badges as you complete the task and earn the badge. Badges are how you advance in the game, so keeping track of what badges you have credit towards in pretty important. You could just keep a list of badges you are working towards on a looseleaf sheet of paper, and then just keep tallies next to them - but what fun is THAT?! 

Going to print one of these bad boys out before I keep going with my actual play experience.

The World of Cupcake Scouts

One of the most enjoyable parts of this design process has been conceptualizing the larger world of the Cupcake Scouts. While the original ruleset hinted at some things, there was not much consistency to how it all fit together - it didn't have a unifying cohesion. I believe that it does now. There are several balls in the air right now, and one of them is initial thoughts on a webcomic series to align with the game. 

One of the things that I like is that I've tied some monster origins to the Cupcake Scouts. Ancient Greece had its own variation of Cupcake Scouts (Souvlaki Sisterhood? Feta Friends? Pita Patrol?) - and they went bad. This allows me to tie some of the female monster archetypes (specifically medusae and harpies in these rules) to the Scouts. There are five scout troops, and I am confident that I'll be able to link five monsters to them... medusae were the classic version of Seeker Scouts (and the 'eyes' thing is a great connection), whereas Harpies were the Singer Scouts (their song is now horribly corrupted). It's such a nice little link between monsters and the Scouts that makes the whole world feel more complete and unified to me.

I'm looking forward to people reading this. I hope you like it.  

Cupcake Scouts is on the Cooling Rack!

And just like that, Cupcake Scouts 2E is done. It's 48 pages jam-packed with all sorts of really nifty stuff. I am going to let it sit for a day, do one final edit, and release it into the wilds on August 1st. I plan to release a print edition as well, but I'm going to give that a few weeks. I'm going to walk my dogs, and then go get a Tim Horton's coffee and donut to celebrate!  

Then, I'll probably crack out some dice and keep exploring Moridis' Tomb. Briar's relic isn't going to find itself...

Saturday, July 29, 2023

I Can't Even...

This is the starkest example I could possibly provide of how far my art has come in the last five years. I'm honestly a little stunned. The first image is my original Cupcake Scouts cover. I had JUST started trying to work in color, and I really felt uncomfortable. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had made up my mind that I was going to figure it out. I can see what I was TRYING to do, but it's just not very good. 

Below that, you see the drawing I did this morning. I did a version with a white border around the characters to pop them a little against the background. Mary likes the non-white border version, but Grace and I both like the white border version better. Honestly, either one is fine - they are both WORLDS beyond what I was able to do just a few years ago. 

I'm really, really happy with how this looks.

Cupcake Cover Line Art

I very much like the original design of the Cupcake Scouts cover, so I am emulating that as I re-design it. I did the line drawings for the three girls for the cover, and I cannot be happier with it.That one image makes me want to play a Scholar Scout. Wand in one hand and gem in the other - she might be only eleven years old, but I am NOT messing with her.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Briar's Quest: Session 1

Having made significant progress on the core rules for Cupcake Scouts, I’ve decided to start a solo game and see where this goes. I’m going to make a level 2 scout (so she has some survivability), and I’m going to make her a bit of a hybrid to test out as many different rules as I can. First of all, I am going to make her a Stalwart Scout (because those are my favorite - they are the fighter types), and I’m going to have her pick up gem use with one of her tags (so I can test out the magic rules, and give my scout some more versatility).

She is going to enter Moridis’ Labyrinth, searching for a relic she has heard of: the silvered dagger of quickening. It will give a bonus to damage and allow two attacks per round, which will make her quite powerful (in theory). As a stalwart scout, she starts with +1 to attacks, +1 to weapon damage, and two other tags: I’m going to take fighter, jeweler, and baker. This gives her the +1 edge to attacks (kind of important for her), the jewels to have some gems with her, and baker so she always has at least one magical treat, because that will also make a big difference for a solo character.

Briar - Stalwart Scout 2

[Hits 12 | Dagger (5) | +1 to attack; baker; fighter; jeweler; resolve]

- She can use 2 gems per day; she has a stunning gem and a sunlight gem.

- She has the following badges (5): shade hunter, zombie hunter, friend to gnomes, cupcake baker, and one bravery badge. She will start with no credit towards any other badges. I’ll presume that she’s been doing all of her adventuring in graveyards so far, and been helping gnomes with a variety of problems, as well as baking them lots of cupcakes.

Before setting off into Moridis’ Labyrinth, she bakes a fresh batch of muffins (since that’s what she’s working on next). She actually gets a success (natural 10), so she will have two muffins with her on her journey! She has a healing muffin and a growth muffin. Good stuff!

I’m going to use the rules for likelihoods throughout, and will see how that goes. 

