Monday, January 30, 2012

Field of Skulls

For a mate's great little RPG called Darkest Hour, of the weird WWII ilk. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Here's the final version of the dice engine I'm gonna go with for MUTANTOR! Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on this. I've tried to strip it down to as simple an explanation as possible. Lemme know what you think. Plus, logo!


• If each dice is different:

PURE! Drop the highest and lowest dice; the remaining dice is your score.

• If two of the dice are the same:

FREAK! Add those two same dice together. That’s your score.

• If all three dice are the same:

MUTANT! Add those three dice together. That’s your score, plus your dice will start to MUTATE!

• Ones are Bad:

Double ones? HORROR! Don’t add them together, instead your score is 1, plus bad stuff happens.

Triple ones? ABOMINATION! Don’t add them together, instead your score is 0, plus real bad stuff happens.


Whenever you roll a MUTANT your dice start to MUTATE. That number you rolled three times? Any time you roll that number again you can change it to be any number you want – between 1 and 6 of course.

So when you roll three 6-sided dice that are MUTATING:

• If each dice is different and one is a MUTANT DICE:

You can change your MUTANT DICE to be the same as one of the other two dice; add those two same dice together. FREAK! That’s your score.

• If two of the dice are the same, and one or two is a MUTANT DICE:

You can change your MUTANT DICE to make all three dice the same; add those three dice together. MUTANT! That’s your score.

• If all three dice are MUTANT DICE:

MUTANTOR!!! You can change all your MUTANT DICE to be whatever you want them to be and other super awesome stuff happens.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Star Wars: Planets of the Malicrux III

The third in the gazeteer of planets from the Malicrux Sector, the setting for my ongoing classic era Star Wars campaign.


 GWEYR KROM is a crystalline world that serves as the corporate capital of the sector. All of the largest sector corporations maintain offices here, in pristine cities nestled between shimmering spires and radiant peaks or along the shores of the sparkling deserts. Great chains of shard mountains cross the planet and pierce the sky, some reaching even into space; the wonder and cold beauty of this world is renowned. The MediCrux Corporation dominates trade. As is fitting the corporate engine of the region, Gweyr Krom is also the financial heart of the Malicrux, with a number of major banking headquarters; Krombank is by far the most widely used by the sectors’ inhabitants. The transition from the Old Republic to Imperial rule was relatively smooth; the citizens value peace and security above all things, and Governor Atterick Krayne has done much to ensure this tranquility is maintained, though at great cost to personal freedoms. Public outcry and dissent is virtually unheard of; the Empire considers Gweyr Krom to be a rolemodel world for the sector and recruits heavily from youth seeking something more adventurous.

GYRE is a barbaric world that orbits the third brightest star in the galaxy. Beneath its brilliant glare, the once shining beacon of civilization collapsed in a civil war that left the planet devastated, where warlords continue to shed blood over petty border disputes, and loyalties and alliances are in constant flux. They fund their campaigns by selling off the remnants of the glass cathedrals that once made Gyre famed throughout the galaxy; a single shard of the luminous light-bending substance is worth a considerable fortune, if the right buyer can be found. Eager to end the conflict, the Republic banned the trade in Gyre-glass, and drove art collectors to the black market; few let the knowledge that each shard is paid for with blood cloud their conscience. All this comes at great heartache to House Nephada, the former rulers of Gyre who until recently lived in exile on Sapphirica. Now, the backing of the Empire, the House has reclaimed the Duchal Palace on Gyre and formed a solid defensive position in the ruins of the surrounding city. War is brewing, and it may be that the threat of the Nephada is the one thing that could unify the warlords of Gyre.

HARASSA is an industrial world dedicated to the production of repulsorlift vehicles and famed for its pod racer designs. A client world of House Arranasis, the passion of Duke Barin for the repulsorsport has seen the desert world rise from corporate ignominy to become one of the leading manufacturers for several sectors. The Duke encourages a healthy rivalry between the domed city-states that rise out of the barren lands; the red sands are home to a number of racing circuits and to a man Harassians follow every event on the yearly calendar. For many, the dream of becoming a pod racer is enough to maintain them through the long hours and fiendishly hot conditions; and while rare, some do achieve this dream, rising to become one of the brash and notoriously short-lived stars. There are two concerns pressing enough to distract the average Harassian from watching the continuous coverage of pod racing events. The first is a localised problem: the primitive indigenous population of desert dwellers known as Shifters pose a constant threat to the security of the domes, commanding huge sand storms to envelop race meets and entire cities should they be angered enough. The second is perhaps far more serious. With the continuing war effort against the Rebel Alliance, the Empire has commandeered a number of repulsorlift factories and conscripted entire workforces to produce military vehicles. With each year another factory is converted, and slowly but surely Harassian racers dwindle in number. While Duke Barin is able to maintain a sensitive balance between keeping the Empire at bay and his people in a state of unease, political pundits wonder at how little it will take to upset this balance.

