Thursday, 16 February 2017

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Troblin Rat Handler

I released the first four archetypes for Saga of the Goblin Horde back in March last year, and promised I would release another archetype every month until I'd finished them all. That time has finally arrived.

I've previously covered the five races (bugbear, goblin, gremlin, half-human and hobgoblin) and four of the goblin mutant subraces (amphiblin, barghest, canitaur and psioblin), but now its time to look at the fifth and final mutant subrace, the troblin.

So allow me to present the fifteenth archetype: the troblin rat handler!

As always, the Savage Worlds version of the archetypes is available here, and the SWIFT-d12 version here.

The six Savage Worlds One Sheet adventures are available here, here, here, here, here and here. I've only converted one of the adventures to SWIFT-d12 so far, but it's available here.

The Next Step

I released the first adventure for Saga of the Goblin Horde back in December 2015, so the fifteenth archetype also marks the fifteenth month I've been working on the setting. Of course I also worked on a lot of other projects in parallel, including freelancing for several licensees and polishing up several of my older fan supplements to practice my presentation and layout skills.

But fifteen months is still a long time, so I'm now planning to focus my efforts on bringing the project to completion. I may still release another goblin One Sheet or two, and will also need to finalize the Campaign Deck at some point, but I don't plan to work on any unrelated side projects until Saga of the Goblin Horde is finished.

Wild Die Podcast

This coming Sunday I will be on the Wild Die Podcast, talking about my work. If you're interested in Saga of the Goblin Horde, you should definitely check out the podcast, as I'll be making some announcements, and discussing things that aren't yet public. You can also email the Wild Die guys (thewilddie at gmail.com) if there are any specific questions you'd like to ask me.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Evolution of a Setting

Six months ago I gave an overview of my progress on the Saga of the Goblin Horde setting. A lot has happened over the last six months, and the project had to be delayed while I worked on a side project, but the setting is progressing well and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what has changed and what still needs to be done.

Although the overall structure of the book is much the same (and still divided into nine chapters), I found that I needed to revisit and overhaul sections that I'd previously considered complete, because the setting concept had evolved as I incorporated new ideas and expanded or reconsidered old ones.

1. Introduction

The original goal for the introduction chapter was 1500-4000 words. Six months ago I considered this section complete at 1619 words (3 pages), but I've since expanded it to 2726 words (6 pages). It's still quite short, but I feel it now gives a much better overview of the setting, and it includes artwork for each of the different major factions. The result is a chapter that feels more polished and fleshed-out, without getting waffly.

2. Character Creation

The original goal was 4000-6000 words, with 5-15 archetypes, several races, 5-10 Hindrances, 20-30 Edges, and a list of available Arcane Backgrounds. Six months ago I considered this section complete at 5468 words (10 pages), with 13 archetypes, 5 races, 10 Hindrances, and 27 Edges.

However I came up with many new ideas while working on the setting, and I no longer feel the need to constrain myself quite so much to the original guidelines - game mechanics are my strong suit, so I might as well play to my strengths. This section has been expanded to 7275 words (13 pages), with 15 archetypes, 5 races, 20 Hindrances and 41 Edges.

I also stripped out the references to the Fantasy Companion, as I felt I could no longer justify the added entry barrier.

3. Equipment

The original goal was 1000-4000 words, and six months ago I had 1607 words (2 pages), but the chapter was still incomplete. This section has since been been increased to 1978 words (5 pages), and includes the equipment table, as well as a lot more artwork.

I decided to drop the knick-knack table though, as I'd like to include it in the Campaign Deck.

4. Setting Rules

The original goal was 1000-4000 words, and six months ago I had 480 words (1 page). I've now expanded this section to 1066 words (2 pages), adding two new setting rules that I feel are needed.

5. Gods and Magic

My original expectation was 1000-1500 words (3 pages), however I eventually settled on 856 words (2 pages), as I decided not to bother adding any new powers or Arcane Backgrounds. Instead, this section just gives a short overview of the goblin deities, and lists which powers are available to their priests.

6. Gazetteer

Six months ago I had reached 1350 words (3 pages) and was aiming for 2000-2500 words (5 pages). The final gazetteer is 2157 words (7 pages) including the map, and contains a lot of artwork. It provides a brief overview of each of the locations on the map, and I'm pleased with the way it turned out.

