Sunday, 11 November 2012

New System Mechanics

Its been a while since I last posted, but that doesn't mean that development work has stopped. Yes it has slowed while I wait for people to feedback on the open playtest. That gave me time to work on the world background and ignore the system for a while.

I have been at a crossroads with regards to the system for some time. Do I stick with the old d20 and roll under mechanism replete with little flaws that I cannot iron out. Or do I change it to the d10 based roll dice and pick one. After about a month of agonising over the options, I've finally come to decision. I'm changing the mechanics of Infinity Core from the d20 based to d10 based. I'm working on a new playtest document right now, and I'll shortly be penning a new scenario to go with the new playtest.

So what does this new Infinity Core offer that the one did not?

1. Higher degree of success.

That is the character is much less likely to fail on a dice test. One of the problems of the old IC and its predecessors was that a character need to have fairly high attributes and skills to have reasonable chance of success. I think that a player characters should be succeeding at least 3 out of 4 action tests. For this to happen under old IC a character would need to have a goal number of 15. Which gives the character very little room for development and encourages min-maxing to ensure a character is capable in a few key areas.

In new IC a higher skill gives more dice, and more chance of gaining a Critical, and a greater probability that a die will come up high enough to earn a successful result. But even with a single die on an average difficultly of test  a character should have a 60% change of success. Now factoring a bonus from the characters Attributes and this basic chance could be anywhere from 60-90% success.

When putting the system together I also made the assumption that failure was not an option. In many games you make an action test and you succeed or you fail. If you fail you can usually retest with some kind of penalty. In the new IC I designed the action test so that failing to roll the required target number (threshold) is not an assumption of failure. Instead it is an assumption that it is not a success yet. That is to say that the character needs more time to get a successful resolution. Provided that there is time (as determined by the gamemaster) the character my make second and subsequent action tests to bring the threshold down and finally succeed. I just means that a character who takes three action tests to succeed, takes three times longer to complete the task than someone who did it in a single action test.

Combat and conflict are of course a different matter. You cannot extend actions when in conflict. Combat being the one time when you absolutely succeed or fail against an opponent.

2. More Interesting Critical System

While the old IC system had the ability to add Critical results, it was a flat critical. Under the new IC criticals are grades based on dice matches. So there are different levels of critical success, graded from minor to legendary. When you roll your action pool of dice, every die that has the same result as the lead die you pick as your action result stacks up to give a little bonus and critical effect.

So a rookie rolling a test with only a single die in his action pool, will not be able to score a critical (without involving Destiny, I'll talk about Destiny later). While a master rolling 5 dice in his pool is both far more likely to obtain a successful result and get one or more matches to obtain a critical effect.

3. Manipulation of the Die Mechanics

A new mechanic that refines and replaces the Conviction in the old IC, is replaced with Destiny. A ranked characteristic that gives a limited ability to manipulate die mechanics. Spending Destiny during a game can add a bonus to an Action Test result, buy extra dice, allow the Destiny ranking to be transplanted for either an Attribute or a Skill, boost a critical effect to a higher level, or reduce the effect of an enemy critical that affects the character.

Of course each character only has a small number of Destiny points with which to manipulate the game, but they can be used to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Revised Map and some System Talk

Dark Stars Map

The Open Playtest has been underway for about 3 weeks now and we have had some 200 downloads to date. So far I've some feedback, most of it privately, but a couple of people had posted comments in the Vagrant forums for which I am very grateful. But I need more! I need more people testing, and most importantly I need more than 1-2% of testers to give their opinions, even if that opinion is negative.

As a result of the feedback I have had so far I've made a few changes already, and I'm currently floating a revised version of the rules in the Vagrant Development boards. This includes some radical redesign, dropping the d20 mechanic and replacing it with a new core mechanism that uses small pools of d10s.

Yes this is a radical design, but it servers two very important purposes. Firstly, it addresses many of the issues inherent in the old system that have lead to complaintes about the high degree of failure, or why do characters have to have such high stats and skills at the outset leaving little room for development potential. Secondly, It allows me to make a clean break from Fading Suns for which the basis of the current system was originally developed.

The basics of the revised system are very simple. Every skill is ranked from 1 to 5, and this is the number of d10s that a character must roll when he attempts an action. Once rolled, one of those dice are selected as the 'lead' die, the die which gives the result, the others can be used as 'matches' to bring about a critical. Rolling high is good, and modifiers are applied only to the lead die. The basic one action, one dice roll ethos remains.

I'm waiting to see what my friends at Vagrant think of the revised system, if it gets a thumbs up, I will update the playtest documents accordingly.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Musings on Playtest

I have been taking a little break from writing now that the playtest document is circulating. Hopefully we will start to see some discussion on the Vagrant forums soon. The plan is that once this phase of testing is complete, I'll be able to finalise the basic system mechanics and start on the other sub-systems that are dependant upon the basic framework. Obviously there is no point in doing masses of design if the framework is going to have to change.

I am not going to pretend that Infinity Core is a perfect game system, such a thing is impossible to build because of individual tastes. For me, "perfect", is a system that does not intrude into or slow down play. So it must be fast, elegant, and intuitive. I have to admit that I have my doubts about using a d20 with the potentially huge variation in degrees of success, and depending on the feedback I get from the playtest I may choose to make fundamental changes to the dice mechanics.

But for now lets just see what the feedback gives us.

I have started writing up a chapter for Dark Stars called: Gazetteer of the Sphere, which will give planet profiles for each of the major worlds, here is the sample text for Junction.


