Sunday, June 30, 2024

Backup Story in Skye Stalwart #2

I played out the events of the backup story for Skye Stalwart #2... you have the introductory page I did (I posted it again for your reference), and then the actual play of the fight... spoiler alert: it's as ugly as you think it would be.

Battle Master has, obviously, been expecting them. “I knew if I waited until Twilight Archer was on another mission and then just ‘happened’ to have your detection system find me, you wouldn’t be able to help yourselves… I figure that Twilight Archer has taken enough of my students. It’s time to return the favor…” He activates his battle staff and prepares for combat… the Young Wardens do the same.

Initiative. Battle Master has used nemesis to prepare for this fight, so rolls D12. He rolls 1 and 5, so keeps the 5. The team makes a representative roll, and gets 2. He wins, getting to attempt 6 actions (from the +1 shift from nemesis). “I don’t like magic…” he uses 1 action to get close to Minnow, and attacks. He rolls 2 and 8, keeping the 8, and landing a critical hit (dealing D16 damage because it’s a critical hit with nemesis, so a +2 dice shift from his normal D10 damage). He gets 14 (!) and drops Minnow on the first shot. Okay, then. He turns next to Aria, using 1 action to cross to her and attacking. He attacks with 6 and 9, keeping the 9. Even with her shield, she cannot parry this, and it’s a critical hit, so he deals 12 damage; she soaks 5 and suffers 7. He attacks again and gets 12 and 5, another hit (12) that’s critical and that she cannot parry. He deals 11 damage, but she soaks 5 and suffers 6. She has suffered 11 hits, and is at 9. He has one more action, so he attacks a third time and gets 9, 9… so another critical hit. He deals 9 damage, and she soaks 5, so her hits are down to 5. He spends a villain point to add D12 to this damage, and gets a 12 additional damage – OUCH. She’s down. Halfway through the round, Battle Master has already dropped two of the four members of the team.

Windsprint runs at him (using 1 action), and then punches 3 times as he circles around Battle Master; he needs a 7 or better to hit (on D8), so I don’t like his chances… he rolls 5, 8, 3, hitting once. He deals 4 hits, but Battle Master’s armor absorbs all of this. Kid Cadet uses 1 action to pick up Aria’s shield, and then attacks with it, missing with a 5. He spends a hero point, getting only a 2 (!), but this is enough to bump it to a 7, and just barely hit. He deals only 1 point with the shield… he smacks Battle Master in the face, and Battle Master doesn’t flinch.

Ruh Roh.

Round 2. Both Minnow and Aria try to recover… each checks tier (DT 4)… Minnow gets a 6, but Aria only gets 2. She spends a hero point, and gets a 6, so she is back up as well (but only with 2 hero points remaining). Battle Master starts spinning and whirling his battle staff; he attacks Windsprint first, getting 5 and 1, with the 5 barely hitting. He deals 5 damage with his staff, leaving Windsprint at 9. He attacks again, getting 9 and 5, so the 9 is critical. For damage, he rolls 15, and LEVELS Windsprint (basically clotheslining him as Wind is trying to run in circles around him). He has 4 actions remaining; he starts spinning and kicking at Aria, attacking with a natural 12 and dealing 7 hits. She soaks 5 but suffers 2 from her 10, now at 8. Cadet is still holding her shield, trying to find a moment to toss it to her (and availability of an action to do that). Battle Master spins his staff, striking at her and getting another natural 12 (critical damage). Cadet uses a hero point to take an action now, throwing the shield in front of the attack; he gets to make a hero point check, and if the result is high enough (he’d need an 8 on D8), he times the shield so that it absorbs the blow… he gets a 2 (womp womp). Battle Master is actually able to spin the shield as it’s flying and angles the edge into Aria's stomach. He deals 13 hits to her (she soaks 5), but the 8 is enough to drop her again. She’s back down. He still has 2 actions left. He turns back towards Minnow and wallops her again, getting a 3 and a natural 12… so another critical hit, this one dealing 12 damage. She’s down again. Since both Aria and Minnow have been felled twice, they are defeated. He uses his final action this round to punch Windsprint in the head, causing him to be defeated as well. Cadet moves towards him. Battle Master kicks Aria’s shield towards him, telling him to pick it up. He does, and attacks. Cadet attacks twice with the shield as a weapon, getting 2 and 5, so missing twice. He has already used a hero point this round, so there’s not much he can do.

Round 3. Battle Master circles Cadet. Cadet wonders aloud, “why aren’t you attacking me?” Battle Master answers, “you get stronger the more you get hit… so, as long as I don’t hit you, you never get stronger… like this, you cannot possibly challenge me.”

Cadet knows there’s nothing to do, so he activates his communicator. “Cadet to Twilight Archer… emergency protocol seven.”

Battle Master grabs the communicator from Cadet (I don’t bother rolling)… “Ah, Twilight Archer. Good to talk to you. I’m about to kill your students, so I’m glad to have you with us. I’d like you to hear this.”

Twilight Archer’s voice crackles back, “Oh, hey. Battle Master. Glad to have you on the line. You should know that I’ve just planted several hundred pounds of plastic explosive under your primary training facility in Echo City. It’s taken all morning, but I’m pretty sure I can wipe the whole thing out. That’s, what, about a million and a half? Maybe two million bucks.”

Battle Master pauses. “I’m going to kill your students”

Twilight Archer’s voice comes back, “Then I’ll destroy your facility. Checkmate.”

Battle Master resumes, “I’ll let them go, and you disarm your explosives. On my word.”

A pause. Archer’s voice comes back, “Deal accepted.”

Battle Master hands the communicator back to Cadet, “next time I meet you, it ends a lot messier.” And then he’s gone.

Windsprint starts to come around, “So.. did we win?”



Okay, Battle Master is as advertised. Having elite tier + nemesis + knowledge of who's most dangerous is lethal... Minnow is by far the most dangerous; she has magic and can basically do anything she can imagine... Aria is second because of her ability to do damage; Windsprint and Cadet are really only minimally able to deal damage to him, and he knows that. He attacks in order. I had him use strategy and tactics, and it paid off. Lots of actions plus several critical hits equals lots of heroes dropping quick. I REALLY like the rules for elite and prodigy.

I had already worked out the 'story' ahead of time, so I knew that if the heroes lost (I expected they would, but not THAT easily), I had a way to save their bacon.

I didn't get to try out magic at all (Minnow dropped both times before she could act), and I would be curious if she and Aria would be able to at least make things difficult for Battle Master if the team had a little bit of strategy in place. I devised Battle Master's strategy on the fly as I was playing, but it made a lot of sense. Cadet never gets to take advantage of his dice shifts and boosts if he never gets felled; so just don't attack him, and he stays at his weakest. It's how a master tactician would think. I'm kind of proud of that one :) But, realistically, if Minnow is able to hit him with a stun spell and rolls really well, she at least gets him to spend a hero point to neutralize it, and then this creates opportunities for her and Aria to beat on him a little more... Aria has the potential to deal 12 hits with her shield, and a hero point could bump this up to as much as 20, so there's a chance she's able to start hammering him a little. I guess we'll never know...

An Introductory Page...

So, I'm going to very shortly play out a battle between the Young Wardens and Battle Master, but as I was walking to get a cup of coffee, I thought of what the first page of this comic would look like. So, rather than describe it, I thought I would just draw it... here's the splash page to the backup story in Skye Stalwart: The Girl Who Fell to Earth #2... I've thought about giving a sample interior page or two over time, but never actually did it until now. I expect I'll do a few of these for moments in Doc Stalwart history...


