No game this week

I haven’t made any progress on a big book of enemies, and haven’t even had a chance to play Dinosaur Cowboys this week. Next week looks quieter, so far, which means I can hopefully get a campaign summary or detailed battle report posted here (with pictures) to give everyone an idea of how the game plays.

But yeah, minor polish here and there on the rules, but things will tend to slow down considering the core structure of the game (and every supporting document besides enemies) is complete.

Double crossing bandits

Thursday’s Game
My game yesterday was fun. My friend had previously tried to double cross a travelling Neotechnoist merchant and his guard, which resulted in a close call with death-by-hanging thanks to a town sheriff. After some bandits broke in and won the fight against the townsfolk, my friend decided to join up with them. He took his share of the loot and equipment, and then headed south to go to a “Thickskull” nest to get himself a Dinomount.

After getting attacked by an adult Ripper him and another new bandit member were sent to explore the Ripper nest. The entrance caved in during an attack, and him and the bandit groupie continued deeper in the cave. Eventually he swam down an underwater tunnel that surfaced in a vine covered chamber. In a home built amongst the vines was an old man who had been there for 5 years. Some chatter back and forth and eventually it’s shown that the man killed his colleagues and tried to make a staircase from their bones to escape through a hole in the top of a chamber nearby. They fought and my friend killed the double barreled shotgun wielding old man by using grenades.

When he escaped out of the cave he decided to double cross the bandits. I don’t get what his deal is with double crossing everyone, but it makes for a dull game because he can’t do any “canned” missions like “Go here for X dollars, do this for Y dollars”. Instead he’s pretty much on the run all the time for being a jerk to people, and now he had screwed both the law abiding citizens of New Mexico, as well as the menacing bandit element.

He tried to make a run to Albuquerque to catch a 400 mile Flapper ride to Utah, but was caught outside the city by 3 newbie bandits, 2 full bandits, a bandit sergeant, and their Horned Dinomount. After dispatching the newbies he played cat and mouse for a bit, but eventually the combined firepower of the others brought him down and killed him.

His next character idea is someone who starts in Washington, and gathers enough supplies to make it to Canada (British Columbia specifically). Out of all of the USA he has to choose to go north to Canada, ugh.

Rules Thoughts
Anyways the system held up well again, and the Traits added a lot to it. I’m still having some trouble balancing AR vs Attacks, but I think that’s because he never really stopped running long enough to buy better armor with all his money. Having a total AR of 3 basically means you take a lot of damage…a lot a lot. But then again if he had gotten a Dinomount instead of trying to shoot everyone 10 seconds after meeting them, his AR wouldn’t be so awful. Apologies if I sound frustrated, haha.

In terms of the rules I’ve polished and refined them a bit more, and will continue to do so as I do more play testing and real games. Getting pretty close to done now, besides the zillions of enemies I want to make. I also might update the History a bit to include a note about Canada, and maybe how Alaska is considered an untouched paradise or something (sort of like Shell Beach in Dark City or the island lands in Mad Max or flat out land in Waterworld [yeah, I just referenced that movie in a serious context, so what?!]).

I’ve completed the section about Canada and Alaska by adding a simple paragraph to the History section (under the “Eruption Day” header), duplicated below:

To the north Canada was covered in ash and eventually emptied as unprepared citizens escaped the cold by fleeing south. The country remains forsaken and abandoned, covered in blowing snow and choking ash and ruled by dangerous creatures. Rumors persist that Alaska endures untouched by the eruption's devastation; a veritable paradise for those brave enough to explore northwards.

v0.5…halfway there?

Well here is v0.5 of Dinosaur Cowboys. My version numbers are sort of off considering this beauty might jump right up to v1.0 in no time. Unlike my last release these rules are now feature complete, including all items, weapons, traits, sheets, etc. I still want to playtest them more, do some refining and reformatting as I go, and keep a running document of enemy sheets that can be used. But yeah, in general things are ready to rock.

I have a game coming up on Thursday, and will hopefully have a less busy week soon to sit down and do some more playtesting myself.

Anyways here are the goods, again as OpenDocument format or PDF:

Rules: ODT | PDF

Items (Weapons, Armor, Equipment): ODT | PDF

Character Sheet: ODT | PDF

Sidekick / Enemy Sheet: ODT | PDF

Here be Traits

Well the turn around on removing Damage Tracks and creating Traits was faster than expected. I ended up going for Active, Passive, and Boost Traits.

Active are the ones I talked about yesterday that you use when attacking. Things like Crippling Shot. Each has an Activation Number, and if any of your Attacks are greater than or equal to the number, you get to apply the effect of the Active Trait to your target. I ended up solving the “high attack guns become overpowered” bit by modifying the Activation Number based on your number of attacks.