Solar System: Aeon (K5 V), Aeon’s Hand (M2 V, 0.15AU), Junction (H Class, 0.48AU), Haven (H Class, 0.69AU), Amber (R Class, 0.92AU), Resnight (R Class, 1.46AU), Calisite (G Class, 16 satellites, 6.7AU), Strayers Belt (15.2-20.1AU), Catchan (G Class, 36 satellites, 45.3AU), Wanderer (63.7AU)
Gates: Corvus City: Azail, Hope, Minerva, Shae 
Capital: Corvus City
Resources: Politics, fashion, energy production
Exports: Politics, fashion

Important People:

Supreme Yerik Jacobs (born 523PR): The master of the Covenant and a prominent political force in his own right. Supreme Yerik is rarely seen in public, in fact seldom leaves the sanctity of the Gate House. Little is known about Supreme Jacobs with any real certainly, based on his name alone it is believed that he may be a survivor of the Jacobs Dynasty that once made claim to large expanses of Hope.


Junction is one of two terrestrial (H Class) worlds orbiting in Aeon’s green zone. During the Commonwealth Era, Junction was an unremarkable world; it is only in the post-Ruin Era that it has grown in importance. As a former Commonwealth backwater the world was over looked and temporarily closed its gate hub during the Ruin, this act alone has done much to preserve the technology base of the planet and elevate its importance to the Sphere in the modern epoch.
Junction has always been a marginal world, a hot arid world with little surface water. The equatorial region is primarily bleached desert, giving way to warm temperate polar regions, with shallow seas. The low gravity (0.65G) gives rise to high mountain ranges that easily push their peaks well above the thin atmosphere. Surprisingly the world was never terraformed, instead the colonial focus was aimed at Junction’s the more habitable neighbor: Haven.
When the Aeon system was colonized millennia ago, Junction was conceived as a transportation hub for Haven, linked by gate the two worlds were effectively one. The barren landscape could be utilized collect massive quantities of solar energy that was exported to the colonial cities on Haven. Much of the supporting industry and infrastructure was also situated on Junction, leaving Haven as a garden world to be enjoyed.
In the Dynastic Era, Junction’s importance has only grown, the gate hub facility located in Corvus City, is second to none, controlling all of the intersystem gates, as well as sub-system gates to various cities on Haven, the Calisite Moons, and a hand full of destinations amongst the Junker controlled Catchan satellites.
Around 1.7 million humans inhabit Junction, the majority of which are desert dwellers. The population is strictly divided between the polar regions under Dynastic control and the desert dwellers who make their own ways in the sand chocked tropics. These “desert rabble” survive by any means available, including begging, thieving, and smuggling. They are an ingenious people and with them nothing goes to waste, their nomadic life style sees them making seasonal migrations between various oasis, and secret water holes. In some places these desert stops are for petrol, oil, or other fossil fuels that can be obtained from ancient drilling derricks.
The first Ragnar of the Sphere, Alexander I established his throne upon Junction, seeing the worlds importance in terms of gate links rather than habitable climate and diverted interest from the much more habitable Haven (after which the system had originally been named). In recent generations some attempts have been made to apply the some of the surviving principles of terraforming to the marginal world, this includes the construction of atmosphere processors to thicken and clean the atmosphere, and an artificial strengthening of the worlds magneto-sphere to reduce the atmosphere lose to the solar wind. This has done little to reverse the atmospheric taint caused by industrial processes and when the winds blow the pollutants from the industrial zones to neighboring residential districts it becomes necessary to use breathing filters or risk damaging exposure to chemical toxins. Water too must be processed before being consumed and although Junction has shallow seas, they sustain little life.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Monday, 10 September 2012

Infinity Core Playtest in Layout

Things take time, but they are moving.

This morning I received the test layout for game mechanics part of the playtest. Carsten has gone for a clean futuristic style, that is easy to read, attractive, and should't tax your printer. Using a single text column and a wide margin for sidebars and notes, it should be easy to read on a computer screen also. There is of course no artwork, this is a playtest document, not a core rulebook.

This chapter runs to 20 pages. So the estimate is that the complete playtest file will run to about 90 pages, when fully laid out. It will include game mechanics, character generation, skills, traits, and the Abandoned Hope adventure.

So when will it be out?

Provisionally, late next week, is when we can expect to see it. As always, this is provisional, we are all unpaid volunteers, and sometimes real life throws us a curve ball. But we are real close now.

Thank you for your continued support, and good will.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Update: Me and my T

Me sporting my new Vagrant Workshop T-shirt
We are in the last stages of preparing the Infinity Core Playtest for release. Editing is now complete, many thanks to Jason Wallace. I have also made another pass at the document to address a few of the editing comments left by Jason. So now this document will be passed to Carsten Damm to give it a layout, I look forward seeing what he comes up with.

This last week I've been working on the back story to Dark Stars, trying to flesh the history section out from a few bullet points to actual readable text. I now have a few pages detailing the Ruin of the Commonwealth, and the development of the Dynastic order that rose up to replace it. It can be tricky to visualise a form of futurist immortal feudalism, trying to get a feel of an evolving setting, with static unchanging beings at the helm is an odd thing.

I have also been working on the conceptual cybernetics chapter, gone are all vestiges of "chrome era" hardware. Instead of buying specific implants with usual corresponding loss of sanity, all implants are replaced with several areas of expertise. for example a character with "Aggressor" routines, adds combat functions to his body. The form they take is unimportant, their manifestation can be described as needed.

