Game Design


Gnome Stew - 19 April 2019 - 4:20am

Let us continue our look at the town of Foot from last article.

7. The Carpenter. This shop smells like sawdust as soon as you enter it. There’s wood, stain, saws, hammers, levels, crank drills, chisels, and all other manner of tool and wood around the shop. Sarah Hanner is a short stocky and well muscled woman in her late 30’s. Healthy and always wearing a wry smile. Sarah specializes in furniture and the wooded parts of a wide variety of farm equipment while also being able to patch up buildings that have seen better days. She loves her work and does a wonderful job, even if she’s sometimes a little late.

8. Fredmon’s Thread and Stitch. Fredmon Tailor comes from a long line of tailors but came to the Airy Peaks to seek adventure. Then he lost his foot to a spikey mawed beastie. After than he decided to get back to his roots and sew for adventurer’s instead of going on adventures. Fredmon can work with cloth and leather while being quite versed in the layering of a variety of materials and cloths. He often works quite close with Kurnig on the undergarments of armor.

The shop is a clean place with a variety of different sets of clothing displayed on wooden mannequins. It’s all functional dress for farmers and adventurer’s which gives the clothing a high contrast. Fredmon also specializes in bags and pouches for every day adventuring, seed carrying, and any other function a bag could serve.

9. The Torn Page. Lillard Copse is a wizened old man who wears glasses, can barely see, and is stooped over with age. That is, until the sun goes down. Once the sun dips out of view this old man straightens up, moves with the vigor of someone half his age, and can see just fine.

The shop is filled with books and mpas which he buys and sells. Some are from adventurers and others are more mysterious in origin. Even though he has tons of maps, those maps are all quite contradictory in their descriptions and depictions. If asked, Lillard is convinced the Peaks might even move and rearrange themselves, or at least the Fire Tube Tunnels do.

10. The Goblin Wares. Jacob Flack is a thin unassuming man with brown hair, who runs one of the most common shops in town in one of the more unique locations. His shop is in a tunnel just inside one of the entrances to the Airy Peaks. The shops entrance is marked by a wooden sign with a goblin painted on it with its eyes xed out.

The shop is just a small cavern lit by oil lanterns and an torch that burns with a magical light that never consumes and never goes out. On the walls are mesh nets and hanging from them are all manner of weapons, larger adventuring gear, and armor. There are crates stacked in rows with potions, rope, pouches, trinkets, small devices, and the other smaller, more portable things one might find useful when traversing the Airy Peaks.

Sometimes special things find their way into the Goblin Wares, sold to Jacob by adventurers who don’t know what they have. This is also the place that gear gets shipped to from the outside world. If you want to show how the gear changes from week to week in the Goblin Wares you can make this move every third time the party makes camp or when you have decided that a week or so has passed.

When time has passed roll 2d6 + nothing. On a hit a delivery occurs and restock according to the refresh. On a 10+ roll a d10 twice. Each roll adds the interesting item listed below to the goblin wares. On a 12+ a magic item finds its way into the Goblin Wares. Create the magic item and place it in the shop. On a miss the refresh doesn’t happen.

Special Item List
  1. Hunters Bow
  2. Dueling Rapier
  3. Elvish Arrows
  4. Elven Bread
  5. Oil of Tagit
  6. Bloodweed
  7. Goldenroot
  8. Serpent’s Tears
  9. Bag of Books
  10. Edged Black Steel Weapon. Add 2 piercing and 100 coins to any edged weapon

Black Steel Weapons come from the Dragon Fire Forges within the Airy Peaks. Edged weapons forged there have 2 piercing.

