Thursday, January 28, 2010

Xceptional - A quick look at the system


d5
- a d5 is a roll of d6 where 6 is read as ZERO.

5x5 roll
- A 5x5 roll is two d5 rolls multiplied together.

Ability Scores range from 1 to 4.

Skill Ranks range from 1 to 4 plus UNSKILLED.

Ability Score multiplied by Skill Rank equals target to roll or less on a 5x5 roll.

A roll of ZERO always succeeds.

A roll of TWENTY FIVE always fails.

Skill Ranks can have a +1 or -1 applied as a positive or negative rank shift respectively producing the following range of possible target numbers.

Ability of 1
Ability of 2
Ability of 3
Ability of 4
Weak
-1
0
1
2
Unskilled
0
1
2
3
Skill of 1
1
2
3
4
Skill of 2
2
4
6
8
Skill of 3
3
6
9
12
Skill of 4
4
8
12
16
Skill of 5
5
10
15
20
Weak - This result only occurs when a player attempts to do something as unskilled and the GM has applied a negative rank shift. When attempting a "weak" task roll, the target number is base ability score -2.
Unskilled - If you have no skill for the task you are attempting you must attempt the task as unskilled. When attempting a task roll as "unskilled," the target number is base ability score -1.
Skill of 5 - A skill rank of 5 is only possible when a player attempts to do something with a skill rank of 4 and the GM has applied a positive rank shift.
The 5x5 roll
-1*
1 in 6
17%
0
11 in 36
31%
1
12 in 36
33%
2
14 in 36
39%
3
16 in 36
44%
4
19 in 36
53%
5
21 in 36
58%
6
23 in 36
64%
8
25 in 36
69%
9
26 in 36
72%
10
28 in 36
78%
12
30 in 36
83%
15
32 in 36
89%
16
33 in 36
92%
20
35 in 36
97%
*How do I roll a -1?
It is possible (though rare!) that a character with an Ability Score of 1 (reduced through combat) attempts a task unskilled for which the GM applies a negative rank shift. This would require the character to roll a -1 to succeed at the task. There is a special rule for this. Read the -1 as "roll -1 dice." That is, you must attempt your task roll with only 1d5. Since a roll of ZERO always succeeds, if you roll 0 the task was successful.

There you have a quick over view of how the dice are used in combination with Ability Score and Skill Rank to resolve tasks.

Regards,

Jeff Moore.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Xceptional Class Trinity

Originally, Xceptional began as a project to revamp A+ Fantasy, but the more I worked on it, the less like A+ Fantasy the game was, so it evolved into something new. But the A+ influence has definitely impacted the games design. A+ had four classes of weapons specialty that shaped the fantasy character archetypes. There was the sword wielder, champion of edged weapons, the archer who used ranged weapons, the holy warrior who used only blunt weapons, and the wizard who used what I referred to in the game as "spell weapons."
As I delved into A+ to try to bring it up to date, I took a look at it's Letter Grade system and decided that this was it's weakest link and that it needed to go. Tossing that out, I began to look at a full system revamp. I decided that I really liked the simple yet versatile die roll mechanic that made up the 5x5 game system and that I would incorporate that into A+.
The problem with 5x5 is that, although the skill and task resolution systems and the die roll mechanics are novel and I like them ... the combat system is (if I am being honest, and why lie to my own blog page?) lifted pretty much without change from Warhammer Fantasy Role-play. At the time, I was okay with this and I think a big part of what drives us as game designers is the desire to steal the best bits from all of our favorite games and melt them all together into a cohesive whole.
But, as I began to look at applying the system to A+ I had the urge to incorporate a combat system that I felt as much personal pride and ownership for as I did the base 5x5 resolution mechanic itself. Enter Prometheus Blade. This was a game that was really nothing but a combat system. But, it was mine and I was proud of it. Perhaps this could be incorporated into A+.
Actually, as I began putting things together I was amazed at how well everything was fitting. A+ had different attack and opposing defense mechanisms for 3 of it's four weapon specialties (Sword and Blunt being the exception because they worked essentially the same in the system.) These translated well to the four body aspects in Prometheus Blade and assigning different types of attacks to each body aspect made the Promethus Blade system work better.
The only thing that didn't fit was the holy warrior / blunt weapon thing. I couldn't think of a good reason why defending against a mace should require a different skill than defending against a sword. I did try and I think I shoe-horned something in for awhile. But, it never felt right. Then it struck me. I don't need 4 attributes, I can work perfectly well with three.
This solved all my problems and again, everything has gotten better. Three attributes, three modes of attack, three forms of defense ... three classes. The sword wielder becomes a Brawler, the archer becomes a Shooter, and the wizard becomes a Mentalist ... it's the RPG trinity of which every other class is simply a variation.
It was also somewhere in here that I decided to abandon A+ and fantasy and take a fresh look at supers peeling back the pages of Hi/Lo Heroes and Powers Brawl to see what treasures they have to offer. Xceptional is truly proving to be a melting pot containing all of my best ideas. I even took the attribute names of Rage, Precognition, and Grace from my one page RPG because, despite the fact that originally they were just a cutesy way to spell RPG ... they work well. Each one can carry multiple meanings and serve to cover more than might be possible with other definitions.
Anyway, that's a look inside my thought processes and inside the evolution of my latest project, hope it wasn't too nerdy or boring.
Regards,

