Sunday 31 March 2024

Tales of the City Guard: A one-shot adventure

On Friday I decided to run Tales of the City Guard for my gaming group, and as it was just before Easter, I gave it an Easter/spring equinox theme. I set the adventure in Summerford (the same settlement used in Horrible Henchmen and Tales of the Little Adventurers), and I modified a stock art map the players' reference, adding the locations from all three micro-settings. I also decided to include references to Saga of the Goblin Horde, as Summerford was always intended to be set in the same world.


Summerford is still dealing with the aftermath of an attack -- an undead army had marched on the town and caused considerable damage (a reference to a Horrible Henchmen adventure I ran for the same group in the past). But that was months ago, and the townsfolk are now trying to put it behind them.

Celebrations for the Spring Equinox have already begun, and there are many visitors to the town, with people dressing up in costumes, and children painting eggs.


A party of adventurers has returned from a trip to the mountains, with treasure they’ve collected, along with a special delivery for the mayor (a dragon's egg). After they arrive they'll start spending gold and getting drunk, but as they are special guests of the mayor, the guards can't throw them out.

The adventurers were hunting in the mountains, where they stumbled across a group of goblins carrying treasure and a dragon's egg. It was a tough fight, but the goblins were already injured, and the adventurers managed to kill them -- however, the goblins were actually a Redfang gang that Chief Bignose had sent to steal the egg from some hareborn (i.e., Egg Hunt!). When Chief Bignose discovers the egg is missing, he sends a crew into Summerford to cause damage and recover his egg!

The goblins sneak into Summerford and cause quite a bit of trouble, setting fire to the Phoenix Tavern and a few other buildings. During the height of the celebration, the egg will be revealed, painted by Summerford's finest artists -- and as everyone cheers and the fireworks go off, the egg will suddenly begin to hatch, calling for its mother.

Map of Summerford

The following map was originally Angelus Rebuilt from Elven Tower Cartography, but it also made a good fit for Summerford, and the license allows me to change the labels.

Character Creation

The players create their characters as described in Tales of the City Guard, except they're all sergeants, and they each have 3 guard tokens. The concepts in Tales of the City Guard are relative -- a "rookie" means they're a rookie sergeant (i.e., they've only just been promoted to officer), while "officer" means they're a lieutenant.

The guard tokens can used like the gang tokens in Tales of the Goblin Horde.

Scene 1: Guard Duty

On the first day, the PCs are on guard duty at the southern gate, dealing with various visitors passing through. I could have asked the players to make crafty challenges to spot any threats or problems, but I preferred to handle the first scene through roleplaying. Most of the visitors are unremarkable, but a few special encounters can be used to spice things up:
  1. A completely naked "nobleman" strolls through the gate -- he's covered in mud, with one eyebrow shaved off. Claims he was at a party, and would rather not talk about it.
  2. A group of peasants who claim to have captured a unicorn, which they plan to sell at the market (it's clearly a donkey with a horn stuck on its head).
  3. The party of adventurers mentioned in the overview (human paladin, dwarven cleric, elven mage, halfling rogue) pulling a cart with a blanket thrown over it, underneath is a dragon egg and a load of treasure, but all their paperwork appears to be in order.
  4. A trope of actors, including the famous "Cassandra" (two halflings who sit on each other's shoulders, another reference to a Horrible Henchmen adventure I ran in the past).
Feel free to add more encounters! That evening the guards meet at their local tavern for a drink, where they can grumble about the long hours and low pay. Each player can roll a d6 on the following table (or choose a result if they wish) and use it to help narrate a short story about why the joined the city guard -- they can also roll on the twist table for further inspiration if they wish:

  1. Your mother and/or father were soldiers or guards, and you wanted to follow in their footsteps.
  2. You grew up on the streets, but a grizzled guard took you under their wing.
  3. You are noble-born, but your parents forced you to sign up for a few years to learn some discipline.
  4. You used to be a criminal, and were given a choice—serve one year in the city watch or spend a year in jail. You did your time in the watch, but you liked it and decided to stay on.
  5. You served in the military but didn’t like something about army life, so you transferred to the city guard.
  6. You signed up because you needed a job, and nothing else appealed (or perhaps you didn’t have any other options).
Scene 2: Chaos in the Streets

Over the next few days there are various incidents around the town, and the guards have to rush around dealing with them. I handled this by creating 9 event cards as follows:

  1. A child got stuck up a tree while trying to get her pet cat down, make a standard agile or brawny challenge to get her down safely.
  2. A tavern is on fire, and there are people inside! Roll a standard crafty to rescue them or a standard brawny to extinguish the fire.
  3. A gang of young thieves has been stealing from the tourists; make a standard crafty challenge to give them a stern telling off, or a standard brawny challenge to chase them down and scare them.
  4. Pickpockets in the marketplace! Make a hard brawny challenge to catch them.
  5. A dishonest merchant has been conning tourists; make a hard agile challenge to hide and catch him in the act.
  6. A house is on fire and it's beyond saving, but there are people trapped on the top floor. Roll a standard agile challenge to reach them from a nearby building or a standard brawny challenge to rush inside and rescue them.
  7. Investigating a crime scene where someone was murdered, make a hard crafty challenge to spot the clue that leads to the criminal (a bloody handprint with a missing finger).
  8. A gang of thieves have stolen fireworks that were intended for the celebrations! Make a standard agile or crafty challenge to shadow one of their members and recover the fireworks.
  9. A wheel has come off a wagon, and it is blocking the road; make a standard brawny challenge to help lift it while the owner replaces the wheel, or a standard crafty challenge to pressure some other people to help.
For the first day, I drew two cards for the morning and two cards for the afternoon, and each of the four players could choose one of each (i.e., one of the morning events and one of the afternoon events) to tackle -- with the caveat that at least one player had to deal with every event.

For the second day, there were two events in the morning and three in the afternoon. The cards provided a prompt, but the scenes were described in more detail during play.

Each evening the guards gathered in a tavern to share stories over drinks. I had them each roll on the twist table and narrate another entertaining incident they had to deal with during the day.

Scene 3: The Mayor and the Egg

The celebration is underway, and the PCs are all on patrol, looking out for pickpockets and providing crowd control. This scene focuses more on roleplaying and interaction with townsfolk. At the height of the celebration, the mayor brings forth the dragon egg, which has been painted by the town's artists, although the artistic style is very abstract. This leads to much discussion by the gathered crowd about what exactly the artists painted.

I asked the players to describe what they thought the painting looked like -- and had them all roll on the twist table for inspiration!

Scene 4: Goblins!

Suddenly there's a huge commotion, as a huge wooden tower bursts into flames and topples over -- the crowd scatters, and there are screams and shouts. The guards see a contraption behind the fallen tower, along with a massive bugbear and several grinning goblins! The players probably want to attack (mine certainly did), but more screams catch their attention and they look back to see another group of goblins stealing the egg! The goblins have loaded the egg into a cart and they're running off with it, with a canitaur (a goblin/dog centaur) pulling it at great speed.

This can be handled as a chase sequence and a combat. The approach I used for the chase was to assign 3 effort tokens per player, they then had to make agile challenges for the first round (to duck and weave through the crowd), crafty challenges for the second round (to spot which way they goblins had run), and brawny challenges after that (stamina to keep running).

Once they'd cornered the goblins, I assigned 6 effort tokens and allowed the players to choose their combat style, but the challenges were all hard -- these are hardened Redfang goblins!

Scene 5: Hatching Time

When the guards finally return with the egg and give it to the mayor, it begins to wobble, and then cracks open! A little hatchling pokes its head out and starts to chirp -- a minute later, the crowd goes silent as a loud roar echos in the distance. Not long after, the dragon swoops in on the town, burning houses and looking for its hatchling!

When I ran this, one of the players grabbed the egg and ran for the southern gate. She almost made it! I treated it as a hard brawny challenge with 3 effort tokens, and gave her 3 rolls -- she managed to eliminate 2 of the tokens, making it as far as the slums before the dragon struck. She was also able to take cover in a house at the last minute, although one of her guards was incinerated.

Once the dragon reclaims the hatchling it flies away, leaving the guards to deal with several fires. I assigned this task 6 effort tokens and allowed the players to choose which trait they rolled to deal with the fire (agile for using ladders and planks to rescue trapped citizens, brawny for fighting the fires, or crafty for organizing bucket brigades). The players were able to eliminate all the tokens, so I decided the damage to lives and property was minimal.


As this was a one-shot, I asked everyone to roll once more on the twist table and use the symbol to narrate what their characters did after the adventure. For example, one of the players rolled a chained prisoner symbol, so he described how the mayor tasked him with finding and arresting a scapegoat to blame for the attack. Another rolled a sleeping icon, so he said he went for a nap! Another player decided to quit the city guard and go back to the army.

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Tricube Tales sales figures for 2023

Last year I provided a breakdown of the Tricube Tales sales figures for 2022, so I thought it was about time I did the same for 2023.

Total Sales per Month

Here are the total sales for the entire product line since last year (I've included December from last year as well, as it wasn't complete in my previous blog post).

  • Dec 2022: 629
  • Jan 2023: 1010
  • Feb 2023: 1263
  • Mar 2023: 1088
  • Apr 2023: 1719 (includes Deal of the Day)
  • May 2023: 1268
  • Jun 2023: 680
  • Jul 2023: 869
  • Aug 2023: 611
  • Sep 2023: 677
  • Oct 2023: 1031
  • Nov 2023: 787
  • Dec 2023: 986 (with another 5 days to go)

Breakdown by Product

Here is a breakdown of the total sales figures for the main products:

  • Tricube Tales (core rules): 2128 sales since 2019-11-08
  • Solo Rules & Deck: 1323 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: 757 sales since 2020-08-27
  • Samhain Slaughter: 787 sales since 2020-10-08
  • Chrome Shells & Neon Streets: 915 sales since 2020-11-21
  • Metahuman Uprising: 829 sales since 2020-12-28
  • Rotten Odds: 762 sales since 2021-01-31
  • Tales of the Goblin Horde: 763 sales since 2021-04-01
  • Wardens of the Weird West: 816 sales since 2021-06-12
  • Firefighters: 744 sales since 2021-07-06
  • Horrible Henchmen: 731 sales since 2021-08-13
  • Pirates of the Bone Blade: 778 sales since 2021-09-15
  • Eldritch Detectives: 859 sales since 2021-10-30
  • Wiseguys: Gangster Tales: 698 sales since 2021-11-20
  • Interstellar Mech War: 774 sales since 2021-11-30
  • Voyage to the Isle of Skulls: 667 sales since 2021-12-31
  • Down in the Depths: 598 sales since 2022-01-24
  • Accursed: Dark Tales of Morden: 542 sales since 2022-02-17
  • Twisted Wishes: 588 sales since 2022-02-23
  • A Welsh Werewolf in Llanfair PG: 625 sales since 2022-04-01
  • Interstellar Smugglers: 688 sales since 2022-05-04
  • Winter Eternal: Darkness and Ice: 503 sales since 2022-05-17
  • Sharp Knives & Dark Streets: 601 sales since 2022-05-31
  • Summer Camp Slayers: 546 sales since 2022-06-28
  • Titan Effect RPG: Covert Tales: 516 sales since 2022-07-20
  • Sundered Chains: 473 sales since 2022-08-07
  • Stranger Tales: 494 sales since 2022-10-06
  • Minerunners: 451 sales since 2022-11-01
  • Spellrunners: 483 sales since 2022-11-22
  • Christmas Capers: 412 sales since 2022-12-18
  • Heroes of Sherwood Forest: 398 sales since 2023-01-28
  • Tales of the Little Adventurers: 344 sales since 2023-02-19
  • Tales of the City Guard: 328 sales since 2023-03-26
  • Maidenstead Mysteries: 313 sales since 2023-04-19
  • Interstellar Rebels: 315 sales since 2023-05-04
  • Hunters of Victorian London: 269 sales since 2023-05-29
  • Stone Age Hunters: 225 sales since 2023-06-23
  • Paths Between the Stars: 225 sales since 2023-07-01
  • Mythical Heroes: 169 sales since 2023-09-15
  • Academy of Monstrous Secrets: 105 sales since 2023-10-29
  • Eldritch Apocalypse: 75 sales since 2023-12-07

These are the DTRPG freebies (in order of publication) -- I like to have a few free products to build up my mailing list. However, since I've added a print-on-demand option, they now have a few sales as well:

  • Interstellar Bounty Hunters: 3684 downloads (and 19 print sales) since 2020-09-29
  • Welcome to Drakonheim: 2372 downloads (and 11 print sales) since 2021-03-10
  • Interstellar Troopers: 3018 downloads (and 17 print sales) since 2021-04-26
  • Interstellar Laser Knights: 2830 downloads (and 14 print sales) since 2021-05-04

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

  • The Fools Who Follow: 989 downloads since 2020-07-29
  • Deep Trouble in Oldport Bay: 625 downloads since 2021-02-20
  • Halfling Hustlers: 306 downloads since 2021-07-03
  • Guardians of the Shadow Frontier: 735 downloads since 2021-07-31
  • Interstellar Explorers: 519 downloads since 2022-08-02
  • Arcane Agents: 156 downloads since 2023-08-15

Some Thoughts

In the past, when I published new products they initially sold well, but those sales rapidly dwindled to a mere trickle. However, the one-pagers seem to continue to sell well long after publication. I suspect this is because I add each new release to the Tricube Tales Bundle, and many new customers will buy the entire bundle (at half price) rather than pick up an individual product.

Last year, the best-selling one-pager (Chrome Shells & Neon Streets) hit Gold Best Seller with 561 sales, and 18 others reached Electrum Best Seller. This year, 23 of the one-pagers have hit Gold Best Seller, and Chrome Shells & Neon Streets is rapidly closing on Platinum. The main Tricube Tales book is also marching steadily toward Mithral Best Seller -- it had 1063 sales last year, and a further 1065 sales this year, so if it continues to sell at the current rate it should hit Mithral in about 5 months.

This year I also started offering print-on-demand versions of the one-pagers, although they don't sell particularly well compared to the digital versions -- I've sold 434 in total so far, which might seem a lot, but probably doesn't even cover the cost of printing and shipping the print proofs. Still, they look great (printed on 10"x8" double-sided cards), particularly in video reviews, and sales figures jump whenever someone posts a video review.

I've also reached the point where my Tricube Tales products significantly outsell my SWAG products, which is something of a personal milestone. However, I am still a fan of Savage Worlds, and plan to continue releasing SWAG products from time to time -- I've already converted two of the Tricube Tales one-pagers to SWADE, and have plans for at least a couple more.

What's Next?

Last year I mentioned that I was working on Tricube Tactics, which is an optional supplement that adds deeper combat and character progression to Tricube Tales. I'd originally hoped to release it this year, but it's taken a lot more fine-tuning and playtesting than I thought. However, I've already started doing the layout, and there's really just one section I still need to finish writing (the monster section), so I'm very optimistic about finishing it next year. I'm hoping Tricube Tactics will give the system greater appeal to those who felt Tricube Tales was too light for their tastes.

