Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Four Wish List Board Games 2013-2016

I thought it might be fun to compile a wish list of board games that I'd like to consider adding to my board game collection. With new games coming out all the time, it's easy to forget about games that came out only a few years ago. So, I'm going to include games that are a few years older in my wish list. Hopefully, I can still track a few of these down.

Cinque Terre (2013)

Pick Up and Deliver is one of my favorite game mechanisms and Cinque Terre (Five Villages) is a well regarded game of this type. A reviewer we like (Mike Delisio of the Dice Tower) loves this game. That's helped to keep Cinque Terra high on my wish list. (Plus, the BGG community votes this best at 2 players.)

Akrotiri (2014)

This is another Pick Up and Deliver game, but it adds an exploration/tile laying mechanism. This is very much like Explorers of the North Sea which is a favorite. Akrotiri has an Ancient Greece exploration theme as opposed to Explorers of the North Sea that has a Viking theme, and it seems like it will be a tighter experience as it is designed specifically for two players. Would really love to try this one.

Elysium (2015)

Speaking of the Ancient Greece theme, in Elysium players are mythic figures trying to curry the favor of the gods. Julie and I love greek mythology and Elysium's theme really appeals. Mechanisms of set collection and tableau building combine with positive reviews to put Elysium near the top of my wish list.

Oceanos (2016)

This is a set collection deep sea themed game where each player has a submarine that can be upgraded as you play. This one seems light and breezy and it just looks beautiful on the table.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Double Trouble: Fantasy Adventure (sample text #7)

Pre-Adventuring Life?

By now you'll have a good sense of your character. You should have begun to think about how they got where they are now. What were they like before adventuring?

Background Statement

Write a background statement about a previous vocation. Example: "I cooked at the inn." Outside of combat, actions related to your background statement are Helped.

Value Statement

Write a value statement about something that drives you. Example: "I won't tolerate injustice." Outside of combat, actions related to your value statement are Helped.

60 Pieces of Silver (sp)

Your new character has 60 pieces of silver (sp). All equipment costs sp. The final step in character creation is to go shopping and buy weapons, armor and other equipment.


Armor is grouped based on bulk. Heavier armors generally offer a higher Ablative Cushion (AC), but restrict mobility and can Hinder some skill actions.

No Armor (helps stealth)

This category covers every kind of standard clothing (or no clothing at all) and costs 0 sp. With No Armor your AC is 0 and stealth actions are Helped.

Light Armor (no conditions)

Light Armor includes Leather with an AC of 1 for 10 sp and Studded Leather with an AC of 2 for 45 sp. Light armor imposes no condition changes on your skills.

Medium Armor (hinders stealth)

Includes Padded AC 1 for 5 sp, Hide AC 2 for 10 sp, Chain Shirt AC 3 for 50 sp, Breast Plate AC 4 for 400 sp and Half Plate AC 5 for 750 sp. Hinders stealth.

Heavy Armor (hinders dodge & stealth)

Includes Ring Mail AC 4 for 30 sp, Scale Mail AC 5 for 50 sp, Chain Mail AC 6 for 75 sp, Splint AC 7 for 200 sp and Plate AC 8 for 1,500 sp. Hinders dodge and stealth.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

My 500th Blog Post!

My first post to this blog was Monday, May 25th, 2009 ... 14 years ago today!

For my 500th post, I thought that it might be fun to go back through my blog and take a look at a few of my favorite posts of the past.

In my first post, I talk about 1km1kt.net: A Thousand Monkeys, A Thousand Typewriters. Which is a reference to Infinite Monkey Theorem. 

I believe that the theorem is attributed to french mathematician, Émile Borel, but I attribute it to the fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) from the Doctor Who episode: Mawdryn Undead. It's a theory about probability and seems especially well suited for a website that collects the written works of RPG designers. It's also cool (at least to me) that Mawdryn Undead is my all time favorite classic Doctor Who episode.

I was fairly active at 1km1kt for a few years and some of my earliest RPG designs are hosted there. I was even a moderator on the forums there for awhile.

One very early post is special to me because I talk about playing "D&D" with my then 5 year old daughter, Kaylee (now 18). 

I posted a memorial to my dear friend and long time fellow gamer, Robert Briggs shortly after his death.

One of my RPG designs Hi/Lo Heroes drew some attention in other blogs and even got a translation into French. I really should revisit that design one day. 

I designed these character classes for Labyrinth Lord that I still think are cool.

This actual play report for a Five By Five superhero session remains one of my favorite gaming memories.

This post about work on Hero DxD is heartbreaking because my good friend who was going to co-author the final work with me passed away. He is dearly missed.

This blog was also known as "Comic Book Heart" for awhile. I really love comic books and these posts sharing childhood comic book memories are favorites.

Finally, this post has links to all my RPG projects. I will verify the links to make sure that they all still work. (Or you can check the side-bar at the right.)

Thanks to all of you who have stuck around for these 500 posts. I hope to continue to post here for another 500 entries.



Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Double Trouble: Fantasy Adventure (sample text #6)

Character Ancestries

With profession sorted, it's time to look at ancestry. In DT it's not enough to say: my character is an elf. DT asks: how does ancestry manifest? That's: Origin Powers.

Origin Powers (pick 2)

All characters have two Origin Powers. It's up to you what sort of ancestry the powers imply. Choose the powers first, then decide what ancestry these powers suggest to you.

(Example ancestries are only suggestions. Play how you want.)


You have remarkable control over your body's movement. You are Helped on any ATH actions involving physical speed, balance or grace. Examples: catfolk, elves.


You can live in water as easily as on land. You can breathe underwater. Actions made while at least half submerged in water are Helped. Examples: frogfolk, cecaelia.