Jeff Moore


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why Classes?

The trend in todays world of RPG's is to shun the class system and create game mechanics that focus on a more free form method of character creation. This sort of mechanic becomes especially vital when character archetypes cannot be easily defined such as in a genre as varied as comic book super heroes. So, why then, for Xceptional, have I chosen a class based character foundation?

When I first began playing, I was introduced to the concept of the game, given a quick over view of four basic classes (Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, Thief) and four basic races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit) these were my choices. I didn't really know what it all meant (exactly) but it was explained to me succinctly enough and I chose a Hobbit Cleric (was told that Hobbits can only play thieves) changed to a Hobbit Thief … and I was up and playing in minutes.

Did it matter to me that Hobbits couldn't play Clerics? Nah! I just wanted to play. Fast forward a few years to my first encounter with a super hero role-playing game: Champions (then 2nd Ed.) … here there were no easy choices. I had gone from a salad bar where I was asked to select from 3 dressings, croutons and bacon bits, to a fully stocked super market where I was told … create something delicious.

Sure it's awesome to be presented with so many choices, but the problem with limitless possibilities is these can lead to limitless questions. Creating something delicious can be quite the challenge, if you have never cooked before. I made my Champions Character (it took hours) and we did play for a while, but I always wondered why they couldn't have made the whole process easier. This has been my impression of nearly every supers rpg that I have encountered since. I have always wanted to make one that was easier … which, I suppose is why I'm here.

Classes make sense to me: simple concise choices that initiate a process that is designed to have you playing a game as soon as possible. I see too many character creation systems that begin with: “Decide on a character concept.” Nothing turns me off of a character creation system faster than “Decide on a character concept.” I almost never come to the table of a new RPG and “know” the kind of character I want to play. To use the food analogy again, with classes you have a menu. Here are the offerings, pick one. This I can get my head around.

In the Scify channel series Eureka they have this restaurant, CafĂ© Diem. We are supposed to be so impressed because the cook can prepare anything that you want no matter what it is. The restaurant doesn't have a menu, you just tell the cook what you want, and no matter what, he can make it. This is supposed to be amazing and impressive. It would drive me absolutely batty!! I have no idea what I want! Do you have any idea how many happy relationships have been horribly ended by the question: What do you want for dinner tonight? … a LOT. Trust me, a menu is better. Classes are better.

And for those nay sayers who believe that Classes limit choice … well, my Hobbit thief got a staff of healing made by the Hobbit goddess, Yolanda or some such, and I was able to have my cake, and eat it too. The moral of the story being, that no matter what the rules of your game are, players will play the way they want to play. I believe this happens best at the table during game play itself and not during hours of character creation ahead of time.

There is a reason why games at conventions generally have characters already made up. Because players want to play … character creation shouldn't get in the way of that.

