Monday, 16 January 2017

2017 Goals

It's that time of year (well, sort of) when we reflect on the year passed and look forward and set goals for the coming year.

So what can I say about 2016?

It was pretty rubbish.

Well, at least as far as gaming is concerned. On a professional level my company is doing well and it is clear that I can make a pretty decent living after all. In truth I always thought this would be the case, but it's just been confirmed in the last few months.

And it is that trade off of work versus hobby time that has killed 2016 for gaming. Work will always be prioritised, but hopefully this year I can actually do something on the game related front.

So what are my goals this year?

Solo Investigation Gaming
This was my Solo Gaming Appreciation Month pledge for last November. In the end I got nowhere with it, but I still want to see it through. I've got the setting decided, and just need to line up each game. Blogging about it too will add a layer of complexity, but we'll see how that goes.

Kids' Adventure Gaming
As a gaming Dad I've often run games for my two daughters. As time's go on I've honed the gaming into something we all enjoy and quite simple. As there's nothing else out there quite like I run, I thought I'd try and put something together and possibly release it as Pay What You Want. I'd use the money generated to improve it over time, especially adding artwork. The trouble started when I wrote down everything I wanted to include, which was larger than I imagined it would be, this sort of stole the wind from the sails, and with no time or energy it's still becalmed.

Skirmish Gaming
I've always been a wargamer and a role-player. As a role-player I'm pretty satisfied with what I've got, but as a wargamer there's always something shiny to catch my eye. Add in my kids also like skirmish games and the wealth of solo systems and it's something I'd like to do. Put 15mm minis into the mix and it becomes super cheap too.

The Veil
This is the working title for a role-playing game setting I've got milling around my mind currently (it will have to change due to a recent cyberpunk game called this). It's a swashbuckling game with supernatural elements, in either Fudge or FU (or possibly both, I can't decide). I've got a basic plan, and it's rules light so it isn't too heavy to write (potentially), but then even a rules-light game takes a long while to slog through.

Adventure Starters
I'm not 100% set on the details of these (or the name). What I initially wanted to do was create genre appropriate random tables that enabled someone to pick one up and get going with a minimum of fuss (both regular GMs and solo-ists). In essence I wanted to include the people, places and other bits that make somewhere great for gaming. I'm starting to wonder if I can't modify it to become simple RPGs in their own right, which have everything needed for an evening (or many) of fun.

A novel
The big one. I've got an idea (amongst many) that seems pretty commercial and somewhat unique (at present). This would probably be the biggest slog of the lot, and I'm not sure I'll ever get around to writing it. Still if I leave it on the list I haven't given up on it completely.

The next challenge is to prioritise my goals so I can concentrate on one (or two) and actually attempt to complete them.

Friday, 25 November 2016

SGAM 2016 - Progress, or lack of!

Hi all

November hasn't been a good month for me. It started fairly well, the first few scenes of my Unity-based game were hustled through but then it hit me that I was playing a chase scenario and not immersing myself in any mystery - which was the whole point of my SGAM challenge!

So, what to do, rather than shoehorn a dramatic change of direction for my existing game I decided to start again with a different setting and character. It just seemed easier.

Now a few (many SGAM) days later I'm in a position to start again. This time I'm taking a slightly different approach and immersing myself in a cyberpunk city as a rookie detective - this should allow me to have a mystery defining opening scene from the off.

I've just been assigned from the regional academy to Aurum, the planet of gold. I'll fill in more details as I go through my exploits (hopefully) although more work commitments mean this may be a longer burn - for which I apologise.

If only my damn boss would stop arranging these appointment! Oh, hang on, that's me. Yes, working for myself does mean that I have to put it a very big first, maybe one day I'll be able to retire (only 30 years to my official retirement date!).

Still I will get these done, and I'm sure once I'm into the swing of it it'll come quickly and easily, it's getting it started that's the problem.

Friday, 28 October 2016

SGAM 2016 - Investigation Systems

So now towards the meat of SGAM as the month draws closer.

I want to detail the various investigation systems I plan to game with. These are all what I would call plot systems, that is something to hang the characters, setting and game system on to give it structure.

