Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Halloween! - And Checking Your Dice

I came across this interesting video that has a neat trick for checking your dice. 

Now some of you might use this to find dice that roll well. Just a reminder, if there is no risk, there is no reward. I can't imagine a game more boring than one where I always win.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Setting Building Method Alpha

Sometimes when we start building a setting, it flows easily. Many settings already have a shorthand that we can use, like fantasy or cyberpunk, where we don't need to detail much about the setting. We can just drop our characters into the setting and move along. We are all on the same page.

But sometimes we try something new, we build a world from the ground up and we get lost. Here's a helpful worksheet to keep you on your path in Setting Design. I named it alpha as it will no doubt get upgraded as time goes on. But so far this has really helped me to keep focused on my settings.


First you should pick the genre of game you are playing. Is it Fantasy, Historical, Western, Modern, Cyberpunk, Space Opera, or Hard Sci-Fi? Is it a combination of these genres? Make a note and start looking up these Genres on TV Tropes. Tropes are the shorthand of any genre and using these will help your players get a quick feel for your setting. They will also help you in filling out the rest of this worksheet.

Trope Characters

What are the typical, iconic characters of your genre? Who are the type of people that wind up in your trope's adventure. This will prepare you for the types of characters your players will want to play and it may also point to some new rules you may have to add it your setting. For instance, if your setting occurs in Victorian style England or the universe of a Dune styled empire, then a character's Status becomes very important in social encounters.

Trope Villains

Who are the heroes likely to go up against? What are the typical villains that will populate your setting? List them out. Just rough character types here, you don't have to flesh out each villain. Just list things like: Pirates, Mad Scientists, Corrupt Religious Figures, etc.

Trope Locations

Some settings are more about the environment than the characters (like Alice in Wonderland). Even if it isn't, locations can be inspiring and set the tone of your setting if done right.


Pretty basic. Will your setting have magic and what will it look like? What are it's limitations? What do people think of it?

New Rules

What new rules will be required to give your setting that Trope feeling? In horror games this might take the form of sanity/fear rules, Status rules as mentioned earlier, or things like starship construction. The danger here is that you might go overboard or add too many new rules that just bog down the game. Design only those rules systems that your setting requires. Try not to add more than a couple of new Edges or Hindrances. Often times what is already in the rulebook will cover what you may want to do.
Also, try to keep the new rules simple. You don't need more complications in your life.

New Gear

Is there any special gear that your game requires that isn't already statted up in the core book? Generally this is vehicles, spaceships, or other weapons. It also might include high-tech gadgets that are disposable versions of Powers.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Ill Effects of a Gaming Haiatus

I find this interesting. I have been working on my sci-fi setting for nearly a year now it seems, and I haven't played Savage Worlds in about two years.

So I lost my last gaming group to a variety of life problems, as well as the fact that no one wanted to play Savage Worlds. All of the gaming I have been doing has been Pathfinder Society. Nevertheless my life feels unfulfilled with that system and I want to get back to creative action. I promised myself the next game I was going to run would be Savage Worlds Sci Fi and I started working on this setting.

Now it's a year later, the setting isn't done (not because it is exceptionally detailed, I just can't get my mind to settle on the setting background). I'm beginning to think that part of my problem in making this setting is that I have no players. That I haven't had players in a long time.

I need to get off my butt and start running again.Part of my brain thinks that once I get players for the system, details will just fall in to place. I will be able to build on what the players want and not just what's rattling around in my head.

I'm thinking that technically I have enough of my sci-fi setting to start running it and that the rest can just be made up on the way. I take courage that works like Daring Tales of the Space Lanes really offered no setting but still were a lot of fun.

So today's lesson I learned is "Get out there and play!"

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sci-Fi Star Maps

Yeah, I know. I've been gone a while. Life, as always. Plus it is getting harder to come up with things to post. So let's try this topic as I don't see much advice on it anywhere on the intrawebz: Making a star chart for your sci-fi setting.

Obviously your map is going to be tied to your setting, so one can inform the other. It's best to decide what kind of sci-fi you want (or its scope) before you start on your map.

Single System Future

In this type of setting humans haven't traveled far. There might be moon colonies or inhabited asteroids brought into orbit, maybe there is even a colony on Mars. Here you needn't worry about a star map but you should decide how many environments there are, what their purpose is, and what makes them feel different to the players.

The Beginnings of FTL

The next step of Single System Future (and you should start there). The humans have visited a handful of local star systems and established colonies. fairly easy, just pick local stars and give them planets. Again, try to make the locations feel different. Also keep in mind that this setting really lends itself to exploring new worlds. We have the means to reach them but are just now taking those baby steps.

Restricted FTL

This is one of my favorites for space opera/space fantasy. The idea is that we can travel FTL, but we can only jump a specified distance and we need to end that jump in a system. Or FTL is accomplished through gates, leaping from one system gate to another. I like this because your star map now has terrain, or paths. Jumping to a system may require a circuitous path leading through five different systems. It is also the best explanation for why there are still "wild" planets that haven't been charted, as they are out of reach of the current engine technology or gates haven't been established yet. Then during your game if you want to run an exploration session, introduce a new engine or gate that can get the heroes there.

This map is laid out more like a maze with a few nexus points where trade routes converge. Your map could encompass a few worlds or a few hundred. How much work you are willing to get involved with is up to you.

Unrestricted FTL and the Sector Cheat

Unrestricted FTL means the heroes can jump anywhere, at any time, for any distance. The Last Parsec is a good example of this. In theory the stellar map includes millions of systems... take it easy, don't hyperventilate. Breathe into a bag. We got this. Allow me to introduce you to the Sector Cheat.

The basic idea is that if FTL is so ubiqutous, then it is less likely you will run into "single planet" species, unless they have already been conquered by a spacefaring one. So most species, or at least the strongest ones, will have dominions or Sectors that they control: The Kargan Expanse, The Melatonka Protectorate, etc. Carve up the galaxy into chunks and assign a species to control those areas. Even if they are all a part of the same empire, these sectors will have a drastically different feel under local control.  Now that you have those Sectors, write some basic description about how those Sectors operate, what kind of Government do they use, etc. DON'T start sticking planets in them at this point. It is unnecessary. Save that for the adventures.

So let's say you want to do an adventure on an Ice World mining colony, and you want to challenge your players by making it in a very restrictive part of space. Well, the Kargans have strict control so name the planet and drop it in there. Or if you want the same adventure planet in a place full of slaves and corruption, drop it in the Mealtonka Protectorate. The point is to build your planets as you need them and drop them in a Sector that will may make life a little more interesting for your heroes.

The one problem I have with Unrestricted FTL is that there isn't much in the way of a good explanation for unexplored worlds. Still, Star Wars didn't have much in the way of unexplored worlds (in the movies) and they got along just fine.