Still working out the fine detail on these.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Dark Stars Map v2

Dark Stars Sphere Map v2
This is the new and improved version of the Dynastic Sphere map. I have added a couple more worlds since this previous one, and marked the major Beacon Worlds. Actually this is as good a time as any to talk a bit about how people move around in Dark Stars.

The Gate Worlds are interconnected (as shown on the map) allowing near instant transportation between adjoining worlds. These permanent gates also facilitate FTL comms and interconnectivity of Dynastic nets. Most (but not all) of the Gate Hubs are under the control Covenant, a politically neutral, ut secretive society of Techno Magi, capable of manipulating the gate workings and reopening the lost portals.

The greatest concentration of Gates exist on Junction, though most of these gate rotes link Junction with other planets and moons within the same solar system. The world is of central importance to the Covenant. Junction is also one of three worlds (Hope, and Minerva being the other two) that for the Inter world Market. A massive street market established on the concourses of the Gate Hubs that allow merchants and buyers to walk between worlds to reach and trade with different stall holders. Essentially one huge marker stretching between three worlds.

Each of the Gate Worlds is also the hub of a local cluster of Beacon Worlds which are accessible through a form of hyperspace. While hyperspace allows FTL transport it is much slower than using the gate network, often taking weeks to reach a destination by starship. As such most Beacon Worlds are considered backwaters by the Dynastic Families. Although there are score of independent operators, and even the Dynasties maintain small fleets, the greatest jump capable power is the Junkers who rebelled against Dynastic authority during the early days of the Sphere.

The Junkers have an unparalleled understanding of hyperspace, many having charted the strange eddies and ripples in the sub-space medium allowing them to make much faster and more accurate jumps than anyone else. The Junkers have long since cast off a planet bound existence to live in space habs, lunar colonies, starships, and the great nomad cities (imagine cloud city with a hyperdrive!). The known jump routes of three of these nomad cities are now marked on the star map.

Notice that the there are limitations on travel, gate travel will only get you so far, starship travel is only part of the answer, as each of the local space zones marked as so far distant from one another it is generally not possible to take a ship from one to another.

Lastly, I did get asked about aliens, well there is an alien homeworld marked on the star map. Thats should give you a clue about one of the alien races that will be included in the Dark Stars setting, but I'm going to leave you to speculate about it.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Why "Dark Stars"?

Dark Stars for Infinity Core

I got asked the other day where the name "Dark Stars" came from, and whether the name was simply a rip off of Fading Suns. I have to say that its not, but it does require some explanation.

A long time ago I wrote a game called "A Dark Earth", it was a post apocalyptic setting, in which electronics had been knocked out, mechanical stuff worked, but electronics didn't. The title referenced that from the colonies Earth was now appeared dark, dead, and lifeless because there where no longer any transmissions of any kind.

Dark Stars is a reference to the same concept, many (most) of the civilised worlds of the Commonwealth have gone dark, their tech destroyed or suppressed to keep them hidden from whatever  threat brought about the Collapse and the end of Human supremacy. Without transmissions, without hyper beacons, those worlds are effectively lost... hence Dark Stars.

The definition of a Dark Age, is a period of time in which there is little writing or culture to carry society. That the worlds are "dark" because technology / communication isn't working makes sense.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Sorry: A Slight Delay

After promising that the Infinity Core Playtest would be out by GenCon, we have hit a small snag. Basically, editing my work is quite an intensive process, I am dyslexic and do not spell very well. My poor editor, Jason Wallace, is off to GenCon himself, and could not complete one of the chapters in the time that he had.

We could have just sent the document out unedited. But Dammi and I agreed that it would be better to delay until Jason can complete the job upon his return. Again I offer my apologies for not hitting the deadline. I hope you guys can hold on a little longer.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Dark Stars Technology

Dark Stars for Infinity Core

The last thousand years of human history have been a tale of ruin. As mankind reached the Transcendant levels of technology a great war broke out between the various human factions. The specifics remain unknown, or at least unclear, and much was lost as whole planets burned, stars where snuffed out, and weapons of such terrible power were used without restraint or concern for any long term goal.

Some amongst the Dynasties Immortals have memories that stretch back before the great collapse. They saw millions of worlds sundered from each other as the gate network failed or was systematically destroyed. Some historians claim that humanity was the greatest power in the Universe, first amongst all other sentients, looked upon as gods by many of the uplifted races.

Whatever the truth, however it came to pass, mankind fell from grace, and is now but a shadow of its former glory. Instead of a vast Commonwealth that spanned galaxies there are a few surviving pocket empires, adrift, alone amongst the Dark Stars.

Technology is essential to the Dark Stars Universe, it gives raise and legitimacy to the political power of the various factions. It raises the Dynasties above the level of the common man, provides the means by which the Covenant bridge the immense distances between worlds, and gives the Junkers their freedom to move beyond the grasp of a stagnant social order. 

Below is a rough guide to the technology levels used in the Dark Stars setting.

Technology Levels
0: Pre-Agrarian
Hunter-Gatherer culture, stone tools, barter

1: Ancient Period
Agriculture, domestication of beasts, writing, metal tools, money

2: Pre-Industrial
Engineering, printed word, credit

3: Industrial Revolution
Internal combustion engine, atmospheric flight, gun powder weapons

4: Information Age
Computer and networks, information sharing, trans-atmospheric flight, space travel, kinetic kill weapons, guided munitions, AI, fission power, ion drives

5: Inter Solar Era
Sub-luminal extra solar space flight, lance weapons, fusion power, fusion drives

6: FTL Era, First Diaspora Era – Trans Human
Super-luminal space flight, plasma weapons, anti-matter power

7: First Sphere – Superior Human
Shield Technology, nano-fabication, macrostructures,

8: Second Sphere, Reunification Era – Prime Human
Gate Technology, FTL Comms,

9: Commonwealth of Man Era – Post Human
Matter / Energy conversion fabrication, teleportation

10: Transcendence Era – Beyond Human
Quantile fabrication systems, destiny imprinting, existential mechanics

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Dark Stars for Infinity Core

Dark Stars Project : Inter Worlds Gate Map
So far I have mainly talked about the Infinity Core, the revisions and ideas I have for improving the system mechanics and getting the open playtest underway. There is still a lot to do on the Infinity Core, mostly in peripheral add ons to the core, cybernetics, psychic powers, and more.

