Author Archive

December 19, 2014

This is What Failure Looks Like

Sometimes it takes a lot of work and experimentation to get to a good cover. I’m not sure I’ve actually got a good one yet for Debtrunner, but these are some of the ones I tried and rejected:
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DR_cover_montage_03small

These are getting closer to something good, but I’m still not completely sold:
DR_cover_montage_02small

I had better luck with the cover of Black Seas of Infinity, even if I don’t have a new rough draft of the game, but these are some of the ones I rejected while also working on the Debtrunner cover:
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December 18, 2014

An Overview of Social Mechanics in Apocalypse World Games

Part 1: Basic Moves
My aim in writing this is two-fold: One, to share some ideas, because a lot of great conversations about the AW format have gotten buried in various places all over the interwebs and aren’t easily to look up for people new to it. Two, maybe to start some conversation up again, because I’m not finished writing rules in this vein and new ideas are always good to see.

So anyway, back at the dawn of time, Apocalypse World had the move “when you seduce or manipulate someone, roll+hot” in it. And that was your move for doing the social stuff and then rolling dice for it.

Asymmetrical Effects
Right, so the move works differently on PCs and NPCs. Your influence over NPCs depends on your hot stat and your rolls, not so much on the individual NPC (barring custom moves). Your influence over PCs isn’t absolute, though. You can’t make another PC do something, you can only put pressure on the player through rules-based incentives that model the character’s experience of being socially pressured. This is good if you want to really highlight the fact that PCs and NPCs use different rules, but isn’t particularly elegant. It looks more like two moves than only one.

However, the versions of this move in Dungeon World and Monsterhearts only work on NPCs, because Monsterhearts has other ways to pressure PCs (strings and conditions), and Dungeon World simply isn’t about using the rules to persuade the other PCs.

Monsterhearts actually paves the way for unifying both PC and NPC versions into one move, with advantage and disadvantage. If the move works the same, but you can offer advantage or impose disadvantage, PCs are free to make their choices and the rules for NPC might allow them to refuse in a few, limited circumstances, but overall mandates they behave as expected. The problem here is to work out how the concrete assurances of the 7-9 result play out when PCs ask for them. How much can a PC ask for, anyway?

Wording and Leverage
The versions in both AW and DW both require an explanation of leverage, which (in my opinion) fights with the actual trigger wording, and perhaps makes it redundant and unnecessary except for purposes of a style and consistency (in that every move should have a similarly-worded trigger). Certainly “manipulate someone” is terribly vague and even though “use your leverage over someone to make them do what you want” is long and cumbersome, it does a much better job at explaining what is really happening. It leaves out seduce, however, and that’s an important part of AW, so you can sort of see why it’s that way.

A problem I’ve seen here is that people write special moves referencing leverage, like “you can always use the threat of being beaten up by you as leverage.” This means either that even NPCs who cannot feel fear and ghosts that the character cannot even touch are always afraid of being beaten up by him (unless perhaps the player rolls a 6 or less), or that it’s just a suggestion to the GM to include NPCs that are afraid of being beaten up by this character. If it’s just a suggestion, it should be worded that way, and not as an absolute rule; and as an absolute rule, it has the potential to make absolutely no sense. Not that it’s exactly easy to write a good, snappy alternative (aside from just limiting those affected), and I haven’t seen one yet.

It’s possible for vagueness like that to work in your favour, though. In some cases, it’s quite alright to simply let the people playing the game interpret the trigger wording. Monsterhearts, for example, doesn’t define what manipulating an NPC actually is, it just says you have to actually want something from them. In Throne of Dooms, I went with the trigger “when you try to talk someone into something.” Although there’s some explanation, the move assumes the conversation has already started and the PC’s desired outcome might actually happen, there’s just no certainty. But that game’s a work in progress—the move has changed before and it might change again. In both cases, a sense of the game’s genre is pretty crucial to understanding the move’s trigger. This is true of most Monsterhearts moves—run away works as a basic move, but would seem both oddly specific and opposed to the genre in a game like Dungeon World.

Information-Gathering Social Moves
In the Seclusium of Orphone and Apocalypse World: Dark Ages, there are social moves that let you collect information by asking questions, the same as when you read a sitch or discern realities. John Harper distilled these down to a question-less move in a recent g+ post:

When you manipulate someone to get what you want, roll+[stat] and they’ll name the price. On a 10+, they name the absolute minimum price they’d possibly accept. On a 7-9, they name a price they could live with. On a 6-, they name any price they want.

Essentially, where the AW manipulate moves and those like it allow you to make demands of the fiction, these moves allow you to interrogate it in order to find out what you need to do in the fiction to make something happen. One advantage is that this works equally well on both PCs and NPCs, but it can feel strange right next to more typical perception moves, if players perceive social influence as an active force more than a matter of reading people. I used a hybrid version in Evil of the Stars, stealing the move trigger from AW:DA to finally finish he interview move that’s been kicking around the development of my sci-fi games for several years now:

When you draw someone out in conversation, roll+hot. On a 12+, both. On a 10-11, choose 1:
· Ask 2 questions from the list below.
· Say how you make them feel.
On a 7-9, ask 1:
· How could I get your character to _____?
· Is your character being truthful?
· What does your character intend to do?
· What does your character want or expect from me?
· What is your character really feeling?
On a miss, ask 1 anyway, but they can also ask 2 of you.

Wording Again
It’s good to mess around with the wording of move triggers so they fit the game, the genre, and also your own play style. “Manipulate” isn’t quite the same as “talk someone into something,” and “draw someone out in conversation” is something else again. You want to push the players towards behaviours that support the genre and the style of play the game is supposed to be about, so put that in the move triggers. Here’s a different version of John’s questionless information-gathering move from above:

When you do someone a favour, then make a request of them, roll+stat. On a 10+, they must tell you the easiest way to get them to fulfill the request, or the lowest price they will accept in exchange. On a 7-9, they must name a price they are willing to live with. On a 6 or less, they can name any price they desire, or none, and the GM tells you the consequences.

So instead of manipulating people to get what you want, getting people to do things in this game is about reaching out to them first, building connections, and finding out what it would take to convince them. You bring the king some tribute first, and then you ask about redrawing the borders between your estates and the evil duke’s estates. Or you give the guards cigarettes, and then ask them to let you see the prisoner. You buy someone a drink, then see if they are willing to go home with you.

One of the social moves in Night Witches takes a cue from DW’s Defy Danger, and allows you to modify the dice using different stats based on how you Act Up:

When you try to get your way…
…by acting like a hooligan, roll+luck.
…by acting like a lady, roll+guts.
…by acting like a natural-born Soviet airwoman, roll+medals.

In most other AW hacks, using a different stat has been a matter of having a special stat-substitution move.

Scene Resolution
But the real innovation I saw in this Night Witches move was when the wording in an earlier draft including the words “cause a scene.” In a game with heavy, and especially regimented, scene-framing rules, this can encourage players to frame a scene already in the process of making this move. Because the results of Act Up are broader than simply influencing a single person, the way moves derived from seduce or manipulate are, it can function as either resolution for a single action in a larger scene, or for a whole scene itself.

On a 10+, choose two. On a 7-9, choose one:
· Make someone do what you want.
· Ensure that there are no consequences for Acting Up.
· Add one to the Mission Pool.

Imagine a Monsterhearts style game with a similar move, where Marcia the scheming vampire throws a birthday party for Clarice (“when you do something nice for someone, roll+hot”), rolls well for the move, and chooses two options. Marcia seduces Keith (Clarice’s boyfriend) as one, and puts the condition “Owes Marcia” on Clarice as the other. As you can see, she didn’t even use the move against Keith, but since he was there in the scene, fair is fair. Not every genre can use this, but for a lot that can, it’s basically half-way there already.

And Now For Something Completely Different
Or if you like the idea of a game that runs entirely on the workspace rules, instead of rolling 2d6 all the time, you can have information-gathering moves without the dice:

When you try to manipulate someone in order to get your way, the GM will tell you what it will take (1 to 4 of the following):
· First you must __________.
· It’ll take (hours/days/weeks) to convince them.
· They want to get paid.
· They’ll only do part of what you want, if someone else does the rest.
· You must keep __________ out of it.
· You’ll need help to convince them, from __________.

So that’s a bunch of stuff, but it doesn’t cover things like Hx, bonds, aid and interfere, and currencies like hold, strings, and debts. Maybe I’ll cover that in Part 2 and maybe I’ll just slack off and not.

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Additional Commentary:

Rob Brennan pointed out the interplay between social influence and the perception moves. In AW, you don’t usually go looking to seduce or manipulate without knowing you have leverage—either you know they want something, because it’s clear in the fiction, or you use the read a person move to find out.

In cases where you ask questions, the general idea is that this occurs between players, and that the information is conveyed to the PC through any and all means available, which can include the characters talking exactly like the players, or can be (in the fiction) entirely non-verbal. This can be expressed in phrasing the questions to the player (“What is your character really feeling”), but could also maybe be explained in a paragraph somewhere if the game you are writing is marketed towards people who aren’t AW vets.

I thought about playing around with triggers to achieve a completely different effect and came up with this one:

When you pretend you’re something you’re not, in order to deceive an enemy, roll+[stat]. On a 10+, they take you at your word. On a 7-9, they require concrete proof before they believe your lies.

Here’s a test for you: Why is there a second clause (“in order to deceive an enemy”) in that trigger?

December 11, 2014

My Books in the Bundle of Holding

Currently, the Bundle of Holding has a great deal on a whole bunch of Dungeon World books, including my own Class Warfare, Adventures on Dungeon Planet, Truncheon World, Terrors of the Ancient World, and all three of my DW series modules: Lair of the Unknown, Island of Fire Mountain, and Ghostwood Haunts.

It also includes two great adventures from Jason Lutes! Funnel World is basically the DCC funnel adapted to Dungeon World. You play much-maligned peasants trying to survive the onslaught of terrible monsters long enough to become bonafide adventurers. The other one is Servants of the Cinder Queen, in which an evil fire goddess and her minions have invaded an ancient mountain monastery hoping to wreak havoc on the world. Or something like that. I haven’t read either of these yet, but I have played both of them, and my current Dungeon World group is still playing Cinder Queen. They have both been a lot of fun.

I have also marked down all the print versions of my books in the Bundle by 15%, from now until sometime after Christmas. So check out the Bundle and give the pdfs a read, and if you like them a lot, pick up one or two of them in print. If you shop at Lulu, the code FJE5 gets you (an additional) 25% off, today only (December 11). There might be a better deal later this month, though, as there was last year (although the deal last year seemed pretty crazy, so who knows).

November 5, 2014

Using Class Warfare to make commercial products

The entire text of Class Warfare is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 license. That means you are free to take that text, reprint it, redesign it, and use it in your own products, with a few caveats:

1. First, because it is an Attribution license, you must give credit to the original author. In some cases, that’s me, but in other cases, it’s not. I’ve tried to be meticulous about where I’ve used the text of other peoples’ works, so you can look up the originals yourself. Some of these moves I’ve used verbatim, some I have partially rewritten (although it should be noted that in places where I have borrowed an idea and written a new move completely, or used no original language, I have not indicated the source of the idea, since it is the unique expression of an idea that is subject to copyright). So, it is possible that this could become complicated! I am not a lawyer and I don’t know the exact, proper, legal way to do this, but this is my reading of the license:
1a) If the material is from Class Warfare and no additional author is given, credit the material to me (Johnstone Metzger) and say it’s from Class Warfare.
1b) If the material is from Class Warfare but has been reprinted verbatim, you do not need to credit me, you can credit the original author only.
1c) If the material was rewritten for Class Warfare but has another author, you must credit the material to both them and me, if you borrow it verbatim.

The 4.0 license asks for a link to the original source, but I don’t think that’s really necessary, since the text isn’t available for free online or anything (so what would you be linking to?). To be honest, I’m just using the cc-by-sa license because I want people to share what they make if it’s based on my work, and I’m not usually this super-meticulous about which moves come from where, either. Most of the time I just say portions of the text come from Dungeon World and leave it at that.

So, if you are worried about getting it wrong, don’t be. People releasing their work under a Creative Commons license do so because they want other people to use it, build on it, change it up, or take it in a totally different direction, the main deal here is credit where credit is due—so please, at the very least, just try and credit all the people you borrow from, and if you get it a bit wrong, it’s not the end of the world.

2. As mentioned above, because it’s a ShareAlike license, if you use this material in your own work, you must release that work under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license, so that others can use what you have created. Basically, it’s a way to enforce that spirit of mutualism that we have going with Dungeon World products so far. You can also use a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike license instead, if you like. And listen, if you have any problems with the 4.0 license specifically, get in touch and maybe we can work something out.

3. I haven’t used a NonCommercial license, though, and nobody I’ve borrowed from has either. That means you can sell the work you create which uses this material and you don’t have to give a single dime to the people you borrowed from. That’s right! Just give credit where it’s due and you get to keep all the cash.

One thing to note, however, and this is a matter of etiquette and manners, not the legalities of the license: I don’t think it’s cool to reprint entire sections of somebody else’s work unless they’ve already released it for free, or they give you permission. For example, I made Truncheon World primarily for myself, and didn’t offer print copies for sale until I got permission from Sage and Adam. Everything in that book (except a few things I added myself) was and is freely available, for no charge (and the stuff I added is free now, too). But I wouldn’t do the same thing with a book that didn’t have a free version, and I would probably look down on somebody who did. Re-using stuff is cool, but put your own spin on it! You should be making a new thing out of old things, not just repackaging old things so they look new. That’s just my opinion, though, I can’t speak for anybody else. Even so, I made Class Warfare because I want you to use it, and to create your own things. I’m just over here trying to make things that will help you have fun (and hopefully make enough money in the process so that I can keep doing that), so you can help other people have fun too.

EDIT: Also, one other clarification I should make, I guess. The TEXT of Class Warfare is released under a creative commons license, not the pdf itself. If you want to copy the entire text and do whatever with it, be my guest. Redoing the layout’s a pain and a half (I know because I did that for Truncheon World), but if you want to, knock yourself out! If you want to share the pdf with your group so you can all make characters, great, that’s your call and not really my business. But if I find the pdf uploaded to a file sharing site, that’s not covered by the creative commons license, and I’m going to send them a take down order, simple as that.

October 14, 2014

Class Warfare

Alternate Character and Class Creation Rules for Dungeon World

CW_cover_image_loresWhat is Class Warfare?
Class Warfare is a rules supplement for the Dungeon World role-playing game that provides an alternate and expanded system of character creation. It can also be used to create new character classes, just like those provided in the original rulebook. How Class Warfare does this is by breaking down the Dungeon World character class into smaller pieces—like specialties and archetypes—and showing you how they fit together.

PRINT+PDF FROM DRIVETHRURPG
PRINT ONLY FROM LULU

See a preview of the Rogues section HERE.

Specialties
A specialty is a collection of special abilities that describe one facet of what makes a character’s interaction with the rules of the game unique. Think of it as a shtick, perhaps, or a set of skills, even. Each specialty is approximately one-third of a normal Dungeon World character or character class. The Ranger, for example, is an archer, a hunter, and someone who has an animal companion—three special abilities. In Class Warfare terms, each of those is a specialty.

Archetypes
Each specialty is categorized into one of five different groups, called archetypes. These are general character “types,” that include: adventurer, disciple, magician, rogue, and warrior. Your archetype helps determine your damage die and your maximum hit points, and puts a few limits on which specialties you can combine together.

Basically, it means that if you focus on combat-oriented specialties, you end up with high damage and high hit points, which makes fighting an attractive option for you to take. If you focus on magical powers, you’re much less good at delivering blows or shrugging them off, even just using the basic moves. This encourages you to use your magic and stay out of fights.

Building a Character
You create a starting character by choosing an archetype and two or three specialties. But specialties can also be used as compendium classes, so there are ways to learn new abilities outside your original character concept if you undertake certain quests or perform certain feats. You are not limited only to the choices you made during character creation.

Why did I make this book?
To get rich, of course! Ah hahaha! So funny. In all seriousness, with Class Warfare, I had three primary goals: to make something that would be useful for both myself and other people in creating characters and in writing new classes; to give enough options that it could be used on its own and not just as an example of a new system; and to make it good for at least a little bit more than just initial character creation.

1. A Useful System of Doing Things
I wanted to build a system that breaks down class creation into small but logical pieces. This allows for more nuanced customization of existing character classes, and also gives people a way to make something new and unique that can be used in a game right away, without them having to tackle an entire class all at one time.

Hopefully, this system also gives people some insight into how the classes in Dungeon World balance spotlight time, effectiveness, and the number of moves characters have in relation to each other. Dungeon World is often less transparent than its parent, Apocalypse World, is in this regard, but a lot of people are coming to Dungeon World first, without any reference to other games that are “Powered by the Apocalypse.” Lots of rules design and play discussions that would help new players and GMs are scattered across various forums and private conversations, and aren’t easily accessible to people who weren’t there at the time. If this books can distil some of that knowledge and communicate it, great!

2. A Vast Array of Options
As much as I wanted the system to be easy, I also wanted it to provide plenty of options. The basic Dungeon World classes are already easy to use—the problem is that you only have eight options to choose from! Each of the five archetypes in Class Warfare has between 14 and 21 specialties to choose from, and you can also take one specialty from outside of your archetype. This alone leads to hundreds or even thousands of interesting characters. And then you can always write your own specialties, or ignore my archetypes altogether and build new custom classes out of whichever three archetypes you like. It’s not like I can stop you!

3. Utility Beyond Just Character Creation
I also wanted to encourage people to use these specialties as compendium classes, adding them to existing characters in the middle of play, or using them to extend a character’s game-life beyond level 10. That’s why I included fiction circumstances with each one that would allow you to add it to your character later. It’s only a little thing, but hopefully you find it useful or even inspiring.

How Complete or Definitive is Class Warfare?
Not at all! Just because this book is already super-thick doesn’t mean there aren’t tons more things that could be added to it. Most of the character class material from Dungeon World is included in this book. There’s a bunch of stuff from extras that Sage and Adam have made and some of the compendium classes that were included as kickstarter bonuses—mostly stuff that is available for free, just like Dungeon World itself is. There’s a good deal of my own previous material, including material from Ghostwood Haunts, Island of Fire Mountain, and Lair of the Unknown. Of course, it’s presented in a different format here, just like the material from Dungeon World.

I’ve also included a few moves from other third-party creators—but not a lot. If you want, sometime, I can tell you how I think the classes from Inverse World or Grim World break down into specialties and how you can use them with Class Warfare. But that material isn’t in this book, even though it’s creative commons. You should get it from the people who created it, not from me!

Also, I didn’t want to stray too far from core Dungeon World concepts. It’s true that many people get bored by the “D&D fantasy” genre, and you see new classes that feature drives and backgrounds, freeform spellcasting, or bonds with NPCs. But I wanted to stick to using alignments, Vancian spellcasting, and the four traditional fantasy races. Ultimately, with this book I’m just trying to add more options to the Dungeon World rules, not redefine how the game works. I can do that with other books, yet to be written. After all, this book isn’t supposed to be complete or definitive. Class Warfare is not a destination, it’s a departure point.

Class Warfare by the numbers:
670 starting moves and advanced moves, 526 pages, 227 race moves, 167 spells, 94 illustrations, 84 specialties, 3 different indexes.
$16 for the pdf via DriveThruRPG,
$28 for the print+pdf combo via DriveThruRPG (6×9, white pages, #50 thickness),
$20 for the print by itself from Lulu (6×9, cream-coloured pages, #60 thickness).

PRINT+PDF FROM DRIVETHRURPG

PRINT ONLY FROM LULU

The pdf comes with a blank character sheet, but if you don’t like it, you should check out the sheet Brennen Reece made. If you like that one, also take a look at Brennen’s other Dungeon World character sheets.

October 10, 2014

The Caves in Print

The Caves of Moreau County is now available in print, click for details.

Bird Brain

October 6, 2014

Terrors of the Ancient World – Preview Video

I made a Youtube video of me looking through the print version of Terrors of the Ancient World, so all y’all could see it and know what it looks like. Hopefully it makes you want to buy a copy!

September 29, 2014

The Caves of Moreau County

moreau_county_coverpic-1The Caves of Moreau County is an adventure module for Labyrinth Lord (i.e. B/X). The various sections of this dungeon are random and modular — there is no mandated way for them to fit together. You can generate the actual structure of the dungeon before you play, or do it during the game, partly in response to the players’ decisions.

The dungeon consists primarily of beastmen in caves with a few twists and buried secrets. It is a fairly dark adventure, written from the perspective of murderhobo PCs. It’s gritty, horror-saturated old school fantasy, in case that is or isn’t your bag. Or just check it out for yourself, since you can get it for free if you want to.

This module was created to be a proof-of-concept prototype, to see how well this format works, and what needs to be done to make it work better. As such, the text is released under a Creative Commons license and the PDF is offered here as Pay What You Want. Monetary support goes towards creating more role-playing game materials. If you enjoy this module, you might also consider purchasing some of my other books, if you haven’t already.

LINK BELOW

The Caves of Moreau County is available in PDF from DriveThruRPG.

And in print from Lulu (6×9, staple-bound, cream pages, B&W printing, US$10).

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Some Design Notes:
Because this is a prototype made in preparation for a larger project (related to my Monthly Monsters project on Patreon), I don’t mind critiquing it or offering my thoughts on how it could be done better.

The sections in The Caves of Moreau County are fairly small, mostly limited to one room each. I think this would work better with larger sections, maybe small collections of rooms, or several rooms that comprise the lair of a particular monster, or a type of monsters. So, probably something more akin to a series of modular one-page dungeons, though many sections would be smaller than your typical OPD, I would think.

There’s only a few connections between rooms—the ritual room leads directly to the tomb of saints, for example—and only a few rooms lead back to rooms that are already on the map. I’d like to insert more connections of that sort, including secret passageways, and links between different dungeon levels.

In general, this is also a fairly small dungeon, with twenty rooms and only a few different types of monsters. More variance in the wandering monster tables would definitely be a plus.

September 12, 2014

Terrors of the Ancient World Wallpaper

Digital wallpaper of the cover art: http://www.patreon.com/creation?hid=949280
Wallpaper

August 7, 2014

Terrors of the Ancient World

mm1Last year, I started a Patreon thing in order to make monster manuals with a friend of mine, because he can draw real good and I can write pretty well. So we make two monsters every month, and now, finally, we’ve put some of them together into an rpg book.

Terrors of the Ancient World is a monster manual for the Dungeon World role-playing game. It has over a dozen monsters, illustrated in full colour, along with all the things that make Dungeon World unique, like fronts and dangers, custom moves, and a fiction-first focus. There’s also a new character class, the Satyr, and plenty of adventure hooks, items, NPC ideas, and even a few locations.

This is NOT just a reprint of the Monthly Monster material. Terrors of the Ancient World contains plenty of new material, corrections and edits, and new illustrations. Monsters that were originally illustrated in black and white are presented here in colour.

Please Note: Although the monsters we release every month as part of the Patreon campaign include versions for both Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord, this book contains only material for Dungeon World and is designed to highlight the particular strengths of that game. It is not compatible with Labyrinth Lord in any meaningful way. There will, of course, be a Labyrinth Lord compatible book of our monsters that presents them in ways best suited for old school fantasy role-playing, but we are still working on that.

WHERE TO GET IT: From DriveThruRPG, click this link.

The pdf is digest-sized, full colour, 107 pages, for US$15.
The print is US trade-sized, full colour, 108 pages, for US$30 and comes with a free pdf if you want one.

There might be a Lulu option in the future, but I have to look into it.
There might be posters of the cover art in the future, but I have to look into that, too.

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