Sunday, 3 September 2017

Let's Talk about the Game Master Book - Part two, "Your Campaign"

The second chapter of the Game Master book is all about Campaign structure; how to start them, run them, and end them. I know this is likely old hat to most people playing Tabletop RPGs, but I think it's a good section for beginners and I do my best to cover some stuff I don't think is usually talked about in rulebooks.

An outline of what's in this chapter:

  • Starting Off (Location, 1st Adventure, Limited or Open Ended amount of sessions?)
  • Various ideas for the Party's Origins
  • Working with party roster changes (such as a player having to bow out, or character death)
  • And a small bit on ending a campaign
And here's a small tid-bit of what's included in the chapter itself. I like showing this here because it's useful for other games besides BREAK!!.

Starting Social Bonds

The game master or players may want to begin the game with some established relationships between the party. This is not a bad idea at all, and is definitely beneficial for who have Abilities tied with existing Social Bonds.
  • If this system is in effect, each player should choose another player’s character and decide (or roll on the Example Social Bonds Table) the nature of their character’s relationship with them. The other player may decide how their character feels as well - these don’t have to be equivalents!
  • For example, a Battle Princess might have a crush on a Murder Princess who considers them a rival.
  • Players should each try to choose a character who has not been picked for a social bond yet. Optimally, every one should end up with at least 2 - one with a player’s character who chose them, and another with the character they themselves chose.
  • The players may flesh out the history of their character’s Social Bonds whenever they like. While it’s perfectly fine to decide on it right away, there is nothing detrimental about waiting do so later down the line.
  • Social Bonds created this way are identical to ones earned via the Socializing Downtime Activity (x.x.x).
  • Characters from the Other World are exempt from this (unless there are other Characters from the Other World present, then they may opt to create Social Bonds with one another) though they may choose which of the other characters they met first.

GM Tip!: The author’s favorite method of doing this is to have all the player’s sit at a table and have each establish a social bond with the player to their left’s character.

Example Social Bonds (Roll or Choose)

  • (1-2) Close Friend - This is a person you feel you can trust and confide in. You might have grown up together, or maybe an important event brought you together.
  • (3-4) Siblings - This person is (or is like) a brother or sister to you. You may squabble here and there, but you tend to be fiercely loyal to them. Note that adoption is very common in the Outer World, so characters of different species may consider themselves familial siblings.
  • (5-6) Rivals - You are very competitive with this person; you may have comparable skills or methodology and you generally strive to top them in this arena whenever possible.
  • (7-8) Partner In Crime - This person may not be your best friend, but they are someone you feel will help with some of your more rash or ill-advised schemes.
  • (9-10) Mentor - You feel like you can really learn something from this character. They may be your superior in combat, social prowess, or some other adventuring vocation and you wish they’d teach you their secret.
  • (11-12) Colleague - While you don’t have any strong feelings for this individual, you respect their ability and feel they are contributing their fair share to the efforts of the party.
  • (13-14) Uneasy Ally - There is something about this person that makes you wary about them, even though you may still recognize them as a friend.
  • (15-16) Shared Philosophy - This person has a faith or outlook on life that you wholeheartedly agree with, or at least respect a great deal.
  • (17-18) Crush - You are infatuated with this person. Something there is simply something special about them that really attracts your attention.
  • (19-20) Admiration -You may not always agree with this person or want to be like them, but they have earned a great deal of respect from you. You may even consider them to be a genuine hero!

(Next Week: Adventure Creation!)

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Lets talk about the Game Master Book - Part 1

BREAK!! is currently divided into two books (it was originally going to be one huge book, but we've since decided to split it up a bit for various logistical reasons) the Player's book and the Game Master's Book. The former contains everything you need to play, including a little bit on the game's standard setting and a couple of sample maps and various Game Master Entities (our catch all phrase for monsters and NPCs). The latter is more information on the setting, a bit on making adventures and campaigns for BREAK!! and some guides/systems for creating your own monsters, relics, settings and what not.