When Things Start Clicking

This might be the strangest of indicators, but this is how I know that things are clicking... I was drawing Mongrel (who originally was going to be 'Feral', but I decided to save that character for the next book, and put a lower-tier starter villain in this one). He was a pretty generic Vermin sort of dude until I added the "I Love Echo City" on his t-shirt... and then I got the idea for the backstory about street hot dogs... and then I decided to make it the backup story in an April-fools themed issue. And now this is one of my favorite characters, just because of his interesting backstory. It's silly and goofy, but he's now far more memorable than 'guy who was exposed to toxins' he was going to be. Now I want to write a silly story about how Doc Stalwart is running around Echo City with a tranquilizer gun trying to find this guy so he can 'cure' him, while Mongrel goes from street hotdog vendor to street hotdog vendor, trying to get his revenge... Doc finally tracks him down, tranquilizes him, administers the cure. The guy thanks Doc, shakes his hand, and wishes him well. Doc leaves. Then, the guy goes out and decides to try one of those delicious hot dogs from a street vendor...


Saturday, June 29, 2024

Stalwart V 1.1 Release Notes

Release notes? Dang. Like a real game designer or something... Changes to the Stalwart core rules in v1.1 include:
  • Re-named tiers at the D20 threshold to make it more accessible to players.
  • Added rules (-1/+1) for shifts down from D4 and up from D20.
  • Revised Hero Points to a pool of tier dice to use daily.
  • Revised language for might thresholds to representative items instead of weights.
  • Added language for thresholds at the D20 tier to better imply this is a playable tier.
  • Changed action rules; you no longer suffer a penalty to SVs when using actions beyond half your tier SV, only to dice (because there is no way to account for this before your turn; you do not necessarily know before your turn how many actions you will use, so the penalty would not apply; this would therefore penalize characters acting earlier in the round by having SVs drop after acting).
  • Added move to character creation checklist.
  • Revised gift: Heal (now just usable once per minute, but a hero point allows it to be used again).
  • Revised gift: Jump (now grants distance based on endure using standard distance rules in 3.2)
  • Revised gift: Melee Weapon is now just Melee (with examples like bite, claw and weapon given)
  • Revised gift: Reflection now lets you hit the original attacker or another foe nearby.
  • Revised the language of Telekinesis for simplicity and clarity.
  • Revised gift: Shape Change (now grants one gift like a bite, amphibious, or flight)
  • Added gifts: Elite, Mind Shield (so that focus no longer automatically soaks mental damage), Prodigy
  • Revised tag: Leadership (now grants a bonus to one ally check per round).
  • Revised tag: Martial Arts (to account for rating granting bonus to unarmed melee damage)
  • Revised tag: Stealth (to refer to tier and not reflex, since tier governs sneak attempts).
  • Added limitation: Impaired
  • Added specific rules for villain points and tenacity as a villainous option.
  • Added guard dogs, sharks, and t-rexes as more sample animals.
  • Revised the stat blocks to align with current stat block format I am using in the World of Stalwart.
Also, Gladius the Grim is me attempting to see how Stalwart does at emulating the world's most iconic superhero. All in all, it feels pretty much where it should be... he's got a stat block in the World of Stalwart.

Another Minor Tweak: The Flying Ratman Rule

I obviously won't CALL it this rule, because of trademark infringement and all those silly things, but the idea is actually pretty simple. It's a gift called Prodigy; as a prodigy, you have a pool of points in tags equal to your tier die instead of your tier SV (so double as many points). You may have a tag rated as high as your tier SV -1.

I got to thinking about this because of poor Twilight Archer. I've made him a key figure in the story of the world; he's a mover and a shaker behind the scenes. He is not the guy you need in a fight; but he's the guy you need before and after (and maybe on the sidelines during) the fight, since he's going to help strategize, and he's going to coordinate stuff, and he's going to be one step ahead.

But right now, he's a pretty bland regular old paragon-tier hero. Nothing in his stat block would suggest any of those things about him, so the implication is that this all has to come through in role playing. And that's great, except that this is a game with mechanics and stuff, and the mechanics should support the roleplaying. The roleplaying cannot be an excuse to cover up holes in the mechanics. 

Using this new gift, Twilight goes from 4 tag points (capped at +2) to 8 tag points (capped at +3).

This moves him from (Aim +2, Infiltration +1, Stalwart +1) to (Aim +3, Infiltration +1, Leadership +2, Stalwart +1, Stealth +1). By also giving him the Elite gift on his tier, he gets to roll 2 dice for all tier checks (which covers both his attack AND damage /effects rolls, since his trick weapon is linked to his tier). He's still a normal guy - just super well trained and very efficient. The mechanics now reflect what the roleplaying should indicate.

The reality is that everyone would want this gift, but only a few characters should truly have it. And everyone wants invulneraerable and resists to all energies and time travel and disintegration, too, but the game stops being fun if everyone has those things.

As far as the Flying Ratman, I figure that he's maybe legendary tier (D12) but he has D8 across the board; he has elite tier, and the prodigy gift gives him 12 points in tags, with caps as high as +5 (which he will probably never use). He could have profession (detective) +4, stealth +2, infiltration +2, and maybe a +4 in stalwart so he gets a bunch of hero points to offset the places he might be lacking otherwise. This begins to feel more like flying ratman; the game now gives a viable pathway to build him, and also (because of the way points can be allocated) creates a lot of different variations on this character; you could now have four or five characters on a team with similar builds, but because they are going to have different point allocations (Twilight and Ratman on the same team, for instance), they are going to be functionally different in play.

One of my own admissions about the game (in a discussion thread on DriveThru) was that it doesn't do street level 'great' because of the limited options you have. Between the elite and prodigy gifts, you now have all of the tools you need to build much more variety in your lower-tier (more mortal) characters.  

Friday, June 28, 2024

Hero and Villain Points - Some Thoughts

In working on the World of Stalwart, I am going through and figuring out not only how gifts (powers) work, but also how these are used in the context of larger comic book narratives. I was thinking specifically about hero points and how Augury (Doc's wife) was able to maintain a mind block in Doc's mind to blind him to two truths - first, that he had a twin brother, and second that she was pregnant with his daughter. She had to do something to make these last beyond the normal limits of mind control; the idea that she gives up an action in perpetuity seemed unreasonable... but then I thought about hero points.

One option for hero points can (and should probably) be that they can be used to maintain the effects of a gift over very long periods of time. You basically give up a hero point from your pool for as long as you want to maintain this effect; in essence, by the time she was pregnant with Skye, Augury had only 3 of her 5 hero points when at full capacity; 2 of these were allocated to maintaining ongoing effects.

I really like this because she could, theoretically, have 5 ongoing long-term effects, but would then have 0 points in her hero pool. Since it is presumed that she probably already gave 2 of those to the shared pool to be a member of the Victory Legion, she only had 1 hero points left of her own when not working with the Legion. 

This kind of makes me want to revisit hero points, and maybe upgrade their effectiveness while downgrading how many you get. For instance, instead of a hero point being a +1 on a roll, a hero point gives you your tier die to add to any exising result... you could use a hero point to add to evade against a certain attack, or to increase damage on a successful strike by your tier die. This is a bit more powerful, but you'd only get your pool each day instead of each minute. This makes hero points more valuable, but also more precious. 