Briar goes into the basement of the coffee shop (after getting a fresh cup of hot chocolate), and descends into area 33 on the map. She gets to the portcullis, which is possibly locked, but I roll a 4 and it is not locked. Someone left it open… for her? Rut roh. She carefully moves into the center of the area and looks around. She makes her social check and sees the secret door to the south; she checks that out first, and pushing the wall in (it’s spring loaded), she sees that stairs beyond descend into darkness. She is not ready to go any deeper yet! She decides to explore to the east. The room she is in was once an assembly hall of some kind (it has vaulted ceilings, and the remains of rows of seats that are long since rotted). She crosses east to area 35, and sees the statues. She examines the north statue first. The dice (rolled a 2) say that it’s an animated statue. She attempts a social check, but with the -1 edge she fails, and the statue springs to life as she is examining it. It attacks at +1 edge but misses, and she gets her turn; she leaps backwards while swiping with her dagger. She misses, despite her +1 edge (she needs to roll 7 on the dice to hit). It is very unlikely that the second statue is also an animated statue; nope. It might be special, but it’s not animated. Okay. The statue hits for 4 damage, and Briar is at 8. This time she hits for 5, but it soaks 1, suffering 4 and is down to 6. On its action, the statue swings at her hitting again for 4. She is at 4. She already has to pop that muffin in her mouth, regaining four hits (at 8) and then hitting (barely) for 5. After soaking 1, the statue is at 2 remaining. It hits her again for 4, and she’s back to 4 remaining. She totally misses (2, 1, 1 on the dice) and it hits her again! She’s at zero… Or she would be, but she uses her resolve ability to completely ignore that attack. She finally hits again for 5, dealing 4 and destroying the statue.

She was able to defeat it, but it used up a lot of her resources (she already used her healing muffin), and pushed her to use her resolve up. It’s all good, because she survived. 

On the fly, I think that having to recover 2 points an hour of rest is a lot for this game. I’m almost thinking that ten minutes of rest is enough to recover your level… because I want the game to keep moving. It’s an over the top game, so I don’t think anyone is going to be like “I accept that 11 year olds go on dangerous missions to the underdark with adult permission, but I’m struggling with the idea that they heal in a few minutes of rest”... like, this game is pretty clearly a game in a cartoonish world. People will go with it.

So, she recovers 2 points per ten minutes of rest… since she is down 8, she needs to rest for 40 minutes. I’ll say that she goes back to the stairs and snacks on a regular old everyday muffin to get some strength back, sip some water, and get her bearings. It is possible that there is a random encounter, and there is. It’s a zombie. It comes clamoring from the west just as she’s getting her muffin out, and she tries to hide to jump it. Stupid zombies. She succeeds, and gets to attack with +2 edges. Wow. She almost misses anyway! (6, 2, 1, 1) If that 6 was a 4, she misses. Anyway, she hits the zombie for 5, and it is at 1. It hits her for 2, and she is at 2. I could have her use resolve, but I’ll hold off for an emergency… She hits for 5 and destroys it.  This time she is able to rest for an hour, and fully recovers. 

Badge progress:

  • 1 animated statue

  • 1 zombie

Hitting the Sweet Spot

There is a really, really nice synergy happening in the new edition of Cupcake Scouts where the art and the writing and the mechanics and the setting are coming together in a really cohesive and - dare I say lovely? - way. It all has this really whimsical quality, but it's rooted in a very, very playable and engaging game system. I'm really lucky to have stumbled upon this. Here's a draft of a page from the monster section. 


Basic Design Elements - Cupcake Scouts

Did two sets of designs today... worked on a 2d6 symbol for the cover of the game (and for marketing purposes at some point), and then Mary helped me work on the Cupcake Scouts uniform. I wanted to keep earth tones (green and brown) as the base, but Mary kept challenging me to make it 'prettier'... so my initial design is to the left, and the design I think I'm going with is the far right. You can see the evolution of how we kind of got there.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Cupcake Scouts: Monster Stat Block

I've been working on Cupcake Scouts like I tend to do, and I'm making mad progress. I'm really happy with how the game looks. I'm leaning towards a 48-page rulebook, but we'll see. I've made a LOT of changes from first edition, and this game is much more well-rounded, with many, many more options. As a for instance, I have broken down gems into lesser (available starting at level 1) and greater (available at level 3) gems, so there's more character progression built into the system. It's still intentionally narrow - you're building a Cupcake Scout and going on Buffy and Supernatural type adventures. There's a big bad who is always in the background. Within that framework, there is still a lot of cool stuff and variety. 

Anyhow, for today I thought I'd share a monster stat block. I've written about my love of brevity in stat blocks, and this is no different. I present the draft of the stat block for the Salamander. A few well-prepared level 2 scouts should be able to tackle this guy, but they have to be careful in doing it... and, yes, I am using a few pieces from Hack'D & Slash'D that I am coloring and adding a few flourishes to. I figure that I can't do a better salamander drawing than this one, so I may as well just go with it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Cupcake Scouts Sash Design

Last post, I suggested the idea that your character sheet might be a coloring page, and a large section of it would be sashes. I was thinking that it could have maybe the ten most common sashes, and then spots for ten others that you could be working on... and a blank page you can always add to. The idea being that you use the boxes to fill in as you kill these enemies or complete challenges to get the badge (a baking badge might have three boxes beneath it instead of ten, because you need three natural 12s to get that badge)... here's a first draft of the design for what the zombie hunter and zombie slayer badges would look like. You kill ten zombies (and fill in the ten boxes as you are doing it), and you get the badge. Once you have earned the badge, you pull out your colored pencils, markers, or crayons, and you color that little zombie in. This gives some incentive and a sense of accomplishment every time you kill one of these buggers. I could always add a third (master slayer) when you get another fifty, just to keep zombies interesting... the most common monsters (zombies, skeletons, ghouls, imps, shadows) would have preset badges, but there would be many blank badges for you to fill in. You decide to become a specialist at hunting wereboars, because they are all over the countryside? Hey, you go right ahead and design your own badge and start tallying. 

Of Foolish Consistencies and Hobgoblins - Actual Play #1 for Cupcake Scouts 2E

As Emerson warned, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds". Now, I think I have a medium-sized mind (at least), and I don't really like hobgoblins all that much, so I decided to take his words to heart. That said, I have given 2d6 another shot. And I like it.

