Friday 31 January 2014

Insightful wizard, development sketch

Archetypal stage magician with a marionette/automaton vibe.
Early prototype biomechanoid, less human than later models.
Late ideas that didn't make the sketch. Hoop like wand. Obsidian/glass tablet spell book.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Mighty warrior, development sketch

Combining the operatic Valkyrie Brünnhilde and Streetfigher's Blanka.
Gentle nature, with sporadic fits of murderous rage.

Monday 27 January 2014

Deft battlecaster, development sketch

Originally saw as a ninja/gandalf mashup. Now added some musketeer.
Ignore the stats - totally made up!
Background borrowed from deviant art (all credit due!)

Saturday 25 January 2014

Combo Finish!

I'm a big fan of crazy maneuvers in RPG combat; or at least certain applications of them. I feel like they should be part of the odd strategy that comes up in abstracted gaming combat - but most of the time they are simple chances to be showy or very granulated affairs necessitating a lot of attention to specific mechanics.

This never sat well with me; there is nothing wrong with either, but I am a greedy and impatient with rules. I always wanted some simple building blocks that were clear in intent but nonrestrictive. I came up with a very simple fix for my D&D games, and its that fix I'm building on for Break!!

It goes a bit something like this;

Attacking is easy. You swing. If you hit, you do a heart of damage. If you hit well, you may do two. It works against mooks, but its not exactly optimal when fighting an War Bruun that'll hurl you into your friends, a massive full metal Battledrone or a Gargantuan Scuttler with a near impenetrable chitinous shell. You do have other options.

Tricks are maneuvers that forgo doing normal damage to apply a penalty or other effect. Normally, this is pretty standard stuff, like throwing sand in someone's eyes or attempting to disarm them with a flourish. They can get bolder though - you may try flipping that Scuttler onto its back by using your staff as a lever. As examples; the former comes with little risk beyond failure, but the latter may cost you your staff if you mess up things too badly.

Stunts are attack gambles. In essence, you make a wager to add an effect to the normal damage of your blow. The effects may mimic tricks, combine two actions, or accomplish something unique. Sometimes they may even be the only way to get to a particular monster's weak spot. The big distinction between these and Tricks is that damage is dealt and the risk is greater.

The aforementioned wagers are an additional consequence to a failed attack roll beyond just missing. A failed charge (Combining a move and attack action) gives you a penalty to your defense from being off balance. A bold leap off a balcony to land sword first on a dragon's skull may mean falling damage and being prone in till your next action.

It should be noted that among the Callings, Warriors excel at stunts. They generally do not need to make wagers for basic maneuvers and the danger of failing advanced ones are greatly reduced.

Combos are when multiple characters work together to preform a sort of advanced stunt. They are usually utilized to make a powerful enemy easier to hurt or to allow for an otherwise impossible attack. For example, several party members may attempt to distract or overpower a Battledrone so that their archer can take a shot at it's barely exposed power core. Alternatively, a burly party member may hurl a scrappy, smaller one at a flying foe in a way familiar to comic book fans. Combos often require most or all of their participants to succeed, and failure is likely dangerous.

Battle Princess have many talents, one of which is helping their party better coordinate combo maneuvers. Power of friendship and all that.

I'm yammering on here, but one last thing I'd like to stress is that that the actual mechanics for these are not terribly complicated. For example, combos take a lot of player communication, but the rules really boil down to one or more supporting actors making aptitude checks with the primary actor making the actual attack. I'm still ironing out the kinks, but I want to keep it this way. Like I said; basic building blocks.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Iconic game-quations

Don't think this is particularly easy to read but...

Representing modifiers

OK, please ignore the content/rules contained in this layout. I have pieced together half-formed ideas and notions that have been floating around and are in no way officially Rey approved.

The focus of this layout exercise was simply to look at how you might visually represent a score/statistic and its related modifiers. I'd originally poured the information into a simple picture list, similar to the quirk table, but it failed to communicate the concept adequately. Here I've taken Defence and plotted the modifiers on an axis with the base score being the middlemost... ish. Penalties and bonuses have been spread out to left and right respectively.

Further, I've tried to distinguish between Character bonuses/penalties (which are kind of permanent modifiers based on your characters 'naked' ability and physiology) and Situation based modifiers (which may only have temporal effect, or are the reflection of an augmented state that may be repealed) - Rey come up with better names for these!

