Thursday, July 6, 2023

Happy SPInk Day everybody!

Doug Kovacs (illo) and Stella Condrey (typography)

Today is the official launch of Space Penguin Ink LLC, a new publishing company headed by my friend Jarrett Crader a.k.a. jert. The first wave of products includes a hardcover book and four zines written to support five different games (two are for Mothership but one has stats for both Troika! and B/X), so there’s a fairly wide variety right out of the gate.

If you don’t know who Jarrett Crader is, he’s been working in RPGs as an editor for about a decade and a project manager for at least five or six years. He worked with me at Melsonia for years before moving on to Exalted Funeral, not to mention the dozens (hundreds?) of freelance projects. He handled project management on Dissident Whispers which pulled together 90+ people in less than two weeks (and has raised upwards of $70k for the National Bail Fund). 

With SPInk he’s also introduced the most creator friendly business model I’ve personally worked under or seen in the industry, offering royalty shares to the artists, graphic designers, and editors, not just the authors. And of course complete creative ownership and control. This kind of approach tends to encourage everyone to go the extra mile and end up producing a more inspired, polished, and just all around better product, so the audience wins too. 

I have development credit on one of the new releases, The Garden of Corda, written and illustrated by reluctantly rising star Cade Crites. They previously did layout on The Ruinous Palace of the Metegorgos. The Garden of Corda is a Troika adventure that takes place on the planet-sized heart of a long dead space giant, host to a dying biome. This is the one written for Troika! with B/X stats included in the back.

So yeah, this is a pretty exciting development all around. Check it out, and while you’re at it take a look at the Kickstarter for my superhero game Longshot City.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Longshot City is Live (and i am not dead)

I’m finally at the end of the last project I posted about back in 2019—Longshot City, a stand-alone superhero RPG built on the chassis of games like Troika! and Fighting Fantasy.

The Kickstarter is currently underway (funded in 20 minutes!). The box set contains everything I wanted for my own home game—paper minis, GM screen, custom dice, a sick patch for my vest, and plenty more with a box to put it all in.

That’s been the theme of this whole process. This isn’t the game I thought people would want (though I hope they do), it’s the game I wanted. I ran an open table playtest campaign for close to three years, trying out the different archetypes and NPCs, seeing what works best for me and rewriting powers as I went. At this point Jarrett Crader of Space Penguin Ink was still editing at Melsonia, and helped with early development. This game is fine-tuned to keep me grinning like an idiot at the table.

As anyone who’s tried to turn a binder full of houserules into a cohesive game knows, the hardest part is translating your work into something anyone can use. To that end I’ve gone back and forth on the wording with Jared Sinclair until my eyes bled. I also included advice on running the game including how to set up and run three different campaign structures, all of which can be used with any open-ended RPG. 

I also filled the role of art director for this book. In this case that mostly means two things; supervising Meredith Silver’s layout work and providing her with a style guide and any needed guidance, and hiring and assigning illustrations to artists.

This game is designed not to emulate any particular tone, but to embrace the variety and weirdness of the superhero genre, and it was important to me that the art reflect that. I hired three artists with wildly different styles: JeCorey Holder who I worked with on Academies of the Arcane, Evelyn Moreau who I’ve been wanting to work with for like a decade, and Boson Au who I’ve never worked with before and definitely will again. There were times when I was worried about tying it all together, but I honestly couldn’t be happier with the end result.

I recently did an interview about the game for Logar the Barbarian’s (of Wizards and Wobblies) new podcast, the Hobos Collective, that just got posted today.

I’m also set to do a Q&A on the RandomWorlds Discord server that will be posted in a bunch of places in a couple days. Links to appear when it happens. EDIT: yeah this happened like a week ago now here it is.

If you want to talk about Longshot City or Troika! or whatever really, the easiest place to find me online is Melsonia’s Discord server.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

SuperTroika: Archetypes Delta

Just got back from GenCon. Had fun. Didn't get arrested.

INVENTOR-EXPLORER (doc savage, tom strong, forge, the doctor)
-signature weapon (+2)
Powers & Specialties
-4 science
-4 engineering
-1 athletics
-1 signature weapon fighting

ENERGY VAMPIRE (rogue, sauron)
Powers & Specialties
-4 absorb stamina
-4 absorb ability (4)
-1 hand to hand fighting
-1 athletics

Powers & Specialties
-4 absorb energy 
-4 energy blast (3)
-2 massive blast (6)
-can store absorbed energy damage for up to an hour and add it to the damage produced by their next energy attack.

