M. Jared Swenson Productions

This blog chronicles my projects, developments, and all things related to tabletop gaming. I will try to avoid rants and reviews. Mostly games I'm developing, and progresses from my campaigns.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rogue Space - MECHS: Update 1

Work is coming along on Rogue Space - MECHS. Parts are missing though, and I will hold off release until I have had a chance to receive my full rulebook for Rogue Space. This has given me a chance to review several times over my current material I have written.

Meanwhile I will preview some of the things I have in mind for the 8-page pocket mod style rulebook, which is coming along great.
Mechs are bipedal battle machines 5-6 meters in height (~16-20 ft). Able to carry the firepower of a tank, with the mobility of infantry, and speed of a light vehicle. When one world power invented them, war escalated and soon all nations had to adapt or get left behind. They have now redefined warfare, particularly in the dense forests or urban city environments where large tanks have trouble traversing, and aerial support cannot reach.

The flavor of this booklet is for mechs like those in Heavy Gear, ChromeHounds, Front Mission, Armored Core, etc. Although it can be scaled to fit sizes like BattleTech, Gundam, or the titans in Warhammer 40,000. The setting for this booklet is assumed to be in a near-future war where world powers have shifted and mechs dominate the battlefield. New rules and components can be made up or altered to fit in any of your settings. Even psionics. What if a mech had a psionic node that enhanced the pilot’s abilities and allows your pilot to use them as though they were coming from the mech itself? What if pilots could control their mechs remotely via psionics?

This booklet also includes several optional rules. These are ones that aren’t necessary for using mechs, and may not all fit into your game.
Right out of the gate you can see I’m trying to provide plenty of incentive for using these mech rules. I have an assumed default tone, but as with anything in Rogue Space, things can be easily altered to fit your very own campaign. Mik’s MERS would coincide well by making a Cerberus Atlas using these rules.

This will have several optional rules. Most of them are concepts I had that I couldn’t let go, but ultimately bloated the system at its core. They are still really cool, and add an extra bit of realism if you so choose to use them.
Creating Mech Pilots
Character generation is the same as in Rogue Space. Keep in mind the theme of your character if he/she will be a mech pilot. It takes all kinds. Warriors are the trained soldiers who are sent in for assault and heavy support. Rogues are the Spec-Op pilots in the Spec-Op mechs. Stealthy infiltrators and fast reconnaissance. Technicians are the battlefield repairs, with mechs usually having maintenance gear, and able to perform with unusual levels of efficiency, even during severe damage.
Characters have limitations when inside their mechs. While inside, a character’s Acquiring and Fighting scores are reduced by 2. They cannot wear armor heavier than a Light rating, and cannot carry a weapon bigger than a Medium rating.

While this booklet concentrates on using mechs and battle, the referee should still provide challenges and parts of adventures for the pilots outside their mechs. What if their mechs got stolen? Or they’re out of fuel, having to go to get some at a nearby village that’s normally hostile to their faction.
Some of the pilot limitations may seem weird. But there is a reason for these that will become more clear later on, like the reduction to Fighting and Acquiring while inside a mech. The Light armor and Medium weapon restriction makes sense because how much room does the pilot have crammed in that cockpit?

I also don’t want referees to forget that mechs can be part of rogue space, but not all of it. There is still much adventure to be had outside your machines of war.
Creating Mechs
Mechs are built separate from their pilots. A player is assigned a certain amount of build points they can spend on mech components. It’s up to the referee for the amount of points per player. Low points mean humble beginnings or low funding (25-30), high points mean veteran team or well funded (45-50). See page 7 for detailed mech construction rules.
The point build system should be seen as a tool and not a restriction by referees. Not only does it help work to balance things, but it’s also to help gauge power at the beginning of a game and ensure that your players aren’t getting top of the line equipment right out of the gate. Later on players are awarded with build points to upgrade their mechs. So see it as sort of a leveling system if you like.
Mech Systems (TMP)
All parts have a system number. When all parts are added together, they create the mech’s 3 core systems. The TMP.
  • Targeting System: Accuracy when making range attacks, as well as sensors and detection.
  • Movement System: Speed and agility for maneuvering and evading danger. Also covers Stealth.
  • Power System: Strength and toughness of the machine. Used for melee attacking, defending, and fine manipulation.
Most supplemental rules for things like vehicles and spaceships come up with a cool acronym. But I figured since I am trying to keep things simplified to just 3 attributes for mechs, it’s easy enough to work with. This also creates a synergy you will see later on, by keeping the names appropriate to how a system would be called in real life.

