Tag Archives: Game Design

METALWORKS (3/25/15): MEET REX…

Stryper_Cover_TheCoveringFThe final deck for my demo set is complete: Rex Sweet, Nazarite Priest in his Juggernaut class 4RC-H4NG3L ‘Archangel.’

Along with this new deck, I’ve updated all the older ones as well, to take into account some slight rules tweaking and to include counters for Heat, Power, and Damage as well as Control Markers, so you can mark cards from your deck that are placed into other player’s areas.

All that is left is to create the cards for creating the Tactical Display track and put the rules into a proper demo rulebook, although the latter might have to wait as I have a metric butt-tonne of cards and counters to assemble before tomorrow. Still, everything should be good to go for you to download the game and give it a whirl within the week.

METALWORKS (3/22/15): MEET LITA…

Lita_Osbourne_SquaredDeck production is speeding up as repetition means less original content to create with each new deck. The latest one inroduces our first female Rider, Lita Osbourne (patterned after Lita Ford and Natasha Kerensky), and a new, heavier class of Titan: the Juggernaut class SAB-V0LUM4 ‘Supernaught.’

Lita’s deck strategy is more about subterfuge and support than the previous two, making use of more external forces granted to her as favors from other Lords around the Metalsphere and finding ways to sabotage her enemies’ plans.

I’m confident that I can get one more deck done, and this one will be the mortal enemy of Lita’s, a Nazarite in another Juggernaut class Titan who can give her a run for her money…

METALWORKS (3/21/15): MEET ULI…

ULIFollowing up on Eddie from last week, we have Uli Jon Hammet, Yngwie marauder, ex-gladiator and current leader of the Star Scorpions, a band of interstellar pirates who work on and off as mercenaries. You can find Uli’s Deck here.

Once again, there are three sets of cards in the PDF. The first 2 pages are Titan and Rider cards, the next 4 pages are Titan Systems and the remaining pages make up Uli’s 60 card TAC Deck.

I’m going to try and knock out a couple more decks before Thursday, and as each deck gets easier as cards repeat, that might happen, but I also have to get the rules written up and put in PDF. I’ll get that done first and post them up sooner than later so you can test out both of these decks against each other.

 

METALWORKS (3/15/15): MEET EDDIE…

bruce_dickinson_iron_maiden_portrait_by_nonsense_prophet-d76ugv8I’ve been plugging away at the demo decks for BoHM: Titans for a bit now, trying to nail down the format for the various types of cards you will find in the set, and I’ve finished my first test set: ‘Iron’ Eddie Dickinson, Veteran Sabbathite Rider in his 1RN-M41D3N.

There are no images ready for the System cards yet, and all the portraits in the TAC Deck are almost 100% borrowed from the intertubes without permission, but other than that, the cards are ready for print and playtesting, once I get the next rider and the rules online

There are three sets of cards in the PDF. The first 2 pages are Titan and Rider cards, the next 4 pages are Titan Systems and the remaining pages make up Eddie’s 60 card TAC Deck.

Next up: Uli Hammet, Veteran Yngwie Rider and his AX3-YNGW13 AXEMASTER!

It’s been snowing like crazy over here, so I’ve had lots of time to work on the card prototypes for Barbarians of Heavy Metal: Titans. For this Metalworks, I want to show you how things are coming along in that area, and discuss a few of the mechanics in play.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF BATTLE

There are a number of card types in BoHM:Titans. It is a Tactical Card game and that means that, as a card representation of a tabletop miniature wargame, it needs a good deal of variety to represent the many wrinkles in that game medium as well as to provide plenty of options for deck customization.

To that end, Titans contains three broad categories of cards, some of which are further divided into specific sub-types. It may seem like a lot of things to remember, but like Magic, a lot of the differences are not necessarily about mechanical sub-systems, so much as a way to organize and target specific types of activity. For example, there is little difference between a Leader card (special in-game personalities) and any other Strategic card in the TAC deck, but there are cards (like the Hashashin) that specifically target Leaders, which means they need a specific icon to represent them, but not an entirely unique rules subset.

The three categories of cards are Titan Cards, System Cards and TAC cards.

TITAN CARDS

Titan cards represent the actual physical structure of the Titan and the Rider behind its control interface. The primary card sub-type in this category are the Superstructure cards, which are laid in a pattern to thematically represent a diagnostic interface, like so:

BoHM_Card_Superstructure_Diagram_01

Superstructure cards are unique to each Titan (and will eventually have unique art for said Titan). Each card represents a specific targetable body part with information pertaining to that specific Titan on it, including the Production ID (the Titan’s name), Hit Location numbers, Damage capacity, Systems loadout and, on the head, the game stats and cost (in Metalocity) of the Titan.

