Winter is Coming

Winter-is-ComingWell I don’t normally like to post memes on here, but I figured if I’m going to I may as well go ALL OUT. So handless Philosoraptor on the body of a Game of Thrones meme. What a world!

Anyway I wanted to take today to talk about a few v2.1 brainstorms. That’s right, the update train just keeps on chugging! Certainly no core revisions as sweeping as the jump from v1.0 to v2.0.

  1. One fix (compared to a new feature) I’ve wanted to do so far is the Wound/Injury table effects. They are a bit inconsistent and some are poorly worded, and some don’t even make sense (like “Broken Tail” for the dinosaur, since they ignore Difficult Terrain already). Unfortunately I didn’t realize all this before I released v2.0! I was too focused on making sure the mechanics themselves were sound, avoiding the death spiral, etc. instead of grammatical touch ups.
  2. The other fix I would consider is calculating the value and statistics of weapons based on a mathematical formula. I did that for Improvement Points and statistics, and that worked well. So somehow quantifying Attacks, Damage, Distance, special abilities, etc. into the overall cost and balance of the weapon.
  3. Speaking of equipment I’ve considered a ranged Medical Device. I can’t help but think of the medgun from Team Fortress 2, but I’m sure I can come up with something more suitable to the Dinosaur Cowboys theme. Similarly healing “generators” that can be dropped/setup on the ground to heal in a radius could be fun.
  4. Finally I wouldn’t mind revisiting the Trait list and making sure that all of them have a use, and are somewhat balanced against each other. There will probably still be obvious winners, but it’d be nice if I got rid of some obvious losers too (for example I don’t see a ton of value in Sniper Shot or Tracking Shot when you could just get Skilled Shooter instead). I know my original intention was for players to take some of the better Traits first, then if they REALLY wanted to specialize take some of the less good Traits. So go for Skilled Shooter I and II, but then circle back and also take Tracking Shot or similar.

For rulebook formatting I still am considering trying to go to a 2-column format, and add a bit more design art inside. Maybe small little images of cacti and dinosaurs in the footer, for example.

Snowdrift-and-FencesFor new Features, and related to the title of this post, I really want to get some Seasonal features. Such as snowdrifts, snow, hail, slippery ice, cold weather, biting wind, etc. Similarly blinding and burning sun rays, high temperatures, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration, etc.
This is the perfect real world time to start on these plans because this morning my car had ice on it for the first time this year. So the phrase “Winter is Coming” is certainly apt. I could see playing a few matches on a snow-based table by taking my normal terrain and messily sprinkling it with fake snow of some sort.
So besides Features based on the season and weather, I want to add a few more general Features too! I think the Features are a great aspect of the game. Basically players can choose various Features that affect how the table is setup or how the match will go. Some are small changes (like Gusting Winds) and some are big changes (like Shield Generators or Volcanoes). And having dozens of options to choose from will just add variety to campaigns. Because they affect everyone on the table I don’t have to worry as much about balancing, and can just go for neat and thematic rules.

Some possible examples of new additions:
– Blinding Sun and Burning Sun
— Blinding Sun would start on a random table edge and move throughout the battle, shooting towards that edge (into the sun) gives a penalty
— Also maybe have one effect that disallows Long Range
— Another that allows ANY range but a max of 15″ or something
— Burning Sun would do a 1A-0D attack to everyone not adjacent to a tree (shade)?
– Rivers
— Some push, some drown, some are full of vicious dinosaurs, some are swampy and slow, etc.
– Propane and exploding barrels
— Needs to do somewhat good damage to be worth shooting
— Or have a useful effect (like an acid barrel that does damage over time)
– Have winter rules for Christmas
— Perhaps get colder as entity does more Activations
— Can warm up with items? Or by ending Activation by a geothermal vent?
—– Sort of like Don’t Starve with huddling around a fire in winter

Poker-SaloonThere is also a set of Initiative rules I’m considering. They probably won’t make it into the rulebook as a Variant because they are rather more complex and involved than most Variants, but I do want to try them sometime. Basically:
– Option for standard playing cards for Initiative
— Get 3 playing cards to begin with, draw 1 per activation, draw 3 more if hand is ever empty
— Players both put a card face down, flip at the same time, higher wins init
—– On tie discard both cards and redo
— The idea is to give a bit more control over when you try for initiative
— Since you could just “throw” a low card when you don’t care
— Face cards naturally beat numbers, just like a normal card game
— Could also draw the 1 card / player face UP instead of face DOWN
— This would introduce a bit of bluffing, because you could pay attention and start to figure out what the opponent has available

Oh and finally I thought I’d just drop this brainstorming tidbit…
“Circus” Allegiance
— Random positive and negative stat modifier?

