Wednesday, 21 December 2016

SWIFT-d12: First Goblin Playtest

Yesterday I had the opportunity to run my first playtest for SWIFT-d12, using an early draft of the rules along with the newly converted archetypes for Saga of the Goblin Horde. I ran it for the same group I usually play Sundered Skies with (giving our regular GM the chance to play for a change!), so there were five players in total.

Manuel and Heike resumed their usual roles as Maeson Crispyface the goblin pyromancer and Izzy Toecutter the goblin scout, while Daniel played Skally Finback the river goblin, Babsi played Krusty Snaggletooth the gremlin saboteur, and Claudia played Amalia Bloodylocks the goblin princess.

As it's nearly Christmas I decided to run Sanguine Solstace (with Sleigh Heist on standby, should we finished early). We started at 7pm, but probably spent at least half an hour talking about the setting and the new system, and finished at around 11pm, so it was fairly comparable with the typical 3-hour adventures I ran using Savage Worlds.

As with all of my SotGH One Sheets, Sanguine Solstace is split into five scenes.

Fireside Tales

This scene normally uses the Savage Worlds Interlude rules. I don't have Interlude rules in SWIFT-d12, but it was easy enough to ask the players to spin a short tale in return for a Karma Point. The SW goblin archetypes have a background suggestion for each of the four Interlude categories (Tragedy, Victory, Love and Desire).

The SWIFT-d12 archetypes don't have the category names, but they still include four background suggestions each, so the only real difference was that the players didn't need to draw and consult a card - they just chose (or made up) any story they liked. So overall I'd say this scene worked just as well with SWIFT-d12 as it does in SW.

Home Invasion

This scene is normally handled as a Stealth-based Dramatic Task. Although SWIFT-d12 does have extended ability checks which can work in a similar way, I wanted to make this scene a bit more interesting, so I prepared ten cards before the adventure. Each card described a particular foe who might raise the alarm (guards at the gate, a couple of young lovers on a rooftop, an old drunk staggering through the village, etc) along with two different sets of mechanics for dealing with them.

The goblin bosses first scouted out the dangers, with each player making a Perception check. On a success they drew one card, while on a double success they drew two cards. I asked the players to describe to each other in-character what they'd found, then afterwards they could discuss the cards out-of-character, and exchange cards if they wished. The goblin princess ended up with two cards, while the other characters had one card each.

The players then took turns going through their cards, choosing which of the two mechanics they wished to use to resolve the card, describing their actions, and making their ability checks. Everyone (except the goblin princess, who already had two cards) then had to draw a second card, representing a danger they'd failed to spot earlier; their ability checks for these cards were made at -2.

Fortunately the characters were able to overcome all of the dangers without anyone raising the alarm, and everyone really got into the spirit of the setting, with some hilarious over-the-top antics. The river goblin terrorized the docks, the goblin princess rolled the lovers off the roof, the goblin scout leapt from the watchtower onto the heads of two guards, and so on.

The card-based mechanic took a lot longer than a Dramatic Task (or extended ability check), but I think it was worth it.

Wrecking Crew

This scene allows each player to choose one of eight different options, sabotaging the village before the humans realize what's going on, and I actually ran it in pretty much the same way as the original One Sheet. Maeson set the tavern on fire killing everyone inside, Izzy found a sniping spot and lay in wait, Skally trashed the boats at the dock, Krusty knocked out the lanterns illuminating the village square, and Amalia tossed the heavy bar off the gate and kicked it wide open so that the goblin gang members could enter the village and join the fight.

Yuletide Massacre

The main combat encounter involved 5 PC goblin bosses and their 20 allied gang members facing off against 6 guards and 20 villagers. The new initiative system worked okay, but could probably use some tweaking. The combat itself was just as fast as Savage Worlds, and I was rather pleased with the wound system - the enemy Champion (comparable with a Wild Card) took quite a beating, but the lack of Soak rolls made it feel as if every blow mattered (as opposed to a lucky Soak roll undoing a player's action for the turn). The goblin princess also took a nasty blow, the sort of lucky damage roll that would usually put a SW character out of the fight, but it proved far less crippling in SWIFT-d12.

Maeson also made use of the magic system, tearing up the enemies with blasts of fire. Although the magic system is semi-freeform, it still proved very quick and easy to use. I can see some potential for abuse though, and will probably tweak it a bit - I've already started bouncing ideas off Manual.

Mopping Up

The final scene used my new chase rules, and although it wasn't a disaster, it didn't work as well as I'd hoped. I think this was mainly due to two factors. Firstly, the chase system had been designed with one fleeing character in mind, while in this case there were several fleeing villagers. Secondly, the villagers were Mooks (similar to Extras in SW), and simply weren't competent enough to have any reasonable chance of escaping the PCs.

Summary

For a first test-run I think it went well, and everyone seemed to have fun. The players got to grips with the mechanics quite quickly, and although we forgot things a few times, I'm sure we'll get better with practice. Hopefully everyone will be up for another playtest in the future!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Goblin Priestess

We're over half way through December, so it's time for the thirteenth archetype, and now that the "Gods and Magic" chapter of the setting book is complete, I decided it would be a good time to add the goblin priestess.

As always you can get the archetypes here, and the six One Sheet adventures are available here, here, here, here, here and here.

SWIFT-d12 Archetypes

Those who have expressed an interest in the new system I've been writing can download the SWIFT-d12 version of the archetypes from here.

Friday, 16 December 2016

SWIFT-d12 Goblin PCs

I started this blog two years ago today, with a series of posts about converting We Be Goblins from Pathfinder to Savage Worlds. My first post provided stats for a set of goblin PCs, so I thought I'd do the same thing again, except this time for Saga of the Goblin Horde, and for characters converted from Savage Worlds to SWIFT-d12 (the new system I've been working on).

Obviously I will release a full set of archetypes in the future, but that's still a little way off.

Skally Finback
Abilities: Strength +1, Agility +1
Skills: Brawl +1, Stealth +1, Survival +1, Swim +2
Speed: 30; Resilience: 4; Capacity: 4; Leadership: 4
Flaws: Foible (Cautious), Greedy (Minor), Lusty (Major: Power hungry)
Feats: Amphiblin (cannot drown; swims at walking speed), Iron Nails, Savant (Brawl/Swim)
Gear: Throwing knives (Range 10 feet; –1 damage)
Special Abilities
• Darkvision: Ignore all darkness penalties (60 feet).
• Short: You are around 3½ feet tall; –1 Resilience.
• Goblinoid: –2 Diplomacy when dealing with humans.
• Claws: +0 damage.

