Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Tricube Tales: Merging concepts from Swift d12 to increase granularity

I recently had an interview on the Dieku Podcast, where I talked about my introduction to gaming, how I got into Savage Worlds and self-publishing, and about my Tricube Tales system. You can watch the interview here:

While talking about the origins of Tricube Tales, I also mentioned Swift d12, and this got me thinking about the two systems. Although I did run several successful playtests with Swift d12, I was never entirely happy with it -- but it does include a lot of options for character advancement, which is good for longer campaigns (one of the weaknesses of Tricube Tales). So this got me wondering if it might be viable to merge some of the concepts.

The first thing I did was look at the dice. Tricube Tales uses 1-3d6 vs a target number (TN) of 4/5/6, which is statistically identical to 1-3d12 vs TN 7/9/11:

Tricube Tales allows you to lower the difficulty by 1 using a perk, and by a further 1 when fighting lower-ranked foes using the Hack-and-Slash genre rules, but that means even in the most extreme case (using a perk against a lower-ranked foe) the difficulty is 2/3/4 for an easy, standard, or hard challenge respectively. Thus rolling 1 is still a failure, and easy/standard/hard challenges each have a different TN. You can't lower the difficulty by more than 2 without breaking the resolution mechanic.

But replacing the d6s with d12s gives you more wiggle room, allowing you to lower the difficulty by 5. This would allow the return of separate traits (something I had to drop from Tricube Tales), so instead of rolling an extra d12 for challenges related to your trait (agile/brawny/crafty) you'd have different ratings in each, and add your trait to the roll.

You could then increase the easy/standard/hard TNs from 7/9/11 to 8/10/12 and make "1" the baseline for each trait so that characters can be below average at some things (i.e., have a trait of 0). That would allow you to apply a modifier of up to +6 without breaking the resolution mechanic (i.e., if the TN is 8/10/12, then a bonus of +6 still allows failure on a natural 1).

I would give players 5 points to distribute among their traits (agile, brawny, and crafty), with each trait having a range of 0-3. Challenges would require rolling 2d12 and adding the appropriate trait against TN 8/10/12 for easy, standard, and hard difficulty respectively (as usual, the two dice would be compared separately, not added together). For challenges that fall entirely outside the scope of the character concept, the player would roll a single d12.

Perks could then work more like the Swift d12 feats, which provide a variety of predefined abilities and bonuses (rather than being freeform). Many of the feats are classified as "stackable", meaning they can be taken up to three times. So you might have an Alertness perk which gives a +1 bonus to perception, and you could take up it to three times -- you'd then add it to your crafty trait when making perception checks so (for example) a character with crafty 3 and alertness 3 would apply a +6 bonus to their roll, against a difficulty of 8 (easy), 10 (standard) or 12 (hard).


These changes would obviously add complexity. In particular, they would require the introduction of a long laundry list of perks, which is something I intentionally avoided in Tricube Tales (mostly because I didn't want people looking things up during play). But they would also add granularity and varied character options for long-term campaigns, and could be expanded with other Swift d12 features (such as the combat rules, allowing a similar style of tactical combat to Savage Worlds for those who want it).

Furthermore, it would be very easy to convert a Tricube Tales character across to these new hybrid rules, simply giving a character 3 points in their primary trait and 1 point in each of the others. Tricube Tales-style perks could still be used (they'd just give a +2 bonus, but wouldn't stack with fixed-bonus perks), and Swift d12 already has rules for karma and quirks (called "flaws", that's actually where I got the original idea for quirks in Tricube Tales).

I don't want to change Tricube Tales, but perhaps this would be a good direction to take Swift d12 when I finally get around to revisiting it -- have it work more like Tricube Tales, except with more granularity and character options.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Tricube Tales hits Gold Best Seller: Here's a look at the sales figures

Six months ago I reported that Tricube Tales had hit Electrum Best Seller, and two of the 12 micro-settings had hit Silver. But I've continued churning out more micro-settings, as well as solo rules, and this week Tricube Tales hit Gold Best Seller!