Although Magical modifiers could technically fit under Situation it felt like it warranted its own category. Defensive spells, for example, may only lower your defence score against specific forms of attack (fire, gas, smell). Will reconsider this when the real content is ready.

And a similar axis could be used for Attack.

Feeling that the unmodified/base score should pop-out more as a 'read first'. Not sure the subtle grey background is enough the draw the eye. Other things I've tried to remedy this looked a bit heavy handed or messy. I'll keep fiddling with it.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Insert Heart Related Pun

Today I yammer on about this damage system I'm experimenting with. Rejected titles; "Have a Heart!", "The Heart of the issue" and "Don't turn around (or you're gonna see my heart Break!!-ing)"

I feel like characters getting hurt is a super important part of role-playing games. More then anything (for me) a player's decisions in-game have to matter and solid consequences have always been a way of reinforcing that. Where there is potential victory and reward, there should be potential failure and loss. There's nothing like marking off damage on your character sheet to reinforce that bum-rushing that ogre wasn't the most prudent course of action you could have taken.

At the moment, Break! has two levels of damage. Your character's first line of defense are their "Hearts".
Yes, those
Heart's are the abstracted level of wounding. These represent a combination of your character's courage, luck and pain threshold. The amount a character has is decided by a combination of their Rank, Calling, and a occasionally a quirk or ability. One is lost on a successful hit, two if the hit exceeds the target's defense score by a margin of five or more.

If a character is  hit or otherwise hurt after they are out of hearts, a character will need to make a roll on the Injury and Death table. Initially the player rolls a d6, but die type scales upward with each successive hit, capping at a d10.

I'm still working out some of the various results on it. I think it will end up looking something like this, though with a bit more elaboration. Certain character types will have different lists as well (Warriords and Bioroids will likely have a Damage and Destruction table, for example)

Injury and Death

  1. Shocked : Next action lost, Though you can still defend yourself
  2. Wounded : -1 penalty to your total Hearts
  3. Injured Arm : Might Aptitude halved, Arm rendered useless
  4. Injured Leg : Movement reduced to "Very Slow", Deftness Saves halved
  5. Grievous Wound: -2 penalty to your total hearts, -1 penalty to all actions
  6. Near Death: Unconscious, will perish if not treated within the next 1d4 rounds
  7. Mutilated: As above, but the character must roll on this table again even if they are saved, using a d4
  8. Mortal Wound: Death is imminent, but the subject receives a final action in the next round
  9. Quiet Death: Subject has been slain without theatrics
  10. Messy Affair: As above, but with theatrics, and likely a lot of blood.
While Hearts are generally restored after combat, injuries remain in till they are treated and heal naturally or cured through magic.

I like this for several reasons. For one, it clearly divorces abstracted damage from permanent wounds. In-combat healing magic and abilities will be downplayed, making room for other kinds of support. Bravery and caution are encouraged in succession - on one hand, they have a lovely safety layer that comes back once things are said and done. On the other, death isn't too far off once they are gone, and even avoiding it could mean injuries will pile up and make life hell. It also adds to the gambling aspect of the game; your hearts are out; do you try to get away with your life, or do you trust in your luck and hope for the best?

A couple of notes;
  • Monsters and Adversaries generally don't use the Injury and Death Table, they just die when they are out of hearts. This means many of them will have more hearts then player characters do - and special techniques or stunts may be required to even hurt colossal monsters such as Dragons and Titans.
  • Hirelings and Ordinary humans will probably only ever have a single heart, so combat is really, really dangerous for them.
  • Traps and non-combat hazards will cause specific injuries, penalties, or in (relatively) rare instances, death. Things like fatigue from travel or hunger will cause heart total penalties.
  • There is a chance I'll reverse this, and instead of knocking out hearts you'll fill in hits, sort of like how White Wolf games handle damage. I'm resisting this only because I really want their to be a little life bar of hearts on the game's character sheet.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

RPG data visualisation experiments

RPGs contain large amounts of tabulated data.

One of my design ambitions is to prevent the rulebook looking like a generic collection of spread sheets and make data visualisation appropriate to its subject matter. Tables and lists are, however, super efficient ways of presenting complex data and so I am conscious not to damage the practical nature of the rulebook with annoying 'innovations'.

Anyway, had a rethink about the previous calling/warrior page. T'was a bit dull and samey for such an important section, it needed to say more than 'Armour: All' etc. The warrior's flexibility in combat is one of their defining aspects, I wanted players to see it as a big deal (For example a lot of options will unavailable for other callings!)

