Colored bricks

Updates on Game Design

Armageddon Accelerated

  • Start over as a second-chance soul bonded to an angelic host in this urban supernatural roleplaying game of dealing with unfinished prior life business while working for HALO to prevent the End Times.
  • System: Dresden Files Accelerated

I’ve managed a handful of playtest sessions online in 2021. The game feels about 65-85% there mechanically and 95% there thematically/narratively. A few rounds of testing should guide further refinements.

Blood & Violence

  • A traveler’s tale wrapped in magical realism storytelling and a map-making roleplaying game between truth and reality, beauty and danger along the road.
  • System: In-house tokens and dice

I have run this game a couple of times and it’s not there mechanically yet. Part of my mind wants there to be a token economy for the Blood and a dice economy for the Violence. I feel like spending dice as tokens and rolling dice as dice would accommodate that but I’ll need to test it. In my head and heart, this game is a mixture of written and visual poetry that flows out on the map panels and the rules and during play with the journal as an artifact for players and for in-game potential. The game needs more playtesting.

Dark Well

  • “Explore the Unknown” in this modern-day paranormal conspiracy thriller roleplaying game.
  • System: In-house tokens

I was fortunate to get some wonderful feedback from a couple of great people and have implemented changes from that and the game is better for it. The recent online playtesting has confirmed some issues with probability for results and so I have a new version to test at some point.

Division Hex (formerly Shadow Hunters)

  • Join up and fight side by side with other paranormal agents in this thriller roleplaying game to counter paranormal terrorism in the world.
  • System: Genesys

Changing the name from Shadow Hunters mostly because there are a lot of things called Shadow Hunters already. Shifting the focus away from strictly hunting mutants to something wider in scope or similar to Ghost in the Shell but for the paranormal. Need to continue with Talents and scoping out the content for playtesting.

LEGENDS (formerly Feudal Fairy World)

  • Explore relationships between heroes and their world in this fantasy roleplaying game inspired by ancient myths and Arthurian Legends.
  • System: PbtA

I revisited this game to have it reviewed for an online design event. The feedback from Magpie Games was well articulated and useful. Since then I have made several changes, including the name from Feudal Fairy World to LEGENDS. We’ll see if it works or not as a brand. What’s taking the longest for me is in my revision of the game from almost completely the ground up with playbook moves and other mechanics that reinforce the themes, arcs, and point back to the world. This version is more rooted in Arthurian legends than previously and so I’ve been listening to courses and audiobooks about them for insights.

Found

  • Science fiction thriller roleplaying game about belonging.
  • System: In-house to Cortex Prime

After getting the primer done, converted over from a prior ruleset, I’m ready to playtest this game.

NetWhere

  • A science fiction roleplaying game of adventure between truth and reality with you as hackers on the run.
  • System: Psi*Run modified

This game is pretty much done for now, but I need to finalize it and then put it up on itch.io — I feel some anxiety about it, and that’s why I really should move forward on it.

NightMirror

  • A Gothic Horror game about the search for humanity and salvation through a world of monsters and madness through the lives of seekers like you and your companions.
  • System: Psi*Run with tarot cards

I have started work to create an alternate version of the rules on cards. In either case, the game is doing well in its rough form.

Secret Strike Force

  • Pulp military action roleplaying game about combating BADD and defending the world.
  • System: Cortex Prime

Due to revisiting some nostalgia, I decided to create this as a love letter to myself. I hope to run it as a one- to five-shot at some point.

Space Station Omega

  • Sci-fi roleplaying game of political dramatic action among the stars.
  • System: Cortex Prime

I’ve edited a fair amount of this game and playtested it for 10-sessions online. When I have time I will review the recordings and notes for more edits. However, I’m really more concerned about the terms of the Cortex Creator and the Cortex Codex as that will impact how far I continue to work on this game.

StarFall

  • A sci-fi post-terraforming of Earth roleplaying game about a community surviving on the unforgiving frontier of the unknown.
  • System: PbtA

I’ve done some editing on this but it’s a long way off in development.

Time & Tempus

  • Sail through time and space with Captain Tempus as one of their Crew.
  • System: For the Queen

I playtested this a few times and have feedback to contemplate before further revisions.