BRUTE CANNON (etrigan, darkseid)
Powers & Specialties
-4 energy blast (3)
-3 feats of strength
-3 absorb damage

ELEMENTAL (storm, human torch, swamp thing, post-transformation klaw, iceman)
Powers & Specialties
(pick one elementish theme and stick to it: weather or plants or fire or ice or magnetism or gravity etc.)
-3 energy shield (3) or elemental form (3)
-3 energy/elemental blast/strike (3)
-2 command element (5)
-2 flight (or suitable style of movement) (1)

MYSTIC WARRIOR (iron fist, archer ((valiant)), shang chi)
-signature weapon (+2, no modern weapons) or magic tattoo (+2 to unarmed)
Powers & Specialties
-4 hand to hand fighting
-3 energy strike (3)
-3 athletics

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Super Troika Knockout

Some of the damage tables I wrote can do two or three times as much damage as most characters have. That's because if Cyclops or Superman wants to zap a tank, they should have a chance of blowing it up.

On the other hand, this makes every PC pretty fragile. So I'm making some K.O. tables for things that happen when you hit -1 Stamina. Eventually I'll want it to be a d66 table, but this is fine for now.

All of these results would have the PC out of the game for at least the rest of the session, so let the players take over a side character (there are likely to be plenty around because of the friends and family rule).

1. Return w/new grimdark costume.
2. New character takes on persona and powers.
3. Pulled forward from the past.
4. Clone escapes from enemy lair.
5. Parallel universe version.
6. Come back undead.

1. Cracked skull.
2. Broken limb.
3. Missing limb.
4. Broken ribs.
5. Lost an eye.
6. Truly horrifying scars.

1. New rival personality.
2. Develop related phobia.
3. Test luck to avoid rage due to stress.
4. Luck to avoid freezing due to stress.
5. 1d6 sessions of pacifism.
6. Memory loss (-1d3 Skill).

Friday, July 12, 2019

Troika Masks & Capes: Rival Personalities

Continuing this project. This method would also work for intelligent swords and other sentient items in that other fantasy role playing game. Might also be fun to play with in Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green or Mothership.

I've mentioned rival personalities as potential complications for a couple different archetypes now, and I think it's pretty obvious what that means in the context of comics (especially when there's a movie about Venom and a show about Legion and I'm pretty sure Ghost Rider is on that Agents of Shield show). I haven't really explained how to adjudicate it fairly though.

The most obvious option is to make players roll on a random table of traits a few times. That sounds kinda boring to make and not even really all that helpful in terms of how the rival personality impacts the game.

No one in my current playtest has to deal with a rival personality at this point (but there are experimental pharmaceuticals in play so who knows), but I've got an idea of what to try if/when that changes: Schrodinger's personality, with individual decisions decided by luck checks and precedent.

The PC is going to need to keep a list of what actions are and are not cool from the rival personality's perspective, presumably on the back of the character sheet or something. If the pc has multiple rival personalities, the player keeps a separate list for each one and which one is dominant is randomly determined whenever the issue comes up. The player can give them names if they want to, but make sure they realize that they don't know at this point how this personality is gonna turn out.

The first time the PC makes a moral decision of any kind, they need to make a luck check (and spend a luck point because it's Troika) to see if their rival personality is okay with it. They need to repeat the procedure again anytime they make a moral decision that isn't already covered by precedent (so if it works like I want it to, these checks become necessary less often as the campaign continues and more situations are covered by precedent). It's often in the PC's interest to ask the referee for a luck check if there is a shade of difference between the current decision and the one that set the precedent.

EXAMPLE: Spiderman's and then Venom's symbiote was initially defined by its bloodlust. Then, in the 90s, when faced with the choice to victimize or protect the innocent homeless people living under San Francisco, it and Eddie Brock unanimously decided to act as the community's guardian. 

If your rival personality opposes something that you really really wanna do, you can attempt to make a raw skill check (that is, roll under just your skill stat, no powers or specialties apply). If you succeed, you manage to overpower your rival personality for now. If you critically fail (double 6s on 2d6), your rival personality takes over for 1d6x10 minutes. If, during this time, it is faced with a moral decision that isn't covered by precedent, the PC gets to try to make their own decision on what to do, making a luck check as usual. If the PC's decision is opposed by the rival personality, the rival personality does whatever the PC didn't want it to and a new precedent is set as normal. If the PC rolls a critical success on this luck check (snake eyes), they not only set a precedent that agrees with their stated desire, they also reassert control.

