[RPG] Initial Jadepunk Characters

Thoroughly enjoyed our character generation recently for our forthcoming Jadepunk game, although they may still be subject to some tweaking and alteration, here is a look at the initial character designs.
Kaiyu Yuuto 
A young man raised into a life of priviliege who secretly became friends with a young girl from the poor district and, through her, was lead into helping the Jianghu fight against the oppresive regime of the 13th Governor.
Ba Tu Satoru
Born the son of a clockwork engineer, Ba Tu Satora was betrayed by a friend and left to die; his unlikely saviour came in the form of Dogen Hōinbō, a blind assassin who rescued the young boy and trained him in the ways of the silent killer.
The Tattooed Man (character name pending)
Inheriting strange black jade tattoos and a legacy of mysticism when he discovered a strange creature in a crashed airship, the tattooed man now uses his formidable powers to fight against the corrupt regime that holds Kausao in it’s vice-like grip.

[RPG] Using Hive-cities in RPGs

Hive Cities in RPGs
In this blog entry I want to talk a little bit about a concept that I have used in numerous roleplaying games and that seems to be very popular with my players (it’s going to be used in my forthcoming Jadepunk game ‘The Skyless City’ – you can see the video of our character and setting creation here), the concept of the hive city.
What do I mean by hive city?
A hive city is a city that is built upwards instead of outwards and in many different layers, different layers normally have different characters.
I think that I probably first came across the concept of a hive city in the Games Workshop skirmish wargame Necromunda (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necromunda), in it gangs from various houses via for supremacy on a world that has been utterly polluted by industry; the hive citys or hives are huge man-made structures reminiscent of massive artificial termite mounds, each producing a stagger amount of manufactured goods and housing many millions of people. In general the uppermost spire of the hive world serves as the domains of the rich and privilieged, rising above the polluted atmosphere of the planet and touching the edge of space itself, the waste productions and pollution of the hives flow downwards forming a poisonous lake or sump at the very base of the hive; life on the lower levels become increasing unpleasant as the denizens are forced to drink water, eat food rations and even breathe air that has been recycled many times, the radioactive waste at the bottom of the hives also gives rise to horrendous mutants and monstrosities.
Here is a picture of a Necromunda style hive found on Yaktribe Gaming (http://gaming.yaktribe.org/community/threads/pictures-of-hive-cities-help-needed.2372/) posted by Malika.
Using this concept in RPGs
Although the concept (well at least my initial encounter with it) came from a dark, nihilistic science-fiction genre it can be used in almost any RPG, where the technology exists to create tall structures with multiple levels; for example Jadepunk is an amalgamation of steampunk ideas, wuxia and westerns, using enchanted jade in the place of more traditional steam based technology. Whilst designing our setting, one of the things that I was very keen to do (as I am in all of my games) is to get the players involved as much as possible in helping to design the setting where the game takes place; my general philosophy when using a published setting is that I start with the published material as a baseline, but that player and GM choices supersede anything written in the published setting. For example: In our Jadepunk game one of the players asked whether the game featured mythological creatures since he wanted to have a background that involved a Djinn-like creature, although the canon setting is largely focussed on humans, I see no reason why I would want to stifle a players creativity by refusing to incorporate something that could add a lot to the game and even take it in interesting new directions.
Why use a hive-city type structure in an RPG
One of the benefits of hive structure is that it enables you to present a (literally) multi-layered setting that illustrtates the contrasts and differences between the different layers without having to have a monumentally huge area. As you climb higher out of the pollution the people become more refined and the surroundings more opulent, whereas in the darker layers shut away from the sky and the clean air you have poisonous fogs, pollution where people live and die in abject poverty.
A hive-city is also a way of making class differences very obvious and present in a physical way, the rich and poor are not only divided by wealth and lifestyle but literally they exist on different levels of the game world; a poor person can only dream of climbing to the upper echelons and feeling the sun upon their face whereas the exceptionally wealthy live in luxury at the top of the hive or perhaps even floating above it (depending on the setting and technology available). Hive-cities also mark the PCs in your game as being something special, since they will be one of the few groups capable (or compelled to) move between the different levels whereas most of the poor will be forbidden from the upper levels and most high level dwellers would not sully themselves by descending into the depths.
In the modern world tall structures are quite prevalent and imply a certain level of civilisation, you only need to look at the modern high-rise skyscrapers of a city to see this, and this implied civilisation can give an interesting contrast in a game where you might otherwise not see it (such as a fantasy game for instance), especially when it is contrasted with some of the barbaric acts that often occur in many different RPGs; the veneer of civilisation can be quite thin and can hide a great deal of horror and darkness when it is peeled back, like a fine carpet covering a rotting and decaying floor.
Things to keep in mind when using a hive-city structure in your game
1. Decide roughly how large your hive is going to be: This doesn’t have to be an exact measurement but you should know whether your city is going to touch the stars or whether it’s just a few levels in height.
2. Decide on the character of the different levels: Each floor of your hive does not have to be different, you can group several of them together to create an area with a certain theme (a poor district or manufacturing levels for instance), but you should have a rough idea of the different levels that exist in your hive city.
3. Create some evocative details for the different levels: Once you’ve created the level grouping think about how they look or feel different from each other and the differences in the people that inhabit each level.
4. Consider how difficult it is to move between levels: A world with a lot of social mobility and movement between levels will feel very different to one where the boundary between rich and poor is guarded by troops wielding shotguns, also your PCs will inevitably want to move between levels at some point so give some thought to how this might be accomplished, whether there are any secret ways to do it and who else may move between the different levels.
5. Think about how the different levels affect and rely on each other: Different levels exist in a sort of eco-system where they affect each other and sometimes rely on each other, you don’t have to detail out a full ecological model but it’s definitely something worth thinking about before your game starts.
Getting the main aspects of your hive game down is far more important than having a perfectly detailed and rendering map of all the levels, i’d actually recommend against too much detailed mapping since it may not leave you much room for expansion and incorporation of later ideas.
A txt version of the rough concept for our Jadepunk hive city can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByVpAo4rxDGuWGU1Wjd0U0J3emc/view?usp=sharing
Next time you want to give your game a bit of a different flavour or you fancy highlighting societal levels and differences in a very physical and obvious way, give hive-cities a go they’re great fun and can add a lot of depth to games.
Edit: My friend John Miles has just reminded me of another excellent fantasy version of a hive-city, the city of Sharn from the D&D Eberron setting, you can find more details about it here: http://eberron.wikia.com/wiki/Sharn

[Video-RPG] Jadepunk Setting & Character Creation

Myself and the three players for our forthcoming (and as yet untitled) Jadepunk game (Thashif, Jenny and Mathew) did a hangout last night where we did character creation and a bit of setting creation (hashing out the basic details of the characters home district within KauSao city). Very enjoyable (as always with this group), and we’ve got the first session scheduled for Sunday 28th, really looking forward to running it πŸ™‚

[Art-RPG] Drawing a Cartoon Me

A short while ago someone commented on one of my videos (sorry I can’t remember who, I have an abysmal memory for names) suggesting that perhaps I should focus more on the audio elements of my RPG reviews etc given the amount of referencing written notes that I do in my videos; thinking about this the person had a point, I do tend to write down fairly comprehensive notes and then reference them frequently during a video to make sure that I don’t miss anything or leave anything out (all too easy to do with my lack of memory power). I considered moving across to an entirely audio format such as a podcast or something similar, it would be much easier for me to create and edit the files, not to mention taking far less time to upload than the normally lamentable times on Youtube; however, I don’t want to abandon the visual element entirely since i’ve very much enjoyed making Youtube videos and hosting them, plus getting involved with the whole Youtube RPG Brigade.

I also considered just doing an audio feed and then adding a static image over the top, as i’ve done with some of my Sunday RP Rambles and the recent RPG interviews that I did at Dragonmeet 2014, but, although this works fine for interviews it’s not particularly interesting to look at; one possible answer came when I was watching a Youtube video about conspiracy theories, effectively the creator of the video had made a slideshow of still images that were keyed to show up at certain points of the video. Having recently started experimenting with using the program Inkscape to create vector drawings (after it was recommended by Alex Gillot) I decided to have a go at creating a cartoon version of myself that could potentially be used to quickly create a series of images to go with the audio feed.

