Layout and Design: Character Template for Demon Hunters

template-v1One of the things I’ve been slowly working on recently has been a single page character sheet for Demon Hunters inspired by the work of Hyvemynd with their Fate Accelerated Fantasy characters. I’ve been doing a little here and there, interspaced with having to learn more about how scribus works, mostly through trial and error. I’m never going to be a layout professional but I hope that once I’ve created a template then I’ll be able to start releasing more material on a semi-regular basis. Yes, in addition to the adventure starters I have underway. And the larger adventures. And Project Cassandra, which no, I’ve not forgotten about.

The first draft of the template is pretty much done, using only filler aspects and text for now. I’m happy with it but know there are issues. Firstly the space on the right needs to be used better, right now too much of it is comprised of text frames. Second I’ve yet to add boxes for conditions. Third, general spacing especially for stunts.

Overall though it works. This draft is designed for full characters but it should be easier to remove elements for minions and mobs than to add them back in.

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RPGaDay 23rd August

23rd) Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

My immediate thought is Technoir, it really excels at having a minimalist future vibe that is clear, concise and easy to read. Those last aspects are particularly important due to nature of the information RPG books have to convey but where Technoir excels is that it achieves this while maintaining an appearance that suits the genre. Many books will lean heavily on one aspect over the other and at the moment there does appear to be a push towards more graphically complex books that lose clarity and readability. I’m of the opinion that this is partially down to the multi-facetted role that game books have.

tn-pageAt the simplest level they have to convey the rules of the game, in a manner that is logical and clear. Fate Core is a prime example of a game that achieves this, with a heavy lean towards the technical. It clearly lays out the mechanics of the rules in an unambiguous but also rather flavourless manner. The book is also well indexed and easy to flick through when double checking individual rules / aspects/

Which leads me on to what I consider the second level of game book design, enjoyability. Regardless of whether or not it impacts on playing a game I’m of the opinion that a game book should be enjoyable to read. Fate Core is an example here of where the writing puts me off, the first time I read the game I found it a slog, to the point that it put me off the system. The interesting contrast? I’d previously read the original Dresden Files RPG and really liked it, the style of that book helped me learn Fate because I was enjoying reading it. That game sacrifices a lot at the base level of clarity due to being heavy on the visual aspects of layout so I think somewhere inbetween is best. Amongst the Fate material I’ve read Atomic Robo probably achieves the best balance of clarity and enjoyability.

The final layer for me is inspiration. How well does the game get me to want to run it. A lot of this comes down to the writing and its ability to convey setting information (generally I’m not a massive fan of setting neutral systems) but the visual presentation also plays a part. I know there may be the argument of ‘well I can already use my imagination’ but to me that doesn’t really work. Just because I can imagine it doesn’t mean I will do so in the way that the designer intended. Having those visual elements is, therefore, important to me though once again it is possible to overdo them. It’s all about the balance.

RPGaDay August 22nd

22nd) Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

cortexplusThis again mostly comes down to familiarity for me, so once again I’m going with Cortex. More specifically Cortex Classic or Cortex Plus Action (such as Firefly) which are the two variants I’ve personally run. For both of them I could pick up the game and presuming I had a setting inspiration have characters ready to run in a few minutes. Especially Cortex Classic where I’d even be comfortable with characters being generated in play using the old ‘assign your stat when you first roll it’ approach.

The other reason for picking Cortex is that I know I can comfortably run it for players unfamiliar with the system. I’ve done so a number of times for both friends and at conventions. Having that level of system mastery means I can focus more on the game in front of me without getting tangled up by the mechanics.

RPGaDay August 16th

16th) Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

I’m not sure there is a single RPG I’ve played where I haven’t wanted to tweak it in some way or another but at the same time I’ve enjoyed using most ‘as is’ and I make it a point to play at least a few sessions that way before I consider tweaking them.

In terms of the games I’ve modified the least it’s probably the lightweight indie games. Many of those are built around short term, highly structured games with a single central premise. Given those tend towards shorter experiences the desire to modify them didn’t have as long to form. That’s not to say it can’t, Project Cassandra started as a hack of Lady Blackbird and I’ve only played that once.

RPGaDay August 15th

15th) Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

Cortex in its various incarnations. It cortexwas the first system that I really grokked, not just in terms of how to play but in how the different aspects of the system clicked together. It helps that from a design standpoint it is relatively modular with elements that can be slotted in or out easily. I’m really looking forward to tinkering with Cam Banks’ new Prime version of the system when it comes out and hopefully will be able to put something interesting together with it.

As I’ve slowly started tinkering with game design it’s one of the systems that I keep coming back to and I’ve got notes for a few settings that I’d like to adapt to it. First and foremost would be one centered around stuffed toys and their adventures as they try to protect their sleeping owners. Nothing too original but something that could be fun. Second was the Powers campaign, think the TV series Heroes as a good example of where this was going. We tried a short campaign of it using Classic and a bodged together mechanic for the system (where you had to roll as close to the target number as possible). That didn’t get far due to issues with both the narrative and the mechanics but it’s one that I’ve always wanted to revisit and flesh out more.

Lady Blackbird: A Dark Future

The system underlying Lady Blackbird is quick to learn and surprisingly robust. Some settings and genres however require a few tweaks however to make the game fit properly. This one is designed with the Warhammer 40,000 setting in mind, in particular that shown off in the Dark Heresy game where starting characters are low level initiates within the Inquisition. For me the 40K universe has always had two central themes, survival and corruption, which I’ve tried to emulate with these tweaks to the Lady Blackbird rules.

Rules changes

Keys – Renamed Temptations and are more focused on negative aspects of humanity in the 41st millennium.

Secrets – Secrets are either Corrupting or Pure. For the new members of the inquisition Corrupting is the default starting status, Pure secrets require buying with XP and a suitable series of events to explain their acquisition. Corrupting secrets increase the corruption level of an individual, Pure secrets reduce it.

New condition – Scared

New stat – Corruption. For now just an indicator of how much the character has fallen, further rules tweaks may alter that.

Jonan Macarg, former Imperial Guardsman

Traits

Guardsman – Tactics, Imperial regulations, Soldiers, Imperial equipment, seasoned veteran

Survivor – Stealth, notice, run, tough, endurance, hide

Marksman – accurate, rapid fire, sniper, rifle

Temptations (Keys)

Temptation of humanity: Humanities downfall will be their inability to resist the temptations of the ruinous powers. Hit this key when you make use of a corrupting secret. Buyoff: Sacrifice a corrupting secret.

Temptation of the coward: Your survival is your primary concern, key to which is avoiding perilous situations. Hit this key when you convince your team to avoid or retreat from perilous confrontations. Buyoff: Volunteer for an apparently suicidal fight.

Temptation of the xenophobe: The enemies of the Imperium and humanity are liars and monsters. Hit this key when you ignore or abuse the advice, trust or aid of a non-human species. Buyoff: Place your trust and life in the hands of an alien.

Secrets

Secret of the survivor (Corrupting) – Once per session you may feign death during combat, during which time enemies will ignore you. If your allies survive you are capable of making them believe that you were stunned or knocked out during the fight. Increase your corruption level by 1.

Secret of the brutal (Corrupting) – If Angry, Scared, Hunted or Trapped and faced with a single enemy you may kill them without rolling. While quick the kill is neither clean nor quiet. Increase your corruption level by 1.