Tortuga Setting For The Artifact

The corporate and civilian characters in the main book now have their own book. Tortuga is a setting about a Kelrath city that has it’s ruling Rantaa’ overthrown. In the power vacuum corporations from Earth slip in and start to influence the growth of the new city state. There are high hopes that this free Kelrath state will become a model for more cities to throw off oppression.

In the meantime, the civilian corporations are running amok in the relative lack of oversight on them. There are strange things going on and they’re keeping it to themselves.

The Tortuga setting includes ideas for treasure hunters including the mythic Titans.

Tortuga Web

Tortuga

The Tortuga setting includes some scripted elements but even more suggestions for a GM to develop on their own. This is a sandbox setting for the characters to deal with corruption, influence and the Kelrath up close. It also includes general suggestions for corporate characters.

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Update On Createspace Books

My first proof book from Createspace is starting to fall apart. I’m mentioning this because I know some of my readers have an interest in book quality.

I’m a little disappointed in this. Although some of my first Lulu books had similar problems.

The other thing I’ll mention is that book saw some heavy use from my son. He is not gentle on books.

Still, this is a little too early for a book to fail. Lulu’s books last far longer but cost twice as much. That book was a bit odd anyway, maybe it’s an anomaly. I’ll keep you updated if it happens with any other books.

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The Artifact Player’s Handbook Draft

Here it is, the third edition of the Player’s Handbook! There’s a whole new cover, some new art, new equipment, all updated for the Third Ed rules, so this book is now fully compatible with the main book. This edition includes what had been the Engineer’s Resource which includes crafting rules for equipment and vehicles, now all in one volume.

This is the rough draft. Some of the vehicle crafting rules may need tweaking and I’d like to make some additions to the standard equipment available for building. The other problem is, I found a bug in the layout software I use. If I use a layout break on a page, tables won’t wrap like they should. It’s going to take me a bit to work around that.

In the mean time, here it is!

Player Handbook Cover

The Artifact Player’s Handbook

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My New Dice and A Contest!

I got my new dice in the mail a few days ago and I’ve been showing them off. I haven’t gotten to game with them yet though. Let me introduce my creation, the d20x5 and then I’ll show you the other dice I picked up. Stick around till the end to get in on a dice contest!
d20x5 95
d20x5 5
The d20x5 is my first foray into the custom dice world. A little wobbly, a little novice but all mine! Here is a die that can give me an approximately percentile experience wrapped in a d20. Just rolling this die feels comfortable to me. No diverging d10s to find as one rolls under the table, no “Which die is the tens?”, no finding one die of my favorite set and not finding the other.
d10 in a d10
I do have to admit that this big guy is pretty cool too. It’s a nice little package for rolling a d100. Everyone that rolls it intuitively says the outer shell is the tens place and the inner is the ones. That’s pretty cool.
stuck roll
It can be a little tricky though. Sometimes the inner die doesn’t quite land flat. That’s pretty easy to fix, a light tap settles the inner dice to the side you pretty much figure it would land on. It sometimes does take some craning of the neck to see past the outer number though. The sound of the shell dice is a bit odd to my ear but I’m getting used to it. It’s the little things.
All in all though, I’ll be using this dice pretty often.
Hit Location Die
I’m not sure why I got this hit location die other than it’s cool. It’s a fast way to pull up where something lands on a person. It eliminates looking up the location on a chart. It does however give you a 4 in 12 chance of hitting a hand or a foot. So 1 in 3 hits will strike the smallest segments of the body. We were talking about it and figured that it could make sense in hand to hand situations.
Fudge Dice
I also picked up some FUDGE dice. We have a new project that we’re going to use the FUDGE system for. I thought about using FATE but it has a lot of baggage like FATE points and compels that I don’t really need. Yeah, I know, with FATE Core and FATE Accelerated all the rage now it would be a popular choice but FUDGE is just more straightforward for what I want.
For You?
Now, the contest. Here’s where you come in. Come up with something cool to put on a d20. The sides of these puppies are small so I can only fit one to two characters on them. That means that if your die needs a cheat sheet to be used that’s okay. For instance Y could be a “yes” while Yb is “yes but”.

Come up with something cool, something that will fit on one of these puppies and I’ll do my best to make that die. I’m not using a laser to etch the die, don’t expect perfection but I should be able to produce usable and legible.