I think its more than time that I start talking about the Dark Stars setting that I'm working on. Above you can see a quick 'Gate Map' that I knocked up to help present the lay of the land. This map is not complete, it only marks the 'Gate Worlds' which are directly linked by permanent stable wormholes that permit almost instant transit between the surface or one world to the surface of another. There are also many in-system gates that link worlds within the same solar system.

All the names on the map are subject to change. 'Charr' for example, the system where the 'Abandoned Hope' adventure takes place is a 'Beacon World' in Quarantine's local cluster. This means it is a world that can be accessed by a starship with an FTL manifold drive, but there is no direct gate there, and as such is a backwater world that is rarely visited by the Dynasties and plays only a minor role in the politics of the sphere.

All comments welcome.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Infinity Core Update 11

I set myself the target of getting the Infinity Core playtest out to the public by GenCon 2012 and time is now catching up with me. In order to give Jason Wallace an opportunity to make an editing pass, before Dammi assembles the files for download, I have had to draw a line under the work that has been done.

I will not pretend that the system is as complete as I would like, I have had to cut the lifepath at the last minute because it requires more development time to shape it up the way I want it to work. So there will only be the points buy option in the playtest.

Cybernetics and Psychic powers will not make into this draft either. But I will likely make them available down the line. I want the playtest to focus on the core mechanical elements, to make sure that they work before I start adding sub systems.

As previously mentioned the playtest will be run through the Vagrant Workshop, so if you would like to take part, please make sure that you have signed up to the Vagrant forums.

I will post further details when I have a go live date.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Infinity Core Update 10

A little belated this week, but things have been very hectic, my daughter being ill with chicken pox, finishing up some freelance projects, moving office at work.

I did get a rather lengthy, but excellent, feedback form the guys at Vagrant Workshop concerning the Infinity Core rules chapter. Most of the advice focuses on issues in the layout and flow of the document rather than the problems with the rules set. So I'll need to go back and sort things out once I'm finished with my current racking over of character generation which is almost finished.

I have made some changes to the way character generation works. In order to differentiate more between characters, players need to grade their characters physical, mental, and social attributes, as primary, secondary, ternary. This gives the corresponding attribute pair a starting ranking of 3, 2, or 1.

For the moment I have also removed the concept of 'natural' skills. If a character needs to be able to do something then the player needs to buy the skill during character genesis.

Most of my time over the last week has gone into building the lifepath system, I'm still working on the 'destiny' section, and I think that notions of fate and destiny are likely to become central themes of the 'Dark Stars' project.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Infinity Core Update 9

I got some feedback on the "Abandoned Hope" adventure from the guys at Vagrant Workshop, mostly this relates to structural stuff. When I wrote the adventure I did so in the same way that I approached shard writing for Fading Suns. The adventure was written in a formal act structure. I think that is going to go and move to a less restrictive layout. So I've been taking some time to make a second pass on the adventure and do a little reorganising to improve the flow and most importantly allow more free form exploration.

In addition I've been working with some aspects of character genesis and background work for my "Dark Stars" Project. But what I really wanted to write about in this update was technology, and specifically how I want to handle technological superiority / inferiority that occurs with a wide range of tech levels. Specifically this relates to combat, what happens with I use a bow and arrow against a man in power armour? Or a gauss mass driver against a knight on a horse? In the really real world what happens is that the arrow bounces of the armour, and the knight becomes a blood smear, but that is no fun in a role-playing game, where there needs to be some element of fairness and heroism.

This problem ties into questions of weapon damage that has come up in the past, should a sword do more damage than a knife? Should a sword forged from bronze be any different from one forged of carbon steel? The answer is yes, the problem is how do I make it happen without overpowering the game mechanics, and I think I have a solution.

So I'm looking for feedback on the following idea:

If all weapons and armour are assigned a tech level rather than a damage or protection value, then the relative difference in tech level would account for greater damage or protection. Lets say we have two swords one made of bronze (TL1) and the other of carbon steel (TL4), then we can clearly see that the carbon steel weapon is superior and should inflict greater damage. By the same rational armour made from cured leather (TL1) should afford less protection than full mail coat (TL2).

Imagine then that two combatants meet one another with TL 2 armour and weapons and the other with TL1 armour and a TL 4 weapon. When calculating damage from the normal conflict tests we can add a modifier to the damage inflicted equal to the tech difference. So fighter A hits fighter B, he gets +1 damage because he has a TL2 weapon against TL1 armour. When fighter B hits fighter A, he gets +2 damage. It also scales up nicely so that fighter C with a TL7 laser weapon can burn both the others with  +5 and +6 damage to his goal rolls respectively.

The advantages of this system should be obvious, better tech will be a natural draw for player characters, but while it gives an advantage it does not place a lesser foe in to the position of never being able to harm a superior opponent.

