Sunday, September 25, 2011

Good idea...but not good enough...

First, a very heartfelt thanks to those who kindly offered a commitment of their time, energy, creativity and talents to creating an OSR Halloween adventure "advent calendar" book.  I also want to say a special thanks to those who got the word out on their own blogs. Unfortunately, it is not to be this year.

Sadly (from my perspective) we did not rally enough interested parties to make it happen.  The short timeline, and perhaps the idea itself, may have caused its unfortunate demise.

  For those who were inspired and willing to create your own Halloween inspired adventure, I hope you will continue to create one! So many talented folks committed and I was really looking forward to seeing and playing through your adventures.  Hopefully I, and the rest the blogosphere, will still have an opportunity to do so.

In the meantime, I plan on creating a weekly Halloween inspired Pocket Full of Peril for October.  I will float the idea again earlier next year, like a zombie, you just can't keep a good idea down.

To all who offered generously their time and talent, thanks again!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Something Wicked this way comes... (maybe)

October is coming and of course that means Halloween!  This season always puts me in the mood for spooky good stuff! That spooky feel has had a lot of influence on Role Playing games that I have played, probably most notably AD&D Ravenloft, Call of Cthulhu, and Chill.

I want to make a spooky adventure for Halloween,  and I thought maybe I am not the only one. That got me to thinking (always dangerous)...

I don't know if you remember (or still use) advent calendars at Christmas?  In essence every day you locate the date on the calendar and then pop open the small door. Then there is some gift or treat or little picture for each day leading to Christmas day.

I was thinking maybe it would be fun to do a kind of spooky "advent calendar" book of adventures for use with Old School role playing games.  Kind of an "Ocktoberfeast" of spooky gaming goodness.: 31 one night adventures for the 31 nights of October!

Each adventure would need to be short (done in one night of play) and would be a stand alone so people could place them anywhere they like in their own sandbox.  (Of course, we could make a gothic adventure sandbox to house them all, sort of a dread plane...but let's keep the idea simple for now.) Ideally we would have a total of 31 entries (one for each night), and I'd combine them all into a book that could be purchased at cost on lulu or downloaded as a free pdf. 

Are you interested? Okay here is what I see as the parameters:

You get a date in October to make an adventure for (maybe that will inspire?)
each adventure is 2 pages:
-1 page would be the map
-1 page would handle all back story/ adventure set up and the location/ room contents.

What do I need to make it happen?
1) 30 people to commit to making a one evening adventure in a spooky or gothic horror style (you'd have about 2 weeks to complete it) (for free)
2) Some one willing to do a front cover image or scene (for free) (B&W)
3) Someone to do a back cover image or scene (for free)
3) Someone willing to make a "map page" spooky border (for free) (B&W)
4) Someone willing to make an "adventure page" spooky border (for free) (B&W)

Ideally everything would be submitted to me by the middle of October so we could have it out (at least the PDF for download) before Halloween, and the book for purchase (@cost) as soon as possible.  Everyone gets full credit for their work and retains their own rights, its a labor of love.

So is this of interest to any one else and do I have 30 willing volunteers or any artists willing? The deadline would be this Sunday (9/25) to go or no go on this idea...and please do not commit to it if you really can't be 100% sure of delivering on a short schedule.

Spread the word and let's see if we can make an OSR Oktoberfeast !

Commitment count 15 out of 31 needed! I am calling it one way or the other at 7pm PST 9/25.  We fell short this year, but we should have another go next year!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Classes or Skills-thoughts from a roguelike designer

Here is an older, yet great post I found from a roguelike developer regarding one of the core arguments in RPG gaming. Whether pen and paper or electronic roguelike, I think the importance of the debate is the same regardless of medium.  So here some food for thought and an interesting resolution from the author. 

Friday, 12 January 2007

Skills vs Classes

I've been reading the debate on skills vs classes being revived again. Firstly, have a look at those blogs. They're an interesting read, and as a game developer myself, I've got a whole lot of sites to bookmark and go through.