Write up your submission in the comments below or if you’re super secret, you can email your super secret submission to submissions@theartifact.net

You’ll be judged based on the following criteria.

Does it fit on a d20? That’s an important one.
How universal is this concept? Could everyone enjoy this die?
How revolutionary is this concept? Does it blow us away?
Does it solve a practical need?

Winner get’s me hacking at a poor white die twenty to make that will get mailed to your (the winner’s) address and a copy of The Artifact third edition.

2nd place gets me making their die with the same novice skill and mailing it to your (the 2nd place winner’s) address.

Contest ends September 30th. Judging ends and winners announced Friday October 4.

Do you have what it takes? What does it take? I guess we’ll find out October 4th!

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New Dice

I’m waiting for a set of blank dice to come in the mail.

Why?

Well I’m glad you asked. You see, I’ve always loved the way d20s roll, the way they fit in your hand. My old space opera Galactic Legions (unpublished) used a d20 for resolution. I like how d100 works in a game though and the options it gives because of it’s granular nature.

Okay I like both.

There are some d20s that have 0-9 printed twice on them. These are the really old style d20s. When the two sets of 0-9s are colored differently they can be used as a d10 or a d20. You can then use two of them as a d100. That seems pretty cool, but I have one niggle with that. You’re still rolling two dice, visually tracking them and then figuring out the result. I still want to try it though.

So then I ran across some dice within dice, it’s a clear plastic hollow die with another die of the same kind inside it. I ordered a d10 set and a d20 set (I’m not sure why the d20 other than to have one). That will be interesting to try, maybe it’ll scratch my itch.

I also had the idea to make a d20x5. A regular d20 but each face is an increment of 5 instead of 1. The low side is a 5 and the high side is 100. It’s a d20 that’s very nearly a d100! I have one problem with it for the fraction column system. If you’re rolling for a stat of 30 or less you can’t actually roll the character’s eighth. I’m not worried about that for NPCs but it could rob a PC of a really good roll. I could start out at 0 and go to 95 but rolling 0 would be weird. I could start out at 1 and go to 95, but that would be a non-linear die. Why would that matter? It seems, odd. While I’m at it I could number the sides 1, 5, 10, 15, 20 – 80, 85, 90, 100 but that would give a 10% chance at rolling a 100.

Then I thought about a 0-95 numbered d20 and a 0-5 labeled d6. That would work for a full d100 from 0 to 100 (d101?) but that would introduce a second die to the roll and thus defeat my purpose.

I’m fine with a d20x5 for NPCs, I don’t care if they don’t roll the lowest possible value they can get so I’m going to make one. I’ll post pictures when I get one made.

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Progress With The 3e Player Handbook

I had gotten to the point in rewriting the Engineer’s Resource where I had to confront the biggest and hairiest challenge, building vehicles. I was a bit intimidated by this, especially when it came to building vehicle drive systems. I’m happy to say I’ve cracked that bit. The system is more consistent and hopefully more intuitive.

There’s still a bunch to do, I’ve been making notes as I go about things I’d like to see work better so I’ll be going back and addressing these next.

I’ve tried various tests so far against real world vehicles and ones in the book and they’ve stood up to the tests so far but I’ll be handing the book over to Cody soon to see if he can’t abuse the system.

I was hoping to have some time to work on a cover but that hasn’t happened yet. I have a few thoughts after going to a Star Wars exhibit in the Indiana State Museum. It’s not that I want to copy Star Wars but there was a lot of material in the exhibit that talked about how the model makers and the sound designers thought about producing the look of the movies that I found informative.

Primarily the idea that was repeatedly discussed is that the audience expects certain visual and audio queues. If you don’t give it to them then they get confused. Now, I’ve known that for a while but the examples given gave me a few new ways to think about it.

What do players expect? Sometimes game designers want the players to get excited about nuance and possibility (ok, I do anyway) but the players want a hard hitting game that’s straightforward. They want to know they can have that kind of game and have the game reassure them that it’s okay to want it. I’m okay with that too, so that’s what I’m going to try for.

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Rules Rules Rules

Games have rules or at the very least a rule. RPGs tend toward having a lot of rules. Even rules lite games usually have as many pages of rules as a board game of standard complexity. Why is that? Is there any way around it? If you do get around it, what are the consequences?

