Thursday, 29 December 2011

Next Game Ideas

I have a number of game fragment ideas floating around in my head, so I thought I’d blort them out here for future reference.

As I mentioned in my GameMarx interview, I had a great conversation with my boy Mark Harvey (CheckMark Games) about a game that involved learning a language.  I had this idea that a player could walk around the world and explore, say, ruins of an aboriginal civilization.  And on those ruins are pictographs, but we don’t know what they mean.  Maybe the player also comes in contact with natives who also use those pictographs (cuniform, hieroglyphics… I don’t know the proper word) in speech bubbles to communicate.  But the player doesn’t know what they mean.  Over the course of the game, the player would make observations and encounter experiences that would reveal the meaning of the foreign language, and then would be able to use the language to complete some quest or task or storyline.

At some point in time, I observed that all these Xbox Indie games (particularly the more amateurish ones, my own included) start off with all manner of splash screens and menu screens and loading screens that often serve no real purpose.  I had the idea of a game that simply starts off with the player in a jail cell or empty room with absolutely no instructions or direction.  The player would figure out how to move around, but still, with no obvious exits, just kind of wander around.  Maybe they wander around enough until they find a loose, squeaky board.  And under that board, they find, oh, some cheese or something.  Then, soon, a mouse comes in from a crack and if you give the mouse the cheese, he drops… something else.  Basically, I like the idea of a game that takes place in a single room, but gets more and more elaborate as time goes on.

I just watched Back to the Future, and I love the idea of doing a time travel game.  Braid, obviously, is the elephant in the room for this genre.  More than time travel, I guess, is I like the idea of the player being able to split off multiple versions of himself and act in parallel.  For example, the player goes and steps on a pressure plate, and a door opens across the room.  If the player leaves the pressure plate, the door closes.  So, the player has to go and press the pressure plate, and then go back in time, spin off a second copy of himself, and then start again.  One copy goes and pushes the pressure plate, and the second copy now can go through the door.  Very much like the flash game called “Cursor10”.  Go search for that and play it.

I was listening to a podcast recently where they were talking about Skryim, and particularly the books in Skyrim, and the collecting of sets of multi-volume books.  They lamented that they couldn’t email items to each other.  I had the idea of creating a game where set-collection was paramount.  Maybe you are exploring an old cave and collecting dinosaur bones, and you are looking to complete a T-rex set.  But you find a rare and valuable stegosaurus bone which is unusable to you, but certainly would be valuable to someone else.  I like the idea of being able to turn that in-game item into a text string, which you could then tweet or email, and someone could enter into their copy of the game to receive that item.

With elections coming up, I think there is a lot of opportunity to do an election game.  Basically a territory-controlling war game, but set in an election theme.  The country is made up of states, and various states have various issues that they are for or against.  You would travel around the country and try to win votes, gather supporters, earn money, and so forth.  I think this could be a lot of fun.

I think there’s a lot of meat on those bones…   Just waiting for the motivation to kick in and go with something.

Year in Review (Brainstorm)

I plan to write a year in review post for Purple Duck Games, but I have no idea what to write about. So please leave a comment here or on my G+ page to tell me what you would like to here about.

Monday, 26 December 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Day 1) - Awakened Demilich

Admittedly this post should have been up yesterday, but I got distracted (#skyrim). Then this morning I saw an email from Derek about the demilich and awakened demilich in the Bestiary 3. The awakened demilich should have probably gotten a full template write-up but probably was cut for space. As I'm not restricted by space requirements on this site I can flesh out Paizo's awakened demilich. This will not be perfect but it should give you something to work from.

To make full use of this entry you should have already bought Paizo's Bestiary 3 for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Mine hardback hasn't arrived but my subscriber digital copy is here.

The Awakened Demilich
“Demilich” is an acquired template that can be added to any lich. A demilich retains all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.