Vigilance

  • You are reborn as Living Laws to a community mythic fantasy roleplaying game about loss, humanity, and justice in a fallen world.
  • System: In-house dice

One group suggested a name change that was more referential to the time period around the Bronze Age. I haven’t examined this yet but will try to remain open to it should development proceed. I need to rework the mechanics. Players love the character sheets.

Within Reach

  • Exploring solitary confinement with the hand you’re dealt.
  • System: LARP with cards

Nothing new on this game recently.

Space Station Omega Campaign Playtest 1

SSO Campaign Playtest Updates

Twitter Posts

Feb. 14, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 10 (finale): Kesh, Deegan, and Hesper get the psychic-imprinted Hesper clones under control. Dr. Smith and company visit the Hidden Planet to discover an empire in the making and cripple it. Epilogues are shared.

Feb. 6, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 9: Dr. Smith convinces Vox to take the Key with them to the Forbidden Planet (+Corrin+Bill), while Trine change into Hesper copies. Key group rescues Sgt. and use the Key at a ruined temple—getting Hidden Planet coords.

Jan. 30, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 8: Peace was made with terrorists. The Trine failed to steal the Key of the Ancients. Then Dr. Kesh woke the Trine, Sgt. Dedra is KO’ed as her ship plummets towards the Forbidden Planet, and Vox sees the cosmic past.

Jan. 23, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 7: With the combined efforts of the Omega Prepper Army, a courageous commando team, and decisive action, 2 of the 3 co-masterminds were defeated. Will the 3rd escape with the prized alien artifact?

Jan. 17, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 6: PCs saved Sgt. Smith’s parents and 430+ others held ransom by bandits on a starliner just as the Kracken Gang was released—taking charge of C&C in 1 swift move. Can the PCs take back the station?

Jan. 9, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 5: The PCs saved the friendly alien probe from being dissected, destroyed, or returned to its homeworld and side-stepped starting another galactic War in the process.

Jan. 2, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 4: We added a PC to the group (Sec. Chief Deegan, @JMichaelMahr) and pushed the fight over the alien probe into space-court. No one’s happy—I can’t wait for the PCs to take matters into their hands!

Dec. 27, 2020: We are beginning with our first session of play for SSO. #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 3: We began with 2 shipping complications. An incorrect smuggled supply of a telepathy-coping drug and an ancient alien probe afraid of returning home, and 7th yr anniversary of the War in 3 days!

Dec. 21, 2020: We are continuing with character creation for the short season of play for SSO. #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 2: We finished character creation and followed the PCs around for a slice of life. I can’t wait to play with this great cast.

Dec. 13, 2020: We are creating setting and characters for the short season of play for SSO. #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 1: Setting creation done; character creation 70%+ done. 6 players online take a lot more time.

Endor Guard RPG cover

Ewok Guard

So in thinking about RPG hacks one popped in my head recently of doing a Star Wars game with Ewoks at the heart of it. I decided to follow through with it since most of the work had been done for me by other gamers with Mouse Guard and The Woodlands, as well as the content creators from the Star Wars Fandom site.

Content sourced from and inspired by Star Wars Return of the Jedi and https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Ewok/Legends, Mouse Guard by Luke Crane, and The Woodlands by Andrew Medeiros.

Here is the draft version 1.1 of the (formerly named Endor Guard RPG) Ewok Guard RPG. Enjoy!

NetWhere RPG cover

NetWhere

A science-fiction game about the search for truth and reality.

Story – What Is NetWhere the Roleplaying Game?

IT BEGAN WITH A CRASH…

The Truth is that the world is not what it seems. Only people like you, working together with your Revelations and Net Effects can hope to change it. The Truth is what you make of it. Beware the Agents of Truth, because when we find you, Hackers, we will stop you wherever you may go, in this world, or the next.

NetWhere is a tabletop science-fiction roleplaying game about virtual reality and self-discovery. It’s inspired by stories like those found in movies such as The Matrix, Tron/Tron Legacy, Inception, and Dark City.

NetWhere’s mechanics are inspired by and require you to have a copy of Meguey Baker’s amazing Psi*Run game (from Night Sky Games, http://www.nightskygames.com). Psi*Run is a game about amnesiacs with powers, Runners, who are pursued by mysterious Chasers. You play to find out who they are, who you are, and what happens next.

