Friday, April 30, 2010

Complete Characters, Live!

If you know me, chances are you've wondered to yourself whether I am more innovative or unreliable. Well, we're about to find out, as I find a way to deliver today's promised and scheduled Complete Character. Being as it is Friday morning and I have yet to have a character, complete or otherwise, to deliver to you, it probably appears that I have come to the humble Internet with hat in hand to apologize to my constituents.

But wait! That's not what is happening. We're ignoring the fact that the promised feature is not ready at the scheduled time, and instead calling this a bonus. Keep reading to learn the details of how you will get your Complete Character in an extra special way on this fine Friday. Here's a hint: Live. Streaming.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rethinking Rifts: My Mega-Damage Solution

Most appropriate header image ever?

Lots of great discussion here in yesterday's Rethinking Rifts. Many of you shared your thoughts about the need for some changes to this classic, revered system, and I agree. What, exactly, you do to modify the system for your type of game will vary from group to group, and there are no wrong answers. For what it's worth, here are some of my suggested solutions for a number of common problems.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rethinking Rifts: Mega-Damage

Turning Rifts even more on its head

On the heels of the last round of excellent discussion about the classic Palladium Books RPG, Rifts (both original and Ultimate editions), I thought we might continue that conversation in another vein. Rifts is always a topic that brings with it varied opinions, so it's as good a topic as any to banter about.

In a topic that ties in with our recent discussions (part 1 and part 2) about a potentially insane and worthless, or else inspired and amazing armor/soak/damage mechanic, let's talk about Mega-Damage, what's wrong with it, and how to fix it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Villains, Part II

Alright, it's time for more talk about villains, what makes them tick, and why they drive our stories. Last time, we talked about what defined a villain, particularly the presence of menace, and the need for a hero. I briefly touched on my thoughts about villainous motivations, but figured that it would be a good topic to get into further.

What any good discussion needs, particularly when you are as poor a lecturer as me, are tried and true examples. Through this method of illustration, any hack can appear knowledgeable and insightful while playing off of the brilliance of those that have paved the way ahead.

With that in mind, let's take a look at various villainous motivations in The Godfather.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Howdy to the RPG Blog II Visitors

I checked my Analytics and was surprised at some of my trending information. Suspecting the handiwork of Zachary at RPG Blog II, I jumped over there to verify during my customary lunchtime visit. I was pleased to find a plug for my Complete Characters, which has hopefully helped to introduce a number of new readers to my stupid little Internet corner.

So, RPG Blog II fans, I invite you to follow on Twitter, join the Facebook Fan Page, and plug the site and/or the articles that you enjoy on reddit, stumble, delicious, and other services via the "Spread the Word" section at the upper right.

With that out of the way, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Complete Characters individually, or as a whole. Any requests for future installments? Any artists to recommend? Excited for the soon-to-come features to be placed on DriveThruRPG?

Let me know, and please, visit again in the future. I'll bake cookies.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Thoughts On The Dreamed Dice Mechanic

Brief thoughts for a Sunday night. Are they solid gold? Probably not.

If you're just joining us, we've been discussing a sort of competitive die mechanic that came to me in a dream. What this says about my subconscious, determine for yourself in this post.

I've been quietly mulling this over in my head all weekend. One conclusion that I've come to is that a single die roll should be made for both our damage soak/armor effectiveness effects that we discussed yesterday, but also for damage. I've also come to the realization, a simple fact that I had overlooked in my quest for defining the purpose for a rolling of the dice, is that weapons of sufficient strength will always cause damage, even through armor.

More crunchy gaming goodness, below the fold.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

So, I Dreamed Another Dice Mechanic

One mechanic with which many gaming systems struggle is a good Armor Class/Damage Soak system. It's tough to balance something that offers some semblance of real life situations without it getting too complex to be viable. The real challenge is developing a system that encompasses the vast range of intensities that we humans utilize to murder each other. A good armor/damage mechanic should prevent a character from being capable of slowly whittling down a Main Battle Tank with a handgun and dogged determination. It should provide that a suit of armor doesn't become totally worthless the first time its damage value is depleted. It should allow body armor to reduce damage without necessarily negating 100% of it.

There are a lot of approaches to this, but I literally dreamed up a mechanic the other night. This is the second time I've had a dream about dice mechanics; if it happens again I might need to seek help.

Keep reading to see if I make any sense when I game in my sleep.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Get The Rifter #50, Cheap!

Looking to update your RPG collection, but could use a deal? Fear not. The Rifter #50 has now appeared on Amazon at a 20% discount from the cover price. As an added bonus, using the product links on this blog directly support the website, allowing me to continue to provide free content without any Google ads, pop-ups, or other annoyances.

Even better, I happen to have a few extra copies of the book that I'm willing to part with. If you're interested, drop me a line at and get a signed copy for the cover price of $14.95, and I'll cover the shipping costs (within the continental United States, at least).

This book contains all-official material in celebration of The Rifter's 50th issue, including my extensive article about Chaos Earth Psychics that serves as a prelude to my next sourcebook project, Psychic Storm. Also included is material for Splicers, Nightbane, Heroes Unlimited, Phase World, Palladium Fantasy, plus more.

I'll have a full review of the book in due time, but in the meantime, pick it up for yourself. Check it out. You won't regret it.

New and Improved! Complete Characters #1

The time is rapidly approaching that Complete Characters won't be limited to this humble blog, but will take the Internet by storm. Yes, that's right. By storm. As a part of this, we'll be enjoying fancy new all-illustrated Complete Characters. This week, I've put those touches on a classic: Charles Temple, Humble Leader of Plague Survivors.

See what new you can expect, below the fold.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rethinking Rifts

Let's turn Rifts on its head

My good friend and colleague, Jason Marker of Motor City Gamewerks, raised an issue in his Tuesday blog that got my wheels turning a little bit. He was discussing the use of body-altering, dehumanizing technology in RPGs, and had some very eloquent thoughts on the matter. Rather than try to steal his thoughts and put them forth as my own, let me just quote them here:
I think one of the best examples of [the Faustian bargain] is found in Palladium Books' Rifts. Back in the day, before it became the bloated train wreck it is today, Rifts was a great game with a very, very ugly premise. That premise was that, essentially, you needed to become a monster to fight one. That the best way to protect your family, friends and neighbors was to become something other, to completely trade away your humanity for super-human powers that would eventually melt your bones or burst your heart or drive you mad. Tough call, eh? How much do you care? How deep is your love? How much do you desire fame or infamy or revenge? Enough to trade away the ability to feel the touch of the wife or child you're defending? Enough to sign your own death sentence? Compelling stuff, and it's still there in Rifts buried under all the magic using dinosaurs and giant robots with crotch cannons.
Nice, huh?

This got me thinking about Rifts in general. I think that, while the themes that Mr. Marker discusses exist in this game, their presence was more or less an accident. Having written a great deal of official material for the Rifts line, I come to the conclusion that this level of depth can't really exist in a deliberate way in a book whose poster child is called the "Glitter Boy," whose principal villains are known as "Dead Boys," and whose dominant non-human face are the "Dog Boys."

No, I think that the tragic upshot of human augmentation as presented in Rifts was, at its inception, more a shallow footnote for the fluff text than an attempt to actually portray the difficult soul-selling choices made by the player characters.

But, what if Rifts were to be re-imagined in the light presented by Mr. Marker? What would that game look like? Don't worry, we're going to have this discussion without actually converting anything, as I don't have enough money or patience to hire a lawyer.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Softly Call the Muster

I don't normally depart too greatly from gaming and geekery here on Jason Richards cannot be trusted, but today is one of the proudest of the year for me and hundreds of thousands of Texas A&M Aggies, and I feel obligated to share. Please take a moment to read about something very dear to my heart.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Build A Better Villain

As I sit to begin typing this blog, I already know that this is going to become a multiple-edition post, as I have far too much to say on this subject to put it all down at once. This is the part of the creative journey that I love more than any other, so I have plenty of thoughts on the matter.

Let's talk about villains, what makes them, and why we love them!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Quick Hit: It's Tough To Get Ahead

Did you ever do your homework in advance, just to get it out of the way? I used to do that a lot when I was a kid. I knew that I was going to have to do the first 10 exercises out of the next chapter of "Spelling Is Fun" or whatever, every single week, so I would often just knock out two or three of them at once. Yeah, I was a huge nerd.

I wish I had that sort of discipline now. I try and try to work to get ahead in writing blog posts and Complete Characters, if for no other reason that when I eventually get stuck late at work on a blogging night or I go on that elusive "vacation," I already have content there, waiting in the wings. But, like I said, it's tough.

You know who is really good at this? Sohmer and Lar, the author and artist on Least I Could Do. I read a number of webcomics, and even those creators out there who are really professional, respected, and make a nice living at their craft, often miss deadlines because they get sick (*cough*hungover*cough*) or  get wrapped up in convention season or whatever. Not dogging on those guys, but man, kudos to Sohmer and Lar and that whole crew. LICD is always there for me, never fail, seven days a week. That's a hell of a thing in a business where expectations are, quite honestly, usually pretty low, and fans very forgiving.

I'll get there, someday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Complete Characters #13 - Mr. Smith, Dealer in the Strange

This character seemed appropriate for lucky #13, as it is another modern horror sort of character.

Any gaming session needs some go-to NPCs for when the player characters need that special item, gizmo, or bit of information. These brokers of materials and information take different shapes from game to game and setting to setting. In a sci-fi game you need a good underground engineer to repair those illegal cybernetics systems and fence stolen energy weapons. In a fantasy game you need a source for magical components and potions. In your modern pulp horror game, there is no more valuable resource than a man who is in the know when it comes to ancient artifacts with supernatural origins.

Well, you're in luck. Meet Mr. Smith.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quick Hit: Last Minute Tax Rush!

So here in the Central Time Zone you have less than 30 minutes to get your taxes done. Time to panic!

If you're a freelancer of any sort, don't forget to fill out your Special Deductions for Freelancers form. Time's running out.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Quick Hit: Freelancing With Google Docs

If you haven't heard, the new version of Google Docs is now available for opt-in. I recommend it, as it has substantial improvements built in. For me, one of the biggest tweaks is that you can now use Analytics to track hits on your Google Docs. That's important for my situation, as it lets me know how many people are accessing and downloading my Complete Characters and other freebies. Collaboration tools similar to those in Wave also make an appearance, which is great for journeyman writers such as myself.

But as for the supposedly improved applications, do they suck? Check below the fold to find out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Freelancing Pitfalls

Being a freelance author, or "freelancer" as the cool kids say, is a wonderful gig. You get to be an author, your words forever recorded in the public record so that when aliens one day dig up the ruins of our civilization they will say, "This man's name was Jason Richards, and he didn't know what the hell he was talking about." It's nice to be remembered.

You also get to be freelance, which curiously shares the same Latin root as the word, "sucker." Unattached and unhindered by long-term contract or single master, you are free to be unappreciated and underpaid, or perhaps unpaid, by many different employers. It's a fine feeling.

I've been a freelance author of some stripe or other since I was 17, but for most of that time it was just a hobby and I never really pushed to make it an actual profession on any level. I had a good relationship with my publisher, he loved what I wrote, and would publish pretty much anything I sent him. That's still the case, and I really enjoy doing work for Palladium, but now at 30 years old, I find myself wanting more than that fine company can offer on its own. Time are tough over there, without a doubt, and they only have so much work to dole out. So, to fill my time, I've started taking on other pursuits. This blog is one of them, plus self-publishing, picking up my short story writing, entering writing contests, and generally looking for a variety of gigs. In doing so, and first sampling some of the trials of this line of work have begun to present themselves to me, so I thought I would vent a little here. It's cheaper than actual therapy.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Complete Characters #12: Sir Aric Devilkin, Evil Knight on a Mission

Sir Aric is even more evil than this guy

Villains are just so fun to write, and Sir Aric Devilkin is no exception. My thoughts on villain-writing are probably something for another day, but Sir Aric falls into a sort of Shakespearean class of antagonist. Shakespeare didn't believe in shades of grey in his bad guys, but in overt evil. Even in his comedies, he brought us characters like Don John the Bastard in Much Ado About Nothing, who goes so far as to give a soliloquy about how he is simply evil at his core and must act so.

But, I digress. Let's talk about Sir Aric.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rifter #50 Ships Friday

Just got word that the long-awaited and eagerly anticipated Rifter #50, complete with my article on Chaos Earth Psychics, ships tomorrow. Early shipping! Outstanding!

For those of you looking to pick it up, hang on for just a day or two so that I can give you a link so that you're sure to get it from a vendor that 1.) gives you the best price, and 2.) supports this site. I'm always very grateful to those that use my links for my publications on Amazon or DriveThruRPG when you make your purchases, as it helps keep this silly little blog up and running.

Also, stay tuned and I'll see if I can't figure out a way to give out some free autographed copies. How about that for fan appreciation?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Random Thoughts On Gaming

Man, sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging. My giant and certainly award-winning post detailing the secrets of life will just have to wait, as I have picked up the nasty habit of spending 15 hours at a time at the day job. Sorry about that. I am, however, not one of those bloggers that misses posts. No way. It's Tuesday, and I'm gettin' my blog on, even if it is sort of random and discombobulated.

The good thing about sitting at a desk, staring as a bit of software performs thousands of calculations and more than occasionally crashes, is that you get time to your thoughts. As a true believer, I spent that time thinking about gaming. Some half-baked queries and observations are below. Please chime in with some of your own.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gateway Gaming: Easing Others Into The Hobby

I've long thought that one thing that we lack as a community is a good method of easing people into the tabletop role-playing hobby. Anyone that has ever tried to explain traditional gaming to a friend or coworker has invariably fallen into the familiar problem of trying to describe a gaming session without sounding like a weirdo, even if said gamer is, in fact, a weirdo. Gaming is so different than other grown-up pursuits that it's hard to put into words. If it's a game, then why are there no winners and losers? If it's like theater, why are there no written lines? If it's just "playing pretend," then what are these character sheets for? And what's with all the different types of dice?

What we really need is a sort of "gateway game" that can be used to introduce role-playing through more universal, non-geeky gaming standards. Here's what I think it should include. Let me know where I've gone wrong.