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 :-)

Nov 15, 2017

Fully-loaded mashed genre with extra fun

Greetings and salutations!

Let's talk about genre crossovers.  Not the barely-there sorta kinda stuff, but where it is built into the very bones of the game.

First, you take a fuly-formed concept of say a fantasy world with all the trimmings.  Orcs, Trolls, Elves, and what-have-you.

Second, you pick another fully-formed genre of say Science-fiction (of the hard kind).  Aliens, spaceships, stars, and what-have-you.


This can, of course, lead to a pretty hit-or-miss approach and your mileage may vary.

After all, each of these settings is fully-formed and completely standalone.  Does doubling the level of complexity just interfere with the storytelling?  This is an excellent point.

As a counterpoint, I offer that any short-term issues of overcomplexity are more than compensated for with the sheer sense of wonder that comes with the murder of a conventional genre.  All but the newest players have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a "traditional" fantasy RPG game.  There will be dungeons, there will be dragons, there will be orcs, etc. etc. etc.


When they reach the basement of an evil wizard's laboratory - only to find a metallic hatch leading into a steel womb filled with blinking lights and walls that talk...prepare to see that childlike wonder I spoke of earlier pop up.  Suddenly the rules have changed.  This pony-ride is actually the first phase of a roller-coaster you never saw coming!

Now turn that on its head.

A group of space rangers have painstakingly tracked a notorious thief from his brazen robbery of the Galactic Federal Reserve bank.  Weeks of interrogating terrified minions.  Months of tracing cut-out after cut-out.  YEARS of trying to figure out exactly how he has been able to pull off heist after heist leaving little to no evidence behind...Only to corner the bastard and watch as he twiddles his fingers, says a few words that confound the universal translators, and vanishes utterly from your custody.

Image result for kronk do you feel it gif
This Saturday, I am running the fourth episode in the current (first) season of my latest campaign.  We are playing a Savage Worlds campaign hosted by Square One Clubs (if you are in the CA bay area/Sacramento area come on by and spectate!).

I was asked to come up with something "completely different" as a campaign concept...I think i succeeded.

IN LEVIATHAN'S SHADOW has been a smashing success so far.

Picture this - if you will.

The field was set.  The battle lines were drawn.  The war was finally here.
Two great hosts arrayed across the golden plains of Galenia.  
The two lines of troops spread out into the distance, an hour's ride on a good horse to move from one end to the other.

One on side, a golden host of righteous men and women.  drawn from their freeholds and villages all over the kingdom of Arnheim.  At their heart sat a giant of a man seated upon a gryphon as larger than two wagons side-by-side.  He fairly glowed with power and presence as he sat in his golden plated mail.  A shield as large as a man sat on his harness, while a golden hammer that crackled with arcs of lightning was clutched in his massive hands.  He gazed out at his army through the visor of his winged helm and marvelled at all that had happened to bring him here.  Hundreds of brightly colored pennants flapping in the light breeze all carried the golden hawk in addition to their other multitude of symbols and sigils.  These bannermen were here to support their king.  They would fight and die here to save their friends and families from the enemy that had forced them here.  Here and there among the host were bands of unicorns, elven archers, even Dragons.  All had chosen to heed the call.  All had been waiting for this day to come.  Even the glowing avatars of the Mother and the Warrior were there, inspiring by their mere presence.  It was a glorious sight to behold.

On the other side; a chill wind swirled about, spreading the faint smell of death across the field.  Rank upon endless rank of the dead stood in perfect and silent stillness.  In their midst - and atop an elegant palanquin of bone and silver sat a gaunt man in finely made black robes with elaborate silver-threaded runes stitched minutely across every inch of its surface.  Glowing red eyes looked out upon his army from deep within the hooded cowl of his robe.   In one withered hand he held a staff made of fused bones - melted like a glassblower had had a go at them.  Whatever they were, they were most definitely NOT human, and the things he could do with that staff was the stuff of flesh-warped nightmares.  Among his host were undead giants, Orcs, Demons, and even a trio of Avatars representing the Killer, the Trickster, and the Devourer.  Their auras bolstering the strength of the unholy hordes they stood among.  There were no banners here, just slaves and slayers eager to do their lord's bidding.  It was a terrifying sight to see.

At some unseen signal, the Golden King and the Lord of Shadows rode out into the no man's land between them.  The brothers had been destined to meet this day.  It had been long prophesized that their final meeting would be at the head of a vast army that would end in blood and fire.  They both knew this.

What they didn't know is who would depart from this place the victor.

For the first time in decades, the two brothers looked upon each other.  One with revulsion and the other with amusement.  There would be no parley.  there would be no last-minute agreement.  One had to fall for this cycle to end.  Still...there was much left unsaid that had to be spoken.  they both knew this, and would indulge the other for the last time.

