Thursday, January 25, 2018

Infinity Cheat Sheets

I made some cheat sheets for the Infinity RPG. Others (such as the excellent Jens Christian Ploug) have made more exhaustive sheets, which are worth checking out. These are simple handouts, somewhat lacking in info when compared to the awesome GM screen that's coming out and these other entries.

But I think they're pretty easy to read, and feel super legit to me. I faked our awesome layout guru's style well enough, I think. So yeah: they look slick, and should be a good handout for demo games, con games, new players, or people like me who can't keep all this stuff in their brain.

No more Teasing: Here are your HYPER LINKS  (they are actually pretty calm):


THIS IS THE VERSION FOR PRINTING though it works on your screen too

wooo, how 'bout that?


Saturday, January 20, 2018

You're in the Danger Zone (2d20 Combat)

Zones! They're great. But for folks who are used to pulling out a measuring tape, it can be a bit of a transition. Combat in 2d20 is much more narratively dynamic than a lot of turn-based tactics games: there's a lot going on, and abstraction is part of what makes that go.

But first, let's talk about zone maps.

Talkin' 'Bout Zones

So, let's take a look at a cool piece of isometric art.
Awesome isomeric art courtesy of
Pretty rad scene, right? Nice little cafe. What a great place to have a shootout! But to do that, we'll want to divy it up into zones. Looking at the art, I see six distinct areas of interest:

  1. Outside
  2. Center Tables
  3. Couch area
  4. Bar
  5. Left 1-Top
  6. Right 1-Top
Thinking in Inifnity terms, the chairs, tables, and glass probably provides Light Cover, whereas the bar provides Heavy Cover. 

So my zone map might look something like this: 

If this is too small, click here for a larger version.
What a wonderful place to get shot coffee.

Zones are Groups, not Just Distance

Obviously, distance plays a part in things. But zones are often full of stuff. In our above example, somebody on the north side and south side of the "Couch Zone" aren't next to each other, but moving around in that zone isn't a big deal.

So let's say that Miyamoto Musashi is trying to enjoy his latte in peace, but Joan of Arc is playing her French Canadian indie rock too loud. This being Infinity, shit's about to get real

So! Musashi wants to violently interact with Joan. He can shoot at her with his pistol (or throw a baguette at her, if he's not that angry): that's close range, so no penalties: though she is going to benefit from the light cover. Or, he could make his way over and punch Joan: that's actually easy too! Move past couches, vault over them, whatever: all that stuff is in close range: moving to any point within that zone is a free action. So vault that couch, and get within Reach: it's still a free action to get there. Then the punching can commence.

One thing to take away from this, is that they're not just standing there: they're moving around. Combat is dynamic: so just because someody's in a zone, that doesn't mean that they're standing there, making it easy to hit them, right? 

It's dynamic. Fluid. There's a lot of motion going on.

At Home on With the Range

But distance is a thing too. 

So after all this ruckus, the nice Hasassin Lasiq who runs the cafe has just had enough of these recreations wrecking her shop. So she pulls out her Viral Sniper Rifle, and takes aim.

Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
She's in the Bar zone, and they're in the Couch Zone, with Center Table Zone inbetween. So while it might be counter-intuitive to think of it, this is actually long range: perfect for a sniper. With no range penalties, Joan and Miyamoto are in some trouble: reluctantly, they agree to stop fighting, and settle their dispute with a game of dominoes. 

"But Killstring: that's awfully close for 'Long Range'"

Yep! That's the adjustment I was talking about. RPGs tend to happen in closer quarters than miniatures games: it's a different genre of expression, if you like. Just like how in a kung fu film, everybody knows how to block, but in a beat'em up video game, hardly anyone does. 

But more importantly, the long-range weapon is good at taking aim and firing in a precise manner: you wouldn't want to shoot it from the hip. So yeah, in the manga-inspired, kinetic action of Infinity, this is a perfectly reasonable range to fire a sniper rifle in.

"Ok, fine. But what about long Long Range? Does that still work?"

Yep! It's just about finding a shot.

So let's say that you're at a football field. (Non-American football, 'cause that's what I got art for) Pretty Cool!

