Saturday, 11 November 2017

Writing games. The Suck (tm)

Everyone has ideas.

Many people are hard workers.

A good chunk of people are clever about a topic they are interested in.

A small number of people can write well.


So by my back-of-the-envelope math, we should have millions of games about any given subject.
Why don't we?

Well, for one, writing a game takes time, testing it takes time and not all ideas turn out to work on paper (let alone on the table).

But there's a much greater reason a game never takes shape, I think.

The Suck.

What is The Suck?

The Suck is every single page you don't want to write.
Doesn't matter if it's miniatures, role playing, board games, cards or interpretive dance.

Every word you don't WANT to write contributes to The Suck.

What kind of stuff contributes to The Suck?

That depends on who you are.
What do you NOT want to write? Game examples? Designer notes? In-depth explanations of the artillery rule? Optional rules? A chapter explaining the philosophy of the rules so people will play it "right" ?

For me, it's always terrain rules. Anything that involves counting out different types of table top scenery and how each unit type interacts with it.
Oh, and don't forget jump pack troops and what if you teleport INTO the feature and does it count if only half the model is within the area and....

I hate it.

And every time I work on something, I dread writing the terrain section.
Every time I pick up a new game, I skip that part, read everything else, then realize at some point, some goon is going to wander into the woods and I'm going to need know what happens.

The Suck lurks?

So you have a clever idea. Maybe it's a dice mechanic (FAD began literally from the idea of rolling two dice and picking the highest) or a concept (NEIS began with the idea of permanent overwatch).
Maybe you read a lot about a particular battle and you're stoked to make rules for it.
Maybe you are just writing up the homebrew you play at the club.

You write an introduction and some notes. You begin fleshing out the rules and fixing up a few bugs and special cases.
You come up with a clever mechanic for morale that builds off the main dice system and you feel great.

And then it jumps at you.
The Suck.

It laughs in your face, taunting you.
"Nobody is going to take your game seriously without me, and unless you include detailed terrain rules, you will get 8 emails a day asking how to handle a slightly grassy boulder"

How you react at that stage is what determines if your game is ever going to be finished and seen by anyone but yourself.

Do you give up? I have. Many times. Sometimes the combined weight of things that contribute to The Suck just makes you realize you didn't care enough for the idea.

Do you power through it? When you've done it enough, you learn to churn out 5 pages of Suck and have it read pretty decently. After all, if it's a part you don't care about, it just has to function okay. Games are full of bits that are "okay".
As long as the rest is cool and this part isn't broken, it can be "okay" and nobody will notice.

Do you ignore it completely? "Fuck it, who actually reads the designer notes?"
You can always insist your game is "avant garde" experimental design (alternatively, say its "not for rules lawyers" and you can get away with basically selling people a to-hit table with the text "rolling well is probably better")


* * * * *

So there you have it.
The secret to being a designer. The Suck.

It has its claws in all of us and it takes a different shape for every person.

What is The Suck to you ?

Blade&Lockpick. Characters.

As requested, here's a few examples of characters built using the book.

Let's say I want to build a noble knight type for a fantasy game.

Characters consist of building-blocks: Abilities, Skills and Traits (plus a few other bits) each of which has a specific function in the game rules.

You could simply tally down a couple of things on the fly, but we do include a "choice" system based on power levels.
So we're going to make a Veteran character, which means they'll get 1 Ability, 3 Skills and 1 Talent.

Abilities are basically what would be "stats" in other games, so we'll give him Endurance as his Ability.

Skills are pretty self-explanatory. I like to use fairly wide skills but you could make them much more narrow if desired.

I'll give him a Knight skill which covers...well..knightly business like fighting, etiquette and horsemanship.
Second, we're going to give him Religion. He might be a knights templar or similar, so we'd expect him to be well educated in matters of the faith.
Finally, I'll add Hunting reflecting an upbringing as petty nobility, preoccupied with the finer things in life like shooting pigs with arrows.

Talents are particular knacks, unusual traits or mystical characteristics. It could be almost anything, but we're going to go with a Blessed Sword.
That way, we can justify a bonus die in combat situations.