For Cupcake Scouts 2E, I found that by scaling the numbers to cap at no better than +5 (usually +4), and by swapping out some of the things I had given as modifiers to be edges instead, I've kept the numbers very reasonable (to my mind). 

So, I have a draft going and the first half of the book is roughed out already. I have learned to work very, very quickly at this point. It's at about 6,000 words (18 pages) at present, and about half of that is language I cut and pasted over and then edited the heck out of, and half of it is new language based on things I've learned and problems I've solved in the last four years or so.  The previous edition was 48 pages, but the pages were pretty breezy, and there was a lot of white space. I'm getting almost twice as much information on a page at this point, so getting the whole package to 32 pages looks likely. I'd prefer 48, but I'm not sure if the game needs that much content. I want it to be light and airy, but you can always use more monsters, I suppose...

I thought I'd give you a taste of how it looks with the snapshot of the rules for character generation. This is my first play test character, and I'll have her fight some zombies and see how it goes...


Character Building Snapshot
1.       Select a troop. Looking at the options, I decide that my character is going to be a stalwart scout, so she can be good at fighting monsters.
2.       Select one tag. For my stalwart scout, I pick fighter so she gets a bonus to attack.  
3.       Gather your gear. I review the gear section. I will keep those blessed stakes at the ready!
4.       Write down your weapon damage and hits. My dagger deals 4 hits (2 base +1 from being level 1, +1 from being a stalwart scout). I have 6 hits (what every scout has at level 1).
Name your scout and think of one adjective to describe her (other than the word for her troop). I go with Chase as her name, and ‘serious’ as her adjective.


Okay, so Chase is going to try to throw down with some zombies. I guess I have to stat up a zombie...

Zombie Wanderer - Mindless Fiend 1 [Hits 4; Move 40'; claw (2)]. These mindless undead wander through tombs and graveyards. They attack twice on their action, raking with two claws.

We'll say that Chase goes to the graveyard near sundown because zombie sightings are increasing, and the Scoutmaster wants her to slay ten of these to earn her first hunter badge. She has thirty minutes before sunset to hunt down 10 zombies. Each minute, she can check skill to find a zombie. It's a BIG graveyard. Before she goes, she tries to bake some cookies. She fails her knowledge check - and gets 8. she overbakes them a little bit, but they are still edible. None of them are magical, however. 

Minute 1. She enters the graveyard and looks around. She doesn't see any zombies, and starts down the path. Minute 2 is more walking.
In minute 3 she finds her first zombie, just having emerged from its grave. She runs at it and attacks. The zombie wins initiative, and rakes with its claw. It misses. She misses. It hits with its claw for 2, and she is down to 4 hits remaining. She misses again. It wiffs in round 3, and so does she. It misses in round 4, but she hits for 3 damage, leaving it at 1. It misses again, and she hits again for 3 more, defeating it. That's one zombie down.
In minute 8 she finds her second zombie. She tries to sneak up on it (it's gnawing on a bone), but she fails. She wins initiative, and hits it for 3. It misses. She misses, and it does as well. She hits with a natural 12 for 5 damage, and destroys it. That's two zombies down.
She finds her third zombie in minute 14. It's unlikely she will slay ten tonight... She fails to sneak again, but wins initiative. She hits for 4, killing it right away.
She finds a fourth zombie in minute 16. She makes her sneak check! She hits with an 11, dealing 4 hits and killing it in one shot. Nice.
She finds a fifth zombie in minute 18. This time she fails her sneak check and loses initiative; the zombie misses, but she hits with an 11, slaying the zombie. She has 11 minutes to find and kill 5 zombies... not loving her chances here.
In minute 21 she comes across zombie six. She is able to sneak up on it and hit it for 3. It hits her for 2, and she is down to 2. Hm. May be time to hit the road...she hits it with a natural 12 for 5, and destroys it. 9 minutes and 4 zombies to go... and she is at 2 hits remaining. She is going home and try again tomorrow. It is possible (1-3 on 1d6) that she encounters another zombie on the way out (it will be 2 zombies on a 1). No zombies. She gets back to the library and reports what she has done. The Scoutmaster lets her make S'mores to celebrate, and then she does a coloring sheet to wind down before bed. 

The next day,  she tries to bake something and is successful! She makes a treat. I'm going to just rule that it's a peanut-butter cookie that heals her 3 points. She tucks that away in case she needs it. She returns to the graveyard, pries open the gate, and slips inside near nightfall. Zombies are starting to roam...

In minute 1, she sets off down a different path from yesterday. She wanders for three minutes.
In minute 4, she finds a zombie roaming, and manages to hide and jump it as it passes. She hits it for 3 damage. It misses. She hits for another 3, and destroys it. She has destroyed 7 zombies.
She wanders around until minute 12, looking for more zombies and failing to find them. She must have taken care of the problem more than she realized! She sneaks up on this one, too, which is trying to help another zombie out of its grave. The other zombie still needs 4 rounds to get free, and actions area t +1 edge against it until that time has passed. She moves up from behind a tombstone and jumps out,  but misses. Zombie 8 misses, and zombie 9 starts digging harder to get out. She whiffs, and zombie 8 smacks her with a claw. She is at 4 hits. Zombie 9 keeps diggin'. Lots of misses and digging in round 3. Same in round 4 - and now she is fighting two zombies. In round 5, everyone misses. In round 6, zombie 8 hits for 2, and she is at 2 hits. She uses a task in round 7 to scarf her cookie, and is at 5 hits when she swings again, hitting and killing zombie 8. Zombie 9 hits for 3, and she is down to 2 again. Good thing she ate that cookie! I need to swap out her dice - she misses again. Ugh. So does the zombie. I swap dice, but she still misses, and so does the zombie. She rolls a natural 2 (despite the +1 edge), meaning that I hit the 1 in 216 chance of rolling three 1s. That's impressive in the worst possible way. The zombie also misses. Both miss again. And again. And she FINALLY (in round 14!) hits it for 3 damage. she finishes it in round 15, with 2 hits remaining.