CR: Same as base lich +3
Size: A demilich is two size categories smaller than its base lich.
Alignment: Any evil
Senses a demilich gains true seeing as a constant spell-like ability.
Armor Class: A demilich gains a size bonus from their reduced size, and a profane bonus to their Armor Class based on their Charisma modifier (unholy grace).
Saves: A demilich gains a profane bonus to their saves equal to their Charisma modifier (unholy grace).
Defensive Abilities:A demilich gains channel resistance +5; DR 20/--; immunity to acid, cold, electricity, magic and polymorph. The demilich also gains the following defensive abilities.
   Immunity to Magic (Su) A demilich is immune to any spell or spell-like ability that allows spell resistance. In addition, certain spells function differently against the creature, as noted below.
• A dispel evil spell deals 2d6 points of damage, with no saving throw.
• Holy smite affects a demilich normally.
• A power word kill spoken by an ethereal caster deals 50 points of damage to the demilich if it fails a Fortitude save (with a DC determined as though the spell allowed a saving throw).
• A shatter spell deals 1d6 points of damage per two caster levels (maximum 10d6), with no saving throw.
   Rejuvenation (Su) A destroyed demilich reforms in 2d6 days. To permanently destroy a demilich, holy water must be poured over its remains within the area of a hallow spell. To complete the destruction, holy word or dispel evil must be cast. If the caster succeeds at a caster level check with a DC equal to 10 + the demilich’s Hit Dice, the demilich is permanently destroyed. This replaces the liches version of rejuvenation.
   Unholy Grace (Su) A demilich gains a bonus on saves and a profane bonus to AC equal to its Charisma modifier.
Weaknesses: A demilich gains the following weakness.
   Vorpal Susceptibility (Ex) Vorpal weapons of any kind ignore a demilich’s damage reduction.
Speed: A demilich loses all base movement rates and gains fly 30 ft. (perfect).
Melee Attacks: A demilich loses all melee attack forms.
Special Attacks: A demilich loses the fear aura and paralyzing touch of its base lich but gains the devour soul ability instead.
  Devour Soul (Su) As a standard action with a range of 300 feet, a demilich can imprison the soul of a living creature within one of 10 special gems embedded in its skull. If the target succeeds at a DC (10 + ½ HD of the lich + Cha modifier) Fortitude save, it gains two permanent negative levels. If it fails, its soul is immediately drawn into one of the gems in the demilich’s skull. The soul remains trapped within the gem, visible as but a gleam except under true seeing. The soulless body corrupts and decays rapidly, reducing to dust in a single round. As long as the dead creature’s soul remains trapped in the gemstone, it cannot be restored to life via any means save direct divine intervention. Gems with souls trapped in them can be retrieved from a destroyed demilich, at which point they can either be crushed to release any souls within to their afterlife or used in the place of the usual material components to restore the soul and body with resurrection or true resurrection. After 24 hours, the demilich can choose to consume any soul trapped in a gem, healing it 1d6 hit points per Hit Die of the soul, at which point only miracle or wish can restore the dead creature to life. The save DC is Charisma-based, and includes a +2 bonus for the Ability Focus feat.
   Telekinetic Storm (Su) As a special use of its telekinesis spell-like ability, a demilich can churn up its treasure, dust, bones, and other loose debris in the area into a whirling storm about its skull. The storm obscures vision as a fog cloud within a 20-foot spread centered on the demilich’s skull. Creatures within the storm take 12d6 points of damage per round on the demilich’s turn (Reflex DC 20 for half damage). The demilich can maintain the storm indefinitely by concentrating.
Spell-Like Abilities:A demilich has a number of spell-like abilities with a caster level equal to its Hit Dice or 20th, whichever is higher.

   Constant – trueseeing
   At will – greater bestow curse (DC 16+Cha modifier), telekinesis (DC 15 + Cha modifier), wail of the banshee (20 ft. radius spread centered on the demilich, DC 19 + Cha modifier).

Greater Bestow Curse (Sp) This spell-like ability functions like bestow curse, but can have one of the following effects: –12 to one ability score; –6 to two ability scores; –8 penalty on attack rolls, saves, and checks; or a 25% chance to act normally. This ability is treated as a 6th-level spell.

Abilities: A demilich’s Str and Dexterity are modified by its new size.

Size                    Str          Dex
Fine                    -2            +4
Diminutive           -6            +4
Tiny                    -8            +4
Small                  -12          +4
Medium              -16          +4
Large                  -16         +2

Mental abilities for a demilich are Int 21, Wis 20, Cha 21 unless its base lich already possessed higher values.
Feats: Demilich gain Ability Focus (devour soul), Eschew Materials, Flyby Attack and Still Spell as bonus feats. 

Monday, 19 December 2011

Another Fan Email

Another fan email.  I love it! 

We have literally given your new game dozens of hours of play (thanks to your very generous free download) and here's the verdict: We absolutely love the snipers and runners game with the coins (absolutely hilarious) and our second favorite is the red light/green light style race. The torch touching game is good as well as the other variant of snipers/runners. The only game we didn't really care for was the knights vs. ninjas game (I see where you were going with it but my guests just didnt get it). They always wanted to go back to the aformentioned two favorites. Ow well, ya cant win em' all I guess. I guess what I am trying to say is: You keep making them and I will keep buying them. You have quite the knack for making an enjoyable "pick up and play" game experience that anyone of all skill levels can get into and (pardon my French) laugh their respective asses off.

I took HIPS to a friends' holiday party, and we busted it out late in the evening.  I was there until 1am, and left the game there.  Apparently people played until 4:30am!  Some tequila shots may have been involved.

I'm proud of me.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Hidden in Plain Sight -- Wrapup and Post Mortem

So, I think it’s about time for a post-mortem on “Hidden in Plain Sight”. I don’t actually know how to do a proper post-mortem, so I’m just going to make it up as I go along.

