Key Our Cars What are you going to do next?!


Nook Simple Touch

Posted by Dennis

Sadly B&N has decided to discontinue the Nook Simple Touch and Simple Touch Glow.    It's a shame as for a dedicated e-reader for my needs it was perfect.  Perfect enough I own 7 of them, one for each member of the family and a couple of spares.  The new model is a couple steps backward in my opinion and I'll only be picking one up assuming I absolutely have to.

One of the kids developed an issue where it would only run when plugged in.  The battery appeared to be fine, it would charge and hit 100%.  You could start it off the charger but a few seconds into the home screen it would lock up.  Plug it and it would restart and be fine until you unplugged it where it would run for a few seconds then lock up.

I tried several things, a Erase and Deregister from inside the Nook OS as well as a 8 canceled reboot wipe and re-image.  I even rooted it and tried different launchers.

In the end what worked was pretty simple.  I popped off the power button and used one of those little screwdrivers you get with an eyeglass repair kit to remove the torx screw under it.  The screw was covered with a little 'anti tamper' piece of paper but out of warranty and not working that little paper didn't scare me.   If you're a proper nerd you might have the Torx 5 (or 6) driver for it.  I didn't so I used what I had which worked fine.

You then push the back so it slides about 1/4" the it pulls right off.   The battery is attached to the back and a power cable connects to the system board.   Pop the power cord off of the system board and then press the tiny white button that's on the system board where the power button cover was and hold it for 30 seconds to discharge any lingering power.

Plug the battery back in and the nook should start up.

If you're lucky like me your NOok should be fine at that point.  What you've done, I believe, is cleared the NST and basically told the nook it has a new battery.

Time will tell if this is a permanent fix but it's been working for a few hours now and I'm calling it good until proven otherwise.  So if you're having this problem, don't throw out that Nook just yet, it might be a very simple 5 minute fix and you'll be back to reading in the sunlight and avoiding buying into the 'We'll delete your books any time we like" Amazon dicatorship.

Unlike many other  tablets, ereaders etc, the Nook Simple Touch and Tough Glow are very easy to replace the battery and you can pick up batteries online for between $15 and $30.


H Wards – Play Example

Posted by Dennis

This is a play example I just put into the H Wards document, a narrative heavy, light mechanics system. I think the system is actually shaping up that it's going to be quite a bit of fun. It's not designed for long term campaigns or for groups that like a lot of fiddly bits and multi page character sheets but is aimed at the game you go to when you're in between Pathfinder or 4E or GURPS level of mechanics games or when you're short too many players for a regular session.

I do think though that you'll need at least two players plus the Director to have a good game out of it. Otherwise some of the resource management decisions will probably be off by a bit.

And yes, obviously this example Scene is based on a recent action movie.


Bill Blaze has set up a Scene where he’s going to slide down a rope on the outside of the building as an associate blows the windows open on the room he wants to go into. The Scene Goal is to grab a set of engraving plates.

Bill’s personal goal is to get into the room without falling to the street below. A laudable goal really.

He has a partner, Ted, posing as a window washer across the street who has a personal goal of blowing open the window just before Bill reaches it and not after Bill slides past or smashes into the unbroken window.

The scene has several zones. The rooftop, the side of the building, the room, the street below and the other building across the street. Bill’s going to expend one Awesome die to move from the rooftop and slide down the building and another Awesome die to make the tuck and roll into the room. Awesome dice cover things like feats of dexterity and grace and coordination.

Ted on the far side of the street posing as a window washer has a Rocket Launcher as one of his Gear which by its nature allows him to impact other zones without having to expend any dice to do it.

Bill starts the narration, “I toss the coils of rope over the side and start falling down. As I get closer I use the braking mechanism to slow my fall. At the last instant I’m going to kick off the wall so I arc out and then back and go through the window that hopefully Ted’s going to have blown open for me. I’ll tuck and roll inside and toss a tear gas grenade into the room.”

Ted adds, “As he starts to fall I turn around and time it so that the grenade impacts the window about a second or two before he reaches it.”

The Director thinks this is a fine set of goals and plan of action and asks the players to proceed. He sets Bill’s obstacle as Timing and makes it a Difficult 4. For Ted he thinks that’s an easier goal to achieve and is also a timing based obstacle. He gives Ted an Average difficulty.

Their goals will be achieved somewhat simultaneously but as Ted’s needs to be achieved or it’s going to break the chain of events leading to Bill’s goal he has to go first.

Ted rolls 3 Hero dice, adds 1 Gear dice for the grenade launcher. He considers it for a bit and then adds his 2 Research dice since timing this is going to be a mental exercise and Research covers mental type activities.

Ted’s rolling a total of 6 dice versus the Obstacle of 3. He rolls a 2H,6H,2H,1R,5R,1G for 3 Successes. The Obstacle rolls 3,5,3 for 2 Successes.

Ted wins Narrative Control over the scene and can describe the results of his contest and goal any way he likes subject to the setup.

Comparing strings we find that the H or Hero dice dominate Ted’s Contest. This is a good thing. Ted, already down some Vitality from previous scenes uses the Hero Domination result to recover one Vitality.

Ted narrates - “The grenade launcher chuffs in my hands and trailing a thin contrail of smoke it arcs out as Bill falls down. It impacts the window dead center and explodes taking out the window and several around it. Inside the blast sends people staggering, knocking most of them prone as smoke and flame fill the room.”

Bill on the other hand, has a tougher row to hoe. He puts his Hero dice out, considers the 4 Obstacle and then grimaces and adds in 4 War dice which cover feats of athleticism and strength, applicable to this goal. He adds a Gear die for his Rappelling Harness.

Bill rolls all 8 dice and nets 5H,5H,4H,1W,4W,4W,3W,1G for a total of 3 Successes. The Obstacle rolls 2,3,5,4 for 2 Successes.

Again, luckily for the Heroes Bill’s Hero dice dominate the contest. Billy immediately uses that effect to recover one of his expended Awesome dice. He has a feeling he may need it before this Scene is over.

Bill narrates - “I come sliding down the rope as it makes a whirrrrring noise and then I lean down on the braking clamp as the window below me explodes in a spray of glass. I kick off the window above and let gravity arc me back in through the open window. The lights inside are blow out by the blast leaving it dark and the heat of the explosion kicks on the sprinklers. I look for the plates and toss a tear gas grenade into the room to help confuse the issue.”

The Director at this point reaches into his Bowl of Misfortune and takes out an Unfortunately coin and tosses it into the players’ Bowl of Fortune and says, “Unfortunately you’re pretty sure the plates are in the heavy case that’s handcuffed to one of the guys in the room who’s scrambling quickly for the door that just burst open as four goons come rushing in with pistols and sub-machine guns drawn....”

Bill and Ted look at each other and simultaneously go, “Well crap.”

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Game Design

Posted by Dennis

H Wards

Mechanics -

In a clever play on stat initials the light system I came up with between 1 and 4 in the morning Monday because I wasn't feeling well is called H Wards. The name is based solely on the resources available to each player, Hero, War, Awesomeness, Research, Deception, Social.

I had some time while being sick yesterday and not working to knock out the basics of the rule set and run a quick internal playtest. That played out well enough to me that I spent more time on it at least.

Each resource corresponds to things other than the obvious.
H ero is the 'catch all' and covers everything to some degree and provides a base dice pool for the heroes to be... well heroic.
W ar covers physical strength and fortitude, athletics and gross body control.
A wesomeness is the areas of physical grace and coordination, acrobatics, fine body control and the like.
R esearch is the mental areas, intellect, problem solving, awareness/perceptions.
D eception is things like stealth, burglary, sleight of hand, lying.
S ocial covers empathy, charisma, diplomacy, human engineering.

Players set a Goal and the Director determines if there's a Obstacle to that goal and how much of an Obstacle it is. If there is an non-gimmie level of difficulty to the Obstacle then there's a Contest involved in the current Scene.

Contests burn resources so the Director has to keep that in mind and not require the players to roll for crap like climbing on top of a skeletal dragon that was sent to bring them to the manor house. *eye rolling*

Scenes can involve a single zone or multiple zones and participants can move between zones through the use of being Heroic.

The players elect a Star to lead the Contest (assuming more than one player is in the Scene). Everyone present in a Scene must take the Star roll before someone can take it twice.
The Star chooses which resources to deploy of the resources they possess. The type of resource frames the narration.
They can call upon the others to join in as a Supporting Cast but supporting is very much a sacrifice. Support people get none of the good effects of the contest and all of the bad ones.
Dice are rolled and then we count successes and determine which resource dominated the narration. The winner gets to narrate the results, again framed in the context of the resources involved.

The type of resource that dominates the results have further implications beyond the simple 'who won' the Contest.

There are some other mechanics in flux right now but those are the bulk of the basics.

Setting -

The name evoked the setting (very non-original) which is about Wardens who oversee the H Wards or Hell Wards. These folks are a cross between the Winchesters, Warehouse 13, the Stonecutters and MiB. They are a group of men and women who operate outside the law around the world and many times at cross purposes to it engaging in their ages old following. Which comes down to keeping the darker things in the world from destroying it. After all, it's where they keep all their stuff.

If caught/arrested for doing the things they have to do, there is no one to bail them out. If they appear to be about to turn on the Warden's then nasty, very nasty things happen to them to keep them quiet and anyone they talked to.

Lee Harvey was a Warden.

The setting is not much more than the above paragraphs at the moment. Just not enough time to do everything I want to do.

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Game Design / Work Flow

Posted by Dennis

Using a Change Log

About version .7 or so of LCA! with the bulk of the rough mechanics was done I started a change log document. The changes were getting small enough that it was feasible to note them and as I was starting to forget that I'd changed things due to information glut it became informational to do so.

Over time I found it useful in many ways to occasionally go back and review how I'd changed mechanics or what updates I'd made.

I thought it might be interesting for someone who's trying to design a game for the first time to see how a system might morph and warp over time when viewed through a change log history. If you start at the bottom and work your way up you can get some idea of how basic mechanics continued to evolve and change over time.

Note these are raw and uncut and definitely un-moderated. A single simple line might have been the work of several days like "Worked on zombie script." and a paragraph of changes that took only 10 minutes.

There may be some bad words in them but hopefully used in a way that's non-offensive.

At first I only upped the version number when there were significant changes in place, later on I started to up it every time I made any changes unless they were really minor.

I use Google Docs for my system authoring, breaking the system up into 5 sections due to speed limitations with Docs once the system hit the 200+ pages. Breaking it down into smaller sections is a lot better in terms of performance.


Clearing out my todo lists. Yay, the to do queue is finished.
Added the first draft of the Mental and Physical affliction chapter.

Added ability to change init order or interrupt with rewrites.
Update shotgun entry. There are no light shotguns.
Added Well Grounded as a general Knack which handicaps any energy power used for or against a character. They're harder to hurt but also harder to buff and heal.
Change the innate toughness skills to Grit and Guts.
Spreadsheeted the character build formulas to see who badly things can get out of whack from the power gamer. Seems reasonable after playing with the numbers and the power game suffers from weakness in other areas and can become either a glass cannon or a nerf tank.

The quest to fix the documents to reflect the change in damage continues. Reminder - Never make a basic change to your damage/health/recover system if you can possibly avoid it.

Significant clean up of section 3
Change the actions back from standard and minor to just actions. So you can draw and shoot but it’s two actions costing you a -2 penalty on your draw. If you want to draw multiple weapons in one round then take Fast Draw. Modified Fast Draw and added Faster Draw.

More clean up in section 1.

Modified damage system yet again. Going to a single stress tracker for each type of stress, physical and mental.

Changed Shake It Off to Roll With The Punch.

Modified scatter system. Cleaner and simpler now but you can only get so simple with it before you just put in a rule "Drop a d20 from a 3" height over the target square, where the die lands is where the thrown object lands." and say to hell with it.

Work on the zompoc document.

Noted that bonus melee damage is only added to the first attack or the primary attack. This is for balance reasons.
Added Gun Show knack allowing strength to be added to secondary attack.

Using Full Auto or Cover Fire empties a weapon unless it has the Large Capacity Tweak. It requires an action to reload it afterwards.
Added LC tweak for ranged weapons.
Redid some of the flaws to be more punitive. Added new flaws - Cowardly and Shock Prone

Modified phrasing a bit on weights/carry
Added Bob and Weave and Flutterby Knacks.
Added in Toughness and Recovery as skills so that all rolls are now semi-universal although both do not suffer from the untrained penalty otherwise they’re forced choices.
Rewrote the dazed condition and recovery roll mechanic/results.
Updated tables and charts, fixed some typo’s and streamlined a few paragraphs for clarity.
Updated Rewrites, modified damage rewrite spending, updated some other stuff in the rewrite chapter.

Created Tables document
Cleaned up minor things with actions, standardized a few things to be in line with other actions.
Modified penalties on some actions.
Updated/cleaned up some knacks.

Updated phrasing/terminology on the movements.
Added Snapshot penalty, if you use a skill during a move action then you suffer a -3 penalty to the skill.
Minor fixes in various places.

Modified Dazed, updated grabbed condition and grabbing.
Adjusted a lot of boosts/handicaps in the stunts section
Changed some of the rewrite rules. Took out the ability to re-roll a roll. Instead you have to now decide before you roll whether or not to expend some resources on them roll. Either a +5 to the roll or count any damage die result of less than 3 as a 3.

Cleaned up the ‘how to build a monster’ section. Streamlined the recommendations and redid the examples using the new base stats.

Broke the zompoc out into its own document. Clean up and additions to the script.

Clean up in section 1. The foreword and what is LCA! are too similar and should be split out a bit.

Updated references to skill rolls to allow the addition of the base stat. This will need playtesting obviously. Power gaming is a big concern.
Dropped the total skill and attribute values to allow for room to grow.
Added skills for Fortitude and Resolve. Physical Strength

Script work
Minor clean up in various places.

sample script work.

Additional work on zompoc script.
Added noise/attraction system for zompoc.
Revamped the carry system/encumbrance system. It was way too detailed for my needs with too much math.

Additional work on zompoc script.

Increased critical failures to equal an unmodified 5 or less on the 2d20 dice. This equates to a 2.5% chance per dice roll. Frequent enough to come up once a session but not so frequently it fucks with people too badly.
And 5 or less ties in with the multiples of 5’s I use.

Simplified Improvised weapons. They deal the same damage as normal weapons so no confusion but their damage dice do not explode and they’re ruined if you roll a critical failure on the attack roll.

Unarmed damage I’m going to settle on it dealing 1d6 and 2d6 damage. You can Knack up to get skill at killing people with your bare hands but without a knack or a weapon you’re just not going to hurt people very easily.

More rewrites in section two.
Overhaul of boosts and handicaps.
Changed Evasion penalty from Armour to 2 for 1. With the change to 2d20 it’s necessary to balance out.
Extended human attribute range out to around 8. Might make it 10 for the pinnacle of human possibilities. Would need to extend supernatural creatures out to 20.
If that’s the case then will have to make Strength worth half damage. Still pending consideration.
Added Drifting as a drive/motivation actually an anti-drive motivation.
Lots of clean up in the Powers section.

Lots of rewrites in the various skill sections in sections 1 and 2 for clean up/streamlining purposes.
Wielding Heavy weapon one handed is changed to -5 after running the numbers through the combat sim.

Pass 2 through Section 1 started
Added Mini Powers to powers chapter secton 2
Play Examples to section 1.

Work on zombie script

Work on the Zombie Apocalypse script in preparation for playtesting.
Changed bonus/penalty to boost/handicap

Added synergy mechanic for skill checks to allow AOE’s to be used as bonuses for regular skill checks or vice versa.

Added the dive for cover out of blasts as it’s own section rather than mentioned in other locations.
Added to Section 5.

Working in section 4, extended challenges clean up.

Added magnitudes to damage and armour. 1-4. Shift in magnitude results in x5 or 1/5 damage applied.
Added entry for ammo tweaks but needs consideration as to how to balance it to keep it in there.
Started on Section 4.
Clean up on Section 4.

Some changes to Rushing and Sprinting. Changes to Dodge and Parry for clarification.

Lots of minor clean up to section 3 in various sections. Section 3 is now out of first draft and into second draft.

section 2 - resolved some overlap with Knacks dealing with Take a Knee.

Removed the limits of one critical failure per scene. Since it’s now a measly 1 in 100 chance if you manage to roll it three times in a single scene then more power to you, or against you or whatever.
Removing the limitation on double move as it allows for more cinematic scenes.
Clarified the movement actions sections a bit. Defined a players actions as 1 Move and 2 Standard. They can use a Standard action as a Move.
Rewrote Parry and Dodge to make them more active rather than passive. They still include penalties for taking them as a way to balance them.

Removed / modified some the rewrite options. Changed the flat + bonus to the roll to an add a 1d6E dice after you’ve rolled which can explode once just like damage die. Removed the guaranteed success option.

