Zombie Toast Check it out if you want to see some of my "professional" RPG work.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

RPG Chopshop: More Meat On The Block

As always, I'm more or less constantly working on various conversions and side-games. It seems to be my default state.So here's the lowdown on what I've been making since the last chopshop post:

First, I've updated and improved my Shadowrun conversion to Savage Worlds. A bit cleaner on the Matrix rules (aren't those always the problem with Shadowrun rules?) and some slight tweaks here and there. New rules are here: Savage Shadowrun

Ever heard of an RPG called Double Cross? It's an interesting Japanese conspiracy/superhero game where characters are granted superpowers by a world-wide virus that could eventually transform them into mindless monsters. The original system is interesting but didn't quite appeal to me but I quite like the setting (sort of a cross between Men In Black and Generator Rex) so I created two conversions for Double Cross, a still-in-progress version for Savage Worlds and a much higher-powered version for my own Badass Kung Fu Demigods system: BAKFDG Double Cross

Finally, I think I've mentioned it before but I've also been doing a bit of work on a semi-"classic" dungeon adventure RPG called Olde-Skool, which uses the PDQ system with a simple set of class rules and a magic system I'm fairly proud of. Check it out: Olde Skool

And for an extra tiny, compact RPG system here is a one-page madlibs system: Madlibs RPG

Currently working on another conversion, this time its Gamma World (based mainly on the extremely goofy version built to work with 4th edition D&D), using Savage Worlds. Got Edges, origins and Omega tech finished, still working on powers and Alpha Mutations.

Of course, I've also been working on my main stuff, Badass Kung Fu Demigods, but we'll get to that soon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Happy New Year

So you know you're off to a great start when you resolve to post to your blog more regularly in 2017 and your first post of the year is still more than two weeks into January.

So, happy new year to everyone. So far, 2017 is shaping up pretty good for me and mine. As mentioned previously my wife has been struggling with a chronic pain condition and finally we found something that can help her. She's now able to get by with minimal medication and she's starting to draw and get out of the house again.

So yeah, that's pretty damn good.

Since she's doing better we're also getting back into face-to-face gaming, specifically a game of Shadowrun (using the Savage Worlds system) with NJ and her friend Amy. So I've been putting way too much effort into making lots of paper terrain and minis. Glue and tiny paper bits everywhere.

And I'm on the 6th draft of Badass Kung Fu Demigods and its finally starting to feel complete, although playtesting is still showing some holes. Next post will probably be some more details on the new version.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Any day you can pet a lizard is a good day

Had a pretty good birthday yesterday. Started out making a couple of pizzas for me, my wife and our roommate. Tried out a recipe for thin crust dough which worked really well (This is the recipe if you're curious). Normally pizza dough recipes taste fine but they're a bit of a pain to work with, being too stretchy and hard to spread properly but this one was really easy to roll out and bake.

After lunch me and NJ decided to take a walk out to our local dairy queen for a blizzard as a birthday cake substitute. Walking back we finished just as we passed by a nearby thrift store, which is kind of our default for doing something outside of the house. While we were there we noticed an umbrella-holder full of swords, which certainly caught my interest. Checking the prices all were pretty cheap and while a lot were very battered (some missing their hilts entirely) quite a few were still in perfectly acceptable condition.

I ended up picking up a straight-bladed katana-style sword (I have no illusions as to its authenticity, but it looks neat) with an interesting wooden sheath and tasseled hilt. For 12 bucks it's a pretty sweet deal. Of course, then I had to walk back home carrying a sword, but fortunately there were no problems and I was able to resist the urge to slash at nearby tree branches, because I'm 12.

And then, on the way back we saw a tiny little skink on the ground, who apparently was not told that it was October. As already mentioned, I am 12 so I carefully grabbed it so me and NJ could take pictures, poke at it and generally annoy the hell out of a tiny animal. But at least I've graduated beyond putting them in a jar with a stick and a leaf.