Izzy Toecutter
Abilities: Agility +1, Instincts +1, Combat +1
Skills: Stealth +2, Survival +2
Speed: 30; Resilience: 5 (4+1); Capacity: 3; Leadership: 4
Flaws: Blood Oath (Minor), Foible (Collects toes), Snobgoblin
Feats: Fast Reflexes (rolling a double for initiative gives you an extra
action die for the round), Skill Focus (Survival/Stealth), Scrapper
Gear: Shank (+0 damage), battle bracer, shortbow (Range 60 feet; +0 damage), crude armor (+1), pouch of human toes
Special Abilities
• Darkvision: Ignore all darkness penalties (range 60 feet).
• Short: You are nearly 4 feet tall; –1 Resilience.
• Goblinoid: –2 Diplomacy when dealing with humans.

Maeson Crispyface
Abilities: Strength –1, Agility +1, Cunning +2, Magic +1
Skills: Diplomacy –1, Invocation +1, Perception +1, Stealth +1, Survival +1
Speed: 30; Resilience: 5 (4+1); Capacity: 2; Leadership: 4
Flaws: Obsession (Pyromaniac), Foible (Minor: Frequently picks his nose), Hideous (Minor: Facial burns)
Feats: Skill Focus (Invocation), Sorcerer (Flame), Elementalist
Gear: Knife (–1 damage), crude armor (+1), sack of chargrilled troll steaks
Special Abilities
• Spell Techniques: Destruction, Blessing, Glamor.
• Darkvision: Ignore all darkness penalties (range 60 feet).
• Short: You are slightly over 3 feet tall; –1 Resilience.
• Goblinoid: –2 Diplomacy when dealing with humans.

Goblin Gang Members
Abilities: Agility +1
Skills: Stealth +1, Survival +1
Speed: 30; Resilience: 4; Capacity: 3
Gear: Spear (+0 damage; Reach)
Special Abilities
• Darkvision: Ignore all darkness penalties (range 60 feet).
• Short: Goblins stand three to four feet tall; –1 Resilience.
• Goblinoid: –2 Diplomacy when dealing with humans.

I've currently chosen to keep a similar statblock style as Savage Worlds, so that I don't have to completely overhaul the document layout when I create the SWIFT-d12 version of the setting.

Abilities

SWIFT-d12 has six primary abilities, and for Saga of the Goblin Horde these abilities are Strength, Agility, Endurance, Cunning, Instincts and Dominance (they'll likely be renamed for other settings). An average person has +0 across the board, and starting PCs have a total of +2 split among their primary abilities. I only list abilities that aren't +0.

There are also two secondary abilities, Combat and Magic, which are increased by the Scrapper and Sorcerer Feats respectively. Scrapper, Sorcerer and Savant are the three Class Feats; PCs start with one Class Feat, and gain another Class Feat every 4 levels (Class Feats can also be taken multiple times).

Skills

Each ability has four skills, and these are added to the associated ability when making an ability check. For example, if you have Dominance +1 and Diplomacy +2, and needed to make a Diplomacy check, you would roll d12+3 and require 7+ (called "Lucky 7", because I like memory hooks) to succeed.

There are four ways to get skill points. The first is from your race, the second is by taking Handicap Flaws, the third is with the Skill Focus Feat, and the fourth is with the Savant Feat. Savants are the "skill monkeys", and tend to excel in their areas of expertise.

Usually you can only have a maximum bonus of +2 for a primary skill and +1 for a secondary skill, however Savants can have twice that amount in their specialties.

Derived Traits

There are four derived traits: Speed (how many feet you can move per round), Resilience (how difficult you are to injure), Capacity (how many significant items of encumbrance you can carry without penalty) and Leadership (how many gang members you have).

Flaws

Each character starts with two Major, four Minor, or one Major and two Minor Flaws. Flaws are categorized as either Handicaps (they give a mechanical drawback) or Quirks (purely roleplayed). Handicaps grant a +1 or +2 bonus to a skill of your choice.

Feats

Each character starts with one Class Feat and two other Feats of their choice. Feats are divided into categories: Class Feats (Scrapper, Sorcerer and Savant), Combat Feats (only available to Scrappers), Magic Feats (only available to Sorcerers), Expert Feats (only available to Savants), Legacy Feats (only available during character creation) and Common Feats (available to everyone).

Monday, 12 December 2016

Sleigh Heist: Christmas One Sheet

Swooping through the night,
Our rockets chase the sleigh,
Through the clouds we fight,
Laughing all the way!

On the same night every year, a mysterious red-robed sorcerer flies his enchanted sleigh to a nearby human settlement, dropping various wrapped packages down the chimneys before making his escape. The goblins admire his courage and tenacity, but not his success rate; as far as they can tell, none of the houses have ever blown up, or even burned down. The sorcerer clearly has no experience with explosives, and so the infamous gremlin artificer Grinchie Charfoot has decided it’s time for the professionals to take over.

Here's another One Sheet for Saga of the Goblin Horde:


As always, you can download the goblin archetypes from here, and the older One Sheet adventures from here, here, here, here and here.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Publication Status

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-- The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost.
I've talked openly in the past about my goals for Saga of the Goblin Horde, and how I was standing at a crossroads, unsure which road I would take. Now I keep getting asked privately what the current status is, so I decided I might as well just explain the situation on my blog.

Savage Worlds

Back in July I submitted an application to Pinnacle, as I was hoping to release Saga of the Goblin Horde as a licensed product. In September they replied, and explained that there are strict limitations on what official licensees are allowed to do, and my fan products go beyond those limitations. More specifically, I was told that if I wanted to go ahead with the application process, I would first have to delete my fan toolkits along with anything else that modified the core rules (which is almost everything I've released over the last five years, as even most of my adventures include variations to certain rules, like Dramatic Tasks and Chases).

I wasn't willing to delete my work, for several reasons. Many people enjoy my products, quite a few people (including several licensees) rely on them to design their own creations, and deleting that content would be a kick in the teeth to the very audience I'd been hoping to market my products to - plus it wouldn't even guarantee me a license, it's perfectly possible that I'd still get rejected based on other criteria, leaving me with nothing. Those fan products represent half a decade of work, they're the portfolio upon which I've built my reputation, and it was on the merits of my fan creations that I got my foot in the freelancing door.

But there's another issue as well. While I've put a lot of effort into developing new skills over the last year, such as layout and presentation, setting design, writing adventures, etc, my specialty has always been game mechanics. The license wouldn't allow me to play to my strengths, and most of the products I'd been hoping to release in the future would very likely not be allowed.

However I've invested a lot of time and money into Saga of the Goblin Horde, and I really wanted to at least try and recoup my expenses. In theory I could have partnered up with a licensee, but Pinnacle warned that this could lead to them risking their own license. Besides, this is my pet project, and I've already come so far on my own that I'd really like to finish it myself.

So although I still plan to complete Saga of the Goblin Horde and release it under the Savage Worlds fan license, I also started looking ahead to the future, seeing what other roleplaying systems I could branch into next.

