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Things we’re working on at Store32

4th Edition Writing Underway

I’ve started a Google Docs document for writing the next version of The Artifact. I’m trying for now to only occasionally reference 3rd edition. My writing is more casual now and I hope that makes it better to read. I don’t want the old text to change my current expression of ideas.

A lot has fallen into place but I still have unresolved questions in some basic procedures. In 3rd, Advantages and Impairments got rid of some roll modifiers. In 4th theres very little addition and subtraction going on because Boosts and Drains are taking center stage.

The question I have is, if a character has a Boost and a Drain, how do they interact? My intention at the moment is one Drain cancels out a Boost. Only if you have more Drains than Boosts do you roll for Drains.

For some people that’s going to seem a little unfair. You could have a Skill of 9 (the highest possible) and a Drain of 1 (the lowest possible) and they’d cancel each other out.

This kind of thing is going to take some new thinking on the players part because a character can create Boost with an action. Because you can have multiple Boosts in each roll, creating a low level Boost will negate that low level Drain and you get your skill back.

Something I’m having the hardest time conveying is the idea that the players choose how to apply these negations and the rolls of their dice to match their Boosts. I don’t know if this is a natural concept or a difficult one. I also don’t know if some people would pick up on it and others wouldn’t.

When I started brainstorming this version, I had a lot of ideas for special conditions and their mechanical effects but I recently realized that they could be Boosts. Since I had the idea for players creating Boosts then these effects might as well fall under that concept. The challenge now is to lay out those conditions as created Boosts without making it seem like those are the only options. The tool is multipurpose but it’s also vauge so I want the examples to spur creativity but not limit it.

I’m going to the Queen City Conquest this weekend and running a game of The Artifact. The hard part for me is going to be playing 3rd Edition and not slipping into new tools that we’ve been testing.

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Stick With the Familiar?

As I approach putting together a new version of The Artifact, I’m continually asking what needs to change. One of those things that probably should change is the software being used to lay out the book.

In the past I’ve used Apples Pages 4.0 to put together the books. If you were unaware, the current version of Pages is 7. The reason I use an old version is because Apple significantly nerfed the product at version 5 and you just don’t have the level of control there was in 4.

I’ve worried that an update in the OS would make Pages 4 stop working someday. That hasn’t happened yet thankfully.

The last game I put together was with the free beta for Affinity Publisher. It seems very capable, although The Artifact is by far bigger than that project.

Something that gives me pause using Affinity Publisher is that it’s not easy to import tables and The Artifact has a lot of tables. That would end up a hard slog. It would give me a chance to catch errors but would also introduce the chance of me introducing errors.

What AP (Affinity Publisher) does afford is better control over layout and the opportunity to go to introduce a new style for 4th edition. I don’t know what that style should be, though.

I could try bringing the book into a 6×9 format. That would ballon the page count and would require a lot more art assuming 1 piece of art per 4 pages as I tried to get for 3e. There are a number of people that strongly prefer 6×9 but I’m not sure it would suit The Artifact. For one, the maps would have to be reduced in size and that would make details less noticeable.

I could bring in a new set of fonts but I hate picking fonts. Georgia, while nothing exciting is a solid and respectable font.

The other big concern is that AP is an unproven solution. Sure it works and is stable, but will it last as a platform? I think the answer is yes. The Affinity suite is taking on Adobe’s unattainable prices and I think that’s going to win them a lot of small publishers. Still, the original versions of The Artifact were layed out on a program called MacPublisher that went belly up. While that gives me pause, I know my current solution is also going away.

Looking at the big picture, moving to AP is going to be a slog and it raises a lot of questions but I know I should probably do it.

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Home

When playing The Artifact, there is a overriding need to find a place to live. This is the perpetual question that natives like the Scimrahn face. Although that is really important to the game, maybe for the 4th edition, players should think about home a little differently.

In the past I’ve thought about adding background details to characters, like what conditions they lived in and what kind of family they have back on Earth. For the most part I resisted that because it was largely irrelevant to the play of the game. There were hints in some of the optional tables, but they didn’t consistently or completely fill in a character’s backstory.

The process of making a campaign is becoming more formalized and it’s centering on the concept of finding a place for the characters to live in. But is the place they find home.

I’m thinking of that a little differently now. Instead of wondering what the physical place should be, maybe the better question is what home means to the character.

For one character, home might mean children playing. For another it could be the solitude of a book. Another could think of home as a safe place where there’s warmth. Esoteric things might include the sound of your grandmother’s voice or a place where you’re in charge. I’m aiming for simple concepts that could inform a player as to what their character ultimately wants.

This might change what a character ends up doing and probably why they act.

The Artifact is a game about leaving a home that’s falling apart to find a place that will last. Ultimately where the characters find it could be in very different places.

Very simply, this is going to be a random table just like the personality tables. This might be a good way to introduce principals and priorities in character generation. Those formal rules might not get used often, but they would easily inform role play.

