Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Power of Re-Skinning

Art by Wayne Reynolds
Occasionally, when writing the notes for my next adventure, I want to throw something different and unique at my players, something they haven't fought a billion times before and know inside out. They've killed numerous orcs, but haven't fought as many magically-warped mutants. However, I don't want to create something completely from scratch. So, I reach into my bag of GM tricks and pull out the re-skinning card.

Re-skinning is one of the most useful tools at a GM's disposal. It allows you to create something new and interesting without creating an entirely new mechanical structure to represent it. All you have to do is pick something that already exists in the game and change its appearance.

Your players are exploring a crashed spaceship and you want them to find some pieces of advanced technology? Just re-skin some magical items with a technological visage. That wand of magic missile becomes a laser pistol and the magical charges become the power cells. That fancy laser sword the fighter found is actually a +1 brilliant energy longsword. It's that easy.

With that being said, you should still put some forethought into the re-skinning process. Since you will be using an existing mechanic to represent your new idea, you need to figure out how that mechanic will be implemented after the change. For example, let's say you are planning to re-skin a couple of kobolds into a hive of bug-men. Knowing that kobolds receive a bonus to their AC due to their scaly skin, you decide that bonus is a representation of the bug-men's exoskeleton.

Also, you should think about the problems that might arise from re-skinning something. Let's look back at the wand of magic missile that has been re-skinned as a laser pistol. Since its now a piece of technology, does that mean its immune to effects that would normal screw with it like spell resistance? If you say yes, does that make this piece of technology overpowered? If you say no, why is this piece of technology hindered by this ability that effects magic? Does that mean magic and technology are similar? Just take some time to think about the changes you are making and the questions that might come up because of it.

However, don't let the problems stop you from utilizing this useful GM trick. A simple re-skinning can take something boring or average and make it interesting and unique (flavor-wise at least). Just be careful with how you do it and give some thought to the repercussions of the changes you are planning to make and you should be fine.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Importance of Names

Last week, Paizo released the playtest document for 2014's Advanced Class Guide. While I gave my first impressions of the 10 "hybrid" classes, I want to focus on one of the criticisms I gave to the Bloodrager. For those of you who haven't looked at the playtest document, the Bloodrager is a hybrid of the Barbarian and the Sorcerer who gains the ability to access a number of supernatural abilities while enraged and cast a small number of spells at later levels. 

The class itself is an interesting concept and there are a few character ideas floating around in my head that would be a perfect fit for the class, but the name is just terrible. Yes, the name describes the concept of the class nicely (someone who accesses the power of their blood by raging), it sounds like a cheesy metal band from the 80's. Don't get me wrong, I love cheesy metal music, but a name that might work for that genre wouldn't necessarily work as a name for a Pathfinder class. 

Names are important things. Sometimes, something that's cool or interesting might be weakened by a bad or boring name. For example, lets say we have a game with three simple classes: the Combatant, the Expert, and the Spellcaster. All three of theses names give you an idea what the class does. The Combatant is great at fighting, the Expert is a specialist in a certain area (like disabling traps or sneaking around), and the Spellcaster casts spells. However, the names are kind of boring. Names such as the Magician, the Rogue, and the Warrior are much more interesting and sound much cooler than the more bland names. 

Names, at least certain ones, have a number of preconceptions tied to them. When choosing a name, you should think what kind of preconceptions it might have and how those preconceptions will affect how certain people view your creation. For example, when I hear the name "Swashbuckler", I envision a martial combatant who focuses more on finesse and wit that brute force. So, when someone hands me a class called "Swashbuckler", I expect to see a class focused on Dexterity and Charisma, not Strength. 

Finally, names can also affect how serious someone takes something. For example, lets say you create a monster to throw at your players. Depending on the name you give the creature and how you describe it, your players might take it as a serious threat, or laugh at it and see it as nothing but a joke. It sucks when you spend all this time coming up with a cool monster and your players laugh at it because you've given it a cheesy name. 

