Author: horizoncarlo

Nanowrimo 2019

Well it’s be 10 years since I wrote my first Nanowrimo. If you don’t know what Nanowrimo it’s short for National Novel Writing Month, and the idea is to try to write 50,000 words in the month of November on whatever topic you want, in whatever form you want. Through the years I’ve tried writing alongside friends or competing/racing with them, or just to get an idea I had out on paper. This year I’m primarily writing because it’s the 10 year anniversary. I have a story I’m interested in, but it’s hard to devote nights to getting 1,667 words out, especially with 3 kids. So I might take a 10,000 word handicap per kid distracting me and just aim for 20,000 words this month. We’ll see. Either way fun to give it a shot.

Right now my story is called Death Before Honor and the idea is a degenerate bandit gets possessed by a demon/creature/something during a raid. Obviously he’s not a fan of that, and hears that people going on the Crusade can get salvation. So he joins up, and basically has a redemption arc as he goes from a cowardly, heavy drinking, scattered vagabond to a more focused guy. Plus on a more practical level it’s always an interesting concept to me of a stealthy type character who uses light weapons (like daggers) getting used to wearing heavy armor and using a sword and shield and fighting fair.

So yeah I’ll be working away on that for this month and I’ll maybe post some progress here, and will for sure link what I end up with. Otherwise on the game front I’ve been enjoying having White Line Fever wrapped up (although I might do some weapon tweaks here and there was time goes on). I’ve been playing a lot of deckbuilders recently, namely Star Realms and Valley of the Kings. And my coworker and I are starting to play some Android Netrunner which of course is the best card game of all time.

White Line Fever 1.0 released!!!

White Line Fever 1.0 released!!!

Well it’s been almost a year (to the day) since my post about reworking White Line Fever to push-your-luck, and from there I’ve slowly been trimming, refining, and playtesting the game. In a recent push of motivation I finally took all the interior pictures necessary to replace the placeholders. And I’ve spent a few hours putting it all together into a finished v1.0! Hooray for a release!! Best feeling!!!

 White Line Fever v1.0 PDF rulebook

I might add a title page similar to the one above (with a bit more polish) or maybe even with an entirely new picture, but we’ll see when that happens. Otherwise I do want to come back to the system (after a bit of a break to work on other projects) to continue my work on the campaign system I started brainstorming.
You can see the rough notes on that called Open Road brainstorm.

But for now it’s celebration time, maybe I’ll buy a few new Hot Wheels and watch the new Hobbs & Shaw or something.

Tiny but important Party of Light tweaks (and even more art)

So as if that isn’t the most lovably old school medieval fantasy image ever, right? I can’t wait to use a similar style in Glowquest when I get around to adding art. But for now this beauty is going straight into the Party of Light rulebook, now v2.6 (a 0.1 increase since last week! 🙂 )

Download the new Party of Light v2.6 PDF rulebook.

Now a bit of a look at what’s changed…

Problems from Yesterday’s Session
I had another game session with my sister and nieces yesterday so I have a few takeaways from my recent changes, as well as some tweaks I want to do. First of all:

  • The kids didn’t really use the Action Ideas list. Was super handy for me as thinking up mechanic effects on the fly is hard when organizing and managing the rest of the game.
  • We had 3 failed Heroic Moments, which is rare, but also feels like kind of a bummer, almost like the old Fickle RPG approach where you use your big moment, fail, and feel deflated. So I reworded the rules a bit to say it should equal ~5 outcomes AND always do SOMETHING even on failure.
  • Base Speed 3 feels a tiny bit too slow on the old Dragonstrike boards, so I bumped it up to 4 and made the choosable bonus +2 instead of +1.

We also had an on-paper interesting engagement. The heroes were in a blizzard, approaching an unknown camp situated along a popular trade route. I setup the board and put figures on. And one player suggested trying to solve it in a non-combat way (which is rare in a traditional RPG once the figures come out). Now I’ve intentionally written Party of Light to be a bit like Fickle RPG where “Stamina” is used instead of Hitpoints/Health/Life, to subtly hint that you can damage it in other ways than pure combat. Which is all well and good. Until the hero and enemy started trying to talk down the other one, intimidate them, etc. for what felt like an eternity because of failed rolls.

