I Am A College Dropout And Professional Writer

I do not have a college education.

I can, technically, list “some college” on forms or resumes as my highest educational level, but I got 0 credit hours from that “some college.” It wasn’t a great time for me, and I failed everything. Yes, every single class. For three semesters in a row. And, really, the impressive part of that story is that I talked my way past the admissions panels and deans of schools twice after failing every single class I took. While my close friends and colleagues know I can be a tenacious debater (I mean, I also talked my way into my High School diploma, which I was technically 1/2 credit short of earning), I have to suspect being a cis white male who was the son of two university employees (a professor and an executive secretary trusted to log information about radioactive materials) has as much to do with it as my blessing of blarney.

I was invited into a scholastic fraternity too, after three semesters of all-failing grades. So, yeah, I was treated by a nonstandard set of rules.

But I gave up, and walked away, and got jobs as a pizza delivery driver (a few times), movie theater usher (for one week, before I quit), banquet setup crew, short order fry cook, and the manager of a student union’s parking garage. All the while, what I wanted to do was write, preferably for big professional game companies.

And that left me in a bit of a pickle when I was applying for those professional jobs in the game industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As tempting as it was to write “Education: Talked my way into a High School Diploma and got enrolled in the same college three times despite failing ever class every semester — ask me how!” I’m not a big risk-taker when it comes to promoting myself. I was aware that cutesy things (sending in your resume as a character sheet or formatted as an adventure, doing it on pink paper with sketches of unicorns in the margins, literally folding it into origami that popped open as you tugged on it) were things some other applicants did, and that I just lacked the aura of whimsey to pull off.

So, for years: “Education: High School Degree, Aegis English Advanced Writing Program, Some College.

(And “Aegis English was just a special talented student program in High School, but I figured it sounded cool, and if someone asked me about it at least I was at an interview stage, where I could pile on the effort to be a strong advocate for my position.)

I picked and choose from other jobs that made me sound organized and team oriented. Being a manager of, well, anything was better than a big gap in my work history. Customer service at a bank suggested I could pass a background check. Most of the rest of it? Chucked in the proverbial bin.

Once I was actually on-staff at Wizards of the Coast for 14 months from 2000-2001, that became the crown jewel in my resume for a while. I figured a staff game industry job, followed by dozens of freelance projects for the same company, suggested I did good work. Then repeated freelance work for other companies. Then there was regular work for Super Genius Games. Then a developer gig for Green Ronin, which became the thing I built all my resume around.

And I began to wonder… was listing “High School, Some College” helping me, at all. Or, with no degree to point to, no specialty listed, no ongoing education in years, was I just highlighting one of my weaknesses? If I could get some staff jobs and tons of freelance, didn’t that matter a ton more than a sheepskin? No matter how undereducated I was, I could clearly put words together in a way that generated repeat business, which ought to be proof enough I wasn’t an idiot.

Now, to be clear, if I HAD had a degree in anything relevant, like English, Literature, History, Archeology, Film Studies (you know, just to mention some stuff there are Paizo employees with degrees in), sure, I’d include it. But there comes a point where the fact I was the manager of a parking garage, or could bread and fry cutlets, doesn’t really say anything about my ability to be a good fit for a staff job about making up worlds and rules and adventures.

It was actually my application to Paizo in 2014 when I decided “Fuck listing my education, with its high school and a few hours of college but no degree. I have more than 15 years of relevant, noteworthy, easily referenced work in this field. No one gives a shit if I don’t have a degree.” What I did do on that resume was list every single publication I had been paid for and was credited with. Every Dragon article. Every d20 Weekly byline. Every sourcebook, pdf, online adventure, and official website rules-answers article. Pages and pages of them.

Quantity, I felt, had a quality all it’s own.

(It was also, I have since been told by people who had to read it, a bit much. Nowadays I tend to lump things like Dragon articles and official advice columns into an entry that says “Various articles for Dragon Magazine, published from 1998 to 2009, list available upon request.”

And I can safely say in nearly a decade since making that decisions, whether applying at small ttRPG game companies, megacorporations, or start-ups, no one has asked me what my educational background it.

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Supers Idea: EuroVigil

Be it a comics pitch, background worldbuiding idea, or a supers adventure sketch, here’s a quick rundown on the concept of EuroVigil.

