Archive for the ‘ Product Development ’ Category

Making STR Super

As mentioned earlier this week, I’ve uploaded an updated playtest version of The Four Color Hack, implementing some changes based on playtesting and feedback. One thing that didn’t get changed in the update was lifting capacities for heroes. In the current playtest version, I think those lifting capacities are too low. They just didn’t seem super-heroic enough; this was bugging me, and I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of the bug. As is the case when I face things that bug me, it helps to ignore the issue for a bit and then return to it with fresher eyes.

Notice the two tables to the below-right. The first shows the overhead press for heroes who do not have super-strength. It dawned on me that the only characters in the game that have a STR Stat are the heroes. Villains don’t have Stats such as STR or INT or CHA. With this in mind, I chucked the d20 System, which is from where I took the overhead press amounts in the first draft of the table.

Instead, I fell back on the third edition of DC Heroes and those old Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe comic books. As you can see, even a hero with an “average” STR of 10-11 is quite strong with an overhead press of 200-250 pounds.

For super-strength, I got rid of the multiplier. Instead, a Hero Die gives a hero a specific level of super-strength as a defined weight. Thus, a hero with Super-Strength d8 has an overhead press of 5 tons. De-linking STR and super-strength this way makes it possible to have a hero who excels in hand-to-hand combat (meaning has high STR), but who isn’t necessarily super-strong. It also makes it possible to have a hero who can shift quite a bit of weight (say, Super-Strength d12), but who has only average skill in hand-to-hand combat (say, 10 STR).

The other item that was on my list of problems regarding the rules was how to handle on-going effects created by the use of powers. Professor Positron had Positronic Energy Control d12. He packs a lot of power with his ability to control positrons. Can Professor Positron surround a villain in a positronic force bubble? Sure. The player just needs to describe the effect and make a Stat check. If he succeeds, the villain is trapped by a Positronic Bubble d12.

This bubble lasts as long as Professor Positron maintains the effect or until the villain escapes/destroys/whatevers the bubble. While the positronic bubble is in effect, Professor Positron no longer has Positronic Energy Control d12. Instead, he has Positronic Energy Control d10. The concentration, energy expenditure, et cetera, has temporarily reduced Professor Positron’s ability to control anti-electrons. When the Positronic Bubble d12 goes away, Professor Positron’s power returns to its previous level.

This system for on-going effects seems flexible enough, and it taps into the idea that dice upgrade and downgrade, as well as the idea that a larger die can be traded for two smaller dice. Thus, Professor Positron could conceivably trap two different villains in two different Positronic Bubbles, but each bubble would be d10 instead of d12, since 1d12 equals 2d10.

In news unrelated to TFCH, work progresses on Goshahri: The City in a Cave, a site-based adventure setting due to be released to Patrons only before the end of January. If you’ve not checked out my Dangerous Places, please do so. You’ll find the first adventure, Narvon’s Stair, which was released for the whole world in December. If you like what you see, think about committing $1 a month and become one of my Patrons.

January 18th, 2017  in Product Development No Comments »

The Four Color Hack Updated

I’ve uploaded an edited version of The Four Color Hack after making changes in response to playtesting and feedback. Here’s a list of the changes:

1. All Stats start at 9. They can be increased during hero creation as before.

2. Body and Spirit starting values are reduced.

3. Base protection starting values have changed. Base protection now works like Armor Points.

4. Odds/evens only matter with failures.

5. Idioms affect outcomes differently.

6. Hero Dice recovery has been clarified.

7. Body and Spirit increases with leveling have been modified.

8. Villain creation has been overhauled, to include adjusting the values found on Table 8: Villain Creation.

I hope the game plays better with these changes.

January 16th, 2017  in Product Development No Comments »

What’s Up This New Year?

Well, the holiday season has ended. My two or so weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s proved productive. I ran a Twelve Days of Christmas sale for select titles. I offered a bundle full of monsters for the OSR. I made a meat pie out of a hobbit. I wrote a few supernatural-influenced classes for WWII: Operation WhiteBox and posted those links on G+ and other Internet places. I started work on Heroes of Mirelyn’s Skyrealm, a White Box fantasy campaign that hope kicks off this coming Sunday. I started converting Chance Encounters for use with Dungeon World. I released The Four Color Hack, a playtest set of rules for superheroic roleplaying. I’m gearing up to produce the second iteration of those rules in response to feedback from players and readers.

I launched Dangerous Places, my Patreon site. For $1, you get about one short scenario a month, formatted into a printer-friendly PDF complete with hand-drawn maps. I’ll post the PDF link via patron-only message. I’ll post the maps without the scenarios separately for the public. My first few maps have been posted. So too has Narvon’s Stair, a low-level adventure for Swords & Wizardry, which is available to everyone, Patron or otherwise.

Now I’m working on Goshahri: The City in a Cave, which should be ready by the end of January. Goshahri outlines the city in a cave, the domain of a ruthless bandit king. The city and many of its denizens are described in broader strokes. The strokes get finer in Jail Break!, the mini-adventure included as part of Goshahri. The table at the right provides some random hook ideas to get adventurers involved. I plan to revisit the city in a cave at least a few more times in coming months, detailing certain sections and providing more short adventures set in the bandit king’s domain.

If you’ve not already done so, check out Narvon’s Stair. If you like it, consider becoming one my patrons. It’s risk free. I produce nothing? You pay nothing. Drop me from your patronage whenever you want.


Drats! I’m Late Again!

Another excerpt from my draft one document for The Four Color, this time talking about the inclusion of hero-focused subplots.


