Monday 2 August 2010

Want to be a Fringer?

You are a Fringer. You may not be a bad person but you've most likely seen bad things or done worse to survive. As is often the case you've banded together with a group of like-minded individuals. Perhaps you've worked together on jobs before or feel like you can trust each other after a friendship. You may have an area of expertise but on the Fringe there are few steady jobs, so you will have had something of a patchwork career history.

There is no Universal Empire or Omni-Planetary Federation here. Core Space is far away and they're happy about it. Here anyone can stake their claim, as long as they have the means to back it up. 

Your character's personal kingdom is the shared ownership of a banged up planetary shuttle. This will fly you between nearby planets and can be transported further distances by larger craft for a cost.

Between yourselves you will decide to pursue one of the job opportunities available on the local bulletin service in the hope of making enough credits to stay fed and keep the shuttle running.

I'm finally getting around to running a playtest of Xenofringe, my Sci Fi RPG. As a change of pace I'll be running it play by post on the Penny Arcade forums.

Want to sign up and try it out? Check out the game thread here and post to show your interest.

Wednesday 30 June 2010

Monsters: The Big Three.

Following my post on Elves and Dwarfs in my Adventurer's Tale game. I figured I might as well look at the other side of the coin.  While I mostly wanted my monsters to be monsters rather than anything too fleshed out there are three monsters I see as particularly core to a game like this.

The three monster races I consider most analogous to Humans, Elves and Dwarfs are Orcs, Goblins and Trolls respectively and I wanted to present a mostly vanilla version of each while focusing in on what I really think makes each type of monster tick. I didn't want the three races to be opponents of varying toughness. I wanted each to have a unique feel. There are mechanics to back this up but mostly I focused on Goblins as otherworldly vermin, Orcs as an amoral mob and Trolls as stupid creatures with power in their very blood. 


All varieties of goblin make their homes anywhere there is a safe hiding place, often in Otherworlds that they know are secret. Although they rarely attack their neighbours outright they are known to enjoy the thrill of stealing, playing cruel jokes and generally tormenting other species. They have an unusual affection for trolls, ogres and giants, though this attention is often an annoyance for the big, dumb creatures. Their love of big folk is equalled by their hatred for other small beings such as dwarfs, kobolds and even cats and dogs, all of which they try to harm as much as possible. They are notorious survivors and can be found in environments all across the world, and even in Otherworlds. Typically the lone goblin is much more concerned about itself than the good of its peers, so they make poor guards or soldiers. Visually they vary greatly but are generally up to three feet tall with grotesque features and skin that can be any sickly colour from orange to yellow or green, often with tufts of different coloured fur, some being completely covered in the stuff.



Rowdy mobs of orcs often raid unprotected villages with packs of warhounds. Sometimes they even form huge armies with archers and war machines but this is usually under the guidance of an evil human, devil or exceptional Orc chief. They are driven by a love of the simple pleasures of eating, stealing and fighting as well as a total lack of morals or care for other beings. Those that live underground sometimes use Goblins or Dwarfs as slaves. Some scholars claim Orcs were once good creatures, but their blood has been tainted with that of demons, or that they were bred into their current form for use as soldiers. Orcs are easily caught up in mob mentality, meaning an army of rowdy orcs are near unshakable in their confidence. Their appearance and colouration varies wildly, some groups having extended lower tusks, pig-like snouts or a more apish appearance. The only things they all have in common are their ugly appearance, amoral behaviour and love of an angry crowd of orcs beside them.



Strong but slow-minded, Trolls live solitary lives wandering their swamp or cave. They are often captured and used as dungeon guards because of their survivability, but they are never truly committed to such a cause. The blood of a troll can be sold to a wizard or alchemist for 10gp or turned into a Healing Potion by succeeding at both a DN10 Craft roll and DN10 Wisdom roll. Troll blood is commonly mixed with the stock of other species by Dark Wizards, usually Orcs or Humans, to create servants. These troll-blooded creatures combine the toughness of a troll with the more alert mind of another species, making much better soldiers. 

Monday 21 June 2010

Elven and Dwarfish Adventurers

I've recently added a small section of player advice to The Adventurer's Tale for those who want to play as a Dwarf or Elf. I did this in preparation for my summer break from work, where I should have time to at least run a mini-campaign and would happily welcome a character or two from the nonhuman races.

I've already talked about the basics of the setting and its hidden depths so I think fleshing out the types of characters I expect to see is long overdue.

Even if you have no interest in The Adventurer's Tale I hope someone will draw some use from my take on Dwarfs and Elves.


From their monster entry:

The otherworldly Elves stand slightly shorter than humans on average and are much slighter, but deceptively strong. They have angular features, pointed ears and never die from old age, reproducing incredibly rarely. Outside of their hidden settlements they usually wander alone or in a small band (1d6), sometimes accompanied by Sprites. Some might even integrate into a human society, as part of their innate curiosity and desire for new experiences. They are fond of animals and often ride a horse or have a small pack of dogs.

Due to their potentially infinite lifespans Elves are always looking at the big picture, considering every action's effect on the future. Elves claim they feel emotions on a much stronger level than humans, and so must control their feelings through worship and meditative craft. Those that let their feelings control them are prone to fits of rage, extended periods of depression or total arrogance. The most selfish Elves are particularly cruel and see other races as little more than cattle and potential slaves.

Playing an Elf Adventurer:
* A potentially endless lifespan means elves are rarely in a rush. They spend great deals of time pondering decisions and are always looking at the long-term effects of their actions.
* Elves value their own lives and those of other elves much more highly than those of other species, so sometimes consider humans as expendable.
* As they have many years to experience life elves are eager to experience everything at least once. Most would rather learn something new than perfect an existing skill so specialists are rare.
* Coming from small communities, elves dislike crowds and are used to having their own privacy.
* Although they form families elves rarely stay together as a family for long. Because of this they share a much looser family bond than other races.


From their monster entry:

These short humanoids can be found all over the world, living in family clans. While many are peaceful folk, focused on mastering their craft, there are some that turn to madness, usually linked to a particular obsession. If Elves are thought to always be thinking of the big picture, Dwarfs are always focusing on often petty details.

Physically they differ little from humans besides their squat build, hairiness and lifespans of around a hundred years, with many doubling this. Little is known by other races about their concepts of gender or reproduction, with all dwarfs looking male to non-dwarfs. In fact, dwarfs do not reproduce in pairs, but a single dwarf will spend years or even decades carving a child out of specially selected stone or clay. When the child has been carved with enough skill and dedication it will slowly soften to flesh and become a living, adolescent dwarf, complete with beard. The awoken dwarf already has basic knowledge of dwarfish history and language, which the dwarfs claim comes from inheriting part of the carver and their ancestors.

Playing a Dwarf Adventurer:
* Detail is everything to a dwarf, to the point where they nearly all have a specialist area of knowledge or craft that they refine every day.
* Despite not having traditional families dwarfs share very close bonds with those closest to them. They are quick to form similarly tight bonds with those that they trust.
* Dwarfs like to account for every eventuality and greatly enjoy plotting and planning, listing every piece of information they have on the matter, however trivial.
* Change generally goes against what a dwarf finds comfortable, so they usually react negatively to it. Instead they like to stick to routine and tradition, easing into new situations gradually.
* Perhaps due to the fact they do not form couples dwarfs love to indulge in the simple pleasures of food, drink, games and storytelling in the company of friends.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

The fans demanded it...

Remember Skullados?


Well I guess this won't be much use to you then.

Saturday 27 February 2010

Xenofringe Free Preview

THE XENOFRINGE is the loose border that divides the established systems of CORE SPACE from the unknown contents of DARKSPACE. Life on the Fringe is a hazardous affair, where the frontiers of civilization meet vast, mysterious space.

As I mentioned in my last post I've been working on a generic sci-fi RPG loosely based on the core of The Adventurer's Tale. Although it's still in a very work-in-progress state I'm happy to put it out there as a preview.

Presenting Xenofringe.

There are a few parts of the game I'm very happy with and it's a slightly more crunchy affair than I'm used to. Although it's rough around the edges the core is playable, so let me know if you give it a try.

Monday 22 February 2010

Stone Age to Space Age

In stark contrast to my work on a Stone Age game earlier this week I've spent the last few days taking another shot at an idea I've never quite been able to make work. A Rules-Lite Science Fiction RPG.

Until now, that is.

I feel like I've made some real progress with a game I haven't got a name for yet. For now it has the project name Futureworlds, and I hope to post more about it when it's further refined.

So here's an imagedump of sci-fi settings that have been on my mind while writing the game.

The contrast of serious and more comedic strands of sci-fi in there is quite deliberate and something I'll go into more detail on at another point.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Stone Age Adventures.

Last night I made a light-hearted comment to someone that my next game project should involve dinosaurs. That got me thinking. I knew I was doomed to take this joke-project seriously. We've all seen the anachronistic images of primitive humans fighting dinosaurs, but could this idea have meat for an actual game? I'm familiar with Og and GURPS Ice-Age but neither is quite what I'm seeing in my head. Before I get too caught up in mechanics I want to nail down my overal concept.

The Stone-Age, particularly the Paleolithic, ends over 10,000 years before the medieval era that inspires more fantasy settings begins. This has impact on everything from technology and society through to even more core concepts such as language and religion. To avoid things being too mind-shattering I'm using a wonderful term wikipedia taught me today as a benchmark. Behavioral Modernity. The short of this is that my societies will follow the nine tweaked guidelines below when considering how primitive they are.

- Some permanent buildings, some temporary.
- Purpose-made stone and bone tools.
- Fishing, group hunting and fruit gathering.
- Long-distance exchange or barter among groups.
- Use of pigment and jewellery for decoration and self-ornamentation.
- Figurative art.
- Game playing and music.
- Burial of dead and basic ritual.
- Some animal domestication.

However, notably I want to keep the tech level below:
- Bows and arrows.
- Pottery.
- Agriculture and Animal Husbandry.

I'm imagining the key points of a typical story will feel quite different to fantasy, too. I'm imagining:

- No magic or real focus on earning treasure.
- Significantly tighter focus on a small group and small societies. No wars or huge cities.
- Character advancement through new knowledge and tools rather than strength and skill.
- More focus on survival and acquiring materials and tools.
- Large cultural differences and a sizeable language barrier.

There's been recent talk on the RPGBN concerning historical settings and while I'm not trying to simulate paleolithic life exactly I'm imagining this project as much more of an alternate history than fantasy. The original idea was primitive man fighting dinosaurs, but I think I can do one better than that. I love creating new animals and plants so why not set down my primitive people in a fictional region and fill it with my own creations?

The new creatures and plants will have a grounding in reality, the brilliant Morae River blog being a perfect example of what I'm picturing. A valley would be a good focal point for a region containing a range of societies and creatures but instead I'm thinking a lake. Something about all sorts of life teeming around the coasts of a lake feels right to me. Journeying away from its supply of fish and clean water may be a dangerous undertaking, and perfect subject matter for an RPG. I love the idea of the group of neanderthal-like men climbing over a ridge to come face to face with a creature they've never encountered before.

And so a good starting name for this project has come to me. Stone Lake. Stay tuned for further info.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Understanding the Legendary Styles

The Student followed his Master across the green plain, fresh from a filling breakfast of over-night roasted pork. They approached a shallow pond where ducks swam. The Master's spear lightly tapped the cool water.
"The Initiate must be like the pike. Lean. Focused. Hungry for knowledge".
With a splash, the master's spear sent a pair of resting ducks into motion, fleeing into the air before landing and waddling into a calmer pond.
"The Student must be like the duck. Able to leave the comfort of the water to walk or fly, never staying in one pond for too long."
"And what about you, Master?" asked the Student.
"The Master? The Master will become like the pig. Content, humble and..."
The Master paused before lightly tapping his stomach.
"Understanding his role to provide for others." he finished, with a smile.

- Fluff brainstorming for an upcoming game of A Wanderer's Romance

Monday 25 January 2010

Targets for The Adventurer's Tale

Just some thoughts on things I'd like to achieve with The Adventurer's Tale in the next couple of months.

- Complete the currently-unnamed Starter Adventure Module and find GMs to playtest it without me being present.
- Make use of Otherworlds in the first session of a game.
- Test the Mass Combat and Mounted Combat rules in play.
- Update the One-Sheet Quickstart to include a few minor rule changes.

Anyone volunteering as a GM to help me with my first target can get in touch with me, as I'm eager to see how the game plays without having me as a GM or player.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Thoughts on the Otherworld

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of Otherworlds as a focus for a setting. They let you keep the familiar reality of a low-fantasy world, but have your characters encounter magical, high-fantasy elements when need be. I'm hoping that both sides of the coin will benefit from the contrast of the other. But the idea of jumping into new realities is hardly a new one in fantasy. From Planescape to the more accessible 4e Cosmology D&D, the elephant-in-the-room for any fantasy RPG, has covered quite a bit of ground itself.