In reviewing the rules for Stalwart Age, I also liked the villain mechanism of Tenacity - as a villain, you get to use a villain point to check tier; if you get a 4 or better, you can just completely ignore something that just happened (snatch the arrow out of the air and break it in half; step aside of the sonic blast because you have been preparing to face this foe). I like this as a general mechanism that makes battles about resource management as much as they are about just hitting each other as hard as possible as many times as possible; if you spend a hero point to strike Vyperion with a huge ion blast, and he spend a villain point to just leap out of the way because he anticipated this, it feels more comic accurate. You're trying to get your foes to use up their hero or villain points early in the fight while holding off on your best options until later so that you maximize the opportunities to be successful.

Just some thoughts. And here's a drawing I did of Boom-R-Ang and Boondock because they are next to each other alphabetically... plus, Boom and Boon sounds like a great tag team, even though they have nothing to do with each other...


Day 25

After 25 days, Stalwart is a Copper Seller, and has sold a total of 70 copies. This is an AMAZING number of sales for a small game from a small publisher. I've also sold 12 copies of the Stalwart Companion (although the total number of downloads is 63). I presume, based on the way sales went, that the Companion helped to sell a few more of the core rules (which is why it was put up as PWYW). I figured that once people could see how the game is built and how it works, they might want to get the core rules - that appears to have been the case, since sales picked back up after the release of the Companion, and have been consistent (a few a day) all month.

My instinct right now is to start moving towards wrapping up the World of Stalwart as a "Volume 1" and releasing that in early July (also as a PWYW). I'd like to find a way to get it 'down' to 48 pages (it's over 50 right now, but with some white space I could tighten up). I think that if people see how robust the game setting is and how much opportunity it presents to maybe revitalize some supers games, people might be willing to give the core rules a try (because, you know, they're a dollar). I've added a lot of content to that (like Microbe).

Also, I really like how flexible this ruleset is in allowing you to create supers and build custom gifts. For example, I built the character of Cadet the Boy Patriot this morning, and tried to figure out how the 'American Spirit' would look as a super power (other than just aping Captain America for the 80th time). I decided that he's a relatively normal dude (D6 across the board) who's a trained combatant (so he has brawling)... but that every time he gets knocked down (felled), he gets back up stronger than before (so he gets a boost to Might and Reflex... first to D8, and then to D10). I like the symbolism of that power (your defeats just keep making you stronger), and the mechanics of the game allowed it to fit very easily (being felled, dice shifts). I didn't have to create any new mechanics; I just applied existing mechanics to the new idea. I also gave him elite tier, just to show that he was a little bit elevated. He's in the World of Stalwart draft as a member of the Young Wardens. 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Elite Gift

Thanks to the robust conversation you all encouraged me to engage in (THANK YOU), I'm backing away from the idea of adding a layer of granularity to the official rules. I still would like to find a way to insert tiers between D12 and D16, and again between D16 and D20, but I'm happy enough with how things stand now; and realistically, there aren't a lot of characters in that '30 ton' strength range (of 200 ton range) in comics - the trend has been to get to around 10 or 20 tons, and then jump to 50... at least in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe! And, the FASERIP system went from Incredible (10 tons) to Amazing (50 tons), so I have good company in making huge leaps near the top of the scale.

Ahem. All that said, I did come around to an idea that makes sense to me: a gift called Elite. If you have this gift, you designate one of your traits as elite, allowing you to always roll 2 dice and take the better of the two results. This would come with a companion limitation: impaired. You can designate a trait as impaired, meaning that you roll two dice and take the lower of the two. For example, I would think that the Hulk then has Might D20 (elite), and Mind D4 (impaired). He's still in the same scale, but his might is, in practice, superior to a 'regular' D20 might, and his mind is, in practice, inferior to D4 mind. I like this as a clean, intuitive and reasonable option that doesn't hurt the math at all.

The character who got me to come around to this way of thinking is Battle Master. I needed to give him something that made him a 'master' of battle in some way - the elite gift is it. He has elite EVERYTHING (including his tier), so he's always just rolling really well. He's a relatively normal (albeit highly trained) dude, but he's just so flippin' consistent that he can kick your butt anyway. This is the Batman hack - Batman has elite traits, so he's usually better than the other guy.

Plus, I really like how this drawing came out. There are a handful of characters I've had in my head for decades, but have never actually gotten around to trying to draw them - Battle Master is one of those. This is his first draft, and I think he's pretty much exactly what I want him to be. I am looking forward to using him in play - I could see him taking down an entire group of younger heroes (but we'll see how that goes when I play it out this weekend...)

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Granularity in Stalwart

It occurred to me this morning that there's an easy way to add some more granularity to Stalwart; you can add modifiers to your four core traits (the basic die), but this only affects rolls with the trait, and would not change the Static Values for those dice. You could receive a modifier of up to 1 below the next tier; so, you could have D4, D4+1, D6, D6+1, D8, D8+1, D10, D10+1, D12, D12+1, D12+2, D12+3, D16, D16+1, D16+2, D16+3... so this increases the 'available' range of scores significantly. The game goes from 6 possible trait ratings to 16... this does not affect the derived abilities; so with might D12 (whether it's D12, D12+1, D12+2, or D12+3), your endure is still locked at 6, unless you purchase tags to increase them. There aren't many other ways to add bonuses (other than a die shift), so this doesn't cause much in the way of power creep. It's pretty easy to add in - you get half your tier SV in bonuses to distribute among your traits. So, as a super (D10), you have 2 points to add... you could add +1 to your might D8 and to your reflex D6, or you could put the full +2 with your power D12. This would allow for a significant upgrade to overall character customization without even remotely breaking anything. If you're using the options for stablizing dice, you just keep the modifier; so your D12+2 with stabilization becomes D8+6 (D8+4+2). 

This little game keeps surprising me with what it is capable of... it might be time to start on the Stalwart Companion 2.


Friday, June 21, 2024

Retconning My Retconning

I'm trying to get a LOT of ducks in a LOT of rows with the history of Doc Stalwart and his comic series. I keep moving things around and revising (even editing things I wrote three years ago), to get all of the various pieces to line up. For example, I changed the release dates (by about a year) for the Bronze Beacon storyline... because I realized the title of the series, "Raider of the Lost Art(ifacts)" would be a year before Raiders of the Lost Ark was released... so it wouldn't make sense that the creators would have created a pun for a movie that they didn't even know was going to be coming out...

I also moved the "Death of Doc Stalwart" storyline back three years as well (I originally had it around issue 200.. now it's in the 240s), because it didn't make as much sense where I had it. I also had two 'death' storylines in relatively close proximity, and decided to merge them into one. In its place at issue 200, I added the wedding of Doc Stalwart and Augury, since this would have been a big event (and I've never even mentioned who she was or when they got married - and that would be a big event in the comic). I also realized (after paging through my collection of Fantasic Four 21-40 in glorious black and white) that there was a LOT of melodrama and romance in those issues, so having a love story is an important element of borrowing from the source material.

There are a lot of moving parts here... but it's coming together.

The OTHER thing that I really, really like is that I'm linking events together - so when Doc's Secret Lab goes rogue (remote controlled by Simian Prime) and starts flying towards Simian City, Doc has to crash it into the ocean to keep it from falling into Prime's hands... and then it later is found by Lord Lamprey, and Doc has to go fight him in the ruins of his old HQ that is now a submerged wreck. The events in the story influence later events, which I saw as one of the things that gave Byrne's run on FF (my model for all of this really) such a great internal consistency. You never knew when something that happened 20 or 30 issues ago was going to suddenly come up again and matter in a new way.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

World of Stalwart Update

I have been tinkering with the World of Stalwart campaign book quite a bit, and I've made some discoveries along the way...