I'm interested to hear peoples thoughts on this.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Infinity Core Update 8

This past week I sent a draft copy of the Abandoned Hope adventure to the guys at a Vagrant Workshop so that they can do a read through and make suggestions for a second edit. I'm under no illusion that the adventure will need more work and refinement, but it always helps to get an unbiased opinion. Carsten, Lars, and Jason are all very busy right now so it might be a couple of weeks before I get anything back from them.

In the mean time I have been looking at the Traits Chapter again. Going through the laborious terminology change (Find and Replace cannot do everything), switching benefits and afflictions to assets and burdens.

I also started work on a system of "Aspects" this is very similar to the old Nature / Demeanor concept from the White Wolf games. Except that each character only gets one, not two, and it reflects their core archetype. All aspects are both positive and negative. Here is a couple of examples:

Child: The child looks out on a world that is full of new possibilities and things to do and explore. Often the child becomes obsessed with something or someone for a short period of time before losing interest and acquiring a new plaything. The child is both curious and capricious and regains a point of Conviction when she is able to share her sense of wonderment at something new with others, or when ever she is able to discard one obsession for another.

Guardian: The guardian is a protector ever watchful for threats to those in his care, but sometimes people can be their own worst enemy and need help to find the right path. The guardian is both protective and overbearing and gains a point of Conviction whenever he is able to step in to protect his ward from harm, or make the “right” decision for them.

In addition I have also been giving thought to certain exotic abilities, like cybernetics and psychic powers. In both cases I have determined that emulating Fading Suns is not the direction that I wish to take. For a start I don't really see the need for a corruption mechanic. At the moment both of these sub-systems are looking like they will be added to the Traits Chapter as assets and burdens rather than have their own dedicated chapters. This would balance them against character genesis rather than having to have a corruption mechanic to control the use of the ability.

Please feel free to comment and make your opinions known.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Extinction Concept: Profile and Dice Mechanics

X-COM: Enemy Unknown

Dice Mechanics
Most wargames resort to the tried and trusted d6 to deal with random chance, and I have to admit that I am not a fan of the d6. For wargames I much prefer the use of a d10 (Void and Urban War) or even a d20 (Infinity and Dark Age). I actually want to try something different. Malifaux used cards, and it suited the western-ish feel of the game to have a 'poker hand'. For Extinction I want to use a step system of dice.

A models attributes, will dicate the type of die to be rolled in the test and various modifiers will raise or lower the step. So each player will need to have a d4, d6, d8, d10, and a d12 to hand. By way of an example lest say that Joe Average has a shoot stuff skill of d8, and is firing on a target behind cover. His skill would step down from d8 to a d6 to make the roll, and drop another step for long range, down to a d4.

As a general rule of thumb I am not a fan of having to roll fistfuls of dice. Nor have to make large numbers of rolls to get a result. The 40K principle that you roll to hit, roll to wound, roll armour saves, is one that irritates me. In Corvus Belli's Infinity this has improved a little to a roll to hit, and a roll to save. I think that 2 dice rolls works okay, but I'm keen to test a system that can do everything on a single roll. I'll have to see how things develop.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown

All wargames require a profile of abilities to define what a model can and cannot likely achieve. For most this form round the central concepts of movement, shooting skill, fighting skill, strength, toughness, wounds, and some time of moral or leadership capability.

For the purposes of Extinction I'm need to cover these bases, but I also want to take a slightly different take on things. Movement is no longer necessary and will be replaced by Action Points.

Action (Act): This is the number of action points the character has to spend on its various actions during the turn. Any reserved actions will remain in play until they are spent or until the character is activated again.

As with many games I need to represent the models ability to hit stuff, I toyed with using one attribute to define both fighting and shooting but in the end decided that they need to be separate.

Fight (Fgt): This is die type that the character uses to fight in close combat.

Shoot (Sht): This is the die type that the character uses to shoot or throw grenades at things.

Psychic (Psi): This is the die type that characters with psychic potential use. Most human characters don't even rate on this scale and have a '-', indicating no psychic capability.

Physique (Phy): This describes how physically capable and tough a character is, used to resist the effects of weapons and fatigue.

Willpower (Wil): This describes how mentally strong the resilient the character is, used to resist psychology (fear, terror) and the effects of alien psychic powers.

Moral (Mrl): This is not a numerical attribute but a description of miniatures moral, and under what circumstances they suffered from psychological effects.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Extinction Concept

Corvus Belli's Infinity

I have been playing a lot of Infinity (Corvus Belli's Infinity, not my Infinity Core) at my local war games club, and I've been enjoying it quite a bit. It is not without its problems, no game is ever perfect. But it suffers from some issues of complexity that could be sorted out very easily, by not hiding skills inside other skills. That got be thinking up a wish list of things I'd like to tweak if Corvus Belli ever came asking. So with those ideas in mind I thought why not develop a contemporary game using my wish list of ideas as a concept.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown

I have long been a fan of contemporary aliens amongst us / alien invasion themes. So I thought I'd have a go at putting the two ideas together. Pitting war bands against each other in a post invasion world. The players would be able to choose a faction to collect and build up through campaign experience, much like Games Workshop's Mordhiem game (one of the all time great GW games).

Factions wise I'm thinking there should be the option to play both human and alien factions.

Survivors: A mixture of survivors including former law enforcement and joe average off the street corner. Tends to be poorly equipped, but come in greater numbers.

Agents: A well equipped team but with a small number of members.

Hybrids: These guys could be on anyone side, no one trusts them, but they do have the ability to use some alien tech.