Notable Differences

  • Truth: The use of Truth instead of amnesia to answer questions about the setting related to the characters.
  • Net Effects/Powers vs. Psi Powers: The base abilities for player characters, referred to as Hackers here, are called Net Effects and they are temporary enhancements rather than so-called superpowers. However, the option for Powers may exist in your game of NetWhere.
  • Bytes: Bytes introduce tokens that add a layer of mechanics for the Players and the GM to influence the game.

NetWhere’s designed as a multi-session game about Hackers searching for the Truth while avoiding capture by the Agents of Truth. Hackers are exceptional people who straddle the edge of reality between virtual worlds and whatever remains of the real world. This includes adventures that take place.

It’s your job, as Hackers to find the Truth and decide what to do with it once you’ve got it before the Agents of Truth can stop you.

Along the way, the Hackers use a Sitemap with information as they travel from node to node, and the Agents of Truth pursue the Sitemap relentlessly.

Will the Hackers learn the Truth? Will the Agents convert or destroy them?

Questions of Truth

Unlike Psi*Run, NetWhere shifts the focus of the answers (Revelations) from amnesiacs learning about themselves to hackers learning about the world and their place in it, but there is still a sense of learning about oneself by unmasking the virtual reality. Characters can discover that their bodies are plugged into a gigantic post-apocalyptic machine, or that they have been living out a life in an experimental dream world, or that they have been manipulated by hidden powers to do or not do something, or that they are part of a planned conquest in another reality.

What Is Reality?

In NetWhere, the group gets to challenge assumptions about what’s real and what can be changed, in terms of perspective or in actual manipulation from world to world.

Use the Net World(s) and Core World to explore this relationship in the game and the Sitemap to show it with multiple paths of Nodes that track where and when Hackers have experienced risks for the Truth.

Playing NetWhere

NetWhere is a tabletop roleplaying game for 3-5 players that takes about 3-4 hours to play per session. The game uses light rules, narration, and a standard set of six d6. As you play and follow the fiction of the story, you look for when your character is risking something which could change their fortune during the game. When this happens the GM will ask the player to pick up and roll 3-6 dice and collaborate on the results. At times this may reveal something about the Hacker or bring them closer to a direct conflict with the Truth.

Hackers

Exceptional people like you—not just computer geeks, good with breaking corporate firewalls—searching for the Truth; you’re determined and capable to bypass barriers between the reality of the Core World and the Net World.

Net World

The Internet. A matrix construction. A guided network of fate. A dream within a dream. It’s the place where virtual worlds come alive and the Core World, if it even exists, recedes into the background.

Online chatter says the Net World is the space where Truth lives. The realm of possibilities. The domain of reality enforcement, created and maintained in perfect source code. A code that many Hackers have died trying to glimpse.

For some, the Net World is the only reality they know, unless they are shown the way by a Hacker. Then, how can you ever go back to believing in and living in a world that feels artificial?

Core World

There are signs that suggest that this may be the heart of the Net World, the source of Truth, or the origination of everything. It may be the site of the cold hard reality which the Net World mirrors, a home to determined resistance groups, a stark heart of darkness in which humanity sleeps, waiting for someone like you to open to the light of a new Truth. Many have sought it out.

Net Effects

You’ve changed since you made contact with the Truth. You’re not sure why or how, but now you can do things in the world that you could only imagine. These Net Effects make you stronger, faster, and tougher. You know them to be part of the bleed between realities that you’ve discovered.

Be careful though as using your Net Effects can be dangerous to others. And their use can attract the wrong kind of attention.

The Truth

They say that finding the Truth can set you free. Freedom is worth the struggle, the suffering, the loss, in the name of something better.

You’ve looked for it online and in the world around you. So you seek the Truth with a compulsion from deep within your very being. Symbols and transmissions. Code bases and servers. It’s up to you to figure out how to manage it before it’s too late when the Agents of Truth stop you.

The Agents of Truth

The eyes, mouths, and hands of Truth are vigilant. They work to find and deal with Hackers, one way or another. And they are said to be cunning, indestructible adversaries. The best advice for dealing with Agents is to run and hide. If they capture you, you’ll most likely disappear from this world and the next. Your only hope is that it ends quickly.

Conversion & Salvation

Sometimes when Hackers go too far or risk too much they become the victim of their own desires or are convinced by the Agents of Truth to cease the search for the ultimate Truth. When this happens it’s never certain that a Hacker can or will be saved, but if it happens it’s usually through the work of one or more seekers.