So, the next time you create something, give some thought to the name. The creation's title is sometimes just as important as the creation itself. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fame, Infamy, and Reputation

Art by Eva Widermann
For the past few years, my friend Corbin has been working on a roleplaying game based on the Legend of Zelda series. Recently, he has been working on some revisions to the game and adding a few new rules, one of which he wanted my opinion on: a reputation-based system which he is calling "Infamy."

The mechanic basically measures how famous the character is and how people will react to the character. The reputation could be positive and be a boon to the character, or it could be negative and act as a hindrance to the character. Whether its positive or negative really depends on who the character is interacting with and where they are at the time. As the character travels the land and goes on different adventures, their score will fluctuate, going up or down based on the character's actions.

While a sub-system is one of the more obvious ways to handle this idea, there are a few others ways you can implement it as well. If you're using a system similar to Dungeons & Dragons, you could have a seventh abiliy score called "Reputation". Like the other ability scores, Reputation would have a number associated with it and a positive or negative modifier tied to it. The modifier would influence situations where your Reputation would factor in. If your Reputation would help in the situation, you would add the modifier to your checks, making things easier for you. If your Reputation would hinder you in the situation, the GM would add the modifier to the difficulty class of the check, making things harder for you. As you go on quests, your Reputation score would advance based on your actions. The one hiccup with this version is how you'd handle negative modifiers and would you generate your Reputation score like the other ability scores, or would it start at 0?

If you didn't want to bother with mechanics, you could handle the fame of the characters in a more free-form manner. This is the method I'm currently using in my Heroes of Sandpoint campaign. As the characters go out on adventures, you basically call attention to their growing presence in the region, make the people hiring them for jobs more important and influential, and have the rewards they receive grow and change. While you don't have to worry about mechanics with this method, you have to remember to keep decent notes so things remain consistent and its more of an art than a science.

Like most things, which method you prefer really comes down to personal preference and maybe what kind of game you are trying to run. If the game focuses a lot on the heroes becoming famous and how that will both hurt and hinder them, a hard mechanic might be the way to go. However, if you prefer a more casual representation of a character's reputation, the free-form method might be a better fit.

Question Time: What is your preferred method for the representation of a character's reputation? Do you like a mechanical approach, or a more free-form style?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Advanced Class Guide Classes: First Impressions

Yesterday, Paizo finally released the playtest document for the upcoming Advanced Class Guide. The 51 page PDF presents the 10 "hybrid" classes that will be in the final book. After giving the document a read, I thought I'd give my first impressions of the classes in alphabetical order. Remember, these are merely my initial impressions and they are subject to change as I delve further into the classes.

The Arcanist
This Sorcerer/Wizard hybrid was the class I was most weary about coming in. Unfortunately, the document didn't fix that uneasiness. The class is trying to fill a role that doesn't really exist in the game and I feel the Arcanist might end up overshadowing both of its parent classes, even with its slowed spell progression (it can cast one less spell per day than a Sorcerer if I'm reading right). I will say the class' Blood Focus ability is kind of interesting (it's basically a pool of points you spend to access your bloodline powers), but I still have some reservations about it. I probably will not be using this class anytime soon. 

The Bloodrager
This Barbarian/Sorcerer hybrid is an interesting beast. Like a Barbarian, it has the ability to enter a rage to gain a few different bonuses. However, unlike the Barbarian, the Bloodrager also has a bloodline with a number of powers he can only access while raging. Also, at 4th level, the class gains the ability to cast a number of arcane spells and can even cast them while raging. While I really wish they would give it a different name (Bloodrager sounds like a cheesy metal band from the 80's), the class seems interesting enough and I have a few idea for bloodrager characters floating around in my head. 

