Showing posts from July, 2014

The Effects of Luck

In GURPS, the Luck advantage has a unique effect on the core mechanic: when you use Luck, you roll three times and take the best result (generally the lowest if you're making a Success Roll). What does this mean for the lucky character?

Well, it means that on average you have a +2.5 to your effective skill. That is, the average result on 3d6 is 10.5, while the average result on the lowest of 3 rolls of 3d6 is 7.99. But the averages don't tell the whole story because of the beauty of the bell curve.

The following graph shows the probability of rolling a given result or less on a normal Success Roll versus one with Luck.
You can see how much faster the Luck roll tops out compared to a normal roll. Basic Set considers a skill of 14 to be expert level. A normal roll will succeed against a Skill 14 90.74% of the time. With Luck, you'll hit that likelihood at between Skill 10 and Skill 11. Skill 16 on a normal roll is equivalent to Skill 12 with Luck. So in the range of many sta…

What If: Disney's Frozen Were a Dungeon World Adventure

The thought occurred to me that there's something about Disney's Frozen that reminds me of Dungeon World. I can almost hear the conversation during character creation:
Anna: "Our kingdom is like Medieval Scandinavia."
Kristoff: "I'm an orphan and I was raised by trolls, only they're more like little rock dwarves."
Anna: "I'm a princess, but my older sister is going to become queen after our parents died at sea."
Kristoff: "My only friend is a reindeer that grew up with me."
Anna: "My sister has magic ice powers. When I was little, she shot me and almost killed me. Our parents took me to the trolls, who wiped my memory of her magic." And so on.

Kristof is pretty clearly a Ranger, with Sven as his animal companion. Anna is harder, but in my mind she is a very bizarre kind of Paladin who just leaves all her equipment behind in her haste. Elsa, of course, is the Front.

The Winter of Queen Elsa (Front) After her powers a…

One Roll Engine Bundle of Holding

If you're not familiar with Bundle of Holding, shame on you. +Allen Varney has set up a wonderful way to get a huge list of amazing games into people's hands for just about whatever amount they can afford. On top, a portion of all proceeds goes to charities of the creators' choice.

The current Bundle involves one of my personal favorite rules systems: +Greg Stolze's One Roll Engine.

What is the One Roll Engine (or ORE, for the sake of keyboard)? At its heart, it's a dice engine that tries to unpack more information from a single roll than just "success/failure." In ORE, you roll some number of d10s, and you look for matching sets. So, if you roll 5d10 and get 2,4,6,6,9, you got a pair of 6s. That would be good, if not spectacular.

The fun comes in interpreting the result. That pair of 6s has two important features. Its Width is the number of dice in the set: 2. Its Height is the value of those dice: 6. Width generally indicated how quickly you accomplish …

Ritual: A Supernatural General Ability

One of the GUMSHOE project's I'm working on now and then is called Valley of the Dawn. It's a game of exploration by a stone-age tribe looking for new land to migrate into. They discover a mysterious valley, and a team of Seekers (the player characters) is sent in to see if it would be a good place to settle.

One of the Seekers is a Shaman with the ability to perform rituals and gain the favor of the many spirits of the land. This is a special General ability, and so far the description looks like this.
Ritual The lore of the People includes special rites for many activities, from washing to cooking to the dances before a great hunt. These rites appease the spirits that guide and protect your tribe. But you possess the ability to entreat those spirits to grant supernatural gifts.

With this ability, you can perform rituals that enhance your ability or someone else’s. This requires a safe space where you can draw symbols, burn offerings, and otherwise use the trappings of ma…

Fate Tokens on Kickstarter

Fate Tokens, from Campaign Coins, are metal tokens (basically custom alloy coins) designed to be used as fate points in your Fate roleplaying sessions. They are an officially licensed Fate product. The Kickstarter is at just shy of $11,000 at the time of writing, out of an initial goal of $5,000. And that's in Australian dollars, so ... I don't even know. Exchange rates or whatever.