Deployments, Objectives, Features, Showdowns

As part of the extended campaign rules I also want to codify a bunch of different setups for each game. These would also apply for standalone games. The idea is to extend the options players have beyond the standard “line up and kill each other”. To this end I’m working on a new set of rules for Deployments, Objectives, Features, and Scenarios. I would love more wild west sounded names for these (as well as some of the individual points), but no luck thinking of any so far.
My friend Nathan from the game last Thursday was interested in helping me, so he’s been brainstorming these new rules. He’s played a bunch of tabletop games and I figured it’s hard for just one person to think up enough varied deployments and scenarios.

Deployments: These pertain specifically to HOW the posses are deployed. For example the current deployment is “choose a table edge, deploy 8 inches in, and fight”.
Objectives: These would be WHAT the posses are fighting for. There are two types of Objectives: Public and Private. A Public objective is known and shared by all players, such as “Kill Everything”. A Private Objective would be on a per posse basis and would differ, so that one posse might have “Kill the Enemy Leader” and the other might have “Capture a Cabin”. The players could either choose these objectives or roll for them.
Features: This is HOW the posse is fighting, in the sense that Features would be special rules or terrain that affect the battle. Maybe a saloon in the middle, maybe an underground tunnel, etc.
Showdowns: These are prepackaged scenarios with preset deployments, objectives, and features. Normally there is more of a story or background behind it, and these would be used for a Standalone game. There might be IP/ND restrictions, posse build restrictions (ie: must take a dinosaur), or even prebuilt posses to fight against each other.

I’ll be editing this post throughout the coming week as we brainstorm up ideas for these four categories. Then I’ll format the ideas and put them into the rulebook (although Showdowns may end up as a supplement instead of core).

Read the rest of this entry »

Scenarios I need to play

I have a gap between work travel coming up, and I am trying to brainstorm some fun ideas for scenarios instead of the standard “setup and kill” game I tend towards. Ideas are welcome for what you’d like to see! With luck I can play a game sometime next week and hopefully post a battle report full of pictures soon after.

– Civil War battle with the same posse on both sides
– Robot invasion with special rules for shields (Armor reduces damage maybe?)
– Rescue mission with patrolling enemies, or stop a hanging of an ally
– Start with half the posse unarmed in a saloon for a bar fight scenario
– Board with high cliffs and a central valley, lots of climbing
– Board with a tunnel sublevel (Space Hulk tiles) representing a mine?
– Board with packed city terrain with rules for jumping roof to roof, and all posses start above the ground

I think I’ll whip up some extra rules for combat at night, since I think that would suit some of the scenarios (Bar Fight and Rescue mainly).

The Saloon PDF export 99% done

I’ve kind of stalled out on Nanowrimo after a disastrous week 3, for which I fully blame my business trip. I haven’t hit my stride since coming back, but maybe I will before the month is out.
The good news is I’ve made lots of great progress on The Saloon, my posse building web application. Currently the remaining TODO items look like this:

Major Saloon TODOs

  • Strip PDF filename of special characters (for example comma doesn’t work well)
  • Need to denote Allegiance and Breed somehow in PDF
  • Need to have transparent HP values (maybe write text instead of using a field?)
  • Split status bar into a different div so just it can be updated via ajax
  • Add URL generation so an entire Posse can be passed via external link

Minor Saloon TODOs

  • Regenerate serialVersionUIDs once classes are completed
  • Add titles to the various elements on the page, like Weapons and Armor, etc.
  • Clean up via internationalization / override the error messages

So basically the main areas left are three touchups to PDF export. Otherwise the PDFs come out looking AWESOME! I have the leader, all members, and the dinosaur exporting properly. To give you an idea of how these PDFs look feel free to download Hope’s Warden posse as PDF. You might remember them from an earlier post. But yeah it’s pretty neat being able to translate a paper copy into a PDF with very little effort (it took about 5 minutes to enter the data through The Saloon).