1. Somehow, I'm in a groove here. I have found a place where my art and the vibe of the game world align almost perfectly.  I really like the character designs I'm coming up with. For example, I knocked out the Keeper of the Mystic Veil in about ten minutes, and I could not be happier with how he turned out. I could spend a few hours on this and I wouldn't be able to get it any better than this. Several of the designs have ended up feeling very iconic - they 'feel' to me like the Bruce Timm DC Universe without copying his style. The character designs he created for those shows were so simple and clean, and I've got some of that energy going, even though my style is very little like his.

2. I have detailed about 20% of the Doc Stalwart Comics catalog at this point; I'm starting to see the scope of the series over 25 years taking shape. I'm seeing the larger trends and stories, and how they sort of fit together in this huge narrative. The process is very much one of discovery. I remember that somehow as a teen I had copies of GI Joe 1 and 2, then had 5, then had 8 onward. I missed issues 3, 4, 6, and 7 when they first came out, and it was several months later when I was able to start tracking them down at flea markets, conventions, and comic books stores. I knew they were out there, and my imagination had started to fill in what they must be about. By the time I actually got to read them, they had earned almost a mythic significance in my imagination. Somehow, 'disovering' what happened in a Doc issue from the 60s, 70s, or 80s is very much like this; I know that they already exist 'somewhere', and I'm going through back issue bins in my imagination, pulling them out of the box, and carefully pulling back the scotch tape holding the bag closed. It's a surreal experience, but one that I'm finding strangely rewarding.

3. I've written before about how I always wanted to publish this huge, extended comic book over years. I wanted on a level I can't quite explain to undertake a legendary run on a book like Lee and Kirby on FF, or Byrne on FF, or Chris Claremont on X-Men... you get the idea. Doc allows me to do that in some way.

4. Doc has ended up being the perfect central character to pull the whole thing together. Having his comic book be THE story of this game world has made it small enough that I can build the whole thing (eventually), but big enough that it's a fully-developed superhero universe. It doesn't have the massive cast of characters of Marvel or DC, but it's got a fully-realized superhero world. I believe that by the time I'm done, this will be the most well-documented and fully-realized superhero game world ever created outside of actual comic books. It cannot imagine how it won't end up being the most well-realized superhero RPG world. It's very organic, because I've rooted it in an alternate history where the comics were 'actually' published, with all of the messiness that entails. Creating 'clean' superhero game worlds doesn't actually make sense in the context of the history of how comics have really developed.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Stalwart Companion

The Stalwart Companion is now live. It's a PWYW download, and I have left the original link (to the Google Doc) as well, so you can get it either place. I don't see me making any changes to this - and I don't think I will have too many more 'core rules' to add. If needed, I'll start a 'Stalwart Companion II', but that's a ways off (if ever).

I debated putting it up for $1 with no PWYW option, but decided the game will have greater visibility as PWYW - and people who like it will tip me anyway. I think as more people find out about the game and want to play it, I can justify maybe re-packaging this at some point as my superhero magnum opus... or something something.


Raider of the Lost Art(ifacts) Part 1

Over the course of the Mighty Doc Stalwart #221-228, Byron John allowed his assistant, Timothy Bruce, to try his hand at creating his own narrative as an extended backup feature (8 pages each). This was a chase as the Bronze Beacon III traveled around the region to recapture pieces of Tessek's Garb and Totem before these could be reclaimed by Tessek. 
Tim would soon leave comics and move to animation, where he would oversee one of the greatest animated series of all time, adapting a long-standing comic book for the Distinguished Competition. 
Gameplay: It’s a chase to recapture the lost pieces of Tessek’s garb (three pieces) and Totem (three pieces). I’m going to say that Tessek has zero villain points for the final battle with Bronze Beacon, but each piece he recovers gives him two points to use in that fight; he could have zero, or he could have 12. That might make a difference. I also have an idea for a temporary power up for Bronze Beacon for her big fight… We’ll see how these work when we get there…
Part 1 (Backup feature in the Mighty Doc Stalwart #221)
    Bronze Beacon soared over the countryside north of Meridian. On the other side of her headset communicator was the Mighty Doc Stalwart. “Thanks for the heads-up, Doc. I thought there might be some trouble with transporting Tessek and his artifacts to the new museum in Gap City…”
    His voice came through, “No problem. You had a good plan - divide the artifacts in six parts and send them secretly. Unfortunately…”
    She sighed, “Yeah. I didn’t realize my assistant had been charmed by Tessek. So now I have to get the pieces back before - who again?”
    Doc was doing something. She heard a hiss of oxygen. Was he in a space suit? “I sent the data files. Six different villains have been sent… it’s a big job. I’m sorry I can’t be there to-”
    She stifled a laugh, “Doc, you’re on the moon. I can handle it.”
    He paused, clearly wishing he could be two places at once, “Okay. But if you need backup, let me know and I’ll see if Messenger or Twilight Archer is around…”
    She was already reaching for the switch to end the call. Doc didn’t need one more thing to worry about, “Nah. I’ve got this. Thanks, though. Bronze Beacon out.”
    She paused, looking around “I’m still not used to calling myself that… or to seeing stuff like this…”
    Below, a sleek black car wound down a forested street - and then something happened…
Round 1
Pliant has stretched himself across the road, and suddenly tightens (his legs around tree, his arms around another on the other side of the road). He has to check power, and we’ll say DT 6, because stopping a car with a giant rubber band is moderately difficult… He rolls and gets 4. He’ll use two villain points and bump this to 6. The car hits the huge rubber band dude stretched across the road, and flips over. Bronze Beacon charges. She can be there in 2 actions (it’s about a thousand feet). Pliant goes first; he will use 2 actions; the first is to reach in through the broken glass and the second is to recover the piece of the Totem he’s been sent to retrieve. He has to check reflex to keep from cutting himself on the glass (DT 4) and rolls 6. He’s fine, and he is standing there with the briefcase containing the piece of Totem. Beacon flies to within 100’ of him (2 actions), and uses 2 more to attack with her energy bolt (at -1 shift because she’s using extra actions this round). She hits with a 5 and a 4 (rolled pretty well), and Pliant is unable to dodge; she deals 10 and 5 hits with two energy bolts. His invulnerability reduces this to 6 and 1, so he’s at 9 hits. She yells for him to drop the briefcase, but he refuses (of course).
Round 2
He’s going to use one action to slingshot himself at her; he checks power (DT 4) and gets 12; dang! He tries to ‘hit’ her with himself, using his stretching to emulate a binding attack. He attempts power against her endure, getting an 8. He stretches all around her and binds her. I’m going to rule she suffers a -1 overall shift while so bound. She also cannot fly, and is sort of levitating here a hundred feet up with him wrapped all around her. She uses 1 action to create a wedge that pushes him outward, attempting to break the hold he has on her. She checks power and gets 10. Yup. She is still surrounded by him, but there are two generated brackets pushing him away from her and freeing her up. She uses her second action to fire an energy bolt at him, getting a 6. She only deals 1 hit, and he absorbs it. She will continue to use an action every round to keep him away from her.
Round 3
He’s going to start punching at her (as he’s wrapped around the energy-generated brackets about 100’ up). He rolls 6 and 4 with his two punches, and hits with the 6 only. He deals 4 points, and she is at 10. She uses her first action to maintain the brackets, and uses 3 others to attack with three energy bolts (at -1 shift because she’s using extra actions); she rolls 5, 3, and 1. She uses 1 hero point of her 4 to bump the 3 to a 4, so she hits twice. She deals 9 and 3 points. His invulnerability soaks the entire 3 and 4 of the 9. He suffers 5 hits, and is at 4 remaining.
Round 4
He swings two more haymakers, getting a pair of 5s; he barely hits twice. He deals 5 and 1, for a total of 6 points. She is at 4. She continues to use an action to keep him stretched out away from her, and then uses one action to fire a bolt at him (planning to use her hero points as needed; she wants to hit him with a solid shot). She rolls a 7 to hit (whew) and rolls 11 for damage! Huzzah.
He’s at 0, so he drops and crumples into a pile of spaghetti in the grass; the briefcase flings in another direction. She flies after the briefcase and catches it with a hand she generates from her bracers; she then hears the driver below, and pulls him from the car. He’s badly hurt, but she’s able to use her healing to restore his broken arm and mend his lacerations. However, by the time she turns to check on Pliant, he has escaped, slinking off into the nearby woodlands.
“Bronze Beacon to Doc Stalwart – I have recovered the first piece of the Totem.”
She takes off into the sky, ready to seek out the next piece.  
Bronze Beacon III

Kira Keller, Curator of the Grand National Museum in Gap City
First Appearance: The Mighty Doc Stalwart #179
Paragon Hero (D8[4]2) Hits 14; Move 30’ (fly 500’); HP 4
Might D6 (3); Mind D8 (4); Power D12 (6); Reflex D8 (5)
Energy Bolt; Energy Solidification; Force Field; Flight; Healing  
Brawling +1; Dodge +1; Profession (museum curator) +2
Gauntlets must be charged with direct exposure to sunlight once per day.

The daughter of Bronze Beacon II, she is the curator of the Grand National Museum, located in Gap City. She inherited her father’s gauntlets - and his responsibilities as a costumed hero. She considers herself a ‘part-time hero’, wielding the gauntlets only when she deems it necessary. Her rogue’s gallery includes the Bod, Gloaming the Shadow Bandit, Pliant, Professor Frosten, and Vyperion.

First Appearance: The Mighty Doc Stalwart #207
Paragon Villain (D8[4]2); Hits 16; VP 4
Might D8 (4); Mind D4 (2); Power D10 (5); Reflex D8 (4)
Invulnerability (4); Stretch
Brawl +1; Infiltration +2; Stealth +1

A common burglar who was exposed to a chemical that gave him stretching powers, Pliant has used his powers to commit more and more challenging heists. He is a frequent enemy of the Bronze Beacon

Saturday, June 15, 2024

A Dearth of Heroes and Game Worlds

As I was working on cranking out content for Stalwart (I've added a lot of stuff today), I was thinking about how much the villains outnumber the heroes, and how the heroes really aren't all that powerful. One of the problems with Marvel and DC is that, with so many heroes with such great power, do you really need any more heroes? I mean, once you have Superman, you're pretty much covered. My game world doesn't have that problem (I keep thinking of its power level as comparable to The Incredibles - some cool stuff, but nobody is lifting a pyramid or flying fast enough to move through time). Doc Stalwart is the world's greatest hero, but he's about equal to Doc Samson of Marvel Comics, circa 1985. That was the most direct inspiration, by the way. Doc Samson is cool - he can ONLY lift like 25 tons (Amazing in FASERIP), so Doc Stalwart is slightly stronger (Monstrous in FASERIP). But if HE'S the best you have, you are going to need more heroes. The key players around him are comparable to Quicksilver, Hawkeye, and Raven from Teen Titans. I mean, that's the A team? There are a few more powerful heroes - but they are busy fighting threats from other dimensions and traveling to other planets. 

Conversely, I just keep adding villains. They outnumber the heroes significantly. There are lots of villains doing lots of villainous things, and there are just not that many heroes to do much about it. The peeps we have are all stretched pretty thin.

Sounds like a good place to set a supers game, if you ask me.

By the way, I'm going back through everything I've published for supers and adapting it. While I had set Stalwart Age 25 years before Sentinels of Echo City, I'm sort of hand waving some of my canon and grabbing things from there to add to Stalwart. If I ever go forward far enough into that world, I'll deal with it then (and this is the same timeline as Stalwart - so I have things that are linked in there; for example, in Sentinels the Citadel of Tomorrow is in ruins, having been destroyed from within... so you kind of know where that is ultimately heading I guess - spoiler alert after the fact). Meridian has been destroyed by an alien invasion. I've already retro-fied Emissary (he was originally sent by the Messari from another planet - now he was sent 25 years earlier by Null from the Null Zone - same purpose). I figure that Sentinels takes place in an alternate future of the current game (or something), but the larger point is that I'll be adapting some of my favorite things from that book to this timeline. I have a lot of characters I have created that I haven't touched on in a while, so there's quite of bit of room for the World of Stalwart to grow. 

But it will probably be mostly more villains. 


Just Working Away...

I have the Stalwart Companion close to a 'final draft' stage... I added several new gifts, cleaned up some rules, added a few things, dotted i's and crossed t's. It's 14 pages, and I would like to get to 16, but am not sure without adding something that doesn't really belong... I'm going to give it another day or so before packaging it for DriveThruRPG, but it's pretty far along. I like it a lot, and the new gifts I added bring a lot of variety to the game, which is good. It's a significant expansion.

I've also been tinkering away at the World of Stalwart, and my favorite addition of the day is the organization TENDRIL...


The Terror Enclave of Nihilists, Dissenters, Radicals and Insurrectionist Liberators is a social and political organization that has infiltrated governments around the world. They seek disorder, chaos, and the fall of the United World Council. They believe that a free world will be one with only local leadership; to them, any leader who cannot shake hands with every one of their constituents is a bad leader. Their figurehead is the masked figure Demagogue the Dark, who may or may not be a shared identity among several leaders.

It's got a Cobra Commander type of leader, which is great for building a campaign around. I also am happy with how the acronym worked out... and the whole idea that it gets its 'tendrils' into everything. It's kind of spot on. I've been trying to add some 'masterminds' to the game, because I think that they increase the scope from 'villain of the week' to telling longer narratives that are interconnected. I also like that the more I add to the game, the less I feel like it's just an echo of DC and/or Marvel. The Amalgam Universe was already a thing - my game doesn't have to be another one. 

Friday, June 14, 2024

Now THIS is what I call research!

It's Friday night, so what better to do than pull a bunch of old Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe and Who's Who for DC, and browse some entries. Here's part of my collection...

Right away, I flip to Superman, and it says he could lift one of the Great Pyramids... and that is about 600 million tons. So... a little stronger than Hulk (100 tons)... um. yeah. The entries in the Marvel books are so much richer and more specific (and lean towards trying to sound scientific). The Who's Who books are, on the whole, more hand-wavey. I'm not sure, but I have a 40-year-old memory of reading something where the DC editors and writers wanted more freedom to re-imagine powers as needed, whereas once something was in print for Marvel, fans could immediately start challenging the comic stories vs. the 'facts' of the Handbook - it says Thing can lift 75 tons, but he lifted something that should be over 100 tons, and that's more than he can lift... yaddah yaddah yaddah. Superman can be as weak or strong as the story needs him to be. He can lift a Pyramid one month, and struggle to lift a tank the next, and the writers don't have to justify these against hard numbers that are in print. As a reader, I always wanted the numbers, but now as a sometime writer, I like having a little more wiggle room so that I can challenge heroes within the context of the stories I write. 