Splitting them up as such hardly revolutionary, but it does make things easier on Grey and allows us to cater more specifically to the purpose of both sets of information. I'm not sure exactly how we'll do it, maybe offer a bundle of both, as well as options for one or the other? (Same with PDF versions).

Anyway, I thought I'd write a bit on the GM's book as I've really not talked a lot about that half of the game.

The first chapter of the GM's book is called The Basics. It's pretty straightforward, and covers three topics overall:
  • Using The Rules
  • Tone and Themes
  • Doing right by your gaming group
The first one is a guide on when and how to apply rules while running BREAK!! - it probably won't surprise anyone, but BREAK!!'s rules are intended to be bendy and broadly applicable. Since that's easy to see, this part gives suggestions on how to utilize the basics in a way that keeps the game fair and fast.

Tone and Theme is a lot more fluid, but it's more about the sorts of things BREAK!! naturally lends itself to and how to steer these things into directions that work for you, if you so desire. (There is a bit on not trying too hard, as players tend to go their own way sometimes and that's OK too!)

The last one is the most important to me, as I feel like a lot of books don't get this quite right, usually treating players as adversaries to your enjoyment as a GM, or singling out different play-styles as being dangerous disruptions, and so forth. What I tried to do here is to give advice on keeping things fun (and yourself sane) that has worked for me.

Next week we'll go into chapter 2 of the GM's Book: Your Campaign.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

BREAK!!-ing Random Encounters

I saw a bit of talk about Random Encounters in Tabletop RPGs flying around social media today and it inspired me to talk a bit about how they work in BREAK!!.

It's assumed that most maps in BREAK!! come with a Random Encounter chart. These are generally custom built and used to represent various things that would be moving about the same location as the players are. The intent is to make the world seem dynamic and like it's its own place, rather than a construct made just to serve the player character's adventures. The encounters include other wanderers from the outside, as well as inhabitants whose opinions on intruders range from apathy to murderous hostility. Each also has several entries that simply say "No Encounter" - this means the primary Roll becomes a one that determines both if there is an encounter and what that encounter is, if any.

They do function a bit differently depending on the sort of map being used.

Larger scale maps (such as those detailing a region or province) have a Random Encounter Table you consult each time you cross a significant distance during a journey ( this determined by a quick use of the Overland Travel Rules). The sort of encounters should vary quite a bit depending on where you are travelling, but a lot of them are potential allies, built in adventure hooks or the results of other dangers going on in an area that warrant investigation. An important thing is that it's encouraged that the GM cross off an encounter when used and write a new one to replace it to keep things fresh.

Smaller scale maps (dungeons and other adventure sites, mainly) have a chart that represent the mobile inhabitants of the area or other things that might have wandered in. This is rolled on every time characters make a lot of ruckus or spend a significant amount of time in a particular area. Every time an encounter is "dealt with"" (slain, pacified, etc) it's crossed off the encounter chart. Only so many things can live in a particular place at one time, right?

Also important is that there are less stationary encounters in BREAK!! (I.E "6 goblins in room c") so these often make up the bulk of the things player's can run into.

There is more too things obviously, but these are the bits that come to mind. I'm very excited to talk more about these sorts of things once the book is published.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Magitech Facility, demo adventure site

The Gardens as they would have been. Environmentally controlled dome for exotic plants.

Rey came up with an evocative 'dungeon' concept (and map) for the demo adventure site in Break!!, an Akenian Magitech Research Facility (Botanical). Akenia is a fallen human empire that infused magic into machines and investigated mana manipulation as science.

Lab corridor now. Semi functioning irrigation and lighting systems (and magic!) keep flora alive

Botanical Researchers (knowledge treasure = botanical map of The Murk)
Secret entrance, exposed by faultering illusion under central dome.

Rey's original map

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Cover thoughts (continued!)

The Battle Princesses+ Murder Princess are iconic Callings in Break!! and represent the power of love and hate respectively.

Also toying with putting the logo in a block so it can be dumped on any background!

Background photobashed! Maybe should have some ruins.

Older explorations Cover 1 + Cover 2

Monday, 8 May 2017

Beacon, demo town.