First, how about some press roundup:


This Joystiq piece was done quite a while before the game actually game out. It was published in early December, and I could definitely see the effect it had not only on trial downloads, but also on purchases. That is to say, this was a widely-read article, and it clearly said that the game was multiplayer-only. Therefore, people who tried it went into it knowing that, and were more likely to buy it. My conversion rate in December is over 40%.

Also, this article made my YouTube video hits jump from around 200 to over 3000 in about 48 hours. Pretty cool.

A fun interview, but didn’t generate any visible feedback.

Another interview, kind of late in the game.

“So if you have someone to play with, get this. Hidden in Plain Sight makes for a very fun party game.”

“…if you should actually have three spare controllers and three acquaintances, Hidden in Plain Sight is probably the most fun you could have with that setup.”

“The Best local mp XBLIG game that I wish I was playing months earlier.”

Silver Award… would have “ran away with the gold” except for a game that came out on 11/30. Also, notably, was co-recipient of the silver with Escape Goat and DLC Quest. “It’s just a ton of fun and like nothing I’ve experienced.”

GameMarx also did a video run-through here:

I was also on their podcast here:

Finally, and my favorite, are some comments I’ve gotten as followup to reviews, and on the YouTube comments, etc.

So, let’s see what worked and what didn’t.

The Good:

Having a good, solid code base. I have good, reusable code for making animated characters walk around the screen. With HIPS, that’s 90% of the game right there. The rest was just UI, menus, sounds, and so forth. This was by far my easiest game to make, coding/wise.

I really like the sound effects in the game, and the music is fantastic. I really lucked out with having Jim McKeever let me use some of his music, and I think it adds a huge amount to the game.

At its core, I think the game is a really good idea. It’s actually, genuinely fun. I was able to have it in playtest for a long time (almost as soon as it was playable), and was able to get some good comments based off that. One of the major changes I made was adding statues to Ninja Party. This gave players some other objective to accomplish, and I think added a whole new layer to it. Also, it gives some cover for players to hide behind.

I like the various modes differently. But everyone seems to have their favorites, and there isn’t much consensus about which work and which don’t. So hopefully there is something in there for everyone.

Eryn came through again with some awesome cover art. I don’t know if it helped sales, but at least the box art looks distinctive.

The Bad:

Graphics: I’m getting about as much leverage off Renier Prokeins free sprites as I can get, but at some point, I’m really going to have to figure out how or where to get character art.

Fatal Bug: There is a bug in Death Race that went out to prod undetected. If two players are aiming at the same character, one shoots, then the target character dies and is removed from the “active players” list. When the second player moves his aiming crosshair off the dead player, it will throw an exception. Dumb.

The Ugly:

Diana’s parents were over on the first full day of release, and wanted to see the game. We played a few rounds of Knights vs. Ninjas, and they noticed that their characters were starting in the same location every round. One of my late changes was to limit where the Knights can start, so I had some debug code in there to test this out, and forgot to remove it. Specifically, I’d commented out the code that shuffled up the players, so the players always start in the same location. Erg. So frustrating.

Sales and performance: 

I’m not sure if this is good, bad, or ugly, but it looks like HIPS is going to end its initial run for glory with about 500 sales. During the same time period, that’s about 50% of sales for my previous two games. Give that this is multiplayer only, actually, I don’t think that’s half bad. It has a 3.75 star rating, which matches up exactly with Bad Golf and Venga Islands. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with it, given the good press and feedback.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Monsters Unleashed V.3

The Kahrn by Micahel Scotta
Monsters Unleashed V.3 should be released this week. This issue features monsters chosen by Sam Hing, Steve Russell and Paul Woods.

The monsters for this issue include:

Asherake - a monstrous humanoid race consumed with the need for conquest.
Kahrn - a bizarre magical beast that can only reproduce by engaging in deadly combat with other sentient creatures.
Sapphire Golem - an intelligent golem that acts as a body guard or advisor within the royal courts. If I was using him in the Jade Regent path I would simply rename him to a Jade Golem.
Ogrillon - the bastard offspring of ogre and orc pairings. They are designed to be playable at 1st level.
Reaper Falcon - a extremely dangerous animal companion that can streak through the battlefield leaving a trail of bleeding foes.

I've just started finalizing Monsters Unleashed V.4. I should be able to put an art order in on it by the middle of the month.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Problem of Repetition

After having played some adventure and RPG games lately something struck me: repetition in games have almost the same problems as trial-and-error do. This is not really a shocking conclusion, since repeating things in a game is basically what you do when stuck in a sequence of trial and error. But since the repetition is not a direct consequence of being unable to progress, and that not all repetition is bad per se, I figured it was worth looking into a bit.

