Tower Fall: A 200 Word RPG

The 200 word RPG challenge is an interesting take on micro-games and one that I didn’t get around to participating in last year. The level of creativity in the submissions is really high, as is the level of diversity. The contest, and most of the submissions, seems to be very much orientated towards focused single scene descriptive games. For mine I’ve tried to the other way, with a bit more traditional narrative and use of dice to overcome challenges (though you stack rather than roll them). I’ve also got the initial outline of a 200 word supplement for the game which adds special class abilities, expect to see that posted soon.


 

Tower Fall

The Wizard has been vanquished but can you escape before the Tower Falls?
A game for 3-4, each requires 3d6, 1d8, 1d10 and 1d12.

Together: Name characters equal to the number of players – 1. Describe them.
Roll 1d12, highest narrates the first scene.

Narrator: Describe the current floor. Let the characters explore, as they do describe challenges equal to the number of characters. In order assign difficulties of 3, 2 or 1.
Next player clockwise: Pick a character for the turn, attempt to overcome a challenge.

To overcome a challenge:
Create or add to your dice tower by stacking a number of dice equal to the difficulty. The tower must be only 1 die wide.
If you run out of dice steal them from another tower.
If you collapse a tower remove dice from your pool (and the game) equal to the difficulty. Try again.
If a player runs out of dice their current character dies.

Once the challenge is overcome play moves round clockwise. At the end of the round the surviving characters escape to the next floor. Narration moves around 1 player, play continues for a set number of levels or until all but one character has Fallen.

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State of the Conspiracy: Artwork!

Today I received a preview of the nearly finished first piece of character art I’ve commissioned for the game. To say it’s great is a massive understatement. Getting to finally meet the character is always a special moment, it makes them real in a way that a simple character sheet can’t and I can’t wait to see how the rest stand out.

My aim with the game is to have 8-10 images for the game, using a mix of commissioned pieces and stock art, all by the same artist. Should I ever move onto a second game I’ll look into using a wider range of stock art. While I’ll always aim to produce as professional a product as possible I’m very much aware that I’ll never make much (if any) money from them. Like many people though that’s not why I do it, this is and always will be a hobby to me.

Now I realise that this post teases some artwork but I’m going to hold off on posting the preview as I want to present the final image in context with the finalised character sheet. Hopefully that won’t be too far off.

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State of the Conspiracy: Character Layout

One of the areas of Project Cassandra I’ve always been unhappy with is the layout and presentation of the game. While I’ve always liked the typewriter style font I’ve been using the document as a whole has always looked like something thrown together in word, for the obvious reason that it was. Over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly learning how to use Scribus, a desktop publishing program that is available for free. I made the mistake of assuming it would be similar enough to word and dove right into it, trying the layout the entire game all at once. Suffice to say that didn’t really work so my focus of the last few days has been on laying out the character sheets, the initial result of which you can see below.

Character sheet comparison

The new sheet, on the right, is a vast improvement on the old one. It makes much better use of the space, with the individual sections more clearly defined than before. Most of all it feels (to me) like it is closer to something you’d find in a published RPG. There are, obviously, still aspects that need work with spacing being the main one. That’s something I’ll properly address once I have the character art in place, as I want be sure of the final dimensions of those images.

Speaking of art…

Something that drastically improved the look of the character sheet was the inclusion of some proper artwork. The piece included in the new sheet is stock art created by JEShields (who also has an RPG art Patreon here) and can be purchased from on drivethruRPG. Eventually this will be moved to within the main rules and replaced with artwork commissioned specifically for Project Cassandra, again drawn by JEShields. The first piece, of intrepid reporter Samantha Dawes, is already underway with the rest to follow once funds allow.

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Inspirational Artwork: Visions of the Future

grand_tour

Stylised posters always seem to get my GM imagination going, when they’re well done they serve the same function as a good book cover – to set a scene that you want to know more about. Some of the best, in my opinion, are those that recreate early sci-fi books focused on exploration and the colonisation of the solar system. They provide not only a sense of hope for the future but also one of exploration, perfect for any light hearted sci-fi games. The ‘Visions of the Future‘ set from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory provide a perfect example of this and after only a few minutes I already have a half dozen ideas bouncing around my head for the next time I run a game.

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Pre Vis Action

While things have been fairly quiet on the Project Cassandra front (I’m currently playing with layout and am awaiting the first piece of commissioned artwork) I’ve been focusing my attention elsewhere, namely playing in a Rogue Trader campaign and rekindling my interest in Legend of the Five Rings. The latter of these has wedged itself quite stubbornly in my thoughts through the Fallen Mountains campaign that I’d started designing. Should the fortunes smile on me again this year and allow me to attend Strategicon once more my hope would be to run a series of linked games in the setting. I’ve been working on a rough three part outline, with each segment influenced by the earlier adventure. Ambitious, especially given the skin chance of attending the con again but there it is.

Helping keep that plan moving has been flicking through various Samurai scenes and shorts on YouTube. The one below is a particularly good example. Shot by the director of The Raid as a test sequence it succinctly expresses the flow and feel of a samurai fight without any need for gratuitous violence.

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Project Cassandra: Looking for an artist

Looking for an artist. So Project Cassandra is now at the point where if I’m ever going to publish it I want to consider artwork, at this point specifically character art. So if anybody is either an artist or knows somebody that is please let me know. 4 characters with the possibility of male and female versions (so total of 8) in Cold War era clothing (anything from 1950’s-1980’s). The basic outlines can be found on the character sheets over at http://www.lunarshadow.net and I can provide a fuller brief for each on request. I’ve got a small but hopefully reasonable budget for it, plus possibility of needing a few additional pieces (cover and/or interior art) once I know how my post Christmas finances look.