Greys: They lost big time when the humans proved to be more resourceful than expected destroying several motherships that then crashed disgorging survivors. Now free of their slave masters that are in survival mode

Blues: When the Grey led mission to invade Earth failed, the Blue stepped in. A more militant alien faction these creatures are as determined to animate the the fallen Greys as they are the humans.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown
The game would be played alternately using an action point mechanic. Each miniature would have a number of action points (8-10 being average) that can be spent to to buy movement on a 1 point for 1 inch basis. Other actions would have a cost associated with them, aiming a gun might take 3 points, firing might take 5 points. This would allow a model to move and fire, or fire and move, or even move, fire and then move again. Similarly a miniature could buy a number of reaction fire opportunities allowing it to activate out of turn and act against targets of opportunity, but not with unlimited capability as is the case in Infinity. Other types of actions would also need to be assigned action costs, such as opening a door, or climbing, going prone, kneeling, or taking a braced firing stance. 
The small number of miniatures required of the game would keep the mechanic manageable, and very fluid. Also specific mission objectives could be given an action point total that needs to be achieved. Lets say one players group needs to access secured records on a computer, once a miniature reaches the computer he needs to spend a total of 20 action points over several turns to achieve the objective. He could do this in two turns with his buddies watching his back, but if not he could take it slower and hold something back for reactive fire.

Vehicles too could be driven using a number action points. depending on the speed of vehicle the drive might have action points left over to perform a maneuver or shoot out of the car window as he drives past.

At the moment I am still thinking about the specifics of how the dice mechanics would work. I'm keen to experiment with a die step system, but if not I'd be looking at either d10s or d20s to resolve skills checks and shooting.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown
I'd also like the campaign system to be built in to how the game works. One of the cool things about an alien's amongst us concept is the alien tech. Over time the humans could learn how to use it, or work out how to retro-engineer their own weapons from alien artifacts. In a pick up game a war band could spend some of their precious points on alien tech, but in a campaign game that would have to be achieved through play.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Infinity Core Update 7

A new blog to separate my wargames related stuff, from my roleplaying related stuff, from my games development related stuff. A new name for my game system, now officially "Infinity Core", as most people who responded, did so positively to that name, and a new logo to match.

I don't, unfortunately, have a major amount to report, other than I have been very busy with work (out side of normal business hours) last week and thus it has cut in on my writing time. The adventure Abandoned Hope is still progressing, now at about 7K words (don't really want it to go past 10K), I'm making a few adjustments to the flow of the encounters so that they build up gently and don't dump the characters in at the deep end. Also trying to stich up any plot holes I find.

I have stated out all the encounters now, except the final show down, I'm still working on that one. As far is is possible I'm trying to provide a mixture of physical, mental, and social conflicts so that the characters can get used to how these work. Some encounters can be handled either physically (blow holes in things with guns), or socially (talk to or intimidate your way through).

With the changes to the Skills list and the lifepath system I'm going to have to go back and rework the pre generated characters I'd built for the adventure.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Infinity Engine Update 6

Another week has flown past and it is time to write another update. The sample scenario, "Abandoned Hope" is now all charted out. It still needs work, primarily that means that all the encounters need to be stated out, and the pre-generated characters need to be written. I'd forgotten just how much effort has to go into writing scenarios. The quickest I ever knocked out a Shard for Fading Suns was about 2 months, so I'm a little a head of the curve so far, but now there is a lot of donkey work to do to get it to point were people can pick it up and play it.

I am still working on other parts of the whole package, including:

I have been considering adding a fourth attribute pair, to give: Physical, Social, Mental and Virtual (not sure thats the right word yet, perhaps "Tech", "Info" or "Shadow"), but essentially an info shadow that facilitates interactions with information networks. Much like the other pairs this would form a 'speed' and an 'endurance' attribute in the pairing. About now you are likely wondering why I'd need another attributes pair, well read on and find out...

I have been making refinements to the skills list this week too. So far the changes involving dropping a few skills or rolling them into others.

Medicine has been renamed Trama Aid, and its field narrowed to emergency aid, battlefield care.
Etiquette has been rolled into the Culture skill.
Arts and Craft skills no longer need specialities, and the Craft skill in now the low tech equivalent of the Technology skill.
Gambling has been folded in to Deception, and Legerdemain is currently under threat if I can work out what to fold it into, I may just cut it all together.
I have always been a fan of the lifepath system of generation, be it from Fading Suns, Blue Planet, or even CyberPunk. I feel it goes a long way to outlining the character for the player, especially if its a new player with little exposure to the background of the world setting. So I have determined to rebuild a lifepath system into my new setting, but I don't want to simply copy what Fading Suns did, though certainly there would be similarities.

The lifepath will form a five step character generator, each step costing 20 genesis points from the pool of 100 that a character starts with. These will come under the titles of (and these are really just place holders till I can come up with better terms):

Archetype: What kind of person is the character at his heart?
Allegiance: To which Faction does the character owe his allegiance and how does that shape him?
Training: What did the character train for?
Career: What role / function did he serve?
Destiny: What is the future direction of the character?

I think it is about time I start to share some of the ideas I have for my new setting, currently code named "Dark Stars". If I had to try and explain it one sentence it might read like this, "Post pan-galactic trans-human apocalypse". As such there is a lot of technology in the setting (all man made, though much it beyond the keen of current mankind), mostly held in the hands of the dynastic magnates elevated to positions of an immortal nobility. The common man might live at a level equivalent to that of the 20th century (pre-information age), but the dynastic heirs are the inheritors of cybernetics, high-tech weapons and shields, re-life technologies. Death is not the end for those who are inheritors of trans-human legacies. Dynastic heirs are in effect technologically elevated demi-gods.