That's a big open space! I'd say that each colored bleacher would be its own zone, each half of the pitch would be one, and the different sidelines would each be one too. With big zones like these, rounds might be a little longer, right? None of this D&D 3 seconds tomfoolery: this is cinematic. The rounds are as long as makes sense for what's going down.

On the topic of what's going down, Joan never paid her tab at the cafe. The poor Lasiq just wanted to retire in peace and make coffee: but she cannot abide by this insult. Thus, she hunts Joan to a football match. 

Joan likes to watch from the corner don't ask me why it is a mystery

So! Taking care not to shoot any of the players, the Lasiq takes aim. It's 3 zones away: that's Extreme range. It's a +1 to her difficulty, but that's nothing she can't handle. She takes aim, and the paintball hits, thoroughly embarrassing St. Joan during her day at the stadium. Mission accomplished.

If there weren't players on the pitch, the field might be one zone, so this might only be Long Range. It really depends on the scene. Bottom line: zones are full of stuff. That stuff, more than meters as the crow flies, determines how hard it is to get a bead on a target for ranged attacks, how easy it is to move, etc. People in 2d20 combat aren't sitting still: they're scrambling, moving, ducking for cover, and so on.

"So Wait, I have to make a map any time I wanna do stuff?"

Not at all! But it's probably a good idea to make a couple so that you get a feel for it. Zones are more art than science: I spend a lot of time saying "I think that's probably a zone, " and going from there. While you're likely to want visual representation every now and again, hopefully everybody gets enough of a feel for this that winging it becomes second nature.

"What was that? I think I zoned out."

It's cool, I'm zoned-out too. 

Anyway, hope that's useful! Perhaps next time, we'll talk about Quantronic Zones, for hacking adventures.

Until then, be excellent to each other!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Conflict in 2d20

(Or as I like to call it, The Infinity Engine1)

Now that Infinity is finally in the hands of Kickstarter backers, folks are gearing up to run and play their first games. It's an exciting time!

This boy is very excited, and not at all asleep.
But with that excitement comes questions. Infinity has a couple subsystems - Acquisition, Combat, Hacking, Psywar - and this can seem kind of daunting at first glance. Systems like Shadowrun have trained a lot of gamers to brace for radically different mechanics in these subsystems, and while there can be merit to that approach, it understandably rankles people, and/or turns them off to the game.

"It's all one system. Learn one, and you know them all."

Understandably, some people have been asking about the different systems in Infinity, trying to make heads or tails of them. To that end, I've prepared this simple guide, but the most important thing to remember is that it's all one system. Learn one, and you know them all.

What do I mean by that? Read on.

The Core Mechanic

If you wanna do something in a 2d20 game, you roll... 2d20! Or 3, 4, 5, d20s, if you feel like adding extra dice to improve your odds, usually done by increasing Heat. You add the attribute and skill appropriate to the test together, and anything that rolls at or below that number is a success. Hooray for success! If you get more successes then necessary, you generate Momentum, which can be used to do all kinds of neat stuff. 

So that's the core. Pretty simple once you've done it a time or two: there are options at every stage, but it's as simple as:
  1. Pick up your dice
  2. Roll those dice
  3. Compare results to a target number
... which should be pretty familiar to people who roll dice.

The Conflict Engine

The core mechanic can get you through just about anything. Depending on your playstyle, you might never use anything else. As an aside, I've absolutely run games with very story-focused players where treating Ballistics like any other skill check was the way to go2. But we have these cool systems, and it'd be a shame to not use them. Thankfully, they're pretty easy to get the hang of as well.

Let's say that you have an obstacle, and you want to remove it. Great, let's inflict some damage; that'll do it. The setup here is basically the same.

  1. Pick up your dice
  2. Roll those Dice
  3. Compare results to a target number
...with some added steps. In Infinity, damage is usually 1+ the total of your [CD} (those are the fancy d6s). So we need to roll those too.
  1. Roll some fancy d6s (non-fancy is actually just fine)
  2. Add up all the ones and twos, and note the sixes (those are Effects)
And that's it for your roll. Then we do stuff with it! 


