Inventing Science

One of the first sourcebooks I wrote for The Artifact was an update about what happens five years after the Earthers arrive. Now its writing is somewhat simple to me but that’s not why I haven’t released it.

The update was intended to peel back the curtain of what’s going on with Loc. What he’s been working on.

My problem is that I’ve really bitten off more than I could chew. The whole concept of The Artifact is that it’s a device that does something unimaginable. The whole “sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic” concept. Only I don’t do magic and that would be a copout. I want to be able to explain how this wondertech works or more accurately, might work.

You’ve seen a start to that in The Warp quickstart and the post The Anatomy of A Warp. At first, warps to me were just field effects. Kind of like a force field that does something to the laws of physics.

While working on The Warp, I realized that the effect isn’t a field, it’s an effect on matter. That the only way you’d get an enduring effect like the warps described in the quickstart is to have the distortion be tied to the matter. Then while contemplating the tie between motion time and gravity one afternoon (yes, yes, I really do that kind of thing) I realized that the effect isn’t tied to the matter, it’s that the matter has been altered in its hyperdimensional movement. What do I mean by “hyperdimensional” ? It’s those dimensions that physics math keeps saying are there but we can’t see. If you listen to Brian Greene for any length of time, he’ll talk about math models of our universe pointing to the idea of more dimensions or directions in space than we can see. Dr. Greene didn’t invent the idea he just popularizes it.

Now physicists look at these dimensions and ask “If these dimensions are there, why can’t we see them?”. And I slowly began to reason, “Maybe we do see them, only they just don’t look the same.” Maybe we see matter moving along these “extra” dimensions all the time, recognize the movement but miss attribute it to something disconnected from movement? I got the idea from looking at the relationship between motion time and gravity (thank you Einstein for relativity). If you followed that, and want more look at The Anatomy of A Warp.

So I am speculating but I’m not conjuring up magic. All this is based on real world and theoretical physics.

My next question was, “How would you produce the effects I’m describing in the real world?” The only place that I’m aware of time and space being distorted on a large scale is around a black hole. Now I have a how! If the matter is entangled with matter around a black hole, even for a brief period, it in theory could give a “kick” to the matter, giving it altered properties without the requisite crushing down to oblivion.

So I admit I’m stretching here. I’m reaching into the realm of technobabble where I’m just “inverting polarities”. So I’ll stop there.

This is important though. I need a framework to work off of so that I can develop (in game) the technology Loc has been working on.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Experimental Mechanics

Priest Bracers

In some of the really early pictures of Chezbah Priests, they wore heavy arm bracers. They looked like they were a device and not purely ornamental or any kind of armor. Still, there wasn’t any explanation about what they actually were. It was always my intent to have the Chezbah use more gadgets, but what would you wear on your arm and what does it do?

So here’s a little post to explain that. Feel free to use them in your games.

These posts will all eventually be compiled in a Chezbah sourcebook.

Chezbah Priest Bracers

These devices cover the forearm of the priest. Similar to the War Staff, the bracers are a storage battery for the ZPE energy the priest generates. These batteries are used to defensively, storing up energy that would normally discharge from the priest without effect and then channeling the power back into the priest to create a more powerful defensive force field.

The bracers also amplify the effect of the Ion Cascade shield by tuning it and directing it’s energy at incoming attacks.

The force field has two settings. Setting one is a 40 point force field that lasts for ten turns per bracer worn. The second setting is a 300 point shield that lasts for one turn per bracer worn but does one point of damage to the wearer.

The hit points for setting two is reduced by 30 for each turn setting one has been used on that bracer.

Setting 1
Shield Hit Points: 40
Duration: 10 turns

Setting 2
Shield Hit Points: 300
Duration: 1 turn

Leave a Comment

Filed under Chezbah Sourcebook

How To Be A Great Roleplayer

Part 2 of a two part series on giving tips to the players. If you haven’t already read How To Be A Good Roleplayer then please go back and read it. I’ll be building on what was written there because you have to be good before you can be great right? I’ll wait for you.

