Limitless Worlds

Limitless Worlds

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Nightcrawlers Designer Diary Pt. 1 - Characters and Broods


Hello all, and welcome to my first part of a post-mortem design diary for my splatterpunk game, Nightcrawlers! If you haven't picked it up, get it here or here or here in print.

I wanted to write this series to give an insight into my design process and why I did things a certain way. I've thankfully gotten many kind words for the game, but I just want to show everyone what goes into making a game. I hope you enjoy!

Why Black Hack?

Nightcrawlers uses the game Black Hack as its main engine, but it wasn't originally that way. It started as a World of Dungeons hack that never saw the light of day, then over to a Swords & Wizardry White Box game that didn't see much development beyond some notes.

I chose Black Hack eventually for a few reasons - it's simplicity, it's wide amount of support material to crib and take inspiration from, and the small-but-mighty nature of the game. I worked on Nightcrawlers for literally almost three years, but my dev cycle when I changed to Black Hack took maybe 6 months.

Why Nightcrawlers?

I love monsters, man. Ghouls, ghosts, horror movies of all stripes, whatever. My problem is I don't love most play-as-monsters games. The juggernaut, World of Darkness, is too brooding and too unfocused. I wanted violence, aggressive music, sex and drugs - I wanted mixed monster crews! I felt that WoD and similar games were becoming power politics with magic, which is ok for some but not for me.

I also wanted a game of punks and optimism. Monsters are an easy stand-in for oppressed groups, and I wanted the game to be about finding brotherhood, power, support, and solidarity among outcasts. Punks fight for a better world even with the odds stacked against them, and I wanted my monsters to do the same.

Nightcrawlers is a modern love letter to those WoD heartbreakers of the 90s, where shedding blood while listening to Alice in Chains was all you could ask for - games like The Everlasting, Nightbreed, and the proto-WoD Nightlife. Nightcrawlers actually started as a retroclone of Nightlife, and I owe Nightcralwer's creation to it still.

Character

Most of what is in the Character chapter is expected: stats, classes (in this case, Broods), backgrounds as skills, etc. However, there are two aspects of Characters that I think make Nightcrawlers stand out from other Black Hack-derived games.

The first, though it seems minor, is Nature. I struggled to figure out how to include features inherent to undead and spiritual beings for each Brood without overtaking their drawbacks and abilities. My answer was simply adding another character aspect: Nature. It's not a complicated rules rider, but it shows that sometimes adding a rule can simplify everything.

The second important aspect is the Goals. Experience in any RPG can go many different ways, but Black Hack mostly goes by the "progress when the GM says approach." This is totally valid, but I wanted players to be more engaged in what their characters did. Goals accomplish this by not only implying a character's backstory but also setting the course for what they want the game to focus on. The Goals mechanics mainly were taken from Dancing With Bullets Under A Neon Sun, which is a great game.

Broods

The Broods themselves probably had the most work done to them in design. I see classes and character options as the real bottlenecks for RPGs - they define what a character can and can't do more than stats, skills, etc. I'd like to do a shout out to Karl Stjernberg and his game Rad Hack, which informed a lot of my design decisions

The first big hurdle was just what Broods to cover. I obviously wanted the horror classics and and an even number to fit over the spreads. For a long time, I was going to have 12 Broods - the Revenant was going to be more like a zombie, and I would have added a Mummy and a Jekyll and Hyde-type Mutant. They got scrapped because I couldn't get the design how I wanted, but they may make a return sooner rather than later.

The next hurdle was defining what the brood could do and what it was weak against. This wasn't just a mechanical thing, but a narrative thing. For example, vampires have many variations in popular culture, so I had to decide what Nightcrawlers' vampires were like. I tried to keep to the common denominators of weaknesses and powers (vampires being weak to the sun, demons being weak to holy objects, etc), and I looked at other "play as monster" type games for ideas. 

The scaling of the brood was also important. I wanted characters to be defined by their Edges rather than whatever inherent abilities they have for being a werewolf or ghost or whatever. Most of the scaling is in Edges and Spells, not in Special Features or Drawbacks. Health and damage were similar - I didn't want anyone significantly outclassed, so they mathematically stick close together.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Naga for OSE

Another quick OSE post for you - decided to stat out some Naga for your slaying pleasure. Pretty basic enemies, but nice to have around

Naga

Creatures with large snake bodies and human heads. They have various temperaments, but they are all intelligent and magical.


Guardian Naga

AC 3, HD 11*** (44hp), Att 1 x bite (1d6 + poison + constriction), THAC0 11[+8], MV 150’ (50’), SV D6 W7 P8 B8 S10 (11), ML 11, AL Lawful, XP 3,500, NA 1d2 (0), TT A

  • Constriction: When a bite attack is successful, the guardian naga wraps around the victim and begins to squeeze, inflicting 2d4 automatic damage immediately and on each subsequent round.
  • Poison Spit: Causes death (save vs poison). Can spit up to 30’
  • Spellcasting: Can cast spells as a 6th level cleric. 