Regards,


Jeff Moore

Monday, January 25, 2010


I thought an update on my RPG design progress might be in order. Just to recap, I am designing a supers type RPG that fuses ideas from many of my past RPG projects.
The game has a name now. It's called "Xceptional."
The game uses a three attribute system. The attributes are Rage, Precognition, and Grace. The game also uses character classes and levels which is very old school, but then ... so am I. There are three classes. They are Brawler, Mentalist and Shooter. There are skills related to the attributes and powers called Xceptions which offer all sorts of ways for the characters to "break the rules."
Attributes and skills are ranked in value from 1 to 4 (actually skills can also be unranked, or "unskilled.") Difficulty modifiers are also from 1 to 4 (lower is harder, higher is easier). The three numbers added together create a target that must be rolled (or lower) on a 5x5 roll. (If you are unfamiliar with the 5x5 roll, check out my game: 5x5.
Anyway today I built advancement tables and polished up some of the basic rules text. Things are moving along and I am (so far) happy with the results.
A discussion of the game's setting is going on over at 1km1kt. Some interesting ideas are being discussed there.
Regards,

Jeff Moore

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The RPG Cover Meme ...


There is a fun forum post over on 1km1kt.net (actually there are many...) called, “The RPG Cover Meme.” The idea is to have a bit of zany fun by taking a random title, quote and image to create an original RPG cover.

We were to get our title from a random Wikipedia entry … the instruction said to keep trying until you got a noun. I liked my very first click. “All She Wants to do is Dance.” I figured a song title was a noun … and I liked it, so I went with it.

Next was a random quote. This quote by Lilly Tomlin popped up as soon as I hit the link. “Why isn't there a special name for the tops of your feet?” It seemed perfect for my title so I ran with it!

Finally the last bit of fun was a random piece of art. “Walk on Time” copyright © Adar Hay.

And presto! A cover was born … it was interesting to me that the final piece (the image) although not really matching with the other 2 elements visually, it was about “walking” … the whole … walking, dancing, feet thing all having a crazy connection with one another despite the randomness of it all.

Note: this was a game. Played for fun and no infraction of any persons copyright is intended (Which is why I wanted to be sure to post all information here thereby giving credit where credit is due.)

In retrospect an RPG about Dancing could be interesting. I mean, think about how many movies there are about dancing! And if rules can be made to break down and orchestrate the physical act of melee combat, isn't it reasonable to assume that the same might be done for the physical act of dance?

Check out 1km1kt. There's a good community of people over there. Maybe make your own random RPG cover. It was fun!

Regards,


Jeff Moore

Friday, January 22, 2010

Saga 54

One project that has been tickling the back of my brain for some time has been a revamping of TSR's SAGA system. I really like these card based rules and have wanted to do something with them for a long time. That interest in fact is responsible for the Sky Ace and Royal Battles games that I created.

Given the surge of abandonware rules systems that I see being reborn as free projects on the web: Microlite74, Swords and Wizardry, 4C, Mini Six, Legends of the Ancient World, etc, etc ... I have decided to give a recreation of the SAGA System a serious go.

I had already done some of the basic prep work some time ago and adapting the rest from here should be a snap. The challenge of recreating SAGA is in the cards. Both TSR game sets (Dragonlance 5th Age, and Marvel Superheroes Adventure Game) used custom card decks with special elements. I have examined the special aspects of the SAGA decks and applied these to standard playing cards. I feel that this was the greatest challenge facing any rebirth of SAGA and that I have managed this quite well.

Below is the first bits of text from the Saga 54 RPG.

SAGA 54

Saga 54 is a role-playing game inspired by an innovative playing card based RPG published in two different game sets in the mid and late 90's respectively. These rules sets required special cards to play at the time, but Saga 54 uses a standard poker deck with the two Jokers included for a total of 54 cards.

Saga 54 is an RPG rules-lite tool kit. It assumes that players are familiar with traditional tabletop role-playing games.

THE CARDS

The SAGA 54 Deck is read differently than the standard deck. New names replace the old suits and the S54 deck contains 5 suits rather than the standard 4.

THE SUITS

Numbered cards (2-10) can be divided by suit symbol in the traditional way. All face cards (King, Queen, and Jack) plus Aces and Jokers ignore the suit symbol and comprise a fifth suit called Faces.

The Faces suit is 18 cards, each of the other suits are 9 cards a piece.

Except for Faces, the suits are based on the tradition suit symbols but are given new names:

"D" Dexterity (Diamonds)

"S" Smarts (Spades)

"H" Heft (Hearts)

"C" Control (Clubs)

CARD VALUES

Numbered Cards are worth the number on the card. Face cards (all cards in the suit of Faces) are worth 5.

CARD AURAS

In addition to number values and suits, all cards also have an aura.

Aura is based on a card's color, but again the cards in the Faces suit are special and are considered colorless.

The colorless cards (Faces) have no aura and so are NEUTRAL. (18 cards)

Red cards (with numbers) have a POSITIVE aura. (18 cards)

Black cards (with numbers) have a NEGATIVE aura. (18 cards)

ABILITIES

All characters are defined through four base abilities that serve to define mental and physical traits. The four abilities match the four suits.

Dexterity - agility, balance, coordination.

Smarts - intellect, knowledge, cunning.

Heft - muscle, strength, brawn.

Control - determination, willpower, courage.

***

That's it for now ... If you happen to 0wn the Marvel Superheroes Adventure Game, you can now play that game using a standard card deck. All elements of the fate deck are there. Faces represent the suit of Doom and all the rest should be pretty self explanatory. With the Fate Deck taken care of, presenting an updated version of SAGA should be a snap! Feedback is welcome!!


Regards,


Jeff Moore

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny

I assume that I am behind the rest of the internet pack when it comes to cool YouTube videos or what have you. I really don't have my finger on the pulse of popular culture. I am more like that square old dude who's trying to be cool. So, I won't be surprised if everyone but me has already seen this. When I did a search on the song title many different versions popped up, so I know it's been around for a while. But, it was new to me.

After our latest gaming session, during which Bob (Big Ol' Bear) slew the ruling prince of the Ursan kingdoms and freed the aged and dying Ursan king from fairy mind control, took possession of the Ursan throne, only to loose it in single combat to the Ursan princess in a public arena battle to the death, where he raked in a ton of cash (after his resurrection by the Tigran healer Accosha) because he bet against himself at 10 to 1 odds ... (take a breath.)

After our latest gaming session ... Bob's player introduced me to the following video on YouTube which I just had to share.


As a gamer geek, this kind of thing had me giggling like a school girl (okay, like a pre-school girl) ... I loved it, so I just had to share. Give it a look.


Regards,


Jeff Moore

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Best of 2009 ...

I thought it could be fun to look back at my favorite RPG products this past year. The thing is, these are not products that were necessarily new in 2009, but these are products that were new for ME last year.

It makes sense to me to talk about three categories of products. I have chosen my favorite print game purchase, my favorite electronic game purchase, and my favorite free RPG discovery of 2009.


The Best Print RPG that I bought in 2009 (Bought it on my birthday!)

Traveller Core Rulebook
by Gareth Hanrahan
Mongoos
e Publishing

I have revealed before that I am an old school gamer. That being said it was absolutely fantastic to find a game that served the old school so well and did so in a way that was modern and competitive. This is the way to do an old school RPG for the 21st Century! Mongoose Publishing's new Traveller by Gareth Hanrahn is as close to perfect as an RPG can be. The simple resolution system incorporating 2d6 is exactly the sort of thing I try to emulate in my own game design, and although complex, the random life path approach to character creation is so much fun it's practically a game in itself. This is classic Traveller done right with just enough polish to make it shiny and new. This is the Traveller game that I have been waiting for since Megatraveller crushed my hopes back in 1986. Mongoose and Gareth Hanrahan have done everything right with this book, and I believe it will remain a shining star on my gaming bookshelf for some years to come.


The Best Electronic RPG that I bought in 2009

Cartoon Action Hour (Season 2)
by Cynthia Celeste Miller
Spectrum Games


Cynthia Celeste Miller is responsible for the creation of the excellent free supers RPG: Four Colors. In a world of complex number crunchy supers and over blown point buy systems, Four Colors is a breath of fresh air. I mention this because Cartoon Action Hour is also written by Cynthia, and is proof positive that some people just know how to write RPG's! Like another of my favorite RPG authors, Mike Pondsmith, Cynthia just writes things that make sense to me. She even has a way of making point buy systems attractive to someone who is adamantly opposed to them. She has a style that sucks the complexity out of a concept and leaves the depth. CAH is awesome incarnate.



The Best Free RPG that I discovered in 2009

Bust: Explosive Roleplaying
by Jonathan Ridd
Cold Blooded Games


Bust was a pleasant surprise. An innovative and deep card based mechanic applied to a cinematic style RPG, Bust looks to be able to handle anything you might throw at it. It has a dynamic trait system like Risus or my own 5x5, and it's super flexible. It also has more crunch, breaking the traits down in more detail, producing: tags, traits and tricks. There are guidelines for magic and super powers, but equipment like weapons and armor are defined like any other trait, so this isn't the game for players searching for phat loot. Think more Champions and less D&D. All in all a great piece of work and one I would like to bring to my tabletop in 2010.

So, there it is ... the gems for me from the past year. Let me know what RPG's (or other highlights) from 2009 do you remember most fondly!

Regards,


Jeff Moore

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Bought the Doctor Who RPG


I just got Cubical Seven's new "Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space" RPG. I wanted to post my impressions here, because I am a dedicated Doctor Who Fan as well as a gamer, and I believe just the sort of person most likely to purchase this game.

First, I live not in merry ol' England, but rather across the pond in the Americas, so I opted for the PDF download of the game to save myself some expense. Perhaps I cheated myself a bit there as the many posts I have read have been quite enamored of the game's packaging and physical content/presentation. I have sacrificed that with the download and am left with simply this: the game.

The game is simple and concise, perfect for introducing new players (who happen to be Doctor Who fans) to the wonderful world of RPG's. I haven't played yet, but I have played enough RPG's in my time to get a good sense of this one from the processes described. Roll 2d6 and add stat plus skill to beat difficulty is easy and straight forward enough. The initiative system that is designed to encourage talking your way out of trouble, or failing that, running away (no attacks of opportunity here) is perfect for Doctor Who and one of the truly inspired bits of game mechanics presented.

High marks should be (and has been) given for the wonderful presentation that is sure to attract new gamers, so all the way around "Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space" appears to be a winner.

The character creation chapter bogged down for me. I think that new players who grab a sample character and play the doctor or a companion will be up and playing quickly and will have loads of fun. I also think the "templates" that do the work of assigning skills, stats, and special traits for the player are a brilliant and accessible idea, so maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill considering these excellent alternatives are available, but I found myself going a bit glassy eyed as I read the example of character creation (from scratch.)

I know that "point buy" is the way things are done these days ... but, honestly, I am biased against it. Systems based on random designation and narrowed selection have merits in my opinion, whether dealing with class based or template based systems. Like comic book super hero RPG's, the Doctor Who RPG suffers from a universe of character possibilities so vast as to be virtually insurmountable to the casual observer. "Creating a character concept" for someone new to the genre or who simply doesn't know what they want can seem more like homework than fun.

The sample characters and templates provided are a necessary and welcome solution. I would encourage any GM thinking of running the Doctor Who RPG to present new players with the template pages and avoid the point buy all together. I think most players will be happier. Anyone who wants to jump in and mess with the numbers themselves ... can always do so. The tools are there. For everyone else, I think the templates are the best choice.

I do worry about running the game from a GM stand point, I look at the example character sheet of the Doctor and all the special traits that he has (that whole second page) and I wonder how hard these kinds of things might be to deal with in mass for myself as a GM. The other character templates aren't quite so busy, the Doctor has a lot more going on than the other character types, perhaps unfairly so. Personally, I think if I do choose to run the game I might like to do a game sans the Doctor.

To me Doctor Who is about what happens when ordinary people encounter the fantastic (and the Doctor is as much a part of that "fantastic" as the Daleks.) To me, the player of a game like this is meant to be the "ordinary" man. And I do think this game handles the challenge of "ordinary man encounters the fantastic" well. It provides a system where by that ordinary man can emerge the hero, and this is the kind of story that I would want to tell.

Regards,


Jeff

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Game in need of a Setting ...


So, Rob Lang's advice for Organizing Your RPG is pretty sound. He also has written an article on creating a better fantasy RPG: How to turn your stock fantasy RPG into a unique delight. And it strikes me that one of Rob's personal soap-boxes for game design is: setting, world design, setting, backdrop, setting, background, setting ... all that. And I am also sure that I wouldn't have to look very hard to find dozens of game designers and publishers who agree with him.

So, in the interest of sound advice, I find myself looking at my own work, past and present, and find that ... I ... I am a systems man. I like playing with numbers and dice and tweaking and twisting the tiny bits of math associated with old school RPG random task resolution.

Everything I do is another approach at rolling dice and interpreting results. There's nothing wrong with that ... it's what I like. That being said, I would like to endeavor to make my latest project something more ... something greater than the works of the past, and I believe the way to do that is with the setting.

My creative bent in the design portion of my RPG does lend itself to suggesting some setting ideas ... so, I have a start ... but I believe that there might be a valid reason that my previous projects are all but completely devoid of anything resembling a setting. I am not driven creatively to write this kind of material. My solution? Seek help.

I said that my current design efforts do hint at some setting ideas ... these are:

[1] Superheroes

I just love superheroes. I grew up reading comics and fantasizing about the fantastic worlds these heroes come from. I like them. I have written no less than 5 superhero inspired RPG's already ... and I still want to do more. (I feel that I can do better.)

[2] Women

I just love women. I grew up reading Playboy and ... Uh, okay bad joke ... but really ... I have decided to create my own art for a game for the first time, and the art that I have been doing is superheroine cheesecake. To be brutally honest, it's what I like to draw, and I need to continue to feed into my joy for this project. Drawing sexy superheroines in spandex is fun. And I am actually pretty good at it. (I think.)

So this has started me thinking along the lines of a world of Superhero Women. I don't want to force players into playing a specific gender. I don't want that kind of game. And I don't want a parody like "Macho Women With Guns." But, I think the world that I do want to make could be an interesting setting for a superhero game.

I see something like this: some fantastic event creates a bunch of superheroes out of everyday people. Overnight, a world of superheroes is born. Interestingly, 90% of the persons effected are women. That's it ... the basic concept.

This setting presents some interesting challenges. What would a culture of superheroes dominated by women by like? Could this produce a reality that is very different from the male dominated hero world depicted in the comic books? How would it be different? Is there a way to answer these questions that will validate the cheesecake in my drawings and not be insulting or stupid? What role will the minority group of superhero males play? How will they interact in this world ruled by women?

I am looking for help. I am putting it out there to the universe and the internet ... "Help me design my universe of super hero women." I am looking for someone who would like to take an honest stab at creating this setting for my game. I am looking for a creative partner who thinks this would be something both fun and great to do. If that's you ... please let me know.

Regards,



Jeff

P.S. - I drew the image of Supergirl featured in this post.
(Supergirl is copyright DC Comics.)

Console: Handheld Edition


So, like a million years ago (or 4 years ago) I posted a challenge called "The Character Sheet is the RPG!" over at 1KM1KT. The idea was to make a RPG/character sheet combo that provided everything you needed to play on one page. The original forum post is here if you are interested, and the game I made: RPG (Rage Precognition Grace) is here.

Today I stumbled upon Console: Handheld Edition ... and, well ... wow! Colin Fredericks of Valent Games does me a "one-up" and produces a 1 page RPG in a nifty pocket fold edition that I think is just fantastic! Turns out, Colin has created a few "tiny RPGs" like this and you can get them free (or for as little as a dollar) here.

The blurb for one of the games mentions that this design stemmed from a "Compact RPG Challenge" over at the Forge and I looked it up to discover that challenge was posted 2 months prior to my own (Darn! I was going to razz them about how I had the idea first.)

Regardless, Console: Handheld Edition and Colin's other Tiny RPG's are excellent stuff and in honor of FREE RPG MONTH, I thought I should share the discovery. By the way, all of Valent Games stuff on RPG Now is either free or marked down to only a buck! You should give the stuff a look ... it's more than worth the money!

Regards,

Jeff

Friday, January 08, 2010

Diamond Jill



Part of my creative process with my new Supers RPG includes (amazingly) illustration. I mentioned below that I love comics. Growing up as a kid I wanted to draw comics for a living and I used to sketch superheroes all the time.

Recently, I have taken to sketching again. This time on my laptop using a touch pad and a freeware graphic program called GIMP. My current plan is to create 10 original supers pin-up drawings and drop them as spot illustrations into my RPG rules.

I thought people might enjoy seeing these as I get them drawn.

I got started on the whole "drawing with my computer" thing due to a site I enjoy called Heromorph. The site started (I think) as a place where photo-shop artists would manipulate celebrity (and nude model) photos by overlaying superhero costumes on the photos there by creating superhero fan art.

The site features an incredible array of original art and artist now well beyond just the original photo-shop manips. The site is well worth a visit. I even have my work (what little there is) posted there.

Following the Guide ...



I am still planning to match content and design of my current RPG project to those strictures suggested by Rob Lang's free guide to organizing your RPG.

The guide still strikes me as a useful and constructive approach to RPG presentation. However, something I have learned in working on my new edition of A+ over these past few months is that there is a time to follow the guide and that time isn't yet.

I am still trying to get information on the page and the organization and presentation of that information is an editorial task, not a creation task.

I was reading a guide to writing somewhere and one recommendation that struck a cord with me was the advice "Do not edit ... just write." (I paraphrase. I can't find the original article, but the idea is there.) Editing and writing (creating) are two different tasks. It is important not to interrupt one to start the other.

Rob's advice will serve me well once the work of creating my game has been completed. Until that time I plan to focus on the tasks of creation alone.

5x5 Heroes


So, I haven't posted in some time. I am still busy working on RPG design but work on A+ Fantasy (2010 edition) has evolved into work on something else entirely. The Fantasy genre of A+ wasn't engaging me, also ... I feel that there are fantasy games out there already that do most everything right. Or right enough for my tastes ... nothing much for me to "fix."

I can't say the same for the Superhero genre however and I found as I was going over my old RPG designs and consolidating my ideas, I kept migrating in that direction. I have designed a number of games but those who know me will see a recurring interest in games in the super hero genre. That's because I am a comic book fan. I have been since I was a boy and that interest has never left me.

I love comics and RPG's but the perfect comic book RPG has yet to be made (in my opinion.) This includes my own efforts. Of the works available today, I would have to give my highest marks to Chad Underkoffler's Truth and Justice. Of those games of yesteryear my favorites are the Marvel Saga Adventure Game (the one that used cards) and Mike Pondsmith's Dream Park.

I like these games because they each maintain a simple mechanic. I want my RPG's to be simple to teach, simple to learn and quick to play. Where most of today's (and yesterday's) games fail (again, my opinion) is: Character Creation.

Most of these games have very complex rules for creating new characters and even those that do not provide the player with such an open canvas for creation (comics being a genre of infinite character variety) that players must come to the table with a clear concept of the character that they wish to play and often an understanding of how to implement that concept under the rules.

This isn't very friendly to a new player, or a casual gamer. Also, I detest point by construction systems for character creation which is the norm not only for Superhero RPG's, but for most modern RPG's in general.

Expecting a person who has not played an RPG before to construct an original idea through a point buy system can become daunting and off-putting. When I first began to play RPG's I was introduced to the game through Dungeons and Dragons. Roll a few dice, make a few choices and you were ready to play.

This may seem limiting or restrictive to experienced players, but it didn't seem that way to me at the time. D&D wasn't sold to me as a simulation of limitless possibilities and I wouldn't have known what to do with it, if it was. It was a game, plain and simple. I was given a handful of simple understandable choices and any choice could alternatively be rolled for if I didn't have the answer. It was fast. It was easy. It was fun. And, it was accessible.

I don't think that most super hero RPG's are by their nature very accessible. I think that primarily this is due to the nature of character creation and that in many cases the ultimate game play itself is not hindered as much.

This is a problem that I tried to address with both, Hi/Lo Heroes and Powers Brawl. Both games attempt to solve the problem of character creation by introducing a "Choose or Roll" approach to character creation that allows a novice to begin play after only a few simple choices or die rolls.

I do believe that these games succeed in the "character creation" arena. But, I don't think that they manage to capture the best in game play. So, I succeeded in one area but lost in another. As I have been going over all my past RPG designs and distilling the best of my ideas into one cohesive whole, I hope to resolve this problem and finally design a Superhero RPG that for me wins in the areas of both: character creation, and game play.

And so, my design work continues but the focus has shifted and A+ Fantasy 2010 has become 5x5 Heroes ... a marriage of 5x5 and Hi/Lo Heros (and Powers Brawl and Prometheus Blade.)