About Me

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Seattle, Washington, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Secret of Gand

In the last adventure, I made a static image of a Star Wars crawler (see above). Of course, one of my players who shall remain Anonymous decided to criticize me for not making it animated.

Challenge Accepted.

Here's the crawler for my next Edge of the Empire / Age of Rebellion adventure, called "The Secret of Gand".

Star Wars: The Secret of Gand from Mr. Blue on Vimeo.

Yea, I realize that I misspelled one word, but I didn't feel like redoing the render and upload. Let's see who can find it first.

I did this video with a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe After Effects. Obviously I stole the GHTROC-720 (I have no idea the original source, despite trying to google for it), and anyone that didn't grow up in a barn knows that I stole the audio. Hopefully Disney will overlook it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Phantom Interlude

I only had 3 players this weekend, so I created a side quest for them.  Since this is Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, I went ahead and made a crawler image in Adobe Illustrator.

Of course I had at least one person ask why I didn't animate it.  Sigh.  MAYBE NEXT TIME I WILL DAMMIT.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Example of One-Check combat resolution

In between sessions, our group was having so much fun that we ended up continuing the adventure by email. Most of this was discourse, minor actions, exploration, etc. But then the party got to a big battle scene. Star Wars: Edge of the Empire has a mechanic for one-check combat resolution, so I decided to use this mechanic and carry the story forward.

Spoiler Alert: This is a scene from Beyond the Rim (with some of my own modifications), so if you haven't played that yet and are likely to be a player, you might want to skip this post.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Star Wars Silhouette Guide

We recently played Star Wars: Edge of the Empire for the first time. It was great fun, and the system has a lot of potential for future play.

I've seen some confusion about silhouettes from some folks. In SW: EotE, the silhouette is the abstracted size of the object/creature in question. It ranges from zero to ten. There is no separate scale for starships versus people; this is an exponential scale.

Here's a brief description of each silhouette, along with some examples.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Post-play thoughts on Numenera

I ran the Beale of Boregal, which is a pre-built adventure in the core Numenera rule book.

Well, I say that loosely, because I'm pretty much incapable of running a pre-built adventure. So there were some changes. The basic frame was there, but I changed a bit of the flow - and added quite a bit of story with a couple of the minor NPCs. For instance, I had one of them mentally possessed and speaking in "tongues" (actually a forgotten language) - the party figured out some key vocabulary through trial and error and the results helped drive the journey and the eventual conclusion.

Yea, I just can't leave well enough alone.

So how about the game itself?

Worth it?
Spoiler: Yes.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pre-play Thoughts on Numenera

But first, let me take a selfie: My last Stellar RPG playtest was interesting. There's some good in there, but there's also a little bit of awkwardness in a couple of areas like covering fire that I must find new ways of addressing.

After a bit of writer's block on that, I decided I needed to play some stock games again to get exposure to new ideas and see if that sparked some extra creativity.

I've obtained a couple of new tabletop RPGs to try out, and the first is one I'm sure most people (that would read this blog) have heard of by now: Numenera. I've always been a fan of Monte Cook's work, at least since 2e D&D's A Paladin in Hell and speaking of hell who can forget the slaughterfest that was Labyrinth of Madness?? It was the Tomb of Horrors for 2nd edition (not counting the actual 2e Return to Tomb of Horrors which ironically wasn't really the Tomb of Horrors of 2e).

Numenera: Less tombs, more horrors.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Age of Mythology

This is a little bit of an older game now (which makes me feel even older), but we recently blew the dust off of it. The results were surprisingly fun.

The game is based off the (also now old) computer game, Age of Mythology. However, there isn't really any connection beyond the name and some theming elements. While the computer game is in the RTS (real-time strategy) genre, the board game is decisively euro-style resource management.

Each player has their own board, in which they gather resources and possess terrain. The terrain is generic - mountain, hill, forest - and each tile of terrain comes with a resource type. When collect actions occur, those resource types determine what each player gets.

Also on each player's board is their city, or buildings, area. Resources can be spent on houses (which enhance production), or defensive buildings, or extra income buildings.

The overall goal of the game is to collect little red cubes, called victory cubes. This can be done either winning the first battle in a round, or meeting one condition at the end of the game: largest army, most buildings, or built the wonder (a tribute to the wonder victory in the RTS version).