First, a quick and dirty history of RPGs. Early RPGs were fairly light compared to what came in the 90’s. Then there was a move toward heavy books full of rules. In the next decade narrative driven games emerged that tend to have a smaller page count. Next came the Old School Revolution that focused its efforts on early RPGs that ran lite.

There’s a constant struggle to both expand what an RPG can govern and a wish to cut the discreet number of rules in the game. If the market of RPG customers have more free time, better visual acuity and the focus to support a large set of rules in their head, (usually late teen players) the size of RPGs get bigger. This has the effect of making it more difficult for young players (pre or early teens) to grasp the game and slows the rate that new players take up the hobby. It also is harder for working parents and older players who may have a hard time reading small type to adopt these large tomes.

Many games reduce their rule sets by having a central mechanic that is intended to govern (nearly) all interactions. This has gone a long way to make games easier to comprehend but the discrete rules that can spin off the core rules are also effectively endless so a game designer can still easily fill hundreds of pages with special case rules.

A game can reduce its rule set by applying what’s called “rule 0” or “the GM’s word is final”. Old School Revolution games rely in this heavily. The GM decides how rolls apply and often spot rule when a question arises. They make up a rule on the spot of how to resolve the situation. This can change from instance to instance but many gaming groups develop their own set of house rules, that if ever written down would bloat their lite game into something more comparable to a new school game from the 90’s.

A third way to reduce the set of rules is to not model a world but to give rules to govern the story being told. These “Narrative” games have a double edged sword to deal with in that they give lots of power to the players. This power if not carefully managed can lead to the game breaking down into something that is no longer a game because the rules do not sufficiently control play.

Large Rule Sets, Good For Players?

Early on in my gaming, I was a rules lawyer and I caused plenty of trouble as one. I wasn’t malicious, but I did cause arguments and I did use the rules to break the game when it served me. Back then, I probably couldn’t tell you why I rules lawyered. Now I understand things a bit better.

Rules that don’t change give power to the players. They allow the players to know how the game is played and helps them to tell the kind of story they want with their characters. Because of this, I’ve always viewed the written rules as my friend and any unwritten and malleable rule handed down from the GM as something I couldn’t rely on.

Think about a game of football where a player scores but the Referee can change the score based on how he felt about the effort? Would you know how to produce a strategy that would win the game? Possibly if that Ref was consistent you could. But what if he wasn’t consistent? What if he was mostly consistent but occasionally he would change his mind at the last moment? These are things I have seen GMs do.

Rules Help The GM

Another reason comprehensive rule sets can be good is that the GM has a heavy load to lift running a game. When there isn’t a rule to cover something, I’ve seen GMs default to “you can’t do that” even though most games tell the GM to make something up. When trying to handle all the other responsibilities of  a game though, it can be hard for a GM to suddenly come up with how a novel solution should work. What’s worse is when the players want to replicate the effect of a novel solution and it threatens to unbalance the game.

Rules can also help build trust in a GM if they apply the rules evenly and the players see them doing so.

Pros vs Cons

On the one hand, a comprehensive rule set can help a game but on the other, it’s a barrier to new players, especially the young and the time strapped. There was a lot of wisdom in the “Basic” and “Advanced” rule sets of yesteryear. Get started with the basic and move onto the Advanced when you’re ready. Sometimes Quickstarts are a good approximation of the old Basic rule sets but they rarely are as flexible, usually only providing the GM an understanding of how to play a single adventure.

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Sneaking Around

Chainsaw Aardvark over at 1KM1KT has proposed a design challenge on how to make a RPG mechanics so that play centers around stealth. It’s a good thought experiment because there’s something wrong with using stealth in most games.

My players have lamented that they try to operate in a stealthy way but as soon as they fail a roll, they’ve given themselves away and are now going to have to rely on more explosions to get through the rest of their mission. If anything, stealth only holds off the devastation and they reason, “Why try? Let’s stick with what we’re good at.”

This is actually very telling. It means that the players perceive that they cannot actually use stealth as an effective strategy.

Why is this? What the players are recognizing is that this is a save or fail situation. Save or fail situations are exciting in small doses but are not fun when prolonged for more than a handful of turns.

For example, I could model combat by saying you get to roll for your defense but if that fails you roll vs your Constitution. If you make your roll, you live. If you fail you die. This may be an accurate way to model wounding but it’s also not fun. Statistically the system might be designed to give the PCs exactly the same life expectancy as a hit point system but the first time the group’s tank drops on the first roll, the players will loose faith.

