Friday, 23 December 2011

New Year's Resolutions

I am the Warden!!

Seeing as it's Christmas Eve Eve (yeah, that's right!) and 'tis the season for being with friends and family, I'm going with the assumption this will be the last post of 2011. Odds are I'll be right back online Monday, but let's play it safe, shall we?

2011 was the first full year of development for the Optional System and it's been an amazing experience thus far. But I've rambled on about this before. What I'd like to do now is write down some New Year's resolutions for the Optional System in 2012 in a non-binding yet highly encouraging format.

Publish Killshot: An Assassin's Journal
While my initial plan was to produce Redpill as the initial OS production, the Warden needs money. Plus, this mini-game has really started to take off and just screams for release. Some of the additions/alterations made to produce a smaller, faster version of the Optional System has lead to some dramatic changes to the core rules and I can't wait to click my DriveThruRPG bookmark and find Killshot's cover on the home page.

An Unexpected Bonus

I am the Warden!!

Finding the right playtesters can be a grueling exercise. Some send you excited emails eagerly awaiting the opportunity to test out your game and are never heard from again. Others seem to take the role seriously for the first little while until you start asking for follow-ups and read replies with nothing more than "Meh, it's OK." The remaining 10% take on this responsibility as requested and provide you with detailed accounts of their playtest and recommendations on what they found strong and lacking.

And then there are the few, the proud, the truly dedicated. The ones who treat playtesting like becoming godparents. I'm so proud to say Killshot has a table full of those playtesters.

I received an email last night from Brandon Neff and his wife, Cherie, who happens to run an acrylic printing business in Utah. They have taken the liberty of doing more than just reading, reviewing, and playing Killshot. A lot more.

They're putting together a 12" long Killshot logo. What you see here is the first step and from what I've been told, the completed version has been assembled with all the gory blood splatter and is on it's way to Canada. This is fucking awesome and will become a proud addition to my office - the space has already been set aside. Infinite thanks to Cherie and Brandon for this incredible gesture and I can't wait to hold that sucker in my hands.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Redefining the Pass Option

I am the Warden!!

Received an email last night from a playtester last night regarding the Pass option.
"This is listed as an automatic option. It was mentioned earlier that it cost nothing. Is this correct?"
By this, he wonders if the Pass option automatically costs an option because it is... well, an automatic option. According to my own rules, automatic options always cost a Team one option, yet the purpose of the Pass option is to freely allow Teammates to pass the Edge back and forth to each other at no cost.

This is one of the dangers in designing a truly original game and presenting it for the first time to outside players. In my head, the whole concept makes perfect sense and has nothing but clarity when I read it, but that's never the case when others absorb the same material. Defining this particular option has always been a tricky issue and I think it's now time to address it once and for all. The Pass option is a fundamental component of the Team mechanic. Without it, a Team cannot function as intended.

Grab your screwdrivers, people. It's time to make some adjustments.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Killshot: Behold, the Cover

I am the Warden!!

Mission accomplished! Killshot's playtest draft has been assembled and emailed to playtesters, making a fitting marker to end 2011. A full year of design and development on the Optional System has lead to a working draft of a game which is completely out of my hands. All playtests conducted so far this year have all been run by me and it's incredibly easy to run a fledgling game when you're the creator - I know what I meant when I wrote the rules. But do the rules makes sense to someone else?

Because I'm a graphic designer, I can't just send off a PDF from a Word file. I need a cover.

Playtesting will take place in January (fingers crossed) and likely continue towards March. During that time, I'll be working on layout and marketing in the hopes of having Killshot listed on DriveThruRPG by April/May 2012, including a Print-On-Demand copy. That's what I can't wait for - to have a professionally printed, bound copy of my first Optional System game. Sigh.

Until that fateful day arrives, I've set up a Killshot page for the blog. As production progresses, I'll keep posts here as well as provide previews, FAQ, and whatever other goodies I can come up with, including a little trick I thought about for a free PDF copy of the game.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Year of Experimentation

I am the Warden!!

The year is coming to a close and what a dramatic year it's been. While I could easily get into all the personal trials and tribulations of 2011, we'll stay on topic and talk about how the Optional System finally went from being random thoughts assembled from countless dog walks to an actual work-in-progress which has consumed my life. Looking back on this past year, I prefer to call it "The Year of Experimentation."

On January 2nd, the very first dice were rolled for the Optional System with my good friend, Kieron, volunteering to make the trip up here specifically for playtesting. We kept it simple, an undercover drug deal gone wrong with our lone, intrepid hero caught in the crossfire. There were no rules written down and Kieron's character sheet was a collection of scribbles, corrections, and amazing sketches (Kieron's an amazing artist - go to Links and check out his work from there). Oh, and he died twice. Like I said, it was a true work-in-progress.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Rule Number One: Building the First Killshot Job

I am the Warden!!

With Monday as a write-off - the problem with going through rehabilitation and assessments - I was really starting to feel the pressure. Two weeks ago, Killshot was supposed to be ready for playtesting. The boys were raring to go and simply needed the text and time. But something was missing.

Killshot: An Assassin's Journal RPG will contain three adventures, or "jobs," for players to try out in the competitive world of murder-for-hire. What hit me early on in the design process was that I've yet to write down a formal presentation for an Optional System adventure... and now was time to put up or shut up.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Killshot: The Logo

I am the Warden!!

75% of the first draft for Killshot sits on the screen at the moment. The remaining quarter consists of the first 3 jobs to be published in Killshot: An Assassin's Journal, but I'm tackling some heavy rewrites to create a solid storyline between each job rather than just pop out a trio of random assassinations. Whenever I hit these kinds of blocks, I always find logo design helpful to get the juices flowing.


I had some initial hesitation with the sniper's scope as it seems a little overused, but there's no denying its visual impact for instant recognition. When you look at this logo, it defines this game. I played around with using a grenade and a bullet hole to replace the "O" in Killshot with less significant results.

Now I'm ready to do some rewrites.

Kick-Ass Villains

I am the Warden!!

Ever roleplayed on a train before? We did during the Shadoworld Excursion a couple of weeks ago. When I was younger, my concern for standing out and "looking weird" roleplaying in public would have prevented me from doing so, but now I just don't give a shit. Roleplaying games have done more for me than any stranger has and so my teenage compulsion has gone up in flames. Plus, it's fun to see people walk by and wonder just what the hell we're doing and why it's not being done on a phone.

On our ride to Moncton, my buddy Kurt and I played the finishing scenes of the Matrix: Revolutions playtest with slight modifications for a solo game. Save for one part: the final villain, a program known only as the Gimp. He was a giant man adorned in black leather and a kinky zippered mask concealing his identity, though this wasn't as apparent as the gargantuan meat tenderizer he carried with him. Oh, and he was immune to firearms. Bullets would hit him, but never harm him. I wanted to see how a long hero would fare against this bastard and was really hoping for a wild ride of devastation.

Nope. Part of this one-sided slashfest was Kurt's decision to pull out his twin samurai swords from moment one rather than shoot first as I had expected. The other part has lead me to consider new and dramatic additions to villains, the subject of today's post.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Reporting Live From Canada

I am the Warden, the Canadian Correspondent for Roleplayer's Chronicle!!

That's right. Over my vacation, RPC put out a call for regional correspondents to cover as much RPG material as they could and I took the bait. As the Man in Can, I now have no choice but to make it to as many Canadian conventions as I can and talk about roleplaying from north of the border. I'm also starting a new weekly column on the site called Under the Hood, a look at RPG mechanics and how players' interpretations make them unique. My first article posts on December 11th on

Shadoworld: The End of the Beginning

I am the Warden!!

Notice a bit of an absence, did ya? I have to admit, last week's "vacation from unemployment" was exactly what I needed to refresh my creative juices. While this may sound contradictory as this blog is also supposed to act as fuel for the fire, there's nothing better than running what may have been the best game of my gaming career to not only rejuvenate creativity but also give me cause to sit back and reflect.

The main purpose of this Weekend Extravaganza was to wrap up the old Shadoworld campaign once and for all. Or, at the very least, wrap up the storyline so we could indulge in the occasional return to that domain. The main theme of Shadoworld is captivity; the PCs are prisoners magically sealed within an entire world through binding shadowmarks preventing them from ever leaving the former continent of Barsaive (from Earthdawn - I just blowed it up a little more and made the Horrors victorious over the Name-givers). At bare minimum, I needed to wrap up the continuous storyline involving one PC in particular, Dorion, and his quest to free his brother, Rheece, from a lifetime of servitude to Boccob.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Gaming Ain't Cheap: An Old Man's Tirade

I am the Warden and I remember a time when roleplaying games were cheap!!

That's right. Why, when we played RPGs, there was only one rulebook at the table shared by everyone and we liked it. We loved it! There were none of these player splatbooks, character sheets, d7s, miniatures, and such. There was one AD&D Player's Handbook, dice, pencils, and scrap pieces of paper. And that was it.

Now, as much as I'd like to rant about how publishers drove us into a cost-heavy market of product lines and residual marketing, there's only one guilty party we can truly point the finger at: ourselves. That same original AD&D campaign eventually saw the table fill up with multiple PHBs, minis, homemade terrain, individualized character sheets based on your chosen class, and more. As we got older, we got jobs and had loads of disposable income. While all of our "peers" were learning that money could be exchanged for alcohol, drugs, condoms, and bail, we used our resources to construct a massive reservoir of RPG goodness. We brought all of this on ourselves.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Redpill Diary #4: Down the Rabbit Hole

I am the Warden!!

Seems I've decided to juggle several balls at once this week. No longer content to balance the delicate conclusion of Shadoworld while working on building a playtest job for Killshot, I've suddenly felt the need to get some work done on Redpill as well. Might have something to do with the numbers my Matrix posts get in comparison to everything else (about a 1000% difference).

As I've said in my original declaration of this project, I'm aiming to make Redpill a truly epic free RPG unlike all the other Matrix wannabes out there but there needs to be a coherent start for curious readers to latch onto. I could spend pages and pages going on about all the history of the Matrix setting and the intention of my game design, but then you're just reading the same kind of text as every other game out there. I want something captivating right from the get-go.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Shadoworld: Loose Ends

The original Shadoworld logo, built long before I knew
how to make logos.
I am the Warden!!

These past couple of days have been remarkably emotional for me as I pour over all my old Shadoworld notes to compile everything for Shadoworld: The Finale. And it's been amazing and refreshing how much I can still remember with just a single name, reaffirming once again that my RPG design work has helped me regain confidence in my cognitive functions. After reviewing everything I have, a checklist of concrete plot points for this final adventure stand at the ready.

But I'm not writing about those individual points because my players read this blog and most of that checklist revolves around the revelation I call The Answer, the truth about why everything happened in the campaign. The Answer has existed since before designing the first encounter of the first adventure nearly 10 years ago and has only been tweaked here and there to account for new details, new PCs, and sudden moments of awesomeness waking me up at 4 in the morning.

My point being the entire campaign has been about revealing The Answer. So why am I still unwilling to write it down for the purpose of telling it to the players?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Shadoworld: The Beginning of the End

I am the Warden!!

For the past week-and-a-half, I've been plugging away at Killshot, producing 45 pages of material for rules and character creation and enhancement. Now I must put all that aside - everything involving the Optional System, for that matter - to start working on something I never thought would come: the end of my old Shadoworld campaign.

When I say "Shadoworld," I don't mean the campaign setting released by ICE. I didn't even learn about their work until a random Google search years ago. My Shadoworld is a D&D 3e campaign started back in 2001 with my good friends and regular gamers, Derek, John, and Kurt. It was a very intense, heavy-roleplaying, action-packed series of adventures simmered in a long-stewing backstory. Everything hinged around the PCs trapped in a prison world known only as Shadoworld to its inmates (which is Barsaive from FASA's Earthdawn game, except the Horrors actually finished off the Name-givers) run by an enigmatic figure called the Warden. Now you know where I got my name.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Killshot: An Assassin's Journal

I am the Warden!!

Been pretty quiet around here, huh? You don't think I've been slacking off, have you? Far from the truth, my friends, the Warden has been typing away.

I've been toying around with the idea of putting together a short, basic OSRPG mini-game for a couple of weeks to meet a couple of objectives. First, to demonstrate the Optional System in something a little more user-friendly than a generic system resource document. And second, because I'm broke. Sitting at home designing roleplaying games while unemployed doesn't exactly add any digits to the back account... yet. I wanted to design something quick and simple, yet engaging, to engage players and show off just how versatile the Optional System is.

The idea came to me suddenly last week and I've been plugged in front of my laptop ever since. It's (tentatively*) called Killshot: An Assassin's Journal. What could you possibly play in a game with a title like that? Why, assassins, of course.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Pieces of Pie

I am the Warden.

Believe it or not, this may actually be the first post not directly involving the Optional System. Sacrilege? Perhaps, but the mind cannot focus on just one thing without going a little ca-razy. Rest assured, OS remains behind these next thoughts, as well as every other independent game out there.

I've bitched about marketing before. I've often wondered if I should have studied it at some point and time, including now, but I always snap myself out of that mushroom-induced absurdity. Two-thirds of marketing, I've been told, is about what's worked in the past, meaning too much emphasis on copying success. Very little individual achievement. Pass.

I like ideas which buck trend, run off in their own direction, and work despite those odds. It's similar to improv, a passion I've been denied for far too long. When an improv skit works, it's pure gold because you're able to do what takes most people weeks or months of rewrites and rehearsals. It takes skill and talent and shoves it to the front of the line.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Redpill Diary #3: A Question of Choice

I am the Warden!!

While the majority of effort continues to focus on fine tuning the core components of the Optional System, my mind remains plugged into the Matrix. Mostly notes, concepts, and theories, issues which require decisions before taking it to the next step. One of the biggest remains how detailed the Matrix should be.

I had a "meeting" with a good friend about this very topic. I'm not a programmer by any definition - I still have trouble remembering the three buttons you hold down to reboot my Mac - but he is. And we talked about how the Matrix works as a hyper-virtual reality. In doing so, we came back to one major hurdle.

It depends on just how far down the rabbit hole you want to go.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Process of Elimination

I am the Warden!!

Playtesting can be a strange experience. At the end of our last session, my fiancee (those of you paying attention will know her as "Lady Warden") came to me after the guys left with a consoling tone and a sympathetic rub on my shoulder.