If we're building a full character, we'd proceed to add some flair and connections but those are mainly role playing aspects, so we can stop here.


So our final character looks like:
Abilities: Endurance.
Skills: Knight. Religion. Hunting.
Traits: Blessed Sword.


This is the most straight-forward method, we actually offer a small lifepath system as well, but I'll give an example of that later on.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Blade & Lockpick. How an encounter works

So with Blade&Lockpick meeting with pretty brisk sales (I hope because it's rad but the killer artwork by Luigi no doubt helped), I thought I'd delve into how the encounters work, in case you are wondering:


So let's say we have a party of 4 adventurers . One is a big burly barbarian who has the Strong ability and Fighting as a skill.
One is a knight who also has a Fighting skill.
The other two are a scholar and a thief, neither of which have any traits relevant to combat.

They run into a band of rowdy goblinoids, consisting of 3 orcs and 3 goblins (minions).
None of those have any particular skills.


So let's see how that plays out, purely from a mechanical perspective. I am not going to go into heavy narration for this example, just to keep it clear and without clutter.

Round 1:
The heroes get 4 dice (one per hero) rolling 1, 2, 3, 5.

Due to the Strong character they can re-roll the 1 and get a 4, for a final score of 2, 3, 4, 5.

Since they have a character with Fighting skill, add +1 to the highest die (just +1 even if they have two such characters) for a total of 6.

The orcs roll 4, 5 and 5 on their three dice. The goblin minions automatically roll 3's, so the orc dice pool is 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5 for a 5 as their highest die.

Result: One goblin is eliminated.

Round 2: 
Heroes roll 1, 2, 3, 6.
Even before re-rolls, I know the orcs can't score a 7, so the heroes win this one and knock off another goblin.

Round 3:
Heroes roll 1, 2, 3, 4.
Re-rolling the 1 (for another 1) and adding skill, we get a 5 as our highest die.

The orc dice are 3, 4, 5 with a single goblin left adding another 3.

The highest dice are equal, so both teams must drop a character.
The last goblin bites it and I decide to roll randomly for what player character is knocked off. It ends up being the Barbarian. Oof.

Round 4:
The heroes now have 3 dice and no re-roll, but they still get the bonus for the Knights skill.

Dice are 3, 3, 4 so their total is 5.

Orcs roll 1, 4, 5, another draw.

An orc tumbles to the ground as does the scholar.

Round 5:
We're down to two characters facing two orcs.
At this point, we'd probably want to decide if the orcs run away or the heroes might decide to withdraw, but for this example, we'll proceed to the bitter end.

The heroes roll a 3 and a 4 (for a final score of 5) while the orcs roll a pair of 3's, resulting in another orc biting the dust.

Round 6:
Hero dice are 1 and 3 (final score 4).
A bit risky, but the last orc rolls....a 2 and is defeated.

We win:
Huzzah!
This was a straight up "knock down, drag out" fight with no fancy stuff, no magic, no situational modifiers or anything else. Just two groups smashing into each other and hitting each other, until only one was standing.

What happened to the two characters that were removed? We might narrate that, we might roll on the Consequence table in the rules or we might use the in-game Oracle to figure it out.
For our purposes, we'll say the scholar actually just ran and hid, while the barbarian got dramatically roughed up but wasn't really seriously hurt.


Tomorrow, we'll look at a more complex example, as well as a non-combat one or two.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Solo/1on1 RPG engine "Blade and LockPick" is available







Blade & Lockpick is a role playing engine written with the following goals:

To present a group-oriented resolution system where the party act as a group, not a collection of individuals.

To provide a universal resolution system that could handle combat, mountaineering and research projects equally well.

To allow an interesting game where one player can easily handle a group of characters.


* * * * *

The dice-pool based system allows a group of characters to pool their skills, abilities and talents against an obstacle or foe and accounts for things like:

*Large monsters

*Deception and situational advantages

*Magic

*Character skills, raw abilities, masteries and unusual talents and much more.

* * * * *

Fast.

A complex battle with 4-6 characters on each side can be resolved in minutes instead of an hour, and without being a simple all-or-nothing outcome either.

* * * * *

No game engine would be complete without a character creation system.

In fact, we offer three ways to build interesting, fun characters, neither of which will take more than 5 minutes per character.

* * * * *

Several systems for improving characters over time, including by experience points, narratively or through a Milestone system, ideally suited for story-driven campaigns.

* * * * *

What if you can't decide what to play? We offer a tool to roll up a random campaign pitch.

Ever thought about doing a Low Fantasy light-hearted Heist adventure?

* * * * *

Lastly, you get a collection of solo-gaming tools, including an "Oracle" to answer game questions, random event systems, a table for determining the actions of your rivals and enemies and a "Between scenes" system for foiling your best laid plans.

* * * * *

Rather than being a game that can also be used for solo adventures, Blade & Lockpick was written specifically with the needs, concerns and difficulties of the solo gamer in mind.

It is also perfectly suited for those who like to play with a single player and a GM, but who would like to control a group of characters.

Lastly, you can use the system with a conventional gaming group interested in a more group-driven, narrative approach to gaming.


http://www.rpgnow.com/product/226066/Blade-and-Lockpick-A-game-engine-for-solo-and-two-player-games

Friday, 3 November 2017

Something a bit different. A solo/single player RPG resolution engine

If you play RPG's "one on one" (one player plus GM) or even solo, you have probably run into the challenge of trying to manage 4-6 characters in a battle, even when using simple rules.

With that in mind, and the fact that I've been wanting to try and write a "group oriented" resolution system for RPG's since forever, go give this a look:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/m8ey708w9bweskk/AAA4dA-X-rospDJ0-GgJ-JSwa?dl=0

Tentatively titled "Blade and lockpick" it's a fast system for resolving more or less any conflict in an RPG using simple dice pools (and a few dice tricks).

There's a very simple base system, then a ton of suggestions, clarifications and options for you.


Tear it to pieces and let me know what you think.
If there's enough interest, I'll do up a full character creation system for it.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Since this seems to be a hot-button issue

Since there seems to be a lot of hot air about the new Wolfenstein video game, I've been thinking:

Nordic Weasel Games produces a few WW2 games.
Those games can feature Nazi's.
This may be shocking for a game set in a war that was started by the Nazi's but hey, here we are.

In fact, "Where Sten Guns Dare" explicitly and unapologetically is about fighting Nazi's.
You can grab that here:
http://www.wargamevault.com/product/219121/Where-Sten-Guns-Dare 

A game featuring Nazi's is apparently a political statement nowadays and the internet is abuzz with people complaining that a game about killing Nazi's is liberal propaganda or some such.


So I thought it'd be pertinent to establish a few guidelines as to how this controversy might affect our hobby:

1: 
Toy Soldiers aren't actually real people, so you should probably just relax.

2:
In the world of the game, the guys you are fighting (if you play the allies) are Nazis or soldiers fighting for the Nazis.
They're not "alt" anything and they are most certainly not an allegory for this or that modern political frame work.

3:
Playing the Feldgrau dudes in a toy soldier game doesn't mean you're a Nazi.

4:
If you genuinely feel that killing imaginary Nazi soldiers in a toy soldier game is an affront to your political views, then please stop being a terrible person.

5: 
If you feel motivated to write a long drawn-out piece about how the average Landser was actually an apolitical draftee who warglegarblebarble, then rest assured I don't care.


With these guide-lines firmly in mind, go forth and play toy-soldiers.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Swift - Enigmatic lizard men for Unity Field Agent

The army list for Unified Space's answer to the Droyne is here:

The Swift are enigmatic lizard people that seem to transition through a series of castes as they mature.
Now you can field this strange little creatures in your games of Unity Field Agent.

If you didn't pick up UFA yet, it's our card-drive skirmish game, featuring points-driven army lists, random scenario generation (using a simple card deck) AND Necromunda-style experience rules, letting your figures level up in our "Squad-Mode".

You can find the rules and all supporting material, including the new army list here:

http://www.wargamevault.com/browse/pub/5701/Nordic-Weasel-Games/subcategory/23449_28390/Unity-System