Once Tricube Tactics is finished, I'm also quite keen to use it for a Saga of the Goblin Horde conversion -- perhaps even publish a standalone "Saga of the Goblin Horde" game that includes the Tricube Tales and Tricube Tactics rules.

Of course, I also plan to continue releasing new one-pagers, as this approach seems to be highly effective at keeping the system in the public eye (and it's fun to explore all sorts of different settings and genres!). But I think it would be nice to publish a larger TT product as well, and SotGH is an obvious candidate. Still, I may also experiment with some other larger products -- I've seen a few third-party publishers create TT booklets, and I've got an interesting idea for a fantasy game in the same style.

Finally, I'm planning to start posting on this blog more regularly. I used to post on it a lot the first few years, but this year I've posted a grand total of once (i.e., this post!). There are quite a few topics I'd like to post about for Tricube Tactics, as it allows me to explore game mechanics in a way that wasn't really possible with the core rules-lite Tricube Tales.

Wednesday 28 December 2022

Tricube Tales: Third-party products

I always announce new Tricube Tales products I've worked on as I add them to my bundle, but as the system is released under the CC BY 3.0 open license, an increasing number of other indie publishers have started using it for their own creations.

Therefore, as we approach the end of 2022, I'd like to shine a spotlight on some of the fantastic third-party Tricube Tales creations that people may have missed on DriveThruRPG. Some are one-pagers in the same style as mine, while others are expanded settings, and many are free or PWYW. If you like Tricube Tales and are looking for more content, I strongly recommend checking out these offerings (not listed in any particular order):

Heroes of the Cosmos: Blast off onto the unknown in this expanded 32-page space pulp action setting.

Artifacts & Adventure: Modern-Day Treasure Hunters: Explore lost ruins and raid ancient tombs in this free 46-page scenario.

The Last Heist: A team of senior citizens comes out of retirement for one last job.

Court of Callings: Agents of the Court of Callings protect the medieval city of Southrock from internal and external threats.

6.6.Psyclops: An elite team of psychically gifted soldiers undertakes secret missions across the globe.

Into the After-Gloaming: Gritty survivors roam a post-apocalyptic landscape in this 46-page sandbox setting.

Here on Castaway Island: A group of tourists finds themselves washed up on an uncharted desert island.

GONZO MUTOID WASTELAND CRUST PUNKS: Bizarre mutants explore an apocalyptic world where different realities have been smashed together.

Unsightly and Unseen: Vampires, ghosts, and Unseelie fae haunt the shadows of the world, following their mysterious agendas.

Defenders of Millennia: Guardians of a fantasy realm fight against the encroaching darkness that threatens to smother the world.

On Mighty Tricubes: Muscle-bound barbarians battle fearsome monsters in this pulp Sword and Sorcery scenario.

The Land of Bright: Tiny heroes explore a land of mysteries and fairy tales in this expanded 26-page scenario.

Trifold Tricube Tales: An easy-to-print two-page cheat sheet for the Tricube Tales system.

Reign of the Jungle Guardians: Explorers and tomb hunters investigate the secrets and mysteries of the jungle.

1520: Habsburg Rising: Bold explorers brave the dangers and mysteries of the Holy Roman Empire in the 16th century.

Challenge of the Horror Hosts: A low-budget TV show host is inadvertently transported to a world of old-school monster and sci-fi movies!

The Orphans of Ragnarökr: A Viking Warband explores the icy wasteland, protecting their clan from fearsome monsters.

Fornlorn Hope: A rag-tag squad of veteran mercenaries undertakes dangerous missions in this Renaissance Europe setting.

Terra Purpura: Champions of the former Eastern Roman Empire fight against the darkness threatening the land and its people.

F14 Fleet Defender: Climb into the cockpit of your F-14 Tomcat and take to the skies on a military mission.

Red Wave Rising: Join the resistance in occupied America, fighting a guerilla war in this alternate history scenario.

Sentinels of Cirrus City: Mysteriously animated gargoyles protect the city against the forces of darkness.

D666 Bloodsacs: Survivors of a vampire invasion fight for freedom in this dark post-apocalyptic scenario.

SteamPulpTriCube: Humanity expands to Mars a decade after the failed Martian invasion of 1870 in this pulp steampunk setting.

Awakening of Anìmia: Take to the skies in your flying ship and explore the mysteries of this fantasy realm.

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Tricube Tales sales figures for the last year

One year ago, I reported that Tricube Tales had reached Gold Best Seller (501+ sales) on DriveThruRPG, and I provided a breakdown of sales figures for the product line. At the end of October 2022, Tricube Tales reached Platinum Best Seller (1001+ sales), so I thought it would be interesting to compare the figures over the last year.

Total Sales per Month

Here are the total sales for the entire product line since last year (I've included December from last year as well, as it wasn't complete in my previous blog post).