Lots of improvements and bug fixes are now in the app, so it’s worth checking out again. I’m going to wrap up PDF export soon-ish, and then put up some info on various forums so I can get some feedback and views on the application.

Anyways to give you an idea of some of the recent changes here is a log of my SVN commits:

- Added PDF output for Dinosaurs, including their own unique stat images and additional fields
- Added missing extra column for dino that was created for humans for their refresh button
- Added a method for regenerating a new random name upon user request
- Read the first and last name data from a ZIP file instead, which saved a few KB in terms of the WAR size
- Added random name generation for Leaders and Members. The name data is pulled from the US Census data.
- Added a method for restarting the session. Some minor work around the PDF so that we don't allow a save until the posse is valid, and warn the user of what's missing otherwise.
- Some minor tweaks to the layout of the ODT file. It might need to be ported back to the rulesets/cowboys/ folder after each change?
- A bunch of work around the Save to PDF functionality. Now Leader and all Members export properly. Still need dinosaur and Allegiance and a few other tweaks.
- Fixed some bugs, mainly around the opening/closing/toggling of Traits and the Store. There were a lot of ugly flags being flipped around in there.
- Progress on f:ajax optimizations. Big savings once I realized I can do :f:pl (for example) to render the entity list from a composite component. Now the app won't sent upwards of 120kb just to do something basic like increase MV while the Store is opened. Still some bugs around opening/closing of the store and traits in any non-standard use case
- Changed wording from status to statusbar
- Removed Rope Lasso since it's included for free
- Added a bunch of status messages to the various elements of the app, which will display in the status bar along the top. Also made an option to hide the status bar and revert to the previous behaviour of putting messages in the first table's footer
- Added introductory text to explain DC. This will only display on their first visit, after that a cookie is created and if that cookie is present the intro text won't be displayed. Also made a rad status bar overlay along the top (colors undecided) for displaying error messages and info and general stats of the posse. This helps when scrolling down into the store lists.
- Added sorting to every table, plus some cool cascading sorts so that clicking Name will apply to all subtables, for example. Styled the sort headers as well.

If I had to sum up the big changes I’d say: tables are now sortable, new intro text for the app, terrific looking status bar that floats as you scroll, lots of optimizations with JSF’s f:ajax to reduce bandwidth per click, new random name generation for leaders and members, and obviously PDF export for everyone.

As before feel free to check out the app at http://saloon.thruhere.net/.

A big post of dubious ideas, variants, and TODOs

Below is a big huge brainstorm of some new ideas or features for Dinosaur Cowboys. You can thank another playtest, plus I’ve started carrying a pad of paper to scribble my wild ideas down on, so I forget less. At least it gives me something to do besides try to make artwork for the v0.9 rulebook. Anyways I’m a big fan of variant rules because sometimes a cool feature doesn’t quite make it into the core rules, but I still LIKE that cool feature, so I aim to make those available as “official” house rules. The TODO below that list is mostly Traits to add, but a few neat ideas in there too (like maybe doing away with Level entirely and just going by IP/Dollars).

Possible Variant Rules
– Armor reduces damage instead of modifying RMC/MMC
– Use MMC for ranged weapons in melee, but still apply the In Melee penalty
– Dinosaur adds their Armor to any riders (makes getting across the field easier)
– Fumbles (unmodified rolls of 1) count as -1 Hit
– Variable Run speed (D6″) instead of 1/2 Movement
– 1 Improvement Point can be bought for $10
– Do not remove an entity at 0 HP, just place them face down (called Unconscious or Downed). They can be revived by someone using healing (Medpack, Whiskey Drop, IRP, etc.) on them.
– Alternative Leadership effects: grant additional Action Phase to one entity in 12″?
– Can buy and set traps (marked down with X-Y coordinates in inches) like spiked pits, etc.
– Some kind of “quick draw” with Six-Shooters that lets you roll off / duel an opponent within short range? Maybe autokill the loser?
– Gatling Gun that has D6 or D12 Attacks instead of a set number
– Additional +1 Miss Chance against targets that Ran
– Fire rules for Molotov cocktails (maybe a X” wide patch that lasts until the end of the turn?), get same attack if target enters or is pushed into it
– Dinosaur equipment upgrades (armor plates, extra saddle, etc.)
– Weapon upgrades (laser sight, etc.) that grant additional benefits to the gun? Arguably covered as +XA or +YD weapons, maybe just need +ZSR (short range) or those kind of extra mods? Maybe make a way to purchase these upgrades (percent of base price? [might make upgrading cheap guns too desirable], or just flat price per plus?)
– Non-Dinosaur beasts (Sabertooth cats, etc.)

Possible TODO
– Develop “The Saloon: Dinosaur Cowboys Posse Builder” webapp, including export to PDF form
– Weather effects (sandstorm, acid rain, etc.) and hazardous terrain (lava, quicksand, etc.)
Add RMC default for Dinosaurs due to Roar attack (Beast type), since it’s ranged (Removed Roar attack so Dinosaurs stay pure melee)
* Clarify Dismounting for multiple people on a single Dinosaur
* Clarify no move at all on a failed Charge (that comes up short, as in you don’t still move the X” inches you rolled)
* Maybe make Charge a 2″ or 3″ minimum, so basically can try to charge targets in 3-6″
* Note about Fleeing off the board. Instead give the Fleeing person a Movement Phase, but Stunned in that Action Phase
* Maybe note that more terrain and more powerful posses increase play time (on the 30-60 minutes game req at the start)
* Change Kill system to be based on victory (like +5 XP on win), or maybe get Improvement points on a per-win or per-kill basis instead of per-level? Then Levels could be entirely removed and you just play Posses with matching IP/Dollars.
* Trait “Climber” Passive trait that treats vertical climbs (cliffs, hills, etc.) as normal non-Difficult terrain?
Trait “Sacrifice” Active trait that adds +damage but takes HP from self?
* Trait “Rejuvenating Strike” Active trait that gives +HP if target is killed
* Trait “Underdog Strike” Active trait that gives +damage if target has more HP than attacker
Trait “Fresh Strike” Active trait that gives +damage if target is unhurt
* Trait “Retreat” that gives +Movement to nearby ally
* Trait “Clear Me” that removes harmful effects (Stopped, etc.)
* Trait “Frightful Strike” that gives -Bravery penalty if a test is required from your attack
* Trait “Burst Move” gives +Move but makes self Stopped or Slowed next turn
* Trait “Cleave” hits adjacent melee target as well as main target
* Trait “Stoneroot” make self Stopped but give +X Armor
* Trait “Final Thrust” that does +damage if target is already half HP, otherwise it does less damage
Trait “Grapple” makes self Slowed and target Stopped
* Trait “Hamstring” apply Slow to target
* Trait “Protector” transfer some HP to nearby ally (maybe 1:2 ratio?)
Trait “Riposte” means next enemy melee attack causes them to take damage
* Trait “Bull’s Strike” that Stops target and does extra damage if they’ve moved?
* Make some Dinosaur fighting feats, like +X vs Dinosaur
* Do traits specific to some weapons? Or maybe just to weapon categories? Like “Thrower” that increase Grenades range, etc.
* Make some Traits that only work when mounted? Like further Lasso range, maybe higher move (“Spur Mount”), etc.?
* Make some Traits apply weapon special effects, like “Stopped” for a “Knockdown Shot” or the like
* Create a “Slowed” weapon special ability that forces target to move half (and can’t run) for their next Activation, could be a Bola or Whip attack
* Make a note of falling damage (being pushed off a cliff, etc.). Flat 1 HP per 1″
* Make Knockback as X” Knockback, where X is how far, similar to Explosion. So Shove would be 2″ Knockback and Shudder Lance would be 1D6″ Knockback and so on
* Explain Minimum range somewhere (for example 4-14″ range on Lever Action rifle)
* Different Lassos (more damage, further range, pull closer, etc.)
* Dinosaurs have a Stampede / Trample attack? Further Charge range or damage maybe? Just a bunch of different special attacks similar to Brawl for humans, like Knockback, Trip, etc. Maybe Berserk which hurts self after attack but does more damage?
* Variable Charge speed, maybe Move+D6″ in a straight line? Could add a fun element of uncertainty to Charging. Need to make sure there is a chance of reaching the enemy, otherwise a person could just Charge forward and gain additional free Movement.
* Add Stopped, Stunned, and Slowed as tokens, maybe centralize their rules? (centralized enough as weapon special effects)
Maybe make an “X” attack that means you roll to hit with 1D12 but it does no damage, perfect for Trip or Shove (instead of 1A-0D). (Want to maintain the same mechanism throughout)
Clarify Dinosaur sizes in one spot, and what effect each size has (passenger count, travelling, etc.) (Kind of clear already)