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JFK assassination: Photo showing Lee Harvey Oswald with same type of gun used to kill JFK ‘authentic’

One of the results of working on Project Cassandra is that I’ve been trying to learn more about the central events of the Cold War. Being born in the early 80’s I only vaguely remember the tail end of it, such as the Berlin Wall coming down but the bulk of it is something that I’ve had to learn about. The JFK assassination was something that I studied in school but I’ve avoided diving into while working on the game as I specifically didn’t want to focus on that tragic real world event.

Even so this coming across this article – Photo showing Lee Harvey Oswald with same type of gun used to kill JFK ‘authentic’ – got my attention and has set thoughts moving again, specially this time about the ideas of conspiracies and secret plots while I expand on a few sections of the game, most notably scenario advice for the GM.

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Gateway 2015: Project Cassandra Retrospective Part 1

Of the three games I ran at Gateway 2015 the one I was most apprehensive about was Project Cassandra, most simply because it was the first time I’d run it for people I didn’t know. There are a number of steps between now and publishing it, the first of which is working out what needs changed so this summary will try and pull together my thoughts about how it went in order to get me thinking about edits.

The blurb

Project Cassandra: 4 Minutes to Midnight
The Cold War. A time of spies, paranoia & fear. A top secret research project into ESP yields startling results, only to be betrayed from the inside after the subjects receive a shocking premonition: The President is due to be assassinated at an upcoming rally. Fleeing from the flames and with only their developing psychic abilities to aid them can the subjects stop the attack, or is the Cold War about to turn Hot?
All in all not too bad but a little on the short side and could have had more details, especially about the system given nobody would be familiar with it. Definitely something that I’ll need to work on a little.

The Questions

Part of my aim with Project Cassandra was to give the players an element of control in determining the setup for the game. The characters are psychics after all. Prior to this I’d already decided on a number of elements, designed to frame the questions. Firstly it was 1969, Nixon is a year into his presidency and Apollo 12 has just returned from the moon with news of a startling discovery. The project members have learned of this through one of their visions and that President Nixon will announce the discovery to the world in 3 days during a speech at MIT. Unfortunately for the President they’ve also predicted that the President will be assassinated during said speech, spinning the world into the chaos of mutually assured nuclear destruction.

For the Gateway game this led to the following questions (and answers from the players):

  1. The assassin will strike during the President’s speech. What will be their primary method?
    A prototype robot, unveiled by the President earlier in the speech.
  2. What did the Apollo missions discover that has led to the assassination attempt?
    A clearly unnatural monolith, of unknown origin.
  3. How are the Russian’s involved? Or are they just scapegoats?
    The Russian’s have reprogrammed the robot to stop the US from being able to claim the monolith first.
  4. Who do you need to find at the diner on Highway 29?
    Yuri ‘the defector’ (We left details about Yuri deliberately vague)
  5. What is Senator Rickman’s role in the plot?
    He is a spy for the Russian’s

All in all this provided a good setup, I already had ideas for a number of scenes lined up, such as the diner but until this point I didn’t know who they were meeting or why. The robot, well that threw me but that’s the point of the questions, to mix things up for the GM. All in all, a good start to the game.

Next up, the game itself.

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Project Cassandra Non-update

It’s been a month since Gateway and ideally I’d have wanted to have had an updated document for Project Cassandra up by now. Work and DIY at home have, unfortunately been sucking up more time than I’d have hoped.

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been any progress, the rules updates are almost complete, though widening the skill list is proving more challenging than I’d expected. The next immediate step is a revision of the text in general after which I’m aiming to solicit feedback from a few RPG design communities.

Then comes the big steps, artwork and layout. My drawing skills are pretty much non-existent so if I want to get some artwork in there it means commissioning some. At a minimum the aim is character images plus a cover though I’ve got ideas for a few other images if I can afford them. Layout I’m likely to try myself, the rules are short enough that they shouldn’t need too complex a setup and it’s about time I played around with Scribus.

Fingers crossed it won’t be another month until I get the update out but I’ll wait and see on that one.

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Gateway 2015: General Roundup

A few Thursdays ago (3rd September to be exact) began the journey that had resulted from one of my wackier ideas of late, I set off to Gateway 2015, one of the Strategicon gaming conventions run throughout the year at the Hilton at Los Angeles Airport. For those that don’t know me this was, all in all, a rather wacky idea for the simple reason that I live in the UK and I was basically going to the other side of the world just for the gaming convention, having set aside only a single day of the trip to be a tourist.

Why would I undertake such a trip? Because of the fine folks of the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, and the rather amazing community that has grown up around the show. Since leaving Glasgow three and a half years ago the amount of gaming I’m doing has drastically reduced and those games I do play in are primarily run online. I miss face to face games and most of all I miss doing them with friends. So I flew five and a half thousand miles for the chance to play in games with people I only knew online and from podcasts. Sounds crazy right?

Turns out while it was crazy it was also one of the best weekends of gaming I’ve ever had and all the people I met were genuinely brilliant fun to be around and I got to have a great time in the games I played in / run. I’m aiming to do separate posts for the three games I ran (Project Cassandra, Demon Hunters: A Comedy of Terrors and Firefly) but first a quick round up of Gateway itself.

Continue reading

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