The EuroVigil Hero Contest has been held every year, in one form of another, since 1946. Hosted by the European Broadcasting Guild (EBG), it was originally an opportunity for the ad hoc WWII costumed heroes to gain greater visibility and compete to be members of the Peers, the Eurpoean Superhero Group set up to ensure the escape Nazi villains of the era would be unable to clone fallen madmen and tyrants, build factories to produce hordes of evil robots, train cyborg wolf armies, or unleash mind-control devices, all of which were surprisingly common concerns at the time.

Each hero for the EuroVigil is nominated by local agencies in their home country, the process for which can vary wildly. In France, it is determined by popular public acclaim. Germany trusts the Federal Minister for Empowered Affairs. In England, it remains one of the legal prerogatives of the Monarch to choose an entrant, though the decision is normally vetted and researched at great length before an announcement is made. Norway leaves it to their oldest serving Peer to select a candidate. Greece, Italy, and Spain all have a series of regional contests, and so on.

One selected, the contestants are broken into “Flights,” each of which is assigned to a region of Europe half the time, and to the Peer’s training facility half the time. While assigned to a region, each Flight is assisted in finding and handling crimes, disasters, and public appearances. When at the Peers facility, the heroes are tested in a variety of ways, from obstacle courses to sparring matches to being pitted against various simulated common dangerous situations (burning buildings, hostage rescue, sinking boats, and so on).

After each weekly set of events is finished television and radio broadcasts are put together to show highlights, and nearly all the raw footage can be viewed online. Each participating country then issues a set of votes, half determined by a panel of experts (often including retired heroes, firefighters, and civilian oversight groups), and half by the popular vote of the country’s population. The lowest vote-getters are cut from the program immediately, and a new week of events begins.

Though the program has remained popular for 3/4 of a century, there are criticisms. Often charismatic or kitschy contestants receive more votes than boring but effective heroes. National and international politics are seen as playing an oversized role in early selection and the editing of each week’s broadcasts. Some entrants are accused of seeking fame and fortune rather than a life of service and helping others. However, most winners do receive and accept an invitation to become one of the Peers, now the official European Union superhero team, and numerous runners-up have attracted enough support to become successful major international heroes.

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The Dichotomy

As a GM, I often want to make sure I am providing a rich environment where players can roleplay, explore, build connections and networks, expand into their own character and story, and feel they have a voice within and impact on the world they are thrust into. I try avoid making every session just a “monster of the week” fight, or endless dungeon stomp.

As a player I love those things when they seem to evolve naturally. When it feels like they are being forced and this results in slow sessions where no player is particularly engaged and things are sow, I desperately wish we could just go smash undead/punch fascists/shoot robots. I much prefer even a typical monster-of-the-week fight to a roleplaying session where things aren’t gel-ing.

This makes me wonder how often I am trying to hard as a GM, failing to just let things naturally evolve on the RP side. I have begun to think part of the issue is that my own GM style tends towards crucial, needful conflicts that can’t wait. That’s partially in response to my players generally being the opposite of murder hobos — they don’t want to have characters that murder and loot for the sake of murdering and looting, but want to be heroes who put themselves in harms way while saving others… even as they as players enjoy the action and reward of fighting and looting. So, I often generate foes who *must* be opposed for ethical reasons, and then players feel like they can’t take a day off without letting someone down.

Maybe I can find a way to have more fights and risks be optional, things you can feel good about going and opposing, but not feel bad if you let them sit because everyone really wants to help the orphaned goblin child find a home this week.

This is the other side of roleplaying for me; the flip side of rules and tactics and action economies and even storytelling. The fine tuning of figuring out what activities the GM and players will all enjoy going through within the game.

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#MotiePitch: Spread

Or rather than a movie pitch, you could use this as the plot to an adventure, a backstory, or a campaign kickoff.

Spread

A new viral breaks out. It has a very slow incubation period, very few external symptoms, and requires personal contact to spread, so by the time it is detected it exists worldwide, and no one is sure how many people have it.

People who get it are largely immune to bacteria, fungus, parasites, and other viruses. Also, they can recognize each other by touch, and have a primal urge to care for and protect each other. They aren’t telepathic and don’t always agree on anything else (including the best way to protect and care for each other), but they do all feel “curing” them, or slowing the spread of the virus, is bad. And some “Spreaders” feel their best bet is to infect as many people as possible, so the number of them that want to protect each other goes up, even though that requires lots of close personal contact.

