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Todd Nicholas
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Todd Nicholas

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The 200th episode of the Jank Cast!

In this one, we talk about what got us into gaming and what keeps us there to kick off a series of interviews we're going to be doing with gamers on that topic.

Enjoy!
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Moe “Gilvan Blight” Tousignant's profile photoTim Jensen's profile photoTodd Nicholas's profile photoLarry Spiel's profile photo
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Yeah, we rambled a bit.  Okay, I did.
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Todd Nicholas
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News  - 
 
Hey all!

Tom and I are going to do an open beta of the new playtest version of The Sword, The Crown, and the Unspeakable power. If you're interested in getting a link to it, please post in this thread and I will create a circle where people who are interested can get a copy.
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David Benson's profile photoTom Pleasant's profile photoRoland P's profile photoJames Taylor's profile photo
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I would like to have a look as well.
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Todd Nicholas
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News  - 
 
Time Cellist is coming....

We'll be Kickstarting Time Cellist in the very near future. Keep an eye on your G+ feed for more info.

(Thanks to +Darcy Boyd for the art!)
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Josephe Vandel's profile photoChris Shorb's profile photoDarcy Boyd's profile photoDoaa Abdelhamed's profile photo
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TIME CELLIST!
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Todd Nicholas
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Discussion  - 
 
Yet more Sword/Crown/Unspeakable Power info. Today, I'm going to talk about the Unspeakable Power itself. 

Tom and I were really into the idea that magic, in SCUP, should be a trade-off. Sure, it gives you power, but at what cost? As such, the Unspeakable Power, that is, the source of all magic in the world, is never just "there." The Unspeakable Power is CONSCIOUS. It has needs, wants, desires, and goals. It most likely has a personality. For example, in IPMM's excellent AP of SCUP, Dana (the MC) chose to represent the Unspeakable Power as a sort of dark mirror, doing an impression of each character whenever they spoke with it (you kind of have to hear it to believe it- it's both hilarious and terrifying!). In one game we played, the Unspeakable Power was bioluminescent plants that were slowly encroaching on the town, with every intent to fully absorb it and everyone in it. Whatever you decide it is in your game, it has agency. It will give you power, but it might also take something from you in exchange.

As such, people can ask questions of the Unspeakable Power. If they've got a little training or intuition in it, they can even use it to change the world in tangible ways. However, when you use the Unspeakable Power, it takes an interest in you. We have given the MC specific Threats they can use with the Unspeakable Power, for example. When the MC creates a Threat to the characters using the Unspeakable Power, they pick from a list of instincts that the power has to drive it in play. These include "It will become addicted to pain and suffering" and "It will give with one hand and take with the other." We specifically invite the MC to create Powers if there is a magic user at the table.

Additionally, the MC has a specific list of MC moves for when a players misses a roll involving the Unspeakable Power. We didn't want there to be just any old consequences for THAT kind of failure. As such, the MC may pick from moves such as "Give them what they THINK they want" and "Make a demand of them, set a price on failure" when someone misses a roll while attempting to use the Unspeakable Power. Remember: it has needs, wants, desires, goals, and a consciousness. It might not like you meddling with it...

Tomorrow, I'll talk about something we're really excited about: the NEW SEASON Rules. 
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As If's profile photoDarcy Boyd's profile photoDuane Padilla's profile photoJohn Stavropoulos's profile photo
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"Whatever you decide it is in your game, it has agency."
This is exactly what I wanted to hear. Listening to the IPMM AP's one of my favourite parts of the game was how much the Unspeakable Power was legitimately a character, not just, well, power. But I always wondered how much of that was just their interpretation, you could easily do the same thing with the psychic maelstrom, the rules just don't tell you to.
Here the rules aren't saying it has to be a character, but it is a force with agencies, with motive. A storm can do a lot of damage, but that doesn't mean it has agency, and I love that distinction.
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Todd Nicholas
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Discussion  - 
 
Hey all! More information about The Sword, The Crown, and The Unspeakable Power (SCUP) coming your way! Once again, this is shareable.

So SCUP is trying to emulate dark, political fantasy. Think Game of Thrones, or the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie. As such, Tom and I thought it was important that it was a HIGH INFORMATION GAME. In other words, players have a LOT of ways to get information on each other and the world. We also thought it was important that the world had a lot of interesting places and people in it, the kind of places and people that bring a dark fantasy world to life.

Towards this end, as you finish up character creation, you collectively, as a group, create PLACES and FACTIONS for each character at the table. Your Place is where your character feels most comfortable and at home. Where you belong, so to speak. We encourage players to not go for the obvious choice. Sure you can say the Queen's Place is her castle, but wouldn't it be more interesting if her Place was actually the forest beyond the town's wall where she meets her forbidden lover each full moon, or perhaps the rowdy, local pub she hangs out in incognito on those cherished occasions when she's able to slip out of the throne room? 

