RPG Stuff

Designer’s Notes: The Psyber Devangelist and Other Psi-Sci-Fi

Yes, I made another thing! By thing, I mean I made something cool for MÖRK BORG. By something cool, I mean I spent a lot of time—possibly too much time—on a new class along with some new equipment, weapons, powers, things to kill you, and some additional mechanics. It’s all inspired by science-fiction, cyberpunk, psychic powers, psionics, etc.

The class is comparable to a cheeseburger—it’s an artificial post-biological horror.

I also greatly appreciate the outright support because this is the closest thing I have to income right now, and I am at least trying to make fun things, build a portfolio, and earn enough off of my work that my hobby is self-sustaining. And the work. Because I had to buy better software instead of using something that’s meant for making slideshows.

First and foremost, I need to say that Evlyn Moreau and her Orbital Megastructures have been my biggest inspiration. I’ve always loved science fiction, but it always felt out of reach in terms of tabletop RPG playability—for me, that is. Running science fiction as a GM feels tough to me. There’s so much to remember, so much to consider, so much to… Well, it’s not medieval fantasy, and that’s just everywhere. I can remember swords. I can remember spells. But I (at least thought I couldn’t) remember security systems and commlinks and all that stuff. Well, Evlyn makes it look and feel so easy, and I think doubly so because I think she is a great GM and I think she has created (or is creating) a great game. (It is also semi-post-apocalyptic, which is also an easier way to manage futuristic themes.) The very process of playing a game like that got me so excited to create something sci-fi-ish of my own.

Also, I used a ton of her lovely art.

And then there’s the great cover art by Matthew Neff. What a lovely Discord notification to get. Oh, some person on the Discord made art inspired by my class, and they let me know that it’s totally cool if I want to use it. Did I cry? Yes. Yes, I did.

But, yes, I love sci-fi. I love Neon Genesis Evangelion, I love Bionicle, I love Cyberpunk, I love Shadowrun, I like Star Wars, and I even like making references to things I don’t know much about like Warhammer 40k. There are a few loving references to Orbital Megastructures, there’s another reference to Ultraviolet Grasslands, and there’s a secret reference to my first GURPS campaign*.

*The first background for the Psyber Devangelist mentions being unable to return to a vision that a seer saw of their own death. That goes back to the Eire Era (the unofficial name that my best friend and I gave our campaign ran by his dad). One of our several characters—we each had a couple—used the Death Vision spell in a wild mana zone. Probably not the best idea. We saw a vision of Jack (my best friend’s first character) as a cyborg, but he stepped through the Death Vision as if it were a portal, and he tried to kill us. He almost succeeded too. CyberJack went nuclear, but one of my characters was able to call in a wave and then freeze it over him.

Anyway, it’s all in there. As well as a mechanic inspired by Darkest Dungeon, which I recently beat by cheating my way through it.

Returning to GURPS for just a second, let’s just say I’m very inspired by the system as a whole. I often use it as a reference point, like oh, this rifle does twice as much damage as this pistol—I’ll remember that. The less I play GURPS, the more I appreciate it as if it is a game design toolkit.

Oh, and I threw in Advantage and Disadvantage because I was quite surprised that MÖRK BORG didn’t have them out of the box. Double oh, and I threw in Energy Dice based off of Risk Dice based off of Usage Dice. That’s the power of evolution.

This whole project evolved, and I hope it shows. As you leave the class and get into page 3, there start to be neon green symbols. Then, on page four, the symbols and the text boxes are starting to glow. I have a lot of fun with design—pretending like I know what I’m doing. That’s actually not even true. I don’t pretend. I just try to make things that I would like.

But what about the other stuff?

The cover title was added last, so I played with a couple of extra fonts to tie together a cyber-horror feel to intro into the funkier bits in the actual content. The title on page 1 just uses some funky fonts to evoke that sci-fi feeling. My main font is my go-to font, but it turned out to be a dumb font that doesn’t even have an italic style, but at least I learned how to shear! There might be maybe two text boxes in the whole thing that don’t have some kind of rotation to them. I love the way rotation makes the text look. I used text highlighting, and I cheated a lot, adding in non-breaking spaces to help pad out some areas that needed adjusting. For colors, I kept to the black, white, pink, and yellow for the most part. A compatible cyan-blue-ish color gets tossed in to grab your eyes toward important notes. Of course, I made generous use of bolding as well as small caps to draw attention to certain things. Finally, on pages 3 and 4, for the creature titles, I used a more blackletter-y font to tie the idea of these strange horrors back to the MÖRK BORG feel.

And how about a review of a review?

by Līber Lūdōrum from here

That’s a good review.

I’m pretty proud of what I’ve made, and I appreciate that others enjoy it as well.