Started the process of changing all references from 1h/2h to LIght / Heavy designators which equate to the same thing just different feel. wielding heavy weapons one handed suffers a -10 penalty on the attack roll.

The old Heavy weapons have become Massive for lack of a more evocative term which also required changing the name of a couple of tweaks.


Big changes on the mechanics front - Switched from 3d8’s to 2d20’s. TN becomes 20. MAP 2 after changing combat sim to handle new numbers.
Dazed Bonus 5
Impaired -2
Str First Only
All Damage Dice Explode
Shield Bonus 4
Trauma -1

Evasion Ranges from 18 to 24 (28 with shield)
22 avera

PDR ranges from 4 to 10
6 average

Updates on section 3. Updating penalties and bonuses to -1, -3, -5 where appropriate.

More cleanup.

Modified athletics to include unarmed melee. Not sure I like that yet.
General skills polish.

Added armour tweaks.
Continue to work on fantasy module.

Continued work on fantasy module.

Adjusted some of the Trauma/Stress mechanics and added clarity for them, once again I’d left some stuff out that for me was so simple I didn’t realize I’d left it out.

Added considerably to the sample Fantasy module.

Split document up into sections to work around google docs issues.
Added Pulling Punches to damage. This lets you voluntarily reduce the number of damage dice you roll. Why you’d want to, I’m not sure. But options are good.
Added Massive tweak to 2H ranged weapons allowing the 4d6 cap to be raised to 5d6.

Added Insanities or the start of them anyway.
Added disease placeholder.

Added resting sections/descriptions, it’s a case of I knew what they mean and didn’t actually list it anywhere.
Changed some of the recovery wording
Changed Shaken to Impaired as being more descriptive.
Added a Poison Optional blurb.

Added the traps section and started the basics.

Lots of cleanup (duh)
Change Run to Sprint to better differentiate the two types of movement and make the effects of sprinting make more ‘sense’.
Added Family as a Drive and Motivation.

First draft of D&M chapter is finished.

Worked on D&M chapter, listed out several basic ones and started fleshing them out.

0.729 -
clean up (duh this is going to be in every update)
Added Drives and Motivations section in character creation, need to expand on that as an actual chapter.

0.728 -
Clean up / Rewording
Added the Simple Chase mechanic.

0.727 -
General clean up.
Modified some verbiage on flaws, knacks.
Went back to Standard Actions instead of Complex actions because it’s semi-standard terminology these days.
Worked some on the Classic Fantasy module.

0.726 -
Changed critical failures to be Rewritable and you can only suffer from the effects of a critical failure once per scene. A little suck factor can be memorable. Frequent suck factor is just that, suck.
General body text clean up.

0.725 -
Made Vitality a flat resource that’s used much like Healing Surges are in 4E rather than a tracker. You pay for healing with them, to active powered items, push yourself etc. If you’re out you can also take stress damage to ‘push’ yourself beyond your limits.
Modified Healing system somewhat, a little simpler.

0.724 -
Added Direct Damage - Chained Targets as a power.
Added new melee stunt - “Shields Down!”
Added new range stunt - “Flush them out.”
Modified slowed = 1/2 base movement.
Changed Shaky to Impaired, just works better for me as a word.
Modified the Raise Dead ritual.

0.723 -
Modified MOB to be a flat +1 bonus when attacking with melee against a target you have allies adjacent to.
Added There’s no I in Team - knack which lets you get a +2 (mob and flanking) when making melee attacks against a creature that another ally is attacking with the same knack.
Added another use for Rewrites - You can change one normal die in a dice roll to a Golden Ticket die.

0.722 -

The Golden Ticket - Changed explosions so that only a single golden dice can explode per roll. This dice is designated by color or if multiple colors are missing it’s the first dice rolled. Yes this is an homage to The Schwartz.
Added Golden Child knack which allows character to use Golden Ticket die on Untrained dice rolls.

Added Levitate power.

Added Summon power.
Minor touch ups.
Modified Prone significantly
Modified melee stunt tables.

Set Vitality to be a 4/2 although it’s only a single tracker with 6 boxes just like Physical and Mental. Vitality is naturally lost during the work day as well as when ‘healing’.
Vitality now powers healing. Character’s use Vitality to recover excess damage between Scenes and it powers Healing.
Healing power rewritten so that all healing costs ‘someone’ vitality.
Updated signature Mastery

0.718 -
Added The Disabler Knack and Flashbangs to Equipment.
Added Grenade Like mechanics including Scatter System.
Added some glossary terms in various locations with the intent to clear up any head scratching by readers not familiar with the basic RGP concepts.
Some power layout cleanup.
Changed Mind Control to Domination for aesthetic reasons.
Added Reduce Metabolism option.
Added Dispel option to Debuff.
Added Joker’s Wild Knack.

0.717 -
Double Tap, Burst have been turned into Knacks.
Full Auto remains a combat maneuver.
Burst modified to use 2’s instead of 3’s.
Added the Weakened state which drops a character to a 0 strength. This is typically a condition of being sick or poisoned.

0.716 -
Double Tap Modified and marked for optionality. The double tap adds a little too much complexity for little return to me. Leaving it in as a optional.
Burst Fire modified. -3 to hit and +3 damage, make two attack rolls, take the higher one.

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Game Design / Mechanics

Posted by Dennis

Sigh, nothing is more painfully annoying than making a drastic change to a mechanic as far spreading as damage health healing and having to go back and edit the changes everywhere it's mentioned, every example, every sample character etc.

But as a result I as I was scrolling along I did some clean up in the Skills section, the end result is more for utter newbs to RPG mechanics but hopefully it would explain it in such a way my mother would understand. Eventually anyway. Maybe. Okay my kids would be able to figure it out.

Formatting lost in the translation to G+. It's easier to read in the original.

Some clarification - a 0 attribute means you're just average. A 0 skill means you've had minimal training just enough to negate the untrained penalty. Rewrites are my version of fate/hero/bennies/luck/drama points. It's a movie theme, what can I say. I use Rewrites for fate chips, Take 5 for a short rest, Stressed Out for running out of health and similar type things. 🙂


Making a Skill Roll -
Using any Skill counts as a Standard Action under most circumstances and taking more than one standard action on a turn incurs the standard multi-action handicap of -2 for all actions taken on that turn.

To use a skill you need to follow a few simple steps which can be summed up by this statement:

All skill and attribute rolls are based on rolling 2d20 and then adding handicaps or boosts to the roll to generate a final value and comparing the final value to a target number to determine success.

Many times a skill check will benefit from rolling higher than the minimum value needed to succeed at the check. This is called getting a Shift result and the Director will determine when this would apply.

A Step by Step -

1) Determine the best skill to use for whatever the task is at hand.

2) If the skill is untrained determine if it can be used untrained. If not then you fail. If yes then continue.

3) Determine your effective skill value by adding your skill Rank and the linked attribute. If the skill is untrained subtract 10 from the effective skill value.

4) Roll 2d20 and add your effective skill value and any situational boosts/handicaps to achieve a final skill roll.

5) Did you roll an unmodified 5 or less on the dice? If yes then you just critically failed and the Director will determine the results of your failure. If not then continue.

6) Compare the final skill roll against the Target Number (typically a 20). If the roll equals or beats the TN then you succeeded. Otherwise you simply did not succeed on this attempt.

7) For each 10 over the roll you get a Shift result which may (or may not) have impact on the end result of your success.

8) Apply the results as necessary.

Skill Use Examples:
Note this uses some mechanics that you may not have read yet, they’re included here for completeness -

The Scene:
Zoey is being swarmed by zombies. She's fleeing down an alley and as part of the scene description, the Director mentions that there is a fire escape about 10’ off the ground as one potential option among others. Zoey states she’s going to make a running leap for it and if she makes it climb up and if not then keep on running.

The Director decrees this is going to be a test of her Athletics ability which covers jumping and uses the standard target number of 20 but gives her a situational boost of +3, she is getting chased by flesh eating zombies after all which is a pretty big incentive to get away.
Zoey checks her sheet and she has a Rank 1 Athletics and a Strength of 0 giving her an effective Athletics skill of 1. Now if she had no training in Athletics her effective skill would be a -10. Good thing she’s had the occasional Zumba class.

Let’s look at a few alternate results -

Result 1 - Basic skill test results in failure:
She makes a skill roll, 2d20+1+3 (base roll + effective skill + situational bonus) and gets a total of 14. She fails and keeps running. There is no other penalty for failure other than not succeeding.