Beacon is a small settlement featured in the core book. It's located in the Shadow Lands (an area of permanent night) on the site of an old Akenian keep. What do these dilapidated structures look like? and what did they use to look like before the cataclysm? Having fun (wasting time!) thinking about the lost civilizations of Outer World. Their language, ruins, magic items persist in the game world.

Then (3rd Aeon) - The Akenian structure as it was in its glittering hey day.

Now  (4th Aeon) - Village of Beacon, a small haven in the unforgiving dark.

Original map by Rey

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Setting as a gentle plea

With the rules more or less written and ready (I'm at the point with them that I probably won't be changing much unless something goes really crazy during broader playtesting) and Grey continuing his perilous journey through layout land, I've mostly been working on sample maps and the like for the BREAK!!'s standard setting, The Outer World.

I'm doing my best to put a lot of small world-building bits in these samples without making them so overloaded as to become confusing or unusable. In doing so, I've ended up reminding myself of something that is probably pretty obvious to everyone: I am a huge softy, and ultimately I'm hoping for players to be curious, kind, and heroic.

Oddly enough, this is part of the reason the setting has a lot of spots that are figuratively (and in some spots, literally) dark. The Outer World is fraught with perils odd and frightening. The status quo is cruel and often unstable. But these things are not meant to be taken as inescapable truths, they are meant as challenges - things that can be tackled alongside and with the same eagerness as a foreboding dungeon or powerful opponent.

It's certainly not a new idea. Pendragon comes to mind and numerous super hero games have attempted the same sort of thing. I was personally inspired by the excellent Porphyry, World of The Burn. But I truly feel that BREAK!! puts its own unique spin on it, one I'm very eager to share with people.

(I suppose you can still spend your campaign just ransacking old ruins and getting cool stuff, nothing's stopping you, really.)

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Character Generation. Linear Flow. Quick Start Stats

BREAK!! development seems to be mostly one step forward two steps back!
Looking at a rejig of the first part of the book, character generation (1/3)

Despite efforts to cram character creation into a few pages, the system is wonderfully quirky and must be handled differently.
  • Will be a more traditional, linear flow
  • But will add Quick Start Stats to get you moving rapidly through the process (enabling you to skip over large chunks of text)

'Link' text points you to the next chunk of text relevant to your character creation path.

Will need to tie in stats to character sheet more tightly (whole sheet will needs a revamp... that's for another post)

Monday, 10 April 2017

Character sheet

Somewhere along the way I forgot about the importance of the character sheet. It's a key player/game interface (despite paradoxically being relatively easily to replace with a pencil and paper).

And, following on from my last post on chargen, along with some reinforcing feedback from playtesters I'm prolly gonna add an overview page that explains which sections in the book are required to fill it out. Concept below.

Have been kindly reminded that this need to be practical, not infoporn (see below)

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Character Creation, information flow.

Having parsed most of the character creation text, I am finding myself unsatisfied with my initial design for the creation process (see fig1 1. Hyperlink).

My original goals
  1. Create a short condensed character creation flow with minimal page flipping. Quick, obvious.
  2. Allow players to pick/roll results and get a feel (excited for) their character without getting bogged down in mechanics.
  3. Leave richer information/explanations to be cross-referenced later by the player if they desired a deeper understanding.
However! This hyperlink concept is not working as well as I'd hoped with BREAK!! because:
  1. Numerous sub-processes are required for different callings (classes) which complicate the flow. (fig1 4. Sub-processes)
  2. Complex information (stats, gear, blah) is accumulated and modified during the flow and can't be hand waived away to look up later.
While my hyperlink flow might work well for an interactive document, it felt unnecessarily complex for a print book. I tried to solve this buy bringing data/stats into the chargen section (fig1 3. Hybrid) to solve Problem 2 but this bloats the design (conflicting with my original goals) and doesn't help with Problem 1.

A solution?
Maybe the old way is the best. A long and linear approach (fig1 2. Linear). This is good because:
  1. Exceptions are dealt with/explained at time of creation.
  2. You only flip forward (clear sense of progress). 
But bad because:
  1. You get bogged down in detail.
  2. The key chargen tables are spread out over many pages, annoy for those familiar with the mechanics (I know, stick tables together in an appendix)
Flow analysis
Anyway, I visualised how information is extracted from the various structural approaches to see if it would help me design a solution. Not sure if it did, but it's a nice infographic.
  • Blue lines show references to other parts of the doc to collect information.
  • Dotted blue lines, return to chargen flow.

fig 1 - Character Generation Flow Analysis

 Still thinking...

Adventure site concept

Taking a (another) mini-break from the core rules...

I started noodling on a concept for an adventure site from what will (probably) be BREAK!!'s first piece of support material... Trouble in Sprocket

The Salvage Sanctum
  • Secret base of the pesky Drones (they bother the villagers when out working in the surrounding wasteland/junkfields)
  • I envisaged the Drones as buzzing about their scavenging duties like insects... which demanded an ant/termite hill inspired lair!
  • The Sanctum blends into the ruinous scenery, meaning the players need to discover its exact whereabouts (clues like the location and frequency of drone attacks on sprocket workers, smelt plumes, etc will help)
  • A hill is a good defensible structure should the party choose full frontal assault.

  • Drones usually only possess a limited intelligence, but these guys have 'developed' sentience. Their functional, robotic construction make them ill-equipped to interact with organics and due to this, and their simple machine-like appearance, are mistaken for garden-variety drones.
  • A quick random drone generator provides fun for the GMs! Determine locomotion type (wheels, biped, spider legs, hover), sensors (sound, vibration, movement), attack/defense options (burrow, retreat into shell, roll, stretch arm, gas), etc...

  • Main entrance access requires an understanding of bitstream (bot language) or the cardkey (item)
  • Drone service hatches create another way in.

The Sorting Room 
  • All entrances lead to this hub room. 
  • Drone deposit. Others sort parts.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Dummy book, and two (little) ideas it spawned

I find it hard sometimes to get feel for a physical product purely from the screen and often print out pages to check colors, typography, etc. I have a massive toner bill.

Occasionally I'll cut down and insert the printouts into a similar sized book and dream about the end result.

BREAK!! will be a fat book, 300+ pages (roughly the same size as the underlying book used here). Whist holding the chunky item in my hand I thought of two things:
  1. I should add a global content strip in the top margin so people know what order the main sections are in, this will remind them whether they need to flip forward or back. Also could be useful for links in the pdf!
  2. I should add a d20 into the margin! Flip to roll. Die numbers would be non-sequential so it would be harder to cheat it.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Logo Test

Messing about with new logo design (draft), not sure about it yet. Is it distinctive? Is it legible? Will it look good on a t-shirt?

Here's some old cover work (which I still like too)

Friday, 24 March 2017

Tutorial Dungeons and Play Examples

I've been quiet for a while so I thought I'd give you guys a little update on what I've been working on, mainly the Play Examples and Tutorial Dungeons that will show up in various sections of the rule book.

The Play Examples will feature these lovable scamps and their gaming group - most chapters with a procedure or enough rules feature one. I find these are always super useful but mostly dry or kind of wooden, so I tried to keep them short and a maybe a little cute. We'll see how it works out.

The Tutorial Dungeons were Grey's suggestion - I'm writing two though I'm not sure if they will both make it in. The first is a solo adventure meant to get whoever is reading a book to roll up a character and run them through a brief scenario where they sneak into an abandoned "Cloud Shrine" to find out why a nearby settlement has been seeing alarmingly clear skies for a while (and not getting any rain, to boot).

The second is an Qualifying Obstacle Course for the Knights of the Lantern, a poverty stricken but benevolent order of do-gooders who operate in the Shadowed Lands of the Wistful Dark. This one is meant to teach a party how to move through an adventure site, work together and deal with strange and dangerous circumstances. It can also be used to kick off a campaign if desired!

After this it's back to working on some stuff for our first planned supplement/adventure - Grey and decided after finishing this big old book we are going to stick with doing smaller releases to compliment it, rather than jump headlong into another big thing.