April 30, 2011

Gaia Gamma release 6

I'm happy to announce release 6 of the living Gaia Gamma rules. As usual you can find the download in the navigation to the right. Release 6 represents an important step in the development of Gaia Gamma as it contains a number of widespread improvements.

April 29, 2011

Fiddling with the base skill scores & pure strain humans

I have decided to adjust the base skill scores of skills in a given skill area. To repeat: Skill areas collect a number of related skills and each skill area is ranked from 1 (best) to 4 (worst) with 4 being the only rank that occurs more than once. Base skill scores are determined randomly.

April 28, 2011

Gamma Movie: The Road (2008)

A couple of days ago I watchedThe Road on DVD. Being a filmed version of the bestselling book The Roadby Cormac Mccarthy (a book I not yet have read but which is standing in my library - but these days I prefer watching movies first and then reading the book because it's usually less frustrating).

April 27, 2011

More about images in Gaia Gamma

The next release of Gaia Gamma will include quite a few more images, all in full color and using a whole page. I already commented on my exhilaration about images these days being rather easy to purchase for home-made games.

April 26, 2011

Gaia Gamma finally with an OSR logo

Stuart Robertson posted a fantastic new OSR logo on his Strange Magic blog. I loved it and immediately added it to the imprint of Gaia Gamma. After my complaint about the restrictive licenses of some OSR logos (and no response I noticed) this was a welcome change in logo policies ;-) So here we go:

April 24, 2011

Size matters

One of the most recent additions to my local copy of Gaia Gamma (next release coming next week) is a short section about the effects of size. It's basically what you would expect: Larger creatures are easier to hit, smaller creatures are harder to hit. But I have made one exception:

Classes or skills, skills or classes? Archetypes!

Grognardia with its recent post about class versus skill systems got me thinking about my own preferences.

Gamma Games: The Mutant Epoch

Yesterday Lulu shipped a copy of The Mutant Epoch to me. While it's much too early to give a final judgement about the game I must say that at first glance I am extremely impressed.

April 23, 2011

The Skill List

Today I fiddled a bit more with the skills for Gaia Gamma. As explained in my post on skill areas, skills and skill areas play a central role on order to define class-like characters. Here's a first shot at a possible skill list:

April 22, 2011

Handling artifacts in a glowing future

One of the aspects I find most interesting about Gamma games is the chance to discover strange artifacts and figure them out. One of the things I always found somewhat disappointing was the approach to just use a "handle items" chart, probably adjusted by some kind of item complexity, to finally figure out what a lump of metal (or whatever else material) was designed to be doing originally or what you think that it should be doing. Thus for Gaia Gamma I envision a different approach:

April 21, 2011

My most beloved artifact: The Black Ray Rifle

One of the most interesting experience for me when playing science fiction or science fantasy games always has been reading about and then coveting a certain type of item. For Traveller it was the battle suit (I always wanted to have a character who owned one and the one time a character of mine managed to steal one he was hunted down and killed by the imperial police). For Gamma World it always has been the infamous Black Ray Rifle.

April 20, 2011

Gamma Games: An overview

I just went to my newly furnished study room / home office / RPG lab (we moved last year and my office finally is getting somewhere) to take the picture to the right as a sort of "What's to come" in the "Gamma Games series" I announced this morning.

All Things Gamma

Since I started working on Gaia Gamma and blogging here regularly I noticed that I also started using the term "Gamma games" to encompass all types of games I loosely associate with Gamma World. I would like to extend this nomenclature in order to introduce some new regular Gaia Gamma related series to this blog.

April 19, 2011

Pure Strain Humans

Given recent comments I have given some more thought to Pure Strain Humans (PSHs). There was a concern that PSHs might be overpowered compared to mutants.

April 18, 2011

Designing the back cover for Gaia Gamma

While I wrote my post about "Glimpses from the Glow" I fell even more in love with the apocalyptic picture I posted as a graphical element. I liked that picture right away from the beginning when I first discovered it on www.dreamstime.com but seeing it in combination with the blog colors really touched something in me.

