Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Click Here or read the press release below.
Pakistan Bundle
October 19th, 2010

DriveThruRPG Launches Charity Bundle for Pakistan Flood Relief

(Atlanta, GA) – DriveThruRPG, an Internet-based business that specializes in the marketing and distribution of RPGs and roleplaying accessories for traditional dice-and-paper gaming, has posted a bundle of products provided by participating publishers for the purpose of generating charity revenue for the relief of Pakastan's flood victims.
As was done earlier this year for the people of Haiti, DriveThruRPG is calling upon the gaming community to once again make donations towards a fund that will ultimately be wired to Doctors Without Borders. The bundle is priced at $25.00 and contains dozens of donated products valued at over $700.00. The entire amount received from those making donations will go to Pakistan relief.
Though it has long since moved out of the primary news cycle, the plight of the Pakistani people remains a terrible story,” said Sean Patrick Fannon, Marketing and Communications Manager for DriveThruRPG. “Millions remain homeless, and many thousands of lives are at risk due to injuries, illness, and starvation. We proved once before that we can provide some help to those in need, and we are determined to do so again.”
DriveThruRPG remains committed to its relationship with Doctors Without Borders; thanks to their non-partisan, non-philosophical agenda and their dedication to provide medical assistance and aid all over the world, they remain the perfect choice to channel help where it is needed.
Discovering the power to make a difference, as we did with our Haiti efforts, was inspirational,” said Steve Wieck, Co-owner of DriveThruRPG. “Once again we are driven to leverage our tools and our marketplace to reach out to those who suffer, and we are grateful that we have the ability to do so.”
The Pakistan Flood Relief RPG Bundle, provided at a donation price of $25, will remain available until Monday, October 25th, at As well, DriveThruComics ( has a similar bundle for $10, containing over $100 in comics titles. is the world's largest source of RPG products available for download, as well as a burgeoning source of digital content for gamers. It is an industry leader in modern business and technology developments for the tabletop gaming fan. For more information, contact Sean Patrick Fannon (, 614-946-9371).
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization working in nearly 70 countries to assist people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe. For more information, contact Emily Linendoll, Press Officer (, 212-763-5764).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tormenta (Storm) - The most popular RPG in Brazil

So, since a friend ... okay, someone I completely don't know ... but I call him friend because he found my game! (see previous post) ... Anyway ... since this friend found my game, I've been browsing his blog site. It's an RPG news site written in Portuguese that's been around since 2002 (8 years is a pretty impressive lineage on these interwebs IMO.) He talks about Mini-Six which is a super cool free RPG that I've also mentioned here as well as others, and he talks about games written in his native language (obviously.)

One that I have never heard of (no reason why I should have) is called "Tormenta" (translated from Portuguese as Storm or Tempest.) It's a D20 fantasy game using the 3.X Dungeons and Dragons framework but it seems to be its own unique animal. And I want one.

Just look at these bullet points (Roughly translated by Google translate):

Storm D20: Player's Guide
We make a better world!

The Goddess of humanity has been transformed into a statue. The Alliance of Black goblinoids relentless advance of the kingdom. The Lords of the Storm launch storms of blood and demons. This is a world giant dragon-kings, high priests invincible and conflicts between the gods. A world that desperately needs heroes.

You agree to be one of them?

STORM is the first and largest Brazilian medieval fantasy setting compatible with the d20 System. Now updated with version 3.5 of the Rules, Storm D20: Player's Guide offers:
  • 6 new races: Centaur, Minotaur, Sea-Elf, Goblin, Nagahara and Sprite.
  • 2 new basic classes: Samurai, master of the katana sword, and the gallant Swashbuckler.
  • 10 new prestige classes: Goblin Balloonist, Goblin Engineer, Explorer of the Storm, Imperial Gladiator, Woodsman, Wizard of the Storm, Nomad, Gunslinger, Ranger Priest, and Black Cave.
  • 76 talents, including new talents and skills of regional and Samurai Swashbuckler.
  • All spells classified Pathways Elementary, and 28 new spells.
  • 21 new magical items and artifacts, including Rubies of Virtue, the Eye of Sszzaas, and the Holy Avenger Sword.
  • Rules for clerics and paladins of the twenty gods of the Pantheon, including Powers Granted.

I don't know about you, but it looks pretty awesome to me. I have been playing 4e for a few weeks now, and honestly I've become a bit disenchanted with the newest version of D&D.

I see 4th Edition this way. The rules have been streamlined to create a cohesive and consistent combat mechanic. Where ever possible the rules have tried to make every form of action work the same. A swing of a sword and the casting of a magic missile now use the same mechanic for example, but are based on different character stats. (And a magic missile can "miss" its target.) This "streamlining" and "consolidating" of systems has served to make the game more uniform. This uniformity is then "cheated" by rules exceptions called "exploits."

Exploits are everything your character can do. A wizard casts a magic missile. That's an exploit. A warrior cleaves through an enemy. That's an exploit. And there are many, many of these. Exploits each do something a little extra, above and beyond the basics of the rules. They are what makes each character unique and interesting (or at least, this is the intent.) Think of a collectible card game. There are strict rules and structure and then cards are provided to "break" the rules.

That's 4th edition. It's a collectible card game, or a board game. It's a tight structure with a simple streamlined system that is then riddled by "micro-rules." Exploits manipulate structure in exactly the same way as a card in a collectible card game might do. They don't however inspire a lot of "ideas" for ways to manipulate, change or re-imagine the effects of these exploits within the context of role play. They are only mechanical. And because everything has been streamlined to work identically and everything is "only mechanical" ... everything feels the same.

Before 4th edition we had a Fighter, a Magic User, a Cleric, and a Thief represented as an Apple, an Orange, a Pineapple, and a Pear. Now with 4th edition we have four Watermelons. Big impressive looking fruits, and painted on them is a picture of an Apple, an Orange, a Pineapple, and a Pear ... but they all taste exactly the same.

I want some tasty new fruit. Does anyone know if there are any plans to translate Tormenta into English for North American consumption? Because it looks like an amazing fruit salad of goodness to me!


Jeff Moore

Xerospace - My first RPG!

This is a science fiction role-playing game with a sort of superheroic bent. The idea is that traveling through hyper-space (Xerospace) causes mutations. It's sort of X-men meets Star Trek. It is also the first RPG that I ever wrote. My thanks to Daniel "Talude" Paes Cuter (a wonderful man who writes a RPG Blog in Brazil (translated from Portuguese - hope this link works) for finding it for me so that I can share it with you.


Xerospace was written and laid out with Word Perfect 4.1 (I think?) on a Tandy Computer running MS DOS 5. It was a 286 with a 20 meg hard drive. My internet provider was Mindspring (dial-up) and they provided me with a little space to host my files. I built a simple web page and linked the document to which had one of the biggest collections of free RPG's on the web at the time (in fact, the ONLY one that I knew of.) It was 1997 to 1998. I had thought I had lost this work forever! The internet is an incredible place. Thanks, again Daniel!!


Jeff Moore

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Five by Five Review (hopefully first of many)

Rob Lang over at the FreeRPG Blog has reviewed my game Five by Five!

Thanks, Rob!!

The Free RPG Blog: Five By Five by Jeff Moore, making me excited abou...: "'Hold it right there, limey ginger guy! You don't like generic systems very much. You say there is nothing between them and need a setting t..."

Monday, August 09, 2010

Tim Minchin: Not Perfect

I am a huge fan of Australian comedian / musician: Tim Minchin. I realized as I was sharing his unique vision with a friend this weekend that I had never bothered to mention him on my blog ... so, I'm here to remedy that.

The song that I link above isn't one of his humorous ones so much as it is one of those that makes you think, and it's a personal favorite of mine. If you choose to pursue Mr. Minchin further be aware that his open disdain for religion and things of that nature might hit some people the wrong way, and he is a free user of the more tabooish elements of the English language (What Spoke would call, colorful metaphors.)

Still, I think Tim Minchin F** ing Rocks! And, I felt compelled to share.


Jeff Moore

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Five by Five - All the Rest ...

The Setting ... Game Master Section ... Appendix ... Back Cover.

Those are the elements that I haven't yet covered, and the order in which they appear in Rob Lang's Free Guide to Organizing Your RPG. I completed work on my Five by Five rewrite this weekend, so here then is my final blog entry on following the guide.

The Setting

The next section following mechanics that Rob not only recommends, but pretty much demands that you put in your RPG is the setting. Rob argues that a free RPG lives and dies on it's setting. The thought is that there are dozens (if not hundreds) of commercial and free RPG's already available that cover the topic of the role-playing game. He argues that persons who are surfing the interweb looking for a free RPG are going to be hooked by a unique and interesting setting, because it is only through a unique or interesting setting that a free RPG designer can truly offer something special.

I disagree with this view pretty much full stop. Settings and backgrounds are more widely available than any other form of gaming resource. Why? Because when gamers choose a setting, they don't restrict themselves to looking at role-playing games. They look to books, movies, television ... the entire embodiment of adventure and dramatic fiction is available to the game player as a source for settings inspiration.

When I look for free RPG's on the web, setting isn't a concern ... it's playability. I look for a system that looks fun and easy and accessible. Commercial games are generally tied to their settings in such a way that they can't be separated from them, or they are based on the same d20 system that everything else is based on ... and I don't want to play that. I want a GAME that I can apply to MY Setting. A game that's lite and accessible that's not strangled by someone else's idea of a setting and that isn't overblown and over written to sell volume after volume of gaming book.

I created Five by Five to be a lite and easy system that gamers can apply to the setting of their choice and play with a minimal learning curve. I believe I have succeeded in offering something special by creating a truly usable and fun game system. It's my hope that my system will attract those who are looking for another way to play.

All this to say ... Five by Five is a generic rules toolkit. It doesn't have a setting. So, this section is omitted, and those are my reasons why I don't think that is a bad thing.

The Game Master Section

The original Five by Five didn't have a GM's section, and it needed one. With a game that is as open to interpretation as Five by Five, some general guidelines on ways to control and adjudicate the use of traits is sorely needed. I have added some of that here and also a brief discussion regarding selecting a setting. This section could use some more work, but it's just been added and I think I will let it be for awhile and perhaps revisit it for a rewrite later on.

For now the GM section serves the rules in a positive way and that's good enough for me. There is no sample adventure here for much the same reason that Five by Five doesn't have a setting. Down the road it might be fun to include a number of sample settings and adventures to go with them that could highlight the versatility of the system, but for now I have decided that I would rather do without that stuff all together rather than do it half way.


Ah, finally a place for my equipment list and for a generic list of possible traits. These were both in line with the rules text in the original Five by Five but moving them to the back as Rob suggests truly does help the document flow.

Back Cover

I actually had a few unsolicited testimonials from the original Five by Five that I put on the back cover. It makes my game seem like something someone has played rather than just something I work on in my parents basement for my own amusement. Life is good.

The Future

Five by Five version 2 is done. I am going to be play-testing this with my friends and I am excited about this new version.

When I wrote Xceptional I was trying to marry Five by Five with Powers Brawl. That was a mistake. Five by Five is a free form rules-lite RPG designed for story telling. Powers Brawl is a strictly mechanics driven, structured combat miniatures game designed for strategy. I was hoping to mix the two and create something that was the best at both. Instead I ended up with something that wasn't as good as either one. I call it a failed experiment.

That being said, I am done reinventing the wheel. I have written one half-baked game after another looking for the magical cookie-dough recipe that would make me happy and I think I have found it in Five by Five.

Five by Five is the first game I've written a revision for. It's the first game of my own design that I have felt strongly enough about to bring it back to the drawing board. It's a game that I want to bring to my gaming table and play. It's a game I believe I will be able to promote and pursue beyond it's very basic beginnings.

I am offering Five by Five to the world under the creative commons attribution license in the hopes that the game might become the mechanical vehicle for settings and back grounds created by others. I see Five by Five supplements for fantasy, science fiction and super hero genres appearing in the future, authored by other game designers than myself.

Pretty much moments after I had finished Xceptional I looked at the finished product and frowned. Despite the hyperbole of my own creation here in my blog, it didn't take long for me to realize that I had missed the mark with that game.

Five by Five is different. I started with a game I felt very good about and improved it. I fought hard not to allow myself to change the things that worked, and worked just as hard to be honest with myself about the things that didn't. I feel like every choice I made has made the game stronger. But, I also feel like I was successful in not changing too much.

This version of Five by Five is available in my free RPG list for download. Please give it a look. If you are so inclined, compare it to the original to see what I have changed. I think you will see that the evolution of the game from version one to version two is a beneficial one.


Jeff Moore

Classic Movie Night - Father Goose (1964)

This week's classic movie was "Father Goose." It stars Cary Grant and Leslie Caron and was chosen by one of my friends who doesn't consider himself a classic movie fan. That said, the choice was rather awesome. Set during World War II and specifically the campaign in the Pacific, Father Goose looks at a man stationed in one of many small islands in the Pacific who is positioned there to observe enemy movement through the region. That said, Father Goose isn't a war movie at all.

Father Goose is Cary Grant, a cantankerous old American bullied by the British Navy (and an old friend played by Trevor Howard) to serve as a sentry on one such island in the Pacific. Grant's character knows the islands well, and the British Navy is spread thin. The set up which has Howard tricking Grant into doing his bidding by hiding Grant's whiskey feels painfully contrived but is forgivable once the real fun of the film begins.

Another sentry on a nearby island is endangered and Grant is pressed to go to that island to rescue his counter part, promised that should he succeed, the rescuee will take Grants place on his island and Grant will be free to return to his normal life as a bounder. Grant goes to the island to find the other sentry dead, and something else. A school teacher (Leslie Caron) and several young students (all girls.)

Grant manages to get the entire group back to his island, but is seems that it will be weeks before Howard can get a rescue team to the war sieged island to recover the girls. The rest of the film features Grant trying to cope with intrusion of the girls and Caron specifically.

There is an "opposites attract" chemistry between Caron's seemingly prudish schoolmarm and Grant's seemingly uncultured old goat. Each reveals a hidden depth that betrays their outwardly demeanor and Grant not only bonds with the young schoolgirls under his care, but also Caron. In the climactic final scenes of the film, Howard marries Caron and Grant via radio while Japanese planes strafe the island with machine gun fire.

The film is meant to be a comedy, I think. But, the comedic moments aren't so much "laugh out loud" funny as they are "put a smile on your face" amusing. The film has a charm that kept the audience engaged and entertained from start to finish and the overall opinion from our group was a positive one.

Next week my girlfriend the "I hate old movies girl" chooses a movie ... and wait until you find out her choice ...


Jeff Moore

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Five by Five - The Mechanics

Rob Lang's Free Guide to organizing your RPG defines the next section of your RPG to be: The Mechanics. Most of what Rob suggested belongs in this section actually comprised the majority of my original text. In fact everything from this point forward that I talk about while following the guide will be new material, because everything from the original Five by Five that I have written that isn't about character creation belongs in here.


I love game mechanics. Tinkering with differing methods for resolving randomized tasks using different dice or different ways of reading dice is what this game designer is all about. I did find as I was importing my original Five by Five text into this new edition that the text didn't flow very well. I read through what I had a couple of times, moved a few things around, pushed the piece about equipment further to the back as it still didn't fit, and added some new explanations and transitional text.

The biggest change here was with combat. As I read over my original text I realized that I didn't really explain combat at all. I explained how to roll "to hit." I explained how to roll "damage." But, I didn't place these instructions into any sort of context.

I added a specific section for combat and introduced new initiative rules (that I think are brilliant) that treat initiative the same as any action roll to complete a task.

To roll initiative you DON'T play "high card" with the other players and go in order from highest to lowest. It's a task roll and you try to roll equal to or lesser than your initiative trait as you would when attempting any task roll.

That the initiative mechanic works the same as all other task rolls and doesn't use it's own special rules is a "win" in my book and I don't think I've ever seen another game handle things quite this way. It's a simple and I believe eloquent approach to a legacy mechanic that's remained unchanged for ages.

Task Resolution

Task resolution itself remains unchanged. It's the strong point of Five by Five and it's where the game gets its name. To review it works like this:

All task rolls are trait tests. To complete a task first determine what trait is most appropriate for completing the task at hand.

Roll 5x5

If the number rolled is equal to or less than the value of the related trait the action succeeds.

A 5x5 roll is a roll of 2d6 multiplied together with one special qualification, if either die rolled shows a "6" the result of the roll is "0."

Trait values range from 2 to 16 with anything undefined having a value of 0.

The graphic this time around is the page that talks about the dice and basic task resolution, give it a look if you are curious or click on "My Free RPG's" at the top of the page and down load the original version of Five by Five and give it a look. Everything is described there.

Despite being the least changed section from the original, this section has taken me the longest to pull together and format thus far. That said, I expect the next portion to require even more work. It has never been written.

Next: Rob says "Setting" ... I say "GM section."


Jeff Moore

Monday, August 02, 2010

Classic Movie Night - Funny Face

Funny Face was chosen by my fellow classic movie fanatic. She is a fan of musicals, and of dance movies in particular. Funny Face is just that, a big, beautiful, dance / musical. Honestly though, I am not sure how much I really liked it.

Audrey Hepburn is absolutely beautiful in the title role and her dancing is superb, but she can't sing. Fred Astaire is also not the best of singers and generally more remembered for his dancing. The two strong dancers produce some very nice dance numbers. But the musical numbers are mostly weak and forgettable.

I have stuck in my head another Astaire dance vehicle with Leslie Caron called Daddy Long Legs that he had done a few years earlier and I seem to remember liking that one so much more although I think it was very similar to this film in many ways. I think this film is so warmly remembered specifically because of America's love affair with Audrey Hepburn, who certainly is lovely ... but for me it wasn't enough.

The story is a woman who runs a bookstore is recruited as the new face in fashion because of her "Funny Face." She agrees to go along with the scheme because it means a trip to Paris to meet a personal idol of hers. She gets to Paris and her idol has his hands all over her. She is rescued by the fashion photographer who she has fallen in love with and after a bit of a contrived game of cat and mouse / hit and miss, they end up together in the end.

There's no real chemistry between Astaire and Hepburn and the plot is just an excuse to string some dance numbers together. I felt like I was watching an 80's porn movie and suffering through the inane dialogue to get to the next sex scene. At least, unlike the sex scenes in most 80's porn, the dance numbers here are good.

I do however seem to be in the minority in my opinion here. The rest of the group enjoyed the movie and my girl stayed awake all the way to the end which she claims is testament to the fact that "Funny Face" was better than "Harvey."

I think it might have something to do with how tired she was, but maybe I'm just being too hard on "Funny Face" ... it is a recognized classic among classics and loved by many. So, on this we will agree to disagree.

For our next film we allowed one of our "non-classic movie watchers" to pick. He was up to the task and picked a classic he remembered enjoying as a kid ... "Father Goose."

This is a Cary Grant movie, that also stars the aforementioned Leslie Caron. I haven't seen it, or at least I don't have a strong memory of it ... so, I look forward to our next classic movie night.


Jeff Moore

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Five by Five - Character Creation

In revising character creation for this new version of Five by Five, I tried to actually streamline the process even more than it was in the original version of 2 years ago. I cut back on the number of starting traits and tried to make rating of traits more intuitive.

This is also a part of my rules that had changed a bit from the original as I introduced the idea of defining traits as "Action Traits" (the default type of trait and the only type of trait discussed in the original Five by Five rules) and "Intensity Traits" a new type of trait that should make Five by Five work better in settings with super powers.

With the new rules and the first substantial rewrite from the original edition the character creation section looked a bit of a mess.

Rob Lang's Free Guide to organizing your RPG has some very specific instructions regarding the content and organization of the character creation section ... maybe it will help. Rob advises:

Begin this section by listing all of the steps so that the reader knows what is coming.

Then describe each of the steps, giving examples when needed.

Optionally, include a start-to-finish character generation.

Make sure your example character will fit into the example adventure you provide.

Don't put your skills inline unless there is only half a page of them. Put them in the Appendix.

The step-by-step summary of character creation helps a little to pull things together, as does the start to finish example of character creation placed at the end. But things, still didn't flow.

Rob advises not putting you "skill lists" in the character creation section. All though this has been a topic of some debate, I had already pulled my rather random (and long) list of skills out of the section and tucked it away in the back.

An explanation of Trait values included a few tables in line, but I didn't want to move them. But there was something here that did need moving. I had placed lists of equipment and information about equipping a character in my character creation section and I decided that this stuff needed to go.

I pulled the information about Equipment out of the character creation section and things got much better very quickly. Now I am feeling pretty good about the flow of the document and I am ready to take the next step:Mechanics.


Jeff Moore

(I was really pleased with the character creation example. The example character's concept changes as a result of the player's choice of "weak trait" and is reevaluted mid-stream. I think it's a good example of how a character concept can evolve as you begin to apply the "rules." The example character page is shown above as my blog post image. Click on it and check it out at full size.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Superhero RPG Renaissance

Are we living in a Superhero RPG Renaissance? I just saw the announcement of the Smallville RPG from Margaret Weis Productions. I have bought the Serenity RPG and also have the PDF copy of the Cortex System (which I received as part of my free package of goodness following a donation to Haiti survivors.)

I like Cortex and Margret Weis seems to be making a nice niche for themselves with licensed products. Good on them. I look forward to seeing this updated version of Cortex, and to see how it handles super-powers. But Smallville isn't the only supers RPG on my wish list.

There's also The DC Adventures RPG (using what will become the new Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition) and BASH! Basic Action Super Heroes Ultimate Edition (up for an Ennie for best game system!)

... then there's recent purchases of Icons (by Steven Kinson of M & M fame)

... and Villans and Vigilantes (the original classic returns!)

Add to that the sixth edition of Champions from Hero Games ...

... and Truth and Justice which is still available (and is a personal favorite) ...

... and I have to ask ... "Has there ever been a more diverse selection of Super-Hero RPG's available to the gaming consumer?"


Jeff Moore

Classic Move Night - Harvey (1950)

So for our second weekly classic movie night we watched the Jimmy Stewart film: "Harvey" from 1950. Harvey is another comedy. I begin to realize as I look back at movies that I want to watch that many if not most of them are comedies. I personally think that the classic movie comedies had more style and substance than the majority of what we have today. I am not sure it's really the case, but it's just the romanticized memories I have of them.

Harvey is about a man, Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart,) his sister Vita (Josephine Hull - who positively steals the show,) and her daughter (Elwood's niece) Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horn.) The Dowds are a well-to-do family and Vita has high aspirations for her daughter Myrtle Mae to marry a wealthy influential man. Vita's plans are challenged however by Elwood, or rather Elwood's unique problem.

Elwood it seems is the town crack-pot. I am not sure when "Harvey" is set, but I am going to guess 1919 which puts the story just after World War 1 and just before prohibition. (Elwood frequents bars and Vita makes a point of criticizing his drinking.) There are telephones, but I never see a radio or TV ... there are cars, but I am terrible with identifying models of cars, so for me ... they are no help. But the asylum where Vita tries to have brother Elwood committed has a new electric gate (invented by the gate guard) that is seen as a novel and new concept, if that's any indication. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that in this setting or time period, it seems that people's views of "crazy" are pretty extreme, as most, after meeting Elwood, go running in the other direction screaming.

Elwood has an imaginary friend. A six-foot tall upright walking, talking rabbit named, "Harvey." Elwood introduces "Harvey" to Vita's guests at a fancy dinner party that Vita has arranged for her daughter Myrtle Mae and this has the effect mentioned above, scaring everyone away. Vita is at her wit's end and calls her good friend the mayor (who obviously has a soft-spot for Vita) and puts into action their plan to finally have dear old Elwood committed.

"Dear-Ol' Elwood" is an appropriate moniker because no one in town is kinder, sweeter and more generous than Elwood P. Dowd. As a human being he is "pleasant" to a fault. It is this quality that endeared me to Elwood and to the movie Harvey. It is this quality that ultimately saves him from the asylum and allows the movie to end happily ever after.

I remembered really enjoying Harvey when I saw it as a teen, but my fellow classic movie cohort admitted to not really loving the film. ("It's okay ... " she had said.) I don't believe this re-viewing of the film changed her mind any, nor did it mine. I loved the film as much as I had remembered, despite forgetting about the absolutely forgettably contrived romantic story thread between the doctor at the asylum and his nurse. The nurse ends up with the doctor that she is obviously crushing on (some women are attracted to abuse) but, if I were her I would have slugged the obnoxious doctor in the chops and ran away with crazy, lovable Elwood. Perhaps it was this story line that had annoyed my friend. It detracts from the movie as a whole ... but it's not really important.

What is important is the mirror that the film holds up to the world as it asks the question, "Must we all go insane before we decide that it's okay to be kind to each other?"

I love this film. I love it because it has a genuine heart and soul that so many films today lack. I like it because I see a tiny bit of myself in Elwood and a lot of my dad and mom in the relationship between Elwood and Vita, as a man who was maybe too kind to every person that he met and a woman who wasn't so sure that this overt friendliness wasn't just a bit too overt.

The group had mixed feelings on this one, I obviously loved it, as did the other male member of our classic movie club. My girl friend fell asleep near the end, an indication that the film moved just a bit too slow. My classic movie partner in crime, seemed to be fairly indifferent, enjoying the film, but not over much. So, to engage her for next week I asked her to pick the next movie. She has chosen the Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire classic musical, "Funny Face." I've never seen Funny Face so, I look forward to next week.


Jeff Moore

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Five by Five: The Introduction

Rob Lang's Free Guide to organizing your RPG defines the next section of your RPG to be: The Introduction, and Rob has some pretty specific ideas regarding what that introduction needs to contain. Here's what Rob has to say:

The introduction is likely to be the first thing that the reader will go to after the cover, so ensure it is fluffless. 

It must include the following:

  • What is in the book? System? Setting? Sample adventure?
  • What is the genre of the setting? What are the major themes?
  • What will the characters do?
  • What sort of mechanic is it (dice/diceless/pool)?

At first, I took a look at the text of my "Introductory Section" which is really a collection of sections that contain what I consider to be introductory-like content, and thought ... this isn't going to work at all ... I'm going to have to rewrite everything. But, I took a deep breath and a step back, and in a moment, I was feeling up to the task.

One of my primary goals with this specific project is to revise the Five by Five rules while retaining as much as possible of the original (without rewriting it.) I don't want to create another new game. I just want to improve an old one. Ultimately, I added one paragraph to the beginning of my "introductory-like content" and in so doing satisfied most of what Rob is asking for in the Guide.

My original introductory-like content is sort of a lite and very broad / breezy look at what an RPG is. I haven't gone back to find it in Rob's guide but I seem to recall that the guide specifies another place for the "this is an RPG/How to RPG" type stuff (I think in an appendix.) I considered moving it, but decided not to.

Many games that I have read begin with a "this is how to RPG" section and although it's true that free online RPG's are most likely being read by experienced gamers only, I also know that experienced games have all seen this kind of content before and are adept at skimming through it to the next useful bits.

That said, should aforementioned experienced gamer give a copy of my game to her inexperienced little brother, I want the "How to RPG" type stuff right there up front in line where he can't help but find it. So I chose to leave this content as is. I don't consider it "fluffy" and to certain readers, I think it's essential. Plus, in reading over the introductory bits of my original text I found that they segue nicely into the section on character creation that comes next. So, I kept everything ... but I did add a little more.

What is in the book? System? Setting? Sample Adventure?

My original content didn't really seem to address this directly so I added a new paragraph at the very beginning of my introductory content with the header, "About These Rules" and I placed this information there.

There was a tendency to get "listy" here making the rules read like a text book. I don't want that and tried to keep the tone of this information more conversational. I talk about system in a very general way, letting hardcore RPG folks know that Five by Five is not the crunchy combat simulation they've been looking for. I don't talk numbers and processes here, but rather ideas and concepts.

What is the genre of the setting? What are the major themes?

Five by Five is a genreless RPG toolkit by design. It's what I want. I would love to see others with an interest in the system create "settings" books for Five by Five that narrow the system down to specifics, but that's not what I want to do here. That said, my introductory-like content from the original text talks about genre and themes in a very general way. It speaks about Five by Five's flexibility to adapt to any genre and any theme. I felt that filled the requirement here.

What will the characters do?

This is there in the final section of introductory content called, "Epic Heroes." It talks about the roles the players will take and the kinds of heroic characters they will play. This is the bit that I felt transitioned into the character creation section so well. Retained from the original rules unchanged.

What sort of mechanic is it (dice/diceless/pool)?