End of September report

Life still slowly goes on, even with that disaster of a presidential debate last night. I don’t even have to get political to say that I got really tired really fast of watching the impeached president act like a petulant child. It doesn’t matter whose side I’m on (which is a dumb way of putting it anyway), but that was really embarrassing, and I’m embarrassed on behalf of my entire country. Also, I hate this your side, my side kind of stuff. On the internet (which I recognize is not a good representation of the real world), I saw someone complaining about the impeached president only pay $750 in taxes, and someone from the other side said something along the lines of, well, I’m sure the husband of the speaker of the House does the same, and I bet would wouldn’t care about that, right? Actually, wrong. My side, your side, our side, their side, I’d like the same standards to be upheld and I love when people call out hypocrisy, and I’m not afraid to call out my side. Because my side is me and my values, and my side is whatever leads to a higher quality of living for the average American citizen and for every American citizen, and that’s based on facts and science and also feelings. Everyone thinks that’s their side, but it’s not. Because I said every. I want better things for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, the Green Party, black persons, white persons, latino/a persons, gay persons, straight persons, asexual persons, bisexual persons, persons with depression, persons with pre-existing conditions, persons living in poverty, persons living on the street, persons with diabetes, communities with less support than others… I really mean everyone. And that’s not radical. It’s not radical or even political to care about everyone, even and perhaps especially the people that I don’t agree with about certain things. Wanting to take care of people doesn’t mean I support the ideas that those people has. It means that I hope they will come to be more compassionate and understanding if I show them care. At the same time, yes, I agree—to be tolerant means being intolerant toward intolerance. I am not preaching tolerance. I’m preaching care and education and stopping the abuse. Racists and homophobes and bigots don’t appear out of thin air. They’re taught by people and by our system. So, we need to fix that.

Wow, okay, I tangent-ed hard. I’m not exactly thrilled about life right now. But I am really starting to recover from my surgery, so there’s that. And, in my more private life, other small good things seem to be popping up, so I’m holding on to the things for which I am grateful. Everyone knows it—it’s been a year. The trials I have faced are real, but they pale in comparison to all of the misfortune around the world this year. And some of it was very preventable.

Let’s… keep going.

Conlang report

Alright. It’s been another slow month. And I also haven’t been a good member of the LCS. I believe my membership has actually been lapsed for a while, but I’ll fix that. And the annual meeting is coming up, which I’ve never done before because I’ve been so out of touch with community stuff, which means—like I said—I haven’t been a great member. I’ll remedy that.

I’ve also been watching some crash course linguistics with my partner for fun, and that’s been whetting my appetite for conlanging as well.

RPG stuff report

I continue to run MÖRK BORG, and I even made a little bit of income from two short pieces of material that I wrote for the game, which you can find on my itch.io page. I’m working on more content. I don’t have any intention of trying to make this my dayjob (though, it is something since I don’t have a dayjob right now), but it would be kinda cool to at least make my hobby financially self-sustaining, and it also really allows me to give back to a hobby and a community that has given so much to me. Oh! And I’m finally a player again. I’ve played a couple of sessions of Macchiato Monsters in the Post Humans Orbital Structures setting with the setting creator and some other cool people over on the PHOS Discord. I missed it so much!

Writing stuff report

Yep, it’s a month until NaNoWriMo, and I’m actually thinking of dropping my writing project from last year and using the month to work on generating tabletop RPG content. I still want to write a novel, and I think starting with smaller projects is even better for helping me get there. I’m learning a lot in the process, and just being able to say I’ve published two very short pieces has really bolstered my self-esteem (which means I may just barely be at almost-normal levels).

Persona 4 Golden was a letdown, but Over Arms may not be

As I’ve been recovering from my surgery, I’ve been playing Persona 4 Golden (as well as some Among Us, which has been fun)—I was really excited when it came to Steam as I thought it would be a good opportunity to play a game that seemed perfect for me that I missed out on as a kid. Well, it might’ve been perfect for me as a kid, but, as an adult, I got tired of the game after 23-ish hours (which is decent, but the game is supposed to be about three times as long). The story is intriguing, most—most—of the characters are interesting, but the gameplay is very cyclical throughout and there aren’t any mechanics that really felt like they stood out. It felt like a Digimon game or something, which is okay, and then it didn’t go anywhere (and now I’m even more interested in playing Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition just to see how the games compare). More than anything, it felt like a visual novel, which just isn’t my cup of tea, and it led to the game feeling even more tedious and slow. Of course, Persona 4 is originally a PS2 game, so I guess I’ll cut it a little bit of slack based on its age, but I was definitely let down.

I really like all of the concepts of Persona, which, of course, made me think of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I even have an idea for a story with personality-based guardian spirits somewhere on a very far back backburner. I’d even love to play with similar concepts in a tabletop RPG game, and I came close to trying to throw something together some months ago, but I’m even more excited about it now because Over Arms exists. It was just recently funded on Kickstarter, and it definitely shows some promise (although, I will admit it might be hard for me to see through these hype goggles without any sort of bias).

This is an odd post, but I wanted to throw this stuff out there. Honestly, I think I’m a bit overly heartbroken by Persona 4 Golden because I was expecting something life-changing. Oh well. Next up is Darkest Dungeon to help me get even more MÖRK BORG-ish vibes flowing in my veins. Oh, and even more Among Us. I know so much of the internet is a walking advertisement for that game right now, but it really is fun, especially if you have a group to play it with.

Designer’s Notes: Séquelle — an Album Crawl

As I’m recovering from my surgery, I suppose it couldn’t hurt to throw up some— Actually, that’s a poor choice of words since I’ve been feeling pretty nauseous since the surgery. Anyway, here’s some designers’ notes. Yes, plural—I created this with my amazing partner.

We had been listening to Ghost’s album Prequelle a lot. It just kinda happened. A friend of mine pointed me to the album a while ago, but it just resurged in my brainspace, and my partner got attached to it as I hummed it and sang it while driving, doing dishes, etc. I was also getting into MÖRK BORG, and I really loved the community-suggested idea of doing an album crawl: taking an album and turning the ideas within into an adventure. So, I thought it would be fun for my partner and I to work on that, and I was mostly right. Admittedly, I was a bit of a butt in the beginning as I took on way too much self-inflicted pressure, but we got better at working together, which is, of course, a great skill to have, and we don’t usually work on projects together unless cooking, dishes, cleaning, laundry, etc. all count.

The hardest part for me was killing my darlings, which I had to do a couple of times. First, I had to be more relaxed in how I could fit the ideas together instead of trying to force everything to feel perfect, which is what really helped me relax from my self-inflicted pressure. Even then, I had to kill more darlings because all of our ideas wouldn’t fit on an A4 spread. I had an idea for a fun-but-simple puzzle door that I had to cut, and I’d explain it in more detail, but I plan to reuse it.

I also kept making dozens of small edits. Fitting things better. Formatting. Making certain pieces of the adventure stand out more. Squeezing in the licensing at the end. Tweaking the color because I had accidentally left Night Light on. It really taught me a lot.

But what does my partner have to say after all of it? She says it was fun even though it was a bit stressful in the beginning, and that it was a fun way for us to continue learning how to work together. She also really enjoyed the putting-it-together part, pulling together all of the public domain bits, which she felt really crossed over into her own work as a librarian.

We also agree that it was really fun to play it. She really enjoyed making something that we could actually use, and I definitely agree with her there. She was a good sport at not cheating when we played through it together with the rest of our group.

Designer’s Notes: Carousing in the Dying World

Yes—I published something!

I had finished the first inkling of a ‘draft’ for Carousing in the Dying World and posted it to the MÖRK BORG Discord just minutes before there was an announcement of the brand-new MÖRK BORG Third Party License. My fun carousing tables got buried. Truly, I wasn’t bitter—I was excited about the new license. It just gave me a chuckle. So, I posted it over in another channel on the Discord, and a member tagged me in the Forever GM Discord we hang out in and was like, Hey, you got a web page for your stuff? Because it’s good and people should be able to give you money. That was the moment that I became a capitalist and started worshiping Ayn Rand. Well, maybe I would have, but I didn’t have a page for my stuff.

See, I love GURPS—everyone knows that—, but all of my ideas were super-duper free because GURPS isn’t very open with its license. Which is cool. I respect that. But, because I was too scared to ever submit anything to the Pyramid magazine while it was still alive, that meant I wasn’t selling anything. Anyway, I didn’t really want to.

But this guy was like, Let me help you. So, I let him. (If you want to know who he is, then go check out his stuff. Matthew is great.) Of course, I didn’t have anything to sell, but he really encouraged me to throw something out there. So, with a little help and encouragement from my partner, I threw together my carousing rules and made them ‘real’.

Well, why did I make them? I love the OSR idea of having XP revolve around loot and using carousing as a way to part them from said loot. I first really saw this in Ultraviolet Grasslands by Luka Rejec, but that iteration led me to dozens of other takes on that idea, and many go quite a ways back.

I’ll admit that they’re probably a bit sillier than the dark tone of MÖRK BORG, but I original wrote these up for my own use, so they’re made to fit at my table.

I’ve already got some more ideas. I don’t imagine I’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.

That being said, some really incredible work has already come out that dwarfs mine, which has really reminded me that I’ve got a lot of growing to do in this space, but I am so honored to be able to give back to a community and a hobby that has given so much to me. I was very lucky to get in on the license so early, be mentioned in a tweet by the MÖRK BORG account, mentioned on their Facebook page, and mentioned in this article on Geek Native.

Beginning of September report

Oh yeah! August is over. This time around, it was less of a month disappearing and more of being so engaged in other things that I forgot what day it was. That’s definitely an upgrade from feeling depressed and tired; though, it only came halfway through the month—perhaps, that’s why I lost track of the day! Anyway, my partner has a mid-low-tier gaming PC now—an Optiplex 9020 SFF with a low-profile 1650 in it—; so, I’ve been back to playing some Deep Rock Galactic since we can play it together (and it’s just so much more fun with friends).

In my last monthly report, I mentioned that I hadn’t had internet in a couple of days, and I’m laughing now because I’ve already forgotten about that mess. Sorry, past me. That two days turned into two weeks. And three technicians over five visits. And threatening to cancel WOW! only to find out that I had (apparently) signed a two-year contract, but we got a lowered rate out of it—well, lower than the rate it was supposed to increase to.

