Friday, November 2, 2018

Moving to WordPress

This particular blog actually started on WordPress a very long time ago, but at the time I wasn't enamored of WordPress' functionality and Blogger was at least marginally better/easier to work with. Over the years I've tolerated many of Blogger's idiosyncrasies with writing posts - images and text not playing right together, things moving around strangely, and even massive formatting failures that caused things to disappear - largely because of G+ integration. Obviously that is no longer a reason for staying on Blogger. Things basically haven't changed in years in terms of tools and that is causing me to cast a suspicious eye toward how little attention Blogger gets from Google. Meanwhile Wordpress continues to improve and honestly is way better than it was seven or eight years ago. I was able to export my blog and import it into Wordpress with no visible issues beyond maybe some formatting that I'm not going to try to fix. It imported tags, comments, images, everything.

So without further ado, the link to the new blog is:

This blog will remain up most likely until Google+ shuts down, but all new posts will be made over there.

Monday, October 29, 2018

My Fate Dice and Fate Points from the Kickstarter came in, and they are really nice. These are adding to a little collection I have that includes a Noteboard, decks of Short Order Heroes, various Fate Dice from other Kickstarters, a variety of Exceed notebooks from Wal Mart, and a couple different sizes of these small stackable boxes for holding cards and stuff (also from Wal Mart). I want to add an All Rolled Up at some point to round it all out.

Unfortunately, I don't have a game to use them in and when I do get one running it will be 1) Blades in the Dark and 2) online. But when I do play face-to-face, I'm gonna be prepared!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

So I restarted playing Thief for about the dozenth time, with the intent of finally pushing past the horrible beginning to find out if it was as bad as the reviews. I'm now solidly into the territory I enjoy - exploration, jobs, puzzles and (of course) stealing things. It's definitely not as good as the original Thief games - but it might be on par with Thief Deadly Shadows, which was the weakest of the original three for me but still enjoyable.

The Good
  • Visually the game is amazing 
  • Lockpicking and the general cracking/puzzle solving are my favorite out of all of the Thief games. I really like the mechanic to check for hidden switches. In fact, I can say that I like most of the mechanics. 
The OK
It makes me feel like this
  • I remember a lot of reviews complaining about changes to the controls - basically, it takes a lot of the pixelbitching out of climbing, mantling, etc. When you are able to do the thing (such as jumping over or off of something, crouching behind something, climbing) you press E when you're in the right place and you do the thing. I got used to it pretty easy, although I still occasionally attach myself and wind up peeking around a corner or box when I really wanted to sail right by. 

  • Related to this, there's not quite as much freedom of movement. In the previous Thief games, you could only fire rope arrows into specific materials (i.e., wood), but you could totally fire a rope arrow and climb up only to have nowhere to go. In the reboot, you can only fire them on to specific overhands and whatnot. This is slightly made up for by the fact that if you can fire a rope arrow at it, there is something to get to from there. Similarly, there are things that can broken with blunt arrows like winches, handles, etc. If that's the case, again there's going to be something there. 
  • The levels are pretty straightforward without a lot of alternate paths to get around obstacles, but to be honest I think I've also been spoiled by Dishonored where if you can reach it you can teleport to it (like Thief, there's no guarantee you can go anywhere from that spot, but I have found some novel paths to get places in Dishonored). The levels are definitely smaller than many of the levels in the original Thief games. 
  • I've never been a fan of only being able to save at checkpoints. Having to randomly hide in cabinets to get said save is kind of funny, especially since one of the commands in the cabinet is something like "barge out". Since this reminds me of my four year old liking to hide in cabinets and closets, I always imagine Garrett is going to jump out and yell, "Surprise!" or "You found me!". 
  • I have my difficulty settings cranked up a little bit, mostly because Thief-ing is old hat to me and otherwise it would be super easy to breeze past guards and whatnot. With it set so I can only knock out hostiles, and not kill anybody (directly - I quickly found breaking a pulley and dropping stuff on people doesn't count), I occasionally find that the line between hostile and civilian is fuzzy, For example, there is this guy in the foundry mission who obviously works for the "Thief-Taker General" (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) and is in a uniform. Nope, can't knock his ass out. I guess the litmus test is if they run or don't react to you, can't knock them out. 
  • I'll preface this with the fact that I haven't been trying really hard to find every piece of loot, but it seems that without using Focus it's super easy to miss loot and collectibles. Overall, it hasn't yet impacted my game other than seeing all of the crap I missed at the end of a mission - but I suppose at some point only getting a fraction of the coin will eat into my ability to buy equipment. But beyond that, and maybe it's just because I'm early in the game, but the expenditure of Focus Points doesn't seem to add much to the game - especially compared to a game like Dishonored, where your abilities have a range of usefulness. I guess I just need to buckle down and start using Focus everywhere. 
  • Speaking of gear, while I like the expanded equipment I'm not totally sold on having to go specific dudes to buy it, especially if that means having to listen to their dialogue. I much preferred the earlier system where you had to choose your load out before the mission. 
I'm talking about this guy. Also, he looks like he wants to flash me. 
The Bad
  • Pretty much every character in the game. Seriously. The dialogue is cringeworthy at best, the voice acting ranges from wooden to jarring to "Did this guy wander away from a Barnum and Bailey's?" 