She is going to push her luck. It's a bad idea, but I'm going to do it anyway. She only needs one zombie! She finds that tenth zombie in minute 16 (it was three minutes, but the previous encounter went two minutes)... She is able to sneak up on it, and hits it for 4! Yes. She looks around quick and makes for the exit... which she gets to just fine, pulling the gate shut and throwing the bar across it before heading back to the library. She arrives to find that the Scoutmaster has just baked some fresh muffins, has a juice box ready for her, and has already sewn her first badge, beginner zombie hunter, to her new sash. She beams with pride. 

There's a lot of whiffing, which I knew would happen when the zombie has a 27% chance of hitting and she has a 42% chance of hitting. Still, it wasn't bad, and things go fast.    
In this game, zombies are the meat-and-potatoes monster. I think that zombies are just all over the place, and the most common threat you face. Since the game has no things like armor class and the like, a zombie can still hit a higher-level character 27% of the time, and can deal 2-4 points of damage... so a room full of zombies is always going to present some challenge. You never grow out of monsters being a threat, which is a good thing. 
I'm very interested to play test at higher levels (3-4). I think that those characters will cut through zombies and similar foes quickly, but I don't know how quickly or what that exactly looks like. I can find out soon enough.
I love how badges are the economy of character advancement rather than experience points. Eventually, it doesn't matter how many zombies you kill; once you have your expert zombie hunter badge, you gain nothing from killing more of them. They are just mooks in the way of the things you want. I'm fine with that. Earning badges becomes the motivating factor to seek out new enemies; both for the level advancement, and for the little 'attaboy' of knowing you've killed so many monsters. I think that it would be cool to have a coloring page for your character that has all of the badges you could earn, along with tallies for getting them - and then you get to color them when you earn them! That would be so cool as a character sheet. I'm totally and completely doing that!
I also think that there should be things you have to unlock to advance. For example, 1E had rules for grody monsters (which zombies would be, but I didn't include that in the play test here...). Maybe you have to 'get over' getting grossed out by undead creatures before you can earn level 2. Sure, you've earned all of your badges, but you still turn green and say "uhrumgurd, it's sooo gross" when you see a zombie, so you're not ready to become a true scout yet. Sorry, champ. 


