Release the Kraken!

We are just days away from launching the Kickstarter campaign for the Abstract Dungeon Zine. We’ve already written issue one, which themed around pirates and sailing and includes twelve new aquatic monsters.

Many of these monsters use conditions, a concept that was not called out in the core rules, though a proto-version appeared in things like the ice dragon’s entomb attack. In a nutshell, when a monster creates a condition it’s represented by a number of dice, and until it’s defeated the condition has individual effects as described in the monster stats. The siren’s song puts the character in a trance until allies can snap them out of it. The giant cone snail‘s venom deals damage until it can be neutralized.

I could not write an article about sea monsters without including the kraken. Continue reading

Making Hindrances all about Roleplaying

There has been a lot of chatter recently about the revised version of Savage Worlds (codenamed Savage Worlds Black ) coming out soon-ish. This has gotten me thinking about how I might revise this game I love.

I’ve always thought Hindrances are trying to do too much, and their role became muddy as a result. On the one hand, they create mechanical drawbacks to balance the bonuses points characters get from them. On the other hand, encourage players to roleplay complex characters whose actions lead to more interesting stories. Continue reading

On the Map

One of my earliest childhood memories is my pouring over the maps in the Hobbit. I loved tracing Bilbo’s journey across the Misty Mountains, through Mirkwood, and finally to the Lonely Mountain. Even more I enjoyed the map of the Misty Mountain, the same map that Thorin and company possessed, with moonletters and all (though mine showed up even by the light of day). This made me feel connected to the story. I saw the same thing the characters did.

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Don’t Have to be Evil to be Dangerous

The Runewild has made me think about why I like fey in gaming and fiction. One reason I like them is that they have a prefect balance of the familiar and the strange. I often see enemies like orcs as being just humans with pointy teeth and a bad attitude. At the other end of the spectrum, aberrations like aboleth are so strange they are hard to relate to. Fey seem similar: most look humanoid and do human-ish things like hold courts and throw parties, but how many stories exist of people who attend a fey party getting trapped or discovering that forty years have passed?
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Kronocalypse Design: In Our Own Image

Kronocalypse features two races created by humans rather than any sort of natural process: the clockwork automatons of the Steam Age and the genetically engineered replicants of the Cyber Age.

When I was brainstorming iconic races for all the ages, I also decided I didn’t want any of them to occupy the same niches. After I decided to include automatons as an iconic steampunk race, I consciously decided not to include androids in the cyberpunk era. Robots still exist, by they are more like the mindless drones that we have today than the fully sapient robots you find in much of science fiction. Continue reading

Kronocalypse Design: The Many Benefits of Backers

I love crowd funding for many reasons. The most obvious reason, is that it’s a great way to raise funds to create a book that otherwise would not be possible. That’s far from the only benefit however. Another benefit of crowd-funding campaigns is that it increases communication between project creators and the backers. This communication helps strengthen the project, creating a better end result.

I saw this several times while working on Broken Earth. Sometimes I brought a question to the backers, like how they preferred to have the book organized. Other times the backers came to me with ideas. For instance there is a section in the book about how the apocalypse effected life beyond the upper Midwest. I did not originally plan to describe the rest of the world, but backers where so curious, that I added it. Continue reading

Kronocalypse Design: Temporal Synergy

As I’ve designed Kronocalypse, I’ve looked for ways to bring the time-travel theme in even when characters are jumping from one age to another.

Until recently, I was also playing in a Deadlands campaign. In that setting there are a few different kinds of Bennies, or Fate Chips as they are called in Deadlands. The different Fate Chips have different benefits, including adding 1d6 to any Trait roll.

As I brainstormed, I combined these two ideas into something I call temporal synergy. Continue reading

Kronocalypse Design: Cat People in Progress

For the most part, in this design blog I’ve written about decisions I’ve already made for Kronocalypse. This time I’m going write about something that’s still in flux. The race formally known as cat people, which now has the working name felinoids.

The concept of felinoids began when I decided I wanted non-human species in the Steam Age that the human empires had colonized. I didn’t want to use the standard fantasy races, so I opted for the previously described tree folk and a race of cat people, because… well… who doesn’t like cat people?

Savage Worlds has a standard race of cat-people called rakashans, which I could have gone with. The problem is they are kind of jerks. Or at least, they are frequently portrayed as antagonists in the meta-plots. They also start with Racial Enemy and Bloodthirsty Hindrances, which are not especially PC friendly.

So I decided to create something similar, but not quite the same. I developed some history for them, how they once ruled a great empire of their own, but due to infighting and natural disasters, it collapsed centuries before humans came to their continent. Their reactions to the human colonizers are more diverse and more extreme than the tree folks’. Some felinoids take up arms against the humans, while others joined with humans working on the airships that fly too and from their native lands.

At the same time I debated just how strongly the cat people resemble cats and how much they look like humans. On one end of the spectrum there are the very feline creatures like Kimahri from Final Fantasy X or the Kilrathi from Wing Commander. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the ubiquitous cat girls of anime, who basically are just humans with cat ears and tails. There are plenty examples of characters in-between too, like the Thundercats in both their original and reboot incarnations.

Thundercats you say? That got me thinking about how the Thundercats all resembled different species of great cats. Form there I latched on to the idea that maybe some of the different factions of felinoids had different bloodlines, resembling different cats. These different bloodlines have different strengths, which led me to the current incarnation of the felinoids. It’s still not final, as I need to add some sort of downside to the race, but its a glimpse into the race’s design in progress:

Felinoid Racial Edges and Hindrance
Cat-Like Reflexes: Felinoids begin with a d6 in Agility.
Claws: Felinoids have claws that deal Str+d6 damage. These claws also help them climb, granting them a +2 bonus to Climbing rolls.
Bloodline: In addition select on of the following bloodlines.
Lionan: Lionans are the most social of the felinoids. They gain a +2 bonus to Charisma.
Tygran: Tygrans are the fiercest warriors of the felionids. Their claws deal Str+d8 damage and have AP 2.
Jagaran: Jagarians are the most spiritual and intellectual of the Felinoids. They gain 5 additional power points when taking the Magic, Miracles, or Weird Science backgrounds. Additionally they can begin play with the Miracles backgrounds, though the begin without any great kami (they still have the summon alley power).
Cheetaran: Cheetarans are the fastest of the felinoids. They have a pace of 8, and roll a d12 for their running die.

Kronocalypse Design: The Unprotected Zone

In past blog posts, I gave some big-picture looks at the Kronocalyse setting as a whole and looked at the Steam Age in particular. Today we’ll focus in on a small slice of the Cyber Age, Unprotected Zone 8934.

The idea for the Unprotected Zones first came to me when I was brainstorming where I wanted the temporal meteorite that kicks off the Kronocalypse to strike. I wanted it to be close enough to settlements so that heroes need not travel far to reach the meteorite, but at the same time I wanted to isolate it enough so that it would not cause major destruction and the site would not be swarmed with onlookers. Continue reading