Your Faction, on the other hand, are the people who you relate to. They're your tribe, your clique, your crew, your clan, your peeps. It can be as narrow as "those who sit on the royal council" or as broad as "the starving artists of the city." When you are among your people, you feel at home. You may or may not be a "leader" among them, or even recognized by them, but you get them. You move among them with ease. You know the lingo, you fit in, you blend. They're your Faction.

Once again, this is created as a group. You get final say on where your Place and who your Faction is, but you don't get FIRST say. Other players get to make suggestions before you do. Why? Because we want to leave some room both for collective buy-in to the world and the characters as well as room for you to be surprised by your own character. Sometimes, in play tests, someone has had an idea of who their character is and when the player next to them says "perhaps your people aren't the noble folks in the community, but are actually the local musicians because art and dancing are so important to you," it shifts their understanding of their character in really cool ways. Once again, you get FINAL say on your character, so no one can tell you what to do, we just want to leave the space for you to be surprised.

So what does having a Place and Faction do for you? Well, first off, it fleshes out your character a little bit. It also gives the MC something to play with, telling them who lives here and where those people hang out, helping to map out and populate your world. Beyond giving some color and shape to your character and world, however, there are direct mechanical benefits. When you are in your Place or among your Faction, you can use moves that allow you to hear rumors of interest to you, gain information on people you might want to know about, or get a bonus to trying to figure things about the world out or manipulate other characters. Once again: we are trying to create a HIGH INFORMATION game, which means it should be easy for you to learn about the world, learn about other characters, and find out things of interest to you. We want to give you all the tools you need to know who to trust, who to double cross, and who to take care of... permanently. That's why we've given these mechanical benefits to Factions and Places: so you not only have some extra color for your world, but also some extra ways to find out everyone's dirty little secrets in it! 

Tomorrow, we'll talk a little bit about another tool for how to make the social system of your world work: Pull.
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Chris Shorb's profile photoTim Franzke's profile photoJohn Stavropoulos's profile photoJenn Martin's profile photo
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Love this flavor. I would love to have the creation of factions and places more mechanized somehow. Just having people throw out suggestions, and then the player choose - well it's nice and collaborative, but there's no umph there.

How about something as simple as if you choose someone else's suggestion, your character gets to know a secret about that player's character. But if you choose your own, everyone's character knows a secret about you - and your character doesn't know they know.
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Todd Nicholas

Discussion  - 
 
Hey, everyone. So over the next week (like, starting tomorrow, Monday the 25th), I'm going to post a little bit of fun information each day in the Wheel Tree community page I linked to the other day about some of the stuff we're working on in The Sword, The Crown, and The Unspeakable Power. If you're interested in the game, check there each day to see some of what we're doing. Thanks!
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Todd Nicholas

Discussion  - 
 
Hi there, all. If you are interested in playtesting The Sword, The Crown, and The Unspeakable Power, a Game of Thrones inspired political fantasy hack/reskin of AW, feel free to post in or plus-1 this thread:

https://plus.google.com/113683514389157023025/posts/aMqREXTPTKR

If you do so, I will add you to a circle that will have access to the beta test documents for the game. 

Thanks!
Hey all! Tom and I are going to do an open beta of the new playtest version of The Sword, The Crown, and the Unspeakable power. If you're interested in… - Todd Nicholas - Google+
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Talek Mnemon's profile photoGiulia “JuJu” Cursi's profile photoJohn Stavropoulos's profile photoRich Glover's profile photo
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I am so keen. 
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Todd Nicholas
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News  - 
 
Hey all! Less than $500 to go before we get to our next stretch goal. If you've already kicked in, a big THANK YOU! If you haven't, give it some thought. We'd love to hit that goal, and we only have 60 hours left!
Wheel Tree Press is raising funds for Time Cellist RPG on Kickstarter! Travel back in time to play as a plucky group of kids helping Time Cellist save the world from The Maestro of Maliciousness!
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Todd Nicholas
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News  - 
 
Guess what, folks...

TIME CELLIST IS FUNDED!

Whoo-hoo!

Thanks to everyone who has backed it, and we'll keep you all updated as we go forward.
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Ari Julku's profile photoSean Smith's profile photoLarry Spiel's profile photoMegan Pedersen's profile photo
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Congrats guys! I never doubted it would. 
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Todd Nicholas
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Discussion  - 
 
For our final little preview of The Sword, The Crown, and the Unspeakable Power (SCUP) this week, I'm going to talk about NEW CHAPTER MOVES.