Let's Read: Cupcake Scouts 1st Edition

If I’m going to revise a game, I suppose I should re-familiarize myself with said game. That seems to be the least I could do.
I want the game to be a little over the top. It’s a ridiculous concept – that 11-year-old girls are supernaturally empowered to battle the mother of all monsters and defeat her progeny wherever they appear. I think that the game should draw a distinction between ‘monsters’ (which can be redeemed) and ‘fiends’ (demons and undead which cannot be redeemed, and must be destroyed). Your strategies, tactics, and purposes are different depending on what you are fighting. The idea is that even the most fearsome giant can be convinced through snacks and friendship to give up its evil ways and join the town above, which is full of decent folk in general.
Page 2: I still like the hook for this game. I ‘get’ it right away (but I wrote it, so I admit to a heavy dose of bias).
Page 3: The background. The one longer review on DriveThru said that the background was too minimal, and I can see his point. This is a broad strokes view of the town, and there is enough to go with here, but there are key questions (which that reviewer brought up) that are left hanging – when does this game take place? I believe that I address some of this later, but an additional page or two of world building would be very helpful at the outset. I can make this text fun and engaging without missing out on some key ideas that would ground players in the game better.
Pages 4-5: We get into mechanics here pretty quickly - and dang this game is simple. It’s 1d6, with a single modifier to see if a check was successful or not. Challenge ratings are variable depending on the situation. Now that I’ve played it a bit, I like the fixed target, with the changes being to how many dice you roll with + or – edges. I feel like as a GM having to determine a challenge rating puts the onus on me… it’s better in play to put the onus on the dice. I could see this still working as a target 6 for everything, and then adding or removing dice from the pool. It would give the same mechanical flavor to this game as Hack’D – but I still like 1d12 better for longer play and character advancement. Plus, part of me wants the two games to be compatible, but I suppose that’s not a deal breaker. The 1d6 here is pretty nifty, and the versatility of edges gives me some subtlety to layer in.
Pages 6-8: The game breaks down types of checks. Since the game has no traits, it provides the context for these through the types of checks you might make; all checks are level checks, so the modifier is generally going to be your level. There is a typo where the intro to the section talks about ‘action checks’, whereas they are ‘attack checks’ in the body. Attack check is better, because that is the only application of that type of check – to hit something in combat.
I cannot remember how I resolved spell casting (my guess is that it’s a knowledge check), but I would want to port over a lot of the magic rules for Hack’D… so maybe I need to consider mana as a sixth type of check. Spellcraft? Casting? Something like that. I like that social checks are part of the core mechanic.
Here we get into the rules for advantage/disadvantage which are stolen directly from D+D. I can see how it gets messy already with both advantage/disadvantage and the challenge ratings being variable. There is no reason to adjust challenge ratings – just always add or subtract an edge and you are good to go.
Time is better in Hack’D (I think I’ve finally solved actions/tasks/rounds in a way that is intuitive, flexible, and easy to use… I want to port that over directly).
Page 9: Range and combat are pretty standard, although (again) this is presented more elegantly in Hack’D. I just want to bring those rules over. They aren’t vastly different, but they are different enough to be worth the change.
Page 10: Here’s where the game really diverges. It doesn’t have hit points per se, but instead health equal to your level +1. There is no variable damage – if you get hit, you lose a health point. Some attacks can deal 2 if they are really, really bad. I don’t love this – I think that having a wider range of hits adds quite a bit of drama to the game… but I want to consider keeping something like this. I’m interested to see how this affects things deeper into the game. I can already see here that monsters are presented in very broad strokes – this is an even simpler version of monsters than those presented in Hack’D. The monster IS its level, with a few modifiers. The end of the page reinforces this – Everything about the monster is tied to its level. It deals damage, resists attacks, and attempts any check based on its level. Monsters are entirely static – the scouts check to resist static attack ratings and check to hit monsters with static defenses. The game has no allowance for monsters fighting other monsters… because monsters never roll. I remember why I did this (to keep scaling in check and to put the onus on the players), but it really cuts the knees out of the flexibility of the system. I don’t intend to keep this. It overly simplifies the game.
Page 11. The five types of scouts are overviewed. These are the ‘character classes’ of the game. I know that I abandoned the idea of classes in Hack’D, but that’s a different game with a much wider footprint for character options. Since this game is more focused, the presence of the five troops makes a lot of sense. I think I’ll be keeping this. It then builds in the +1 edge – you get a +1 edge in your troop’s type of check.
Page 12: Savant scouts are cool. They are monk-like with some healing. Nifty.
Pages 13-16: Scholar scouts and magic. Wow this is well done. I can see why I liked this so much at the time. The rules for wands and attacks and simple and clear, and the use of gems is a good way to resolve magic. I don’t know that the mana rules need to come over, although they could… or I could merge them. This is a very good magic system, however, and I might end up keeping it in large part. It’s well done. I think that there might be different tiers of gems – you unlock common gems and level 1, and advanced gems at level 3… but other than that, this is a keeper.
Page 17: The Seeker Scout. I am surprised by how much I like the presentation of these troops in terms of their function in play – there is a brevity of information, but I did a great job presenting how you ‘play’ this troop, and how the Scoutmaster would create challenges for you or help you to navigate them.
Pages 18-19: Singer Scouts and social mechanics. They also have songs that give mechanical benefits.
Page 20: Stalwart Scouts. The fighters. Pretty simple, but they have fortitude and resolve that give them some extra toughness.
In general, the troops are good and diverse. There isn’t a lot of room for customization. Hack’D really leans into giving you a lot of choice in building your character – Cupcake Scouts really locks you into an archetype, and doesn’t give much wiggle room within that. The scholar and singer scouts have some choice because they have a larger range of abilities to choose from, but even these are finite options. As written, the game has few options for cross classing, or picking up a little magic, or personalizing your character mechanically. There are opportunities to add to your character through roleplaying and cosmetic add-ons, but there isn’t much I can add here in terms of mechanical benefits without bloating the game. It’s lean, but very focused, and it works as it is.
Pages 21-22: Gear and the handbook. I love all of this. It’s very evocative, is clear, and suggests a whole bunch of roleplaying. The Buffy/Supernatural vibes come through quite clearly in this section.
Page 23: Treats. Yum. These are basically ‘potions’ with small power ups and abilities. They can be a little gonzo (shrinking and growth are quite Alice in Wonderland-y), but that’s great. I’d like to add more to this list.
Pages 24-25: Character advancement and abilities. These are the game’s version of tags, and it’s not bad. I could see revising this list some – the troops gave a +1 bonus, whereas these grant the advantage (or +1 edge). I kind of like that… I would want to be a weapon specialist as a stalwart scout, because that gives me both +1 to hit and +1 edge on my dagger attacks. That seems solid.
Pages 26-27: Badges. Oh, wow, this is cool. Okay, I want to expand this section a LOT, and add some more concrete things, but the foundation that’s here is pretty great.
 Pages 28-31: The Scoutmaster. A cursory exploration of running the game. I think that this section needs a lot of fleshing out, with more concrete examples of the kinds of things that cupcake scouts might do, and how to resolve those things. There are no rules for traps, or finding hidden things, or exploration… there’s a lot that is hand waved.
Pages 32-33: Treasure and magic. This is a bit cursory as well, and ends up being kind of generic. I don’t like the idea of generic magic items for this game; I’d rather have a list of six relics for each troop (so 30 items total) that they could find. The idea would be that you can only activate one relic per level, so you’d max out at getting five of the six relics for your troop anyway. A lot of the flavor and vibe of the rest of the game is lost here in presenting generic magic items. This is an opportunity to lean into the world and lore a bit and explore that through objects.
Pages 34-50: Here there be monsters. This is where the full-color monster art in my improving style is going to make a big difference. In general, the art is serviceable throughout, but not particularly evocative. This section has some hits, and some definite misses in the art department. The gargoyle, mummy, ooze, and vampire are particularly weak drawings. I can see how I was trying to nail down the new style, and not always finding it. In general, monster descriptions are pretty good, and there are some good ideas in here I’ll want to keep (some monsters are ‘grody’, and these cause a check to fight them because they are so gross). That sort of stuff is really, really good. The expanded stat block putting these closer to Hack’D is going to help a lot.  
I don’t know that I need the level of distinction that there is (corruptions vs. elementals vs. fiends)… it’s enough that a creature is cursed. Cursed creatures are evil, irredeemable, and must be destroyed. ‘Nuff said. Whether this is an imp, a vampire, a demon, or a medusa, it’s a cursed creature that was spawned by Moridis in some way - and therefore must be destroyed.
The Adventures (pages 51-62) are really, really good. These are almost five-room dungeons, and this was before I even knew what a five-room dungeon is! (at least, I think that’s how I remember it). These can be tightened up a bit, but these do a great job of setting the flavor and tone of the game. There’s a lot to like in this section.
The Cupcake Scouts Campaign (pages 63-64) is quite cursory, and sets up a few ideas in the loosest of ways. Much of this could be placed earlier (in the introductory text), and what is here could be expanded or re-designed.
The addition of Moridis as the ‘big bad’ of the game world is going to add a level of texture and focus to the game overall. Having the fight be against an immortal and unbeatable mother of all monsters gives the game a tighter focus. I suppose you could then run the Cupcake Scouts campaign-to-end-them-all where the troop actually finds and destroys Moridis once and for all, but that is the two-part series finale after five good seasons. I think Moridis is more interesting than the Raven Queen suggested in the rules as is. She’s an add-on here at the end, rather than being a core force. It’s almost like the Scoutmaster should exist for the sole purpose of opposing the efforts of Moridis to move beyond her labyrinth.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Of Cupcakes and Dice

In thinking about Cupcake Scouts 2E, here are some things I'm mulling over:

Full disclosure: I had written a REALLY long and complicated analysis of moving from 1d12 to 2d6, only to discover at the end that there are lots of good reasons I don't like 2d6. While there are some cool wrinkles (I like the idea that edges give a pool of dice, and you pick the most favorable or unfavorable 2 depending on whether it's positive or negative), the 1d12 is just better all around. And, it's such a cool and under-appreciated die.

All hail the dodecahedron. 

That said, here are some considerations for Cupcake Scouts mechanically vs. Hack'D...

I don't think you have armor per se. That's not a thing. I would lean a bit more into the three traits as soaking damage; I'd use might instead of armor (since might sets the maximum rating for armor, it sort of ends up being the default anyway). If I have might 4, I'm doing everything I can to be able to purchase armor 4. Cupcake Scouts doesn't have the same sort of scaling of economics and gear. You aren't constantly trying to upgrade your gear; you collect relics that can increase your power, and potions that give power ups, but you are not getting a +1 dagger, and a +1 shield, and boots of speed, and gauntlets of might... you could end up carrying the dagger of shattered dreams, but that's a pretty special item and you want to keep it very safe. There are no generic magical items. You don't collect gold and spend it to get gear. The game needs an economy for sure, but that economy has to be something different than the economy in a traditional fantasy setting. This means that all supernatural abilities target either mind or reflex to make those important for all characters; you resist indirect magic (charms, control, etc) with mind, but you resist physical supernatural damage and all areas of effect with reflex. To summarize:

- If it deals physical damage to you directly, check might to resist (poisons are still here, as are all physical attacks from weapons and natural abilities such as claws and bites).

- If it deals mental damage, or affects your five senses, check mind to resist (petrification, charms).

- If it deals magical damage or affects you indirectly, check reflex to resist (most spells like bolts and bursts, breath weapons, elemental damage like from fire).

Cupcake Scouts Revised?

First of all, my Surface Pro is on its last legs - I'm going to be intermittent for the next week or so as I transition to a new device... I love the surface pro, but I also will be looking around for a cheaper option that gives me the ability to do what I love to do. It's not too crazy: I do my drawing in Microsoft Paint, so I need access to Paint (or a really close clone of it) to keep doing my work. I like the tools I like, I guess. If I had to give up Microsoft Word and do layouts in Google Docs, that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. I've become a fan of simpler game layouts anyway, so that is doable.

However, I've also been tinkering with my LEGO City, and have fallen in love with the pick a brick wall at my relatively local LEGO store. I was trying to decide on a theme for my city, and had some buildings that were more modern, and some more medieval, and I realized that this was the vibe of the town of Wyvern's Hollow from the Cupcake Scouts world I had tinkered with. 

Then, while mowing the lawn (of course) I was thinking how the Hack'D & Slash'D system would port incredibly well to the Cupcake Scouts setting. Then I realized that the megadungeon I am working on could easily sit under Wyvern's Hollow, and Moridis could become the 'big bad' of the world of the Cupcake Scouts. I could keep doing everything I'm doing, just shift it sideways a bit into a more distinctive milieu. I was already thinking about how I could make some tweaks to the game to have advacement tied directly to earning badges, and earning badges tied more directly to the tags. I mean, the simplist way to think of this is that you need to earn 25 xp (or something) to earn a badge; each badge unlocks a tag; when you earn so many badges, you advance to the next level; you might need +2 badges for level 2, +3 badges for level 3, etc. I would layer in increases to your core stats (might, mind, reflex) as badges you could earn, putting these on the same economy as other abilities. I might have to scale the tags back a little bit, just so that you can maybe have two versions of each (basic and advanced) that give you different and increasing bonuses in the game. 

