20 July, 2017

EttinCon Mega-Map (Part 3)

With the sketch and the canvas taped up to the window, I can trace the basic shape and maintain the generalities of the form. The specific details of the map sketch certainly don't match the intended scale, so thankfully I've got some leeway here.

The first thing I'll do is break up the coastline a bit. Here and there I add islands, and provide hints toward river deltas opening out onto the sea. 

The mountain ranges provide hints of where streams start, and the jagged coastlines provide ideas for where the riverways end. I've also been given a few rivers to work with, so it's now a case of using a rudimentary understanding of geography to piece these components together. I'm going to use a system where rivers are noted in two distinct types on the map. Wide waterways capable of being navigated by barges and ship-borne traders will be indicated with a double thickness, while smaller rivers and streams will be marked with a single thickness line.

I break up the streams as they approach the designated mountain ranges, this reflects the way real streams join togther to form more prominent waterways. Due to the size of the map I won't bother drawing in even smaller rivulets and creeks, this also gives GMs a bit of scope for their own world development when they create scenarios to be played out on the map.

I can only fit half of the map onto the window for the purposes of tracing the sketch onto the canvas, so rivers, mountain ranges and all the basic layout work is drawn for one half before moving the whole setup across for the second.

If the black lines of the rivers indicate the natural low points in the landscape, where waters flow to, then a different colour will be used to mark the natural high points in the landscape, the ridges of mountain ranges and rows of hills. Because these two are mutually exclusive (you can't have a high point where there is alredy a low point), I can vaguely work out where the ranges are based on where the rivers are not. Then I make things a bit more intereating by ensuring the ranges are jagged with a lot of branching elements threading between the streams and rivers, as well as sometimes just protruding into plains.

The mountain ranges now need to be detailed a bit. Individual mountains are added along the range lines, and a few more branching fragments of range are added in to create a bit more interest and to make the map a bit more "realistic". After all, I hate straight mountain ranges, which is probably a factor of growing up in a mountainous area. I like to see how ranges twist and turn, and valleys meander between them. This will also make it easier to determine where forests and other vegetation need to be placed later. 

There will be quite a few elements added into this map as potential story hooks. I have no idea how they will be used, but I figure that I'll add them in anyway, as tools for the other collaborative GMs to use if the need arises.

The drawn map ends up looking like this, but there is still a long way to go, because this map will be a painted piece and not a drawn one...

19 July, 2017

EttinCon Mega-Map (Part 2)

This map is pretty loose, it's for a blank slate world that will be defined as we go. But it's nice to have some hooks for players to latch onto, and for GMs to base adventures around. I've been given a rough framework (as indicated in the last post), but pretty free reign with specifics.

Here's the working sketch.

Or, more accurately, here are the pages on which the rough sketch has been printed, scaled up to be more impressive. 

Due to the printing on A4 pages, I need to guillotine the edges...

Then tape the fragments together...

...gradually building the complete map.

I've discussed fractal hexes before, in my geomorph series a few years ago. So it's nice to see a map given to me where this system is in place. Four of the smallest hexes across make one of the mid hexes, four of the mid hexes across make one of the large hexes, four of the large hexes make one of the largest hexes. 

This works as a fairly convenient scale for the map, because I've been told that is should take roughly six months of constant travel to get from one end of the map to the other. If it takes a full day to travel across one of the smallest hexes, it takes just over half a week (four days) to travel across a mid hex, just over a fortnight (sixteen days) to travel across a large hex, just over two months (sixty-four days) to traverse one of the largest hexes, and the whole map is just over three of these largest hexes in height...so that basically gives us just over 6 months (specifically, 192 days, but let's say 200 to round things off). 

If the standard metre is based on the radius of the earth, where 10,000 km is the distance from the equator to one of the poles, it might be feasible to suggest 7500 kilometres between the equator and an arctic/antarctic circle on an earth-sized world. That also suits our purposes. 7500km divided by 200 days gives us 37.5km per day... which is a reasonable travel distance as a typical horse travel can be almost twice that. Of course, walking will be significantly less. This means a mid sized hex is about 150km across. 

Which means that is a massive ferret! 

Butmore seriously, it means that the i tended world of the setting is roughly Earth-sized and therefore I need to consider this scale when I draw the coastlines for the map. Wide beaches would be no thicker than the width of a fine drawing pen, rivers would need to be more than a kilometre wide before they'd be significant on the map... so we'll take a bit of artistic license on them. They certainly won't be asthick as the rivers currently depicted which would each be in excess of 100km wide. 

The canvas I have to work on for this project is lmost exqcly the size of the map offered. So I now need to reconsider the circular map idea. If I were to continue taking that path, a lot of details around the edges of the map would be lost. 

This is one of the larger maps I've worked on, and I don't have a lightbox big enough to trace the sketch onto the canvas, so I'll make do with a variant... the back door. That means I need to work through this stage while I've got daylight on my side.

