Monday, May 30, 2022

The Paint Job

No, this post is not about painting or art. It's about old school gaming, house rules, and hacks. It's a bit meandering. Apologies.

I've been thinking about the many, many ways I've hacked B/X to make it play closer to my ideal way. This is no more evident than in all the different posts I've made about fixing the broken Thief class.

I've been working on various ways to alter the standard rules for my upcoming Doomslakers B/X project. I have wrestled with lots of ideas and found them all too fiddly, too trivial, or just too much.

Lately I've hit upon an idea that seems promising, though. It's a simple one, nothing rocket-science about it.

Instead of hacking the rules, maybe I'll just present my "meta rules" as an option, then keep the rest of the content more-or-less defaulting to the standard rules. For my own games, I use the meta rules, But you don't have to.

Most obvious example is luck. I always include some kind of luck mechanic in my games because I feel like without some degree of direct player-facing mechanic other than mechanics tied explicitly to character action, players often feel frustrated by game play. I know I do, and this is why I include such mechanics.

But luck doesn't modify existing rules, it just goes on top of them like a nice paint job.

What other kinds of rules could function in this way?

Well, Death or Debasement is definitely going to be part of the project. This comes from GOZR. It basically says when your PC dies, you get to decide if they are actually dead or not. I mean, why not? It's your character, after all.

Choosing Debasement means your PC is miraculously alive, has 1 hit point, and will be down for 1d6 rounds (probably out of the fight). Alternatively, perhaps they need to pass a Death save to recover and act.

Choosing Death means they are dead and you get some minor perk for your next PC, such as a bonus to an ability score or something.

Meaningful choices. More interesting that flat out death at zero hp.

EDIT: Choosing Debasement also means you randomly roll (or maybe choose) one permanent effect, such as losing some HP, dropping in an ability score, or something more in-world, such as losing a hand or whatever. Surviving death isn't free.

Another meta rule concept isn't so much a meta rule as a setting rule. Not unlike the old AD&D 2e "kits", the setting itself will modify character classes and PCs with choices the player can make, such as rolling on random character traits tables.

Here's where the Thief gets a lot of love, too. Because in Yria, the world of Doomslakers and Black Pudding, all Thieves are trained by a guild and there are five guilds, one for each city. And each guild's training impacts a Thief's skills and abilities in specific ways. The player who chooses Darkmirth as their guild (and perhaps home city) will be much better at stealth while the Thief of Kanebok may be more acrobatic and better at stunts. For example.

The net result of all this is that to play games set in Yria or to just mine Yria for ideas and adventures you don't have to adopt any of the meta rules if you don't wanna. It's fine. My feelings will be hurt but that's ok.

I'll ramble more later.

GOZR Kickstarter Finished!

Well, the GOZR Kickstarter is over and it was very successful. Thank you to everyone who jumped in, shared, commented, liked, etc. My gratitude is eternal! You are truly the ugly ones.

Peter said he is going to offer a pre-order option for late backers, in case you missed out. Just keep your eyes on the link above.

Up From Hell

Zasto Filistian, wizard of Seapath, returns from a trip to Hell, emerging from a sewer well. His mind struggles to contain the lost spell of immortality, the object of his quest. His imps offer him a special book in which to transcribe the spell (and a towel).

The city of Seapath is one of the five cities of Yria. It is perhaps the most accessible city, especially for the low-minded and adventure-ready. It is sprawled across a mountain pass leading to the western seas and you can see it in all its glory on the cover of Black Pudding #5. Note the angry assault by Url'Armagog, one of the Children of the Worm Witch, his slumber disturbed from the depths of Lake Drowning.

Ah, Yria.

You know how every Dungeon Master worth their salt has a world of their own? It's true. Mine started the day I learned about the existence of D&D. I spent my first few years as a gamer gaming alone. I spent countless hours in my room making D&D characters, writing elaborate histories, drawing them, making ornate character sheets for them, and running them through solo adventures. Eventually I compiled all my notes and ideas into a three ring binder labeled "Midaka", my campaign world.

This morphed over time. Much of the juvenility of Midaka was left by the side of the road on my journey into proper adult elfgamehood. But much of the DNA is still there, along with all the other stuff I've added over the many years.

Sometime around the mid-2000s I had an explosion of ideas that lead to the Pan-Gea comic book and the creation of Yria - my fantasy RPG "campaign setting".

Sometime soon, perhaps in 2022, I hope to create an iteration of the setting for proper use in fantasy TTRPGs. A reference work, a user's manual, a tome of inspiration (or two). Working title has been "Doomslakers B/X" for a while, but I'm not sure what will stick. What makes the most sense is to just call it Yria. Not a D&D Gazetteer style work full of epic levels of detail, but more of a art-before-function work of inspirational material very lightly sketching out a fantasy world. The imagery will do most of the talking. Random tables will fill in most of the detail. The actual prose bits will be more akin to what you see in X1: Isle of Dread... short and high level, more a collection of descriptors than a fleshed out narrative.

But we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

On the Hunt

Hmmm... something big has passed this way, just before the rains.

I'm considering this for the cover of Black Pudding 7. Yes, I am working on the new issue again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Space Time?

While the GOZR Kickstarter is still going, of course I'm working on entirely other stuff. Namely, my space game.

Working title is ZSF, Zoa Space Fantasy. This is the setting from Supercalla and Cozmic Metal Heads, but instead of going with Troika! (much love) I'm going to make it another original game system. I'm having fun making original games, might as well ride that high.

This time I don't plan to hand letter the thing. It'll probably be a more traditionally laid out book. But the visual inspirations are 70s era art albums and art books... so the plan is for every page to be art. Lots of full page pieces, lots of small pieces. Not so much density of text per page. Something like 50/50 art book/RPG guide.

This cartoon world has lived in my head and in a couple of RPG books for years. It'll be fun to put it into yet another form, one that I can claim entirely as my own. I've been noodling and doodling this for the last week or so. Kind of excited about it. Kind of the same sort of feeling I had when I started working on GOZR.

Of course this could all change. I am a slave to my whims, after all. I might drift away from this. Hell, I really do need to get back to my OSR book and FINISH IT. But we'll see.

Let's talk about mechanics.

How do you decide what kind of mechanics a game needs? I don't know. But I have an idea about how to start.

First, what is the game about? In this case it's space opera with a strong 70s heavy metal aesthetic. What might characters in such a game be doing? Flying in space ships, fighting weird monsters, dealing with space wizards, making deals with demons, and contending with strange robots. In fact, the words "weird", "strange", and "cosmic" seem to pop up a lot when I think about this thing.

So I am starting with a list of actions. PCs in ZSF will:

Shoot (load, aim, fire, reload, and duck)
Talk (charisma, persuasion, negotiation, etc.)
Operate (machines, robots, computers, etc.)
Fight (punch, kick, tackle, bash, etc.)
Explore (perception, instinct, toughness, etc.)
Drive (ships, cars, bikes, etc.)

I think that covers the important bases. I wanted it to spell out something badass. "STOFED" is as close as I came.

What I like about this is that it strongly implies the game theme. It's a game "about" flying through space and doing action shit.

The primary mechanic (I really dislike the term "core mechanic" for some reason) is, for now, to roll d20 and add your modifiers vs. the GM's* roll. High roll wins.

So the whole hit point thing...

I have wrestled with this. I actually like hit points and damage as a mechanic (I used it in GOZR). But since I'm making an original game system, I might as well think about trying something different.

Right now I'm messing around with a mechanic from the least likely place of all... my stupid little game Lizards vs. Wizards. In that game, when you get hurt you simply roll a d100 vs. your survival trait. If you fail, you are a dead lizard. No hit point tracking at all. So I thinks to myself... why not? This is a space game, which means it is also, in some ways, a western. That is, when you get shot by a laser pistol you should probably almost certainly DIE.

Of course I don't want ZSF to be as slapstick and cartoonish as LvW. There's a trick to it. Yes, it is going to be a game where you can get shot and die with one die roll. But a Luck mechanic is also in place. Not luck points, as I usually like to do. More of a limitless luck roll. The trade off is that failing the luck roll causes instant bad luck for all the PCs.

Anyway... more on all that later.

*Ok, I'm actually planning to call the GM "Spacelord". Because fuck why not? It's a SPACE GAME. And nobody cares anyway.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

GOZR Goes Live

GOZR Kickstarter is LIVE! Funded quickly, per the dictate of Mother Gooz.

If you haven't backed this sci-fantasy romp RPG, maybe consider doing so. If you can't, that's ok too. I still love you very much.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

GOZR Print Test

I received a few copies of the GOZR print test from Squarehex. They look VERY NICE. The heavier paper and coating really makes the colors pop. It just feels good in my hand.

And a huge plus to me is that you can open it up and press it flat and it will remain open to the page you wanted. Very cool.

Kickstarter launches in a few days...