The Brawler
This is a Fighter/Monk hybrid that strips away the supernatural elements of the Monk and focuses on unarmed combat and combat maneuvers. The class gets a full base attack bonus progression, a d10 hit die, proficiency with light armor. The Brawler has the ability to sacrifice a move action to gain the benefits of a combat feat she doesn't already possess for 1 minute. While I probably won't be playing a Brawler anytime soon, the class seems to be solidly built and could be fun to play. 

The Hunter
This Druid/Ranger hybrid feels like a druidic version of the inquisitor. However, instead of getting access to domains and the Judgement ability, you get an animal companion at 1st level and a new ability called Animal Focus. This new ability allows the Hunter to take on the aspect of an animal as a swift action that lasts 1 minute. For example, the Hunter could take on the aspect of the bear and gain a bonus to their Constitution score.  There are some weird elements to the class though, like how they can wear armor made from steel but can't use shields made from steel. In the end, the Hunter is a little lackluster to me and I probably wouldn't play it unless I had the right concept. 

The Investigator
This Alchemist/Rogue hybrid is actually one of my favorite classes in the entire document. The class has the ability to creates alchemical items and extracts like an alchemist, but also can sneak attack and has the trap-based abilities of the rogue. The class also has an ability called Inspiration, which is a pool of points he can spend to augment skill checks with a d6, and can spend two points to augment attack rolls and saving throws. He also receives a number of investigator talents that mimic an alchemist's discoveries and a rogue's talents. Being a fan of both the alchemist and the rogue, I really dig the Investigator and I really want to give it a test run.

The Shaman
A Oracle/Witch hybrid, the Shaman was one of the classes I was looking forward to the most. Sadly, I feel somewhat disappointed with it. Now, don't get me wrong, the Shaman is a nice mixture of the two classes where you receive the witch's familiar and hexes and the oracle's mystery in the form of a "spirit". However, it feels a little bland to me and I feel like it could be so much more. Personally, I feel like Kobold Press' Shaman does a better job at capturing the concept than this class does. However, like I said, this Shaman is still a solid class and my feelings towards it have nothing to due with the mechanics. 

The Skald
The Skald is a hybrid of the Barbarian and the Bard that leaves me with mixed emotions. The class is interesting, especially with its ability to inspire his allies (and himself) into bouts of rage and can grant them rage powers at later levels. My main problem with this class is that the concept can already be done thanks to the Savage Skald archetype, which is one of my favorite archetypes in the game. While the concept does have enough meat for a full class and it seems like it would be fun to play, its kind of sad to think that archetype will be overshadowed by this class. 

The Slayer
The Slayer is a hybrid of the Ranger and the Rogue that I find actually kind of cool. Its easy to tell the class was built to allow people to play assassins from 1st level without having to being evil. However, the concept is broad enough where you could play it as a bounty hunter or a monster hunter if you wanted to. The Slayer has the ability to sacrificing a move action to study an opponent, designating them as a "favored target" and receive a bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and certain skill rolls against it. You also gain a number of Slayer talents (which are a lot like rogue talents) and sneak attack. The only weird thing about the class is that it has a full base attack bonus progression, but only a d8 hit die. I wonder if that was on purpose, or was just a typo.

The Swashbuckler
Easily my favorite class in the entire playtest packet, the Swashbuckler is a hybrid of the Fighter and the Gunslinger.  Like the Gunslinger, the Swashbuckler receives a pool of points called Panache that allow them to perform cool abilities. The class really does fit the concept and seems like it will be fun as hell to play. However, I do have some problems with it. I think the class should just receive Weapon Finesse as a bonus feat instead of just the benefits of it and I wish its weapon selection was more open than just light or one-handed piercing weapons. Other than those two gripes, I really love this class. 

The Warpriest
The Warpriest is a hybrid of the Cleric and the Fighter that is basically a divine version of the Magus. The Warpriest receives proficiency with martial weapons, heavy armor, only has access to 6th level spells, receives "Blessings" instead of domains, gains fighter bonus feats, the channel energy ability at 2nd level, and the ability to imbue their deity's favorite weapon with divine power at 4th level. The class seems simple enough and could be fun to play. One of my players, Alfgeir the Cleric of Gorum, has asked to change his character to a Warpriest and I'll get to see the class in action pretty soon. 