Conlang stuff report

Oh, boy. I went deep into Toaq, Ceqli, Toki Pona, and Toki Pona Enhanced. Oh, and Sapolim, which is doing something similar to what I want to do. I’ve learned both about predicates and arguments as well as how to make a conlang fun and whimsical. It feels like lots of changes are coming to greyfolk language. I think I’ve been saying that for a while, but conlanging has been slow work for me. I really think I’ll end up with a few different versions, but that was really the plan anyway. (Why relex English when I can relex my own conlang, amirite?)

I even played around with some temporary vocabulary (i.e., unofficial vocabulary that I generated only for test sentences) to try out some sentences. I really need to make a small update post or two about those things—this blog has been leaning too far into tabletop RPGs. (Not that I actually care, but this isn’t greyson.tabletopRPG.org after all. I wish I could buy that domain, though!)

I also still need to talk more about Globasa!

RPG stuff report

I recently published a post about moving away from GURPS and diving into the OSR scene, and I’ve been continuing down the path that I set out for myself. Right now, I’m in love with Mörk Borg. As I said before, Mörk Borg is a rules-lite over-the-top black-metal-inspired fantasy OSR-ish tabletop RPG that leans into itself while simultaneously not taking itself too seriously that hasn’t been out for long but already has a great community. I’m not sure I could whittle down my description of it to any less than that. I’ll save more of my praise for a review, but it’s been great, and my group has already been enjoying it. I’ve already created a handful of house rules because I saw a few gaps that I wanted to fill in, and I love to tinker.

Playing something else has also rekindled my interesting in tinkering with GURPS. There’s so much less pressure to tinker with a game that I’m not currently playing. (And I’ve also been revisiting my thoughts on Fate and Savage Worlds.) More and more, I’m starting to think that it’s time to build my own system, especially because I’ve become more and more comfortable with the idea of building my own first system. Looking into the more indie side of tabletop RPG gaming, I’ve seen a lot of creative and original people make some awesome stuff, and it the community is also transparent enough that I’ve seen the humble beginnings of a lot of those same people. Also, there is a lot of support in the community—infectious support. For example, as I was trying to catch up on every zine and adventure and setting and cool system, the creator of The World Broke announced their launch on the Mörk Borg Discord. Now, I’m not really into Into the Odd, but, for $4, how was I not going to support a creator in a community that I already love when the product looks so neat and well-made? I’ll skip a coffee.

Alright, I’ll save the rest of my mania for other blog posts.

Writing stuff report

Almost nothing has happened in this corner again. NaNoWriMo is slowly creeping up on me, and I think I want to continue working on the same story I started last year. Of course, as I was saying above, it would be nice to start working on a tabletop RPG system, but I might just have to temper my own excitement and allow that to be its own project.

Tabletop RPGs other than GURPS and diving into the OSR scene

What a hefty title! As I type this out, I’m listening to Mörk Borg by GNOLL—that’ll be important a little bit later. As I’ve talked about in at least one of my monthly updates (including last month’s in which I shared a link to a thread about alternatives to GURPS), I’ve been experiencing GM fatigue, burnout, whatever you want to call it; but I also think I’ve been experiencing some kind of GURPS fatigue. (Maybe I just need to put more points in HT.) As much as I love the system, I think it might be too much for me—at least, for right now. The way that my group plays (and I tend to GM) is looser and more narrative and more focused on what feels right even though we all so much adore that GURPS is so great at simulation, which is really cool, but it kind of begs me to overthink things a lot. At our core, I think my group is more of a Fate group, but that’s not the right system for us either because it’s too loose and things start to feel very same-y after a while. (And I’m only talking about our experiences, of course.)

So, what do I want? Well, it would be something a lot like Fate (flexible, narrative, player-focused), but it would feel less like a toolkit, it would put a greater emphasis on equipment, it wouldn’t be so narrative-focused that it kind of waves away magic, and it would scale well in size and power level (which is why I thought “Knowing Your Own Strength” from Pyramid #3/83: Alternate GURPS IV was such a good start at this for GURPS). I really enjoy not having HP (which is why I really like “Conditional Injury” from Pyramid #3/120: Alternate GURPS V), classes, and levels.

Well, what else is out there? As I said, I have some experience with Fate, which I really do like. For a party-ish pick-up-y game, I’ve played lots of Everyone Is John, which is also fun, but is obviously not the kind of game I want to play for anything more than a session or two. Of course, there’s always Dungeons & Dragons, and I’ve dabbled in 3.5e, 4e, and 5e. I’m glad I did because it allowed me to find Eberron, but even D&D feels like too much while also feeling restricted. (Again, to me. I’m definitely not saying it is, and your mileage may greatly vary!) I’m not a fan of classes and spell lists, and I really think that there are just better alternatives even if I want that same D&D feeling (without going full Dungeon Fantasy RPG, of course). I also tried out the first edition of Pathfinder way back when, and that gave me similar feelings.

