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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Zak ak ak's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, January 8th, 2009
1:50 pm
Good Words from Last Year
Words from 2008 that were written on top of our fridge calendar. Defining is an exercise left for the reader.
  • Friendonaut
  • Moomaid
  • Moonicorn
  • Orangutang
Friday, December 5th, 2008
12:11 pm
Kid Comics! Vampires, skeletons and dinosaur.
Mae and I were up very late last night. While I tried to stay awake we collaborated on a pair of comics. Written by Mae, drawn by yours truly with fine-point sharpies (originally in a few different colors since she kept taking my pens).
Comics below the cut!Collapse )
Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
10:39 am
Age of Empires: Mythologies is out ... ... ... yo.
That's right, the latest game I worked on is out. And it's already got an awesome review from IGN. Hooray!
Monday, November 10th, 2008
11:54 am
[D&D] D&D Insider for errata?
Well, not exactly errata, but this article seems pretty close to an FAQ item. To quote:
If you've tried to design and run a skill challenge and had a bumpy ride, you're not alone.... This column aims to share with the typical D&D gamer what we at Wizards have learned about skill challenges.

Now I'm fine with new monsters, items, play advice, optional rules, etc. all going up on the pay-to-read D&D Insider. But a rules clarification? That's a bit shady. Especially since they've admitted the as-printed skill challenges didn't work as intended and already released a sizable errata to fix it.
Wednesday, July 16th, 2008
1:07 am
[D&D Monster] Duergars and shooty beards
Leave it to us teratophiles at the D&D forums to discuss the finer points of angry dart-shooting beards.
Beardy goodness after the cut!Collapse )
Tuesday, July 15th, 2008
11:22 am
[Video Games] IGN previews Age of Empires: Mythologies
So another preview of what I've been working on for a while now. I hope this excites some of you. There're screenshots and a pair of videos you can get to from there, too.
Sunday, June 15th, 2008
2:44 am
[Star Wars Saga] Abstract Combat - Upperhand Tokens
Forget what I said in my earlier abstracted combat post. I've come up with something far more streamlined.
Wait for it...Collapse )
Tuesday, June 10th, 2008
11:24 am
[Video Games] Age of Empires: Mythologies announced!
I can finally share the project I've been working on! It's Age of Empires: Mythologies for the DS, a sequel to Age of Empires: The Age of Kings and the second DS game in the Age of Empires franchise.

You can read an interview about the game and see some screenshots over at IGN. You can also watch a trailer video at Filefront.
Saturday, May 31st, 2008
12:24 pm
[D&D 4e] Injecting Story
From the D&D 4e preview material (namely, the Wizards website and H1: Keep on the Shadowfell), it looks like D&D has taken the gamist push of 3e combined with a modern design sensibility gleaned from MMOs (World of Warcraft being the canonical example) and other roleplaying games (Feng Shui's d20 crossover adventure had mook rules, many indie games tend towards tight design constraints). This is great and all, and the results hearken back to the tournament-style play of 1e; but I fear we've lost the greatest promise of 2e: That we can tell a good story and tell it during play. That's not to say 2e did a good job in supporting that, but look at some of the campaign settings: Birthright, Dark Sun, Planescape. The 2e designers certainly attempted to make interesting stories happen, they just forgot to add the rules to get it done.
Hey! You got your story in my D&D!Collapse )
Friday, May 30th, 2008
1:17 pm
[D&D Marketing] Phonebook advertising?
Last night a friend of mine opened a phonebook and there, taking up a full third of the back, was an entire reprinting of the 1st edition AD&D Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual in glorious newsprint on flismy paper. So awesome!

Then I started wondering about how much that would cost and why Wizards would be advertising 1st edition? And then I woke up.
Friday, May 16th, 2008
1:29 pm
[Game Design] Proactive vs. Reactive Game Design
I've been thinking about game design more than usual lately, especially in regards to the Star Wars Saga game. It's not that I hate the game; it's the best Star Wars RPG I've seen (yes, better than West End's). It's that I love the idea of the game so much that I'm turning my most critical eye to the thing. To that end, I think I've figured out what's bothering me (and has always bothered me) about most licensed RPGs. And it leads into something I'm calling reactive vs. proactive game design. Note that these are loaded terms, and that's unfortunate. While I'm a personal fan of proactive design, this isn't an attempt to delegitimize the other; it's just a sign of my play preferences.
Discussion below!Collapse )
Monday, May 12th, 2008
12:52 pm
[Gleemax] IIEE & D&D 4e Skill Challenges
I've started posting some design stuff at Wizards' Gleemax website. The site itself needs a serious design overhaul, from color schemes to blog software. But I'd rather put 4e-specific and other minor discussions over there than clutter my actual blog with minutiae. At this blog, I'll just post a handful of links every once in a while:

[D&D 4e] Skill Challenges, or The Dull Rogue: My concern about extended skill challenges without direct results from a single roll. It may be entirely unfounded, since I'm extrapolating from Wizards' online 4e previews.

IIEE (Re: to WotC_JoT's RPG Style: There is No Try): Design discussion on the impact of traditional task resolution on achieving non-immediate binary resolution, including alternate resolution approaches. In other words, when Kirk sizes up the nasty guards and drops his phaser, when did the player's dice hit the table?
Thursday, May 1st, 2008
1:09 pm
[D&D] Alternate Ability Score Generation
Note that I have no idea how character generation has been changed in D&D 4e, so this post may be rendered moot next month. But not yet!
[Edit] Here's a quote from the most recent Wizards 4e preview. Turns out they haven't fixed it. At least they've made a note of it.
Ability Scores: Your character race gives you a bonus to a particular ability score or two. Keep these bonuses in mind when you assign your ability scores.

Onwards!!Collapse )
Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
10:05 pm
[Mighty Thews] Character Generation, Part One: Bones
I'm a bit proud of the simplicity of character generation for Mighty Thews. There are still some things to work out, but the general idea is this: Through each player making a few discrete choices and providing a few sentences, you have bad-ass characters, a new game setting (or at least details from an existing one) and all the PCs tied together in the events-to-happen.

After reading below, note that if you want to play the same characters on a different night, you can modify the Path and/or Fate (and all its options) to fit the new story. For example, early Conan could be Savage-Raised, Rogue & Scoundrel and Roaming Soul. By the time he's plying the seas with Belit he's Savage-Raised, Dog of War and Leader of Men.

The first part here is the bulk of character generation. What I'm calling the Bones (there are three steps to chargen: Bones, Meat and Skin). The Bones setup the characters, their background, and their setting. The Meat sets up the current situation. The Skin is what wraps it all up; names, descriptions, notable gear, etc.

Example, creating a pair of characters, Part One: BonesCollapse )
Friday, April 4th, 2008
11:45 am
[Mighty Thews] Sample Characters!
I've got one roguelike and two roleplaying games seriously in the works. The roguelike is now displaying borders. Not much to go on there. One of the RPGs is running under the design goal of, "If I could redesign the D&D Red Box that was given to me at Christmas, what would it be?" So far it's a combination of old-school (Strength! Intelligence! 2000XP!) and less-old-school (Solve Rolls! Persuade Rolls! Quests! Deeds!). But not ready for sharing. What Burning Wheel did to Shadowrun is what this does to Basic D&D. Sort of.

The other, Mighty Thews, holds these three design tenets:
  • Players roll the dice.

  • Players have only three decision points required at any one time.

  • An entire game can be run in one evening.

Now that's not much of a pitch. So here's a pair of sample characters designed for an evening of playCollapse )
Monday, March 10th, 2008
10:09 pm
RPGs and Dwarf Fortress
Not a lot of RPG stuff happening at the moment. What's in the works (which is always subject to change or abandoment):

  • An RPG. Combining the old-school Red Box D&D sense of wonder, a focused Goal system inspired by Burning Wheel's beliefs, and my own gaming sensibilities. I'm most excited about a quick start-up time granted by easy character generation (a la Red Box D&D without equipment lists) and the Goal system (using a "goal path" system to let players quickly generate NPCs, situation and setting).
  • My very own Roguelike. I couldn't get the curses library to display how I wanted it to on the Mac (the same code worked fine on my PC), so I'm moving to OpenGL. Which means currently laying a bitmap font onto a texture and showing a bunch of quads w/ texture offsets on screen. It's nice to get into some semi-3D programming (it's orthographic, but hey, it's a start). I want to eventually take a full-color or grayscale bitmap and turn it into a texture for customizable tile graphics. Though I'm a fan of the old school ASCII art, Dwarf Fortress has me thinking about stylized tiles as well.


What is Dwarf Fortress, you ask? Holy moly is this an amazing game. Does anyone remember Dungeon Keeper? If Dungeon Keeper is your backyard, Dwarf Fortress is pretty much the planet Earth (and maybe, just maybe, the Moon). It's taken me a few weeks just to get to a semi-effective level of play. In my current game I've recently offended the elf merchants by offering animal by-products (they packed up and left right then), cut out a channel to divert riverwater for my well, and designed a fractal living quarters (it's a repeating mushroom, natch).

Check out my current fortress, Lanceheat, nestled in the cliffy regions of a benevolent mountainside.Collapse )
Friday, February 8th, 2008
9:52 pm
[D&D 4.0] System Doesn't Matter
Here's a quote from the latest D&D Design & Development article (registration required):
Sure, a DM can decide for dramatic reasons that a notable NPC or monster might linger on after being defeated. Maybe a dying enemy survives to deliver a final warning or curse before expiring, or at the end of a fight the PCs discover a bloody trail leading away from where the evil warlock fell, but those will be significant, story-based exceptions to the norm.

System DOES Matter, Really!Collapse )
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
11:28 pm
Sunday, August 5th, 2007
9:54 pm
Star Wars Saga RPG Hacks, Part Two (Story Points)
Prior post: Star Wars Saga RPG Hacks, Part One (Abstract Combat).

This post is all about pushing a play style through rewards. If you know Burning Wheel, you'll see some familiar stuff.

Players get rewarded for playing up their personality and goals, and utilizing what's on their character sheet. The GM is highly encouraged to put PCs in situations which highlight these things so players can use 'em.
Star Wars Hackity-Hack below: Story PointsCollapse )
Saturday, August 4th, 2007
11:24 pm
Star Wars Saga RPG Hacks, Part One (Abstract Combat)
I grabbed the new Star Wars Saga Edition. The presentation's great, and I really like the rules. I want to play this game, pronto. The good far outweighs the bad, but I'm not here to pile on kudos. Here's what I'm stuck on:
  • The experience system gets a scant few pages, and you only get XP for overcoming "encounters." This means that the rewards are based entirely on the GM fiat combined with D&D-style encounters.

  • Miniature-based combat. The first chapter even says that miniatures are a component of play. Yikes! This is Star Wars! I can't think of any instances in the films that lend themselves to granular d20 tabletop combat.

  • Keeping track of credits seems silly. There's epic storytelling to be had! Why waste much time on knowing your bank account?

  • Seemingly no way to begin with a vehicle since they're so expensive. Sorry about that pilot you rolled up.

  • GM's advice has some great gems, but there's a pair of items I strongly disagree with:

    • Metagame thinking is discouraged (Metagame Thinking, pp 245). I'm a big fan of players holding a different knowledge set than players. If the character doesn't know there's a bunch of stormtroopers behind a door, but the player does, the player gets to make a metagame choice: Would it be fun to open the door?

    • An item on cheating (Cheating (and Player Perceptions), pp 246) provides advice amounting to System Doesn't Matter, encouraging the GM to fudge die rolls. System Does Matter, but that's a gigantic can of worms I'm not opening here.


To that end, I'm working on some Star Wars hacks. A revised XP system, abstract combat, a new resources skill (to replace credits), and a pair of starting-with-ships options.
Star Wars Hackity-Hack below: Abstract CombatCollapse )
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