"Didn't go well, huh?"

Confused, I asked why she assumed as much.

"Because you guys didn't roll a lot of dice, you were just talking."

Au contraire, I explained. If anything, this last playtest was perhaps one of the most productive as we branched out from the core system into various alternatives for the dice mechanic. Seeing as this is called the Optional System, having just one method of achieving the same objective isn't mandatory. What came about from our last playtest was a fierce, competitive possibility to the OSRPG's dice mechanics.

Wanna hear about it? OK, you talked me into it.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Let the Playtesting Begin

I am the Warden!!

Behold the awesomeness of the Optional System. Optional: Playtest (v1.0) has been uploaded and can be downloaded from the Optional Library to the left or you can go to the brand spanking new Optional: Playtest page for downloads and more. Anyone new to the blog should definitely check this page out for details on what the hell I'm talking about.

Once again, anyone looking to try this game out is welcome to download the PDF, read through, and contact me with question, concerns, or ideas for your own OSRPG game. Looking to run a particular genre and want some creeds, options, and power? No problem. Ask and ye shall receive.

Monday, 17 October 2011

A Character Sheet In Two Pages

I am the Warden!!

In preparation for playtesting, the first volume of Optional: Playtest, and the constant whining of a certain pair who shall remain anonymous to the public, a new draft of the Optional Character Sheet is available. It includes a second page for various notes, equipment, writing down creed benefits, and three special boxes I'd like to explain.

Throughout fights and challenges in OSRPG, there are 3 events all players need to make note of: series, critical hits, and the Edge. All characters have their own abilities when any of these events occur in a game, so to help keep players organized, we've set up these three event boxes for you to write down as they apply.

Friday, 14 October 2011

No More Decimals, Version 1 Is Ready

What?! I haven't posted since Tuesday? Holy crap!!

(ahem, cough, cough) I am the Warden!!

For the past 3 weeks, I've been knee-deep in rewrites for the Optional System. Completely, from scratch, start to finish. It has been a refreshing experience and has boosted my confidence in this game. There's still a lot of work to be done (there's a reason why it's not recommended to design a huge game on your own), but I'm feeling really confident about the latest updates.

On my screen, Optional: Playtest Version 1.0 sits smiling. 108 pages and 50,000 words of awesomeness. It's so good, it requires a made-up word: cramtapulous. Creator's pride, perhaps, but I'm feeling positive tonight.

Still, I'm going to wait until the next playtest on Friday the 21st before posting anything for it, particularly with some of the new terminology to ensure clarity. In the meantime, my mind wonders how to make vehicles work in the Optional System.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Stunts, Boosts, and Blunders

I am the Warden!!

In the Optional System, a stunt is an attempt at completing two options simultaneously. Seems fairly simple, right? Yet no other concept in the game has undergone so many revisions and tweaks or caused so many bald spots on my precious scalp. As the game evolved into a more complex ruleset, stunts became a liability and was nearly cut from the entire process.

Many other games use a stunt mechanic, but these are your typical point distribution. Do this real good and you get a stunt point, or everyone gets to do one stunt per encounter, blah, blah, blah. Not me. I always wanted stunts to be an integral part of the game with inherent risks and wicked benefits, it just never played out quite as I hoped at the table.

Over the past couple of weeks as the latest batch of revisions make it from brain to computer, it's the stunt mechanic which has undergone the largest transformation to what I believe (AKA hope) will be the final version (or final enough that it just needs a little tweaking with difficulty dice and such).

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Redpill Diary #2: Real Men Use Their Fists

I am the Warden and I am Canadian!!

Go Habs! Go Jets! The clock ticks down to 4PM where the NHL finally restores some Canadian pride as Winnipeg has its first home opener in 15 years against my team of choice, the Habs. What does this have to do with the Matrix? Nothing, other than my eye darts to the clock every now and then to make sure I won't miss a beat.

The quintessential battle of wills between Neo and Agent Smith.
But I digress. Today, I want to talk about combat in Redpill (and every other other possible inception of the Optional System, for that matter). Specifically, hand-to-hand martial combat versus unloading a machine gun on the son of a bitch. During my first Redpill playtest (originally known as Matrix: Restoration), the players loaded themselves up with every firearm they could conceive of, including grenades and grenade launchers. Looking over their character sheets today, I noticed none of them prepared any Brawling skills or made any effort to prepare themselves for melee combat. They were expecting to enter the Matrix with guns blazing and nothing more.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Enhanced Abilities

A good archer can do more than launch an arrow
straight and true; he can slip it between the
branches of a tree and kill ya!
I am the Warden!!

Yesterday, I talked about changes to the Optional System's stats to their current, much more awesome form. For some players, it might not be enough, especially after you get a little experience under your belt or you're used to playing RPGs with a bit more substance to your stats.

Fear not, good gamer. The Warden has prepared an optional rule for implementing bonus features for stats, called enhanced abilities. While you may choose your stats based on character development and personal taste, enhanced abilities endow your character with an additional edge solely based on your stat selection. Sure, it makes sense for an archer to select Dexterity as a Body stat simply because she's an archer, but what does Dexterity really do for an archer?

Easy. For every +1d12 Dexterity focus dice an archer has, she can reduce a modifier's benefit by 1d10 circumstance dice on a ranged or burst attack once per series. For every additional focus dice in Dexterity, she can reduce the same modifier by 2d10 circumstance dice or save that second reduction for another modifier later in the same series. Once a new series begins, our archer can try this again. This allows her the ability to launch an arrow further than a normal character, ignore the Cover modifier, and more. Now we're talking, right?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Focus and the Power of Stats

An example of Strength vs. Dexterity.
If you don't know who they are, shame on you.
I am the Warden!!

I've said it before and I'll say it again. One of my goals for the Optional System is to create a D&D-level of mechanics with the tone of an independent RPG. Disagree with this statement all you want, but the majority of major RPGs (meaning those released by big companies like Paizo, WotC, and Fantasy Flight) consist of locked rules, loads of charts, and enough pages to club your GM to death with. Independent games are built using minimal concepts, loose interpretations, and an emphasis on narrative rather than action. Fans of independent games love how they can "do more of what they want" without being bogged down by rules, while fans of major RPGs (man, I'm really hating that term) praise them for their clarity and precision. And here I'm looking to make some kind of hybrid. Good luck to me, right?

Flexibility seems the greatest difference between these types of games. There are elements to the Optional System I need to make clear and defined with no room for error, most of them relating to action and combat, but then there are others which should have room to twist, turn, and go nuts with. The player should be able to take their current selection of stats, skills, powers, and circumstance dice to describe their own actions in whatever original fashion they like. It is this ability for players to describe their own actions and participate in their environment to create mechanical benefits where I want this system to excel.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Redpill Diary #1: Identity

I am the Warden!!

If you didn't read yesterday's announcement of my first fully detailed Optional System setting, then this might be a bit confusing at first. Go ahead, click here, scroll down to the bottom, then come back. All good? Let's continue.

Seeing as the first question players ask when you tell them about a new game is "What can I play?" it only makes sense to make this the first priority for Redpill. What do the players play? As leading as the title to this project may be, I want to have as much variety and exposure to the entire world of the Matrix as possible. It's not just about playing everything exactly as the films, but creating a vivid, expansive universe where players can mix it up and try something new.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A Look Back At The Last 49 And A Glance Forward

I am the Warden and this is my 50th post!!

Just over three months ago, my commitment to creating the Optional System truly began. It had been gestating for months before that and attempted at the table, though nothing had ever been written down on paper. The goal of this blog was to create a journal of progress, to motivate me to keep at it and think out loud when issues threatened to bring this game crashing down around me. To that end, it's been a rousing success.

I'd also be lying if I didn't admit to the need for attention to my work. Duh. To that end, it has been successful in meeting my first goal of playtesting: convince my friends. If my friends don't want to play it, what chance do I have of convincing strangers? I'd like to think I'm on course but I can't say for sure. Self doubt and all. Regardless, the game has evolved quite nicely over the last three months and there are parts of it I can't recognize compared to that first draft sitting in my mind.

To mark the occasion, I'm going to take a look back at the components of the Optional System and how's it changed since that first post on June 20th.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Taking the Red Pill

I am the Warden!!

Checking out stats for the blog this week led to a rather startling development. All of a sudden, out of the blue, there was a huge swell of people checking out the Matrix: Revolutions posts from last month. There are no coincidences online, so I started digging around. Luckily, there's a very good reason and it's causing me to believe I should fall of the grid more often.

Keanu Reeves spoke with fans at the London School of Performing Arts and it wasn't long before someone asked him about the Matrix. Drop quote from Ain't It Cool News:
Says he met the Wachowski's (no emphasis on the word brothers), for lunch over Christmas and stated that they had completed work on a two picture script treatment that would see him return to the world of the matrix as Neo. Says the brothers have met with Jim Cameron to discuss the pro's and con's of 3D and are looking to deliver something which has never been seen again. keanu stated that he still has an obligation to the fans to deliver a movie worthy of the title "The Matrix" and he swears this time that the treatment will truly revolutionise the action genre like the first movie. Wachowski's are working on a movie called "Cloud Atlas" at the moment, once that concludes they will talk again. 

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Optional Options?

This would be a shitty time to roll a 1.
I am the Warden!!

Busy, busy, busy, that's how it's been for the past week. Last Friday's playtest was perhaps one of the first in which the game was rather ho-hum, but more than reimbursed with the post-game discussion that proceeded it. In response to various breaks discovered in the Matrix playtest, I toned down some of the resources and went a bit too far. What followed on Friday was an interesting talk on probability and resources.

Since then, I've been plugging away on rewrites to shore up those gaps and fix up a few loose ends (particular stunts, which strayed too far off course from its original intention). What stands now may be the definitive first-draft release for Chapter 1; what's left are the individual dice groups and various character applications such as powers and skills. Any-who, I'm rambling and wandering away from today's post.

In that post-game discussion, the players offered their own take on some of the OSRPG's components. One of the reasons I chose these guys for initial playtesting is their experience in numerous independent games (especially Fraser Ronald from Sword's Edge Publishing). One of my goals for the OSRPG was to create an independent RPG with the range of a D&D-style game, hence the reason for a d20 as the base die. Fraser brought up a solid point I had not considered strongly enough on the greatest weakness to a d20: range.

Friday, 23 September 2011


I am the Warden!!

As you can see, I've been hard at work and unintentionally forgot to post anything since Monday. Playtest night is tonight and I wanted to have an actual hard copy at the table. Enough changes have been made since the last Friday playtest that everyone has to re-build their characters, so the idea of having real paper to flip through seemed best.

Pop this pic on Photoshop and zoom in on the title page. I'll have all these uploaded here on Monday. Next step, the red pen of doom!!

(Kudos to a certain sneaky bugger who snapped this shot. Why do I still look like a skinny dweeb when I'm almost 200 pounds?!)

EDIT: Based on the latest playtesting session, there are a couple more changes I'm going to make before posting the latest draft. There will not be any uploads on Monday.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Death and Thugs

I am the Warden!!

One thing has become apparent in OS playtesting: it's fun to kill thugs! By the dozens too. Watching those 1-hit wonders drop like stones never seems too much for players. Every once in a while, a thug delivers a nasty punch or shoot a hero in the back for a couple of hits of damage. Nothing big, but enough to piss off that hero to cash in a nasty reaction or two. While thugs can be considered a success without any design revisions required, perhaps it's important to consider the role of thugs in the Optional System and how they impact the game as a whole.

Commence with non-analytical data!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Speak Out 3: The Power of Geek

I am the Warden and I am a geek!!

There's a healthy combination of events going on in today's post, one I had not planned on until just a few moments ago. It's the final day for Speak Out With Your Geek Out and it's the one year anniversary of a rather traumatic event. How do they both come together? Better than chocolate and peanut butter, as it turns out.

On September 17th of 2010, I was the victim of a terrifying car accident. Seeing as my lawyer will bust a nut when he finds out I'm posting about it online during the ongoing negotiations, I will keep the details to a minimum yet express the consequences of that fateful day as concisely and dramatically as I can. These are the facts. As I drove straight through an intersection on a busy highway nearly 20 minutes from home at 100 km/h, I was struck by an oncoming car attempting to make a left turn. The impact sent my car into an adjacent ditch, causing a calcaneus fracture to my right foot and a severe concussion. Once settled in the ditch, the car quickly caught fire. I got out of the car and dragged myself away before it become completely engulfed in flames. How exactly that happened is uncertain because I have no memory of the event.

But that's not what we're here to talk about today. We're going to talk about the other 364 days since playing Hollywood stuntman and how my passion for roleplaying games has helped pull me through these trying times.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Speak Out 2: You Got Spoked

I am the Warden!!

Apparently, Speak Out With Your Geek Out is a week-long blogasm or it's taking everyone a whole damn week to get through all our geeky love and we're just getting more and more inspired as we continue reading. Fair enough, let's add to that gargantuan list, shall we?

Monday's entry into the postarama expressed my mistrust of acceptance as a geek. Mistrust may be a bit of a strong word as it implies I'm waiting for people to lure me into a basement lit by only a single lightbulb hanging from a chain and forcing me to watch hours of baseball until I turn; let's call it uncertainty. It's given me pause for thought and implies either I have extremely serious social issues (which is definitely on the table) or there's another underlying reason for this response. Being the introvert I am coupled with months of therapy, I wanted to explore this further.

Cue the meditation cloud.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Coming Up Next

I am the Warden!!

One peaceful night's sleep and it's time to start pumping out OS goodness again. Yesterday was an incredibly productive day on five fronts. A proud moment, to be sure, but keeping that kind of momentum running for two days in a row has always been a challenge. I'm feeling confident about it this time, having spent training points on bumping up my Concentration and Typing skills to give me 3 uses of +2d6 trained dice.

(Oooh, I've been waiting for the day when I could finally making an Optional reference.)

Yesterday's upload of Optional: Playtest weighs in at 79 pages, only 9 pages less than what's on the actual Word file. It won't be long now before everything still in working phases will be ready enough to make it to the next step: PDF. That brings me to today's topic, an overview of everything listed as "In Progress" for Optional: Playtest.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Sweat From My Brow: Version 0.5 Playtest Is Ready

I am the Warden!!

Finally, the last of numerous changes have been made and the Optional: Playtest PDF (Version 0.5) has been uploaded and added to the Optional Library on your left. It stands at 79 pages, so there's a good chance I'm going to keep these particular updates down to once a month. I may not have a life, but I have to expect the rest of you do before plopping another 80+ pages every month to start over from.

'Cause we ain't done yet...

Speak Out: The Good and the Bad

I am the Warden and I am a Geek!!

I've never been comfortable with all of this recent "tolerance" towards geeks. I grew up in the 90s where D&D remained a satanic ritual performed by scrawny weaklings were too much of a puss to shoot up their school like normal kids (their words, not mine). That's what I'm used to and honestly, I miss those days. When you did let it out that you played D&D, the look was a mixture of "Oh, you poor bastard" and "Jesus, get the fuck away from this guy." Now shows like The Big Bang Theory have made us... um, popular? See, I can't even say it without falling into disbelief. Just last month, I had a firefighter - a man who grew up on the high school football team - play his first RPG and loved it. My head still shakes over that.

Since I'm going to turn 40 in a couple of years, I'm going to start early on saying this. You kids don't know how lucky you have it now.

Speak Out With Your Geek Out! is a day to encourage those feeling excluded or misunderstood for their hobbies by society at large by regaling them with stories of triumph and understanding. To let you all know you are not alone and, while we may still operate on the fringes of society, we are many. Don't let our weight problems fool you, we can also be a highly active, motivated people. I'm posted this today because I was also a shy, geeky kid who's grown up to be a quiet, nerdy adult with a drawer for roleplaying shirts in his dresser.

I have two stories today, one spotlighting the tribulations of growing up with D&D and another highlighting the strengths of roleplaying. As any motivational speaker would, I'll start with the bad story.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Rise, Fellow Geeks!!

I am the Warden and I am a geek!!

Monday the 12th has become the first Speak Out With Your Geek Out blogfest where all us geeks rebel against our jock overlords and proclaim our... well, geekiness. And I don't just mean buying Season 4 of Big Bang, no, no. Anyone in their 30s who knows all about d4s grew up under the stigma of not going out and getting drunk on a nightly basis. You can find out more at the Speak Out site.

A Thing of Beauty (AKA The Tracker)

A quick screen cap of the Thing, or the Tracker.
I am the Warden!!

Phew. It has been some time since this much work has been poured into... well, any project. There will be a significant update to Optional: Playtest on Monday and I'll be spending the weekend getting the Version 0.5 PDF ready along with prepping a post for Speak Out With Your Geek Out on Monday.

But today is a special post. The unveiling of the very first Thing, or the Tracker. Behold its glory to the right and click here to download your own copy (including a full-colour and greyscale version) when you're ready to try out your own Optional System game. Each grid is large enough to handle your common poker chips and we are working on making our own chips for the Tracker.

While the Tracker hasn't been officially playtested, we have been working off a crude version  for a few weeks now using poker chips to keep track of each Team's options. Combining this with the edge (in red) and marking which Team declares a readied or defensive option (in blue), I'm hoping this tool will allow for some dynamic fight scenes in future playtesting.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Racial Creeds

I am the Warden!!

(And if you didn't know that by now.)

An incredibly productive day yesterday with all the revisions to the Optional System plugged in and ready for more playtesting. But that's neither here nor there, because my only reason for telling you that is to start moving on to new material. And since I'm in a crazy creed-building mode, I'm gonna stick with that theme.

As the majority of my playtesting at home consists of fantasy campaigns, race plays a factor in our stories. Our monthly Friday night game doesn't really stretch the boundaries of the imagination: two humans and a tiefling from D&D. Yet no fantasy game seems complete without a wide variety of races, both classical and modern, to demonstrate the depth and scope of your world. As a human fan, it's rare for me to branch out into something else other than the adaptable human, but there's no denying the love for dwarves (aye, with a thick Scottish accent ta boot!), elves (though I feel their immortality or longevity has been poorly overlooked in nearly 95% of all settings), halflings, and for most others, gnomes. (I can't stand them myself. Long story.) Therefore, the time has come to start looking at how creeds can bring these races to life.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Revolutions: Drastic Changes to the OS Team Mechanic

I am the Warden!!

It's been close to a month since any updated Optional: Playtest has been posted here and that's weighed on me. Perhaps it may be unrealistic on all of us to have an updated version of the rules posted every week (I might not have a life right now, but you guys surely must), but I wanted to have something ready for this Labour Day Monday to demonstrate some of the massive changes to the core mechanics of the Optional System.

And there's still more to come, rest assured. Work continues today on revisions to Chapter 2: Base Die and Chapter 3: Master Dice as stats are reversed to work with master dice with a more applicable method instead of its original, abstract version. I've left out the creeds from Appendix IV at this point as their options still need some work (particularly the Spell option and numerous other specialty options).

Optional: Playtest Version 0.4 is now available under the Optional Library to your left (or click here if you're lazy and/or on a mobile device). Today, I'm going to discuss one of the most dramatic changes to the game thus far. A change so dramatic, it needs visuals to explain it properly... and who doesn't like visuals?

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Focus: Rebuilding The OS Stunt Mechanic

I am the Warden!!

For the past four days, I've been mentally locked at my desk pondering all the upcoming changes to the Optional System's core mechanics, eagerly figuring out how to implement the Tracker (oh, you'll see), discussing character sheet revisions with Lady Warden, and setting aside a large chunk of today to write another revisions to Chapter 1 (again).

Then it hit me. Stunts won't work in this revised mechanic. Actually, they will, but they'll be no different than any other dice roll. All that thunder and lightning has become nothing more than a pretty screensaver. Crap.

So I turn to you, my faithful followers and casual observers, for advice and opportunity to peruse through the following random thoughts as I hope to dissect what was one of the most exciting elements to the OS (IMO) and return it to its former glory better than ever.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Part Of A Team

I am the Warden!!

Wow, three posts in one day. You'd think I was unemployed or something.

Just a few words to mention I Am The Warden!! is now part of the RPG Blog Alliance and the request has been submitted for the RPG Bloggers Network in the hopes of getting the word out for the Optional System.

For anyone reading this for the first time, welcome welcome and thanks for clicking. For a quick and simple version of what we've been up to so far, just check the Optional Library to the left and feel free to download the latest version of the Optional System.

Replacing the Flux Capacitor

I am the Warden!!

If you've read my last post on the Matrix: Restoration playtest, then you'll know that we broke the Optional System. And it's a good thing. Breaking the game allows you to see the long-term flaws of a game should you allow it to extent to the point of ridiculous bonuses and limitless potential. If you don't push your mechanics to the limit, you'll never know what they can do.

This past weekend, we were rolling into the 70s, 80s, and even 90s on some rolls. It... was... insane. And while this may seem to border on the absurd, one key element remained. We had fun. Every playtest I've ever run so far has resulted in every player shouting out for joy at least once. That, to me, counts as a huge success. From these results, we discussed what worked and what didn't to develop revisions to many of the core mechanics of the Optional System. There's quite a few of them, so get comfy and let's get started.

Matrix: Restoration (The Finale)

I am the Warden!!