This is what I ended up with (not bad for a first attempt I don’t think):

I’m thinking of making a sample video using the cartoon version of me in the near future to see what it looks like, i’m hoping this might be a chance to combine my love of making RPG videos with my recently re-discovered (and long dormant) enjoyment of drawing (plus giving me more practice at using Inkscape); would love to hear your opinions and thoughts, send them to reddicediaries@gmail.com πŸ™‚

[RPG] Fleshing out Kalkedos the Swamp Troll

Okay, so in our previous post about designing mythologically inspired monsters we came up with the basics for a creature called Kalkedos, once a greedy man who was cursed by the god of merchants when he killed his neighbour (a loyal follower of the god) after the man rebuffed Kalkedos’ intent to woo his daughter, drowning the man in the swamps near his home. As he died the merchant, a loyal follower of his god, cursed Kalkedos and the god of merchants answered, lending power to the curse. Kalkedos was transformed into a lumbering, clumsy creature with warty skin, green the colour of envy, his mind twisted he gathers the filth of the swamp to him as his ‘riches’ blind to the fact that it is refuse and lashing out at another who dares try to steal from his treasure.

Bound to the scene of his crime, Kalkedos is unable to leave the swamp unless he receives the forgiven of the merchant’s daughter (who fled when her father died), should this happen and she be able ot convince him to leave the swamp then the curse would be lifted.

So what else do we have to do?

Strictly speaking nothing, we can pick some appropriate stats from a monster manual/bestiary (or create some) and run with the monster as it is, however, there are a few additional questions that we help us flesh out the monster a bit more.

What does the monster look like?
We’ve already described Kalkedos as being green of skin and ugly of aspect, however we can flesh this out a bit further, keeping in mind the reason for his curse; since he was a greedy, grasping man I envision him as having long arms and powerful muscled hands that can shoot out of the water, grabbing prey, throttling it and dragging it below the water. Kalkedos also has large reflective eyes used for scanning the swamp for treasure and any trespassers attempting to steal what is his.

What abilities does it have?
Physical power is Kalkedos’ main ability, however the god who punished him did not want him to die in the swamp (since that would end his punishment) so Kalkedos regenerates all but the most vicious of injuries in time, however, no matter what he stuffs into his huge fanged maw the creature is always lean and permanently hungry, denied the ability to sate his urges and lusts.

What are it’s weaknesses?
Since Kalkedos is always hungry he is easily lured with food, his greed also leads to him being attracted to shiny objects whether or not they have any actual worth; however he is unable to look upon the truly beautiful since it reminds him of what he lost, seeing people or objects of great beauty drives him into a rage and he will go to any lengths to smash the offending object/person.

Is there a way to break the curse?
Besides the god of merchants, the only way for the curse to be broken is if the dead merchant’s daughter or a direct descendant of hers, forgives Kalkedos his crimes and can convince him to leave the swamp; if this happens then his warty troll skin will slough off and he will be restored.
If you’ve come up with any interesting creatures using our guides please drop me a line at reddicediaries@gmail.com, i’d love to hear about your creations.

[Video-RPG] RPG Interview with Leo Marshall from Indyhippo (Dragonmeet 2014)

An interview with Leo Marshall from Indyhippo at Dragonmeet 2014 where we talk about indy games, the future of story lead games and the UK RP Design Collective.

UK RP Design Collective website: Http://ukrpdc.wordpress.com/

MP3 version of this interview available here: 

[RPG Blog Carnival] Campaign Idea: Putting a twist on transport circles

Campaign Idea: Putting a twist on transport circles

Continuing the December Blog Carnival idea of putting a twist on things (the original post can be found here), this blog post is an idea for a campaign setting that puts a different spin on the transport circle; this idea will work best in a fantasy-style campaign where magic is available and their is some reliable means of magical transporting available, whether this be transport circles, portals or whatever, for convenience i’m going to refer to them as transport circles in this blog post.
Campaign Idea: They Come from the Circles
Background: Transport circles are one of the most convenient forms of transportation for those who have either the magical know-how or the money to pay someone who does, allowing for almost instantaneous transportation from one circle to another, no matter the intervening distance. Occcasionally people feel a little nauseous or dislocated for a few moments after transport, but it quickly passes and the effects are harmless.