EttinCon Mega-Map (Part 1)

I started work on the +Ettin Con Mega-Map a couple of days ago, but this is the first time I've had the chance to post about it. 

The basic concept is a map for a massive collaborative campaign setting where multiple GMs will develop elements of the world with their players during convention sessions, gradually fleshing out the world over the course of years.

But it all needs to start somewhere.

The whole thing is a continental landmass stretching from an equator to an Antarctic circle. Usually when I start a map of this size, I might begin with plate tectonics to work out where natural mountain ranges might form. Otherwise I'll start with wide regions, and then move to plate tectonics to consider how those regions interface with one another. Then, I'd consider how those regions might actually form based on climate patterns, and linked geographical structures.

In this case though, I've been given a preliminary sketch, and now I need to make it look like an appropriate centrepiece for a major undertaking. 

I've got two basic ideas here. 

Option 1.

Option 2. 

Option 1 shows lines of latitude and longitude, reflecting the massive siz of the continent. Option 2 is more like an old world nautical chart. I'm tending toward the first option because it shows how big the landmass is with respect to the world...which option 2 would be better for smaller sections of mapping that might be more accurately depicted on a flat page. 

The final image will probably be a blend of realism and typical fantasy tropes, as it will be painted on a large canvas roll.

...more to come.

17 July, 2017

Outside the Box

...but not really.

Only the most diehard conservatives and regressives would continue to believe that a regenerating alien could never have manifested a "female" incarnation. I'm happy that this has happened, but I'm probably more happy that the new showrunner has stated a five year plan for the upcoming stories of the show. I now just hope the BBC don't screw around with the screening schedule like that have in virtually every other Doctor's run during the new Who seasons. 

16 July, 2017


The background on the blog has been disconnected. Photobucket have changed their policy on linking images to external sites, and I didn't even know that it had occurred. I'll fix things up when I get a chance.

Killing Your Sacred Cows (Part 2): The Karmic Cycle

I opened up this file preparing to write a post called "The Killing of Sacred Cows", but the name sounded familiar...in the way that I might have already given a post that title. A quick search through the titles of various posts indicates that I did indeed call a post "Killing Your Sacred Cows!", and like most things in my life that generally seem to move through cycles, I've revisited this concept again. I'll probably keep revisiting the concept several more times as well.

This time it's not so much about ripping down the structure of an integral game mechanism that isn't quite functioning according to ideals, it's more about terminology...which is naturally something I can get obsessive about as a qualified linguist.

A few people took up my offer to have a look at the current iteration of the rules for "The Law", and I've already been getting some valuable feedback. I've also printed out a hard copy of the rules which I'm marking up with additional corrections and updates that will need to be applied before I run off the first Ashcan edition of the game. (For those who re interested, the offer I made in an earlier post is still valid... I hope to get the "Beta" editing done by the middle of this week, for printing before next weekend.)

Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to see a glaring error, because sometimes you write something while setting up a loose framework of ideas, then you base further concepts on that initial framework,  leading those initial ideas to be solidified a bit further, then more interconnected mechanisms and concepts make it seem like the original loose framework is now set in stone.

Regular readers of the blog will know that many of my game design ideas have been a gradual evolution. This means that certain concepts have become embedded in later games, though they might actually be artefacts from previous designs. I guess I just don't notice them because they're basically hardwired to certain other ideas... but they don't need to be. That's where the killing of sacred cows comes in. Sometimes you've just got to burn the whole thing to the ground, or at least do some substantial weeding of the garden to improve it's fertility.

Have I mentioned how much I hate the names of the factions in the "Divergent" series of novels and movies? Or the discipline names in "Vampire: the Masquerade"?? Mixtures of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, with no particular consistency across them. They feel like they were picked because the author at the time thought they were cool, and they basically alluded to what the faction/discipline was generally known for. As thought they were loose ideas at first that were never properly considered or refined before other concepts were plugged into them, and suddenly they appeared in print and were then considered set in stone for the rest of the series. I've toyed with the idea of making every skill in a game a verb. To attempt something you simply say that your character is doing some particular verb, and if you've got that verb on your character sheet you gain a bonus for it. Then maybe you might get nouns as keywords to indicate people, places, or things that you might be more familiar with (thus granting other bonuses). I "shoot" at him. I "intimidate" her. I "empathise" with her. I "disguise" myself. 

The particular issue that has been brought to light on this occasion is my designations for attributes in the game. Conflict, Influence, Knowledge, Mysticism. These all work if I'm to use the sentence structure...

I'm well versed in the arts of (conflict/influence/knowledge/mysticism).

But outside of a specific sentence like that, they get a bit unwieldy... and even though these ideas are at the core of the game, I might need to make some changes to them. The particularly odd one here is "mysticism" which is an "-ism" while the others aren't. It reminds me of "Animalism" in Vampire, which is one of the oddly named disciplines compared to the others.

Originally, the attributes were more conventionally named in one of the earlier incarnations of the system. Physical, Social, Mental, Spiritual/Magical/Mystical. This way the attributes focused on what the character was able to utilise in order to achieve their intended actions, the focus was the cause. But under the newer attribute split (Conflict/Influence/Knowledge/Mysticism), the focus is on the outcome or the effect of the action. A chracter could use physical, social or mental actions during a conflict, but the entire result is always intended to damage or neutralise an opponent. It's more about the likelihood of success when you head in a certain direction (and resolving the scene), rather than focusing on the specific steps of the way (and resolving the actions). In some RPG theory discussions, it was an attempt at conflict resolution over task resolution, but this ends up getting messy when one of the attributes is called "conflict". There's always a good reason for making these design decisions at the time (often a few of them), and since this ga e system ran through the phase when it was intended to be a game about familiars, I wanted to seamlessly integrate the magic of the setting with all parts of the game, rather than limiting it to a single "spiritual/magical/mystical" attribute, things seem to have become a bit muddied and confused in the development process.

This all leave me at an impasse.

I can strip away the core element, and substitute back in the "physical/social/mental/spiritual" attributes, which work better linguistically, and have a more traditional structure that many gamers are familiar with (this will require an extensive "find/replace" and some modification of the glyphs to better match the new nature of the attributes)...or I can try to clarify my intentions in the rules (perhaps including most of this theoretical discussion in a GM guide, with a few edits in the general rules).

Do I kill the sacred cow, or not?

14 July, 2017

The Law (pre-release Beta)

It always pays to have some extra sets of eyes looking over a project before it gets released for public consumption.

If anyone out there is interested in taking a look, and willing to offer some critique, send me a private message via G-plus, Facebook, Messenger, or even make a post here with your preferred contact details. If you manage to get something back to me before the weekend is over, indicating elements that might seem confusing, or even just simple things like spelling mistakes of grammatical errors, I'll add you to the "special thanks" list, and send you a signed, numbered physical copy of a Release Edition ashcan of the game.

Fusing Familiar and The Law

I've been thinking about ways to integrate the two games, "Familiar" and "The Law", perhaps even connecting the mutant animal game "Other Strangeness" and the unnamed Angel game. It shouldn't be hard. Most have been based in a setting that's a huge, overwhelming, dystopian sprawl... similarly, they've all been based on very similar game mechanisms which have reflected an evolving core system which began as "System 4". It's been the specific interconnectedness of these elements that's given me trouble.

Until today, when this article about a library scanning in magical texts came across my radar.

It made me think of the Librarians in Warhammer 40k, and how they might be written if the game started today. Mystics with books filled with arcane methods of harnessing the mystic energies of the warp... basically the Imperial sorcerors from Warhammer (but that's not surprising given that everything in Warhammer 40k started off as an analogue for someing in the fantasy game). Now I'd expect the same types of characters to be running around with digital tablets filled with arcane runes, probably digitally transmitting occult datastreams to metamorphic psi-crystal infused drones, so they can command the battlefield as a hive.

I've been having trouble with some of the mystic aspects of the Agents of Law, focusing more on the concept of Judge Anderson from 2000AD, but this concepts of a mystical rigger has also become interesting. I guess it's a bit "Warmachine" too. Linking in concepts from those other game projects, i becomes a more dynamic and interesting world for the Agents to explore and patrol.

13 July, 2017

Stone Mountain Available

A while ago I was commissioned for some cartography work, looking back through the blog I can see that it was 18 months ago.

Now it's available. You can visit the Kickstarter here.

I'm not posting about it because I haven't been paid for my work. +Sean Nittner was great to work with, knew what he wanted, and it was a great project to be a part of (...and yes, I was paid). I'm posting because it was such a fun project, and because I'd like other people to see my stuff in print so that I can possibly get a few more commissions later from various people across the industry.

Anyway...go and take a look. There probably aren't many more physical copies of the product available.

06 July, 2017

Getting too old for this

(also known as "One last mission before I retire")

Adventurers shouldn't constantly be improving. There comes a time when their battle scars catch up to them, when they need to use their knowledge to train a new generation, when they lose their edge and know that they'll probably be more of a liability in the field.

I always thought this was missing from the development and experience systems in a lot of games. Conversely, it's one of the things I loved about Necromunda and Mordheim. Characters don't improve, they develop... sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But the more they develop, and the more they take risks, the higher the chance that those risks will eventually catch up to them. PTSD. Physical scars. Nervous tics. Bones that ache when the weather changes. A bad reputation that just won't go away. I can't remember who said that we like characters for their strengths but we love them for their weaknesses, but this is what I've decided is missing from The Law. Character creation is quick and easy, but over time we should become more invested in these Agents who uphold the law in a post-cyberpunk dystopia.

