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Enough Is Enough

I have put Mothership RPG aside for the last day to work on a One Page Dungeon for a book called Dissident Whispers. The project exists to raise bail money for protesters.

In addition, I have lent 3Deep to the DriveThruRPG Black LivesMatter charity bundle. 3Deep has been in the Australian Bushfires Bundle, Médecins Sans Frontières/Covid-19 bundle and the other charity bundles.

It is one of the easiest things in the world for game creators to lend or donate products to charity bundles, or even as in this week to create something new. Games are just ideas put into words. Most game designers for RPGs, and adventure writers, are long term players and Game Masters. Creating adventures is pretty much second nature. All we are giving away is time.

My contribution is called Snake Temple Abduction and is a classic ‘rescue the hostage’ adventure. I have made it system neutral and to some extent power level neutral. I have done this by using and naming classic monsters, you may guess from the title that there are snakes involved. For the numbers encountered I use multiples of the party size. So there could twice as many as the party in one encounter, for example. It means that a GM with three players does not end up with a TPK whereas a GM with seven players ends up running a stroll through with no challenge.

NPCs tend to be described in relative power. Taking the strongest player character in the party you can say whether the NPC is of equal, lower or higher power than the character. For games with levels that could directly relate to level, for games, like Hero System, it could mean total points used in the build.

I have always been a fan of these scalable adventures. I like to provide alternative monsters, what could be a succubus at high level could be a medusa at mid level. You can frequently find power level appropriate monsters to scale something up or down, giving adventures a wide appeal.

When Dissident Whispers is released I will be sure to let you all know.

Until then, I am back to writing for Mothership RPG.

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Mothership RPG Solo – It works!

As of this afternoon (it is 4.30pm for me) I have a working system for Mothership RPG that is probably the most sophisticated set of solo rules I have ever created, and wonderfully rules and dice light.

The funny thing is that since I first made my notes, I had mistyped 6d10 as 5d10, that missing d10 had made my life extremely difficult. The core dice mechanic I am using is that a small pool of rolls are made and the top of each scene. These are then called upon as and when needed. It means you are not having to stop and roll dice all the time to work the solo rules, in a game that sponsors not rolling as much as possible.

Mothership Solo is starting to come together into something genuinely playable! If you would like a discount on this rule book when it is released please scroll down to the bottom of the page!

A dice pool of 5d10 may not sound much smaller than 6d10 but that missing die makes a big difference. Or it has done to me during the playtesting. It makes no difference if you have an unused roll, not having enough rolls are a much bigger problem.

The next task for me is to try and turn the big pile of print outs, post-it notes and scraps of paper into a single document.

When I was writing SURP and Symbaroum Solo I was posting regular updates and sharing screenshots of the work in progress. With Mothership it would look like the contents of a typical office waste paper basket!

That is all about to change!

I will be play testing again tonight. If things continue to work as expected. I will type things up and try and get some evocative art. I confess right now, I am not a fan of the stylised images in the Players Survival Guide. I can see how they were made and I have done similar things myself in projects.

What I will be looking for is the dark industrial style of the Alien movie and Bladerunner. Art selection is a wonderful thing to do before a playtest. It fills the mind with all sorts of images and ideas. That is why I try and put so much art into my books. It will come as no surprise that art is inspirational!

Mothership Solo RPG Discount

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Mothership Solo Horror

So far I have discussed Doom and Player Emulation. I can now bring those two elements together.

Before you start play you are going to create your PC and your crew members. You also create their personalities at the same time.

As you start to play, at the top of the scene, you will roll 1d10 for each member of the crew to decide their immediate behavior for this scene (see yesterday’s blog for behaviour) and you will roll a Save against Doom.

Mothership Solo is starting to come together into something genuinely playable! If you would like a discount on this rule book when it is released please scroll down to the bottom of the page!

Doom Saves

If the scene saves, the scene proceeds as expected. If the scene fails the save, a major plot event takes place.

What does this mean?

Imagine your character wants to walk from engineering to the bridge. You are not expecting anything exciting to happen so you cut the end of the scene in Engineering and start a new scene expecting to arrive at the bridge. You roll the save vs Doom, and fail(!)