Animal Friend

You can speak to animals and they understand you but cannot speak back. Actions involving working with normal animals are Helped. Examples: centaurs, princesses.


Your appearance is especially pleasing. You are Helped on AWR actions involving persuation where physical attractiveness can play a part. Examples: angels, princes.


You can see clearly in absolute darkness. You aren't Hindered by absence of light. AWR perception actions taken in low light are Helped. Examples: mausfolk, dwarves.


You have wings and use them to fly, but you are either very small or very light of frame. You can only equip light weapons and armor. Examples: birdfolk, fairies.

Natural Armor

You have a natural body covering that protects you from harm (fur, hide, scales, etc.) Your Ablative Cushion is +1 if using light or no armor. Examples: turtlefolk, demons.

Natural Weaponry

You have natural weaponry (claws, horn, bite, fire breath, tusks, etc.) that you can use fighting HTH. Your unarmed weapon ST is 3. Examples: bearfolk, dragonfolk.

Press The Advantage

You are driven by the thrill of victory. When you roll a Triumph! in combat, you are automatically Helped on your first action next turn. Examples: humans, orcs.

Quick To Rally

You gain renewed resolve after a setback. When you roll Trouble! in combat, you are automatically Helped on your first action next turn. Examples: halflings, duckfolk.


You are capable of great feats of physical power and endurance. You are Helped on  ATH actions involving physical might or fortitude. Examples: pandafolk, minotaurs.

Track By Scent

You can identify others by odors that most can't detect. You are helped on  AWR actions to follow the trail of beings you have met. Examples: wolflings, goblins.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Double Trouble: Fantasy Adventure (sample text #5)

Profession: Savage

The Savage's key skill is Athletics. Savages start with the profession power: Born To Be Wild. Their other profession powers are: Unbreakable and Beast Master.

Born To Be Wild

Savage Power - Requires ATH 4 (5) - You climb trees or cliffs and swing from vines like one raised by the wild. Athletic Actions in the wilderness are Helped.


Savage Power - Requires ATH 8 (10) - You are tougher than most. You have 3 points of natural resistance to all forms of elemental damage. (This acts like armor.)

Beast Master (Beast Pet limit one)

Savage Power - Requires ATH 12 (15) - You have tracked, chased, and wrestled a wild beast, making it your pet (see Beast Pet below.) Requires: Born To Be Wild.

Beast Pet (Beast Pet gets 1 Origin Power)

Beast Pet has: Deadly Weapon (Mystic) and Born To Be Wild (Savage) powers. ATH:5, AWR:1, DGE:5, HTH:10, KNW:1, MWP:0, RWP:0, STL:1, TNK:0, WLP:1.

Profession: Shadow

The Shadow's key skill is Stealth. Shadows start with the profession power: Sneak. Their other profession powers are: Slight Of Hand and Shadow Walk.


Shadow Power - Requires STL 4 (5) - When trying to hide under cover of darkness and move silently without being detected, your STL actions are Helped.

Slight of Hand

Shadow Power - Requires STL 8 (10) - STL actions requiring manual dexterity and misdirection, such as picking pockets, shell games and magic tricks are Helped.

Shadow Walk

Shadow Power - Requires STL 12 (15) - You step into the darkness and disappear then reappear in another place of darkness within walking distance. Requires: Sneak.

Profession: Warrior

The Warrior's key skill is Melee Weapons. Warriors start with the power: Improved Critical. Their other powers are: Deadly Momentum and Exploding Critical.

Improved Critical

Warrior Power - Requires MWP 4 (5) - When making a weapon strength roll for damage following a Triumph! result on your attack action, you may re-roll 0's.

Deadly Momentum

Warrior Power - Requires MWP 8 (10) - When you defeat an enemy with an attack action, make an immediate free attack action against another enemy within range.

Exploding Critical

Warrior Power - Requires MWP 12 (15) - For Triumph! weapon ST rolls, if you roll 5, roll again and add the result. Repeat until the roll is not 5. Requires: Improved Critical.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Double Trouble: Fantasy Adventure (sample text #4)

Profession: Mage

The Mage's key skill is Knowledge. Mages start with the power: Firebolt. Their other powers are: Spellcaster and Fireball (also see: Inferno (Trouble! Effect) below.)

Firebolt (can't be helped)

Mage Power - Requires KNW 4 (5) - Use a KNW action to make a ST 6 ranged elemental (fire) attack. On Trouble! Firebolt becomes Inferno (see below.)


Mage Power - Requires KNW 8 (10) - You have the ability to understand and control the arcane power trapped inside spell books (see rules on Spell Books.)

Fireball (can't be helped)

Mage Power - Requires KNW 12 (15) - Your Firebolt attack now targets all enemies. On Trouble! Fireball becomes Inferno (see below.) Requires: Firebolt.

Inferno (Trouble! Effect)

Trouble! Effect - When using Firebolt or Fireball, on Trouble! inflict ST 4 fire damage on every target in the combat. This includes allies, enemies and yourself.

Profession: Mystic

The Mystic's key skill is Hand To Hand. Mystics start with the profession power: Deadly Weapon. Their other powers are: Two-Fisted and Vengeful Tornado.

Deadly Weapon

Mystic Power - Requires HTH 4 (5) - You have an unarmed weapon ST equal to 1/2 your HTH rounded down. You are not Hindered by fighting an armed opponent.


Mystic Power - Requires HTH 8 (10) - When fighting unarmed with Hand To Hand, your hands possess the "dual wield" property, granting two attacks per turn.

Vengeful Tornado (helped)

Mystic Power - Requires HTH 12 (15) - If you had Trouble! last turn, roll HTH Helped to inflict unarmed ST damage to all enemies. Requires: Deadly Weapon.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Double Trouble: Fantasy Adventure (sample text #3)

Profession Powers

Each Profession has 3 Powers associated with it. You gain your first power for free based on your Profession. Additional powers must be bought with Experience (XP).