When you build a mech, it consists of 4 parts. The Head, Torso, Arms, and Legs. Each part has either a 0, +1, or -1 to the 3 systems described above. When a mech is built, all those numbers are added together to make the 3 core systems, the TMP.
Parts have their own Hit Points (HP). When an attack is made and damage gets past the mech’s armor, you mark damage on the receiving part. When a part is reduced to 0 hit points, then it is destroyed, as well as the weapon or gear attached to it. Damage stops at 0 hit points, remaining damage does not carry over to other parts.
  • Head destroyed: Targeting system gone. Attached gear gone. Unable to add Targeting score to tests.
  • Torso destroyed: Mech is destroyed.
  • Arm destroyed: Arm gone, and weapon or gear attached gone.
  • Legs destroyed: Movement system gone. Attached gear gone. Mech has a speed of 1 if an arm remains. Unable to add Movement score to tests.
One major goal I wanted with RS-MECHS is I didn’t want them to be pools of hit points to be grinded through. I want a player to get the simulation of having his arm disabled, or getting his head knocked off means he actually has to look out the window to aim. I feel I have been able to achieve this in a simple quick manner. Some may be cautious because this seems dangerously similar to BattleTech’s infamous bubble sheets, but I implore you to give it a chance.

Next update I will get more into the nitty gritty of Rogue Space - MECHS. Tests are performed based on pilot skill augmented by the mech's systems. Sounds confusing, but it's done easy!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mass Effect - Alternity Rulebook: Update 4 - Biotics

Alternity handles its psionics the same way it handles its skills. They must be purchased with skill points, they have a 3 number value, and rolling against the 3 numbers give different degrees of outcome. Purchasing higher ranks in said skills just increase your chances of succeeding or getting better outcomes, as well as give you new uses for them.
There are a lot of different biotic powers, but again I'm not giving this book a bunch of game powers, I'm providing means for players to simulate them. So I have categorized all the biotic uses I've seen into a set of skills that can be used to make the various effects as seen throughout the books and games.
The 4 biotic skills will be:
  • Barrier
  • Singularity
  • Telekinesis
  • Enhance
Barrier is the skill of using biotics to shield oneself. At higher ranks you can also expend that shield to make an area attack. And later you can extend your shield outward to make a sphere, guarding your allies.

Singularity is the skill of using biotics to make a small temporary gravity well. At later ranks you can do a shockwave by making the gravity wells explode, dealing damage and launching things into the air. If used directly on a target, the little gravity wells tear things apart.

Telekinesis is a big one. The possibilities of this skill are endless. It's the use of biotics to move things. Simple as that. With the wave of your hands, you can push, pull, lift, throw, and even slam them into other things. Higher ranks allow you to use telekinesis on heavier and heavier stuff. This can even be used to hold enemies in stasis at higher ranks, preventing them from moving.

Enhance is using biotics to put power behind your actions. With it you charge your fists for that biotic punch, and even speed up your movement for slamming into opponents, or quick getaways.

With some creative thinking players can use the skills for a variety of effects, simulating all the powers from the game, and even making some of their own.

Next time I will talk about weapons and armor. There is an interesting thing I discovered about Mass Effect weapons. It took me a while to realize it, but I'll get into it next update.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Konomancer: Part 8

Full page spread and setting the stage. The double spreads don't line up perfectly because they're meant to look good across a book spine.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rogue Space - MECHS

There is a lot to like about Rogue Space I've discovered. I am currently in a campaign with some friends that utilizes another rules-lite rpg system, but it's just too rules-lite. He's a great GM with a cool story, but it's just too abstract of a die system. I find myself rolling the same d20 repeatedly for seemingly arbitrary results. I have on my shelf several rules-heavy systems, which i like all of them. The 40k rpgs, shadowrun, and alternity just to name a few. But coming across a good light system can be refreshing from time to time. I've only read the little rules preview booklet for Rogue Space (a format of which i really love, and borrowed for Angry Miniatures) but I can already see the elegance of its quick character creation and easy-to-pick-up-and-play mechanics. One of the things that I think makes it work is the categorizing of effectiveness of weapons and armor. By keeping everything in the Light, Medium, Heavy, and Very Heavy range, it makes dice references very easy to remember and work with.

