Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Goreball Playtests

Ready to Roll....

Been a little quiet here, but only cause I've been busy hammer and tongs on Goreball!

Took the game for its first public playtests last weekend at the inaugural BezerkaCon in Sydney, which was a great motivator for getting the prototype up and ready and the rules refined enough for proper play. Also managed to get a few games in with my gamer crew in the lead up, so all up it's had about 10 playtests with others now.

A big thanks to everyone who took it for a spin, your feedback has been invaluable and I've spent the last few days tweaking and refining. I'm really happy with where it's heading.

What I've learned from the playtests:

• I suck at playing my own game. I haven't won once.
• Everyone really digs the look of the board and figures. Phew.
• Gameplay comes in a wide variety of styles, which is great. Working out which tactics are best is going to be fun.
• The playtests were only using teams of Kludgers — the allrounder position with the same amount of dice in every ability. That made it easier to teach the basics. I look forward to trying it with the full roster of positions available.
• I had a guy with fairly poor eyesight look over the board and the designs of all the positions and could separately identify everything. Good.
• People reaaaaaaally like hurting their opponent's players. This game runs on schadenfreude.
• People reaaaaaaally like picking up their own Goreballers with their Mauljaws and throwing them around the arena. Even when they splat.
• The Gore tokens are a winner. Ain't called Goreball for nothing.
• There's a lot of love for the Mauljaws. The moveable goal aspect is really popular.
• Mauljaws are really really hard to take down. But not impossible; once you get them on their back it's possible to pile on and with everyone and hurt them bad.
• I need to differentiate the two special Mauljaw attacks of ripping Goreballers limb from limb and just eating them whole. Mechanically and results wise they're too similar.
• It's taken a while to get the lethality levels right. Originally I had it so that injuring the Mauljaw, or injuring all the active Goreballers so there's noone in the Arena was a means of winning the game. That led to some heavy slugfests while the goreballer with the Gob hung out down the back,and once one team gains the upper hand numberswise its a death spiral. That's been changed now so that instead of winning you just score a point, which means that a passing game ends up being a more effective means of point scoring which is what I wanted.
• Falling off a pylon and critically injuring yourself as your opening move is hilarious.
• When the Gob explodes, it's a little less dangerous than I originally hoped for, and might need bolstering.
• It's possible for one team to have multiple turns in a row. There was one game where my opponent got three full turns before I could act. It didn't bother me in the slightest — I might have been to caught up in the playtest — but it could prove frustrating for certain players. I'll need to work that out.
• The biggest recurring issue was the bases for the Mauljaws. Currently I'm using the Pathfinder Pawns medium and huge sized bases. No real probs with the Goreballers (minor issues with bases being ever so slightly larger than the hexes but barely commented on) whereas the huge circular base placed over multiple hexes was confusing when it came to moving the Mauljaw around. In a perfect world the bases would be hex shaped to best fit on the hex board, and the Mauljaw bases would cover a 7 hex shape with its edge matching the outline of the 7 hexes. But no one to my knowledge makes them, and I really want to avoid going do the path of manufacturing unique plastic pieces for this game. Conundrum.
• The amount of dicerolling.... was a lot, but no one complained about it.
• The core rules seemed to be picked up by everyone pretty quickly.
• Teaching people how to play Goreball is exhausting!
• Teaching people how to play Goreball is awesome!

All in all, the playtests were great.

So from here:

• revise the rules with all the feedback and playtest again.
• finish designing the female Goreballers (I had the Kludgers as 50/50 guys/gals. These things are important).
• finish the mutation tables for the Goreballers and Mauljaws, as well as work out more interesting equipment to be picked up from the stash drops.
• test the rules at higher levels of ability. Currently all the positions have abilities ranging between 1 to 3 (that's the number of dice you get to roll and your result is the highest die). I need to see how it plays when Goreballers have abilities between 4 to 6, and the Mauljaws (who currently attack and defend with 4 to 6 dice) need to be tested with 7 to 10 dice.
• once that's all done, and I'm 100% happy with how the core game runs, I need to work out rules for tournaments and league play.
• playtest the league rules.

and once that's done, I can start to look at production and distribution.

can't wait!