Result 2 - Basic skill test results in Critical Failure:
She makes a skill roll, 2d20+1+3 and rolls an unmodified four on the dice. This is a Critical Failure. The Director narrates that she jumps and missed the ladder and lands in some slime on the ground. She slides and falls prone, her head hitting the ground and suffers one Stress which results in her being Dazed.

Result 3 - Basic skill test results in success:
She makes a skill roll, 2d20+1+3 and gets a final result of 23, a success. She easily jumps up grabs the ladder which slides down and she starts climbing. Unfortunately for her, these zombies can climb but they must do so single file and she can now pick them off easily from above while remaining safe out of harms way.
Manaical laugh: “Until the window next to her shatters as undead arms reach through...”

Result 4 - Basic skill test with a shift result:
She makes a skill roll, 2d20+1+3 and gets a final result of 30. She easily jumps up grabs the ladder and starts climbing. Because she nets a a Shift 2 on the result, one for meeting or beating the TN of 20 and another one for getting 10 over it the Director tells her not only does she make the leap but the ladder doesn’t slide down and the zombies are now reaching up fruitlessly for it.

Result 5 - Basic skill test with a Rewrite:
Zoey really really wants to make this roll. She spends a Rewrite and takes narrative control and describes, “There’s a short wooden crate that’s in a good spot to use to jump up from.”. She now makes a skill roll of 2d20+1+3+5. The +5 is for the Rewrite bonus which must be applied before the roll. She gets a 29 and easily makes the leap up. The rewrite wasn’t necessary in this instance but you never know.

Result 6 - Basic skill test with a Trait invocation:
Zoey takes the jump and rolls 2d20+1+3 and gets a 19. Just short of the ladder. She declares her survivor instincts kick in and she stretches that tiny bit more. She’s invoking one of her Traits, “Survive at any cost.” which lets her add a +3 after making the roll. The director agrees the trait is applicable in this situation and the Director gets a Rewrite that he can use against Zoey later on during the session or he can add a Minor Complication. Zoey now has a result of 22 and makes the leap. The Director elects to add a Complication and declares “You barely manage to catch the ladder with your right hand and your full weight crashes down on your shoulder at an awkward angle. You’ve picked up the Flaw - Socket Wrenched until after your next Take 5 rest period.

Hopefully these examples have given you some idea of how varied the outcome and results could be from a single fairly simple use of a Skill. The Director can help to determine the best skill to use for a situation and will determine any situational modifiers that would help or hinder your ability to gain a success with a given skill in a given situation.

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My Touch/Gaming Table

Posted by Dennis

Just a short video of my table in action.  I got the lasers calibrated this weekend.  Still needs some carpentry work to lock down the U channel that keeps any stray laser light from leaking off the edge of the table.


It's based on Laser Light Plane technology or LLP and I'm using 4 x 850nm IR lasers, one in each corner that use a beam spreader to convert the laser dot into a 120 arc of IR light.   This is project just above the surface which is two sheets of polycarbanite and a sheet of vellum sandwiched between them as a projection surface.  I've tried other surfaces and broke ass cheap vellum is by far the best on the 'reasonable' side of things.   Sure you could go with the $40 a foot projection film/acrylics and get superiour results but on a cost effective basis I'll take my $2 sheet of vellum any day.

When objects intersect the laser field, they're first cut in half like in Resident Evil no wait, that would be cool but they're not.  What really happens is the laser light hits the object and then reflects off it.  That reflected light shoots off the object and a good chunk of it goes down into the interior of the table where it's picked up by a PS3 EyeToy camera with a custom lens and that has had the IR filter removed and a visible light filter added that filters out everything but the laser light.

This creates bright blobs in the camera view and a couple of pieces of software turn those blobs of light into something that act like mouse cursors.

The image is just Microsoft's Surface Globe app that comes with their Surface SDK kit.

The primary use of the table should be pretty obvious.


Gaming Table Update

Posted by Dennis

I've decided to switch to using IR Lasers to make a LLP or Laser Light Plane style table.  I'm just unable to get IR LED's to work the way I want them to due to the size of the table.

The LLP method should work and is cheap enough to experiment with to see if it does and if the experiment works then I can pick up a couple more frickin' lasers to make it a fully functional massively multi-touch.

I've got a couple of 10mw IR lasers in the mail somewhere on their way to me that are in the 850nm range.  I could have gone with the cheaper 780nm lasers but I already have a camera that filters for 850 and 850 works better with ambient light and allows for lower wattage lasers.

I'm doodling with how to set them up so that they can be adjusted for pitch/roll/yaw and remain 'locked' in after finding the right setting.

If these work then I can also pick up a sheet of tempered glass to put on top of the table surface to use as the touch surface.  Glass is easier to clean and way less scratchable than arcylic is.


Blender Update 6/24/2011

Posted by Dennis

Some minor additions that have come up from play testing and general reverie -

Added the ability to created an area that generates an alarm of some kind when an object enters the area to Environmental Effects.  By rights it should probably be a function of the Warding power I suppose but I want the EE power to be more desirable. EE as it stands now, allows the energy user to change the lighting or visibility or temperature of an area.  In a fantasy setting the most common flavor text would be that the energy user summons minor elementals to achieve the effect and such a flavor text works well to create a minor elemental that sits and watches the area for danger.

I'm also vaccilating on the base target number.  At one time I was considering coming up with just having a single roll which would in effect be the damage value which would range from zero damage (i.e. a miss) to maximum damage (i.e. a critical) but I couldn't figure out a way to do it well enough using any of the standard RPG dice.   The idea is that you 'hit' every round but the true measure of your effectiveness is based on how much damage you were able to generate.

Hey it's no worse than making one attack roll for every 6 seconds or whatever arbitrary unit of time the typical round is set to.  If you've ever been in a fight you know you make a butt load more attacks than one a every six seconds.

It's simply a way to abstract out combat and movement and space the possible damage out over time so that going first isn't an "I Win!" button.

Anyway, as usual I digress.  Back to the Target Numbers.  Right now I've settled, again, on 13 as the base TN to indicate a success.  That yields an average success rate on 3d8 of around 70% for a character with the bare minimum training (skill = 0).   Given that it's possible to 'miss' due to a crappy damage roll I believe I need to aim higher than the standard 60-70% that some pundits have put out as the best percentage.    A starting character can have as high as a +4 in a skill but it's limited to a single skill.   +4 puts the success rate in the high 80/low 90 percentiles.  I had a table with all the math and results but I've lost track of it. 🙂

Another reason I eventually stopped in my quest for a 'one roll combat system' is that having attack rolls and damage rolls allows for two ways to customize a character rather than one.  So one character might hit less often but when he does he does more damage on average or vice versa.  It allows for 'masterwork' weapons that are so well made that they grant a +1 attack bonus while a weapon enchanted with Fire grants a +1 damage bonus.   And the system is already simple enough that differentiation is a concern, slight though it is.

The concept of Flavor Text is going to be a big thing with LCA (Lights Camera Action!) as it'll be the flavor text that really helps differentiate characters to some extent.   It's concept that makes a character who wields two hand crossbows different from a character that wields two six shooters from a character that wields two dart flingers.   Same mechanics, different flavor.

In a way it's similar to Hero Systems where you turn the same Ranged Killing Attack  into everything from a laser pistol to a eye beam to a cobra launcher etc.

See how the digression creeps back in?

Also modified the Drain Energy to Energy Drain with some minor changes and added a Life Drain.  Life Drain is a combination of Direct Damage and Healing.  It can only hit one target with 2d6 while Direct Damage hits one target with 3d6 or two targets with 2d6 damage.   But it has the benefit of when it deals damage on a high damage it'll transfer half the damage done as life energy back to the energy user as healing.  By spending an additional energy point at that time (remember the motto, "Don't screw the players") the energy user can transfer that healing to an ally within range.   So for 2 energy points as one action the energy user deals a little less damage and has a chance to get healing.   As opposed spending 2 energy points as two actions on two turns to deal higher damage and guaranteed healing.

It 'seems' to me that it's reasonable.  If I was going to make a necro character I'd take it without feeling too screwed.


Blender Update 6/8/2011

Posted by Dennis

A lot of little things added, mostly in the Power Users area. I made the decision that powers with a yin and yang typically have to be paid for twice to get both powers.

Example Buff/Debuff (aka Bless/Curse). You have buy the buff power separately from the curse power. Empower/Depower weapons, same deal.