And about Stalwart:
- I've added a few more gifts and some minor tweaks to the Companion. It's at 12 pages, and I don't think there's too much more I can add... I want to go through it with a fine-tooth comb, but I might lock it down, add some art, and 'release' it this weekend.
- I hit 50 copies sold today of the core rules for Stalwart! That's a big milestone for me - in less than two weeks, I've sold 50 books, which is a really great number for me. Another very positive review was posted this week as well, so the momentum is there... I hope it keeps building. I think that the potential audience for this is in the low thousands... we'll see. 
- I'm working on some actual play that blurs the lines - it would be an adaptation of a backup story that appeared in Doc's comics... so I'd be playing through the plot of the backup stories, and then my actual play will become 'canon' for what happened in those issues. It's kind of meta, but everything about this is kind of meta, so I guess it fits right in.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Just Wanted to Share

I feinally designed Null the Devourer today, and put him with all kinds of Kirby Crackle. This feels like if Ditko and Kirby did a Doctor Strange/FF crossover back in the day. I think he's nifty. Appropriate for a game I am calling 'the world's niftiest superhero RPG'...

The Stalwart Companion

The Stalwart Companion continues on apace. I'm up to twenty more gifts (powers), and I've managed to include some of the 'tougher' ones to design...

I remember REALLY struggling with creating energy solidification for Stalwart Age. I really wanted this to feel like Green Lantern's ring, but I had the darndest time getting the rules to bend at the right angles to make it work. I had it on my list for the core rules of Stalwart, and decided it just wasn't worth the time and effort to put in the core rules - plus, I was hitting my 16-page target, and was sorting things into 'necessary' and 'less necessary'. However, I decided last night to give it a swing, and (to my mind) nailed it on the first draft.

Energy Solidification. You are able to use 1 action to shape energy into physical objects. Weapons you craft deal your power damage (and use brawling to attack). Other objects have hits equal to your power dice rating. Something you generate to lift or carry has a might rated at your power. Every item you create through solidification requires 1 action per round to maintain.

That's it. The whole thing. Easy-peasy. It sounds and feels just like a lantern ring - and it didn't require a single new subsystem, way to track objects, exceptions to the rules. It just took the existing rule framework and plugged in the appropriate information. Check. So even though Green Lantern only has Might D6, his Power D20 allows him to lift over a hundred tons with his ring. So, the idea of helping an airliner that is crashing level out and glide safely is not THAT far off the mark.

I also decided to try and replicate the Human Torch's full nova effect. Here's what I came up with:

Bomb*. No more than once per minute, you are able to emit energy in a massive blast centered on yourself. Use 1 action and roll power for damage, adding your full current hits to the result. You are immediately reduced to 0 hits, and must check might (DT 6). If successful, you are felled; if you fail, you are defeated. You deal damage in a radius of 10’ x your force. All in the area of effect suffer damage, but may check reflex (with a DT of your force) to suffer only half damage. 

Again, it was obvious (to me) how this should work within the existing rules - because the game already has rules for being felled and being defeated, it was just a matter of applying those concepts. I didn't have to develop new rules for being tired or reduced to zero hits or anything, because it is baked right in. I could just apply the existing rules to this new situation.

Thinking forward, I expect that by about 16 pages in I will exhaust almost every common, uncommon, and even rare situation that could arise. At that point, it will make sense to me to put a bow on this, and release it as a PWYW game expansion on DriveThru. DriveThru has greater visibility, and keeping updates in the larger game world's consciousness is only going to bring benefits. Then, I can add any very unusual new gifts or tags directly with the character to whom they are associated in the World of Stalwart, and dedicate all of my free time to updating that.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

It All Comes Together

Well, I've had a productive day!

I spent some time on the Stalwart Age blog, moving content over to the World of Stalwart setting book. It's been a few years since I've looked at much of this, but... wow. I have enough time and space from it to see it for what it is, and what it is is pretty awesome. I mean, I'm back to being overjoyed to be able to live and create in this world. The best choice I made was setting the world of the comic in a 'messy' world of comics that has continuity problems, storylines that don't make much sense, and revisionist history. It has creators who don't get along and behind-the-scenes drama. 

I realized that the Doc novella I wrote is really, really good. I also realized that almost no one has read it. So, I posted a pdf of it on DriveThruFiction (hoping that help it might get some eyeballs), and I'm doing a little bit of signal boosting about it. It's a well-written, engaging novel set in a superhero universe with some cool things happening. It's a pay-what-you-want download. There's really no reason not to check it out. I think you'll be hooked in the first few pages. I was (again).

And, as far as that World of Stalwart book goes... well, it's coming along VERY nicely, thank you very much. I added an appendix, which is a game changer. It's going to ultimately be a complete list of every issue published in and about the game world. I've only got a few dozen comics listed there, and some of the entries are very brief, but I hyperlinked back to the Stalwart Age blog with the issues that have longer summaries. 

Ultimately, I've spent the day playing around in a world I know really well, and that feels very organic (because it is). I am very much experiencing what Tolkien once said about writing; you are not creating something. You are taking a leaf from the great tree of stories and doing what you can to describe that leaf as accurately as you can. I'm not making this up or creating it; I'm simply telling you about this world that already exists, and I just happen to have a front row seat at the window into it.

Stalwart Keeps Expanding

Stalwart keeps selling more copies on DrivethruRPG, and I am so grateful to everyone who has purchased a copy and said nice things about it :) Thank you!

The more time I spend on this game, the more amazed I am by its simplicity and applicability. I spent 40 years (no hyperbole) trying to write this game. I have entire notebooks filled with dice mechanics and brainstorming and notes and sketches of how to build a dice system that would be flexible enough to apply to any superhero situation, but also simple enough to be able to play without ever looking at the book. 

Seriously, once you know the dice (4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20) and know how to cut those numbers in half (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10), and know how to cut THOSE in half again and round down (1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5), you know everything you need to know. That's the entire game. But, somehow, it still feels like it encompasses the full range of supers, and allows for a lot of nuance within what is a very simple framework.

The other thing that lets me know the design is pretty good is that every time I come up with a new problem, the game already knows how to solve it mechanically. I just added about a dozen gifts to the Stalwart Companion (it's up to 9 pages now), and every weird, unusual gift immediately had the most logical way to solve it in game. Part of the design trusts the GM in setting thresholds for challenge ratings (4, 8, or 12... with a 'default' setting of 6 if you really have no idea). Once you grasp that 4 is kinda challenging, 8 is pretty challenging, and 12 is like super challenging, you can solve anything that comes up. This also should make it really easy for players and GMs to develop custom gifts that are not in the rules. I think I'll add some suggestions to the GM section how to do that.

I've also gotten some feedback, and as a result I have two things I've been added to the companion: the first is point-build (rather than random) character generation. Again, it was an easy add, and I think it makes a lot of sense. I tied the number of gifts you get to your force (your power SV), because characters with higher power are likely to have more powers, and this allows the player to decide how many gifts they can get by allocating the points to power. The character you end up creating with this method is pretty much typical of a character you would get through random generation, so I don't see one as giving you 'better' characters... they're just different ways to solve the same thing.

Second, I'm adding some rules about stabilizing dice results on results (like damage). I like that superpowers have this large range of damage (D20 gives results of 1-20; so that cosmic energy bolt could potentially only deal 1 hit. I'm okay with that). However, for things like a tank cannon, it should deal more consistent damage in a narrower range. I think a reasonable alternative is to shift down 2 dice, but add that die's SV to damage. So, D10 (1-10) becomes D6+3 (4-9); D16 (1-16) becomes D10+5 (6-15). The average gets a little higher, but the range is narrower, and you cannot get the highest possible result. I like that option, and I think that players could choose this alternate damage for their attacks as well, if they so desired. D12 is the only outlier, and the stabilization is always superior to the standard die (since it still gives a 12 option, but the lowest result possible is 5). As I warn in the rules: if you are going to stabilize your dice, your enemies will too! This is another one of those easy fixes that the game had already told me how to solve.


Friday, June 7, 2024

Some Stalwart Musings

It's been a good week! Already, I've sold a few dozen copies of Stalwart - but FAR more importantly, people seem to genuinely like it and are talking about it. I'm very happy to have a game that people are demonstating genuine enthusiasm for. Thanks! The game keeps trending in the top 30 games under $5 (I've been on and off the front page a few times). It's very heartening.

Over on the Stalwart Age blog, I posted two things: the first issue (in prose form) of Skye Stalwart: The Girl Who Fell to Earth and an 'interview' with creator Byron John. Back in the day, I was always as interested in the interviews with creators (sometimes moreso) than with the thing that they created. To read an interview with John Byrne or Dave Sim would be the highlight of my week. I LOVED getting behind the scenes with the creative process and the politics of the world of comics. It's fun for me to be, in the most meta way possible, creating multiple layers: the game/comic world, but also the world of the people behind these comics. I'm creating the comics that are created in an alternate reality. 

I've made a bit of progress on both resources (linked on the left there) - I like how the World of Stalwart especially is coming together. I also like how the game design forces me to continually get things to the point where they are just barely not hand-wavey, and have just enough mechanical and structural support that they hold together as actual gaming. It's kind of like punk in this way (except it's nothing like punk, just to be clear) - it's like, how much can I make this sound like random noise while still having an actual structure that just barely holds it all together? I'm enjoying that 'living on the edge of chaos' mindset. There is just enough structure to keep the game together, but not a whit more. The master table on page 1 holds it all together. Everything fits in that one chart. There are no mechanical subsystems. I have to figure out how the new element I want to add fits into that structure, and it's leading to some cool discoveries. 

This has been a crazy week at work, but I finished the gauntlet tonight - so this weekend, I hope to get some solo gaming in... I would like to play Skye Stalwart and see how she does against some new villains. It's time to start building her rogue's gallery...

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

I'm Number (3)1!

It may not sound THAT impressive, but I'm very happy that Stalwart is now number 31 in the most popular under $5 category on DriveThruRPG. Ever since RPGNow was hoovered up, I have not had a game appear on any top whatever list there, so it's been a couple-three years. I appreciate all of the support and enthusiasm for the game, and I'm having fun creating game content. I've added quite a bit already to both of the resources for Stalwart, and the size of the game's total 'content' has almost doubled in a few days...

It is a HUGE help, if you've bought the game, if you also post a review or at least give it a rating in stars. This is a way that the larger community sees that real people are actually looking at the game and liking it.

Parenthetically, I can see how the makers of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (and Who's Who in the DC Universe) had to struggle with timeliness and continuity - and I'm a one-man operation! For example, which 'Vesper' do I present? The one from the core rules of Stalwart Age, or the one that she became later in my Doc Stalwart novella, when she ascended to the throne of the Shadow Lands? Since comic characters are constantly changing (and then changing back), what is the 'iconic' version to include in the book? I want to sort of 'freeze the game world in time' for convenience, but I'm also starting to think about stories to tell with Skye Stalwart, and if that was to happen, then characters in the game world are going to evolve and change. Heck, Mikah has gone from a naive sidekick trying to figure out his powers to the Chronicle, Keeper of the One True Story. They are both "Mikah", but they are fundamentally different characters. I suppose that I'll just constantly update the World of Stalwart to be current to the newest release, but that may mean that some useful game content gets written over - unless I keep adding new character variations and evolution as they happen, keeping a record of the old ones. It's a living document with infinite space to work (I presume that Google Docs has no maximum page count), so I should be okay...


Monday, June 3, 2024

Stalwart Superhero RPG Resources

Here are some resources for your Stalwart game:

- The Core Rules are now available in pdf.

- The Stalwart Companion includes expanded rules and options. This is available as a google doc or as a PWYW download on DrivethruRPG.

- The World of Stalwart Volume I includes setting material, characters, and adventures set in the game's default setting.

- The Stalwart Age is a (semi-retired) blog that has significant background set in the world of the game (albeit using the rules for the Stalwart Age RPG). Much of this will eventually be adapted to the Stalwart Companion and the World of Stalwart resources. This blog also has the full text of the Doc Stalwart novel, set in the game world. However, a print edition of that book is also available, for those who prefer that. I also re-released as a PWYW download.

Aldo (a.k.a. Dragonfly) created two character sheets. Thank you!

     Hero Character Sheet

     Villain Character Sheet

A celebration of action management

The single best 'innovation' of Stalwart is the idea of action management. Here it is in a nutshell; you have a number of potential actions each round based on half your tier die, and half that many (rounded down) are available to you at full power.

So, if you are a D8 paragon, you can attempt up to 4 actions per round, but only 2 are at full strength. You can attack twice at d8, or 4 times at d6 (in the simplest application). If a foe is hard to hit, you might want the bigger die. Against large numbers of weak foes, you might take the bonus actions.

The awesomeness of the system comes when you are doing multiple things. Want to travel your full movement? That's one action. You either have one or three left - up to you. You have genuine decisions to make with resource management every round that change how your character operates, and which gives a lot of variety to combat without any additional rules.

Even better, it gets rid of all of the rules for how long things last for; how long is that foe under your mind control? How long does invisibility last? How long can you hold that car up with your telekinesis? Hey, if you want to dedicate an action to it every round, you go right ahead. You can stay invisible for hours if you feel like you want to dedicate one action every round to doing it. There's a genuine cost to maintaining powers over time, and decisions to be made - I now have three enemies under mind control, but I cannot do anything else... do I drop the mind control on one, or just accept I'm taking the -1 shift on anything else I do? Decisions... decisions... decisions. It makes the game a LOT more tactical without ANY additional rules to memorize or numbers to crunch. It's all hard-wired into that one mechanic.

And by the way, hyperspeed just eliminates all of the penalties and gives you the full assortment of actions every round. The flash gets to act 6 times per round, and doesn't take a penalty - and he can travel a mile with one of those actions (or six miles in the full round). He can run a mile to the store, grab something off the shelf, run to the counter, drop $10 on the counter, and run a mile back home in six seconds. It's easy to solve in game within the existing framework.

This eliminates the action creep that made its way into Stalwart Age... characters were getting insane numbers of actions just so I could keep things cinematic and moving. Now, just this minor shift in the application of the rule makes hyperspeed feel like hyperspeed without the numbers increasing at all.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Hashtag Blessed

No lie, I am one of the luckiest dudes in the world. As I've been working on Stalwart, I've been going through my drawings and notes and older materials, and I realize that the superhero world that 12-year-old me wished I had is here. It's the setting and the characters and the stories - and the game - I was always hoping to find. And, while it is not entirely original, it is still its own unique thing; I think of it like the Incredibles - it's all familiar and based in stuff you already know a lot about, but it's also entirely its own thing. 

I cannot believe how lucky I am to have this fully realized world that I just get to play around in and make stories for and generate cool stuff to go with. And, now, I have (almost) a game that fully aligns with it. I LOVE Stalwart Age - but Stalwart is better. It's more playable. It's more intuitive. It's cleaner and faster and more internally consistent. 

And as I was doing dishes, I realized that, while Stalwart Age was about Doc, this game is really about his daughter. Yes, he's a character in this world still, and probably its most famous one, but the character whose story seems more salient at the moment is his daughter Skye. She belongs on the cover, so I'm putting her there.

I also had this cool comic script pop to mind. I'll just describe it here, but I'll write the issue soon enough. It is after Doc goes on a mission to save his daughter from the Null Zone (I still haven't written these issues - I am waiting for the big piece I'm missing that pulls it all together to emerge. I'm getting closer...).

Anyway, this story takes place six weeks after she is successfully brought home. One of the long-term consquences is that both she and Mikah age dramatically due to exposure to the unstable energies of the Null Zone. So, Doc has just learned he has a daughter and rescued her - and now she is leaving for college.

The whole issue would be the letter she writes to her father about how, even though he needs time with her, she needs time to figure out who she is in this world. It's this somber meditation on fatherhood (because I'm a sucker for that - my daughter is turning 16 in a few weeks, and I'm starting to feel the pull of fate inexorably drawing her into her adult life). So the whole thing is Doc going around, doing maintenance on the Beetle, sewing his costume, and getting his boots ready for the next mission. Meanwhile, Mikah hangs up his costume for the last time and moves into Mr. Silver's old office, which is his now. Meanwhile, the text of the letter underscores everything. The last images are the three setting off into their new roles - Mikah starting a new file, Doc going on his first solo mission in a long time, and Skye hovering over the skyline of the new city she will be living in - San Helios, on the west coast of the Americas. 


Update on Stalwart

I've done a full-scale reformatting of Stalwart. You can view it here.

A few things:
- I think I'm locked in at 16 pages for the core rules. I don't want to go longer than this or it undermines my basic goal of getting the game into a tight package. I can still add a few things and stay within 16 pages.
- I've also given up on print as an option here; at only 16 pages, you can print it yourself! It would be four sheets of regular copy paper (5 with the cover). I changed the formatting (again) to 8.5 x 5.5 digest size with .5 margins. This is best (from my perspective) for looking at on a device. It looks really good on my phone.  
- I've sprinkled a mix of old and new art. I took some of my favorite images from the prior game and added some bolder line work to bring them up to speed. I was surprised at how thin much of the linework was that made it into the original rules. I guess I was nervous about using thicker lines - no idea why that was. I still have a few new pieces to draw (or older pieces to upgrade)... we'll see.
- I got rid of most of the tables. The larger tables were taking up a lot of room, and they weren't particularly attractive. I simplified things to bulleted or numbered lists. There are still opportunities to add to the gifts, tags, energies, and limitations lists, and I'm sure I'll add a bit to each before all is said and done.

Playtest #4 - Enter Doc Stalwart, Stage Left

The Mighty Doc Stalwart
Legendary Hero (D12/6[3]); Hits 24; Move 30’; Hero Points 8
Might D16 (8); Mind D12 (6); Power D6 (3); Reflex D8 (4)

Invulnerable; Leaping; Flight (jet pack 60’)

Brawl (+1); Popularity (+1); Profession (Science +2); Stalwart (+2)

Goonsquad Brawler

Normal Thug (D6/3[1]); Hits 12

Might D6 (3); Mind D4 (2); Power D4 (2); Reflex D6 (3)

Machine Pistol (D8); Kendo Stick (D8)

Gila the Monster

Paragon Villain (D8/4[2]); Hits 18; Move 30’; Villain Points 4

Might D10 (5); Mind D4 (2); Power D6 (3); Reflex D6 (3)

Amphibious; Invulnerable (5); Weapon, Claws (D12)

Brawl (+1); Popularity (+2; lizards/amphibians only); Sneak (+2)

Limitation: -1 shift if he is out of water for more than 24 hours.

I moved Doc up to D16 might - (in Eddie Murphy Gumby voice) because he’s Doc Stalwart, dammit! Also, I want to roll D16s. Because they are my preciousssss….

I decide that the ninjas were not replaced (those are not cheap), but four goonsquad bouncers are now standing watch in the warehouse when Doc arrives. He knocks on the front door, and then rips it off the hinges (I rolled a 2 on the first try, so he breaks the door handle; then I rolled a natural 16). “Guess you all didn’t hear me knocking. No problem. I’ll just let myself in.”

He doesn’t bother rolling initiative. He lets the brawlers each fire their auto pistols at him. Two of them hit, rolling 4 and 1, but all of these bullets just bounce off of his skin. He strolls in among them and starts swinging. He rolls 4, 8, 2, 6, 6, 5. These become 5, 9, 3, 7, 7, 6. He hits six times. He deals (rolling D12 six times): 8, 6, 5, 4, 7, 1. He drops the first with the 8 and 6, drops the second with the 5 and 7. He uses the 4 and 1 on a third, breaking his arm and forcing him to drop the pistol. They both fail their morale check (decided that will be DT 6; added that to the core rules draft).

He descends the stairs (seeing the blood from the ninjas) and enters the sewers. Gila uses 1 action to gather a found weapon (just added those to the rules as well). He has a chunk of concrete and rebar that he smacks against Doc’s back. He hits for 5 damage, but the entire thing just crumbles against Doc’s back. Doc turns and hits him with 3, 11, and 5 (which are 4, 12, and 6 after his brawling bonus). He hits three times, dealing 4, 13, and 9. Gila soaks 5 from each, so suffers 8 and 4, for 12 damage. He’s at 6. 

Gila claws twice, (I just realized I was letting Zealot take 5 attacks when his max is 4… oops. Not that it did him much good - he still got thumped good). He hits with a 6 (misses with a 2). However, the claw only deals 6, so Doc is able to soak the whole thing. Doc punches him with a natural 12. I rule that this is critical damage (see below). Doc rolls 16 for damage, and puts Gila 6” into the concrete wall. He then uses an attack action to finish him. He carries Gila’s limp body (not dead, but hurting like crazy) towards the lair of Sudoku. Trouble awaits…


  • Doc barely worked up a sweat; this makes sense. Captain Marvel is not going to have much trouble with Killer Croc; Thor is going to rip through the Lizard. These are not comparable foes, so it makes sense that the fight would be one-sided. I’d hope so. If Doc was taking on the entirety of Zealots’ rogue’s gallery (oooh. Maybe he’ll do that next!) it would be different. We’ll see.

  • I started thinking about critical hits during the fight. It doesn’t make sense to have a max roll be a critical hit, because a D4 would crit 25% of the time, while a D20 would only crit 5% of the time. That makes no sense. I could see crits happening if your attack exceeds the dice rating of your foe; so Doc would score critical damage (+1 die shift) if he rolls an attack of 9 or better against Gila (since Gila has a D8 dice value). You can’t land crits against foes in the same tier (unless you have a bonus to hit) or higher, and the greater the difference between you and a foe, the more likely you are to crit. This makes a lot of sense.