15 April 2018

Solo RPG: Star Trek Cards

I finished my set of 100 cards for a solo Star Trek RPG.  A big thank you to the folks behind the Final Frontier and Trekbats fonts, both of which they've graciously posted for free download online.

The 1 of Agility
Although I made extensive use of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros, it still took some time. Unfortunately I've found the VBA environment on the Macintosh (my home machine) is quite unstable. Compounding the frustration, the Windows machine I have access to doesn't accept new fonts. So it was necessary to create the general card templates in MS Powerpoint and Excel on the Windows machine and then transfer to my Mac to make it look "Trek". The data transfer wasn't flawless however with the colors changing. The background colors in particular are brighter and everything else seems a bit washed out to me. Oh well, as they say: perfect is the enemy of good enough.

I made some changes to the central "display" area from the WIP in the last post, the most prominent being the addition of the Trek iconography. The large icon in the left of the display simply exists for flavor; it has no game purpose. I kept the Star Trek-specific scene focus and moved the arbitrary symbols to the right side.

I plan to print these out and use them with a set of home-brew rules for solo roleplaying. The home-brew is heavily based on the SAGA System, as presented in TSR's Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game from the late 90s but with some significant modifications. I hope to get a few sessions logged which I'll share here.

"Peril" replaces the "Doom" card suit from Marvel's version

12 April 2018

WIP: SAGA System Cards for Sci-Fi Setting

The picture below shows my current WIP: SAGA System cards for a science fiction setting. The card template is build in MS Powerpoint, using solely MS Office shapes.

I know in the last few posts I said my next set of cards would be for fantasy but then I stumbled across a treasure-trove of old FASA Star Trek material and got inspired. Although these cards will be usable for most sci-fi settings, a keen-eyed reader can probably discern the Star Trek-specific font and themes.

The example card to the left is a 3 of Agility. Starting at the top left and proceeding down and then right, I'll explain the individual parts.

The "3" obviously is the value of the card; under the SAGA system playing this card would result in 3 points added to the character's attribute to form a total action score to be compared against the GM-defined difficulty score.

The plus symbol below the number is the card's "aura", in this case Positive. Three auras exist: Positive, Negative and Neutral, and serve to provide some nuance for GM scene interpretation. "The captain fails his Agility roll and goes tumbling off the cliff... [GM makes card draw] but, Positive aura! The captain flails wildly and manages to grab the cliff edge, holding on by the finger tips!"

The large "Agility" on the bottom left corner identifies the card's suit. Note, in SAGA players use any and all suits for any task, for example this Agility card could be used for an Intellect action.  Matching the suit of the card to the correct attribute type (let's say using this card here for an Agility action) provides a potential bonus however, in the form of an extra card draw.

Heading up to the top right, we see a read-out box with the Calling, an idea taken directly from the Marvel Super Heroes game. The calling is primarily used in character creation but can also be used during the game to reveal character motivation.

Below the Calling is a large display area that I'm still trying to decide how to populate. Right now it shows a Focus phrase, which the GM could use to determine the person or thing the scene centers around. I've also included a random phrase, in this case a quote, which can spur the action. I think I will replace these with random words, perhaps two random subjects and two random action words. The symbols on the left side of the display mean nothing: I just thought they looked "space age".

The next display shows the Event, another idea taken from the Marvel game. As you can see here, I'm not using the exact list of events from the Marvel game however and plan to make a custom list for these cards.

The last display is the small random letter screen, in this case showing a "K". I talked last post about how I use these random letters to generate words I'd never come up with myself, which I then try to weave into the story.

The rest of the items: the orange light, the moire pattern display, the three black knobs, are all just greeblies (or nurnies for the Brits) to add to the sci-fi flavor.

Now that the pattern is done, the real work begins: populating the spreadsheet with the Callings, Events, and random words that go on each card. I'll start with my Marvel spreadsheet and modify the Callings and Events to better fit a Star Trek setting; many of them are still very appropriate and will remain unchanged though. The random words I'll have to make up or perhaps borrow from a well thought-out list like the one in the Mythic Game Master Emulator. Once the spreadsheet is done it's just "presto": activate the macros and the deck will be built.

Maybe then instead of just thinking and talking about solo RPGs I'll finally starting playing them again.



11 April 2018

Solo RPG: Ideas from Random Letters

I mentioned in my last post that the cards I've made for the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game have letters for random word generation. Since there are 100 cards, I used the Scrabble distribution and create words during some break in the game, using the discard pile. As also mentioned I plan to make some cards for fantasy and sci-fi settings as well.

Although I frequently use random word lists, I also like the card method because as cards are played I can start to see the random words take shape.

My procedure is simple: when I lay the first card in the discard pile I note the letter on it as the first letter of a random word. I lay the next card and if that letter will work as the second in a potential word, I'll place it to the right of the first card. If it won't work I'll place the second card below the first in a column and its letter too is now the start of a random word. I'll continue this process until I have sufficient letters for about three to five words (or until the discard is exhausted). What is sufficient? Basically when enough letters form the root of several words that I can then pick from. I like the universe to suggest words through the random card draw but I also like to choose the most interesting of those suggestions.

Here's an example showing how it works.

For a fantasy campaign I'm creating a character and decide to randomly generate seven words (or the start of seven words). I draw the cards and place them as noted above, resulting in these seven word roots:

ONO
YOKE
OIL
BOAN
SEBA
TEA
TEA

Starting with the first word, I looked over all the available dictionary definitions and chose a noun: "onolatry" or the worship of donkeys (or foolish ideas).

This worked well with "Yoke", which I decided to keep.

I didn't know what to do with "oil" so I decided to come back to it.

The next word was really interesting. The only thing starting with BOAN was "boanthropy" or the delusion that one is an ox. Now the character was taking shape.

SEBA made me choose "Sebaceous", so I combined this with the previous letters "oil" and decided the character might have very oily skin, or suffer profuse sweating.

For the last two letters combos I decided the character was a "teamplayer" and carried a dented "tea kettle".

From there the character's story wrote itself. The character is a low level cleric who serves a deity which manifests as a donkey-headed man. The deity (and its priests) silenty suffer the burdens of others. To symbolize this clerics often serve as porters, as low level initiates must carry literal burdens in the form of heavy loads, while high level priests are renowned healers and counselors as they voluntarily take on the physical and mental wounds of others. As a symbol of their faith, clerics of this god wear actual yokes around their necks (not tied to anything). As they advance through the clerical ranks, the yokes become smaller and more symbolic than burdensome (a pendant on a necklace for the head priests), but the yokes always act as spell focus.

The character himself is a small, wiry individual who thinks of himself as much larger. While he's not so deluded to believe he's an ox (boanthropic), he is truly deluded in that he forgets his small stature and approaches all challenges as if he were really 6'5" tall and 300lbs. He's generally pleasant however and a team player, who carries around a dented tea kettle to brew healing potions for his party.

So, from just few unrelated words, many of them strange and ones I'd never have chosen, I now have a clear picture of not only a player character but an entire religious order as well. 

02 April 2018

Solo RPG: Marvel SAGA (TSR) Custom Card Update #2

I finally finished the custom homebrew Fate deck for TSR's defunct Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (MSHAG, also known as "the SAGA System") which I started years ago.

Preview: not to scale.  Deck features 100 cards
The cards are posted on my downloads page and I've also submitted them to RoleplayingGameGeek (RPGGeek) for upload into the Files section of the game.  The format is a .pdf and it is designed to be printed onto blank label sheets, then cut out and fixed to card stock (or old playing cards).


As highlighted in the previous post, the cards have dispensed with the character art and instead include a large open area to write campaign/adventure notes.  The cards also feature a random letter, following the Scrabble letter distribution, for random word generation.  I'm hoping to use these cards for some solo-gaming as I always found the MSHAG gave both the GM and player more narrative control than most other games in the same era.

Enjoy and please give me feedback.  I created the cards using MS Excel, using macros to quickly build each card from the raw database of information.  As such, I can make changes and regenerate the entire deck with the click of a button.  My next plan is to make a fantasy version of the cards (custom ones, not recreating the Dragonlance Fifth Age cards however).  I've also contemplated making a Star Wars Fate deck as I've always felt the Star Wars universe is very comic book like.

EDIT: RPGGeek rejected my submission on the grounds of "submission contains scans of copyrighted images).  Nope.  The cards were handmade by me on Powerpoint, including drawing all those little black circles to emulate the "Kirby Crackle".  Of course all the information on the cards (suits, auras, values, etc.) are copyrighted but I derived this information from an Excel file already existing on and downloaded from RPGGeek!