Empower Weapon (working name) has been expanded fairly heavily. Playing on the new Effects that you choose one when you buy the Direct Damage power, I expanded Empower weapon the same way. When you buy EW you choose the flavor text, whether it's a buff or debuff effect and the effect that it has. I've also adding in the idea of 'proccing' effects with this one. I know it's very MMOG but I have to go, so freakin' what? A nifty effect is simply that, a nifty effect. And there's an asston of precedent in fiction, both written and cinematic for powers that sometimes work and sometimes don't.

Anyway the effect on the Direct Damage and AOE Damage powers goes off the power user pays for it. That doesn't work as well for something like an enchanting effect but I didn't want them to cost too much in power or be perfectly reliable afterwards. So with if a wizard choose to buy EW they pick if it's a buff or debuff and what effect it has other than increasing or reducing damage.

This results in a certain level of customization that helps to differentiate power users. One might have Flaming Sword Aura + DoT. While another might have Caged LIghtening + Confusion. One makes an allies weapons burst into flame and on a successful hit it has a chance of dropping a Damage over time on the target for one round. The other covers a weapon with a electrical field that constantly shocks the wielder reducing their strength and if they hit something with it they get the crap shocked out of them and suffer the confused effect which is -2 on skill rolls for one turn.

I've also added in a poison mechanic in a way that I think it makes for something that a player might use because it fits their character rather than something that simply becomes a "Why would you ever NOT use poison?" issue. The impact isn't that huge and there are downsides making it something that's more useful for specific scenarios.

Added the Confused condition as a general effect of 'there's something wrong with him that's causing him some issues in trying to do anything right now."   Did some standardization on general penalties of -1, -3, -5 when they scale for various reasons across the system.

Started work on a "How to create a monster" section, outlining how to create the bad guys in the system.  There are four bases to work from , Norm, Brute, Quick, Elite.  You then add a role, Tank, Sneak, Artillery, Control, Front Line and then you determine quality, Minion, Henchman, Lieutenent, Boss.

Each one of those decisions adjusts the basic stats in some fashion and the basic stats are the Norm.   Then based on the quality you add some Knacks and gear to them and you're done.

In theory it'll eventually get fairly balanced or to be honest if you just needed to knock something out you could just make it +0, +1, +2, +3, +4 across the board for a monster, hand them a weapon and flavor text them.

As you can see from the above, assuming you're familiar with it, I want to have some of the flavor of 4Th Edition DnD's monsters.  THey're balanced but they have abilities that make them interesting to play and to fight against.

So why not just play 4E?  Because while I really truly enjoy it, I find the class based system restricting, the value of the powers too widely disparate and the combat mechanics cause fights to go on for too long once you're out of the lower levels because the damage sinks grow at a much higher rate versus damage sources.   In addition I dislike the content stratification where you can't really fight things that are +/- roughly 2 levels of your level.   Much higher and it's just frustrating to miss all the time, much lower and they're just time wasters.

Let's see, poison, proc'cing effects, power effect choices, oh healing now causes a level of Fatigue when you get healed unless the healer is willing to pay it away or take the fatigue on themselves.  This is for combat healing.  Out of combat healing has no such effect.  And this is for using the healing power whatever the form.    The basic idea is to give a hard limit to a character's 'work day' much like Healing Surges work in 4e. Because out of combat healing doesn't cause them the fact that a character only has 4 possible and 2 useful 'surges' as a result isn't that big a deal I don't think.

Speaking of ripping off 4E I'm also adding a Second Wind mechanic and really can't think of a better name for it that by spending a Action a character can recover one box of physical damage.   I'll probably add a Knack for that as well.  Improved Second Wind that lets you make a fortitude roll and with a success you recover an extra physical damage box.

Oh and a power user can take a Knack that lets them reserve their turn and try to counterspell another power user's activation rolls.  I see it primarily being useful when you're fighting a big bad with powers, having one ally who spends their time disrupting the big bads casting could literally be a life saver/game changer for that encounter.   And if they don't win initiative then they can just act normally or reserve their action to go on the next turn before everyone else.

I'm worried actually that I'm starting over balance simplicity with coolness and customization in such a way that it will slow down game play to the point that I might as well just play any of a handful of other systems that are fine but too complex or too time consuming.   Time will tell.

Filed under: DIY, Game Design, LCA!, RPG No Comments

Blender Update 6/2/2011

Posted by Dennis

Just a recap of what's been added/changed/removed since the last update -

I've added a tactical incentive by adding the concept of Flanking.  I know original huh?   It combines with the MOB mechanic (multiple opponent bonus).  With MOB you get +1 on your melee attack roll for each ally also attacking your target with melee.  (slightly different than the Gang Up rule of Savage Worlds).   In addition if you and an ally are on directly opposite sides of the target you gain an additional +1.

The idea is to promote teamwork and tactical movement, get players playing together rather than a bunch of characters who happen to be interacting with the same other set of characters.   I think 4E is the first system that really encouraged that that I've used with all the set up movement, buffing, debuffing, marking and etc.   Cleric's getting hit?  Fighter's mark the targets and they instantly get -2 to hit the cleric.   Rogue needs help?  Warlord yoinks his target between them giving the rogue combat advantage so he can get a sneak attack off.   That kind of thing.

A lot of that comes back to engaging the players at the table.  But that's a topic for another post that I keep meaning to write and getting sidetracked on.

I've also added Backstabber as a Knack.  It adds +1 dice of damage to a melee attack.  The catch is you have to have Flanking with an Ally and you get it only if you go immediately after your ally hits the same target with a Melee attack.   I'm trying to make it useful enough to take but not so useful that everyone takes it.   I think the +dice of damage is pretty significant but since it requires teamwork and synchronizing actions to get the bonus damage, the limitations offset that.

This Knack has the pre-req of you must have the Sneaky Bastard knack which currently gives you the following benefits, against an non-active target (i.e. someone not in combat) you get both a bonus on your attack roll and get to roll twice and take the higher of the two.    You also grant +1 MOB bonus to an ally of your choice when you're both attacking the same target.   Another positive reinforcement for team play.

I'm also going to add special mechanical effects to some powers, at the very least the Direct Damage power and probably the Area Effect Damage powers.   When you take the power you pick an effect assigned to it along with the appropriate flavor text.  Like Fire Bolt  or Acid Stream or Force Ball.

Each effect only lasts a single turn or instance and the target gets to make a general saving throw against it since it doesn't cost anything for the caster to use it.   The effects were originally designed around elemental flavor text for the powers, fire for the dot, earth for the blind, etc.   But you could use various elements in various incarnations to achieve each one.  So now you pick the effect with your power.  If you want a different effect you have to spend a level up to buy the power again with a different effect.

The DD power obviously affects one target.  My current thinking is with the AOE Damage power that it affects the closest target to the center of the AOE, players choice if more than one apply.

  • Dot  - You have a chance to put a one round DoT (damage over time) on the target. Opposed by Resolve.
  • Blind - You have a chance to blind the target for one round.  Opposed by Intellect.
  • Slow - You have a chance to slow the target for one round. Opposed by Strength
  • Push - You have a chance to slide  the target one square. Opposed by Fortitude
  • Splash - You have a chance to deal half damage to one target adjacent to the original target. Opposed by Grace

As possible option I might make the effect guaranteed but have it cost one power point.  I'm not sure which way I like it more.  As a resource management tactic or randomly generated?  Anyone have any thoughts on that?

Synergy rolls are getting some love or at least attention.  I really want groups a chance to be able to sneak as a group without the inevitable bad roll jacking it up.  I want characters are who are well skilled in something to be able to help the ones that aren't do better.

Also teamwork rolls, I need to figure out how I'm going to do that.   For instance do I set a 'required strength' to be able to lift heavy objects?   So a heavy portcullis might require a 40 strength roll.  So one person would have to get really lucky and have their attempt explode.  Or two characters would have to get reasonably lucky.  Or three characters with just average rolls could raise it up.   Which reminds me, feats of strength  now incur a level of Fatigue.  So you can make a few attempts but then you're laying exhausted on the ground.  Hopefully you nailed the roll on that last one before you slipped into unconsciousness.

Added Charging and Grapple rules.  Pretty basic and simple, I don't want to get into complexity with them.  Grapple is very 4E.  You can whack someone grappling you and they can try to hurt you with the grapple.  Forced movement on either grappler or grapplee breaks the grappler.  THe grapplee gets to make one escape attempt using either Strength or Grace and the grappler can try to oppose by one of those.   A success means the grapplee gets free.  With two degrees of success they get to act normally on their round although the escape does count as an action which subjects them to an appropriate MAP.