Yes, an army can be built, but combat is as far away from the RTS version as possible. When attacking another player, a small selection of units are picked secretly from the other combatant, and once revealed, they attack in 1v1 combinations that results, more or less, in an overglorified rock-paper-scissors match. There is a dice pool mechanic here, so that even if player A has a rock and player B has paper, player A still has a chance to win.

When I first bought the game, I was a little put off at how different it was from the computer version. However, I've come to enjoy it quite a bit in its own right.

My favorite mechanic is the card deck. Each turn players get to perform three actions. However, their hand has more than 3 cards each turn. At the beginning of each turn, players can select "permanent" actions, such as Build, Recruit, or Explore. These are weak cards, but guarantee the player gets to do something he wants to. After picking those, the rest of the hand is filled out from the random action deck, which is a unique deck to each race in the game (Vikings, Egyptian, and Greek). These cards are all more powerful than the permanent actions, but of course might be drawn at a completely inopportune or non-useful time.

I really like gambling mechanics, and this one works well. Players inclined to gamble can sometimes execute a powerful win strategy, but of course at times will end up passing or performing a weak action because they can't use their cards effectively.

Probably the one carryover strategy from the RTS game is early resource production. It pays off to build houses and get terrain tiles as early as possible. The game is limited time (about 10 turns in a 3 player game) so spending the first 2 turns on heavy resource gain is most effective.

This game won't likely be everyone's go-to game to play, but it has some great positives for anyone that likes resource collection and management games. Anyone looking for the next Axis & Allies is better off looking elsewhere.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Playtesting today...

Finally doing another Stellar playtest later today - this one focused on ground assault. I've prepared three characters for the players, as the creation protocols are not yet ready for them.

Still, while working through the fledgling process, I've already realized there's some things I don't quite like. It was a sort of character creation playtest on my own.

Mostly, I do like the Background Ratings approach, but I think instead of trying to be vague I should just go ahead and specify the background itself. For instance: Academics, Military, Criminal Enterprise, etc. It seems more relatable that way.

I also need to think more about how characters without the Ground Assault skill will perform in combat. I'm content with a trained military guy being better in general combat, but from a game design perspective, the other characters still need to feel useful, since combat is a reasonably large part of most RPGs. I could come up with alternate approaches for each major grouping (engineers use turrets and droids?), but something tells me that won't work out well in the end and ends up creating massive number of class-equivalent mechanics. Too unwieldy.

For now, though, I just gave every character some ground assault training, because the point of today's test is to see if the ground assault rules hold up mechanically.

Meanwhile, here's an inspirational image about the future of space travel.

photo credit: AGeekMom via photopin cc

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Combat for Modern and Future RPGs

Ground combat - or any person-to-person level combat, wherever it occurs - has been quite the puzzle for me in Stellar.

The main problem with existing system approaches is that they are primarily fantasy driven in their mechanics, even if they are labeled with science fiction titles.

Hitting people with swords/axes/lightsabers is all very similar, and the mechanics of combat in most tabletop RPGs reflect that. Each character goes in some deterministic order, and their action(s) can be spent with an attack, or a heal, or a (de)buff, or using some item, and then the next character goes. Some games allow for "interrupts", which is an action taken on another character's turn.

I like those games and have played them for years. For Stellar, I am demanding something else, though. I want it to feel like a modern combat. So what is modern combat?

Oops, my finger slipped.
photo credit: DVIDSHUB via photopin cc

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Background Ratings

I've been toying around with the player-character aspect of Stellar, which up until now is really only a tactical space fighter game.

As mentioned previously, I do not believe class vs classless really affects player creativity. However, I also don't feel constrained to rely on a class system.

Setting that aside for a moment, I have also spent time contemplating possible attribute models. I found a great list of attributes used in various games on Fudgery.net.

It's like a miniature thesaurus! Except it only has synonyms for Strength, Agility, Hardiness, Intelligence, ....  you get the idea. The synonym chosen reflects the flavor of the game. For instance, InvaderZ uses "Meat" and "Brain Meat" as attributes. That tells me quite a lot about the game, at least in theory (I've never played it). Additionally, some games use frequency of attribute type to illustrate desired gameplay. So, if a game has 6 different physical attributes and then one attribute called "Mind and stuff", it is safe to assume physical activities are more prevalent and/or important.

I confess to being somewhat bored by the prospect of making yet another game that uses these approaches.

As mentioned in the link at Fudgery, we as gamers usually associate "attribute" with "inherent" or "born with it". In every attribute-based game, eventually someone asks a question like, "If I'm Strength 14, why can't I work out more and get Strength 15?" or "Why can't I study more to get smarter?"