Jacob’s has the following on hand when an Airy Peaks campaign starts:

Dungeon Gear
  • Adventuring Gear (x100)
  • Bandages (x10)
  • Healing Potion (x4 refreshed 1d4-1 to a max of 4)
  • Antitoxin (x1 refreshed to a max of 1)
  • Dungeon Rations (x 50)
  • Dwarven Hardtack (x3 refreshed by 1 to a max of 3)
  • Halfling Pipeleaf (x1 refreshed to a max of 1)
  • Leather (x3 refreshed by 1 to a max of 3)
  • Chainmail (x3 refreshed by 1 to a max of 3)
  • Scale Mail (x2 refreshed by 1 to a max of 2)
  • Plate (x1 refreshed by 1 to a max of 1)
  • Shield (x3 refreshed by 1 to a max of 3)
  • Ragged Bow (x5 refreshed by 5 to a max of 5)
  • Crossbow (x3 refreshed by 3 to a max of 3)
  • Bundle of Arrows (x20 refreshed by 5 to max of 20)
  • Club (x5 refreshed by 5 to a max of 5)
  • Staff (x5 refreshed by 5 to a max of 5)
  • Dagger (x5 refreshed by 5 to a max of 5)
  • Throwing Dagger (x3 refreshed by 3 to a max of 3)
  • Short Sword (x5 refreshed by 5 to a max of 5)
  • Axe (x5 refreshed by 5 to a max of 5)
  • Warhammer (x5 refreshed by 5 to a max of 5)
  • Mace (x5 refreshed by 5 to a max of 5)
  • Spear (x3 refreshed by 3 to a max of 3)
  • Long Sword (x3 refreshed by 3 to a max of 3)
  • Battle Axe (x3 refreshed by 3 to a max of 3)
  • Halberd (x3 refreshed by 3 to a max of 3)
  • Rapier (x1 refreshed by 1 to a max of 1)

Ok folks. I’ve reached my word count limit for this installment so next time we’ll be talking more about the town of Foot. Enjoy and we’ll get back to it next month.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Star Trek Adventures: Nest in the Dark

New RPG Product Reviews - 18 April 2019 - 12:07pm
Publisher: Modiphius
Rating: 4
It's always a bit disconcerting when your warp drive fails. The Synopsis explains what is going on, and what the party will have to do to resolve the situation, and there are notes explaining where to fit this adventure within the timelines of several Star Trek eras, although it's intended to fall in the TNG era of play.

The action begins during a routine trip to check on a lost probe. Just around shift change on the bridge of the party's starship the warp drive fades away and a whole shed-load of alarms go off. Once they have figured out the immediate cause - a massive subspace field - they can then discover some other unnerving problems. They are off-course, and time is acting oddly as well. There's a remarkably strange sight on the viewscreen as well. Figuring all this out is likely to be quite difficult, but some detailed information on likely rolls to discover what's out there are provided and the party ought to get there with a little nudging and the expenditure of some Momentum. There is a wealth of information for the GM to take on board and disseminate as appropriate - this is an adventure that will benefit from some prep time in getting your head around what's going on before you run it!

By the end of the initial investigatory phase, the party should be curious and filled with wonder at finding something hitherto unheard of. They shouldn't feel threatened. To begin with, what they have encountered hasn't even noticed them, and once it does, it's only curious about them. Yet... that disruptive field is only going to cause problems: the anomaly is on course for a Federation outpost! However, when the anomaly gets curious, it starts trying to find out what it has encountered, resulting in a series of puzzles for the party to figure out (once they realise that they *are* puzzles, that is!). Interestingly, a range of variant puzzles are provided for the GM to choose depending on whether the party is more Command or Science orientated. All are well-supported with suggestions of how to solve them, as well as providing the answers. It's important to understand Extended Tasks for this adventure.

Eventually, the party will meet with an individual, or manifestation, with which they can communicate. Or at least try to... the concepts and background understood by this representative are truly alien, and should prove entertaining (if a bit of a challenge) for the GM to role-play. There's plenty of guidance to help, though, and suggestions as to what can be said and explained. The immediate need is to persuade them to change course, which once the message is got across, they will agree to do so. The adventure concludes with the likely aftermath of this encounter and a few suggestions for further adventures.