Other Systems

I initially considered using an established system, and that's still an avenue I may pursue in the future, but it's not quite as simple as it sounds. The last playtest I ran involved 6 PCs and their goblin gangs, which was a total of 30 characters under player control - most RPG systems cannot comfortably handle tactical combat on that sort of scale.

Many licensees seem to come up with their setting concept first, and then later choose to pair it with Savage Worlds. In some cases their setting was originally designed for a different system, and the licensee now just wants to convert it over (an exercise which can have mixed results). However the sad irony is that Saga of the Goblin Horde was specifically designed from the ground up to showcase the strengths of Savage Worlds, taking advantage of the things it handles well (such as chases, crazy stunts, tactical combat, fast gameplay, large numbers of combatants, etc).

I could have tried overhauling another system, but that would require first becoming intimately familiar with its rules, and I figured that if I was going to invest that amount of time I might as well create my own system from scratch to work exactly the way I wanted. An added bonus of this approach is that I'll be able to release a standalone version of Saga of the Goblin Horde, with both the system and setting in a single book.

Design Process

I wanted a system that was fairly light, with streamlined mechanics and fast action resolution, but which also supported tactical gameplay, and could handle large numbers of combatants without slowing down. I also wanted a system that would be easy to GM, with low prep time and minimal bookkeeping, where it would be quick and easy to create characters on the fly.

But I'd like to reuse the content I've already written (not just for Saga of the Goblin Horde, but also my fan supplements), so I wanted a system that could also be easily converted to and from Savage Worlds. This would allow me to offer conversion guides for my products in the future.

However I didn't want to copy any of the mechanics from Savage Worlds, so instead I looked to D&D. In "The Making of Savage Worlds", they talked about running D&D 3rd edition when it first came out, which was a few years before Savage Worlds was published. If you compare the two systems, not just superficially but really looking at the underlying design, the source of inspiration is very clear. So I decided to try following the same path.

Class abilities were merged into Feats (and renamed Edges), the levels were renamed Advances, combat bonuses were turned into combat skills, while the powers and trappings drew ideas from the psionics system. Ability scores were dropped so that only the ability modifiers were used, and those modifiers were replaced with die types - i.e., instead of -1, +0, +1, +2 and +3, there was d4, d6, d8, d10 and d12.

Some of the changes were primarily cosmetic (such as replacing "5 feet" with "1 inch" as the standard unit of in-game measurement), which helped give the system less of a D&D look and feel. But other changes were more significant (such as the wound system), and those necessitated further changes (such as a Wild Die to help address oddities in the probability curve introduced by die-step attributes, Bennies to make the Shaken/wound system more playable, etc).

However there are still many residual similaries which help give the system a familiar feel, for example the Alertness Feat in D&D gives +2 to Listen and Spot checks, while the Alertness Edge in SW gives +2 to Notice rolls. The free stat increase every 4 levels became the option to raise an attribute every 4 Advances, the Fatigued and Exhausted conditions in D&D became the Fatigued and Exhausted levels in SW, the Diplomacy skill with its five NPC attitudes (Hostile, Unfriendly, Indifferent, Friendly and Helpful) became Persuasion with its five NPC attitudes (Hostile, Uncooperative, Neutral, Friendly and Helpful), and so on. There are lots of little similarities like that scattered throughout the system, if you know what to look for, and it makes it very easy to convert content from D&D to Savage Worlds.

I think this is a very clever way to design a game (after all, no game is designed in a vacuum), so I decided to approach my initial design from the same perspective. I felt this would make it easier to maintain some distance from Savage Worlds, something I think is important considering all my SW fan and freelance creations, which are bound to influence my design ideas.

SWIFT-d12

My design went through a few iterations before I settled on an approach that felt right, but the general gist of my system (which is called SWIFT-d12) is as follows.

The class abilities were merged into Feats, although I didn't rename either the Feats or levels. The combat bonuses were turned into a combat ability and set of skills (and the same was done for magic). The ability scores were dropped so that only the ability modifiers were used, however I didn't convert them into die types. Similarly, I didn't bother with things like replacing "5 feet" with "1 inch" measurements, or renaming "Speed" to "Pace", etc.

The skills underwent a more radical change. One of the issues I ran into with running SotGH in SW is that my adventures make extensive use of a wide range of common skills, like climbing and swimming, so the characters all tended to end up fairly competent across the board. I figured if I was going that route anyway, perhaps I should just base skill on the normal stats. Characters in Savage Worlds are primarily defined by their Edges anyway, and most monsters have little more than Fighting and Notice skills, so why not just move all the specialty stuff into Edges? So that's the route I took - I do have skills, but they are just a small modifier (added directly to their associated stat when making an ability check), and most characters don't have any skills at all. This speeds up character creation quite a bit, as I only have to worry about skill levels that differ significant from their parent stat, and most NPCs can ignore skills entirely.

I also added Flaws, which work a bit like the Flaws in D&D (variant rule) and WoD, or Hindrances in SW. My only concession to SW was the Minor/Major division, as this makes it far easier to convert my existing material. However I also separate Flaws into Quirks (RP fluff) and Handicaps (crunch), where the latter grant a free skill bonus as compensation. Unlike Hindrances in SW, my Flaws are not optional, everyone has to pick 2-4 of them during character creation.

Initially I used hit points for the main characters, with redshirts working more like D&D 4th edition "mooks" or SW "Extras". One advantage of this solution is that it allowed me to have viable solo opponents, while still keeping combat nice and fast with weaker minions. However it also introduced bookkeeping (writing down hit points), which is something I hate, so I started looking into a less granular alternative. The obvious choice was the WoD solution of wound levels and Soak rolls, as those work rather well, however when I tried to streamline them I ended up with pretty much exactly the same solution as SW (and I didn't want that). So in the end I settled for a sort of hybrid of wound levels and M&M-inspired saving throws, which gives wounds a rather dynamic feel that I like quite a lot.

Many systems have some sort of metagame currency, whether they're called fate points, action points, bennies, hero points, story points, or whatever else. In my system they are called karma points, representing the fact that you usually earn them when something bad happens, and spend them to make something good happen.

My Stunt rules draw inspiration from numerous sources, including the SW Tricks and Tests of Will, Dirty Tricks from Pathfinder, Stunts from Exalted, and so on. My Chase rules also draw inspiration from multiple sources, particularly the James Bond RPG. My magic system is mainly inspired by my freeform magic rules in Savage Abilities. In short, I've drawn ideas and inspirations from a wide range of different sources.

Of course I also introduced many of my own ideas. The system only uses d12 for actions and d6 for damage, it has unified mechanics to reduce the learning curve, ability checks are symmetrical (meaning they innately support player-facing), and so on.

I will go into more detail about SWIFT-d12 in future blog posts. The rules are currently around 12K words, and I plan to start playtesting soon, but they're still a bit rough around the edges (and I still need to flesh out the Feat list).

