A Guide to RPG Design

A Guide to RPG Design

Ramsey “Tome Wyrm” Lundock

 

Part 2

 

The Importance of Settings

 

The first step in designing a game is to decide on the setting. The rules mechanics must work together with the setting. If there is a mismatch between the rules and the setting, the ‘reality’ of the rules will win out and cast the setting in an unexpected hue. For example, if you envision a dark world of horror, but the rules mechanics place the heroes on equal footing with the abominations they face; the players’ fear will soon dissolve into thrill, turning it into a game of high adventure.

To avoid letting the rules determine the setting, you need to make a conscious choice about the setting and choose your rules to fit the setting. Every game system has its strong points; and thus necessarily each also has its weak points. Even ‘universal’ game systems have biases, and these biases determine which setting work best with the rules. For example, if a game system dedicates three-quarters of the combat rules adjudicating melee combat, the system won’t work well for modern adventures where the majority of combat occurs at a distance: the players will feel that the subtleties of firefights have been neglected, and when the occasional melee breaks out, the rules will be cumbersome, taking too long to resolve relative to the more meaningful gunfire exchanges. It is impossible to design a game system which is completely neutral; to put it in a metaphor, even white is a color. So the only way to prevent unexpected setting biases from creeping into the game subconsciously is to make a conscious decision about the setting at the beginning.

It is not necessarily bad to let the rules dictate the setting, provided you are aware of the effects and make sure the setting is in harmony with the ‘reality’ of the rules. For example, if a skilled warrior can hold his own against an army, why would anyone go to the trouble and expense of raising an army in the first place? In this setting, ‘war’ would quickly evolve into single combat between the champions of each side.

To really understand how the rules will impact the setting, it is best to get other players’ insights and watch how actual games unfold. Game creation is an iterative process, so after the rules are in place, revisit the setting to see if there are any places at odds with the rules and decide whether it is the rules or the setting which must give way.

 

Consistency in your Setting

 

“What’s the difference between fantasy and non-fiction?”

“Fantasy has to make sense.”

 

Consistency is vital to your setting. Every game world must follow its own rules of internal logic. These rules have nothing to with rolling dice. Consistency is also surprisingly difficult to maintain as you write. Consider the following examples of sentences that might show up in game products:

 

“Magic works by combining essences of the four elements (earth, air, fire and water) in various combinations to produce effects.”

 

“The villagers ask the PCs to eliminate the necromancer who has been terrorizing them and use holy water to cleanse the taint from his lair.”

 

or

 

“The power output of a spaceship’s fusion core sets a limit on the fastest star-drive it can activate.”

 

“While short on luxuries, the March Hare orbital platform offers weary star-farers a chance to enjoy a hot shower and a cold beer while getting their spaceship’s power cells recharged.”

 

Laid side by side like this, the contradiction is obvious: a magic system based on the four elements doesn’t include either ‘necromancy’ or ‘holy’ magic. A spaceship powered by a fusion core shouldn’t need to have its power cells recharged by an outside source, and if for some reason the ship was outfitted with both a fusion core and power cells, it would be the capacity of the power cells, not the output of the fusion core which limits the speed of the star-drive.

A game designer could well write either of these pairs a single setting without realizing the problem because they are separated by dozens of pages. As authors, we get caught up in our own worlds and don’t see the contradictions. But readers struggling to understand our vision will catch and resent every contradiction.

The only thing which annoys readers more than inconsistencies, is dismissing the inconsistencies by saying, “because it’s magical” or “because it’s high-tech” or worst of all, “just because.” As stated in the opening of this section, fantasy and science fiction are founded on logic. The real world is random, arbitrary, and cruel. Fantasy games give us an escape where, even if we get eaten by a hideous monstrosity, we know that our fate was determined according to the rules, not just because. And sci-fi fans are even more obsessed with logic (“Live long and prosper”) than fantasy fans.

To maintain consistency throughout your setting, before you start writing, you need to decide how the magic and/or technology of your setting work, what kinds of effect they can produce AND WRITE THE RULES OF YOUR SETTING DOWN!

Writing down the rules of your setting makes sure that they don’t slowly evolve in your mind as you work on the game. This rule book doesn’t need to be in publishable form. In fact it’ll probably be a dry list of facts and cause/effect relations. Some of these rules may become literal rules in the game mechanics, but not all of them will be necessary for the readers.