7. Game Master's Secrets

This was previously 1076 words (2 pages), but has now been expanded to 1441 words, and is still under work. The setting has gained a lot more depth over the last six months, and this chapter has been expanded accordingly, although I've tried to keep the information short and concise. I imagine it'll probably end up at around 4 pages.

8. Adventures

Originally I had a very brief outline of the Plot Point Campaign and an adventure generator, and expected the final chapter to be around 30-50 pages (including Savage Tales). But I changed my plans rather dramatically. There is now a 306 word introduction and overview of the campaign, followed by a 613 Plot Point Summary that describes each of the 10 Plot Point Episodes, along with full write-ups for the first two adventures (1926 words total, although they still require polishing).

I still need to describe how to use the War Clock (the mechanism that drives the Plot Point Campaign in Saga of the Goblin Horde), and do full write-ups for the remaining eight Plot Point Episodes, but I'm no longer planning to include any Savage Tales.

The adventure generator has also been dropped, as I plan to move it into the Campaign Deck, however I may still include a few cards in the setting book as a sort of mini adventure generator to help promote the deck.

9. Bestiary

The original goal was 5000-10000 words. Six months ago I had 697 words (2 pages), and expected to expand the chapter to at least 10 pages, but potentially 15 or 20 pages.

However I've come up with a lot more monster ideas over the last six months, and also wanted to provide more details about the other goblin tribes. The bestiary is now 10206 words (25 pages), and there are 7 more pages currently planned. Many of the bestiary entry descriptions can also be used as seeds for adventure ideas.

Summary

I originally expected the final book to be around 70-100 pages, with most of the remaining effort going into the adventures. The book is now 73 pages, and I expect the final book to be around 95-100 pages. However the adventures section will be much shorter than originally planned, while many of the other sections have been expanded, particularly the bestiary.

It's definitely been a learning experience, and creating an entire setting has proved to be very different to creating a splat - there's a lot more to consider, particularly when the setting isn't fully fleshed-out in advance. But it's also a very rewarding experience when you see all the pieces starting to come together.

Friday, 27 January 2017

SWIFT-d12 and Saga of the Goblin Horde

I'm currently splitting my time between two projects (the Saga of the Goblin Horde setting, and the SWIFT-d12 system), with the eventual goal of merging the two together into a single book. Recently I've been focusing on the setting, as it's gradually getting close to completion, but I hope to get back to SWIFT-d12 again soon, and plan to do some more playtesting next month.

Saga of the Goblin Horde was originally written for Savage Worlds, and I do still intend to release a Savage Worlds version under the fan license. However I'd rather not work on two versions of the book at the same time, so I plan to complete the Savage Worlds version first, and then convert it to SWIFT-d12.

Book Structure

Anyone who's looked at the SWIFT-d12 document may have noticed that it's divided into three main sections: Character Creation, Game Rules, and Magic. That might seem a bit arbitrary, but there's actually a method in my madness.

The Saga of the Goblin Horde setting book is divided into nine chapters: Introduction, Characters, Equipment, Setting Rules, Gods and Magic, Gazetteer, Game Master's Secrets, Adventures, and Bestiary. The Introduction, Gazetteer and Game Master's Secrets don't contain any mechanics, so they won't need to be changed for SWIFT-d12. The Equipment Table will need to be converted, but the rest of that chapter is mostly descriptive, and can be left as it is. The Adventures and Bestiary will also need conversion, but I've tested the waters with Bone of Contention and the Archetypes, and I think the process will be fairly straightforward.

The biggest challenge will be the Characters, Gods and Magic, and Setting Rules chapters - and that's where the aforementioned SWIFT-d12 sections come in. Those three sections will be turned into replacement chapters, after merging in any flavor text.

So in summary, three chapters will be identical, three will be converted, and three will be replaced. But the overall structure of the two Saga of the Goblin Horde books will be the same, and that will hopefully help to keep the workload fairly manageable.

Player's Guide

One advantage of the way the book is structured is that the first six chapters are intended for players, and the last three chapters are for the GM, so creating a player's guide would be a simple matter of chopping off the first six chapters and releasing them as a separate PDF.

I created a couple of polls (one on G+ and the other on FB) and it seems there is a general preference for offering a smaller player's guide with the GM content removed, so that's the approach I'm thinking of taking. This would also allow me to release the player's guide much earlier (as those chapters are pretty much complete), giving me the chance to incorporate feedback prior to releasing the full setting.