Now, as we’ve recently been playing Deadlands in my group, I know that Savage Worlds exists. As I’ve read over SWADE, it seems like it wants to be what I want: fun, fast, and furious. Better yet, PK has some great house rules and gives the system a nice recommendation: “Despite its quirks, Savage Worlds may be the best universal system when it comes to balancing groups of wildly disparate abilities and power levels.” That really speaks to me, and I even reached out to let PK know that said review convinced me to give it a go. Which I haven’t yet. But I’ll surely get there! Now, Savage Worlds still has a spell list of sorts with its powers, but they’re much more generic and there are guidelines on how to reflavor them, which is great. Plus, there’s a wonderfully-made Eberron conversion for SWADE, which means I can play Eberron without D&D and also without doing the heavy lifting of converting Eberron to a more palatable system (for my particular tastes).

Some other options I’ve found:

  • Numenera and the Cypher system in general seem pretty promising, and I’d definitely like to actually give it a go at some point. Numenera was actually the first tabletop RPG that my partner played—thanks to some random frat party.
  • Call of Cthulhu and the Basic Roleplaying system also seem interesting. If our group was more into horror, it’d probably be a higher priority.
  • Big Eyes Small Mouth and the Tri-Stat dX system, the Hero system, and Mutants and Masterminds are all recommendations I’ve been given, but they feel so close to GURPS that I’d rather play that instead (though, I will say that all three of them handle powers and balance quite a bit better).
  • Powered by the Apocalypse feels like an okay narrative system, but I don’t think we’d like it.
  • Genesys seems really popular for this kind of play style, but I don’t like the funky dice.
  • Cortex Prime also feels promising. It seems like it falls somewhere between Fate and Savage Worlds, which sounds right for us. I’ll definitely be giving this one a try.
  • Blades in the Dark is relatively new (to me, at least) tabletop RPG that I know very little about, but it seems like people on the internet really like it. Industrial fantasy sounds up my group’s alley, so this one has to get a try at some point.
  • Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is another game that I’ve heard about only recently, and, while our group doesn’t ever really do the whole slice-of-life thing, we all enjoy Studio Ghibli movies, so it seems worth checking out for that feeling.
  • The Fantasy Trip is supposed to be something like GURPS 0e, and it has gained a fair amount of support and popularity since its revival in 2019. So, of course I have to check it out.
  • Everywhen just popped up on my radar, and I’ve seen a lot of reviews talking about it as if it’s the middle ground for other people who have likewise pendulum’d between GURPS and Fate—just based on that alone, it seems like it’d be worth a try.
  • Mörk Borg then showed itself to me. (Really, I can’t remember how I stumbled upon it even though it was just a few days ago. Perhaps it was the will of SHE.) A rules-lite over-the-top doom metal fantasy game that leans into itself while simultaneously not taking itself too seriously that hasn’t been out for long but already has a great community? Fantastic. Now, I’m not usually a fan of d20 systems (as I’m a true believer of the 3d6 bell curve), so that says a lot. Plus, the game is gorgeous. It feels like someone tried to turn in one assignment both to their art and game design class. Now, the art (and the dozen fonts) can detract from the experience of reading it, but it has a handy more-easily-readable guide toward the back of the most important rules. I judged a book by its cover, and it has already paid off.

Let’s leave the bullet point and talk even more about Mörk Borg. (I love the colors, and my site is currently pretty much themed for it.) It’s fun, fast, and furious—so, watch out, Savage Worlds. But what exactly is Mörk Borg? Like, what makes it tick? Where did it come from? Why does something like that even exist? What had I been missing in my GURPS-centric world? It turns out I had been missing a growing community filled with indie tabletop RPGs and zines. Why let Wizards of the Coast or some other big company have all of the fun if indie hobbyists can do it better? A big part of this seems to be OSR, which is Old School Revival (or Renaissance or Roleplaying). I am just a wee baby, so I would rather let Questing Beast explain what OSR is. Now, I guess Mörk Borg isn’t actually “true OSR”, but it is definitely OSR-ish or OSR-adjacent or whatever. (And I guess that would make The Fantasy Trip something like GURPS OSR.) Still, the spirit of OSR tends to capture what I’m looking for, especially those that focus more on narrative and eschew classes (and, yes, I know that Mörk Borg has optional classes, but it also has an optional non-class-based feat system).

So, I stumbled into a whole new facet of my tabletop RPG hobby, and I hope this mania simmers and leaves me with a steady rekindled flame of passion. Especially because I’m going to be running Mörk Borg in about a week and a half.

Some games that I’ve stumbled upon so far (not all OSR or even adjacent):

  • The White Hack (a streamlined and innovative OSR-compatible retroclone)
  • The Black Hack (a more-recent streamlined and innovative OSR-compatible retroclone)
  • Macchiato Monsters (which is like a fusion of The Black Hack and The White Hack, and it is very high on my to-play list)
  • Beyond the Wall
  • The Legend of Zelda: Reclaim the Wild
  • Legend of Zelda RPG (which was made by 4chan, I guess)
  • OSRIC
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess
  • Maze Rats and also Knave (which are made by the Questing Beast, look amazing, and are very high on my to-play list)
  • Into the Odd and also Electric Bastionland
  • Jump the Shark (another silly one-shot micro-RPG)
  • Over Arms (which is inspired by JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Persona—count me in!)
  • NUMA (which is about frog samurai—count me in!)
  • Pacts and Blades
  • Into the Bronze
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics
  • OSE
  • Prole and also Tunnel Goons
  • Acres Past (the game formerly known as Acres Wild)
  • Night Yeast (a cool zine)
  • Dissident Whispers (a great BLM-supporting anthology)
  • Troika
  • Torchbearer
  • Swords & Wizardry

