Found Loot – an initiative to help game creators

July 7, 2016

I Need Diverse Games is starting a great initiative to help diverse game creators:

Found Loot is an initiative inspired by and modeled after Fund Club (created by Ashe Dryden ofAlterConf and Shanley of Model View Culture) to help fund gaming & gaming related projects by diverse creators. Funding is provided by members who agree to a $50 per month donation directly to the organization or group that we pick each month.

Found Loot is needed among a lot of other initiatives to fund gaming projects, diverse work and creators. There’s a lot of diverse, game related projects that don’t quite fit into a Kick Starter, IndieGoGo or Go Fund Me campaign.

Sometimes creators need a little extra to cross the line from idea to fruition, to make the difference between a prototype and a finished product coming to the masses. What we want to do is help those folks who need that lift to continue their work.

If you wish to donate, you can join here.

If you’d like to apply for funding, you can fill out the forms here.



Set Piece Battle Design – example

July 2, 2016

I’m going through old files and I found a half-written document for a D&D set piece battle designed to get that fun sort of Jackie Chan mayhem in the fight.  (This was written before the year I fought cancer so my memory is completely shot around then).

Although it’s lacking a map and monsters, there’s a few things I think it highlights really well:

Teach the Players

This was something I learned a lot from running old Iron Heroes – you need to highlight what are opportunities or options, at least early on, so players can know that these are in fact options.  Pointing it out on the map helps too.

Although telling the players EXACTLY what mechanical effects are in play seems a bit much, it allows them to properly gauge threats – a lot of players may be used to games where drowning is an extremely likely situation or that a fall will kill you instantly, and such, be unable to prioritize their risks and choices.  I assume that the characters are competent and this helps players make informed choices – just as much as a trained acrobat can estimate what kind of jumps they can make, the players use the mechanics in the same way.

Bumping the focus of rules

The special rules around falling and swimming are both designed at emulating the genre, where these things are penalties but rarely “finishers” in and of themselves.

Guiding the GM

Notice it’s entirely a walkthrough for the GM on how to teach and share this, but also advice on how to manage all the characters and environmental bits through play in a step by step process.

Obviously, your own notes can be as sketchy and light as will work for you – however, here I am, 4 years later, reading something I don’t remember writing (thanks chemo!), and going “Oh, yeah, this makes sense” because I was smart enough to write it for others.  Always assume you will be tired, half fried from work, and perhaps stressed by the time game night rolls around – so you might as well put in the work now to make it easy for future-you to be able to play the game as easily as possible.



Genre Scaffolding

June 18, 2016

I’m slowing forming a Mekton campaign in my head.  Between the busy season at work and less brainpower for thinking (age, post-chemo, whatever), I’m realizing how much harder it is to set up games with older, traditional games that are set up to do “broad genre” ideas instead of more specific ones.

For example, while Lord of the Rings, Journey to the West, The Mahabharata, and The 1001 Nights are all “fantasy” which you could theoretically play using D&D rules, capturing the correct feel and pacing depends on:

  • The GM knowing the genre and setting scenes & NPC actions around it
  • The Players knowing the genre and setting characters and action around it
  • Constant selective use/disuse of mechanics to appropriately model the specific feel
  • and/or house rules specifically set to bend the game towards that end

…compared to a focused, well designed game which sets everyone towards the same goal and understanding from the start, with rules to back it up – which is a lot less work to play and keep going.

For the Mekton game, I’m having to dissect the specific things I want from a mecha story to even get to framing the situation to sell to players.  While I could easily point-build a billion and one robots, or stat up characters upon characters, the part I’m not supported in, is navigating what conflicts, cast design, etc. tends to make the juicy parts of the specific things I’m looking for.

I have no Genre Scaffolding upon which to build, so I have to make my own.

Once I have that skeleton in place, then the ideas about what kinds of conflicts or characters make sense, and only then can I pitch it to players AND give them some guidelines of what kinds of characters to make.

I’m guessing once that’s nailed down, the rest is easy, but I’m also comparing this to other games where this isn’t a struggle – for example, Dogs in the Vineyard you already know what kinds of conflicts to expect and what kinds of characters fit the bill – the only point you have then is filling in the specifics.

(Mind you, this isn’t a dig at Mekton, the whole Interlock system really does represent some of the best of the 80’s RPG design – which we’d see again in D20 over a decade later, however, it does highlight a massive missing piece in most of the design at the time.)


Too close to home, too far from safety

June 14, 2016

A few years ago, groups of people organized harassment campaigns aimed at trans game designers.

Long before bullets go flying like the horrific tragedy in Florida, the intent and dehumanization is built up over time by people “just saying words”, over and over.

You don’t have to step up and catch a bullet, but you can stand up and push out the hatemongers and bigotry and not let it flourish in your hobby.

Or, if you can’t do that, don’t be surprised that the seeds of hate eventually bear fruit, while you stand by and do nothing.