As you write, refer back to your techo/magic facts list often to remind yourself what is possible in your world. As your setting develops, you may feel the need to add to your rules. When you add to your rules, do this with great caution. It may seem like a good idea to make hulking suits of powered armor more feasible by saying they use gravity neutralizers to help offset the staggering weight. But unleashing gravity canceling technology on your setting has far ranging consequences. Flying cars and cheap space flight come to mind quickly, but what about construction? Is it possible to offset the weight of a building and just keep adding stories? What about weather control, preventing rain or snow by taking away the gravity which would cause it to fall?

(On the subject of powered armor, this one has tripped me up personally: is it ‘power armor’ or ‘powered armor?’ Readers will notice inconsistent terminology.)

Changes to the rules should be given even more consideration than additions. A change to your guidelines means there must be at least one corresponding change in the setting itself. If you do make a change, go back through everything you’ve written to see how all of the repercussions playout.

This brings up the next point important for consistency. Consider how the technology or magic will affect the setting. Start by thinking of the role you intend for the fantastic elements to play. Then think about how the technology/magic could be misused. Then consider totally unintentional side effects. (Would gravity neutralizers trigger a jump in obesity, because people could simply turn off weight they don’t want?)

For a more fantasy themed example, consider the widely accepted trick of being able to create water magically. What happens to the water after it’s created? Does it disappear back into magic vapors at some point? What happens if you drink the created water? Does it quench thrust? Does the water disappear from inside you causing you to dehydrate? If the created water is permanent, wouldn’t it be possible with effort to irrigate all of the deserts, would there be any deserts left in your setting? Couldn’t creating water lead instead to problems with areas being too wet? Wouldn’t wizards use the water as a weapon to flood out their enemies?

In the real world, actions and inventions have unforeseen side-effects. Since we can’t even predict the results in our own lives, no one honestly expects that you’ll think of all of the possible outcomes. But your readers expect you to think of more consequences than they can. After all it’s your world, with home-turf advantage you should be able to stay ahead of your readers. So put serious effort into thinking through the consequences: If dragons fly, what’s the point in building castle walls? If it’s possible to teleport individuals and goods, why are there any transport ships? If there is a very real danger of contracting an unknown disease on an alien planet, why are explorers be allowed to go straight for the bar upon return to civilizations instead of being locked in quarantine? If superheroes have been around for generations, why have none of them been recruited by the police force?

If you can manage to plug even a few of the holes that people have been trained to overlook, your world will stand out in the readers’ memories as well considered and realistic. But the need for consistency is not limited to serious games; some of the best comedies take the hallmarks of fantasy and sci-fi and follow them to their inevitable, absurd conclusions.

While preparing your notes to write from, it’s also a good idea to jot down notes about the non-human creatures which appear in your setting. Be as concrete as possible. You may know that fairies are small. But does small mean 2” tall? 6”? Half-an-inch? While all would be considered ‘small’ there are significant differences in how fairies of each size would interact with the world. And your readers will notice if you describe the fairies as different sizes in different places.

Finally, make some notes about the culture and organizations in your setting. Unlike your technology and magic which are immutable physical laws of your world, it is possible to bend the rules of society. But since your readers want consistency, it is best to let them know when the rules are being bent.

For example, suppose there are two important NPCs you want to include in the setting: a man of noble blood waiting to succeed his father and a crass but good hearted noble who was promoted after showing valor in battle as a common foot soldier. The first belongs to a society where nobility and titles are determined by heredity, and the second belongs to a society where nobility and titles are based on merit. These two at first seem incompatible, but rather than rushing to create a new kingdom and a new culture so you can ‘fit both of them in,’ consider how the rules of society could be bent. Merit based systems often take into account the merit of not just the individual, but also the merit (i.e. money and influence) of his family connections as well. Today we call that corruption but in many times it was considered common sense. Thus even in a merit based system a powerful family might hold a virtual guarantee of receiving certain honors and offices. On the other side of the coin, even in the most byzantine and calcified aristocracies, there are ways for new members to break in. A king, emperor, or other sovereign may grant a title to an outsider just to remind the nobles who’s really in charge. A noble house may adopt an exceptional commoner into the family to secure his support. Of if they feel threatened by the power he’s amassing, the existing aristocracy could grant a low ranking title to an outsider in order to bring him into the existing power structure to make him explicitly under the command of other nobles (and thus subject to punishment if he disobeys them.) If the upstart is truly powerful enough, he might invent a noble pedigree for himself (normally claiming to be an illegitimate child of a noble) and force the family to accept him. Of course it need not be strength of arms; an outsider with enough fiscal power might be able to buy a title.