Future Plans

I plan to release two versions of Saga of the Goblin Horde. The Savage Worlds edition will be a full setting under the fan license (which sadly means it'll never be available in print), while the SWIFT-d12 edition will be a standalone product (both system and setting in a single book, possibly with a print-on-demand version at a later date).

This does mean some changes to the Savage Worlds edition. For example I've removed all references to the Fantasy Companion, as I can no longer justify the added entry barrier (people don't take fan products as seriously as officially licensed products, so the main thing I have going for me is that the setting book will be free - and therefore the last thing I want to do is force people to go out and buy more books before they can even play). I also removed the adventure generator (it will be built into the Campaign Deck) and trimmed the adventures down to the essentials (additional adventures will be turned into separate products). However it will still be a good sized book, with enough content to run a campaign.

Other releases for Saga of the Goblin Horde will either be system-agnostic (like the deck of cards) or written for SWIFT-d12, however I also plan to release a free "SWIFT-d12 to SW" conversion guide under the fan license, so it should be easy enough to use the material with Savage Worlds as well. Offering Saga of the Goblin Horde for multiple systems also avoids potential arguments about the legality of the Campaign Deck (if the setting was only available for SW, some might claim that the deck of cards was being used to profit from the fan license, because the cards contain an adventure generator that's specific to the Saga of the Goblin Horde setting, but now the deck will be just as useful for the SWIFT-d12 version as well).

If things work out, I hope to apply the same strategy to other settings, perhaps even releasing SWIFT-d12 as a generic system for other publishers to use as well, if there's interest. This will hopefully allow me to continue contributing to the Savage Worlds community, albeit indirectly, without leaving me out of pocket for artwork and other expenses; in effect, I'll be selling SWIFT-d12 products, and releasing free SW fan conversion guides for those products.

Of course this has also forced me to shift my deadlines, as I've spent a lot of my free time over the last three months designing SWIFT-d12, rather than working on the setting book. However I think it will be worth the effort, and I must admit it's rather fun having the freedom to create my own system again!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Gear Chapter Layout: Item collages

One of the things I've been pondering for a while is how best to present the gear chapter in Saga of the Goblin Horde, as I'd really like to include illustrations of the various different weapons and armor available to the characters.

Most Savage Worlds setting books don't use much art in their gear section, and the little they do have mostly seems to be filler art, designed to fill some white space. Savage Rifts has a few portrait illustrations for armor, and a few item images, but they're limited to one illustration per page. Rippers Resurrected is more along the lines of what I'd like to do, with one page containing as many as three different item illustrations, and that's what I initially used for inspiration:


However the pages felt cluttered, it was difficult to get the layout looking good while wrapping the text around the images, and many of the items had no art at all. So this weekend I tried something different, and created collages for the equipment, so that the pages now look like this:


I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out, I think the presentation is cleaner and easier to read, I've now got an illustration for every item, and I no longer have to worry about trying to wrap the text around the images (which means I don't need to do anywhere near as much fiddling around with the layout).

Although I do have other pages where the text wraps around the illustrations, I don't think it works very well when there are multiple images on the page. But a collage is effectively a single illustration from a layout design perspective, and I think it makes a good compromise.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Barghest Whelp

Another month, another archetype, and this time it's another one of the five goblin mutant subraces (the Amphiblin, Canitaur, and Psioblin archetypes are also goblin mutants).

So allow me to present the twelfth archetype: the barghest whelp!

This particular archetype is a nod to D&D, where the barghests are demonic goblin-lupine-like creatures capable of shapechanging into wolves and goblins. In Saga of the Goblin Horde, barghests are lycanthrope-like goblins capable of shifting into wolf and hybrid forms.

As usual you can get the archetypes from here, and the five One Sheet adventures here, here, here, here and here.


Saturday, 19 November 2016

Drakonheim Savage Companion released

The Drakonheim Savage Companion has now been released to Kickstarter backers, and it's also available on DriveThruRPG. If you're a fan of undead and necromancy, you should definitely check it out!

You can buy it on its own: Drakonheim Savage Companion

Or bundled with the setting: Drakonheim Savage Bundle

If you're on the fence, you can also check out the free previews here, here and here. I've also talked about the setting and the companion here, and discussed the design behind the necromancy here.

For those who already have the setting, don't forget to check out my Drakonheim Character Builder, and my free One Sheets, Gray Matter and Broken Crown.

And if you haven't seen it already, my free Savage Undead fan supplement contains rules for playable undead. Although it's not specifically designed for Drakonheim, some of the Edges, Hindrances and powers are a good thematic fit.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Root of the Problem: One Sheet

One potato, two potato,
three potato, four!
Five potato, six potato,
seven potato, WAR!

A nobleman has become frustrated with all the goblins hunting his knights and eating their succulent steeds, so he has ordered his druid adviser to create a horse that tastes so bad not even a goblin will eat it.

This initially seemed an impossible task, but then the druid discovered the one thing goblins won’t eat...vegetables!

Here's another One Sheet for Saga of the Goblin Horde:


As always, you can download the goblin archetypes from here, and the older One Sheet adventures from here, here, here and here.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Custom Wild Dice

As mentioned last month, I recently ordered some custom laser-engraved Wild Dice for Saga of the Goblin Horde - 16mm green oblivion dice with my goblin logo in place of the 6 spot. I promised I'd post a picture when they arrived, so here it is:


There are various companies in the US that offer custom dice, but I was only able to find one in the UK (Dice & Games), although fortunately their prices are very reasonable, and the minimum order is just 25 dice. I'd originally been thinking of handing out custom Wild Dice at Con games as a promotional thing.

It was a bit of a toss-up between green oblivion dice with gold dots/logo (which fits the color scheme for Saga of the Goblin Horde) and white pearl dice with black dots/logo (which is the more traditional black-on-white color scheme used by Pinnacle), but in the end I went with the green and gold, and I think it looks really good, although I'm still curious what the black and white would look like.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Samhain Surprise: Halloween One Sheet

Trick or treat, trick or treat,
Give me someone good to eat!
Trick or treat, trick or treat,
Someone meaty, someone sweet!

Once a year, the young children in the human town of Yellowbrick dress themselves up as goblins, visiting homes to collect candy while playing a strange game they call “Trick or Treat”. The goblins think this is a grand idea, and have decided to use the opportunity to sneak into town, play some vicious pranks, and enjoy some delicious treats. And better still, they won't even need to wear any stupid disguises!

With two weeks to go until Halloween, I thought it was about time to release my next One Sheet for Saga of the Goblin Horde. You can get it from here:


For this One Sheet I also teamed up with Frank Turfler of Middle Kingdoms Adventure & Trading Company, who has created a set of free maps designed to go with the adventure. You can download the maps from here:


As always, you can download the goblin archetypes from here, and the older adventures from here, here and here.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Goblin Psychonaut

I had originally planned to release the Barghest Whelp archetype for October, but last month Rick Hershey started a new Fantasy Character Subscription, and as he was accepting suggestions I proposed a goblin - which he promptly added. So I decided to use it for the October archetype.

So here is the eleventh archetype: the goblin psychonaut!

This particular archetype is a tribute to my friend David Teeder, who played a character called Squiggle on my MUD many years ago (the hair is inspired by his real haircut!).

As usual you can get the archetypes from here, and the three One Sheet adventures here, here and here.

The fourth One Sheet, Samhain Surprise, will be released on Monday. Frank Turfler of Middle Kingdoms Adventure & Trading Company is creating a set of free maps to go with the adventure, and has already released the first two here and here. The third and final map will be released on the same day as the One Sheet.





Monday, 26 September 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Successful Playtest

Ten brave adventurers set forth from the frontier town of Riverside, investigating rumors of a nest of vile goblins living in the nearby mountains. They expected to find gold and glory, but found only death, as the pint-sized fiends lured them into one ambush after another. Only the bard survived, but he had been tortured physically and psychologically by the goblins, and never sang again.
Two days later, the town itself came under attack, presumably by the same group of goblins. The vicious creatures destroyed two of the town's taverns and stole the third, smashing its supports so that it slid into the water. They rode the stolen tavern down the river and surfed it over a waterfall, escaping into the night.
At the weekend I ran Saga of the Goblin Horde for a group of six players. Half of them were already familiar with Savage Worlds, but I was still a bit nervous about running a game for such a large group, particularly as each player would be controlling five characters (a Wild Card boss, and four goblin gang member Extras). That's a total of 30 characters under player control!

However everything went surprisingly smoothly, and I was able to run two adventures back-to-back in about six hours. The adventures I ran were Dungeon Squat and Pub Crawl, which will be the first two episodes of the Plot Point Campaign. Manuel Sambs has written a very detailed report of the game here:

The Saga of the Goblin Horde continues

So make sure you check out the above link if you're interested in the setting!

The adventures involved my usual mixture of Interludes, Chases, Dramatic Tasks and Quick Combats, as well as two traditional combat scenes. I also introduced a simple two-stage mechanic for preparing and triggering traps, using a small deck of custom cards, and the players seemed to have great fun with it, so that's definitely a concept I'll look into using again in the future.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Chronicles of the Goblin Princess: Preview

The goblin princess, armed with an ogre sword,
a heavy golden ball, and steel-toed slippers.
Rick Hershey has completed the custom illustration that I commissioned for Chronicles of the Goblin Princess (in just two days!), and I'm really pleased with it, so I thought I'd share it and give a brief overview of the first three adventures.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Chronicles of the Goblin Princess is a series of adventures that can be treated as Savage Tales in the main Saga of the Goblin Horde campaign, or run as their own mini Plot Point Campaign.

Introduction

Once upon a time, the chieftain of the Redfang tribe had a daughter who was so dangerous that he feared she would usurp him, so he called upon seven swamp hags to share their wisdom and advice, and together they hatched a plan.

On her sixteenth Birthday, the princess pricked her back on several poisoned arrows, and fell asleep just long enough for her father to drag her to a nearby tower, lock her up, and throw away the key. Thick metal bars across the windows prevented her from escaping, and most of the tribe forgot about her, but she managed to survive on insects, rats, birds, and the occasional suitor foolish enough to scale the tower. And there she remained, trapped in the tower for 100 days...

The Princess and the Peabrain

The foolish leader of a band of ogres has kidnapped the goblin princess from her tower, only to discover that she'd been locked away to protect others, rather than for her own safety. With the ransom demand laughed off by the chieftain, and the ogre body count steadily rising, the kidnapper becomes increasingly desperate to return the princess.

The Frogfolk Prince

While frolicking through the forest one day, the goblin princess encountered one of the frogfolk sitting in a pond, claiming to be a prince. The princess immediately hurled her heavy golden ball at him, crushing his skull like an overripe melon, then dragged his corpse home to have it stuffed and mounted as a trophy. With the recent alliance between the frogfolk and the Redfang tribe now in tatters, the chieftain will need to call upon his top negotiators.

The Steel-Toed Slipper

One day, the chief decided that he needed more gang bosses, so he held a Grand Brawl and invited the most aggressive goblins in the tribe to participate. At the last minute, a mysterious masked candidate entered the fray, and everyone was entranced by her brutal moves. But when the Grand Brawl ended at the final stroke of midnight, the mysterious goblin left, leaving behind a single steel-toed slipper embedded in the head of her final victim. Can the chieftain find the owner of the slipper, and grant her the promotion she so richly deserves?

Further adventures

The original plan was to have three adventures based around the goblin princess as an NPC, but I've decided to expand the series with a few more adventures where she can be either an NPC or a PC. So far I've sketched up some ideas for "Little Red Riding Dress" and "Bloodylocks and the Three Bugbears", but I'm open to more suggestions!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Latest News

I've got a load of new stuff coming up for Saga of the Goblin Horde over the next few weeks, so I thought I'd give an overview for those following the development of the setting.

Samhain Surprise

My fourth goblin One Sheet is finished, and I'm planning to release it a couple of weeks before Halloween. Frank Turfler (of Middle Kingdoms Adventure & Trading Company) will also be releasing a set of free maps to go with the adventure! His final map will be released at the same time as the One Sheet.

You can read more about the free maps here. As usual, hi-res versions of the maps will also be available to his Patron supporters.

Next Archetype

The majority of the artwork used in Saga of the Goblin Horde was created by Rick Hershey. Many other Savage Worlds products use his work as well, but I think it's a particularly good fit for my goblin setting (and not just because his company is called Fat Goblin Games!).

Rick recently started a new art subscription, this time for fantasy characters. Figure illustrations are pretty versatile pieces in general, useful for both covers and interior filler, but they're particularly good for archetypes - and better still, subscribers can post suggestions. I really like the other two subscriptions I've bought, so I decided to get this one too, and of course I posted a suggestion for a crazy goblin concept. You can imagine my delight when Rick added my suggestion a week later!

So as a result, I've decided I'm going to use Squiggle Mushroomhead for the October archetype: the goblin psychonaut (a tribute to an old friend of mine!). This will give me the opportunity to delve into some previously unexplored aspects of the setting, and reference a couple of new abilities from the main book.

Goblin Princess

After seeing the Squiggle artwork, I decided it was about time to commission a private piece as well, so I contacted Rick yesterday and he's already sent me a first sketch. The new illustration will be used for Chronicles of the Goblin Princess, a series of side adventures that can be treated as Savage Tales in the main campaign, or run as their own mini Plot Point Campaign.

One of the advantages of releasing Chronicles of the Goblin Princess as a separate PDF is that I can make it system-neutral if necessary. The same approach could be used for other adventures as well.