Core Skill Requirements

All powers have skill requirements. Characters can gain powers from any Profession, but selecting a power from your own Profession reduces the skill requirement.

Skill Requirement Format

Each power's entry shows the required skill rank followed by a higher rank in parenthesis. The higher rank is the requirement for taking a power outside your Profession.

Power Requirements

Some powers require other powers. You must have that power in order to obtain the new power. Power requirements are listed after the power description in italics.

Profession: Archer

The Archer's key skill is Ranged Weapons. Archers start with the power: Archery Expert. Their other profession powers are: Versatile Attack and Hail of Arrows.

Archery Expert

Archer Power - Requires RWP 4 (5) - The bow is your preferred ranged weapon. When you fire a longbow or short bow at a ranged target, your attack is Helped.

Versatile Attack

Archer Power - Requires RWP 8 (10) - You may attack a melee target with a ranged weapon or a ranged target with a melee weapon without being Hindered.

Hail Of Arrows (no action roll needed)

Archer Power - Requires RWP 10 (15) - If you Triumph! range attacked last turn, use ammo equal to enemies to do RWP ST damage to all. Requires: Archery Expert.

Profession: Bard

The Bard's key core skill is Awareness. Bards start with the power: Play By Play. Their other profession powers are: Minstrel and Devastating Boast.

Play By Play (free reaction)

Bard Power - Requires AWR 4 (5) - After another player rolls a Triump! in combat, provide an exciting verbal replay. All players are Helped on their next turn.


Bard Power - Requires AWR 8 (10) - Gain a musical instrument. AWR action to play it. Success: all players helped for ST 6 turns. Trouble: players hindered instead.

Devastating Boast (free reaction)

Bard Power - Requires AWR 12 (15) - After you roll a Triumph! in combat, rub it in, adding insult to injury. All enemies lose their next turn. Requires: Play By Play.

Profession: Duelist

The Duelist's key skill is Dodge. Duelists start with the power: Counter Attack Expert. Their other powers are: Honorable Combat and Dual Counter Attack.

Counter Attack Expert

Duelist Power - Requires DGE 4 (5) - When you gain a counter attack (by rolling a Triumph on a Dodge action,) that attack action is helped.

Honorable Combat

Duelist Power - Requires DGE 8 (10) - When an ally falls in battle, you can resolve the conflict by challenging the enemy to a one-on-one combat that they can't refuse.

Dual Counter Attack

Duelist Power - Requires DGE 12 (15) - When dual wielding, get a free attack with your off-hand weapon, when you counter attack. Requires: Counter Attack Expert.

Profession: Engineer

The Engineer's key skill is Tinkering. Engineers start with the power: Clockwork Companion. Other powers are: Traps & Locks Expert and Clockwork Soldier.

Clockwork Companion (limit one)

Engineer Power - Requires TNK 4 (5) - You have a clockwork companion (10 HP.) Choose a non-combat skill. It's rank 8 and always Helped. All other skills are rank 1.

Traps & Locks Expert

Engineer Power - Requires TNK 8 (10) - You are helped when using a Tinkering action to detect, build or disarm traps. You are also helped when picking open locks.

Clockwork Soldier (limit one)

Engineer Power - Requires TNK 12 (15) - Your clockwork soldier has rank 8 in combat & Dodge skills, and rank 1 in others. It has 20 HP.  Requires: Clockwork Companion.

Profession: Healer

The Healer's key skill is Willpower. Healers start with the power: Healing Touch. Their other profession powers are: Dispel Evil and Mass Heal.

Healing Touch (can't be helped)

Healer Power - Requires WLP 4 (5) - Requires a WLP action. Your touch heals for ST 8 HP. On Trouble! your touch can't heal this target for ST 3 days.

Dispel Evil (can't be helped)

Healer Power - Requires WLP 8 (10) - Requires a WLP action. Do ST 10 damage to all inherently evil enemies. On Trouble! targeted enemies attack you on their turn.

Mass Heal (can't be helped)

Healer Power - Requires WLP 12 (15) - Req. a WLP action. Heal all allies for ST 6. On Trouble! You can't Mass Heal again for ST 3 days. Requires: Healing Touch.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Dorfromantik: the Board Game

It's been awhile since I've written a board game review. So, I've decided to end that drought today and talk about, Dorfromantik: The Board Game. (I will note here that I originally typed dorfromantik as two words, "dorf" and "romantik" because this is how the game's logo design makes it appear, but that "dorfromantik" is one word.)

Dorfromantik is of German origins. According to Google translate in German, "dorf" means village and "romantik" means "romance." According to Zwi Zausch, one of the game's designers (in an interview with  Robert Purchese of Eurogamer.net) the word "dorfromantik" is "an older word ... usually used to describe the kind of nostalgic feeling you get when you long to be in the countryside."

Zwi Zausch quoted above is one of four designers along with Luca Langenberg, Sandro Heuberger, and Timo Falcke who make up the company, Toukana Interactive. The four were German students studying at HTW Berlin, and their design is not for a board game, but for Dorfromtik a computer game. As a computer game (we have it for the Nintendo Switch,) Dorfromantik is a gentle, calming, hex-tile placement kind of game that according to its designers was inspired by board games.