Each set of 12 Fate Tokens includes four tokens with plus signs on the back, four with minus signs, and four with blank backs. That sounds a lot like four Fate dice. If you put a set of 12 Tokens in a bag and draw four out, these are the approximate probabilities for each possible result.

4: 0.2%
3: 3.2%
2: 10.5%
1: 22.6%
0: 26.9%
-1: 22.6%
-2: 10.5%
-3: 3.2%
-4: 0.2%

The odds are similar but not identical to rolling 4dF. You're even more likely to wind up in the middle of the curve by pulling 4 Fate Tokens. Here's a graph comparing the two mechanics.

Fittingly, drawing from a bag of Fate T…

Pulling Rank in International Super Teams

GURPS Supers for Third Edition introduced the setting of International Super Teams, in which the UN operates a paramilitary organization of super powered individuals responsible for maintaining world peace in the face of equally powerful foes. The setting got its own worldbook, expanding the history and details of the world and introducing more heroes and villains. When Fourth Edition came around, GURPS Infinite Worlds: I.S.T. brought the setting up to date in a free introductory PDF.

In the setting, I.S.T. is a very powerful organization with global reach and access to bleeding edge technology as well as members' super powers. As a global defense service, I.S.T. members must possess Military Rank. Following the guidelines in GURPS Social Engineering for varying Rank Costs, I.S.T. Rank costs 7 points per level. Active Duty supers must have at least I.S.T. Rank 4, worth 28 points.

GURPS Social Engineering: Pulling Rank introduces the idea of removing the Patron advantage and allowin…

Iron Edda: World of Metal and Bone One-Shot

My Monday gaming group's regularly scheduled Pathfinder game was postponed due to player absence this week, but those of us who could make it still wanted to play something. I offered to run Iron Edda: World of Metal and Bone, my *World game of epic Norse fantasy coming soon from Sand and Steam Productions.

The first step of the game is holdfast creation, in which the players generate the issues facing their community in the land of Midgard. The players came up with Shieldhaven, a riverside holdfast in the shadow of Dragon Peak (so named for the dragon that lived there in ancient times). An unnatural winter had settled over the land, freezing the river and threatening traffic along the waterway. Some people had grown desperate; a group of bandits had formed and begun raiding merchants from the Petruvian Empire. The Empire was threatening to cut off trade. And finally, a new dragon had settled on Dragon Peak and was snatching up cattle and messengers of the Horse Clan as they trave…

Ennies Voting Booth Open

As a follow up to last week's Ennie Nomination theme, the Ennies voting booth is now open. You have until July 30 to cast your ballot, and you are limited to one ballot per IP address.

Update: Hey! Why don't I actually put the link up there?

Adventure Hook: Columbia Returns

To commemorate the 45th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon, here is an adventure hook for Moon Dust Men+Kenneth Hite's GUMSHOE campaign frame of government agents tasked with investigating and covering up alien activity on Earth.
Columbia Returns On 21 July, 1979, at 23:41 UTC, NASA ground stations receive a transmission from lunar orbit. The message is the voice of the crew of Apollo 11, broadcast on the same frequency used 10 years before. Whatever is sending the transmission does not respond. It simply sends a recording of our historic journey. NASA tracks the transmission for the next 60 hours as it grows closer to earth along Apollo's original trajectory.

Your Project Moon Dust team is currently sitting on the USS Kitty Hawk, which is circling 13°19′N 169°9′W, waiting to see what lands. Radar has picked up some kind of craft making the course corrections expected from the return of the the original Columbia in 1969. Intelligence suggests the Russians know …

Fate at the Ennies

We wrap up Ennies Nomination Week with Fate and its family of products, which did very well this year.
The Demolished Ones Not a nominee but an actual winner, The Demolished Ones by Fate Core assistant developer Brian Engard was named a Judges Spotlight product this year. This is a standalone Fate system game and adventure about memory, murder, and mystery.
Fate Dice The amazing Fate Dice product (specifically the Eldritch Dice version) is nominated for Best Aid/Accessory. The entire line of Fate Dice is a wonderful addition to any dice bag, available in eight packages each containing three styles of dice.
Fate Accelerated Edition The amazing Fate Accelerated Edition is nominated for Best Family Game, and deservedly so. This game condenses Fate Core down to 48 pages of awesome so anyone can get playing in minutes.
Strange Tales of the CenturyStrange Tales of the Century, Jess Nevin's look at three decades of world history through the pulp lens, is nominated for Best RPG Related…

Playing Lite: Historical Class Drama

Let's continue Ennies Nomination Week with the GURPS-related nominees.


Oh. Right. Well, let's do something else for GURPS Thursday then. How about another installment of Playing Lite?

For most, roleplaying games are a vehicle for fantastical adventures, and GURPS is a fine engine for those kinds of stories. But it could not hope to be a generic, universal system if it couldn't also handle the more personal tales of people feuding and falling in love.

The class drama is a time-honored genre about manners and the interactions between individuals at different levels of the social strata, typically a wealthy family and their retainers and servants. These days, such tales are often period pieces, set in an historical period near enough to be familiar but far enough away to makes us think we've grown past such concerns. The most popular recent example is Downton Abbey, with its soap operatic look at the Crawley family and their household staff in early 20th-Century rural…

*World at the Ennies

Ennies Nomination Week continues, but the slate is short on *World games this year. Let's keep this post simple, then.
tremulus The only game based on the Apocalypse World rules to be nominated this year is tremulus by Reality Blurs. I'm not very familiar with this game, which is billed as "a storytelling game of Lovecraftian horror." It claims to be "low to no prep" and to have drawn inspiration from Fiasco and Fate as well. The game is nominated for Best Game, Best Rules, Best Setting, Best Writing, and Product of the Year. I may have to check this one out.

Shout-Outs at the Ennies

I'm continuing Ennies Nominations Week here at One Yard Hex with a few shout-outs to an assortment of nominees.
The Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man A drug-hazed shout-out to +Arc Dream Publishing and author and artist +Dennis Detwiller for their nomination for Best Adventure. The Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man is a campaign for Call of Cthulhu that takes adventurers into the Dreamlands and may just have a connection to the classic Masks of Nyarlathotep as well. A Spark in Fate Core An international shout-out to +Jason Pitre on his nomination for Best Free Product. A Spark in Fate Core brings the collaborative world building concepts from his Spark RPG to the exceedingly popular Fate Core system. Did I mention it's free? Owl Hoot Trail A rootin' tootin' shout-out to +Kevin Kulp and +Clinton N. Dreisbach for their Wild West fantasy game Owl Hoot Trail being nominated for Best Writing. I'm a huge fan of this micro-d20 variant and it's take on gritty Western mas…

GUMSHOE at the Ennies

Nominees were announced today for the 2014 Ennie Awards, and a few GUMSHOE-related products are among them.
Eternal Lies Nominated for Best Adventure, Best Production Values, and Product of the Year, the Eternal Lies campaign by +Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball is a globe-spanning adventure for Trail of Cthulhu in the model of the classic Masks of Nyarlathotep. Investigators dig up a horror that was not fully laid to rest a decade before, one with truly apocalyptic potential. The authors themselves warn against posting spoilers on the Internet, so I shan't do so here. But I can say that this campaign will see play at my table if I ever put a Trail of Cthulhu group together.

Also nominated for Best RPG Related Product is the Complete Eternal Lies Suite, a 39-track, 70-minute music suite composed by James Semple to accompany the campaign.
Ken and Robin Talk About StuffKen and Robin Talk About Stuff, the excellent weekly podcast by GUMSHOE system poobah +Robin Laws and Trail of Cthul…

Wardens of Ouon at Gen Con

At Gen Con this year, I am running three sessions of Fate Acclerated Edition in a setting called Wardens of Ouon. (You can check out the events here, here, and here. At the time of this writing, they are sold out, but you are welcome to come with generic tickets if you're interested.)

In Wardens of Ouon, players take the roles of unicorns in the ancient and magical Forest of Ouon. These Wardens are responsible for keeping the peace between the spirits of the wood and the humans who live on or just inside its borders.