Death don't care what color you are. Or if you're packing or racking.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Fuck Yeah!!!

A bit late with this, but a bunch of things happened last week:

GenCon went down on the far side of the world.

So I ran this:

for the rest of the poor suckers like me who couldn't go cause geographic handicaps and reasons.

And fun was had.

I even got to play this time, taking a very dusty Man Rider for a much needed spin.

And then in the middle of all that, this little baby:

went and picked up this:

for best art, with some lovely words by Ramanan over here:

and then while AntigenCon rolled on, this other little baby:

went and picked up 4 ENnie Awards at GenCon:

Gold for Best Writing
Gold for Best Setting
Silver for Best Adventure
Silver for Product of the Year

Those first three wins are all Zak's glory. The writing, the setting, the adventure(s) really are good.

But it's the last one that makes me supremely happy, cause that's the part I was involved in. Product of the Year, for a three man team coming in second behind the gargantuan behemoth that is the D&D Player's Handbook. If you're gonna lose to someone, it's ok to lose to those guys. (And given how much love it's getting from my local crew, you can see why it took gold.)

But they had the advantage of a production team of 60 people (I counted) not including the 62 interior artists and the acknowledgements to the 27 original creators and major players in previous editions, backed by a major corporation.

You'd be pissed if they didn't win.

And we were 3.

On the 21st of November 2011 I wrote the first entry on this blog, something weird about the Children of Nabraxu. It was the first step in ending a year long battle with depression. Within a week I'd offered to run the first Secret Santicore for Christmas 2011, and that was an awesome opportunity to get involved with the DIY gaming community; out of all the connections I made with the community and the rpg industry from Secret Santicore I've been able to spend the last three years working in rpg art and design. That's my fucking dream job.

And then to have a hand in Red and Pleasant Land... I'll be honest, it's the biggest single project I've ever worked on in 23 years of commercial graphic design, and it sure was no easy thing either. I know I'm not the author or the artist, but I think few people truly comprehend just how much time, love, and suffering was poured into designing that beast. I'm mighty proud of what Zak, James and I made.

To have those efforts acknowledged by everyone who voted for it? To have everyone say that we made the second best roleplaying game product in a year of awesome releases?

Mind blown.

Thank you.

And then some people said some shitty things about other people, so this happened:

which was originally meant to be about awesome things that gamers where doing, but generally devolved into just how awesome various gamers were in various other gamers lives.

Which was very sweet.

AND THEN... for some stupid reason, I was compelled to make this:

 which is so stupid that it cannot possibly fail.

All in all, it's been a good week :)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Sad Story of Tik Tok the Half Human

My favorite orc pic. She's beautiful. By Jang Keun-Chul

S:19 D:14 C:18 I:5 W:11 Ch: 14
5th Level Half Orc Fightress

She don't remember much. 

She's a Gal-Aktar Gal. Mountains. Orcs. Hollering. Bloodshed. Was good with bloodshed. Knows enough to know that she doesn't know much, and that's how they got her. That other orc tribe. Killed her people, all the rest. Tricked them. Enslaved her. Tortured her, too. "Tik Tok" they mocked, like Time was running out. She didn't understand. Time has legs? Too many things in her head.

But she knows this: she's the Last One. Which is why she's King. Just a King with out a tribe. But one day there will be a new tribe. It's just up to her to make it. So she's here for fame, fortune, and family. First you get the money. Then you get the power. Then you get the woman. Man. Whatever. She misses Gwynn. He made everything make sense. Would have been a good Queen.

But Gwynn has gone. Now everything bad is now worse. Found a tribe. Lost it. Hard being King! Too hard for Tik Tok. So much thinking. Tik Tok no good at thinking. Tik Tok no good at kinging either. Stupid crown. Tik Tok throw stupid crown in the sea. Stupid Sea. Stupid Tik Tok.

There was a dragon. There is a war. Tik Tok not sure who's fighting. Tik Tok not sure who she's fighting for. Tik Tok so.... Tik Tok not sure what Tik Tok is any more. Tik Tok thought she was King. Stupid Tik Tok.