In general, conflict follows a simple process:
  1. Take your Damage
  2. Subtract [Soak]
  3. Apply Damage to [Stress]
  4. Possibly add [Harms]
Stress is your incidental damage track. Like HP in D&D or video games, losing it doesn't do anything, but it gets you closer to bad stuff. Harms are your bad stuff: you get them when you run out of stress, take more than 5 damage in a single hit, or both.

And that's it! Now you know everything.

But Killstring, weren't you going to explain combat, hacking, etc?

Yep! And I just did.

Because those are all the same.

Let's say you wanna punch an evil alien. It's pretty evil, so it deserves a sound thrashing. Just follow the above steps. Armour (and maybe Cover) is going to be your Soak, Vigour is your Stress, and Wounds are your Harms. 

But let's say you wanna instead, hack into a soda machine, to get some free soda. Rad. Follow the above steps. Security (and maybe interference) is going to be you soak, Firewall is your Stress, and Breaches are your Harms.

Rinse, repeat. Once you recognize the system, you can quickly handle all the subsystems. Even Buying gear is the same. To paraphrase Nathan Dowdell (who wrote the thing), you can think of a purchase as an attack against your own resources. The item's Cost is your damage, your Earnings is soak, your Cashflow is stress, and any Shortfalls are Harms. And if you wanna go nuts, Assets are kinda like Reloads. :D

How many d20s will this get me? "All of them, Mr. Okada." Then let us make it rain.

And that's basically it.

But what about Psyops, Quantronic Zones, all that stuff?

It's important, sure! But it's still the same thing. 

Physical combat takes place in physical zones. I'f I'mma punch the aforementioned evil alien, I need to walk over to them to do it. Same thing with Quantronic or Social zones. 

Think of it like a dungeon crawl. If the goal is for the adventurers to open the treasure chest, they don't just roll Knowledge: Dungeoneering and get the chest, right? They go through rooms. Some of those rooms have traps. Some of them have baddies to fight. Some have secret passages. 

A big hacking job is the same way. Literally. Draw up a cute little zone map. Decide what connects. Put some stuff in it. The hacker travels from their entry point, to the treasure chest, overcoming obstacles on the way.

Psyops are pretty much the same as well. It gets a little more abstract, but it's basically a social network dungeon crawl.

But Killstring! What if I don't want to do a dungeon crawl for every hack or persuasion?

Then you shouldn't. Honestly, if you do want to, you still maybe shouldn't. Would you model every fight as a dungeon crawl? If I want to just punch this guy, can't I do it? He's right there. Same logic applies elsewhere. There's no need to do a big Psyop to gain access to the CEO of SuperEvilMegacorp, if they're standing in the same line at the coffeeshop, right? I can just start talking. 

The extra systems are ways to do full-on infiltration runs in every aspect of the tripartite battlefield of Infinity. And another way that the combat system = hacking = social. 

Once you get a good feel for one, just keep in mind that the others are pretty much the same. If it ever gets confusing, go with what you know, and work backwards. I know plenty of folks have extensive dungeon crawling experience: put that to work in your hacking runs! I bet you'll be pleased with the results.


I hope that this was useful and/or entertaining to folks. Please feel free to comment or hit me up on G+ or Twitter if I can help clarify anything.

May your games be epic, and not too exhausting to run. 

Be excellent to one another

* * *

1 - I am so sorry (I am not sorry).

2 - "I wanna shoot the mook in their stupid head." Okay, roll Ballistics, difficulty 1. "Two Hits!" You have shot them in their stupid head. It is now much stupider, due to ventilation. Bye-bye, mook. "Hooray!" Sometimes, that's all that you need.

Friday, August 25, 2017

#RPGaday2017, Day 25: What is the best way to thank your GM?

Part of an ongoing series, occasionally updated in real-time!

Aiming Orbital Blog Cannon...

Aquiring Target...


#RPGaday2017, Day 25: What is the best way to thank your GM?

I'm going to have to echo the always-insightful Mr. Rob Donoghue on this one - convey your appreciation outside of the context of the game. One of my GMs likes to solicit feedback immediately following a game, and while she certainly appreciates hearing what worked right then, it's not really comparable to seeing her face light up when we talk about how awesome things are in the middle of the week. 