Meanwhile, governments of the world begin to realize Spreaders could mean the end of the existing global power structure. First they try to deny Spreaders have any benefits, then briefly hammer on the truth unknowns — will Spread mutate? What are the long-term effects? But quickly, it becomes a combination of clanism and competing narratives. Stories claim some Spreaders have begun attacking anyone not infected in zombie-like biting sprees, but no one knows if it’s true and, even if it is, how common it is or what provocations might be present. More believable reports claim in in 1 million people die slow, agonizing deaths if they catch the Spread, but even that can’t be proven to the masses one way or another.

Spread becomes a new global faction, growing through a dedicated outreach program of its members without any core leader, debatable ideology, or unified message. Spreaders claim universal infection would mean utopia. Ethical objectors say much too much is unknown about how Spread will impact humanity over generations, philosophers object to the biological compunction of it overriding free will, and uninfected people in power simply have no interest in losing their positions to a virus.

Can a compromise be found, or will humanity destroy itself because of an infection that makes it want to selflessly help itself?

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Really Wild West: Doomstone Campaign Ends

I wanted to spread this info over 5 articles last week. I started several of them. but I also got kidney stones… and that derailed everything. So, here is 5 articles worth of content and pictures, all crammed into one post.

End of an Era… of Gaming

Since moving back to Oklahoma, I have been running a Starfinder play mode I called the Really Wild West, in a campaign titled Doomstone. We just wrapped it up in my last session.

I don’t get to actually complete campaigns all that often. Scheduling or relocation usually kills them off first, and honestly burnout of myself or players is more common than wrapping a whole campaign plotline. And, to be fair, some games I designed to be endless sandboxes, so there was no “end” for the storyline to reach.

I originally intended to turn Really Wild West into a commercial setting book, so there is a ton of art and game rules and background for it on this site. Given how far behind I am on other projects that’s certainly not happening anytime soon (thankfully I never took money or preorders for it), and it may never happen. But the material is all still available, so you can see where I was going with it. And I never let anything go to waste, so the core material will likely show up in *something*.

For those of you who were following along back when I was posting session-by-session updates, here’s a super-quick rundown of the campaign, minus subplots. (There’s tons of cool stuff I just don’t have time to go into for a summery –how the PCs got the pistol Killdemon, the redemption of Beardcutter Ben the Shaver’s friend, the duel where Crackers Jack threatened to murder a the mysterious gunslinger who killed his brother only to in the end shoot himself in the hand so honor is satisfied, the Tombspider Inn, BoHoss the Ogre, Tex Tanner the Helium Baron, Ceasear — professional snuggler, “that Goddamn Manticore”…)

Earth, 1891. Magic and fantasy creatures have always been part of the world. Last year, the Martains attacked in the first War of the World.

The PCs (a centaur paladin, mysterious gunslinger, fenrin bounty hunter, human mechanic technopolitin, and orc cartogramancer easterner) were each for their own reasons on a train headed west. It’s attacked by teleporting serpentfolk bandidos who, it turns out, are trying to steal a safe being transported by the Fonts & Bismark company. The safe contains a Martian Power Generator, salvaged from a Martian tripod.

The PCs do some investigating, and come to believe the attack was funded by the East Hudson Bay Fur Trading Company, who have also taken over a local ranch and are making life difficult for its neighbors. Investigating further they discover the EHBFTC is funding a dig into a mesa where a genius known as Professor Adremelich is using converted Martian Digging Machines to access Demiplanes, including one with serpentfolk, and one with svirfneblin the Professor is using as forced labor. Using svirfneblin crystal tech after liberating them, the PCs raid the Serpentfolk demiplane, and cut it off from the Material Plane.

Evidence gather suggests Professor Adremelich wishes to become a Darkling, a more-than-mortal creature empowered by one of the Fates Worse than Death. Specifically he appears to be possessed by the Venom King, a medieval worldwide threat put down by the centaur paladin before she died, and the return of which is why she has been brought back.

The PCs commandeer one of the Martian Digging Machines and the mechanic technopolitan converts to be their expedition vehicle, the “Armadillo.” The PCs begin to see themselves mentioned in the papers, and decide to take the name “Knight Rangers,” rather than be stuck with some yellow-journalism appellation.