At the moment, there is an improvement system in the game, which is pretty typical as far as RPGs go, but I also want to include a degradation system. The improvement system follows the pattern of rapid character improvement early in the narrative, but gradually slowing down as characters reach "higher levels". I think the degradation system should be flat. At first the positives of the job outweigh the negatives, it is in a character's best interests to go out, make friends, learn new abilities and gain strength... the chances of a loss are small compared to this. Then there comes a point where the improvement rate slows down far enough to match the chance of degradation... this is when the characters have reached their prime and ny chance of improvement is met with an equal chance of loss. Eventually there comes a time when the chance of improvement is outweighed by the chance of returning from the mission worse off. It is during this end game that we get stories like "The Dark Knight Returns" or pretty much any point in the "Lethal Weapon" movies. It won't take much to add something like this into the game, and at the moment it feels like a really worthwhile addition.

05 July, 2017

Describing your GMing Style

Over the past couple of days, a meme flood has come crashing through my G+ feeds. The basic gist of the thing is to have various people describe how they GM a game using only a GIF animation.

I used the "I regret nothing"/Whose Line is it Anyway? GIF that featured as my header image in my last post. Because I often run games loosely hanging onto the reins as the players direct the story, introducing elements here and there to see where the players might take them, and often pulling in previous character actions to later stories, regardless of where they might have gone initially, and where those actions might take things again in the future. "Oh, you remember that unknown computer chip that you stole on the way through to the main mission and then pawned off for some quick cash to buy that gun you wanted... it's actually a spare part needed to regulate a biological containment unit which is slowly degrading. You've probably got 24 hours or so before the current containment system collapses."

I try to make it a point that at least half the things I inject into a game after two or three sessions of play directly come from the previous actions of the player characters...and anything else can be built off previous things that have seemed like throwaway lines in earlier sessions. Where possible, both.

But it's really imteresting to see these tiny snapshots of how other gamers in the community see their method of controlling play (or not).

If you haven't joined G+ to get in contact with the great and varied community of gamers, you should seriously consider it. If you are active there, do a search for the hashtags... #DescribeYourGMStyleWithaGIF or #DescribeYourGMingStyleWithaGIF ... there's probably a few other mutated variants of the tag around as well.

Honestly, looking at a few of these, there are clearly some people I'd love to share a game with.

04 July, 2017

Game Chef Obstacles

I've been doing the layout on the revised version of "The Law", because I want complete versions of the game available for sale at +Ettin Con at the end of the month. Similarly, I need to get started on the grand painted map for the shared campaign world at the convention (for which I'll be running one of the first games).

Lots of things happening. I might get a couple of hours to throw something together for Game Chef, but we'll just have to see how things go.

01 July, 2017

Alternate Game Chef Idea

In these last few years, Game Chef has made the claim that it's about more tjan just RPGs, it has made the claim that it encapsulates all manner of gaming...but for some reason the finalists continue to be dominated by quirky little indie roleplaying games. If you want to be taken seriously in the contest, you play to the judges and write the kinds of things they tend to like.

I think I've been a Game Chef finalist once (maybe twice), in six or seven years of entering... for quirky indir rpg writing. Every time I try something different, I get blanks...either no-one bothers to read my stuff, or those who do read it don't get it.

I try to push the envelope, open the borders, but no-one wants to come with me. Maybe I could just rewrite my game chef experiences in a quirky indie RPG autobiographical form. Meta-parody of the contest.

...Or maybe this is the year to push boundaries and actually get recognised.

They've both got just as much chance of getting recognition.

30 June, 2017

Game Chef Idea

The theme is "Borders", two of the ingredients are "Yarn" and "Cut"...

...clearly someone has to make a game about an embroidery circle or group of tapestry makers.

29 June, 2017

Game Chef 2017

It's on again.

Here's the site

No Idea where or how I'll begin, and I've got a couple of busy days ahead. I don't expect to get much headway happening over the next weekend, but I'll try to keep some updates going over the next few days to describe my progress.

Vehicles of the Law

I've been working on cleaning the house, 3d printing, and trying to organise illustrations and page layout for "The Law". That's why things have been going slowly here on the blog. So here's an update on those other things I've been doing, and how they tie into my game design projects.

This is the advanced transport unit of the Agents of the Law, or at least a variant that occured to me as I was 3D printing the model that will be used for posing illustrations of the vehicle. A biped certainly has a cool cyberpunk anime feel to it, but it moves away from the Judge Dredd vibe (even though recent advances in robotics mght actually make it a feasible design).

Despite the coolness of the biped, the larger vehicle was actually designed to be a quadruped. So here's the complete model, with the Lawbringer cycle. 

I still think I need to do a reprint of the cycle, probably about 20% bigger than the current model. 

26 June, 2017


I'm one of those people who is very picky when it comes to the comic collection.