Let's give you an example, in the brilliant Danger Patrol Beta John Harper espouses a story structure that follows:

Previously on Danger Patrol...
Suspense (then back to Action>Interlude>Suspense until the adventure is over, usually with an Action scene)

This fits in perfectly with the pulp 50s genre it is trying to emulate. This style of structure is also brilliantly demonstrated in John Fiore's 9Qs, which is made for solo gaming in particular (but not mysteries).

So I could just stick to this style of structure in my mystery games, I'm sure there are masses of mystery plot advice, let's have a quick look...

OK, so I could use the tried and tested:

Mystery>Introduce the suspects>Plot twist>Progress>Plot twist>Progress>The Reveal

Unfortunately, I'm not so sure that this would be satisfying in a solo role-playing game however. The puzzle pieces that make the great reveal are not necessarily hidden from me, and while Christie can have great fun leading the reader astray only to reveal that X is true in the end is only possible because of her complete control of certain story elements.

OK, so despite all of that there have been a number of attempts to re-create mystery style games for solo-ists. Here's my list:

Mythic (Mystery Theme)
That Grande Dame of solo RPGs Mythic has a specific mystery theme in it's Variations book. Ultimately this is a different random theme table. In case you don't know when a random event occurs in Mythic you have to roll on a table to determine the type of twist.

Random events are incredibly important to me when I game because they make the game take a different direction, or provide a different viewpoint or angle that I wouldn't have injected myself. This makes the game seem alive rather than a series of questions I have generated myself.

While I can see the potential, the very nature of random injection means that they could come at any time and short circuit the plot or, as is the cae with Mythic lead to numerous threads that never get closed.

I would run this completely as intended, which means that I would ignore my usual solo system of FU and Mythic.

Two Hour Wargames Larger than Life/New Hope City PI/New Market Round
Two Hour Wargames make skirmish wargames that are playable solo. They have a number of products out, covering a wide variety of settings. One of the game styles they cover is investigations, either in pulp, the future or during the renaissance (respectively).

Basically it is a numbers game, you need X clues to solve the crime in Y amount of time, then a framework to find and solve those clues against a time use element. This is why it can be ported so easily across genres.

This is a fairly simplistic structure, but that doesn't mean that it won't work.

Scarlet Heroes (Urban Adventures)
SH is a solo fans' favourite. The Urban Adventures structure requires you to go from one semi-randomly scenes, based on what happened in the scene before, to another.

There seem like a lot of combat scenes/options in this structure which had made me think about using it for a one off Judge Dredd style adventure, but I want to stick to my setting for SGAM so if it goes that way, it'll just be an action episode.

GMless Mystery Explainer
This recently popped up on the Lone Wolf G+ and looks to hold promise. It was created for group GMless games where the designer noticed that groups were happy to create mysteries but not to tie them up. This system is directly applicable to solo-ists, basically you create 8 mysteries/mystery elements, you then create a connecting solution for two of those mysteries and when you have two or more connections you solve the overall mystery.

This one I think also holds real promise. You start with a table of six elements in six categories, you begin by generating three and connecting them on a sheet of paper, this is the initial mystery.

As you investigate you draw new elements into the mystery and connect them to existing elements. Eventually the whole structure becomes apparent and then you have reached your conclusion.
I have actually used this one on a holiday with my kids when I came up with a Scooby Doo adventure on the fly. It worked pretty well.

The Department of Fabricant Management
This is another skirmish wargame centred on an investigation style of play. The bad guy is determined at the beginning and then you use police budget to attempt scenes which generates evidence that you can use to attempt other scenes. I'm not totally sold on it as a system, but should time allow it might get a run out.

This is an example of the Fate fractal and how it can be applied to most situations. It has three skills, Secrets, Lies and Shock. Each has a slightly different function, and it becomes a task to 'attack' the mystery and solve it. I get the impression that this may work better as a side quest, but if I get the time I will give it a try.

Location Crafter
This is another Word Mill games product. This time it is set around generating locations and things present in those locations.

As any fan of police procedural's knows often the detectives go from place to place interviewing people and finding clues. So a system that generates those places and things present could be used.
I'm not entirely convinced of my own logic, so this one is on a back burner, but if I get the time I would like to see if there is any mileage in this system.

I've had other systems mentioned, but lack of time and immediate pick and play-ability has somewhat stymied this. I will give each a look and play through as I intend to continue with my investigation games after SGAM has finished, although at a slower pace.

Friday, 21 October 2016

SGAM 2016 - Setting

So one of the first things I decided on when I first thought about doing an investigation SGAM challenge was the setting.