This article is longer than the last. The concepts are more difficult to convey. If you’re ok with being a “Good” roleplayer, turn back now because these tips could change the game for you completely if you implement them.


This step is intuitive. Immerse yourself in the story. Immerse yourself in your character. That seems fairly basic, but is it really? How do you really put yourself in character? Do you know who your character is? Sure an elaborate backstory is fine but can you leverage it into what’s happening now without resorting to a flashback or trying to munchkin in some advantage for the character?

There’s a saying that goes “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you’re not.” You could slip in being in character to that saying. If you have to tell people that you’re acting in character, then you’re not.

Sometimes adding a unique accent to a character can help put yourself in the mood of the character but it’s not a crutch that you want to rely on every time. It’s better to have a unique goal or philosophy for a character. One that informs you of the character’s core motivations. Sure there are the standard tropes of a driven, angry warrior seeking revenge but those get old fast. What about a character that’s depressed but is driven by duty? That can be a rich character to portray.

Beyond just amassing power, does the character have a goal? Is all this skill and resources for something other than the obvious? Is there that special someone who the character is trying to impress? Is there a need that the character is trying to fulfill? Does your GM know your goal? Does your GM know what aspects of that goal you want to explore and which parts you don’t want to be touched? For example, my character is trying to prove that he’s a real man to impress the girl he’s always pined over. I’d like to explore if my character’s approach would ever really be impressive to her but I don’t want her showing  up as an evil villain at any point.

Summarize your character’s outlook on life in a simple sentence. Immerse yourself in who you see the character to be. Write it down. Now try to imagine the strongest aspects of that outlook. The things that when distorted to an extreme degree would make this character unique. Maybe you want the outlook to be functional but could you make an outlook that makes sense to the player but seems contradictory to others? Could you make an outlook that’s touching?

Most of all don’t immerse yourself in an annoying character. Players that try to make a funny character but that do it at the expense of other PCs are not going to get any laughs. Characters that stop the story from moving forward because of what the player sees as opposing how the character would act or stopping others from moving the story forward are not going to be well liked. Worse, they end up as the opposite of interesting because they stall the game. Yes the character may hate something or someone but how could they find themselves in a situation where they have to live with the situation they’re in? How could they be forced to accept the situation?

Learning The Language of Improv

When telling a story with others as its unfurling in a game has many similarities to improvisational theater. Some games build improv concepts into them to help the GM and players understand where they can be applied to game play. It should be acknowledged that RPGs are not about acting, it can help if players dip their toe in acting but that’s not what most role players are around the table to do. Improv isn’t just about acting either though.

Improvisation is about using what’s available and making something out of it. It often includes concepts of how to take something you’re given by someone else, something you may not have looked for or even wanted and still building with it.

Sometimes the materials that we’re given by our collaborators can head away from the place we wanted to go. To tell what appears to be a coherent story from choices that have already been made we have to be willing to work with what we’re given and not stop the process to complain. The show must go on. Or does it?

It’s true that most of us don’t play our games in front of an audience like improv actors or comedians. We are our own audience though and making a game enjoyable means that continuing the story is just as important for players as it is for a crowd.

One of the tenants of improv is, say yes. Saying no to what another actor or in this case player has just said they wanted stops the story. Saying yes allows it to continue, it allows something to be built. Saying “Yes and” continues what the last player said and adds to it. Saying “Yes but” is contradicting what the last person said and can interrupt the flow of the story even if it’s slight.

Now the player that needs to say “Yes”, “Yes and” and may need to say “Yes but” the most is the GM. Are you giving the GM something they can say yes to? Are you giving the other players something they know what to do with?

To improv requires that people put away their egos and not think of contributions as “yours” and “mine”. Each contribution is simply the next step in the story.

For more, listen to someone who actually knows what they’re talking about explain improv.

