The Pandemonium Deck

The world doesn’t really need another variation of the deck of many things, but I built one anyway. I wanted to add something like it to my Ptolus/Pathfinder campaign, but had some slightly different objectives than I’d seen from other variations:

  • based on the Decktet deck
  • focus on individual cards instead of the whole deck, somewhat like Madness at Gardmore Abbey does
  • make assembling and drawing from the deck something the players would have to go out of their way to accomplish, instead of just lobbing the full-power, completed deck into a campaign
  • make drawing cards more difficult, but even more campaign altering than the original deck of many things if the players buy into it.

Though I requested some assistance with the deck from Story Games, I didn’t expect this to bear much fruit. My expectations were met.

If you have read this far, you probably know the deck of many things has a well-deserved reputation for breaking campaigns, where the result of one card would could derail all the action into some odd (and, to the group, inconvenient) place. There have been a number of variations of the deck, most of which seek to solve this problem by gimping the effects of drawing cards.

I wanted the pandemonium deck to go a different direction: rather than avoid the campaign derail, embrace it, but set things up so that everyone is expecting, even demanding, the derail. In broad strokes:

  • No one ever finds the ”deck” whole. People find individual cards.
  • If cards are present at a battle, one of them exerts an “influence” on the battle providing a moderate benefit that moves at random around the battlefield. (There are other assorted tricks, like forcing your card to be the influencing one, etc.)
  • Gathering more cards provides the owner with bennies.
  • If the players decide to make tracking down cards a thing they care about, at a certain point, mechanics kick in that accelerate this process (abilities to locate cards, communicate with those that have them, etc.)
  • Once the entire deck is assembled (presumably after quite a bit of effort), a ritual allows the more classic “drawing a card from the deck” major mojo. There is a slight bit of player control here (draw three, but choose the one that takes effect, etc.).
  • Drawn cards disintegrate and reform at random elsewhere, so must be collected again before another draw can be made.

The resulting deck can be found here: Pandemonium Deck

My favorite review of ’inkadia

Johathan Lavallee reviewed every Game Chef 2012 entry, giving each game four paragraphs about “the good”, “the bad”, “the other” and “would I play it”.

He said this about ’inkadia:

The Good: *stares at the work in shock, jaw on the floor* This is art imitating game.

The Bad: *stares at the work in shock, jaw on the floor* This is at times avant guard art imitating a game.

The Other: *stares at the work in shock, jaw on the floor* This is a dinner party, right? Also, moderately price game for a one time thing.

Would I play it? *stares at the work in shock, jaw on the floor*

I reply:
Totally nailed it.

Seven Spindles… named a winner in One Page Dungeon 2012 contest

Seven Spindles and a McGuffin was named one of the 24 winners of the One Page Dungeon Contest 2012. I appreciate the honor, even more so than last year, because my entry this year wasn’t as good and the competition really kicked up a notch. Thank goodness they named more winners this time around!

At the time of this post, the main site for the contest seems to have fallen down, but there is a PDF containing all the winners on a different site. (And this guy reviewed them all, mentioning this entry as “bereft of flavor or charm”. Hoo-rah!) Once the site comes back up, though, check out all of the entries (over a hundred, I think). People really brought it this year.

In honor of this win, I’m releasing the source files for this dungeon (under the same CC licence as the PDF). This zip file contains one Adobe Illustrator file with the dungeon map and one InDesign file that links to the map and contains the text and other stuff. If you use these sources for something, drop me a link to the results in the comments.

Looking for instructions for building Mobile Frame Zero frames?

In honor of the successful completion of the MFØ kickstarter, I’m volunteering to produce (and publicly post) seven LDraw files of mobile frames, with companion PDFs of assembly instructions. If you have a frame you’d like to see get this treatment, post it to the thread built for the purpose on the Mobile Frame Hangar forum. First come, first served and some restrictions apply.


My entry into Game Chef 2012 is ’inkadia. It’s about creating a post-apocalyptic setting by destroying an idyllic work of art by the late Thomas Kinkade.

My four random ingredients were not much help to me (even after they stopped returning 503 errors):

In any case, the “Last Chance” theme is what really triggered the design of the game. It immediately said to me “make a game with materials that get destroyed as you use them”. This then clicked with a thought I had when Thomas Kinkade died about using his images for a game.

I seriously doubt anyone will ever actually play this game, including me; however, as mentioned in the rules, post your final images here if you do.

Update: ’inkadia squeaked in as a last minute runner-up.

Seven Spindles and a McGuffin

Seven Spindles and a McGuffin (pdf link) is my entry into the One Page Dungeon Contest 2012. Much like last year’s entry (which was one of the winners) this one is more about dungeon structure than compelling narrative. In fact, the “story” is so minimal in this one that the whole entry is really more of a sandbox than an adventure. I sort of like dungeons that way, personally, but mileage varies.