It is now your task to improv. what that failure means. What would change something twisting the plot or adventure? Going with your first instinct is normally a good idea and my first instinct was that was I hit the door open mechanism, it gave a dull ‘donk’* noise and didn’t open. All of a sudden I am locked out of the bridge. And there starts the story.

That is just my first reaction. It could have been that I got into the bridge and an incoming message was the plot point, or a console malfunctioned. Anything works as long as it made sense to you.

Who or what has locked down the bridge is now the focus of my story and I can roleplay on from this point.

What I am doing is trying to push more of the dice rolling to before the action in the scene starts. Leaving the actual playing less dependent on questions/dice roll/answer cycles that are the hallmark of regular solo play.

The next part of this advanced scene set up is going to be the generating a pair of facts.

Facts are incredibly useful tools in solo play. They are, in essence, answers looking for a question. They normally describe two properties, such as ‘blue’ or ‘crumpled’. These are rolled before a scene and you use them to answer a question or prompt your imagination. Maybe when I hit the door button it lit up blue, rather than green. If the story moved on and there was an stowaway on the ship and they had secured themselves on the bridge, they were dressed in a crumpled blue uniform.

These facts can be used individually, in pairs, or not at all. The power of them is that they exert an outside influence on your story. You may not like the colour blue, and rarely choose it.

One of the best Fact Generators ever written, in my opinion, was created by Ken Wickham for his ABS12 game. The game wasn’t to my taste, I like “rules light” but that was too rarified for my taste. His Fact Generator was based upon 2d12 giving 144 options. I also believe that this was released under the Open Game License. What I am hoping to do today is find my copy and slim it down to 2d10.

Do you member me saying that you would be rolled 5d10 at the top of the scene? The five rolls could be read as 3,7,1,2,7 or as 37, 71, 12, 27 and if you wrap around 73. One of those will be the Doom save. The next two are going to be our two facts.

My goal today is to find this fact generator, or if it isn’t OGL, create my own based upon how I remember it and build that into the scene set up.

Once this is done, I have all the ingredients I need to build the solo rules. The oracles are easy from this point in and will not be as frequently used as they are in other solo games.

*You know that noise when Windows won’t let you click on something because another dialogue box is open and needs to be closed first? That is the noise the bridge door made.

Mothership Solo RPG Discount

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Mothership Player Emulation

Player Emulation is going to be an important part of my Mothership solo rules. For this to work, the player and the player character are treated as one and the same.

Imagine as d10 table with each characters main modus operandi and then major personality traits. A single 5d10 bucket of dice tells you how they are likely to behave and several aspects of their personality. This will allow you to play these NPCs with some level of consistency between scenes and sessions.

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My first draft of the player make up table looks like this.

Personality Tables

RollPersonalityComes across as ..Can be…A bit…Sometimes…
0Blunt/No verbal Filter/honestChattyDemandingCallousSmart
1Inept/blames others/shirkerNeedySensibleDepressedCreative
2Living off past glories/RuthlessAttentiveDaredevilBlunt
4Weak willed/ self servingDramaticPreciseArrogantTimid
5Problem Solver/FixerCuriousDedicatedCarelessRigid
6Skilled/dedicated to the task and teamCheerfulFlightyCompetitiveMethodical
8Driven/self motivated/ go-getterIndecisiveAssertivePeacemakerLoner
9Blunt/No verbal Filter/Self ServingFlamboyantArgumentativeForgetfulPessimistic

So if my first roll was 7 8 2 0 5 my crewmate would be: Noble (7) but indecisive, attentive, a bit callous and sometimes rigid in his thinking

This gives me enough to play this NPC and keep them behaving with a level of continuity from session to session.

As we are put under pressure we can all act contrary to our normal modes of behaviour. At the start of each scene, we are going to roll a behaviour for each person present. These are very similar to the Dominant personality characteristics. Did you see that I recorded the number (7) after my crewmates dominant personality? Each scene, when I roll for their behaviour if I roll below their true personality, I will shift the roll up by one, if I roll above it, I shift the roll down by one. This just makes sure that people will always tend to act like their dominant personality trait.