Technology is not universally available to the dynasties, and different lineages use different methods of immortality, be it clone bodies with memory transfer, to the inheritance of a multifaceted man, to singularity uplift.

I will reveal more in the near future.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to reading your comments.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Infinity Engine Update 5

I am still working on the play test adventure "Abandoned Hope", though it is taking shape rather nicely I find that it is taking rather longer to assemble that I had at first estimated. That and I've made a few suggested modifications to the system.

The first change I have now made to the game engine is the to allow one against many combat to yield damage to both parties, that is the character can strike at target, and also be hit by other members of the gang he is facing. Rather than the all or nothing approach I had before.

The second change I've made is to fold the 'torture' skill into Coercion. I've been doing a lot of thinking about the skills list in general and I've had a bit of feedback that the list is currently to big. I think there are actually 15 skills that need to be included to get a good all round feel and Infinity Engine is currently sitting with 38. I'm looking at making a few more cuts.

In other news: I got a call from Dammi at Vagrant Workshop asking if I'd do some additional writing on Equinox. Of course I immediately agreed. Its been a long time since I have done any work on this game. I was fortunate enough to be involved with the initial work pioneering the setting alongside Casten Damm, and Jason Wallace. Since then I've had little contact with the game as I have been far to busy with Fading Suns 3rd edition. Many of the former EarthDawn writing team from RedBrick LLC, who got the chop at the same time I did, are now working on Equinox, so its great to know just how much is going into the game, and that so many good writers with passion and heart are flying Vagrant's colours.

Keep an eye on the Vargant Workshop website to see further announcements as they appear.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Infinity Engine Update 4

Been working away on Character Genesis, actually a very tricky bit of writing to do when you haven't added a lot of flesh to the new setting. But I think I've got enough done that I can build pre-gens for the playtest adventure.

I have also made a start plotting out "Abandoned Hope" adventure. So I know now what its about and some of the main scenes. This will not be a fully fleshed scenario, but it will give game masters enough to go on when learning how the Infinity Engine works and teaching it to their players.

So the last point I need to raise in this post is the name of the game, so to speak. As James Sutton pointed out recently on the RPGsite. The name "Infinity Engine" is already in use as the name of an RTS engine owned by Bioware, and wouldn't that present a problem? Actually I didn't think that it would as they are different arenas and there is nothing to connect me to bioware. I also note that some computer games companies have used the same names for their engines in the past and not come to blows about it (Phoenix Engine, being a name used by both Relic and Wolfire).

However, some friendly advice from various people has suggested that, while it is unlikely to ever be an issue, it cannot be ever become an issue if I used a different name.

A few suggestions include:

Infinity Game Engine
Infinity Drive
Infinity Core
Infinity Protocol
Infinity Code
Infinity Source

Would anyone like to make any other suggestions?

Or indicate their preferences?

Monday, 11 June 2012

Infinity Engine Update 3

I've not had a huge amount of time to work on Infinity Engine over the weekend, but thats what happens when you have friends to stay. Great to catch up on old times though. Stayed up to late on the Friday night watching "Alien". After the rush of really bad Alien related movies a few years back (AVP2, I'm looking at you) it was great to go back and see where it all began. Though I have yet to get the time to go and see Prometheus.

I have however managed to crawl through the revisions to the newly renamed "Traits Chapter", though I'm still looking for a suitable replacement term for benefits and afflictions. If anyone has suggestions, please leave a comment.

Anyway with that done I can now take a serious look at character generation, and I have come up with a new mechanism to replace the older Corruption Pools mechanics. Once I get them down on paper I'll be able to look at the nuances, and see where it takes me.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Infinity Engine Update 2

I have spent some time over the weekend thinking about and reworking the skills list for the Infinity Engine. Obviously not all the skills listed below are applicable to all possible settings, and in some cases others may have to added. These skills do reflect on my intentions for my new setting to work in tandem with the Infinity Engine and I'm currently exploring some ideas, and reading a lot of sci-fi.

Undoubtedly, given the Infinity Engines origins, there will be comparisons with Fading Suns. It is not however my intention to simply rewrite Fading Suns with serial numbers filed off. Though I am sure that both game settings will draw upon some of the same material for inspiration.

Anyway here is a look at the skills list that I have so far. If I have obviously missed something please let me know.

Art (specific)practice with a specific art form
Athleticsmovement on land, running, jumping, and climbing
Aquaticsmovement in water, swimming, and diving
Beast Riderriding and handling riding and draft beasts
Bureaucracyknowing how to get things done in a bureaucracy
Coercionforcing other people to do what you want
Commandcontrolling others in a tactical environment
Craft (specific)practice is a specific craft
Culture (specific) language and customs within a specific culture
Deceptiontelling convincing lies
Demolitionspreparation and defusing of explosives
Disciplineresisting metal domination, psychic intrusion, and torture
Dogmaunderstanding the nuances of theology, and ecclesiastical thought
Drivehow to drive land vehicles from motorcycles to 18-wheelers
Etiquetteunderstanding the finer points of social graces in high society
Free Fallmovement in free fall, or micro gravity
Fightthe ability to fight unarmed or with improvised weapons
Gamblingknowing how to play the odds in game of chance and skill
Gunnerythe use of heavy weapons and artillery
Helmhow to maneuver a starship
Inquiryknowing how to conduct forensic investigations, and interrogations
Interfacebeing able to mesh, program, and hack smart cores
Intrusionthe ability to over come security systems
Legerdemaindeft manual dexterity that allows for slight of hand tricks and stage magic 
Lore (specific)practice within a specific scientific or academic field
Medicineknowledge of how to treat injuries and illnesses
Meleethe training to fight with close combat weapons
Perceptionthe ability to use ones senses
Persuasionthe ability to manipulate others with subtlety
Pilothow to fight various atmospheric and trans-atmospheric craft
Ritualthe practice of rites and rituals believed to confer supernatural power
Sailhow to maneuver water born vehicles
Shootthe training to handle and use various ranged weapons effectively
Sneakthe ability to move quietly and remain hidden
Survivalan understanding of fire-making, foraging and shelter building
Streetwisean appreciation for criminal contacts and black market dealers
Technologythe ability to make repairs to broken or damaged technology
Throwthe training to use various thrown weapons
Torturethe practice of using pain to extract information