Charging just grants a bonus to damage to a melee attack at the end of the end of the charge or the charger can make an strength roll to try and shove the target, pushing it one square for each degree of success.

Most mechanics I just want enough complexity to give them an appropriate feel, I don't want to recreate reality.


Multitouch Driver Windows 7

Posted by Dennis

I was looking for a multi-touch driver to use in Windows and it took some looking obviously enough to get one that worked the way it should be.   One that emulated the touch ability of a typical Windows 7 tablet.

This is for my Multi-Touch Gaming Table experiment.  Speaking of which I do have an update, Deal Extreme takes forever to ship.  It was over a month from the time I placed my order before I received the 48 IR LED security lights.  Both of which worked by the way, I cut the existing plug off and used an old PC power supply (i have a lot of them) to power them.  Just wire the red wire from the lights to a yellow wire from the power supplies main lead (the big mass of wires) or the supplemental power lead (small square plug).  Then wire the black wires to any black wire for a ground.   To get the power supply to turn on short circuit the green wire in the main plug with any back wire. I just clipped and soldered them together.   Unfortunately the lights help but not enough.

I'm thinking I may have to just bite the bullet and get a piece of Endlighten and some strip lighting and deal with the loss of Fiducials.

Anyway, after putting the table on hold for a month waiting for the IR lights I went back to getting it working again using some IR pens I made.  It's not great but it's better than nothing right?

So I found this - The instructions on the site are for getting it working with multiple mice.  I offer the following instructions instead since they're not obvious nor posted anywhere.

Install the driver as posted on the site.   Then run the two console files, the MultietouchDriver.console and the Multitouch.Service.Console.  I DON'T recommend the open Pen and Touch and then checking the show mouse box that is listed on the site, that puts a virtual mouse on the screen.  Not really what we're looking for here.

Then open the MultiTouch-Configuration.WFP app and click TUIO and then the obvious option.  At that point the WFP file crashed on me but it did flip it from MultiMice to TUIO input.

Now close the driver and service consoles and fire up CCV.   Calibrate it as normal and minimize it or whatever.

Now re-run the two console apps above.   The reason you don't want them running when you calibrate CCV is it turns the long press of the calibrate procedures into right mouse clicks and if there happens to be anything on the deskop, a window, icon, whatever it jacks around with you by right mouse clicking it.

With those simple but not obvious steps you should now be able to use touch on your table and control windows.  A double touch is a left mouse click, a long touch is a right mouse click.

I'm having issues with calibration at the moment.  I get steady seeming blobs with the pens, the ID doesn't change but it can take an ass load of attempts to get the calibration to work as each point requires a bunch of attempts to try and get the blue sweep to go all the way around.   Annoying as hell.


Blender Update 5/13/2011

Posted by Dennis

A few more changes and additions.  Based on comment I created some 'hard' rules on what happens with a critical failure (2 or more 1's rolled on the skill roll).  They're not long tables and I 'think' they're easily remembered after a couple of run through's but who knows.   Each one does end with Director's Discretion but the premise is when a skill roll ends in a critical failure you start at the top of the appropriate chart and work your way down until you find the first step that is applicable and then you stop there.

As a rule you can't re-roll Critical Failures with a Rewrite but you can take the "Butter side up!" character knack that allows you to spend Rewrite's on critical failures.

Decided to rewrite the ending for the sample adventure, not happy with it, it deviates from the theme too much after consideration.

Added a some Character Flaws specifically for power users, a couple of them are really kind of setting specific but general enough they can fit in the general book.   They just make it harder to use an individual power by either penalizing the skill roll or making it cost more power to use, that kind of thing.

I added the ability to 'push' your movement for which you suffer a fatigue attack.  A person with a high fortitude and athletics can push more often than someone without it.  But with exploding dice on the fatigue damage it's always going to be  a risk to try it.  You might get lucky and go many many attempts without a problem and be a poor man's flash.  Or you might get super unlucky and go from fully rested to unconscious from your efforts.   That risk I think will make for interesting times.  I don't see players trying to push their movement except if they really need it.  Which is what I was shooting for.

I tightened up the Information and Clues section in the Director's Chair chapter.  Information comes in three categories, Prime, Secondary and Tertiary, I think it's what most good GM's use anyway, I'm just codifying it for my system.

The catagories determine how important the information is and how easily it is obtained.  Prime information is plot forwarding and is obtained simply by being in the Scene.  Characters always get prime information from a scene without any action on their part.   And by information it might not be just information but could instead be an item or something of that nature.

Secondary information is important but typically provides alternatives to an end result or side trips/quests etc. It isn't so much a storyline forwarder but broadens the storyline.  Secondary information has a trigger.  The players have to do something or say something or otherwise trigger the information dump.  It might as simple as "We search the room."  or "I talk to the bartender" but to pick up secondary information requires interaction on the player's part but it's not random.

Tertiary information is information of minor use.  Perhaps they might provide some detail to a prime clue or grant the players a minor advantage for some reason or allow them to recover or uncover a minor item.   Tertiary information requires skill rolls on the player's part.  Make the skill roll, gain the information, fail and you don't gain it.   But because the information isn't plot critical it's not a "Failed? Sucks to be you." situation but rather a 'Failed? No bread for you!" but the player's still get the soup.

[Note the preceding was a Soup Nazi reference from Seinfeld.  If you don't know the reference then just youtube it or wikipedia it.]

Critical Failure Tables

Melee -
1 - If there is an ally within reach you must roll an attack on them with the following change, you subtract your skill from your attack roll instead of add it.  Choose randomly if more than one ally is within range.
2 - If the enemy you just missed can do so, they make an immediate opportunity attack as a free action against you.
3 - One enemy chosen at random that can do so, makes an immediate opportunity attack as a free action against you.
4 - You so over extend you are Off Balance until the start of your next turn.
5 - Director's Discretion 

Ranged -
1 - If there is an ally adjacent to the target you must roll an attack on them with the following change, you subtract your skill from your attack roll instead of add it.  Choose randomly if multiple allies could be targeted.
2 - If there is an ally within 2 squares of the target if at normal range or 5 squares of the target at long range, you must roll an attack on them with the following change, you subtract your skill from your attack roll instead of add it. Choose the closest ally to the target if multiple allies are within range, choose randomly if multiple allies are at the same distance.
3 - Your weapon malfunctions and requires a action to recover.  You cannot take this action on this turn.
4 - Director's Discretion

Power -
1 - If the power is a damaging attack and there is an ally adjacent to the target you must roll an attack on them with the following change, you subtract your skill from your attack roll instead of add it.  Choose randomly if multiple allies could be targeted.
2 - If the power is a damaging attack and used at range and there is an ally within 2 squares of the target if at normal range or 5 squares of the target at long range, you must roll an attack on them with the following change, you subtract your skill from your attack roll instead of add it. Choose the closest ally to the target if multiple allies are within range, choose randomly if multiple allies are at the same distance.
3 - The power backlashes and you are Dazed.
4 - Director's Discretion

General Skills -
1 - If applicable you set up a Major Complication (-5 penalty)  for any future attempts at the skill during this scene for yourself.
2 - If applicable you set up a Minor Complication (-2 penalty) for any future attempts at the skill during this scene for yourself and your allies.
3 - If applicable you cannot use this skill again during this scene.
4 - Director's Discretion


Blender Update 5/9/2011

Posted by Dennis

I really should change the name of these posts but this at least keeps them all the same.  I could I guess globally swap the name out and I might at some point.

Let's see what's changed...

Modified the damage tracks and recovery methods to further differentiate Physical from Fatigue to Mental damage.   Physical damage, as the most common damage source has two methods of recovery, an immediate 'interupt' action on your part when you get hit with damage (much like Savage World's Soak roll) and then you or someone else can (preferably someone trained in it) can work on the wounds during the downtime between fights.   There are limits, if you attempt a first aid roll and fail, the right most box on the damage track gets an X in it and it requires an extended rest (8 hours, once every 24 hours) before that box can be tried to heal again.

I think that will increase the value of First Aid such that someone in a group really should take it, preferably more than one.   And it allows for lingering damage.   Because the penalties are really kind of low from any of the damage tracks it's not so much the penalties that get you, it's the loss of the length of the track.

Fatigue damage occurs for a few things but typically it's applied from the following, for every two scenes your in without a significant rest (2 hours) you incur one level of fatigue.  If you're not actually in a scene but time is passing in game and you're awake you incur one level of fatigue every 12 hours.  So most people can go about 48 hours before they drop down unconscious from being too tired.   In a setting that allows the Healing power, having Healing used on your incurs a level of Fatigue as Healing is simply revving your body up to regenerate in my system.  The person with the power can spend more power to offset that and block the fatigue buildup or they can elect to take the fatigue on themselves and spare the patient.   I try to have options.