Mekton Hack: Follow Your Heart

June 12, 2016

I found an old copy of Mekton Zeta.  Mekton remains one of the best games for mecha-anime action, provided you’re looking mostly for simulationist play.  But I remembered that most of these old school games aren’t too hard to revamp if you throw a new reward system on top of them…  so, I figured I’d come up with some house rules to make Mekton more anime-like in play.

These rules replace the Improvement Point system in Mekton.  These are pretty close in function to how Spiritual Attributes work in Riddle of Steel or Blade of the Iron Throne.


Player characters and major NPCs get 3 Drives.  A Drive is a motivation which they are willing to risk and push for – protecting planet Earth, someone they’re in love with, revenge, finding out the truth about the Secret Government, whatever.  You can change these over play, but ultimately they’re Flag Mechanics for everyone to know what to angle your scenes around and where the fun conflicts are for you.

It’s probably a good idea to channel these Drives into general categories for your setting for your particular campaign – “Make a Drive about the Aliens and how you feel about them”, “Have a Drive about one of your team mates”, “Give a Drive about what you wanted to do with your life that got interrupted by the war…” etc.

Drives have a score from 0 to 3.  They start at 0, and every time you take a risk or major action for a Drive, it goes up a point, up to a maximum of 3.

Drives affect dice

When you take actions that are in line with one of your Drives, you can roll a number of extra D10s equal to the current Drive score that applies, and keep the highest die.  So if you have a Drive 2, you get to roll an extra 2D10 for a total of 3D10 and take the best of the bunch.

As you can see, high Drive can make a big difference in your rolls.


Criticals are no longer infinitely exploding dice – you can’t just keep rolling 10’s and get some outrageous score.  You can explode the dice only when your action applies to one of your Drives AND only as many times as your Drive score.

So, if you’re fighting to Save the Earth (score 2) and you roll a 10, you can explode the die and roll again, and if you get another 10, you can explode it just one more time.

Drives and improvement

You can improve your skills by spending down your Drives.  Between your 3 Drives, spend down a number of points equal to the current rating of the skill to raise it one rank.  For example, if you had Melee 5, you’d need to spend 5 points from your Drives and the skill would go up to 6.

For stats, you have to do this twice – the first time put a check or a star by the stat.  The second time you spend down, the stat raises by 1.


Knowledge Rolls

May 3, 2016

“Make a skill check to see how much you know about X thing” has typically been a really crappy mechanic in most games.

There’s three typical pitfalls:

  • If you roll poorly, you might get no information at all, which often goes against the idea of a highly knowledgeable character
  • You might succeed but receive no useful information
  • You might fail and the GM gives incorrect information, but because you know the roll was bad, you don’t trust it, so it’s almost the same as getting no information at all.

Apocalypse World solves a lot of this by making their version of the knowledge roll being “Pick from this list of questions, the better you roll, the more questions you get to ask” and the list is broad but nearly always relevant questions.

I’m leaning towards this as a broad, portable set of rules that can go into most rpgs where you might want to make a knowledge roll:

Free Knowledge

First, your character gets a bit of general context about the situation, object, or topic at hand for free.  That may be just a sentence or two, but it does provide some knowledge about it.  “These swords are of Eastern make – the warriors all fought from horseback, so the blades are curved to allow slashing while riding by.”

3 Facts

You make a roll.  The GM gives you 3 facts about the thing you’re trying to understand/remember etc.  Failure means 1 of the 3 facts is accurate.  Success means 2 of the 3 facts are accurate.  Critical or whatever makes a really good success by this system’s mechanics means you get 3 facts correct.

If there’s some reason your character would have especially good knowledge about the thing in question (“I grew up in a port town, of course I know boats”), then one extra fact is correct – if you failed, you’d still get 2 of 3 correct facts.

So, short of a critical success, you have some space for doubt, but also you have some ideas of things to explore/research/or consider further.  This might involve finding experts to verify the truth of some things, compare the facts to evidence, or perhaps use magic or superpowers as a way to confirm things.



Cautionary Tales continue…

May 1, 2016

This is a pretty interesting overview of Chaosium’s mismanagement of the Call of Cthulhu kickstarter.

The sad part is that it sounds like most of the terrible business decisions were things which people could have avoided up front… a lot of the same issues that drove many rpg publishers under during the 80s and the 90s.  Spending more than you’ve got, forgetting things like, you know, storage and shipping have costs, or that… you have to pay the people making the product, and so on.

The usual sort of failure you hear with Kickstarters these days, assuming the folks are capable of making a product in the first place, are actually the issues around things like finding out bonus prizes like t-shirts or other collectibles cost more than you thought, or that shipping suddenly rises in cost – not that, you didn’t do the initial calculations to begin with.

It’s also the reason that a lot of folks simply go with PDF only sales overseas or put their product up on a print-on-demand site to avoid the shipping costs.

I’m glad to hear the folks who took over are attempting to pay off all the freelancers who put in effort, though it’s sadly so common for freelancers to not be paid on time (as in years of wait) or at all, that the only difference in that would have happened compared to the normal process is the customers wouldn’t have gotten a book out of it either.