April 17, 2011

Lots of fiddly bits going on - release 4 of Gaia Gamma

Since the last release of Gaia Gamma I have fiddled with many aspects of the game. Here's a quick rundown of all the changes:

April 16, 2011

Tech Levels in Gaia Gamma

Tech levels measure civilization and knowledge potential. The starting tech level of a character depends on his background (on which I will elaborate in a later post). Tech levels are designed to mirror the whole range of civilized states humanity achieved.

April 15, 2011

Replacing classes with skill areas

I have wrestled with the question of whether Gaia Gamma should have a class based system. The first outline for the table of content and the character generation outline already hinted at my decision: Gaia Gamma won't have a class system. Let me explain my reasoning.

April 14, 2011

Structuring the table of contents

After a while of fiddling with basic mechanisms I usually start to layout the table of content in more detail.

April 13, 2011

A character generation outline

Today I want to spend some thoughts on an outline for character generation in Gaia Gamma. Doing so early in the design process usually gets me moving much faster with the real content sections as it becomes clearer which parts I need to finish to be able to build example characters. Since I would like to introduce a regular series with randomly created characters to this blog, I need to get moving :-) (artwork used under the royality free license of www.dreamstime.com and copyright by Luca Oleastri).

April 12, 2011

Glimpses from the Glow

While writing Gaia Gamma is going decently (more on that over the days to come) I read a deeply fascinating and at the same time deeply disturbing article about the effects of radiation.

Rewards for 7 of the first 100 followers of the blog

Since it seems to be customary to offer rewards for followers of the blog (in order to win fame by cheating ;-) ), I have decided to offer free gifts for 7 of the first 100 followers the blog accumulates. I randomly diced 7 numbers from 1 to 100. If you become a follower of this blog you will receive a printed version of Gaia Gamma, once the game has been finished. If you care to post a review afterwards in some place I would be very happy - just be honest.

April 11, 2011

Attributes in Gaia Gamma

Attributes always are a sensitive topic to me. IMHO they form many aspects of the game and have vast influence on how characters feel.

April 10, 2011

About section numbering

For Gaia Gamma I decided to use a peculiar way of numbering rules sections not seen very often these days:
  • Sections are numbered numerically and with increasing levels (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 3.1, 3.2, 3.2.1).
  • All numbers are surrounded by square brackets (e.q.g [1] or [3.2]).
  • Section references use a combined format with the section number and the page number to be as useful as possible. Syntactically for section number S and page number P the reference would read "[[S] > P]".
The brackets are used for two special reasons both related two my attempts of simulating the old school of doing rules:
  1. Conflict simulations (CoSims, war games) use that format quite often to indicate rules sections and allowing for precise quotes. As RPGs were birthed from a wargaming origin this seems to be an appropriate nod to the way of doing things that came before.
  2. DragonQuest used the square bracket format and that always felt very old school to me. I love the look and thus Gaia Gamma had to have this.
What do you think?

April 09, 2011

Image support for RPGs in the 21st century

One of the things that I am particularly thrilled about is the vast variety of great image sources out there. It has become so easy (and cheap - an important factor for a home grown game) to get great images that you can legally use in your gaming products.

April 08, 2011

Revision 2 of Gaia Gamma released

Revision 2 of Gaia Gamma now is available (see the sidebar to the right which now also includes an archive for the older versions of Gaia Gamma).

April 07, 2011

Handling difficulty modifiers in a 2dx based die rolling approach (part II)

The probability distribution for the 2dx die rolling approach of Gaia Gamma by now should be well known. Here is once more the table for it:

April 06, 2011

Handling difficulty modifiers in a 2dx based die rolling approach (part I)

Yesterday I introduced the 2dx die rolling method I intend to use for Gaia Gamma. This method provides a numerical range of 1 to 36 with quite a few holes inbetween. Below you find the probability distribution once more:

April 05, 2011

Revision 1 of Gaia Gamma released

As described in "Release early, release often" you now can download revision 1 of the Gaia Gamma ruleset from the sidebar to the right. The first release in this ongoing design process naturally is very short... just the front cover, some blurb, a budding table of content and one page of rules explaining the various die notations.