  • Dec 2021: 676
  • Jan 2022: 725
  • Feb 2022: 624
  • Mar 2022: 432
  • Apr 2022: 497
  • May 2022: 909
  • Jun 2022: 677
  • Jul 2022: 584
  • Aug 2022: 730
  • Sep 2022: 393
  • Oct 2022: 567
  • Nov 2022: 857
  • Dec 2022: 104 (so far, in the first week)

Breakdown by Product

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

  • Tricube Tales (core rules): 1063 sales since 2019-11-08
  • Solo Rules & Deck: 830 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: 452 sales since 2020-08-27
  • Samhain Slaughter: 484 sales since 2020-10-08
  • Chrome Shells & Neon Streets: 561 sales since 2020-11-21
  • Metahuman Uprising: 492 sales since 2020-12-28
  • Rotten Odds: 442 sales since 2021-01-31
  • Tales of the Goblin Horde: 453 sales since 2021-04-01
  • Wardens of the Weird West: 479 sales since 2021-06-12
  • Firefighters: 433 sales since 2021-07-06
  • Horrible Henchmen: 424 sales since 2021-08-13
  • Pirates of the Bone Blade: 441 sales since 2021-09-15
  • Eldritch Detectives: 487 sales since 2021-10-30
  • Wiseguys: Gangster Tales: 394 sales since 2021-11-20
  • Interstellar Mech War: 402 sales since 2021-11-30
  • Voyage to the Isle of Skulls: 331 sales since 2021-12-31
  • Down in the Depths: 281 sales since 2022-01-24
  • Accursed: Dark Tales of Morden: 275 sales since 2022-02-17
  • Twisted Wishes: 260 sales since 2022-02-23
  • A Welsh Werewolf in Llanfair PG: 262 sales since 2022-04-01
  • Interstellar Smugglers: 285 sales since 2022-05-04
  • Winter Eternal: Darkness and Ice: 179 sales since 2022-05-17
  • Sharp Knives & Dark Streets: 226 sales since 2022-05-31
  • Summer Camp Slayers: 184 sales since 2022-06-28
  • Titan Effect RPG: Covert Tales: 164 sales since 2022-07-20
  • Sundered Chains: 122 sales since 2022-08-07
  • Stranger Tales: 116 sales since 2022-10-06
  • Minerunners: 77 sales since 2022-11-01
  • Spellrunners: 65 sales since 2022-11-22

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: 2629 downloads since 2020-09-29
  • Welcome to Drakonheim: 1531 downloads since 2021-03-10
  • Interstellar Troopers: 1947 downloads since 2021-04-26
  • Interstellar Laser Knights: 1830 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: 758 downloads since 2020-07-29
  • Deep Trouble in Oldport Bay: 482 downloads since 2021-02-20
  • Halfling Hustlers: 219 downloads since 2021-07-03
  • Guardians of the Shadow Frontier: 504 downloads since 2021-07-31
  • Interstellar Explorers: 250 downloads since 2022-08-02

Some Thoughts

Interstellar Bounty Hunters has always had the highest number of downloads, as there was a Discord community built up around it, but overall the number of free downloads on DriveThruRPG is significantly higher than Itch. In fact, many of the one-pagers have more paid downloads on DriveThruRPG than the Itch one-pagers have free downloads!

The sales had a bump in May, August, and November, but the same occurred last year as well. Last year I'd wondered if the May bump might be due to my "May the 4th" one-pager, and the others due to Deal of the Day, but the same seems to have occurred this year as well (even though Interstellar Smugglers, which I released on May 4th 2022, is only a little above average in terms of sales). Perhaps the bump for those months is caused by something else, such as the special sales DriveThruRPG often runs?

Chrome Shells & Neon Streets has always been the most popular of the one-pagers, it's the first to reach Gold Best Seller, and it continues to maintain a strong lead. Sharp Knives & Dark Streets was originally conceived as a fantasy-themed variant of Chrome Shells & Neon Streets, as I wondered if I could repeat its success in an even more popular genre (fantasy). However, that doesn't appear to have happened.

Several of the one-pagers include form-fillable character cards, and a few of the recent products include bonus material -- Sharp Knives & Dark Streets has an expanded city complete with a map, while Minerunners and Spellrunners come with adventures. However, the bonus material doesn't appear to have had any obvious impact on sales (which is a shame, as those products took about twice as much effort to create, and required additional artwork).

Some of the one-pagers have also experimented a bit with the mechanics. Tales of the Goblin Horde was the first to do this, adding rules for gang members. Interstellar Mech War replaced "trait" and "concept" with "weight" and "chassis", and renamed "karma" and "resolve" to "energy" and "frame". Stranger Tales replaced the usual three traits (agile, brawny, and crafty) with athletic, bold, and clever. Sundered Chains added a few special magic items that changed the rules. I'd like to continue to push the envelope a bit here and there, partially to challenge myself and avoid being too repetitive, but also to provide examples of how the rules can be adapted.