JASTERKAST is a poisonous world, with acid green skies and toxic bogs smeared across its surface that serves as the homeworld to a slithering amphibianoid people known as the Jast. Rising up out of the quagmires are a number of heavily fortified and independent city-states that have spent hundreds of years recovering from a nuclear war that nearly wiped out all life on the planet. Large swathes of radioactive swamps lie between the cities, and great, mutated creatures swim the black seas. In the wake of their great war, the Jast vowed never again to raise arms against one another, but their vicious and cunning ways saw them take up ever more subtle means to strike at their enemies. Shadowy warfare is the norm, with the Alchemists of Jast ever striving to outdo one another with their poisons and antidotes. A number of these chemical weapons are sold to unscrupulous warlords offworld, and the Jast are happy to use the planet of Fray as a proving ground for their poisons. Visitors find the place to be oppressively humid and sickly, but trips here can be profitable; there are a number of byproducts to the Jastrian experiments, considered failures by the poison masters, but many of which have a wide variety of commercial purposes. Duke Carmus Jasterkastria oversees the development of trade with other worlds from the relative safety of his orbital station low over the green clouds, but ensures a hefty tax to pay for the protection of his household from his rivals.

JYRYX is a pristine wilderness world of mountainous forests and cold seas, formerly under the jurisdiction of the Unisys Corporation and marked for exploitation, but now under the possession of the relocated Sulgoran people. The Sulgorans fled the environmental depredation of their homeworld by Unisys and, eager to avoid a similar reoccurrence, they applied for and received a permanent isolation order from the old Republic that banned any offworlders from landing on the planet without prior permission of the Jyryxi ambassador Tuva Hurkeesi on Sapphirica. However Hurkeesi knows that agreements struck with the old Republic no longer hold much legal weight in the Emperor’s new order, and knows it is only a matter of time before ravenous corporations or the Empire itself comes to claim Jyryx for themselves. The ambassador’s dire warnings have gone unheeded by his people and their clan leaders, who pursue their old ways of hunting and gathering in the tranquility of their new home, maintaining faith in the sanctity of their protective decree and not willing to believe in the ambassador’s stories of atrocity. Hurkeesi, eager to protect his people from the coming storm, is known to be actively seeking out new allies in the galactic arena.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Zak's DM Questionnaire

From here:

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

The Hexlock Puzzle that turned up in my Secret Santicore entry. p30 I think. It's nearly 10 years old and I'd made up a decent hardcopy mounted on card and presented it to my players  once they'd stormed the wizards tower. Had them stumped, and I'd taken the bastard option and repeated the puzzle on the reverse in a different order. They'd been working hard at it for 10 minutes before someone turned one of the pieces over. Best jaw drop ever. They did solve it too.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
Just before Christmas.

3. When was the last time you played?
Mid 2010; wrapped up a Mutants & Masterminds alt-history supers campaign where Japan didn't hit Pearl Harbour so the Americans didn't get involved in the war... 50 years later, cyber Hitler is lording over the world from his base on the moon. Campaign goal? Kill Hilter. And I got the natural 20 punching him in the face. Icky.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to. 
I'm pining for some good ol' dungeon hacks actually... the dungeon bash would be an exploration of a sunken temple-thing, summoned from the deep, inhabited by evilfishmen for centuries, but millenia ago was actually a vast magick artefact designed to grant its creator immortality in a time womb thing - only it didn't work as planned - and there's lots of time/possibility hijinks and side-effectsto screw the players over with, as they try to get the temple-machine operational again, get back to their own time and stop the big bad from emerging from stasis.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Engage; usually the fastest way to get them moving.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
I need brain food; carbs and sugary goodness.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
Nope. Emotionally sometimes, and mentally draining sure. 

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
Same Mutant and Masterminds game as above; I deliberately built a hero that was designed to support others, and with the right point-buy I made a zillionaire who owned a private army stationed on one of the islands of the coast of LA. Just having an army at your beck and call was a totally different (and interesting) style of playing.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
Any excuse for a laugh. But that doesn't mean they don't take the campaign seriously. We just have fun while playing.

10. What do you do with goblins?
Pull teeth out of their victims and make little goblin-baby rattles out of them.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
That thar bowl of 13 frogs keeps getting into my brainpan. Frog season in Jez's head.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
The ongoing paternity issues for our drug-addled ex-secret operative in Star Wars who fell in with a bunch of amphibious cloners. They kept presenting him with man-frog halfbreed children from his DNA as pets. Spur of the moment thing that got a lot of mileage.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars as inspiration for simplicity in game design.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
Me of course :) Russ Nicholson... no, Miles Teeves!