Oh, and the LEGO Rivendell would represent the wood elves that well in the forest to the West of Wyvern's Hollow, so I can always just plunk that into my layout when I convince Mary that this is a worthwhile $500 investment. Considering I have to now purchase a new computer, that might be a bit of a stretch...

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Megadungeon Usefulness

I put together the start of a color key to the level, showing it by conceptual sections. These are either the vibe of a place, or sections that are controlled by factions. I have a few things still to be determined, and I think that the Circle of the Serpent has a stronghold here as well, so they might end up getting one of the bigger unclaimed areas. I'm still not sure how this looks as a 'product', but I'm posting it all online for now so you can keep up at home. See the links to the left for the megadungeon, which is a very messy work in progress. 

Heck It All To Heck - Megadungeon Edition

I've been reading about megadungeons and thinking about megadungeons and writing about megadungeons. And I came to the realization that I was making a dungeon complex, but it wasn't really a megadungeon. Not really and truly. So, hecking it all to heck, I've decided to actually make a megadungeon. For real. I merged all of the maps I've been working on into one big map, added some connective tissue, and filled in some areas with what I would call in LEGO terms some 'greebling'. I present to you the first go-round of my map for level 1 of the Halls of Moridis. My thoughts are that level 1 is the smallest (a little over 100 encounter areas), level 2 would be about twice this big (maybe 200 encounter areas) and level 3 would be larger still (maybe 300 encounter areas). This would give the entire dungeon about 600 keyed encounters... this section would be for level 1-2 fellowships, and have creatures as high as level 4. You may have to get some more gear and upgrade a bit before facing some of the foes here if you're just starting out.  

Saturday, July 15, 2023

New Delvers Session 1

Everyone knows the legend of Calidar - a wizard who went mad trying to seek entrance into Moridis’ Halls, and who opened a portal into the Infernal realms instead - his tower now burns for all time. However, in her studies, Aria learns that, while he was of considerable power, Calidar was an illusionist by craft, and her careful study leads her to believe that the flames eternally engulfing his tower may, in fact, be illusory. If this is the case, then it is possible that Calidar found a hitherto unexplored entry into the Halls. She tells her friends, and they (having learned to trust her judgment in such things), decide to go-a-delving.

Approaching the tower, they come upon three jackals picking at the corpse of a large stonecutter beetle. Two dead jackals are nearby, having taken the beetle’s best shot. The heroes see this from 60’ away, but the jackals do not see them (too busy eating). Gar prepares his blade and shield, Nil will fire a sling bullet at them, and Aria will use an arcane dart. Nil hits with a 9, killing one, and Aria automatically kills one with an arcane dart. The third fails its morale check, and runs away. The fellowship examines the corpse of the beetle; Aria makes her lore check with a natural 12, and they recover its oil membrane. This she is able to pour into a vial. They have enough oil of enchantment to coat three weapons.

At the bridge, they see that it is rickety and looks quite dangerous. Aria and Nil easily disbelieve the illusion (both getting 12s) but Gar struggles to believe that the bridge is safe. He refuses to cross until the others do; they both move across successfully. He finally disbelieves, but is on the other side when the ‘ogre’ emerges from the cave. All three succeed at disbelieving this illusion, and the fight with the zombie is on. 

The heroes win initiative. Aria deals 2 hits with an arcane dart (leaving the zombie at 7), while Nil hits with his sling for 2, leaving the zombie at 5. Gar spends his action crossing the bridge. The zombie misses Aria with both claws. She deals another 2 (leaving it at 3) and Nil misses with a sling stone. Gar enters the combat, hitting with his dagger but missing with his shield. The zombie is at 1. It attacks Gar this time, but misses twice. Aria finishes it with another arcane dart. They investigate the cave, but find nothing of value. 

This time it is Nil who struggles to disbelieve the illusion; he ‘knows’ that the tower is not really burning, but cannot bring himself to approach. It ‘feels’ to him like genuine flame, and he perceives pain as he gets close to it. He needs a few minutes.

Aria and Gar decide to approach, and they find the phantom of Calidar wandering about. Aria tries to greet him pleasantly, and succeeds with her mind check. He remembers hearing of her master at some point, and asks for help in finding his marbles. They begin searching about. Aria finds a scroll (Speak with Stone), and Gar finds a potion (Levitation). He asks if they will check ‘downstairs’ and see if they can find his marbles for him. They agree. 

Nil again attempts to disbelieve, but the illusion is just too strong. He cowers at the foot of the tower. Aria sees this, and asks Calidar if he can help their friend to see that it is safe to come up and help him. Calidar does, and permits Nil to see through the illusion. Because Nil failed twice, he does not get to look for an item like the other two did.

Calidar speaks his name backwards, the magical portal in the floor reveals itself, and the heroes descend into the Halls of Moridis for the first time…  

Friday, July 14, 2023

Entry Point: The Burning Tower of Calidar

In thinking about points of entry into the megadungeon, they have to be accessible enough that you can use them with some convenience, yet complicated enough that you cannot just walk right in the front door. Something has to keep people from constantly using them. I have one solution at least, so this is will be first entry point into the dungeons: the Burning Tower of Calidar.

Calidar was a magician of some power who built a tower to explore the dungeons, but eventually went mad. His small tower fell into ruin, and rumors persist that Calidar opened a portal into the lower realms, covering his tower in an unending flame. Furthermore, rumors report that a huge troll has taken residence at the bridge that crosses to the tower: so, between the tower being on fire all the time and the huge troll, not many people make their way here.