Nonetheless I would be happy about feedback of every type. Let me know what you think, point to errors or areas that should be improved, etc. The next release will follow shortly.

Die rolling in Gaia Gamma

One of my basic decisions for Gaia Gamma is to only use six sided dice. I want Gaia Gamma to be a really old school game... so old school that polyhedrons other than d6 are not even an idea. But the idea of using d6 comes with a corollary that I strongly try to adhere to in my game designs (call it Shadowrun trauma):

Thou shalt not throw excessive amounts of dice.

As far as I am concerned two dice is about right for the standard maximum to roll. Three already is a bit too much. Although I always enjoyed GURPS less would have been more.

And then there is my next corollary:

Thou shalt leave room for development.

Which basically means that I do not like very narrow attribute ranges. I want to able to develop characters and one of the best ideas to be taken from D&D 3rd edition IMHO is to be able to raise attributes as characters get more experienced. This makes the game less static and gives even weak characters something to strive for. But this doesn't work too well with narrow attribute ranges because advancement again becomes a pretty static things and I also like the idea that every new level (in a level based game) should offer excitement and new experiences.

What does this mean for Gaia Gamma? I decided to draw inspiration from a very old game design of one of Gary Gygax's former companies. In 1987 New Infinities Productions, Inc. released the venerable Cyborg Commando (also a post apocalyptic game with a very different kind of apocalypse) that - as far as I know - was the first game to multiply two dice in order to find a die score. Cyborg Commando used 2d10 (probably due to the pretty neat distribution spread), for Gaia Gamma I am going to use 2d6. For all major tests, that it.

The notation will be 2dx which means that you roll two six sided dice and multiply the results to get the final score. E.g. rolling a 2 and a 5 yields a final of 10.

The final spread ranges from 1 to 36 (although quite a few numbers can't be rolled at all). The latter is ok for me as this leads to the situation that not every attribute increase (or skill level increase for the matter) will lead to an actual improvement. Even better - the higher a score gets, the fewer numbers can be rolled. While I do not want to discuss the merits of the actual spread (is it realistic or not? who cares in a world of mutants?) I like it's general makeup: Wildly varying results can be occasionally achieved but the main distribution still centers around 10, which is nice for the classical attribute range of 3-18 (and ensuing attribute tests). As a consequence skills also will be centered around an initial 3d6 throw (at least for primary skills - more on that in a blog post to come regarding areas of expertise).

The chart below shows the actual distribution of rolling a specific score or less with 2dx:

One interesting problem arises from the actual number spread on the chart below: It becomes very hard to define meaningful difficulty modifiers if you go for a "roll under or equal to" system - which I intend to do as I believe that doing something more difficult after already being required puts too much strain onto the player.

But I have what I believe to be a good idea about that - more on that in tomorrows post!

April 04, 2011

"Release early, release often"

Release early, release often (RERO) is a software development philosophy that stresses the importance of close feedback cycles between developers and testers. I definitely want to use this approach for Gaia Gamma, too.

With my other current RPG design, Hexer & Helden (a German old school version of AD&D 1st and 2nd edition with some ideas from 3rd mixed in), I started out with a similar idea but again caught up with fiddling with the rules. While I work on the rules quite often, I once more am imprisoned by the thought of "the next version must be finished enough to warrant a release" so that updates get fewer and fewer the more complete the game becomes.

I want to change this to the absolute opposite with Gaia Gamma by going for a continuous release approach: Every time I work on the rules and change something I will release a new PDF and blog about the changes. Thus every development step will become tangible.

I will start tomorrow with the next update concerning die rolling mechanisms.

Snazzy new tag line for the blog

In my continuous quest to improve the block and better nail down the mood I have added a new tag line to the logo. What do you think about "Where do you want to glow today?"