If you're interested in looking at the playtest document and participating, click here. You will have to have an account, but since that is free there shouldn't really be any problem. You will be able to add the document to your downloads page and get it from there. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Philosophy On Classes

Friday, I mentioned Paizo will be releasing the playtest document for next year's Advanced Class Guide tomorrow. The document will contain ten "hybrid" classes that take two existing classes and combine them into a new one that will possess abilities from the parent classes and a few new mechanics as well. The ten classes will be Arcanist (Sorcerer/Wizard), Bloodrager (Barbarian/Sorcerer), Brawler (Fighter/Monk), Hunter (Druid/Ranger), Investigator (Alchemist/Rogue), Shaman (Oracle/Witch), Skald (Barbarian/Bard), Slayer (Ranger/Rogue), Swashbuckler (Gunslinger/Fighter), and Warpriest (Cleric/Fighter).

Ever since Paizo announced this book and the playtest back in August, I have been thinking a lot about classes and my philosophy about what concepts deserve their own base classes and which don't. Personally, when creating a class, I feel like the designer should ask themselves three questions:
  1. Does the class' concept have enough "meat" to build a full class around it? 
  2. Does the class' concept fill a role that is currently missing in the game? 
  3. Is the class necessary to play the concept from the 1st level? 
Before you start working on the mechanics of the class, you need to figure out if the concept has enough "meat" to build a class around it. For example, if you're building a class for Pathfinder, there needs to be enough there to fill out twenty levels. If you can only fill out a few levels, it is probably better off as an archetype or a prestige class. 

Also, I believe its important to design classes that fill missing roles in the game. The reason why I believe this is important is that it gives the new class a niche to fil. For example, you could design a class that creates and utilizes technological devices for Pathfinder. Since there really isn't a class that fills that niche (if you don't count 3PP classes), this new class would have a unique place in the game.

Finally, the concept should be something you can't already build with the current options at 1st level. For example, you can build a Swashbuckler character using the current Pathfinder rules. However, you will most likely have to wait a few levels, choose a bunch of feats, take a level in the Duelist prestige class, etc. However, a Swashbuckler class allows someone to play a popular fantasy archetype from the very 1st level instead of waiting until level 5 or so to play it. 

Now, I readily admit these are only my personal opinions on the subject and I know a few people will probably disagree with me. However, I stand by these three questions for the most part and they will be on my mind when I'm reviewing the playtest document tomorrow. 

What are your thoughts on designing new classes? How do you judge if a concept is worthy of a full class? Finally, what concepts do you believe deserve their own full class? 

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Advanced Class Guide's Playtest Begins Next Week!

Back in August, Paizo announced the Advanced Class Guide, 256-page rulebook that is due out next summer. The book will contain 10 new classes, each a hybrid of two existing classes (similar to the Magus from Ultimate Magic). Like many of their previous books, Paizo also announced they would be holding a public playtest that would begin "this fall."

Thankfully, Paizo sent out a e-mail to members of its forum last night announcing when the playtest would start and what the 8th class will be. Here is the message I received:

"Dear Cody,
As many of you are aware, we have a playtest coming up for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Class Guide, an exciting new rulebook due out next August. This book contains 10 all new classes that we like to call "hybrids". Each one takes rules elements from two existing classes and blends them together to create a new concept. To date, we have announced 7 of the 10 new classes, but since you are some of our most dedicated fans, I thought it only fitting that Pathfinder Society members get the scoop on the 8th class.
Before I get into the new class, I want to tell you a bit about the upcoming playtest. Starting on Tuesday, November 19th, you will be able to download the Advanced Class Guide Playtest PDF from This document will contain rules for all 10 of the classes slated to appear in the Advanced Class Guide. We want you to read over the classes and use them in your game. We want your feedback on how they perform at the table, what works and what needs work. Your thoughts and feedback will help shape these classes before they take their final form. You will be able to contribute through a number of special playtest messageboards.
Best of all, these classes are available for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play immediately upon the release of the playtest document! You'll need to have a print or PDF copy of the playtest document with your character, and you'll need to incorporate any changes established by the design team or campaign staff during the playtest as well as once the final versions of the class are released in August 2014. the Additional Resources list will have specific details about what is allowed in the campaign and should be referenced when creating a character that uses any of these classes.
Now that you know when to expect the playtest, on to the new class. Up to this point, we have talked about 7 of the 10 classes: the Arcanist (a mix of sorcerer and wizard), the Bloodrager (a mix of barbarian and sorcerer), the Hunter (a mix of druid and ranger), the Shaman (a combination of oracle and witch), the Slayer (a blending of ranger and rogue), the Swashbuckler (a mix of gunslinger and fighter), and the Warpriest (mixing the cleric and fighter). The 8th class is...
The Investigator. This class blends together elements of the alchemist and the rogue to make for the ultimate sleuth. Using extracts, sneak attack, and a new mechanic called inspiration, the investigator is skilled at putting together clues, finding hidden foes, and striking enemies with precision. Think of him as part Sherlock Holmes, part Doctor Jekyll. Using inspiration, the investigator can add a bonus to certain skill checks, saving throws, and even attack rolls.
The design team here at Paizo is looking forward to getting this playtest started and we can't wait to see your feedback. We know that you are some of our most diehard players and we want to hear what you have to say.
Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer"  
This announcement has me both excited and nervous at the same time. I'm excited to know the playtest will be starting soon and I'll be able to try out the 10 new classes. I can already guarantee one of my players will want to re-create their character (from a Cleric of Gorum to a Warpriest of Gorum).

However, I have mixed emotions about the Arcanist and Investigator classes. The Arcanist feels like its trying to feel a role that doesn't really exist and the Investigator is already a role that can be accomplished with a few archetypes. However, these are just initial worries based on my perceptions of the classes and I'm perfectly willing to change my opinions if the playtest makes me feel like the two classes are necessary additions to the game.

Also, for those of you who are curious what the last two classes will be, keep your eyes on EN World today. They will be posting an interview with Jason Bulmahn where he will announce the remaining classes. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that one of these classes will be a Rogue/Wizard hybrid that focuses on Enchantment and Illusion spells (Hopefully called the Mountebank).

Update: The interview has been posted over at EN World and the final two classes have been announced. They are the Brawler (a Fighter/Monk hybrid) and the Skald (a Barbarian/Bard hybrid).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kickstarter Promotion: Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary Update for Pathfinder

While some might view this as hyperbole, but I'm going to say it anyway: Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary was easily one of the best books put out for 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons. Its a book I believe anyone who enjoys the d20 system should have on their shelves because it gives you a number of interesting templates to add to your typical monsters and make them different and unique (who wouldn't want to fight clockwork chokers?). 

Today, Chris Pramas announced on the Paizo forums that Green Ronin is running a kickstarter to update the Advanced Bestiary to the Pathfinder RPG. Since Green Ronin usually publishes very high-quality products and this was one of the best books published under the OGL, I definitely feel comfortable promoting this kickstarter. 

If you play or run Pathfinder, like Green Ronin's work, and want a book that will give you a lot of material to make some really cool and interesting encounters, I highly recommend you back the project. If you're interested, click here

Monday, November 11, 2013

Random Inspiration: Magical Trinkets

I love magic items. Always have, always will. I know I'm not the only who feels this way and I bet you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who truly hates magic items.

