Welcome to the web home of @enduringsecond and the relite games and campaigns.
I am interested in old school, modern and post-modern tabletop and computer RPGs and the synergies between them.
Here you will find first thoughts, excerpts from play, links to useful resources, and delves back into the forgotten byways of RPG development.


[Mini-Worlds Campaign] Quernbow System

29 November 2012 1815

One of the star systems in Brokenbridge Reach is the Quernbow System, comprising 3 mini-worlds: Achecote, Langrave, and Elvendone. The Astrogators Chart for the Quernbow System is shown below.

The mini-worlds are shown as regular dodecahedrons, because no mini-world is truly spherical and the regular dodecahedron seemed a reasonable compromise between a more spherical view and something that was easy to un-fold into a flat projection that is easy to map, as is shown here.

The next update will be to map out one of the mini-worlds in the Quernbow System.


[Mini-Worlds Campaign] Brokenbridge Reach

27 November 2012 1745

I have been having more thoughts about the mini-worlds based campaign I mentioned a few posts ago. Plan is to have magic powered "micro-stars" which exist in clusters called "reaches" and are all floating about in breathable atmosphere (to allow sail powered aerial galleons to voyage between them). Each micro-star is orbited by one or more mini-worlds.

The first cluster of micro-stars I have designed is Brokenbridge Reach, which is a cluster of 9 micro-stars: Quernbow, Chileburne, Lochetun, Brokenbridge, Evreland, Fernhelle, Tiderlai, Torchestone, and Malvoisin. The star chart from the Guild of Astrogators for Brokenbridge Reach is shown below.

I have decided on an Old English/Anglo-Saxon style of names for the stars and mini-worlds. I want it to subtly give the impression of having thousands of years of history behind the campaign without info-dumping on the players. The exception in Brokenbridge Reach is Malvoisin, which I believe has Romance language origins and means, roughly "evil neighbour".

The next step will be to design one of the star systems - probably Quernbow, which will be the starting system for the campaign.


[relite] The target's down, and so is everybody else

24 November 2012 2150

In the chaotic aftermath of the bombing attack on New Pyramiden the player characters split up to try to locate Alexei Golovin, ancestor of Governance Major General Viktor Golovin, and terminate him if he wasn't already dead.

Finn and Cai took the southern areas of a housing zone area, the main garage and hydroponics. Anton and Catherine took the central and northern areas. Hugo and Ishvan took everything to the west.

Following some desultory and low AP combat for Finn and Cai against a handful of militia in the hydroponics area, and a more serious encounter for Anton and Catherine (Anton losing 30 hp) with a Governance armiger, Hugo and Ishvan eventually located Golovin's body in the ruins of the Admin and Consul's Residence.

Much like Catherine, Hugo had not been entirely impressed with the mission strategy. His report over the radio net to Finn made this clear. "The target's down, and so is everybody else."


[relite] Player Character - Catherine

24 November 2012 2130

One of the key non-player characters in the "Three Tears" campaign is Catherine. She is the team medic and the love interest for Finn.

Name: Catherine

Description: 5 ft 5 in tall; 124 pounds; Age: 25; pale skin, sunburns easily, freckles on cheeks and bridge of nose; straight shoulder length auburn hair, usually up in a pony tail; Wears Volcom, Element, Neff, Vans for hoodies, tanks, jeans, sneakers, baseball cap. If it wasn't for her medical kit and machine pistol she would look as if she had just left the skateboard park.

Motivations: Helping Others, Team Loyalty

Conflicts: Finn (ex-boy friend); Conscience

AP Base: 240

HP Base: 110

Special Skill: Medic +35 AP

Weapons:

Model 61 Skorpion machine pistol, 20 round magazine. Length: 26.9 cm. Weight: 2 kg. Considerable short range fire power in a compact weapon that doesn't get in the way when Catherine is attending to her medical duties. Attack AP: 55.

Armor:

Flak jacket, ballistic nylon & aluminium. Weight: 4.5kg. US Army Vietnam-era. Defence AP: 20.

Other Equipment:

Medi-kit - tourniquets, dressings, bandages, splints, morphine, antibiotic ointment, disposable gloves, saline solution, antiseptic spray, hemostatic agents, trauma shears, irrigation syringe, etc. With this kit Catherine can treat anything from a sprained ankle to (in these scenarios the more usual) massive trauma wounds.