The Problem
Most of the time the problem arise when doing an action several times causes the same response. Mostly, this does not apply when doing things to dead objects, like shooting a bullet on a wall. We expect that if we shoot the same bullet at the same place twice, the same response occurs both times. However this is not always true. For instance, many games use randomized particle effects for sparks from the hitting bullet. In more complex system, like water splashes, this is even more common, and while it might not be directly noticeable if they repeat, it can unconsciously lead to the virtual world being seen as less "real" (what I really mean is sense of verisimilitude, but more on that later) . So even though it does not constitute a large problem, we do run into trouble even when repeating consequences for very simple interactions.

The problem becomes more jarring when the object of interaction is a supposed to be an intelligent agent. This is very common in RPGs and adventure games during dialog, where the same question generates the same answer regardless of how many times you ask it. Adventure games are generally a little bit better than RPGs and often have NPCs giving a summary instead of the exact same response and more frequently terminate threads of conversation. Even so, a big part of dialog in both types of games have actions being met by the exact same response no matter how many times they are repeated.

There are of course a reason why it is like this. The player might have forgotten some information and need to hear it again, forcing dialog to be repeated. Or there might be some compulsory puzzle that requires the player to trick or persuade a character, which forces the player to redo the same conversation if unsuccessful at the first attempt. I think these reasons expose two problems that narrative focused video games have: reliance of "info dumps" and puzzles as core activities. Info dumping is a form of exposition that one tries hard to avoid in other media, yet is very common in video games (often forming the core storytelling device). It is something that I think needs to be considered more (and I am well aware we have been using it too much in our own games). Puzzles is something I have talked about having negative effects before and this is yet another argument to why we should try and cut down our reliance on them.

Another very common form of repetition is that of having the same kind of gameplay scenario repeated several times throughout the game. Sometimes this can be a core part of the experience, but most of the time it is just a form of padding and an attempt to prolong the time it takes to finish the game. There are tons of examples of this and two that spring to mind are the vent sections of Dead Space 2 and the spirit capturing in Sword and Sworcery. I felt that both of these activities would have been a lot more interesting if not repeating so much. You quickly become very familiar with them and they eventually loose much of their first

There is a deeper reason why repetition is so common in videogames. Many games base their interactions on traditional games and software systems where reproducibility is a corner stone. You do not want to use a paint-tool and not know what expect when pressing a button, and the only way for you to get this knowledge is to is for consequences to repeat themselves. In traditional games, you need to have systems that a human player can keep track of, and thus the consequences of actions must be easy to comprehend. Videogames carry baggage from both of these directions, and thus it is not strange that video games contain a large share of repetition.

As you might have guess I think this sort of repetition can be quite bad for videogames that focus on story and narrative.

The Causes
As I said earlier, the repetition has pretty much the same issues as trial-and-error. Since they are both about doing the same thing over and over, this can feel pretty much self-evident and not worthy of much discussion. However, while trial-and-error elements are more easily pointed out and can be directly addressed, repetition is more subtle and not always as obvious. Many of issues with repetition are also commonly seen as limits of the medium (or at least our current technology) and thus not really addressed. I do think these problems can be overcome though, and a first step is to figure out what give rise to them.

- Mechanics gets apparent
By having something repeated over and over to players, they will quickly start to notice patterns and short after figure out the system below. What this leads to is that the player will no longer focus on what the system is trying to represent (eg. dialog with a person) but will instead see the mechanics that it is built from (eg. the abstract dialog tree). Repetition does not force this onto the player as trial-and-error do (where the player often is required to learn the system in order to continue). But since many of the things that are repeated constitute a big part of the experience, the problem piles up. Like I mentioned above the repetition can include entire scenes and the player might go through a section in a go (ie no trial-and-error). But then when a very similar sections is repeated throughout the game, the underlying mechanics become more and more visible. As an example I think the enemies in our own game Amnesia have this very problem. This problem is very subtle though as it only applies on longer play sessions and can thus more easily slip by.

There is another aspect to this, that makes the problem even more severe. Once you figure out the mechanics of a system it can damage events that you experienced when you did not have this understanding. For instance, if you feel like a conversation is really meaningful, and then later on find this same character reduced to mechanics, it will change the way you view your prior experience. It will be very hard to still feel the same sense of meaningfulness when looking back at the conversation. Your mental construct of an aspect of the game's world has now been reduced to a mechanic and when you later summarize the experience you have had, this can severely reduce any emotional attachment you might have had to earlier happenings. As this piles up, it will slowly degrade the experience and makes you less emotionally connected to the game's world.

- Decrease in Verisimilitude
What verisimilitude means is basically how real and truthful the fictional world feels. This does not mean how well it replicates the real world we live in, but how much a it feels like it represents an actual place. In most narrative media, giving a strong sense of verisimilitude is really important. As I said, this does not mean that everything should be "just like in real life", but instead follow the fictional world's internal logic somehow. What this means in games is that when encountering a virtual element, such as a character, we do not need for it to behave exactly like in real life, but simply to behave in such a way that it evokes feelings of verisimilitude.

This means that we can tolerate dialog selection and similar, while other things are instant deal breakers. I think one of these deal breakers is the repetition of a responses. If a character repeats the same sentence over and over, it is very hard to see them as nothing but a simplistic automaton. We can quite easily disregard our knowledge that there is not a sentient mind
shaping the responses, just like know something is not really happening in a movie. But when the information that the experience is feeding us (in this case the repeated voice response), the very thing that is supposed to support the view of an intelligent being goes straight against its purpose.

Not only dialog is affected by this but plenty of other aspects. For example, whenever you have to go about clicking on the same hot-spots over and over in an adventure game, it also significantly reduce the feeling of verisimilitude.

- Decrease in effectiveness
This point is almost identical with what happens in trial-and-error. Certain scenes and events simply does not do well when repeated. For some events it is simply that they are very emotional, and it will be hard to feel the same way once again. You will grow desensitized and less prone to reacting to it. Just compare a movie filled with gory sequences to one with a single visceral scene. The latter will pack a much harder punch. Other times it might be that the event or scene is set up like a magic trick - it only works when you are not expecting what will happen. Finally, it might simply be that the passage is too boring, sensory intense or similar that you cannot bare to take further viewings. Other media rely on things like these hard-to-repeat moments a lot, but since games are so prone to repetition, they are much harder to put in and/or to have the same emotional value.

The Cure
So how do we overcome these issues? I think there are a few things to keep in mind when designing that makes them a lot simpler to avoid:

  • Not a approach the experience as a competition. The less goals we set up for the player the less likely we are to need to repeat things for the player or to make them repeat their own actions.
  • Make sure that the story is understandable without the need of info dumps. If the player is required to have story related information repeated to them, then I would consider that bad narrative design. The story should emerge simply out of playing.
  • Skip the notion that players need to learn a system. I think this is mainly historical baggage from how software works for more practical application, where mastery of the system is essential. Creation of narrative art does not have this requirement though, and I think we should instead make the player focus on the representations (graphics, sounds, etc) that the system provide.
  • We must demand more of the player and give them more responsible. We must teach them them live in our virtual worlds instead of trying to beat our game systems. As most games reward players for combing the virtual world for goodies this is not the easiest of tasks though. Our goal must thus be to undo this and reward roleplaying instead.
These small rules does of course not solve everything and there is a lot of hard problem connected with this. For instance, conversational responses is an incredibly tricky problem and the same is true for narrative devices in games.

Still, I think just a little change in our thinking can take us a long way and simply recognizing the problem is a big step forward.

Release and Sales!

Currently all of our products at Rpgnow and Paizo are currently on sale for 35% off.

"Silent Blades Tells No Tales"
Male tengu rook 1 by Michael Scotta
Additionally, we have just released our first core class supplement called Legendary Classes: The Rook by Thomas Baumbach.

Legendary Classes: The Rook (PFRPG) PDF


What others call cheating, a rook calls opportunity.

The rook is a new base class for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game from the fractured mind of Thomas Baumbach. The rook's abilities allow it to misdirect, ensorcell, and alter the perceptions of others. No matter the situation, a rook makes his own opportunities.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Monster Update - Alien Probe (MSRD)

Otherworldly Probe
A small globe of blue-white light darts in view and quickly streaks away.

N Small construct (extraplanar)
Init +9; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +12
AC 20, touch 20, flat-footed 11
(+9 Dex, +1 size)
hp 43 (6d10+10)
Fort +2, Ref +11, Will +5
Immune construct traits
Vulnerable mind-affecting
Speed 0 ft., fly 400 ft. (perfect)
Melee touch +16 (1d4 electricity)
Ranged touch +16 (2d6 electricity)
Special Attacks actinic scan
Psi-Like Abilities (ML 6th; concentration +9)
   At-will – brain lock (DC 16*; + animals, fey, magical beast, monstrous humanoid), detect psionics, concussion blast (2d6*); memory modification (DC 17), mental disruption (DC 16*; 15 ft.)
* Include augmentation for the otherworldly probe’s manifester level.
Abilities Str 1, Dex 28, Con --, Int 15, Wis 16, Cha 12
Base Atk +6, CMB +14; CMD 19 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Agile Manuevers, Skill Focus (Perception, Sense Motive)
Skills Fly +25, Knowledge (planes) +8, Perception +12, Sense Motive +12
SQ dimension door, invisibility, otherworldly speed
Environment any
Organization solitary
Treasure none
Actinic Scan (Ex) As a standard action, the otherworld probe can emit an extremely bright, blue-white light in a 60 ft. cone. The light is used by the probe to gather data on the creature but it can cause mild discomfort to those creatures scanned. Each creature in the scan takes 1d4 fire damage and is nauseated for 1d4 rounds. The damage can be halved and the nausea negated by a successful Reflex save DC 14. If a creature fails the saving throw by 5 of more they are paralyzed for 1d6 hours instead of being nauseated.  The save DC is Charisma-based.
Dimension Door (Su) As a standard action, an otherworldly probe can psionically transfer itself plus up to 300 pounds of additional material up to 600 ft. Creatures can resist this transfer with a successful Will save DC 14. The save DC is Charisma-based
Invisibility (Su) As a swift action, the otherworldly probe can become invisible by altering the type of light that it gives off.
Otherworldly Speed (Su) As a free action, an otherworldly probe can shift into an accelerated mode of travel. Its fly speed changes to 4,000 ft. (good). It can maintain this increased speed for up to six hours a day, but it can break up its use into one hour increments. Otherworldly speed is used to escape pursuit or capture.