The technical bits about the system didn't exist, but I added just enough in the new paragraph I mention above to cover this final bit of "required information."


So, does the new paragraph add anything to the Five by Five rules? Well, it certainly can't hurt. Also, one thing this process did was make me realize that my "introductory-like content" was not really defined as a cohesive whole. It was made up of several small independent sections each with its own header. I changed this by creating sub-headers (which the original rules didn't have.)

Now all that "introductory-like content" that had it's own headers are all sub-headers under the "About These Rules" main header that I mention adding above. And that is an improvement because the added paragraph ties all the "introductory-like content" together under a single header and suddenly my "introductory-like content" becomes a proper introduction.

Looking at the text now and seeing the introduction as a cohesive whole, and as an independent section distinct from the sections to follow, improves the flow of the Five by Five text quite a bit and Rob's Guide once again fulfills it's purpose as an effective organizational tool.


Next: Character Creation


Jeff Moore

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Classic Movie Night - Some Like It Hot (1959)

So, I have a friend who, like me, is really into older classic movies. I grew up spending the wee hours of the morning watching really old movies on TV in the days before cable TV (or at least the days before we had cable TV.) Local broadcast networks would show old movies and there was no such thing as Turner Classic Television or whatever that old movie channel is called. We got to talking about old movies while other friends who were with us sort of "rolled their eyes" like we were crazy ... and we decided then and there to institute a "Classic Movie Night" to watch an old movie together and show these uppity young'ns what they were missing.

For our very first Classic Movie Night I chose the Billy Wilder / Marilyn Monroe comedy, "Some Like It Hot."

Some Like It Hot is about two down on their luck musicians from Chicago, Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon,) who play any job they can get during the prohibition era of the 1920's. The beginning of the film finds the pair playing jazz at a speak-easy run by mobster Spats Colombo (George Raft.) Joe plays tenor sax and Jerry plays base fiddle. Working for the mob proves to be dangerous business however, and the two are witness to the massacre of a rival mob (on Valentine's Day, no less.)

The only witnesses to the murders and being pursued by the mob, Joe and Jerry need to get out of town in a hurry, but they have no money and no real means of escape. Fortunately, a local talent agency is looking for a sax and a bass to play on an all expenses paid gig in sunny Florida. It's perfect. The catch? It's an all girls band. What happens next is obvious as Joe and Jerry become, Josephine and Daphne (Jerry never did like the name Geraldine,) and Some Like it Hot becomes one of the first buddy-movies in drag.

Initially, the two plan to maintain the ruse just long enough to get to Florida and then run for it, but on the train bound for Florida, Joe becomes enamored of Sugar (Cane) Kowalski (Marilyn Monroe) and convinces buddy Jerry to stick around for the long haul. Before the plot has even a second to settle down, Jerry is taking on a third persona as a millionaire named "Junior" (Shell-Oil, Junior) which Curtis plays in a cheesy Cary Grant affectation. Sugar falls for Junior/Joe/Josephine's shtick and Jerry/Daphne is roped into dating an actual millionaire (a dirty old man who pinched her/him in the "elevator") so that Junior can stage his date with Sugar on the millionaire's yacht.

Just when you think things can't get any more crazy, who should show up but, Spats Colombo and his gang; there to attend a convention for "Lovers of Italian Opera" which is code for every mob family from every major city in the United States. Joe and Jerry spot the mobsters and try to run, but stumble instead into another massacre.

"Some Like It Hot" is nothing short of zany. The changes are fast and furious and that made this a perfect first movie for our group of skeptics who expect old movies to be slow and boring. "Some Like It Hot" is neither. Also, despite being over 50 years old, the comedy is funny. "Some Like It Hot" is very funny. Everyone enjoyed the movie and we all had a great time, despite some terribly Styrofoam-like popcorn.

As a side note, Marilyn looks absolutely beautiful in this movie. Despite being at her largest size on screen, she is also at her sexiest. And she wears some of the most fantastic (and sheer) sequined gowns ever seen on the silver screen. This movie pushed me from boyish innocence to lustful manhood when I was fourteen, and it probably explains why I've always found the most beauty in "full-figured" gals.

Now, if I can just convince my gal to dress as Marilyn for Halloween. I think "Some Like It Hot" just may have convinced her. Anyway ... a great time was had by all, and I am happy to declare my first official Classic Movie Night a grand success.

Next Movie: "Harvey"


Jeff Moore

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Closer Look at the Process ... Dedication Page

Rob's Free Guide to Organizing Your RPG recommends that following the cover the very next thing you put in your RPG is the Contents Page. I agree with this assessment, but it is also perhaps the very last thing that I will actually produce during the creation process. So, for now I have inserted a place holder and a page break. We will come back to the contents page later.

Dedication / Version Page

The Guide next recommends that your RPG has a "Thank you / Version / Dedication (TYVD)" page. It also says this is optional, but I am not sure that's entirely true, because it also seems like from Rob's example that this is where your copyright information should go. He even says "Always put a version on and a date." So, that doesn't seem so optional and shouldn't be ... so, Dedication Optional? -Yes ... Dedication PAGE Optional? -No ... you need to include a version and date for your work, even if you don't want to write any thank you's.

As it happens, I had a lot of thank you's I wanted to make and ended up paring things down to get it all to fit. I also needed a place to put the copyright/licensing notice for the artwork and chose to put it here. Add to that the creative commons license that I will eventually be placing all my works under I now have a pretty full page.

I laid this one out in a single column although my main document is all double columns. I just think that the Dedication Page looks better as a single column page.

I've titled the page: Acknowledgments rather than Dedications, but it's the same thing. To begin with I mentioned the two games whose design have the greatest influence on the creation of Five by Five. Those would be "Fable" by Benjamin E. Sones and Games Workshop's "Warhammer Fantasy Role Play."

Ben Sone's Fable is a free RPG. You can get it from John Kim's Free RPG's on the Web and nowhere else that I have been able to find. It appears that John is hosting the game for its original author. John has Fable listed in the "rules-lite" section of his site. Fable is sort of a Risus style "choose your trait" RPG. It's crunchier than Risus and does some fun things with dice and combat so I was motivated to give it a try. I played a handful of sessions of Fable with my friends and liked it enough that I began work on "my own version" ... this is what became Five by Five.

If Fable is to be credited for the "choose your trait" nature of Five by Five's character definition, then the combat system and in fact Five by Five's entire basic mechanic comes from Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. It's simply this. Everything has a value on your character sheet. For every task find the relative value on your sheet and roll equal to or less than that number. It was clean, easy and fast. No arbitrary difficulty numbers and no math, just roll and go. Some may criticize the mechanic as too simple (or even broken) but it remains one of my favorite game systems. It's just so effortless.

I find that when we bring a game to the tabletop, eventually we all become game designers after a fashion... taking our favorite bits from various games and incorporating them into whatever game we happen to be playing at the moment. It's in the spirit of these house-ruling moments that Five by Five was built. It's really little more than a mash-up of Fable and W.F.R.P. It's only fitting that I acknowledge that fact on my dedication page.

About the only original thing (at least in the RPG world) is the way that Five by Five deals with a six-sided dice, creating a "d5" ... but even that can be traced to inspiration from another source. James Kyle invented and released to the International Public Domain a set of components for a board game called, "Piecepack." Piecepack is to a board game what a deck of cards is to a card game. Generic components easily available to anyone, but with no specific rules. When you buy a deck of cards, you aren't buying one game ... you are buying the means to play many games. That's what Piecepack is.