Spirit Naga

AC 4, HD 9*** (36hp), Att 1 x bite (1d3 + poison), THAC0 11[+8], MV 120’ (40’), SV D8 W9 P10 B10 S12 (9), ML 8, AL Chaotic, XP 3,000, NA 1d3 (0), TT B

  • Charming Gaze: Save versus spells at –2 or be charmed: move towards the naga (resisting those who try to prevent it); defend the naga; obey the naga’s commands (if understood); unable to cast spells or use magic items; unable to harm the naga. Killing the naga breaks the charm.
  • Poison: Causes death (save vs poison). 
  • Spellcasting: Can cast spells as a 3rd level magic-user and a 2nd level cleric

Water Naga

AC 5, HD 7** (28hp), Att 1 x bite (1d4 + poison), THAC0 12[+7], MV 90’ (30’)/180’ (60’) swimming, SV D8 W9 P10 B10 S12 (7), ML 8, AL Neutral, XP 1,250, NA 1d4 (0), TT D

  • Poison: Causes death (save vs poison). 
  • Spellcasting: Can cast spells as a 5th level magic-user


Wilderness of OSE: Barren, Hills and Mountains

I have been reading Old School Essentials lately, and I was curious how the encounter tables in the game kind of illustrate the world implied within OSE. This is inspired by the great set of articles from James Mishler called "The Original D&D Setting" (link). I'm going to go through OSE's encounter tables (using the Advanced Fantasy Referee's Tome) and see just what the tables imply.

Today, we are going to start off with the first entry: Barren, Hills and Mountains. Though Hills and Mountains are self-explanatory, Barrens seem to me to be more like dry mountains or badlands.

Initial Encounters
The initial encounter list is interesting: both dragons and humanoids are more encountered in these highland areas than any other terrain. There is also no chance to encounter the undead.

Animals
The animals entry has a lot of what you would expect: cave bears, mountain lions, hawks, wolves and so on. There are also some oddities: gorillas - which exist on mountains, but only in Africa - lots of snakes, rock babboons, and white apes. This gives me a vibe similar to a mountain range like the Rockies - dry at the bottom before becoming more alpine at the peaks. The apes are a bit of an outlier, and give a bit of a prehistoric vibe.

Humans
Bandits and brigands make up a quarter of human encounters here - bandits are normal thieves, while brigands are more vicious outlaws. There are also entries for neanderthals, going back to the prehistoric bent. Berserkers, which I always equate with vikings, are common too. Strangely, no basic adventurer parties are found in the mountains - only experienced ones.

Humanoids
A preponderance of giants exists in the mountains - in fact, you can encounter any giant save for fire giants. Ettins, dwarves, titans and gnomes are also common, with no real surprises. An interesting thing is the appearance of both scorpionfolk and yetis - I think this again backs up the more Rockies type range.

Monsters
The through-line with the monsters of the mountains is that most of them can fly - in fact, I think only the xorn and leucrocotta can't fly. There is a further fusion of desert and alpine creatures here with the sphinx, but it may also just be because this is also the barrens table.

Summary
Overall, the mountains of OSE are a little less savage than their OD&D counterparts. They are still dangerous and home to berserkers, cavemen and giants, but very few prehistoric animals. Using the prehistoric table, however, could inject more of that lost world feeling into them.

Next time, we'll go over the City and Settled Areas table!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Nightcrawlers Has Risen!

Holy crap, it's here! Nightcrawlers is now available for purchase in both PDF and print form (courtesy of Exalted Funeral!) 

This game has been in the works for almost three years, and I would like to thank everyone involved in its creation - especially Sally Cantirino, whose art really made the game come to life!

In the future, I hope to potentially make more content for the game or revisions/errata updates if needed.

Anyway, enough talking! Choose your storefront of choice and get to splatting!

Exalted Funeral

DriveThruRPG

itch.io


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Coming Soon: Nightcrawlers!


I know it has been a while, but I have exciting news - my new game, Nightcrawlers, is getting published through Exalted Funeral!

Nightcrawlers is a splatterpunk roleplaying game in the style of Nightlife and Nightbane where you play as classic monsters fighting against corrupt cops, sanity-blasting monstrosities and other monsters that want to destroy humanity!

The system is based on the Black Hack and features 10 supernatural broods to play as, as well as a host of powers and tools for quick play!

The art is being done by the amazing Sally Cantirino, who has done art for great comics like I Walk With Monsters.

I am aiming for an October release, and the game is probably 90% done aside from art. It'll be available in print via Exalted Funeral and also via pdf.

Keep an eye out for more news, and maybe some previews! You can also check out my itch (tanneryea.itch.io) for an alpha version that's 100% free.

Keep it slimy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Old School Essentials: Demi-Human Subraces

Old School Essentials is a really cool game, and I've been tinkering with it lately. Below, I thought I'd whip up some of the classic sub-races of AD&D demihumans. These are templates to lay over the races provided in OSE Advanced. Unless otherwise stated, most of the abilities are in addition to a race's standard abilities.