So as I read through the game, my mind immediately worked toward that 2 syllable word common in our culture: Mecha. I've tried to make mecha rules for several other games but I usually stop when things become overly complex or convoluted. With Rogue Space however I think I have stumbled onto something that keeps things very light and is able to treat our bipedal battle machine friends properly, as apposed to larger player characters. That's one thing that really gets me with some mecha games, the large machines are treated exactly as the infantry or characters just on a different scale. I want things to be different enough to provide the feel of it while keeping with the same core system.

Again all I have to work with in creating this project is the preview rules, but coming this Father's Day, I should be holding the full rulebook and even get a few playtests in on it. Periodically I will update here some of the rules previews, and so far (with the rules mostly done), everything is fitting on an 8-page mini rulebook. I am excited about this little project. I would love to be part of the Rogue Space community and next chance I get with my gaming group to be GM, I know exactly what game I strongly suggest we play.

Oh, and the cover of the mini rulebook for Rogue Space - MECHS will be by none other than Jarom Swenson.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mass Effect - Alternity Rulebook: Update 3 - Powers

There is one major thing I want to drive home with the format of my rulebook. This is not a PnP version of the video game.
It's a great game, but I want players and GMs to get the sense that they are playing a pnp game in the Mass Effect setting, and not a pnp sim of the video game. There are 2 ways I plan on accomplishing this:
   1) All artwork: In no part of my rulebook will you find screenshots or views of the in-game models. In showing that it would break from the feel I'm trying to set up for it. I have no shortage of material available. The Mass Effect art books provide a wealth of concept and original artwork. I may even use a few clips from the comic books (without chat bubbles of course).
   2) No Powers: Not in the sense that we know them from the video game. Having your character be able to use powers exactly like those found in the game would again break the feel of it. The biggest example I can give are the tech powers. If a player wants to summon a combat drone, he will have to actually have a few combat drones in his inventory. Then declare to the GM the preprogrammed protocols it will be utilizing. Hacking isn't going to be instant. I want players to feel more involved in it than a click of a button. Hacking checks and actions going toward fighting against an opponents defenses set-up in his tech armor will need to be made. Tech Armor, the character will need to have purchased tech armor devices for his suit. If you want to use a power that you liked from Mass Effect, you need to find me the appropriate gear and skills.

Main thing is I want the characters to have full control of the stuff they can do and what they have. That is one of the reasons why I like Alternity. It's a class-less system that avoids templates and 'class abilities' not available to others. You could be a combat specialist who can mix and match.

Next I will be talking about Biotics.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Angry Miniatures Part 6.5: Mini Booklet v2

I have revised and fixed several issues with the PDF, clarified a couple rules, and even included a page on how to print and fold the rulebook. I hope this helps and gets a better printing result.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Konomancer: Part 4

End of Prologue. This was the prologue by the way.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Konomancer: Part 3

Angry Miniatures Part 6: Mini Booklet

I've just recently been acquainted with Rogue Space and I'm really liking the book. It appears to be a simple RPG system, but not too abstract. I also really like the format he did his little mini booklets and preview books. I saw those and thought to myself what a great idea, I bet I could fit the Angry Miniatures rules into one of those. So I did.
Featuring another piece of art by Jarom Swenson (who is now home again, YAY!), I was able to condense the rules into a much more manageable format. This forced me to be creative with some writing and also helped me to get rid of some redundancies. Putting this stuff into a miniature 8 page booklet is a great activity.

In case you don't know how to put this together, I found some simple instructions, courtesy Google images.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Konomancer: Part 2

I should mention it is best to view these by right clicking on them and opening in a new tab, or clicking on them with your scroll wheel.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mass Effect - Alternity Rulebook: Update 2 - Races

I had a lot of thought and deliberation about which races to include in the rulebook as playable characters. I finally settled on an even 8 that I thought would be good for PCs.

They are separated by Citadel Races, and Non-Citadel Races, and there is a reason for this, I will explain.

One of the goals with this project is to immerse players in the Mass Effect universe, as apposed to making a PnP version of the video game. I want to add an effect of realism to it that gives players consequences based on their choices. Race being a big one. The Citadel races are safe choices in the Mass Effect galaxy, they are the standard. They are widely known and 'mostly' trusted. A race welcome in the Citadel is welcomed most anywhere.