To the lay-person it seems as though powerful mages and articifers are capable of creating transport circles wherever they wish, however, the truth is a little more complex, normally the innate reality of the word resists transport magic, making it very taxing to cast such spells, however, there are spots in the world (that can be identified by the those with the appropriate arcane learning) where the reality of the world is weaker, allowing for construction of transport circles with far less effort and expense, large cities tend to build up around these areas as wizards and those seeking to benefit from the circles flock to such sites.

The campaign begins: Below is the suggested sequence of events for a campaign using this model, feel free to intersperse events and adventures not related to this plot between the suggested points otherwise it will feel like everything is connected somehow to the transport circle and it may seem a little laboured or forced.

  • Have a few adventures reference the use of transport circles in very minor ways, perhaps have the PCs use them or an ally use them, but make them seem very much like a convenient plot device or background element trying not to draw too much attention to them.
  • A notable mage vanishes whilst attempting to create a new transport circle.
  • If there are any mages in the party perhaps have them make a couple of rolls to determine some basic facts about transport circles, such as the weak points in reality that allow them to be easily constructed.
  • Over the course of the next half dozen sessions a number of people are found brutally murdered and torn apart near transport circles.
  • The bodies of the murdered people appear to have been slashed to pieces by extremely sharp and thin blades (infact two-dimensional claws).
  • In the area where the murders took place, both existing transport circles and any magic dealing with transportation or planar travel is easier to cast and lasts for far longer (this is due to the fact that reality has been weakened by the appearance of the creatures from beyond the circles).

The Truth

The weakened points of reality that allow for the construction of transport circles are actually areas where creatures from another dimension have broken through into ours; normally these creatures do not appear in our world, however occasionally the conditions are just right (the stars align, ley-lines converge, or whatever is suitable for your game) to allow these creatures to enter our reality and hunt the people and animals that live there (whom they see as particularly favoured prey). When these creatures arrive they shred reality in the surrounding area as they pierce the invisible membrane between our world and theirs, weakening it to such an extent that magic can be used in our world to travel from one location to another.

Messing around with transport magic in the areas of weakened reality eventually attracts the attention of the creatures who hunt, attack and eventually kill their quarry; inevitably the creatures will eventually catch wind of the PCs and will attack them. Unfortunately the creatures (which resemble two dimensional hounds made of shadow) are very difficult to destroy since they are capable of instinctively using transport circles themselves, however, any effect that prevents magic or stops a transport circle working binds them to our dimension for it’s duration making them easier to deal with. The creatures are intelligent hunters who are fully capable of withdrawing if they seem outmatched (aided by their ability to instinctively use transport circles or just fade back into their own dimenion) and using pack tactics; a party who believes they have successfully seen off the hounds may find themselves menaced again by shadowy creatures from transport circles in the future.

Additional Suggestions

Perhaps the PCs eventually find a way to enter the Hounds own dimension and take the fight to them or perhaps there is some way to poison/proof transport circles and magic against the attention of the Hounds.

[Con-RPG] Heading to Dragonmeet on 06/12/14

Myself, my wife and a friend of ours from Dark Cleo Productions are heading off to Dragonmeet at the end of the week, we were lucky enough to get tickets at the last minute thanks to our friends at Dark Cleo and i’m very much looking forward to going.

I have to admit to being a little apprehensive though, the last convention I went to was when a version of Gen Con was still being held here in the United Kingdom about a million years ago and i’ve not really had the time or the funds necessary to visit a lot of conventions since (although I do go to the small Beer & Pretzels convention held in our local town most years); having really enjoyed my experience at the online convention BrigadeCon 2014 (although I understand conventions online and in person are likely to be very different) i’m really looking forward to going to the convention. If anyone sees me there, feel free to come up and say hello, chat about RPGs, i’ll be taking my dictaphone with me and a video camera so hopefully i’ll be able to get some good footage and maybe even some interviews πŸ™‚

Details for Dragonmeet can be found here: http://www.dragonmeet.co.uk/