I guess this makes reverse psychology a possible metagaming tactic. For now I'll say that if you try that and you succeed on a luck check you were counting on failing, you have to go through with your stated decision.

I'm a little concerned about the randomness creating personalities that make even less sense than real people, but using precedent by default should keep that sort of contradiction at least somewhat in check. I'll find out when it starts coming up in-game.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Troika Hero Archetypes Part 3

MORPHIC BRUTE (venom, sandman ((marvel)), clayface, spawn)
Can spontaneously form melee weapons, tools, extra limbs, etc.
Powers & Specialties
-4 absorb damage
-3 feats of strength
-3 hand to hand fighting
-2 disguise
1 vulnerable to intense heat.
2 water soluble.
3 can be disintegrated for 1d6 days by tornado-force winds.
4 powers are controlled by a rival personality.
5 requires 2d6 times normal human caloric intake (must eat that many provisions to heal the normal amount).
6 wheelchair bound when powers are not in use.

MONSTER HUNTER (van helsing, belmont)
-blessed signature weapon (+2)
-holy book
-holy water or incense or sacred medicine
Powers & Specialties
-2 occult lore
-2 signature weapon fighting
-2 forensics
-2 stealth
-2 awareness

SAVAGE (wolverine, x-23, conan, wendigo)
-signature weapon (+2)
Powers & Specialties
-3 hand to hand fighting
-3 fast healing
-2 enhanced senses
-2 athletics
1 no memories older than one month ago but plenty of enemies know you.
2 must transform into a rival personality to use powers (pretty much a lycanthrope). 
3 your powers are activated by partaking in acts of cannibalism.
4 feared and hated for appearance.
5 you are one of many clones or siblings with an intense rivalry (origin must be BORN LIKE THIS).
6 a shadowy conspiracy wants to dissect you.

ELEMENTOMORPH (metamorpho, warblade)
Powers & Specialties
-4 transmute self (3)
-3 absorb damage
-3 feats of strength

ACE REPORTER (april o’neil, jimmy olsen, iris west) (don't bother rolling an origin.)
Powers & Specialties
-2 stealth
-2 lockpicking
-2 awareness
-2 rumor mill
-2 connections
-if captured, can test luck to convince the villain to share their plan

ANTHROPOMORPH (teenage mutant ninja turtles, man-bat, rhino, the lizard, killer croc)
Powers & Specialties
-3 athletics
-3 enhanced senses
-2 hand to hand fighting
-2 feats of strength
-all anthropomorphs are feared and hated for their appearance.
1 turtle: armor score of 2, or of 3 when taking cover in your shell.
2 bat: can echolocate and use athletics skill to fly.
3 rhino: add 1 each to hand to hand fighting and feats of strength.
4 lizard: add 2 fast healing.
5 rabbit: can use athletics skill to leap absurd distances or burrow through soft earth.
6 crocodile: can hold breath almost indefinitely, add 4 aquatic stealth.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

SuperTroika!: Secret Identities

-This step is entirely optional. Not every superhero needs a secret identity. 
-Treat any task directly related to alter-ego's job as a skill with 2 ranks. this can stack with archetype or origin skills at the referee's discretion. you cannot increase this rank without retiring from superheroics to focus, but you may advance in your profession as a result of gameplay events.
-You have 1d6 family members and 1d6 close friends who will likely be put at risk by your activities.
-Lose 1d3 max luck points for each friend or family member you fail to save. (re)gain 1d3 max luck points if you manage to reverse their new status (falsely imprisoned, insane, dead, etc).

11 taxi driver
12 mechanic
13 lawyer
14 news photographer
15 artist
16 actor
21 teacher
22 student
23 private investigator
24 religious leader
25 idle rich
26 journalist
31 forensic investigator
32 mortician
33 lab assistant
34 writer
35 musician
36 librarian
41 stage magician
42 circus performer
43 engineer
44 police officer
45 paramedic
46 intel analyst
51 hacker
52 office intern
53 bounty hunter
54 sales rep
55 restaurant server
56 construction worker
61 janitor
62 dockhand
63 curator
64 cook
65 bartender
66 stunt double