Bounty of the Week V1.3

So I’ve run Bounty of the Week a few times with different groups, Gamicon 2020, Gauntlet Community Open Game, and I’m fairly pleased with how well it works. The game rules are based off of Monster of the Week and you play bounty hunters in the Star Wars universe.

Here’s version 1.3 for you to check out, run, and let me know how it goes.

May the Force be with you and good hunting!

Cedar Rapids Downtown Public Library

Prepped for Corridor Con 2020

It’s Friday, Jan. 17, 2020 and Corridor Con 2020 is tomorrow, baring the snowstorm which started today, so we’ll see how things go.

But I’m as ready as I can be to run the two games that I’m bringing: Space Station Omega and Feudal Fairy World. Both are games that I’m designing and are in playtest, and are scheduled for me to run during Gamicon, which is happening two weeks from today!

 

Prep for Space Station Omega

Space Station Omega (Cortex Prime system): A tabletop roleplaying game about political dramatic action among the stars, as in Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Battlestar Galactica, and The Expanse.

 

Prep for Feudal Fairy World

Feudal Fairy World (Powered by the Apocalypse system): A tabletop roleplaying game about fantasy adventures of honor, romance, and magic in feudal worlds, notably fantasy Sengoku Era, Arthurian, and feudal space.

Bounty Hunters

Bounty of the Week

The complicated lives of Bounty Hunters have been on my mind since watching The Mandalorian.

So I asked around at the Gauntlet Forums for suggestions on RPGs that do well with that subject matter. Scum & Villainy and many others were kindly recommended. Many I’d heard of and a few I hadn’t. The one that caught my attention the most was the reskin of Monster of the Week PbtA RPG that Rich Rogers had done and ran as part of his amazing Star Wars Saturdays series, called Bounty of the Week.

I watched the four sessions and was hooked. Using what I could from the recorded sessions and my copy of MotW, I set about to make a version of Bounty of the Week for myself to run. I created five playbooks: The Veteran, The Expert, The Designed, The Knight, and The Trainee. I worked on Hunter moves, Keeper moves, some information about bounty hunting abstracted, changed the Mystery Sheet to a Hunt Sheet and more. Then I got to posting the event at the Gauntlet Calendar and on Roll20 to recruit players while refining what I had so far. I added information and moves for the ship, The Wraith, based on information from Impulse Drive. Added a few new Hunter moves as I thought about things. Players signed up for both games. I began to work with the Gauntlet players to do some prep beforehand and got the Hunt Sheet bounties ready to go. The players were so generous and willing to help. Then I ran the first sessions for each.

For the Gauntlet group, our hunters include a Mon Calamari Expert as the captain, an old clone trooper Veteran, a shiny clone ARC trooper Designed who’d frozen in carbonite for decades, and a fire elemental sect Knight. We got all four players ready and did the In Media Res move which started off well but I feel got too tedious for the action I had hoped for. I should have really cut the scenes sharper with more action.

I have to admit that I was caught flat-footed on so many high rolls from the PCs. Plan B worked okay but took too long and slowed things down. I was also rushing some elements and we didn’t get to do much character interaction and tension raising as we’d all liked. The hunters got paid for the job turning that bounty in and took on the next job at Bespin where they are succeeding again very well with rolls to steal their next bounty out from under a medical operation.

We left things as a cliffhanger due to time constraints from tech issues and me needing to leave a little early so the whole episode felt off to me. I’m hoping that we can get more character-building and more action in the next session. Also, there are some rough patches with some of the moves and hopefully, that will get smoothed out over time.

Special thanks to Rich Rogers for helping with online streaming through his Zoom account and for recording the session when Streamyard failed us.

For the Roll20 group, I didn’t do any pre-prep with the players. We spent the first session working on characters and the ship for two players as one didn’t make it. I have a request for a fourth player to join so we’ll see how that goes. The Roll20 group is vastly different in personality, tone, and energy as well. We have dubbed the series Hutt Fuzz given that the captain is a Hutt Expert Hunter who’s run away from the family crime business and has taken on a Wookie Trainee Hunter. Hijinks ensue. Both players are well versed in MotW as well so it should be helpful to refine the game.