Otherworldly probes originate from beyond the documented planes. No one has ever ascertained neither their plane of origin nor the identity of their creators. Otherworldly probes appear seemingly at random, evaluate creatures with their actinic scan and depart. They utilize an electric shock in melee or range to defend themselves and seem to possess some master of psionic potential.

In the MSRD the otherworldly probe is known as an alien probe.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Empty Treasure Room (by Thomas Baumbach)

The Empty Treasure Room
The first level of Purple Mountain, filled with disguisting vermin and wandering beasties, is an old-school dungeon crawl in the finest sense. Right down to the defeat-the-endboss reward, number 14 on the map: The Treasure Room. How disappointing, then, that, "the exact nature of [the] treasure is not described and left to your design as gamemaster." Oh I get it, we're first level and the rest of the Locus Lord's minions have given us plenty of loot. But still. Here are a couple sample tresure rooms that would fit well at the end of Temple of the Locust Lord without providing your players with too much extra swag. Including treasure in these treasure rooms assumes that the GM will not also add treasure the PCs missed earlier in the dungeon.

Treasure Room #1
This room is littered with broken crates and old, soft hay. Two alcoves in the north and south walls hold a smattering of valuables: goblets, statuettes, brass jewlery, and the like. Against the east wall a crate serves as a makeshift alter, surrounded by bug- and worm-like symbols drawn in violet ink upon the white-stone walls. Atop the crate, arranged in a semi-circle, sits four ornate brooches stylized to look like beetles.

Development: The majority of the treasure gleaned from the cult's victims is stored here. The PCs can search this room throughoughly to find an additional 1d3 x 100 gold in treasure. A player asking specifically about the crates can make a Perception check (DC 12) to notice a faded merchant's mark branded on one broken crate. The same mark is on the underside of each beetle brooch, though an Appraise check (DC 12) is required to notice the mark is not part of the brooch's stylized carapace. A subsequent Knowledge (local) check (DC 13) reveals that the merchant's mark is one of a prominent jewelcrafter in the area, who may offer reward for the return of missing wares.

Treasure Room #2
This room is largely empty except for the alcoves on the north and south walls. The northern alcove holds used candles, and miscellaneous baubles. The southern alcove holds a wooden rack upon which rests a single warhammer. Tempered dark steel emblazoned with eight outward pointing arrows, beside the ornate hammer a pile of lose scrolls sits in disarray.

Development: The baubles in the northern alcove are all that remains of valuables from the cult's victims. The PCs can collect an additional 50gp in treasure. This room's true worth, and Irasked's true treasure, is the warhammer, a weapon of immense power that he once sought to unlock, prior to his complete devotion to the Locust Lord. With a DC 20 Knowledge (arcana) or (history) check, (with a +4 circumstance bonus if the character inspects the scrolls), a PC can discover that this weapon is the infamous Apocalypse Hammer, a weapon of pure chaos.

The Apocalypse Hammer appears in Legendary Weapons. Feel free to substitute a legendary weapon that is more appropriate for one of your players, though the Apocalypse Hammer fits thematically with the cult's goals.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Hidden in Plain Sight -- published and roundup...

I hit the Publish button late on Thursday evening. I'd advertised a Friday release date, but there is a lag between pushing the button and seeing it show up on the Xbox Live servers, and I really wanted to watch it show up.

So, late Thursday night, there it was. Another game, published for the masses to see.

On Friday and Saturday, a few reviews showed up online:

This is one of the most enjoyable and unique multiplayer games to come out of the XBLIG channel. It forces players to mingle with and behave like the NPCs walking around the screen in order to inconspicuously meet some goal. Depending on what mode you’re playing, this goal could be assassinating the other players, collecting coins, or racing to the finish line. My favorite modes are those that split up players into two teams, where one team consists of snipers trying to figure out who’s an NPC and who’s a human. These matches become incredibly tense (and hilarious) as the non-snipers get closer to winning. But because this is restricted to local multiplayer only, part of the challenge is first figuring out who you are without everyone else noticing. Sometimes, five minutes will go by, and I still don’t know where I am! That doesn’t necessarily ruin the game, though. In the right company, every moment—from the initial confusion to the winning move—is a thrill. So if you have someone to play with, get this. Hidden in Plain Sight makes for a very fun party game.

