Category Archives: games

America’s Next Top Reality Show

I made another thing. Let’s back up a little. I’ve been working on a humor book called I Want to be an Awesome Robot,[1] and I decided to include an section with Fun Activities, which will (for the most part) fully functional activity book type stuff, if with kind of a weird sensibility.[2] I’m also working on a mini Choose Your Own Adventure type thing, a super stripped down Maid RPG variant (“Schoolgirl RPG”), and some other things that get a bit geekier and more involved than just coloring pages and stuff (though there will be those too). One thing I came up with but may or may not put into the book is a mini Channel A type spinoff game, intended to have a deck of a more reasonable size and play a bit quicker. A while ago NPR had an article on “The 25 Magic Words Of American Television.” When it first came out I sent the link to some friends, and one immediately declared that he’d watch a show called “Mob Pets.” Putting together a small list of title cards was a very easy thing to do.

I’m not sure what I’ll actually do with the game from here–if it works out well as a game I could totally see doing it in the form of a full card game in a reasonably sized tuck box–but for now I’m tossing out a free PNP version for the heck of it. This is very much like the ones I’ve done for Channel A and Studio B, with the little 2″x2″ cards you can print on cardstock and cut out. You’ll also need two six-sided dice.

America’s Next Top Reality Show PNP Version PDF

Here are some titles I made by messing around with the cards for a bit:

Mob Apprentice, Fear Shack, Hell’s Zookeeper, Star Swap, Amish Hot Rod, Bachelor Dynasty, The American Factor, Who Wants To Be A Cat?, So You Think You Can Catch, Sex House, Dance Kitchen, Pimp My Duck, Extreme Cake, The Deadliest Family, Party Boss, Millionaire Pets, The Doctor Whisperer, The Big Monster Project, Hell’s Hot Rod, The Amish Hunter, Love Chef, Superhero Makeover, Bachelor Island

On other Channel A type news, I recently visited my sister and brother-in-law in Washington DC, and got my new fancy prototype of Studio B (the American B-movie reskin of Channel A). We got to play a good amount of both games, and did very successful demo games at Labyrinth Games & Puzzles, an excellent game store near Capitol Hill.


[1]I already decided that the sequel is going to be called “Most of My Friends Are Potential Supervillains.” You know who you are.
[2]The answer to the crossword clue “Like a crossword without balls” is “WORDFIND.”

Kyawaii RPG #8: Saving Throw

Saving-Throw

One of the funny things about American culture is how there are certain divides that are hard to see past. There are certain figures who have millions of fans, yet are largely unknown to people at large. One such figure is Jack T. Chick. He’s the man behind Chick Publications, which publishes Chick Tracts, of which about a billion copies have been printed. Chick Tracts are tiny comics intended to help fundamentalist Christians proselytize. They can show up all kinds of places–I even have a couple I found at a bus stop here in godless[1] California–and they provide a window into a very distinct and unique worldview. For Jack Chick there is Good (the things he believes in) and there is Evil (absolutely everything else). Good is his particular flavor of fundamentalist Christianity, evil is Darwinism, Buddhism, paganism, Islam, and especially Catholicism, or at least his strange caricatures of these things.

Chick Tracts are generally incredibly easy to pick apart on a purely factual basis, and certain tracts are rather reprehensible on a moral basis (the infamous and emphatically discontinued “Lisa” tract comes to mind). Gamers mainly know of Chick Tracts because of the Dark Dungeons tract, which embodies much of the paranoia of the anti-D&D moral panic of the 80s. Whatever else Chick Tracts are, they’re a fascinating body of outsider art. Chick draws some himself, and has employed other artists as well, so the art ranges from eccentric to genuinely impressive. Aside from the inevitable parodies, there are a a few people who collect and study his work, expressing fascination and admiration even if they find his actual beliefs ridiculous and occasionally repugnant. There are a couple of books about Jack Chick, and even a documentary, God’s Cartoonist.

A friend of mine had the idea to make a Chick Tract RPG, following the same form factor as a Chick Tract (which is to say a little 2.75″x5″ booklet). When I heard the idea, a game popped into my head nearly fully formed. My friend hasn’t gotten around to putting together his take on the concept, but just as Chick Publications has put out over 250 tracts, there’s certainly room for more than one satirical RPG. Saving Throw (aside from being a dumb pun) is my satirical Chick Tract RPG. This version is a letter sized PDF, but I do aspire to get a few illustrations done and do a small print run in booklet form.

To play you will need a d20, 15 tokens of some kind, and a basic familiarity with Chick Tracts (which for better or for worse you can view for free online).

Saving Throw PDF Download


[1]Not really. This area is maybe less religious than some, but there are still churches everywhere.