For my Adventurer's Setting I want something a little less defined. Something more Fairytale than Epic. I'm definitely thinking more akin to Wonderland, Oz, Neverland and Narnia than the Great Wheel. Places where adventures happen and rules of nature are broken, as well as a source for magic to leak into the natural world in small doses.

However, my experience of these sources is a little limited, as may be clear. My examples are exclusively from sources I remember from my childhood. What reminded me of this concept recently was reading about the Celtic Otherworld, and I'm familiar with many of the analogs in other culture's mythology. What I'm calling out for is recommendations for other sources of inspiration for fantastic places existing outside of our world.

Any suggestions for me?

Tuesday 19 January 2010

The Adventurer's Setting Musings

I've been working on a starter module for The Adventurer's Tale in the form of a small sandbox with a few minidungeons for adventurers to brave. The idea of the game was always to encourage GMs to make their own settings or adapt the game to existing ones. However, I can only resist the lure for so long. I'm going to have a short paragraph of setting info at the top of this starter module.

For this I want to start with some key points that people familiar with fantasy settings will want to know. The idea is to stay generic, but do generic as well as I can. Let's do this off the top of my head.

- The World is a mundane place. Magic is uncommon, most people have boring jobs and the novelty of local monster attacks has long since worn off on the average human. Most people have little reason to know about things that aren't happening in their immediate surroundings.

- The Otherworlds are far from mundane. These hidden, unnatural places exist outside of the natural world and range from the the glittering domain of the forest queen, elusive elf cities, weird underworlds filled with wonder and even Hell itself. Crossing points to Otherworlds are difficult to find and could take any form, but the Adventurers will find a way. These places are where the rules are broken and occasional "leaks" from Otherworlds are the source of most of the Fantasy in the otherwise natural world.

- Elves are elusive, immortal and always thinking of the big picture. Dwarfs are focused, obsessive and enjoy routine. Orcs are ugly, amoral and easily led by smarter creatures. Humans are everywhere.

- Wizards can display supernatural abilities but are rare enough that many people go their lives without witnessing it first hand. Wizards rarely gather together in numbers of more than two, a master and his apprentice. Stories of magic are told, but often assumed to be exaggeration. Likewise, stories of Otherworlds are often thought of as children's bedtime stories.

- Adventurers seek to protect their loved ones, gain riches and fame and explore the legendary Otherworlds. They will be given ample opportunity for all three.

Monday 18 January 2010

Making the most of your Random Encounters

Here's the situation. Your adventurers are roaming through some rough hilly land on the way to their next shot at fame and fortune when suddenly... a random encounter!

As tempting as it is to take the result straight off the table and run through it as quickly as possible, there's no reason random encounters should be unrelated to the matters that are more at the forefront of the players' minds.

Taking some guidance from Treasure Tables the encounter can be sexed up to include a unique element and way for the game to progress if they fail. Throw in a link to an established feature of this area and suddenly your random encounter feels a lot more relevant to the game.

Using an Adventurer's Tale game I ran recently as an example, I'll hit up a random encounter generator for the aforementioned rough hills.

Three Zombie Ogres.

Link to the Game: There's no record of ogres in the area the players were in, but zombie ogres? These unfortunate creatures were servants of the local Dark Wizard, K'Thrax, who the players are very familiar with. They carry metal clubs that observant characters will recognise as being similar to those of K'Thrax's guards, but behind them they drag chains bound around their wrists and necks, in a sort of undead chain-gang. It seems even in their zombie form these ogres weren't keen on serving the Dark Wizard and made a break for it. Could this mean someone is chasing them? Is there enough intelligence left to be able to use them for good? I'd hold off on making them too aggressive and instead play them as more pitiful beasts.
Unique Element: To play up the pity angle I'd have the players encounter the Ogres trapped in a sudden dip in the rough hills, unable to climb back up the steep, jagged slopes. If the adventurers decide to fight the Ogres then play up the chain-gang aspect, perhaps having them attack in unison using their chains.
Way to Progress in case of Fail: These dim creatures will have no interest in eating the adventurers, as a normal ogre might. Instead they're more likely to beat them until they stop fighting back and continue attempting to climb the slope.

Much better.

And as a special treat...

Zombie Ogre
Body 10
Melee 5
Metal Club (Damage 4), 3d6 Treasure.
Relentless: A zombie ignores any non-critical hits that cause less than 4 Damage. Critical hits damage the Zombie as normal.
Clumsy: Opponents may add 2 to their Grace score when rolling against an Ogre.