It’s About Story

I keep saying “the story” because a game, and especially role playing games are about story. Football games are about the story, who played, who won and how. Monopoly is about the story, who played, who won and how. Role playing games are really all about story.

If you’ve played RPGs for any length of time, you have some quote, situation or concept that you and your group at the table bring up at times and everyone laughs. Everyone that played that game that is. That’s significant for a game because it’s a shared experience.

A story is, at it’s core, a shared experience. When you read a book, you share the experience of that story with everyone that has ever read that book. When you watch a movie or listen to a song, you can refer to the experience that story carries with anyone who has shared it. It is a mental point where people can convey complex concepts to each other, often with only a few words. It’s also an emotional link that can be very powerful.

RPGs are unusual in that they produce a story experience but usually only those that play will ever share it. It’s like a movie that only you and your group of players will ever know. An exclusive club where only the players are allowed access.

In the end, the shared experience is why we play.

It’s not about experience points or treasure. It’s about sharing the story. It’s about the mental bond that forms between people. When a player understands that, they transcend the barriers of their own desires and start to explore experiences that can be shared with their table mates. They stop worrying if their character will fail, will die, will strike it rich. As long as those things tell an interesting story, they’re happy.

Know Your Game

Lastly, knowing the game you’re playing is important. Although people tend to think of rules as limiting, the rules of an RPG can also give a player authority to accomplish the things they want to do.

For instance, “Bang you’re dead!”, “No I’m not!”. No one has authority to say who’s right unless there’s a rule that effectively arbitrates the conflict between players.

A player that knows the rules of the game can envision what is needed to tell the story they want to tell. A player that doesn’t know the rules, has to rely on other players to allow them to do the things they want by spoon feeding them the rules.

If you played a game of chess without knowing the rules but you played the moves a grand champion told you to make, in the end when you checkmate your opponent, did you win or did the grand champion? Relying on others to feed you the rules means that you’re not playing to your potential.

Rules are tools to tell a story. They’re also the story’s validation. Anyone can sit down with a few friends and make up a story together if they want to. They don’t need rules. However nothing stops them from telling the wildest most unbelievable story imaginable. There is no accomplishment in the story itself. A game challenges the player to accomplish and through that challenge comes validation that the player actually accomplished something.


After nearly thirty years of RPGs I’m still learning. These are the things that I try to do when I play. Is there something that you do? Some bit of insight that has made your play transcend what it once was?


Leave a Comment

Filed under Experimental Mechanics

How To Be A Good Roleplayer

There’s plenty of GM advice out there. What about the players? How can you be a good roleplayer? How can you not stink in front of your friends? The answers are sometimes intuitive and sometimes surprising.

Be An Active Participant

Nothing is going to happen unless the players at the table do something. The GM can present plot thread after plot thread but it’s up to the players to make it happen. Without your involvement and acting in the game, it will not be as great a game as it could be.

Is it okay to sit back and let other players run the action? Sometimes, but even when it seems like someone else is on fire and doing awesome, don’t bow out and just watch.

Be Ready To Fail

Without failure, what kind of a game would this be? Sit back for a moment and think about that for a moment. For a while, it might seem like fun but in the end, it all becomes meaningless without a chance of failure.

Where is a game without challenge? What is a challenge without failure?

Now, instead of looking at failure as a necessary evil, can you make failure awesome? A small failure means it’s time for the hero to buckle down. A major failure means heartbreak. Instead of venting that heartbreak at the GM or the other players at the table, channel it into the game and make the story a hundred times richer. Are you angry that the dice didn’t roll your way? Translate that feeling into what your character would feel and really revel in it for a moment. Now, instead of it being a negative feeling that sours the game, it becomes part of the game. Have your character raise their fists to the sky and scream “Nooooooooooooo!”

Now you’re enriching the game and everyone’s experience.

Cooperate With the GM and Players

When a game allows you to do anything, does it mean you should? Not if you want to be a good roleplayer. Most other games are competitive but role playing games are often cooperative games. Even the GM, who embodies everything that opposes the PCs is more often cooperating than competing. If the GM wanted to compete, no player could ever win.