There are many different types of power which can be wielded: military, economic, religious, magical, political, ceremonial, criminal, technological, entertainment & public opinion, etc. Every society has at least a couple of different power structures related to these different types of power. Almost by definition, the different organizations will accumulate different members and use different criteria for advancement. Thus if you want a powerful local female ruler, but have fraternal political structure, perhaps rather than a noble she would be more comfortable as a nun, or as the head of a merchant house, or as a crime boss.

A Guide to RPG Design, Part 1

A Guide to RPG Design

Ramsey “Tome Wyrm” Lundock

Thanks to everyone at Comstar Media and Avalon Game Company for putting up with me as I learned all of these lessons the hard way.

 

Introduction

 

You have a great idea for a new game. I haven’t even heard it yet and I already know it’s a great idea. There are untold multitudes of great ideas for games out there.

Designing your own game has become something of a rite of passage in the RPG industry. Using professional game systems you can design fascinating adventures, original characters, and even entire new worlds; but the game mechanics still lock you into the existing ‘reality’ of the game system. And, there are always a few things about even your favorite system that you think should have been handled differently. Designing your own game allows you to tailor every detail of the game to fit your vision perfectly.

But turning your vision into a playable game requires long hours of planning, hard work, and revision. The advent of desktop publishing has made creating a game easier than ever before. But ‘easy’ is still a far cry from ‘automatic.’

This tome collects lessons learned through years of, often painful, trial and error. The tips, tricks, and tools outlined in these pages will help you develop your dream into the best game possible. There is no single ‘right way’ to make a game. You need to find the way which works best for you. Although the topics are arranged roughly in order from initial conception to finally promoting the game, the creative process is far from linier. Issues which will come up late in the process have a direct bearing on earlier stages, forcing you to go back and rethink.

Better games raise the level of the entire industry, drawing in more customers and more money. And a stronger RPG industry benefits us here at Avalon Games. Thus you could say that my desire to help you and your game succeed is not entirely altruistic.

 

The Reality of Fantasy

 

The worlds we create are fantasy, but as a game designer you must deal with the reality around you. And this reality can intrude into your fantasy.

 

Letting others Play in your Sandbox

 

The hardest part of writing fiction, especially games, is that once you share your work with others, you lose control of your world. The easiest to understand example would be fan fiction, where people who enjoy your work take your characters and write their own stories. When you write, your characters become your friends and the world becomes your home. It is rewarding to see other people enjoy your work; but no matter how closely a fan copies your style, they will never do things exactly the way you do. It can be emotionally difficult to watch people mishandle you characters and your world. There are legal (although not effective) recourses against fan fiction, but with a game, you explicitly invite the readers into your world to play.

Once others are involved, it is no longer your private world, and you can never get it back. Be warned that people who play your game will do things you never intended: raze towns, kill important characters (in horribly graphic ways), rewrite character personalities, newbie adventurers will slay epic monsters. Worse, the players will append your world with bizarre locations while removing your favorite places from the map. They will ‘read between the lines’ and discover absurd ‘truths’ about your world.

If you work with a publishing company, the alterations to your world start before the product even reaches the consumers. Very few publishers will accept a work without checking to make sure it fits into their existing product line. Most publishers will offer at least a few suggested changes. In most cases these changes are valid improvements if you’re willing to let others have a hand in your creation.

Publishing and sharing your world with others can be a wonderful social experience that is impossible with private writing, but it requires letting go of your world so that others can enjoy it on their own terms. You have to decide for yourself if it is worth the tradeoff.

 

Setting Reasonable Goals for your Product

 

How many adventuring parties would wander out into the wilderness without supplies, maps, or even a goal just to see what will happen? (OK, too many parties actually do this, but what would become of them if they didn’t have a GM to get them back on track?) Yet, many aspiring game designers start out “just to see what will happen.”

Without a goal and a plan to work towards that goal, your game is unlikely to get past the stage of a collection of notes and sketches. With a clear goal in mind, you can evaluate the different options available to you and determine which ones will help advance your plan. There are many things you can try which will be fun to do, but won’t necessarily help your game succeed. There is nothing wrong with strolling down these side roads during your journey, provided you’re aware that you’ve strayed from your course and never forget your final goal.

Even if you get caught up in the side treks and your game never makes it past the planning phase, that doesn’t mean it is a failure. If your goal is to create a game that you and your friends can have fun with, then a collection of notes and sketches is all you need, and any effort you put into going pro will be moot.

