Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Villain Codex II Open Call still open for a few more days!

If you're interested in creating villains for the Pathfinder RPG and seeing them published, consider submitting something in the Villain Codex II open call! The deadline is the 30th. See the announcement here!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bad Design Alert: Don't create a problem just so you can solve it

Advice: If the premise of an ability is your interpretation of how the rules should work rather than what is actually written in the rules, you're going to be in trouble.

Examples: You're designing a weapon special ability or spell that makes firearms as quiet as bows. Two-handed firearms become as quiet as longbows, while one-handed firearms become as quiet as short bows. Congratulations, you just designed an ability that (from a RAW perspective) does absolutely nothing. Don't get me wrong, I also think firearms should be louder than bows, but since the rules don't support this interpretation, I just house-rule it in my games. (I think it may have been mentioned in flavor text that guns are loud, but nothing in the rules text suggests they are louder than other weapons.)

Another example would be an ability that makes your teleportation spells look like the target(s) turned invisible instead. Or the other way around, when you turn invisible, it looks like you teleported. The problem is that the most iconic teleportation spells, dimension door and teleport, don't describe how you vanish. Does it look like using a transporter in Star Trek? We don't know!

The only teleportation ability (that I remember) that involves a visual description of the effect is the cape of the mountebank which explicitly describes the visuals: "When he disappears, he leaves behind a cloud of harmless gray smoke, appearing in a similar fashion at his destination." If the dimension door spell had the same visuals, it wouldn't make sense to repeat that in the magic item description, so it is safe to assume the spell doesn't have any similar visuals.

Designing an ability like that forces the players to interpret a rules element in a way that is not supported by the rules. Don't do that.

Even though it might seem like you've only created an ability that does nothing (which are annoying but harmless), you may actually also start a huge rules debate, lots of FAQ requests, and whatnot. You've created a precedent that will plague RAW discussions forever. Suddenly, retroactively, you changed how the game works. (Kind of.)

So. Don't. Do. That.

Design stuff that interacts with existing rules as written.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Spreadsheet Magic: Pathfinder NPC design tool

Last year, I blogged about a monster design tool I designed for D&D 5th edition. Using some of the same ideas, I started designing a spreadsheet tool for PF RPG, mostly because it might help freelancers working on projects like the Villain Codex and me when I'm developing the stat blocks. The main purpose of the spreadsheet is to help designers by calculating the most common stats of an NPC, such as hit points and skill modifiers, automatically. One of my main design goals is to make the user interface easy to use, and to make everything relevant fit on a normal-sized screen so you don't have to scroll or flip between tabs.

Let's have a look!

It should be fairly straightforward to use. Green boxes mean that you can enter text or a value in them, while blue boxes are check boxes. Anything with a white background is calculated automatically: your ability score modifiers, saves, AC, hit points, attack and damage, and skills. You even get the stats laid out in the same way they appear in a stat block.

Next time: Step-by-step instructions on the use of the spreadsheet

Friday, August 14, 2015

Art Preview: Villain Codex

Earlier this year, Jacob W Michaels and I founded Swords for Hire Development, a studio that runs projects for third-party publishers that publish Pathfinder-compatible products. Our first project was the Villain Codex, a book of villains that GMs can easily use in any adventure or campaign. The Villain Codex will be published in September by Outland Entertainment.

I received the pencils for the artwork earlier on in the project, and here is a sample!

Sgt. Maybn Blaine (left) and Hadin the Painless (right). Copyright Outland Entertainment

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

RPGSS advice: Discuss your ideas (but not publicly)

It's been a while since my last blog post. I've been traveling and generally busy with a lot of things, but I'm back and it's time to get cracking again. A new season of RPG Superstar begins soon, so I'll be posting some RPGSS-related advice (mini) articles in the coming weeks.

A Sword for Hire