When a particular part of the Superstructure takes damage in excess of its Damage Capacity, you flip the card, which then shows you the effect of losing that bit of the Titan (in a nice, bright, alarming red):

BoHM_Card_Superstructure_Diagram_04

A Titan is only as good as its pilot, however, so the next most important card in this category is the Rider Card, and that is what we will examine next.

I should point out at this juncture that, while most of the graphic design you see on these cards (including icons, backgrounds, etc.) is all my original art, the portrait style images you are going to see from this point on were scoured from the internet for prototyping purposes.The cool image of Bruce Dickinson on the cards below, for example, is borrowed without permission from Ian Jones, although I might commission it and some other work from him for the game if I get enough funding. Check his stuff out, it is really cool.

BoHM_Card_Rider_Eddie

On the back side of the card we have the bio information and cost in Metalocity for our rider. On the front, all the game info needed to use him, including (from left to right) his School of Rock (with Harmonic and Discord numbers), Ride, Fire, Fame, Defense, Shred (melee), Luck, Health, and Rumble (hand to hand) stats.

Below that, in the text box, we have Eddie’s Skill set (which can enhance certain TAC Cards) followed by a special rule that sets him (a veteran) apart from lesser metalheads on the battlefield. In this case, he can cause damage to conventional forces, which represents his fearsome reputation causing mass desertion among the ranks.

At the very bottom we have the various musical styles Eddie is proficient in, which determines which Sonic Wizardry Cards he might include in his TAC Deck.

The third card in the deck is a Target Card, which bears an image of the Titan and serves as a ‘miniature’ on the Tactical Display(which I’ll discuss in an upcoming post).

SYSTEM CARDS

The systems listed on the Superstructure Cards are represented by special System Cards which detail their capabilities and state of readiness.

These cards are set up in the center of the player’s area and are typically activated by ‘Rocking’ them (turning them sideways). After they are Rocked, they must be ‘Readied’ in a later phase. Cards can also be ‘Reaped,’ or removed from the play area and placed in a Salvage Pile.  Certain weapons with ammo restrictions might also be ‘Flipped’ over on their face to represent that they are still functional, but out of ammo (Rock/Ready and Reap BoHM_Card_System_MJ1-N1R_Gothammerare the main ways you utilize cards in the game and should be familiar to those who have played similar games before).

The Gothammer on the right, is a Ballistic weapon (indicated by the tilted bullet which means that it can be targeted by certain TAC cards, like the Weapons Jam Discord), it takes up 5 component spaces on the Titan and is High Tech (tech levels, again, allowing targeting of special cards, like Repair, and so on). It has indirect fire, which means it can hit any zone on the Tactical Display, does D8+4 damage and has an Ammo Check rating of 2 (any roll of doubles of 2 or more flips the weapon).

The special rules make each system unique, so no two weapons need be alike. Our Gauss cannon, for instance must be powered to fire (which generates heat), and does extra damage to the surrounding area when it hits. The little hand rocking out at the bottom indicates that this card has a Hardcore result, for those who roll a Harmonic when using it (which, again, I’ll discuss at a later time).

TAC CARDS

The most numerous and variable cards in the game are the TAC cards which make up the TAC deck. Each player may hold a number of cards in their hand equal to 5 + their Rider’s Ride stat.

TAC cards can be Rocked, Readied and Reaped, but also Rolled, i.e. placed at the bottom of the TAC Deck, instead of Reaped, if the card so indicates. They come in a wide variety.

BoHM_Card_TAC_TerrainTerrain Cards represent the surface features of the battlefield and how it affects the combatants.

You may play Terrain Cards as a Move Action, which represents your Titan moving into that Terrain, and you might have a number of such actions which means you can layer Terrain cards on top of one another to increase their effect. The number and type of Terrain you can include is determined by the Mission Environment, so these Woods can only be used when said environment is Temperate, for example.

Titans retain the advantages of these cards until they leave a Zone, at which point all terrain cards are Rolled back into the TAC Deck.

Support Cards represent conventional forces, artillery and other battlefield support elements. It is here that you find you infantry, tanks, aerospace forces, and so on, and there are a few special subtypes within this category. Almost all of them require a Support Test, based on the Rider’sBoHM_Card_TAC_CF Fame, to Ready into play, representing the scarcity of resources and the fact that only the most famous metalheads will have access to the choicest support units, like the F-Bomb or the Valkyries (seen at right).

The Valkyries, for example, are a type of CF, or conventional Forces card (infantry, in particular, as indicated by the top right icon). These are played onto the Tactical Display and function like Titans, with 1 action each Game Round (called a Clash).

They have their own limited set of stats, like movement speed, Fire, Defense and Armor, as well as a set range, damage type (D6+2 in the Valkyries case) and Damage Capacity. Elite units will have other special rules.

BoHM_Card_TAC_tACTICALTactical Cards (indicated by the barricade icon in the top right) represent certain advantages that might present themselves during the course of battle, like an opportunity to push an enemy of the side of a cliff, or special tactics a rider might regularly use, like powering down to hide their Titan.

A Rider’s skills are often important components when determining the effectiveness of certain Tactical Cards. Just because two different players have the Run for the Hills card in their Deck, it is the one whose Rider has the Thrall skill that will find it most useful, playing more and/or better cards as instants than the Rider who was never a slave in the Metalsphere.

BoHM_Card_TAC_StrategyStrategic Cards are like Tactical cards, but on a grand scale. They represent the effects of long term planning before the battle and have a much longer-lasting and widespread effect than Tactical cards, which are all based on spur of the moment decision making.

Like Support cards Strategic Cards really rely on your reputation to use effectively. You may never use a Strategy card that has a Fame requirement (represented by the flaming star icon) higher than your Rider’s Fame. For instance, I Am More Metal Than You, represents the Titan Rider challenging another Rider’s Metalocity, and that only works when you are plenty Metal yourself.

BoHM_Card_TAC_LeaderA sub-type of Strategic card is the Leader (represented by the skull icon wearing an officer hat). These cards represent special personalities in your Warzone that you might have influence with. If you have the ear of a Leader, they can use their influence to provide everyone on your side of the battle with long term enhancements.

While there are generic personalities, like Hashashin (assassins) and Shades (scouts), most leaders, like the War Pig, are very particular to a certain School of Rock, and may only be used by a Rider from that School. This often have negative effects on Riders from the opposing School as well, as the War Pig does on Nazarite Infantry.

BoHM_Card_TAC_HarmonicHarmonics are special cards that you can play when you roll your Schools sacred number on the Rocktohedron (the eight sided die). They come in two types: generic, like the Scream card to the left, which can be played by anyone; and School Specific, which can only be included in a deck of a Rider from that specific School of Rock.

These cards are used to really push the uncertainty of combat, where a bit of luck is always a factor and special circumstances can swing the tide of battle in truly bizarre directions, like ripping another Titan’s arm off and beating it with its own appendage. Some Harmonics are Reaped immediately, but some stay in play until Reaped by Discord.

BoHM_Card_TAC_DiscordDiscords (represented by the Augmented Fourth Icon) are the opposite of Harmonics, and you actually don’t play these on yourself, but on other players who roll the number of the opposing school on their Rocktohedron.

You play Discords directly into another player’s area, and they hang about causing problems until that player can Reap them with a Harmonic or special card.

They come in general and specific flavors, but you really want to stack your deck with Discords that affect a specific School (represented by the icon to the Left of the title) to get the most use out of them, which means keeping a side board with Discord cards for various schools handy.

Overheat Cards are part of the Heat system in the game. Generating excess heat shuts down systems as it rises, but it also leaves the Titan open to having one of these cards played on it by another player during the HVAC phase if the heat level equals or exceeds the rating on this card.

Overheat cards allow me to implement a wide variety of funky heat effects that can hamper, damage or even disable a Titan. The Ammo Explosion card on the left, for instance, reaps an Ammo Bay, which (based on the info on the Ammo Bay card) causes it to explode and damage the Titan. There are also cards for shutting down down the Titan, melting components, cooking the Rider and setting the surrounding terrain on fire.

BoHM_Card_TAC_SonicFinally, we have Sonic Wizardry Cards. In the universe of BoHM, sub-quantum superstring manipulators can be built as a variety of instruments to produce music that literally manipulates reality.

Certain Titans are built with giant Harmonic Resonators (the core of a superstring manipulator) inside them, moleculer speaker arrays in their surface and a special instrumental interface in the cockpit to allow the Rider to bend reality from inside the machine. To the outside observer, it looks for all the world like the Titan is playing air guitar, or miming the play of some other instrument.

In Titans, Sonic Wizardry cards are basically science-magic and can do some fairly awesome things if you have the right styles at the right ratings. The card above, for instance, is in Eddie’s TAC Deck.

NOW TO CREATE THE ACTUAL DECKS

Now that I have the prototype bases done, I am moving into InDesign and designing the card sheets for the demo set. There will be at least 4 Titans and 4 Riders with 4 unique decks, but if I can, I want six ready for demoing at Cometcon at the end of March. But I also have about 180 cards to create for the next revision of QBB, so we’ll see what happens.

Any comments on what you’ve seen, questions on how the game might play out or suggestions for cool heavy metal inspired cards? Head over to my forums and let me know what you think…


VOID HUNTERS: A NEW PARADIGM…

Now, of all the things I’ve been trying to get done lately, none have seemed so out of reach as the concept of the Digital Table Top Role Playing game. It just seems that no matter how many times I’ve tried to get that concept flying, from trying to Kickstart the idea to almost having an independent team ready to realize the proposal (before they backed out at the last moment), it just doesn’t seem to be able to peak the level of interest necessary for it to become a viable product. It is simply too much to do on my own, and the type of people I need to develop it with me are generally  more interested in using their skills for fully fledged video games, not hybrids.