I had some some goals for the design of this dungeon (and some observations after building it):

  • Must use a vector-based map. (Why? Well, note that this map is infinitely scalable, but the whole PDF is under 300KB.)
  • Wanted a dungeon with a couple totally different vectors of entry.
  • Provide the flow control usually supplied by different levels of a dungeon, all using a single map. The center spindle effectively allows this to be a six level dungeon on half a page.
  • Take a regional approach, where the dungeon is described by section rather that detailing each room.
  • Put some rooms at angles to the grid, but showing the grid in their own frame of reference.
  • Subvert the idea of dungeon as node graph idea from last year’s entry. It may be possible to node graph this dungeon, but I’m not entirely sure how to do it, especially since the small spindles are placed at random each time the dungeon is run.
  • Minimize hallways (if you were digging your own underground complex, you don’t get much return out of the labor). Some sections do this better than others.
  • Because each of the spindles serves eight potential openings, it turns out to be critical that the spindles turn in 45° increments. If they turned in 90° increments, I’m pretty sure that you can get situations where randomly placing the spindles results in unreachable rooms. Turning at 45° increments avoids this, though you might get cases where some rooms can only be reached if you stay in the spindle when it rotates.
  • Use psychology against the delvers. For example, in a couple of places, there are short hallways with a normal door on one end and a secret door on the other. The normal door is in the “more secret” area, so the idea is that if the delvers are already in the secret area and go through the normal door, when they find the (obvious) secret door at the other end, their tendency will be to go through it (“it’s secret, it must be protecting something good”), which actually leads them out of the secret area. Not sure if it would shake out like that in play, but that’s the idea.
  • Loved the idea of the spindles periodically sealing and unsealing sections, so that air, water and such rush in or out when the spindle moves. Like, if you are in a room with water up to your ankles and, meanwhile, the tide has risen outside, then the spindle turns and the high tide rushes into the room you’re in. Probably should have done more with that notion, but it is a) tough to do in one page and b) hard to explain and use.
  • The overlapping technique used in the fissure section, where one room is on top of another with a ladder between them, could have been used more. I thought it might confuse people, even though it is a bit easier to illustrate with the rooms at angles to each other.

I think last year’s entry was stronger, but when I went to the well this time, this is what came out.

Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack kickstarted

For its tenth anniversary, Mechaton, a game of giant fighty robots made of LEGO, is getting a revision and a new title. Today the Kickstarter for the new version started. Please help fund it.

Also, if you have a lot of cash, seriously consider one of the high level awards. Soren Roberts is an extremely talented LEGO designer and the rewards for his original work are rare offers.

Thanks in large part to prior posts here about Mechaton and LDraw, I’ve been asked to render the assembly instructions for the mechs in this product. Hopefully I can post some LDraw models when the product is published.

FUDGE d12 for Dicenomicon

Since Dicenomicon, my preferred dice roller for iOS allows for the creation and (cumbersome) sharing of custom dice definitions, I threw together a definition for a d12 that can be used for FATE games. Odds are the same as standard FUDGE dice (equal chances of “+”, “−” or ” “). They look like this:

Fate d12

You can grab the file here (might need to right click on the link and “Save URL as…”): Fate d12 definition for Dicenomicon.

How to use this file is not explained that well in the app and not that obvious. And way harder than it should be. I’d love to say “go to the obvious screen in Dicenomicon and type in this URL to download it”, but I can’t, because that inexplicably isn’t an option. There are supposed to be several ways to get the file there, but most of them don’t work (the “import from documents” route fails with a “stream had too few bytes” error).

  1. Download the definition file.
  2. On your iOS device, launch Dicenomoicon and hit the info button in the top right.
  3. Tap “Sharing”.
  4. Tap “Web-based Editor”.
  5. You are about to turn your device into a web server, briefly. Make up a username and password and tap “Start Server”.
  6. At the bottom of the screen, your device will display a URL to use. Open a browser on your computer (assuming it is on the same network as the iOS device) and go to that URL. When asked for a username and password, enter the one you just made up.
  7. In the page that comes up, click “Upload File”.
  8. Choose the dice definition you downloaded. Select “Numeric Die” in the “Kind of Upload” popup. Click “Submit”.
  9. Back in Dicenomicon, stop the server and go back to the main settings screen.
  10. Tap “Customize”.
  11. Tap “Custom Dice”. You should see the new “Fa12: Fate d12” in the list.
  12. So back to the customize screen. Tap “Dice Bar”.
  13. Tap “Edit”.
  14. Scroll to the bottom on the list and tap “Add Die…”.
  15. A “d6” will be added to the end of the list. In spite of being in Edit mode, you can’t edit this new die and this point. Tap “Done” instead, even though you are not.
  16. Now tap the new “d6” at the end of the list.
  17. In the screen that comes up, you will see a “d6” in a circle. Double-tap it.
  18. In the dialog that comes up, choose “Custom Numeric Die”.
  19. In the selector that comes up, choose “Fa12: Fate d12”.
  20. Click Done. Go all the way back to the main screen.
  21. At the end of your dice bar, you should see “Fa12”, which you can now use like any other die.

Lark #03: A retrospective

One year has passed since the third lark was awarded to help produce Sage LaTorra‘s game Powers For Good. According to Sage’s progress notes on the game, the iOS application he pledged to create is awaiting AppStore approval. This will make his release a couple days late but, since he also produced the totally excellent Dungeon World while making this game, I think we can cut him a little slack.

You may have noticed I’m not running a similar “$1,000 for an indie game” concept this year. This is mostly because I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with running it this year, but also partly for other reasons. Since the first lark, Kickstarter has grown popular for managing the risk of an indie game launch, and it may be a better fit for bringing quality games to market than contests like this one. I have made a point of funding nearly any rpg-related Kickstarter I find. I have to check to see if I’ve spent $1,000 on Kickstarters yet, but it seems like it might be a better use of the cash. Still thinking about it though.

I thought it might be interesting to see what became of some of the other ideas pitched a year ago. Some of these were already close to completion at the time. If you pitched last year, and I get the current details wrong or couldn’t find information about the game you picthed, post a comment to correct me. In the order they were pitched: