Friday, June 12, 2015

Here's Another Gift: The Blue Knight

Once again, I've come bearing gifts from Ameshirel!

Here is the stat block for a monster I used the other night: the Blue Knight, a fae warrior who is able to bend the planes around himself.

(If you want to download it as a PDF, go here.)


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Here's a Gift: Triskell's Tower

Hey, it's been a while.

I have a lot to discuss, but not enough time to discuss it all. So, I am going to give it all in dot points for possible later discussion!

  • My group finished Marienburg: Sold Down the River. It was awesome, and I intend to let you know more about it. It involved a prison break, a fight with undead elves, summoning a dragon, and a whole lot of death.
  • I started another game, called Ameshirel: A World Undone, which is currently being run live in a Hexcrawlly sort of way. Check it out on Obsidian Portal (as I've actually managed to convince my players to update it!) It is using Dungeons & Dragons 5e, which is a new and strange experience for me.
  • I'm now running a game using Fragged Empire, an indie RPG in development that was successfully Kickstartered a little while back. It is being posted up in Vod form on Another Dungeon, so check it out!
  • I got a new job! I now work for EA Firemonkeys in Melbourne, and am an actual paid Game Designer in full now. No more split titles here, no sir! I'm having a lot of fun, and working on Real Racing 3 for iOS and Android. You should check it out, because it is one of the best racing games on mobile.
  • I'm still planning Verum Arbitus, and it should be launching in a few weeks. Very excited!
  • I've been playing in lots of games, recently, including a Cthulhu Horror game using a hacked homebrew system, and a Terry Pratchett meets The Office meets Better Off Ted style game. Very odd, but loving it.
  • I've been watching a crap load of itmeJP's YouTube channel, especially Steven Lumpkin's West Marches and Adam Koebel's Swan Song. Check them out.
Anyway, because I have been neglecting you all so much, I decided to wrap up a present for you early and release it here!

This is an adventure / dungeon I wrote for Ameshirel, but it can easily be transported into any DnD5e game, or really any game, so long as you're willing to hack it a little. So enjoy the Mad Wizard Triskell's Tower!

(PLAYERS OF AMESHIREL PLEASE READ! Do not look at the PDF above. It will spoil the adventure. I mean, go ahead and read it if you want, but Triskell will know... And he'll get you.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Game Design Document Template

Greetings everyone,

I just re-uploaded, in a better format, the Game Design Template that I use for my projects.

You can find it here.

Please feel free to use it without credit, or anything like that. Just make awesome games, and tell me about them if you feel like it!

Friday, March 20, 2015

New Campaign: Dark Heresy, Verum Arbitus

Recently I came to a decision to begin winding up my Marienburg: Sold Down the River campaign, and I will do a full post on that one in the future, as I believe the campaign deserves a true post-mortem.

Whilst this is sad, it means I have a chance to create something new. *cue rubbing hands together*

For a bloody long time now I have wanted to run a campaign set in the 41st Millennium of Warhammer 40k.  A long while back, I did just that, but it never got very far due to my moving away from the group. I have since grown considerably as a GM, and I am ready to step back into the fray.

Last year I designed a campaign called Into the Expanse, but unfortunately that wont really work with where I am now. I am no longer a student, and don't have as much time to put towards planning as I once did. Further, many of the questions asked with Into the Expanse were answered by Marienburg: Sold Down the River (but not all!)

Therefore, I need something new. Enter Verum Arbitus.
DISCLAIMER: This is not indicative of the coming campaign.
But I had you there for a minute.
Or do I still have you? Is this all a lie?

Verum Arbitus

Just to be straight, this is an episodic Dark Heresy campaign, where each 'episode' mission has 3 parts, played over 3 sessions. As a usual Dark Heresy campaign goes, the PCs will be Throne Agents... But there is a twist.

I first had inspiration for Verum Arbitus after I watched True Detective (the pseudo-Latin inclined among you will note that "verum arbitus" very loosely translates as "true detective"). I wanted to create a campaign where the players are, loosely, "the law", yet they are bound in near-mythic events and stumbling through. The players should feel competent - this is their job, after all - but the situation seems strange and unlike anything they have seen before. To put it into metaphor, they hold a well worn deck of cards, yet manage to draw one they've never seen before.

The second round of inspiration for Verum Arbitus, and what prompted me to write the first session was, strangely, the song Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. This was strange for me, but it hammered home the idea that inspiration can strike you from any source. And at any time. Because, as it happens, I was wasted at the time and dancing in my living room with a group of friends to very loud music...

Don't look at me like that.

Anyway, I got to writing, and I sorted out my thoughts. So let me present the Grand Concept Document for Verum Arbitus.

Campaign Name: I've already covered this, but Verum Arbitus

This name gives the needed "fake Latin" feel which is essential to Warhammer, reinforces the strange arcane nature of the campaign, and identifies that the players will take an Arbitrator role during the game. Great stuff.

Campaign Tag-Line: When you know your enemy, you know your ally.

This tag-line is a bit of a riddle, and I wont answer it here as my players are likely reading (and so they should!) However, think about this one. Really think about it. It should give you a few ideas on the sorts of games I'll be running.

What is the Campaign Question?: Who do the PCs trust when their bosses are worse than their foes?

This question is a pretty standard one for 40k, however when mixed with some of the other points in this GCD it should get the players thinking. Just what kind of scum will their employers be?! If we know that their employer is an Inquisitor, as the PCs are Throne Agents, then what does that say about the campaign scope? Is it a Radical or Renegade Inquisitor? Or a truly Puritan Inquisitor? Or neither? Maybe they are 'fake' Throne Agents! Who knows...

(I do.)

Who are the PCs?: Those in the wrong place at the right time. Those that survived. Those that can be manipulated.

The PCs will be forced into servitude, quite literally at the barrel of a gun. But then again, they are Throne Agents. They aren't just bilge scum scrapped up to service. They are competent agents, able to deal with situations that come their way. But they didn't CHOOSE this life, that is the main point.

What are the Doing?: Get a Mission, Infiltrate the Situations, Cut off the Head, Burn Everything.

The PCs will mostly spend their time clandestinely operating behind enemy lines. They will be performing things that, should they be discovered, they will be disavowed, disowned, and destroyed for. They will be doing the "thankless duties the Emperor needs them to do". And they will be doing it in bad company... Or is it better company than those who sent them into these hell holes?

Looking forward to talking more about Verum Arbitus in the future! Viva la Dark Heresy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Announcing New Contributor: Myself!

Greetings all,

Just a bit of a management update for now. I've finally tethered my proper email address to versamus, so from now on I will be posting from this account.

What does this mean? Well, not much, really. Not much content-wise, at least. Except that it is now far less of a hassle for me to post, so that should mean I post more often!

So that this post wasn't a waste of time for you to read, I will share a map of Rijker's Isle - the fortress prison in Marienburg - that I made this week using Campaign Cartographer 3.


Looking forward to chatting again soon.

Friday, March 13, 2015

If It Ain't Broke, Make It Better

Hey everyone, please excuse the lack of posts recently. I've been writing for a website called Another Dungeon, and doing lots of projects on the side, so versamus has fallen somewhat by the wayside. But no longer! I have a few articles I plan to post in the near future, so that should be grand.

There is a very old and very wise saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. This sounds like good advice: if your chair works, then don’t go fiddling around with it. Your meddling might break it to begin with, but either way you’ll be wasting time.

This piece of advice is, of course, terrible for a games designer. Simply terrible.

When it comes to game design, I am a little bit Derridean - that is, I believe that pretty much every idea has already been done before at some point in time, and attempting to come up with something 100% original is pointless and impossible. Everything we think is based on our experience, so it isn’t possible to think of something that isn’t in some way referential to something that has come before.

This must therefore also apply to mechanics, story, and every facet of every genre of game design. So where does the creativity come in? By smashing those old, tired, and generic ideas together. Not only that, but by constantly questioning the choices that we make ourselves.

Now, let me be clear, this doesn’t mean reinvent the wheel - another very old and very wise saying. However, take those wheels, pull them off the monster truck, and jam them onto the tricycle.

Let me give you an example: Carcassonne.

Carcassonne is a great, classic Euro board game which is enjoyed by people worldwide. It has a sleek elegant design which makes it a quick game to learn, to play, and to enjoy. It is very fun-efficient, suitable for all ages, and has a nice combination of luck and strategy that make it a near-flow game.

However, Carcassonne isn’t perfect. No game ever is.

So I decided to change that. Now I’m not pretending I was the first person to do this - I have never seen it before, but it is such a simple change that I am certain someone else has done it before - but I decided to change the random draw of tiles at the beginning of a round of Carcassonne with a random hand of three drawn at the beginning of a round, which is replenished after each tile is played individually.

Simple change. I didn’t invent anything whilst doing it. I didn’t invent Carcassonne. I didn’t invent the concept of hands in a game. But I did cram one invention into another. But doing so does not a designer make. Game design isn’t about posturing. It is about playtesting. No idea is ever good until you play it and have fun - better yet, no idea is ever good until you play it and have more fun than you had before the idea.

So we gave Franken-Carcassonne a spin, and it turned out great! The addition of a hand allows for higher strategy, and faster gameplay. It removes the shambling randomness and incomplete feelings that some games of Carcassonne can create when the deck is shuffled particularly badly. It also allows for some rather spectacular back-stabbing and fiero moments when you execute an amazing play over a few turns.

The variant doesn’t unbalance the game, because all players have the same ‘advantage’, and are equally able to plan ahead. Yes, each players’ hands can still come out badly, but the hand size is big enough to allow for forethought and clever planning, whilst not big enough for a single player to monopolise all of a single tile-type.

This is just one example. And not a very good example. The change was small, and not very original. But it worked! It made for a different experience, if not certainly a better one (though I prefer it, personally), and got everyone at the table thinking about the game in a different way.

If you need any more proof that constant iteration on games is a great thing, just look at the amount of mods Skyrim has. That should convince you.

So the next time you pick up a board game, card game, or video game, consider the rules you are playing, ask yourself why those rules are in place, and then ask what you could do to change them. Yeah, some of the changes will suck. But some will be awesome. You won’t know until you try them out, and before you’ve realised it you’re a game designer.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Regent: A Free & Easy Card Game For Infinity Players

Regent is a game I came up with today on the way to work... Seriously, I'm not kidding. I wrote this in less than 10 minutes, and I have no idea if it will work or not yet, so I am hoping some of you play it and give me some feedback!

REGENT:
A Free & Easy Card Game For Infinity Players

Regent is a card game which can be played with any number of players above 2, with normal decks of cards (you need 1 deck per player) and probably 30 minutes or so to spare (though this is merely conjecture at this point).

Objective

The aim of Regent is to defeat the other players - all aspirants for the Throne - by destroying their Holdings, which represent their military and political might. The last player standing is the Regent and gains the Throne, winning the game.

Set-Up

To play Regent, you need a normal 52-card deck of playing cards for each player. Once you have these, shuffle them all together and place the massive pile that you'll have on your hands in the centre of the playing area. 

Deal 20 cards face down to each player. This is their Holding Deck. Then deal 7 cards to each player which they may look at. This is their Hand.

Everyone declare how many Royals they have. The player with the most Royals goes first. If you have people with equal amounts of Royals, then the one going clockwise left of the Dealer goes first. Play progresses clockwise from this player.

Playing The Game

At the beginning of their turn, players draw a card if they have less than 7 in their hand.

During their turn, players can perform up to 3 Actions and play a Court Member. Outside of their turn, a player may Defend, Exploit or Assassinate at any time.

Each Action is assigned to a particular suit of cards, and to perform that Action, play a card of that suit. The number on the card represents the power of that Action. There are four possible Actions:
  • Attack (Club): Pick a target. Remove Holding cards equal to the power. You must declare your target before defence.
  • Scheme (Spade): Look at up to power number of cards on the field (in players' Hands or Holding Decks) and rearrange them as you see fit, though maintaining the amount in each location. You need not declare your target before defence.
  • Favour (Diamond): Draw up to power number of cards and add them to your hand. Discard down to 7 cards before taking another Action or finishing your turn.
  • Heal (Heart): Draw up to power number of cards face down and add them to either the top or bottom of your Holding Deck.
Instead of using them as an Action, a player may play one Royal per turn to their Court, face up. Doing so prevents any other player from being able to use that same Royal for as long as that card remains in their court, though the player who owns that Royal may still use them in Actions. Additionally, if you have all three Royals of a suit, you gain +3 power to cards of that suit. This may only be done in your turn.

Additionally, at any time (in your turn or off-turn) you may remove a Royal from your Court voluntarily to use them in an Action (though they never re-enter your Hand, so you must use them immediately or discard them). Once this has been done, you may not add an additional Royal of that same type to your Court this turn. I.e. You may not have a King of Hearts in your Court, remove him, use him, and play another King of Hearts that you hold to your Court.

Defending can be done by any number of players when another player plays an Action, but each player can only Defend with a single card per Action. To do this, play a card of the opposing colour to the Action (Red > Black, or Black > Red). Reduce the power of the Action by the power of the Defence. If an Action's power is reduced to 0 it failed (but still counts to the total Actions used). This can only be done in your off-turn.

Exploiting can be done by drawing cards from your own Holding Deck. This can save you in a tight spot, but also harms your 'health'. This can only be done in your off-turn.

Assassinating can be done by playing a Joker Card and removing a Court Member from an opposing player's Court, thus allowing another player to add that same Royal to their own Court. This can only be done in your off-turn.


Winning The Game

Once a player's Holding Deck is reduced to 0, they lose, and their Court is disbanded (and discarded). When there is only 1 player left, they win.

Clarifications

Once a card has been used to perform an Action, Defend, Assassinate, been Assassinated, or is discarded, it goes into the Discard Pile. Once there are no more cards to draw from the Deck, reshuffle in all cards from the Discard Pile into the Deck, and keep going with play as usual.

Royals are worth the following amounts: Jack (11), Queen (12), King (13). Ace is worth 14, but is not a Royal and cannot join a Court. Further, Jokers are worth nothing and cannot be played in any way except to Assassinate another Royal. You may also never have multiples of the same Royal in your Court so as to "hold" the space. Only one Royal of each suit can ever be in a Court at any one time.

Cards used to Defend do so to their full amount. Any excess 'defence' left over does not get stored anywhere. Therefore, if you use a Defend card of 5 power against a 2 power Action, the other 3 power is simply wasted. So choose carefully!

As I say, please give this a try and let me know in the comments.

[EDIT #1] Thanks go out to Robert for making me realise I forgot some things in the original write-up, and for suggesting some changes. I'm a goof.

[EDIT #2] Thanks to Amelia, Laith and Sam for playtesting this over the weekend. It's fun, though a few issues need to be ironed out, so I will likely have to make a 2nd Edition!