Adventures of the Space Patrol Playtest Version 2

It’s been a while since I did anything new with Adventures of the Space Patrol, but I’ve always been fond of the game. It’s got some of the heartwarming fun of Golden Sky Stories, and not unlike GSS it has its own aesthetic, not quite like other entries in the same genre.

I originally designed the game as a very simple custom build of Fate. When I started working on it, Spirit of the Century was the definitive version of Fate, and Awesome Adventures was the about the only simpler version out there. I really like the core concepts of Fate, but these days I’m generally not a fan of 300-page RPG rulebooks. There are also issues like how SotC gave characters a full TEN Aspects, which to my mind is about three times too many. I saw an awesome rules-light game lurking inside of Fate, and Space Patrol was in part my best attempt at creating that. More recently, Evil Hat had their explosively popular Fate Core Kickstarter. Along with a zillion other things, it brought Fate Accelerated Edition into the world. There was suddenly a 48-page version of Fate (available in print for a mere $5), which kept the essence of Fate and included the slick refinements of Fate Core.

You can probably see where this is going, but it was pretty much a no-brainer to revise Space Patrol to take full advantage of FAE. The way it handles the four actions, the rules for challenges/contests/conflicts, and so on do a lot to address the few things about my game that I had been trying to figure out how to smooth over. With OGL and Creative Commons licensing options, readily available SRDs, and the Fate Core Glyphs font, Evil Hat has made Fate pretty awesome to use from a publishing standpoint. Otherwise I didn’t change Space Patrol all that much. I tweaked a few things here and there (like making it so the GM just gets a flat 10 Atom Points per episode), adjusted some things to fit the new rules, and added a new character to the lineup (Cosmo the Wonder Dog). I also finished up the two sample scenarios I’d been planning to write. It’s all very first draft, but it should be totally playable. I’m hoping to get in some playtesting before too long, and to more thoroughly read Fate Core with an eye for finding elements to adapt to Space Patrol.

Me being the way I am I’m thinking about possibly doing a Kickstarter for it at some point. It’d have to wait until a lot more Golden Sky Stories stuff is out of the way, and if I do it I’m definitely going to keep it a lot simpler and sleeker than what we did with GSS. Also, I’m looking forward to having the excuse to get a bunch of cute, stylish retro sci-fi art done.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the current playtest draft PDF:

Adventures of the Space Patrol Playtest Version 2 PDF

Arianrhod 2E: The Focus System

ara2e_jyoruI wound up getting a copy of the Advanced Rulebook (上級ルールブック) for Arianrhod 2nd Edition, F.E.A.R.’s dungeon fantasy RPG with an anime/JRPG style. The book includes advanced classes (that characters can take at level 10), prestige classes, new skills for the base classes, items, guild skills, monsters, traps, dungeon objects, and optional rules. The thing in it that I found the most interesting is what the designers call the Focus System (FS for short). The Focus System is something a lot like Skill Challenges in D&D4E, but better in pretty much every way. There’s even an FS Check Management Sheet, which isn’t quite as insane as it might look. It has spaces for three FS checks, and F.E.A.R. is just really big on making sheets for things.

An FS check goes in rounds, and one of the neat things about it is that you can have an FS check going at the same time as combat. Making a check for the FS uses your main action, so you have to choose between that and attacking. During the FS check a character can make Progress Checks or Assistance Checks. A Progress Check is a check[1] on the attribute (or other appropriate check) determined by the FS check’s specifications, and you gain or lose Progress Points according to your margin of success, anywhere from -2 to +4 (with a special bonus of +1d6 plus 1 per die that rolled a 6 on a Critical), and your ultimate goal is to accumulate enough Progress Points to complete the FS check. However, an FS check has a limit on how many characters can make Progress Checks per round (2-4 in the examples), so other characters can make Assistance Checks during the initiative phase, and if successful they give a +2 bonus to another character. A typical FS check needs 10 to 20 Progress Points to proceed (10 in most of the examples), but the PCs have a limited number of rounds to pull it off (in the included examples 3-5 rounds). When you design an FS check, you take the preferred number of participants times the number of rounds to determine the Progress Point objective.

Events are the other major thing that make an FS check more interesting. These trigger based on how many Progress Points the PCs have gained, usually around one event per 3 Progress Points (paced so you get one every 1-2 rounds). Events can change what stat you need to make a check with, alter the difficulty you have to beat, or also affect the FC check’s end conditions (giving you more or fewer rounds to complete it say). The book has 5 full writeups of example FC checks, and one of these is for disarming a particularly complex trap. It starts with Trap Removal checks (a special Thief skill, based on Dexterity), then the difficulty drops as you start to understand the trap, then thwarting a mechanism requires Strength checks, and finally at the end you’re left with the choice of the red wire or blue wire, and you need to make a Luck check. If the PCs get enough Progress Points at once to trigger multiple events, you take the most recent check requirements and retain things like modifiers to difficulty numbers from intermediate events.