Pros:Amazingly fun multiplayer with tons of replay value - Cute graphics - Fantastic price
Cons:Would love to have more game modes ;)

So far, so good!

I was also a guest on the weekly GameMarx podcast. You can listen to it here if you're so inclined. I'm getting over a cold, so I apologize in advance about the sniffing. Ugh.

I was really prepped and had a lot of stuff I wanted to talk about on the podcast, but sometimes it was hard to get a word in, and the conversation didn't always go in directions I anticipated, but it was a fun experience and I'm honored to have been a part of it.

On Friday evening, my in-laws were over for dinner, and they wanted to see a demo of the game. So I fired it up, and walked them through a couple game modes. What we quickly discovered, though, in Knights vs. Ninjas, was that some debug code was left in the game. This means that players always start in the same location, rather than randomly spread around. Serious bummer. I'm pretty pissed about it, but there's not much I can do now, aside from fix it and send it in for another Review and get it patched. I'm giving myself another day or two to see if anything else pops up. It just sucks to put it so much effort to get everything just right, and then make a last minute change and mess things up. Oh well.

No sales figures yet. I'm really not expecting anything big by any stretch. Seeing the positive reviews and that email have been super rewarding as it is.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

New Spell

While playing Kingmaker today, we decided we really wanted a spell like this.

Boshalen's Courier
School conjuration (creation); Level bard 3, summoner 3, witch 3, wizard 3
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (a two inch square of paper)
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Effect on invisible, mindless, shapeless servant
Duration 1 day/level
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance none

Boshalen's courier is an invisible, mindless, shapeless force that can be sent great distances to deliver an item or retrieve an item. It has an effective strength score of 4 (so it can lift 40 lbs. or drag 200 lbs.). It can communicate telepathically with any creature that has a language. When created the courier will deliver one item or set of items in a container to another willing target or travel to another willing target to retrieve one item or a set of items in a container. The items must be given and received freely. Its base speed is 40 feet.

Fan email...

Hidden in Plain Sight went live on Thursday evening. Check put this email I got this morning. It really makes the whole process worth while.

Mr. Spragg, I just want you to know that my wife and I just so happened to stumble upon your game yesterday in the X-Box indie store, decided to try it out, and couldn't stop playing it all day. In fact, by the end of the night, a group of about 8 of us were gathered around the TV taking turns playing it. Thanks for trying your best to keep local multiplayer alive. I cannot tell you how grateful I am. Probably the most fun I've had with LM since the days of Mario Party. And thanks for giving me a reason to invest in that 4th xbox controller. I'll be downloading your previous game Bad Golf today, and am expecting great things. You brought a lot of people together last night that wouldn't normally play video games at all. It's fantastic. I'll be recommending it to friends. I trust that anyone else that stumbled upon it last night had a similar experience. HIPS is brilliant in it's simplicity. We'll be playing for weeks and months to come. Thank you!


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Monster Update - Acid Rainer

This monster originally appeared in the Modern Reference Document.

A huge discoloured cloud breaks suddenly toward you, from beneath is voluminous bulk writhe four dripping tentacles. 

ACID RAINER (CR 8, 4,800 XP)
N Huge outsider (air, elemental, extraplanar)
Init -2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +13
-- Defense --
AC 21, touch 6, flat-footed 21
(-2 Dex, +15 natural, -2 size)
hp 105 (10d10+50)
Fort +8, Ref +7, Will +7
Immune acid, elemental traits
-- Offense --
Speed fly 40 ft. (perfect)
Melee 4 tentacles +16 (1d4+8 plus 1d4 acid plus grab)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks acid spray (DC 20)
-- Statistics --
Abilities Str 26, Dex 7, Con 20, Int 6, Wis 11, Cha 11
Base Atk +10; CMB +20 (+24 grapple); CMD 28 (can't be tripped)
Feats Fly-By Attack, Lightning Reflexes, Lunge, Power Attack, Vital Strike
Skills Fly +15, Knowledge (planes) +11, Perception +13, Stealth +11; Racial Bonus +8 Stealth
Languages Auran
-- Ecology --
Environment Plane of Air
Organization solitary, cloud (2-4) or storm (5-16)
Treasure none
-- Special Abilities --
Acid Spray (Ex) Once every 1d4 rounds, an acid rainer can spray out a caustic mist that fills a 30 ft. rafius spread centered on itself. Each creature within this radius takes 2d6 points of acid damage. A successful Reflex save reduces the damage to half. The save DC is Constitution-based.

Acid rainers float among the multitude of clouds in the Plane of Air. Somewhat less intelligent than air elementals they behave in are more animal-like fashion. They often group together for protection and hunt in packs to ensure success. Since they do not eat, the hunting practice seems to be some sort of ritualistic behaviour for the acid rainers. Acid rainers and arrowhawks often fight for territory.