I also like the concept behind magic shops, at least in the bigger, more cosmopolitan cities in a setting (like Absalom or Waterdeep). However, I believe magic shops should only have weaker magic items like scrolls, potions, maybe a few basic magic weapons and armor, and some of the weaker wondrous items and that's it. 

However, while watching the anime Fair Tail on Netflix the other day, an idea popped into my head. Why not create a new category of magic items called "magical trinkets". Basically, these would be minor items that have one simple function that isn't too powerful or mimics the effects of a low-level spell. Here's three magical trinkets, just to give you an idea about how they'd work and their basic power level. 
  • This silver ring has a sapphire attached to it. Once per day, by saying the phrase "Light the Way" while touching the ring, the sapphire glows and acts like the light spell as if it was cast by a 1st-level spellcaster. 
  • This brown bag contains an amount of fine, silver sand. As a standard action, a character can pull out a small amount of sand and throw it at an opponent (making a ranged attack). If the sand succeeds at hitting the target, the opponent must make a Will save and they suffer from the effects of a sleep spell if they fell. The sleep spell works as if it was cast by a 1st-level spellcaster. There is enough sand inside the bag to do this three times. 
  • This small amulet is made from an enchanted rabbit's foot. Once per day, a character can take this amulet into its hand, focusing on the amulet, and receiving the benefits of the guidance spell. 
These trinkets would be readily available in most magic shops, allowing you to keep the majority of wondrous items as treasure. However, like most ideas that pop into my head late at night (might have been early in the morning), I want to refine the idea a little more. I want the trinkets to be useful, but not all that powerful and have a drawback if their effect is rather powerful (hence the sand requiring a ranged attack and Will save). 

So, here's a question for all of you: What kind of magical trinkets would you like to see? 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Heroes of Sandpoint: A Grave Encounter

Art By Wayne Reynolds
Our Cast of Characters
  • Alfgeir Stannisson, a Ulfen Cleric of Gorum who has traveled from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, hoping to become a great hero like his ancestors. 
  • Fiona of Sandpoint, a Varisian Rogue who has spent most of her lives on the streets of the coastal town, doing whatever she can to survive. 
  • Jon Silverbow, an Elf Ranger who hails from the Mierani Forest of northern Varisia who has a deep hatred for goblinoids. 
  • Ongar, a Half-Orc Paladin who has dedicated his life to the goddess Sarenrae and hopes to spread her redeeming light wherever he goes. 
  • Tywin, a Half-Elf Sorcerer from the shadowy realm of Nidal who has traveled far and wide in search of vengeance against someone who has wronged him. 

Two weeks have passed since our party of adventurers saved the local sage's niece from certain death. During this time, the town's gravekeeper has noticed something strange happening in the town's cemetery. A number of graves, all surrounding a rather old mausoleum, have been dug up and the coffins that inhabited the plots have disappeared.

Fearing what might be behind these disappearances, the gravekeeper Naffer Vosk quickly informed the town priest Abstalar Zantus of the robbed graves. Not wanting to bother the town guard in case its just a couple of hooligans playing rather morose pranks, Zantus contacts this new group of heroes after hearing what they did for Brodert Quink.

Once the characters were caught up to speed, Naffer led the group to the now vacant graves and the mausoleum. While investigating the inside of the mausoleum, the party discovered a secret passage underneath an ornate coffin, leading down to a cave system underneath the Sandpoint Boneyard. After securing some rope to one of the columns inside the mausoleum, the party carefully lowered themselves down into the first chamber, a large cave dominated by a pool of murky water with three tunnels leading further underground.

Wanting to test the depth of the pool before attempting to cross, Fiona took her quarterstaff and stuck it into the water. After hitting the bottom, she quickly pulled the staff back out and noticed something odd. The end of her staff was sizzling, as if it had been dipped into acid. Figuring something might be lurking in the water and believing his ability to see in the dark might allow him to see through the murky water, Ongar moved onto his knees and stuck his head into the pool. Unfortunately, this caught the attention of the gray ooze living in the water, which quickly grabbed the half-orc and pulled him in.