[relite] We were always ruthless, but when did we become so cruel?

23 November 2012 1632

New Pyramiden is a mining town located in a harsh arctic-like environment in the Three Tears campaign. Although the atmosphere is breathable, the majority of New Pyramiden is within an Oroglass shelter which acts as a greenhouse to maintain a comfortable temperature. The town itself is a coal mining town of about 3000 population, sending out the coal by surface ships. The pier is connected to the mine via a narrow gauge railway. The GM's map of New Pyramiden is shown here.

The player characters come here to assassinate the ancestor, Alexei Golovin, of Governance Major General Viktor Golovin. I had been expecting a covert raid through one of the airlocks. Instead the PCs opted to bomb the town from their timeship as it floated overhead, and then descended amidst the chaos and fleeing refugees to take out their target.

Although things didn't run exactly as I has been expecting, it did inspire one of my favorite quotes from the Three Tears campaign, from Catherine (the team medic), who objected to their tactics due to the loss of innocent lives. The scenario played out as below:

The Oroglass fire is nearly extinguished as you approach the town. There is just an orange flicker here and there amongst the twisted, blackened wreckage of the arching roof girders.

The citizens of New Pyramiden are fleeing past you, out into the freezing blizzard, the whole and the burnt, but all equally doomed without shelter in the icy wastes.

Catherine is next to you, her face very pale under the scatter of freckles across the bridge of her nose. She looks around, aghast at the scene. You know you are losing her.

"We were always ruthless," she says, "but when did we become so cruel?"


[relite] Player Character - Hugo

13 November 2012 1040

Another of the player characters in the "Three Tears" campaign is Hugo.

Name: Hugo

Description: 6 ft 3 inch tall, 170 pounds, Caucasian, medium length, blond hair, clean shaven, no scars, tattoo of a VW camper van on right shoulder. Wearing faded jeans, baggy open neck shirt, tatty sneakers.

Motivations: Enthusiasm(!), Team Loyalty

Conflicts: Heinrich van Dorn (arch-enemy); Authority Figures

AP Base: 260

HP Base: 185

Special Skill: Martial Arts +40 AP

Weapons:

Bayard 1908, .32 ACP semi-automatic pistol, 5 round magazine. Length: 12.6 cm. Weight: 460g. A short-range self-defense handgun. Hugo has never actually used it, but his girlfriend thought he should carry a handgun. Attack AP: 10.

M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle, .30-06 Springfield rifle cartridge, 20 round box magazine. Length: 119.4 cm. Weight: 7.25 kg. Designed to be carried by advancing infantrymen, slung over the shoulder or fired from the hip, a concept called "walking fire". Hugo actually does use this for ranged suppressive fire and impressing the ladies (apparently). Attack AP: 80.

Armor:

None.


Mini-Worlds Campaign

07 November 2012 1400

For as long as I can remember I have been considering a campaign based around mini-worlds - small spherical worlds with a handful of encounters and interactions on each. Visually the exagerated curve of the horizon would show that each world is smaller than life.

The closest game images that I have so far seen for this concept are from Creature Conflict: The Clan Wars. This was a Worms-like game where your clan of animal characters battle a different clan on 3D mini-planets with deformable terrains. A couple of images:

An RPG/CRPG campaign based around mini-worlds is, I think, an exciting concept. Perhaps the mini-worlds would all orbit the same sun in a band of breathable atmosphere, to make travelling between them feasible, with flying galleons setting sail between the worlds carrying the player characters on their quests. Genre would have to be science fantasy I think, with the mini-worlds having been creating by a now extinct race with technologies now long forgotten.

If anyone knows of any other good mini-world images please tweet me a link and I'll check it out.


Mini Dungeon Map - Freyn's Lair

30 October 2012 1554

Lots of megadungeons around at the moment, but here's a minidungeon map from the Weathercoast campaign, put together in Visio from my library of dungeon components. This is Freyn's lair, if she can be said to have a lair (she would call it her boudoir of course). More on Freyn later.


