Friday, September 18, 2015

Story Seed - Home, Sweet Home

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"What is that?"

Lazil didn't bother to look up, it was obvious from the young boy's tone what he had seen. "That is my home, and now it is your home as well, until such time as you complete your apprenticeship." The old nano scowled at the device in his hands, muttering some choice obscenities in a long dead language as he did. The device was tucked away for further study.

"It's quite large," Ruva observed with a tinge of amazement; his entire village would probably fill less than half of it.

"That," Lazil remarked, "is no more than the bit of ice above the fluid."

Ruva flicked the aneen's reigns with one hand, keeping the creature moving at a steady pace, dragging the fantastic hovering cart they rode in along with it. "So the whole of it is what, ten times as large?" For a boy of nine Ruva possessed a keen mind and was already an accomplished student of the numenera. He had only ever seen the small trinkets that made their way into the village as trade. Those oddities, cyphers, and the occasional artifact -often already burned out and useless- had been his sole insight into the numenera. Despite that he had impressed Lazil enough for the nano to request the boy as an apprentice rather than the reverse.

"Very good boy, very good indeed," Lazil praised. "But if you think it is impressive now wait until you see it from within," he added mysteriously. The old nano stood on the seat of the cart, swaying with its motion, and scanning the surrounding fields and horizon. "First though, we must ensure that none see how we enter. Including you boy. I have my secrets and you will learn them in time, but not until you are ready and not until you have earned the appropriate level of trust."

Ruva looked up at his new master, "Yes sir, I understand. The explorers from the village would tell of bandits who sought to steal what others had paid for in hard work or hard coin." He gasped as he saw an opening form in the structure before them, he had not seen any device or manipulation of the data- or nano-spirits.

Lazil smiled down at his new apprentice, already proving himself more astute than many adults. "And always on the lookout for a trove of the numenera such as mine. Come, drive the beast inside, the way is open. Welcome to your new home."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

RPG Setting Poll Results

After a week we've had 21 responses, not bad considering this requires more effort than a single question Google+ vote.  I figured I would tabulate the current results and post them and probably do so again next week if there is significant numbers of new replies.

Q1: What genre are you most interested in a 3rd party setting?

  • 10 votes for: Science Fiction (includes Cyberpunk, Transhumanism, Space Opera)
    • 4 votes for Transhumanism
    • 4 votes for Soft Sci-fi / Space Opera
    • 1 vote for Hard Sci-fi with a galactic setting
    • 1 vote for Any/all of the above...sorry
  • 4 votes for: Fantasy (includes Low & High Fantasy, Pirates, Wuxia)
    • 2 votes for High Fantasy
    • 1 vote for Low Fantasy
    • 1 vote for Science Fantasy
  • 4 votes for: A combination of two or more
    • Western, Steampunk, Space Opera
    • High Fantasy, Transhumanism, Near Future
    • Pulp, Supers, Space Opera
    • Steampunk, Black Powder/ Pirates, Transhumanism
  • 3 votes for: Something Else (like Western, Steampunk, Supers, Horror, etc)
    • 1 vote each for Supers, Steampunk, Western
Wow, I guess Science Fiction needs to represent. As interesting as it is to see that nearly 50% of voters want some more sci-fi, I find some of those smash up suggestions just crazy! Steampunk transhuman pirates? That's pretty wild. Steampunk western space opera? Sounds like The Millennium Firefly needs to be a thing! 
Q2: What kind of tone do you want a setting to play in?
  • 11 votes for Fantastic / Pulpy
  • 8 votes for Dark / Grim
  • 2 votes for Bright / Hopeful
Kinda polar here, not really sure what to make of this all just yet.
Q3:  What level of detail are you looking for in a 3rd party setting's history?

  • 11 votes for: Detailed world/setting history
  • 9 votes for: Brief world/setting history to allow you to fill in your own detail
  • 1 vote for: Lots of setting location details as adventure seeds but with room to play in each
Seems like setting history and location are important to people with a near even mix as far as detailed vs. brevity. The nice thing here is that those who like brevity can usually just pick what they want from a more detailed setting I guess.
Q4:  How about the NPCs?

  • 18 votes for: Major NPCs with full stats (1 pg), Minor NPCs with sidebar stats  (just a level and major notes)
  • 2 votes for: Only Major NPCs with sidebar stats (just a level and major notes)
  • 1 vote for: Major and Minor NPCs with full stats (1 pg each)
Wow, this one is pretty clear. Thankfully NPC stats in Cypher System are a piece of cake with a side of pie. 
Q5: What kind of detail are you looking for in setting locations?

  • 15 votes for: Major locations with a great deal of detail and Minor locations with minor detail
  • 4 votes for: Major & Minor locations with minor detail
  • 2 votes for: Major & Minor locations with a great deal of detail
Another landslide. This jives pretty well with the results of Q3 so I guess that makes sense.
Q6: We all like maps; how important are detailed location maps to you?
  • 12 votes for: 4
  • 6 votes for: 3
  • 3 votes for: 5
I'm not surprised by this, people love maps. 
Q7: How important is professional level cartography to you for a 3rd party setting?
  • 10 votes for: 3
  • 4 votes for: 5
  • 4 votes for: 4
  • 3 votes for: 2
This is nice to see. A small publisher could bankrupt themselves on paying too much for art and maps, that said there is a clear "better is better" trend here too. 
Q8: What kind of adventure support are you looking for in a 3rd party setting?
  • 11 votes for: Story ideas/seeds
  • 5 votes for: A complete campaign
  • 4 votes for: A complete adventure
  • 1 votes for: Adventures and seeds
Kind of a mixed bag here. A good hefty lean toward ideas and prompts only, though clearly a statistically relevant number of folks wanting something bigger. 
Q9: What kinds of system support are you looking for?
  • 12 votes for: New, setting specific, Foci
  • 6 votes for: New, setting specific, Descriptors
  • 5 votes for: New, setting specific, Cyphers
  • 5 votes for: New, setting specific, Artifacts
  • 4 votes for: New, setting specific, Flavors
So this was a pick 2, and I just counted every vote for an item for that item.  Clearly new Foci are the big winner. There is a good even spread for the rest though, with even new flavors being desired. 
Q10: How important is professional quality artwork to you for a 3rd party setting?
  • 8 votes for 4
  • 5 votes for 3
  • 3 votes for 2
  • 3 votes for 5
  • 2 votes for 1
Interesting spread here as well. Good art  makes a game look great, but clearly a few people are willing to accept lesser art if the product has good content (I assume).
Q11: If released as a 3rd party PDF product how much would you pay for a Cypher System setting you were interested in?
  • 7 votes for $10
  • 5 votes for $7
  • 4 votes for $8
  • 2 votes for $2
  • 2 votes for $4
  • 1 vote for $6
It seems that $7-$10 is the sweet spot here for a PDF setting with a 30 page count. That's actually rather encouraging to see. It's a reasonable fee, I think, from a cost to content ratio, though I haven't any idea what kind of profit margin a company could make out of that. 

I'd like to thank everybody who has voted thus far. I personally find this stuff interesting, and I may try and do something in the 3rd party space at some point in the future. If I do this kind of feedback provides a nice directionality for somebody like me who isn't really integrated with the industry.

If you have not filled out the survey and want to please CLICK HERE to respond.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #49 - 9th World Icons

What are Icons? Icons are part of the 13th Age's "Archmage Engine" and I have discussed them previously in this blog. I can also point you to the SRD webpage or download the PDF direct from Pelgrane Press (also on DriveThruRPG).

The short version is that they are the big movers and shakers in a game setting. The folks who wield the most mortal influence on the world and can help to make thing happen, or prevent them from doing so. More importantly to your story though they act as touchstones for your characters, people for whom the PCs may be working for, or against, and can help generate good roleplay moments through the complications they provide.

Using Icons

How are Icons going to help spur cool roleplaying? Well when characters are created they get a certain number of relationship points to divide as they see fit among as many icons as they see fit (limited by their points). These can be positive, negative, or conflicted relationships, or a combination. Conflicted relationships are just that; sometimes these powerful figures will be one your side, and others not, and there may be some layer of complexity beyond simple enmity or allegiance.

Using three starting points you could have a character with a minor positive relationship with the Archmage (1), and a significantly negative relationship with the Warlord (2). At the start of a given session/adventure the players roll d6s for each point in each relationship on a 5 or 6 that relationship will come up during play.

So I roll a d6 for the Archmage and get a 4, and 2d6 for the Warlord and get a 2 and a 6. I keep the 6 and at some point during play I can "spend" that to gain some kind of meaningful advantage from that relationship. I may be able to spend that to gain help from others who oppose the Warlord as I do, or I may be able to use my enmity with the Warlord to intimidate some of his lackies. Had I rolled a 5 I would still be able to gain an advantage, but it would also cost me something, complicating the story in some way; perhaps the lackies return to the Warlord and now I have a war party coming to hunt me down!

Icons in Numenera

Having already gone into detail on what they are and why I think they are cool I'd like to propose some potential Icons for use in the Ninth World. These Icons are suggestions that I think would be an appropriate fit for the world of Numenera and who would make excellent allies and enemies for the players.

The Amber Pope
This one is probably the easiest and most obvious. The Amber Pop reigns over the Order of Truth in the Steadfast and by extension has power over almost all of the region's major governments, organizations, and monarchs. The Pope is motivated to lift humanity out of its current dark(ish) age by reclaiming the numenera for use. That the Order of Truth is beginning to steer its followers toward a religious bent as a means to do so may not go over well for everybody however.

The Grand Magister 
If the Order of Truth seeks understanding of the numenera for the betterment of all mankind, the Convergence would be its direct opposite with members seeking the same knowledge and understanding as a means of power and control. Therefore the Grand Magister would be the Amber Pope's opposite, with only loose control and personal gain in mind. Where the Order is vast and numerous the membership of the Convergence is small and elite, but no less powerful.

The Lucid Dreamseeker
The Jagged Dream seeks to see the world burn with conflict, and they have spread like a cancer throughout the world. Though the cult operates in a cell structure, there is one dreamseeker who secretly controls all, pulling the strings of war and conflict with one hand, while using the other to forge great nations and powerful groups for latter use. The goals of the Jagged Dream oppose those of the Order of Truth, but do not always interfere with the Convergence and at times the two might align, though seldom in a way that both parties would realize.

The Bandit Queen
The woman known as Dissicaeli (Numenera Bestiary pg 146) currently holds this position. She is a warlord like no other with a thirst for personal power and wealth. Her tactics involve raiding and pillaging those who have to amass her fortunes. Luckily for the Steadfast she has contained herself to the Pytharon Empire thus far, but for a woman as powerful as her it is only a matter of time before she sets sights on something or somewhere greater.

The Paladin
This Icon assumes a slight alteration to the Angulan Knights as written; instead of being a decentralized fraternity (though they are not male exclusive that term just feels like a good fit) of knights the is in fact a single knight chosen to assume the role of the Paladin. This man or woman is chosen in secret only by the Grand Knights. It is the Paladin who make policy and guides the Angulan Knights with a subtle hand toward whatever goals the original Angule laid down in secret some 350 years ago.

The Evolutionary
While mutants in the Ninth World don't have their own kingdom or society, or even a unified philosophy there has always been an Evolutionary. One mutant who above all others stands for the rights of their kind against whatever oppression may come. The current Evolutionary is a woman named Mila the Mindslayer (Numenera Bestiary pg 154). She has taken it upon herself to wage a war against the Angulan Knights above all others, setting herself on a collision course with the Paladin.


These are just a few ideas that jump out at me as being cool ways to introduce additional layers of world detail and allow the players to have their hands in some of the larger scale machinations within the Steadfast. 13th Age has thirteen icons to work with, and they each have their own conflicts and alliances with the other icons. If one were inclined toward using Icons in Numenera there is nothing to stop you  from creating only six, ten, or even twenty icons as you saw fit. You could broaden your scope the the world in total, or keep it narrowed to a small section.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas to potentially consider using Icons in Numenera, or maybe in some other game. I think the core concept is mechanically light enough, and robust enough in its roleplay elements that it can fit into just about any kind of game within any setting.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Story Seed - Plan A

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The crack-boom of gunfire continued outside, sending bullets whizzing through the thin wood walls. Larry sid sideways a bit and cocked his head to take an oblique angle on the window and peer out. "Ol' Silas has the Truk brothers with him," he said to Keller. "They look mighty irate."

Keller grunted in pain as he pressed his hand into his gunshot thigh. "You don't say?" he quipped back, "Think maybe they figured out we done sold Silas a run out mine?"

"You sons a bitches won't get away with cheatin' me!" a voice roared from outside.

The two men looked at each other. "Yup!" Larry grinned before calling out, "We sold you that mine fair an square. Don't get all sore 'cause you didn't check the vein out aforehand." Gunfire erupted as a response from the men outside. "Seems like maybe ol' Silas don't ascribe to them fancy latin words o' yours."

"Caveat emptor," Keller grunted. "The marshall can't let this go on can he?"

"Yeah, those were them, an' no I don't reckon he can, but that could go either way for us, what with the state of affairs 'tween you and the judge's wife."

"Oh hell, that ain't fair. She hates that old goat, and even he knows it. What's the value in getting all worked up over a little tryst."

Larry rolled his eyes, "'Cause you made a cuckold out o' him an' half the town knows it. Man's got himself a lotta pride Keller, and you done wounded it."

Keller thought about it, "Yeah ..." he reluctantly agreed. "So what's the plan then?"

"Well, Silas shot first, maybe we can gun 'im down before the law steps in?"

"I thought we were already trying that," Keller said hauling himself into a kneeling position on his good leg.

"Yeah, well, unless you got a better idea ... yeah, didn't think so." Larry smashed out the window next to him and started shooting.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Last Week Today - Week of September 7-13, 2015

Day off - Labor Day

Nuts & Bolts -  On the Fringe of The Strange

Some Poll Results and a New Poll

Story Seed - A Seat in Front

Year of the Demon Lord - The Road to Blackstone Ford (part 1)

One Year Anniversary - The blog turned 1 year old. It smashed a cupcake into paste and then had a tantrum.