21 May, 2017

New Law Imagery

I haven't done much on the blog over the last few weeks because I've been busy engaging my practical experience period in a high school as a part of my university studies.

But I have managed to put together a few images for my RPG, "The Law".

Hopefully I can get back to work on this project in three more weeks, when my practical experience period is over.

18 May, 2017

Menu updated

After struggling to find the terrain tutorial series I created a few years ago, I have just updated the "Other Tutorials" page in the menu at the top of this blog.

I basically just walked a school class of 11-12 years olds through the processes described in that tutorial and I'll be providing them with more details regarding that in the next couple of weeks.

Now I just need to update the rest of the links in those menus, because I've needed several of them a few times over the years and have given up searching through the 1800-odd posts on the blog.

(In the process I discovered that I use the "Rant" tag far more often than I thought I did)

11 May, 2017

Warhammer 40k New Version

I usually don't worry about new versions of Warhammer 40k, but posts like this and this, along with rumours of a new skirmish level game in the vein of Necromunda are drawing my interest.

A lot of these modifications seem to be streamlining the game, and make a logical sense to me.. but I've been out of the loop for so many iterations of the game that I'm really not sure 🤔 whether things are being improved or not in this version of the rules.

Still, it's got my attention, and I'll be keeping an eye on the further blog posts as they reveal more.

05 May, 2017

Critique of the 200 Word RPGs

The finalists of the 200 word RPGs have been released.

I'm not among the entrants that made it to this level, but that's not really important. It a fun challenge to participate in, and as I've said previously, I try to participate in contests like this to see where the cutting edge of game design is, to see what other designers known and unknown are currently pushing with their designs.

I will have a look at all the finalists, and offer my own critique on them. A few people have already started doing this, a few with rating systems of their own. 200 words is tough, I could easily write more about the entries than the length of the entries themselves... and since there are hundreds of entries, it could be a mammoth undertaking.

I think I'll generate a quick rating system based on a couple of criteria, a score out of 10, and a sentence or two on each.This will start by alternating between finalists and random entries, then progress through chunks of the remainder. If I stay motivated, I might even start digging through some entries from previous years.

Criteria ideas so far... (these aren't designed to be judgement calls regarding the quality of the entry, merely indicators about how I perceive the direction the entry has gone)

Setting - (0) No Setting / (1) Implied / (2) Explicit
How well is a setting for the game described in the rules?

Game Mechanism - (0) None / (1) Crude / (2) Detailed
How well described are the mechanisms for character interactions?

Metagame - (0) None / (1) Vague / (2) Clear
How well described are the mechanisms for player/GM interactions?

Style of Game (Keywords)
Parlour - Doesn't particularly have players portraying character roles, but instead might weave a collective narrative between the players.
Freeform - Minimalist rules (if any)
Targeted - Uses target numbers to define success/failure
AW - Has links to the Apocalypse Engine
Cards (X) - Game uses cards, where X might indicate standard, tarot, or custom deck
Dice (X) - Game uses dice, where X might indicate the specific dice rolled eg (2d6), (d20)
(Note that these are my definitions for the purposes of this exercise, they might not match the way others use this terminology)

I'm sure I'll think of more as I develop this further.

26 April, 2017

40k retrospective

I was reading through this article about early 40k, it's a really interesting read and intersects a few ideas I've had over the last few months.

A few points...

I generally agree with the idea that GW has never given a good reason why they got rid of Squats as a faction, but I suspect it was easier to rebrand the "Space Elves" as Eldar (and now "Aeldari" to conceal that origin even further), while the "Space Dwarves" would be too hard to dissociate from their Dwarven heritage.

I miss the bad puns in GW character names. I miss a lot of that old 80s attitude, but I've moaned about that here on the blog a few times.

There have been so many missed opportunities by Games Workshop in the desire to simply sell more minis...again something I've moaned about a few times.

I really miss that early idea of a techno-fantasy battleground. I'd totally love to do a mixed 40k/Fantasy battle. It's a shame the games keep diverging further and further apart.

25 April, 2017

An era has passed

One of the most influential people in my life, I will now never get the chance to meet.

The Author of Zen and the Art of MOtorcycle Maintenance has passed away.