While this is a small achievement compared to many publishers, it's still a personal milestone. I already have Gold and Platinum products on the Savage Worlds Adventurer's Guild, but promoting my own system has proven far more challenging.

However, each new micro-setting draws interest in the rest of the product line, and the recent Deal of the Day proved shockingly successful, so I thought the sales figures might be of interest to other publishers.

Total Sales per Month

Here are the total sales for the entire product line since the first release:

  • Nov 2019: 54
  • Dec 2019: 11
  • Jan 2020: 3
  • Feb 2020: 12
  • Mar 2020: 20
  • Apr 2020: 6
  • May 2020: 6
  • Jun 2020: 2
  • Jul 2020: 3
  • Aug 2020: 14
  • Sep 2020: 7
  • Oct 2020: 28
  • Nov 2020: 13
  • Dec 2020: 19
  • Jan 2021: 12
  • Feb 2021: 6
  • Mar 2021: 50 (includes a DriveThruCards Deal of the Day)
  • Apr 2021: 58
  • May 2021: 256
  • Jun 2021: 110
  • Jul 2021: 80
  • Aug 2021: 238 (includes a DriveThruCards Deal of the Day)
  • Sep 2021: 79
  • Oct 2021: 256 (includes a DriveThruCards Deal of the Day)
  • Nov 2021: 1210 (670 during the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day!)
  • Dec 2021: 207 so far (as of 4th December)

Breakdown by Product

And here is a breakdown of sales figures for the main products:

  • Tricube Tales (core rules): 523 sales since 2019-11-08
  • Solo Rules & Deck: 482 sales since 2021-05-14

These are the "payment optional" products on DTRPG (in order of publication) -- people can download them for free, but I'm only tracking actual sales where people paid for them:

  • Goblin Gangsters: 191 sales since 2020-08-27
  • Samhain Slaughter: 219 sales since 2020-10-08
  • Chrome Shells & Neon Streets: 261 sales since 2020-11-21
  • Metahuman Uprising: 203 sales since 2020-12-28
  • Rotten Odds: 159 sales since 2021-01-31
  • Tales of the Goblin Horde: 172 sales since 2021-04-01
  • Wardens of the Weird West: 182 sales since 2021-06-12
  • Firefighters: 144 sales since 2021-07-06
  • Horrible Henchmen: 142 sales since 2021-08-13
  • Pirates of the Bone Blade: 145 sales since 2021-09-15
  • Eldritch Detectives: 157 sales since 2021-10-30
  • Wiseguys: Gangster Tales: 91 sales since 2021-11-20
  • Interstellar Mech War: 38 sales since 2021-11-30

These are the DTRPG freebies (in order of publication) -- I like to have a few free products to build up my mailing list:

  • Interstellar Bounty Hunters: 1728 downloads since 2020-09-29
  • Welcome to Drakonheim: 809 downloads since 2021-03-10
  • Interstellar Troopers: 1023 downloads since 2021-04-26
  • Interstellar Laser Knights: 1000 downloads since 2021-05-04

I also have a few freebies on Itch, which I entered into Jams. Here they are, once again in order of publication:

  • The Fools Who Follow: 511 downloads since 2020-07-29
  • Deep Trouble in Oldport Bay: 325 downloads since 2021-02-20
  • Halfling Hustlers: 116 downloads since 2021-07-03
  • Guardians of the Shadow Frontier: 251 downloads since 2021-07-31

The high download numbers for Interstellar Bounty Hunters are due to a Discord community that built up around it. But in general, I have far more downloads on DriveThruRPG than Itch.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Tricube Tales hits Electrum Best Seller

Earlier this month, Tricube Tales hit Electrum Best Seller on DriveThruRPG, and two of the micro-settings hit Silver, so I thought it would be a good time to take a look at what's new and what I've been up to.