I also feel qualified to comment on them. For the record, I have been developing a variant of Angband called Unangband since 1992. Its playable; feel free to download it from the links on or direct from the development website

My game falls firmly on the side of classes at the moment. However, I've learnt a lot from fellow Angband variant developers, and particularly feel in debt to the excellent coding and game-balancing of Leon Merrick who developed a skills-based Angband variant called Sangband, which I recommend you download and start playing immediately. Leon has stopped developing Sangband approximately a year ago. The last official version is that I can find hosted is here, however a more recent 'unofficial' version is available if you wish to track it down. So I'm not alien to skills, in fact, I suspect I may be implementing skills in a later version of my game.

I think the discussion around skills vs classes has been missing one very important point: if you implement a cool special ability, why should you be cutting out even 1 person in your player base from using it. Its an important point, particularly for developers who don't have large development budgets, which is what I presume the majority of people reading these articles represent. Valve, who are arguably have designed some of the best games ever, will put a huge amount of developer time to script in cool events that have happened accidentally during a playtest run through. If they put in that much attention to ensuring that everyone has the same cool experiences, surely I (and you) should be doing the same.

I'll use the concrete example of the backstab ability. This is an almost trite fantasy cliche: a thief character sneaks through the shadows up to an unsuspecting monster, pulls out a short blade and thrusts it between the enemies shoulder blades. With a gurgling shudder, the monster drops to the ground, its compatriots unaware of what has just happened.

Now most games will have some kind of routine for backstab that goes if class = thief and/or skill-check(backstab) is true and monster is asleep, apply massive damage multiplier (With no apologies to Sony). But in reality, this requires a whole lot more development work to support. In a recent discussion on, for instance, I discovered that one of the competition to my roguelike implemented a line of sight dependent wake up routine, and a dungeon generation algorithm that designs the dungeon to have multiple routes to a monster, so its possible for the player to see a sleeping monster and find a path to the monster that has a minimal line of sight in order to maximise the chances of getting in the precious backstab that they have specialised in.

Now, to keep up with the Jonses, I potentially have to implement a CPU-intensive modification to my LOS algorithms, and completely rehash my dungeon design algorithms which I have just changed to ensure that I only have at most 1 connecting tunnel to each room. No way am I going to put in all that effort, just so one class specialist of the hundred or so class combinations I have in my game gets an infrequent damage multiplier.

So howabout I go through the following thought process instead. Screw classes and skills!

I want everyone who goes through the process of sneaking up on an unsuspecting monster and hits them in the back with a bladed weapon to get a massive damage multiplier. They've made the effort, they deserve the multiplier. Same with magic spells. If they've got some oil and a big red book of fire magic, and know that the monster they're fighting is vulnerable to fire, then they deserve an easy kill for covering the monster with oil and hitting it with a fire spell.

Instead, I should concentrate on things like how much of a bonus should back-stabbing give? What incentives should I be giving the player to switch to a small bladed weapon, when they have a perfectively good big brutal axe? How should I ensure that an critically injured monster can't call out to his friends, but a less critically injured one can alert them? How do I model the line of sight, AI and dungeon design/generation systems to allow a player to get to an unaware monster? What should the consequences be of the character getting caught red-handed? How far can a player throw oil and what's the splash range? If a monster catches fire, what does it do? If the player casts a fire spell, and has managed to get oil on himself, what are the consequences?

You'll probably have noticed something about the back-stabbing and fire spell examples. Each of the abilities requires a different equipment load out. Its a developer bias. Angband and their ilk are all about inventory management. But every MMORPG is also all about the loot you get from monster drops. And the good thing about a classless, skill-less system is that every drop is potentially useful to you. Not just the next-bright-shiny item for your class, which you have to spend forever looking for.

Note that I am not saying that every attack shouldn't require skill. But the skill and preferred attacks should be down to the human at the edge of the keyboard. And I'm not suggesting no levelling. Characters may still be able to level up - just a level 10 character should not be any better at backstabbing or casting spells or swinging a sword than any other level 10 character. Levelling up should be about better luck, or improved health, or something else accruable that gives the players a fighting chance against tougher monsters. Or if you have "skill-checks", make them a simple comparison against the characters level, rather than level * class progression or skill level.