Over time, I have come to the realization that the problem with the DTTRPG concept is two fold.

THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

First, what I was trying to create with the BoHM digital game was basically a digital charactersheet/dice roller/rulebook/GM Suite combo, which, in itself is not a bad idea. But it doesn’t really innovate as far as it needs to. You’re still looking at a screen with numbers and dials and lists, etc. so it really is no more than your standard RPG, just with less stuff to carry around. This could be why it received such a ‘meh’ response from the RPG community.

BoHMScreens02-ChargenThe answer to this issue involved really looking back at the research I did long ago on what RPGs offer us that computer games don’t, and vice versa, and coming to the realization that what I was attempting did not go far enough in moving the game further into the acoustic space that RPGs inhabit. Making the game less of a game and more of an ‘experience’ for the players.

The answer to this, of course is to make sure that the player interface should remain as thematically ‘pure’ as possible. Character creation would still be of the standard RPG variety, but once that is complete, the UI should endeavor to take them out of the ‘roll’ and immerse them in the ‘role.’ The only person with pure game info should be running the game and making all the magic happen behind the scenes, presenting the players with dramatic representations of the raw numbers they’re generating on the fly.

Don’t confuse this with a video game of the first person variety. Yes, the information is first person, in a sense (were not talking moving about a 3D or even 2D world here, as the game will still rely on the acoustic centers reinforced with a few still images or simple animations), but the AI is strictly human, generating an infinite amount of content, not through programmatic procedural generation, but with a few simple tools in their GM Suite and all the data provided in the ‘rules database.’BoHMBook

The second issue revolved around the complexity of the rules for BoHM which were, in hindsight, a bridge too far for the concept. It was going to take a lot of programming and fiddly UI design to make the thing usable, which, without the money from a successful crowd-funding campaign, was immediately going to turn off any potential co-developers.

Again, simplified rules were necessary to allow the GM to run things efficiently behind the GM Screen of his interface, and to allow the players to get the information they needed without a lot of interface acrobatics. This is where Void Hunters comes in.

VOID HUNTERS: DTTRPG

P2Void Hunters is another project that I just can’t seem to get off the ground, but whereas the DTTRPG idea is all about a lack of resources, VH is all about my lack of interest in creating yet another same old, same old TTRPG. I’ve been desperate to do something different with it. To make something that goes beyond the standard setup that is currently being done to death in a thousand different ways over at RPGNow. To make something that people actually enjoy playing, as opposed to adding to their ever growing library of games they bought but never use (and those of you who buy digital RPG books now exactly what I’m talking about).hr_giger_dreads

The beauty of VH as a DTTRPG, however, is the external rules (those utilized by the GM and players) are completely old school in conception, and easily broken down into object oriented programming modules that modify a basic rule package. In addition, the old school ethos of ‘Ruling over Rules’; and ‘Description over Dice’ means that half the game is going to be run from the GM’s description and the player’s reactions, anyway, so the user interface can be much simpler.

The internal (as in, inside the actual module) rules for VH will be designed to be resolved through programmatic methods, like an actual video game. The classes I’ve laid out will still be the core around which the game revolves, but the equipment, ships, etc. will all be designed to work as a computer game, albeit, one with a strictly human center. This allows the rules to be very simulationist, without burdening the GM or players with the simulation.

PsychotechnicLeaguevincentdifateStarship combat, for instance, can be extremely realistic, using three axis of movement, ∆V and all sorts of other factors while still presenting the player and GM with simple options (an idea I thought up last year to create a hyper-realistic, yet easily playable, space combat table top game for my friend Tom’s Sword into Darkness universe). The starship interface needn’t be very complex because, honestly, VH style starship combat would mostly occur outside visual range and would be more reminiscent of submarine warfare than Star Wars style dog-fighting.

The science fiction element of VH also lends itself to a tablet or phone based display by allowing the player interface to reflect an ‘EyePhone’ style interface. The tablet or phone screen will represent what the characters see through a smart-glass like HUD implanted in their brain that displays vital information. Through this we can show their health, equipment icons (which they touch to ‘use’), etc. and keep them in the game, instead of taking them out of it the way reviewing an external character sheet does.

The GM Suite would include all the tools necessary to run an old school game, including writing tools, random generation tools, character trackers, etc. and tools for communication with the player’s devices. They’ll be able to see what the players roll, send them secret messages, and post images of the scene, if they desire (and all the modules for the game would include scene images for that purpose). It would be totally utilitarian, like a digital GM Screen, with tabbed interfaces.

What about a rulebook? Who needs one. The computer handles all the rules and the only reference the GM will need is one that describes the classes, the equipment, ships, etc. Creating new items will be handled through appropriate interfaces and will automate the process as much as possible. And if that still doesn’t get he GM the perfect ship, alien, etc. a handy ‘House Rules’ tool will allow them to modify the database entries manually.