The design below is a bit space-greedy and I may look to tighten it up as I want to fit Health points and Attack bonus on this page too. Prolly do this when I have a complete view of all the character callings.

The aim is to make this double page spread consistent across callings to allow for quick comparison. Unique class skills will be detailed on subsequent pages.

Combat data
This table shows all options that are available (and unavailable) to the calling. Unavailable options will be greyed out or locked. It's a flexible system, as I am anticipating that the Warbot may only be allowed Dreadnought armour, with lesser armours greyed out (Rey?) You could also accommodate specific restrictions with an additional table note, if required (e.g no cutting weapons, small shield only)

Aptitude progression
I wanted a presentation that made it clear (at-a-glance) which of the calling's aptitudes have the best score allocation. A simple bar chart seemed like a good fit, and a visual device that could be replicated on a character sheet (looking similar to a CRPG stat bar).

This design fails to show how the stats progress with level though, although maybe this could be solved with a little text (e.g. +1 per level for each stat). Would also benefit from a key (Black = starting score, Grey= level 10 score). Anyway, needs further development.

Illustrated tables
Of course the skill lists are also a form of data visualisation. We are already using a variety of them for species, quirks and spells. As well as allowing for additional meta data/iconography, one key thought is to extract the flavour text from the mechanical description make the information quicker to consume.

Monday 13 January 2014

Warrior concept page

Warrior - Those who live by the sword (or axe, pole-arm, gun, bow, fist, etc) are generally lateral thinkers and ruthlessly pragmatic. This carries over even when they aren't solving a problem with force; when faced with a situation they don't like, Warriors are likely to knock the game board over and make their own rules.

Not 100% happy with the combat bit.
Will be tricky to draw 10+ combat abilities and make them all distinct (but it will be fun).
Rey's also included some tricky progression charts to beautify too, not quite solved that yet.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Magic Wheel

Rey is keen on different schools of magic. After a little debate it was decided that each school will fall into one of two primary energy sources: dark or light. I decided to plot them out on a kinda magical periodic table, mandala thing. This resulted in each magic type having a diametrically opposed school (e.g Frost/Dark is opposed to Flame/Light) - this gave a bit of shape to Rey's embryonic thoughts on counter-magic in Break!! and possibly a neat t-shirt design opportunity.

Shoved the magic wheel into a page layout. I'll probably have the page of Light schools opposite Dark one in the final design. Just messing about here.

Note to Rey: As a player I would also want a more mechanical description of the magic schools to go along with the flavour text to help me decide what to pick (10 defensive spells, 5 attack spells etc...)

Saturday 11 January 2014

"Callings" are kind of a big deal

Right, so first things first - its been unofficially true for a while now, but "Class" has been switched over to "Calling" for lots of reasons, all of them small and marginally interesting. There was nothing wrong with Class at all - but the latter just works for the game on various levels. A couple I'm about to go into!

I've gone into the significance of Callings before, but one thing I didn't mention is that each one has a sort of built in play-style beyond the obvious. This isn't to say that there is only one way to play them - or even a cosmically optimal way. Rather, that there is an over-arching philosophy behind the majority of their given abilities, that you are free to embrace or warp as desired. Certain players gravitate towards particular character types because they find them easier to play. Just as many have a lot of fun breaking the mold, so I figure this is a good way to go.

Below are my current paradigms for the Callings that are included in Break!! - please note that they may change here and there, but it is likely they will show up in some way in the finished product. 

Warrior - Those who live by the sword (or axe, pole-arm, gun, bow, fist, etc) are generally lateral thinkers and ruthlessly pragmatic. This carries over even when they aren't solving a problem with force; when faced with a situation they don't like, Warriors are likely to knock the game board over and make their own rules.

Specialist - Being dependent on various skills requires one to be adaptive and fluid in their thinking. Generally, Specialists solve a problem by studying it carefully and either figuring out the best tool (figuratively or literally) for the job or a way to avoid it entirely.

Caster - In some ways, dedicated magic users have the opposite philosophy of the the Specialist. Instead of trying to eyeball the inner workings of a given situation, they instead try to decide how their particular purview can put them on top of it.

Battle-Casters - Its tempting to assume that this Calling's philosophy falls between the Warrior and the Caster. However, Battle-Casters are generally good for people who like to "play it safe" and be able to guarantee some way to contribute in any given situation.