So yeah, pretty good birthday. I mean, as good as you're going to get once you're over 30 and no one buys you giant cakes anymore.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Distracting Myself

So, it's been a bit (seems to be a pattern doesn't it?) but fortunately I've still had a fair amount of opportunity to work on my RPG projects.

So as I was working on the 6th (!!!) draft of Badass Kung Fu Demigods (more on that to come) I decided to distract myself with a new draft for my card-based fantasy heartbreaker. So, I present...

The broad strokes of the game haven't changed from when I last wrote about it, but I've spruced up the layout a bit and tinkered around with the class abilities to try and get a better balance and replacing a few iffy powers. 
Other than a few tweaks here and there I also included a very simple treasure system, an expanded list of example magical items and beefed up the bestiary a bit. 

All in all it seems pretty close to done. Certainly needs a bit more polish (and just re-reading bits for this post brought a few editing errors to my attention) and I'm currently tinkering with a rough multi-classing system to be included later, but overall it seems fairly solid.

By the way, I should mention that Dungeons and Decks is in desperate need of playtesting. I don't have much opportunity for face-to-face gaming and the card-based nature of the game makes playing online practically impossible. So, if any of you guys happen to give it a shot please, please pass along any feedback to me. I would be thrilled to hear anything, even if it's just a series of swear words and curses on my family's name. Any feedback is welcome.

Although Badass Kung Fu Demigods is kind of my passion project right now I think Dungeons and Decks will probably be the first RPG I attempt to put up for sale. It's got a familiar premise but a fun gimmick and there's plenty of opportunity for including some fun art, and certainly at least one or two custom card decks are already being planned. 

Speaking of art, one bit of good news is that my wife's condition is doing better. She's still far from "cured" but a new medication has allowed her to operate with a lot less pain. As a result she's been stretching her artistic wings a bit, sketching here and there, the first time in a couple of years. Still a long way from being able to resume her comic work or illustrating my games, but it's the first improvement we've seen in quite a while. 

Oh, and unrelated news, today is my birthday. So, happy birthday to me I suppose. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Badass Kung Fu Demigods: The Importance of Playtesting

Been a few months there. Part of the reason for my pause in the discussion of the game is that I've had the chance to run a slow playtest for Badass Kung Fu Demigods. I say slow since it's a play-by-post on a forum so the pace can be glacial, which is not helped by my own problems keeping a steady posting habits due to general overwork and helping out NJ.

Despite the playtest only being the face-to-face equivalent of a few hours it's already obvious that playtesting is very, very important. When I got into the game I expected to find a few rough edges that needed polishing...I didn't expect that I'd find the need for a major rewrite.

But that's what playtesting is for. You can't always see the problems in your own work and it's amazing how much can fly under your radar, problems that seem really obvious in hindsight but go completely unnoticed no matter how many times you read and re-read your work.

The good news is the playtest didn't show that that the system was an utter garbage fire and with some more work there should be a workable game that just needs some extra polish and tinkering.

Despite the still-ongoing nature of the playtest I've already made some significant changes. The first thing I found out was that the Team-Up rules were broken all to hell. They were meant to support the occasional fastball special or power-ranger-esque team move but they turned out much more devastating than expected when a group of 3-4 characters one-shotted an Awakened-level enemy with a single team-up attack without having to Power Up at all. Then later a mere two people teamed up and utterly annihilated about 8 equal-ranked enemies with one attack.

This led to the second realization...additive bonuses in general were pretty broken. Things like External Traits or even basic Knacks and Styles provide a dramatic edge. With the right build it's easy to get massive quantities of bonuses and opponents who can't build up quite that level of bonus just don't stand a chance.

Those were the first, obvious problems. The rest were a little more subtle. Mainly that the combat dynamic needed some work. Fights between characters who can shift across multiple Power Levels could potentially take quite a while and it actually becomes quite difficult for characters to "break off" combat unless both characters involved mutually agree to end the fight...there's little to no official way to say "I want out". Likewise, even without the Team-Up mechanic outnumbered opponents just can't keep up...the relatively small number of EP available means that it quickly becomes very difficult for characters to pay for a solid defense against multiple opponents let alone having enough EP left over to even try and fight back.