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
Not in a long while, but then I haven't run horror stuff in a long while either. I think Kindred of the East was the last time I got genuine fear, back in Vancouver '05.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
The Witchfire Trilogy for Iron Kingdoms. Great, great series. I added a bit of family background to the players that tied into the adventure as extra motivation, and we stuck with the game from beginning to end (and they failed to stop wassername from unleashing hell). Took about two and a bit years to play out.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
I keep dreaming of a dedicated game room, well-lit table in a dark space, comfy seats, with a decent soundsystem and a flatscreen teev on the wall for the GM to show pics to the players on. Decent library on the walls; beers tucked away in the mini fridge. 

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Mouseguard and Kult.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be? 

China Meiville is a HUGE influence on my games and creativity in general, so that's right down the geek end of the spectrum.... down the other end would be the vast collection of National Geographic magazines I grew up with as a kid. So much cool stuff out there in the real world...

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
Fun, easygoing, enthusiastic, and can roll with the punches.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
My bad guys are usually motivated by love. They just take that need one step (or three) beyond what's acceptable.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
A few people, my partner mostly, she's played once or twice but won't anymore; just isn't into it but gets it. When we talk it's usually about the story development or personality issues.

DungeonFu for Google+ : Mark II

For all you gamers using Google+ Hangouts to run games online, here's the latest version of DungeonFu, a free map making assistant that anyone can view and edit while playing. I've included cavern surfaces and waterways in this version. 

Go have fun with it; if you make anything with it send me a JPG so I can chuck it in here, plus any screen grabs of your game mid session would be great. Just make sure that whoever's hosting the game includes the "Hangout with Extras" option so you can share documents with everyone playing.

If there's anything you'd like to see added to the next version, please lemme know.

Also I'll start running demos of how to use DungeonFu starting 9am-ish Monday 23rd NZ time - which is:

LA - midday Sunday 22nd
NY - 3pm Sunday 22nd
London - 8pm

If you're interested just drop a note in the comments.


Monday, January 9, 2012

MUTANTOR! Graphic Imagery (or Mutant Dice Part II)

OK, this is going to be the driest post I think I'll ever do, but it's a necessary eeeevil. Actually, no, it's not, it's real important that I get this right. Cause the one thing you do over and over again in RPGs is roll dice. It's gotta work right, it's gotta be fun, it's gotta have longevity and ease of play, it's gotta serve the setting well. So yeah. Important. And I'll be super grateful if you slog through this and let me know what you think. I'll buy you a beer for your thoughts.

So based on the ideas and comments from the first post about MUTANTOR's dice mechanic and extra input here (thanks everyone who commented) I've worked out 4 possible ways this system could work.

To recap the basic idea:

Roll three d6 dice, scratch the highest and lowest roll take the middle dice as your result.  Equal or beat the difficulty to succeed.

The variations come from what happens when you roll doubles (two faces the same) or triples (three faces the same).

There are four options I've chosen  to do this. And depending on which one I choose there's a pretty broad variety of results available. Here's a comparison, showing the number of times a result occurs using the different methods:

A comparison of the various readings of the MUTANTOR dice engine
Note that for Options 2, 3 and 4, rolling double ones gives a result of 1, and triple ones gives a result of -1.

Option #1:

Option #1: Middle of 3d6 Baseline : Eliminate the highest and lowest die.
Number of times each face occurs out of 216 possible results

So this first method is included more as a baseline for the other methods; rolling doubles or triples has no mechanical benefit, though they could still have bonuses elsewhere (every time you roll them you could gain special points elsewhere for example). I don't see this option as particularly exciting or noteworthy. More just for comparison.
Option #2:

Option #2: Middle of 3d6, Doubles +1, Triples +2 : Eliminate the highest and lowest die, add one to result if two faces, the same, add two to result if all three faces the same except snake eyes equals 1, and triple 1 equals -1. Number of times each result occurs out of 216 possible results

So in this option, rolling doubles means you add 1 to the doubled face to get the result, and rolling triples means you add 2 to the tripled face to get the result. The results spread out a little from the baseline of Option #1; 66% of your results will be a 3, 4, or 5 which is pretty good for setting reasonable expectations on what you'll get when you roll, with the average most likely to be 4.
Option #3:

Option #3: Middle of 3d6, Doubles +2, Triples +3: Eliminate the highest and lowest die, add two to result if two faces are the same, add three to result if all three faces the same, except snake eyes equals 1, and triple 1 equals -1. Number of times each result occurs out of 216 possible results. 

This is pretty similar to Option #2, but based on Zak's suggestion to make the doubles +2 and triples +3 for ease of remembering. It blows the results out a little bit, making higher scores a little easier to get, though the predictability is a little less: results of 3, 4, or 5 occur 58% of the time now.
Option #4:

Eliminate the highest and lowest die, double the result if two faces are the same, triple the result if all three faces the same, except snake eyes equals 1, and triple 1 equals -1. Number of times each result occurs out of 216 possible results. 