With that addition, I think mentioning a character’s previous life experience would help new players to imagine where the characters are coming from but would also play off their concept of home. Are they leaving what they though of as home to recreate something or did they never have what they wanted and are looking to find it?

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Rojec Alpha

The Rojec Alpha for Imbalance of Power part 1

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Rojec Beta

The Rojec Beta for Imbalance of Power

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3.1 Player’s Handbook Ashcan

Updating the main book to 3.1 was relatively easy. I knew that it would be a lot harder to move over the Player’s Handbook because of all the equipment crafting rules. Most of the big changes are done but the consequences in the crafting systems are probably too intense. We’ll be testing and update the file when we get a feel for where things should be.

Player’s Handbook 3_1 ash

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The Artifact 3.1 Test File

Here’s the updated file for 3.1. I’ll keep this here as a post for a bit while testing it out. I’ve almost certainly missed something. For some reason this file is twice as big as the old file. I remember getting the file this big before but I can’t remember how I got it smaller.

Download 3.1

Next job is to convert the Player’s Handbook to the new Tech Challenges. That will take a decent amount of work to iron out the crafting rules since that’s a very fiddly beast to get right. I’m going to try and make that process a little more friendly to solo play. My son spends hours doing his best to break the crafting rules. I remember doing the same with Night Hawks and Battletech so I guess I can’t complain.

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Version 3.1 Coming Soon

There are a number of systems in 3rd edition that we’ve adjusted in our play. Most of it requires very little text to change. A good example is how sensors work. I changed two sentences in the book and the difference is profound. A sensor lock guarantee a hit on the target now unless they evade or use ECMs to break the lock.

Some things, like giving more choices during survival challenges took a small addition to the text, but it’s really very trivial in terms of the bulk of the text. I’m still debating changing more but even that will still be minor changes here and there.

Tech challenges are the big change, but by big, I kind of mean small. They are far simpler, they require less instruction and are more powerful and flexible. They’re also more intuitive which they weren’t before, there was too much process in the process. As a result of the changes I’ve actually had to pad out the text with a few minor additions or the page count would all change, requiring me to re-lay out a large fraction of the book.

In all, the changes are significant in play, but in terms of changes to the book they’re really minor. I was thinking of this as 3.5 but after seeing how little I was changing as far as the text, this is definitely more of a 3.1.

We’re currently testing a highly modified version of the rules that would require a big re-write but that will take a lot more time and testing. These changes have really improved our play so I want to get them out to you before all that.

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Imbalance of Power Part 1

Part one of Imbalance of Power is shaping up nicely. It’s up to about 40 pages of mostly text. I have a lot to do redrawing a lot of the art so that will be the next big challenge. So what’s this all about? It’s primarily about the crumbling of the Kelrath nation and the attempts to rebuild it.

I didn’t really expect to be throwing terrorist into this book but that’s what it’s shaping up to. The Kelrath nation effectively splits in two, with the progressive cities adopting a very earth style way of life that was pioneered in the Tortuga book. They are effectively being colonized.

The big reveal here is that the Kelrath are being ruled in secret the Tanroc Fredar that were busy trying to decipher their Oracles. A leading Tanroc Fredar (Takoog) that was studying the Oracle Rall found that the information it had was incomplete and the fear was that all the Oracles might be incomplete. This has mostly already been revealed in the last chapter of the novel here on the site so I’m not worried about talking about it.┬áThis fear lead to paralysis but recent changes have lead some of the Tanroc Fredar to rethink what they were doing. Others still want to hold onto the old ways.

A Tanroc Fredar named Rojec opposes the changes and has set out to punish the Kelrath that have accepted outside ideas and is using once carefully guarded weapons to sow destruction.

Now instead of sneaking around and into Kelrath cities the players will be tasked with defending the cities from the inside and they’ll need all the help they can get to stop the Rojec forces.

There’s a ton of new toys for the players and the GM in this book. New ASO E-Suits, new I-CA cyborgs, new Kelrath vehicles and for the GM, Rojec weapons.

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Everybody is Wrong

On The Artifact that is. Something I’ve never fully expressed about the setting of The Artifact is that all the groups have their own way of being wrong and I don’t mean just the bad guys. The Earthers and Scimrahn are deeply problematic and that’s on purpose.

The reason I really find the need to say this is because of some work I’m doing on Imbalance of Power. A large part of the Kelrath are opening up and adopting democratic governments and not everyone’s happy about it.

It would make intuitive sense that the higher castes might not be too happy but some of the Geetin are upset too. I liken this to the fall of the USSR, the powerless were still powerless and even more, they had lost the safety nets that they relied on. This happens pretty regularly throughout history, the people you’d think would be all for a change end up really upset about it. That moment of upheaval is exactly what this sourcebook is about. There was a bit of it in the Tortuga sourcebook but this is on a bigger scale.

I just want to get the idea that everyone in this setting is imperfect, fighting for their own desires and not really ready to take on anyone else’s viewpoint. That makes for a messy conflict ridden world which is what this is all about. One conflict ends and another pops up. Someone wins and someone loses, but no one is really “right”.

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