The release format for Gaia Gamma

Recently I have found it very helpful to have as early as possible a pretty good idea of what I want a game to be in the final stages of publication. And yes, these days I always think about publication when starting an RPG project - thanks to Lulu I would say. Self-publishing today is as easy as a breeze and when I started with RPG designs seriously around 1990 it was a dream.

So for Gaia Gamma I also have a vision in mind. I want Gaia Gamma to be book limited by the following choices given to me by Lulu:
  • Soft cover (it seems that many interesting hardcover choices just disappeared... *sigh*)
  • 88 pages
  • square format (8.5 by 8.5 inches)
  • full cover cover but B/W interior; maybe there will be a full color deluxe version at some point but going for full color raises the printing costs for 88 pages by a whopping $13 which IMHO is too much. In B/W it will be possible to sell the final game for less than $10 which is as it should be as far as I am concerned.
And here is a revised design for the front cover... more gritty which I like better:

April 03, 2011

Gaia Gamma as an old school game

I envision Gaia Gamma definitely as an old school kind of RPG. To clarify what that means for me here are the main points for me:

  • The rules should be complete enough to be able to play everything from single sessions to campaigns. That does not mean that each and every minute detail of a game must be covered by a rule - a definite aspect of old school gaming is freeform decision making on behalf of the game master. But there must be enough meat to the game that it can be fun for many years to come.
  • The rules should be contained in one rulebook of pretty short size. Old school games usually excelled by having less than 128 pages of rules and quite often they were in the 32-64 pages range. So I also want to go for a ruleset in the 2 digit range. More below.
  • As I see Gaia Gamma as a very old school game I'll just be using six sided dice. There was nothing else in the beginning and why would I want to bother my players with having to procure obscure dice (ok, nowadays that's not much trouble but still...).
  • Character creation should be quick. At most 15 minutes for a new character and less is better.
  • Stat blocks should be very short and manageable. One line for a monster should be enough, at least when ignoring the repetitive mentioning of special abilities.
  • Some class and/or skill mechanism (simple but allowing for archetyping) will be there, as well as level based advancement.
  • Character development will have to come from the players and will not get much support in the rules. I don't like game mechanics defining character traits, etc.
  • Campaign settings are the domain of the game master. The core rules just wil provide for some ideas and templates but will not cover any specific game world.
  • Randomness should abound... encounters... treasures... mutations... special events... generation of settlements... whatever.
So that's basically it. Not tremendously surprising but a baseline to follow during the design phase.

And concerning the logo above: I really love the OSR logo finalized by Thomas Denmark - it's great. I just wish he would have used a license that covers using ir for games not compatible with the original white box rules of D&D. A more liberal license like "for any recreation of original games dated before 1980" or something like that would have been very nice.

So I guess I will have to go with the more liberal logo created by Chad Thorson which I also like but which really has a tendency to read a bit like "CSR".

Oh well... let me know if Thomas Denmark gets softer on the logo license ;-)

The goals of Gaia Gamma

As stated in my first post to this new blog my goal with Gaia Gamma is to finally create "my" ultimate Gamma World game. Although I own all editions of Gama World as well as many of the more obscure copycats (from Age of Ruin over After the Bomb to 4th Reich) none of these games seems to incorporate everything I want. Which probably is pretty typical as almost every gamer I know has been toying around and tinkering with his own rules modifications. Which is as it should be in my book.

But with Gamma World I feel particularly disappointed as Gamma World for me is the one game besides D&D that keeps coming back again and again - and most of the time in very different shapes... kind of mutated. Which for me shows that many others also do not manage to bring their love with the one perfect Gamma game into line with the then current state.