Friday, 1 June 2012

Infinity Engine Update 1

I think the news is out that I'm working hard on revising the FS3 VPS system into a new incarnation. That new incarnation I call the "Infinity Engine". I started out with a copy of the Game Mechanics Chapter form the FS3 Players Guide and chopped out everything that even remotely looked like it was HDi's IP. Then I cut away all the fat back down the bare bones and started to make revisions.

I'm not going to say that the FS3 VPS didn't do a good job, I think that it did, but it could be made to flow better with a few modifications. So why didn't I make these changes before? Simply put they would have deviated to far from the recognisable VPS system to reasonably be its successor. Now that I am no longer bound by those limitations I can really make the system work the way I always thought that it should.

What stays the same?

Attributes and skills are still rated from 1 through to 10, sometimes higher. Adding the two ranks together gives you a goal number. Once you have that you roll a d20, you want to roll high but not over the goal.

That all sounds very familiar.

As with the FS3 VPS, a roll of 1 is the possibility of a mishap, while rolling the goal number exactly is the opportunity for a critical.

So what have I changed?

In FS3 VPS you divided your score on your die by 2 to work out how many victory points you scored. I dumped that, whatever you roll on the die thats you degree of success, you roll a 12, your degree of success is therefor 12.

I also changed the way damage is calculated, by removing the weapons DMG value, all weapons are effectively same, and the skill of the user becomes paramount. I always thought it was funny that a broadsword did more damage than a dagger... both can kill you when used correctly. This also brings physical conflict in to line with social and mental conflicts, the effect is to harmonise the system. That said I recognise that weapons need to add something to the system and I'm considered a few ways that I might reintroduce some kind of effect to the type of weapon being used, more on that in a future post.

The way damage is taken has also been changed. Every character now has a standard set of Health Tracks with the same number of boxes on them. Instead of simply making off a number of boxes equal to damage, you reference damage against the characters thresholds to see what type of injury he has taken.

Physical Thresholds
 Blooded              Crippling                  Mortal
 Up to Vigor x2   up to Vigor x3           over Vigor x3
 OOOOO            OOOOO                  O

Blooded level injuries are basically ablative, they simply soak up small amounts of damage, but once all the boxes are filled any further blooded results move up to crippling injuries. Crippling injuries come with a -2 penalty to all further physical actions, so two crippling injuries give -4 etc. A mortal wound takes a character to deaths door and give a permanent wound effect.

Example: Cherish Valan has just been shot, suffering a 12 point injury. She has a Vigor of 5, so here thresholds are as follows: 1-10 Blooded, 11-15 Crippling, and 16+ Mortal. She suffers a Crippling Injury, crossing off a single box of crippling damage. Suffering a -2 penalty to all physical actions from this point on. 
In the following turn, she suffers a further two hits, 6 and 14 injury respectively. This causes her a level of Blooded and a second Crippling injury. She is now at -4 to all physical actions.

Of course armour and shields will have effects but I am yet to define how they will work with in Infinity Engine. Healing was also revised to work with the new way that damage and injuries work.
The health tracks for mental and social work in exactly the same way.

Still a lot more to be done before I can release a playtest document, bear with me.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Vampire City

This post might be a little off topic given that this is a blog about wargaming and miniatures. However, after a little encouragement from Sir Angry over at Frontline Gamer I have plunge and decided to diversify a little. For those of you who do not know me in real life, which I imagine is most of you. You will not be aware that my 'other' hobby is writing, and by writing I mean writing for role-playing games.

I have over the years been involved with a number of games companies, working on one role-playing game or another. I got my start many years ago when flatmate setup the Conspiracy X discussion group, we got quite a surprise when the guys at Eden Studios joined the group, and shortly after I became a playtester. Eventually I progressed from playtesting, to editing / proofreading, and eventually to writing, picking up my first "additional writing" credit on the "Hand Unseen" sourcebook. Since then I have been always been involved with one company or another.

Recently I got involved with Vagrant Workshop, and together with Jason Wallace set about developing the Vampire City rpg, based on the original Western City game produced by the same company. The "city games" as we call them depart from regular role-playing games in that they are designed to be Games Masterless. With the players working together to craft a story and achieve their character's goals. Unlike the original Western City, Vampire City is a less collaborative experience allowing characters to work against each other as well as together.

Unlike many role-playing games, the first thing that needs to be done in Vampire City is to layout the basic ground work of world, establishing what kinds of vampires exist and what powers they have available. This allows the players to taylor the game to the way they want it... what to play in a Blade-like environment, you can do that, want to emulate other games like Vampire: The Masquerade, you can do that too. Sorry, the only option I didn't include is "sparkly emo unicorn vampires", but if you wanted to do a twilight inspired game you could do that to with a minimum of fuss.

Any of that sound interesting? Here is the link to DTRPG if you want to pick up a copy... Vampire City