Looking at Dice Odds (Again…)
Which made me revisit my dice odds. When I made the change from flat Stamina damage to D4 damage I changed the odds a bit and Easy became a bit harder. But with the new Action Ideas list I was using a ton more Normal actions, and dang does 50/50 ever flip. I read a bit more about the topic, and learned that in blind studies (mostly related to gambling, so you know they’re serious) people were told they had a 50% chance to win but the consensus was it only FELT that way to a person if they ACTUALLY won 66% of the time. Wizards of the Coast also looked at this type of problem with D&D 4th and 5th edition and found 60-80% success is a good starting point. Anything above is actually MORE frustrating to fail (like a 90% or 95% chance to hit) because it feels “cheap” or like you deserved the success. I’m sure all the X-COM computer players out there can relate to missing a 95% chance shot and wanting to throw their keyboard out the window.

While researching I also found some good quotes on the topic, so I thought I’d share those:

Failing at trivial things only makes your story into a farce.

Definitely felt that one before (…flashbacks to Fickle RPG when players tried to get their ally to throw up the zombie infected ticks inside them), and it’s steered me to only roll for important stuff. Because sometimes I’ll ask for a check/roll, then if the players fail it I realize, whoops, that wasn’t worth doing a check for, and now it’s lame.

Combat should advance at a snappy pace. Whiff-fests are boring, and if you have a round go by in which nothing really happens, you’ve just wasted everyone’s time.

This describes about 2 entire rounds for the camp negotiations above. Sure we could have switched to “safer” action options that gave bonuses or guaranteed at least a bit of success, but since no one did the situation sort of dragged out and ground to a halt. I find a lot of talk=damage situations can end up this way. For some reason saying “I swing my sword” three times in a row isn’t as…weird? feeling as saying “I argue with the bandit to let us pass” three times in a row. Maybe because players have a lifetime of experience talking and negotiating but haven’t exactly lived the life of a medieval adventurer.

100% are the most fun odds. Something should happen, 100% of the time, when you roll the dice.
Whether that’s success, a complication, or whatever, the end result of a roll of the dice should never be “nothing happens”.
EVERY roll of the dice should move the story forward in some way. That’s good game design.

This last quote is around the more modern idea of non-binary dice systems, where even on failure SOMETHING happens. Binary resolution is “you hit, or you miss, the end.” Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars and Genesys gets around this with Advantages/Disadvantages. Those have their own downsides, but yeah. In the case of Party of Light, with the target audience being younger, I think I’m going to stick to binary resolution. Mainly because “you miss, BUT…” drags the turn out.

Solutions and Changes
Another possible solution I thought of are opposed rolls, or defense rolls. Much like Fickle RPG where SOMETHING always happens because if you fail the enemy has succeeded, so they get to do their thing. Again downsides: the kids sometimes take a while thinking of what they want to do on their OWN turn, if they ALSO had to think of a reaction everytime they are attacked it’d bog down even more. Overall the combat might be faster (since someone is probably losing Stamina every action), but I don’t think it’s worth the tradeoff for the flow of each individual turn. Again this is just for Party of Light, because as I mentioned Fickle RPG does action/reaction for each turn, but that’s a different beast and different target audience.

Or I could give a player who fails their action a bonus for their NEXT turn. Like a poker chip or something called “focus” or whatever. Maybe even lets them reroll their next action. It could end up hecka game-y as people could intentionally fail a Hard action (but what a bonus if they succeed!) just to get a focus token for the next turn. Plus it’s just one more thing to track and manage. I had a phase of loving re-rolls, but now I find they are often tacked on in a lot of cases, unless they are entirely core to a game (like Blood Bowl).

In the end the simplest and easiest solution is to just tweak the basic dice odds of success. I considered swapping a D10 somewhere in there (maybe for Normal). Some info:

Success on 5+:
D6 = 33%
D8 = 50%
D10 = 60%
D12 = 66%

Success on 4+:
D6 = 50%
D8 = 62.5%
D10 = 70%
D12 = 75%

If I put Success back to a 4+ then Easy gets a +9% buff for chance to succeed, but most importantly Normal gets +12.5% buff, and Hard becomes more usable with +17%. Because honestly that 50/50 doesn’t feel great on Normal once you’ve had a bad streak of failing it three or four times in a row, but would be acceptable on Hard. And I don’t have to get the crummy non-platonic-solid D10 involved (I hate that stupid dice).

So yeah, all said and done in Party of Light v2.6 I switched Success from 5+ to 4+ to encourage more Normal usage and make Easy checks succeed more often (although I’d prefer 5% less of the time for Easy BUT the game is aimed at kids after all and failing at that age isn’t super fun). I also added two more pieces of art (both featured in this post) and reorganized Making a Hero to the bottom of the rulebook, and a few other minor tweaks.

White Line Fever – rulebook pictures (FINALLY)

I’ve been meaning to take staged pictures for the rulebook diagrams since summer. Part of the delay was ensuring the rules were fully done (such as Droppable size) and so on. But last night I FINALLY sat down with my movable lamps and camera tripod and took them all. I still need to do some retouching (such as adding lines showing measurements/angles/moving). I also found a bunch of art and icons to put on the Droppables, as that’s outstanding as well. But the rulebook is supa dupa close now!

A lot of these are pretty functional, but I particularly like the first and last shot. The component shot (reminds me of Dinosaur Cowboys a bit) and the desert “Dune Daddy” one (especially the shadows).

And yes, I DID buy a duplicate Hot Wheels car to easily show the “before and after” of movement and turning. I still think I might eventually do a computer generated diagram (almost like the style of a traffic/learner’s permit driving book) just because the real cars don’t add a ton, but that won’t be anytime soon (if ever).

White Line Fever progress – droppables and weapon tweaks

Really, really close on a finished version of White Line Fever now. My last chunk was testing Droppables and finishing their art and printable sheets. And then once everything is done I just need to take a bunch of in-game pictures for the diagrams in the rulebook.

There have been a few minor rule tweaks to clarify and simplify the rules (no more Reverse driving, for example). I clarified some line of sight/arc measuring, updated and renamed Outnumbered for multiple players, etc.

As for Droppables I went back and forth on the size of them, and ended up with a 3″x3″ square. So same length as a standard Hot Wheels, but wider. The original idea of 2″x2″ was too small and ineffective in practice, especially compared to shooting your main gun. 3″x3″ seems like a good compromise.


Testing Droppables, including the idea of placing up to three 2″ squares per use, which was hard to manage

I also tweaked the Droppable options themselves. I removed Barricade (which causes a Crash) because it was a bit boring, and why would you ever choose Oil (Spin Out) over it? I also changed almost every Droppable to do at least 2 damage as well as their effect. And what I’m most excited about is I added a “Gateway” which is a semi-positive Droppable as it lets you instantly move to ANOTHER Gateway droppable anywhere on the table. Could be pretty cool with a semi-organized team or a semi-joke match where everyone uses Gateways. Oh and I reworded Springboard to 5″ back, and a new Speedboost to go 5″ forward.

Speaking of weapons I tweaked some of the others, namely the Tank Cannon damages you after firing instead of pushing you back. Because it turns out being pushed back when trying to line up a bunch of shots isn’t a bad thing, haha. I changed the Push/Pull weapons to ignore line of sight as well, and removed the Shadowblaster, and added an Enforcer (the only 2 damage Secondary weapon).

On the campaign front I’ve had some luck figuring out a series of systems I like for it. Just need to firm everything up and then eventually I’ll put some “Open Road” rules up here.

Anyway should have White Line Fever all wrapped up before Christmas. In fact I’m going to play it tonight, woot!

The best $1 I ever spent

Picked this miniature up at my local game store in their $1 bin. What an absolute gem of a find. I love these charming, somewhat-ugly and somewhat-awkward miniatures (I mean look at how long his arm is!). I also really like the old beak style medieval helmets, AND shields, AND flails. So it’s perfect. Going to be hard to not just paint him realistic metallic colors with a bright shield, but I’m trying to think of a way to make him pop on the game board.

Given my rate of painting he should be done by the year ~2025.

Computer game – cars with guns in a battle royale

I by no means think this game looks high quality or well done or adding much beyond a cash grab at the battle royale craze, and the Steam reviews seem to support it. Certainly doesn’t have the exciting open world aspect of the venerable (and now shutdown) Auto Assault. Or the gritty, hard hitting weapons of Gas Guzzlers Extreme. Or even the tactical elements (at the trade off of janky graphics) of Darkwind.

But hey, it’s still nice to see a game highlighting cars with guns, so here’s the silly named Not My Car – Battle Royale