Monday, 31 March 2014

WildStar: A Second Beta Weekend

Greetings friends!

So last week I introduced you all to the wonderful world of WildStar as I took part in their first Beta Weekends.

Well now it's back as the game developer's Carbine decided to give us a bonus weekend!

Now this is something that works out well for all of us. Well for Carbine as they get more testing data, and well for us players as we get more time to experience the world.

So I mentioned last time about my NDA that prevented my releasing screenshots? Apparently that has been removed so I was sure to spam PrintScreen whenever possible.

So first things first, I need to introduce you to my character:

His name is Loxley Ivanovic a Mordesh Spellslinger.

You may notice that I gave him a surname, now normally in WildStar this isn't possible, but thanks to the mod Rocket Pig (or RP for short) this is viewable in game by anyone else with the mod installed.
- That's right, we're not even live and already we have mod support!

I'd like to take a moment to show you something that I always find very interesting about MMOs, and that is the load screen. I find the load screen can tell you a lot about a game in terms of the mood it is setting and what sort of style you should expect. This is WildStar's load screen for my current region:

Quite pleasantly the map and planet are animated with satellites orbiting around it while they float and bob giving the impression of a hologram projection. It's not much, but I find it gives something that the usual static image would not.

So following on from last week it was a shame to see that the UI or HUD has yet to be updated to 2.0, but that's ok after all I still like what I'm looking at, just not as much as what I've seen of UI 2.0.

You may also remember that last week I talked about fighting a giant mech?

Yeah, so this weekend I was avble to ally myself with an ancient AI construct who gave me access to this bright green laser gun!

Which then proceeded to blast the big mech in his big chest and head

Which left him with only half a head!

Now this was a pretty awesome feeling, largely because it wasn't just an intense boss fight like many other games would have done, instead it had a steady build up, lots of quests around researching the monster and the facility and a good number of intense fights against other robots some of them involving me really struggling to bring them down.

When the big guy finally fell, I felt it wasn't just an achievement for me but also for all the NPCs who helped me get there.

I guess the best way to describe it, I felt like I was part of the world, which as I'm sure we can agree is a massive part of an MMO.


I also got to take part in some of the ancillary parts of the game this weekend.

First up was ingame housing:

Welcome to Chateau le Loxley (or whatever the phrase is) inside you will find:

A very large plush dinosaur thing!

And a four post bed!

All of this giving a 'medium' comfort level.

This is the game's answer to Inns. While inside your house you begin to gather rested XP meaning that you earn more when you start questing again.

But the housing isn't just for you to play 'house' in and earn XP buffs, no you can also apply different plots outside. Some of these plots are simple blank canvases, just plane bits of dirt that allows you to put more decor in and play with some more, but others are special.

You have the usual crafting station to allow you to work on making that epic sword in piece, but you also have challenge plots which when placed unlock special missions for you and your friends to compete in. In my case I was able to unlock a plot that consisted of large floating rocks covered in crystals, the challenge mission to get from the ground to the highest floating rock within a time limit. After a few false starts this was achieved and I was rewarded with a nice tree decoration to place outside my home!

Next up was something that is always my favourite part of MMOs...


Yup this game has them like you would expect. Now I can only speak for the Exile mounts which for some reason appear to be largely lizard like in appearance from the strange lizard-panther, through the on-2-legs lizard-goat to the lizard-horse.

Yeah I'm not such a fan of lizard beasts.

Then I saw what I wanted, it was beautiful in way that only gritty western sci-fi can produce.

I am of course talking about The Grinder

You can take it from me, this has nothing to do with the match making app of the same name and is instead one giant wheel of awesome sauce!

Let me tell you, with this bad ass motorcycle I felt like King of the world! I didn't care if I was getting in people's way or driving in inappropriate places, I just didn't want to get off the unike (like bike but with one wheel).

And that essentially brought my experience to a close for another weekend.

I reported my fair share of bugs, some of them ignorable others less so and thoroughly enjoyed my time.

The next test for me is how far do I want to progress in the beta. Until this weekend the limit was 14, that has now been upped to 20 and I'm sitting nicely at 15. I've got my house, I've got my transport, I can not currently see any other 'carrots on sticks' encouraging me to play, which means it's now all down to the game itself. If that is good enough then I'll stick with it, if it's not....

Anyway we'll find out about that in the next beta weekend, whenever that may be.

Until then stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Planning to move forward

Greetings friends!

So in just over a week my infamous final exam of AAT Level 2 will be on me and once it's done, regardless of outcome (I'm hoping it's going to be a pass, and I'm trying my hardest to get the double entry orders to stick in my brain!) I'll be resuming my output on CRYPTS: A Weird West Dungeon Crawler!

Now to some of you this will be something you've been waiting a long time for, as with this we'll be seeing updated rules, amended monster cards and loot and even the first draft of the main book including fluff, rules, etc!

To me however this is a super scary thought! One of the reasons I've been throwing out posts about changes and ideas is to keep them all on paper so to speak. This way I have my digital record so that I ca then begin trawling through and compiling the latest version.

Some of these ideas are small but far reaching for example I'm thinking if renaming Free Actions to something else, maybe Tactical Actions (TA) or Utility Actions (UA) as one reaction I have seen a frequent number of people have had to the name Free Action is that they're free, therefore you can just keep using them as many as you want. As you have probably seen however, Free/Tactical/Utility Actions are designed around providing alternative effects such as immobilisations, buffs etc. a name such as Utility Actions gives a better impression of this.

Likewise the rules on Out of Encounter healing is changing (currently it's being flat out removed) as allowing the single use of a heal seemed a little... Clunky...

I'm also toying with Out of Encounter Resurrection. The idea is to not require Blood Shards to do so, but the Rez comes in at half health compared to with a Shard being full health. This allows players who die in fights but there are no shards to Rez them to come back in the case that the posse can finish the encounter. Of course being at half health does mean that they are more likely to die again, but that's why it's not as good as a Shard based Rez!

All of these are just ideas, but unless something drastically changes as a result of discussion or feedback they will almost certainly be appearing in the next version.

You may be wondering why I'm doing away altogether with out of encounter healing. Well as I said its clunky and inelegant and it never felt like it really fixed the problem I experienced when I first created MaliQuest. That issue is the unlimited heal. You see because originally the game was handled as an actual tabletop and players moved into the next encounter by actually moving and opening doors, as soon as the encounter was over the player would stand still, equip their healing items and just heal themselves over and over wasting tens of turns doing little bits of heals before then spending turns just walking to the next door. It was boring and wasted the time of everyone involved.

Now the game is more encounter based, by having every single area a new encounter, movement out of encounters being free allowing you to move as much or as little as you like to set up for the next encounter, but we still had the healing issue.

One thing I didn't want to do was say that players couldn't heal at all outside of combat. It seemed silly, why wouldn't they stand around using their healing gear?

So removing it entirely doesn't solve that, but it does remove the clunky mechanic that every player can use 1 heal outside of each encounter.

So enter the idea on having different types of resurrections.

You see I've a big background in World of Warcraft, a game where you have normal resurrection spells and others called Battle Resurrection. The first has a few funny mechanics that are pointless; a mana cost for starters, also a large cast time. All this does is act as a time sink slowing down the party before they have to move onto the next fight. In all fairness you could easily get rid of these and people's enjoyment would probably improve.

On the contrary battle resurrection is often faster cast but rewards less health. In addition this can usually only be cast once per fight.

This is something that I'm hoping to bring in to CRYPTS but in a different manner.

You see Shards are super valuable, you can use them to correct your missed hits, or turn an enemy's critical damage into a flesh wound, using one of these to bring back a posse member should be good, which is why anyone brought back this way is back with full health, GAs etc. The cost is he 1GA to cast and the Blood Shard that is exhausted.

This is why the reward has been reversed and resurrection outside of an encounter rewards half health. Plus it means that the next encounter requires a bit of strategy. At half health a single crit might be enough to kill you, so do you try and focus on DPS to bring down the spawns before they can kill you, or do you play a slower game and try to get back to full health? This is a challenge which only exists when healing is restricted to inside an encounter.

With hope you see now how these two little changes play off each other. Plus they add additional opportunities for paths and aspects as we saw with the path of bones and being able to combat Rez without a Shard but instead at the cost of Free/Utility Actions. Like I said though there are also aspect options available. We've already got the Healer, but what if something like a Combat Medic was added, it could have an aspect card that made all out of encounter resurrections on a 4+ give 75% or 100% health, who knows?


Anyway, I hope you've been enjoying getting glimpses in my design process and seeing how it works. By now you've probably worked out that it's all free association, and the process of writing it out actually forms the design system, but I find it helps and that's all good by me.

Until next time, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

CRYPTS: Designing a path - Bones

Greetings friends!

So far we've had the pleasure of looking over and glimpsing the upcoming Paths for my in design tabletop game CRYPTS: A Weird West Dungeon Crawler.

To date we have covered:

The Path of Blood - A series of abilities focussed on melee and transforming the body of your character into one not quite human.

The Path of Law - Built around providing weapon based abilities this path will outfit your character with the tools needed to be a dirty fighting gunslinger.

The Path of the Elements - A magic based set of abilities that when used correctly will leave your opponent as a pile of burnt ash.

And today I'm here to talk to you about the final Path that is due to feature in the second optional expansion for the game CRYPTS: Crossed Paths. That is of course The Path of Bones!

Now the Path of Bones is one followed by The Cult of Bones, a group who like the Elemental Circle see the raw power of Blood Shards as untapped potential. Where as the Circle try to purify this power often with explosive results, the Cult instead try to bend it to their will often corrupting it and themselves in the process.


Level 1: Grasp of the Grave.
The Crypts below New Fairbank have born witness to many deaths. Over the years countless innocents have been dragged to their deaths alongside those less so innocent.

As an entry walker in the Paths of Bones you know how to spur the remains of these victims into near unlife. They reach from their graves and grasp for anything they can in the hope of somehow rescuing themselves from their earthy resting place.

GotG is a Free Action Immobilise. To cast you must target an enemy model, and all models within a range of 3 are immobilised.

Using this ability gives you 1 Bone Point. After gathering 10 Bone Points you unlock Level 2.

Level 2: Soft Tissue.
You manipulate the air around your enemy, it slides down their throat and corrupts their body forcing an enhanced form of decomposition that opens them up to attacks.

Soft Tissue is a 1GA magic ability that when successfully cast reduces the enemy target's Toughness and Resistance by 1 until the end of the turn.

For every successful cast of Soft Tissue you gain 1 Bone Point. After collecting 20 Bone Points (Level 2+10) you unlock Level 3.

Level 3: Deadened Nerves
You're exposure to the necromantic energies of The Dark Below have begun to corrupt your own body and with little effort you can cause them to manifest in necrotising your own form. You are still injured when hit, but it hurts less.

Deadened Nerves is a Free Action. When cast on a. 3+ it reduces any incoming damage dice rolls by 1. If the attack only has a single dice roll, roll 2 dice and pick the lowest.

For every successful cast add 1 Bone Point to your pool, once your pool reaches 40 Points (Level 3+20) unlock Level 4.

Level 4: Walk the Veil
Your studies of the necromantic arts are nearing completion and with relative ease you are able to see beyond our world and into the world of the dead. The spirits within whisper to you and tell you their secrets, for those only recently dead you can even pull them through the veil into the world of the living so they may continue where they left off.

WtV is a 1GA and can be used in the place of a Combat Rez. Return a dead player to life however for the remainder of the encounter they are weakened and may not use Free Actions.

Every time WtV is used add 1 Bone point to your pool. At 80 points (Level 4+40) unlock Level 5.

Level 5: Soul Storm.
The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is like a film of water to you and will you can pull the souls of the long dead through into the world of the living at your will alone allowing their energies to nourish your posse and harm your foes.

For the cost of a Blood Shard and 2GAs you may cast Soul Storm. Soul Storm is a magical AoE with a range of 6 centred on the caster. All allies within this range roll to heal 1/2/4. All enemies with range suffer the same as damage.


And that's it! We have finally come to a stop and tackled all the current paths.

There are a few terms that I have used over the past week that may not make full sense, things like Combat Rez. This will all make sense in time once my exam is out of the way and I'm able to put out the latest version of the rules, but as a glimpse I'm looking to put in a resurrect for within encounters, and one outside encounters. This will allow players who die early on to continue playing but there will be an immediate drawback as a result.

Anyway, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 24 March 2014

Designing a Path - Elemental

Greetings friends!

Carrying on from my previous posts about the Path of Blood and Path of Law, next up is the Path of Elements.

Now the Path of Elements is one walked by members of The Circle, a group of regular people who see themselves as magicians, sorcerers and alchemists, distilling and purifying the power of Blood Shards into what they believe to be a less corrupting power than the followers of Blood and Bones.


As a walker of the Elemental Path you start at Level 1.

Level 1: Ring of Fire.
Like all paths you start with a Free Action that acts as an immobilise. Ring of Fire unlike the other paths does not prevent the enemy's movement as a rule. Instead it lasts until the end of the target's next activation when it dissipates. During this time they may choose to perform a movement action, but doing so causes damage (low damage, probably 1/2/4), but this threat of damage will put off all but the strongest of enemies from making such movements.

Every time you successfully cast Ring of Fire you gain 1 Elemental Point. After gathering 10 points you unlock Level 2.

Level 2: Elemental Command.
As a walker of the elements you can command their power to a small degree to do your bidding.

Elemental Command is a Free Action buff that allows you to apply one of the following to a friendly character that lasts until the effect is used up. It requires a 3+ to cast.

Fire Command: Increase their next attack damage roll by 1

Water Command: Increase their next heal roll by 1.

Earth Command: The next time this model is due to take damage reduce the damage dice by 1. If only a single dice is due to be rolled, roll 2 and pick the lowest.

Every time Elemental Command is successfully cast add 1 Elemental Point to your path. Once you have gathered 20 Points (Level 2 +10) you unlock level 3.

Level 3: Ion Storm
As a walker of the Elemental Path even the very electricity of the air is available to you, but this comes at a price and is not always a reliable tool.

As a 1GA you try to unleash the electrical energy around a single enemy of your choice. If successful that model looses all Melee, Ranged and Magic modifiers until the end of their next turn and they suffer damage of 1/2/4. If you are unsuccessful then that effect is applied to you. No damage is dealt to you however.

For every successful cast you receive 1 Elemental Point. At 40 points (Level 3 +20) you unlock level 4.

Level 4: Fog of Confusion
The walkers of the elemental path have found ways to use their abilities in strange and unusual ways, one such method is the Fog of Confusion.

This is a ability that is held to the upmost secrecy and very few outside the Circle even knows of it's existence.

As a 1GA you may cast a ranged magic spell Fog of Confusion. If successful you swap places with your target of choice. If targeting a friendly model, if the target is in agreement this is cast on a 3+. If they do not agree, roll as normal.

For every successful cast gain 1 Elemental Point. After gathering 80 points (level 4 +40) unlock level 5.

Level 5: Rise of the Phoenix
Those who try to utilise the power of the elemental path often discover something more volatile than they first imagined. Many a trainee in the path have been known to have their bodies turned to ash, burned from the inside as they try and fail to control these energies.

For those who learn to harness these energies the Rise of the Phoenix is there reward.

RotP is an ability that requires 2GA to cast with an AoE range of 3. Everything within range and is hit then suffers damage equal to 2/4/8 + 50% the caster's Health rounded down. So someone on full health (12) will do 8/10/14. Once damage has been dealt exhaust 1 Blood Shard and restore them to full health.

This ability is a super strong one as it's damage output is enough to kill almost anything the game has to offer and but that is why it is currently set as a 1 use per game ability. Currently the only ability that has such a requirement.


And there we have it! Another Path put down on paper!

I hope that this path came across as intended, as something that when used correctly it has many uses, relies heavily on magic casting and damage output and can in the wrong situation cause problems (as is mainly seen in Ion Storm).

So we're clear on design here, RotP is not aimed as a Self Rez. Yes it does that function, but if you are say on 1 Health it will only do it's base damage. Perhaps this is too high? Perhaps it should have a base damage of 0 and your output is based exclusively around your remaining Health? That is something I am open to interpretation and opinion with.

It's also worth noting that it requires 2GA to pull off, so without movement based Aspect Abilities you're going to have to rely on setting it up previous turn. That said, by the time you're using paths, you should be up to speed with Aspects, so there's no reason why your healer couldn't equip their move nth ability to move you forward, then you activate next, DPS Leap and unleash RotP. Bam you just moved a range of ~8 and unleashed a super powerful ability (if on full health).

Anyway, next time we're looking at The Path of Bones. A path based around buffs and debuffs, perfect for your healers and ranged support based DPS.

Until next time, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wildstar: A Beta Weekend

Good Monday everyone!

So how's your weekend been? Mine was spent in a beta weekend trying out the game Wildstar!

Ok first things first, there are a few things that I don't think I can really discuss and that is down to a general NDA thing that I agreed to. Also part of the NDA said I wasn't allowed to take screenshots for public consumption. So for this post I've done what I always do and delved the internet for already publicly available images! - Go Team Google!

What is Wildstar?
Good question! Wildstar is an online adventure game where hundreds of other players co exist with others, sometimes working together, other times in competition. Also known as a Massively Multiplayer Online game, or MMO for short.

For those familiar with the genre, it's like World of a Warcraft only in space... Sorta like World of Starcraft if you will...

So what's different about Wildstar compared to 'X' other MMOs?
Ok, well Wildstar is a game developed by Carbine studios, made up by ex MMO designers, people who worked on Old World WoW, City of Heroes etc. Apparently the story goes that they grew tired of their games and went searching for something new, got bought by NCSoft but retain creative control, so NCSoft count only as publishers nothing more.

What this gives us is a game that feels much like every other MMO out there, in no way is it trying to reinvent the wheel, because the team who are making it are part of the same teams who created the wheels we're all currently running around on - per se.

What makes Wildstar different is the setting, which is two fold; a). Sci Fi and b). SMC (Saturday Morning Cartoon.

As you can see from these characters above:
Generic dopey looking steam/future-punk human? Check!
Large brutish looking rock man? Check!
Cultish animal girl who probably has psychic powers? Check!

This game, while being sci if at it's core holds very true to it's SMC theme throughout... Hell, it even has the generic 'blind in one eye Gunslinger' trope as a quest giver; who by the way is awesome!

This is what Wildstar brings to the table, and while I've only delved about 12 levels into the beta, it's a world I've fallen in love with!

Ok, but it can't be all good? What could they improve?
Right, now I need to say that we're still looking at Beta here, so some of these complaints may be ironed out, and some I know for sure will.

First we have the UI. It's clunky and un eloquent.

As you can see everything is centred around this 'pyramid' in the middle, blocking off vital parts of the screen and just looking a bit shit.

That said however, this is referred to as UI1.0 and it has been made public that as of a soon to come (the next?) beta weekend that same UI will be replaced with v2.0:

I think we can all agree that's much nicer.

Then there's the frames per second (how quickly the game renders on your screen). The smooth ride we're all striving for is around 60fps, the higher you increase your prettiness the lower your FPS goes and you need better hardware to render.

Now there have been a LOT of people talking about an I optimised graphic engine causing many players to be stuck at a FPS around 5-10, aka unplayable even on high end machines. As some of you know in December I upgraded my GPU to a Radeon HD8000 series (8700 if i remember correctly) and this will run most games like a beast, so this may account for this, but in nearly all but a very few areas I had next to no framerate drop off meaning the game ran and played very smooth. That said, even though I did not experience the low frame rate problems, due to the sheer volume of people reporting it, I feel it needs to be mentioned.

That said, I can not argue the graphics are certainly in need of work as there are certain bits which are crazy wrong! Like the ground detail slider which works backwards! The higher you move the slider the less ground detail you show! (It's supposed to work the other way around).

Also there's the issue of the wheel itself.

Like I said earlier, the team have not tried to reinvent the wheel, only apply that wheel to a new setting. The problem here; and this really comes down to personal taste, some people are tired of the wheel! They want something new and fresh and not the usual 'run around pressing 1124431' to win a fight. But like I said, this is personal preference.

Then there's the setting itself. Like I said, the game has a very SMC feel to it's looks, and I'll be honest, this isn't for everyone. Even in my own home we're split between saying the game looks kiddie vs awesome!

If you don't like the style, then there's no getting over that. They've taken the cartoony look of World of Warcraft and cranked it up to 11 so a lot of the characters look like a modern day Disney version of what other games would have.

Now the thing with style and taste, there's no right or wrong answer, some will like it, others won't. But it must be kept in mind that by splitting the demographic in such a way it will never be a game that will grab both group's attentions.

It sounds like Wildstar has an uphill struggle on their hands, but there must be some good points... Right?
Damn right there are some good points!

For starters some of the game's weak points are also it's strengths!

Yes it doesn't reinvent the wheel, but personally I like that wheel! And in doing so it allows the dev team to focus on the world they are creating, the character of it's inhabitants and the tone of the missions and conversation.

You see there is no denying it, visual tastes aside Wildstar is very dynamic in it's appearance with characters choc-full of personality, which in turn is further heightened by it's use if contrasting accents; the Exiles with their Southern Belle accents compared to the Imperial English of the Cassians.

The combat is fast and fluid with lots of interesting interactions between your own abilities but also those of others.

Questing, while sometimes a little grindy (we are talking about The Wheel here remember) is made more dynamic by allowing for assisted kills. With a plethora of 'Kill X of Y' missions available there are lots of situations where you will be competing with other players over the same kills. Rather than lock the monsters down, if you are attacking one, and another player joins in, then both players get credit for the kill! This method of kill recognition allowing for players to work together for a brief space of time without actually forming a team and feeling the need to share that awkward "I don't know you, but feel obliged to talk anyway" chat that such forced teamups result in.

As with many MMOs there are moments that stand out as memorable, the picture above being one such OMG moment where you and a group of other players need to bring down a Titan sized mech-man.

Ok, enough of the official stuff. How was your personal experience?
Ok, ok. So the thing that really got me into this game was the whole 'space cowboy' thing. I've always loved Weird West themes be it horror, steampunk or sci fi (after all as a kid my favourite tv show was Brave Starr) and it was that side of this game which grabbed me in.

After a brief bit of research I soon found out that out of the two factions available; The Exiles (rogue colonies searching for a new home) and The Dominion (The Empire) only the Exiles gave me the space cowboy feel I was going after, and the class I needed was the Spellslinger, a dimension jumping gunslinger. The race was a harder option until I saw the Mordeth, a group of humanoids suffering from a plague that ravaged their bodies into an almost decomposes state. In other words I could play an undead cowboy! Hells yeah!!

Personally I really enjoyed my experience I found the animation smooth and full of character however felt that certain aspects of the game could have done with better tutorials such as the crafting system. I was able to figure out most of it, but a couple of issues really got to me. Namely that I wanted to craft my own gear, which requires being a farmer to gather materials to make cloth, however no matter how hard I tried I could not find the trainer for being a farmer. This has been reported and I hope that the problem is either me being an idiot (for which there is no cure) or if it's a problem with more people reporting that it is looked at.

Final Thoughts
So I played this game for roughly 3 nights. I told myself at the start that if I grew tired I would drop it and not look back.

The end result? I'm loving it! It is more of the same, but the setting and style is enough to make it a fun alternative!

On that note, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 20 March 2014

CRYPTS: Designing a Path - Law

Greetings friends!

So yesterday I put up a post all about the Path of Blood and it's 5 levels.

What may (or may not) surprise you, when I started writing the post all I knew about the Path of Blood was that it would have a melee immobilise, a health sacrificing heal and a massive stat buff which would leave you drained and exhausted. But the ins and outs of the path were largely unknown, but in the process of writing the post the path came together.

Based on this process I'd like to talk you through another Path that I like the concept of but has yet to be fully realised: The Path of Law.


So this path is the one that fluffy is designated by the character known as The Sheriff. No one knows his real name or his motives for why he set up New Fairbank as his new home. Despite this none can argue that The Sheriff made the town the successful place it is today and a part of that success is the the tithes and restrictions enforced by The Sheriff's deputies who call themselves "The Law".

Despite the name The Law are not strictly lawful. Their members are as diverse as any other group in New Fairbank and they will not shy from recruiting US Marshals and Outlaws alike. More so than anything The Law controls the black market being sure to take their cut from ever transaction that involves the trade of currency.

It is through this control and the use of tithes and taxes that The Law is the most wealthy of all the factions and their path represents this.

Level 1: Man Traps.
Like all paths, level 1 is an immobilise. As a member of The Law you have a number of trinkets at your disposal including the Man Trap. For a Free Action you place a 2x2 marker that counts as a Man Trap, any enemies that step within this 2x2 marker are immobilised and need to spend 2GA before they are able to return to their usual mobile state.

As with the path of law, every time you successfully Immobilise an enemy you receive 1 Law Point, once you have 10 Law Points you unlock Level 2.

Level 2: Gunslinger.
To a member of The Law their side arm is their trusty friend and none are without it at any time of the day or night. This special relationship has made the weapon a part of them and they can use it in melee should the situation arise.

Gunslinger is a new mechanic that CRYPTS is looking to introduce called 'Stances'. At the start of a game you can declare if a stance is in an active or inactive state. Once the initial state has been declared this can be changed at the start of any if your activations at the cost of no actions.

When active Gunslinger reduces your melee range to 0, this means it is impossible for enemy models to be locked in melee with you, but you can still be locked in melee with them. When you are locked in melee you can use a ranged attack (this includes ranged magic) on the enemy using the Melee modifier stat.

The idea of Gunslinger is to reverse the power of an enemy's engagement range, so those with longer melee range are actually at a disadvantage.

Every time you deal melee damage with a ranged attack while Gunslinger stance us active you gain 1 Law point, once you have 20 Law points (Level 2 +10) you unlock Level 3.

Level 3: Special Ammunition
Special Ammo is a Free Action and allows you to select one of the following effects which remain active until your next Activation:

Poison Coated Bullet: +1 Damage Dice against Vermin
Runed Bullet: +1 Damage Dice against Undead
Blessed Bullet: +1 Damage Dice against Demons
Silver Bullet: +1 Damage Dice against Brood.

This represents The Law always having a wide selection of weapons and ammo for any type of situation and actually hails back to my earlier game MaliQuest which had modifications. My fave mod was always the different ammo types and I think this works well to keep that feel while keeping it in the fast action style of the game.

Every time you deal damage with a special ammo type you get 1 Law Point, at 40 points (Level 3 +20) you unlock Level 4.

Level 4: I AM THE LAW!
Currently the plan of IATL is to be a Free Action, when activated any damage dealt for the remainder of your activation grants you a Blood Shard refresh on a 5+ rather than a 6. This might not sound like much and it can be adjusted through testing. Standing up and doing an impression of Stallone in Judge Dredd is not required, but is encouraged.

For every Blood Shard refreshed through this method you gain 1 Blood Point, at 80 points (Level 4 + 40) you unlock level 5.

Level 5: Black Market Hustle
The Law have ties everywhere very often this is with the Black Market itself.

At the end of an encounter, at the cost of exhausting 1 Blood Shard you may re-flip 1 Loot card.

This might at first seem like a lack luster ability, but this stacks. If you are lucky enough to flip 3 Loot cards at the end of the encounter and Law members exhaust 3 blood Shards, all three of those cards may be re flipped giving you a choice(ish) of 6 cards!

It's not quite like that however, as once re flipped the new flip over writes the old flip, and no flip may be re-flipped again. So you may only reflip each loot once.


And that's it! I hope you enjoy how this has developed and would love to know your thoughts so far, does the Gunslinging, Shard Manipulating, Multi Ammo using Hustler sound like something you'd like to play?

On that note; stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

CRYPTS: Designing a Path

Good Thursday everyone!

So it seems that after making some poor downloading choices I was left without any available mobile data until today giving me little to do but put thoughts onto screen for publishing at a slightly later time.

So I'd like to talk you through one of the bits I've been working on in my head as I design the second optional expansion for the game CRYPTS: A Weird West Dungeon Crawler.

I am of course talking about CRYPTS: Crossed Paths (working title) the optional expansion that introduces Paths, or if you will; alternative character development.


So today's discussion will be focused on one of my favourite Path concepts, the Path of Blood. It's a real mix match path offering something for everyone.

The great thing about Blood is that it celebrates the power of Blood Shards in it's purest form without being purified (Elemental) or corrupted (Bones), blood is just the power of The Dark Below in it's natural organic state, and as I am designing these abilities I am trying to capture this theme, of people using an eldritch power but possibly loosing themselves as a result.

So you start off at level 1, which like all paths is an immobilise. Unlike the others, this immobilise is an AoE based ability (Area of Effect) which is centred around your character and has a range of 1. You then have to make a Toughness roll (with Melee bonuses) on every enemy within range and for every success they are immobilised.

This represents your character growing tentacles of your own and ensnaring the enemies and as it keeps the enemies locked in place it is most useful for Tanks and Melee DPS Aspects.

Every time you successfully use this ability (that's causing 1+ immobilise) you gain a point in your Blood path. Once you have 10 points you unlock level 2 Blood Heal.

Now Blood Heal is quite interesting, it's a Free Action so isn't interfering with your regular heals or attacks and allows you to drain your own health and give it to another friendly player within a range of 6. Currently we're looking at a ratio of 1:2, so if you were to sacrifice 6HP your ally would get 12. This requires a 3+ to cast, so you're looking at 2/3rd success rate. It is possible for you to kill yourself using this ability, so it's wise to keep that in mind.

This ability is most useful for healers or ranged DPS who should be staying clear of damage.

Every time this ability is used you add 1 point to your Blood Path. Once you have totalled 20 points (so +10 from level 2) you unlock level 3: Feral Claw.

Now Feral Claw is a nice meaty ability as it transforms one of your arms into a large weapon.

Feral Claw has a range of only 1 but it's critical is very high, you're looking at a stat profile of something like 1/2/8 plus it has 2d6 damage dice! Making it twice as likely to Crit!

Yes it doesn't have the basic damage of the Infernis Axe or the reach, but it is single handed, however it is still a very nice ability, and using 1GA to use it allows it to either replace your standard melee attack or just give an alternative.

Feral Claw really comes into it's own when you reach Level 4 however and every time you successfully damage an enemy with this attack you gain 1 point in the Path of Blood.

Once you have gathered 40 points (Level 3 + 20) you unlock Level 4: Growth.

Now Growth is a multi choice Free Action so you will not be using it alongside your Immobilise or Blood Heal. It costs 3+ to cast (so 1/3rd fail rate) and applies a buff to your character until your next activation.

Your choices are as follows:
- Armoured Hide +2 Armour. This may not seem like much, but it does not require a breaking roll like normal armour does, instead you're using your Free Action.
- Bludgeoning Claw. Any successful attacks with your Feral Claw this activation will reduce the enemies' Armour value by 1 for the remainder of the Encounter.
- Mutated Legs. Increase your Movement by 2.

As you can see these have some very useful abilities, the armour will remain until you activate next, so any attacks between then and now will be at -2 damage, bludgeoning claw is great for any future attacks for either yourself or your party and mutated legs could depending on your Aspect or weapon load out give you the distance bonus you need.

Every time you successfully cast this you get 1 blood point and at 80 points (Level 4 +40) you reach Level 5: Monstrous Transformation.

Now this is one if my favourites! It requires a 2+ to cast and is a Free Action. Casting this successfully transforms you into a hulking brute of a creature (gives you an excuse to use a monstrous creature model of your own). You loose all weapons and can only use Feral Claw ability and Growth however your Melee Stat doubles, as does your Health & Toughness stats. In addition the damage profile for Feral Claw changes to 2/4/8, so you are keeping your high damage but your low and medium damage are doubling, plus your damage dice are increased by +1 (so you roll 3d6).

Now I'm sure you can see, this is a super good ability, it turns you into a hard to kill, damage dealing monster! But it comes at a price! Every activation after you initiate the transformation it remans in effect and you MUST discard a Blood Shard or you become exhausted. Your body returns to normal, you are reduced to 1 Health, can not use any combat modifiers and your stats are reduced by 50%, you may not use Free Actions and receive -1GA, all of this for the remainder of the Encounter.

Having the 3d6 damage dice does help you recharge your Shards, but in no way does it mean you can keep it up indefinitely but it might just give you the edge in combat you are looking for.


So there we have it, the breakdown of the Blood Path. Of course everything is still very much in pre alpha status, and until the core game & Aspects are properly ironed out this won't even go into testing, but as I hope you can see this is a type of character development that I'm quite excited about!

So until next time, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Black Marble: A CRYPTS Short Story

The Sheriff stood surrounded by darkness, it had come suddenly and in a matter of moments he had lost all line of sight with what was left of his posse. He breathed in deep, the encroaching shadows invading his lungs like the smoke of an old locomotive.

To the best of his knowledge it had taken the Sheriff two days to reach this level of the crypts and he had already lost over half of the men he had brought in his posse. Beside him stood his friend and mentor; Doctor Loxley. This man's wits were so sharp he could cut through stone with a lash of his tongue, metaphorically speaking of course.

Every night the posse had been besieged by all manner of creatures never before encountered by a man on God's green Earth and every night the posse pushed the monsters back. At first it had been the legions of undead, the same zombies and skeletons that had attacked the miners just weeks before, the same attack that had brought the Sheriff to New Fairbank with his own swift justice. Soon after the undead, the Sheriff faced all manner of bugs and rats, each one impossibly large in size and voracious of appetite.

It was at this point the Sheriff noticed how the Doctor had began recording his findings in an old leather bound journal, each creature getting a page to itself. The Sheriff remembered thinking at the time that there was no way the Doctor would ever fill every page.

After the bugs came more unspeakable beasts, humanoid creatures with mottled skin and claws, looking more like the demons from the stories he was told at church than anything that should have the right to exist in this world. But still the posse pressed on through each swarm always protecting their ranks while they slept and pushing through the enemies' numbers after they had gathered the minimal sleep.

The Sheriff didn't know when he had first seen the Blood Stone. He knew he had seen it in his dreams long before actually reaching it but when he did it was more magical than anything he could ever have imagined.

The stone itself was just over six foot in size and about two feet wide appearing almost tear-drop in shape and crystalline in structure. While the Sheriff stood transfixed by his prize, it was the wall the crystal was embedded in that both intrigued and terrified the rest of the posse. Standing before the group, absorbing all and any light that approached it was a ginormous wall of black marble.

That night it was the Doc who noticed the creatures of the crypts and how they were keeping their distance from them now. Someone within the posse joked about how it might have taken them a while, but the creatures had finally learned to fear them. Both the Doctor and the Sheriff knew this was nonsense as it was the black marble and the blood red crystal nestled within that held the monsters at a distance.

Doctor Loxley didn't get much sleep that night, he stood before the black marble wall tracing outlines with his fingers before drawing shapes in his journal. The wall's light absorbing properties made it difficult to see, but through touch alone the Doc was able to make out abstract shapes, twists and lines as if a giant mural was carved into it's smooth surface.

Like the Doctor, the Sheriff didn't get much sleep that night either. Try as he might the Sheriff could not drag himself away from the blood red crystal; the Blood Stone. Somehow he knew he had to remove it from it's stone mount but he couldn't see how as it was encapsulated on all sides by the perpetual darkness of the wall.

By the morning the rest of the posse had given up keeping watch, they knew that the creatures of the crypts would not step any closer and in turn they all took long troubled rest. Each man seemed to share the same nightmare, of tendrils of pure shadow reaching for them and pulling their very souls out of their bodies and into the black marble, with each soul absorbed the red crystal grew brighter and brighter before shattering. It was then they would each wake.

The posse agreed that despite the nightmares they should remain at this site and began to build a less temporary camp including the construction of a small fire. Once lit the fire illuminated the room they were in and the Doctor was amazed to see the drawings he was making from the black marble were continued across the walls of the rest of the room and with the brighter light available he could make out the shapes on these walls with so much ease.

The random twists and curves he thought he had felt on the black marble was so much more than he had thought and indeed appeared to be immense tendrils and claws of an incredible beast. With everything put into perspective it all made sense.

Stretching out towards the far reaches of the room they inhabited these tendrils continued until they tapered out by the passage out of the chamber. Doctor Loxley added these to his sketches and began a new sketch. He included the tendrils, the red crystal and the wall itself and pieced together he could see it all. A monstrous creature that reminded him of a giant octopus or squid he had heard so many stories of in his youth. Held in it's mouth was the blood red crystal, the structure the Sheriff had begun referring to as 'The Blood Stone'. Unlike the octopi and squid this carving shared it's imagery with, this mouth the crystal was held within was not a beak like structure but was instead a gaping maw filled with large jagged teeth.

As the days carried on the Doctor continued to sketch the carvings in the black marble and with each new sketch he found more and more horrors. A humanoid trapped in it's tentacled grasp here, another being ripped apart there. What disturbed the Doctor the most however was that he was certain these figures had not been there before, as if the black marble was moving and changing, a response to their presence perhaps, maybe a warning.

Throughout all this time the Sheriff had grown tired of the Doctor. The Sheriff didn't understand how a learned man could be so obsessed by some old sculptures while the true prize was within their reach but out of grasp at the same time. He found himself cursing every god he knew for placing The Blood Stone in this damned wall of darkness. The Sheriff's displeasure turned to rage and with a curled fist he punched the blood red crystal over and over until his skin cracked and his own blood began to splatter over the crystal surface.

No one in the posse was certain they had seen it, but they all thought they had as the blood from the Sheriff's attack began to be absorbed by the crystal itself and it began to ever so dimly glow a dull red. Everyone looked on as the Sheriff began to manically grin, he had found out how to unlock the Stone's power all he needed was more blood.

Pulling a large hunter's knife from his boot the Sheriff crept up behind a stunned posse member. He couldn't remember the man's name; John or Frank, it didn't matter, this man would soon be a part of something greater than any of them could even began to comprehend and he brought the knife across the man's throat and in a singular motion forced the man against the stone leaving the spurt of arterial blood to wash over the crystal.

The Blood Stone grew brighter and brighter as everyone other than the Sheriff backed away from it. The black marble began to emit a guttural growl and soon began to move, a seam appearing in line with the crystal as it opened like a great door, the crystal itself falling onto the floor now free of it's structured prison.

The Sheriff reacted to the crystal almost violently, pushing everyone aside as he raced to cover it in a blanket. The Sheriff was amazed to find the crystal was so light weight and with a quick flurry of leather straps he had fashioned a harness and strapped it to his back. The crystal secured and safe he turned his attention to the opening in the black marble.

With the crystal gone, the wall's unusual light absorbing properties had vanished and everyone was soon able to see for themselves the grotesque image that adorned the wall. The Doctor had been right, carved into the black stone was an image of a terrifying creature; all tentacles, teeth and claws, but it was not this carving that drove fear into the hearts of the posse at this point as they stared past the carvings, through the gaping doorway that had opened in the wall and into the inky blackness beyond.

They all stood in silence as tendrils of shadow spilled out from behind the wall. It smothered the campfire and encroached on the Crypt's creatures all gathered at the chamber's entrance, too afraid to actually enter, but still waiting for an opportunity to strike at the remaining posse members. These creatures scattered like leaves in the wind and soon in no time at all the room was pitch black, the inky darkness washing over everything and everyone.

It was here that the Sheriff stood, the Blood Stone strapped securely to his back, a pistol in one hand and a hunting knife in the other. All around him was nothing but darkness and slowly he crept towards where he was certain the exit to the chamber should have been.

The Sheriff felt something beside him, it moved suddenly and in reaction he twisted and jabbed his knife out in a stabbing motion. He stood in shock as what had happened came into vision. With this death the crystal on his back began to glow brighter still and as it did it pushed back the shadowy darkness revealing the blood soaked body of one of his posse. By his count there would only be three left now including himself and the Doc. The Sheriff didn't like those odds and he ran.

For what felt like hours the Sheriff pushed through the pain as he sprinted to safety, past the cowering demons near the chamber, through the gigantic spider webs and through the swathes of undead that gathered at the entrance to the crypts, all awhile not daring to look over his shoulder at the unseen but ever felt pursuer that had followed him since the black marble chamber.

After what felt like an eternity of running the Sheriff emerged on the surface, the warm mid afternoon sun beating down on him and he fell to the floor grateful to be able to see the sun one more time. Behind the sound of the pursuer erupted and the Sheriff quickly raised his pistol in preparation. What he was confronted with however was the familiar face of Doctor Loxley. This time there was something different about the Doctor, it was clear to the Sheriff that the Doc was not the same man he had entered the crypts with.

They had ventured into the crypts after reports of monsters attacking the town of New Fairbank that had brought the town's gold mine to a halt. They had lost about a dozen men but they themselves had returned with the prize of The Blood Stone still strapped to the Sheriff's back. The Sheriff knew in time he would learn it's secrets. Somehow he had escaped the crypts and he knew the blood red crystal had played a part in it.

Try as he might, the Sheriff struggled to pull a smile at their fortune. He has seen all manner of horrors in the crypts, and he knew they had released something in that chamber, something that was held captive behind the black marble, held in place by this crystal structure that now spoke to him whispered of the great power it can give to him and others like him.

Like the Sheriff, Doctor Loxley was also grim about their fortune. Yes they had escaped but at what cost? The shadow they had unleashed on the world was not something of this world, of that he was sure. He resented the idea but he knew he would need to keep an eye on the Sheriff, for knowingly or not that man had awoken something deep underground, something so terrible and evil it had been trapped behind that black marble for what must have been centuries.

As the Doctor had followed in the crazed footsteps of the Sheriff he felt the change. The crypts, once a simple network of tunnels and chambers had been altered. The inky shadow had reached out and permeated the very walls themselves with something truly horrific; the Dark Below.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Adventures of Geek Dad: Little People & the Deceptive Power of Television

Greetings friends!

Today I'd like to share with you all a bit of an update on how being a father has effected my life.

It's been a while since my last Geek Dad post and after a wonderful afternoon yesterday it, it seemed like the right time to share my experience(s).


You see, about 6-8 months ago my little Moo discovered television. More importantly she discovered the television program Pepper Pig...

Like many before her my Mini Moo has been enthralled by the show which as far as I can see is full of inaccurate information, poorly drawn animation and mostly negative reinforcement.

Yes, there are the occasional moment which as an adult is funny, a sort of 'meta humour' but those are few and far between. Even then, I think they are only amusing because they are being compared to the drudgery of the rest of the show.

Since then her TV tastes have expanded somewhat and now alongside Pepper Pig her favourite shows consist of Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom, Poppy Cat & Pajanimals. The latter of the list despite being the most annoying with their lead characters does at least have good messages ('you can be selfish if you want, but don't expect to keep your friends', or 'even when it is dark your parents and friends are always there for you') nice little messages that I think are good for children to hear as positive reinforcement, unlike Pepper Pig, which thanks to Pepper's own bratish behaviour actually seems to reinforce acting like a spoilt child.


The thing is, if you were to only see my little Moo when she is watching television you would get completely the wrong impression of her. She appears obsessed by the shows, like nothing else matters and she will bite, punch and kick anyone who tries to take them away from her.

But that is not who she is, far from it and yesterday was the perfect example:

It was just after her afternoon nap, my wife and I had enjoyed a good hour or so playing co-op Resident Evil 6 and the little Moo was up and ready for some lunch. She was also very sprightly and in need of some playtime before she would be willing to eat.

Queue Hide n Seek!

This game lasted about 15-20 mins. It started with the Moo counting to 10 while Daddy hid from her, of course this version of hiding was far from difficult; standing by the side of doors or underneath blankets on the sofa, that sort of thing, nothing so difficult that she couldn't find me and nothing that might make her think I'm actually gone.

After she found me, I would count to 10 and try to find her, and we would alternate.

I noticed very quickly that there was a strange logic behind her hiding. If I hid behind a door, she would hide in the same place the next time. If I hid under a blanket then she would next time.

Soon Mummy joined in the game and the same logic was applied there. It seemed that no matter who was hiding, she would hide in the same place.

I don't know the rationale behind it, but it was almost like she thought: "if Mummy/Daddy think it's a good hiding place, then it must be!"

It was shortly after Mummy joined in that I took the opportunity to mix things up a little; asking the Moo to stay quiet I picked her up from behind the door she was hiding behind (the same place that Mummy was hiding behind not minutes before) carried her upstairs into our room and put her behind our floor length curtains, while I stood behind them with her as a 'just incase'.

Again I noticed something very interesting. She was super focused on the task at hand, desperately trying to stay quiet and restrain her giggles she wanted to let out, and seemed convinced that her disguise provides by Daddy was the best ever, even to the extent that when she sneezed with Mummy in the room, completely revealing her (not very subtly anyway) hiding place she kept her cool, and only when Mummy pulled back her curtain did she jump out with a "Boo!" and a beaming smile.


It's most unusual, to see your child, at one point being such a happy and sweet girl, but if you give her a TV to watch (and if she is tired, which ironically is when she wants to watch TV the most) she suddenly turns into someone more... (not monstrous) bratish.


I don't know quite what the cause is, of course we don't want to stop her exploring her own personality and tastes but I can see the connection between the personality shift and tiredness.


So how do you try and encourage the good while curbing the bad?

Well ultimately you have to let them make their own decisions. She may only be 28 months old, but she does have the right to pick her own personality - in fact most would probably argue that personality is fixed anyway (not sure to what extent I agree with that).

But for her I think the biggest and best approach is trying to limit the negative causations, which in the case of my Mini Moo is not television, but tiredness.


Now it was here that I was going to leave the post, but I need to add some additional bits; namely about a game we've been playing the past couple of weekends.

You see, it was only last week that a major step was taken. She was feeling tired, we had played some hide and seek and she needed to go for a bath. I spoke with her and asked; if we were to give her a cup of water (which she asked for) would she then go for a bath. I explained to her about promises and that they are an agreement to do something and if you do not intend to fulfil your agreement you should never ever promise to do something.

She said she understood and she promised to do as asked.

So she had her cup of water, then lo and behold, she put the cup down, picked up her towel, took my hand and walked to the bath!

This is the girl I'm talking about, the one who takes you by the hand and tries to read you a bed time story when you're tired, or who gets excited to an unbelievable level just because you've come to pick her up from nursery and she hasn't seen you for about 10 hours.

Anyway, I should sign off now as this has been a longer than anticipated post and has taken roughly a week to post as is.

Take care, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Oh shit... Oh Shit! OH SHIT!! - Videogaming in the 'Post Amnesia Period'

Greetings friends!

So back at the beginning of the year I promised an article looking at how horror gaming exists today but the article never came about due to other articles taking priority.

Well due to a number of factors that time is now. This is that article:


I'm sure many of you would agree, for as long as games have tried to tell stories there have always been games that have tried to scare us.

How many of you remember the first time either as a child, teenager or young adult you played Doom, heard the robotic growl of the Pinky Demon and felt that tingle of sweat drip down your neck?

For some reason, we humans love to be scared, it's something that we can't get enough of and it's not in video games only.

Looking back over my own life I can pin point a few moments that stood out more than others; seeing Newt in Aliens in the water with the Alien rising up behind her, the scene in Mirrors with the girl who tears her own jaw open and pretty much any moment in RING featuring Sadako.

I hate being afraid, it is a horrible experience, where all aggression has left you, your heart is thumping away in your throat, your skin is cold and you have no idea what will happen next.

Despite this feeling I still watch these films, sometimes with eyes shut tight and other times through gaps in my fingers, but I'm there experiencing those moments, but there's always a comfort there.

You see with these films you have one comfort, you can hide under your sheets and if you wait long enough it will go away, after all the film will end and there is a comfort there, that if you can last long enough the ordeal will be over and unlike the characters of the film the most damage you'll have experienced is a sleepless night or two.

For many years this type of fear was never present in video games...

I've already mentioned the infamous Pinky Demon of Doom, but in this instance you had a gun, some way of fighting back. You knew that if you ever met that growling mass of pixels, even if it took unloading all your ammo into his face, you could walk out of there. There was a challenge, an excitement and an adrenalin burst as you cut down waves upon waves of demons as the hero of Demos.

Now let's fast forward to 2010/2011 when the world was treated to a new breed of fear:

Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Before this game we had some great games, in fact we had gone through the main rise and fall of the genre titled Survival Horror including such iconic titles as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Fatal Frame and Dead Space but how many of these were truly scary?

Now I'll admit, to this day I am still scared shitless over Alma from the F.E.A.R. Series, but I think that's more to do with her similarities with Sadako than anything else. But let's just keep her on the back burner for a moment:

So Amnesia came about and it span the horror game genre on it's heels.

Suddenly it took the classic gaming trope of the butch marine with a gun and said:

"I'll take that gun, that knife, in fact I'll take all your weapons. You're no longer butch either and you know what? There's still monsters stalking you!"

Let's just think about that for a second, a game where you 're being stalked by god knows what and you have no way or fighting it.

Since then we have seen a small number of games emulate, imitate and (in my opinion) succeed Amnesia in what it did, perhaps the most noticeable being last year's Outlast (you can read my review of that here.

But what makes these games so compelling? Why do we keep going back to them night after night to play them?

The answer is simple: Closure

You see, when you watch a film you know that you can hide under the bed sheets and the film will end and a resolution will be reached, maybe the bad guy will be killed, or frozen or something, but either way the trauma of the film will be over.

When you play a game however you can't just hide and hope it goes away, because it doesn't. Unlike films, a game requires input from you.

So when you're playing the world's latest horror survival game, and you're trapped in the mad doctor's underground lab while you can turn off the game and walk away, you can't just hide under the sheets and have your character escape.

The same has happened with me and Outlast, I have reached a point where the stress of playing the game is just too much and I can't bring myself to get past this one part.

So what does that mean?
It means that I'm still there! I'm still trapped in that asylum and no matter how much I try to avoid the truth I know that a part of me knows that and I will never ever see closure unless I can somehow push through that paralysing fear that is stopping me.

It's just like the classic scene in those generic horror movies; the big lumbering brute has been stalking the Scream Queen through the dark corners, she has found a temporary refuge in the dark recesses under a table being used for mad experiments and she has a choice:
She can stay there and accept death as an inevitable outcome.
She can muster all her strength and courage, leap from under the table and hope that her second wind will either let her escape in time or give her the edge on the brute just enough to shove those scissors deep into his eyes.

That is me right now, I am that Scream Queen trying to decide what is better. More panic or a slow death and right now procrastination seems like the best option.


I mentioned earlier about the villain Alma from the F.E.A.R. series.

Alma holds a special place in my heart as the first villain in a video game that truly scared me.

With Alma however, it wasn't just her similarity to Sadako that got me, but how she was used as character piece.

Alma is vengeance personified, the twisted remains of a psychic girl forced to undergo truly horrific experiments. It's true in the series the real villain of the games is not Alma or her cannibalistic son Paxton, but her own father who forced his daughter to go through these tests.

So why was she so terrifying to me? Why even now after completing all three games and reaching my closure do I still feel the cold hand of dread about playing her games?

It all comes down to her actual interaction with you in the games. More often then not when you encounter Alma in her games she will either scuttle up towards you before disappearing into ash, or she will just casually walk away into the shadows. So rarely does she ever attack you, and that just makes the dread even worse.

You walk down a corridor, go to open a door and you see her unmistakable shadow envelop you from behind.

You know she's there, you know that you can just turn the door handle before you and run away, but despite this, despite knowing the futility of the situation you turn around seeing her right before you and you unload your machine gun clip into her.

You know that guns don't do anything to her, you know that she doesn't want you dead as she has a use for you and is trying to guide you towards her intended goal.

You know all of this but regardless you still unload your gun and she turns to ash before your eyes.

By having this character do nothing but stand there makes her so much more terrifying than the beasts that jump out of the shadows to scare you.


Perhaps I'm alone here, perhaps horror games to me in the Post Amnesia Period is no different to before and actually none of them are scary in the slightest.

What I know is that despite inducing a panic attack, Outlast is one of the most involving games I have ever played and F.E.A.R. (Despite being 2 out of the 3 games being released before Amnesia) still scares the shit out of me!

And you know what? I'm still going to play these games.

Why? For the same reason people watch scary movies. To experience the rush of the situation without actually put your life at risk.

Some people go hang gliding, others go BASE jumping. Me? I pretend to be a dude trapped in a mental asylum.

On that note, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

CRYPTS: Meet the cast (an option)

Greetings all!

So yesterday I posted a question on my CRYPTS board:

This question asked what people would be more interested in reading; the adventures of Alpha Posse, the characters who feature as the Pre Generated Example characters, or a brand new posse of characters.

I covered both the positives and negatives of both options and with all this in mind this post is to explore one possible posse comprising of completely new and original characters, how they would fit into the world and what their style would be.


Philippe - The Father Figure
Philippe is the one who formed the posse.

After having his only son stolen from him by a monster from the Crypts it was Philippe who gathered the uncooperative group and gave them a purpose be it aiding Philippe in the search for his son or the currency to make it worth their time.

Philippe carries with him a trusty revolver and is regularly seen loading and reloading it with bullets

Out of the rest of the posse Philippe is the most well liked based on his connections to Frank Hodges and the Last Light Tavern. His favoured posse member is Marisa who he has very quickly taken on as a surrogate daughter despite that there is less than a decade in age separating the two.

Philippe is embodies an Aspect of DPS and is reluctant to follow any Path.


Marisa - The Untapped Potential
Marisa would follow Philippe anywhere. When he formed the posse he didn't even need to say why they were going when she agreed to go.

Marisa is in her late teens and very bookish, but her slight frame disguises a bright and astute mind.

Pulled to New Fairbank by an apparent psychic power Marisa is very quick to learn new abilities and on her arrival was snapped up by The Circle.

Marisa carries with her a large time which she uses to write down any spells she learns either from the artefacts pulled up from the crypts or the voices she speaks with in her dreams.

Marisa shares a sibling style rivalry with Red the mercenary of the group.

Marisa is an aspect of DPS and follows the Path of the Elements.


Red - The Mercenary

Red joined the party when Philippe agreed to give him double shares of all rewards from the expedition.

A burley man with shocking red hair and large side burns Red is always the first into the fray, many times forgoing his weapons and resorting to his fists to get the enemy's attention.

A mercenary through and through, Red believes that everyone needs a resin to venture into the crypts, and understanding Philippe's motives and his own he struggles with the apparent altruistic nature of Marisa who based on her age and gender he believes should be back at camp and not facing down the monsters of the Dark Below.

As a former convict Red regularly has crossed words with Deputy Reese who believes that Red should be behind bars and not joining them on their mission.

Red is an Aspect of the Tank and for reasons unknown to the posse openly follows the Path of Blood.


Deputy Reese - The Law

Many posses contain a member of the Law, acting as the Sheriff's eyes and ears in the crypts, Deputy Reese is one such member.

Believing his work for the Sheriff is more important than any monetary reward, when Philippe asked about the pay split it was Deputy Reese who agreed to forgo his, not knowing at the time it would go instead as second shares to the ex-con Red.

Deputy Reese always carries his issues side arm and rapier with him at all times but he has been known to use larger equipment in times of need in order to dispense his own brand of justice to the monsters of the crypts.

Deputy Reese has a troubles past

Deputy Reese is an Aspect of DPS and follows the Path of Law.


Father McDuggan - The Fallen Priest

Father McDuggan sees it as his personal mission to save the souls of as many of the unfortunates who live in New Fairbank as humanly possible, by any means necessary.

It was because of his drive that the Father began joining posses into the upper most levels of the Dark Below and it was this drive that forced Father McDuggan to volunteer to help Philippe find his son.

It was also this drive that forced the Father to seek out alternative methods of salvation.

With every death the Father saw a soul who had yet to be redeemed pass into the afterlife and there was nothing he could do about it, but with the aid of the Cult of Bones he was able to postpone death for so many unredeamed souls.

Father McDuggan is never seen without two books, one holy and one less so.

Father McDuggan is an Aspect of the Healer and secretly follows the Path of Bones.


And there we have it! One possible posse which in theory ticks a lot of the boxes for exploring the game.

- So tell me, is this a posse you would be interested in reading about?

Until next time, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Game Design & Potential Sexism

Good morning everyone!

This morning I got up, got dressed, had some breakfast and had a scroll through my twitter feed from last night.

This is pretty much the same I do every workday morning, however unlike most workday mornings, this time I saw something that encouraged me to write a blog post.

The tweet was by a fellow wargamer and was commenting on games and their almost requirement to give at least one female character an ability based on seduction.

This got me thinking, and I was very pleased to link to this person my in-development files for CRYPTS as this is an example of a game where none of the female characters have these sort of abilities.

But then I think about this in more detail; why is it I have not included a seduce ability in the game?

I look at the basic monsters in the game, the 'Beasties'. Now most of the beasties are actually non-gender defined. This is for many reasons:

Firstly the aim of the game is for ease of access using your own models. If a person has a tonne of female goblins they want to use as Imps, who am I to say that these can't be used because Imps are male?

Secondly, some of the Beasties are animal like, so gender doesn't really come into it.

Thirdly who cares? If you're being attacked by Imps I doubt you're going to take the moment to perve on their boobs before chopping their heads off.


Next we have the bosses.

The first boss is Rach'Noir the Queen of the Skittering Shadow.

Now Rach'Noir is the only openly solo female boss (so far) but her abilities reflect her super-spider-like form rather than her being female. She attacks from a surprise vantage point ambushing the players from within her web, she scuttles at breakneck speed across the encounter and cocoons her prey. These abilities have nothing to do with her being female and everything about her being Queen Spider.

Next up is the Skeleton King. Now this guy is male, but there is no reason why players can't turn it around and make it the Skeleton Queen.

This guy's abilities are not based around him being male, but him being the ruler of the undead as he buffs his horde of skeletons and steals the life force of players.

So why did I make Rach'Noir female and The Skeleton King male? Simple really, I called on classic fantasy tropes; the brood mother and the undead lord. It has nothing to do with gender portrayal and bias and everything to do with what I feel tells a better narrative.

Next up is The Butcher. A giant demon who eats people for breakfast.

Now it's worth stating that at this point Demons in this game appear to be genderless. Now by that instance I don't mean I have not defined their gender, but they have none. No reproductive organs at all.

If this is the case then they would obviously not have the most obvious gender defining attributes: a penis or breasts, as both are a little pointless without reproduction and child raising.

Last but not least we have The Demon Seed and Nanny.

Now the Demon Seed, a child of unknown gender who's abilities are focussed on the combination of it being both a tentacled monster, but also a baby.

Nanny in comparison is the Seed's protector, having a high toughness and health pool she is super hard to bring down. She may be portrayed as a fragile female nanny (with a monstrous side) but her gameplay representation is one of a tough hombre.


So this is what I did for my game, but I have to be honest, at no point did I think "am I representing women in a fair and balanced way?".

To me if I started going down that route, I would be doing my game a disservice. This is not an attempt to grab female players, and to be honest I don't think I have to worry about that at all. If you listen to my podcast attached to this blog you will see that two of my playtest group are women; my wife Sarah and our friend Vicky.

Now both of these women are 'strong' women using the modern meaning, they both have well paid jobs (my wife is actually better paid than me) and they don't take any crap from anyone make or female. Both of these women have played my game and not once has the issue of gender arisen. If it did then I would listen, but not because they are women, but because I value their opinion. The same applies to my other play tester Will.

You see, this is just how I look at stories and games. I honestly don't care if it portrays a man or a woman in a compromised or sexist way. What I care about is that they are portrayed in a believable way:

Are there strong men and women in real life? Yes. But there are also weak ones.


In the past (possibly not on my blog however) I've thrown around the phrase "true equality" or as I see it, where a person is based on their qualities and flaws and gender, race, religion, sexuality etc doesn't even come into it.

I understand why some believe that positive action and representation is a step forward, but it is important to remember why you are showing that character in the way you are. Are you presenting the lead as a strong female because that character fits the story or because you have a point to prove and a chip on your shoulder?