The Armadillo

They also encounter a Deputy of Death, a psychopomp cavalryman who warns that someone has escaped the Lands of the Dead, and if the deputies can’t bring him in their boss, “The Marshal” will come handle it personally. The Marshal getting into a fight on the Mortal plane could be… catastrophic.

Like, end-of-the-Olmec Empire catastrophic.

Realizing that defeating a proto-Darkling will require mystic aid, the group head to Hellgate, Montana, home of the famous hellgate University which allows the licensed study of fel magic, and thus should have experts who can help. Along the way they face Sumerian Vrock Demons, Angry Minotaurs (who they placate and befiend), and a cyborg named “Barron the Immortal”” who is causing all sorts of trouble, and they deal with him scoffing at the “Immortal” part of his name.

Of course the expert they need is currently lost after taking an expedition into the dinosaur-infested Badlands. Also, Hellgate appears to have a mole, and another cult is found supporting a myserious cigar-smoking man who clearly also wishes to become a Darkling, the Bloodletter, and is not as far along as the Venom King but is apparently working with him.

The PCs go rescue the expert they need, put an end to a spreading ghoul plague among the dinosaur population, drop a boxcar on a ghast allisaurus while using a holy smite to empower it, discover the mole in Hellgate U is the Chancellor who is also the Bloodletter Darkling wannabe, get attacked by Barron the Immortal again (who, it turns out, cut up his brain and used it to empower multiple mechanical bodies), and get a line on where Professor Aremelich is.

Their expert will make them a nail to drive through a Darkling’s shadow, so shooting them with a bullet will kill the darkling position itself, never to return. But, she also recommends they use the Chancellor’s research to find King Arthur’s Spear, Rhongomiant, which was forged to destroy the Darkling of Betrayal but was never used against it. The PCs raid the Chancellor’s secret base, slay a vampire, and get his notes. those take them to a hidden valley where there is a gate to the fiendish demiplane where the lost Legio IX Hispana Roman legion has existed for centuries, having turned to diabolism to survive a massacre and the fall of the Roman empire.

Fight on a giant gearwork dimension device, lots of Roman themed devils, free the people living under fiendish tyranny, get the spear. Encounter a second Psychopomp Deputy of the Marshal of Death, who warns time is getting short.

Upon returning to Hellgate, they discover it’s been attacked by a Martian Walker, the first anyone has managed to get functional since the War of the Worlds. They immediately help the US cavalry track it down, discover it’s a distraction drawing eyes away from a third Barron the Immortal, who is trying to complete a Martian Factory they began building just weeks before they fell to disease. The PCs stomp him and it, and find notes suggesting there’s just one Barron left… the most powerful of them.

They also discover a working Martian interplanetary communicator, and from its signal learn the Martian elite back on Mars are diabolists, and they are planning a second invasion… eventually.

The Knight Rangers still need to deal with the Tripod, and hunt it down with the Armadillo, fighting it in a Ghost Town. They win.

(I never made the Armadillo paper model I meant to, to that green vehicle in the background stands in for it)
(I love my cardstock Old West buildings)

Tracking Professor Adremelich to Helena, Montana, they find the city is cut off by an evil vapor projected from a Paddle Steamer. They sneak up on and attack the Steamer, ultimately dealing with its owner an ancient Sumerian Elf Vulture Diabolist. Upon killing him, the Mysterious Gunslinger PC discovers he has become a Deputy of Death, for bringing in a long-outstanding fugitive, giving him natural ghost gun advantages

Helena saved, they advance on the Monarch hotel, where Professor Adremelich/the Venom King is preparing to perform the ritual to become a full Darkling. To get to him they must face the last Barron the Immortal… who is a giant mechanical spider n the third act.

From there they descend into the basements beneath the Monarch, then the sub-basements, then they discover the builders had ignored numerous warnings from pre-Columbian cultures that said not to dig here. This is because when a Darkling brought down the Olmec Empire, his disciples had fled to North America, and build an underground Ziggurat to try to bring him back. The heroes of the existing lost-to-history native cultures of the time (referred to as the Woodland Mounds culture by some RWW historians) defeated them and left warnings which later cultures in Algonquian- and Siouan-language speaking peoples had maintained and respected.

The builders of the Monarch had not.