For the games at Gen Con, I'm trying out a few rules for FAE, some I've tried before and some that are brand new. The two rules below involve the Deck of Fate, which I'm using in place of Fate dice. I have two decks, one in red and one in blue. The players will use one deck while I use the other. Whenever a card is drawn with an eclipse symbol (that is, the -4, 0, and +4 cards), that deck is re-shuffled and starts fresh.
Court Bonus I've tried this rul…

GURPS Horror: The Madness Dossier

Oh, look. There's a new GURPS book for sale on Warehouse 23. And it's by the delightful +Kenneth Hite. What say we crack open the file and see what madness awaits.

The Madness Dossier started as a campaign frame in the back of GURPS Horror Third Edition (also by Hite). This release is expanded to 65 pages. Right from the start, we are treated to Hite's style in some of the most entertaining "Recommended Books" and "Publication History" sections I've seen in a GURPS book introduction.

What is this setting? In a nutshell, Madness Dossier is a horror setting in which ancient Sumerian gods (or their alien antecedents, posthuman pretenders, or memetic mimetics) once ruled over mankind through the power of language. Obedience to and fear of these Anunnakku (also called the "Red King") are programmed into our source code, wired into the linguistic and perceptual centers of the human brain.

Somehow, though, humans resisted, and in 535 AD, they tri…

Urban Shadows, a Pre-review

The Kickstarter for the Urban Shadows RPG concluded recently. Urban Shadows, by +Andrew Medeiros, is an urban fantasy game powered by the Apocalypse World engine. I jumped in at almost the last minute after the game was recommended by some highly trusted sources. I've finally had the chance to dig through the Kickstarter preview material, and I like what I see so far.

In Urban Shadows, you are an actor in the ongoing series of power plays and shifting alliances among the monsters and monster-adjacents of a modern city. You can play archetypes familiar to veterans of the World of Darkness such as the Vamp, the Wizard, or the Wolf. Or you can play the treasure-hoarding Dragon, the future-telling Oracle, and the half-demon Tainted. You can even play unpowered mortals in the know, like the science-leaning Expert or the fearless Hunter.

There are a number of balancing acts going on in play that I find interesting. You have politics in the form of reputation ratings with the four Factio…

Fullmetal Wizard: Building a D&D Basic Rules Character

With the release of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules (I recommend downloading the printer-friendly version), it is possible to create characters in the new edition of D&D and play from level 1 to 20 absolutely free. I downloaded the PDF as soon as it was available and read through it immediately. It did its job as a marketing tool so well that as soon as I finished, I drove to my friendly local game store and purchased the Starter Set.

One thing that caught my eye reading through the Basic Rules was this box on page 79:
Casting in Armor Because of the mental focus and precise gestures required for spellcasting, you must be proficient with the armor you are wearing to cast a spell. You are otherwise too distracted and physically hampered by your armor for spellcasting. Yes, that means that a wizard who somehow gets training in armor can cast spells without difficulty. Well, I had to know just how far I could take this.

It turns out, the only way a 1st-level wizard can get arm…

Expanding Preparedness on

A nice, brief article from +Robin Laws went up discussing expanding the use of the Preparedness ability in your GUMSHOE games. The page even includes commentary by +Kenneth Hite  on integrating with a similar mechanic in Night's Black Agents.

Harry Potter and the Story of GUMSHOE, Part Four

There's not as much going on in the next few chapters from the point of view of our hypothetical campaign, so we're moving a bit faster in this post.
Chapter Eight: The Potions Master There's a lot of what GUMSHOE calls "pipe" clues in this chapter. These are clues that really only make sense much later in the scenario, but which give players a nice moment of sudden realization when they put everything together.

For example, the GM notes that Quirrell's ever-present turban has a funny smell and his classroom is filled with pungent garlic. The rumor is that he had a run-in with a vampire and is now terrified, but we'll learn later just what is really going on.

The big theme of this chapter is meeting Professor Snape and learning just how deeply he seems to hate Harry. We don't learn why (and won't for several books), but it is clear from the first Potions class that Snape has a direct and generous loathing of the boy.

There is a moment during Snape…

Mental Strength

Much of the previous output on my Patreon campaign was in the form of PDF micro-supplements for Fate Core. Last August, I released one that detailed a system for psionic abilities built as "super-stunts." Here it is for your enjoyment.

You can become a supporter of the new incarnation of my Patreon by clicking the Patreon link in the header bar or by going to

Playing Lite: Zombie Apocalypse

Playing Lite is a series presenting campaign frames that can be run using only GURPS Lite, available for free from Steve Jackson Games.

The survival horror scenario of ordinary people trying to escape a horde of shambling undead is very popular these days. You might be happy to know that GURPS Lite can handle it pretty well, with a few clarifications.
Zombies The first thing we need to establish is what kind of zombies to use. The classic, slow-moving eaters of flesh are the best in this case. Such a zombie might look like this:
Shambling ZombieST 11; DX 9; IQ 5; HT 10.
Dam 1d-1/1d+2; BL 24 lbs.; HP 11; Will 9; Per 11; FP -.
Speed 4.75; Move 4; Dodge 7.

Bite (Skill 12): 1d-2 cr damage.
Grapple (Skill 12): Anyone grappled by a zombie has -4 DX. To escape a zombie's grapple, you must win a Quick Contest of ST. Roll once no matter how many zombies are grappling you, but the zombies get +5 if more than one is grappling you.
Features: Zombies take half damage from firearms, unless the sho…

Doing It For Money

If you look at the header bar at the top of the page, you can see I've added a Patreon link. I've been using Patreon for about a year now; you may have seen some of my creations in previous posts. As an experiment, it's been mixed. I have some really great patrons that have been with me for a while. The Patreon system leaves something to desire technically.

Today, I made a transition from using the Patreon to support individual one-off PDFs to supporting this blog itself. The idea is that I'm doing this blog already, and I might as well get paid for it. In fact, while I try to post here most days, the money will be incentive to keep content flowing even more regularly.

So, it will work like this. Everything here on the blog is free. I will be posting every weekday, with a daily schedule you can see if you check out the Patreon page. You can also see the pattern if you've been watching the posts over the last week or two.

Once a week, I'll pick one of these blog…


This is a compendium class I made up for a recent Dungeon World campaign. The Blinding Choir are a collection of naturally invisible angels who serve the Unseeing, a stereotypical "chained god" type.

The Choir can remove sight with a touch. While the effect is allegedly temporary, the Wizard in the group didn't want to test the legend when the Fighter was struck blind. He splintered a powerful staff and used its magic to restore the Fighter's sight.

I offered the Fighter's player this class, but he didn't feel that it fit his character very well and didn't take it. As such, it hasn't been tested in play.
Blindknight When you suffer the touch of the Blinding Choir, when you level up, you may choose this move:
❏ Double Vision One of your eyes becomes milky white and can now only see the Hidden World. If you have both eyes open, the confusion of the overlapping visions overwhelms you, giving you -1 ongoing. Covering one eye relieves this penalty.

If you…

Dice Mechanic Noodling: Hilo d6s

I had an idea for a little RPG dice mechanic recently, so I plugged it into Anydice to see what it looks like. (If you are interested in games, dice, or probabilities and you haven't checked out Anydice, I highly recommend it.) You can take a look at the program here.

The idea is to roll two six-sided dice and total them. If a die rolls 1 or 6, it explodes. However, 1s explode negatively while 6s explode positively. That is, if the die comes up 6, add it, roll it again, and add the second result to your total. If the die comes up 1, add it, but then roll it again and subtract the second result. The dice only explode once, so you get a final total between -10 and 24, inclusive.

What does this give us? Well, the graph looks like this:
Weird, I know. It's a straight 2d6 pyramid in the middle, but with a bell curve on either side that tails off sharply at the extremes. The shape gives us some obvious zones of effect to work with, though.

The flat tails at either end are our obvious…