Passive are once per combat abilities that normally give high temporary boosts (like +5 Movement or something), or special effects (like instantly reloading a weapon). I didn’t get too into custom rules here to keep the game at a light skirmish level, and I also tried to have any temporary bonuses go directly to existing stats, instead of things like “Now you get +2 AR from cover!”.

Boosts are flat, static modifiers to existing stats. Like +1 Movement. Hooray…not much to say about them.

I did rules for “Re-Learning Traits” to allow people to re-skill their choices. Then I filled in info on the 3 categories, dropped the Damage Track section, and off I went. Oh I also redid a bit of the Dinotypes table so that it has a +HP column. Then all the related changes to character / sidekick sheets, etc.

I was mildly tempted to have most of the Traits have witty references to popular culture, or be more Fallout style with cutesy names, but ended up going for basic, descriptive names instead. I didn’t think that pop culture references would age well (already Guild Wars: Nightfall skills are looking a little silly) and fun names are JUST fun, but make it difficult to read the list and decide what you want.

Anyways, 22 Traits which totals 36 if you include the various stages (ie: Toughness I, II, and III). Maybe more to come later (send ideas if you’ve got ’em!), but I’ve pretty much exhausted the most obvious options. I think there is plenty of selection considering you only get 9 Traits by max level.
Here is the current list pulled straight from the rules:

Click for full, unsquished size

I figure I’ll post the updated rules tomorrow, since I’m out of energy to do it right now. Then I plan on some playtesting sometime next week…hopefully (it’s looking pretty busy already), and maybe a game or two with real people to cement more testing.

Dinomount gallery

Annnnnd I’m back. That ended up being quite a gap, but holidays and busyness tend to do that. Anyways…2010 is here! We don’t have battery powered laser blastin’ six-shooters, but hey, at least 2010 sounds futuristic. Anyways I got a chance to photograph my collection of Dinomounts so far. There have a tag from the company “Papo” on them (except the Crocodile and Runner). Definitely highly detailed and good quality, and I wish the range had a few more types available. It’s kind of nice to get durable plastic toys instead of fragile metal figures, and so far they’ve added a lot to the game (especially in the big bandit raid last game, before the holidays).

I had a great idea for Traits as well, which I’ll talk about below after the gallery (note you should mouse over each for the type of Dinomount shown, and click for a larger [1024×768] picture):

Dinomount Gallery
Ducky Horned
Plated Raptor
Runner Thickskull

Traits Idea
Right, so the Trait breakthrough. First of all, Damage Tracks have been kiboshed. Dinomounts just provide a flat HP bonus to their riders. This really simplifies things, and stops my from feeling like I simply ripped off Silent Death (without actually improving one of their best mechanisms).
To make up for this simplification, and perhaps partially inspired by the Action Skills in the computer game Borderlands, I’ve decided to split Traits into Active and Passive. Passive just provide simple stat bonuses like +X Movement, +X Attacks, and so on. Or they provide generic other bonuses like a bigger inventory or faster overland travel or things of that nature.
The real fun are the Active Traits. Basically each Active Trait has an effect and an Activation Number (still working on the term…). Whenever a To-Hit roll is greater than or equal to the Activation Number, the effect of the Active Trait is applied to the enemy. You can switch your current Active Trait (or not even use one) any time before making an attack in combat.
I’m also considering some sort of re-skill fee that lets you pay Neodollars to erase your current Active Traits and choose new ones. I’m thinking (Level * $20) or something, to make it easier to try different Traits at lower levels, compared to higher levels when you should have a pretty good idea of what works.
So, as an example, let’s say an Active Trait is called “Crippling Shot”, and has an Activation Number of 9. If I’m firing with a standard 100KW Six-Shooter (4 Attacks), any roll of 9+ applies the Crippled effect to the target, which reduces their Movement by -1. Simple and fun and lots of options for hindering your enemy beyond just flat out applying damage.

Problems with this new idea? Well, obviously guns with more Attacks would be “overpowered” compared to those with low Attacks but high Damage. I’m thinking that the Activation Number will be a sort of “base” number, and can be modified and calculated depending on the weapon. For example if you have 1-2 attacks, lower the Activation Number by 1, so it makes up for having less chances to Activate by being easier to activate. I’m still trying to find an elegant solution to this.

So anyways, I’ve got a bit of work with redoing character sheets and enemy sheets (too bad I’ve already printed a ton of them!). I think I’ll just update the Dinotypes table in the Rules to have the +HP bonus right inline, which negates the need for Dinocards (which I mentioned before). I’m going to keep Break Tests (probably just at certain HP thresholds, like 50% and 25%, or maybe under certain effects like if they take 10+ damage in a single turn), but otherwise I can pretty much wipe out the entire Damage Track section. Once all that is done I’ll just have a bunch of enemies to make up, but that’s an ongoing process anyways, so yeah, should be getting close by the end of January!