There will be other sample sources for fatigue as well, bad air will incur a fatigue level every X unit of time depending on how bad it is, some poisons might cause Fatigue as well extreme labor, and it's possible to 'push your run' to move faster for a turn and pick up a level of fatigue that way among others.

Fatigue is recovered one step by 2 hours of rest and doesn't require any rolls, it's just automatic.  So a full night's rest will refresh and revitalize anyone.   It's my systems answer to Healing Surges from 4th Edition, a way to regulate an adventurer's work day.  It helps to avoid the 5 minute work day and the 5 day workday.

Mental damage, as the rarest form of damage (in most settings) is a lot like Physical damage in most respects except for the recovery time.  There is a way to mitigate mental damage as it happens and characters have mental damage resistance and mental evasion.   The biggest way they differ is that you can only recover mental damage after an extended rest, not a short one.   And if you fail the recovery then you get an X in a box that lasts for a week before it can be recovered again.

The mental damage is primarily of use for horror settings, Cthulhu, Zombie Apocalypse, adventures and settings where the characters are subjected to all kinds of mind breaking sights and encounters.

Because of the way the system works in such systems it's quite likely that a character will go insane so it's a lot more 'pure mythos' than survivable.

It's possible to buy knacks that offset the penalties that can accrue from the damage tracks as well boost your ability to better mitigate the damage when it occurs and even extend one or more tracks with an extra buffer step.    And the inverse, to take a character flaw that makes you weaker in one area, removes a buffers step of your track, makes it harder to mitigate the damage or increases the penalties you suffer.   It's all about being able to build a character as close to your concept as possible.

So that covers the current way to track character damage.   Each track is the same length, six boxes, well 5 since the first box is implied as it means you're at full.  The last box means you're incapacitation in some fashion and out of play.

I'm currently working on a sample adventure that incorporates the Extended Skill system, combat encounters with Extras alone and Extra's + Villainous Stars.  It's set in the 1930's Egypt and will include horror elements to show mental damage and periods of work that will show the buildup of Fatigue.

Unfortunately due to my adventure concept I have to essentially write two adventures since it can divert pretty much right at the start into two paths but that's okay, I like that kind of thing.

I'm toying with the idea of trying to playtest online with random folks using Maptools to do the map and some VoiP conferencing system to put everyone in voice communication.  Since I don't see the sample adventure taking too long I think it would be possible to keep everyone entertained for the duration, and the system is hopefully fast enough that player downtime won't be too burdensome.   Like most, I've found the more downtime between your turn, the much more likely you are to be disengaged.

Game systems where individual rounds take forever (relatively) find players not paying attention to what's going on when it's not there turn.  In great part that's why I turned to Savage Worlds after a long 4th Edition DnD campaign in an effort to keep players engaged in what's going on.  And disengaged players just exacerbate the problem since it takes them longer to get bakc in the game when it is their turn and that just causes more downtime for everyone so everyone disengages even more.  It's a vicious cycle.

And in full part why I decided to write my own game system in an effort to keep that same speed of play, just with my own take on balance, options and mechanics.


Blender Update 5/4/2011

Posted by Dennis

A butt load of little changes over the last few days, too many to remember really.  Added a group roll mechanic, primarily to Stealth but the mechanic would work for everyone.  It's roughly the same group mechanic I came up with for 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.  To sum up, the law of averages makes it impossible for a group of players to sneak anywhere, someone is either ALWAYS going to fail their stealth roll or make their Perception roll.  This removes any chance for the group to work as a team and sneak into something.  Granted it might be 'realistic' but it doesn't fit the cinematic game system I'm going for, where yes Virginia sometimes the hero can manage to sneak a group of women and children out of the bad guys warehouse without getting spotted even though none of them are particularily stealthy.

Basically it's just a bunch of synergy rolls, one person makes the actual skill roll and everyone else involved simply adds or subtracts to that roll.   So it's not possible for one person to blow it for everyone and it's possible for the group as a whole to help or hinder the leader's roll.

Extended the Extended Skill challenge system to allow for conditions where two or more groups are trying to achieve a goal against each other.  It now works much better for chase scenes or for any extended challenge with actively opposing forces.   And extended challenges can have their own unique stunt tables that the participants can purchase to achieve successes or bonuses or assign penalties to their opponents.  Should work out fairly well I think.

Came up with the basics on how to make the system work with just d6's as an option for those that want it.  Requires a handful of value changes and it impacts the math more than I like but it can be done for those who don't want to try and get a set of d8's for everyone which typically aren't sold separately in sets at least in many places unlike d6's and d10's.  D10's aren't a great option as it waters down the stunt and explosion factor which are a strong component for adding cinematic feel to the system.

Due to a math issue the standard TN is being shifted to 15 from 13.  When I was computing average rolls I'd changed the code to only allow one dice to explode on the skill rolls and only allow it to explode once and forgot to change it back.  As a result this impacted the average roll for 3d8E down a bit.   And 15 works better since I'm using multiples of 5's.  Even the warriors can usually add and subtract by 5's. 😉

There's also a bit more love for battlefield control for melee types either the DPS or Tanks, their Taunts and Intimidate ploys can now shift their targets around on the battlefield and by buying the appropriate knack they can turn them into an AOE.

Skills -

Taunt (Intellect) - You can taunt someone within a number of squares equal to your skill as a standard action.  Make a Taunt skill roll opposed by Resolve.  With one degree of success the target suffers a -2 to attack anyone but you on their next turn.  With multiple degrees of success the penalty increases to -4 and the target is immediately pulled one square toward you if they can.

Intimidate (Resolve) - You can intimidate someone within a number of squares equal to your skill as a standard action.  Make an Intimidate skill roll opposed by Resolve.  With one degree of success the target suffers a -2 to attack you on their next turn.  With multiple degrees of success the penalty increases to -4 and the target is immediately pushed one square away from you if possible.

Tier 2 Knacks -

Taunting Call - Requires Taunt 3+. As a normal Taunt but you can affect targets in a burst 1.

Intimidating Roar - Requires Intimidate 3+. As a normal Intimidation but you can affect targets in a burst 1.

In other news I'm listening to a podcast of guys playing DnD, Pathfinder version I believe and once again I'm struck by how much playing a wizard sucked under those vancian magic systems.  To paraphrase the conversation...

Dude 1 - "How many magic missiles did you memorize dude? That's like the third [bleeping] one!?"
Wizard Guy - "What do you mean, I can't cast it over and over?"
Dude 1 -"*laughter* No you [bleeping] idiot,  just the once for each time you memorize it.  You get them back once a day."
Wizard Guy - "Ohhh... *pause*  That [bleeping] sucks.  Okay I'm done, that's it, I got nothing for the  rest of the [bleep] day then."
Dude 1 -"Use your staff and hit something with it."
Wizard Guy - "I've got 4 [bleeping] hit points!"
Dude 1 -"Welcome to playing a D&D wizard.  Enjoy."
Wizard Guy - "This sucks, go ahead and kill me, I'm going to play a ranger."

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Blender Update 4/26/2011

Posted by Dennis

Have been going through and tweaking things, changing some of the vernacular and otherwise making things fit my ideas a little better as well as doing cleanup on the prose.

I did a first pass through the Knacks and broke them out into Tier 1 and Tier 2 ranked Knacks.  I have a problem with spreading stuff out over the full length of development, it means that some content is never used, kind of like MMOG's.   I want the content to be used so at most I might break it out into Tier 1, 2, 3 by adding in some extra stuff out that way.

Currently there are 96 Knacks, about 60% of them are available in Tier 1 now the remainder in Tier 2.   I've added a few 'leader' style knacks as well, influenced by the various Leader classes from 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

Right now there are 4 Tiers and each Tier has 4 Ranks.   That means that essentially there are 16 level ups over the course of a character's career, you don't start at step 1 but rather step 0.    I'm recommending that character's level up every 2 sessions on average.   That means that a full advancement would take 32 sessions.  Of course people are free to level up as they wish but I'm not including any Experience Point mechanics in the system, I find them too... limiting and immersion breaking and they don't reward non-combat very well or at all.   I figure if you've put in your 8 hours (assuming 2 sessions at 4 hours each) then you've earned the right to get a new toy.

I think every two sessions is frequent enough that the new toys come in and keep the player interested but not so often that they don't know what to do with them.