At the other extreme, if your goal is to get your game printed, exactly the way you envision it with 300 full-color glossy pages, then you can’t complain if you end up with an empty bank account and 420 unsold copies in your garage because turning a profit was never part of your goal.

These are a couple of extreme examples. Most people do not set all-or-nothing goals. Instead, most plans consist of a final pie-in-the-sky dream and a series of increasingly ambitious milestones to mark progress to the impossible dream. Even if you don’t make it to that final destination at the end of the rainbow, reaching several of your milestones is an achievement in which you can take pride.

And you are allowed to change your goals along the way. The next milestone might require more time, money, and energy than you are willing to invest. There is nothing wrong with being satisfied with your accomplishment and resisting the urge to go a bridge too far. As you progress, expect to have your rosy visions of the game and fantasy market mercilessly shattered. There is every possibility that you’ll decide your original goal has too many drawbacks and you want to set off in a new direction. Changing your goals isn’t necessarily ‘giving-up’ or ‘failing;’ taking new information into account and rearranging your priorities to suit your current situation is a sign of maturity. Just don’t change your goals too often, or you’ll descend into disorganized chaos.

To help you set reasonable goals for yourself and your products, we’ll examine the current state of the fantasy and game market. In this day and age, any advice is outdated as soon as it is published, so rather than specifics we will focus on underlying truths, market forces, and trends with a full head of steam which promise to continue well into the future.

 

State of the Market

 

“How do you make a small fortune in the game industry?”

“Spend a large fortune.”

“What’s the difference between a game designer and a large pepperoni pizza?”

“The pizza can feed a family of four.”

 

This section is not intended to scare you away from the industry, but the fantasy and game industry can be a pretty scary place, and we won’t sugar coat the facts. There will always be nostalgia for the ‘good old days,’ but make no mistake, you have chosen the best time in history to write your game. Never has it been easier to collaborate with coauthors; find publishers and artists; proofread; and get your game to market. But publishing wouldn’t be an adventure unless there was the chance of failure. Sending you into the dungeon without first warning you of the pitfalls and monsters which await won’t do you or the industry any good.

The professional fantasy author is something of a Loch Ness Monster: often spotted, more often speculated about, but almost never confirmed. When you start to look into the ‘pros’ you find that most of them work another job in addition to their writing (Tolkien and Asimov both worked in academia in addition to their fiction writing), were paid by a company which went bankrupt for spending too much (including author salaries) on developing its products, or that even though they work at a game company, writing is only a small part of their duties.

Astute writers may point out the example of J.K. Rowling, but she writes fantasy-mysteries, and ‘mystery’ has traditionally been a larger, better selling genre than ‘fantasy.’ Thus the example is not entirely applicable. Later pages in this book cover the concept of genre more in depth, but for the time being, let it suffice to say that fantasy is not the largest genre. The number shift around a little depending on who analyzes them and how, but fantasy never comes out on top. It is usually trumped by things like: self-help, biographies, romance, mystery, and children’s books. In fact fantasy, science fiction, and horror are usually grouped into a single group which for years was dominated by the horror works of Stephen King. And this is a discussion of fiction; games are a tiny fraction of the total fantasy fiction market. Or to look at it from another perspective, consider the markets for board games like Scrabble and Life as compared to the market for role playing games. (Scrabble and Life are both property of Hasbro, names used without permission as examples of Americana culture)

There are currently game companies with paid staff. How much they are paid and how much of their time they get to spend creating are separate questions which I’m not in a position to answer. But today these game companies recruit primarily, perhaps exclusively, through their various fan clubs. Thus, if your goal is to work at a game company, your best bet is to start courting a particular company: be an active contributor to their forums; enter their contests; go to gaming conventions, meet the staff, and ask them where they scout for new talent. An entire book could be written on the tactics to land a job at a game company, and having never done so, I am not in a position to write it.

If you want to call all the shots, then you should start your own game company. The vast majority of game companies operate around the break-even point.

Today’s large game companies all started out at small ventures, so there is a non-zero chance that with the right circumstances your company could make it big. But in listening to stories from people who founded the companies which now dominate the game market, a reoccurring theme is the “years” at the beginning when the company paid its employee little or literally nothing, forcing them to find other means to support themselves. So this seems like sound advice: if you found a game company, you have to be ready to financially support both yourself and it by other means.

The other thing most people don’t realize about founding a game company is that writing is actually only a small part of the publishing industry. Even publishers which start out as ‘self-publishing’ usually end up recruiting outside authors because they are too busy running the company to write. In fact, the more successful you are, the less time you’ll have to write.