TO BE CONTINUED…

I’m not done with either the DTTRPG or VH yet, and I’m determined to make one last stab at turning them both into something a bit different and revolutionary for the RPG market. I’m going to be considering all the elements over the next few months and, as soon as one of my other projects is ready for production, I’ll revisit it and see what it will take to turn it into a realty. Who knows? Maybe by that point, folks won’t be so turned off by the idea of a truly digital RPG experience…160d21128da98dc567406f7e2442d9ec-d53u2f1

 

 

 

 

METALWORKS (February 20th, 2015)…

Thinking about the title of last weeks post, it occurred to me that what I do is just a high tech version of the same thing artisans have done throughout history. I forge a piece (new ideas, text and mechanics), I pound it into shape (with my keyboard and constant revision) and then I add the personal touch (a certain voice, or style of art) that signifies my work. Writers, in essence are the literary equivalent of ironmongers. Wordmongers, if you will. So I’ve decided to list all my production updates under Metalworks from this point on. Pretentious? Maybe, but it has a certain masculine quality that appeals to my personal aesthetics.

BARBARIANS OF HEAVY METAL: TITANS

BoHM: Titans is getting ready to go into the card prototyping stage. I’m going to draw up some rough sketches of what the cards look like, create them in Photoshop and Illustrator (tons of icons to draw up) and then paste in the information from my massive list of cards using InDesign.

As I mentioned, I have 6 Riders, 6 Titans with their systems and superstructure cards, and a TAC Deck of 60 cards for each Rider, for around 400 cards (251 unique) total. I won’t be creating any original art for these, oustide of the system icons, and most will have a blank spot for a picture unless I find some existing art that particularly fits well, but they should suffice for play-testing purposes.

Should take me about three weeks to get all of that work done, what with the other project at hand…

FOR GLORY! DIGITAL BOARD GAME

I’ve been slowly working on the UI for the game, in between fits of card design for BoHM, and have the Main select screen and Character Sheet screen sussed out. The imagery is all temporary placeholder stuff, and will be completely redone for the final game, but it should give you a good idea of how things are shaping up, aesthetically and functionally.

FG_UI_FlowFG_Screens_05_CharSelectFG_Screens_06_CharSheet

In related news, Simon Washbourne released the Barbarians of Lemuria: Mythic Edition recently, and inside it are a few small tweaks to the system that will have a knock on effect for the For Glory! design. Brawl is out and Initiative is in, so I’ll have to change those up in the game and redo a few cards to take those into account. The combat system has changed as well, but since FG! uses a more abstract system to reflect an entire combat using a few rolls, that won’t change much of anything in the board game. Sorcery might have been tweaked, but I’ll have to see if that necessitates a change in the more abstract level of sorcery in the board game.

The good news is, being a digital game, changing such things is much less of a problem than it would be once something has gone to print. Hooray for the digital medium!

QUARTERBACK BLITZ

Once the playtest cards for BoHM:Titans are ready for action, I’m going back to work on QBB. I need to create a new deck of cards and a new presentation piece for marketing to another major sports merchandising entity. I also plan to whip up a Print & Play rules set with the very basic rules and pieces necessary to get the feel of the game, as I did with For Glory!

At that point, the game is going to go through even more playtesting to sort out the bugs in the new Play system and ensure that it accurately reflects the way football operates from a coaching perspective. And of course, I’ll be streamlining the game even more along the way.

If I’m lucky, I might have this thing out by Christmas…

METAL WORKS…

BoHMLogoBefore I get started talking about the ‘works’ this week, I’d like to point out that I’ve disabled the comments section of The Vorpal Mind because I just couldn’t control the spam. In one week, I received some 2000 comments that were related to fake guichi bags, Dr. Dre beats, Nikes, Chinese Gibberish, etc. and there is not enough time or desire in my life to filter the damned things, so I just turned the whole shebang off.

It’s not like I need them anyways. I have a full forum board that is quiet as a ghost town, but delightfully free of spammers, so if you have some comments, please feel free to register over there and post in the appropriate section. I’d love to talk games with you.

On with the motley…

TITANS PLAY-TEST DECKS ARE NIGH

Been working on two projects this week: the interface for For Gory! and the cards for Barbarians of Heavy Metal: Titans. I’m still working on more imagery for FG! this weekend, and whipping up some dice imagery for Jim to implement into a roller, but I do have some new material to report on for BoHM:T.

I’ve finally finished the card lists, with all the rules and numbers set out in Excel and ready to be transferred to a physical format for play-testing (a formidable task). I’ve created six different riders for the game and created custom card deck lists for them, along with a half dozen Titans, so I know what I need to produce for the first demo. Currently, I have the following decks sorted:

jethro-tull-b-and-w-630-80

Nicodemus Bosch, a Ledite Alchemist, in a Nomad class Titan, the TUL-J3THR0 WHISTLER.