As they dismounted, the sky began to darken.  Fearing betrayal - the Golden King glared at his brother....but saw only confusion on his face.  they both looked up to the sky as the clouds parted above them.  A great mountain of fire as large as the sky itself was falling upon them.  It was coming so fast that they both knew there was no escaping it.  They died there that day.  So did their armies.  As did the score of towns and villages nearby, swollen with camp followers and late-comers.  

Years later, the smallfolk still remember the tale and speak of a prophecy fulfilled in the most impossible way.

When at last the smoke and fires did end, curious folks slowly sought out the battlefield seeking treasures or a loved one's fate.  What they saw was a great rent in the earth at least three leagues in length.  It was torn deep within the earth, so deep a small lake had begun to fill from the fall rains.  

Bits of golden metal from specks to the size of houses lay littered across the field.  There were bodies too - blasted apart and burned they were but they wren't the most amazing thing there.  For at the end of this new canyon dug into the fertile plains of Galenia was a mountain of smoking metal.  a tangled castle of broken bits and secrets.  Sitting nearly a king's mile from ground to top and at least twice that wide, it was at once magnificent and terrifying with a sense of not being of this earth.

And on it's flank, in curious writing taller than ten men was one word...LEVIATHAN.

...and that is where our group fo miscreants begins - well actually they begin 20 years later.  a boom town has sprung up - in its shadow (get it, lol).  All manner of technological marvels have been discovered in its rent open bowels.  A guild of sanctioned explorers even operates with near-impunity here as a de facto government.  It is into this maelstrom that we begin this tale.

Related image

The actors in this play?

A one-armed ratling pit-fighter (asshole archetype)
A damaged android surveyor (know-it-all archetype)
A Dwarven killer-for-hire (dark man with dark past archetype)
A Brain slug zombie-driver (your guess is as good as mine)
2 Catfolk with chips on their shoulders (seriously, this is getting crazy)
...and a Komodo Dragon Lizardfolk big-game hunter (Shark officially jumped, right!?)

If anyone is interested, SquareOne Clubs is going to be posting recorded audio and later animations of game events.  I will post links as they become available.

And that folks, is how you smoosh genres.

Oh, obligatory:  BUY MY STUFF, that tropical island isn't gonna buy itself!
also, reviewers wanted!  apply @

Thank you and seeya next time!

Nov 8, 2017

DUNGEON BYTES have gone LIVE on The GameCrafter!

It is my honor to announce that one of my projects, Dungeon Bytes have just been published, and are available to purchase!  Head on over and check them out.   Please share if you think they are worth the chipboard they are printed on.

You might recall that just a few days ago I shared some info about these.  At that very moment, the mailman was delivering my final prototype set to my door.

This has been a LOT of work to get here, and it is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.  You never know until you try, and I'll be damned if I am going to go to the grave someday remembering I was too scared to at least TRY.

So there you have it folks, spit. polish, bootstraps, and enough elbow-grease to cook a turkey in.

Nov 7, 2017

Shilling for the willing can be fulfilling

Holy Crikey!  Two posts in one year....setting a precedent here.

I have noticed (while refreshing my sadly outdated blog list) that we have lost a number of our fellow bloggers over the years.  Having just come back from the brink myself, I sympathize.  I offer to them a moment of silence to honor their past contributions.


Alrighty then, EXCELSIOR!

Lets talk about monetization.  Not the chicken-feed we get from the occasional Amazon click-through.  I'm talking about actual producing a product and selling it type of monetization.

One could say I have become pretty familiar with this topic over the last couple of years.  with the occasional interruptions caused by work and life, I have been single-mindedly pursuing the dream of making a gaming product that people will actually want.  I mean who wouldn't want to become the next Kobold Press or Monte Cook games?  We all want to do what we love for a living - especially when that is making games.  That is why I co-founded Byte Me Games, LLC.  Go ahead and look, so far we have produced exactly nothing, while spending several thousand dollars for the privilege.

I think going forward that I am going to try to focus on the production and business side of things as I continue to make mistakes and learn valuable lessons about publishing and marketing the products I have designed.  If you have any specific questions, or would like a deep dive on a specific issue, please feel free to email me or drop a note in the comments section below.

Something else I have noticed while refreshing my blogger feed is that a number of you have made the jump to actually producing salable materials.  This is great.  Problem is, most of you are self-publishing...which is not so great.  You probably know already why it is thus, so I don't have to explain it to you.

There are a lot of examples of self-published authors who have made good.  The Amazon kindle store if chock full of them.  Even the published word variety has its fair share of superstars - Hugh Howey comes immediately to mind, his Silo books were AMAZING.  Thing is, it was mass-appeal that brought the volume that led to success.

As awesome as our hobby is, mass-appeal has always been a weakness.  The hobby is a major commitment for any dedicated player.  We compete against pretty much ALL other forms of leisure combined due to the amount of time it takes to play + the cost of the resources.  My DM collection of 5E books is already northward of 250 dollars, and that does not include minis or 3rd party supplements.  Isn't there a stereotype of broke gamers?

But i digress.

Volume is one of two magic keys that unlocks success.  It is the power that reduces the bottom line for production costs.  Despite the prevalence of online and digital game aids (lol, game aids), paper is still the medium of choice by far.  The weakness of the medium, however, is the production itself.  Somebody has to own the press, employ the printer, buy the paper, move product from conveyor to box, and ship the box.  Even with the pathetic (trust me, I know this firsthand) wages paid to those who do this work, it adds up quickly.  Quite simply, the more you make/publish/buy the lower the overall cost.  I'll save the mathematical formulas for another post, as this is already going on longer than I thought it would.

Marketing is the other magic key.  also known as hype, finding your customers, buzz, and a hot of other terms.  Simply put, you can get a SWEET deal on printing, work with the BEST designers out there, and make all the superb product in the world...But if you can't find anyone to buy it - you still fail.  Makes sense, right?  Does this mean you need to hire a marketing firm to blast you across every corner of the web?  Maybe.  That costs money though.  LOTS of money that is on top of the money you need to spend just to get a pallet of product in your garage.

So there is a healthy heap of doom-and-gloom for you to consider.  If you are faint-of-heart, you should definitely think twice - then think a third time about how to go about mastering these two puzzles.  Or you could crowdfund it.

Yes, I am referring to the service that rhymes with Slick-Farter.  I suppose there is also the one that rhymes with Snow-fundy to, but I haven't worked with that platform yet - it has only a 10th of the userbase anyway.  And feels kinda dirty, doesn't it?  I admit, every time I get another solicitation from a certain custom dice manufacturer I want to puke.

We won't even get into the big video-game studios that shamelessly beg for money to make games either.  There are a lot of fleas on that dog....but I would point out that said doggo is still a doggo  -which is a noble creature deserving of your love.

There is ZERO wrong with crowdfunding your dream project.  You just need to do it right.

Do YOU have a kickstarter planned?  Want to know more about putting one together?  Hit me up or leave a comment.  I want you to succeed.  If I can help you, I will.

More to come.

Nov 2, 2017

Cough...Cough...So much dust.

Good day, folks.  I can only hope some of you haven't bothered to clean out your RSS feeds and will see this post.  I'm not going to (again) promise to fire this blog up.  I can't commit to that yet.  

I CAN however let you know that the last four years or so has been quite eventful.  Interesting times indeed.

I won't bore you with personal stuff other than to say I still game (too much my wife says) and have branched out into D&D 5E (better than 4E, not quite as good as 3E), Warhammer 40K (tabletop only as RPG books are out of date and cost a freaking mint!), and most recently, Savage Worlds - which is now my go-to for pretty much anything RPG related.

So why am I back after all this time?  Simple.  I'm shilling for a couple of gaming products I have designed and developed over the last 18 months.  Both of these products have literally cost me months of my life and thousands of dollars of my savings to commission, create, prototype, and both are in the home stretch.

First up...The MasterPad.

Come follow us on the old Book of Faces and you'll be something like the 7th or 8th to know when they are available.  
At this point, I am saving every penny and nickel to pay for the first production run, and plan to run a kickstarter to buy more art sets.

The premise is that as I've gotten older (as we do) I find I have less and less time to deal with the bazillions of tasks that DM's have to do behind the scenes.
Between that and having to retire at least one 40 dollar battlemat every year, I decided to do something about it.

The MasterPad is a tear-out spiral notebook of heavy (70lb) paper with pre-printed art on one side, and a blank 1" grid on the other.
Finished size if 10"x16.5", and they are designed to be fully compatible with basically every other page in the pad.  With 50 pages per pad, that's a whole lot of dungeons!

Please stop by my Facebook page and take a look at it.  If it sucks, please don't be shy in telling me that :-)  I am also soliciting feedback and suggestions for the next art set.

Second up - Dungeon Bytes (no website up yet, but here is a some pic).

Sides A and B.  

Basically dungeon candy without the outrageous price.  Made via Gamecrafter (for now), I have ordered the final prototype and the store page is set to go live in 5 days.

The art set will remain static, with different backgrounds being offered for whatever you need to do with them (stone floor, dirt/mud floor, cave floor, etc.).  They were specifically designed for use with the MasterPad, but Are fully compatible with any game system that uses 1" squares for tactical movement and exploration.

Punched from heavy-duty 2mm cardboard, they are designed to be durable and will last a long time.  

I fully expect this to completely fail (I am a pessimist, so whenever I am surprised - it is generally good news!)

Both of these products have been play tested to death, and are ready for prime-time.  I expect the quality of both the printed items and the art sets to only improve commensurate to how much money I am able to pay my extremely patient artist.

So there you go.  This is the rock I have been under for a good chunk of the time I have been on hiatus.  Let em know what you think below, or just go check it out.  Share and help me get my daydream off the ground! 

Stay tuned for updates, and if you get a chance, check out my patron:  SquareOne Clubs