Next Steps

The first release will be the Savage Worlds version of the player's guide. After that I'll work on finishing the main setting book for Savage Worlds. If I've managed to get SWIFT-d12 into good shape by that point, I will convert it and release both versions of the setting at the same time, otherwise the SWIFT-d12 version will come out a little later.

The Campaign Deck will also be released at around the same time as the setting books, but after that I'll have a bit more breathing space, and I can decide where to go next. I have plans for more adventures for Saga of the Goblin Horde, a generic version of SWIFT-d12, new settings for SWIFT-d12, and so on. But I'd rather not make any firm plans until I see how things work out with the main setting.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Bestiary on a Budget

Most setting books include a bestiary of new monsters for the heroes to fight, and while it's certainly nice to have a written description of each creature along with a little background information, this is one area where I personally like to see some artwork as well. An illustration can really help me visualize what the creatures look like, and gives me something to show to the players (or even turn into trifolds).

But it can often be difficult to find stock art that matches your monsters, and commissioning lots of custom illustrations can end up becoming prohibitively expensive.

That's why I like to cheat.

Monstrous Inspiration

Game designers draw their inspiration from many different places, and it's not unusual to take ideas from mythology or fiction and give them your own spin. But when I created Saga of the Goblin Horde, I decided to use a slightly less orthodox source of inspiration; I browsed the stock art on DriveThruRPG.

So instead of creating a selection of monsters and then trying to find suitable artwork for them, I bought the artwork first, visualized what each creature might be like in my setting, and then wrote descriptions and stats for them.

Page Layout

I decided to give each monster entry a full page or half a page (depending on its importance), and each entry also has its own illustration. The only exception is the "adventurers" entry, which has two pages, as it includes stats for ten different adventurer archetypes that the goblins might encounter.

Breaking the bestiary up in this way makes it much easier to do the layout (particularly if I later realize I've forgotten a monster, and need to insert it in the right place). I also find it's much easier to navigate, as the monster names are always listed at the top of each page, so you don't need to scan through the contents of the page when looking for a specific entry.

Expanded Lore

As with the rest of the book, one of the goals of the bestiary was to provide useful information in a concise manner. I found that after adding the illustration and stat block, there was still enough space for one or two paragraphs about each creature, and that allowed me to include various rumors and revelations that the Game Master can use as adventure seeds.

I think this ties in nicely with the "low prep" style of Savage Worlds, as a GM could easily flick through the bestiary until a particular illustration catches their eye, then improvise a gaming session based on that monster, using the text as inspiration for the adventure.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Blackwood: An upcoming setting for Savage Worlds

Eli Kurtz of The Mythic Gazetteer has been discussing his Blackwood setting for a while, and has also posted many of his playtest sessions on YouTube. But now he's released a free One Sheet adventure and a set of archetypes, which means other GMs can start getting in on the action as well!

Get the One Sheet here: The Seven Quillcrows.

And the archetypes here: Blackwood Archetypes.

You can also read more about it on their blog.

I've already had the chance to take an early look through the setting book (I even contributed some additional Edges and Hindrances to the document), and it's got a lot of great content.

If the Brothers Grimm had written a Savage Worlds fantasy setting instead of a series of fairy tales, I imagine it would have looked a bit like Blackwood. In fact, many of the adventures seem to draw direct inspiration from folk tales, although they tend to be inspired more by the original (darker) stories than the modern versions, and they're all linked together into a single cohesive world. It's cleverly done, and the setting is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Check out the free stuff, I'm pretty sure there will be more to come!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Bone of Contention: SWIFT-d12 One Shot

Now that other people are looking at the SWIFT-d12 draft document (and in at least a couple of cases, doing some playtesting), I've decided to start releasing a few adventures for it.

Last month I ran the first playtest of SWIFT-d12 using Sanguine Solstice, which was actually the first One Sheet I wrote for Saga of the Goblin Horde. However it's also a Christmas themed adventure, and I thought it might be better to release something less seasonal (particularly as it's now January).

Back in February last year I released Bone of Contention, the second One Sheet adventure for Saga of the Goblin Horde, and it's still one of my favourites - so I've decided to re-release it for SWIFT-d12.

You can get it here: Bone of Contention.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

SWIFT-d12: Magic System

Publisher's Choice Quality
Stock Art © Rick Hershey
/ Fat Goblin Games
There were some recent questions in the SWIFT-d12 community about magic, so I've decided the magic system would make a good subject for a blog post.

