04 November 2014

What is going on here?

So, this blog ain't dead and neither am I. Being a father can really muck with your game-time so I have some thoughts regardin that which I shall reveal here over the next few posts. That isn't all though: I'm still working on some projects.

First and foremost the board game that the last post was about. It's coming along at a slow and steady pace, I have an artist doing illustrations and we hope to have an illustrated prototype ready by Christmas. That is good because while my play-prototype is feature-complete, it's also in ASCII-graphics, which can confuse non-roguelike-players.

I've been writing articles on DMing pen & paper RPGs over at this site (in German). Besides that and now churning out articles for a living, I seldom get to visit this old haunting-ground of mine. I do not intend to let it die off though, as it will continue to serve as my game-design-blog where I will keep the world updated on what I'm doing and put writing that is too niche for my editor at the other website.

The other project I'm currently working on is directly related to me being a father now: I'm trying to write a pen & paper RPG for kids. Like, really little kids. 4 and up. My son still has some ways to go until he's mature enough (if you can call it that) for that but I want to be ready to welcome him in the world of role-playing as soon as he is. I dislike simply scaling down classical pen & paper as I think that ethics are important and I'd like to keep my kid in a somewhat safe environment when it comes to playing. Think of the game I'm working on as something like a kid's book-version of an RPG. There'll be no murdering things, players won't need to be literate and there are activities such as solving labyrinths, drawing with crayons and making simple rhymes in order to cast spells.

I'll go into more depth in a future post. Stay tuned as I have some stuff to talk about here in the near future. Next up: My opinion on the cesspool that is #GamerGate. More on that later this week.

07 June 2014

What I've been working on...

So here's, what I've been (next to my new real-life-feedin'-the-family-job) working on: A board-game roguelike. I'll give out some more details after more testing with my hand-made prototype. Here's a sneak-peak at how the game looks in action:
Not the first of its kind. But it's mine.
The game so far features:
-Variable Characters with different race-, skill- and attribute-cards.
-Randomized monsters with different sets of ability- and stat-cards.
-Lots of loot-cards including weapons, armor, spells and more.
-A 5 x 5 tile dungeon to be explored. Featuring obstacles, traps, monsters and treasure.
-A simple  yet elegant XP system that allows for single- or multiplayer-campaigns.

21 April 2014

New Release: Choose your own CaveVenture 1.1

Just a quick heads-up: Choose your own CaveVenture has gotten a new release, version 1.1. It features rest-until-healed as a function, configurable keys, as well as monster-status messages. Also, Linux-version.

There will be more later. The game is only about halfway-done. Stay tuned.

18 April 2014

Pen & Paper: Action Set Pieces

I somewhere read that an action sequence needs more than just a static battleground. This is as true for an RPG as it is for any movie - you better have something going on around you, surroundings influencing things, hazards, all that jazz. So this week, I had my players fight - in a pit.

Good action movies know that the set is as important as the action that takes place in it. Take anything Jackie Chan does, for example. The sets and props really take center stage. If he could get a hovercraft for a day, you better believe that there will be a way to integrate it into the plot. The best action scenes are running gun-battles or fighting on a moving train or scenery falling down around the characters, threatening to crush either combatant at any moment. This is something where computer RPGs often fail - and so does traditional gridmap DnD.

You CAN put rules into the game that make things more interesting. Say, this and that hex/square/area spout hot steam every X turns, doing damage. Often this just creates no-go zones for PCs and enemies. If you present an enemy stupid enough to run into danger face-first, the battle threatens to become a riddle. Where do you need to place yourself in order to lure the monster into X? That's why I prefer freeform storytelling in battles, sprinkled with some dice-rolls to keep things unpredictable to both the players and myself as the game master.

The two surviving PCs of a small foray into ancient underground ruins were fleeing. Their friend lay dead, killed by their own bullets, in a crypt behind them. The monsters were chasing. The underground complex terminated in a huge drill-shaft. To get back topside, they would have to climb - there were rusted metal bars forming a ladder, alongside which a steel cable was hanging. The group had used the cable to secure themselves when they were climbing down. So one of them took to the ladder, the other tried climbing the cable, when the praying mantis-like aliens emerged from the tunnel right beneath their feet.

The battle was a vertical chase between the PCs, armed with firearms with little or no ammo, and the aliens that were limited to their raptorial legs. It was tossing down empty guns onto the following monsters, rolling for stamina to stay ahead, rolling acrobatics to swing over to the ladder etc. In a desperate last-ditch, one of the two, the teams socialistic terrorist bomb builder, hung herself upside down by her injured legs to fight one of the monster hand-to-hand - and won. The interesting part was the verticality: You could lose your grip and fall, and there was no regular trading of blows with something that is hacking at your legs.

Thanks to some astronomic luck in dice-rolls, both PCs got out of the hole alive, although said revolutionary almost bled to death on the way up. I really liked the vertical battle and will implement such features more often n the future. Tactical inequality is always nice. The only thing the whole thing was missing was moving parts, like enormous drill looming above coming to life or something but the industrial plant on that planet had been left alone for eight decades. I couldn't imagine it still working, as scavengers had picked over it and ripped out all useful parts. Well - next time.

13 March 2014

Pen & Paper: I died last night

So, last night in one of my pen & paper campaigns, my character died. Now I've had characters die before, usually towards the end of a campaign, as was the case here, but this death was somewhat unspectacular and anticlimactic. It also totally blindsided me and came right after a first for me in an RPG. Let me tell you about Dr. Hong-Owen and his not-so gallant death.

Dr. Tyson Hong-Owen (extra-points for anyone who gets the reference to my favorite body of sci-fi works) was a space-archaeologist. Space Indiana-Jonesing was the pitch that our GM had baited me in with so that was the profession I chose for my character. A young, vigorous man in the process of discovering Space-Mayan artifacts and working with passion on discovering their secrets. So when, during the course of the campaign living Space-Mayas showed up, he was on the forefront of first contact with them. And it cost him his life.

16 February 2014

Release: Choose your own CaveVenture

It is done! Choose your own CaveVenture, our first actual PC game, is now available on itch.io!

It's free, so if you're on a Windows-machine, go try out this crossbreed of choose-your-own-adventure and roguelike. Unlike many of the more complicated roguelikes, CyoCV plays using an interface that anyone who reads English can understand and play: Text tells you what the situation is, then you get options what to do. Pick an option, hit the key it says on the screen, enter and the game tells you what happens.

The title-screen ASCII-art - all the graphics in the game.
The Baumannshöhle, my inspiration for the game's cave. Picture is public domain via Wikipedia.

Go, check it out, leave any feedback in the comments on this post.


31 January 2014

How to beat a Roguelike: Pixel Dungeon part 2

A lot of modern roguelikes (and I use that term in a very broad manner - once again screw the Berlin interpretation!) have nice graphics and easy-to-learn interfaces that make them accessible for more and more players - who then run against a wall of difficulty. Don't despair, in this series of posts I shall shine some light on those that I have played and beaten and give some tips regarding strategy and practice on each individual game.

Last time I wrote about the first two bosses of Pixel Dungeon, how to get there and how to beat them. This time we'll delve further into the depths, seeing what we can do about the other three bosses and their minions. After you beat the Tengu, the game curves up a little, getting more difficult. If you have beaten the Tengu, however, you get a book that lets you specialize your character class further - and that is something you get for every future play-through on that class. What to do to get through the caves though? Read on!

23 January 2014

How to beat a Roguelike: Pixel Dungeon part 1

A lot of modern roguelikes (and I use that term in a very broad manner - once again screw the Berlin interpretation!) have nice graphics and easy-to-learn interfaces that make them accessible for more and more players - who then run against a wall of difficulty. Don't despair, in this series of posts I shall shine some light on those that I have played and beaten and give some tips regarding strategy and practice on each individual game.

Let's start this out with Pixel Dungeon. The game is made for Android-devices and is a classic random-generated, turn-based dungeon-crawl with an interface optimized for touch-screen use. It is also well-enough programmed to run on my old cellphone and doesn't mind a small screen. Plus you can zoom in and out and other nice touches. Pixel Dungeon is notoriously difficult and even the comments on the Play Store speak about how much is dependent on pure luck when playing this game. This is partially true but let me tell you what you CAN do to get ahead and beat this roguelike.

13 January 2014


Sad as it is to have to make this post: Our game will be delayed as the programmer-half of our little devteam has fallen (non-terminally) ill just before finishing the Beta. Stay tuned for we will release as soon as he can sit in a chair and code again.

08 January 2014

Choose your own CaveVenture: Announcement!

Okay, here it comes: The roguelike we've been working on for quite a while, with me leaking some thoughts on the design process every now and then, will, baring a disaster of civilizaton-destroying force, be released this coming Sunday, January 12th 2014. Let's talk about what the game does, shall we?

Choose your own CaveVenture, which was the work-in-progress title but kinda stuck, is a roguelike with the classical theme of exploring an underground cave, but with the interface of a choose your own adventure. That means that instead of traditional top-down ASCII-graphics and/or tilesets or a 3D-enine, the entirety of the game will work with descriptions of the player's surroundings and what happens, while the controls offer you options of what you can (attempt to) do.

This may seem like a very primitive way of doing things at first but it does have some advantages over the classical roguelike:

-You do not need to memorize half your keyboard worth of functions. What you can do will be, with some exceptions of general things, always visible on the interface. This makes the game extremely easy to learn, even for non-gamers.

-As description and game-view are the same, you do not so easily miss things like descriptions of audio and such, as may happen in other roguelikes.

-Accessibility. The game can be played by the visually impaired with a screen-reader as those programs are designed to read lines of text.

All you'll need to play the release version of the game will be a Python 2 compatible decompiler, which can be got here (make sure to get a Python 2 version, as Python 3 is not backwards-compatible).

Anyways, come back on Sunday to get the game, while we put some finishing touches on version 1.0!