Tik Tok like this beer though. Beer good. Tik Tok drink lots of beer. Tik Tok feel better. Tik Tok can't hear them any more. Humans nasty. Just as nasty as orcs. Half-orc they shout. Go away Half-orc.

Tik Tok half-human too. But no-one ever calls her that.

Tik Tok wonder what halflings really are. Tik Tok wonder what lings are.

Tik Tok wonder. Why life so shit? Life shit on Tik Tok from great height ever since she remember, which is at least three weeks ago. Maybe ever four.

Tik Tok have great axe though. Life not all shit. Axe make Tik Tok happy. Can't Tik Tok just be happy? Axe make Tik Tok very happy. Maybe Tik Tok swing Axe all the time. Make Tik Tok always happy.

Rules say Tik Tok not allowed to swing axe all the time.

Tik Tok mad. Stupid rules. Gwynn make Tik Tok happy too. Tik Tok swing Gwynn all the time! Only... Gwynn gone.

Tik Tok sad again. Beer not working anymore.

Stupid beer.

Stupid Tik Tok.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A World Without Magic: 5th Ed D&D without the sparkly bits

As much as I love the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, one of the few issues I have with it is the prevalence of magic in so many of its classes and in the base setting.

I find the overabundance of magic in the 5th Edition makes magic far less magical and far more mundane.

Forgotten Realms doesn’t really do it for me; I’m more of a fan of worlds where magic is very rare, such as Game of Thrones, or non-existent, such as historical games in our world.

Hopefully this document provides enough variety of gameplay untouched by the arcane.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Adventure Module Survey Results

Yeah so this isn't scientific by any means.

1) Preferred Game System
Labyrinth Lord / BX : 25%
Lamentations of the Flame Princess: 12.5%
Dungeon Crawl Classics: 10%
Agnostic: 10%
5E D&D: 7.5%
OD&D: 7.5%
Swords & Wizardry: 5%
Dungeon World: 5%
Other 5%
Basic Fantasy: 2.5%
Warhammer FRP: 2.5%
Castles & Crusades: 2.5%
Adventurer Conquerer King: 2.5%
AD&D: 2.5%

The complete lack of Pathfinder tells you I didn't ask over at the Paizo Forums. But basically for indie press it seems that LL/BX is the way to go, especially when you roll in LotFP which is like its evil sister. And if you think I'm echo chambering with this, the only game I'm playing on here with any regularity is D&D 5E.

2) Preferred Module Dimensions:
A5/Half Letter Size: 41.9%
A4/Letter Size: 41.9%
6x9/Digest: 6.4%
Don't Care: 9.7%

Take your pick: A5 or A4. Your production costs on an A5 are going to be higher (it's 7c/A5 page down here vs 10c/A4 page at the local print shop). A4 is good for bigger maps, legibility; not so good for postage.

3) Preferred Module Length (in time to play... longer = bigger = more $):
One Session: 31%
Two Sessions: 41.4%
Three Sessions: 13.8%
Four Sessions or more: 13.8%

4) Encounters per Session:
3.7 was the average respondents' answers.

So with the majority preferring a two session module you're looking at 7 to 8 encounters per adventure module.

5) Main Map Location:
Inside Loose Cover: 72%
Opposite Page to Encounter: 20%
Back of Book: 4%
Other (gatefold map that pops out the side, like Qelong): 4%

Pretty obvious really, the D&D classic loose cover is the fave.

6) Adventure Requirements:
Here's a whole bunch of insight:

"Interesting NPCs atmospheric design"

"Either intriguing concept that makes me want to run it (and is something I wouldn't've come up with) or very strong utility/replay/expansion possibilities that save me work or act as the spine of a whole mini-campaign."

"A premise that will pique the players' interests"

"non-linearity is a must."

"Good art"

"Good layout and art."

"Somewhat plausible storyline!"

"Gonzo rules!"

"A simple concept done well"

"Good map, non-linear"

"Not be a railroad; not be a loosely tied together bunch of blanks that I have to fill in myself; not be boring (not a high bar to clear, I'll happily buy and run your goblin-infested abandoned dwarven mine if it's well executed. Gonzo and weirdness by itself are not selling points for me)."

"An interesting hook and, hopefully, competent writing and editing. Actual player choice is always great."

"Interesting hook that I feel I genuinely couldn't think of myself within the confines of 10 - 20 minutes long trip to the toilet"

"Either intriguing concept that makes me want to run it (and is something I wouldn't've come up with) or very strong utility/replay/expansion possibilities that save me work or act as the spine of a whole mini-campaign."

"map with keyed locations that have enough description I can run this more easily than making something up myself."

"Something interesting, a lack of the mundane, something unique, some freedom from a linear plot and a nice chunk of player choice - also traps and puzzles are the hardest thing to think up on the fly, so make sure those are good - I can steal them even if the rest of the module is dull.
Also just follow these suggestions and you should be okay:"

"It can't be a railroad. And it has to have some idea I wouldn't have thought of."

"Give me a reason to buy it. Awesome artwork. A review of someone I usually trust raving about it. An idea that makes me say "that's neat." Something I haven't seen before--and by now, I've seen a LOT of fantasy RPGing. Make a cheapish PDF available with some way for me to get a couple bucks off the print version if I decide to buy the print version. Unless you're publishing The Excellent Travelling Companion you'd better make a PDF available. First, that's the thing I'm more likely to actually use at the table, and second, if I like the way it looks I'm pretty likely to buy the hardcopy."

"Interesting concept, but not so off-the-wall that it'll be a campaign-breaker or only good as a one-shot. Needs to present something I couldn't easily throw together myself. Needs to be adaptable to my campaign setting. Decent art is a plus, and good layout/graphic design will get me to pick it up in the first place. There's a lot of junk on DriveThruRPG to sift through, so it could be well-written, but if it looks like amateur crap, I'll skip it unless it has a lot of recommendations."

"Flexibility. Guidelines. No railroading."

"Non-linear, site based. Doesn't screw over the players (so basically not LoftP)."

"A sense of humour."

7) Generic Monster Stats:

Complete Monster Stats in Module: 45%
Abridged Monster Stats in Module: 30%
Reference to Monster Stats in Core Book: 15%

Whole hog please.

8) Preferred Price Point for an 8 page Module (black and white w/ maps+illos):
less than $5: 33%
$5-$10: 67%
$10+: —

So that averages out to be $5.85 for an 8 page Module. 73c per page.

9) Preferred Price Point for a 16 page Module (black and white w/ maps+illos):
less than $5: 5%
$5-$10: 80%
$10-$15: 15%
$15+: —

And that averages out to be about $8.00 for a 16 page module. or 50c per page.

10) Preferred Price Point for an 32 page Module (black and white w/ maps+illos):
less than $5: —
$5-$10: 47.8%
$10-$15: 34.8%
$15-$20: 17.4%

Averages out to be about $14.57 for a 32 page module. or 46c per page.

11) If you could name one adventure module as the benchmark (big publishers, indie module or homepress, doesn't matter) what would it be and why?
Whole bunch of different suggestions here:

"The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar"

"I really like the old TSR modules for the amount of information they pack into a low page-count, frankly."

"B5 Horror on the Hill or U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. They have good maps, keyed locations, and let you quickly run a game instead of having to read the entire thing in advance of running it."

"RPL and Vornheim are still my gold standards in terms of organization and content. I'm also a big fan of Keep on the Shadowfell from the 4e days. Big maps, a big folder to hold two stapled books. If you're going for an A4 sized book, that's my preferred way of doing it." 
"No Salvation for Witches, and J Waltons Planarch Codex for Dungeon World"
"A Red & Pleasant Land."
"Sailors on the Starless Sea Because - 16 pages, 10$, great art through out including pictorial handouts, awesome hand drawn isometric maps, The Players can go numerous ways and still end up at the climax. It is crammed full of all sorts of weirdness and roleplaying inspiring moments."
"B4 was an excellent introduction to "how to be a DM" (as is "The Lost Mines of Phandelver"). R&PL is awesome, but much more than a module as you're defining it. So's Qelong, but again, same thing. X1 is how you do a wilderness adventure right. D1-2 might be a good touchstone for more straightforward dungeon crawling."