However, the haunting is the phantom of a doddering old man (Calidar) who was once a powerful illusionist, and who is now just looking for his marbles (yes, I stole this from Hook - ironic that I stole a hook from a movie named ‘hook’); he had used magic to generate a few permanent illusions - one is of his burning tower, and another is of a troll that guards the bridge (it’s actually a zombie who is compelled to remain there, but which is covered in the illusion of a troll). When the PCs learn that these are illusions and just need to be disbelieved, they can bypass these obstacles with relative ease. The tower proper has collapsed largely (somewhat open to the air), and the main chamber is filled with broken furniture and collapsed ceiling, but looks both more imposing and covered in blue flame from a distance. 

The phantom will open the passageways into the dungeon if the fellowship promises to recover his marbles. They can then continue to come and go through this entry, as long as they continue to promise to find and return the marbles. If and when the PCs do find and return the marbles, the phantom will be released, the illusion of the troll will end (once the zombie is destroyed), and they will take possession of the tower (if they want it). That’s for later.

That’s the entry. Aria learns in her studies about Calidar, and learns both of the illusion and enough about his phantom form to believe that he can be bargained with. She knows about his marbles.

Disbelieving an illusion requires both an action and a successful mind check. Because they know that the illusions are fake, each gets to check at +1 edge.  

The tower is located 2 hours (about 5 miles) from Daggerford, at the foot of the mountains. I am building it as a five-room dungeon.

The Road. The road to the tower is patrolled by a pack of wild jackals. 3 jackals will be tearing apart a huge beetle they killed. This is a large stonecutter beetle. A successful lore check reveals that the oil of the beetle can be salvaged and used to coat weapons. The oil will coat up to three weapons; this takes 1 full action, but imparts the weapon with an enchantment allowing it to strike enchanted creatures and dealing +1 damage.

The Bridge. As the fellowship approaches the bridge, a “12’ tall troll” climbs out of a cave on the other side, and moves to cross the bridge towards them. The ‘troll’ is actually a zombie with an illusion cast over it; it is a zombie, but appears to be a giant troll. Once it is destroyed, the illusion ends.

The Phantom. The phantom will not want to fight, necessarily. He will howl, forcing a mind check at -1 edge or all within 60’ flee in fear for 1 minute. Those who do not flee, he will attempt to teleport to the end of the bridge. On a successful reaction (mind) check, the phantom will ask the fellowship for help; he is looking for his marbles. He will have them search around the refuse of his tower for 1D12 minutes. During this time, each PC will find either a scroll or potion. When such things are discovered, the phantom will examine them, decide they are not marbles, and let the PC keep what they find. After each PC finds one item, the phantom will decide the marbles are not here, and will ask the PCs to search ‘down below’ and see if they can find them. If they agree, the phantom will speak the command word, his name backwards (“Radilac”) that opens the trap door, with stairs leading down to the sunken hallway.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

New Delvers of Daggerford: Session Zero

I have decided to make a team of three characters to actual play through my mega dungeon. I want something of a tank, a caster, and a thief/archer. I go with a stoutling with blade and shield as the tanker (hoping he can also deal some damage, but his primary role is to absorb damage for the team), a caster (who is primarily offensive, but will be able to heal as well through her signature spell), and a scout/thief/archer. I go with my moon elf for the mystic, and decide to make a narglyn (half goblin) for my thief (sort of an underground ranger is how I’m picturing him). I also decide to add a new weapon, darts, to the game. I am tempted to go with luck for two of the characters, but decide to try characters without that and see how they do. Luck was really vital for a solo character, but with a team of three, I have more versatility and can offset a missed roll here and there. I decide that all three have traveled together to Daggerford for the express purpose of exploring the megadungeon. I can actual play through a lot of the content I create for the dungeon as a result. The Sunken Chambers will be the area they explore first.

I've strarted a Google Doc where I'm crafting the megadungeon. I have four maps done, and notes for several locations. I will keep updating this as I go, and plan to eventually release it as a finished product and companion piece to the core rulebook.

New Weapon: Darts. Although thrown weapons, darts rely on reflex rather than might. Darts deal 1 damage, and come in a collection of 3 for 1 gold.

Aria - Studious Moon Elf Mystic 1

Armor 0 (2); Hits 5; Move 60’; Spell or Dart (1/20’)

Body 0; Mind 4; Reflex 2

Lore; Mystic (Common, Arcane); Spellcraft (arcane magic) 

Signature Spell: Healing Word 

Starter Pack; Alchemist’s Oil; 6 Darts

With an insatiable desire to learn more, Aria cannot help but explore.

Gar - Fastidious Stoutling Guard 1

Armor 2; Hits 12; Move 40’; Dagger (2) + Shield (1)

Body 4; Mind 1; Reflex 1

Fortitude; Guardian; Two Weapons; Warrior

Starter Pack; Leather Armor; Shield; Dagger (2)

A serious and meticulous watchman, Gar has forgotten how to smile.

Nil - Sly Narglyn Scrounger 1

Armor 1; Hits 6; Move 40’; Sling (2)

Body 1; Mind 1; Reflex 4

Archer; Sharpshooter; Stealth; Thievery

Starter Pack; Leather Armor 1; Sling 1; Tool Kit

Having a particular love of jewels, Nil embraces both his goblin and human heritages.