For those of you keeping track, this past weekend was our third GATL (Gaming At The Lake) and I think it's safe to say it went off with several hitches, though none of them gaming-related. Numerous last minute cancelations and a very unexpected trip to the hospital for one of my friends reduced our gaming time to just a few hours rather than an entire weekend. Needless to say, we were able to delve into the first half of Matrix: Restoration and it was well worth the time.

The short and sweet version of it: we broke the game. Holy crap, did we break it, but in a good way. Playtesting is not complete unless you break your game at least once in this phase and we thoroughly tore it a new one. Through these breaks, we have figured out a much better version of the Optional System. (See my following post, Replacing the Flux Capacitor, for details on these changes.)

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Matrix: Restoration (Part 4)

For the record, Neo is not a Monitor. He's the One.
I am the Warden!!

Seeing as this may be my last post for this week, I figured it a safe bet to make it worthwhile. After wrapping up the latest round of physio and neuropsyche tests on Monday, the rest of this week is dedicated entirely to Matrix: Restoration's premier on Saturday. And the Monitor creed is ready with a nice, pretty (yet simple) layout.

Download it from here or use the Optional Library to your left to have a peak and let me know what you think. If I had the time, I'd be working on an Operator creed, but I haven't been blessed with insomnia so we'll have to make due with this for now.

Probability and the OS

Dice, dice, dice, dice, dice. 
I am the Warden!!

I command you to read this article on dice probability. Very thorough, very interesting, and more importantly, very easy to read. For a guy like me, it's much easier than listening to a friend of mine ramble on about probability.

Go ahead and read the article then feel free to come back.

Good? Then let's protrude into how these applications of dice to the same type of roll affect the Optional System.

Friday, 19 August 2011


I am the Warden!!

Over two months ago, I set out to create means for spellcasters to invoke spells and improvised bursts of magic known as arcs in the Optional System. Hence the Spell option was born. In this version of magic, casters summon/introduce/create unique effects through a series of ritualistic incantations completed within a short period of time. To explain it mechanically, you need to successfully roll a certain number of Spell options in a row to cast a spell.

While these options are currently undergoing playtesting (in fact, we're testing it out tomorrow), something bothered me about the Spell option. Not the Spell option itself, but casters in general. Was I creating a magic system similar to others in which magicians/wizards/priests had more than half of a sourcebook dedicated to them while fighters/warriors/rangers just needed to know the name of their weapon? Was I creating an unfair bias against non-casters?

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Updated Character Sheet

I am the Warden!!

While it may only be the 2nd Optional System character sheet posted here, it's the 7th version of the ongoing process. With room for gear and bonus dice, plus revisions for armour and weapons, Version 7 of the OS Sheet is ready for you!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


I am the Warden!!

A lot of people don't know this but I'm a film school dropout. One year at Humber College in Toronto and a large majority of it was theoretical, not practical. We learned what all the equipment is for, what is does, and how it does it but those suckers were smudge free as far as first year students went. Since those days, my interest in filmmaking remains though I keep it to a casual hobby rather than striving to break into the movies.

I've been using movies in my games for near on 5 years, right around the time I purchased my iBook G4 laptop and it came with the free version of iMovie. Actually, I was doing it for a year or two before that with whatever "program" I had on my PC. Opening credits, title sequences, scrolling text, and flashes of artwork set to music. They've been an incredibly effective way to setting the mood and getting players right back into the action without the bore of reading text aloud. With the Optional System, I'm looking to take this a bit further and turn these sequences into an aspect of the game.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Say Hello to the Bad Guy!

I am the Warden!!

And I had to use that mixture of Scarface quotes. I had to! It was too perfect.

Usually on Mondays, I like to post the latest update to Optional: Playtest but there wasn't enough work put in last week to have anything significant for you. Lots of thinking, not a lot of writing. Instead, let's concentrate on that most crucial of challenges for any OS adventure: bad guys.

I've been playing around with some bad guys - various monsters, particularly orks - for the last few playtests and now the time has come to pull out a hammer and use the good nails on these suckers. While the formatting may be nothing to hand out awards for, it does the trick for what's required right now. (1 training point to whoever can guess which program I used to draft him up. Then lose 1 training point for being so cocky about it.)

Friday, 12 August 2011

Skinning a Cat

I am the Warden!!

Let's not get into particulars with the title of today's post, let's instead focus on the intent behind the old saying "There's more than one way to skin a cat." It has nothing to do with the fact that my cat, Markus, woke me up two hours earlier than I wanted to get up because he threw up his food overnight and was now hungry for more. Despite how I feel about that little shithead this morning, I'm still a cat person. For now.

There are two reasons why this week has been quiet on the blog front. One, I've been pondering over two matters this past week: a publishing name and a new setting/game for the OSRPG. Two, I'm under specific order to play Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess by one of my occupational therapists. I know, it's horrible, but she feels learning to control my stress by playing frustrating video games can be very helpful. And since I love Zelda games but can't stand the Z-tracking system, it's a perfect fit. Plus, I'm under orders to play video games for my mental health!! How the hell do you turn that down?

Monday, 8 August 2011

Optional: Playtest (Version 0.3)

I am the Warden!!

I'm committing myself to providing updates to the Optional: Playtest document every Monday right here on this blog thingy for as long as necessary until there's no longer an Optional: Playtest document. And wouldn't ya know it, it's Monday.

Version 0.3 now sits at 64 pages of experimental goodness with a few updates, primarily the monk creed (based on D&D's monk - I'm working on something a little more "modern" that's not D&D to show some versatility in this system), updates on Appendix I: Options (only those options available to all characters, not dependent on a creed, will be listed here), rules for gaining and losing the edge, rules for stunts, and a couple more tweaks here and there in Chapter 1: Mechanics.

More importantly, a first draft of Chapter 4: Circumstance Dice is provided to explain how d10s play a role in the game. It talks briefly (as all playtest docs should) about modifiers and gear.

To keep things simple, I've added bookmarks to the PDF with each updated section highlighted in red.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Matrix: Restoration (Part 3)

I am the Warden!!

I need a breather from all the awesome tweets and blogs talking about Gencon. As technology steps up to meet the pace, it becomes more and more obvious every year just how much I'm missing. Even Lady Warden knew it was Gencon and she's far from the roleplayer we are (though she does know which is the d10 in the pile). If you're sitting at home like me wishing you were invading a convention center at 1:30 in the morning rolling dice and sliding minis across a map, let's comfort each other, shall we?

Now that we have all that bonding out of the way, let's talk Matrix!

Thursday, 4 August 2011


I am the Warden!!

Remember the latest draft of Optional: Playtest? Yeah, scratch that. Got another one for ya. Version 0.2 now features Chapter 3: Master Dice and, more importantly, Appendix IV: Creeds. Which brings me to today's topic: creeds.

The initial design of the Optional System was intended as a classless system based entirely on spending training points and while that option remains, it was obvious a class-based system did have its advantages, particularly when it comes to drawing in new players. For this, concessions were made but the important absolutes remained. First of all, there are no "class levels" in the Optional System. For that, creeds have become templates for character creation.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

In Absentia

I am the Warden!!

Last night, I posted a link to the current draft of Optional: Playtest. If you're looking at a proper website (not the mobile version), you'll notice the link under The Optional Library to the left. What's posted here is only a fraction of the actual Word file (that's jumped up to 63 pages as of last night and I haven't even added the monitor creed from the Matrix work), but Optional: Playtest contains the basic elements to understand what the OSRPG is all about.