I'm not creating this game because I want to make a political or social statement, I'm doing so because I want to tell my story and have players experience that with me.

With this in mind let's just go back to the original point: the portrayal of female characters as seductive in table top games:

Have I done this? No.

Would I do this? In this game, where people are adventuring in dark and dirty environments, almost certainly not! Who wants to get jiggy surrounded by giant spiders?

What about in another situation? It all depends on the story. If the story calls for a character who uses their sexuality as a weapon be it male or female then yes I will and woe betide anyone who dares to challenge my motives.


You see, ultimately we all have our own agenda and opinions. Some think that men are better than women, some that women are better than men.

Some on the other hand think that we're all shit and you know what? Frankly I just want to tell an enjoyable story at the end of the day.

On that note, stay safe and with hope I'll see you Cryptside.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Last Carriage: A CRYPTS Short Story

Thoughts clashed and collided, memories from a childhood that was not her own as Marisa dreamed amidst a deep sleep. Marisa was not a fan of the day, of the constant questioning and emotional blackmail she received from her mother.

It seemed on an almost daily basis Marisa would be reminded of her age and how by the time her mother was of that age she had already bore two children to a well respected gentleman. Despite all of this Marisa continued with her own plans of self improvement.

Every night Marisa dreamed of mystical beings, of creatures older than the land itself with a wisdom and knowledge unmatched by any of the frauds she had met through her travels across Europe and Asia. Everywhere she travelled she encountered sages and wise men, all of then claiming to harbour secrets of the unknown. Every one of them were selling their own brand of snake oil.

It was these dreams that pulled Marisa on her current journey. She as certain that her destination was not like those she had been to before, that the settlement of New Fairbank would answer all her questions and all she would need to do was surrender herself to the will of the shadows in her dreams.


The train was dark, all of it's lights extinguished as it travelled it's night time journey across the desert wastes of California. There was only ever one reason anyone travelled this route and it was the same reason for everyone on board the train. They all, each and every one were travelling to the final stop of the line, the last bastion of human decency and civilisation before embarking on the two day long coach ride towards the coast where New Fairbank awaited them with grim foreboding.

The train itself, known by it's operators as "The One-Way Express" consisted of only six carriages towed behind a pitch black engine. No one ever seemed happy to ride on board the train, and only an extreme few ever seemed to make a return journey, earning the locomotive it's name.

The handlers of the train were always very careful. They made sure that the stringent rules were always followed to the latter:

Rule 1: Do not speak to the passengers.

Rule 2: Do not make eye contact with the passengers.

Rule 3: Do not attempt to steal from the passengers.

Rule 4: Never allow anyone to attempt to ride in the 6th carriage.

Rule 5: Under no circumstances attempt to gain access to the 6th carriage.

There were rumours as to what was the function of the 6th carriage. Some thought it belonged to a wealthy aristocrat who paid handsomely for his privacy, others that it was used to transport stolen relics salvaged from the crypts below New Fairbank. If anyone was to ask about it however the most common answer was along the lines of it being used to house the bodies of the last workers who asked stupid questions.


It was from outside the 6th carriage that Marisa stood, her dreaming self speaking with a voice inside. It spoke to her of terrible monsters that awaited her in The Dark Below alongside the wonderful wealth of knowledge she would find.

The voice spoke of many things, including it's love of the modern age, of trains and carriages, of steam and gun powder and of it's many pilgrimages it would take from it's home below New Fairbank, the silent private coach rides while taking great care to avoid the damaging rays of the sun, all so that it could ride on the great locomotive again.


As the One-Way Express pulled in to it's final stop and the automated gas lamps began to ignite themselves Marisa was awoken from her sleep. To begin with she was unsure if she was still dreaming, the sounds of men lifting heavy goods and supplies onto the coaches outside sounding muffled from within her carriage.

Marisa gathered her things. It wasn't much, a small suitcase, an umbrella and a folded envelope, and clutching them tightly she stepped out of the carriage and away from the train. In doing so she found herself catching a glimpse towards the last carriage of the train. Unlike the other five it was not illuminated by gas lamps and Marisa couldn't help but notice the coach that was pulling up behind the train in line with the rear door of the sixth carriage. Like the carriage the coach had darkened windows and the only light being the bare minimum for the driver to see. Straining her eyes in the dark Marisa tried to make out the face of the driver and peering past the dull lights and dim gloom she was sure she could make out inhuman features. It was then Marisa felt a large hand on her shoulder.

"This way me lady" insisted a gruff voice and turning in the direction of the voice she met the gaze of the man who the large hand still resting on her shoulder belonged to.

He was a tall man with red hair and a barrel chest. He was pointing towards the nearest of the three well lit stage coaches that waited for their passengers to move from the halted train into their waiting seats. Marisa noted how each of the coaches were slightly different, the nearest one accompanied by two horses with little in the form of curtains and a very rough looking interior. The second one was nicer, with four horses and apparently un damaged furniture. The last coach, the one furthest away had no horses. It's exterior was gilded in gold and silver while it's brightly lit interior was plump and velvet. In the place of horses a large machine stood covered in gears and pistons all of which were attached to three very large wheels that sat in a row.

Marisa had never seen a Steam-Coach before, and in the back of her mind amidst the awe she felt, she remembered something she had heard before but could not pin point where. Of trains and carriages, of steam and gunpowder and how she too was in love with the modern age.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Bio Syndrome - A Kickstarter to watch?

Good Wednesday everyone!

So last night while lounging around after my studying session in prep for my next exam I stumbled across an interesting Kickstarter.

The game in question is called: Bio Syndrome

Now, there are a couple of things I find very interesting about this KickStarter.

For starters the rules are already available as free downloads, and the plan is to keep them freely available.

This KS Campaign does not involve a line of miniatures being created other than a couple (literally two) being made exclusively for this KS, instead you are to use your own models for this game.

Finally this KS Campaign is offering (other than the limited sculpts) no physical products, only digital rewards.


So let's look at this and break it down.

1). Making the rules freely available in their finished state. This is a bold move and one that I can not help but support, after all I am looking to do something similar with my own game.

I have yet to download these rules, but intend to shortly and have a look through.

It is this sort of confidence that I really like. It shows the creator believes in what they have created and is willing to make it freely available to all.

2). No miniatures.
Now for a tabletop miniatures game this is super bold, but again a sentiment I can truly appreciate myself.

Like many people out there I've been gaming for a couple of decades and in that time I've collected a fair few models and games.

Part of the reason for that is I love playing different games, always searching for the X Factor to make me settle on one as 'the' game for me.

The problems settle in when so many games require an investment of £50+ to start up with that game. After a while those £50 add up and you're left with a tonne of models that you're hardly using.

By allowing you to use your own models the game is removing that block, it says "don't worry if you just spent £300 on a WFB army, you can use that with our rule set!"

Of course they are offering limited models, the first of which's concept art really speaks to me:

Now obviously we have no idea how this will turn out, but just as the game asks you to proxy other systems into it, I can see this model being a great proxy for other games.

3). No Physical Rewards ( other than the limited sculpts).
So this game uses cards, I'm not entirely sure how they work as like I said I have yet to read the rules, but they appear to be upgrade cards.

What does this mean? It means they are not looking to produce hard copies of the book(s) or cards but instead via digital distribution allow people to download them and print them off themselves.

This way costs can be sent away from physical manufacture and into creating original unique artwork and better exclusive sculpts etc.

What is more, it also means their startup costs are a lot lower than your average campaign, only $1k in this instance, and I am pleased to say that they have already, in less than a week, surpassed that.


So what are the concerns with all of this?

You see, as my work on CRYPTS has taken a back seat to my exam (next due 5th April) I've began looking at the meta of the game and what external factors can effect it.

For starters I know that in a lot of cases gamers are 'selectively lazy'.

I know how that sounds, and I choose my words carefully.

In many cases in a small number of ways we are the opposite of lazy, spending hours and days on models and terrain, but in other cases we 'can' try and cut corners, and it is my opinion that things like equipment cards is one such corner.

This is why when it comes to my game equipment cards is one thing that I am really factoring in from a manufacturing point.
- But then CRYPTS is a card heavy game, with the loot deck consisting of 60 cards by itself we are looking at a good number of cards to be printed, cut and sleeved.

Is the same true for games with less cards such as Malifaux Upgrades and 40k Wargear? If you were given the choice of buying professional upgrade cards or print & play ones, which would you pick?


All in all I think this is a game that we should all watch. It's the underdog here swinging in from the outside, but on the off chance it swings above it's weight it has the potential to change our expectations on what a tabletop game needs to offer.

On that note, stay safe and I will see you Cryptside.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley