Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The land of Xan Than Du: A Pirate's Life

The rival expedition (online group) became the first to have to roll on the dreaded Shipwreck Table.

They took a break from robbing dirt grubbing tree worshipers to attempt a rescue of a shipwrecked "Privateer" sloop that had become beached along the shores of the Jungle of Snakes and was besieged by an angry tribe, at least according to the lone injured pirate who stumbled into the mission to seek their help.

The left with supplies and navigated through treacherous terrain to reach the shore, where scouting reported that the pirates were still alive, but unable to leave their ship to gather wood.  The party waited until nightfall and drove off the tribal sentries with a hail of gunfire before enacting a quick repair.  Surprisingly quick,  as if the blessings of the catholic missionary they brought with them aided their repairs.

With a loud hurrah they took their fairly seaworthy crafted and sailed back,  the only risk being a cut across open water.  What are the odds they would have three results of worsening weather on three rolls (1 in 64).   So anyway they rolled on the shipwreck table.

Roll 1d8, 1d6, 1d4

You washed ashore on:

1: Guam-Yaiv Bay
2: Van De Groot Bay
3: The Southern Wastes
4: Pirate Island
5: The Southern Jungle
6: The Reptile Jungle
7: Castaway Island
8: The Southern Cliffs (and likely your death)

Where you are found by:
1:  Fisherman
2:  Merchants
3: No one 
4: Pirates
5: Hunters
6: Carnivorous animals

Suffering from:
1: no major injuries 
2: dehydration causing d6 disease
3: a loss of d6 dots of equipment
4: d6 damage of grievous injuries 

1: You are rescued by the people of Zann-Thorr and returned to that city.
2: You are rescued by servants of the big game hunter Adriaan Van de Groot and brought to his estate
3: You are captured in the night by unknown assailants who lock you in a ships brig
4: You are not found by living pirates, but wash ashore to see their dead skulls on spikes. The volcanic rumbling or TERROR ISLAND sounds in the distance.

5: A swarm of escaped slaves drag you in bondage to a SECRET TEMPLE for nefarious purposes
6: You are plucked from the see by a giant TERRORDACTYL and brought to its nest

 You end up in the belly of a great white whale.

1-2-3 You had been saved by a helpful pod of dolphins who brought you to shore
2-3-4 You wash up with a fellow survivor of those storms. He thinks you saved him and becomes a henchman.
3-4-5  The surf , or perhaps those who found you, has uncovered a chest of pirate gold (500gp)
4-5-6:  Your actual location is the island of the Ghost Elephant

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Docks at Zann-Thorr

Ships available:

Fishing Boat:
Cost: 200 silver.
Availability:  Constant
Seaworthiness: 2
Capacity: 120 dots

Cost: 5000 silver.
Availability:  ?1d2
Seaworthiness: 3
Capacity: 500 dots

Cost: 20000 silver.
Availability:  ?1d6
Seaworthiness: 4
Capacity: 3000 dots


Local Anti-Ship Cannon
Cost: 1000 silver
Availability: ?d4
Weight: 100 dots

 Projectile:  10 silver,  8 dots.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Continuing Adventures in the land of Xan Than Du

Our intrepid expedition has been cut off from one of their members who was last seen on the island of Mr DeGroot, big game hunter.   Unfortunately there is no safe route for them to rescue him as Dal-Ga the lion demon still patrols the land and the Ottoman Slavers still hold the old Andorran Fort on Pirate Island.

So they purchased a fishing boat in Guam-yaiv and attempted to sail the rough seas there,  camping at night on the jungle peninsula where they had run ins with villages of escaped slaves and snake cults. They then island hopped from the isle of the ghost elephant, to tiger island where they picked up a shipwrecked British Citizen,  Hank Thompson.   Despite all their trials and tribulations they then set out on their final leg to Pirate Island,  a hop to an ominous volcanic island and then on to a stealth mission to Pirate Island to regain their lost treasure and gear.

As their sailed to the island they saw a shipwrecked dhow from the city of Zann-Thorr, currently sealed off from outsiders and of uncertain allegiance to the French Colonial Government.  After some debate they stopped to help them build a raft to tow them to shore.  The handful of survivors warned them that this island ,  Terror Island, is cursed.  The party was undeterred and helped build the raft, completing it by sunset, but deciding they would wait until first light before attempting to sail.

At first the volcano rumbled and strange flying shapes were seen in the sky.  The party was unafraid as the shipwrecked soldiers quivered.   Then came the drums and the sound of people moving through the jungle towards the shore.  The soldiers screamed the party was mad and should flee, the brave party scoffed as if British citizens (especially heavily armed ones) should flee.  They began trying to count torches in the jungle.  Round by round they rolled to see how many they could see so far.  10, 15, 25...still more, 35..uh oh,  45.. surely that is everyone?  Technically yes I said, there are 40 torches, but more than 5 large beasts moving as well.

Moving past the tree-line were forty locals in two units.  10 front line soldiers with palm leaf shields, wooden animal helms, and bamboo torches.  Behind the front rank were 10 archers with glistening obsidian arrows.   Also present were 7 massive terror birds being ridden by warrior priests of in feather armour with bamboo lances.  As the soldiers fled with a few half-hearted pot shots and vehement urging for the party to do the same the PC's tried to hold their ground as the enemies tried to cross a few zones of open ground.  Despite their superior firepower,  a pair of mounted terror birds managed to make it into their midst and cause great havoc. They bought enough time for the wave of warriors to approach.  After losing two of their number (with a third on fire) the party raced to the shore and jumped into the sea and climbed onto their waiting fishing boat.

They sailed away defeated under a hail of arrow fire, having lost some very expensive supplies. But their rescue of soldiers from Zann-thorr has given them an "in" to the city.

As their main characters healed (this is an expedition based game), the parties second line characters decided to head out to find some treasure to loot/relics to bring back to (private) museums for proper care and study.

They set out North to the cloud rainforests where they heart tale of a village besieged by panthers of demonic intellect.  After a tough (and expensive) slog through the jungle, beset by panthers themselves, they arrived in a small outpost of the remaining free forces of Xan-Than-Du.  After proving they weren't French,  they heard rumours of an ancient city in the jungle that was cursed by the gods.  Running low on time they made a quick expedition to find the city and in doing so they encountered tzetze fly swarms and more ghostly panthers.  They quickly looted a crumbling structure of some copper and gold valuables before returning to the village and trekking south to safer areas (to avoid rolling on the table).

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Another look at the Pioneers Of Mars

So what type of game is Pioneers of Mars?

The short answer is its a 1-4 player competitive worker placement game with a focus on base building.

The longer answer is that it is a game of juggling limited resources and action spaces in your quest to conquer the martian surface and have the highest score when the game randomly ends.

The game lasts for 12-15 rounds (its random) in which players take turns placing workers on action spaces.  Each turn a new action space is revealed.  Control of these action spaces can give prestige (used to determine the winner),  life support to have more workers, an accumulation of resources, or the ability to construct your own personal martian base.

Constructing your martian base is done by depleting a shared pool of structures such as windmills, habitats, and hydroponic farms and paying the appropriate resources.  If one player builds all the windmills, there are none left for other players.  So it becomes a juggling act of accruing enough resources to build a larger base without allowing another player to gain a monopoly on key structures.

The larger your base,  the more options you may have over other players.

It will start to look something like this in play:

I'll be doing a series of posts about this game inter-spliced with my usual fare, so I won't go too far into the details in just the second post.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Pioneers of Mars : A Board game

Over the past few years I have been working on a secret project unrelated to my RPG work. I mean, its not unrelated unrelated.  Its not like I was designing a new type of wood stove or teaching cats how to knit.   It is still RPG Adjacent in that sense.

Its a board game.

Pretty snazzy title block eh?

Its a Euro style board game about colonizing the red planet.  Its primary mechanics involve base creation and worker placement.  Players juggle the needs of power, resources, and life support as they fight for prestige to become the first leader of an independent Mars.

You already know this is going to lead into an ask in some for of crowd sourcing plea..  but first lets go a little more into where we are.  In my local area I have been playing this game for a couple years, along with a few other groups of people, to play test the heck out of it and ensure it is a smooth machine.  Look at this glorious picture by Chris Huth.

Its one of nearly a hundred different pieces we commissioned for the game.  This particular one showcasing the work of an engineer.  You are probably skeptical about the timeline of completing such a large amount of art for any future kickstarter.  That could be a recipe for unending delays.  Which is why before I said anything about the board game to my readers I made sure they were all completed.

Here is another fine example from an action space ,  “The Survey”.

Still, fancy art does not a functional product make.  You have to actually source all the bells and whistles and get an actual game assembled. Something that fits in a fancy box and can be handed as a complete package to a customer.   We had our prototype delivered just after Christmas last year.  After confirming everything we've just ordered a few promotional copies and expect them soon.

Here is one of my favourite pieces, one of the Spaceports in the game:

So if  we have long finished designing and testing the game, we have all of the art completed, we have sourced the components and have working copies,  why are we going to have a kickstarter?   Bulk. If we can guarantee enough copies we can lower the per unit cost to a more reasonable level and throw in some stretch goals.

The kickstarter won't go live for another month or so,  we wanted some time to gauge support and do some of the boring business background type things required.  But when it does go online, I would like any of my readers who are fans of euro-style board games to consider backing it.  I have you have seen enough of my work to know I don't produce crap and I legitimately think this is a fantastic board game that will enter into your regular rotation.   I have been able to play it weekly for years without finding it stale.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

How I write an adventure part 2: The Longer Version

This is the second part of “How I write an adventure”. Part one might have been a little bit simplified, but it wasn't (just) a cheap joke.

Those really are the two steps: Make a skeletal frame and write the rest of the fucking adventure.

Step 1: Making a skeletal frame

Based on the diagram previously this may seem like the simpler of the two steps. It isn't. This requires inspiration and vision. You sit down at a blank piece of paper and decided what is the point of your adventure. Why are you writing this down in an almost endless sea of adventures both published and not. What are you trying to do with it? Write down that purpose. Then add additional reasons until you start to get a useful framework to add content with (I like about 5 rules, usually between 3 and 7).

Here are two examples:

It has to be a re-playable by the same group.
It has to be quick to prep, no massive piles of tables.
It has to involve uncertainty
It can't be about the end of the world
It can't be about death as the risk

Thulian Echoes:
It has to replace a “GM info dump”
It has to reward players to “play along”
It has to lure players to want to keep exploring the site
It can't be a railroad
It has to have things to tinker with

For each adventure I would use those skeletal rules, branching from spine to finger bone in importance, and use them to hang content from (or as a reason to prune unwanted content). Notice that each of the rules are about its use is in the context of a game. I don't have things as part of the frame like “Giant spider” or “Crazy wizard” or “Journey to the center of the earth”. Those are the content. The framework is the reason for the content.

Dunnsmouth has (spoilers) spiders, and secret cultists, and infections not as the purpose for the adventure, but as content to hang on a skeletal framework of other ideas. The primary reason the adventure exists isn't to showcase the cool content but to be enjoyable to play as a game. The content supports the point of the adventure, not the other way around. Its all about interest and fun at the table.

Step 2: Write the rest of the fucking adventure

Now that you have a reason for the adventure, dig through your notebooks and past and future campaign material for big chunks that will help you support those ideas. Rip out big chunks of meat and slap them on the framework, always making sure it doesn't violate any rules unless it somehow greatly improves a more important bone. For Thulian Echoes there is a little bit of railroad in regards to the past adventurers in that they always die, but that is acceptable because it greatly supports bone 2 in that it is used to get players to “play along”. Also if I go through my “portfolio” of past gaming material I can ensure that I only rip out the hunks that work at the table to staple into my frankenventure.

Then I smooth all those hunks of flesh into an “I can't believe its not human!” pile.

At that point, it is time to run through a playest and see what gaps you need to fill with more content. Start stitching up that pile of adventure cadavers until things stop sliding off. Cut anything that turned out to be rotten and replace it with new content appropriate to the rest of the form.

Run another playtest to be sure, repeating the process.

Now its beginning to seem more slick.

You know what, maybe too slick. Add some fucked up shit and run through another playtest.

There we go. Now comes the final part required only if you want to get published or self publish this.

Actually write the rest of the fucking adventure. This isn't in itself hard, its just boring as sin. You go through each room, each description, each item and you put to words all of those things you have currently as jot notes like “big dude, leather and bow, skull mace with the cool mind power”. You write a paragraph or two that is actually useful at the table instead. You flesh out the wandering monster table and actually describe in better detail the treasures and monsters. You skirt along the edges of what is minimalism and what is just useless. You do all that boring stuff you don't want to do and the only way to get it done is to actually just sit down and fucking do it.

Draw that fucking owl, no one else will draw it for you.

Now wait a week and go back through and cut out the garbage that doesn't need to be there. Cut it like its a cop and you've been going by Mr. Blonde as of late. Half of it is trash you forced yourself to write so you would have something there to check off the mental checkbox of finishing that part of a task so you can move on. Wait another week and do it again.

Now you have written an adventure. Now look into pitching it to a publisher and maybe getting an editor.

Friday, January 27, 2017

How I write an adventure pt 1: The short version

I have seen a couple really good posts detailing the process of writing an adventure for publishing from people I enjoy reading  (here and here).

This made me decide that I should hop on the bandwagon and detail my process.  This will be broken into two posts.  The first is an abridged version, the second a longer more in depth explanation with examples.

The important thing to remember is that writing an adventure for publishing is a lot like drawing an owl:
Step 1:  Flesh out a rough skeletal frame.
Step 2: Write the rest of the fucking adventure.