Really, I can’t vouch for any of these too terribly much, and this list is likely way more helpful for me (to keep track of all of this stuff) than it is for you. Still, there’s some kind of lesson in here about how I’ve been into the tabletop RPG hobby for over a decade and have only just now stumbled across these games thanks to chance and GM burnout. I’m excited to do something different. Well, more than something… There are a lot of games on my list. The good news is that I’ll probably never burn out on a system again. Oh, but—one last thing—I can vouch for Mörk Borg. I ran a quick one-shot duet with my partner, and we agreed very quickly that it feels nice and fun.

End of July report

I’m not sure if this month really happened—that might just be my excuse for feeling like I didn’t get as much done as I would’ve liked to. What did happen? I aged up a whole year. I saw my family in Bloomington, which is always bittersweet (now with a touch of dangerous in the middle of a pandemic, I must admit). I’m probably forgetting something, but that feels like it’s it in terms of significant events. I beat a couple of video games, I watched a couple of movies, and I haven’t had internet for two days (outside of a few hours of spotty up-time).

I’m tired—a depressed kind of tired.

Conlang stuff report

I have no notes in my project document, which must mean nothing really happened. I have lots of greyfolk language ideas, but I haven’t written any down. Globasa turned one, which is cool! It was my plan to review it for its birthday, and I’m a bit behind, but I’ll get there.

RPG stuff report

Well, I’ve been running that Deadlands campaign using my own GURPS-Fate homebrew system. I’ll say that my highlight was introducing a new player to GURPS! The Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS 2020 PDF Challenge went really well, and I already have all of my PDFs. They’re quite great, and I’ll get around to reviewing them as a bundle quite soon.

I started a thread about alternatives to GURPS as it’s starting to feel like my GM burnout was also largely a GURPS burnout. Cortex Prime (when it’s out), Powered by the Apocalypse (maybe using Legend of the Elements), Genesys (maybe using Avatar: the Second Age), and Savage Worlds all seem to be in my future—if not also Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine. Everyone Is John is definitely in my future, and it has also been in my past a handful of very fun times. I’m planning on playing it again this weekend just to give myself a much-needed break. As a forever GM, I really miss being a player sometimes. I am struggling with my perfectionist mentality for GURPS and as a GM, and it’s so counter-intuitive because, as a player, I think I’d just be happy to play again. My god, I’d welcome D&D 5e with open arms if it meant being a player again. Maybe I need to work on getting over being shy and finding a group.

Writing stuff report

This should’ve been my saving grace, but I ended up not participating in Camp NaNo. I don’t know what was up with me, but I’ve just been having this huge creative block.

End of June report

My best friend gains another year under his belt as do I in a few days time. I’m still dealing with physical therapy for my pelvic floor dysfunction as well as shoulder impingement. It feels like the world is on fire with the continuing protests and another surge of COVID-19. I’ll say it: black lives matter, and everyone should be wearing masks. Politics aside, black lives matter, and everyone should be wearing masks. Personal feelings aside, black lives do matter, and everyone really should be wearing masks. I hope that’s clear. I know the internet allows me to more easily see bad news, but it really does seem like humanity is in short supply of reason and empathy. I’m sure it’s always been that way, but, as I said, it’s just even easier to see on the internet.

Life has felt extra weird and out of my control for the past month—probably even before that, but I’ve really been feeling that way lately. Here’s to hoping for some good things ahead.

Still, I managed to get out quite a few blog posts in a short span of time, even if three of them were about coffee recipes. It makes me happy, and I think that counts for a lot.

Conlang stuff report

My conlang has continued to mostly be on the back burner. I did get some extra bits of inspiration from Toaq and Ceqli. And, when I say “extra bits”, I mean some loglang inspiration that might fundamentally change how a certain part of my conlang works. I’m not turning my current greyfolk language into a loglang, but, like I said, I have some really neat ideas.

Speaking of stealing borrowing ideas for my conlang, Globasa turns 1 on July 26th. I’ll do my best to make a blog post for its birthday, especially because that should mark the worldlang becoming much more stable as it goes into Phase III.

RPG stuff report

My GURPS/Fate Savage Worlds Deadlands mess has continued to go really well, which is nice. I’m planning on adopting even more of the Savage Worlds framework. I don’t think I have the Will to ever leave GURPS behind—I love it too much! But even GURPS likes to sand down its own rough edges to streamline play. Even outside of the post-apocalyptic genre, the Boldly Going Forth chapter of GURPS After the End 2: The New World is great for just that. I’ve already taken it much further by just leaning on Fate‘s aspects for so many things, but I ended up wanting a bit more crunch than what that provides. Savage Worlds, in a lot of ways, seems like a nice middle ground, and I think I can adapt a lot of its ideas to make GURPS better fit the play-style of my group.