This is a very cerebral adventure, which some groups might find dull - others will be entranced and thoroughly enjoy meeting something so unusual and possibly unique. It will need thoughtful GMing to make it work well, but should prove memorable when done well with the right group, capturing the real essence of exploration.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Burnout Paradise's online servers are shutting down after 11 years

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 18 April 2019 - 10:05am

Criterion Games is shutting down the servers for its 2008 game Burnout Paradise, a decision that affects the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC versions of the game. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

What Happens When Game Artists Design a Mural - by Tudor Morris Blogs - 18 April 2019 - 8:33am
While 99% of the time we're using our skills to make games, sometimes we get to use them to create something truly special—in this case a mural for a hospital room in partnership with Momentum Children's Charity.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

5 Basic Steps in Creating Balanced In-Game Economy - by Darina Emelyantseva Blogs - 18 April 2019 - 7:33am
The article addresses creating an in-game balance and will be interesting to anyone who takes part in the creation of games, especially producers and game designers.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Good intro vs. Great intro. What makes a game prologue gripping? - by Anton Slashcev Blogs - 18 April 2019 - 7:32am
An article about what methods great game prologues use to grip players attention, as well as about which goals they strive to achieve.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Referencing Objects: Names vs GUIDs - by Niklas Gray Blogs - 18 April 2019 - 7:29am
A comparison of the main ways to reference objects: names and GUIDs.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Gnomecast #64 – Shadow of the Century with Mike Olson and Morgan Ellis

Gnome Stew - 18 April 2019 - 5:00am

Join Jared for an interview with Mike Olson and Morgan Ellis, two of the developers who worked on Shadow of the Century from Evil Hat Productions as a follow-up to Jared’s review of the product here. Will this interview be enough to keep the Review Gnome (and his guests!) out of the stew this week?

Download: Gnomecast #64 – Shadow of the Century with Mike Olson and Morgan Ellis

Follow Mike Olson at @devlin1 on Twitter.

Follow Morgan Ellis at @mc_ellis on Twitter.

Follow Jared at @KnightErrant_JR on Twitter and his blog What Do I Know?

Keep up with all the gnomes by visiting, following @gnomestew on Twitter, or visiting the Gnome Stew Facebook Page. Subscribe to the Gnome Stew Twitch channel, check out Gnome Stew Merch, and support Gnome Stew on Patreon!

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Lights in the dark: How Ashen's design sets it apart from other 'Soulslikes'

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 18 April 2019 - 12:27am

Creative director Derek Bradley opens up about the design of A44's remarkable Soulslike Ashen, and discusses how subtle art and design choices set it apart from the bleak worlds of From Software. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Kickstarter's games category surpasses $1 billion in pledges

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 17 April 2019 - 2:38pm

Games on Kickstarter have brought in over $1 billion in pledges, though it†™s a milestone that includes both board games and video games. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Trion Worlds is shutting down Atlas Reactor this summer

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 17 April 2019 - 10:14am

The developer has already shut down in-game purchases and servers are set to go offline for good this June. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video game music composer gives lecture at the Library of Congress - by Winifred Phillips Blogs - 17 April 2019 - 7:32am
On April 6th, composer Winifred Phillips delivered the 1st game music composition lecture ever given at the Library of Congress, as part of their first-ever video game music event. This article includes a partial transcript of the lecture's Q&A session.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Teaching Tabletop Role Playing Games

Gnome Stew - 17 April 2019 - 5:11am

In 2011 I offered to DM a 4-hour session of DnD as part of a silent auction for NAMI. My friend Toni bid on it, totally not out of pity. On the successful note of raising a whopping $20, Toni told me she wanted to play with her wife and two friends except… none of them had ever played DnD or any other TTRPGs before. Without thinking it through, I said yes. Then when I started to plan the session, I stared at a blank page for what seemed like hours realizing I had no idea how to teach someone else how to role play.

It’s easy to overwhelm someone new in any hobby especially if it’s something you love and understand. Often we unintentionally miscommunicate for a very simple reason–the newbies don’t speak our language yet. Did you glaze past the terms “DM,” “DnD,” and “TTRPG” in the paragraph above? That’s probably because you know those abbreviations mean Dungeon Master, the one who plans and leads a tabletop role playing game specifically Dungeons and Dragons; Dungeons and Dragons, the flagship game of the role playing industry; and tabletop role playing game, the more generic term for the entire hobby. On the other hand, did you know what NAMI is? From context you know it’s a charity, but unless I spell out the full name as the National Alliance on Mental Illness you may not know what they focus on.

Before You Teach…

If you’re fluent in RPGs, there’s a step I recommend before planning a session for newbies. Play a game you’ve never played before. Preferably something radically different from what you normally play. If you’ve played from levels 1-20 in the same DnD 3.5 edition campaign for the past five years, try picking up something story-forward like Protocol or Fiasco. If you normally play the serious Dark Heresy, try the hilarious Crash Pandas. If you have local conventions, you can look for someone new there. If you don’t, ask your normal group to take a session off and try something different. Or, ask online or find a community like the Gauntlet where you can sign up for online games. If you have no idea what game to play, I recommend John Harper’s Lasers & Feelings or one of its hacks like Love & Justice by my copodner (co-host podcast partner) Senda Linaugh. Handily, you can listen to an adventure of Love & Justice on my podcast She’s A Super Geek BUT don’t just listen–you need to actually play something new. 

 Play a game you’ve never played before. Preferably something radically different from what you normally play. Share1Tweet1Reddit1Email

I get to play new games all the time because of She’s A Super Geek which does one-shots of different games focusing on women as GMs (that’s Game Master, similar to the term DM but considered more generic). When we started SASGeek almost 4 years ago, Senda and I were learning and running all the games. We’ve gotten to a place where a lot of creators, writers, or someone who has run the game a lot come onto the show to run those games for us. It’s amazing, and it means I’m constantly learning new games from the point of view of a player. It can be hard to break out of our fluent understanding of RPGs, so forcing yourself back into that newbie space can break you out of your fluency and give you some insight into what newbies at your own table might be experiencing.

But I didn’t have that experience back in 2011 when I sat down with Toni, her wife, and her two friends. I’m actually not sure of how good of a job I did teaching DnD to them. I remember that we told a good story, and they all had fun. The bard embarrassed herself in front of her crush. The rogue got to back stab their rival (emotionally and literally). The cleric  In the end, that’s what we want newbies to experience. We want them to understand why we spend time in this hobby, what draws us deeper into it, and why it’s worth continuing to learn. We don’t want to bog them down in rules, hard math, or (Cthulhu forbid) table lawyering. We want them to walk away with a hilarious story they want to tell others. So here are a few tips for you as the GM to ensure that happens.

GM Tips
  1. Make the characters–there’s nothing worse than wanting to learn a role play game only to get bogged down in details you don’t understand with the promise of ‘it gets more fun later.’ Create character sheets before hand with gentle role play prompts. If your newbie runs with another idea, that’s ok; but try to give them somewhere to go since they haven’t had experience building a character’s personality. Feel free to use pre-made characters from your system if they’re available.
  2. Plan a straightforward adventure–we all love red herrings, but we’re focusing on teaching the game. Make sure there’s an obvious thing they’re supposed to do. Don’t be afraid to use simple ideas like stealing a magical item from that castle, protecting a caravan as it travels to another city, or rescuing a kidnapped prince. Having a clear goal makes it easier to think of ideas about how to get there. Asking players to think of classic tropes from movies and tv shows can give them a reference point if they become a deer in headlights. A newbie may not know how their character would get into an exclusive club, but they may know what Buffy, Luke Skywalker, or Steven Universe would do.
  3. Have an experienced player at the table–newbies will look to an experienced player to set the tone and show them what’s possible. Just don’t let the experienced player take over the spotlight. Have a talk with them before the game and make sure they’re ok playing with newbies and either holding back or pushing forward depending on how the newbies react.
  4. Don’t overwhelm them with rules–don’t try to explain all the rules in the game up front. Assure the newbies you will teach them the rules as they come up in game. Let them choose their character’s name and go over the basics of reading the character sheet.
  5. Don’t overwhelm them with jargon–don’t use acronyms if you can help it. Try to explain things when the newbies are confused. Ask them if they’re confused. Encourage them to call out when you’re using a term they don’t understand.
  6. Create an inviting first scene–Give the players a reason to interact with each other. Are they all stuck in the same jail? Do they all know a retired adventurer who’s called them together for an unknown reason? This doesn’t have to be a traditional go-around-the-table-and-introduce-your-character-scene, but there’s nothing wrong with that!
  7. Create a skill challenge or small combat as the second scene–It doesn’t have to be an all-out battle. It could be a patron asking the characters to prove that they can handle a task or a simple go kill that low-level monster over there. They’ve stretched role play legs in the first scene. Now they get to work those mechanics a little. If it gets overwhelming, cut it short and move on. You just want to give the new players a chance to get a feel for the mechanics so that they know what’s possible within the game. 
  8. Make sure every character gets the spotlight–since you’ve made the characters, you know what they’re good at. Make sure everyone gets some spotlight time to do what they’re good at. If you’ve got a hacker, make sure there are computer locked doors in the way. If you’ve got a wizard, make sure there’s a book that only they can read. If possible you want the light to shine on each character for something both mechanical and role play-focused. 
  9. Laissez les bons temps rouler*–It’s ok if your straightforward plot goes off the rails. If they’re not having fun, do something different. A bad guy kicks in the door. A distress cry is heard from the next street over. Someone’s sword leaps out of their hands and starts singing. Just keep the game moving and make sure people are having fun!

Giving someone a window into our hobby can be amazing. Don’t be afraid to ask new people to play. You can teach them. After all, we were all newbies at some point. Someone else helped us learn how to play, probably multiple someones else. Being that person for someone else allows us to pay our experience forward, and hopefully they will do the same when the time comes. 

What games have you found the easiest or most difficult to teach? What did someone teach you badly or goodly when you started gaming?


*Let the good times roll

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Xbox merges Live Gold and Game Pass under Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 16 April 2019 - 2:49pm

The 2-for-1 subscription offers access to Xbox Game Pass' library of games and an Xbox Live Gold membership for one monthly fee. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

A now-fixed Origin vulnerability potentially opened the client to hackers

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 16 April 2019 - 10:46am

Until just recently, Electronic Arts†™ digital game platform Origin had a security vulnerability that could be used run malicious apps on a user†™s computer. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Importance of Being Refreshed: Why game jams can be a necessary distraction - by Patric Fallon Blogs - 16 April 2019 - 7:40am
Six months ago, my tiny indie studio failed our first attempt at crowdfunding a game. Without the inspiration that came from entering game jams, we may have never tried again.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

How I found my style on YouTube - by Stanislav Costiuc Blogs - 16 April 2019 - 7:38am
A little story of a Game Designer who found what type of videos he should make on YouTube
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Showing And Announcing We Are The Caretakers At PAX East - At The Same Time - by Scott Brodie Blogs - 16 April 2019 - 7:35am
A detailed look at what went into showing and announcing Heart Shaped Games' We Are The Caretakers at PAX East.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Don’t Browse ArtStation Too Much - by Vasburg E' Blogs - 16 April 2019 - 7:33am
Does ArtStation bring artists closer together or their art, making it more similar in the process? In this article, I discuss if there is an underlying pattern beyond industry quality standards and style from a pragmatic and artistic perspective.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Observations From A Gamer's Chair: Punched in the Face by Nostalgia

RPGNet - 16 April 2019 - 12:00am
All those things I will never experience again... *sniff*
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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