This is essentially what happens when trying to sneak around. Sometimes the players sneak around for a dozen turns and it all works out. Other times the player flubs a roll on the first turn. The players lose faith in their ability to use stealth.

The first thought is have some kind of Stealth Points like Hit Points. I don’t particularly like that solution for games in general because it’s a limited use stat to track. Some characters would use it all the time while others would never use it at all. Then it sits on the character sheet taking up space. If it was the core of the game, yes, it would be fine.

Advanced Stealth Rules For The Artifact

The Artifact has several skills that could play into stealth rolls, so let’s look at what could be done to tie them together into a more robust stealth system.

Preparation

A character can roll on their Surveillance skill and store the fractional successes for sneaking around. This surveillance effort can be made by the same character that’s doing the sneaking around or by another character communicating with the character doing the sneaking.

Rolling multiple times does not add Fractional Successes to the total but higher roll results replace lower results. The character doing the surveillance can roll as many times as needed to get the desired result but each roll takes 15 minutes of time.

Camouflage skill rolls can also be used to disguise the character doing the sneaking. This can be used in addition to the Surveillance Fractional Successes. Each Camouflage roll takes 15 minutes of work and may include disguises.

Execution

The character sneaking around uses the Stealth skill as normal but may spend Fractional Successes on failed rolls or to bolster rolls. As the Fractional Successes are used up, it represents the characters that the PC is trying to sneak past growing suspicious or becoming more alert to the PC’s presence.

Recovery

At a certain point the character sneaking around may need to recover points that have been spent. To do this, the character rolls against their Hide skill. This represents the character laying low and doing things that are not suspicious. For example, if a character is disguised as a janitor, they’d spend time mopping the floor. If they’re disguised as an office worker, they’d find a place to look like they’re acting as an office worker should. It also might include hiding in the broom closet for an hour or so if that’s needed.

As the character rolls for their Hide skill, they regenerate the successes that were stored up for Surveillance and Camouflage.

What do you think?

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Player’s Handbook / Engineer’s Resource

Chezbah FloateyThe material for the old player’s handbook is updated for a while now. Although I still haven’t really come up with a cover. I have this concept that I want a group of PCs carrying big bulging backpacks full of loot. I also have the desire to have them trudging through thick mud. But that’s not interesting enough.

Then the idea of having three PCs riding on Pettok or Drammatok, maybe again laden down with treasures, and an underground vista behind them sounds good to me too. Still, two books with riders on the front? I don’t know.

I’ve churned away at converting the Engineer’s Resource to the third edition rules. The process has gone well so far and I’m nearly to the biggest and hairiest part, building vehicles. I was hoping that the new system would shorten the book as far as pages go but so far it’s winding up about even.

I’m also thinking, with all the news going on about the LS3 and the Atlas robots, that there should be more robots to go around in the Player’s Handbook. Maybe it would be a good thing to give to Comm Officers?

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How Long Does A Chezbah Live?

Earlier I did a post on Chezbah medicine and how there wouldn’t be a need for very much in the way of medical technology. I was thinking about medicine for the average person but recently I thought about what could be done for the elderly.

I always liked the idea in Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed of life extensions. If you had the money, you could keep extending your life. Or at least bioroids could.

Longevity

The Chezbah live long lives. They are not burdened by most disease that would slowly wear away their vitality. Because of this, Chezbah are often strong and vital even in their 90’s.

However, just the absence of disease is not enough to stave off degeneration. Over time organs start to become frail. For those judged worthy, pilgrimages to temples can mean a new lease on life.

A small orange capsule, similar in appearance to a oddly colored cherry is produced from the skin of the temple. This is a nanotech device that locates weakened organ structures and reinforces them with artificial scaffolds. It creates stem cells, bathes them in proteans that turn back the cellular clock and attaches them to places where cell decay is greatest.

For most, this treatment revitalizes an aging Chezbah for another thirty to forty years.

In the case of acute organ failure, if a priest can be summoned, a nanotech injection causes the failing organ to be rebuilt as an artificial replacement.

With these interventions, it is common for Chezbah to live for one hundred and eighty to two hundred and fifty years. Some Scimrahn have reported Priests of extreme old age.

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