The three class Feats are Savant, Scrapper and Sorcerer, and the latter boosts the Magic secondary ability. Each ability has four skills, and Magic is no exception; the four Magic skills (referred to as "disciplines") are: Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment and Invocation.

Sorcerer Capabilities

Each sorcerer typically has one of the eight spheres (Flame, Wind, Mind, etc) which determines the flavor of their magic, and also provides some additional effects and options. Some sorcerers might have a second sphere, but this will require a special Feat.

Each sorcerer knows two techniques for each point of Magic they have, and one technique for each point in Magic skills. For example a sorcerer with Magic +1 and Invocation +1 would have 3 techniques. These techniques represent the different ways in which each discipline can be used.

Disciplines and Techniques

The disciplines are designed to cover most types of spell, and provide a fair amount of flexibility in terms of what the sorcerer can achieve.

Conjuration allows the sorcerer to create something from nothing. The techniques are Summoning (create creatures), Fabrication (create objects), Warding (create tangible barriers) and Glamor (create intangible effects such as light or darkness).

Divination allows the sorcerer to discover information. The techniques are Scrying (project your senses), Insight (learn secrets), Augury (predict the future) and Dowsing (detection).

Enchantment allows the sorcerer to place spell effects upon existing things. The techniques are Blessing (a positive effect), Compulsion (control something), Curse (a negative effect) and Transmutation (shapechanging).

Invocation allows the sorcerer to simulate non-magical actions without the need for tools, and also covers metamagic. The techniques are Destruction (offensive spells that simulate a Combat skill), Prestidigitation (utility spells that simulate a primary skill or simple action), Counterspell (resisting other spells) and Dispel (undo other spells).

For example, summoning an elemental would require Conjuration/Summoning, while animating a corpse would use Enchantment/Control, mind reading would use Divination/Insight, and so on. Prestidigitation is particularly versatile as it covers almost any action you could normally perform with a primary skill, and removes the need for (generic) tools: you could climb the side of a house if you had a ladder, therefore you can use Prestidigitation to teleport onto the roof; you could open a door if you had some lockpicks (the spell can't simulate something as specific as the right key), therefore you can use Prestidigitation to magically unlock it; you could push someone with a Shove stunt, therefore you can knock them back with Prestidigitation. In short, it's just like performing the normal action, except you do it with magic and add a cool spell description. Of course the character won't be able to achieve the same sort of bonuses as a non-spellcaster specialist, but they'll have a pretty diverse range of capabilities.

Spell Principles

A "spell" is based on a specific sphere, discipline and technique, but also includes four principles, each of which has four possible values:

Area represents how large an area the spell effects, and must be one of Point, Small Area, Medium Area or Large Area. There are also three types of area shape: Beam, Cone and Sphere.

Duration represents how long the spell lasts, and must be one of Instant (lasts until the end of your turn), Seconds (lasts until the end of the round), Minutes (lasts for the remainder of the combat) or Hours (lasts for the rest of day). The duration is intentionally abstract, to avoid bookkeeping.

Range represents how far the spell extends, and must be one of Touch, Short Range, Medium Range or Long Range.

Target represents how many targets the spell affects, and must be one of Single, Double, Triple or Quadruple. Note that a spell which targets more than one individual cannot also cover an area, unless that ability is granted by a specific Feat.

The principles also determine the mana cost, for example a fireball that fills a Small Sphere (+1) and has Medium Range (+2) would cost 3 mana.

Magic Feats

Not all types of spell are covered by this system, but it covers most things, and other options (such as healing) can be accessed by taking special Magic Feats. Similarly, some Feats can expand the functionality of certain techniques - for example the Illusionist Feat allows the sorcerer to create detailed illusions using Conjuration/Glamor.

The Magic Feat list will eventually be expanded so that each sphere has a few specialties of its own.

Mana

The Sorcerer Feat grants 10 mana each time it's taken, and mana can be recovered with a successful Concentration check as a normal action, so while sorcerers can run low on mana, they never really run out completely. A particularly effective strategy for spellcasters is to declare a spell as their primary action and a Concentration check as their secondary action, allowing them to refuel while casting.

It's worth noting however that you cannot recover mana from an active spell, so if you cast a buff on someone the mana is committed until the spell expires or you choose to terminate it. Furthermore, if the spell has a duration in Hours, you must wait a few minutes after it ends before you can recover the mana, so buffing up before combat will leave you with less mana to use during the fight.