At the top of a scene, I will roll 1d10 for each crewmate.

0The character acts out of character in a negative way.
1The character behaves in a negative way.
2Something from the character’s backstory negatively influences their action.
3The character indulges or expresses a vice or ignoble facet of their character.
4The character takes the easiest and safest possible option for them.
5The character acts in accordance with their current desire or to preserve their well-being.
6The character uses an aspect they’re comfortable with (a skill, profession, tactic, or similar).
7The character expresses a noble facet of their character.
8Draw a new Behaviour. Play any behaviour; interpret it positively as the character’s action.
9The character acts out of character in a positive way.

So my crewmate, who is naturally Noble (7), at the start of the next scene gets a behaviour roll and rolls 5. This is below his regular 7, so I move it up to a Skilled (6).

I know this all sounds rather confusing but when the rules are finalised it will all make sense, honest!

What’s The Gain?

Mothership is a ‘minimal rolling, maximum role playing’ game. Solo role-play often relies on several dice rolls to answer questions and establish the facts in the character’s world. There is little of no prep before the session, so it has to happen during the game in a minimal, improvised fashion.

These sophisticated personalities are created at character creation. That is fine, it doesn’t impinge on play. Once you have that skeleton personality you should be able to imagine each crew member playing their role, without having to resort to dice rolls during the scene. The random behaviour roll makes the NPCs more dynamic and more independent, without having to make more oracle rolls during the scene.

That was the goal at least.

Mothership Solo Rules

Would you like a 40% discount when these rules are released?

I use my mailing list to let people know when I release new books. I also use it got ask for feedback (occasionally) and to give out discount codes (frequently). For people who join my contact list I give away a 40% discount whenever I can. Please consider joining.

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Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG Solo

I am starting to bring this together into something that looks like it could be a coherent solo ruleset. It is going to introduce a new parameter. At the moment it is called Doom. It is a bit like Stress but doesn’t apply to a character. It applies to the entire adventure. It started out a bit like Chaos in other solo systems.

Normally Chaos just pushes things towards Yes answers in the oracles. What you don’t want is stories being blocked by a succession of No answers that prevent the story moving forward. Chaos, builds over time and makes Yes, and Yes, and… answers more likely, thus breaking you out of the cycle.

Doom is different. It will operate at a scene level and control the occurrence of interrupted scenes. Starting each scene, you will be making a save against Doom. If you fail, the scene is interrupted in some way.

I want to bring critical successes and failures into this as well, but that is what iterative design and playtesting is for. At the moment everything is in flux. There are a lot of contradictions I am trying to resolve. Mothership favours not rolling dice. I get that, it is one of the things I like about the system. That doesn’t really work very well in solo play as every time you ask the Warden a question you need a dice roll to answer it. That just feels wrong.

My current iteration of these solo rules bumps a lot of the work to the top of the scene. I am making a single 5d10 roll and those rolls cascade down through the scene. It is a bit like banking rolls.

If you rolled 1, 7, 3, 0, and 8 these could be read as 17, 73, 30, 08 and 81. The can also be the single digits as rolled. The goal is to make a single physical rolling action, but to get the maximum amount of work out of those numbers. The player emulator, which controls your fellow crew will run on the 1d10 rolls. Your story will be running on the d100s.

This is the theory.

I am also aiming for more interrupted scenes and less individual plot twists happening in the oracles, but I don’t know how that will play out.

This is one of those ‘nice problems to have’. I have so many ideas about how I can capture the stress of being in a Mothership game, I almost have too many options.

Tomorrow will be ‘first draft’ day. Once I have that I can start playing properly. At the moment I am playing Mothership with my #. They work for the oracle, the critical success and failure rules are the same in both games. I am also using the margin of success in Mothership as the degrees of success in Zweihander.

Both games also have that built in fatalism, so the fit isn’t as bad as you could imagine.

I know I can do better though.

Want updates on these Mothership solo rules?

I use my mailing list to let people know when I release new books. I also use it got ask for feedback (occasionally) and to give out discount codes (frequently). For people who join my contact list I give away a 40% discount whenever I can. Please consider joining.