Purple Duck Notes: In the Modern Reference Document these creatures are known as Acid Rainers. If I was planning on using them in a fantasy game I would probably change the name to something like caustic clouds.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Prisoners of Purple Mountain #2

Tith-Tor is currently imprisoned in Purple Mountain and has no equipment.

Tith-Tor CR 1/2 (XP 200)
Half-cyclops oracle 1
LN Medium humanoid (giant)
Init +0; Senses low-light vision; Perception +7
--- Defense --- 
AC 16, touch 13, flat-footed 13 
(+3 armor, +0 Dex, +3 dodge)
hp 11 (1d8+3)
Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +5; +4 vs. disease
Defensive Abilities uncanny dodge
--- Offense ---
Speed 30 ft.
Melee glaive +2 (1d10+3)
Ranged javelin +0 (1d6+2)
Special Attacks future sending (3/day, DC 14)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 1st)
1/day – augury
Spells Known (CL 1st)
1st (4/day) – command (DC 14), cure light wounds, magic weapon
0 – guidance, read magic, resistance, stabilize
--- Statistics ---
Abilities Str 15, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 17, Cha 6
Base Atk +0; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Extra Revelation
Skills Acrobatics +4, Intimidate -1, Knowledge (history) +5, Perception +7, Sense Motive +7, Spellcraft +5
Languages Common, Giant
SQ intimidating, know what’s coming, wasting, weapon familiarity, wisdom of foresight
Gear glaive, 2 javelins, studded leather armor, spell component bag, hooded cloak

Born to a human mother cyclops cultist, Tith-Tor spent her early years among a small group of faithful worshipers. At the age of five the local human authorities slaughtered her cult, but the soldiers could not bring themselves to slay Tith-Tor. Her most ardent desire is to prove the cyclops were once a proud, noble race, better than the current brutes they have become.

Ready to drop...

Hidden in Plain Sight has passed Peer Review!

I'm setting Friday, November 18th, 2011 as the official release date. I might actually push the button late Thursday night so I can watch it hit the market.

I've set some marketing wheels in motion, so we'll see if that does anything. I still remain skeptical that it will make a difference, but here's hoping.

I tell you what, it's hard to have a game that's all ready to go and not push the Publish Now button, but I really want to see if I can manage to generate some buzz before releasing the game.


Only five days left on the Kickstarter project!

A huge THANK YOU! to all the project supporters.

You can see the project HERE

I sent the files off to have the masters made last week, so we could try to get a head start.

We only have five days left on the project, if you would like to participate, your support is greatly appreciated. Although the project is funded, roughly $2000.00 will still be coming from my personal funds. I would need to reach roughly $7700 in total project pledges to be completely in the black.

Thank you for looking and for your support!

Mark Mondragon

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Purple Mountain - Pregens #1

Penelope “Penny Dreadful” Derringer
Penelope was born to a noble family but it became obvious as she grew that she was not quite human. She was still treated with respect, but was excluded from any family business. When she reached her teens, the differential treatment started to become obvious to her and she began to resent her family. She began acting out and getting into trouble, often sneaking out of the house at night to go down to the less savory parts of the city to hang out. Soon, she got into some trouble with a minor crime boss and rather than ask her parents for help, she left the city with the next caravan and has never looked back on her new life of adventure.

Penelope “Penny Dreadful” Derringer
Female Sylph Rogue 1

Chaotic Neutral Medium Outsider (native)
Init +3 ; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +5
---- Defense ----
AC 16, touch 14, flat-footed 12 (+2 armor, +3 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 9
Fort +1; Ref +5; Will +1
Resistance electricity resistance 5  
---- Offense ----- 
Speed 30 ft.
Melee Dagger +0 (1d4)
Ranged Dagger +3 (1d4) 10ft.
Special Attacks Sneak Attack +1d6
---- Statistics ----
Str  11, Dex 17, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 14
Base Atk +0; CMB +0; CMD 13
Feats Deft Hands, Dodge
Trait More Human, plus one more
Skills Acrobatics +7, Appraise +1, Bluff +6, Climb +0, Craft +1, Diplomacy +2, Disable Device +9, Disguise +6, Escape Artist +7, Heal +1, Intimidate +2, Knowledge (local) +5, Perception +5, Perform +2, Ride +4, Sense Motive +5, Sleight of Hand +9, Stealth +7, Survival +1, Swim +0
Languages Common, Auran
SQ trapfinding
Gear 9 daggers, leather armor, thieves’ tools, small steel mirror, 50’ silk rope, grappling hook

New Trait 
More Human...
Your Elemental abilities are not as pronounced as others of your kind as you favor your Human side.
Pre-requisite: Native Outsider of Half-Human origin
Benefit: Choose any two racial abilities. You lose these abilities but gain the bonus feat of a Human.