  • The plot, at least so far, especially combined with the really horrible dialogue and voice acting. Also, while I understand that there were likely some independent, parallel things going on with Thief's development vs Dishonored...there are things that strike me as a little too similar. Garrett returning to a city stricken by a plague, the beggar-queen character, etc. I haven't gotten too far into it to know if it continues to be not very compelling - but the beginning with Erin and then being taken back into the city on a beggar's death cart without much explanation fell flat enough that it kept me from engaging with the story and just not getting any further a whole bunch of times. When I restarted it this time I saw I had about 10 1/2 hours of play, and realized it was likely the same 45 minutes to an hour repeated about ten times - and even then bits were forgettable enough that it was like I was playing them all over again. 
  • The hands. Oh God the hands. It looks like Garrett just got out of bed and is trying to find the bathroom with the lights off. 
With all of that said, this time I think I'll finish it just to cross it off the list and move on to some other games in my library. I likely won't go back and replay it though.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Current Stuff and Things

Aside from starting to get a Roll20 Blades in the Dark game together, I have a handful of other things I've been pecking away at for the past year (or more in some cases). I don't really have a priority on these things, as I kind of flit between them in slower moments at work or home, or when inspiration strikes me. I also don't know what my ultimate intentions are with any of these - publication (for sale or for free) or just for my own amusement. All three of them have gotten to a point where I need to do some kind of outlining or organization on them to continue any further, otherwise I just wind up spinning my tires going back over what I've already done.

"Cradle" - This one is a semi-traditional fantasy setting that I've been kicking around for years and years. Earlier this year I finally got a map that I'm very happy with and the name of the setting, and I made a huge amount of progress fleshing out the high level details. At the moment, it lives on World Anvil as kind of a POC to see how having the structured categories helps me out creatively. It may not stay there.

The tone of the setting is intended to be exploration and colonization, with the tables turned on the colonizers. I've tried to steer clear of Western fantasy tropes as much as possible, down to using Vulgar to generate all of the languages and names so I don't fall back on stereotyped sounding names. "Humans" are the only species, although there are groups with a variety of features - the indigenous people of the northern plateau are meant to be similar to Neanderthals, and there's a group that has characteristics that are going to tie back to the newly colonized megacontinent.

I hesitate to use the word "steampunk" (or any kind of "punk") to describe it, but the technology level is pseudo-mid-1800s with a strong magitech streak. So, yeah, there are trains and airships of some form or another as well as firearms. There's also the aforementioned plateau-dwellers, some of whom are nomadic and ride giant flightless birds, and others who have developed advanced techniques for unpowered flight; the forest dwellers who have something to do with the Big Mystery in the setting and are allies with giant semi-sapient ape-bear things; and an ancient culture that pioneered magitech and have twin cities devoted to extracting magical ore in the middle of a desert - and the desert is expanding because of it. Also megafauna - because I like megafauna. I've recently been thinking about how magic works, mainly with regard to its source being an element that can be mined, refined, etc. I've always really liked magic with physicality - runes, sigils, wards, drawing glowy things with fingers in the air - and having it tie in with the energy coming from a physical source would give it a very physical (and potentially visceral) feel.

I guess the whole thing might wind up looking like a Wild West meets the Pleistocene meets fairy tales meets big glowy spells. More than anything right now it just needs some focus and organization, since I'm not sure what I want the PCs to actually _do_. The system is pretty much guaranteed to be Fate-based.

