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

Friday, September 1, 2017

Great News!

 So, I've talked a bit in the past about the ordeal my wife has been going through for the past few years. Essentially complications from a back injury led to a chronic pain condition in the form of constant, crippling headaches. This has persisted since around 2010 and had only been getting worse, year after year. She was on a heavy regime of medication as well as daily injections of local anesthetic in the occipital nerve to try and keep the pain down.

That sucked.

Well, about a year ago, after seeing a pain specialist in an attempt to get approval for some kind of treatment (we didn't have anything in mind, we were just desperate), they mentioned off-handedly that we could ask our psych doctor about trying something called Olanzapine. It's an anti-psychotic med that had shown some promise in helping to reduce headaches. We felt like we were being brushed off because that was literally the only suggestion. But like I said, we were desperate and so we mentioned it and while our psych doctor said he couldn't imagine how it would help, it shouldn't hurt anything and he'd be willing to take a shot in the dark with us.

Well, we did. And it worked. Literally the day after we started a 50% reduction in pain with further reduction as she continued taking it. We upped the dose a bit and suddenly she could go hours without pain relief treatment and things were getting markedly better. We started to go off of our other pain medications and then we saw a doctor up in Portland who mentioned that, since we were now off of the heavy pain meds we could try an anti-migraine medication called Topiramate that might help us.

Now, she's virtually pain free. It's been over a month since her last anesthetic injection. We're off muscle relaxers and painkillers and are transitioning off of nerve medication which no longer seems to be needed. We went to the zoo last month. We took a weekend to go visit her sister a town over. We are doing things that would have literally been impossible this time next year.

And now, she's drawing again. After six years, she has the drive to make art again. It took a while...that's a long time to be out of practice and it's easy to shake your confidence when you've just recovered from a long-term injury, so there were some starts and stops. But today, on the first of September she has posted her first update to her webcomic Emergency Exit in the last 6 years. It's just a short gag comic, something that had been scanned years ago and was just waiting for coloring and inking but for us this is a huge step. We've started working together on scripting out comics for Emergency Exit's real restart in 2018 and she's been busily working on sketches and stories.

So, I can't tell you how happy it makes me to shoot her a link today:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Badass Kung Fu Demigods: Progress Report

So, you know how it is. You intend to make a blog post talking about the 6th draft of your RPG, but along the way you start working on the seventh draft...and you forgot to actually post anything about the 6th draft. 

Well, we're on to the seventh draft, available here: Badass Kung Fu Demigods

Some pretty big changes, unsurprising considering there's been two whole versions since the last BAKFDG post. I'll see if I can summarize some of the most notable ones.

  • External Traits are just gone. I realized that they were, ultimately, extraneous and were part of the old style "Exalted Heartbreaker" design of Badass Kung Fu Demigods, attempting to emulate things like artifacts and the like. So all Traits are just Traits now. You want to take a big ol' sword as a Trait, that's fine but in all but the most exceptional cases they're best handled as Knacks.
  •  Combat (and rolling in general) has evolved with the use of something called Strikes. When you beat an opponent's roll by 5 you earn a Strike (plus one for each additional 5 points). Strikes are flexible bonuses that can be used to inflict damage on opponents, grant a bonus to your next action, inflict a penalty on your opponent's next action or create Declarations. You can earn Strikes on every roll, which means a very good defensive roll can penalize or damage your opponent.
  • Speaking of...Declarations are basically the ability to take a bit of narrative control over a situation. That's things like grabbing your opponent, disarm them or set everything on fire. It's an evolution of the "Seizing Control" option from the previous draft. 
  • Fighting Spirit has evolved, functioning as a general combat bonus (adding to attack and defense) and the bonus increases with the number of opponents you're fighting, the damage you've taken and (optionally) if you're wielding a Deadly Weapon. 
  • several combat options have been tweaked or simplified and a special option is introduced: Psych Out, which allows you to build up Tension, for your big powers. 
  • The Mortal power level has been ditched entirely, if you don't qualify as at least Heroic you're only going to be a Weakling at best. Energy has also been increased for the lower Power Levels with Heroic characters getting 2 EP/round and Awakened characters getting 4. An extra Power Level (Monstrous) has been introduced between Awakened and Unleashed power levels. 
  • interaction with higher-powered opponents is a bit less devastating. A higher level character no longer doubles their roll and instead gets a bonus Strike on any successful roll. 
  • Powers are no longer limited by Power Level, instead everyone just has access to a selection of Basic Powers, limited only by their Energy. Several of the previous universal powers are now "converted" to Signature Powers or been removed entirely (replaced by things like Declarations). 
  • Combos have been replaced with a new Signature Power: Trumps (look...I came up with it before November). Trumps are super-moves that give access to a Tension meter which starts at 0 at the beginning of combat and increases by 1 for each round in the fight (although things like Psych Out let you increase it faster). Activating a Trump lets you "cash in" your Tension rating for an equal amount of free Energy that can be used to fuel the Trump. 
  • More detailed discussion on creating settings and setting the theme for them. A few new mini-settings as well and a few other changes (Against the Darkness is now set in the 80s and features super-powered arthurian knights, and is called Neon Knights, because everyone likes a Black Sabbath reference.)
Still a long way to go before things are complete, but things are definitely coming together. I'm particularly pleased with the Fighting Spirit rules in action, because they helped immensely with one of my initial philosophical problems with the game...in order to deal with a full gaming group of kung fu demigods you need an even bigger group of crazy powerful opponents. However, the fighting spirit rules mean that a single powerful opponent (Rival or Champion level) can effectively fight either a single opponent or an entire team, without any special changes or rules.

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.