This means that game companies always have a backlog of projects they want to publish, but not enough time to write them. This drives them to hire freelance authors to work on the projects. Working as a freelance author can be fun, it can also be stressful, and it is probably the fastest route to get a game with your name on it published. Freelancing also allows you to control the amount of time you spend working on games; it’s your choice which jobs to take and which jobs to turn down.

We’ll cover the fine are of freelancing in more detail in its own section. For now, let’s look at the numbers for making a living as a freelancer. Five to ten cents a word is considered ‘pro-rate,’ so to support a minimalistic $20K a year lifestyle, at top pay rate you would need average over 700 words every day. This may not sound like much, but there is more to writing than just putting words on paper. 700 words a day means: finding an opening, writing a query letter, receiving a response to your query letter, writing the piece, editing the piece, submitting the piece, HAVING THE PIECE ACCEPTED (always the tricky part over which you have no control), revising the piece based on editorial feedback, proofing the final copy, having the company ACTUALLY PUBLISH THE PIECE AND PAY YOU (again, not a given) and helping the publisher to promote the work… for 700 words, every day without a vacation. For this discussion, we also need to say that most game publishers don’t pay pro rate.

In short, writing a game is not a step towards a larger goal: writing a game is a grand adventure which is both the journey and the goal wrapped into one. Don’t sabotage your game with unreasonable expectations; appreciate your game for what it is and enjoy the adventure.

Avalon Dungeon Tiles

Been hard at work the last few month putting together some great new battle tiles for you fans.  Each set will offer a few passages or rooms, all set to 1″ for figure use.  All of these will be a layered PDF, so you can turn off or on set features as you want.  Each comes with a ton of features, so there are a bazillion different combinations for you to play with.

 

Here is a list of what we have so far…

Dungeon Passages, in two styles, each set to 15′, 10′ and 5′ wide passages.  They come with lot of great features, such as magical wards, blood smeared fl,doors, slime, pits, water filled, and more.

Dungeon chambers, in the same two styles, with all kinds of rooms, and shapes and sizes.  The also will come with all kinds of features, including pits, magical fog, crystals and more.

Crypts, both as passages and Chambers.  Dark and evil, these are filled with coffins, and come with all kinds of features just like our other sets.

Specialty rooms.  These feature several sets of chambers with a common use, so far we have Wizard’s Lairs (With a study, lab, library and casting rooms). Torture rooms and Prisons, Temples, Magical Gates, Chasms, Treasure Rooms, Throne Rooms, and more Tombs.

Dungeon Entrances.  These small sets offer a sleet entrance to a dungeon, and include Cave with hidden entrance, temple, ruins and more.

We also have plans for select sets that feature a set racial lair or location.  So far we have the Dwarf mines, and chambers worked up, but have many more planed.

If that was not enough, we are hard at work on sci-fi based tiles as well.

So hold onto you seats, its going to be a wild ride.

Great New Stuff this Month

We have some great new stuff out this month.  Here is a sample of a few of them.

 

We have a new series of HWM products this year, Feat book set to a class.  Out first is the feat book for the Acrobat class.  Inside you will find 20 feats geared towards those high flyers.

Acrobat Feat Thumb

 

Of course no Month would be complete without for IF for our Sci-Fi fans.  We have a great new IF threat book out this month, jump into your space suit and go find some adventure.

 

Space Hab Thumb

If you have not yet tried it, our Counter Wars system is a great gem of a game system.  Play it anywhere, just like a table top miniature game, but without the cost, and all the little toys.  This month we have the Forest Barbarians for you to beat you foe with.

Counter Wars Green Bar Thumb

As always have a seat at the round table of fun with Avalon Games.

Review of Some Super Hero Fiction

Super Hero Fiction
With the rise of super heroes in pop culture, movies doing billions of dollars and the like, it is no surprise that super hero fiction has also been taking off. Its still a small nitch field of fiction, but growing every day it seems.

 

I have been reading a lot of this sort of fiction over the last year, almost all of it being self-published work for sale on Amazon in e-book format, but some are also in full print. The majority of it is geared toward young readers, for obvious reasons, but even so they take on some adult themes at times and are filled with action.

 

Here is a short list of what I have read so far and my thoughts on each series. I will not get into too much detail as I don’t want to give any plots away and create spoilers, but I will try to give an honest assessment of the stories and the writing.