So, Dorfromantik: The Board Game is based on a computer game that was itself inspired by board games. If I'm being honest, I found Dorfromantik on the Switch to be kind of slow and boring. Despite this, the board game continued to be intriguing. Then Julie and I saw Dorfromantik: The Board Game featured in a YouTube video of, "Top Ten Comfort Games" and we knew that we had to try it. In addition to this, the board game iteration of Dorfromantik is designed by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach, two designers responsible for another cooperative board game that Julie and I really enjoy called, The Dwarves

In Dorfromantik: The Board Game, players work cooperatively to place randomly drawn tiles into a shared "map" of a serene countryside made up of farmlands, forests, village homes, railroad tracks and gently winding streams. Three of the tiles in your shared countryside must always be task tiles. Task tiles are of one of the five types listed above, that are then covered by a little numbered token (usually a 4, 5 or 6.) The number challenges you to place a grouped set of tiles having the same base type as the task tile together (including the task tile itself) to equal but not exceed that number. 

If not contributing to a task, tiles aren't required to be placed next to those of like terrains except for train tracks and streams. Tracks and streams must always be placed next to each other so that the track or stream can continue uninterrupted. Completing tasks scores points, which is the goal, but as a cooperative game, there isn't really any way to win or lose the game. Instead, as you play and score points you "unlock" new tasks, new kinds of tiles, and other goodies hidden away in tuck boxes within the main game box, not to be opened until you reach certain plateaus in game play. This is very true to Dorfromantik's video game origins, and it works amazingly well here. Julie and I have played Dorfromantik over 20 times in a row excited to unlock more surprises. 

Back in October of 2021, Julie and I backed a game on Kickstarter called, Mythwind. Mythwind promises to be a sort of village building adventure game designed in the same vein as computer games like Animal Crossing where the goal isn't to win or lose, but to play and build and evolve and experience the game. We found the idea of a game without a winner really interesting and novel, but we weren't sure how that might work. Dorfromantik proves that this not only can work, but its something that Julie and I really enjoy. (I hope Mythwind nails this experience as perfectly as Dorfromantik does.)

So, yeah. We love Dorfromantik. (I even plan to go back and give the video game another try.) I think Dorfromantik might be the perfect "couples" game, especially if you like a serene shared experience like one you might get from putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Dorfromantik is relaxing, but offers excitement in the form of the unlockable treats hiding in its tuck boxes. It offers the kind of joy that one might imagine from a childhood Christmas that's completely free of drama. If this sounds good to you, give Dorfromantik: The Board Game a try.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Double Trouble: Fantasy Adventure (sample text #2)

There Are Ten Core Skills

The Core Skills are: Athletics, Awareness, Dodge, Hand To Hand, Knowledge, Melee Weapons, Ranged Weapons, Stealth, Tinkering, and Willpower.

Athletics (ATH)

Athletics represents actions involving physical strength and control. Climbing, running, jumping, balancing, lifting, dragging and swinging are all a part of Athletics.

Awareness (AWR)

Awareness represents actions involving perception, vigilance, intuition and empathy. Searching, sensing, leading, flirting and persuading are all part of Awareness.

Dodge (DGE)

Dodge is how you avoid getting hit in combat. You get one "free" dodge every round. You can dodge unlimited attacks by giving up your action for the round.

Hand To Hand (HTH)

Hand To Hand includes all manner of unarmed melee. Boxing, brawling, unarmed martial arts, kicking, scratching and wrestling are all part of Hand To Hand.

Knowledge (KNW)

Knowledge represents actions involving the breadth of a person's academic ability and experience. Tactics, research, science and spell casting are all part of Knowledge.

Melee Weapons (MWP)

Melee Weapons is the skill of fighting while armed with a close combat hand weapon. Such weapons include knives, swords, clubs, axes, polearms and staves.

Ranged Weapons (RWP)

Ranged Weapons is the skill of aiming and firing a weapon to strike a distant target. Weapons include bows, crossbows, slings, throwing knives, darts and even blowguns.

Stealth (STL)

Stealth represents actions involving concealment and misdirection. Sneaking, hiding, picking pockets, shell games and prestidigitation are all part of Stealth.

Tinkering (TNK)

Tinkering represents actions involving maintenance, repair and technical invention. Fixing, crafting, picking locks and disabling traps are all a part of Tinkering.

Willpower (WLP)

Willpower represents acts of determination, focus and fortitude. Courage, maintaining prolonged activity and resisting magical effects are all a part of Willpower.

The Initial Skill Array

The core skills are assigned a rank from the array: 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1.  Ranks are distributed based on Profession. Choosing Profession is step 1 of character creation.

Creating a Character

The first thing you do to create a new character, is choose a Profession. Your Profession provides your initial skill ranks. Then improve 2 skills of your choice by +1 each.

Choose A Profession

Choose 1: Archer, Bard, Duelist, Engineer, Healer, Mage, Mystic, Shadow, Savage or Warrior. Professions offer a specific distribution of skill ranks and 3 unique powers.


Archers are experts in ranged combat. The Archer's starting core skill ranks are: ATH:2, AWR:3, DGE:2, HTH:1, KNW:1, MWP:2, RWP:4, STL:3, TNK:1, & WLP:1.


Bards are experts in storytelling, negotiation and morale. Bard starting skills are: ATH:1, AWR:4, DGE:2, HTH:1, KNW:2, MWP:2, RWP:3, STL:3, TNK:1, & WLP:1.


Duelists are combat specialists who favor finesse over force. Duelist starting skills: ATH:2, AWR:2, DGE:4, HTH:2, KNW:1, MWP:3, RWP:3, STL:1, TNK:1, & WLP:1.


Engineers are experts at building and repairing machinery. Engineer starting skills: ATH:1, AWR:2, DGE:1, HTH:1, KNW:3, MWP:2, RWP:2, STL:1, TNK:4, & WLP:3.


Healers possess powers of recovery and destroying evil. A Healer's starting skills are: ATH:2, AWR:3, DGE:2, HTH:1, KNW:2, MWP:3, RWP:1, STL:1, TNK:1, & WLP:4.


The Mage specializes in casting powerful magic spells. The Mage's starting skills are: ATH:1, AWR:3, DGE:2, HTH:1, KNW:4, MWP:1, RWP:1, STL:2, TNK:2, & WLP:3.


The Mystic specializes in melee combat without weapons. Mystic starting skills: ATH:3, AWR:2, DGE:3, HTH:4, KNW:1, MWP:1, RWP:1, STL:2, TNK:1, & WLP:2.


Savages are warriors driven by animalistic natures. A Savage's starting core skills are: ATH:4, AWR:3, DGE:2, HTH:2, KNW:1, MWP:2, RWP:1, STL:1, TNK:1, & WLP:3.


The Shadow is a master of moving undetected. The Shadow's starting skills are: ATH:1, AWR:3, DGE:3, HTH:1, KNW:1, MWP:2, RWP:2, STL:4, TNK:2, & WLP:1.


Warriors are experts in melee combat. The Warrior's starting core skill ranks are: ATH:3, AWR:1, DGE:2, HTH:3, KNW:1, MWP:4, RWP:2, STL:1, TNK:1, & WLP:2.

I'll be sharing additional sample pages. Stay Tuned! Feel free to join the discussion in my Facebook Group or leave a comment here! Regards -- Jeff.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Double Trouble: Fantasy Adventure (sample text #1)

(Sample text for the Double Trouble: Fantasy Adventure Zine being planned for Zinequest 6.)

A Fantasy TRPG (and more)

DT is a complete tabletop role playing game (TRPG). While DT is set in a world of high fantasy, the rules are designed to be adaptable to any setting or genre.

Crazy Extreme (for good and ill)

At the core of DT is a mechanism favoring cinematic results. Extreme instances of success and failure (called "criticals" in other games) are commonplace for DT.

Special Dice (ordinary d6 work too)

DT uses special dice numbered [0] to [5]. You can use regular six-sided dice (d6,) but you will have to treat die faces showing [6] as if they are showing [0] instead.

Always Roll Low (zero is best)

DT employs two types of rolls. Action rolls are made on two dice, while strength rolls are made on one. Lower rolls are always desired, with [0] being the best.

Action Rolls (multiply the dice)

Action Rolls resolve uncertainty, revealing success or failure. Multiply 2 dice and compare the result to a core skill to determine the outcome, (unless your roll is doubles!)

Success (less than or equal to skill)

If your action roll is lesser than or equal to a related core skill then you have achieved Success. (You complete your task, your attack strikes its intended target, etc.)

Failure (greater than skill)

If your action roll is greater than a related core skill then your turn ends in Failure. (You don't complete your task, your attack misses its intended target, etc.)

Triumph! (rolling zero)

If the result of your action roll is [0], you have achieved a Triumph! You complete your intended task and more. Triumph! always grants the best possible outcomes.

Trouble! (rolling doubles)

When your action roll is doubles, don't multiply the dice, because doubles mean Trouble! You didn't complete your task, and things are about to get much worse!

Helped (eliminates Trouble!)

Helped is a positive condition that may be applied to an action. When an action is Helped, treat a result of Trouble! as a Failure and a Failure as a Partial Success.

Hindered (eliminates Triumph!)

Hindered is a negative condition that may be applied to an action. When an action is Hindered, treat a result of Triumph! as a Success and a Success as a Partial Success.

Partial Success (almost there)

A Partial Success doesn't give exactly what you want, but you do get some benefit. This can be great when gained from a Helped condition, especially in combat.

Helped & Hindered Cancel Out

Helped and Hindered conditions cancel each other out. Remove matched sets of Helped and Hindered conditions until only one type of condition remains.

Super Helped

It is possible to have two or more Helped conditions at the same time. This is called Super Helped. When Super Helped, treat Trouble! as Failure and Failure as Success.

Super Hindered

It is possible to have two or more Hindered conditions at once. This is called Super Hindered. When Super Hindered, treat Triumph! as Success & Success as Failure.

Rank 1 Core Skills Are Hindered

With a Core Skill with a rank of 1, you must roll [0] to earn a Success. Triumph! isn't normally possible with a skill rank 1. (Treat skill rank 1 as being Hindered.)

Strength (ST) Values

Strength rolls measure the magnitude of an effect. Some items and actions are given strength values. This is represented with the initials ST followed by a number.

All Kinds of Strengths

Weapons use ST to show how much damage they can do. A healing potion uses ST to show how much health it can restore. A power might use ST to show its duration.

Strength Shows Max Potential

Strength value represents the maximum effect usually possible. For example: a short sword is ST 6. Six is the most damage that a short sword can normally inflict.

Strength Roll (1 die is all you need)

Make a Strength roll with one die. Subtract your roll from the ST of the effect being measured to find the result. If the result is less than 1, treat the result as 1.

Triggered Strength Rolls

Some strength rolls are direct results of  action rolls. In combat, damage ST rolls follow successful attack rolls. This is known as a triggered strength roll.

Strength Rolls & Triumph!

If an action triggering a strength roll is a Triumph! the result of the roll is added to the effect's ST instead of subtracted from it. This is known as a "critical effect."

Strength Rolls & Trouble!

Trouble! doesn't trigger a strength roll. Instead, where a ST roll is indicated, treat the doubles as the strength roll. Example: double 4's equals a strength roll result of 4.

Strength or Subtraction Throw?

ST is never fixed. If a power says that it lasts ST 4 turns. That isn't 4 turns. It's roll a die and subtract from 4. If it helps, imagine ST stands for, "Subtraction Throw."

I'll be sharing additional sample pages. Stay Tuned! Feel free to join the discussion in my Facebook Group or leave a comment here! Regards -- Jeff.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Mike Pondsmith is AWESOME!