Non-Citadel races are another story. These are those who are generally mistrusted by most people, and have a lot of shady past and history. I understand as much as anyone the appeal of being a Krogan, or a tech-savvy Quarian, but there may be consequences to that choice. For example, going into the Citadel may need a special clearance or passport, or cannot go in unless constantly accompanied by C-Sec. They will be a challenging character to play, but their challenge may be what they are. That is one of the ugly things about Mass Effect, it has racism to the extreme, I want players to feel that. Of course on the other end of the spectrum, a Batarian will feel much much more welcome in Omega than a Human or Salarian.
These were the guys that didn't make the cut. And I could list several reasons for each. But the bottom line is difficulty for the GM to work with that player.
Elcor: Imagine playing a cow with a human brain. ALL the physicality of a cow, including speech, movement, dexterity, muscle range, etc. But the intelligence of a human. Imagine dealing with that as a player or GM.
Hanar: Like the Elcor description, imagine a jellyfish with intelligence.
Volus: There's a reason these guys tend to avoid combat. I'm not one for making all gaming sessions a constant combat grind-fest, but by simply being a Volus, there is a huge liability. By their very description, the pressure suit necessary for survival outside their home planet is essentially fragile. As soon as there is a crack in the suit, their body splits open, and they die. You could have a heavily armored Volus, but as soon as any damage gets past that armor, you die.
Geth: While playing a character like Legion could be awesome, there are many complications of creating a robot character. They cannot be treated or built exactly like an organic character. It breaks from the uniqueness of being a robotic character.
Vorcha: Arguments could be made to making them work, but they just work so much better as a monster race.
Yahg: Again, monster race.

Maybe some of these could still work in a later book (like robot character rules for making a Geth), but in the core basic book project, the stable 8 will do fine.

Konomancer: Part 1

Introducting our hero: Rennex. And the badass dwarf, Bolanis.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Konomancer: Jarom's Senior Project

 I've mentioned Konomancer before, but as a DnD setting. It actually started as a manga project between my brother, Jarom, and I. I had the idea for the whole story down, and through Jarom's creative art and ideas, it grew in depth and breadth.
Jarom was still in high school at the time, in his senior year. For his high school though, in order to graduate, seniors need to complete some sort of 'senior project'. This is something new to me, because when i graduated from the same school they didn't need anything of the sort. Basically it's a project where the parameters are meant to be vague, and it's supposed to encourage students to think outside the box and do something challenging. Most students do things like fundraisers for whatever or service projects. Jarom wanted to do something different.

Since his art is pretty much his career choice, he wanted that do be part of his project. His project was get a manga printed. We discussed several options, but settled on Konomancer, because i already had a story lined out.  Getting volume 1 of the story printed was our goal. And quite a goal it was.

This was a very informative experience for my brother and i, with just how much work it takes to make something like this. He did all the sketch work and page layout, and i did the story, dialogue, and digital inking.

It started out with thumbnails. These gave us a basic idea of the page layouts and what happens therein. Jarom did all of these. I critiqued them, had him redo them, etc. With all of those done, we started doing the final pages.

Next were the actual art pages. These are where Jarom spent the majority of his time. He drew all the art and shading and location of dialogue boxes. Several times i had him redo pages because the placement of some things just didn't work. I'm sure he hated me at some points. We did fight over things on occasion.

But once the first page was done, it was then up to me to scan it in, and begin the inking/toning/chat bubbles.

This was the hard part for me. I used a program called Manga Studio, which did make it easier, but by no means made it easy.

It was a very grueling project. What was great about it though, was knowing that if we didn't finish it, Jarom could not graduate. At a few points we were worried we wouldn't get it done in time. Near the end we worked night and day, crunch period extreme. So much work went into the project. This couldn't be one of our many other projects that we started, got bored with, and moved on. We NEEDED to get it done. We had to push past the exhaustion. Then we got the book completed, submitted it to Lulu, had them print off some copies for sale at the project fair (where the seniors show off their projects for judging) and we were done. It was a serious undertaking. But extremely rewarding. Back then i held our printed book with pride, knowing the hard work and dedication that went into it.

Fast forward to today, Jarom is doing a 2 year mission, and he will be back next week. I am so excited. To celebrate his homecoming, i will be posting periodically weekly pages from the manga we did. I will still be making posts about my other projects and things to break up the monotony, but it is with great pride i present to you: Konomancer, Volume 1

Front and back cover for now. Next time I'll start getting into the actual pages.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mass Effect - Alternity Rulebook: Update 1

I have completed a chapter outline, character sheet, and a modified skills list. Alternity is a skill based RPG. Due to the genre similarities between Star*Drive and Mass Effect, not a whole lot needed to be altered.
I obviously moved a couple things around and changed some others, but i wanted to keep the basic Alternity character sheet the same for familiarity. Just stylized to fit Mass Effect.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Angry Miniatures Part 5: Plans for the Future

So my game of Angry Miniatures is mostly done. The big thing is i need to expand a few of the rules as well as the list of Perks and Flaws. So what do i plan on doing with it?

First thing is compile it into a book form. The core rules. This will be for standard skirmishes against an opponent. There will be things like scenarios in there as well.

Next thing i want to do will be a lot more ambitious. I actually originally designed this game for solo play. Let's face it, you can't always find a partner to try out a new game. So how about play it with yourself? (without trying to sound dirty).
You may or may not remember these books from grade school. You may remember the frustration of dieing all the time or using several bookmarks to backtrack decision tracks. Or you may remember how cool it was to be invested in a story like you are actually behind the wheel. I plan to simulate some of that.

The project idea is to release a book that simulates a basic dungeon crawl (with a few twists) where you take a party of miniatures into the dark lair of something. It will sort of be laid out like a choose your own adventure book by keeping things secret. The chapters will be separated by rooms, and have a basic map-like illustration of the rooms. This way when you get to that chapter, you duplicate the map onto your own dry-erase map sheet, and place your minis. Things you interact with will tell you which page to turn to and what happens therein. Even monsters in the dungeon will be scripted. If you enter a room and encounter an Ogre guarding his treasure pile, it will give the stats for the Ogre, including the size of its token and health track, and even basic scripting. Basic scripting are simple instructions that dictate his behavior in battle. Like one will say "Hates Magic: This figure will always move to attack a Magic character first" or "Cowardly: This figure will surrender if it is the only remaining monster in the room."

I will not make it all just a hack and slash, i will add puzzles and skill challenges. This means character creation will expand a little. Allowing you to choose skills for your characters like lockpicking, arcane lore, and taunting (forcing monsters on this character, like getting that Ogre who hates magic off your wizard).

I am excited about this because it will challenge me on a writing level, and hopefully provide some great and interesting solo play for you.

Next after that i will be designing the Angry Miniatures: SciFi. This will have to be different than the fantasy series because the scifi genre works different and should feel different, other than just a reflavoring of the fantasy rules. Then for that, a Space Hulk book!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mass Effect - Alternity Rulebook

Announcing my plans to create a Mass Effect conversion for Alternity. I have already made a post a while back on how much I love Alternity. It's a great system designed specifically for high tech yet gritty space opera settings like Mass Effect. And I love Mass Effect. Even the much debated and controversial ending to the trilogy. I think it's a very rich and brilliant aesthetic with plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure.

On /tg/ there was a thread discussing possible systems to use to run a Mass Effect campaign, and a few anons and I got discussing about Alternity. (links in the next sentence are all to the conversion sites for the listed systems that I know exist) In the thread were other game thrown around, like Rogue Trader, Traveller, d20, Star Wars Saga Edition, FATE/Diaspora, Savage Worlds, World of Darkness, and a new game I haven't heard of called Alpha Omega.

So nobody that I know of has done a conversion document for Mass Effect yet. I would like to spearhead that. However this will be completely different. I plan on doing a complete standalone rulebook. All other current Mass Effect conversion documents require the original rulebook for core rules. This project will have in it the core rules for Alternity flavored specifically to the setting. I can't include EVERYTHING because that would be an astronomical task, so it will be designed for beginning play. The rules will be a healthy halfway between the beginners rules and advanced rules as outlined in the Alternity Players Handbook.

And because I want to someday become a game designer, this will also be a practice in book layout and design. Art courtesy of Google images (cheating i know), and all the fluff will be courtesy of the Mass Effect Wiki.