Dwarves

The common dwarf is called a "hill dwarf" and has the same abilities as a normal dwarf.

Mountain

Mountain dwarves are slightly taller and more long-lived than their hill dwarf cousins. Otherwise, they are the same as a hill dwarf. They can only reach level 9 as a Fighter

Elves

The common elf is called a "high elf" and has the same abilities as a normal elf.

Gray

Sometimes called "faerie" or "sidhe", gray elves are more mysterious and aloof than high elves. Instead of normal elven ability modifiers, they gain a +1 to Intelligence. They can reach level 12 as a Magic-User.

Wood

Sometimes called "sylvan elves", wood elves are reclusive and more in-tune with the natural world than high elves. Instead of normal elven ability modifiers, they gain a +1 to Strength and a -1 to Intelligence. They are able to speak Alignment, Common, Elvish, Treant, and the language of woodland mammals instead of normal elven languages. They can reach level 8 as a Fighter, but can only reach level 9 as a Magic-User.

Wild

Wild elves are almost primitive, even avoiding contact with other elves. Instead of normal elven ability modifiers, they gain a +2 to Strength. Wild elves can interact with animals as if the Animal Friendship spell was in effect. They also have a 90% chance to set snares, pits, and traps in a wilderness setting. They are able to speak Alignment, Common, and Elvish instead of normal elven languages. They can reach level 7 as a Druid, level 9 as a Fighter, and they can not be Magic-Users.

Halflings

The common halfling is called a "hairfoot" and has the same abilities as a normal halfling.

Stout

Stout halflings are stockier and smaller than hairfoot halflings. Stout halflings have infravision and can detect construction tricks like gnomes. They can speak Dwarven in addition to their other languages. Stout halflings can reach level 7 as a Fighter.

Tallfellow

Tallfellow halflings are thinner and taller than hairfoot halflings. They can speak Elven in addition to their other languages. Tallfellow halflings can reach level 8 as a Fighter.

Gnome

The common gnome is called a "hill gnome" and has the same abilities as a normal gnome.

Forest

Forest gnomes, as their name suggests, live in the forests of the world instead of underground. Instead of being able to detect construction tricks, forest gnomes have a 4-in-6 chance to blend in with wooded underbrush, effectively making them invisible. Instead of burrowing mammals, forest gnomes can speak with small, woodland animals such as foxes, squirrels, rabbits, mice, etc. They can reach level 7 as a druid, but can not be Clerics.


Friday, January 22, 2021

The Hero's Journey 1e: Gnome Race


Back with more The Hero's Journey stuff, and this time it's for the gnome! The gnome is actually based on the gnome from the second edition of THJ, which I heard from James Spahn was inspired by a draft for a gnome race for the first edition. These gnomes lean more towards the weird tinkerers/illusionists side of the race than anything.

The class level restrictions are somewhat shots-in-the-dark. If I get around to making an Illusionist class (not off the table, but I'd have to do spells), they'd get 10 levels in that instead of Wizard. Anyway, let me know what you think!

Gnome


Attribute

Dice Pool

Strength

2d6+1

Dexterity

3d6

Constitution

3d6

Intelligence

2d6+6

Willpower

3d6

Charisma

3d6

Appearance

3d6

Luck

3d6



Class

Level Limit

Acrobat

-

Assassin

4

Barbarian

-

Bard

7

Cavalier

4

Cleric

-

Druid

4

Duelist

7

Fighter

4

Jester

7

Monk

-

Paladin

-

Ranger

5

Thief

7

Wizard

10

Combat Curiosity: Gnomes are able to wield short blades and light crossbows, regardless of other class restrictions.

Illusionist: Gnomes are naturally skilled in illusions and deception. Up to three times per day, a Gnome can use the Phantasmal Force spell. This spell functions as if cast by a Level 1 Wizard.

Lifetime of Study: Because they have spent their life pursuing knowledge, all gnomes may use the Lore ability as if they were a 1st level bard. Gnomish bards receive a +1 to their Lore class ability. This ability cannot increase the Lore ability above 5

Instinctive Archaeologist: Gnomes have a sharp eye for ancient caverns, strange architecture, and crumbled ruins. They can detect secret or concealed doors, sloping stone passages, unusual stonecraft, and even large-scale mechanical constructs on a 1-2 on 1d6 simply by passing within 10 feet of them. This chance increases to 1-4 on 1d6 if they are actively searching for these things. In addition, gnomes can discern and operate large scale mechanical constructs and devices if they make a successful Lore check.

Hard To Hit: Gnomes receive a −2 [+2] bonus to their Armor Class due to their small size and quick reflexes. They also receive a +1 bonus “to-hit” when attacking foes which are man-sized or larger.

Dark Vision: Gnomes can see in starlight, moonlight, or perfect darkness at a distance of up to 90 feet.