Two More Interstellar Micro-Settings

Last month I released a bonus micro-setting called Interstellar Troopers, which drew its inspiration from various movies such as Aliens, Starship Troopers, and Pitch Black. But more importantly, I released it under the CC BY 3.0 license along with its Scribus template, allowing other publishers to use it for their own one-page RPGs.

On May 4th, I released this month's micro-setting, Interstellar Laser Knights, inspired by a certain space opera film franchise about psychic knights wielding laser swords in a distant galaxy. This was something I'd promised the members of the Bounty Hunters: Open Season discord server, as a thematic tie-in to my earlier Interstellar Bounty Hunters micro-setting.

Solo Rules

This month I also released the Tricube Tales Solo Rules, and they received a lot more attention than I'd expected, including coverage in this very informative video about simplicity and complexity in solo RPGs by Talking About Games:

I strongly recommend checking out Abraham's other videos too if you're curious about solo gaming, particularly his advice playlist, which is packed with great tips and suggestions.

The Solo_Roleplaying reddit and associated wiki are also an excellent source of information, and they have a Discord server (Lone Wolf Roleplaying) as well.

As my solo rules explicitly reference the Tricube Tales mechanics, I decided it was finally time to update The Fools Who Follow. As my first one-page RPG, it used a simplified version of the Tricube Tales rules (without traits, perks, or quirks), so I've updated it to be consistent with the other micro-settings and make it fully compatible with the solo rules. I've left the original version up as well though, in case anyone prefers it.

Media Coverage

Quirin on PnPnews wrote an article here (in German) about some of my products a while ago, which included a section on Tricube Tales. Andrew Girdwood has also written articles on Geek Native (here, here, here, and here) about some of the micro-settings, and I recently did a Tricube Tales interview for Parallel Worlds Issue 19.

This week, Tricube Tales received a much more detailed review here (in German) by Benjamin Dose on Teilzeithelden, which referenced a summary of the system from here (also in German) by Florian of jasminé

Six months ago I talked about my plans for going forward, and about my hope that regular micro-setting releases would help draw more attention to the Tricube Tales system. It's slow going, but the strategy does seem to be paying off.

Metahuman Uprising Actual Play

TurnTablesRPG recently hosted a hilarious actual play of Metahuman Uprising, with some truly inspired characters. You can watch it here on twitch:

Character Cards

Tales of the Goblin Horde included form-fillable character cards, and Steve W asked in the Tricube Tales discussion section if I could add some for other genres. So I've added 45 form-fillable character cards as a bonus download to the Tricube Tales product (15 for fantasy, 15 for horror, and 15 for science fiction). I've also included the Scribus template, in case anyone wishes to create their own cards.

What's Next?

Tricube Tales now has a dozen micro-settings, but I'm still coming up with ideas faster than I can implement them! I'm planning to release Wardens of the Weird West next month, and I'd also like to expand the solo rules (the current ones only really cover urban settings).

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Tales of the Goblin Horde & The Goblin Warrens

Last month's Tricube Tales micro-setting was an introductory scenario for the Drakonheim setting, so this month I thought it would be fun to base one on my own Saga of the Goblin Horde setting: Tales of the Goblin Horde!

“For time immemorial, goblins have been mercilessly hunted down and murdered by the so-called “civilized” humans, slaughtered in droves for the entertainment of bloodthirsty adventurers. But everyone has their limits, even the underdogs.

The pathetic goblins who eke out a living near the human lands are weak and timid, the aggression bred out of them through generations of culling, with only the most cowardly among them managing to survive. But the goblins of the western tribes are another matter entirely, as the rapidly encroaching scourge of human civilization is about to discover.

You are ferocious goblin bosses from the Redfang tribe, leading your gangs on a series of dangerous missions against the humans and other enemies. Chief Bignose is confident you won’t let him down!”

I published Saga of the Goblin Horde for Savage Worlds back in 2017, and I even won a Silver ENnie Award for it, but I've also used the setting for several other projects. It was the basis for a 200-word RPG called The Goblin Warrens, as well as Hightree Warren for Gold & Glory, and the Wiseguys crossover The Gobfather (which was in turn referenced by Goblin Gangsters). And of course, the work-in-progress Swift d12 Quick Start uses Saga of the Goblin Horde, as will the full setting book once I've finished it.