So clearly work was needed. Here's the new draft: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5dkSHCjlC_3QmRUT3owZVhJRmM/view?usp=sharing

A quick run-down of the major changes:

*No more additive bonuses. Instead its been replaced with a semi-dice-pool system. The default is a roll of 2dX (where X is your Trait Die) but bonuses and penalties add or subtract dice from that roll. No matter what you always keep the highest result and (normally) discard all other results. Knacks and Styles add a +1 die bonus and most special rules (like chewing the scenery, deadly weapons, and teamwork) now just add bonus dice.

*External Traits are not added but instead rolled separately (including bonuses) and the highest result is taken. Since bonus dice apply to both the biggest advantage of an External Trait is that it more or less doubles any bonus dice you receive.

*Normal range rules have been replaced with "Engagements" where characters are locked in battle with one another. To avoid the problems with ganging up I mentioned before I introduced a rule called "Fighting Spirit" where an outnumbered character gets a bonus die for each opponent they're currently Engaged with. Ranged attacks allow you to attack outside of Engagements and there are rules for Breaking Engagements which allows someone to try and break-and-run if fights are getting too intense.

*During character creation rather than buying Knacks, Styles and Signature Moves from the same "pool" of bonus points each characters gets couple of Knacks, a Style and a pair of Signature Moves. It was pointed out that while Signature Moves are a lot of fun Knacks and Styles are more practical but a bit duller and having to make a decision between the two was a bit lame at the start.

Oh, and I added a new micro-setting at the end of the book, which I quite enjoy, called "After J-Day" where players are angels who have rebelled against heaven to defend the people left behind after the rapture takes the chosen and the gates of hell open upon the earth. Post-apocalyptic archangels vs demonic wasteland bikers.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Badass Kung Fu Demigods: Breaking System News!

So, as I mentioned Badass Kung Fu Demigods is still very much in development and just the other day a new possibility dawned on me. This may be a part of the core rules, an optional rule for a mini-setting or it may turn out to be nothing at all.

This starts (much like Badass Kung Fu Demigods itself) with Exalted. Now, most of you are probably aware that Exalted recently came out with a 3rd edition. I got into Exalted with the first edition and I still consider 1e the most "playable" form of Exalted. It's got a lot of problems but it's still semi-functional and with some work it can be a good bit of fun. 2nd edition turned me off almost from the word go with its tick-based combat system and it ultimately didn't address the real problems of 1st edition.

Now, I'll preface this by saying I haven't bought or read 3rd edition because I just don't have the spare money to plonk down on a game that I'm unlikely to use. However, from reading about it the combat mechanic still seems quite complicated and the setting has lost some of its appeal with the sheer proliferation of Exalted-types. You don't need that many Exalted!!

Anyway, I will say that there is a concept I've read about in 3rd edition which I like in theory, even if I don't have much faith in the practice. The idea is to set up an opponent for a big "finishing move" attack by hitting them with weaker "withering" attacks to build up advantage, then top it off with an actually damaging attack that blasts them into next week.

Now, that's a concept I quite like. In addition to serving as a satisfying way to regulate the flow of combat but it's also a good way to imitate the "source material" of anime or video games where you build up to big final blows. These are also the inspirations for BAKFDG and so I'm interested in this concept as well.

So the question is, how do I adapt it? Here's the current shape of it in my mind. These rules are quite crude and are still subject to extensive modification or complete dismissal.

Momentum: When making an attack you can choose to go for a Damaging Attack or a Momentum Building Attack (think of a better name for this). Damaging Attacks are resolved normally (roll off, if attacker wins they inflict 1 damage, +1 damage per 5 points by which you beat your opponent). Momentum Building Attacks won't inflict damage, instead they give you Momentum Dice, one die per point by which you beat your opponent's roll. Momentum Building Attacks also do not have to be physical assaults, you can use them to put your opponent off balance, give yourself an advantage, smack talk them or otherwise show off.

possible rule: Taking Damage also gives you Momentum Dice, 1 die per point of damage you take. Possibly the option to convert Energy into Momentum. 