Speaking for myself, I'm usually such a disheveled wreck after a long session, that I can't really take much criticism, and I don't really process the praise. But hit me later on when I have a clear head, and there's a ton of impact. Game of Thrones is the current hot "water cooler" show; people will casually talk about it at work or social outings. When your game has the same kind of impact on folks, it can feel really meaningful.

Past that? Anything you can do to reduce the stress load of the GM. If that means handling logistics, giving people rides and such, it can go a long way. I know a lot of people stress out a lot over game prep, and if the GM has to arrange location, transportation, food, schedules, and act as host and MC for the evening, that cuts into the amount of processes they can dedicate to the game proper.

So it's worth spending some time thinking about, even if you're just being selfish. :D

Be excellent to each other.

The Biggest Mistake Indie Artists Keep Making

How's that for a clickbait title? Completing the series discussed here, and really hammering home something that made my life harder than it had to be in my old career.

You’re a smart artist. You’re savvy to social media, promotional techniques, and how to carry yourself like a star. Most importantly, your craft is on point; people want to see you perform, promoters want to book you, and everybody wants to buy your merch.


How hard are you making it for them?

Full-Contact Promotion

Let’s say that I’m a concert promoter, and I want to book you for a show. How do I get in contact with you? DMs on Twitter? Facebook Messenger? Leaving a comment on your Instagram?

Because if that’s the answer, you’re missing out. Friend of the Blog1 Jonathan Killstring had this to say:

“Back when I was a concert promoter, I was the crazy young kid, because I’d actually talk to people through MySpace, which was the big platform at the time. Even then, I preferred to do everything in email. Booking agents, other promoters, tour managers – everybody used email. Back then we had Blackberries, today it’s smartphones, but it’s the same thing; a contact email for the band — one that people actually check — is what people in the business are looking for.”

If you’re not making it easy for people to contact you, you’re making it hard.

Don’t make it hard.


Make an email address. One Email Address. YouOfficial at Gmail dot com is probably available, so stop reading and go register the address. We’ll wait.

You back? Awesome.

Once you’ve established your primary contact email, use it for everything. Talking to a promoter? Official address. Ordering Merch? Official address. Setting up an interview with a college newspaper? Ordering CDs? Purchasing online promotion?

You get the idea.

Make it Easy

Using your primary email for everything means that it’ll be in your contacts’ address books, making it easier for them to reach out to you in the future. Still, there’s no substitute for making that easy in the first place.

Plaster this thing. Your website, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube – if someone’s looking at a site affiliated with your band, they should be able to find your contact info. Don’t hide it under paragraphs about your influences – put that ish right up top.

People trying to contact acts aren’t looking to waste time checking messages across platforms, and if it’s not easy to get a hold of you, they’ll find someone who makes it easy. Basically,  the more effort someone has to go through to contact you, the more likely it is you’re missing out on gigs, press coverage, and other opportunities. Heck, you’re probably missing out on concert attendance and album sales.

Don’t make it complicated. Have a dedicated “contact us” section with your email.

The Ball’s in Your Court — Don’t Drop It

This should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway; if someone gets in contact with you, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t leave them hanging. Get back to people within 24 hours, even if it’s just to say “I’m thinking about it.”

Make life easy for industry professionals, and they'll happily return the favor. Make life harder for them, and they'll be more likely to find someone who won't. 

* * *

1 - At this point, I was pretty sure they weren't going to pay me, and it was starting to show. It is possible that I am no longer a friend of the blog. /kanyeshrug 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

#RPGaDay2017 day 24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be... better known?

Part of an ongoing series, occasionally updated in real-time!

IT'S BLOG O' CLOCK, homies.

#RPGaDay2017 day 24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more?

Nah fam, that's a pretty asinine premise for a question. PWYW is a pretty sweet business model, and I'mma just disregard the fundamental assumption that it's devaluing a product here. And if you're stuck on that, research by Kim (20091), Gneezy (20102), and many, many more that I'm not going to list3, shows pretty conclusively that that's simply not the case.