Thankfully, his companions manage to pull him out of the water and the grip of the ooze before he could sustain any serious injuries. Once the paladin was safe, Tywin decided to experiment with one of his spells, casting ray of frost* onto a section of the pool to create a temporary bridge. While it worked, the bridge wasn't very stable and they had to move across quickly.

After collecting themselves and healing their wounds, the heroes moved down the nearest tunnel and onto the next chamber. As they moved forward, the group heard two creatures arguing about the "proper" way to consume a freshly dead corpse. When they finally entered the next chamber, they discovered the source of the argument: two ghouls perched atop two piles of bones. It didn't take long for the ghouls to notice the unwanted company. Luckily, the party reacted quickly and managed to take out the pair of ghouls before anyone was seriously hurt.

The group quickly searched the room for anything of value before moving onto the next chamber. When they entered the strangely well-lit cave, they spotted a ghast dressed in tattered rags with an amulet constructed from a jackal's skull. The creature named Balthazar was perched upon a throne made from bone. After summoning a pair of zombies from the coffins found behind him, the group of undead attacked the interlopers. While the battle was long and hard, with two of the characters getting paralyzed by Balthazar, the group managed to slay the creature and his minions.

After searching the room and gathering anything of value they could find, the party made their way back up to the surface and informed Zantus and Naffer about the source of the empty graves and received their reward.

*(Yes, I know ray of frost doesn't work like that. However, it was an interesting idea and I didn't want to shut him down for coming up with a cool idea. Although, I did have him make a check to see if he succeeded or not.)

((If you'd like to read the re-cap for the 1st session, click here))

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NaGa DeMo: What Will the Rules Look Like?

Monday, I talked about NaGa DeMo (National Game Design Month) and a few ideas I had for my game. After thinking long and hard about the three ideas, I've settled on the Golden Age Superhero game. The game will be set during the late 1930s until the early 1950s (which most people consider to be the "Golden Age of Comic Books"). Characters will fight crime, take on the horrors of World War II, and create a place in history as the first superheroes (for their world anyway).

Now that I have a concept that I like, I need to figure out what the basic mechanics of the game will be. Currently, I'm aiming to design a more rules-light system. I have nothing against crunch (I'm currently running a Pathfinder game after all), but I kind of want to keep the game simple and focus more on having fun with the game instead of stumbling over mountains and mountains of rules.

The core mechanic of the game closely resembles the core mechanic of the d20 system. For those of you not familiar with the d20 system, I'll elaborate. When attempting something in the game that has a significant chance of failure, the player rolls a d20 and adds any relevant modifiers he or she might receive to the die's result. If the final result is equal to or greater than a target number assigned to the task by the Game Master, the character succeeds at the task. However, I might chance the specific die (possibly to a d12 or a d10) at a later date.

Characters in the game will be defined by four aspects: Archetypes, Motivations, Attributes, and Abilities. A character's archetype represents the character's basic concept and a character's motivation represents why the character has become a superhero. For example, Spider-Man's archetype would be "Friendly-Neighborhood Superhero" and his motivation would be "With Great Power Must Also Come Great Responsibility". Both of these phrases will affect the character in certain ways and gives the rest of the group a clear idea of what kind of hero the character is.

A character's attributes represent their most basic mental and physical characteristics. Currently, each character has six attributes. They are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Perception, and Willpower. Each attribute will have a score that act as a modifier to die rolls associated with the attribute. For example, a character with a Strength of 3 would add 3 to their die roll when trying to break down a door.

Finally, a character's abilities represent their powers and talents. Each ability will be defined rather broadly to allow each player to alter the trappings of the power. For example, the "Attack" ability could be a character blasting an enemy with magical power, swinging a mythical sword at them, or shooting them with their high-tech laser. Like attributes, each ability will have a score that acts as a modifier to die rolls associated with the power.

Currently, this is more of a "blue-print" than a concrete list of rules. I still need to figure out what the main die will be (currently its the d20, but as I said, that might change down the road if I feel like another die does the job better), how situations like combat and the like work, and what powers are available for the players to choose for their characters. However, typing all of this out gives me something to look at to keep myself on track during the month and remember the basic elements of the game.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ryuutama: Natural Fantasy Role-Playing Game

Ryuutama is a Japanese RPG designed by Atsuhiro Okada. The game is set in a world where the characters are normal townsfolk (such as bakers, merchants, minstrels, farmers, and the like) who travel a fantastical world together, searching for fun and adventure. 

Andy Kitkowski (who ran the kickstarter to have Tenra Bansho Zero translated to English) is running another kickstarter to create an English translation of Ryuutama. The product looks really interesting and the artwork has this classic JRPG feel to it and makes me feel rather nostalgic. I really hope this project gets funded. 

If you'd like to take a look at the Japanese PDF of the game, you can download it here for free. If you're afraid that you might be pirating something, its okay. Okada made this PDF available to the public.
The Cover of the Original Rulebook

NaGa DeMo: What's My Idea?

So, as most of you already know, its National Game Design Month and I plan on participating this year. However, before I can participate, I need to figure out what kind of game I want to make first. So, its time for a brainstorming session.

While I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head, I can't use all of them because it would make the project cluttered and raise the chances of me not finishing in time. So, I'm going to focus on the three ideas that interest me the most and choose one of them.

The first idea, which is based on a campaign concept that's been sitting in the back of my head for awhile, is an urban fantasy game set in a small town with a large boarding school that just so happens to sit on a nexus of supernatural energy. Because of this, fantastical and horrifying creatures are drawn to the town and some of the students attending the boarding school happen to be more than meet's the eye as well. The players would be some of these students, having to deal with growing up and handling their new found abilities (whether they be wizards who have just discovered their magical abilities or werewolves dealing with their transformations and puberty) and secretly fighting these supernatural forces to protect the town and school.

The second idea, which was influenced by a post I made recently, is a zombie survival game. The game would focus on the survival aspect and the rebuilding of society instead of the chaos of the initial outbreak. The game would also focus on the characters adapting to this new world dominated by the walking dead and the character's slowly losing or doing their best to hold onto their humanity as time goes on. For that reason, it would have something similar to the Sanity mechanic from Call of Cthulhu that would go down or up due to the character's actions and how they handle certain situations in the game.

The final idea is a superhero game set in the 1940's during the Golden Age of Comic Books. The game would be about the first generation of superheroes fighting crime, dealing with Nazis and World War II, and other threats. Also, the game could turn into a generational game where you follow the growth of superheroes from the Golden Age, through the Silver and Bronze Ages, into the modern day.

While the first two ideas would be easier to accomplish within a month, the third idea would be a fun challenge and I've been wanting to run a Golden Age Superhero game for a long time. What do you guys and gals think? Which idea should I run with? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Friday, November 1, 2013

National Game Design Month: Write and Play a Game in One Month!

((Click Here for the Challenge's Website))
Since its creation in 2010, National Game Design Month (NaGa DeMo for short) is an annual challenge that takes place during the month of November. The rules for the challenge are rather simple:
  • Create a game during the month of November. 
  • Finish the game during the month of November. 
  • Play the game during the month of November. 
  • Talk about your experiences during the month of November. 
If you manage to do all four of those things before the month is over, you "win" and get to brag about defeating the dreaded beast that is NaGa DeMo. The game can be a board game, a card game, a RPG, a video game, a wargame, or anything else you can come up with. As long as you create it and play it during November, it counts. 

I think I'm going to try and take the NaGa DeMo challenge as well this year. I already have a few ideas and I just want to see if I can pull it off. I'll probably post updates about the game I end up working here as well, hopefully on a regular basis throughout the month.