So Tom and I asked ourselves out loud, at one point, "how could we emulate something like the Red Wedding in SCUP?" When you think of political fantasy, you think of reversals, misfortune, death, and despair. No one is safe for too long, and it's always a moving equilibrium.

So what we came up with is NEW CHAPTER MOVES. After either some downtime where you don't play for a little bit or a significant in-game passage of time (your call), you MUST make some changes. Either you retire your character, let them become an NPC, change them to a new character class, or (and this is what we really want you to do!) you take one of the New Chapter Moves to hurry things along. 

What are the New Chapter Moves? I'm glad you asked. Here's an example of one:

The Swing of The Pendulum
Whenever your character experiences even a single moment of joy, tranquility, security, pride, or peace, make a mark. When you reach 3 marks, roll 2d6.
-On a miss, nothing happens. Erase the marks and start over.
-On a hit (7-9 or 10+), you die horribly as it all comes crashing down around you, enveloped in a void so dark it’s as if the night sky itself fell to the earth and covered up all you have ever known in a shroud of burning ashes. You and the MC will work out how. Create a new character.

Ouch. Here's another:

Reap What You Sow
Every time you hurt someone, physically, socially, or emotionally, make a mark. When you reach 3 marks, roll 2d6.
-On a miss, nothing happens. Erase the marks and start over.
-On a hit, you face the harvest. Those you love will suffer and die, undeservedly. Those you trust will be cut down like so much wheat or betray you. As you have sowed pain, now you shall reap blood. Erase the marks and start over.

Double ouch. And finally, one more we'll share:

Let the Right One In
Every time you perform some more than trivial act using the Unspeakable Power, especially something epic and/or bloody, make a mark. When you hit three marks, roll 2d6.
-On a miss, nothing happens, Erase the marks and start over.
-On a hit, you and the MC together will choose one of the following: (1) The doors of reality crack and something horrible comes through, most likely devouring you in the process. The MC will create a new Threat based on what slipped through. Create a new character. (2) Something comes through and burns the essence of you away. You're gone, but there is a new tenant in the building. Your character is now an NPC that LOOKS like you but decidedly is NOT you. Create a new character. (3) Something beautiful and terrible draws you into a world far away. Describe it, in all its indescribable grandeur. Retire your character (to safety?). Create a new character.

You get the idea? We don't MAKE you take these moves if you want to ensure that your character keeps living on and on into old age,, but we strongly encourage it. These moves are there to give your game a big push in the second chapter, creating new things to worry about or big, dramatic events that change the nature of your world. So even though you don't have to take one, if you're the right kind of person to play SCUP, we imagine that you'll see one of these moves and say "ooooh, yes. I want THAT horrible thing to happen in our game!" 

Soon, we'll reveal a little bit more about the character classes we've created for SCUP. Thanks for reading these previews this week!
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Vincent Baker's profile photoTim Franzke's profile photoDaniel Davis's profile photoBlue Tyson's profile photo
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Duane: we actually didn't post all the moves, and there's a different one you might actually like. One of the New Chapter Moves has you set a tangible goal for your character when you  trigger it (i.e. "I avenge my friend," "I claim my rightful place at the head of the council," etc.,), then you get bonuses to accomplish that goal, but when you do, you retire your character. It's lets your character go out but in a slightly more heroic way. 

Either way, what we were trying to do with these moves is take something that we think AW already has, i.e. as you "level up" in AW, eventually you must either change your splat or retire your character (unless you just decide to hoard advancements, which is totally not fun). We took that idea and tried to hook it both into the fiction of the game and the flow of the game a little bit.
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Todd Nicholas
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Discussion  - 
 
Hey all! More The Sword, The Crown, and The Unspeakable Power (SCUP) previewing. Once again, feel free to share.

Something that Tom and I wanted to do to push the status and social capital elements of politics. We have a handful of ways for doing so that I'll discuss here. 

First off, characters can have PATRONS. In other words, you can work directly for someone else. This can be another PC, or it can be an NPC that holds dominion over you somehow. When you have a Patron, you roll at the beginning of each session to see how your relationship with your Patron is doing. If they're happy with you, you get a little coin in your pocket and all is well. If they're displeased with you, however, they may call on you to fulfill your duties to them at some point during the session. If you refuse, it could hurt, or even break, your relationship with them.

Second, characters have PULL with each other. PULL is a mechanical gauge of social capital. You gain Pull on other characters by doing things for them, no strings attached.

"So good to see you, Pax. If I remember correctly, you wanted to know the name of that cook who's been spreading rumors about you, right? Well I looked into it and his name is Zadkat, and he likes to spend his coin at that brothel down by the market. Of course! Happy to help! What are friends for, eh?" 