Cooperate with the GM by picking up interesting leads. Cooperate with the other players, even when their plans don’t seem like they’ll work.

Players that don’t cooperate look for ways to hurt the other players. They reason that if their character is a thief, they have license to steal from the other PCs. They pick fights with other PCs just to prove their character is the best. They stall the game by arguing about plans even when it’s clear everyone else wants to move ahead. They split the party.

What would you think of a person that went over to his friends house for a movie marathon party, most there want to watch a movie but they disagree and decide to go back to their house, taking a few people with them?

Some plot threads are just not to a player’s liking. I’m not saying to play a game that you find offensive. Sometimes though a game or another player’s actions are just not interesting to you. Sometimes a GM may present a social challenge when you wanted combat. As long as this is a temporary situation, roll with it.

Even better, try and find something in the situation that you do like.

Amplify The Story

Now, don’t just sullenly cooperate. Find something that you can make the story even better with. This challenge sounds boring? Make it even more exciting. If you can do better, then do better. RPGs aren’t just about you being entertained, they’re also a way for you to entertain your friends. Can you do that?

If a player is really doing awesome this game, try and figure out how you can help them. Make the game even more awesome for them. Be someone’s wingman. Even if it’s just you cheering them on, do it.

Some of the most memorable games involved the players coming up with a ingenious, wild, improbable or bizarre course of action. Sometimes it’s premeditated, often it’s an off the cuff choice to spice things up. Look for these opportunities, act on them and channel it when they fail.

Communicate, Especially When It Hurts

In a lot of life’s struggles, it’s difficult to know how and when to communicate what we’re feeling. It’s hard to turn a negative emotion into a constructive experience. This is one of those skills that not only helps a person in a role playing game but in life. If someone is doing something that bothers you, don’t talk about it behind their back, communicate the problem with them.

Keep calm. As soon as people get upset, including you, the chance of making progress in fixing the situation drops precipitously. A calm, respectful and thoughtful approach makes the chance of you being heard far better. Arguments don’t get resolved by yelling and calling people names.

Be ready to drop it. For now. Say what you need to say and then, if it doesn’t immediately get the result you want, stop arguing the point. Later, when the game is over, in a calm and respectful tone bring it up again. Sometimes it’s easier to write what you want to say than to confront someone face to face, especially when it’s an emotional subject.

On the flip side, remember to tell people when you like something. Did some part of the GM’s delivery make you smile, get you excited, vividly paint the scene for you? Write it down and bring it up at the end of the game. Did another player come up with a great plan? Tell them! Let them know it improved your enjoyment of the game and why. Did a player role play well? Congratulate them on it.

Next up, How To Be A Great Roleplayer

  • Immersion
  • Learning The Language of Improv
  • It’s About Story
  • Know Your Game


Filed under Experimental Mechanics

Not Worried

Lesser Seed“Why are we camped here? I brought this up before! You said you weren’t worried about it. I said that this was not a defensible position and you said you could fortify it! I don’t see any fortifications Andre! All I see is a hole you cut into the wall. A hole that is useless as an escape route because it goes nowhere! We are about to be overrun and you start maintenance on the teleporter! Are you insane?” Jackson lit into the engineer.

“I’m not worried.” Was all that Andre answered.

“That’s it? If I somehow survive this, and I have no idea how, I am going to see you court martialed posthumously! Because I’ll kill you if those hounds don’t.” Jackson was nearly frothing, his face turning three shades of red.

“Calm down, it’s not a problem.” Andre sighed.

“Not a. . .  There are at least ten thousand hounds advancing on our position according to the scouts! Last I heard, that’s at least 500 times as many men as we have. I’d say that’s a problem Andre! We need to teleport out of here in the next fifteen minutes or they’ll be slicing us to ribbons.”

“And we will teleport out. Tomorrow. It’s all  taken care of.” Andre mumbled. He turned to Fasal. “Okay, pack it up.”