 

Wearing the Cape by Marion C. Harmon

 

This series is composed of seven books so far, one of which are a sort of side story featuring one of the characters from the main series. The main character is a young female hero named Hope, while her super hero name is Astra. She gains super powers in the first book and is invited to join the super hero team of the Sentinels, which are based in Chicago. She has several adventures throughout the series, grows in power and experience and even falls in love (I sort of hate the insta-love part of the first book, but its YA so you almost have to expect it.)

 

There is heartbreak, danger and some fun as we watch the young heroine grow into her place in the super group.

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As the series grows Astra travels about the world, does some amazing things and battles super villains, giant lizard monsters and Japanese gods.

 

Over all this was a great series and I have enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of it as the author produces them. Currently he is working on an RPG based on the super hero world he has created, so that’s kind of cool.

 

Things I did not like about this series. Well this seems to be a problem with almost all of these types of books, the problem with a climax. We are taken on a journey thought the book, building to the big boss fight at the end and then when it’s over, that’s sort of it, all done. The ending is often abrupt and too soon after the big brawl.

 

While other characters are present in the book, most are sort of shallow and not well developed beyond supporting Astra, all save her best super hero friend, a vampire named Artimis. (Who has a solo book of her own that deals with the supernatural elements of the work. I did not like this one as much; it just didn’t fell like the other books in the series, although it was well writing.) This does change a bit with later books in the series, as we get to know a few of the support characters, but even then they are shallow at best.

 

All in all I would recommend this series for anyone looking to jump into the genre, they all are well written, and easy to ready.

 

Just Cause by Ian Thomas Healy

This is a large series, having 13 books. The series follows a young super heroine named Mustang Sally. She is real fast, the fastest person alive it seems. Sally is a third generation super hero, her grandmother and mother both having super speed as well, but neither as fast as Sally has become.

 

We watch as Sally graduates from the super hero academy, and joins a super hero group called Just Cause, the premier super group in the world. There she learns the ropes of being a professional superhero, finds romance and encounters her ultimate foe, the man that killed her father and who will try to kill her several times.

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The series continues with Sally gaining more experience and becoming a leader in the super hero community. She is a great character to read, the books are fun and the action is well writing and easy to follow. Unlike most of the other books, the secondary characters take up a lot of the action as well, and are developed over time.

 

The series takes a few right turns here and there, focusing on other places and characters in the world, where Sally takes a back seat. One focuses on some comedy. (The only one on the series I did not like, as I generally don’t like comedy fiction) One takes place in the super prison and a jailbreak, and the last one showcases some young heroes still in middle school. (I did not think I would like that one but it turned out to be fun)

 

Three of the books are short stories that fill in the backstory of the world, which while not needed, are a good read anyways.

 

Healy seems to put out two of these every year so you can keep the action going with little delay between books.

 

Of all the series, I like these the best.

 

Velveteen by Seaman McGuire

This is a large series and comedy based, so I did not get too far into the first book before I stopped. Just not my bag of tea. It is well written and has an odd ball since of fun. If you are into weird stuff then this is a good choice for you.

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Good Intensions by Michael Cider

This is a single book, which focuses on a super villain that does not want to be a super villain. He sort of gets extorted into the job. I liked the book over all with the action being fun and seeing a large villain organization for the inside was cool, but the main character’s reason for becoming a super villain sort of falls short. I just did not buy it and thought it was forced and not believable. His motivation is just off. Once he does the deed though, he finds he is roped into more and more bad things which he is forced to do, and while he tires hard to avoid killing anyone, it becomes more difficult all the time.

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All in all I like the book, it is well written and fun, if a little off on the character’s main reason for starting up as a super villain.

 

Strikeforce by Colleen Vanderlinder

Ok so not all super hero series are as good as other. This one left me cold and by the end of the third and final book I was done with it and the main character.

 

I did not have a problem with the writing over all, it is well done and the action was well developed. What I ended up not liking about the series is the main character is the best at everything. She is the strongest person, the fastest, and it seems the smartest as all the main problems solved are her ideas. It’s just like all the other heroes in the book are there to seem dumb so she can come up with all the good solutions to the problem. They even wait around for her to do it, when a bad villain shows up, they all hang back and wait until she shows up to capture them. It almost gets to be a comedy at times as she does everything and all the other super heroes just sort of watch.

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While well written I would not recommend this series, not unless you have read all the good ones first and just need a super hero fix to get by.

 

Vandguard by Percival Constantine

This is a six book series that will continue I am sure. The series deals with a group of young heroes led by an unpowered soldier that wears a super exo-suit. The series watches as they grow into a super team, deal with bad super terrorists, mad scientists, aliens invasions and time travel. All in all it’s a good series, the characters are well developed over time and the action is fun.

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There are a lot of super people in the book, but it seems only the heroes in the super group are the heroes in the whole world, no one else seems to be around. That and a few other miss steps drop the over all effect of the series, but over all it was a good read.

 

I did not find myself as invested in this series and these characters as much as I was with Just Cause or Wearing the Cape, but overall the Vandguard series is a good read.

 

The Indestrutbles by Mathew Phillion

A series of five books and two short stories, this is a great series about young heroes. We watch as an older hero takes in several young super people and trains them to be a force of good. Over the course of the series we get to know all of the characters well, watch as they grow in power, experience and depth.

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The series takes us through battles with super organizations of terrorists, alien invasions, time travel, magical adventures and all sorts of fun thing. All of the characters are well writing and the action fun and fast as the stories seem to just cook along at the right pace.

 

I liked this series a lot, and am looking forward to a lot more in the future.

 

In conclusion, all of these series can be found on Amazon and available on Kindle. As they are cheep, you can get into a series for only a few bucks.

 

I am looking forward to more books in several of these series and even new series to pop up. If you like super heroes and comic books, then these are some great additional to your fandom.

 

Great New Product Lines are Here

We have some great new stuff coming out this year, such as Avalon hazards and Avalon Lairs.

 

Avalon hazards offers s short, but fun little challenge for your players, something that may or may not be dangerous, but will offer a fun opportunity for excitement.

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Avalon Lairs is a short Adventure site, a lair, of some monster or bad guys.  Need an adventure real fast, but don’t want to have to read a book length description, well we have the right balance of adventure and information and stats.

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2016 in Review

Avalon Review of 2016

Well another year is coming to an end and so we here at Avalon are once again taking a look back to see what we did right and what we got wrong.

 

2016 over all was another down year. The economy is still sluggish in terms of sales numbers and with the chaos of the election year, even more so this year then in the past, brought some doubts to the market and lower over all numbers. While the market was soft, it was not a huge drop in over all sales numbers then seen in other years, but the lower numbers were clear.

 

Even with lower sales numbers Avalon was a profitable venture, and expanded its product line with well over 200 new products produced and put up for sale in 2016. We were able to finally get Kung Fu Kuma out as well as all its support products. We also produced two new volumes of Heroes Weekly, with the addition of 48 new issues between the two volumes. Avalon also expanded its efforts in the Infinite Futures product line with new IF Threats and the release of Cyber Age for IF.

 

What Did We Do Right

Avalon tried to bring new voices to the market and added two great writers to our stable of creative people. Both woman offered great work for publishing and helped to expand our offering in Pathfinder with new issues of Heroes Weekly as well as new product line such as Avalon Spell Books and Haunts.

 

Avalon continued to be a profitable venture and stayed out of debt once again. We added new capital to our investments in the stock market, with double the amount of funding then we had previously invested.

 

One major effort this year was to clean out the pipeline of products in the works. With some effort we were able to complete, layout and either publish or have ready to publish, several products and product lines, including the long awaited HWM Powers, and Scorched Earth for Pathfinder.

 

Avalon was able to keep anyone willing to work with plenty to do, offering several new product lines and or opportunities to continue to have a voice in the gaming hobby. Several of our writers were able to either explore new directions to work in or were able to add to already established product lines.

 

As always, Avalon was on time with its payments to our creative people and only a few times did we have a hick-up with any emails being missed or late in replying. Avalon also had several new opportunities presented to us from outside sources, some of which we jumped into with both feet, while others we had to pass on because of concerns about the viability of the venture. Some opportunities we put on hold for 2017 where we will explore them in more depth.

 

What Did We Do Wrong

Avalon did not have any major disasters this year, but some things still need to be addressed. While the web site is a great tool for us and we continue to expand what it has to offer, with new reviews and content, we still need to push it as a destination for great gaming news and content. We failed once more to get a store front up and running, as it never really got beyond the talking stage. We also explored other ways to bring in views, with reviews and the like, but we still can do more.

 

Avalon once more sort of fell short of getting the word out about what we have to offer. While we have been around for almost ten years now, people are still coming in says they have never heard of us. We dropped online ads as they never seemed to pay off, but we may have to look into new efforts to bring us to the forefront of peoples minds when they think of fun games.

 

We talked a lot about a lots of ideas. Some while might have been fun to work on, would have cost too much and might never have brought in new money or fans. Online comics were looked at, but as with a lot of stuff, the effort to make it become a paying venture was just too much work for the return.