I've still got plenty of ideas for new one-pagers, but I'd also like to broaden the options somewhat. I'm still working on a Tricube Tactics supplement (which adds an optional layer for those who prefer more depth to combat), and I'd like to finish that in the next few months. I'm also working on a "generic" TT one-page RPG, for people who want to run games in established settings. I don't know how viable a generic one-pager will be (I've generally been of the opinion that one-page RPGs with strong themes are far more popular), but I'll give it a go.

Sunday 12 June 2022

Tricube Tales: Expanded scene types for cooperative play

RPGClyde on the Zadmar Games Discord server recently mentioned that he likes playing cooperative GMless games with Tricube Tales, and this got me thinking about how the solo rules might be expanded to better handle cooperative play.

The main issue is the key challenges. Should everyone roll for them? One player? Do you pick someone at random? If everyone has to succeed then there's a much greater risk of failure -- but conversely, if only one player has to beat the challenge, the chance of success is far higher.

Cooperative play should take all of those factors into account, and that also means compensating for the fact that each player will likely be making fewer rolls. Introducing the use of effort tokens (as described in the Tricube Tales core rules) would help a lot, but they shouldn't be overused.

When I used to design Savage Worlds One Sheet adventures, I found my sweet spot was two scenes that required multiple rolls to resolve (one as a combat scene, the other as a Chase, Dramatic Task, or Social Conflict). So my gut feeling is to do the same here with scenes requiring effort tokens, and define two types of scenes: action scenes, and story scenes.

Action Scenes

Each adventure contains two "action scenes". These typically represent combat, chases, or other dramatic group activities.

When you draw a new scene card, before resolving the challenge, compare its suit with the scene cards you've previously drawn. If this is the first time you've made a pair (aka two-of-a-kind -- i.e., two cards of the same suit) then this is the first action scene: it has a pool of 2 effort tokens per PC (e.g., if there are 3 players, then the scene has 6 effort tokens). The final scene of the adventure is the second action scene, and it has a pool of 3 effort tokens per PC.

Action scenes use a pool of effort tokens, and the players must eliminate all the effort tokens in order to beat the challenge. Everyone rolls: those who fail, lose 1 resolve (or 2 on a critical failure); those who succeed eliminate 1 effort token for each die that succeeds (e.g., if they roll 6 5 4 for an easy challenge, they would eliminate 3 effort tokens). If any of the effort tokens remain, everyone has to roll again.

Anyone who already eliminated their share of the effort tokens may have the option of sitting out the rest of the scene (this is still TBD, but something I'll think about before writing up these rules in their final form).

Story Scenes

If a scene isn't an "action scene", then it's a "story scene". These can represent anything, even combat, but they consist of a single roll (to draw a comparison with the approach I used for Savage Worlds One Sheet adventures, these could be like Quick Combat rather than a full combat encounter).

In solo play, the lone PC resolves all the key challenges for story scenes (and thus no further changes are required), but in a cooperative game, use the suit to determine who rolls. As the action scenes can result in the loss of resolve, I recommend that story scenes don't, at least as a general rule.

Note: As a memory hook, the first letter of the scene type is the same as the name of the suit.

Clubs: Combined Effort

Everyone can roll, and only one person needs to succeed to carry the rest of the group). For example:

Agile: Someone throws something at the group, and one PC has to catch it before it hits the ground. There's a lock that needs picking, but everyone can have a go. The PCs are trying to shoot a fleeing enemy, but only one of them needs to successfully hit.

Brawny: The group is chasing a fleeing target, and someone needs to catch them! The group has to drag a heavy object or open a heavy door.

Crafty: Only one PC has to spot the ambush or notice a clue in order to tell the others. One PC has to recall an important piece of information.

Diamonds: Draw Straws

One person picked at random must roll to overcome the challenge. For example:

Agile: One PC is shot at by a sniper and must evade. One PC is caught in the enemy's field of vision and must hide. Only one PC has line-of-sight to take a shot at the fleeing enemy.

Brawny: Falling debris falls on one of the PCs, potentially injuring them. An enemy attacks one of the PCs.

Crafty: One PC happens to walk past a clue, can they spot it? Someone attempts to trick, taunt or intimidate a PC.

Hearts: Heel of Achilles

Everyone rolls and everyone has to succeed, if anyone fails then the entire group fails. For example:

Agile: The whole group needs to sneak past some guards without being spotted. The PCs attempt to ambush some soldiers, but they'll need to be quiet!

Brawny: It's a long and tiring journey, can everyone keep up, or will someone delay the group? Can the entire group run to the escape pod before the space pirates arrive?

Crafty: The PCs infiltrate an organization, if any of their acting skills aren't up to par, they will draw unwanted attention.

Spades: Step Forward

One person volunteers to make the roll. The group can discuss and nominate the best candidate for the task. For example:

Agile: One PC has to steal the guard's key, or sneak up on the lookout and overpower them.

Brawny: One PC has to climb the wall and enter through the open window (they can then open the door on the other side to let the rest of the group inside).