‘Iron’ Eddie Dickenson, a Sabbathite Prince of Darkness, in his Blitzkrieger class 1RN-M41D3N EDDIE

Lita Osbourne, a Sabbathite Occultist, in her Juggernaut class SAB-V0LUM4 SUPERNAUGHT

IMG_2718IronMaidensUli Hammet, a Yngwie Gladiator, in his Blitzkrieger class    AX3-YNGW13 AXEMASTER

Courtney Mustaine, a Yngwie Warp Mistress, in her Nomad Class 5UN-1C4RU5  ICARUS

Rex Wenzell, a Nazarite Priest in his Juggernaught class   4RC-H4NG3L ARCHANGEL

With these decks, I’m sort of throwing ideas around, testing out a lot of different systems, hull types and play-styles, including close combat, tactical and strategic dominance, heat manipulation and other strategies for eliminating the competition.

The naming conventions are intentionally tongue in cheek, with most of the riders being named after famous musicians (mixing the first name of oneEddie_Mummy_1024 with the surname of another), or, in the case of Nicodemus, famous artists. The same goes with the Titan names, which are a satirically metal take on the model numbers/names of the old Battletech mechs, using metal terminology, band names, and song and album titles.

I’m going to put the design down for a week so I can come back and tweak it before I create the physical cards, but I should have a play-test version ready in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime though, I’m going to update my original design diaries from Strange Stones in preparation for completing a section of this website which will incorporate a guide to the background info behind the cards in the game, which will be laid out in the manner of a ‘Headbanger’s Guide to the Galaxy.’ In this way, I will slowly reveal the setting in all its glory, a bit at a time. Until that materializes, however, follow the Strange Stones link to see how it all started and has slowly evolved…

Good Riddance 2014. Now, Get To Work 2015…

2014 blew.

It was a terrible year for me professionally and personally. As a result, I think I got less done that whole year than I did in the 3 months I spent on my thesis. This was exacerbated by the fact that, one year after receiving my MFA, I’m still working as a substitute teacher and, in December, had to take part time work at a retail store just to make ends not quite meet.

And just to give me a good kick before exiting stage right, the year ended with my wife getting majorly ill during the week of Christmas. Good riddance 2014, don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

But now it is 2015. A new year and a new stab at getting the next phase in my life and career started. Getting a job has been a bust so far, but at least I had an interview. Finally. After over a year trying. I do, however sense a change, a sense of positive renewal, as the Doctor once said in ‘The Twin Dilemma.’

So, what about all the games I have been working on?

Quarterback Blitz

20140322_133543I started this as a thesis project and it turned into what is considered by quite a few people to be an excellent playable simulation of professional football. What many do not know is that I took the game to Topps in September of last year and nearly sold it to them. Unfortunately, after consideration, they found it a bit too complex for their customer base, so no sell, but they did tell me that is was very true to the game and want me to call them up if I have any more game ideas (I may try and sell them a Baseball or Hockey game in the near future, time will tell).

So, with  the feedback from them and working out some strategic issues with a college football coach, I am on the verge of taking the game to another company. Problem is, I need to rewrite a small chunk of it, including remaking about 108 cards, and after a year and some change, I’m kind of burnt out. So, I’m giving it a rest for a month so I can come at it fresh.

The cool news is, I’m ready to release a print and play demo after I get the new cards done and will do so, probably in March. I’ll also be taking it to another company to try and sell it, and possibly get a proper job. In the meantime…

For Glory!

BoLBGMapV3The Barbarians of Lemuria board game I designed has been done for over a year. In that time, I have tried, without success, to get it into physical production. Now, as you might have ascertained from the start of this post, I am not in the position to self-finance this thing. There is too much risk, especially when you consider there is more to producing a physical game than calling up China and sending them some files. There’s production costs, shipping costs, storage costs, distribution costs, etc. So I’ve given up on producing a lavish table to board game and am switching formats.

I’ve been a huge proponent of mobile technology as a platform for board gaming and RPGs for the last 5 years. At UTD, I spent a great deal of my time trying to convince the people in charge that not only were mobile games going to increasingly challenge AAA games for entertainment dollars, but that hybrid games, using table-top components and digital interfaces, were going to eventually become the norm, allowing for incredibly complex board game simulations. Flash forward to today and we now have X-Com the board game with its mobile interface, Golem Arcana, a digitally enhanced TT wargame and a host of completely digital mobile board games.

SampleHeroesSo I’m turning For Glory! into a digital board game app.The potential audience is larger, the production costs are smaller (just time, really) and without shipping, distribution, storage, and a production company taking up at least 50% of the profit (Google Play and iTunes stores only take 30%), the profit margin will be much higher. I’m currently working on the UI screens and my programming partner is going to use Unity’s 2D platform to realize it as software. The game will be pretty much the same, it will even be designed so up to 6 can play, but it will handle all the rules work for the players. You can see the aesthetic feel I’m going for in this incomplete rough of the character select screen.