Playtest Session

A few months ago I ran a session of Saga of the Goblin Horde for Manuel Sambs and his girlfriend. As Manuel was already familiar with my other One Sheets, I ran one of my unreleased adventures, Root of the Problem. The game worked out great and we all had fun, although it was shorter than I'd planned.

Next weekend I'm going to run another game. This time it'll be a larger group, and I've prepared two adventures that can be run back-to-back if necessary (Dungeon Squat and Pub Crawl, which are also the first two episodes of the PPC - both are humorous spins on the traditional dungeon crawl concept). Manuel has prepared some of his awesome table tents for the goblin archetypes, so hopefully we'll get some pictures to post after the game!

Custom Wild Dice

Inspired by Kristian Serrano's SBN Wild Dice, I decided to order some custom laser-engraved Wild Dice for Saga of the Goblin Horde. They're 16mm green Oblivion dice with a goblin head in place of the 6 spot, and I will post pictures as soon as I get them (although this may take a few weeks).

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Setting Design: Wild Card Symbols

Characters in Savage Worlds are divided into two categories: Wild Cards and Extras. The PCs are Wild Cards, as are important allies, major villains, special monsters, and so on; as a rough rule of thumb, if an NPC is important enough to have a name, background, and plot protection, they're probably a Wild Card. On the other hand, if your ally wears a red shirt without a name tag, they're almost certainly an Extra.

Wild Cards traditionally have a symbol beside their name to indicate their Wild Card status, with the precise symbol changing from setting to setting. However it'll be a recurring theme throughout the book, and repetition is one of the major principles of graphic design, so I think the subject is worthy of a blog post.

The precise choice of Wild Card symbol is obviously going to be a matter of personal (and artistic) taste, so I will instead focus on the technical aspects.

File Format

There are three typical file formats for Wild Card symbols, as follows:

Raster Image
Ideally using a lossless format such as png or tiff, this option is preferable for highly detailed Wild Card symbols, such as the Joker in Pinnacle's older supplements, or the witchmark symbol in Accursed. The downside is that the image will become pixelated when enlarged.

Vector Image
This is used in much the same way as a raster image, but is calculated with vectors instead of drawing pixels, allowing the image to be scaled without losing quality. The downside is that it sometimes doesn't work too well with complex images, or those with subtle color gradation.

Dingbat Font
The third option is to use a dingbat font, such as wingdings. The downside of a font is that the image will be monochrome, however it scales like a vector image, and doesn't need to be precisely positioned on the page like an image.

Comparison of raster and vector/font images, with
the enlarged Wild Card symbol on the right.

Examples

I decided to take a quick look through a variety of different Savage Worlds PDFs, and see what sort of Wild Card symbols and file formats they used. Here's what I found:

Core Rulebook
Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition: SW Joker (raster image).
Savage Worlds Deluxe: Cross (wingdings font).

Official Companions
Fantasy Companion: SW Joker (raster image).
Horror Companion: Monstrous skull (raster image).
Science Fiction Companion: Star (dingbat font).
Super Powers Companion: Explosion (vector image).

Old Pinnacle Settings
50 Fathoms: Skull and crossbones (dingbat font).
Evernight: SW Joker (raster image).
Necessary Evil: SW Joker (raster image).
Rippers: SW Joker (raster image).
Sundered Skies: SW Joker (raster image).

New Pinnacle Settings
East Texas University: Pentagram (raster image).
Lankhmar: Blade (dingbat font).
Rippers Resurrected: Mask (WildCard font).
Savage Tales of Horror: Skull (WildCard font).
Weird Wars Rome: Blade (dingbat font, same symbol as Lankhmar).

Licensee Settings
Agents of Oblivion: Martini glass (raster image).
Hellfrost: Dragon head (raster image).
Drakonheim Savage Companion: Skull (vector image).
Accursed: Witchmark (raster image).
Realms of Cthulhu: Elder Sign (raster image).

Pinnacle frequently used the Savage Worlds joker (a raster image) in many of their earlier books, but appear to have created a custom WildCard font for some of their newer books, which is a rather elegant solution.

My Solution

In the past I've mostly used dingbat fonts for Wild Card symbols, although some of my recent releases used raster images. Since then I've moved on to vector images, and finally back to fonts.

When I commissioned my cover from Lord Zsezse Works, they also provided me with the title text, which included a small goblin head to dot the letter 'i'. The goblin head is also a perfect fit for the Wild Card symbol, so I decided to use it for that as well. The only problem was that it looked a bit blurry around the edges when I tried to shrink it.

Fortunately there's a free vector graphics editor called Inkscape, which I was able to use to convert the icon from a raster image to a vector image. I've also used the vector image for some custom laser-engraved Wild Dice, which I'll discuss in a future post (once they arrive).

However the vector images still need to be manually positioned to make sure they're all lined up, which is fiddly and annoying - and worse still, Scribus doesn't seem to have any way to anchor images to a specific location in the text, so whenever the layout changes, all the Wild Card symbols need to be manually repositioned!

My final solution was therefore to use myscriptfont.com to create a new font, with the goblin head as one of the characters. In theory I could extend the font with other symbols in the future, and create my own WildCard font like Pinnacle have done, and that's certainly something to consider. But for the time being, I only need the one symbol, so my custom dingbat font only has one character.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Updated One Sheets

Last month I updated the trade dress on my goblin archetypes, and mentioned that I was planning to do the One Sheets "soon" - well, I've finally had the chance to update them too, so now all of the Saga of the Goblin Horde PDFs are in the same style, using the custom cover and page backgrounds I commissioned from Lord Zsezse Works.

The One Sheets originally included stats for the goblin gang members, but rather than reprint the stats in every single One Sheet I've decided to move them into an additional page at the end of the archetypes PDF, along with the gang-based rules from the setting book, and the fast-track promotion concept using the Mutation Deck that I originally described here.

As usual, you can download the archetypes here, and the One Sheet adventures here, here and here.

The Samhain Surprise One Sheet I've mentioned a few times is also finished, but it won't be released until closer to Halloween.

In other news, I've finished the gazetteer chapter for the setting book, and I'm about half done with the "gods and magic" chapter, so the player half of the book is getting very close to completion.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

About Me and Freelancing

Kyle Carty on the Official Savage Worlds Facebook Group recently promoted a new group for RPG freelancers, where people can introduce themselves, and share their knowledge and experience. The group is called "Tabletop Freelancer Resources", so check it out if you're interested in the subject.

However his post got me thinking about the path I've taken, and as it seems a lot of other people are also interested in getting into freelancing or self-publication, I thought I'd give an overview of my background in roleplaying games, and how it took me to where I am now.

I don't usually talk much about myself, preferring to focus on my work, but I thought I'd make an exception this time, as it helps explain why I do what I do. If you're only interested in the freelancing part, feel free to skip to the Savage Worlds section (I've added a picture as a bookmark, just scroll down to that).

