Friday, 27 January 2017


I like The Black Hack, and I think The Cthulhu Hack is a good read for combining a simple ruleset with a bit of focused setting and tone. Of all of the *Hack products I've seen so far, The Cat Hack has hit me the most as a game that I want to run. In 16 pages you've got rules, a theme, some neat innovations around equipment, magic and more. The classes are really clever, and not just feline versions of fighters, rogues and so on. The Cat Hack stands out to me as something to be explored - you could read it once quickly and miss a lot. If you get it, take your time when you read it, there is a lot of really neat stuff in there.

I'm going to run it sooner or later; I have a particular setting in mind for a game of it though. I like The Walking Dead and real-world zombie fiction, and there's something neat in my mind of mashing that with The Cat Hack. The dead rise, the humans in a neighbourhood are scared and wondering what to do when Mr Jones starts snarling and chasing after his wife with blood running down his face - and a group of cats work to try and help their owners escape and survive. I've no idea where it would go in play, although I would lean on it as being serious rather than a comedy game (even though the PCs would be semi-mystical cats).

I want to find out how well it might work for a setting. I have a three week gap in my "working away" schedule coming up, so if I can find a good day there, I might try to run it on G+/Hangouts. Stay tuned, drop me an email or comment if you're interested.

And check out The Cat Hack: it's small and perfectly formed, interesting and innovative and it's $1.95 on DTRPG! Total bargain!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Signals From Noise (1)

I've been thinking about ships in Into The Oort a lot for the last week. I had a lot of fun a while ago writing down names for a d100 table of ship names (it will surprise no-one if they see that table that I like the Culture novels), and I now have a d50 table of "ship classes" too, in the sense that the Enterprise D is a Galaxy class ship, Luke Skywalker flies an X-Wing and so on.

Say you have a random encounter with a ship and roll some thing from a few tables quickly. It comes back with, say, 20 metres long, rocket-shape, stats are 10s across the board except for a thick HULL of 14. Two laser banks. Another quick roll, it's part of a notoriously inept pirate militia - but where did they get their hands on a decent ship like that? Mystery...

Anyway, you roll on the d50 ship class table and that tells you it's a Caliban class ship - and from this point on, if you meet another Caliban class ship you can expect it to have similar stats, shape, size and armaments. Caliban can become a kind of shorthand in your game.

(of course, they might not only be used by pirates: a border patrol for a polity seven hexes over could have a whole fleet that they have retrofitted with fast drives; comet miners might have one with a ridiculously oversized gun installed to deter thieves - the class just offers a broad baseline)

Ship names and classes are fun to think about. Mechanics and shipgen less so. Finding a way to make ships as nice as PCs from a game of Into The Odd, mechanically speaking, is interesting and tricky. If someone rolls stats for a character, they can then interpret them when it comes to describing their physical appearance - and that's OK, because they're going to be playing that role after all. They won't be playing a ship. My original design idea was to have three stats for ships, HULL, DRIVE, SCAN - which almost mirror STR, DEX, WILL from Odd - and to have regenerative shields, SP, replace hit points. So in the midst of a fight the shields then the HULL takes damage, but assuming the power is up and the ship can get away, the shields recover and then the HULL has to be repaired.

But what about crew size? What about ship size? What about cargo space? I'm happy to have black boxes for a lot of features - power, life support, gravity - but I think having something mechanically that determines crew, ship size and cargo space features in ship generation is useful (as well as some thoughts about how that could mechanically impact things in play; how well can someone fly the ship with only a skeleton crew?)

And while it is nice and neat to have stats for the ship, do we need someone who is acting as a pilot or captain? Probably. If the ship takes a hit does everyone onboard roll to avoid taking some kind of damage? Maybe.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. At the moment I'm looking for something simple to generate ships, both for players and for the GM who is creating encounters in play and prepping them before play. I've asked a fair few questions in this post. In the next post I'll try to pull some answers together.

Friday, 20 January 2017

A signal reaches out from the Oort Cloud

I posted this on my G+ feed last week, but forgot to make an actual blog post.

The main part of that message reads, if you're interested:

01001001 01101110 01110100 01101111 00100000 01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01001111 01101111 01110010 01110100 00001010 01000001 01110010 01110010 01101001 01110110 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101111 01101110 00100000 01000101 01100001 01110010 01110100 01101000 00001010 00110010 00110111 00100000 00110001 00110000 00100000 00110010 00110000 00110001 00110111

Feel free to decode and share. TL;DR - I've given myself a deadline to motivate me finishing Into The Oort. I think it's workable. And when I announced this last week, the time between the announcement and the deadline was the amount of time it takes a radio signal to go from the Oort Cloud to Earth. It felt right.

The to do list:
  • Really figure out what does and doesn't work in my current framework for the game.
  • Figure out what I know I want but don't have yet, and fill those gaps.
  • Experiment with Scribus to look at layout options with that (everything so far is in an OpenOffice document).
  • ART! I want a lot. Which means contacting artists. I'm making a list of the kinds of pieces I think would be good, then checking portfolios. I have one or two names in mind already.
  • More playtesting. In particular spaceships and travel. Things are not as concrete in that respect yet and they need to be.
  • A playtest pack. Aim for this to be done, in one form or other, for mid-March. Yeah, I know, I think I said that last year. But this year it will be.
Want to know more about Into The Oort? Drop me an email, or a comment, or something. Oh, and I've extended my January Sale on print copies of the zine to the end of the month. Sales help build the art fund for Into The Oort - if you want any or all of the first three issues of A Random Encounter with a little money off then buy them from the sale page. I'll even throw in a print version of Oddpool too!