Wednesday 28 December 2022

2023 Plans

As I threatened last week, it's time to look ahead to 2023 and talk about some plans. Let's go one project at a time.

The Doomed

This one isn't far off! Last I heard we're probably looking at April, and as previously mentioned it'll be published by Osprey and has some very exciting artwork and miniature photography attached. Hoping more of those will be shared soon.

Mythic Bastionland

This is the big one for next year. Without making any promises I'd love to be doing my 2023 review and see this as a mostly finished thing. I'm being coy, but I'm quietly hopeful and at the very least I'm very excited to keep working on this next year. 

Blog & Newsletter

It's been an interesting one for the blog this year. Views are at al all-time high, but after just a few months the newsletter has already overtaken it in terms of people reading it. I definitely want to keep this site going but the newsletter is certainly going to sit alongside that. 

Only managed one season of the podcast this year, but I've got a few ideas brewing for a series next year. For video stuff I think that's still going to be a side-project to the blog rather than a main focus. I enjoy both of these, but I definitely want to avoid the content churn of making either one just for the sake of it, so they'll remain slightly infrequent but hopefully enjoyable when they do drop. 

Project 10

I technically did some work on this in 2022! The biggest obstacle is I've been distracted painting other things, so my 10mm stuff is languishing in grey. I still see this as just a fun side project rather than anything that would ever be properly published, but I'd like to try and get to a point where I can close this off and call it done.  

MAC Attack

Much like Project 10, this is something I've really enjoyed working on but not sure how much appeal it has beyond myself! I've got a 6mm miniature project lined up for January so maybe doing that will give me more options to play with for this system. I think it's pretty fun as it is, but definitely something I'll revisit next year. 

Into the Odd/Electric Bastionland

These things are done! While I'd never want to set this in stone, I've got no plans to do straight-up supplements for either of these right now. I'd rather do self-contained games that can compliment each other, much like the relationship between these two games. Whatever happens with Mythic Bastionland I'd like it to fit into this family so that all three books have something to contribute to the others.


Annoyingly, I feel like I could probably stick a fork in this game if I could just get a few more playtests in and finish writing up the last few spreads I want in there, but it's always sat just behind some other project right now. It's not dead, but I'm not anticipating a sudden return to this while I've got so many other things on. 

Ask the Stars

Here's something I'd like to come back too at some point. I still really like the idea of the Sign/Position system as a sort of oracle for improvisation, so maybe that's something that will make its way into another project, or perhaps I'll get back onto these little booklets. 

Thanks for reading this year, and I hope you've found something I've written useful or fun! I'll do the customary gesture toward my Patreon link below and say that's a wrap for 2022.


Art by Midjourney

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday 21 December 2022

The Year in Brief

I'm not too humble for an end of year roundup, so let's do it. 

Let the old year burn that the new might thrive.

JANUARY saw me dipping into Classic Traveller for the first time and becoming especially enamoured with the 2400 games. This marriage is probably responsible for my Ask the Stars project. Despite sitting in touched for nearly a year I'm hoping to come back to this idea one day. 

FEBRUARY might have seen the post that really got the ball rolling on Mythic Bastionland, talking about how "The Wyvern" is can be more interesting than "A Wyvern".

MARCH took things further and now we actually see The Wyvern in full. Behind the scenes I was working on the Mythic (née Primeval) Bastionland document and trying to get it into a playable state. Lots of pieces still weren't in place, though. 

APRIL had me thinking about the complexities of having an emergent world that still feels coherent, fair, and real. After reading about the Blorb Principles I wrote about the concept of Patching.

MAY saw me digging into Journeys as a focus of Mythic Bastionland, including a stripped down mapping system that would ultimately be replaced with a more traditional hex map system. 

JUNE was tidying up the Mythic Bastionland draft so that I could release it as a playtest. This included generating a lot of AI art to use as placeholders for this version. Looking back at this post is interesting, if only to see how far Midjourney has come in the past six months. Interested/Horrified to see where it's at this time next year. 

JULY expanded on my earlier deliberations around running a somewhat-liquid setting, rather than something with a strong canon. I called it Liquid Flesh on an Iron Skeleton and wrote about some of the difficulties and opportunities.

AUGUST was broken up by a trip away, but I did some more thinking about the place of System in RPGs, landing on a desire for surprising elements that exist outside of the players and GM. 

SEPTEMBER was the first of several months spent taking a break from Mythic Bastionland. Those past few months were very intense development, so it was nice to let it mull for a while. Of course, I couldn't stop talking about hexes entirely, so wrote my Universal Hex Profile post.

OCTOBER was when Battletech got me. It hooked me very strongly, and I've only recently escaped. I guess we got MAC ATTACK out of it though, and here's where I first talked about it.

NOVEMBER had my post about Breaking Rules, where I talk through the process of designing factions for MAC ATTACK and how this might apply to RPGs. 

DECEMBER is here and next week's post will likely be the last of the year, as I'm taking a semi-break over Christmas. Expect some speculation on what to look forward to next year.

None of 2022 may remain.


Art by Midjourney

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday 14 December 2022

100 ways to write 100 things

There's a strong appeal to writing 100 of something, and I say this as somebody that doesn't really like the way it feels to roll d100.

Electric Bastionland required me to write 100 Failed Careers (plus a few extra). Now each career had around 12 "things" your character might get, plus a debtholder and some sample names, so it's really much more than 100 things. 

Some tips.

  1. Ask yourself why this should be a list of 100 things. Some valid reasons are:
  2. It's a table you'll be rolling on frequently and want to have lots of different results.
  3. It's a list of things you want a reader to be able to browse through and get a sense of the variety that exists within the category.
  4. Mine your previous writing for content. A lot of d100 Oddities made it into the EB Failed Careers.
  5. Collaborate, like I did with Arnold on d100 Horses.
  6. Lay out all your numbers from 1 to 100 first, putting a little x in there to taunt you, gradually extinguishing their laughter with each new entry.
  7. x
  8. Make sure you go back and check you've actually done 100 and not left an x in there. 
  9. Put an interesting name into each slot, then later go back through and work out what each entry actually is. This is how a lot of d100 Chess Scenarios was populated.
  10. Don't despair when you realise you're only at number 10. This always takes a while. 
  11. Break things down into categories, so maybe it's more like 10 different categories each with 10 items in there. Shuffle them up at the end and nobody will know.
  12. Find a list of mundane things that you can turn into interesting things. I browsed a lot of boring hardware and tool websites to create specialist gear for the Failed Careers. 
  13. Invert something. I needed 100 emotions recently, and once I had 50 I went through and added the opposite of each, making sure I didn't have any duplicates.
  14. The tip above works for less obvious things too. Like what's the opposite of a Chimera? The opposite of a gold coin?
  15. I cannot write 100 things in a single sitting, so go and take a break or do something else. 
  16. Stay authentic. This has two parts:
  17. If you think something is exciting then run with it.
  18. Don't worry too much about what other people will think. 
  19. Sometimes you can break something into two or more parts, like I did just then. 
  20. Obviously don't steal text from other writers, but absolutely dig through their lists for inspiration.  
  21. Filler items can work for certain lists, like it doesn't matter if one of those horses is just a horse, as you're generally rolling a few at once and it's a funny contrast against the weird stuff.
  22. Give yourself an arbitrary restriction for some or all of the entries, like maybe they all have to be two-word entries. 
  23. Ask Somebody
  24. Read Blogs
  25. Look Outside
  26. Know when an arbitrary restriction is useful and when it's hindering more than helping.
  27. Base each entry on a tarot card, or other large collection of things. 
  28. Put the letters of the alphabet in your entries, then go back and write something using those as the first letter. 
  29. Ask Somebody
  30. Be aware that you will write duplicates that just straight up need changing. 
  31. Consider the wider range of alternatives. d66 and d100 are common, but what if you want something with more than 36 but fewer than 100 results? I'm playing with something where you roll a d6 and a d12 to get 72 potential results. 
  32. Don't worry if some entries are kind of similar. Things can be alike but still have that one unique thing that makes them worthwhile. 
  33. Embrace patterns in your work. Notice your animal list is like 50% reptiles? It could be made into a reptile table, but also this mix makes the list unique to you. 
  34. Formulate a realistic schedule, like you're going to write 20 entries each weekday and have 100 by Friday. 
  35. Go back through your list and give it a quick second pass even if it's just for a blogpost or something, polishing up here and tightening there. 
  36. Hold the list somewhere you can come back to it. Some of it might be useful for a future project. 
  37. If something isn't really working for you then try something else. 
  38. Delete entries that just aren't good anymore. 
  40. Ask an AI, then steal and rewrite their work
  41. Reach the point of desperation where you start looking around your desk and adding things like "stapler" to the list. We can always go back and fix them later. 
  42. Stapler.
  43. Lamp.
  44. Go and make yourself bored. Actually bored. Don't get your phone out when you're queueing at the post office. When my brain gets bored it starts making stuff up. 
  45. Lean into your voice. It should really start to shine through after a few dozen entries. 
  46. If you look back over the entries and realise the list has morphed into something unexpected then don't be afraid to go back and change the title. 
  47. Don't think about whether anybody will read this far. You're writing this for you, not anybody else. 
  48. Don't get complacent near the end. If you feel you aren't writing well then come back and make sure you finish on a high.
  49. But also remember that you'll be coming back to review all of these, so don't get too hung up on any one entry. 
  50. Or, if you get halfway through and realise you're genuinely out of ideas then be kind to yourself and accept that sometimes d50 is enough, like d50 birds, or even d66 or d20.


Art by Midjourney

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Action-Intent Duality

In Mythic Bastionland I refer to a six step process for adjudicating player action.

  1. INTENT - What are you trying to do?
  2. LEVERAGE - What makes it possible?
  3. COST - Would it use a resource, grant a Burden, or have a negative side-effect?
  4. STAKES - What's at risk? No risk, no roll.
  5. ROLL - Make a Save or a Luck Roll.
  6. IMPACT - Show the consequences, honour the Stakes, and move forward.

I used something similar in Ask the Stars.

And it's all there because I've found myself torn between two subtly different questions as my go-to catchphrase when running a game.

"What are you doing?"
"What are you trying to do?"

When really it's useful to understand both.

What are you doing?

The one you ask when the players are dawdling around in indecision. A prompt to spur them to make a decision and take action.

But also it begs more detail. The classic example is:

Player: I check the door for traps

GM: Ah, but what exactly are you doing?

I've talked before about how this very question is the secret sauce of RPGs, and I stand by that, but it's easy to see how some players might see an exchange like this and groan.

The trap example is perhaps a bit disingenuous for me to use, as I've made my stance on traps pretty clear, so this situation just wouldn't arise at my table. However, I use it here to show how in some games the need to describe exactly what you're doing can feel like a bit of a chore. Here the answer is obvious. The player describes how they very carefully look at the hinges, handle, under and over the door being very careful not to touch it. It's sort of a non-decision at that point, and the player is just hoping they haven't misspoken. This can have a fun tension in the right situation, but I wouldn't particularly seek it out.

So here I must be advocating for a different approach, right?

What are you trying to do?

You might have had conversations like this:

Player: I have that steel wire, right? So I want to tie it into a loop. 

GM: Sure.

Player: Is the floor slippery at all? 

GM: Not especially.

Player: How about the light in here, what's it like?

GM: Just your torchlight.

Player: And then is there somewhere I can hook this wire loop onto?

GM: Like on the wall? Ceiling?

Player: High on the wall, but not so high that I wouldn't be able to get leverage with...


 Sometimes you just need to cut to the player telling you that they're trying to set up a tripwire.

Yeah, this is the opposite of the previous situation. Sometimes you need more clarity of action, sometimes more clarity of intent. In general it's best if the GM understands both.

So I'm calling this:

Action-Intent Duality

When the players declare an action, make sure you understand their intent.
When they declare an intent, make sure you understand their action.

Now a principle is all well and good, but does my process at the top of this post actually adhere to this?

There's no step for "action", but that's because this whole process is only ever kicked off by a player declaring their action, so any clarification should be covered by the Leverage, Cost, and Stakes discussion. So it might go like this:

Player: I break down the door.
GM: Okay! So I'd say your intent is pretty obvious. Leverage is fine, this door isn't that tough. In terms of Cost I think it would make a lot of noise.
Player: Yeah, good point. How about I try to break off the hinges instead?

So in most cases you don't need to get your players to describe their action in complete detail until those details start to affect the Leverage, Cost, and Stakes steps of the process.

As with so many of these processes, I'd hope that after using this one for a while some of the details start to come naturally and the scaffolding can be lifted away. 


Art by Midjourney

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.