Crafty: One PC has to track the enemy, or bribe an official.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Short example of solo play using Tales of the Goblin Horde

I've seen some interesting Tricube Tales solo Actual Plays lately, so I thought it'd be fun to try posting a short example myself. I won't dive into too much detail in the various scenes, as I'm trying to keep it simple, but you can certainly do that in your own games if you prefer! After all, solo gaming is very much a personal thing, there's no "right" or "wrong" way to do it, as long as you're having fun.

I'll be using Tales of the Goblin Horde (TotGH) and the Tricube Tales Solo Rules (both of which can be downloaded free by clicking their Publisher Previews), plus the Saga of the Goblin Horde Configurable Map to plan out the route.

I will use the example character from the TotGH character creation section: Big Brak, a brawny warrior who is also a huge bugbear, but only has one eye.

Rolling on the TotGH adventure generator, I get 5 6 3. So the main plot is that Big Brak is ordered to "kill some adventurers" in "a deep cave or mine" while dealing with "a psychopathic druid"

I'll use the examples from the one-page RPG rather than make up my own:
5. The Quest for the Holy Pail: A party of human adventurers has been exploring ancient ruins, searching for a lost relic—a magical bucket?! It’s time for them to kick the bucket!

6. Swallow Hole: A network of deep caverns situated on Hightree Ridge, Swallow Hole is a popular raiding spot for greedy human adventurers.

3. Tree-Hugging Tyrant: Another human druid has gone on a murderous rampage, animating trees and controlling beasts, and sending them after goblins.
Rolling on the TotGH twist table for the subplots gives me the following:
Primary subplot (2 5 = trap): My interpretation: Someone has been ambushing Redfang goblins on Hightree Ridge, they've already killed several gangs. Could this by the druid, or is it someone else? We'll have to find out!

Secondary subplot (2 6 = key): My interpretation: A Bonedigger gang is searching for the relic as well, they believe it's the key to a magical ritual.
Looking at the map, I can see Big Brak will need to journey through Twilight Wood and climb Hightree Ridge in order to reach Swallow Hole. The Solo Rules ensure there will be at least 5 scenes, and the first is the opening scene, so I envision them working something like this:
Scene 1: Visit Chief Bignose in his tent to receive the mission.

Scene 2: Head east through Twilight Wood.

Scene 3: Climb Hightree Ridge.

Scene 4: Enter Swallow Hole.

Scene 5: Explore Swallow Hole
Further scenes may then follow, depending on the cards. Maybe the adventurers need to be chased back across Hightree Ridge and into the human lands, perhaps even followed into one of their towns. Alternatively, the secondary subplot (the Bonedigger gang) could introduce a new scene or two on the way back from defeating the adventurers.


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 Big Brak, a ferocious boss from the Redfang tribe, leading your gang on a series of dangerous missions against the humans and other enemies. Chief Bignose is confident you won’t let him down!

Scene 1: Visiting Chief Bignose

Draw a Joker -- 6: The scene changes due to a new event
Roll for an urban event -- 6 6: Urban decay (roll 3 6 on the fantasy twist table for inspiration -- someone tripping over)

Chief Bignose's tent is old and smelly, with patches of mold growing on it. It should have been replaced years ago, but his flunkies just patch up the holes as best they can. As Big Brak walks into the tent, his huge foot catches a loose string, and the entire tent collapses. Chief Bignose yelps for help, "Hey! Who turned the lights out?"

Draw the 8 of Clubs (easy crafty challenge).

Big Brak searches through the folds of the tent, trying to find Chief Bignose. Roll -- 3 2 (failure, but reducing the difficulty to 3 with the bugbear perk turns it into a success). Big Brak uses his great strength to rip the tent to shreds, revealing the stumpy chieftain buried underneath!

Chief Bignose clambers to his feet, brushes himself down, and curses loudly about the state of his tent. He glances up, up, up, at the towering bugbear before him. "Ah, there you are, Brak. I have the perfect mission for someone of your physical stature and intellectual limitations. My scouts report that a band of ugly human adventurers has been poking around on Hightree Ridge, searching for some stupid magical bucket. It looks like they're trying to find Swallow Hole. Head over there, and do to them what you just did to my tent!"

Big Brak wanders over to his campfire and yells for his flunkies to attend him. "We're going hunting for human meat!" Without any further ado, Brak turns on his heel and marches east toward Hightree Ridge, his gang members running after him as they try desperately to keep up with his pace.

Scene 2: Journey through Twilight Wood

Rolling on the weather conditions table -- 6 4. The sky is overcast with rain, and there's a strong breeze.

Draw the 7 of Clubs (hard brawny challenge). No idea what the challenge could be, so I'll roll for a random wilderness event for inspiration -- 4 1 (rolling log/boulder). Sounds like an ambush.

Big Brak and his gang head through Twilight Wood, the trees swaying in the breeze as heavy droplets of rain drip through the canopies overhead. Suddenly, a loud crack echoes through the forest, and a huge tree topples onto the gang, pinning them to the ground!

Roll 4 3 4 (failure, using meat shield to give the damage to a gang member instead): Big Brak staggers to his feet, pulling his gang members out from under the boughs. One of the goblins is dead, impaled by a broken branch, but the other two are only dazed. A group of porcupine beastfolk hoot and cackle from their vantage point in the treetops, amused at their little prank, then they vanish among the canopies.

