I have two major problems in writing games. Firstly I don’t have enough time, energy or copies of myself to write everything that I want to write and publish. Secondly, I tend to come up with the same ideas as other people at a similar sort of time. Fortunately I beat others to the punch with Agents of SWING and the only very-similar product to come out was 7TV – which is brilliant and awesome but is a skirmish minis game and thus doesn’t bite into the same market.
Another case is Adamant Bloody Entertainment and their bastarding East-West fusion game Far West. This is so bloody similar in concept, if not execution, to my own project Setting Sun that I’m in two minds whether to go ahead, though they’re different enough in other ways. Mine’s alt-history and more Samurai themed than Wu Xia themed, and not Steampunk per-se. Mine also uses a poker mechanic and is oriented on team/gang/pack play. We’ll see. Setting Sun could be the Cyberpunk to Far West’s Shadowrun.
When it comes to Blood! it has been my intention since I resurrected the game to create the long promised supplements/reskins of that game Hell on Earth and Star Shock. Hell on Earth was to be my first. I was all excited to revise the Blood! rules some, create some setting background and material on Puritan witch-hunters post restoration, trying to survive the crown and the Annus Mirablis (1666), the devil’s own year when many thought the end of the world was come. I was going to create a dark post-civil war, post-Cromwell setting of debauched courts, downtrodden puritans, devilry, witchcraft, zombies, omens, infernalism, qabbalistic magic and Hammer Horror references when what should happen but this?
Fortunately, since its relatively humble beginnings, Defoe:1666 has gone somewhat bugnuts crazy, which is fine as these things go, but does distance it quite a bit from the more serious approach I was going to take.
So, that means Hell on Earth is probably back on the cards for development in the not-too-distant future, after the current swathe of heavy, long-term projects and I’ll probably be throwing ideas up here.
One of the main things to do in B:HoE is to address criticisms of the Blood! system, insomuch as it can be done without losing the system’s integrity and raison d’etre. The errata/suggestions that already exist will be incorporated and we’ll probably try and find a way to speed up or slimline the character creation system but the bloody and brutal combat will – of course – remain.
I’m likely to throw ideas up here as they occur to me, as much to keep them safe as to draw comment but I do crave feedback on development and all aspects of our games. So please don’t be shy of speaking up.
‘Tactical retreat’ my arse.
Previously I’ve written about how we’re playing without a map or grid in our 4e Dark Sun game, very successfully as a matter of fact, by translating the normal slides, pushes, shoves etc that take place on the combat map into a ‘combat pool’ that acts as free-floating bonuses for either side to use to boost their attacks or defences. It’s an abstract representation of the kind of positional advantage that a group with high tactical skill and mobility can have over a slower or less populous group.
This works great for one-on-one and small unit tactics as is, so I don’t really need to expand on it as that’s where 4e D&D sits, at the skirmish level. Now that I’ve introduced this change though my brain starts to think on how I might encourage and expand the use of the existing rules I’ve created at the existing level of combat.
So, how else can we use this combat pool without needlessly complicating matters? After all, simplicity was one of the main reasons we decided to get rid of the board in the first place (and boy does it speed combat up). We also need to keep in mind that these bonuses are also available to the bad guys, should they manage to outmanoeuvre the characters. So, I think we’re really looking at other ways that this tactical pool can be spent:
- Moving further: Spend points 1/1 to move further, up to your normal movement again.
- Passing on your turn: 5 points to give your go to someone else on your side, your action becoming a distraction to the enemy that allows your ally to go again. Someone can only get one extra turn this way.
- Taking an extra turn: 10 points to get an extra turn with your character as you outmanoeuvre your enemies. You can only get one extra turn this way.
- An automatic critical: 20 points to automatically strike an enemy for a critical hit. A sort of advanced backstab, available to anyone who’s managed to so completely control the battlefield.
Atomic: (4 point Merit) You have a radioactive half-life that is recharged by the presence of radiation. You can absorb up to two levels of radiation from any source taking no negative effects from it and healing up to two levels of non-lethal damage per source of radiation.
Beauty School Drop Out : (3 point Merit) Your style may not be normal but out in the wastelands people care more about ‘striking’ than anything else. Your radical ideas mean you can use make-up and styling to give someone a 24 hour +1 bonus to either Charm or Control.
Brothel Creeper : (6 point Merit) You’re adept at sneaking in places where you’re allowed to be, even supposed to be, but still don’t want to be found. You have a +3 bonus to stealth, sneaking and hiding rolls when you’re in such a place. Good for getting out without fuss when you’re cornered.
Brylcreem : (3 point Merit) A little dab’ll do ya and it’ll keep you looking unruffled and dapper even in the heat of combat. You have a pool of 3 points which can be used during a session to take lethal or non-lethal damage before it hits your health bar. You can also spend these points to boost your social rolls on a 1/1 basis, as you look so slick.
Crybaby : (3 point Flaw) You blub at the drop of a hat. When someone’s trying to upset you or you’re trying to resist pain you have a penalty of -1 to your rolls. If you fail in either case, you cry like a little girl.
Dapper Dan : (3 point Flaw) You’re a stylish devil and that means when dealing with the ladies you have a +1 bonus to your social rolls. Unfortunately, you also have a knack of bringing out the jealous side of other men though, a role-playing penalty that your Games Master should hit you with whenever possible.
Diner Regular : (3 point Merit) You’ve got a place where you regularly go to eat or used to regularly go to. It needn’t be a diner, it might be a badlands BBQ shack, a food pill repository or a cannibal trading post. Whatever it is, it’s a place where everyone knows your name, where you have a ‘tab’ and where you – and your friends – can get a free meal and a drink whenever you want.
Gigantor: (12 point Merit) You’re enormous, maybe even fifty feet high. Your Strength and Resilience are increased by three each and you gain 3 points of natural armour resistance against any attacks. Any Dexterity check is penalised by -3 due to your clumsy size and slowness and enemies gain a +3 bonus to hit you, due to you being humungulous.
Greasy Hair: (1 point Flaw) Your hair isn’t slick, it’s just greasy. In any rolls to do with your appearance you take a -1 penalty. On the plus side, your greasy hair and skin give you a +1 bonus to escape from bonds, ties or cuffs.
Hot Betty : (5 point Merit) You’ve got more curves than a coiled snake and bigger headlamps than a police cruiser. Your jello jiggles, you’ve got junk in your drunk and you ain’t going to snap during the mattress mambo. Your sexiness gives you a +1 bonus where appropriate along with a pool of 3 points you can use to boost your dice when you choose to ‘vamp it up’. On the downside you have to suffer through a lot of wolf-whistles and bottom pinches.
In Love with a Square : (8 point Flaw) You’re head over heels in love with a Nerdlinger, a geek, a square, someone so unhip it’s a wonder their bum doesn’t fall off. If this ever came out you’d be socially devastated and permanently lose one point from each of your social statistics. You need to continue your affair, but keep it quiet from anyone but your closest friends.
Indestructible Leather Jacket: (4 point Merit) This jacket is your constant companion and by luck or some supernatural intervention it cannot be destroyed. It provides 1 armour against any and all incoming damage sources, no matter what they are, and can never, ever be destroyed. Even if it’s taken off you it returns to your possession at the earliest possible opportunity.
Lucky Strikes : (3 point Merit) You have a crumpled packet of cigarettes containing three magical cigarettes. If you spark one up it provides you a generic +1 bonus to any rolls for the duration of the scene but, at the end, you take a single point of non-lethal damage. If you celebrate with a cigarette at the end of a battle you can swap one level of lethal damage for one level of non-lethal damage.
Prom Queen/King: (9 point Flaw) You’re the kind of person who was a massive deal in high school, or whatever passed for high school in your tribe, city, people or Zeppelin fleet. School was the absolute high point of your career though and while many people still look up to you for who you were, those who had a hard time as teenagers (most people) FUCKING. HATE. YOU. You take a -3 penalty for social interactions with anyone who had a troubled adolescence while you get a +1 bonus with authority figures and fellow school snobs.
Psychobilly : (3 point Merit) You love the weird, the strange, the unnatural, the odd. When dealing with anything horrific, science-fictiony, psychic, mutated or otherwise beyond the ‘norm’ (before the world was lit with atomic fire) you gain a generic +1 bonus.
Scary Walk: (6 point Merit) You may not move fast but it’s damn intimidating and scary, plus people tend to supply their own scary theramin soundtrack as you move. While striding purposefully towards someone you’re considered to have 3 armour and a +3 bonus to scare or intimidate people – though they can easily outrun you.
Strange Attractor: (1 point Flaw) Mars needs men and Venus needs women, when these aliens – or other monsters – have some unnatural rumpy-pumpy in mind, it’s you they think of. It’s always YOU that gets carried off first by robot monsters.
That’s Some Hair : (1 point Flaw) You have an outrageous hairstyle of some type but whatever it is, it’s the natural state of your hair and cannot be disguised for long. It’s incredibly recognisable and contributes to your notoriety as well as making you easy to find for bounty hunters and the like.
The Claw: (6 point Merit) One of your hands is not a hand, it’s a massive claw like that of a crab. In close combat this claw does lethal damage +3, based on your strength and can also snip through fences and chains. The downside is that you can’t use two-handed weapons or rifles and take a -1 penalty on anything else that requires two proper hands.
Too Cool for School /Too School for Cool : (1 point Merit) You’re either too hep to bother with that academic rubbish or too much of a square to bother with ‘jock stuff’. You get a generic +1 bonus to one set of skills and a generic -1 penalty to the other.
X-Ray Spex: In a wrecked store in a bombed out city you found a miraculous pair of red plastic glasses, humming with atomic energy. When you wear them you can see through clothing, skin, flesh, even brick walls but not anything any thicker and not metal. Where appropriate – say medicine – the glasses provide a +1 bonus.
Gosh, Spies! is a supplement for Agents of SWING and will expand the SWING world into the realms of children’s, tweens and teens adventure fiction, drawing on such diverse sources as Enid Blyton, Hanna Barbera and ‘Keene’/’Dixon’ as well as later skits and reinterpretations of the same ideas and characters, giving our own spin on them.
As well as a catalogue of pre-generated characters from these sources you’ll get rules expansions for making youthful characters, rules changes for running child-investigations, suggestion on how to run games for a younger audience – particularly girls and a bunch of background information on SWING’s younger agents, their training and the boarding schools where they teach them to be spies.
Essentially, Gosh, Spies! will provide you with a bunch of characters and villainous organisations suited to the sub-genre (though I’ll try to avoid ‘Gypsies’ as a villainous group) and a whole lot of expansionary material. We thrive on feedback here at Postmortem Studios though and would love you to let us know what material you’d like to see come out for Agents of SWING besides the planned ‘Nefarious’ villains book, Gosh, Spies! and the as-yet-unnamed gadget catalogue.
Do you want more adventures? Perhaps a campaign against a singular villainous agency? What about a guide to SWINGing London? Perhaps something more ‘adult’ or psychedelic, these were the times of Free Love and Happenings after all.
If you want to run Agents of SWING – or any of our other games – at a convention we’re happy to lend support in any way we can. Same goes for if you’re willing to run demo games online via Infrno or other, similar services. We’d also appreciate it, if you like our games, that you’d tell others about it by blog or tweet or status update, by review or forum post. Feedback is wonderful, so it seeing enthusiasm for our games reflected in the community and as a small, independent publisher that kind of positivity is something one really needs.
I’d also like to remind you all that we have a couple of copies of the SWING deluxe set still available. The Deluxe Set contains a hardback copy of the main rulebook, copies of the Agent’s and Control notebooks, SWING branded pencils, dice sets and chips. Everything you need to play the game in a shiny blue box. Limited copies will be available at Dragonmeet & Indiecon but if you want to be sure to get one, you need to order soon.
SWING is a very fun game to write and develop for as well as – hopefully – a fun game for you to play. The streamlined and simplified version of FATE that we developed for SWING is likely to be the foundation of future FATE games that we develop and so any general suggestions regarding the way that the SWING version works would also be greatly appreciated.
Getting feedback and excitement from gamers is like getting blood from a stone sometimes but, be assured, Postmortem Studios does listen.
A 6-Pack Adventure: pick-up-and-play adventures designed to fill 2-4 hours of play and containing everything you need.
- Battle Map
- Pre-generated characters
For longevity you can use the tokens and the map for anything else you care to do and the adventures should be fairly easily adaptable to fit into your existing campaign if you want.
The Sting has a band of experienced adventurers following a clue to an abandoned temple that, perhaps, isn’t as abandoned as it first appears…
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Buy it HERE