Printed draft of SSO v2.7.1

ME VS SPACE STATION OMEGA V2.7.1 DRAFT

As mentioned about a year ago, I seriously began work on Space Station Omega (SSO). I just printed out a color version to begin reviewing as I move on to version 2.7.2+.

AREAS OF CONSTERNATION

  • At nearly 300 pages with more to add and finish, the game is moving along. A chunk of this, about 40 pages will depend on the finalized official Cortex Prime System Reference document. Now that Cortex Prime is through Fandom, everyone like me is waiting to see what’s next and what we as designers can and can’t do.
  • I still don’t have the Effect Die in the game and will see if that changes.
  • I have a variety of experience/advancement options to test for the final recommendation.
  • I don’t use Distinctions as they are commonly found in other Cortext games, however, there are some specific traits used like Distinction, such as with Profile and Background.

AREAS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT

While not perfect and a ways to go before it’s ready for a stronger editing pass, I’m pleased with the progress so far. Here are the milestones for me thus far:

  • I spent a lot of time being anxious and creative effort to work on the Talents. Some help was from Tim Bannock and his Head Shot! Cortex Prime Zombie game. Some I found at the Cortex Prime Discord servers. The rest was through revisiting Cortex Plus games and me fumbling around. I currently have seven assigned talents for each role, for a total of 35, plus seven open, and three heritage talents just in case, for a grand total of 45. I’m not against doing more, but the effort—sheesh. 18 pages now.
  • Thanks to talking with Jason Dettman and his comments on an earlier draft I have simplified the specialties closer to that found in Leverage: The Roleplaying Game. So from six to two pages.
  • I’ve gone back and forth about the use of Powers and Abilities in SSO, and have opted to go with the use of them under one thing called the Empowered talent. It costs two talent slots. Instead of having a master list of powers I’m mapping how you can use them similar to the seven basic actions of the game and providing some guidance through the use of Stunt Dice and spending Plot Points. Hopefully, this will allow for something flexible and not become overpowering vs. the rest of the talents, roles, and traits in general. It cuts my page count down from 29 to four pages, which is a good reason to try playtesting it as soon as possible.
More dice for Dark Well

More Dice for Playtesting

Yes. More dice to use as tokens for playtesting Dark Well.

Due to having one block of small smokey d6 dice being stolen while at Metatopia I had to buy at least one replacement block. So I now have a block of opaque black dice. But in thinking about a comment that someone made about racial stereotyping with white as beneficial and black as dangerous I decided to buy three new blocks of small d6 as well which includes a green, orange, and purple set.

 

Dice Order 1

Recently I also ordered some new dice for Vigilance as I’ve noticed some people having trouble finding and replacing the dice when they are all black. So I’m switching the red d10s to black d10 (to be ordered when available) and the former five to their classical elemental color so to speak. The company did not have translucent d4s for Soul, but I was able to get green translucent d6s for Skin, yellow translucent d8s for Words, purple translucent d12s for Starlight, and blue translucent d20s for Blood.

 

 

Another Step Into the Well

Weeks later, I’m still working with the feedback from Metatopa for Dark Well.

For me, I often design for and from the character sheet, and for Dark Well’s, I had a lot of questions myself as a designer that the playtesting helped me revisit from their perspective.

With the Dweller File sheet I have the following goals:

  • To change as the character engages with the fiction through the mechanics so that when a Dweller gets a Dweller, a Threat, or a Crisis token, there is the potential for that to affect or change them—including a narration rule that helps to feed this back into the trait changes.
  • To address the more common approach to experience where you get better or more things and so I have that through the experience tracker and have all Traits with the option of two marks.
  • To have big changes for Dwellers to feed the game and this is where the growth of leveling up ties directly into the information on the Conspiramap.

As a result, I’ve made the following changes so far:

  • The traits for the three Stats of Life, Power, and Truth, work the same when it comes to engaging with the token pool drawing from the Well.
  • Instead of tags I’m using something called details which are touchstones or aspects to help players pick traits for their Dweller which won’t box them in.
  • A copy of the Well Operations is on the sheet to test its inclusion because I like to have procedural things easy to locate for players.
  • The experience system has been revised and now includes both noting marks to traits in the trait section, keeping tokens, change, growth, and clearing conditions with the experience tracker.

The next thing that needs to happen is for me to playtest this next version to test my new hypotheses and to change the rules to reflect what’s working.