One of my favourite RPGs of all time is Mage: the Ascension, and this game is heavily based on the two books written by Pirsig. ZatAoMM and Lila, both define elements of the game, the former providing a context for the magical attribute of Arete (representing both an inherent understanding and one-ness with the universe, akin to a level of divinity...but not quite, I can't make a glib single sentence description...just go and read the book already), the latter providing a deeper context for paradigms and ways of viewing the universe (again...just read the damn book).

I used to read these two books annually, but it's been a while since I did so. I must get around the reading them again. I've also got a book called "Zen and Now" in which another author and motorcyclist traced the journey taken by Pirsig in his seminal work, but doing so decades later.

I'm going to have to read all three books some time soon to mark the passage of one of the 20th centuries great philosophers.

23 April, 2017

20 April, 2017

First thoughts on the "200 words" entries.

Maybe it's easier and quicker to explain something if the existing audience has a common point of reference. I've talked about this a few times over the years. Shorthands and stereotypes instantly convey a wealth of information as a direct data packet between the communicator and the recipient of the message. Once those are out of the way, the real storytelling (or new data flow) can be started.

I base a lot of my games on that strategy. Characters are often made up from template fragments, where choosing the naturally fitting components leaves a player with a stereotype or caricature, while choosing disparate components gives a memorable and different character (but one with internal struggles that cause problems of their own). But that's playing within the rules.

Playing with the rules is something different. I consider hacks to be lazy game design, they basically shorthand something that players and GMs are already familiar with, then apply something quirky or novel and call it an innovation. People who are similarly lazy look at these games (which are awfully similar to what they're already playing...so they don't have to do a lot of reading or thinking for themselves) and see the quirkiness/novelty/innovation as something amazing. They crow about it on social media, and the "designer" is lauded with maximum praise for minimum effort.

200 words isn't a lot of room. To get a complex game happening in that space doesn't require shorthands, references to other games, or simple hacking another game wholesale...but it sure makes things easier.

There seem to be a few ideas that are appearing in a LOT of the games I've been looking at among this year's entries. Whether it's tapping the zeitgeist, using shorthands that have become common in recent years, or laziness on the part of designers... I haven't decided.

Some of the trends I've spotted:

  • Divide 7 points between two attributes. Everything in the game is about those two attributes. If you can't fit your action into one of those actions either: a) it doesn't work at all, b) it automatically happens, c) you need to talk it out and work it into tthe narrative, d) there's a 50-50 chance of success.
  • Divide more points (maybe 10) between three attributes, the rest pf the first point basically still applies.
  • Roll under attribute. Typically combined with one of the two options above.
  • Roll a pool of dice. Typically the number of dice rolled is determined as per the first two options above.
  • Do "Apocalypse World" stuff. Roll 2 dice. Shoehorn one of the four standard modifiers onto the roll. If you roll below a certain threshold, you fail pretty badly. If you roll above a cetain threshold, you generally succeed. If you fall between these, something interesting happens. 
  • 200 words set a scene... no rules... just go. 

19 April, 2017

Collaborative Worldbuilding

Here on the blog I've generated a couple of worlds in two distinct series of posts about world-building.

But I love the idea of creating something collaboratively, to generate something that no individual mind could have achieved on it's own. I've done collaborative worldbuilding a few times before, and have often found that you need to walk a careful tightrope to avoid generating something that "looks like it was designed by committee".

Lets see where it heads.  

18 April, 2017

200 Words (Part 2)

Looks like it's fine to post these 200 word games for feedback while the contest is going...so here's the second iteration of what I've been working on.

Old Scratch
There were thirteen of you at the start; each gaining a supernatural talent from a ritual exactly one decade ago.
Tonight, back at the crossroads, Old Scratch calls his due.

Thirteen “power coins” at centre of table.

Start 13 pages with sentence describing character before the ritual, then number 1-10 down the page (1/year)

Write these questions on index cards, each player also writes their own question on a card…
    Who was betrayed?
    What was sacrificed?
    Who died? (choose NPC; remove question if none left)

All players dealt a five-card hidden hand (standard deck). Each chooses a page (others are NPCs)

    Begin Year
    Randomly Deal Questions
    Everyone cuts deck, highest goes first.
        Current player claims coin (from centre or from another player), explains this event by answering their question (avoiding contradictions)
        Other players respond by playing a card from hand.
        If black cards outnumber red, claimed coin is kept.; otherwise coin returned.
        Played cards shuffled into deck, hands refilled.
    Next player
    If tenth year, end; otherwise, next year.

Total players’ coins and red cards at end (best poker hand breaks ties), highest chooses game’s survivor (not themselves). Old Scratch claims the rest.  

Not 100% happy with the end game, But I've still got 7 words to play with.

17 April, 2017

200 Word RPGs

It's that time of year...

I have to write roughly 30,000 words worth of university assignments...and 200 words worth of RPG.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about...visit this link.

I've completely one of the 3 uni assignment and a single 200 word RPG entry. Now it's just another 18,000 words worth of university assignments to go before Thursday.

I can't remember if I'm allowed to post the game design idea somewhere else before I enter it in the contest, otherwise I'd include it below.

14 April, 2017

No humans

After a few recnt projects, I'm falling more in love with the idea of settings where there are no humans. Instead, I'm thinking more of multicultural/multi-racial settings, where the default race isn't specifically defined as human, but is instead defined as a mongrel hybrid of the setting's original races. Then throwing in the twist that there are "mongrel/human" supremacist groups who claim to be the most powerful in the land, only because they are the most numerous...certainly not because they are the most pure.

I come to this again as I consider a fantasy version of The Law. But I need to make sure the base version is complete first...and I need to eliminate some university projects before I can go much further on that.

13 April, 2017

Further Flavours in the Mix

Further to yesterday's post, I couldn't add Blade Runner wholesale into the mix, because Blade Runner is essentially an empty world, where the remains of humanity exist in vast technological cities while the majority of humanity has already ascended to the stars. The concepts of policing in Blade Runner are also quite different to the authoritarian attitudes of policing in the Judge Dredd universe (and that remains the core concept around which other elements must fit).

But just because I can't mesh the two completely, it doesn't mean they are mutually exclusive, after all they both fit in the cyberpunk mould. I can certainly add elements of Blade Runner to the mix, Replicants might be a potential fit for the setting, along with robotic animals (because the natural animals are now rare due to planetary environmental degradation). Flying vehicles are common to both settings. I'm sure there are numerous other little bits and pieces that could be ported across.

Shadowrun...flat out "NO". Call me anthrocentric, but I don't want elves, dwarves, orcs, and fantasy tropes messing up my cyberpunk. SLA Industries could act as an indirect inspiration, since it is more alien in it's exoticness (but who knows what is happening to that intellectual property at the moment).  
I could also probably add the blueprint maps I was drawing towards the end of 2015.

These imply a distinct island setting, a free trade zone separate from the other nations of the planet, and incorporating a space port. It might be a specific setting for the game, with a slightly different flavour to the main project. At the moment I'm generally thinking of ways to incorporate unfinished projects of the past and make them worthwhile again.

I could also fill in elements of the game with various other images that I've shared at different times here on the blog (if only I could find the originals again).

 They exist, why not use them.

12 April, 2017

Other Inspirations

When I create projects I can never draw on a single inspiration. It's probably one of those reasons why I can't handle straight up fan fiction... I need to create something new, something interesting and a bit different.

So I'm thinking of adding elements of Max Headroom into the mix for "The Law". Maybe a few other cyberpunk elements... It's just a case of working out what works best for the vibe I'm aiming at. Throwing a few blatant call-outs into the mix, and a few easter eggs for those who know what they're looking for. But with Max Headroom as an 80s British take on a Amercian dystopia, it clearly has to be involved.

02 April, 2017

Cityscape Images

I think we're getting a good feel for the urban blight of The Law with these images, just a few more to go.

01 April, 2017

16-Bit Law

(Click image to zoom in)

Maybe I shouldn't bother with all the post work on these images.

Maybe instead, I should just stop the render 6.25% of the way through (at the end of the second of the four rendering passes). This leaves the images with the kind of blocky pixellated art that we saw in "high-end" computer games of the late 80s and early 90's.