As you can guess, "no strings attached" isn't how SCUP actually works. No strings attached just means they owe you, they just don't know it yet! So when you do something nice for someone, you get Pull on them, representing their debt to you. You spend that Pull to cash in your social capital with them. That big, bad brute that you have Pull with? Are they about to put their sword through someone you need alive, at least a little bit longer? Perhaps spend that Pull to make them think twice about it. Do you want something of theirs that they don't seem terribly willing to part with? Perhaps spend that Pull to remind them that they owe you. Status runs on the subtleties of social capital, and no one does anything for anyone for free when everyone is looking to climb the ladder. Pull is the mechanical gauge of how the webs of social capital, who owes who, effectively, crisscross through your game.

Finally, to give the MC a way to make social status come alive in SCUP, we have provided the MC with different lists of moves for low-status characters vs. high-status characters. Why? Because the perils of being privileged and oppressed are quite different, and we wanted oppositional moves that reflected the very different realities of those at the top of the pyramid and those at the bottom. 

For example, MC moves for elite status characters include things like "compel them to fulfill their duties" and "hint at vast conspiracies against them." When you are at the top, you are always aware of what you stand to lose, the pressure of maintaining your status, and all those people below you smiling to your face but sharpening their knives when you turn you back.

For common status characters, it's a very different set of problems, including "crush them with debt to those who have everything" and "put them in their place with degradation or humiliation." When you are common, the boot of power presses down on your throat, robbing you of  your money, your power, and your pride. It's enough to make someone go a little crazy, huh? 

Tomorrow, I'll talk a little bit about how magic works in SCUP. 
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Duane Padilla's profile photoChris S's profile photoAri Julku's profile photo
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Chris S
 
are you still looking for play testers? the blurbs you have been sharing this week are very intriguing.
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Todd Nicholas
owner

Discussion  - 
 
Hey everyone! As promised, each day this week I'll be talking a little bit about something that Tom and I are excited about in The Sword, The Crown, and the Unspeakable Power (SCUP). Today, I'm going to talk a little bit about our Mythology Creation system. Also: feel free to share this post if you know folks you think might be interested.

A fantasy world is nothing without a good mythos to it, right? So Tom and I wanted to make sure that the players at the table had some collective buy-in to a cool, evocative mythology that would serve as the backbone to their world. When you sit down to play SCUP, one of the first things you do is, as a play-group, build a mythos for your setting to give it some flavor. To do this, you go through the following steps: 

First, you select several names for the key characters in your mythology from a long list of different kinds of fantasy names.

After that, you select several plot elements from a list. Examples are "Balance is restored when a brave leader vanquishes an enemy” and “Two lovers cannot be together without first confronting an obstacle.” 

When you have selected your plot elements, you reach the most fun part, picking some bits of evocative imagery to drive your imagination. Examples include things like "A cracked and charred battlefield, where tattered flags fly over a sea of corpses,” "A woman, clad in the stars themselves, riding a great winged beast, her eyes fierce as fire and her hair dark as onyx,” and "A thief, standing upon the gallows, is revealed to be the long-lost, beloved princess, thought dead by her usurper uncle.”

Once you have your names, plot points, and evocative imagery, your group has a discussion about how to weave all these elements together. Perhaps you selected the name “Viv” and decide that Viv is the thief on the gallows in the final example in the previous paragraph. Perhaps her lover, who you give them name Taya, cannot be with her until Viv has reclaimed her rightful place on the throne from her usurper uncle, who you call Pembrooke. Perhaps Taya is the woman clad in the stars themselves: a powerful sorceress fated long ago to marry whomever sits on the throne at the next blood moon. Does Viv succeed in reclaiming the throne from her uncle so that she and Taya can. at long last, be together? Or does your story end in tragedy, with Viv hanged and Taya forever pining for her as she rides her great beast through the night sky?

Once you have written your mythology, you ask yourself what this tells you about your world. What sorts of virtues are celebrated? Honor? Love? Loyalty? What does this tell us about magic and the supernatural? Is magic common and benign, or obscure and feared? What does this tell us about geography, or social status? Through creating the mythology of your world with this exercise, you color in the various corners of your setting. What does it feel like, what do people believe, what are its aesthetics, and what is its history? This gives all the players a foundation with which to build their characters and the various systems of your shared world. We’ve had a lot of fun in play tests with world creation, and had people come up with some truly awesome mythologies. 

Tomorrow we’ll talk a little bit more about what’s going on in world creation for SCUP. 
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Nikitas Thlimmenos's profile photoYragaël Malbos's profile photoMikael Andersson's profile photoRyan Ó Laoithe's profile photo
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I really like how the steps flow together into something collaborative and interesting and the provide a framework for more creation.
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