On a level up, I'm going pretty routine, you can add a Knack or Tweak to your character / weapons or boost your skills and every Tier you can also raise a base stat.

I'm toying with having a Primary Stat which grants a special per scene boost based on the stat type and Primary and Secondary skills which make it easier to raise the skill in the first case or give a bonus to one roll per scene.    They're intended as a way to further customize 'builds' between characters without adding too much complexity.  Might fail utterly but worthy of an attempt.

I also added in the option to use d6's for everything although in my opinion it shifts the math in a way that's bad for granularity and will start to break the game about midway through the leveling process  but that's why it's an option.   d6's cause bonuses and penalties to be worth more so you lose the ability to spread out the effects which can cost you in terms of having 'magic' gear of the trope'ic +1 To Hit.  I don't really foresee doing that much personally but I'd like it to be an option for those that want it.

I wish I had some throwaway players to try the character building rules out on, that I could get feed back from then reset them back to scratch and test it again after making the changes.  Tech really needs to get AI's up and running so we can have disposable people. 😉

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Digital Gaming Table 4/22/2011

Posted by Dennis

Received my PS3 camera with m12 2.5mm lens and 850 nm IR filter as well as a 25 LED module string of IR lights and a roll of Vellum from Dick Blick Arts.   The vellum provides a pretty nice projection surface although of course it's going to be prone to picking up finger oils and dirt but it's certainly cheap enough to replace as you need to.

Unfortunately I didn't get the touch working.  I tried putting the string of IR lights about 12" down from the top aimed out and that didn't work, I angled them up and that worked better but the slightest bend in the acrylic from pressure causes the lights to show up as blobs.   I then as a quick experiment tried using regular paper as diffusers over placed above the LED's which did help to eliminate the pressure blobs but regular blobs didn't work that well.  Stability was a major issue with the blobs flickering like mad and getting it down to just finger tips was very difficult.

So I pulled the LED's off the wall and trailed them on the floor of the box aimed up and was back to the least pressure caused the LED's to pop up as blobs as the angle of the acrylic changed minutely.

At that point I called it a night and played some Portal 2.   I'll go back to it tonight.  My current thought is to put the LED's higher up, next to the acrylic aimed across and put diffusers below them to block them from directly shining into the camera.  I'm also going to try moving the camera higher up so it's not reading the sides of the box so much.


Blender Update 4/18/2011

Posted by Dennis

First day back at work after a week off so it's been busy but I did take the time to jot down some things that are going to be changing -

Untrained Skills - When using an untrained skill a character is subject to a -5 penalty but gets to add their relevant base stat, so people with higher intellect will find it easier to Percieve something versus someone without a lower Intellect skill.  In addition, and this is more key, untrained skill dice rolls do NOT get to explode.   This will I believe help encourage characters from diversifying their skill sets rather than focusing on a single one trick pony style of character.

Added a few Knacks that I came up with over this last weekend  -

  • Multi-Lingual - This allows the character to know two extra spoken languages or the ability to read/write/speak one extra language.  This may be taken multiple times.
  • Direction Sense - The character always knows which way is north and can retrace any recent journey by making an Nature roll.
  • Ommmmm - By meditating on a task or question for 5 minutes in a suitable atmosphere the character gains a +4 on the relevant skill roll immediately following the meditation period.   Meditative trances can be entered into once per hour.  In addition the character requires only half the sleep that a normal character does.

I have some additional thoughts on skills in general and specific in terms of outlining what they're there for.

In addition I was thinking about the idea of skill challenges and have decided that they're not really as critical as I was thinking.  Skill challenges should be ONLY when they're not critical to the story line or you want to offer a different reward based on the player's abilities.

Succeeding at a skill challenge, or even a skill should never hinge on the storyline or rather the storyline should never ever rest on random chance.   If a group needs to know something they should just get that information.   If they need to find the lair of the bandit king, they should NEVER have  to succeed on an acquire knowledge check to know where it is, or a travel check to make sure they don't get lost.  There should be no randomness there.

Now if you want to branch your storyline based on a skill challenge then that's fine but be prepared to have every branch equally entertaining.  Don't have the 'you suck so you get screwed' branch.

As an example - Rescue the Duchess In Waiting

Setup - The Bandit King has kidnapped the Duke's daughter and is holding her for ransom.  The duke has a strict no negotiation policy and has hired the group to rescue the girl.  The Director will arrange for 3 or 4 scenes that will provide the information they need, the group just needs to trigger them through their actions "Let's spread some money around the poor sector."  "Let's talk to the city hunters."  "Let's put up a reward for information", whatever.   And of course if they're being completely clueless then an overheard conversation can clue them in.

The director though has three branches on the bandit king based on how quickly they traverse the wilderness to get to the camp -

1 - They succeed more often than fail on their skill rolls to get there.  They arrive in plenty of time and find the bandit camp not on full alert and this opens a Stealth option where the group sneaks in, takes the girl and sneaks out.

2 - They break even on successes and failures and arrive later and find the camp's been alerted that they're coming and now they've got a much harder time sneaking in and might have to frontal assault or try negotiation (even though the duke doesn't, it doesn't mean the players can't)

3- They fail more often than they succeed and arrive late to the party and find another group (the duke has no qualms about spreading the wealth around) is in the process of rescuing the girl.  They have options of upstaging the early party, taking the girl by force from them after the fight is over, or trying something sneaky on the way back to get the girl from the first party.

Each one could be equally entertaining (depending on the group of course) and none of them suck.  And the characters get to feel they bought skills for a reason and get to feel that the universe is indeed unkind at times with randomness and sometimes lady luck is sitting on their shoulders.   They don't know of course what the total results of their success or failures is going to be and the Director can save the other scenes for another time.

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Digital Gaming Table 4/17/2011

Posted by Dennis

More work on the making of the multi-touch functionality to get it working.  Running some issues that I think are attributable to my tablet pc which has multi-touch on it already.   Currently in the process of building a working system from spare parts I have laying around.  Will be far from awesome, a dual core AMD and an old radeon 4550 or something in that neighborhood.  I don't really let good parts sit around, I put them to use for myself or others.   It's been awhile since I did a hardware refresh on my primary box so maybe I should do that and move the current one over into the table.  That would give me a reasonable i5 OC'd by about 20% with SLI 8800 GT's and 8gb of ram.  That should be able to run most things at the 1280x800 resolution the projector puts out.

I ordered a PS3 Eyetoy camera and some right angle connectors for the projector to let it drop down a bit to widen the image.  You might think that the 1" gained wouldn't be all that much but with a super short throw projector 1" will equal a couple of inches in display size which is about what I'm short overall.

Sadly my vacation is over tonight and I have to go back to work so work on the table will probably slow down but I should be able to get back to the RPG system I've been working on using off time at work so there's a little tit for tat.


Digital Gaming Table 4/13/2011

Posted by Dennis

More progress was made.  You can see pictures of the stages on the DGT page but to sum up, sanded, routed, puttied, sanded, stained, acrylic cut, access hole cut, ventilation holes cut.

I'm going to be using magnets, rare earth magnets to be exact and steel bolts to keep the access door closed rather than hinges and a latch of some kind.  It seems a little niftier.

Right now I'm going to have two inflow fans near the bottom of one side and an outflow fan right above the projector so as the heat rises from it's exhaust it'll hopefully get sucked directly out and the two inflow's should create a positive air pressure in the box, slight though it might be and help create a cool to hot heat loop so that the heat escapes.   If necessary I'll cut a series of 1" holes near the top of the box which should provide enough ventilation to keep things cool.

I still need to cut some access holes for wires in the bottom corners and near the top where it sits above the shelf.

Oh due to the ugliness of the staining I went with a faux finish.  Now I hate faux finishes but I find it less ugly than the splotchy stain soaking.  If you squint hard enough it looks like burled walnut.  But you have to squint.  And use your imagination.

I was thinking for the Mark 2 that I might go with a steam punk look.  Not sure if it's worth it, the 'omfg awesome' factor would get old quickly I think and then you have all these bits and pieces sticking off it that become annoying or get in the way.

I do think for the Mark 2 it'll be a complete design job rather than re-using the existing table which can go back to being a dedicated poker and board gaming table.


Digital Gaming Table 4/12/2011

Posted by Dennis

Got some more work done, added the fourth wall missing from yesterday, added trim work to the base, created the capper, sanded everything with some rough grit to get it semi-smooth.   You'd think I'd of gotten more done today oddly enough after thinking about it.

There are a couple of new images on the dedicated page for the gaming table now.