Primary School

My first experience with roleplaying games was red box D&D. I was about 8 years old, and the GM was a year older than me, but neither of us had much idea what we were doing. We played a few times, and I even asked my grandparents for my own copy of the game as a Christmas present, but I soon moved on to other interests.

Secondary School and Sixth Form College

Fast forward a few years. I was now about 12 years old, and heavily into Fighting Fantasy and other "choose your own adventure" books, but then my parents mistakenly bought me a copy of Dragon Warriors for Christmas (it was the same size, shape and artistic style as the FF books). I was instantly hooked, and soon convinced a group of friends to start playing with me.

Over the next 6 years my friends and I played many different roleplaying systems, and invented several of our own. But eventually we turned 18, and scattered around the country to attended different Universities.

University

University life brought its own experiences, including a roleplaying society and various organized events. I made many new friends, and played with various different groups, but the majority of my gaming was World of Darkness, particularly Vampire the Masquerade.

Work Life

After graduating I moved to a different part of the UK, and it took around two years before I was able to assemble another group - then six months later I moved again for a new job. Once again it was probably a couple of years before I formed a new group, and then I moved yet again, this time to another country.

Expat Life

In October 2001 I moved to Germany. I'd learned my lesson by this point, and wasn't willing to just wait around, so I immediately started hunting for a group. It took a few months, as I needed to find a group who were willing to initially play in English, but I was successful.

Over the years most of the players moved away, and occasionally others would join. I eventually became the full-time GM, as none of the remaining group were interested in GMing, and although I ran several different systems (and tested a few more homebrew systems of my own devising), most of my campaigns alternated between D&D 3.5 and WoD.

I loved the way skills scaled in WoD, the way you could start play as a competent character, or even be an expert in your chosen field. I also thought the merits and flaws were really cool, giving characters a unique feel. However the combat just didn't do it for me - I didn't run many fight scenes, but when I did they felt anticlimactic, just rolling fists full of dice and counting the successes. I found WoD great for the story, but not the action.

By contrast, D&D 3.5 had the game mechanics to support interesting and tactical combat, and I found the fight scenes could get pretty exciting at times (although it slowed down when there were lots of opponents). However I really didn't like the skill system. It was certainly a step up from the "non-weapon proficiencies" in 2nd edition, but it still felt tacked on, and I didn't like the way the skills were so heavily tied to your level (i.e., you start out completely incompetent, and can eventually swim up waterfalls). I loved the feats though.

Then in 2010, I discovered Savage Worlds...

Savage Worlds

Even my son likes Savage Worlds!
Savage Worlds combined the things I liked best about both D&D 3.5 and WoD. The skill system scaled like WoD (i.e., you could start out as an expert in your chosen field if you wished), but the combat was tactical and exciting (and even more flexible than D&D, without getting bogged down when there are lots of combatants). It had Edges (which combined the merits of WoD with the feats of D&D) and Hindrances (like the flaws of WoD), and even had Bennies (like fate points in D&D 3.5 Eberron, which was another mechanic I really liked).

I also liked the dice mechanic. The WoD dice pools could get out of hand, while rolling a single d20 in D&D always felt a bit too random. But Savage Worlds found a compromise between the two - roll a trait die and a wild die, and keep the highest. And of course you had Bennies for rerolls if the situation was important enough.

I liked the way Savage Worlds wounds are handled more like WoD, so you don't have to chip away at hit points like a lumberjack chopping down a tree, instead there's just 3 "health levels" for the PCs and important NPCs. The fact that Extras don't have wound levels or a wild die helps speed up combat considerably, as I can throw a handful of dice to resolve all their attacks simultaneously, and I no longer need to track hit points or write down initiative (I hate bookkeeping).

And of course, Savage Worlds also has some really cool settings, most of which have an unusual twist, and game forums with a very friendly and supportive community. So once I got started, there was no going back.

Fan Content: Tools

Although I was new to Savage Worlds, by this point I'd already been roleplaying for more than two decades, and had created several of my own systems from scratch - not to mention my other hobby of designing and developing competitive online games, where precise game balance is far more important.

Therefore it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that I'm a bit of a tinkerer when it comes to game design, and right from the start I was interested in understanding and expanding the mechanics of Savage Worlds (something which newbies are generally discouraged from doing, admittedly!).

Within three months I'd created the first prototype of a Combat Simulator, which became my first Savage Worlds tool. Since then I've developed over 30 additional tools, most of which are available online, including character builders, random character generators, adventure generators, monster converters, a statblock analyzer, and so on.

Designing such tools gave me a much better understanding of how Savage Worlds works, and helped build my reputation as a contributor within the community, but it also led me to something new: creating fan PDFs.

Fan Content: PDFs and Blogging

As I've already mentioned, I'd previously developed several homebrew roleplaying systems. However I'd only ever produced them as simple documents, initially with pen and paper, then later with a word processor. But Savage Worlds has many fan developers, and most of them release their work as a PDF. With a quick Google search, I realized that I could easily create PDFs simply by exporting my Word documents - then all I needed to do was make the results look good.

Back then, Storn Cook would frequently post samples of his awesome artwork on the Pinnacle Forums, and allowed much of it to be used under a Creative Commons license. I used his art extensively (and PM'd him to make doubly sure he was okay with it), and in March 2012 released my first fan supplement: Supernaturalis.

The reception from the community was pretty lukewarm, but people seemed particularly interested in my weapon creation system, so I turned that into a separate fan PDF and released it a month later as Savage Armoury - it proved a big hit (in fact it's still probably my most popular creation to date), so I started churning out more PDFs: Savage Arcanum (June 2012), Savage Spellbook (May 2013), Savage Dragons (October 2013), Savage Undead (October 2013), Savage Frost Giants (January 2014), Savage Beasts (February 2014), and Savage War of the Burning Sky Player's Guide (February 2014) and GM's Guide (9th March 2014).

At this point, Matthew Hanson of Sneak Attack Press contacted me, asking if I was interested in producing supplements for him as a freelancer. This caught me off-guard, it wasn't something I'd considered - and while it was flattering, I wasn't entirely comfortable about selling the rights to my work. I thanked him and said I'd let him know if I wanted to publish anything.

My next supplement was more complex, incorporating many elements of game design, and I released it as Savage Abilities in August 2014. I took a bit of a breather at that point, as I was also working on my tools, and involved in design discussions on the Pinnacle forums. And of course becoming a father in October 2014 threw me a little off my game!

In December 2014 I started this blog as a place to post my conversions, after getting into trouble for posting them directly on the Pinnacle forums (sorry guys!), although since then I've found it generally quite a convenient location to post my thoughts and ideas. It was also in December 2014 that I started working on my most ambitious fan PDF to date; at 160 pages, Savage Vancian Magic took me around seven months to write.

However by the time I'd finished Savage Vancian Magic, in July 2015, I'd already taken my first steps into the world of freelancing.