Or is it? Where's the combat chapter? There is none. There is none?! How can I design a fluid RPG designed to emulate martial arts films without a combat chapter. That sounds like a blog entry to me.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Optional: Playtest (Version 0.1)

I am the Warden!!

Patience is not exactly a virtue of mine when it comes to keeping secrets. Or holding onto a project for even a few hours. Especially when I'm holding onto a project for even a few hours. Take now, for instance.

This is the current draft for Optional: Playtest, the rules-in-progress for the Optional System. Currently sitting at only 28 pages, it holds just the Introduction, Chapter 1: Mechanics, Chapter 2: Base Die and (more importantly) Appendix I: Options - including all 5 base options. I'm working on setting a permanent link to this PDF but in the meantime, have at 'er.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Matrix: Restoration (Part 2)

I am the Warden!!

(It has been pointed out I should be referring to myself as the Architect when I'm talking about the Matrix. Very true and very cool, but perhaps I'll save that for the credits page.)

Us Canadians have the pleasure of a long weekend (Correction: Us Ontarianians) that's been used for two ends. One, helping Lady Warden rearrange the living room and rewire the entertainment centre. Two, sit in front of this computer while the sun shines and pop out thousands of words on how the Matrix and the Optional System go hand in hand. How well have things gone? Let's just say there's no longer a glare on the TV during the day and I look paler now than when the weekend started.

Challenge Is Where You Find It
As anyone who likes to think of themselves as an RPG designer should, I did a quick search for other Matrix RPGs (all freebies) to see what's been done before. An interesting note is that no one likes the sequels. One RPG in particular, There Is No Spoon, comes right out and insists any player who mentions Reloaded or Revolutions be slapped in the face. Ouch.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Matrix: Restoration (Part 1)

I am the Warden!!

While the rest of you are heading out to Gencon with your suitcase repacked from ComicCon (or SDCC, if you like, since that's now the trend), I'm making preparations for our own gaming convention. Gaming At The Lake weekend, or GATLing, as we call it. It's a very exclusive con for gamers in the Ottawa area with only 6 seats available and we'll always booked well in advance.

For our 3rd GATLing, we're breaking from tradition (we normally play a D&D epic level slaughterfest where the main villain is a deity; first it was Orcus, then Pelor on the hit list) and running the first Optional System playtest. To make the event twice as sweet, I'm working on a Matrix one-shot and calling it Matrix: Restoration.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Shouting To The Void

I am the Warden!!

On the Internet, no one can hear you promote.

I am not a promoter, never been one for marketing, can't stand commercials, and have a quiet, withdrawn personality. "Pushing product" is not one of my strong points and I've accepted that. Even during my days in retail management, my upselling was shit, mostly because I hated listening to these pitches as a customer. Yet as a publisher/RPG designer, I must promote my own work. As I started to piece together the building blocks of the Optional System last night, it started to hit me. How the hell am I going to get people to not only check this sucker out, but spend money on it? That's the $50,000 question.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Playtesting: The Stonehut Massacre

I am the Warden!!

I love playtesting. Correction: I especially love playtesting when everything works like magic. Our first regular OSRPG playtest went down on Friday and I could not be more pleased, not only because everything worked (for the most part, some things are still being tweaked) but everyone involved had loads of fun. We even had the unexpected benefit of introducing a non-gamer to RPGs on the same night and he found everything easy and disturbingly fun. (The fact that he had more ork guts spewed across his clothes was an indication of just how well the new guy did. Let that be a lesson to everyone out there - noobs can save the day.)

The Stonehut Massacre
Our story takes place in an unnamed world and continues to tell the plight of two watchers (think of rangers assigned to patrol the woods around their community) on the run from a legion of orks. Pushing their horses through the woods overnight, they came across a fortified stone hut belonging to an older human by the name of Jamus. With their wounds overpowering their urgency to reach the town of Haven, the two watchers took refuge in Jamus' home.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Damage Thresholds: An Optional Tool for Armour

I am the Warden!!

I love my nighttime walks. Though I might not enjoy it as much when I come home and my busted foot throbs like a snake bite victim, it's always the perfect time to review the day's events and ponder all those random thoughts running through my head. Every now and then, an idea pops into my head so suddenly and voraciously, I literally stop on the street and proclaim "Holy shit, that's brilliant!" Hence the reason why I walk at midnight: fewer witnesses.

While reviewing my internal notes for tonight's playtest, I started thinking about a supporting character's armour rating and an archer PC's weapon damage when it struck me. Damage thresholds. What happens as a character get wailed on time and time again? Are they struck by each failed defense roll or do we use the Star Wars application of hit points and vitality? Shouldn't there be a limit to just how much damage a character can take before something starts to slow them down?

Seeing as we've covered the basics of the Optional System thus far, it's time to enjoy the original purpose of this blog. Discussing new concepts and rules. Let's crack some knuckles and get started. Ow.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

I am the Warden!!

It's been a busy day today, but in a good way. A little prep work to get me fired up for Game Day. Enjoy!

Who Watches the Watchers?

The OSRPG character sheet, that's who.

Oh, sorry.

I am the Warden!!

Tomorrow is the next playtest for the Optional System and while I had originally planned to start the converted D&D-OSRPG campaign, we've altered the plans due to a player's GenCon attendance. (If you happen to be sitting down to a little Sword Noir, tell Fraser that Fish said shoot 'em in the foot.) Instead, we'll be picking up where another OSRPG playtest took off and I couldn't help but reward my loyal quartet of followers with a preview of where it's all headed.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The OSRPG Logo!

I am the Warden!! Behold the logo!!

In preparation for our next playtest on Friday, Mrs. Warden has been working on a preliminary logo for the Optional System with her remarkably handsome fiancee supervising. Why did we need a logo already? Perhaps you'll find out... tomorrow.

Absolute Power!

I am the Warden!!

I have a line stuck in my head from a favourite Canadian stand-up, Joey Elias, about dinner at the Lindros home. You know, Eric Lindros. Hockey? He had something like 10 concussions? For those of you who mock my sports metaphor, just stick with me on this. He talks about how engaging the dinner conversation must be.

"I like soup! What about you, do you like soup?"

You know what? I like soup! It's good to keep things simple and reliable. Fantasy gamers like soup too. It's simple, it's tasty, and it keeps you warm on a cold blustery day. Just like powers. How's that for a segway?

Whether they be mystical, scientific, nuclear, granted by the gods, or endowed as the result of a freak accident, powers represent that generic category of wizards, superheroes, and sci-fi enhancements. Without these powers, our characters are just a bunch of well-trained fighters. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) They allow us to fly, blast through walls, set people on fire with just a thought, summon a bolt of lightning, dominate a weak-willed creature, and any other infinite concept imaginable. Powers are what make these games fun.

Monday, 18 July 2011


I am the Warden!!

Skills!! It's time to talk about skills. Last week's series of posts on opposed rolls and difficulty dice brought up some concerns regarding the simplicity/complexity of a mere d20 vs d20 concept. Some people thought the entire idea was overly simplified while another (who shall remain anonymous here, but he knows who he is) had a rather intrigue calculation I wanted to quote.

So, be careful with costs. Doubling the number of people rolling and doing math on each roll makes each decision take longer.
And 1d20+strength vs 1d20+door quality is the same as (1d20-1d20)+strength vs door quality. And (1d20-1d20) is very similar to (1d20+1d20-21). So what you actually did was take 1d20+strength vs door quality, to 2d20+strength vs door quality+10.5.
It goes a bit deeper than this. When you roll 2d20, you don't get the same distribution as 1d20*2. A better approximation is actually 1d20*square root(2)+6, with "critical" fumble rules for rolls of natural 1 and 20. From the narrative of success/failure in a given game, you won't be able to distinguish between a scaled and shifted 1d20 from a game where you roll 2d20.
Now, I'm not saying that "both sides rolling" isn't a good idea: but rather, "both sides rolling" by itself adds costs without changing outcomes. There needs to be more "meat" to it than just "more people rolling".

This last part brings us to our next segment on the Optional System: skills.

Friday, 15 July 2011


I am the Warden!!

We don't just want to succeed, do we? Nah, we want to kick ass. Clubbing someone over the back of the head is fine and dandy, but it's not as good as knocking them unconscious. And that also applies to clubbing someone on the back of the head in a roleplaying game.

Welcome once again to the blog and another installment of "What Crap Has He Come Up With Now?" Oh, I have the biggest, smelliest pile of crap for you today and some homework for extra credit. Today, we're going to talk about success levels.

The Hits Just Keep On Comin'
When you make an active roll against opposing dice (or difficulty dice), you succeed if you roll higher than your opposition. This grants you 1 hit and commonly represents the necessary energy and effort needed to pull off the attempt. But it gets better the higher you roll. For every 10 points rolled higher than the opposing roll, you gain 1 additional hit.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Opposition 2: The Return of Opposition

I am the Warden!!

Challenges come in one flavour: all of them. Spontaneously, randomly, and unexpectedly. Just when you expect the face a bitter snowstorm of stress, Life dishes out a hot heaping of difficulty. Nothing is what it seems and while you can't change the balance in the universe to let you find a great parking spot, the best you can do is develop your skills to succeed where others would fail.

Depressing as that last paragraph sounds, it's not made to depress. This is the basis for difficulty dice in the Optional System and it's time to pick up where we left off yesterday.

Randomizing the Unexpected
Difficulty dice provide the opposition to a character's attempts at performing any option not directed at another living creature. Manipulating inanimate objects, climbing, jumping, interacting with the environment are all applications for difficulty dice. Think of them as Life's opposing roll.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


I am the Warden!!

Several hectic days have come to a close and peace has settled across the land. While a few skirmishes break out here and there (particularly between the armies of Dog and their newest recruit sneaking into enemy territory to get revenge on the realm of Cat for drinking from her water dish), I'm ready to sit down and tell you some more about the Optional System.

With some of the basics in mind, I can finally start to develop a signature for this blog. Or at least think about what that signature might be. To be completely honest, self-promotion is one of my weakest points. This blog was intended as an introductory tool-slash-live exercise in RPG creation hoping to cash in on followers through discussion and curiosity alone, giving it room to flower into something beautiful from there. So with the basics on options and dice in store, we can begin to discuss the means behind the madness.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Dice, Dice, Dice

I am the Warden!!

Before I get started, a little inter-personalizing conversation. Apologies to the both of you (Hey, I have no delusions at this stage. The ENnie nominations just came out and I'm feeling a little "glass half empty" today...) for the lack of posts, but it's Medical Week here on Oprah. Luckily, the only thing I've been poked with is an acupuncture needle. And with an extra half-hour on the schedule before my last appointment (I'm getting hooked up to a lie detector to measure my stress), it's time to tell you about dice groups.

Too Much?
When I first set out to create a new system, there was no intention of making a dice pool game. In a sense, I still don't consider this a dice pool, but there's definitely the option to do so. In spades.

The Optional System provides players with up to 4 types of dice known as dice groups, each one consisting of a particular die type for maximum application. By restricting a certain die (such as a d6) to a particular dice group, you'll always be able to separate your trained dice (d6s) from your circumstance dice (d10s). Let's take a look, shall we?

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Options, Part 3

I am the Warden!!

We've made a lot of progress on options this week, but we're not done yet, class. But let's review before we carry on any further...

Options are used to attempt all actions in the game. There are two types of options: dice options require you to roll dice for your attempt and automatic options happen simply by describing them. There are 5 base options: Attack, Move, Quick, Pass, and Free. Whenever you succeed on a dice option, you gain a bonus option to use for any option available to your character.

These are the standards for all characters in the Optional System. And there are more. Options allow you to create your own unique individual as you spend training points to learn new options. For these additions, there are more uses, applications, and definitions for options. To keep things simple, I've listed them in alphabetical order.

Defensive Options
During the initial design phase of this system, I pictured all opposed rolls as a combination of dodges, blocks, and parries intertwined. As time went on, there was still something missing and so I turned to my old swordhandling class I took at Algonquin College in Ottawa. Defense is equal to offense in combat. Many feel a focus on one or the other is the way to go and common sense says defense lets you live longer, but you can't win if you only block and you'll get hurt or killed if you just lunge forward. Combat requires a fair balance between the two sides and using opposing rolls puts that concept on the table. But to design options only usable for offense just seemed a little counterproductive to that theory - there needed to be options adding to your defense as well.

Defensive options are unique in that they are delayed options. Take the Parry option for example. You can parry as part of your opposed rolls, don't get me wrong, but training your character to use the Parry option means you plan to do more than just bat that sword away with your spear: you plan to twist your attacker around and make a counterattack. To use the Parry option, you have to declare it on your turn but you do not roll it until you defend an attack of your choice after your Team's turn is done. All defensive options work like this. They cost attention and focus from your character in combat and hence you have to sacrifice an option from your Team to pull this maneuver off, but when you complete a defensive option, you gain the edge over your opponent and you gain a bonus option. When you pull off a defensive option, you regain control of combat and start gaining bonus options outside of your Team's turn. It can be tactically risky: if you fail to defend the attack with your Parry option, you've just wasted an option. But if it works...

Trained Options
What kind of RPG doesn't have skills? OK, what kind of modern RPG not emulating old-school material doesn't have skills? Some options can only be unlocked and trained after you've learned a particular skill. Other come from utilizing a certain weapon, undertaking a class, belonging to a certain race, and more. These are all trained options.

Options will come from numerous sources throughout the game and they require training points to unlock. Many weapons will have trained options attached to them, usable only when you have the weapon listed in your hands. Rogues have access to the Sneak and Hide options, wizards have the Spell option, and so forth. Some trained options can replace the standard options and reactions by automatically providing extra bonuses, just like the Charge option. While a regular charge can only be made as a stunt, the Charge option does it all automatically without the risk of a stunt.  Trained options are a healthy combination of class features and feats rolled into one.

All trained options are divided into subcategories (c'mon, I ask you again, what RPG doesn't break things into subcategories?) based on their source: item, skill, power, etc. This certifies your character uses the item or skill listed as part of the option.

Class Dismissed!
Like everything else posted to this blog, details and rules will change over time and termination will become tighter, but those are the literal options of the Optional System. Because she's a dice-heavy game, we'll talk next time about dice. Lots and lots of dice. ;)