It is revealed Professor Adremelich has been hired to build digging machines to go even deeper below the Monarch, had encounter the darkling Cult Ziggaraut, and because of the poisonous Black gas the Martians has used in the War of the Worlds was so power, the dead Venom King had been able to whisper to the professor, hooking him as a host. Now, in that cavern, the Knight Rangers must face the about-to-ascend Venom King one and for all, in an ancient cavern littered with his failed technological and magical experiments, magic teleporting portals, two canopic guardians, a venom specter, a stream from the River Styx, and the Venom King himself.

(I got to use pieces from… 6? … different brands of terrain/structure/map products in this fight)

The fight was long and hard, but in the end, the Canpoic Guardians were destroyed, the mechanic kept the mystic or technological experiments from coming to life, the bounty hunter took down the undead chimera, the technomancer dispelled the Venom King’s displacement and other defenses, the Paladin pinned his shadow to the ground with Rhongomiant, and the Gunslinger took the only and only bullet they had to destroy him forever, and made an attack roll in the open, for all to see.

And rolled an 18. And shot the bastard right between the eyes, destroying that threat forever.

There was some wrap-up after that. The Marshal of Death dropped by to say the issue was settled. The paladin discovered she didn’t have to die to keep the universe balanced. Everyone agreed to invest in the mechanic’s soon-to-be-established tech company.

So, for now, game over.

I mean THAT game. I’m still getting together with these folks, who I have been playing with for 35+ years, and bouncing dice. Just not, for the moment, the Really Wild West.

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The Current OneBookShelf AI Art Policy

Anyone selling anything on DriveThruRPG.com should read their whole page of policies, but relevantly for AI art, the currently-final policy is in place regarding using Tool- and AI- art in products and how they need to be notated.

I like this version much better than previous draft.

You can find the full text at the link (https://onebookshelfpublisherservice.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/227866467-Product-Standards-Guidelines), but I’ve copied the bit crucial for this issue below.

Tool- and AI-Generated Images

The following policy applies only to titles listed by publishers on DriveThruRPG. Other sites and community programs are, for now, exempt from these rules. 

3rd Party Tool-Generated Images

All product listings that feature art or maps generated using a tool or service designed to reduce or offset the artistic process (such as donjon, Inkarnate, or Dungeondraft) are required to utilize the Format > Creation Method > 3rd Party Tool-Made title filter, except in the following instances:

  1. the tool uses only art assets that you have created by hand;
  2. the art has undergone additional processing or modification post-generation (such as animating generated maps or tokens, painting and compositing over content, etc.); or
  3. the product is expressly approved by OneBookShelf.

AI-Generated Images

All product listings that feature art created automatically by an AI-generation tool meant to bypass or replace human artistry, such as ArtBreeder, MidJourney, NightCafe, etc. are required to utilize the Format > Creation Method > AI-Generated title filter, except in the following instances:

  1. the art has undergone significant processing/modification post-generation; or
  2. the product is expressly approved by OneBookShelf.

Note for AI-Generated Stock Art

Titles containing any art rendered by AI-generated tools that are sold as “Stock Art” (under the Product Type > Publisher Resources filter) must also display the following statement in their product description:

This product contains assets that were, wholly or in part, procedurally generated with the aid of creative software(s) powered by machine learning.

Titles that do not comply are subject to removal from the marketplace. Repeat offenders may have their publishing permissions revoked.”

Given the unsettled nature of the legal status of copyright on art made with AI, it makes perfect sense to me to want to make sure customers buying stock art (which they will presumably use in their own products), be aware of the nature of the product they are purchasing.

As with all things AI art I’m keeping an open mind and continuing to research and consider, but overall I support this policy given where we are in the cycle of AI art and legalities, and how it focuses on stock art a customer may use in their own products.

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#SettingPitch: Dwarf Planets, Dwarf Gods

Just a quick idea for a scifi-horror or urban modern fantasy campaign.

DWARF PLANETS, DWARF GODS

Each planet is a god… but only as long as they are revered as planets. Pluto was the gatekeeper of the realms of the dead. Its power was vast, but focused entirely on keeping the vile undying of the extrasolar void away from the worlds of light.

Now? Now Pluto is only a dwarf planet, and thus only a dwarf god. The civilizations of Earth have noticed as things get worse and worse, but don’t understand why. Small vile things from the cosmic true vacuum have been slipping past, and people are affected. But that was just the first cracks. Years have past. Pluto is tiring.

It’s about to get much, much worse. And much, much more obviously supernatural.

The mummies of Mars are rising. The vampiric tombs crawling along Mercury’s dayside are slowing, inching closer to the darkness that can awaken them. The ghoul spores of the world that became the asteroid belt are stirring. The angry Red Specter of Jupiter is awakening, and preparing to burst forth from his cyclonic cage.

The other god planets are preparing to do what they can. To empower people, organizations, and creatures to defend against the growing threat. But each god planet is already has its full attention and power dedicated to other concerns. Jupiter can spare little attention for the Red Specter, else the infernal comets it deflects from life-bearing worlds will smash into the inner system. Saturn’s rings must kept the ecliptic harmonic in balance, lest the constants of the current universe vary.

The god planets will help where they can, but it is humanity that demoted Pluto. It is humanity that must bear the brunt of the consequences.

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Drafting Alternate Grenade Rules (With An Example For Starfinder)

Grenades, and explosives in general, are tricky to write rules for in most d20-based ttRPGs. If a grenade isn’t effective enough, it feels more like a firecracker than a deadly weapon of war. If it’s too effective, it can end encounters so quickly it’s no fun for the players, or accidentally wipe out PCs in undramatic ways.

When grenades show up in action/adventure fiction, they tend to act less as damaging devices than plot devices that force people to seek cover. The threat of them is generally represented not by them killing main characters, but by forcing characters to take them seriously and possible shake off effects of shock and awe.

(Grenade art from the public domain)

Example: Starfinder Revised Grenades

So, let’s try to model that behavior, specifically for Starfinder. Within that game, grenades are pretty expensive consumables anyway, so a power-up shouldn’t break the game even if it makes grenades more affective and appealing. That said, if these seem too powerful, you can limit these rules to actual purchased consumables, rather than spells and class features that allow characters to create or emulate grenades without a credit or OPB cost.

Grenades

Grenades are dangerous, deadly military explosives that everyone must take seriously as a threat, no matter how tough or resilient they are. While savvy and active combatants know to duck for cover and shake themselves free of the shock of battlefield explosions, doing so comes at a cost.

When you fail a saving throw against a grenade that has an item level no lower than your character level/CR -2 that deals damage (as opposed to, for example, smoke grenades), you must either expend a Resolve Point or be staggered on your next turn. This represents the need to duck, take cover, and shake yourself back to focus after narrowly avoiding more serious injury.

Helpless characters that fail a save against such a grenade treat the attack as a coup de grace against them. As a full round action a character can make an Engineering check (DC 15 + 1.5x grenade item level) to wedge a grenade into an adjacent stationary structure or unattended object, causing it to do max damage and have only half its normal explode radius. On a failed check, the grenade explodes in the character’s hands, and they take max damage.

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ShadowFinder Supporting Players

We’re coming up on a year I have been working on ShadowFinder, though not with the regularity I’d like. Because I have big way-behind projects after carving out a period of time to try to “finish” it (which, for various reasons didn’t do anything like get it finished), I’ve pretty much been restricted to jotting down notes when ideas come to me, and sneaking in some work on the project as blog posts (since I have blog subscribers who have already paid me for this content, so I’m obligated to keep doing this along with the other projects I am obligated to do, as opposed to ShadowFinder which is entirely optional).

But even slow and sporadic progress is progress. And today, I’m sharing some conceptual material I wrote early on in the process. I wanted to think about the types of characters I would want to be able to have as supporting players (and, perhaps, PCs). Things like this are among my guiding ideas when I work on a game setting or expansion — conceptually what do I want to be able to make with these rules and any advice that comes with them?

Earlton and Alyssal

Earlton Fust is an old, old zombie. He cannot see, smell, feel, or taste, and his hearing is weak. But for all that he is slow and clumsy, he possesses vast strength and resilience.

Alyssal Rein is a very recent ghost. Though she cannot be wounded, moments that would have harmed her living self still cause her to flee into the umbra. In fact, she can barely affect the physical world, her powers largely limited to her senses, speaking to the dead, and the ability to possess corpses.

Corpses like Earlton Fust.

She can literally become his eyes and ears, feeding him her senses, animating his flesh to be swift and nimble. In turn, his flesh can impact the mortal world in ways she cannot, his tongue speak words she wishes spoken. It is a strange arrangement, two dead souls operating in the world of the living, but they both appreciate its benefits.

Earlton was a private detective a century ago. Alyssal was murdered by an unknown foe a year ago.

They fight crime.

[I see Earlton as a specific build for a mechanic character with the exocortex option, except the “exocortex” is the ghost Alyssal. That leads to needing rules about mechanics that are magic-based rather than technology-based, which can then also be used for magical girls, ring wielders, and maybe lycanthropes. Which begins to sound like an alternate class, which is fine, I have technicians for most of what mechanics do with tech, and with a few tweaks the mechanic drone option can become a pet class that summons a spirit to fight for them, like an eidolon…]

The Sleepwalker

Michar Micharland, known in some circles as The Sleepwalker, knows the real world is one free of magic and monsters. So, despite his memories, he rejects the idea that he was hit by a bus, killed, and brought back to life with eldritch powers.

Well, he thinks the bus part probably happened.

Which means if he’s not dead (and this seems too  weird to be either heaven or hell) then he must be in a coma, and everything he is experiencing is just his brain firing off random neurons to keep itself amused until he wakes. If he wakes.

So, he has no fear. No concern. He believes to his core that everyone he meets is just part of his coma-induced dreams. None of it is real. Nothing can actually damage him, even if he feels pain. (Flashes of the pain from the bus impact leaking into his subconscious, maybe). He believes he’s walking through an imaginary world where none of his actions have consequences.

So, he helps as many people as he can. Because that’s his idea of a fulfilling dream. Doing anything else would make him feel like an ass.

[The Sleepwalker could be a mystic with a connection to dreams, or a warlock using my new warlock class. But he also needs something that lets him lean on his belief system, even if it’s wrong, to overcome things like pain and fear. That sounds a lot like a feat or archetype which could then be used for people with strong religious convictions, or the ability to fall back on scientific rigor, or who think they are the Chosen One.]

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The Greatest Game Mechanic In The World … Tribute.

Last night, gripped by exhaustion and insomnia, unable to stay up or lie quietly, with half my body burning up and the other half freezing cold, I had an amazing idea for a game mechanic. I wasn’t awake enough to go write it up, so I tried to take some notes about it, to make sure I didn’t lose this amazing idea for ever.

Sadly, the notes are literally useless, and while I remember thinking about the idea — every aspect of where I was when I had it, what time it was (3:45 am), and how much I tried to burn it into my brain so I would not forget it… the idea itself is gone. A complete blank. other than knowing it has to do with ttRPGs, I have no clue what it was like.

So, in tribute to that Greatest Game Mechanic in the World, which is gone forever, here is an entirely different RPG mechanic ideas, which is NOT the Greatest Game Mechanic in the World and may, in fact, be bad.

Blurred Positioning

Most ttRPGs have some form of segmented movement, where on a character’s turn they take an action or set of actions (such as “move, draw a weapon, attack”), and then the next character takes their actions, and so on. This causes the problem that it is difficult to represent actions interrupting other actions in the natural flow of an encounter. All too often, someone either runs from point of cover to point of cover with no one having any change to shoot at them unless they have stood around waiting for just that (and let’s be honest, if someone is dashing 20-40 feet, there’s at least a chance that someone with a firearm could pop off a round at them), or is behind cover and wants to pop up, fire once, and duck behind cover, is stuck for a full round standing exposed and away from cover because they couldn’t complete the action before the end of their round. Instead of some cover, they have no cover for everyone else’s turn.

Blurred positioning accepts that even if your character is in a given place at the end of their turn, someone might have taken an action in a rush as they repositioned. At the end of a character’s turn, they state one of those positions to be their “main state” even if it’s not the one they ended at. (You may have ended standing up from cover at the end of your turn, but you spent most time ducked behind it on your round).

Each character is a legal target at every place they have been since their last turn. However, actions taken actions a position other than their end-state suffer a penalty (-4 or -20% or roll twice and take the worst result, depending on your game system).

That’s it, that’s the whole mechanic. Wherever you were at any point on your last turn, you can be targeted as if you were there. But, for al but one of those places, people are at penalties for trying to get you at that exact moment.

No, seriously, the idea I had last night was SO good.

Whatever it was.

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