Momentum Dice are d6's and when you make a Damaging Attack you can choose to unleash your Momentum (think of a cool name for this), rolling all of your momentum dice (all or nothing, you can't divvy them up) and add them to your roll result to get your final total. Of course, you can choose to use Powers as well.

Momentum Dice go away at the end of a Scene if they aren't used.


 Let's take an example scenario, for simplicity's sake we're going with limited Traits and we'll ignore Powers.

*Sarah, with the Traits of Boxing [d10], Fast On Her Feet [d8], Perceptive [d8]
*Giant Rock Guy with the Traits of Made of Rocks [d10], Smashing Stuff [d8] and Big And Scary [d8]

Round 1:

Sarah wants to build Momentum, she could just throw some jabs but that'll be opposed by Giant Rock Guy's "Made Of Rocks" Trait which is an even fight. Instead she'll use Fast On Her Feet to play matador a bit and Giant Rock Guy has no relevant Traits in that area. 

 Sarah rolls and gets a 6, GRG rolls and gets a 5. Sarah gets one Momentum Die.

GRG tries to smash Sarah.

GRG rolls and gets a 6, Sarah rolls and gets a 3. She takes 1 Damage.

Round 2:

Sarah still wants more momentum and so she performs some more acrobatics, leaping on top of GRG's back while he rages about.

Sarah rolls and gets a 5, GRG rolls and gets a 9. No momentum for her.

GRG tries to smash Sarah

GRG rolls and gets a 5, Sarah rolls and also gets a 5, no damage.

Round 3:

Rinse and repeat:

Sarah rolls 10 and GRG gets a 6. That gives her 4 Momentum for a total of 5.

GRG rolls and gets a 14, sarah rolls and gets a 5. That's 2 more damage, Sarah's taken a total of 3.

 Round 4:

 Sarah's going for one more round of momentum building. She gets a 7, GRG gets a 3, Sarah's momentum is now 9. If this was a video game her "limit break" bar would be flashing.

GRG rolls a 7 and Sarah rolls a 5. That's 4 damage for Sarah now.

Round 5:

Sarah goes for the kill, rolling 2d10 (keep the highest) plus her momentum +9d6! vs the GRG's 2d10 (keep the highest). Lots and lots of rolling gets a total of 45!! GRG rolls and gets a 5. That's a full 9 damage, easily blowing him apart.

So, that example teaches me a few things, but I'm not sure what. One thing I think I may want to do is rule that any Momentum Building Attack will always generate at least 1 point of Momentum, because otherwise you could end up wasting a lot of dice.

Still not sure if this mechanic is going to go anywhere or not, but if you recall from one of my previous posts that I designed Badass Kung-Fu Demigods to incorporate rules I like and one of the things I liked, but couldn't really include was rolling big handfuls of dice, so the possibility of  successfully including them in an interesting and appropriate way is very appealing to me.

I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Badass Kung Fu Demigods, development journal part 3

Been a while but not dead. Just a busy time. I'm still working on baking Christmas presents for family members. That's how behind I am on things.

Part 3: The Actual Rules

Characters in BAKFDG are built on a small set of player-defined Traits, with NPCs built in much the same way. A Trait basically establishes something about the character and gives it a rating, starting at 1d6 and reaching 1d12. Some example Traits are things like "Massive Brute", "Killer Ninja Warrior" and "World's Strongest President". There were a few basic ideas about Traits:

A) There are no weaknesses or negative traits. That is not to say that you can't come up with a character who has flaws or disadvantages...these are just roleplaying elements with no mechanical backing. This is a game about playing crazy and wild superhumans. Who cares if you don't have arms, just grab a sword between your teeth. It doesn't matter if you're ugly, because no one is thinking about your battered face when you throw a manhole cover through an orbital weapons platform.