With a snarl, Big Brak picks up the pace.

Scene 3: Climbing Hightree Ridge

Draw the 9 of Spades (standard crafty challenge).

The gang makes its way out of the forest and starts hiking up Hightree Ridge. But soon, the goblins start arguing over which way they need to travel to reach Swallow Hole. Roll -- 5 5 (exceptional success). Big Brak shakes his head at his useless flunkies and snarls "Idiots, why do you think I chose this route? It's the fastest path to Swallow Hole!" The gang eagerly heads toward their destination.

Scene 4: Reaching Swallow Hole

Draw the 3 of Clubs (standard agile challenge).

Big Brak and his flunkies approach the lesser-known secondary entrance to Swallow Hole. It's very unlikely the humans would discover this entrance, as it's well concealed, but it's also rather dangerous.

Roll 2 4 (failure, using meat shield).

One of the gang members loses her footing and falls to her death while trying to climb down the entrance shaft. Brak and the last gang member make their way down safely, and then head deeper into the warren. They'll need to scout around and find a good spot to lay in wait for the adventurers!

Rolling for a dungeon feature -- 2 5 (distinctive smell). Big Brak raises his snout and sniffs at the air. The cave smells of blood and death, there's been fighting going on down here recently! He draws his axe and heads deeper into the cave.

Scene 5: Inside Swallow Hole

Draw the King of Clubs (advance main plot, negative) -> It turns out the adventurers are already here, and they've set an ambush!
Draw the 3 of Spades (standard agile challenge) -> As we now have 3 Clubs and 2 Spades among the spot cards, this will be the final scene.

The adventurers reached Swallow Hole before Big Brak, and they heard the splat of his gang member earlier, so they've set an ambush inside the cave. They must have already wiped out the borderland goblins that were living here, that would explain the lingering smell of blood and death.

The humans unleash a barrage of arrows and lightning bolts as Big Brak and his last remaining minion walk into their trap.

Roll -- 2 5 (success). Big Brak and his minion hunker down behind cover, avoiding the brunt of the attacks. Unfortunately, because of the ambush (negative plot advancement), the entire fight must be resolved via ranged attacks, putting the bugbear at a disadvantage. The enemy has 5 effort tokens, these represent a ranger (2 tokens), a druid (2 tokens), and a henchman (1 token).

Attack roll -- 2 6 (success, eliminate 1 effort token). The gang member hurls his spear, taking out the henchman.

Defense roll -- 6 3 (success). A lightning bolt explodes nearby, showering Brak with debris, but he shakes it off.

Attack roll -- 1 1 (critical failure, introduce a complication). Brak hurls his axe at the druid, but she ducks and reacts with a quick spell, shrouding Brak in an outline of illusionary fire. For the rest of the combat, all defense rolls will be hard (difficulty 6) challenges.

Defense roll -- 1 1 (critical failure again). As a confused Brak attempts to put out the illusionary flames, the ranger and druid unleash their attacks upon him. Using meat shield to avoid the loss of 2 resolve. Brak drops and rolls on the floor at the last moment, and his remaining gang member is obliterated instead.

Attack roll -- 6 3 (success). With a roar, Brak picks up the corpse of his last flunky, and hurls it at the druid, knocking her off her feet.

Defense roll -- 5 2 (failure). The ranger uses the opportunity to shoot an arrow, striking Big Brak in the knee. Brak loses 1 resolve.

Attack roll -- 4 4 (failure). Spend 1 karma to lower the difficulty to 4, turning the failure into an exceptional success. Brak uses his enormous bugbear physique to lift a massive rock and hurl it at the ranger, smashing him to a pulp.

Defense roll -- 1 1 (critical failure yet again). The druid shoots Big Brak with a powerful lightning bolt, electrocuting him! Big Brak loses his last 2 resolve, and his smoking body drops to the floor. The druid is injured and her companions are both dead, so she staggers out of the cave, mounts her horse, and leaves, without stopping to confirm her kill.

Sometime later, Big Brak wakes up. He's now back to full resolve, but as well as having scorched fur, he now has a permanent affliction. We'll say "fear of lightning". The mission is a failure, as the druid escaped. Chief Bignose will not be happy...


I intended this to be a brief example, but it was even shorter than I'd expected due to the cards concluding the adventure after 5 scenes. I could have stretched out the final scene, but I liked the surprise ambush at the end, so I decided to resolve the last scene as a combat encounter with 5 effort tokens.

Normally I prefer running solo games with physical props, but this time I used Roll20 for the dice and cards (with the VTT version of the Solo Deck). Luck was definitely not on my side with those dice rolls though! Perhaps things would have turned out differently if I'd used my last karma to turn the second-to-last defense roll into a success, but I hadn't expected to get yet another critical failure.

I completely forgot to use my quirk, and I also failed to tie in the Bonedigger gang, but if the adventure had been longer I could have used them to spice up the story. If there's one thing I've learned about solo gaming, it's that the story never quite goes the way I was expecting!

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.