Here's 'the pitch' complete with logo and optional theme tune!

In the far future man has colonized the planets encountering numerous cultures and aliens, grown to enormous proportions bureaucracy and inflexibility have rendered the mighty Unity of Planets both terrifyingly powerful and faceless.

Enter Dexter Krupnik, or Dex to his very few friends, a Unity Enforcer on the fringes of the galaxy - driven by revenge. His task is to protect Unity from deadly Orange-class aliens, and one in particular is the focus of his attention.

Onboard the merchant-disguised Princess of Mars, Dex and his crew hunt Orange aliens, hoping to finally catch the deadliest alien in the sector.

It's based on (almost wholly ripped off) Nordic Weasel Games Five Parsecs from Home and Every Star an Opportunity, plus I'd just finished the 40k Eisenhorn novels when I first thought about doing this originally. What you get with Five Parsecs and the supplement is a very loose space opera setting, detailed more through it's random tables (of which there are quite a few) than through any explicit setting section. The oppressive/supportive central government gives the setting a certain flavour.

On a more general tone, I wanted there to be an over-arching plot/hunt, and I've got the idea for a cool villain, which you'll learn more about as the game unfolds hopefully. I've decided on an episodic campaign style, akin to a TV series, both because this will enable me to tell discrete stories, but also because it will enable me to switch around the various investigative frameworks I use, and it's just how I envisage it.

I think my next post will be about the investigative frameworks that I hope to use.

Music excerpt based on:
'Numinous Shine' Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 Licence

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

SGAM 2016 Tools - Random Tables

Random tables are a good way to inject a focus into your solo games. In some respects you could take a random table (or a few) and use them exclusively to run a solo game.

In many respects this is what some of the investigation systems I will be looking into actually do.

In the past I have dallied far too long on finding, or making, the perfect random tables for the ideas I want to game.

This time, the setting I have chosen (which probably should have become before this post!) is something I've wanted to play before, therefore a lot of the decisions I had just about made are now decided so I can actually game! Hopefully.

Everyone Everywhere List
This is simply lists of national first and family names. I find this invaluable, as naming characters is something I've always struggled with, and by giving characters names I feel they come alive more.

I could have used the Story Games Name Project tables, but I find EEL to be simpler. As rolling for names breaks the immersion somewhat I usually roll a list of names prior to the game and use each one as required during the game. Sometimes, if I want something really random, I generate 20 names and roll a d20 to select one when it is needed (skipping if it's already been used).

5150 Urban Renewal
This is a solo skirmish ruleset from Two Hour Wargames, well known for their solo rules. This particular ruleset has some of the best profession random tables for my game and some simple city places.

Kellri's Random City Blocks
A great collection of sci-fi buidings, details and city-wide events. Useful for more detailed, and varied, locations.

Star Wars Planets Collection (or D6 Space)
I've already created my basic planet details, but this was one of my sources.

Every Star an Opportunity
This again is a sci-fi skirmish game, this time from Nordic Weasal Games. It has a mass of tables, some are a bit skewed or basic, but others are great. In particular the character creation tables are good, the planet details are also good (from a narrative perspective) and the faction rules I'll use too.

Cyberblues City
This one is a little different. It's not really a random table, more in-game tools. The first is the Danger Bag, this consists of different coloured dice in different numbers. When you need an opponent you simply pull a die out and roll it. The colour gives you their combat (or other) ability, and the number can be wounds (as it is in the original), or some other determiner.

The second in-game tool from this game is Complex Tests. Simply roll 3d6, the lowest die is the difficulty, the middle die is the number of attempts to succeed, and the highest is the number of successes required. This is great for sudden tests, like picking a lock, or hacking a computer.

Often I find that the two really necessary random tables I need for a game, enough to keep me immersed, is a random encounter and a random location. These tables have these covered and more, one of my wishlist tasks is to create genre appropriate tables as a set, put in some detail about each entry and let them loose. If anyone has any time and would like to help, let me know!

Anyway, on to SGAM!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

SGAM 2016 Tools - Engine

This is the start of a series of posts to lay out the tools I will be using for my SGAM activity this year.

This is a big decision for solo role-playing as it is essentially what allows us to role-play solo.

So what choices have I made for my SGAM attempt this year?