Piecepack has among its components four six-sided dice, but these dice aren't numbered 1 through 6; they are numbered Ace (1) through 5 and one face is left blank. The blank face is referred to as a Null (0). I am sure it was in playing with the Piecepack and attempting to create an RPG style board game in the spirit of Milton Bradley's Hero Quest that the 5x5 die roll (where Five by Five gets its name) was born. So a tip of the hat goes to James Kyle and Piecepack as well.

Next, I thank Rob Lang. He's the reason you are reading this now. I have made Rob's Free Guide to Organizing Your RPG a permanent part of my creation process. Plus Rob has been a major champion of Free RPG's these past few years. He's a real life Free RPG Superhero.

And last I wanted to thank the guys who started it all, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax. Really, without them, my life would be so much different ... I can't even imagine it ... it would be a life as bleak as that one created when Cordelia had wished that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. Gary and Dave have made my world a better place.

I put the licensing stuff for the art I bought from Skortched Urf' Studios next. I would love to use all "free" components in my projects if I could ... but good art of abundant and consistent quality is pretty hard to scratch up for free, and it's really amazing how inexpensive art packages like this have become.

Last it's my own creative commons notice of ownership and attribution. I had to go back and sneak in a version number after re-reading Rob's Guide. But, that was the only important bit I had forgotten.

So, there we have it. Step by step through my Dedication Page. A graphic copy of the page appears above and if you click on it you go to a slightly larger copy that is quite legible for those who want to see how things are turning out.

Next: The Introduction.


Jeff Moore

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Doing it right ... this time (The Cover)

So when I originally set down to "Follow the Guide" (wow... over a year ago now),  the intent was to go through the guide step by step and blog about the process along the way. Unfortunately, I got sort of lost in the creation process and my analysis and evaluation of the guide as a tool sort of fell by the way side.

I'd like to try again; to start fresh with the guide and make the next handful of blog posts not only an examination of an evolution of my game project but also a sort of critical analysis of the RPG Guide to point out what aspects of the guide were particularly worth while to me.

For example: my original post "glossed over" the first step in Rob's Guide, "The Cover." That was incredibly short-sighted of me, and this time I intend to make amends. So, without further adieu ... here is my guide to Rob's Guide ...

The Cover

I mentioned in my previous post that I had purchased some clip-art licenses from Skortched Urf' Studios and that I wanted to use them. Drive Thru RPG has a large number of commercial grade clip art collections available for use in projects by independent game designers like me, and the pricing is very reasonable. I bought the Modern Figures 1-4 Sketchbook Bundle. And for the most part I am happy with the purchase. However, the images are really only suited for "spot illos" with maybe two exceptions. Those two exceptions are both very nice full color illustrations with backgrounds and so I set about putting the two pieces together in the hope of creating something original for my cover.

Ultimately, my options in arranging the two images seemed very limited and I have had to resort to an unusual arrangement for the cover text to make things work. However, when all is said and done I find that I am very happy with the results and the necessity to squeeze my title text into the space available has resulted in what I think is a very interesting and striking title logo. So, for me, this was a win win.

Rob's guide mentions the cover should contain the title of your RPG and your name. Check. Now, these things may seem obvious, but let me tell you ... I have links to a number of free RPG sites listed here on this blog and a handful of those don't have covers on them ... so, maybe the necessity for a cover isn't obvious to everyone, or perhaps some would consider its inclusion optional.

All I know is that when I took my revised 5x5 text and I put this cover in front of it, I gained an immediate sense of accomplishment. Somehow my work didn't feel as complete or professional without its cover as it does now. It's amazing how a simple thing like a cover makes my 8 page document feel so much more like a "real book" and not just an amateur fanzine or pamphlet. Those individuals who have created their own free RPG's and have decided to distribute them without covers, I urge you to reconsider.

It's amazing what a cover can do.


Jeff Moore

Back to the Guide ... New 5x5 on the way.

So, just a quick update to say I am working on a revised edition of Five by Five that unlike Xceptional will stay as close as possible to the original game while cleaning up just a few rules. Character Advancement has changed. Character level has been removed. And a few new ideas are introduced, but as much as possible I am keeping it the same game. So what am I doing to make this a proper revision worth excitement and hyperbole?

Well, I've completed the rules updates and added them to the body of the original text. So, I am now taking that text and squeezing it through Rob Lang's Free Guide to Organizing your RPG. The difference between this project and Xceptional is that the game is written. The design work is done and I believe that will actually put me in a better position to use the guide properly. It's called a guide to organizing an RPG, not a guide to creating one... so I think it will be interesting for me to see how applying the guide enhances a work that was already completed sans the guide.

Also, I have bought license for a bunch of professional clip art from Skortched Urf' Studios, and have been anxious to use it, so this revised version of Five by Five will have all new art work.

And finally, I will be releasing this version of Five by Five with a creative commons, attribution license that will allow other creators to use or add to Five by Five however they might like.

I think that's plenty to be excited about.


Jeff Moore

Monday, June 28, 2010

Spider-man and Batman Hi/Lo Heroes

I wanted to post a quick shout out to the Bane. He's been posting about his work with my RPG Hi/Lo Heroes over on his Blog: Mutants and Masterminds Medley. He's got some great ideas for new rules and Hi/Lo Heroes stats for Spider-man and Batman over there. Check it out!


Jeff Moore


The urge to create a "beer and pretzels" RPG based on this is almost irresistible.



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Squadron UK may be the best Free RPG on the web ...

Squadron UK was originally published as a game called: Golden Heroes. Interestingly, I owned the boxed edition of Golden Heroes but never played it. I traded the game for a copy of the revised edition (2nd Ed) of Villains and Vigilantes. I owned the original first edition of V&V but wanted the superior updated version. Besides, friends had played V&V ... no one had played Golden Heroes, so, V&V was an easier “sell” to my gaming group.

My traded copy of V&V came with a lot of supplemental materials, a slew of villain books that had wonderful illustrations by Jeff Dee and paper counters on the back cover. I don’t regret the trade, but thinking back now, Golden Heroes was a beautiful package and one I should have found a way to keep a hold of.

This feeling that I had really given up something great is compounded as I look at the free version of Golden Heroes called, Squadron UK: Basic.

There are a handful of free “quick-start” game products out there. Most of these are stripped down versions of a game meant to give players just a “taste” of what they can expect from a game. These are cool, but I don’t categorize them as free RPG’s. I categorize them as advertisements. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s a distinction I think I should make before pointing out that, Squadron UK: Basic is no advertisement. It is a free RPG.
The free download available from RPG Now is 31 pages and very complete. It looks to me to be tighter and better presented than 4C and it might be (at least on paper) the best free supers RPG available if it plays as well as my “gut” tells me it will. As I mentioned, I never played Golden Heroes. So, I don’t know how it plays, but being a fan of old school RPGs, I see a lot to like here. I am newly excited about this game in a way that I never was back in the late 80’s.

Squadron UK is pretty old school in a lot of ways but it looks like it can handle comic book style super heroes with flair, and given that 4C just somehow failed to excite me, this gem was a joy to find. For most of you, this won’t be news ... but I hadn’t given it a look before now, so maybe there are others out there who missed it too.

Squadron UK: Basic is free and very complete, but there’s more good news ... It’s just the beginning. The game has a pay version that includes helpful examples, a few more powers, and attractive artwork. All wonderful things for those who try and enjoy the basic game and decide that they want more. Plus supplements ... additional materials to add to your game should you find Squadron UK as wonderful as I believe you will.

Give it a look. The price is definitely right. Supers RPG’s ... I love them.


Jeff Moore

Villains and Vigilantes Returns!!

My thanks to Andrew at Zenith Comics for bringing this to my attention. Just felt like I needed to share because the more people to learn about great stuff like this the better! Jeff Dee and Jack Herman the original creators of Villains and Vigilantes have formed Monkey House Games and announced the return of Villains and Vigilantes "... back in the hands of its creators ..."

I have very fond memories of playing V&V way back when. It was truly a marvelous supers RPG and has inspired much of my own work in RPG creation. Back when "Living Legends" came out I was very excited to see Jeff Dee returning to create a supers RPG. I remember buying it and signing up at my local convention to run the game. But unfortunately, "Living Legends" just failed to appeal to me like I had hoped that it would and I would up running a different supers game that came out at that same time, "Truth and Justice."

There is really nothing wrong with Living Legends (although I haven't played it.) It just wasn't Villains and Vigilantes. It wasn't even close. It wasn't an upgrade, a modernizartion, an evolution of that great old game at all. But, it was the work of Jeff Dee, one of V&V's original creators ... so I bought it, and I soon gave up any hope of ever seeing an updated supported V&V. I just accepted that it wouldn't happen.

Then I read this!

Yippee! Yooo! Wooo! Hoooo!

This is really great news for us old school supers fans. I just had to share! Thanks, again, Andrew! And thanks Jeff and Jack!!


Jeff Moore

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Something old ... something new ...

So lately I have been working on a medieval skirmish combat version of the Xceptional Game mechanic that would allow me to concentrate on combat in general and weapons and armor specifically. I had a bunch of rough ideas on paper which I decided to dump here because I felt like I needed to post something, and every once in a blue moon (oh, so rare, but really welcome) some one will read something I've posted and say something encouraging ... and I needed some encouragement.

Then a few days later I look at the post, and ... well as you know, I found it to be a mess. So I have "gone back to the drawing board" as it were. The thing is, I am in fantasy skirmish combat mode now and still haven't put that to bed. So some of the work I did in trying to improve the weapons and armor aspect in Xceptional is finding its way into what I am doing now, but what I am doing now isn't Xceptional ... it's new.

Or, actually it's really old. As I decided that trying to force the Xceptional Game mechanic to become something it wasn't was like trying to chop down a mighty oak tree with a small herring, I began to look for something to replace it with. And I had something already prepared. Or at least remembered from long ago.

The very first RPG that I ever tried to create was called Xerospace. It was science fiction and a mix of space opera and mutants with super powers (the premise being that the act of traveling through Xerospace (my own version of hyperspace) actually caused mutations (aka super powers) ... it was Star Wars meets the X-Men. And as with everything I do, it had it's own quirky little game mechanic. One that I haven't fiddled with since 1997. Just for fun I laid it in to the work I was doing with Player Facing Rolls to see what might happen and ... wow!

So now I'm working on a completely new fantasy based game system and here we go again.

I am thinking of just calling this one Rage Precognition Grace after the three primary character Ability Scores which I am retaining. That was also the name I used for a 1 page RPG that I did, but it's mine name so I can reuse it if I want to.

I want to drop a quick note of thanks to Rob Lang at the Free RPG Blog. He gave a very nice little shout out to me on his blog that I only just read today (and it couldn't have come at a better time.) After throwing up my hands in exasperation as my efforts to make the Xceptional mechanic do something it couldn't. I was really questioning myself. Sometimes when our creativity takes a hit, it's hard to recover. And there is very little gratification in the "free RPG game" let me tell you.

Rob's kind words gave me a much needed boost of self-confidence and renewed determination. So, I am writing again and feel invigorated in doing it. Thanks for that, Rob!


Jeff Moore

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board ...

Blah! Look at that last post ... what a mess! All those tables and notes and all in the name of making Xceptional easier?! LOL. Sometimes I need to take a step back and look at my work objectively. Or at least attempt to look at it objectively.

Xceptional is supposed to be an easy to use rules light system. It's not. The "control damage" mechanic is interesting in its own way and I like what it does in theory. But in practice I find that I am constantly trying to "fix" it. Okay, maybe it's time to admit that sometimes something isn't worth "fixing" and just leave it be.

The Xceptional document as it appears here doesn't suck. If someone finds something of interest within it ... that's awesome. But, as a playable game I believe it's scope of appeal is small and it's flexibility for growth and adaptation is even smaller.

A good game should be "home rule-able." That is the system should be accessible enough to encourage tinkering and tweaking from the folks around the table who play it. I think that "Five by Five" manages to capture that appeal. I don't think Xceptional does. The system is too inflexible. I am discovering this as I try to "home rule" the system myself ... and fail.

So I am scrapping those efforts and moving on. No harm; no foul. I just use what I have learned from this exercise and move on.

To start with I am going to define some clear cut design goals.

[1] A generic (read genre flexible) super-powers RPG. (I like superheroes, but believe the best thing about a good superheroes RPG is that it can be adapted by it's players to be any genre.)

[2] Choice based character creation that can be randomized (Xceptional does this, as does Hi/Lo Heroes - see those for examples of what I am trying to do. New players and players who are uncertain what sort of character they want to play can roll a few dice for inspiration. I think this is especially important in a genre as wide open and versatile as comic-book heroes.)

[3] No point buy. (I hate math based character creation. It's slow and demanding. It seems to be the "go to" method for most of the games of today which is the main reason why I believe there is still room in this crowded RPG market for what I hope to offer.)

[4] Character Classes (These old-school RPG mainstays remain to my mind the easiest way to introduce new players to their role in a play group. It's adventure hero stereotyping, and although some players argue that a class system in limiting, I have yet to experience a game where my character class prevented me from playing the character that I wanted to play.)

[5] Levels (Clearly defined character advancement guidelines that like the character generation mechanic do no depend on a "point" system to purchase power ups.)

[6] An easy and flexible resolution mechanic that lends itself to house-ruling should the players wish to do so. (The system should use 2d6 as the primary randomizer - this is my randomizer of choice.)

- There you have them ... my goals for the game I want to build. Any thoughts?

If you look back at my previous games, you can see signs of these goals in my works. That being said, I have not yet managed to capture that "perfect" mix. Hi/Lo Heroes is actually pretty good, but all the powers in the game are merely fancy names for die roll modifiers and nothing more.

I like Xceptional's approach to powers. The idea here was establishing a tight game mechanic and then using powers to "break the rules" in a very "collectable card game" kind of way. I'd still like to explore this, if I can do it without making the game too complex.

Interestingly, the soon to be released ICONS RPG comes close to matching many of my goals and I was tempted ever so briefly to simply abandon my quest for "my perfect" RPG and just to house rule Icons (It's system looks very easy and flexible and open to the type of tweaking any group might require to make the game their own.)