All of which leave me (and by proxy, whoever else uses this game) a lot of wiggle room for each. My hope is to be surprised how people end up playing each of them.

Also included in the game are "Advanced Callings" which is something of a working title. These are intended to be far more focused and specific in terms of theme and mechanics. This also (kinda) extends to play style.

Note: Callings with two names separated by a slash means that allegiance to Light or Darkness is important enough for this particular purview that it effects it's moniker.

Warriods (AKA Battle Bot, Mecha-Knight, Psycho-Armor...We're working on it) - Intended for the power-minded gamer. I think it would be a mistake to make a Calling that's explicitly more potent then the others, so Warriods are simple but hard to stop. This means players can generally focus on their objective without as much consideration for the return trip.

As they advance in Rank, Warriods have options that either expand their existence as weapons or help them become something more. Influences include Talus from "The Faerie Queene", the many androids and cyborgs from Phantasy Star, and this guy.

Battle/Murder Princess - This one was a bit harder for me. When I wrote them up for D&D/Labyrinth Lord, they were intended as a Fighter Sub-Class. Such things are already covered under the Warrior, so I wanted to alter things a bit.

Retaining their combat presence and several key abilities, this Calling is intended for people who like to focus on their character's relationships with others and possible inner turmoil. While these things can come up for any player who desires them, here they can become sources of various class abilities and boons. It sounds odd, but I think it fits if you consider Break!!'s source material.

The class ends up somewhere in-between Sailor Moon, Elric, and a protagonist from the Persona series of games.

Fairy - This one is still in the prototype stages, but its design is very different from any other Calling. These characters are often not noticed by NPC's and have many strange but useful abilities. The intent here is that a players using them can enact a passive but still involved presence in the game. Its perfect for someone who can't make every session or simply enjoys that style of play.

Influences include Navi from the Legend of Zelda, mascot animals from various magical girl anime, and a ton of old stories with fairies in them. Admittedly, I should likely do more research.

Immortal/Forsaken - My catch-all undead character option. These folks are a weird combination of Specialist and Caster; as they have a number of strange and arcane tools at their disposal. This should appease the players who like coming out of nowhere with an odd but potent solution, or those who want a stranger brand of magic user. Also still mostly in the planning stage, so this might get shaken up quite a bit by the time things are done.

Sticking with the spirit of the game, this Calling draws inspiration from Dracula, biblical Immortals, D&D's Lich and Skeletor, among other things.

Friday 10 January 2014

Living equipment

After receiving the Equipment & other considerations draft from Rey, which resulted in the post on armour, we got talking about other cool stuff players could spend their hard earned GP on... namely pets, steeds & retainers.

Next time you're in the market square pick up a house trained Owlcat, test drive a Scuttler or rent a Reluctant villager to assist in all your questing needs.

Dug out Rey's Secret Santacore from 2012 for the Steeds (already brilliantly illustrated by Scrap Princess)

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Allegiance and Magic

Rey has described an alignment system (Allegiance) that is determined by the spells you choose to learn rather than a simple, preselected choice. Your spellcaster can draw their power from either dark or light energies (or a combination of both). It's not certain yet if there will be a mechanical consequence of your characters Allegiance (over to you Rey).

Above is a layout with some sample spells that describe the bursts and flare system Rey alluded to in an earlier post.

I'm looking to develop icons (and a visual identity) for each magic class. Maybe the illustration style will differ for each energy type? but I haven't really taken this idea too far yet!

In the finished book, spells will be clustered by magic type and rank.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Break!! Magic!

Grey reigned me in a bit earlier this weekend (As he is wont) and I pulled back from the frilly bits of design and put my mind to the more nitty gritty parts of the game. One thing that came up with was magic spells. Its only natural - when about half of your proposed character types use the stuff, it's bound to come up. Besides, its important he knows what they are going to look like when pen goes to paper.

The fun thing about game design is that MAGICAL POWERS are suddenly the mundane aspects of the thing. But I digress.

Anyway! I should talk about what's in the damn header. Magic in Break!! is the result of me wanting my cake and eating it too. In spite of it being a highly contested subject, I like "Vanician" style D&D magic. I think managing big spell effects and limited resources are a fun and challenging part of the game.

I also totally understand a lot of the things people don't like about it, especially at low levels. Thing's are rough on a neophyte character as is. It's not too much ask for a little more from your magic; especially when you are rocking a character type that depends on it.