Fasal, one of the other engineers signaled to have the teleporter dismantled. “Okay, pack it up.”

“What are you doing? You’re disassembling our only escape?” Jackson’s jaw was on the ground.

“Of course, wouldn’t want anything to happen to it. Then we couldn’t teleport out tomorrow.” Andre answered cooly.

“I’m going to find the biggest gun in this camp and then I’m going to kill you with it.” Jackson said.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. There’s at least ten thousand hounds out there, just climbing in that hole we blasted in the wall isn’t going to be enough to protect yourself.” Andre replied. “Speaking of which, you need to get all the men into the hole or they’re going to get hurt. Or dead. Fasal, spread the word to get up in the tunnel.”

“Yessir!” Fasal answered and went off to get the platoon together.

“That’s it I’m done talking. You have us backed up against the wall of a Reservoir Hex with no avenue of retreat. These men’s lives are on your head Andre.” Jackson threw his hands up in the air.

“It’s okay, really. I’m not worried.” Andre answered, he packed up his tools and joined the men climbing up to the tunnel they had blasted into the wall. The men were nervous but Andre had never let them down before.

“They’ve just come into visual range. Looks like they know exactly where we are because they’re moving straight toward us.” one of the scouts reported.

“Let me know when the main force is within five hundred meters.” Andre replied.

“Should we engage them? You know, send the E-Suits out and launch rockets into them?” they asked.

“Definitely not.” was all he said.

They waited silently for another few minutes. “Five hundred meters!” a scout called out.

“It’s time Fasal. Open the lid and then let the big one go.” he directed.

A moment later the wall they were all sitting inside shook ever so slightly. Then the sound of thunder rumbled above. Then another quake, much stronger than the first. From one of the doorways of the Reservoir Hex came a deafening roar that at first sounded like an explosion but quickly took on a different kind of rumble. Even the hounds knew something was wrong because they stopped and began running.

“One hundred and thirty million tons of water.” Andre whispered to himself.

With a hole in the top of the hex to let in air and one to let it out, the water came. For six hours, a torrent poured from the door next to them with the force of Niagara Falls and scoured the plain in front of them with relentless fury. A Reservoir Hex unleashed. When it was over, there was not a single sign of the hounds. The dirt basins near the mouth of the torrent had been scoured of their soil. Now the basins formed lakes of water that had frothed brown but slowly cleared until from up on the wall, they could see all the way to the bottom of them. The drainage system was overwhelmed and then plugged by mud and sludge. Water filled the water system for the hexes all around and trickled down through cracks between the hexes.

“Ok Fasal, let’s teleport out.” he finally said with a smile.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Military, Transmissions

It’s Free RPG Day!

NicoeFor free RPG day Store32 is offering our entire PDF line up of games for free! Come and get The Artifact RPG and Steampunkfitters RPG PDFs at no charge! If you want to test the waters there’s also The Warp quickstart for The Artifact with only the rules you need for the included adventure.

How can we offer these fabulous titles for free? You could almost say that every day feels like free RPG day for us.

(Shhh! Don’t tell them that we normally offer them for free.)

Also check out 1KM1KT for more free games than you or your grandpa can shake a stick at.

Leave a Comment

Filed under News

A Player’s Handbook? When?

The Player’s Handbook has been updated for the 3rd edition rules, I have the art needed to replace the pieces I took and put in the core book. Now I’m trying to think of a cover. One that screams “Player Character”. I have a few vague concepts that float in and out of my head from time to time but nothing has gelled yet.

Now I’m starting to think of something more radical. I want to combine the Engineer’s Resource with the Player’s Handbook.

Pros: This will bring the information in the Engineer’s Resource more to the center of the player’s experience. There’s a lot of world information in there that informs the players of behaviors that they can encounter.

It makes a bit more sense to have the Comm Officer’s Guide and the Engineer’s Resource in the same book.