In Aztec mythology, Tzitzimime were demons-gods that lived in the darkness of the sky vault. These deities were commonly depicted as skeletal female figures we

"Aztecocalypse" - This started out as pondering an alternate setting for Tribe 8 based in Southern California, and quickly veered off into its own thing with very similar themes. Basically, some Mesoamerican supernatural shenanigans result in the world getting fucked up real bad. A few generations later, survivors are trying to eke out existences in the shadow of of major cities that have been turned into necropolises. Oh, and the truly horrific stuff only happens at night. Unlike Tribe 8, there's no "Fatimas" to liberate people but there is going to be an element of other supernaturals trying to restore order to the cosmos as well as people popping up with supernatural abilities.  I have the basic groups and their interactions fleshed out, including Disneyland as a kind of hub and safe space for some survivors, and the descendents of Marines from Camp Pendleton as a Spartan-like society. Like the fantasy setting I'm still looking for some kind of hook or overarcing purpose to what the PCs are going to do, as well as getting the supernatural elements hammered out which is going to be heavily based in Mesoamerican (and other southwestern Native American) beliefs. I have no system really attached to this, although either Forged in the Dark or Fate are likely contenders.

"Retrolock" - Like so many of my things, this started out as something entirely different. Namely, an Interlock retroclone. It's roots are in a kind of Interlock/Silhouette/Dream Park rpg mix up that I did in the early to mid-90s. A couple things happened with it being a straight up retroclone, namely the resurgence of CP2020 in conjunction with the hype around Cyberpunk 2077 combined with divergence from the base system. Now it's kind of a hodge-podge of the original house system (stats and skills rearranged in ways that "make more sense to me", a multi-die system without resorting to fistfuls of dice), combined with newer concepts culled from games like Fate and Blades in the Dark (some kind of aspect-like element, conditions for injuries, achievements, downtime). It has no setting attached to it, and may not actually have anything really innovative or otherwise flashy, but at some point I'd love to get enough of it together to get it into some kind of playtesting stage just to say I did it.

As of now, it's just a matter of getting the internal hamster-wheel spinning faster on one of them over the others, and then dedicating time to organize and start making more progress.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Blades in The Dark Planning and Resources

So I've buckled down and decided that I am, 100%, going to be starting a Blades in the Dark game in the Very Near Future(tm). Starting to run a game like BitD less than two years after it was released is a decent accomplishment for me. It took me at least three years to get into Exalted and possibly a year or two more before I tried my hand at running it. My track record with video games is even spottier and really looks a lot like this:

Image result for xkcd comic waiting years to play video games
I just now started playing Thief, and that was released in 2014. I hope to get to Dishonored II by 2020.

I've started to watch various Actual Plays as well as other videos on running the game while I try to get things a little organized. To my surprise, I found that it was easy to find YouTube videos of actual play and tutorials but it took some digging to find other resources. So as much for anybody else looking to see what cool stuff is out there as myself, I'm collecting all of these tidbits up here: - People generator - More people - Street and building generator - Ghost/demon/cult generator - List of names - Crew mission tables - Score Generator - Doskvol News - Doskvol Scores - Devil's Bargains - Score Workflow

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Vectored (i.e., Zero Gee) Combat in Tachyon Squadron

One of the things I've wanted to do for years was adapt Jovian Chronicles to Fate Core. For those who don't know Jovian Chronicles is a somewhat "firm" science fiction game with the exception of giant robots. There are in setting justifications as to why there are mecha (called exo-armors), but it's all well and good because GIANT ROBOTS. But Jovian Chronicles' space combat, which was bootstrapped from the Heavy Gear miniatures rules, has always been a bear. It used a vector combat system that keeps track of velocity, acceleration and the direction of thrust, on a hex map. I've only used it only a couple times before abandoning it in favor of hand waving position and maneuvering with die rolls.

Jovian Chronicles immediately came to mind when I heard about Tachyon Squadron, and I wasn't disappointed. The maneuver chart is a great mechanic for not just space combat, but aerial and maybe even vehicle combat in general. The only hiccup I had in relation to Jovian Chronicles is that swooping space opera-style fighter combat doesn't really match the tone of the setting (disregarding the existence of the giant robots). So I started to think about what minor tweaks could be made to allow a little more of the "there's no up and down" nature of space combat.

The first act was to bend the maneuver chart into a circle, for no other reason than it's space. I placed a line down the center to divide the two halves, but the numbering just goes left to right. Since most space combat, even in Jovian Chronicles, revolves around ships, asteroids, stations, planets, etc. I decided to put the Special slot at the center. Undetected gets its own box, and I have some embryonic ideas of introducing another slot or two to represent specific circumstances (or subdivide the Special slot, I'm not sure yet).

In a very general sense, the bands can be seen to represent the relative velocity of the combatants - a higher band means higher relative velocity. Degradation can be taken to represent the tendency for the combatants to "settle" on lower differences in their relative velocity. It all still boils down to who has the advantage, and would work the same way as the default maneuver chart.

But there some concepts from Tachyon Space that don't quite fit Newtonian space combat, such as some of the actions (like Desperate Attack and On Their Tail). Some cases might just need a rename or slight tweaks to how they work. For example, I'm thinking On Their Tail would be renamed Intercept, which represents that the pursuer has vectors that are difficult for the defender to avoid. So far, it would be pretty easy.

Before getting into how to represent being able to freely change facing in a zero-gee environment, it's probably best to explain the justification for exo-armors being such good space fighters in the Jovian Chronicles setting. Exo-armor cockpits are basically spheres, with an exo-skeleton like control chair called a linear frame suspended in the middle on an arm. The pilot straps into the frame, and uses their body movements to translate into movement of the exo-armor. This is supposed to allow pilots to transfer changes in their own position and center of mass to the exo-armor's gyroscopes and limbs, making them more maneuverable and efficient than a traditional space fighter. Plus, manipulator mounted weapons are effectively on gimbals, giving them an increased field of fire. In the end the exo-armor has a flexible form that can make precise changes in vector with minimal expenditure of reaction mass, and weaponry with variable fields of fire (Disclaimer: these are the in-setting reasons for things working the way they do, not necessarily how it would be in reality).

With this in mind, reaction mass could be leveraged as the means to allow fighters to attack higher bands. The idea I have is that each ship has a reaction mass track with some amount of boxes (maybe 10 or 20, they could definitely vary by ship). Some actions - degradation and Tactical Refocus for example -might not no need to tick off remass; others might require a box be ticked off. So when a ship decides to "punch up" to attack a higher band, the pilot needs to tick off one or more remass boxes. I'm still not sure the number, but I'm thinking it would be the difference in the bands. Using remass will also open up the possibility of stunts that can lower the remass of actions, or require remass to perform.

I definitely need to continue pecking at this, and then get some playtesting down...but so far I'm liking it. Next up I need to write up a few exo-armors Tachyon Squadron-style.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Facets in Retrolock

One of the Fate Core-like concepts that I really didn't want to part with was Aspects. Having a free form descriptor or tag makes characters a lot more flexible and interesting, and bypasses having an advantage/disadvantage system - along with the trouble involved with balancing the values, deciding what qualifies as an advantage or disadvantage, etc. But in keeping with the philosophy of not deviating too far from the project's Interlock roots, I didn't want to go whole hog with a Fate Fractal-like implementation.

Right now, the Facets are optional and are defined as short phrases that apply to an Ability or Skill - something unique, interesting or important about it. In keeping with the theme that modifiers to action rolls are full levels on the Risk Factor scale, a facet allows the character to lower the Risk Factor of an action by 1. I still haven't worked out how the economy for this looks, beyond a Fate-like system of moving chits or points around. I'm definitely open to suggestions.

Friday, February 2, 2018


With the magic of triangle tables, about five years ago I put together some random tables for post-apocalyptic exploration. I've noticed a few tweaks I want to make still, but I figured I'd put them back out there again. These are intended for modern-ish or post-apocalypse settings. Hopefully, they have some semblance of logic (IIRC correctly I pulled percentages of land use area for multiple cities and based the distribution on that). That means no top secret research facilities in residential areas; it also means that (hopefully) buildings that are out of character for an area will be rare. The intention is to only roll as deep as you want. Sometimes all you need is a little kick in the noggin; sometimes you're just completely stuck. These tables should be an aid, not a crutch.

For those unfamiliar with the triangle table concept, you roll xDF (in this case, 5DF) and then count over for every "+" or down for every "-". For these tables, the general area is either determined or rolled, then the second table comes into play to determine the building category. Finally a specific table is referenced for the building type. Entries marked with a (+) or (-) denote adding an additional "+" or "-" result when rolling on the next table. The idea is that building categories different than the area's (like a Commercial building in a Residential area) are skewed more toward certain types of buildings.