Also, another GURPS Kickstarter will be launching soon. If there’s enough money put into the project, we’ll be able to grab 12 PDFs for $3. Not $3 each. I mean $3 for all 12 PDFs—again, assuming that the project reaches a high-enough funding level.

Writing stuff report

Well, I’m supposed to start Camp NaNo tomorrow. It’s gonna happen, but I think I’ll at least be off to a rough start. In April, I got 10,000 words (which was my goal) in only 20 days; so, I’m not too worried about taking some extra warm-up time.

Alternate attributes and skills in GURPS

When GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes came out, I was thrilled. Right now, sitting here and typing out this blog post, I’m still thrilled about its existence. It’s everything someone like me could want! By “someone like me”, I mean someone who tinkers with tabletop RPGs past the point of frustration out of unnecessary perfectionism and perhaps a bit of masochism. I’ve been a follower of the Divine Order of Splitting Per and Will from IQ for a long time.

If you’re feeling particularly devilish, you can even apply this to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. I do, but I also tinker with every single thing I get my hands on.

Alternate attributes

On the forums, Kromm had also mentioned a whole set alternate attributes here and here in a discussion that came out of “The Fifth Attribute” from Pyramid #3/120: Alternate GURPS V, which was about adding an additional attribute to GURPS (called Quintessence) to cover supernatural stuff. Basically, the idea was to split Perception and Will from IQ to make them their own attributes. Then, split IQ into a social intelligence attribute as well as a general intelligence attribute, and split DX into a full-body coordination attribute as well as a manual dexterity attribute. So, you get four physical attributes and four mental attributes, and there’s room for supernatural attributes, but I later decided against them because I still feel that’s better covered by optional stuff like Talents and Energy Reserve. Of course, if one is going to boost Will to an attribute, it makes sense to give it an analogue to Fatigue, which is nicely covered in “Mad as Bones” from Pyramid #3/103: Setbacks. In the article, it’s called Stability, but I like calling it Anxiety. Furthermore, I also use “Conditional Injury” from Pyramid #3/120: Alternate GURPS V with “Knowing Your Own Strength” from from Pyramid #3/83: Alternate GURPS IV as I recently detailed in this post, so I use Vitality instead of HP.

Physical basic attributes:

  • Strength [ST]. ±10 points/level. Almost the same, but it’s logarithmic.
    • Vitality [VT]. ±2 points/level. Replaces HP for use with logarithmic ST.
    • Striking ST, Lifting ST, Arm ST, etc. are all in there, but I don’t really allow them to be bought up from where they are. If I did, Striking ST would probably be ±2 points/level with Lifting ST at ±6 points/level.
    • Basic Lift [BL] is covered too, obviously, but I usually just call it Lift.
  • Agility [AG]. ±10 points/level. Covers Agility and Flexibility from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
  • Dexterity [DX]. ±10 points/level. Covers Fine Motor Ability and hand-focused Coordination from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
  • Health [HT]. ±10 points/level. Almost the same. Covers Athleticism from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
    • Fatigue Points [FP]. ±3 points/level. Unchanged.

Mental basic attributes:

  • Charisma [CH]: ±10 points/level. Covers Creativity, Social Intelligence, and softer Naturalistic Intelligence from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
  • Intelligence [IQ]: ±10 points/level. Covers Knowledge, Logic, Practical Intelligence, Technical Ability, and harder Naturalistic Intelligence from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
  • Perception [PR]: ±10 points/level. Replaces the secondary characteristic. Covers Awareness and eye-focused Coordination from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41). I use PR-based aim rolls in a similar manner to “On Target” from Pyramid #3/77: Combat, and PR rolls work with “Dodge This” from Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay.
  • Will [WL]: ±10 points/level. Replaces the secondary characteristic. Covers Intrapersonal Intelligence from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
    • Anxiety Points [AP]: ±3 points/level. Analogue to FP.

It’s not perfect, and there are better names for these attributes, surely, but I wanted to stick with what was already familiar. Charisma [CH] could be something like Character [CH] (but that’s tricky since characters are called… characters) or Personality [PR] (but that would require me to rename Perception). Intelligence [IQ] could easily be Knowledge [KN], but I wanted to keep it the same.

Secondary attributes:

  • Contacts: ±10 points/level. Works like Resources (below), but it covers social connections like the Contacts advantage. (I’m still ironing out how it works, but it should work similarly to the Contacts skill in the Fate Condensed system.)
  • Resources: ±10 points/level. Works like the Social Standing attribute (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 26).
  • Reflex [REF]: ±30 points/level. Covers Dodge, Block, and Parry. It is not formulated on any of the basic attributes like Basic Speed was.
  • Movement [MOV]: ±5 points/level. Replaces Move. It is not formulated on any of the basic attributes.
  • Size [SIZ]: ±20 points/level. Replaces Size Modifier. Negative points for a higher Size because it comes with so many inherent disadvantages like making you easier to hit, making you need to consume more, and making you spend more money on scaled equipment.

In the GURPS Basic Set, you need 70 points for a +1 to attributes, secondary characteristics, Basic Speed, etc. In the system I have outlined above, you need about 100 points. So, my system is about 50% more expensive; of course, a typical character only seems to have about 50% of their points tucked into their attributes, so this will end up being a +25% increase to template costs.

Alternate skills

I didn’t with attributes. For how I play GURPS, it has way too many skills. I like the condensed skills from Savage Worlds and Fate Condensed. Similarly, GURPS has Talents and wildcard skills, and the Wildcard Skills found in “Pointless Slaying and Looting” from Pyramid #3/72: Alternate Dungeons and “Pointless Monster Hunting” from Pyramid #3/83: Alternate GURPS IV are pretty great treatments of how to cover an entire genre’s worth of skills with wildcard skills. However, wildcard skills are prohibitively expensive—no, skills in general are too expensive! Even if I slightly overstuffed some Talents, it would cost about 225 points for a +1 to all (standard) skills—using wildcard skills would put it at about 228 points for that same +1. With my system, you could instead go for +1 AG [10], +1 DX [10], +1 HT [10], -1 FP [-3], +1 CH [10], +1 IQ [10], +1 PR [10], +1 WL [10], and -1 AP [-3] for 64 points, and that still gives you the benefits of claiming the boost to those attributes themselves. That tells me that skill costs should be half or even a third of what they are to stay somewhat competitive. I went for the drastic third, which would make a wildcard skill equivalent to just a VH skill, and that would make a 15-point Talent a 5-point Talent. (It’s worth it to re-evaluate other advantages like Daredevil and Higher Purpose too).

For a while, I just used the skills from Fate Condensed, but that wasn’t enough after seeing what other people posted in this thread. Someone mentioned “Niches” from GURPS Template Toolkit 1: Characters (p. 35), which is a really solid framework for creating wildcard skills (or just VH skills in my case) to cover every skill. The only changes I made were merging Animals and Plants into Nature while splitting Combat into Melee and Ranged. Oh, and I renamed several of them to fit what I wanted a bit more. In Malainka’s review of GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, they talk about whittling down the skill list to about 13 of what it is, which, of course, seemed to fit nicely with my own vision. That’s also really great stuff, and, if I wanted more granularity than the broad niches, I would absolutely pick up the work they did.

Going back to the niches, there are 30 of them, but the above talk about 228 points of wildcard skills for a +1 to everything only points to 19 wildcard skills. The niches have plenty of overlap, and I allow them to be used very flexibly and in a complementary way, so I’m fine with there being 30 of them. If you wanted, you could raise it to an H skill instead of a VH skill to compensate. I also heavily use Talents. If niches/skills are vertical lines, then Talents are horizontal lines, and they intersect at the true specialty of a character, which I really like. A cowboy might have decent Melee, Nature, Outdoors, and Ranged niches, but it’s the Cowboy Talent that helps them excel specifically with bowie knives, cows and horses, working on a farm, shooting revolvers, etc. Really, wildcard skills and Talents follow almost the same cost progression, so I usually treat a 5-point Talent as a +2 to an extra ‘niche’ with a little bit of a reaction bonus tied in there. (If a 5-point Talent covers up to 6 skills, a 2.5-point Talent might cover up to 3 skills, which is about the same breadth as one of these niches; so, 5 points is enough for a +2 to something with the breadth of a niche. So, Cowboy Talent [5] gives +2 to doing cowboy stuff, and it helps with cowboy-related reaction rolls.)

Let’s get to the implications. Skills are typically a pretty small portion of a template; so, even though their cost is being divided by a third, it’s only about a -12.5% decrease to template costs.

Using them together

Overall, that means this will net a +12.5% increase to template costs. I should further explain that the increase is for total positive points—e.g., a 250-point template with -50 points in disadvantages is really worth 300 points. Using these systems, 300 points would become ~337 points. Then, of course, factor the disadvantages back in for 287 points.

You’re not going to come out with super clean numbers in most cases, unfortunately, and some templates in a genre have different pools of disadvantages. I’d eyeball it like this:

  • Templates in GURPS After the End go from 150 points to 175 points, which is a decently pentaphilic number, but I’d even go up to 200 points if feeling generous.
  • Templates in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy go from 250 points to 287 points, but I would just round that up to 300 points (or back down to 250 if you want weaker starting characters).
  • Templates in GURPS Monster Hunters go from 400 points to 506 points, which makes it pretty easy just to call that 500 points.

I’m throwing that out there because I would get so stuck on saying that the relative costs are set in stone by the gods of GURPS themselves, but they’re not. They’re based off of good estimates and pentaphilia—I mean 250 points obviously looks better than 287 points. However, if you’re handing out points at the end of the first session, that perfect number is going to break right away.

What about everything else? At this point, I’m pretty comfortable making stuff up on the fly, so I’m not terribly worried about converting monsters and whatnot before I use them. They don’t really have points anyway, right? Though, for logarithmic ST and VT, I obviously have to convert some of that stuff, and I tend to just convert GURPS damage wholesale into my system.