More updates and decisions

Recent Playtests
Like I said I was busy pretty much all weekend, but I did squeeze in two playtests. Both pitted the Drylands United Cattle Company against The Lost Platoon, and both were Level 2 Posses. The table setup remained the same for each match with a large building to the east and a thick scattering of hills elsewhere. I took photos and recorded Activations for the first games, so expect another battle report coming soon. The second game was a rematch more than anything, so I just powered through it without a turn by turn account, which helped since I could get a real test of play time (the game took 27 minutes).

Decided on Initiative and Resolution
Anyways I think the two playtests helped me decide on two big rule issues I had wondered about: Initiative and simultaneous resolution. I’ve decided to go with a new Initiative system and to leave combat resolution as it is (so if you kill someone they are removed instantly, instead of at the end of the turn). The Initiative system is similar to before, except instead of rolling at the start of each turn you roll off at the start of each Activation. This helps numerically unbalanced teams since you can compare the number of un-Activated entities on an ongoing basis, instead of once at the start of the turn where it can be out of date.

Damage Reducing Armor? MMC for Ranged in Melee?
I did come up with two other possible big changes:

  • Make AR reduce damage instead of miss chance? Downside is reworking some of the numbers and mechanics, upside is you don’t have to check with the opponent when trying to hit, it’s basically My Skill + My Modifiers instead of Your Modifiers, ya know? +1 AR for 10 IP would need to cost more though, as would armor. I don’t want to get into a bunch of 0 damage hits though.
  • Test using MMC instead of RMC for ranged weapons in melee.

Damage Reducing Armor?
I’ve considered the first point before during the long process of choosing what exactly Armor means. Inititally there was no Ranged Miss Chance and Armor was the value you had to roll against (it was higher back then). But then with RMC and MMC I went to a modifier approach where it simply makes the target harder to hit. A lot of people have qualms with this approach in modern/sci-fi games, since arguably (well, technically) having a kevlar vest doesn’t mean you won’t get hit, it means the bullet won’t do as much damage.
So now I’m considering whether Armor should be damage reducing. Aside from all the flavor reasons, the main upside I see is it would further streamline the combat process. Right now the real world implementation of the rules goes like this:

Player A: “Alright I’m shooting, *measures distance* 18″, so that’s Long Range. You’re in Cover, so -1 damage. What’s your Armor?”
Player B: “*checks sheet* Just 1 for this guy”
Player A: “Okay so RMC of 6, two mods which means 8+ to hit. *rolls and high fives because Dinosaur Cowboys is so much fun*”

The second line above is my concern. Having to check with your opponent to do your OWN shooting is kind of a bother. In a sense it helps involve your target in the attack, but it’s also kind of a hassle since you can’t just independently figure out what you need to roll.

Anyways in terms of mechanics I don’t think much would need to change. The IP cost to increase Armor would probably go up a tiny bit (12 instead of 10 most likely). Otherwise the rules are pretty close to what is needed.

The main downside I’m worried about is 0 damage attacks. Nothing is more frustrating to a player than rolling a bunch of dice, hitting something, and then doing nothing against it. I mean the opponent is happy, but it just feels like a wasted shot. Right now the damage per shot seems pretty high, so reducing it by 1 or 2 probably wouldn’t be too bad. Also it’s extra math, which can be annoying…although I can’t say TOO much against that since Cover and Elevation both modify damage, and if they do it why can’t Armor?

Definitely something to playtest.

MMC for Ranged in Melee?
Right now I’m having a tough time striking a balance between ranged and melee. I flat out don’t want melee to be more powerful than ranged, because no one in the wild west won a draw by punching the other guy at one hundred paces. Melee does have some benefits, like you aren’t going to have a bunch of modifiers to hassle with, the attacks are normally fairly damaging for the price, etc.

Dinosaurs also factor into this, since you are basically obligated to push forward and get to grips with the enemy to be effective, so Melee NEEDS to be considered. And after running across the board (3 or 4 feet of space to cover sometimes), shedding HP and maybe even having some casualties, the last thing you want is to get stomped in close combat by someone shooting you in the face.

So to that end I’m considering changing how guns/ranged weapons in melee work. Currently there is a +1 Miss Chance to Ranged in Melee, so it’s a bit harder to hit your target. What I’m considering instead is using MMC in place of RMC for ranged weapons in melee.

This feels a bit more realistic, and would also mean those 5 RMC/8 MMC snipers wouldn’t be so hot in close combat. But it opens up ranged weapons as viable melee weapons, whereas right now they aren’t. I mean if you’re using MMC anyways, why not save money and get a gun and shoot as you advance and still get to use it in close combat? So I’d probably have to leave the +1 penalty in there.

I’m lukewarm about this idea since it starts to blur the line between what exactly RMC/MMC stand for, and whether they are interchangable or not.

Smaller Changes
As usual I have a growing list of TODO items based on my recent playtesting and brainstorming. Completed items are retroactively marked with a bold asterick.

  • * Implement new Initiative system in rules (basically roll at the start of each turn, move based on the current numbers in the sense of 2vs1, 3vs1, etc.)
  • * Simultaneous deaths won’t be used with the new Initiative system.
  • * Reload values were decreased (eg. 3×1 to 2×1), may still need tweaking. I’ve had 1 Reload over 3 games, when I’d rather it be closer to 1 per game, so yeah, basically everything got the Reload value decreased by 1.
  • * Do a “Setting up a Game” section under Game Overview, with details on non-standard IP/$ values, table size, etc.
  • * Lasso / Wrangle / Rope ‘Em attack (inspired by the huge amount of rope work in The Valley of Gwangi). New attack that can only be used while Mounted. 1-6″ range, 1A-0D with Stopped special ability (target cannot move during their next Activation).
  • * Make a note of how to fill out the Posse roster (X of Y IP instead of just X IP, etc.)
  • * Quick Reference sheet (if enough tables exist to make it worthwhile)
  • * Try Posse Roster with custom western fonts used elsewhere in the doc

Anyways that was a long post, but yeah, keeping on with the rules improvements towards that wonderous v1.0.

Outstanding Items

Alrighty let’s pile all my TODOs together and see if I can’t get a few issues resolved and v0.8 done. I won’t have a ton of time until next week to get to these, but it’s good to keep a list somewhere.

Playtest TODO

  • * Test removing Movement to-hit modifier, or making it only apply to someone who Ran. Downside is less motivation for a full shooty Posse to be mobile.
  • * Test simultaneous attacks, so that being taken out of action doesn’t actually remove the figure until the end of the turn.
  • * Test different activation methods. Most likely is rolling for Initiative before every Activation, but still accounting for uneven numbers. For example if it’s 2vs1 and the larger team wins Initiative, they would Activate 2 figures. Simultaneous fire would help keep this easy because the numbers per side wouldn’t change in the middle of a turn. Instead of a rolloff could flip a coin, draw a card, or odds/even a single dice.
  • Test making Leadership grant 1 extra Activation, even perhaps double Activation of a single figure?

Document TODO

  • * Make a snazzy logo for the title page (t-rex skull with crossed pistols below it?).
  • * Add a table of contents (tedious but pretty much necessary).
  • * Add page number footers.
  • * Create a quick rules reference sheet filled with modifiers, available actions, etc.
  • Create a quick character reference sheet filled with statistic IP costs, steps, etc.
  • * Potentially combine the Rules.odt, Items.odt, and Sheet-Posse-Roster.odt into a single document (mixing portrait and landscape print styles might be a hassle?).