Sure, sometimes people make less than they might have otherwise done - as it turns out, setting price points is a tricky thing in any model - but sometimes they make more. A lot more.

Sorry, fam; but if you wanna drop that wack pseudo-science not-marketing, you'd best come correct.

Having said that, here's some of my favorite PWYW stuff.

Fate Core, Toolkit, and Worlds

Check out Evil Hat's Drive-Thru selection. I mean, damn. If you like narrative-focused RPGs4, there's enough here to keep you playing for a long, long time. Plus, their art is lovely, the books are smartly laid out, and the Worlds of Adventure explore a wide variety of different themes. You can probably find something  you like there.

Also, apparently the excellent War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus is PWYW now! I bought it at retail, and regret that not for a single second; but if you haven't checked out Sophie Lagace's adaptation of this Grimsical game, you might want to consider doing so now.
It's really good!
Big ups to Evil Hat, and its Patrons on Patreon that have made all this super rad stuff available.


A solitaire RPG, Quill is simple: roll dice, write letters, rinse and repeat. Fun and different!

Nothing much to add; you're either hyped to write
letters, or you're moving on. As is just.


"But Killstring," you ask...

Dude, that's not how we format questions here

Oh, for the love of...

Don't create a format and then not use it! You'll confuse people!

Fine. Go ahead.

...Maybe I don't want to anymore.


Kidding! Anyway. But Killstring, I ask, I thought you didn't like OSR?

Who ever said that I have to enjoy something myself to see merit in it? Listen friends, I literally have a degree in evaluating media, and I'm excited to use it5! Besides, there's not nearly enough of this sentiment in Geek subculture; we get strangely tribal about our sub-fandom, to the point of being hostile.

Ain't got time for that ish.

So yeah, I'm not a big fan of OSR games, but these two make me wish I was. They're incredibly stylish, flavorful, and well put-together. 
Lookin' Fly
First, White Star.

If you're looking for something that goes after the feel of classic Space Opera, hard, then you could do a heck of a lot worse than White Star. Based off the Swords & Wizardry White Box (which I'm not linking, 'cause I have no idea if it's any good or not. OSR homies tend to like S&W, but I bounced off it pretty hard), this game unabashedly gives you rules to play Not-Star-Wars, as well as Not-Other-Classic-Sci-Fi.

It's fun! I think it's fun.

But after that, we're gonna break the category a little bit; this next game is free; there's a Pay-What-We-Want version available too, should it catch your eye. The game in question?

Stars Without Number

Hell yeah.
This is the game that made me desperately wish I liked OSR. It's so, so good. Hell, even if you (like me) cringe at the sight of STR, DEX, CON, etc., there is so much good material here, that it's worth picking up as a resource for your Space Opera games, even if you're allergic to d20s. It's got a wealth of amazing supplements, piles and piles of useful tables, and is just smartly put together. 

So, so fresh. 

There's a free version that I mentioned, but in looking for images, I discovered that there's a Kickstarter going on for a new edition. Six days left as of publishing this, and it too looks super fresh. Check this art: 

The new edition will have a free version too, and it looks to have considerable polish. I don't usually hype projects that I'm:
  1. Not involved in
  2. Not interested in playing
  3. Not done by anyone I know
but if you dig OSR stuff, this seems like a worthwhile use of your time and/or money.

And hey, since we busted the format anyway, here's my all-time favorite PWYW product:

How come I end up where I started?
Though it's since gone traditional, this gorgeous album launched PWYW models into the public consciousness, and I, for one, think we're better off for it.


* * *

1 - Ju-Young Kim, Martin Natter, Martin Spann (2009) Pay What You Want: A New Participative Pricing Mechanism. Journal of Marketing: January 2009, Vol. 73, No. 1, pp. 44-58.

2 - Gneezy, A., Gneezy, U., Nelson, L. D., & Brown, A. (2010). Shared social responsibility: A field experiment in pay-what-you-want pricing and charitable giving. Science329(5989), 325-327.

3 - This is, after all, not a scholarly article, and I'll be citing all damn night if I want to make this point properly.

4 - I do! :)

5 - Not that this really counts as objective critical review, nor am I really trying to do so. But when I can work in an "I used my degree today" joke, I do so. You've been warned.

