Monthly Archives: October, 2010

Echelon Core Rules Draft Outline

So, October’s been rather lighter on posts than I really wanted. Between trying to get my act together health-wise (eat better, sleep more, work out better), a compelling project (Vale of Elsir map for Nik) and work (the next release of our primary service is now staging for release next month) I’ve been fairly pressed for time.

In an effort to get my writing kick-started again, and because next month is National Novel Writing Month, I’m adapting the NaNoWriMo plan for Echelon. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write, over the course of November, a 50,000-word novel. That’s not quite what I’m doing, and the subject of this post should be a pretty good hint as to what I’m aiming for.

I’m going to try to have a draft copy of the Echelon Core Rules together by the end of November. As appropriate for NaNoWriMo, I’ll be putting a less focus on perfecting things and more on getting content together. I’d like to be able to go to the table in December and actually try this.


Vale of Elsir, Reinterpreted

Vale of Elsir

Vale of Elsir, according to Nik

A friend of mind is running a D&D 4e campaign and was unhappy with one of the maps he was using.  In order to get a complete view of the Vale he was using several maps butted together.  They had differences in color and style (which never looks good) and some weird geography that got on his nerves.  Mine too, when I saw it.

I’d been looking for a challenge, and this looked like an interesting one.  He sent me a copy of the original, marked up where he wanted changes.  Extend a mountain range here, chop this river in half so it doesn’t go over the mountain range as in the original, and so on.

I’ve spent perhaps 15 hours on this in the last few days, usually a couple of hours at a time in the evening while we hashed out what was being done with the map.  It’s fairly close to what I’d originally scribbled as a starting point, but some things got moved or changed as we came up with better ideas.

Of course, I see some room for improvement yet, some specific things to work on next time.  However, this was my first time compositing something this complex, and overall I’m quite satisfied.

Languages in RPG Settings

Just an aside, and entirely unrelated to the rest of this post, but yesterday was my 100th post to this blog.  Not really meaningful or important, but I think it’s a little bit cool. — kjd

Sometimes we overcomplicate things in the design of role-playing games in an effort to be realistic. One place I’ve really noticed this is in language rules. I have seen a great deal of effort put into managing language, and I think it’s probably not at all needed.


Token Pools in Echelon

When I first read of the token pool mechanic in Iron Heroes (the core of which can be found on this site in the Open Gaming Content Library under Token Pools) I wasn’t pleased. I thought they would be a pain to track.

In the last few years I’ve been watching and playing a lot of different board games (something to do during my lunch hour), including a bunch of German board games. These games can be full of resource management and I’ve seen a number of ways of keeping track of resources. Of them all, collecting and manipulating tokens of various types has been perhaps the most straightforward and playable.

Considering how much I dislike keeping track of powers usable a certain number of times per day (let alone how I feel about Pathfinder’s ’rounds per day’ of use of powers like rage… there’s a lot of things I like about Pathfinder, but this isn’t one of them), a mechanism that allows use and reuse of related powers but constrains their overuse appeals to me.

In short, I know a bit more about resource management in games than I did then, and I’ve come to decide that a token pool mechanic such as is described in Iron Heroes may well be what I’m looking for in Echelon.


On Talent Prerequisites

In a recent thread in, I was asked if I would really allow a player character to have “any bizarre talent of his level just because he feels like it”.

The short answer: sure, why not? As long as it makes some sense for the character, I see no reason related to balance to restrict it. There may be setting reasons to disallow it, but that’s beyond my control outside my own campaign.


Yet Another Map

Mountains, hills, forests, rivers

Mountains, hills, forests, rivers

Some more experimentation.  I’m generally happy with it but there are some things I’m dissatisfied with.