A lot of comics are read once, then carefully bagged and boarded before storing on shelves or in boxes. This is not due to a belief that the comics are worth a fortune, more aboit respecting stuff that has value to me after too many instances where my stuff has been damaged or thrown away. I figure that if it looks respected, or valuable, then other people around me might treat those things the same way. I guess it has worked to some extent, because a few friends have given me their comic collections to be stored in the same way, knowing that even if their comics aren't worth a lot on the resale market, at least they'll be in good condition if they ever want them back (rather than damaged by housemates in share houses, or lost in transit between multiple accommodations).

So, while I'm developing a game that's basically set in a certain comic universe, using a size and page count equivalent to a standard comic book, it naturally crosses my mind to present the game backed and boarded. Which then leads me to thinking about later elements of the project which might take the form of additional comics in the series. The first might be a GM/Dispatch guide, explaining a few ways to run investigations or generally keep Agents on their toes. Followed by an Agent/Player guide, offering some new ways to add depth to characters, and other ideas to enhance characterisation. Maybe a setting booklet with a range of NPCs, or a typically cyberpunk equipment guide (to show what the system is capable of, for those players who just want ready-made stuff rather than working through the rules to create their own). These might even be bundled into a single "graphic novel".

Still thinking...first I need to get the core part of the game done.

24 June, 2017

In Memorium: Stewart Wieck

One of the great game designers has passed to the great game beyond the veil. I never met him, but so many of my contacts across social media say that he was a great guy as well as being a great game designer. He was the creator of my favourite game, Mage: the Ascension, and therefore increibly influential in the way I play, run and design games of my own.

I think the last times I wrote something of this nature on the blog, it was the passing of Erick Wujcik... who designed the TMNT game for Palladium, and was just as influential to my game design, but in different ways... and the passing of Robert Pirsig, who wrote the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

By taking one of my favourite books, the aforementioned one by Pirsig, and turning it into a spectacularly open game that expanded the potential of roleplaying in so many ways. This one has hit me hard.

One by one my heroes are dying. I guess that's just a symptom of getting older. Now I just wish I could fill their shoes.

23 June, 2017

Glyphs and Icons

If you've read through the blog, you'll know that I'm a visual thinker. I make maps. I make images. I like things to have patterns and systems to have a sense of order to them. I don't like games where there are a dozen subsystems for a dozen different tasks. I like ideas that feed back into themselves making holistic ecosystems of play.

As a part of my current design project, The Law, I've decided to make a series of glyphs for the attributes. In my earlier "image-free" version of the rules, I was using placeholder wingdings and webdings, but it's time to move to something more distinct and tailored to the game.

This process saw me make a set of initial glyphs and show them to the world.





The responses were generally positive, but a few feedback comments raised some valid issues that would have led to problems. The glyphs generally portray what I'm trying to get across with them, but when shrunk down to fit in with text, they'll lose a lot of detail and generally get a bit busy.

So that led to a new set of glyphs being designed...

First the attributes.




Nothing particularly dramatic about the changes, but the swords (on the conflict glyph) were being confused for crystals and other mystical elements, and the swirls around the book (on the knowledge glyph) were distracting from the central symbol. Generally, the main elements linked to the attribute concept were magnified too.

While I was at it, I figured that other parts of the game required glyphs of their own.  

Health (which resists the conflict actions of others)

Status (which resists the influence actions of others) 

Willpower (I might need to change that name, but it resists the mysticism actions of others)

Wisdom (which resists the knowledge actions of others)

Equipment (which works to both resist certain actions, or magnify others)

Finally, since I've been drawing some inspiration from the game mechanism sigils used in the card game Vampire the Eternal Struggle, I decided to create a few generic sigils. The first of these reflect action events directed from the character, and reactions against events incoming.
Action Glyph (typically associated with circumstances, tools and items that enhance a character's ability to manipulate the world around them..such as weapons which deal extra damage on a successful conflict action, or specialist toolkits that might bring extra information with a successful knowledge action. It could just as easily be a positive "blessing" that makes mystic actions more successful or a negative "curse" that makes actions less successful. The key thing to note here is that the effect occurs when the character is active in some way.)  

Reaction Glyph (typically associated with circumstances, tools and items that cause follow up effects when a character is subjected to someone else's action...such as armour reducing incoming damage,  minimize the negative effects, or cover reducing chance that a ranged shot hits at all, similarly it might apply to mystic protective wards. Negative reactive conflict situations might include being ambushed, having a tracking beacon attached to your car when pursued. The key thing to note here is that the effect occurs when the character is reacting to something incoming)

I'm also thinking of generating glyphs that will quickly show if something is a one-off effect, limited in usage, or freely usable. I'm sure there will be other glyph ideas that come to me, but I need to make sure they are all distinctly different in appearance to avoid confusion.  

22 June, 2017

Randomising The Law

I've been digging back into my game The Law. The core system of character generation offers a few choices that lead to a few specific choices, then direct characters toward something that would feasibly make it out of basic training in the Academy of Law. This was intended from both a diegetic (in-world character directed) perspective and a non-diegetic (player directed) perspective. You can find the original concept here.

But I've been reading a lot about random character generation, and regular readers of the blog will know that I love the concept of the life-path character generation system.

This has led me to considering new ways of creating characters in the game. I'm not sure if I'll be offering these generation options as a part of the basic rules, or as a variant in some kind of player's guide...but here's what I've been thinking.

If base attributes are d4, where an upgrade either increases an attribute die by +d2, adds a skill to the character, a resistance, or provides some kind of equipment/environmental advantage, then we're looking at fourteen upgrades for a starting character (typically +4 to various attributes, +6 to skills, +4 to resistances).

Option 1. 
Roll a die for every year of life above age 4, starting characters are 18 when they leave the Academy and become probationary agents.

Under this system, characters would still choose the type of family they grew up in. They'd roll a d12 on a specific table for each year of their childhood and pre-academy life, but once certain threshold conditions had been met, they'd shift to a new table reflecting their academy training.

Childhood Table (roll d12)

  1. Increase Conflict Attribute. (Reroll if this would increase attribute above d8. +2 to Recruitment Threshold)
  2. Increase Influence Attribute (Reroll if this would increase attribute above d8. +2 to Recruitment Threshold)
  3. Increase Knowledge Attribute (Reroll if this would increase attribute above d8. +2 to Recruitment Threshold)
  4. Increase Mysticism Attribute (Reroll if this would increase attribute above d8. +2 to Recruitment Threshold)
  5. Increase an Attribute commonly associated with your family's type (Increase lowest attribute if this would increase attribute above d8. +1 to Recruitment Threshold)
  6. Gain a Conflict Skill (+1 to Recruitment Threshold)
  7. Gain an Influence Skill (+1 to Recruitment Threshold)
  8. Gain a Knowledge Skill (+1 to Recruitment Threshold)
  9. Gain a Mysticism Skill (+1 to Recruitment Threshold)
  10. Gain a Skill associated with one of your family's attributes (+1 to Recruitment Threshold)
  11. Gain a Skill of choice (+1 to Recruitment Threshold) 
  12. Gain a Resistance associated with one of your family's attributes (if you have rolled this previously, gain a different Resistance. +3 to Recruitment Threshold)    

If Recruitment Threshold is 12 or greater, start rolling on Academy table...

Academy Table (roll d6 until all academy skills possessed, then roll d6+4 for remainder of rolls)

  1. Gain an Academy Skill (Investigate, Judge or Shoot) (If all Academy skills are already possessed, increase your lowest Attribute)
  2. Gain an Academy Skill (Investigate, Judge or Shoot) (If all Academy skills are already possessed, gain a Resistance associated with your highest attribute)
  3. Gain an Academy Skill (Investigate, Judge or Shoot) (If all Academy skills are already possessed, gain a Skill associated with your highest attribute) 
  4. Gain a Resistance not currently possessed. 
  5. Gain a Resistance associated with your highest Attribute.
  6. Increase an Attribute associated with your family (Increase lowest attribute if this would increase attribute above d8.)
  7. Increase your lowest Attribute
  8. Increase an attribute of choice (up to a maximum of d10)
  9. Gain a Skill associated with your highest Attribute
  10. Gain a Skill of choice

If I was following this sort of system, I'd add a follow-up roll for each option. These follow-up rolls would provide some kind of in-game justification linking the increase to an element in the agent's backstory.

Option 2.
This one's a bit simpler, but I feel like it needs a bit more work.

Roll 4 d4s, where each die increases an attribute and adds a skill to the agent's repertoire.

  1. Increase Conflict and choose a Conflict Skill
  2. Increase Influence and choose an Influence Skill
  3. Increase Knowledge and choose a Knowledge Skill
  4. Increase Mysticism and choose a Mysticism Skill

Gain the three Academy Skills (Investigate, Judge and Shoot)

Roll 3 d6s, where each result only adds a single element to the agent.

  1. Increase an Attribute associated with the family (up to a maximum of d10, otherwise reroll).
  2. Choose a Skill associated with one of the family's Attributes
  3. Gain the Resistance associated with your highest Attribute
  4. Gain a Resistance associated with one of your family's Attributes
  5. Increase your lowest Attribute
  6. Gain a Skill of choice   

Alt-Facts in Gaming

I'm not going to mention names. I've seen the patterns repeated many times over the years, but a particular instance reminded me of it again this morning.

We've seen it across the world in many guises...anti-vaxxers using claims from celebrities derived from unsubstantiated data (or even data that has been deliberately debunked)...climate change denialists who point to one cold day as an argument against global warming...politics in the USA...

Someone will typically derive their opinion from their experiences, and when their experiences don't adequately match the situation they'll draw on the claimed experiences of someone they look up to. Opinions are like gut feelings, they don't have substantiated facts associated with them, they just resonate with a person and subversively ingratiate themselves into the psyche. Once embedded, they're hard to get rid of.

The specific instance I noted this morning involves people's experiences with games. Particularly the Old World of Darkness by White Wolf, which has been getting a bit of attention recently due to the pre-alpha playtest going around, and the general development to a new version of the game. A few people commented in the ways I'm thinking.

One person basically claimed that LARP wasn't for them because the one experience they had involved a bunch of posers sitting around discussing existential angst in character, and they were booted from the game when they decided to spice things up and make their own fun. I had a similar experience in my own first LARP but I could see something more in it, a potential that one group hadn't seemed to grasp...so I sought out other LARPs to see if it was a common problem with the format, or just with that particular group. I didn't just st throw in the towel and say that no LARP was for me based on one bad experience.

In a related comment, someone said that they hated the revised version of the Old World of Darkness because "everything" was done by the supernaturals...any globe shattering incidents or innovations were the result of the Vampires or the Mages... I dodn't remember this being the case at all, and at this point one of the original authors stepped in made a comment that agreed with my recollections, and I felt vindicated without needing to write a word. This part of the thread made me think that the first commenter had played a game of "classic" Vampire with a bad Storyteller but hadn't bothered to read the books or do further research. Instead they simply took the Storyteller's word as law and had a conception of the game based on a very distorted lens. Actual research and reading seems to hard for some people, so the opinions take hold based on alt-facts, and any claims to the contrary see a doubling-down.

I've seen it in the past with other games. I'm sure I'll see it again. I've seen the opposite, but this happens less often... if someone has a good experience with something they'll seek out more associated experiences. A good experience needs to be reinforced a couple of times before it becomes ingrained, and then poor experiences become dismissed as one-offs. But a good experience followed by a poor experience (or even a series of poor experiences) seems to prevent an overtly positive opinion forming.

I'm sure there is plenty of research into this whole phenomenon, probably in the field of psychiatry/psychology (while my studies so far have been in sociology, and thus more associated with how opinions might spread from person to person, or across social groups). Similarly, I'm sure I could write this concept into a game mechanism of some type...but what would the purpose be? What would the game be about, besides rampant nihilism?

17 June, 2017

Birthday Sale?

This time last year, Vulpinoid Studios had a birthday sale on RPGNow/DrivethruRPG. The intention was to have this as a regular annual event, but in the past 12 months I don't think I've added anything new to the shopfront. Due to this, it felt a bit silly running a sale when there were no new products available.

Hopefully, by the time next year comes around there will be a few completed projects from my current pool of unfinished ones.

16 June, 2017

A LARP Map (part 3)

Once the hand drawn elements of he ma are completed, the image is scanned into the computer.  

Generally the image seems to end up a bit faded, so I increase the contrast to make the dark elements blacker, the pale elements whiter, and fade away the pencil work until it's generally eliminated.

The next step sees a shadowing around the coastlines. I do this with layers.

  • The top layer is the hand-drawn inked map.
  • The second layer is a white block filling the shape of the land mass. his is done by making a complete white layer, then using the "magic wand" tool to select the water and delete the white layer in these parts.
  • A third layer is a duplicate of that white layer, but inverted to black and then blurred a bit. This gives a black nimbus around the coastline.
  • In this case, a fourth layer was created in a very similar manner to the third. For this layer, the blurring was more pronounced. The final effect of this is to make a more pronounced outline that fades quickly to a mid grey, then fades out more gently to a white.
  • The bottom layer is a plain white.

I generally do this for most of my maps that are designed to have a fantasy/medieval look to them (even though it's probably more of a Renaissance look).

At this stage, we don't really have a context of scale for the map. I could add a linear scale somewhere, but for this particular map I've decided to take a different path. Since it's designed to be an recent map from a seafaring culture in the west, I'm adding lines of latitude and longitude.

This was done on a new transparent layer, above everything. I started with a circle representing the Antarctic circle of the world, this is just off the edge of the map and has a diameter roughly equal to the height of the map. I duplicated the circle raised it on the map and doubled it's width. This gives us the southernmost latitude ring seen on the map. The process was repeated, with each new circle raised by the same amount and doubled in width each time. Due to the size of the original circle, and the constant doubling in size, the northernmost latitude ring looks almost like a straight line and make a suitable equator for the map. Based on the way things have worked out, I'll say that each of the marked lines of latitude are at 15 degree intervals.

Longitude is done in a similar way. A circle is drawn centered at the horizontal middle of the map, and the equatorial latitude at the top of the map (it's radius passes the circumference of the circle through the centre of the original "antarctic circle"). This circle is duplicated multiple times, at 80% width, 60%, 40% and 20%, and then a vertical line is drawn. These longitude circles are grouped and adjusted for their width until they "look right" (where I'm defining the right look to be roughly where the 15 degree latitudes at the middle of the map look similar in length to the 15 degree longitudes that these circles form).