 

The same seems to be the case for online fiction. While it might be great to pursue, the effort to make it pay off might be way too much for us to bother with. Does that mean we will not eventually jump on these or other things, it is just that we may have to either wait for them to be more profit potentials or until we have the time to really promote them so that they become profitable.

 

What Is In The Works For the Future?

So what to look forward to in the coming year? Well Avalon has a lot in the works that’s for sure. We have David Caffee, the master writer that he is, working on a Savage Swords version of Pathfinder as well as a great setting for that game. Meanwhile we are also working on new stuff for Pathfinder, with new HWM goodies and character books, as well as new ship deck plans and threat books for IF.

 

With Pazio planning to release their own Sci-Fi version of Pathfinder in the summer of 2017, Avalon will be well placed with a ton of support materials to be used with that system as our IF product line will be bulging with goodies.

 

We are also going to jump into releases of 5e based products and are looking into having versions of IF and HWM made ready for that system as well.

 

We also have plans for a 5e solo system and some great new table top miniature systems. Avalon will continue to support some current product lines such Arcana and our Mini-Games as well as offer art, paper models and new Pathfinder goodies.

 

What will 2017 hold for Avalon, who knows . What we can says for sure is that we will continue to try to present games and gaming goodies, and to offer the best stuff we can product, and at a great price.

Adventures of Gadget Girl, Featuring Mighty Mindy

Issue 13:

Mobs Thugs

“So we are just going to go in and take them down, right?” Mindy asked as she and Tucker walked down the hall to her training room.

 

“Well, more or less,” he opened the door for the two of them, “Just because we got that tip you wrangled out of that thug doesn’t mean it’s going to be accurate.”

 

“But it could lead to something bigger?” Mindy persisted as she walked over to the magnetic weight-lifting equipment the company had installed for her. She could lift a car over her head these days, her capabilities expanding along with her strength-building routine.

 

“Yes, it could lead to something big.” Tucker said more to himself as he left her to make a call to his boss.

 

*****

 

“It was unfortunate that she fell into the information about the shipment, but once she had her nose on the trail, she just did not give it up.” Tucker explained to his boss over the phone.

 

“No matter,” the voice articulated without emotion. “It was not a disaster, and we were able to get most of the shipment into the city by other means.”

 

“And the mobsters that she caught…what about them?”

 

“We willget them released soon enough,” the voice affirmed just before hanging up.

 

We completed the last of the missions for the Mini-Mission book and Mindy came out doing just fine. She and Bounce took out the mob thugs and gained some more Exp. and goodies.

 

Mighty Mindy

Brick, Level 2

Mutant, Large

 

EXP: 6,725

 

Init: +1

AC: 14 (+2 natural)

Hps: 29

Base Attack: +1

Fort: +7 Reflex: +1 Will: +0

Melee: Fist +10 (1D3+9)

Special Defense: DR 2 / –

 

Str 27 (+9), Dex 13 (+2), Con 16 (+4), Int 10 (+0), Wis 10 (+0), Chr 12 (+1)

 

Powers: Growth (2, Always On), Invulnerability (1), Super Strength (2)

 

Class Features: Extreme Effort, +1 Attribute (Con), 1 Power Point (Super Strength)

 

Feats: Oversized Throw, Super Lift

 

Skills: Intimidation 1 (+8), Perception 1 (+1), Power Activation 1 (+0) and Stealth 1 (+2)

 

Flavor and Flaws: Gullible and Sponsored

 

Special: (2 RPs +1)

Combat Suit (+2 AC), Night Vision Goggles (Dark Vision)

 

Issue 1: Born in an Explosion

Issue 2: Corporate Super Hero

Issue 3: Mindy helps out the Professor

Issue 4: Day at the Mall

Issue 5: The Goblin

Issue 6: Car Theft

Issue 7: Car Theft #2

Issue 8: Chop Shop

Issue 9: Night Off

Issue 10: Robot Rampage

Issue 11: Keys to the City

Issue 12: Plans are Made

Issue 13: Mobs Thugs

 

Ranks:

Reputation: 6
Go Gooder:
1

Mob: 3

Street Thug: 1

Law and Order: 4

Personal Life: 3 (Pam 3)

 

Hero Points: 1

 

Hero Allies:
Gadget Girl:
2

Bethany the Witch: 2

Bounce: 3

 

Villains:
The Goblin:
1

The Hood: 1

Lefty: 1