B) Traits do not "Stack" (with limited exceptions, see below). The highest Trait is the only one that matters in a given situation. Characters don't get a huge number of Traits and this way there's no need to "dogpile" traits and encourages characters to be a bit more diverse. A swordmaster doesn't have to also be massively muscled or hopping about like a bunny rabbit. Instead they can use their other Traits to flesh out other areas.

C) Traits are meant to be broad and focus is provided with Knacks, which are specializations of Traits allowing them to pick small areas which give cumulative bonuses (+2 per knack).

D) The one exception to stacking Traits are "External Traits", special Traits which represent powerful items, special connections or status in society. Unlike Internal Trait, External Traits can be taken away, denied or simply inaccessible. However, in exchange they provide a powerful boost when using a synergistic Internal Trait.

Originally, the intent was that when faced with a challenge, everyone rolls their Trait. Have a Trait like "World's Strongest President [1d10]" and you need to break something or lift something to impress congress? Roll 1d10 (and if the roll comes up 10 keep rolling and keep adding up the rolls) and see if you succeed. However, it quickly became apparent that this was just too random. It's no good being the World's Strongest President (and yes, I think I will use this guy as my example character from now on) if you keep tossing a bunch of 1's and 3's in a row.

In order to decreases the whiff factor and push number higher I switched to rolling two dice and taking the highest result. So far, this has smoothed things out pretty well.

Next came how to handle accomplishing tasks. Honestly, I had a little bit of trouble here because I couldn't figure out a good way to calculate target numbers is a smooth, elegant way. Fortunately, I eventually came to a better way, instead of set target numbers any task is simply assigned a die-type and the GM rolls off with the player and sees who gets the higher result. The term I came up with for this was "Opposing Forces" which could cover anything from obstacles, complexity or even a time limit.

Now, this does mean that even the lowest-ranked  Opposing Force is capable (if not necessarily likely) to overcome a character with a d10 or d12. But on reflection, I'm fine with this. First, unlike Opposing Forces, characters have access to Powers which can dramatically tilt their odds if they're willing to spend the Energy. Secondly, anything that counts as an Opposing Force against a Badass Kung Fu Demigod should be pretty impressive to begin with. The World's Strongest President doesn't need to roll to break a window or snap a baseball bat over his knee...he should be rolling for ripping chains from walls or (at higher Power Levels), toppling the Washington monument.

Then there's fighting each other!

Clashes are BAKFDG's term for general conflicts. They largely include fighting, but it'll also include social, mental or physical challenges outside of combat. Clashes are resolved by taking turns rolling off using whatever appropriate Trait's you're using for attacks or defenses. If the attacker wins they inflict a point of damage, if the beat the opponent by 5 or more then you inflict an additional point of damage (which continues for each 5 additional points of damage). Taking a total of 5 damage takes you out of the fight.

This is one area where I compromised in a way that I feel made things very slightly worse. The original rules were that each "doubling" of your opponent's result adds an extra point of damage. So if the World's Strongest President punches an alien tripod and the alien rolls a 6 then the President would inflict a point of damage if he rolls a 7 or higher. A 12 or higher would get him two points of damage, a 24 would get him 3 and so on.

Now, this met my goals in some very specific ways. I wanted to avoid the two extremes that seem endemic to high-powered RPGs: "rocket tag" fights or "cherry tapping". The first is when you have enemies with such a high offensive ability that most fights end with the first hit (or the first hit cripples the opponent so badly that the second will surely end them). The second is when characters have so many hit points or such a strong defense that fights drag on forever as you slowly chip away at each other's health.

My goal was to create a system where actually inflicting damage against an opponent isn't too tough and most fights will end within about 3-5 hits, which I felt was not so short as to be unsatisfying and not so long it stops feeling intense. Enough times for tables to turn, allies to show up or a bit of banter to be traded.