The general imagery I've been aiming for in The Law has been inspired by punk 'zines, Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and the comic 2000 AD circa early 80's... but if I shifted that to circa 1990, it could turn into something very different.

(I just looked at my screen at roughly this point in the rendering process, and that's what crossed my mind)

28 March, 2017

Building up a Composite Scene

Step 1: First a 3D render of the key items in the scene is generated. This render handles things that need to remain consistent in the scene. Typical examples include the Lawbringer cycle, common vending machines, and in this articular example. an arcology corridor. This ensures the perspective is right and the setting doesn't vary for no apparent reason.   

Step 2: This is meant to be a city with over half a billion people living in it. The vast majority of those people are faceless masses that don't mean a lot to our stories except as context. So I add in some silhouette figures always in the background.

Step 3: Add some posters, some signage, some graffiti... Generally I like to make sure that these elements tell a bit of a story in themselves. S the signage is the sort of thing you'd find in a tyical dystopian setting, while the wall graffiti implies the sinister cults that I've mentioned in the rules.

Step 4: Now I apply the first of a few threshold effects. Everything lighter than a 50% shade is turned white, and everything darker than that 50% shade is turned black. This example is a pretty dark one.

Step 5: I apply a few more threshold effects. typically at the 25% and 75% brightness levels, but in this case the darkness needs more nuance, so I play at the lower levels. This threshold effect occurs at 37.5%

Step 6: The lowest threshold level is at 25% in this example.

Step 7: I turn the various threshold effects to 50% opacity and overlay them.

Step 8: Compressing those layers, I can move forward with additional effects. The first of t\which is applying a half-tone filter to make the image look more like something from a newspaper. That starts to give it the lo-fi effect that I'm after for this setting.

Step 9: On another layer where I duplicated that compressed image, I run the Photoshop "Photocopy" filter, it basically highlights the edges and maintains a bit of texture.

Step 10: One of the final stages in this particular image is to take the "photocopy" filtered image and place it over the layer with the "half-tone" filtered image. The "photocopy" layer is set to multiply itself over the "halftone" to bring out the outlines with a darker black.

But the image was looking too bright, so I took a duplicate of the 50% threshold layer (from back in step 4) and applied it over the top again, multiplying it again to only make the image darker, but turning to opacity down to 30%.

That gives us a final image like this.

All it needs is a few foreground characters who will be drawn in later.

27 March, 2017

Last Image of the Lawbringer

The Lawbringer needed a few features to make it feasible as a vehicle for our Agents of the Law. It needed mirrors, headlights, indicators, seat cushioning, footplates, display consoles, and handlebars.

To add a bit more to it. I've also added Department of Law insignia (to the front, and on each side at the back), and some cooling fins to the main engine at the rear wheel. I'm working on the assumption that these bikes will be electrically driven, so there's no real need for a massive engine assembly in it. 

Applying the previous filters to the image, I get something like this...

...and I think we're basically done.

Now it's time to move on to the uniforms of the Agents of Law, and their two signature firearms (the taser used by training agents and the multi-purpose multi-ammo assault pistol used by full agents). 

26 March, 2017


Agents of the law have signature equipment. Often these pieces of equipment have the word "Law" in their title somewhere.

"Law-keepers", "Law-masters", "Law-bringers"

The vehicles that bring Agents of the Law to the scene of a crime are the "Law-bringers". These are lightly-armoured, highly-maneuverable cycles designed for high speed alley chases and highway patrol. There are generally four types of Lawbringer Cycle; one is a base model that most agents start with, and three are upgraded variants assigned to sergeants and captains of the department. The three upgraded variants either have heavier armour, AI navigation systems, or are hovercycles.

I've been working on a design for a cycle. I haven't decided if it's the general cycle, or the AI version (it certainly doesn't look to have heavy armour unless it has some kind of integrated force shield...and it has wheels, so it doesn't quite fit the idea I have in mind for a hovercycle).

Here's what I've got so far.

It still needs a lot more work, but once I've got the shape right, it will be easy to generate imagery by rendering up the cycle in an appropriate scene, then applying the various filters that will give the game imagery it's signature look.

Speaking of which, here's another air of background images I threw together.

Now it's back to uni assignment work, and in a few days I might have some more image updates.