So what does this mean specifically. I want to achieve the following goals with Gaia Gamma:
  • The game should be complete and self-contained. One ruleset to bind them all ;-) ! The basic rules should include everything you will ever need to play the game, be it as one-shots or extended campaigns. Several former editions fit this bill so I don't see anything particularly challenging about this requirement.
  • The game should provide full and explicit support for the various genotypes in the game. I despised the various editions that mentioned sentient plants and animals and then stated "Just make it up". Although I believe in making things up, here very basic support is missing. Gamma World 4th edition IMHO got that part right by providing many examples for sentient plants and animals - but I want to improve that by providing some more.
  • The game should include a skill system. Most editions failed in that respect but ultimately I believe that any game including the word "Science" in its genre also needs to have a skill system. This is also one of the major points where I disagree with the present OSR movement. Skills very well were a part of old school games - just look at all the stuff put out by FGU. It's just the D&D world that for a long time eschewed skills. Which was different with my group - for us the best thing of AD&D 2nd edition (not old school, I know) was the introduction of the skill system. But I agree in that skills should be encompassing and open - no fiddly detailed systems that try to regulate everything, no skills that automate roleplaying, etc. More on that in later posts.
  • There should be lots of mutations. That's what all the fun basically is about and I hate the various editions that come with crippled mutation lists of about 20 mutations or so (the White Wolf edition here coming to mind).
  • Hard science doesn't matter. Gaia Gamma explicitly is a Science Fantasy game. So besides providing some ideas for the causes of the current state of the world I won't care for whether mutations arise from nanotechnology, biogenetics, radiation, cosmic rays or whatever. A setting like Gamma World just can't work when caring for science so I won't try at all. And it saves valuable content space, too ;-)
  • Randomness is inportant. There should be many random elements in the game in order to be surprised again and again.
  • Some kind of class and/or level system should be present to allow for a quick start. I have a specific system in mind for Gaia Gamma that I will discuss in future posts to see what you think about it.
  • The combat system should be "somewhat" deadly. Not overly so that combat is no fun (what use would all the cool gizmos and mutations be otherwise?) but also not too boring (Gamma World 4th edition with its miniscule damage and enormous amounts of hit points coming to mind.
  • I want Gaia Gamma to be a game that fits into the "Old school revolution" mold. What I mean by that I will elaborate in yet another future post.
So what do you think? Am I forgetting something? What would you like to see in the "perfect" edition of Gamma World? Did you already find it? Which one is it? Or what are you searching for? What are your house rules?

April 02, 2011

Dawn of a new age

And here I am with my fourth blog (besides the German Hexer & Helden blog, where I design an old school variant of AD&D in three books of 64 pages in DIN A 5 format each, besides my personal vanity press here and besides my ADOM blog here). What's going to be the topic of this blog?
My fascination with TSR's and Wizards of the Coast's Gamma World game.

I have been loving this game for an eternity. At one point I even hosted the official Gamma World mailing list during the early days of the Internet around 1996 or so when mailing lists still where the preferred way of talking to other fans of whatever.

Despite my intense love for the game I have to admit that I never got to play it much... due to the usual factors... lack of time, lack of players, etc. But I spent a lot of time reading through the various rule incarnations of Gamma World (I own each and every edition, all its variants and in addition probably about every other post apocalyptic RPG that ever has been written) and I never was perfectly happy with any rules edition. Always something was wrong... rules too simple, too complicated, too incomplete, too wordy, too unstructured, too short lived, etc. Even Mutant Future could not quench my thirst for the perfect edition of Gamma World.

And since even the latest edition is not much help to me I'm going to take the only possible route left and design my own professional game surrounding the topic. It all started this weekend with a renewed urge to design a cover for such a game. I had done that once while trying to take part in a 24 hour RPG design contest (and failing due to too much ambition and too little constitution) and this weekend the creative juices got flowing again.

So here we are with the start for my own game of wild and wahoo mutants in the world after the Final War: I hereby present Gaia Gamma.

Some of the text is still missing, etc. but the main design is finished.

The idea of the blog is to post continuous updates about the ideas behind the ongoing design of the game. I have a couple of ideas, many plans and would love to get into a discussion and feedback process with other Gamma World fans out there.

So much for the first posting... I'll get you updated soon.