It also means fewer books, which is helpful if a new player is looking at picking up the game and playing it. There’s less confusion.

I only have to make one cover.

Cons: Nearly a third of the new Player’s Handbook will be engineering information. Now that’s mitigated by the fact that a good amount of the information could be considered general use. Another factor is that a good amount of the rules in the Engineer’s Resource are now covered in the core rule book and Tech Challenges.

It’s also going to take a lot more time to put out the Player’s Handbook. The Engineer’s Resource is a hairy beast of rules and pointy things when it comes to building vehicles. I’m hoping that it can be simplified a bit as Tech Challenge rules are applied to the process but it’s still a lot of effort to get it right. I was going to do it eventually anyway but now it affects the handbook.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.


Filed under News

Optional Character Generation Rule

We tried this in our last go round of character generation. Even though my players didn’t get much out of it due to poor rolls, I think it could save a number of players from having to play a character they’re not interested in.

What we said was, that if a character starts the game with an attribute 20 or lower the player gets to roll on a bonus table of their choice for each low attribute.

That could be on bonus table one or bonus table two. It’s up to the player.

If an attribute is raised by using a limitations table roll it does not count for an extra bonus table roll. The player has to start the game with the attribute 20 or lower.

Of course the bonus table roll has the potential to raise the attribute above 20. That’s fine, it doesn’t recursively remove the roll which thereby removes the bonus which allows the player to roll on a bonus table. We’re not going there.

I’d feel bad about this not being in 3rd edition if it wasn’t a very difficult rule to explain, especially with the three different character generation methods. Let’s just say that if the above makes sense to you and you want to use it, enjoy.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Experimental Mechanics

Not Obvious Tech Challenges

When explaining Tech Challenges to people, I often get the response that they don’t represent the kind of challenge the GM is looking for. While yes, they are designed to replicate technology challenges, “Tech” is actually referring to Technical Challenges. Let me explain how we’ve used them in our games to illustrate how flexible they are.

In our current campaign, I used a Tech Challenge when the players wanted to pick a lock. Obviously the first skill that was attempted was the Pick Locks skill but that roll failed. The next player didn’t have the pick locks skill, and this really shows the power of Tech Challenges, he wanted to use his sensor systems to see the internal workings of the lock to help. He rolled amazingly well and solved the challenge. How I interpreted this was to say that, with the internal workings of the lock understood, it was a trivial matter to now open the lock.

When was the last time you used sensors to pick a lock? It was a first for me.

With a typical skill system, I would be hard pressed as a GM know if I should allow that kind of cross discipline skill use. But that’s part of the beauty of the Tech Challenge system.

In another game, the PCs needed to figure out why a general was holding out on supporting them. We used a Tech Challenge using sociology and culture skills to find clues. It worked wonderfully well. Each Challenge Point reduced, yielded more information on the general’s situation.

The power here is that the players decide what skills they want to use to tackle a problem. They justify the use and the character’s skill helps to decide if the skill will help. The idea here is that someone who is very competent may be able to use even unusual skills in unexpected ways.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Experimental Mechanics, GM Advice

Amusing Swag, Sometimes Artifact Related

We’ve talked about doing this for ages, and I just got around to doing it.

Dodge! T-Shirt
If in doubt Dodge!

Banner T-Shirt
The Artifact Banner on a T-shirt and Chezbah on the back

More Equipment T-Shirt
NPC = More equipment for my PC

Chezbah Hound T-Shirt
Big pointy teeth!

And unrelated fun stuff. . .

Grouchy Mad Scientist T-Shirt
Yes I’m a mad scientist, don’t hassle me, I haven’t exploded anything today and it’s making me Grouchy!

Averagezombie T-Shirt
Averagezombie & Fitch, fashion zombies!

Bacon Genius T-Shirt
Be a Bacon Genius!

There’s lots more so check out the rest of the store. If you want something that you don’t see, give a shout out in the comments and I’ll try and make it happen.

Leave a Comment

Filed under News