Its something I've been moving towards in my variant but won't have the guts to do for some time, if ever. But I suspect it'll be incredibly liberating, and let me concentrate on the important stuff, which is implementing more cool features for the player, as opposed to any kind of min-maxing of different classes and races and nerfing of skill and class combinations.

So this is a clarion call against classes and skills, from a developer guilty of a little bit of both.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

On main view screen...FAR TREK!

After a road trip this week, I came home Friday to find my beta copies of Far Trek!  Then up at 4am this morning to edit and finalize it. Damn it Jim, I think it's ready!

If you want to purchase a digest sized copy of Far Trek, well now is your chance!

I make no money on this and it is sold at production cost of $6.30 USD each. You can out fit your away team for $20!  I will updated the Far Trek link to the right with the final booklet PDF as well for free download.

Live long and prosper!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

And now for something completely different...

In the past I have had made a couple games dealing with zombies. With Halloween fast approaching and the Walking Dead TV series shambling back, now seems like the right time to release something in this genre using my accumulated past efforts.

You can follow the progress if you are interested on my Zombies Attack site, or ignore it completely and go about your business. 

My beta Far Trek RPG books are not due for delivery until next Wednesday, so the earliest I'd have them up on LULU would be a week from today, sorry for the delay! Again they will be available at MFG cost only, I will make ZERO profit on this book.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Captain, my captain

I have seen posts and questions concerning, 'How do you role-play Trek when the captain makes the call?"  In other words, if one guy has all the say so how do you share it or at least make every player valuable?"

I guess I wonder why it's an issue at all?  Going back to D&D and the idea of a caller for the party the "captain role" has been a part of RPG's since inception.  Watch Trek episodes, Kirk isn't a dictator he listens and uses all of his crew.  Kirk can't fix the warp engines, he can't diagnose strange signals in space or analyze new life forms, heck out side of "fire phasers" statements he does not even fight with the ship nor fly it.  He is the figure head in most deals or conversations (a diplomats role), but he does not do so in a vacuum.  The crew can disagree with him and shape his decisions, but yes in the end he has to make the call for the benefit of the crew and ship.

A captain in an RPG of Trek is no different than what you find in business, sports, or nearly any other group human endeavor-a leader, or captain is part of the mix in life, so why is this situation any different or more troubling?  Not sure, but give my Trek inspired RPG Far Trek a download and see for yourself in game play if its an issue or if it is just in the mind's eye.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Far Trek RPG booklet test...

 Well for better--or worse, I cranked through the obvious issues and some of the left over goofs in order to get a beta booklet edition done and in the mail to me for some hands on editing and game time.  The printed copies lay abused around the house and I am hopefully having something a  bit appearance will make a few people kind enough to edit, feel like they are working on a near finished thing and not the mad scribbles of a Trek obsessed goofball.

Sure I don't think it will work either, but it is going to look bad ass on the table top!  I will shoot a picture of the game books, dice (Yup red, blue, yellow just like on the cover)and miniatures from our session.

Trek Minis?  Indeed sir!  Matt over at Captain's Blog has produced an "Astro Crew" in 15mm!  Even has sprues of heads and weapons to monkey with.  I asked and there is more to come provided folks order!  So don't be shy, order already I need some TOS Klingons baby! You can find the  download the Far Trek Beta via the logo to your right!

(the image is from the back of the Far Trek game book)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

FAR TREK --Beta verison of the RPG now available

It is only in beta release but you can find the PDF for the Far Trek Rules at the link to the right.  Character sheets are also available for you to use on the previous posts.

For the weekend, that's all I plan to do as I figured I labored enough here just getting the beta out for you to try and enjoy.

Eventually I will tighten up the loose screws and make a digest version available (at MFG cost-not for profit) for you to purchase if you like.

Your feedback is welcome, both good and bad.