I've previously discussed converting Saga of the Goblin Horde to Tricube Tales, but now that I'm releasing a new micro-setting every month, I decided I should do the job properly! Unlike the other Tricube Tales micro-settings, this one actually adds some new mechanics (via gang tokens), and includes additional guidelines for turning the one-page RPG into a full campaign.

Another Jam...

Earlier this month, I also decided to update, reformat, and republish The Goblin Warrens for the Pleasure-not-Business Card RPG Jam, which was an interesting challenge! Business cards seem to be a pretty good size for 200-word RPGs.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Tricube Tales: Welcome to Drakonheim

The Tricube Tales One-Page RPG for March has now been released: Welcome to Drakonheim!

“Long ago, during the days of the Cevali Empire, a mighty hero slew a powerful dragon and used her bones as the foundations of Drakonheim—the “City of Bones.” After the empire’s gradual decline and eventual collapse, Drakonheim became an independent city, an oasis in the wild lands.

Several months ago the city was attacked by a hobgoblin army. Defeat seemed inevitable, until a cabal of necromancers raised an undead horde and turned the tide of battle. Although the threat was defeated, skeletal soldiers still patrol the streets; the City of Bones has earned its nickname once again.

You are a party of adventurers, visiting Drakonheim in search of fame and riches. Maybe you’ve heard of the Gray Society—the necromancers who saved the city—and wish to meet them, or even join their order. Or perhaps you view them as a dark influence that needs to be stopped.”

I've blogged about Drakonheim quite a bit in the past, but to briefly summarize: I backed the Kickstarter for a system-agnostic setting called Drakonheim: City of Bones several years ago, and I liked it so much that I contacted the publisher and offered to write the Drakonheim Savage Companion for it, as well as convert the Heroes of Drakonheim adventures to Savage Worlds.

Now that I'm releasing monthly micro-settings for Tricube Tales spanning a range of different genres, I thought it would be fun to revisit Drakonheim, so (after asking Matthew J. Hanson of Sneak Attack Press for permission) I've gone ahead and designed a Tricube Tales micro-setting that also serves as an introductory scenario to the full setting.

You can run Welcome to Drakonheim on its own, which is ideal for a one-shot, or combine it with the Drakonheim: City of Bones and Tricube Tales books for a full campaign (perhaps using the Hack and Slash genre rule to give PCs ranks).

Monday, 22 February 2021

Tricube Tales: My plans for 2021

Three months ago I discussed my future plans for Tricube Tales, and I mentioned that I'd like to repeat the strategy I used for Saga of the Goblin Horde, where I released a new character archetype every month. I decided to stick to that plan and publish a new micro-setting every month for 2021, and I've already released three more since that post, bringing the total number up to eight!

Here is an overview of the three new micro-settings:

Metahuman Uprising: Inspired by my recent binge-watching of Disney+ Marvel films and shows, and The Girl in the Box book series by Robert J. Crane. I wanted to show how Tricube Tales can be used to run a very rules-lite superhero game with a variety of different characters and superpowers. I also decided to make the Twist Table superpower-themed, so it could be used to help players choose their powers.

Rotten Odds: After writing Metahuman Uprising, I wanted my next micro-setting to focus on ordinary humans. I'd fancied creating a zombie apocalypse setting for a while, ever since running War of the Dead for Savage Worlds -- and while I did publish Blood & Bile a few years ago, that was more focused on the vampire vs zombie conflict. I'm also a fan of the Deathless novels by Chris Fox, particularly the way the zombies evolved in his book No Mere Zombie, and wanted to explore the idea of zombies mutating into increasingly dangerous forms.