Basically, what I have used for the last few attempts, and will continue to use I expect, which is:

Freeform, Universal
The core of this very elegant light RPG is a d6 roll which gives results of:

  • 6 Yes, and...
  • 5 Yes
  • 4 Yes, but...
  • 3 No, but...
  • 2 No
  • 1 No, and...

If there is a more expected result then an additional Bonus or Penalty die (or 2 or 3 dice) is rolled. If there is a net Bonus then read the highest die, if unfavourable (Penalty) read the lowest die.

I find this means I can phrase questions any way I choose, which you can't with the standard Mythic engine, which favours more interesting choices as Yes so I have to switch things around occasionally, whereas with FU I can just say, that's really unlikely so 2 Penalty dice.

This forms the core of the solo engine, asking a few questions to clarify a scene or NPC actions/reactions.

Random events
However, as good as FU is (or I consider better than Mythic for that aspect) it doesn't have a method of injecting random events. I consider this (and the events themselves) to be the real driver of solo gaming, yes you can introduce uncertainty by rolling for GM answers, but it's the extra injection of random occurrences that truly make it unpredictable.

For the events themselves, I have never found anything better than Mythic. I have tried Story Cubes and other random idea generators but it's Mythic with its open interpretation and combinations that make things unique (and therefore unpredictable).

I still have my own tweaks to this element rolling a d20 to determine focus and two d10/100 combinations simultaneously. This cuts down on physical rolling which helps when you are in the flow of your game.

The one thing that FUs d6 can't do is generate random events on themselves. To replace this aspect of Mythic I roll a separate red d10 with the FU dice, it's actually a tens d10 and in an almost jokey way use 00 (or uh oh) as indicating an event.

I think that covers that, but in my next post I'll detail some of the other tools I use.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

SGAM 2016 - System

So Fudge is going to be my SGAM 2016 system of choice.

Unfortunately (for me) Fudge is highly customizable, this means I need to make a few choices. However, I think I've made them (mostly)!

First, I want combat to have a gritty feel. This means a little more mechanics but it should pay off in the overall story.

So for Fudge (and me) this means:

Hit Locations
Amended Wound Chart
Independent Wounds
Wound Rolls

So what do these all mean, and what are the mechanics?

Hit Locations
I will roll all hits on the following chart, I do still need to work out different effects for different locations.

++ Left arm
+0 Head
+- Right arm
0+ Body
00 Vitals
0- Body
-+ Left leg
-0 Adomen
-- Right leg

Amended Wound Chart
I will be using simultaneous combat, with my character side rolling only. This makes the normal Wound Chart appear stretched, so I will replace it with:

1 Scratch (-1 to next action)
2 Minor Injury (-1 ongoing)
3 Injury (-2 ongoing)
4 Serious Injury (-3 ongoing)
5 Taken Out (out of the fight)

Independent Wounds
This means a stab to the leg, a gun shot to the arm and scratch to the face are exactly that, not a homogeneous wound. This works on the Amended Wound Chart penalties with the highest penalty only, so in our example -2 ongoing.

For every injury level the character will have to make an appropriate skill roll to stay conscious. This will be affected by Hit Location, so head injuries will be harder to stay conscious.

Wound Rolls
I will give each weapon and armour a level from 0 to 4. On a successful attack the opposing weapon and armour rating will be compared and the excess total rolled in Fudge dice. If weapon level exceeds armour level then each + rolled will increase the wound severity, if armour level is greater then every - rolled will reduce the wound severity.

Secondly, as mentioned above, I want to amend the mechanics so that combat is simultaneous (as far as that is possible), and only my character (or characters) rolls.

Thirdly, I want to amend the Fudge ladder slightly, I want to replace Mediocre with Typical, Fair with Competent, and insert Very Good between Good and Great. I will be using the extended ladder as well (so Legendary and Abysmal). My ladder now looks like:
  • Legendary
  • Superb
  • Great
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Competent
  • Typical
  • Poor
  • Terrible
  • Abysmal
Lastly, I am going to stat my characters on the Danger Patrol Roles:
  • Agent
  • Commando
  • Daredevil
  • Detective
  • Explorer
  • Flyboy Pilot
  • Professor
  • Warrior
I will assign 1 at Very Good, 1 at Good, 2 at Competent, 3 at Typical and 1 at Poor.

Well that's all for now, SGAM's getting closer!