Getting Sponsorship for Indie Musicians

The penultimate entry in the series discussed here

Sponsorships. Nothing says big-time like an endorsement deal. It's for the big-time, established acts, so obviously, independent musicians shouldn’t even bother. Right?

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

“We’d get sponsorships for our bands all the time, even the ones who weren’t signed” says former concert promoter/artist manager Jonathan Killstring1. “Sometimes, it wasn’t even a specific thing; we happened to know somebody at an energy drink company, or people from a soda company just liked rock music, and told us to figure something out.”

Sponsorships are out there; it’s just a matter of asking.

If you’re interested in reading more on the topic, Simon Tam’s book “How to Get Sponsorships & Endorsements” has some good, common-sense advice2, and the Kindle version usually goes for about $4. For now, here’s the basics you’ll want for getting started.

Your Packet

If you want a sponsorship, you’ll want to speak your target’s language. That means putting together a packet; a nice digital file (usually .pdf), and a high-quality print version. It doesn’t matter how great you are – if they only take physical packets, your email’s not getting you anywhere.

To that end, here’s the format you’ll want to use.

1: The Cover

It should look distinctive; not too busy. Your band logo’s probably all the art you need, but consider tailoring it for each company you send it to; something like “2017 [Band Name] [Company Name] Sponsorship Proposal” should do it. Give them the opportunity to think about working with you.

2: Your “One Sheet”

If they only see one page, this is it. A dramatic, pro photo, major stats/accomplishments, press coverage,  or the big winner: testimonials from existing sponsors. You’re answering the question “what can this artist do for us?” Make sure that they read the answer as "expand our brand awareness, making us fat stacks of cash."

3: Partnership

Here’s where you go into more detail on how the sponsor benefits from working with you. Why are you a good fit? Remember, this entire thing is meant to make someone else's job easier; you're taking some of their advertising burden off of their to-do list.

4. Fact Sheet

What, exactly, are they sponsoring? A tour? You in general? One event?

Make sure they’ve got the details. Be specific: who/what/where/when/why – don’t leave them in the dark. You’re here to get them exposure, which will turn into profits; spell out exactly how that happens, and what you expect them to do on their side.

5: Key Marketing Information

This builds on the last category. As an artist, you represent a niche market; demographics that your sponsor is going to want to reach. Know your audience, and be really clear on how your branding works; if you’re a horrorcore rapper, you’re not going to rep their product in a family-friendly way.

Then again, death metal babies need diapers too, so you can always give it a shot. Everybody wants to go viral, so marketers are much more willing to try unorthodox solutions than they were in years past3.

6: Co-Branding Opportunities

3-5 pitches on how this could work in practice. Illustrate how this could work; let them see how working with you can expand their reach to your demographic. This will make you stand out from the crowd; marketing departments are always trying to get at hard-to-reach demographics; you represent that opportunity. Let’m know.

7: Benefit List

This should mostly be a recap; by now, you should have shown why they benefit from sponsoring you.

Spell it out anyway.

Focus on the custom benefits — go beyond simple logo placement — but cover everything. This is basically your formal offer; be clear on what they get for their expense.

8: The Sponsorship Agreement

Make it easy to fill out and return. If physical, including a SASE, and printing the agreement on carbonless copy paper — so they can tear off a copy for themselves, and send one to you — makes a nice touch, as does a QR code for the digital version. Can't stress this enough; make this part as easy as you can manage.

It’s Within Reach

Musicians represent a unique opportunity for marketers; don’t sell yourself short! There’s room for you in the sponsorship game, so step up and claim it!

* * *

1 - Man, this guy was such a quotable source! Can you tell that I'd gotten a little punchy by this point?

2 - It's a little outdated, but provides a nice outline. Probably worth four bucks if you're interested in the subject, though it's nothing you couldn't find online with some searching.

3 - Obnoxiously so. "We need a viral video" is like saying "we need a hit song," only with far less likelihood that prior success is an indicator of future behavior. Still, mention that you've got "viral potential," and watch eyes light up. Don't overdo it, but plant the seed.