Mar 31, 2019

Past, Present, and Future all in one.

During the last year or two, I have been involved in a number of gaming-related projects.

I've been a part of Byte Me Games, LLC since it founding, with a dozen projects of all stripes, one published boardgame, and moderately successful gaming accessory.

During this time, I have transitioned from D&D 5E (of which I still collect select titles for later) to the Savage Worlds game system.  In so many words, I LOVE IT!

I view it as the unholy love child of DnD and World of Darkness mechanics that heavily favor improvisation and narrative that just doesn't exist in any other product I have played.

Our group will be launching a Twitch stream and Podcast serial of Tales from the Rock, detailing the utter insanity of a band of Mercs trying to make a living in the final days of a mighty galactic empire.

Sci-fantasy at its most over-the-top delivered in a pulpy season/episode/sequel/feature film format.

More to come, with hopefully the inaugural episode either this Sunday April 7th, or the 21st.  Hope you all will check us out!

Jan 12, 2018

A little help, please...

My long-awaited Kickstarter is going live in about a week.  I need more eyes on it.  Anyone who is reading this blog please take 5 minutes of your time and look at my Preview page.

I only ask that you provide brutally honest feedback.

Thank you for your time, and game on.

Jan 4, 2018

Random Number Generation for Fun and Profit

(nearly) every tabletop game out there uses random number generators.  Those generators have even become a part of the culture and mystique surrounding RPGs in particular.

We use them as a random adjudicator of success or failure.  They are the place where luck meets skill and therefore keeping the game interesting.

Lately I have been struck by how often I just need a binary choice.  A simple yes or no.  I am honestly surprised at myself for how often they come up, but come up they do.

So instead of rolling it, I use a deck of cards for my quick/binary resolutions.


During skill challenges, I also add a random variable for either good or ill at the beginning of each round.  An evolving narrative that keeps everyone off their damn phones.  Storyteller and highest initiative player draw and shoot for high card.  Winning side gets a +1 bonus to rolls that turn.

On a Joker, the bonus becomes +2 and the players get to tell ME what happened to cause it.

We still roll dice and stuff for skill checks and combat, but sometimes it just feels more organic to use the cards.  I've been told it reinforces the feeling of the encounter being evenly matched (even when it is most certainly not).

The cards also seem to enhance the skills and combat portion too by adding to the ebb and flow of a good encounter.

So there you go.

TL;DR - Optional simple rules-agnostic universal ruleset to add depth to your character interactions using only a deck of playing cards (though I recommend you go with fancy ones).

On a side note, my Kickstarter for The MasterPad draws nigh!  If all five of you who read this blog (I jest, there is at least 20 of you, lol!) each buy 500 of them, I can quit my day job and make more of these for a living.

Nov 29, 2017

Something fun for your Savage Worlds game - The Chase!

Anyone who has played the Savage Worlds tabletop RPG knows it is a gorgeous product of D&D drunkenly meeting the Storyteller system and smooshing smooshies.  It is designed to be more narrative, while keeping a very nicely scaling core mechanic.

Anyone who has played, knows about the pretty cool way initiative is handled.  It uses a deck of 5-suite cards (though four can be used in a pinch - but you REALLY want that 5 suite if you can) to determine turn order.

Somewhat less known is the other things you can do with it.  Here's an example with a walkthrough from my last game session of In Leviathan's shadow.

Start scene in media res with the 5 of them running for their lives from a horde of starving gremlins.  (Imagine the scaly gremlins from the namesake film, only 4" tall and an appetite for electricity and electrical parts)  The Android was out of the room and down the hall before I even asked what the party wanted to do.  One of them threw a full powercell into their nest to buy them time to run like hell.

so there is where we start our interactive narrative.

Imagine - if you will - a series of twists, turns, and split-second decisions you would have to make if the devil himself was at your heels.

- Picking directions without being able to see what is coming
- Closed doors with moments to open
- Random obstacles/hazards
- Lucky breaks

In this case, the winding maze like corridors of a long derelict Dreadnought class ship.  We begin at the bottom of the arrangement, which represents our opening gambit.

In Savage worlds-think, red suites are good, black suites are bad.  The fifth suite - stars - is yellow or blue and represents a neutral outcome. Apologies for the sloppy photoshopping.  I'm not an expert and it is enough for you to ken - which is good enough for me.

Round one we begin at the bottom with an inauspicious spade.  I decide that means there is a deployed blast door.  Not only that, but any checks made this turn suffer a -1 penalty.  The android makes a repair check with a raise, so I declare that while unpowered, the manual hydraulic release is functional.  He pulls it, and begins spreading the rusty doors apart.

So we started with the android because he was in the lead.  Now we roll a pace check to see where everyone is in line.  The fastest two can act, but the others are too far behind to do anything but scrabble.  If the gremlins      pace die comes up a 5-6, they overtake the rearmost player.

Of all people, the evil dwarf makes it there next.  He puts his muscles to work assisting the Android - succeeding is spreading the panels 18"  The next fastest is the ratling who runs through with a "buh-bye" and runs as far as he can go.

Round two is similarly bad.  Neither dwarf or android is able to continue acting, but the Saurian and Cat-girl both manage to ninja their way through the gap.  The bad thing?  Indecision.  The T-intersection the Ratling (deciding due to being in front) leads to two identical corridors as far as he can see.  No forward progress this turn.

Round three begins with the Android and the Dwarf acting to open the door enough for the portly dwarf to pass through, then slam it shut behind.  They succeed on their rolls and close the door.  Bad thing?  The horde of gremlins go silent, before flowing up the wall, then dismantling the ceiling vents in seconds!