Good questions.

Game systems overcome this sort of probing in one of two fashions: either completely ignoring it, or by letting characters improve attributes somehow. Improvement can come over time/experience, or through magic items (which generally just support ignoring the basic question).

So I asked myself, are attributes inherent to RPGs?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Classless Systems

Every so often - say every 12 minutes or thereabouts - I see an RPG bragging about their classless system. Standard text follows:

"It's better than classes because YOU CAN PLAY ANYTHING YOU WANT!"

"It's like other RPGs except YOU CAN PLAY ANYTHING YOU WANT!"

"It uses skills which are way better than classes because YOU CAN PLAY ANYTHING YOU WANT!"

I want to play a beholder. What skills for that?
photo credit: estherase via photopin cc

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gremlin with a Crazy

For those of you not following @GremlinWidCrazy, you really should. Also don't forget me, @CobaltKobold, which is not nearly as funny, although I did post a picture of Butt Stallion recently.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Stellar Space Fighter Construction

I decided that I needed to start letting players in my playtests make some creation choices. Since all I have in Stellar so far is the space fighter combat, it made sense to start with space fighter construction.

photo credit: Louis K. via photopin cc

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

M3 Larp

OK, I know, Larps and stuff.

But our distant cousins who refuse to accept the righteousness of tabletop gaming deserve love, too. Well, every once in a while.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Stellar Animated Badge

I decided to play around with Adobe After Effects and animate the Stellar Badge.

Here it is.

Direct Vimeo Link: Animated Stellar Badge
Sound Effects from: http://www.freesfx.co.uk

It's my first foray into AE, so be gentle!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Stellar Space Fighter Combat, Part 2

Last time I talked about the basic goals and the Initiative Phase of space combat in Stellar. This time, I'll talk about the Movement phases. I've done multiple playtests to arrive at this version of the rules: some on my own, some with 1 other player, and some with 2 other players.

Thanks go out to PintoBean and BabyBat for playing!

To recap, Initiative was the first phase, and the design is to have a Movement Phase and a Weapons Phase after that. This structure allows me to have players more frequently active/involved, and make initiative dynamic yet simple by not having to know everyone's roll before the action starts.

In play, this structure also aids the "feel" of space combat.

Two players vs. six goons, and a whole lotta d12s

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Stellar Badge

Felt like drawing today, so I made a badge for Stellar in Adobe Illustrator. I wouldn't go as far as to call it a logo, but maybe. Mostly I wanted some sort of identity look for now.

© 2014 Cobalt Kobold Publishing

There are 4 components here, layered from back to front. I started with an empty 200pt x 100pt artboard.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stellar Space Fighter Combat, Part 1

One of my big issues with a lot of sci-fi tabletop RPGs is that the space combat seems to be an afterthought. Frequently, the rules either exactly match the ground combat, or they seem to be a minor optional ruleset.

For me, a sci-fi game must include fun space battles.

Once upon a time, this was sci-fi.
photo credit: Chris Devers via photopin cc

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Graphic Design Books

Tim Shorts over at the Valentine Manor asked about books for graphic design and layout. Here's some of my favorites.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Stellar Mechanics

photo credit: mag3737 via photopin cc

One of the lessons I've learned in the past few years is that I needed to figure out mechanics after I figure out the outcomes.

For Stellar, I need to get a core mechanic going so that I can explore the rest of the rules. But in the classic chicken vs egg fashion, I need some idea of the rules before I can select a trial mechanic.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stellar Goals

What do I want out of Stellar?

I asked myself this question first, to give the initial direction. What follows is a bit of a stream of consciousness... a window into my design soul, if you will.

It's cloudy, with a chance of sci-fi.
photo credit: ChaoticMind75 via photopin cc

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Backstreet's Back. In Black.

photo credit: A Guy Taking Pictures via photopin cc

Been a while.

It took me some time to come to grips with a nasty reality: I was burnt out. Between work, and medical stuff, and working on Phoenix RPG, something had to give. So I've spent a lot of the last few months just watching TV (Chuck marathon, anyone?) and playing video games (mostly SWTOR and Path of Exile). Well, and still going to work, which as we all know is a bit of a necessary evil.

Phoenix/Monstrarium has been an amazing learning experience and I want to get back to it. However, I'm not ready for that yet. I'm going to take a break and start a new project, code-named Stellar. My intention is to use some of my lessons learned from Phoenix/Monstrarium and see if I can have a better process this time around.

Process? What?

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