I actually think this is the easiest variant to remember: roll doubles, double the result, roll triples, triple the result. It also produces the most unusual spread of results too. A little weird and lopsided, but not unusable either. It's the least predictable: only 51% of results will be 3, 4, or 5. So every second roll will produce something a little higher, possibly going as high as 18 (but having one 1 in 216 chance of occuring). It also has a few idiosincracities: you can never roll a 7 or 11 for example, and a 6 only seven times, but an 8 or a 10 fifteen times a piece. 

So if you're looking at results as single numbers I don't think Option#4 is really workable.... BUT if you look at the results in bands, suddenly it's not so bad. If you group the results like this: 0-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-17, 18+, your chances look something like this:

This is very similar to the system used in D6 Star Wars: if you need a result from 3-5 to succeed a Very Easy task, 6-10 for Easy, 11-15 for Medium, 16-20 for Difficult, etc. So with this Option you'd be looking at:

0-2 Very Easy (success roughly 99% of the time... why bother)
3-5 Easy (success roughly 82% of the time)
6-8 Medium (success roughly 27% of the time)
9-11 Difficult (success roughly 16% of the time)
12+ Very Difficult (success roughly 9% of the time)

None of these Options includes what happens when your dice mutate, as discussed in the previous post; it's just easier to reach higher results when they do.

I think Option #4 is my preference; what do you think?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

MUTANTOR! Mutant Dice

I'm starting work on MUTANTOR! and one of the things I want to nail is a dice engine mechanic that reflects the setting. So yeah— MUTANTOR! is obviously gonna be crawling with mutant freaks, and the game mechanic should be something like that too.

I'm torn here; there's a strong temptation to make MUTANTOR! another OSR permutation, and stick with the d20 for combat and skill resolution. But if I go my own way here's what I'm thinking of doing.

The MUTANTOR! mechanic would look something like this:

Roll three d6 dice, scratch the highest and lowest roll take the middle dice as your result.  Equal or beat the difficulty to succeed.

If you roll Doubles (two dice have the same face), add 1 to that face, that's your result.

If you roll Triples (all dice have the same face) add 2 to that face, that's your result. Plus the dice MUTATE!

For the player that rolled the triple, from now on their dice rolls have MUTATED: anytime that face turns up in following dice rolls it gets treated like a wild die or joker and the player gets to choose what that die should be.

Any mutant dice roll can mutate into a MUTANT Double. 

If you roll a natural MUTANT Double it can mutate into MUTANT Triple.

If you roll a natural MUTANT Triple... a MEGA MUTATION or something big and cool and I don't know what yet*.

The MUTANT dice effect lasts until the player uses the dice to form a MUTANT Triple, or they roll a natural MUTANT Triple, or the game session ends.

From what I can tell about the probabilities, it all looks something like this:

chance to roll any particular combination : 1/216 (0.46%)
chance to roll a Double : 90/216 (41.67%)
chance to roll a Triple : 1/36 (2.78%)

once mutated:

chance to roll and mutate into a MUTANT Double : 75/216 (34.72%)
chance to roll and mutate into a MUTANT Triple : 30/216 (13.89%)
chance to roll and mutate into a MEGA MUTATION : 1/216 (0.46%)

*MEGA MUTATION... I'm thinking that the player's dice pool permanently mutates; something like one of their three d6's evolves into a d8. next megamutation the another mutates into a d8 again, til they're rolling three d8s... and then d10s, then d12s, and so on.

So yeah. there you have a it, a straight forwardish dice mechanic that reflects the nature of the game.

I'd really like your thoughts on it, whether it works or has loopholes or can be over exploited or whatever. Cause once the system is locked in then I can get cracking on the rest of MUTANTOR!

Some samples of dice rolls:

Normal rolls: drop the highest and lowest
146 = 4
456 = 5

Doubles: take the double face and add 1
225 = 2+1 = 3
323 = 3+1 = 4    
616 = 6+1 = 7

333 = 3+1+1 = 5 AND the dice mutate, with any roll of 3 becoming a Mutant roll

Normal Mutant (where for example 3 is the Mutant)
125 = 2 (no mutations)

Mutant Doubles (3 still the Mutant)
315 = double 5 = 5+1 = 6

Mutant Triples (3 again)
344 = triple 4 = 4+1+1 = 6, and the mutant dice effect ends.
336 = triple 6 = 6+1+1 = 8, and the mutant dice effect ends.

MEGAMUTANT (3 is still the Mutant)
333 = wacky mega effect, and the mutant dice effect ends.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Working on the 'Fu

Hard at it upgrading DungeonFu. I've included caverns and waterways in this version, thinking of adding dungeon dressings like treasure chests, beds/chairs/tables/etc. Lemme know there anything else you'd like to see.