FG_Screens_01_CharSelect

Barbarians of Heavy Metal

Ozzy1People have told me what a unique concept BoHM is, and how they’d love to see it realized. My first attempt at doing that ended in a failed Kickstarter and a lot of rather pointed comments from my target audience about how unwelcome a truly digital table-top RPG is. Problem is, I don’t want to do another strictly P&P book RPG. I want to do something different. And besides, the same problems with a print boardgame apply to print RPGs, but doubly so. As a real world example, my Barbarians of the Aftermath supplement has yet to sell through its 2010 hardcover print run (as far as I know. C7 hasn’t sent me a sales report in over a year) but the 2009 PDF still sells to this very day!

So, as the IP was important to me, but the format really wasn’t (although I would have loved to have  been the one who revolutionized the RPG industry with a digital TTRPG), I tucked it away until I could find another medium for it, instead of rushing out yet another variation on the standard RPG. This month, I found that medium: the Tactical Card Game.

SpikeAn idea I’ve been noodling around with for some time, the Tactical Card game is an attempt to model the strategy and tactics of tabletop wargaming using strictly cards. During my recent research into the history of wargaming (as a hobbyist and academic), I have identified a number of elements that define wargames and can be easily translated into an abstract card based system. The system uses dice, like a regular wargame, and it also has a tactical maneuver system, based on my system for vehicular combat in Barbarians of the Aftermath. But it doesn’t require miniatures, terrain models or even a large table to play.

I had been designing the TCG concept as a vehicle for the Pirate game my business partner has been working on for some time, but I realized it was also an excellent vehicle for introducing the BoHM universe. It allows me to focus on a specific part of that setting (Titans, giant heavy metal mecha, like the one above) and reach a less niche audience: casual card gamers. It can be easily expanded, into aerospace fighters, starships and even headbanger vs. headbanger musical dueling, and all those different games can be designed to work together so that you can have truly massive conflicts that cover multiple scales simultaneously (great for team tournament play). Plus, card games are cheap to produce and much more attractive to production houses.

So I’ve also been working on that. An example of the play area (which has already evolved significantly by this point) can be seen below.

LayoutExample

VOID Hunters

event_horizon_gravity_driveI’ve been fiddling on and off with this thing for ages now. It started off as a simple supplement for DCC, but I quickly realized this was not the best way to accomplish my goals for it. Then I built a system from scratch. And scratched it because it didn’t feel right for 70’s sci-fi.

And now I’m back to wondering if it wouldn’t work best as a digital TTRPG and how the might change the design. I love the idea of the game, but as with BoHM, I don’t just want to crap out another RPG. I want to make something that adds to the industry in a significantly different way, and truly inspires people to play it, like DCC. It’s simpler than BoHM, rules wise, and like the original D&D, there is no specific setting, just thematic tools for creating your own, so it might be the best game for introducing the DTTRPG concept.

The potential for expansion through in-app purchases are practically infinite, it would (again) reach a whole new audience and the costs would (again) be minimal, so I think it would be worth doing a small demo of the app to generate Kickstarter interest and that is the plan for now.

That’s My Year Full, Then

Those are my product plans for 2015, but no plan survives contact with the enemy (the enemy in this case being not fully employed and constantly scrambling to make ends meet), so there are no guarantees that even half of it will materialize. But I design games. It is not what I do, it is who I am. I could no sooner stop doing this than stop breathing, so I will continue to plug away at my projects until they are done and out the door, regardless of my situation. Expect to see at least one or two cool things from Jabberwocky in 2015…

VOID Update July 10th, 2014…

Dan_DYT3So I promised an update on the various projects on the block and I thought I’d start with one folks have asked me about recently: VOID (Vanguard Operations in Interminate Darkness), formerly known as Void Hunters (which I found was already taken by a computer game, unfortunately).

After having gone back and rewritten the mechanics from the ground up, I have started to type out the formal text for the demo version of the game. The character creation chapter is now complete, and I’m going back over it today to make sure everything is in order before moving on to Chapter 2, which covers the basic rules. Once those are done, I’ll create a set of Pregen 1st level characters, equipment & Psionic Power cards and a starter adventure and lay the whole thing out before placing it up for grabs on my RPGNow account. Then we’ll see what folks think of it.

My long term plans include finishing writing the full text within the next three months and then converting the whole kit and kaboodle into a basic Digital Table-top RPG for mobile platforms. If I can find an artist, I’ll release a PDF version as well.