But, then I would have to live with the knowledge that I was never able to achieve this goal for myself. That I had presented myself with a challenge and that I had failed to meet that challenge. I like tinkering with game design. I want to see this through. Ultimately, If I can ever beat this beast it would be available here for free ... and that's a cool thing too for all us poor gamers who unfortunately can't afford to support a market that desperately needs our support.

That said, buy Icons when you get a chance. It's a good bit of work. If nothing else, use it to roll up random characters when you are stuck for ideas ... then convert the randomly created character to the "point buy system" of your choice ... if that's the way you roll. If that's all you ever used it for, I think you'd still get your money's worth. (Although, you might also try using my own Hi/Lo Heroes in this same capacity. I really do believe that Hi/Lo's random character creation works pretty well.)

Anyway ... this is me ... back to the drawing board.


Jeff Moore

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Player Facing Rolls in Xceptional

So I just read Ron Blessing's article on "Player-Facing Rolls" and it occurs to me that this sort of approach when applied to my Xceptional game mechanic may be exactly what I need to push my game system from pretty good to pretty awesome.

Player-Facing Rolls simply means that the GM doesn't roll dice. Every die roll falls to the player. The old Marvel SAGA system did this (but with cards) and the new ICONs game does too.

My system currently uses a "roll to hit" made by the attacker, followed by a "control damage roll" made by the defender. While not really an "opposed roll" system, it is one where both sides roll to resolve every attack and one where if we were to make the system "Player Facing" the total amount of dice rolling would be cut in half. This simplifies and speeds things up immensely.

Here is how I see it. The Xceptional combat system eliminates all the "ineffectual rounds" of combat keeping things fast and deadly by assuming that every declared attack scores a successful "Hit." The only roll remaining is the "Control Damage" roll and its effect depends on which side of the attack the player is on.


Player rolls an Offensive Action check.

Critical Success = Monster suffers one hit. Player chooses which Ability takes the hit. Player Rolls to Attack again!

Basic Success = Monster suffers one hit. Player chooses which Ability takes the hit.

Basic Failure = Monster suffers one hit. GM chooses which Ability takes the hit.

Critical Failure = Monster suffers zero hits. No Ability takes a hit.


Player rolls a Defensive Action check.

Critical Success = Player suffers zero hits. No Ability takes a hit.

Basic Success = Player suffers one hit. Player chooses which Ability takes the hit.

Basic Failure = Player suffers one hit. GM chooses which Ability takes the hit.

Critical Failure = Player suffers one hit. GM chooses which Ability takes the hit. Player must roll to Defend again!

Difficulty and Opposing Skill Values

Making "Player Facing Rolls" work by incorporating Difficulty ... skill vs. skill ...

Normally the roll under system is Trait x Skill. To improve the game mechanic to recognize difficulty (especially important since only the player is rolling dice) the multiplier applied to a Trait is no longer a flat skill value but rather a reflection of the difference between skill vs. skill ... this opens up the skill ranges immensely and allows for more freedom in character advancement as well.

The multiplier for the player's roll is based on the difference between his skill and the skill of his target.

Skill Factor is Player Skill minus Monster Skill:
Skill Factor
Roll Under Trait *X
-6 or less
Weakness (roll 0 on 1 die only)
-4 to -5
Roll 0 on 5x5 roll
-2 to -3
Roll Trait or less on 5x5 roll
-1 to +1
Roll Trait x2 or less on 5x5 roll
+2 to +3
Roll Trait x3 or less on 5x5 roll
+4 to +5
Roll Trait x4 or less on 5x5 roll
+6 or more
Roll Trait x5 or less on 5x5 roll


Player Skill minus Monster Skill (Find Player Skill down the side.)

M0 M1 M2 M3 M4 M5 M6 M7 M8
P0 x2 x2 x1 x1 x0 x0 W W W
P1 x2 x2 x2 x1 x1 x0 x0 W W
P2 x3 x2 x2 x2 x1 x1 x0 x0 W
P3 x3 x3 x2 x2 x2 x1 x1 x0 x0
P4 x4 x3 x3 x2 x2 x2 x1 x1 x0
P5 x4 x4 x3 x3 x2 x2 x2 x1 x1
P6 x5 x4 x4 x3 x3 x2 x2 x2 x1
P7 x5 x5 x4 x4 x3 x3 x2 x2 x2
P8 x5 x5 x5 x4 x4 x3 x3 x2 x2

While I'm at it, I also want to mention what I've come up with for weapons and armor. You may note that my new Player Facing Rolls mechanic derives a lot of meaning from not only basic success and failure but also critical success and failure. I have tied the frequency of critical effects (both success and failure) to weapons and armor. This opens up a wide range of useful weapon and armor values.

WEAPONS and ARMOR have values. These are cross indexed to determine "Critical Factor"

The 5x5 roll now uses dice of differing colors. Record the color of your "Critical Die" on your character sheet. A good option is a red and white die, where red is the Critical Die.

There is a target number that this die must reach before a critical success is achieved with a successful roll, or a critical failure is achieved with an unsuccessful roll.

Critical Factor Critical Success if ... Critical Failure if ...
-6 or less (No Critical Success Possible) Critical Die is a 3, 4 or 5
-4 to -5 Critical Die is a 0 Critical Die is a 3, 4 or 5
-2 to -3 Critical Die is a 0 Critical Die is a 4 or 5
-1 to +1 Critical Die is a 0 or 1 Critical Die is a 4 or 5
+2 to +3 Critical Die is a 0 or 1 Critical Die is a 5
+4 to +5 Critical Die is a 0, 1 or 2 Critical Die is a 5
+6 or more Critical Die is a 0, 1 or 2 (No Critical Failure Possible)

Check the Critical Success Column when you succeed at a task.

Check the Critical Failure Column when you fail at a task.

Critical Factor is equal to the difference between Armor and Weapon values and is dependent upon whether player is attacking or defending.


A0 A1 A2 A3 A4 A5 A6 A7 A8
W0 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6 -7 -8
W1 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6 -7
W2 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6
W3 +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5
W4 +4 +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4
W5 +5 +4 +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3
W6 +6 +5 +4 +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2
W7 +7 +6 +5 +4 +3 +2 +1 0 -1
W8 +8 +7 +6 +5 +4 +3 +2 +1 0


W0 W1 W2 W3 W4 W5 W6 W7 W8
A0 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6 -7 -8
A1 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6 -7
A2 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6
A3 +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5
A4 +4 +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4
A5 +5 +4 +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3
A6 +6 +5 +4 +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2
A7 +7 +6 +5 +4 +3 +2 +1 0 -1
A8 +8 +7 +6 +5 +4 +3 +2 +1 0

Since players make all rolls, Monsters won't need Abilities except as a means to track damage, (but will still need skills to act as opposing values to determine difficulty.)


Monsters only have two Abilities: HIGH and LOW

HIGH = the larger pool of life points, usually where the Monster will choose to take damage when given a choice.

LOW = the smaller pool of life points, usually a small number, the Monster's "vulnerable spot." Generally, this is where the player will want to apply damage.

Monsters also have weapons and armor ... these may be actual weapons and armor or reflections of natural abilities like claws and scales.

This post seems a bit all over the place. It's a stream of ideas reflecting what I am working on right now and the kinds of changes that Xceptional is likely to see in the near future.

Just thought it might be fun to share.


Jeff Moore