An Encyclopedia of Role Playing Games

23 October 2012 0812

I had to post a link to this fantastic resource for tabletop RPGs, the Encyclopedia of Role Playing Games. John Kim has provided information on RPGs from the last (nearly) 40 years.

The encyclopedia can be sorted/filtered by title, year of publication, language, genre and so on. There is a particularly useful list of free RPGs.


Games that Nearly Were - Glympse

15 October 2012 1736

   

Glympse was an MMORPG with an intended release date of 2005 that was developed to Alpha by Sojourn Development before being cancelled. From the press releases of the time:

"Glympse is a massively multiplayer game set on a small moon, orbiting a planet in a different dimension. Players must discover what happened to the civilizations they have now come to inhabit, and must learn how to harness the power of Super String-based technology to rebuild the world in their own image."

"Glympse offers an atmosphere of mystery and adventure in which players are in the dual roles of strangers in a strange land and natives rediscovering their heritage. Through field research, players can recover pieces of the knowledge their predecessors have hidden throughout the world, unlocking the hidden potential of their Avatars and allowing them to build their homes, their cities, and the tools of war and peace. Over time, the quest for knowledge will begin to create a picture of what their world was like at its zenith. What the players do with that knowledge will determine their futures in Glympse, and the future of the world itself."

"The world of Glympse is a world in which technology and Plexus have developed in tandem. Plexus, the elemental energy form of the universe, is battled over by several distinct factions, spread across two different races. It is a world in which players may fight one another directly, or choose never to pick up a weapon and opt for a more peaceful life. A combination of player-created, randomly generated, and developer-driven quests drive the experience of Glympse to a new level of immersion. Additionally, an innovative method of tracking the outcomes of players’ actions will develop the over-arching storyline - the players will directly affect the world at nearly every turn as they struggle within their chosen factions for supremacy."

"No choice in Glympse is a permanent one; the only constant is that of the world itself: Change. How each player chooses to play Glympse will determine what Glympse will become. There are no rules."

"The vision of Glympse is for tens of thousands of players to come together in a single virtual world. Through their actions in the game, the players will effectively write their own stories and weave them into the fabric of a much larger tale that directly impacts the world. AI.implant™, is an important part of our efforts to create the kinds of supporting characters and interaction that will draw our players ever deeper into the world of Glympse."

"Pandromeda's fractal algorithms allow us to create an immense spherical world with a file weight of a couple hundred kilobytes. This is excellent news for gamers, as it creates incredible gameplay opportunities. Sojourn is now free to include unlimited modes of transportation for players such as flight and water-based vehicles, as there is no 'edge of the world' to resolve. Players will be able to use the planet's curvature to intelligently plot trade or invasion routes. Additionally, the sheer size of the planet allows players to enter into the excitement of player-vs-player combat or to simply avoid it all together without having to impose artificial PvP zones or 'toggle' options. And most importantly, the incredibly small size (in kilobytes) of the planet allows us to make drastic modifications and additions to the 'physical' world of the game while negligibly affecting our players' download rates."

The Glympse AI sounds like a much more modern and advanced version of the Knight Orc Adventure System I wrote about in an earlier post. The fractal generation of the world of Glympse is a concept I will explore further in future posts, perhaps it is the sort of technology that brings large world development within the scope of small indie development teams.

The campaign world of Glympse itself also sounds fascinating. It would be ideal for an MMORPG as originally intended but equally would make a fantastic setting for a tabletop MMORPG campaign.


Maps for Different Uses - The Weathercoast Campaign

09 October 2012 1432

Here are a couple of examples of different types of maps from my Weathercoast campaign. The first the GM map of Graymere Isle.

As you can see the map is merely a set of interconnected nodes showing the basic terrain (e.g. M = Mountain) and any special locations (e.g. 7 = Stonetor).

The next map is a player map of Stormsdown island, whilst less geographically precise it shows images of mountains, forests, etc in attempt to bring atmosphere and make the setting seem organic and alive to the players.

Which is more useful? I guess it all depends on what you're using the map for. The player's want a map that is useful and looks like it is in context with the game world. The GM wants an accurate map to allow tracking of location, travel rates, wandering monsters, etc.


Modern Shooter - Text Based FPS

02 October 2012 0754

UNCOVER - FIRE - FIRE - COVER - REGENERATE - REGENERATE - FLEE

An interesting take on the modern first person shooter (FPS) genre of games for the 7dfps competition, which I felt worth mention here because it uses text based commands to control the player character. The game itself is pretty much linear, with no exploration of the environment, but does have character equipment (weapons and ammo), and character stats (HP).

You can read more about the game here and here's a screen shot:

I had previously been thinking about a similar concept with perhaps slightly more complex commands: burst three right, full auto center, single shot left, move forward, sprint forward, dive, weave right, etc.


[relite] Example of Uncontested Obstacle Resolution

26 September 2012 1017

Uncontested obstacles are those where overcoming the obstacle requires a certain number of APs, but failure does not result in additional HP loss over and above those APs bid being lost. Uncontested obstacles are those where a character can fail or succeed, but failing cannot result in major physical injury.

Uncontested obstacles simply have an AP score. If the character bids APs equal to or higher than the obstacle AP score then the character is successful. The number of APs bid is subtracted from the character’s AP total. If the character bids lower than the obstacle AP score then he is unsuccessful, and, again, the number of APs bid is subtracted from the character’s AP total. The AP score of the uncontested obstacle is not reduced by the amount of points bid if unsuccessful.

Example:

Ulmar the Barbarian has 100 APs. He is faced with a locked door he must break open. He bids 10 APs to break down the door. Unfortunately for Ulmar, the door requires 15 APs to smash. Thus, Ulmar bounces off the door and his APs are reduced to 90.

He tries again, this time bidding 20 APs. The door bursts apart. Ulmar is successful but is nursing a bruised shoulder and APs reduced to 70.


Al Otro Lado - On The Other Side (OTOS)

17 September 2012 2145

Released in 2000 and taking 1st place in the Premio a la Aventura más Original (1999-2000), "On The Other Side" is an adventure game with a twist. From the accompanying readme file:

"On the other side is an strange piece of interactive-fiction. In this game you will be the computer that guides the interactive-fiction player, that is, we will type the descriptions of the locations, the responses to the commands of the player, etc..."

This is an intriguing premise, particularly when looking at interactions/synergies between tabeltop RPGs and CRPGs. Could a game be played/play tested with AI opponents like OTOS? OTOS itself had a rudimentary level of intelligence, seemingly generating commands at random based on the script file that held its "brain":

The script language itself is very simple, again from the readme:

Something more complex could allow CRPGs to be tested or maybe even provide AI characters for tabletop RPGs - "Bob can't make it tonight but his iPad can..."

OTOS is still available for download at Baf's Guide to the IF Archive.


Campaigns

12 September 2012 1123

I have designed and run four major campaigns as GM:

The Weathercoast Campaign: A swords and sorcery campaign set in a wind swept and storm wracked archipelago of islands called the Weathercoast. The player characters are literally human flotsam and jetsom who find themselves initially stranded on Stormsdown Isle. The islands themselves are at the edge of the world, poor, forgotten, cut off by bad weather for months at a time, and as the campaign begins, threatened by a force of almost unimaginable evil. Ruleset is 1st edition AD&D with some amendments (e.g. no psionics, no dual classes, no monks/assassins).

The Three Tears Campaign: A post-modern campaign inspired by the coming anarchy theory writ large. New tensions such as population increases, urbanization, and resource depletion have undermined governments across the world and destroyed the social fabric. To this the Three Tears campaign adds the concept of Time Ships which have been used to fight a war across time itself. Their use has caused the collapse of objective reality and cause and effect no longer always applies. The universe is in anarchy. The player characters are sometime foot soldiers and sometime deserters from this war. Three Tears runs using my relite (reality lite) rules.

The 1812 Blood in the Snow Campaign: A Napoleonic campaign with occult/mystical elements set during Napoleon's desperate winter retreat from Moscow. The retreating Grand Army has to contest with the freezing weather, lack of food and provisions, harrassment by cossacks, and attacks by werewolves and other supernatural beings from the Russian wilderness. The player characters are a rag-tag group from the Grand Army tasked with investigating and defending against these supernatural attacks. Getting into cover before night falls is critical for more reasons than the cold! 1812 Blood in the Snow is also run using the relite rules.

The Trinity of the Tower Campaign: A pulp fantasy/sci-fi campaign set on a generation starship, the "Trinity of the Tower" which has long ago suffered disaster and drifted off course. Civilisation on the huge ship has fallen to almost barbaric levels and alien races and mutants infest the majority of the decks. The player characters are technological foragers, venturing into the ship to bring back useful high-tech artefacts for the remaining humans. The setting is inspired by Brian Aldiss' Starship (1959), Richard Paul Russo's Ship of Fools (2002), and, of course, Metamorphosis Alpha. Ruleset was my old SOLARSYS (Solo and Roleplaying System) rules.


Old (Ancient!) School CRPG - Dungeon Master from Crystal Computing

04 September 2012 1254

The game had player character statistics, weapons and equipment, magical items and a full set of enemies to battle from feeble Giant Centipedes to fearsome Demogorgons. An example of the text based combat is shown below.

The game was entirely dungeon based with no town or wilderness exploring or interactions, but it did allow you to be the DM and create your own dungeons - stocking them with monsters, traps and treasure which you could then share with your friends. The selection screen for the Dungeon Creation program is shown here.

Dungeon Master really gave the flavour of an old school dungeon crawl with just a few lines of text. It's a true early example of synergy between the tabletop RPG and the CRPG.


[relite] Player Character - Finn

27 August 2012 0817

One of the long running player characters in the "Three Tears" campaign is Finn.

Name: Finn

Description: 6 ft tall, 185 pounds, Caucasian, short cropped black hair, short goatee beard, no scars or other distinguishing features. Affects "military contractor" chic - desert boots, expensive chinos, Ralph Lauren polo shirt, wrap-around Oakley sunglasses.

Motivations: Survival, Team Loyalty

Conflicts: Catherine (ex-girl friend); Heinrich van Dorn (arch-enemy); Malise Lord Vesci (love rival)

AP Base: 270

HP Base: 190

Special Skill: Handguns +30 AP

Weapons:

Nagant Model 1895, 7.62 mm revolver. 7 chambers. Length: 23cm. Weight: 750g. A commercial model stamped 'L Nagant Brevet Liege 1901'. Attack AP: 30.

Lee Enfield Rifle No 5, .303 bolt action carbine. 10 round magazine. Length: 87.5cm stock extended. Weight: 2.9kg. Blast and recoil unpleasant due to short barrel and powerful cartridge. Suffers from a "wandering zero" (-20 AP if not zeroed each day). Attack AP: 60.

Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife. Because some things are best despatched with cold steel. Attack AP: 20.

Armor:

Flak jacket, ballistic nylon & aluminium. Weight: 4.5kg. US Army Vietnam-era. Defence AP: 20.


Knight Orc Adventure System "KAOS"

19 August 2012 2023

The Knight Orc Adventure System or KAOS was a system developed by the games company Level 9 for the Knight Orc game released back in 1987.

It's worth a mention here because the system made the game feel like a multi-player text adventure (basically a MUD) but with only a single player. It achieved this by having the NPCs having their own goals and motives such that their behaviors were never the same when the game was replayed. They were interested in killing orcs and getting treasure - sounding like most real-life RPGers to me.

Knight Orc itself had an unusual plot in which the player character was an orc in a magical world where the humans were out to get you. Puzzles and obstacles were overcome by interacting with the NPCs.


Solo RPG Gamebooks vs Hypertext Novels

12 August 2012 1042

Solo RPG gamebooks, such as the Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, and Fabled Lands series separate themselves from hypertext novels through the addition of game mechanics. Game mechanics are rules such as keeping stats of such things as hit points, encumbrance, food and water, etc; rules for determining the outcome of combat; and rules on character progression (levelling up), etc. Together these game mechanics become a rules system.

Hypertext novels therefore typically only have decision points, whereas solo RPG gamebooks have three dimensions: time, decision points, and a game mechanic or game system.


Games that Nearly Were - StarLock

04 August 2012 1405

StarLock was a browser based game from Prowler Productions on which development seemed to cease sometime in 2005. Although the game was opened for play in a limited form, it is sadly no longer available.

StarLock was designed to be a browser-based multiplayer science fiction RPG adventure. It was to be a sort of an illustrated MUD for the web, but without the tediousness typing in commands. It was designed to feature hundreds of locations to visit including planets, stations, moons, etc.

One of the main goals of the game was to tell a story, with the player becoming an integral part of that story. The storytelling had to be linear in order to progress a storyline based on key events, situations, and milestones, however within that there was non-linear gameplay.

The game featured a partially persistent game world. The game effectively became a single-player game inhabited by multiple players. For instance, Chuckle's Pub was always there, but Yillaforn didn't hang around from now until forever, just so every player who visited had a chance to interact with him. He was there at the start of a quest, then he would be gone. A new player starting the same quest would see him. Others later in the game would not.

Each main location could have one or more sub-locations. For example, Chuckle's Pub was the only point of interest on Chuckle's Planetoid, but the planet Marizen was home to a market, a path for travelers, and a cemetery involved in a quest early on.

Player character stats included things like Vigor and Vitality (not character modifiers, but actual "turns" used daily by the player), Skills (climbing, running, jumping, swimming, fighting, and so forth, which increased to make certain tasks easier and/or more accessible), Auras (i.e. magic in a sci-fi setting) and more.

If any game need a Kickstarter bring it to completion, it's StarLock. More screenshots can be seen here.


A Mini Adventure - B-Venture

27 July 2012 1159

I have long been interested in how small a program could be in terms of size in bytes and still contain a viable RPG experience. Perhaps thinking like this is an antidote to the vast quantities of graphics, library code, etc that every game now seems to require.

An example from a few years back is B-Venture by Paul Panks.

B-Venture is a text adventure in which you play the part of an adventurer tasked to slay a vampire. The adventure contains 19 locations and a small number of monsters. These can be fought using weapons and armor and the player character has hit points (albeit no other statistics) giving the game an RPG flavour. Given that the game fits in an amazing 2.7KB of RAM the textual descriptions of the locations are necessarily limited, as can be seen in the screen shot below.


Novel Magic Systems

20 July 2012 0736

From Books for Inform Designers:

"Games with magic in the authentic fantasy sense seldom follow the austere example of Tolkien, where – although there are spells, as where Gandalf sets light to fir cones in (the book) The Hobbit – the sign of a wizard is more often a priest-like ability to question out motives in what people say and a sage-like wisdom about nature and history. Instead, perhaps for easy parsing and convenient subdivision and perhaps simply to imitate Gary Gygax's role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, interactive fiction has tended to follow the Dying Earth stories (c. 1950) of Jack Vance† where spells are at once dramatic flourishes, complex mental exercises which must be memorised, and highly specific tools with outré names like 'Xarfaggio's Physical Malepsy' and 'The Excellent Prismatic Spray'. Many schemes of magic have been tried, and naturally each designer wants to find a new one. Sometimes spells take place in the mind ('Enchanter'), sometimes with the aid of certain objects ('Curses'); sometimes halfway between (Level 9's 'Magik' games, David Williamson and Pete Austin, 1985–6). Keying magic to objects is advantageous because objects are tactile and part of the game's other play. In other respects, too, magic needs to be subject to the discipline of being easily subdivided and described. "Change a belt or staff into a small poisonous serpent" is far more amenable to designing (and parsing) than "convert up to 1000 cubic feet of rock to mud or quicksand"."

I wonder how a game would play with a more Tolkein-esque magic system? Would a wizard using such a system make for an interesting player character, or would it be something more of use for NPCs working, for and against the PCs, in the background?


Design Patterns for Role Playing Games

10 July 2012 1543

A tremendous resource for any aspiring RPG designer (tabletop or computer) is Whitson John Kirk III's Design Patterns of Successful Role-Playing Games.

The book is available as a pdf download under Creative Commons. It describes names and describes rule mechanics that will be familiar to any player of RPGs such as Dice Pool, Flaw, Game Master, Gift, Point-Spend Attribute, Generalized Contest, Random Attribute, Rank, Template, Trait, etc. It also presents and describes RPGs in which these patterns are used, including D&D v3.5, Ars Magica, Fudge, The Riddle of Steel, Warhammer Fantasy Role Play and many others.



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