A Subplot is a story within a story. It occurs during an Issue, but a Subplot is not the main focus that the Issue. Subplots give the Writers and Editor a chance to explore the more mundane facets of a hero’s life. The use of Subplots puts the Writer in the driver’s seat for determining the elements of his hero’s Subplot.

The Writer’s Outline

Preparing a Subplot to present to the Editor requires answering a few questions.

What Is the Conflict? Subplots must have some sort of conflict, but those conflicts seldom involve actual combat. Instead, the conflicts tend to be personal or interpersonal. Diesel missed his last date with Irene because he was saving a busload of children, and Irene is displeased with being stood up yet again. Diesel has promised her that he’ll make it up to her. What sort of comedy of errors might ensue?

What Introduces the Conflict? Your hero becomes aware of the Subplot somehow. Does Diesel bring Irene flowers as an apology only to be roundly rebuked?

Who Else Is Involved? Are any other heroes part of the Subplot? If so, what do those heroes (and their Writers) know about the Subplot before it begins? Also, what non-hero characters are involved, and what roles do those non-hero characters play? Keep in mind that while a Subplot does shift the focus to a specific hero, it’s generally bad form to leave the other players sitting around with nothing to do for too long. More on this below under The Editor’s Outline.

How Might the Conflict Resolve? It helps to give the Editor an idea or three about expected possible outcomes for a Subplot. A Subplot with only one possible outcome is possible, of course, but a degree of uncertainty can increase dramatic tension and make for a more satisfying resolution.

The Editor’s Outline

Once the Editor has received a Subplot outline from a Writer, the Editor must review the proposed Subplot, keeping in mind questions such as these:

How Does the Subplot Fit? Perhaps the most important consideration for the Editor is how easily the Subplot can fit into the current Issue. Diesel trying to keep that important date with Irene might be a great idea for a Subplot, but if Diesel is currently trapped in the Dimension of Rage, it could be really difficult justifying shifting focus a bit toward his dating problems. If the Subplot does fit the current Issue, develop some idea about how the Subplot will interrupt or mesh with the main action of the story.

Will the Subplot Be Fun? The second most important question relates to fun, and that includes fun for everyone at the table, not just the Writer of the Subplot. As mentioned above, it’s bad form to expect the other Writers to be passive spectators to someone else’s fun. For example, years ago, I GMed a short-lived superhero campaign. One of the heroes was a surly, rebellious teenage girl with fabulous powers who skipped school and snuck out of the house to fight crime. We started one session with a Subplot about her parents staging an intervention. The other players took on the roles of the girl’s concerned parents, her pastor, and a professional psychologist. For about ten minutes, we played out our own episode of Dr. Phil, and fun was had by all.

Who Else Might Be Involved? The Writer should have already given the Editor some idea of which heroes and non-heroes might appear in the Subplot. Did the Writer forget anyone? Is there someone who ought to make an appearance that the Writer probably didn’t even consider? If so, add them.

What Do I Have to Prepare? Consider how much prep work needs to be done before the Subplot can be used in the current Issue. Plan accordingly.

December 2nd, 2016  in Product Development No Comments »

Initiative in The Four Color Hack

Action in The Four Color Hack doesn’t happen in rounds. Oh, no. It happens in Panels. Each Panel is a word picture that describes what happens right before the consequences of a hero’s decisions. What follows is an excerpt from the rough-draft rules about initiative in The Four Color Hack.

Whose Panel Is It?

When it’s necessary to determine what order heroes, villains, and whomever else act in, determine initiative using a normal deck of 54 playing cards (that’s 13 cards per suit plus two jokers). At the start of a scene, deal one card to each player. Deal one card for each villain or mob, plus a number of additional cards equal to half the heroes in the scene (drop fractions). Order of actions is determined by cards. Ace is the highest, two is the lowest. Ties are broken by suit, which are in descending order hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades.

What If I Want a Different Order?

If you want your hero to go earlier or later then what your card indicates, you might be able to convince another Writer or the Editor to trade cards with you. If not, resign yourself to the card you received and make the most your hero’s action when its your Panel.

Why More Cards for the Editor?

The Editors is responsible for more of the story than any individual Writer. For example, each Writer has to make decisions about one hero, but the Editor has to make decisions about the villains, mobs, important supporting characters, and often the effects of Elements (described below under The Splash Page). Each important non-hero character or mob in a scene gets a card just as if that character or mob were played by a Writer. The additional cards represent the narrative advantage of the villain or crisis.

Check out the fight depicted at this link. The villain, front and center, throws down with two heavy hitters while four other heroes fight lesser villains or mobs in the background. If this were happening during game play, each hero would get a card. Each villain and mob would get a card. Those cards represent the specific actions of the heroes, villains, and mobs, played out in the order determined by the cards’ values. The Editor gets three other cards since there are six heroes in the scene. He uses these extra cards for additonal actions from the villains or mobs, or for introducing complications related to Elements.

About Those Jokers

If a joker is dealt to any player other than the Editor, return it to the deck and give that player a replacement card. Only the Editor gets to use jokers, and he can assign a joker to any villain, mob, et cetera, active in the current scene. What’s more, the joker is a wild card, meaning the Editor can interrupt the sequence of Panels any time he wants the character with the joker to act. The joker represents some unexpected development, sudden revelation, or other event detrimental to the heroes. Worst of all, no hero earns a Bonus Hero Die for the Editorial Control.

November 30th, 2016  in Product Development No Comments »