If the PCs get enough Progress Points in time, they’ll succeed and get an XP reward at the end of the game session. The text also notes that you can have competitive FS checks basically by having two groups doing the same FS check in parallel and competing to be the first to get the required number of Progress Points.

That’s the basics in a nutshell. I find it pretty fascinating both as a game mechanic and for the simple fact that I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of thing from a Japanese TRPG before. I don’t know whether D&D4e played into its design (the Arianrhod 2E Advanced Rulebook did come out in 2011, and 4e is available in Japanese), but conflict resolution mechanics are about as nonexistent as GM-less RPGs there. Needless to say I want to use some ideas from the Focus System in Slime Quest’s Challenge system, though I think my take on it will have some elements of the Mouse Guard RPG as well. There’s a lot of interesting things in Japanese TRPG design, but sometimes there’s a certain rigidity at least in the rules as written, which shows here in how Progress Checks involve predetermined attributes and strategies. I’d much rather just ask the players how they’re tackling the problem and have that then play into the rules. On the other hand it’s substantially more developed than D&D4e’s Skill Challenges, and if I was going to run a 4e game I’d put together a houserule for improved SCs drawing from the FS check rules.


[1]In Arianrhod you make a basic check by rolling 2d6 and adding your attribute’s modifier (which is 1/3 of the base attribute number, and typically in the low single digits to start with). Snake eyes is a Fumble, and box cars is a Critical. The game doesn’t have “skills” in the Western RPG sense, but certain classes can have abilities that let them make special kinds of checks such as trap-finding or alchemy.

Peerless Food Fighters 2.0 (PNP)

Peerless Food Fighters! was the first Kyawaii RPG I did, way back in 2008. It was a GM-less little thing about fighting waitresses, with Noodle Fighter Miki a major inspiration. When I took it into my head to try to make an RPG with board game style presentation, PFF was the first one to come to mind. It was already kind of mechanistic and board-game-like in its design, and in terms of its basic design this new version isn’t all that different. The major thing I did was to go completely crazy with cards, plus implementing the “dueling” concept that came out of the time I played the Kyawaii version with some friends. It involves a grand total of 110 cards, spread across four different varieties that serve different purposes. I got about $6 worth of generic board game components (12 pawns, 6 poker chips, 6 card stands) to complete the set, though if you’re crafty you could find some printable pawns and such.

PFF-Characters

I’m rather inordinately fond of the approach of having a set of pre-made, color-coded PCs. I’m planning to commission some better artwork done so that I can replace my kind of lame attempts at drawing the characters, though I have to hold off a little on spending that money. Using colors and symbols was generally interesting to me, and the Noun Project and Game Icons were invaluable for getting icons for the attributes/card suits.

The Fate Deck wound up being one of the more interesting parts of the game. I decided to replace the six-sided dice from the game with a deck of cards, which in turn led me to add more and more interesting information to the cards. About half have game effects, and the other half have flavor to influence role-playing. They also have suits that match the attributes, which figures into the flavoring and effects, as well as adding a small bonus if your chosen attribute matches.

Peerless Food Fighters 2.0 PDF

The game’s gotten zero testing, though I’m hoping to give it a try pretty soon.

i.hate.everyone

Not too long ago I was in contact with a game publisher who was interested in a game in the general style of Cards Against Humanity, a tasteless drinking game type of thing. I got a good start designing and testing such a game, but the publisher went with something else. I don’t bear them any ill will (I will admit to being disappointed), but I like the game I created enough to want to share it. I may eventually pursue publication, but I have enough other projects going on that without a publisher lined up I’m going to shelve it for the time being.

i.hate.everyone is a game of social media whoring. It follows the query/response from a card format of Apples to Apples and CAH, but everyone plays a response, and everyone votes by giving a Like token to the player whose response they liked best. Cards can also have special effects, ranging from reading cards in a French accent to various shenanigans with the cards. For me and my friends the silliness with drawing and discarding cards fixes the single biggest issue with the game’s predecessors, namely the tendency to get stuck with a lousy hand.

I picked the name “i.hate.everyone” partly because I feel it conveys about the right sentiment, and partly because it leaves it wide open for expansions and alternate versions called “i.hate.[something].” I already started on one called i.hate.fandom, which was the game I was kinda sorta thinking about doing before the aforementioned publisher came into the picture.

To play you’ll need to print out the cards on cardstock, preferably with a different color for the Status Cards, and you’ll need a decent supply of tokens of some kind. I find bingo chips or sorting chips work well, but pretty much anything will do as long as you have at least 100 or so. You can also pretty seamlessly shuffle them in with the print and play version of CAH if you want.

Players: 3-8
Play Time: 30+ minutes
Recommended for Ages 17+

i.hate.everyone Rules PDF
i.hate.everyone Status Cards PDF
i.hate.everyone Comment Cards PDF

Studio B PNP Prototype

As usual I’m screaming through this stuff, making a thing and flinging it onto the internet. Studio B is a variant/reskin of Channel A, but for American B-movies instead of anime. I’m specifically going for the kind of stuff that came out of the drive-in culture that sprang up because of the removal of film-making restrictions in 1948, the cheesy black and white stuff like Robot Monster, Teenagers From Outer Space, and Plan 9 From Outer Space.[1] The rules are pretty much the same as Channel A, though the part about being able to add simple articles (of, the, etc.) is going to be much more important.

Studio B Print and Play Prototype PDF

Anyway, I also have some news about Channel A. I decided to make a fancier prototype for further testing, so I assembled the necessary files in Photoshop to get it printed through The Game Crafter. I just put in the order last night, so we’ll see how it goes. Their backend for assembling a game is actually really good overall, though I do wish the proofing process was more efficient. POD printing for 310 cards makes it pretty expensive, but I’m thinking I’ll make it publicly available since some friends have expressed interest in getting sets to play at anime cons and such. And thus I lament that I’m at this point in developing the game when the convention season is pretty much over.

I’m reasonably happy with what I was able to produce on my own,[2] but for the final version I’m hoping to hire Clay Gardner to do proper graphic design. He’s done a ton of amazing work for Minion Games, not to mention Golden Sky Stories. And now that I think I’ve gotten that out of my system for now, back to working on RPG stuff!

[1]Though I’m definitely going to do an expansion for mixing in 80s cheese. I’m thinking of calling it “Studio Z.”

[2]Sometimes I forget just how much stuff about Photoshop and whatnot I learned in college. I’m definitely not a pro, but at least I have some idea what I’m doing.

Dragon World Hack v0.2

I’ve posted about it a good amount already, but Dragon World is my 90s comedy fantasy anime hack for Apocalypse World, a very silly fantasy game. Dragon Half and Slayers are major inspirations, but just about every fantasy anime I’ve ever seen figures into it a bit, along with Discworld and the sillier parts of every D&D campaign I’ve ever been in.

This is the “Hack” version of the game, so to play you’ll need to have a copy of Apocalypse World, or at least a good knowledge of how AW works.

Here are the major changes I’ve made from the previous version:

  1. Leveling Up: I replaced marking experience with leveling up, which characters can simply do once per session between scenes.
  2. Guts Points: PCs now have Guts points that they can spend to avoid Falling Down (or to affect die rolls), but every time they do they have to make a roll to avoid having a Stress Explosion.
  3. Wealth: The group shares a special Wealth stat that can fluctuate up or down, and which they get to roll on when they buy stuff.
  4. Story Threads: Instead of connections/History, PCs now have Story Threads, which encompass other PCs as well as other story elements. These don’t have mechanical significance, but they do create relationships and story hooks.
  5. Setting Ideas: I filled out my initial section of NPC and setting ideas.

Dragon World Hack 0.2 PDF
Dragon World Reference & Class Sheets PDF

Raspberry Heaven Practice Test

I made some interesting contacts and it looks like the RPG app project is definitely going to go forward in some form. As I mentioned before, I decided to have my first RPG app also finally realize the Raspberry Heaven project I started some time ago, a game for slice of life stories about high school girls in the vein of Azumanga Daioh and Hidamari Sketch. The prior versions never quite worked out, and the RPG app is going to follow my prior intention to restructure the game with some vital inspiration from Fiasco.

Raspberry Heaven Practice Test” is my analog proof of concept for the eventual app version of the game. Because the actual app will take advantage of the ability to automate stuff that would be awkward for people to do, this is necessarily simplified in some places, but shows the basic chassis of the game and how I envision its gameplay working. If you’re interested in this project, please take a look and let me know what you think. To play you’ll want to print up the included reference sheets and have a pack of regular playing cards.

Download Raspberry Heaven Practice Test PDF

Dragon Ball Oracle

Looking through my documents folder for something to mess with, I came across a nearly-finished Dragon Ball inspired oracle for In a Wicked Age, and decided to finish it up. IAWA is a really fun little game that captures the spirit of old-school sword and sorcery fiction, and before the letter Z got added Dragon Ball was a charming manga about the weird little adventures of a kid with a monkey tail.

Most of the stuff in the oracle is from the first 16 volumes of the manga (before the bit that became Dragon Ball Z in the anime), but 52 elements are a lot to come up with, so I dipped into Z and the movies a bit for ideas towards the end.

Dragon Ball Oracle (PDF)