Round 4 puts the Saurian at the lead, who decides to turn left - which he understands to be toward the outside of the ship.  everyone else elects to Naruto-run as fast as they can as well.

Round 5 is a welcome bit of good news!  Another Blast Door!  This one is even powered!  So they run through - and this is where I introduce the newest party member - a 7'10" Cyber-orc female with a Powered pneumatic driver for a left arm.  I'll skip the backstory due to it being a little deep and there actually being a perfectly good reason for her being there - you know how it works :p

Round 6 - bad thing is a cyber-orc that is so big she blocks the corridor!  She is also so stupid that she doesn't realize it until she get's literally chain-reaction PC-crashed into.  It slows them all down, which, in turn, allows the gremlins to catch up.  The door is opened and people start hustling inside...

Round 7 - A star.  No bonuses OR penalties.  So i throw in a plot twist instead.  The door opens to a 30' across cylindrical shaft literally burned through the ship.  The sides are covered in vines, bushes, and slagged metalcicles.  Across the gaping chasm (that goes down a LONG way) they see another powered door with a small section of catwalk in front.

Round 8 - Bad thing is door malfunctions and cannot be closed.  Everyone gets through, with the fearsome Orc guarding their rear by tearing one of the door panels off and using it like a swatter.  A grappling hook is threaded and fired across to the other side.  The Saurian, the Ratling, and the Raksha (walk into a bar...) make it across with finesse and aplomb.  The android?  Not so much.  Left dangling by his hands over the gap, he discovers another skill he needs to brush up on.  Finally, the Orc makes her move - sprinting her 400 pounds of mass across the catwalk and hurls herself through the air....making it halfway...and landing 5 decks below.  Ouch.  That's when she begins berserking and smashing stuff.  Unfortunately, the android is in an even more awful spot as he is unable to climb up after she clips the rope on the way down, leaving him dangling on the wrong side of the chasm.  Seeing a delicious snack hanging below them, the gremlin horde begins flowing down the chasm wall toward their meal.

Round 9 - Joker pulled.  This effectively ends the encounter, as I allow the Ratling (who wins pace check) and the three on the right side of the chasm to devise a plan to rig a full power cell to explode like a grenade.  With a +2 bonus to their roll, they succeed and throw it into the horde...the front of the horde...right above the android.  While the gremlins are successfully repelled by the intense blast, the android is sent pinwheeling below like a burning angel falling from up on high...ouch.

The game progressed from there, but that was the main sequence we played.  It took about 2 hours, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.  This system works well because it is very nuanced, but also fairly random and allows a natural ebb-and-flow to the actions taken during an action-packed narrative.

This would work with any RPG game using a formal turn structure.  The pace die is a standard D6, but can be modified by edges, feats, or size categories.  You can allow standard initiative, but i personally enjoy the narrative effect of only a couple of people in a position to make anything regarding a decision, while the rest just try to keep up.  The cards can be customized to be even MORE nuanced by setting a hierarchy of good (heart)/very good (diamond) - bad (club)/very bad (spade) modifications.  A variant of this can be applied to build a random dungeon crawl, with diamonds being hallways, hearts being doors, Spades being traps, clubs being encounters, and stars being loot.

Shake your game up.  You'll be glad you did.

In other news, ByteMe Games will be running a developers table at the Sacramento Gamers Expo.  If you are in the area, stop by and check us out.  It's a fun event full of video game and tabletop developers showing their wares.  Stop by the square one booth too, I'll be giving spiels all day!

Nov 21, 2017

On discouragement, or why the hell do we do what we do

Greetings, nerds.

Today, I free-flow about a personal experience for any of you considering trying to step up and make something that you think will make our shared hobby better.  Feel free to hit me up in the comments or via my business email if you would like some more on-point advice about printing and publishing.  Otherwise expect drips and drabs as inspiration strikes me.

As I have pointed out of multiple occasions, I have released two products and have another oner in the pipeline.  Sales are sluggish, but steady - however that was not the intent or the plan.  This has also not been without it's share of trials and travails.  It has not been without cost.

Yesterday, I received notice that my preferred printer had made a mistake with my estimate, and just like that - it doubled.  While technically still in reach (due to a decent-paying job), it is going to be a stretch that is going to be felt in reduced resources for the next one - and the one after that, etc.

Each time you put yourself out there, it is a gamble.  For each swords and sorcery, Pinnacle press, or even Paizo there are 100 smaller imprints that either fail or barely make enough money to justify their existence.  Just look at Drivethrurpg.  5 minutes of browsing will net you scores of  RPG supplements that most of us have never heard of.  No word of mouth (crucial), no advertising (also crucial), just page after page of products that are doomed to obscurity.

This is an outcome nobody ever designs for.

Parallels exist all over.  When I first started doing this in 2008, there was a literal explosion of gaming blogs.  So many that we formed rpgbloggers as a place to collate them all.  Yeah.  It's apparently a dead link now.  At one point it had 70ish blogs linked to it.  Sadly, when cleaning up my links list - most of them just stopped.  Cruising the new (and some old!) blogs on the various fragmented groups, I see a distinct lack of conversation.  This sucks.

I used to routinely get 10+ per post.  After talking some shit about 4E (lol, remember that debacle?), I got a couple of WotC developers to show up and defend their design decisions.  I even had a running joke of calling Bill Slavicsek silly names on a weekly basis (I still use "cheese-weasel" on a nearly daily basis).

This is all what I would call discouraging.

Also discouraging?  Losing a regular at the game table.  Having a meticulously crafted campaign declared boring.  Losing an expensive pile of books to rampaging dire mice.

I know I am not alone in this.  We all get kicked in the D20's on occasion - it's part of life.  What has your worst setback been?  How did you deal with it?

And yes, that is a prompt for dialogue :-)