You can grab the PDF file with the tables here. Enjoy!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Actions in Retrolock

I missed updating last week, so figured I'd make up for it by writing a post with some meat to it.

Previously I had mentioned that I was working on a kind of Interlock retroclone called Retrolock. While stripped down to the mechanical level it runs very similar to Interlock (roll d10 + stat + skill), games like Fate Core have wormed their way into my gaming DNA to such a degree that I can't really look at any rpg-related without having that particular brand of "fiction first" lens tinting it. So I set out to try to make something that honors the crunchier, "Let the dice decide" philosophy of games like Interlock while still having some newfangled bells and whistles. Without playtesting it's difficult to say if I succeeded, but I like what I have so far.

Basically, like most narrative-focused games everything starts out with what the player is trying to accomplish; how they are going to accomplish it; and what happens if they succeed or fail. This doesn't have to be some long and drawn out negotiation between the player(s) and GM, but it is there to help reinforce that there should be something important, or exciting, or interesting, happening when the dice come out.

From there, it looks like most every other game of its ilk - roll, add stat and skill, compare to the Risk Factor (more on this in a minute). If the rolls beats the Risk Factor the action succeeds, if it's lower the action fails. The kinds of things that you see in games like Fate (success at a cost, boosts, etc.) are kind of there, but more rigidly defined. Rolling a zero results in things Going Sideways, which increases the Risk Factor of a subsequent action logically connected to the failed roll. Rolling a 10 gives a Bonus Effect, which decreases the Risk Factor of a subsequent action.

Finally, the character can Go For Broke, which entails intentionally increasing the Risk Factor of an action in order to reduce a follow-up action's Risk Factor if they succeed (with the chance of getting a stacking Bonus Effect to boot).

Another twist compared to most systems like Interlock or Silhouette is there aren't supposed to be any modifiers to dice rolls, and the Risk Factors are intended to be raised and lowered in clean increments of 5 (matching the Interlock scale of 10 = easy, 15 = average, 20 = hard, etc.). There will be some room in there for instances of smaller adjustments to Risk Factor, but those are going to be the outliers and not the norm.

Finally...what about this Risk Factor thing? Initially, it was intended to be a kind of detour from the idea of basing the target of rolls on "difficulty" but in the end, it just looks like difficulty does in every other system. I'm keeping the label Risk Factor though, because risk is definitely a component of how difficult an action is - along with the capability and skill of the character attempting it, the luck of the die roll, external forces working against the character, etc. So, in that light, the Risk Factor is just one "factor" in the equation of whether the character succeeds or not.

Hopefully things will start to settle down a little bit more at work and home, and I can put some more time and polish into this little project. Of course, that's along with the half a dozen other projects I want to work on as well.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Post Apocalyptic Location Inspiration

Today isn't a Tribe 8 specific post, just more post apocalyptic in general. It's also not going to be too long. A lot of times when I'm thinking of post apocalyptic locations, I try to reimagine what we consider everyday things around us with a different perspective. That's how we get buzzsaws as polearm blades, stop signs worked into a set of armor, communities forming in subway tunnels, using sports arenas for trading outposts or forts, etc.

And then there are locations that do the work of feeling unique and fantastic all by themselves:

Image result for cal poly canyon creative commons

Recently I visited Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and went on a little hike up to Cal Poly Canyon, which is the home of the "Architecture Graveyard". It's where the architecture and design students build their
yearly projects, and while I knew that it had some cool structures I didn't realize how cool. The first thing that I thought when I saw the structures was I had stumbled into some kind of post-apocalyptic village. I could  totally see some post-apocalyptic group coming to the canyon and seeing a place to build a settlement, using the existing structures as the foundation.

At the end of the trail leading to the Graveyard are a couple of structures, as well as corrals for horses. There's fresh water relatively close by, but it also wouldn't be hard to conceive that a stream might run through the area. There are also cattle in the immediate area, and nearby are greenhouses and crops that could be relocated if desired. This is the perfect setup for a little post-apocalyptic community. 

Image result for cal poly canyon creative commons

Structures like these could also be used as inspiration for standalone locations, not just postapocalypse but science fiction or fantasy as well.

Atlas Obscura actually has a nice page for the graveyard with a gallery of some of the structures.