Deep Trouble in Oldport Bay: Martian Muckraker launched the Cosmic Horror Tabletop RPG Jam on February 15th, and I decided to submit a suitable micro-setting. I initially considered creating something inspired by the short film The Fisherman, but later decided to make something conceptually more like the TV adaption of Sweet Home, except with Deep Ones (and hybrids undergoing their transformation) instead of desire monsters. I wanted to add something else though, so I decided to include a mysterious black obelisk in the bay, partially inspired by a video game called The Shore.

Future Micro-Settings

I'm still thinking about which micro-settings I'd like to release this year, but I've already started working on five of them.

Wardens of the Weird West: I looked to my Countdown Decks for inspiration, and decided I should definitely cover the Wild West. But then I thought back to when Owen Lean ran his Deadlands adventure The Taxidermist's Tail at Savage Con, and how much more fun I found the Wild West when there are supernatural elements as well. So I've decided to create a Weird West micro-setting about monster hunters.

Welcome to Drakonheim: One of my favorite settings is the system-agnostic Drakonheim: City of Bones. I liked it so much I wrote the Drakonheim Savage Companion for it, converted Heroes of Drakonheim to Savage Worlds, and even released a couple of One Sheets. So when I started thinking of fantasy micro-settings for Tricube Tales, it shouldn't come as much surprise that Drakonheim was the first setting to spring to mind -- yes, Drakonheim is a full setting in its own right, but a micro-setting would be ideal for someone who wants to run a quick introductory one-shot game. If they like it and want to turn it into a longer campaign, they can buy the full setting book. Note: I've already asked Matthew Hanson of Sneak Attack Press, and he's granted permission.

Firefighters: All of the previous micro-settings involve combat, but Tricube Tales is designed to work for non-combat games as well. One of the example scenarios at the back of the main book concerns a crew of firefighters, so I thought it would be fun to expand that idea. This micro-setting will involve fighting fires, rescuing people (and pets), and dealing with various other hazards. But there will be no combat or monsters.

Isle of Skulls: I knew I wanted a micro-setting with dinosaurs, but I couldn't make up my mind up about the specific theme. I had pondered something with time portals like Primeval, or maybe something more like Journey to the Center of the Earth, or perhaps even a cross between Jurassic Park and Lost. But after watching the movie Skull Island, I think I've finally made up my mind what style of setting it'll be!

Interstellar Laser Knights: Last year I released the Mandalorian-inspired Interstellar Bounty Hunters, and it proved pretty popular -- some fans even created a Discord roleplaying server and use Interstellar Bounty Hunters for their games! So I'd like to create another micro-setting along similar lines, this time for Jedi Knights (although once again with the serial numbers thoroughly filed off, so they're not really Jedi, just something that could easily be used for that style of gameplay). Naturally, I plan to release this micro-setting on May 4th :)

What about the rest?

I still have a long list of ideas for potential micro-settings, but I'm always open to suggestions. I may try another humorous one as well, as those seem to be quite popular for one-page RPGs (I've already made some notes for "A Welsh Werewolf in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch", but I'm not sure if I can make the concept work).

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Tricube Tales: Micro-settings as standalone one-page RPGs

Generic roleplaying systems can easily end up feeling bland, and I think it's very important to offer some example settings. Tricube Tales does have a few simple scenarios at the back (tied in with the vehicle rules), but I don't think that's anywhere near sufficient to really capture the feel of a setting -- compare it with Savage Worlds, for example, which has an extensive library of setting books. Or look at some of the TinyD6 games like Tiny Dungeon or Tiny Frontiers, which fill half the book with micro-settings.

However, it takes a long time to write a full setting, even smaller settings can take a while, and it's simply too much work for me to handle on my own. This was part of the reason why I released the Tricube Tales system under a Creative Commons license, as I hoped other publishers might take an interest (and I was very excited to see Nathan Carmen use it for Heroes of the Cosmos). But I'd still like to offer something in the way of official setting support.

One-Page RPGs

The One-Page RPG Jam 2020 motivated me to try my hand at writing a one-page RPG, and I decided to use the Tricube Tales mechanics for my game -- I figured that would provide a good cross-promotional opportunity, plus I wanted to see if I could compress the Tricube Tales rules down small enough to use for a one-page RPG. I'd also been wanting to establish a presence on for a while, and this seemed the perfect opportunity. Plus it allowed me to experiment with new layouts and color-schemes, which was fun!

The Fools Who Follow didn't attract much interest, I think it was simply buried in the huge pile of Jam entries, although I was also new to and didn't have an established customer base there. But I really liked the one-page format, so I decided to try another -- Goblin Gangsters, a prequel to The Gobfather. This received much more attention, along with some good feedback. Someone said they'd had difficulty coming up with ideas for the adventure generator, so after some further consideration, I added an optional second page with examples (technically this turned it into a two-page RPG, but as you only need the first page to play, and "two-page RPGs" aren't really a thing, I still refer to it as a one-page RPG). This proved popular, not only did it provide the reader with some good examples for the adventure generator, but it also added flavor to the scenario and helped flesh it out with some interesting people, places, and events.

After watching the trailer for season 2 of the Mandalorian, I decided to create Interstellar Bounty Hunters as my third micro-setting. I thought it would make a great thematic fit with my Galactic Countdown Deck as well, but I didn't want to add card-based mechanics to the rules, so after some deliberation, I added an oracle table to the second page (with similar symbols to those used on my Countdown Decks).

Not long after, DriveThruRPG put a call out for entries in their yearly Trick-or-Treat promotion, looking for Halloween-themed products ideally 1-3 pages in length. I figured this would be a great way to promote my products and draw more attention to my work, so I created my fourth micro-setting, Samhain Slaughter. Although it wasn't chosen for the Trick-or-Treat promotion, it received positive feedback, and helped cement the style I want to use going forward.

After that, I went back to Goblin Gangsters and added an oracle table to its second page, then added a second page to The Fools Who Follow, giving all four micro-settings a consistent style. The first page is split into four main sections -- an introduction to the scenario, character creation, game rules (covering challenges, karma, and resolve), and gameplay (an adventure generator, and guidelines for running and playing the game). The second page contains examples for the adventure generator table entries, and an oracle table for adding twists to the story.

When Manuel Sambs released his fantastic Sprawlrunners toolkit for Savage Worlds, he also inspired me to create Chrome Shells & Neon Streets as my fifth micro-setting, this time tackling the cyberpunk genre.

Why use Tricube Tales?

The one-page RPGs are designed to be standalone games, but they also double up as micro-settings for Tricube Tales, and I've noticed a bump in sales for the core rules each time I release another one-pager. However, I think the system itself also works very well in the smaller format. The mechanics are a little more complex than many one-page RPGs, but they hit the sweet spot for me.

Players roll 1-3 dice based on their character, against a target number of 4-6 based on the situation, so there are two sliders for controlling the difficulty (one at the player end, the other at the GM end). Then there are perks and quirks, which give the player a way to influence the rolls -- this is something I consider important in a system, because it adds a little tactical depth, giving the players some degree of control over the rolls depending on how important they consider the situation, rather than leaving the outcome completely to chance.

There's a lot of different setting ideas I'd like to try at some point, and absolutely no way I would ever have enough time to create even a fraction of them as full settings. But these one-pagers are relatively quick to create.

Going Forward

When I started working on Saga of the Goblin Horde, I released a new character archetype every month, as well as various One Sheet adventures, and I think this really helped keep the spotlight on the setting. I feel the same approach could work for Tricube Tales micro-settings, and I've already got several ideas I'd like to explore! Because they're pretty fast to write, I also have a lot more freedom to experiment with weird niche settings -- and also explore outside of my comfort zone, without worrying about getting burned out before I finish.

I think the oracle table could also provide a valuable tool for solo play, and this is something I'd like to look at in more depth in the future. My earlier Blood & Bile game was explicitly designed with GMless play in mind, and I think Tricube Tales would also make a good fit for solo gaming, so a solo one-page RPG using Tricube Tales is definitely something I feel is worth exploring.