Freelance Work: Obatron Productions

In September 2014 I saw that Obatron Productions were looking for articles for Savage Insider, and better yet, writing for them didn't require giving up my rights - so I sent them a pitch, and they accepted it. My "Savage Archery" article was published!

I later followed up with two more article submissions, "Back from the Dead" in March 2015, and "Status and Renown" in August 2015, although the latter was for an issue hasn't been published yet.

Freelance Work: SPQR Games

In January 2015 I saw that Mat Greenfield was looking for someone to write up the stats for various NPCs in his Guild of Shadows setting, so I applied. Sadly someone else had already taken the job, but he asked if I'd be interested in reviewing his mechanics instead, and I readily agreed. He liked my feedback so much that he hired me to make the changes directly, and I got a bit carried away.

The Kickstarter had mentioned "more than 30 custom Edges and Hindrances", yet there were currently only 14 - so I added 17 more. The Kickstarter also mentioned expanded rules for disguises, so I add those too, along with additional rules for minions. Mat was so pleased with my work that he listed me as co-author, and then hired me to review the mechanics in the adventures and write the Rogues Hall of Fame.

The Rogues Hall of Fame was a stretch goal that the Kickstarter nearly reached, and Mat wanted to include it anyway as a thank you to the backers. The original plan was to include stats for 10 famous rogues from history, but I expanded it to 30, and had them double-up as valid starting characters. I also handled the layout and artwork, so this was the first licensed product that I literally created entirely myself. 3 of the NPCs were dropped from the final product due to being more "villain" than "rogue", so I secured permission to release them as an unofficial bonus page under the fan license.

Freelance Work: Sneak Attack Press

In August 2015, Sneak Attack Press announced the Kickstarter for Drakonheim: City of Bones. I backed it, and immediately fell in love with the setting. I also recalled my earlier exchange with Matthew Hanson, and feeling more confident after my recent freelancing efforts, I decided to contact him.

Drakonheim is a system-neutral setting, but Sneak Attack Press also publish a lot of content for Savage Worlds. Matthew had a lot on his plate with other projects, but was interested in hiring me to create a Savage Worlds companion for Drakonheim, and convert his earlier Heroes of Drakonheim adventures from D&D 5e.

Whereas my work on Guild of Shadows had been flat rate, Sneak Attack Press paid by the word, so now I had to be a bit more careful about what I wrote. The earlier setting book already contained the flavor text, so I focused almost exclusively on the mechanics, trying to keep them interesting and concise. I also had to make sure I didn't deviate from the published setting, so I had to thoroughly familiarize myself with the setting book, and maintain close contact with Matthew.

Once the documents were complete (and after a short delay to avoid competing with Savage Rifts), Sneak Attack Press ran a successful Kickstarter to fund the artwork, and with Matthew's permission I released a couple of free One Sheets under the fan license to help promote it: Gray Matter and Broken Crown.

Freelance Work: Gun Metal Games

In December 2015, David Jarvis wrote a number of posts describing aspects of his new setting, Codex Infernus. I was interested in the project, having backed it on Kickstarter, so I responded to a few of his posts and gave feedback on the mechanics. David sent me a private message and asked if I'd like to do some editing work, and I readily accepted.

While the setting was nearly complete, there were still a few things missing, which gave me the opportunity to contribute some new content. David wasn't satisified with the corruption rules, for example, so I wrote a revised system for him. I also created an angel race (which will be released in a future Forces of Light supplement), and expanded rules for the Faith skill, including angelic and demonic weapons.

My first proposal for divine weapons wasn't what David was looking for, so I turned the content into a fan supplement called Eldritch Weapons. This also allowed me to practice the layout and presentation skills I'd been working on.

Freelance Work: Melior Via

In January 2016 I decided to update and expand my Savage Frost Giants fan supplement, which contained guidelines for an unofficial Witchbreed for Accursed. John Dunn mentioned Savage Frost Giants in the next Kickstarter update for Accursed: World of Morden, which I had eagerly backed earlier in the month, and the SBN News Podcast mistakenly reported that I was working for Melior Via. I corrected them, but John decided he liked the idea, and asked if I'd be interested in writing a One Sheet for Accursed!

I'd already released two One Sheets under the fan license by that point (Sanguine Solstice and Bone of Contention), and John had already seen them, and said he'd like something similar. So I sent him a pitch for Dark Queen's Gambit, he gave it the thumbs-up, and two weeks later I submitted the finished adventure.

Freelance Work: Just Insert Imagination

In April 2016, Eric Lamoureux contacted me. He'd been impressed by my work on Codex Infernus, and wanted to know if I was interested in working on a new project for Just Insert Imagination - a Mutation Deck. Eric's initial idea was to create a deck of around 40-52 cards, each listing three versions of a mutation: One disadvantage comparable with a -1 racial ability, one zero-sum mutation, and one advantage comparable with a +1 racial ability.

I proposed turning it into a 56-card deck that also doubled up as an Action Deck, complete with four Jokers, with each card offering an Advantage comparable with an Edge, and two Disadvantages comparable with Minor and Major Hindrances. It took a couple of weeks to complete the first draft, but that was followed by four months of polishing, play-testing and refinement, and I think it was worth the wait!

Summary

My freelancing experience has been varied, interesting and educational, it's given me the chance to network with some very talented and creative people, build up some credentials, and I've gained a lot of valuable insight into the publication process. However when I sell the rights to my work, it sometimes feels like I'm selling a little piece of my soul, so in general I view freelancing as a means to an end - a stepping stone to becoming self-published. That certainly doesn't mean I won't do more freelancing work in the future, but I'm trying to avoid working on things that close off avenues I might like to explore with my own supplements in the future.

The early fan PDFs I produced were simple Word-exported PDFs with low-resolution artwork, they were functional but ugly. But as my standards have increased, so have my costs; high production values require proper layout and high-quality artwork, and even stock art can get expensive when you need a lot of it. Now that I've started commissioning custom art, my overheads are increasing accordingly, and this isn't sustainable for a hobby (my artwork is currently all funded through my freelancing). But pride in my work prevents me from lowering my standards.

Last year I started sketching out some rough ideas for Saga of the Goblin Horde, releasing my first One Sheet adventure, Sanguine Solstice, in December 2015. I released the next adventure, Bone of Contention, in February 2016. Then in March 2016 I released the third adventure, Egg Hunt, along with four archetypes and an overview of the setting. Since then I've been releasing one new archetype each month, while working in parallel on the main setting book, which I hope to have completed by the end of the year (or perhaps early next year at the latest).

Once that's finished there are several other personal projects I'd like to work on, including two mini-settings that I'm really excited about, several unusual adventure ideas, and a few new splats. I'd also like to re-release expanded versions of my older PDFs with new layout and artwork, like I've already done for Savage Frost Giants, Savage Undead and Savage Dragons.