  • Mountains, I’m mostly happy.  A little artifacting still visible, but applying a bit more (or a different?) displacement map to it could solve that.
  • Hills (the brownish-green bits) could do with a bit more breaking up.  The hills use the same base turbulent noise pattern as the mountains so they’ll be consistent in area covered, but I could use different noise and draw the affected regions by hand (which might give me better interaction and merging with the mountains).  I think I should adjust the resolution of the noise, so the hills have more breaks.  A bunch of options to consider here.
  • Forests… eh, I screwed it up a bit.  My colors are off a bit and the bump map is weak.  I can identify a few places that should improve this, though.
    • Use different turbulent noise than the mountains and hills (whether or not they use the same noise or different noise, the forest needs to use different noise).  As it is I’ve got hilly areas at all the ‘light colored’ areas of the forest, and that really doesn’t look right.
    • I picked pretty complete areas of forest.  I think it looks better when it’s a little more scattered, as in my previous maps.
    • Pay attention when doing the bump maps and coloring, and don’t screw up on the channel creation and selection.  The two interacted… poorly.
  • Rivers are coming.  I think I should probably start with the rivers narrower.  I’m getting a handle on having them interact with the other elements (forests and hills and whatnot), though I need to work some more on the terrain interactions.  If you look closely there is reason to send the River Police after me.
    • I should maybe look into paths for the rivers instead of going raster with them (it could make for some other useful tricks later), but I’ll leave that for later.
  • Grass (texture on land) I’m pretty happy with.  It looks reasonably ‘grassish’ and the color variation suits.
  • Waves (texture on water) isn’t bad, but could be improved.  I shouldn’t have used the same texture as on the land.  I suspect that if I take the noise (desaturated plasma) and displace it using itself for the displacement map it may do what I want.

All in all I think I’m still improving, and as long as that happens I’m satisfied.

Except for the damn forests.  Gah.

Energy Resistance in Echelon

One of the sticky bits I’ve faced in building monsters in Echelon is a lack of energy resistance and energy immunity talents.

This was something of a challenge because immunity should cost more than resistance, but there are creatures in the RSRD (mephits) that are immune to one or more energy types at low levels (down to Expert for certain, I don’t remember seeing any at Basic). I was not prepared to give total immunity to an energy type at such a low level, but this was actually easier for me to reconcile than I’d expected.

For the sake of simplicity I’ll assume ‘fire resistance’ for the rest of the article, but the rules and considerations apply to all energy types.

Note that I’m not putting any thought at this point into ‘vulnerabilities’. I haven’t decided in general what to do about ‘disadvantages’ so don’t really have a path planned here. Most likely I’d treat them as ‘negative talents’ and give a spare slot or something for them, but to be honest I’m tempted to ignore them and drop them altogether.


Some More Experimentation

Mountains, Rivers, Forest

Some More Experimentation

I was doing some more experiments with my mapping techniques. I’m becoming happier with them.

I do need to improve the sequencing. Work out where I want the map elements (mountains, rivers, forests, etc.), then finalize river and shoreline before trying to tackle the elements. I screwed up this time a little.

I’d plotted the general course of the rivers, then tweaked their appearance for use in shaping the mountains and forest, then a destructive edit lost me an earlier piece. I was stuck using the rough river forms to actually draw them, and I’m not happy with that.

On the plus side, I think I’ve worked out better how to have the rivers come out of the mountains. I got it partly right the way I did it, but the ‘river valleys’ probably shouldn’t be back down the the grass level. I need to use the river courses twice. The first time is while working out the mountain shapes (to a lesser extent, to cover the rivers coming out of the mountains). I think using them a second time when actually working out the mountain heightmaps (which should help ensure I don’t have rivers running uphill — I don’t want the River Police after me).

Today’s other lesson: save the 300 DPI work for when preparing something for publication. Letter paper size at 300 DPI eats a lot of memory when you use as many layers as I do.  Also, the PNG I originally generated ran 11M, bigger than WordPress will let me load.  This image is at 25% of the resolution I was working at.

The maps still aren’t quite where I want to be, but getting closer, I think

Strength Modifiers to Damage

Here’s a nice, quick, easy one, and it’s a modification that can work with the RSRD rules as written.

Let’s start by reviewing how weapons might work with regards to melee damage.

  • Weapons used two-handed can do more damage than weapons used one-handed.
  • Light weapons tend to depend more on precision for big damage than on hitting hard and could therefore gain a smaller benefit from Strength modifiers to damage.
  • The off hand is weaker in most people and attacks should do less damage.
  • The above should apply whether you have a Strength bonus or a Strength penalty.
    • It would be nice if it applied you have normal Strength too, but this is not a critical goal.

Let’s see if the above goals can be achieved, and if the changes needed are worth the effort to apply.


Damage Progression

I’ve been examining damage charts, especially the damage for increasing monster size and weapon sizes.

This is post is largely analysis and comparison. I’m not done with this topic. I think I’ve got something (several somethings, in fact) that are better than the RSRD version, but I’m not satisfied yet that it’s done.