However, at the same time I wanted the ability for a really powerful or lucky hit to potentially take out an opponent in a single blow. Not a likely event, but something that would be possible (especially when a stronger foe faces a weaker one).

That was the intent behind the doubling mechanic, it ensured that the odds of inflicting extra damage increased non-linearly, requiring more and more luck to get a really strong hit in. I felt it was an elegant damage system that met my needs but unfortunately it didn't quite work out.

I went to the 1 damage per 5 points of difference system because the doubling system, while useful, seemed to cause some calculation issues in play, and more significantly was awkward to explain in the text. Although I still don't feel too content with the change I think it'll turn out to be the right decision and did allow me to create the Deadly Weapons rule.

You see, I realized something working on several of the "micro-settings" for BAKFDGs. Specifically a setting called "Against The Darkness", kind of a hybrid of Highlander and Men In Black where players take the role of immortal enforcers who defend humanity from the hordes of secret monsters that lurk in the night. It was very much intended to be in the Katana-and-Trenchcoat style of Highlander and WoD games like Vampire. But I realized that since I didn't include any rules for weapons outside of External Traits I was actively discouraging players from using them. After all, in a modern setting where players are trying to avoid notice it's quite a pain to lug around guns or katanas and avoid suspicion. And that's not what I wanted, I wanted to encourage rooftop swordfights, or mowing down hordes of were-vampires with twin Uzis firing silver bullets, in addition to unarmed high flying combat.

So I needed a solution and that was the (optional) Deadly Weapons rule. I felt like just adding a flat bonus to your roll was bonus uninteresting and it was difficult to define the line between a piddly bonus not worth bothering with or a bonus that became too big and made the weapon indispensable and rendered unarmed combat worthless. Basically the Deadly Weapons rule lowered the threshold for additional damage from an attack to 1 Damage/5 points to 1 Damage/4 points. This meant that both unarmed fighters and swordsmen have the same minimum damage and largely operate the same, but the weapon gives just enough of an edge to make it worthwhile to carry around. It also only works in the new damage system so I feel it kind of evens out with the original rules.


I didn't want BAKFDGs to be nothing more than trading blows back and forth and I was hoping to give it a little bit of tactical oomph, so I also came up with a few other rules that I think are interesting...but may or may not be good. Time (and playtesting) will tell.

*Combat Forms: As I mentioned, BAKFDG was born from Battle Royale and one thing that Battle Royale had that the first drafts of BAKFDG didn't was a good way to distinguish between different "flavors" of fighting. In Battle Royale a big brute had a different style from a judo master or an acrobatic knife-fighter. In BAKFDG, different Traits may or may not apply in certain circumstances, but largely one combat-suitable Trait is much like any other. Combat Forms were my attempts to remedy it and to play around with the 2dX mechanic. For instance, the Brute Form was meant to have the ability to hit really hard with a lucky blow, so if both of your Trait dice come out higher than your opponent's highest die result then you can add them both together to get the final total (and thus do more damage). The inverse was the Speedy fighter who doesn't do more damage, but is more likely to hurt the opponent: if you fail an attack but your lowest die result was higher than your opponents lowest dice result you still inflict 1 point of damage anyway.

*Seizing Control: When fighting an opponent and you inflict damage you can choose to reduce the damage by one point in exchange for declaring some kind of advantage you've got over your foe: knocking them off something, disarming them or catching them in a grapple. Essentially meant to prevent them from using one or more of their Traits (such as pinning down a fast or agile opponent, disarming a powerful sword-fighter, etc).

*Chewing the Scenery: basically meant to encourage mass destruction and chaos. By destroying a large part of the environment in a suitably dramatic way (knocking someone into a propane tanker, collapsing a building on them, etc) you can use the Scene as a kind of one-shot External Trait, adding 1d4 to your roll total.


That more or less does it for rambling about the rules, at least the general rules. Next (hopefully not in a month's time!) we'll tackle the main draw of being a BAKFDG: Powering Up!