As for the design, there have been major changes. I still want to keep that DCC feel, but I wanted to start over mechanically to make a system for sci-fi, not to shoe sci-fi into an existing fantasy system. So there is still a ‘funnel’ in the game, for example (which is called a 0 Level Mass Conversion, to give it that sci-fi feel). I have also retained the classic d20 structure of Attributes, Levels, Hit Points and Saves, but the way these are all realized mechanically is structurally different.

d20 BECOMES 3d6

One of the first major changes was to move from the eponymous d20, with it’s flat probability line, to the 3D6, with it’s glorious bell curve.

d20-3d6

I did this for numerous reason, but one of the main ones involved the weight of attribute modifiers. In a d20 game, a +1 is not really all that important when it comes to comparing two characters. It is much more consistently significant in a 3d6 system, however.

Changing to 3D6 also allows me to play with the individual dice more. Every career class has a Specialist Die that can be used to replace on of the dice in the 3d6 roll, and which grows as the character levels. It functions in much the same way as the Attack Die from DCC, but is now expanded for different roles in the game and actually widens the bell curve instead of adding directly to it as a straight bonus (which is much more powerful in 3d6, as I mentioned).

I have further taken advantage of the 3 die roll to create a hybrid of the Advantage and Disadvantage mechanic(from D&D 5E) and the Dice Chain concept from DCC. In VOID, when you have an advantage, you shift one of the dice in your roll up to the next highest die type, a d6 to a d8 (up to D30), for example. For disadvantage, you do the opposite, reducing it down, from a d6 to a d4 (down to no die at all, if things are that bad). You’re still rolling three dice, you still have a curve, but you are changing the shape of the curve and shifting it up or down instead of adding flat modifications.

The practical upshot of this is I’m going to be able to keep the range of Difficulty Levels tighter and more consistent. No more rising Levels chasing rising difficulties. An average task will always be the same difficulty, and there is always a chance you will roll triple 1’s and fail miserably, no matter how good you are. A David can beat a Goliath if luck favors them (and especially if they abuse the Advantage/Disadvantage system), and no character will ever get too complacent in the harsh environment of the void. And best of all, no more summing ridiculously large chains of modifiers! Hooray!

GRIT POINTS & OTHER SECONDARY TRAITS

Grit represents the characters ability to roll with a blow to minimize damage from various sources as well as to endure fatigue and other physical stresses. When a character is reduced to 0 Grit, they are exhausted, possibly unconscious, and vulnerable to serious injury or even death, which is represented by any further damage being applied to Endurance (equivalent to CON in d20 games) directly until they are dead. Grit recovers quickly, and a character can recover up to half that lost in a particular encounter by resting afterwards (as in BoL and D&D4E) but Endurance damage represents serious injuries that take a long time to heal and prevent full recovery of Grit.

darkstarEgo is Grit for the mind. It represents the reservoir of will and mental energy that keeps a character from giving up or going insane, which is why Psions, who rely heavily on it to power their abilities, often teeter on the edge of mental collapse and madness. Losing all your Ego means you go out of control and start picking up psychosis. It recovers much more slowly than Grit, and only after the character has returned to a place of stability. One of the character careers, the Voivode (formerly the Officer)  specializes in Ego recovery, like a Cleric for the mind.

Credit is what allows you to make large scale purchases with the understanding that you will be bringing back a hefty return on investment. In cases where a military or corporate backer is providing you with material assistance, it is your Credit that will determine what resources they are willing to risk for your mission (and how easy it is to get extra equipment from corrupt quartermasters or black market sources).Space travel and the exploitation of alien worlds is an expensive business and your Credit will take hits any time you exercise it. It also only recovers when you actively replenish it (by exploiting and selling resources). Team members can pool their Credit scores to make even larger purchases (like ships and ship components) and, if they manage to secure a Patron, they will find their Credit ratings go a lot farther (at the price of obligations).

LEVELS AND EXPERIENCE

I’m doing away with XP as a means of reward. In large-75VOID. Characters will earn from failure as well as success by leveling after completing a number of adventures equal to their next level, regardless of the results. So a 0 Level Red Shirt need only survive their Mass Conversion mission to achieve Level 1 whereas a Level 2 will need to go on 3 mission to advance to Level 3.

In game rewards will come in the form of Resources that can restore credit and even increase it in certain circumstances, Patronage that will allow access to otherwise unattainable goals and, eventually the power to become a Patron themselves. Not to mention the thrill of adventuring, which should be the point of playing.

A BIT DIFFERENT, BUT NOT GLARINGLY SO…

So the game has taken a pretty hard departure from DCC as I strike out to make something that is familiar to DCC and d20 players but is still unique in its own ways. Some may ask why I’m not going all out original and the answer to that is simple: because the general mechanics are well known and tested, easy to tweak and easy to sell as a small press company. Plus, nothing better reflects 1970’s gaming ethos like a game that tweaks the mechanical underpinnings and re-purposes the design concepts of the games from that era.

I’m still open to opinions, of course, so feel free to comment below…