"Qelong and Forgive Us."

"Sailors on the Starless Sea, short but comprehensive (had everything) and also emphasizes that you can have BIG ADVENTURES with 1st-level characters."

"Anomalous Subsurface Environment 1 by +Patrick Wetmore because it got me back into old school gaming and it has such great gonzo content that can be expanded upon by the user. The Orbital Gods are pure genius!"

"One-Page Dungeons (or, at least, the best of them), because they look good, they have all the info I really need right there, they're easy to insert into my game, and since the authors are forced to conserve space, there's no useless bloat like game fiction or boxed text. Also, stuff that Zak Smith does, because even if his ideas end up being too out-there for my relatively vanilla pseudo-Tolkien game, they inspire a ton of ideas and get me thinking along lines I might not have when left to my own devices. Flavor and setting conveyed via random tables is a brilliant idea. Finally, +Dyson Logos' maps are luvverly, and make me want to run dungeon crawls."

"I think U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh was great and I really enjoyed L2, forgot its name Assassin's Knot? and I got a lot of use out of A2 separate from the Slaver series."

"Oh, and good god I forgot City-State of the Invincible Overlord!"

"Tegel Manor by judges guild. Most fun ever both as a player and then running it as a GM
the original I6(?) Ravenloft, because it had a fun card-based "fortune-telling" mechanic that determined important details like the villain's motivation and weakness. Also, isometric maps!"

"A Thousand Dead Babies by Zzarchov Kowolski - it's small, it is complex yet simple to run, it is awesome."

"Anomalous Subsurface Environment is tits, both in content and in the way it's all presented."

"Necessary Evil for Savage Worlds. Best purchased campaign I've ever ran. For something a little more D&D, though, I'll go with Night Below. For something more standalone, Small Niche Games kills it about every time out. Inn of Lost Heroes is a favorite."


"Mutiny on the Eleanor Moraes."

"Advanced Adventures #26 - The Witch Mounds by Keith Sloan. Not the best looking module, true, but manages to fit a 4 sessions dungeon in 12 pages (and with several new monsters)."

"Servants of the Cinder Queen"

"Servants of the Cinder Queen by Jason Lutes. Interesting location, enemies, plot, beautiful presentation."

"Ravenloft (I6) is probably the one I've run most often (as one-offs) because it is very easy to grasp for newbies to roleplaying, but I only run it with superficial adherence to the actual module as written. So no. One of the most exciting and interesting adventures I've run wasThe Grey Knight for Pendragon. In fact many of the Pendragon adventures have a lot to recommend them as a template (coming from the time when Chaosium was writing stuff decades in advance of everyone else). Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues for Paranoia was difficult to run because I was laughing so hard at the jokes inside of it. I do like how the old Ironclawadventures were presented (in a sourcebook, so that it introduced players to the material in the sourcebook). I've always had a soft spot for Paul Jacquays's stuff so Caverns of Thracia is probably my choice."

"Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. It's full of iconic locations, it's a run in a wizards dungeon that has been squatted by another wizard that has then been vanquished but it's still full of weird, so it's very DND in its framing. It links deeply to its setting but without letting you know or forcing you. It's full of awesome and comes with a 16 pages sourcebook. It has a big wilderness to explore, and politics, albeit simple. Most importantly, it's a fun exploration module that is full of wonders."

Got some reading to do here...


Looks like my first first foray into indie publishing will be a 16 page A5 (or maybe A4, unsure now) black and white module with a loose color cover, black and white map on the inside with essential info on the map, and if space permits, smaller map sections on the relevant page with the 8 or so encounter details. Which is good, cause that's what I'd planned to do anyhoo. So thanks for confirming that for me, and taking the time to lemme know what you want.

Only real decision is what system... LL/BX is clearly the most popular, even moreso as it's easily portable into LotFP and DCC, but I never run it. Hmmm...

Next.... what kind of adventure?