The third influence here was my desire for more streamlined, focused spell casters. Not every Wizard in Break!! can learn every spell; you are limited to magic types you select at character creation. You might be able to cast Verdant and Hex magic as a sort of old world Druid or a Battle-Caster who specializes in Frost magic and considers themselves a Winter Knight. Its wonderful and evocative, but it also means less variety. The trade off for this is a bit more oomph and consistency when it comes to each spell.

Actually using spells is where that last bit comes in. Every morning, a caster Commits a certain amount of spells; basically loading them for that day. (That's likely not all that unfamiliar to many of you) A committed magical spell is more or less kept within the mage and occasionally manifests a strange side effect like luminescent hair or strangely putrid breath.

As long as a spell is committed, the caster may call upon its Flare effect. A spell's Flare is a minor manifestation of that spell's ability. One spell may allow you to move small objects with your will, levitate a bit off the ground, or even order a small version of a fearsome monster to carry your things around. As noted before, Flares can be used as long as a spell remains committed.

Every spell also has a Burst effect. This is the true manifestation of the spell's power and is much more potent then a Flare. This is where deadly bolts of lightening, rainbow bridges and the creation of powerful magical constructs come from. There is a price however - when a spell's Burst is used, it unravels and is gone; it (or its Flare) cannot be used again in till it has been re-committed the next morning.

 So there you have it! It's certainly simple and will likely be refined a bit as things go on; but I hope its interesting. I can't wait to share all the crazy magic types I've got planned, either.

Armour types

Here's a concept layout for the equipment section of Break!!

I've extended the icon system I introduced on the Aptitudes page to distinguish key data on the Break!! character sheets (which I'll publish shortly). I can now use them in the rulebook when modifiers are related to core stats/actions to create a visual link.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Thursday 2 January 2014

A question of size

Was assuming Break!! would ultimately be a printable artifact, and that it would be a chunky manga sized tome (but I'm waiting for final content before any rational decision on format can be made)

What format do you guys prefer your RPGs in? Small or Big? Print or Digital?

Manga size

Pinched hand drawn map from the awesome Billiam Babble (hope you don't mind BB!)

Red book size

Aptitudes - Page design tweaks

Added icons for checks, saves & contests (these are still draft!)
Introducing header illustrations to communicate general theme of section.
Will also look into icons for the aptitudes themselves, they could be nice on the character sheet.
Also Rey, I butchered your copy (just messing about... sorry)

Will need to develop a set of characters that can be used to communicate game concepts and mechanics. These 5 represent the aptitudes but need them to encompass the full range of races, traits, quirks & origins too. Will be fun watching them evolve as the rules mature.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Character Origin, Species and Class

I discussed character creation a bit last time, and I realized I've been discussing a lot here - and that's likely because that's the part I am currently writing. I'm a simple man after all I suppose but its not all bad; I can get everyone's input as a write things as opposed to after the fact. This means I don't get too attached or entrenched in an idea before hearing people talk about it first.

Every character has an Origin; this is what the PC was doing before being an adventurer, and in fact may be something they are still trying to do while wondering about and such. Rather then create an exhaustive list, I've tried to pick entries that emphasize a particular class and style of life (as well as the occasional weird one, like someone who is lost in time and/or space) as well as ones that come with a variety of benefits and drawbacks. Your character may begin play with a cart full of trade goods, partial ownership of a crossroads Inn or the ability to keep themselves and their friends from getting lost in the unknown wilderness. A PC's Origin, combined with their Class, helps define their skill set as well.

Choosing (Or randomly selecting) a Character Class is one of the final parts of the character creation process. You PC's class dictates a character's base Aptitudes as well as the sort of abilities a PC will bring to the table. There are four basic classes, which represent the broad archetypes you've likely come to expect when dealing with fantasy games. These are intended to be flexible and versatile, coming with built in options that help define a character further as they level up. Also included are four advanced classes, which are far more specific. While the options involved are fewer, they are intend to be more unique and geared to a particular style of play.

Species is an option for characters who choose a basic class. Human characters gain a bonus ability based on their class, while the various other races have bonuses (and penalties) unique to them. Some of the staples are here for those that have favorites, but most are unique to Break!! and designed with the sort of world that is implied by the game itself in mind.

One hope I have for future supplements (fingers crossed) is that the setting can be further defined by things like more Classes, Species and alternative Origin tables. While I enjoy waxing about legends and lore as much as the next Game Master, I feel players are often most in tune with the world expressed on (and via) their character sheet.