It's all a bit technical, but the final result of all these lines and calculations is something like this...

The latitude and longitude lines are faded out a bit (roughly 50% opacity), and now it's time to add a few more details to the map.

I could add borders between kingdoms, or indicate the relative population density of the land. But instead I've chosen to define which areas are more fertile.

This is basically done by "spray-painting" areas of the map. The darker the spray, the more fertile the area, the darker it is. For most fantasy settings, it's probably safe to assume that land fertility roughly corresponds to population density (no, it's not a perfect correspondence, but if there are differences between population density and land fertility, there is probably a good reason for this which can be explored in the history and lore of the setting). Nothing is ever made darker than the hand-drawn linework, so I basically work between a 50% grey shade and white.

Once again, it's worth noting here that the northern wasteland and the southern island are generally unknown to the explorers who have drawn this map.

Next it's time to add names to the map. Call it cultural appropriation if you want, but one of the cultures on the western coast of the continent has been given a distinctly Spanish flavour (the central kingdom which exists to the south of the LARP region was founded by a rebel baroness who left that land centuries ago). Basically this means that most of the regions indicated on the map will be given Spanish translations of simple names. The regional names are in a large font, curved and faded.

The major towns (those with the solid black circles) are named in a smaller font (black), and in their local names. The local town names are kept straight as an added distinction from the regional names.

I've also tinted the back layer to make the land mass a bit more pronounced, and faded the fertility shading further so that it didn't overshadow the regional names.

Final elements are a name for the map and a black border.

I could add more detail, but that's enough for the moment. Since all of the elements are on different layers, I might create political maps, maps of mystical ley lines, or even maps indicating where certain races and creatures are found.

A LARP Map (Part 2)

It's been more than a day, but here's part 2 of this series of map tutorials.

We left with the part where the ripples were drawn around the coastlines.

Since my process basically follows geographic elements, the brings me in two ways to waterways and rivers. (1. Following the coastline water theme and leading inland... 2. Using the placement of mountain ranges on the map to determine where streams and rivers flow from, and leading them toward bays and bayou areas on the coastline).

Zooming in on a sample set of rivers along the eastern coastline, you can see where I have a few streams starting in each mountain range, using jagged lines to show how they twist and turn through hills that are too small or not strategic enough to appear on the map. Pairs of creeks join up, then these larger streams join up into rivers as they approach the coast. Where a river might reach a depth where sea-going vessels are capable of travelling, I split the river from a single line, to a pair of close lines to indicate a difference in the waterway.

In the middle of the map (the left side as indicated on the image above) the focal area for the LARP is indicated. A part of the LARP lore indicates that there is a river used by traders who take timber and game meats and other trade commodities on barges to settlements downstream. The river flows off to the west, but little more was detailed about that river beyond a few miles, so the larger scale map sees this river system bend southward.
With mountain ranges showing terrain that is obviously difficult to pass, and rivers showing natural borders and potential trading paths, we can start to see natural locations for settlements to appear.

The rough map indicated a few settlements, but these are all subject to change especially as we move further from the established areas at the centre of the continent. Four distinct settlement types are indicated. The largest and most notable towns and cities are drawn with a solid circle surrounded by a faint circle. Smaller villages (such as the town of Nexus where our LARP is based) are drawn with a air of concentric outlined circles. The small villages that are still capable of being seen on this map are marked with a single outlined circle (we have two of those in the LARP area). The last type of settlements indicated are ruins, mostly seen in the northern wilderness and on the island to the south of the main continent.

There's a few ways I could have gone with the map next, but I decided that I'd move toward notable forested areas. These mostly sit to the east of mountain ranges, because air currents often blow from east to west, and when they hit mountain ranges, they drop any moisture in the air as rains. This isn't always the case, but it's a good rule of thumb to place most of the fertile lands of the continent. This also means that open spaces to the west of the continent are natural desert regions. Deep in the south-west of the continent, I've added a few forests perhaps indicating manipulated air flow due to the curvature of the mountain range in that part of the world. The central region has a few forested and fertile areas for similar reasons, justifying the central river systems. No forests are indicated in the northern wasteland, or on the southern island, but this is more a factor of these regions being unexplored than anything else.  

Then I indicate roadways and trade routes between the various towns and cities. At this scale of map I've just used simple dashed lines for the overland trade routes, and dotted lines across the water to indicate common voyages of trade ships between nearby coastal settlements.

The last thing I've drawn on this map is some of the major swamps, wetlands, and bogs. I don't seem to have taken a photo of this stage, but you'll seem them in later parts of the tutorial.

This has basically completed the analog art of the map making process for me. The next step involves scanning the page, then digitally manipulating the image until I'm happy with it.