During the late 80's and early 90's Michael Alyn Pondsmith was my absolute favorite RPG designer. Mike was way ahead of his time. His designs were clean and innovative and not at all D&D. Any of Mike's early game designs could easily find their way to my gaming table today. They all still work.

One thing that sets Mike apart is that he doesn't care for the fantasy genre that drives the bulk of the RPG industry. His biggest early influence wasn't D&D, but Traveller. Mike was open to experimenting with different genres and settings that no one else was looking at. Mike's first published game was Mekton. The system for Mekton was based on an unpublished game by Mike called Imperial Star. Imperial Star was Mike's first TRPG work: a redesign of Traveller. Mekton was inspired by the Mobile Suit Gundam manga. 

In 1984, manga was not widely available in the U.S. Mike was creating content for a very niche and untapped market. (This trend will continue.) Mekton was popular enough that Mike decided to make a go at publishing RPGs professionally. To that end he founded R. Talisorian Games in 1985. The company is named after the father of a friend, who fronted the start-up money for that original publication of Mekton. I don't believe that this was any kind of requirement from Mr. Talisorian, but rather a gesture of appreciation from Mike.

R. Talisorian Games' first publication was a reprint of Mekton (Mekton second edition) in 1986, followed by another manga/anime inspired game: Teenagers from Outer Space in 1987. Where Mekton was inspired by mecha anime, Teenagers was inspired by comedy anime like: Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2. (I love Ranma 1/2!) Also, in 1987 was the release of Mekton II, which upgraded the game mechanics of Mekton and introduced the world to the "interlock" system.

In 1988 Mike published, Cyberpunk. This is arguably Mike's most successful property, and the newest edition: Cyberpunk Red was released in 2020. (Each Cyberpunk edition has a different name to distinguish it. The first edition of Cyberpunk is now often referred to as Cyberpunk 2013 after the time period where that game is set.) I never much cared for the cyberpunk genre, but I tip my hat to Mike for again pushing RPG content in new directions.

In 1992 Mike published the TRPG called: Dream Park based on the 1981 novel Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. I LOVE the Dream Park RPG. As a game designer, Dream Park is my single greatest influence. It is one of my favorite games of all time, but because it's tightly tied to an existing property that R. Talisorian no longer has the rights to, it is probably forever relegated to the domain of abandonware.

In 1994 came Castle Falkenstein, a steam punk TRPG. Castle won the Origins award for best RPG rules the year it came out and is Mike's most critically acclaimed design. Again, Mike is way ahead of his time. Castle uses cards called fortune cards instead of dice because he felt that it better fit the genre and the time period. Two years later, Dragonlance Fifth Age is published by TSR using cards called a Fate Deck. Coincidence? No.  Mike worked for TSR briefly in 1990. The only thing that I own from that period is the Buck Rogers XXVc game. (It's awesome!)

There are numerous parallels between 5th Age and Castle not only in game design, but also in presentation and aesthetic. I am certain that I have Mike to thank (at least indirectly) for TSR's SAGA system and my favorite all time superhero TRPG, which is the design inspiration for Royal Treasures! (My newest work on Double Trouble borrows heavily from Dream Park. I owe Mike a lot for my current design work.) 

In 1997 Mike worked with Hero Games to create a system that combined the Hero system and the Interlock system. This new game system was called Fuzion. Sadly, I don't think Fuzion is a good system. I think both original systems are better on their own. I did own the Champions: New Era game that used the system. (I don't have it anymore.) It was around this time that R. Talisorian Games announced a publication hiatus. Mike left the TRPG industry to work in computer game design. (Don't worry. He's back now.)

Mike is one of the legacy greats of the TRPG industry right up there with Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax ... a trend setter ... a visionary ... an innovator ... an incredible game designer. Mike Pondsmith is awesome!

Friday, May 12, 2023

Game Design Update

With the most recent Royal Treasures post, all the rules for Royal Treasures have been presented and the "tutorial" is finished. Future entries of Royal Treasures will be encounter entries. One has been completed. I have 51 more to go (one for each of 52 playing cards.) There will also be four different "Boss Battles" (one for each suit), but for now I am taking a break.

I am happy with Royal Treasures' evolution and where the rules stand right now. What's left is actually pretty involved and the part that I'm not actually great at: play testing. I need to put all the rules and numbers through their paces so that I can design balanced encounters. The building of encounters will be part of that process. It's time to play. This is going to take some time.

In my previous post: JP Coovert Is Awesome! I mention briefly my other ongoing game project, "Five By Five" or "Double Trouble." With regards to that project, I've come to realize that I'm "beating a dead horse" so to speak. The thing is, I love the dice mechanism that drives Five By Five. I think it's clever and filled with utility. 

In Five By Five, I have coupled that mechanism with a very rules light, free form approach to character design. That's all well and good. The problem is, I keep trying to do more with the mechanism while retaining the free form nature of the rest. I feel like the two components have done all that they can do together. I need to change my approach because I'm running in circles.

I'm not willing to give up on the Five By Five dice mechanism. I invented it. Oh, I know that there are similar mechanisms, but they aren't just like mine, and I didn't develop the mechanism based on inspiration from any other source. It sprung from my head fully formed like Athena. So, what I need to do is build an entirely new game around it.

This is where I have JP Coovert to thank once again. I wasn't kidding when I gushed about how much I love his adventure zines. They are spectacular. In the Dragon Town zine, he says that the adventure was tested using an RPG called, "Knave."

(Check out Knave 2nd Edition currently on Kickstarter!)

Knave is a rules light OSR (old-school-rules) inspired RPG on just 7 pages by Ben Milton (known as Questing Beast on YouTube and Patreon.) And I could certainly use Knave to play/run Dragon Town. The problem is, I don't really like some things about most OSR style games. Two of the key hallmarks of OSR games that I really dislike are: roll your abilities randomly and high lethality.

I do remember the excitement that can come from rolling up character after character. I've even shared an alternative ability score generation method that uses dice rolls that I do like. But, generally speaking, I'm against it. It's a throw back to an earlier time that isn't fair and isn't needed.

However, it's the whole high lethality thing that is the real deal breaker. I just don't understand why old RPG grognards think that killing characters is fun. I have had campaigns fall apart over character deaths. It isn't fun for anyone. Why does there have to be this sense of "deadly and permanent consequences" to make an RPG game more engaging or real? This is entertainment. It has to be fun. Does it have to feel real?

My favorite table-top RPG is 13th Age. Character death in 13th Age, like in 5th edition D&D, is mitigated by Death Saves, which make death a lot less common. This is my preference. I could implement Death Saves into OSR games. but there's another aspect to "high lethality" that I don't like.

Characters in OSR games are by definition low powered. One of the things that makes 13th Age my favorite game is that it is the opposite of low powered. Players are connected to the important movers and shakers of the game world, and they are super heroes! That's awesome! That's fun!!

I can run Dragon Town using 13th Age. I would have a lot of fun if I did. But, 13th Age does still have a few "warts" on it, little weird discrepancies that come from being a direct reconstruction based on D&D. 

I got to thinking. "What if I made my own OSR game." I have had this in my mind before, but I have always approached it from the standpoint of recreating my ideal version of D&D. That's the same approach as 99% of all those other OSR games. There are plenty of them out there ... too many.

Then my thoughts shifted back to Five By Five and Double Trouble. What if I focused on making Double Trouble compatible with Dragon Town? What would character creation look like? Can I do this without making another clone of D&D? This has become my goal.

Double Trouble isn't Five By Five. Five By Five exists in a finished state and is perfectly workable as is. I'm going to stop running in circles and move in a new direction using these new goals for design:

  • Double Trouble is a Fantasy RPG (but should be easily adaptable to other settings and genres.)
  • DT is compatible with OSR style adventures (AC, HP, Damage can all be easily converted.)
  • DT is highly cinematic (Like 13th Age, characters are amaze-ball action heroes!)
  • DT is low lethality. (Characters won't die by the random roll of the die, and if a death should happen it will be spectacular!)
  • DT is not a D&D clone (This isn't D&D or anything quite like it. I will talk more about this in a later post.)
  • DT is a zine. (I am producing DT in zine format. Hopefully in time for Zinequest 2024.)

Here we are. I am back to working on Double Trouble. It is not the "next" Five By Five, but it uses the dice mechanism that I developed for Five By Five. It is not a D&D clone, but it can be used to run D&D adventure modules. This is what I am doing right now.

I will get back to Royal Treasures, I like it, and I think it's going to be great. It's also very different from Double Trouble. However, I work best when I have a few projects on the burner. Creatively, it's best for me to run with something for awhile and then jump to something completely different to avoid burnout.

Royal Treasures will return, but my next several RPG Design related posts will focus on this new vision that I have for Double Trouble. I hope that you will come along with me for the ride.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

JP Coovert is AWESOME!

I am really enjoying the RPG content created by cartoonist/author/RPG gamer JP Coovert.

I recently discovered JP Coovert's work while browsing RPG videos on YouTube. He had a video about creating zines (pronounced; zeenz) on his channel. A zine generally refers to an amateur publication with a small print run. 

There are a variety of bindings, sizes and page counts for zines, but I usually envision something that has been home printed onto letter sized paper so that it can be folded in half and stapled in the middle to form an 5.5 x 8.5 booklet of somewhere around 48 pages.

I am currently determined to produce Double Trouble (my most recent redesign of the game formerly known as "Five By Five") as a zine to submit to Kickstarter's annual Zinequest. This is what has drawn me to JP Coovert's work. I am currently reading, "Flik Silverpen's Guide to Dragon Town." It's 44 pages of pure brilliance!

JP's work (Can I call you, "JP" Mr. Coovert?) is light in both tone and mechanisms. That for me is such a breath of fresh air! I know that MÖRK BORG is all the rage these days. (If that was about a quirky alien from outer space living in Boulder who had been assimilated by a cybernetic collective, where zany high jinks ensue, I'd be all in!) But, for me I have always lamented the tendency toward darker trends in my entertainment, and I always will. I guess that makes me an outlier ... well, me and JP.

The 44 page Dragon Town is a setting and an adventure where the PCs find themselves in a small town that is mostly inhabited by a community of Halflings. This community of Halflings have a gold dragon as their mayor. And as the PCs enter the scene, things are amiss because the mayor of Dragon Town is missing!

The adventure is light and fun. All of the NPCs in the town have their own stories, everything is beautifully illustrated, there are plenty of areas to explore and mysteries to discover, and its all just, "charming." 

Dragon Town is just one of many many adventure zines available on JP's website. You can even "subscribe" to his zines by joining JP's Patreon. I strongly recommend giving the work of JP Coovert a look, especially if you like fun. (Who doesn't like fun?!)

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Into The Darkness

You look over at the Innkeeper in utter disbelief. Beneath the Inn, where once there had been a cellar, now there was a large gaping hole leading deep into the darkness of the earth.

"The floor just collapsed." The Innkeeper explains. "There was a rumble and the whole place shook. I ran down here to have a look when that giant spider-thing came up at me from the pit. I tried running back up to the Inn, but that cursed monstrosity followed me!"

"It's a miracle the Inn's still standing." You comment. "And, you're lucky to be alive."

"I wouldn't be if you hadn't showed up when you did." The Innkeeper observes, a great deal of gratitude apparent in his tone.

You both gaze down into the blackness of the pit. A low evil sounding moan mutters up from somewhere deep and unseen. "What do you suppose is down there?" The Innkeeper queries, certain that he really doesn't want to know.

"Only one way to find out." You respond as you take your first steps into the darkness.

Environment Cards

From now on, as you play Royal Treasures you will begin each encounter by drawing an "Environment Card." Each Environment Card will present it's own rules and random tables so that every encounter can feel unique.

There are 52 different environment cards, one for each card in your deck. I will be presenting these to you one card at a time beginning with the 2♣.

[2♣] The Howling Cavern

You enter a large cavern. A foul wind blows from somewhere ahead and produces an evil sounding moan as it echoes through the chamber. The wind cuts through your protective garb wrapping you in an unnatural cold.

Environment Rules: At the start of every combat round, if the suit of the FIRST CARD that you flip during the "monsters move" phase is black, you suffer the "Cold" Affliction and cannot earn a trump bonus for the "crossing" action during that round.

Monster Encounter:

Monster Bats

Flip the top card of the deck and add your Royalty $ bonus to the value of the card:

$Value  Monster         [#]   [Me]  [Mi]  [Mo]          
  2-10  Large Bats       3      6     1   (see below)   
 11-19  Giant Bats       4     12     1   (see below)  
 20-29  Monstrous Bats   5     20     1   (see below)   
 30-39  Gargantuan Bats  6     30     1   (see below)

Monster Bats Mojo:

Monster Bats are frail. All varieties have only 1 Might each. 

Normally, when you draw a card during the "Monsters Move" phase, you retain the existing monster card and move it according to the color of the card drawn. The original monster card is retained so that you can track the monster's might by its card in your notes.

For Monster Bats, don't retain the original cards that represent them during the Monsters Move phase.

Instead, follow these rules for Monster Bats:

  • When initially placing Monster Bats, place all cards in the Shadow Area regardless of the color of the monster card.
  • During the Monsters Attack Phase all Monster Bats represented by a card with a RED SUIT attack the player regardless of which area they are in.
  • During the Monsters Move Phase replace existing cards representing Monster Bats with the cards drawn for that bat's movement.
  • During the Monsters Move Phase, all Monster Bats always move to the Shadow Area regardless of the color of their movement card.
  • Monster Bats can still be shifted into the Threat area by the player's Crossing action, but will then return to the Shadow Area during the Monsters Move phase. 

If you defeat the Monster Bats, you discover a new Royalty. Gather and shuffle all cards and create a new item of equipment for your character. (Remember to Detect Magic on the item after you create it!)

If you fail to defeat the Monster Bats, then your hero has died and your adventure ends here. (Unless you have a Book of Life.)

*FINAL BOSS ENCOUNTER - Ignore this encounter card and proceed to the battle with the final boss.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Quest by Adventure Guild

This incredibly accessible intro RPG system made my, "Top 5 Fantasy RPGs That Are Better Than D&D." In this post, I take a closer look at Quest.

Firstly, I have to say that, "Quest" is a terrible name. You might as well search for a book titled, "book," which would be impossible without the author's name. This is why I always type the name of the Quest RPG as, "Quest by Adventure Guild." What were they thinking?

Okay, that out of the way. Quest is a super simple RPG. It has one resolution mechanic. Roll a d20 and consult the very simple results table. That's it. Nothing in the rules ever changes or effects this mechanic. The roll is never modified and the rule is never changed. What changes is your interpretation of the roll's results based on the circumstances of the story.

If this seems too simple, you might be right, but Quest has a trick up its sleeve. Characters in Quest all have special abilities. None of these abilities effect the die rolling mechanic. In fact, most don't involve rolling dice at all. These abilities just give your character something neat that they can do, and there are a lot of these abilities.

Characters are class based. Each class has five or six distinct ability trees called Learning Paths. Each of these contains four or five specific class abilities. The abilities within each learning path grow in power and utility and you have to select each ability in a path in order. There are no levels to limit your choices. You just follow the options of your learning paths. You can pick the first ability in each of your available paths or concentrate on just a few to become specialized.

Each time you play, you get to add a new ability. No levels. No math. Just interesting choices, and something new to enjoy with every new game session. Abilities do have a cost in a resource called Adventure Points. These points are spent like money to activate abilities and they are finite like money too. If you burn through all you've got, you'll need to wait for the GM to give you more.

The GM will generally award 5 adventure points after each game session with bonus points provided for especially good roleplay or exciting adventures. The GM also has access to special Legendary Abilities that they can award, and these are really awesome! 

Quest is a great game for new players, but not for new GM's. Interpreting the die rolls and improvising entertaining results on the fly is probably going to work best for a game master with a bit of experience. 

The only thing that I don't like about Quest is the character worksheets.

Oh, I love the way the worksheets engage the player to create their character narratively by answering questions. It's great! I mean the actual physical paper forms. They are boring to look at, and the electronic versions are only partially enabled with forms. This isn't an insurmountable issue. I've created my own form-fillable character sheet that I am very proud of. 

Take a look at Willard Benjamin, the Mausfolk Doctor that I created for Quest as he appears on the character sheet that I designed! You can see the questions that players answer to create their characters and examples of some of the abilities for the Doctor class (called a "Role" in Quest.)

All of the rules for Quest are available for free at the Adventure Guild website. I highly recommend the game for people who want an easier more casual RPG experience. Quest by Adventure Guild is for people who just want to show up to your game table and play, and not be bothered by the rules. Quest is perfect for this!

Here's a blank character sheet if you want to work on your own character. You can find the form-fillable PDF version of the sheet at our Facebook Group. Come join the discussion!