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Jeremy Kostiew
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A gamer of all seasons, and designer in the solar industry, with a background in kickin' graphics.
A gamer of all seasons, and designer in the solar industry, with a background in kickin' graphics.

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For folks following after BigBadCon:

I've got a few writing and art credits out there. Mostly for Fate games and Onyx Path titles.

I am totally obsessed with gnolls, werewolves, and mothman.

I work in green energy.

I'm a Californian.

I like hotsauce.

I am a cool dog in sunglasses.
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I really want to pick up Harmonix's Dropmix.

Not because of the rave reviews from people I adore, not because it looks like a lot of fun, and not because it's really neat and innovative.

Because it has a radio safe version of Ginuwine's Pony you can mix with the Transformers theme!
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I’m just spitballing here mechanics. This is all draft material. Take it with a grain of salt!

Personally, I think the sweet spot in PbtA/BitD is the 7-9/4-5 range. “Success, but…” is most fun for me as a player and a DM, so that’s where I want players to aim in Neverlander. It’s harder to do with PtbA, because advancement is pretty linear (-2 to +3, usually), but BitD is a little bit crunchier with dicepools and specific-to-each-die target numbers.

Blades in the Dark as written, the core system is:

Blades in the Dark uses six-sided dice. You roll several at once and read the single highest result.

If the highest die is a 6, it’s a full success—things go well. If you roll more than one 6, it’s a critical success—you gain some additional advantage.
If the highest die is a 4 or 5, that’s a partial success—you do what you were trying to do, but there are consequences: trouble, harm, reduced effect, etc.
If the highest die is 1-3, it’s a bad outcome. Things go poorly. You probably don’t achieve your goal and you suffer complications, too.

Your dice pool is based on your stats, and you can take +2 stress for an addition die, make a “Devil’s Bargain” for another, and teamwork can add a third extra die. “Stress” is a kind of buffer against consequences. Too much and you suffer a trauma, which permanently changes your character. Too much trauma and your character is out of play.

The Neverlander version might look something like:

Neverlander uses six-sided dice. You roll several at once and read the single highest result.

If the highest die is a 6, it’s a Prideful success—things go well, but you gain a +1 pride. If you roll more than one 6, it’s a critical success—you gain some additional advantage, but an additional +1 pride as well.
If the highest die is a 4 or 5, that’s a partial success—you do what you were trying to do, but there are consequences: trouble, harm, reduced effect, etc.
If the highest die is 1-3, it’s a bad outcome. Things go poorly. You probably don’t achieve your goal and you suffer complications, too.

Pride, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is bad news. Stress is an almost-perfect analog.

I definitely want to tie Pride to overwhelming success, but I also want to keep the “+2 stress for an additional die” mechanic. Like, something as simple as “+2 pride for an additional die.” Meaning a roll has the potential to result in a total of 4 pride. Which is a lot of pride, especially if it’s just as dangerous as stress.

Which is where teamwork comes in.

Teamwork is super important to Neverlander, but I don’t think it adds a die. I think it reduces the amount of pride a person can gain from a single roll. If the maximum pride per roll is 4, I’m thinking teamwork reduces the amount of pride from a roll by 2. A great, wonderful, perfect success that takes two people is a lot less “prideful” than someone who does it on their own. Maybe it reduces all pride gained from a roll? Something to consider!

“Devil’s Bargain” I definitely want to keep in some form or another. It can be more literal in Neverlander, too! I think it’ll tie to the “base nature” of monsterdom, requiring you to do or endorse something heroes think monsters do all the time. It’s pretty good as it stands, though.

In addition to the JOB and SPECIES specific rules that allow a character to avoid getting pride, I think the “position” (Controlled, Risky, Desperate) of a roll also determines if you can gain pride. For example, 6’s on a Controlled action always gain pride, but only criticals on a Risky action gain pride. I don’t think you can gain pride from the roll itself on a Desperate action, only from the “+2 pride for an additional die.”

Thanks for readin'!
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Systems

I've been struggling with core of Neverlander's mechanics for almost three years. It's been Fate, it's been Powered by the Apocalypse and it's been my own weird mess (or ten.)

Now I'm looking at Blades in the Dark. The Forged in the Dark SRD is really useful for singling out mechanics I like, and seeing where my Neverlander ideas fit and don't fit.

In particular, the basic roll (small dice pool, 1-3 fail, 4-5 mixed success, 6
success, 6s critical success) and the ability to add dice to a pool for +2 stress. That's almost a perfect fit for Pride.

Aiming for the "middling" success has been something I've wanted to shoehorn into PtbA and Fate. BitD does that almost perfectly out of the box. And the permanent character changes that come with Stress can easily be altered to fit the "heroic" mindset that's antithetical to being a denizen of a semi-socialist underworld.

It's not perfect, of course. The load and gear system doesn't fit particularly well, Crews aren't analogous to any Neverlands infrastructure I have in mind, and I've got a much shorter list of stats.

But that blank character sheet? The "matrix" of attributes? The Devil's Bargain? It's definitely got me thinking.
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Like everything else in Neverlander, this is a draft.

Pride is an important aspect of Neverlander. It’s a cross between alignment/morality trait and bennie (like Fate Point.) Except that more is worse and less is great. Occasionally an action will require a Neverlander to take a point of Pride as a result, and occasionally a Neverlander will take a point of Pride to attempt an action.

In character, Pride is when a citizen of the Neverlands sees more importance in themselves than the community. And the more power a Neverlander gains, the wider the definition of community becomes: from village and friends, all the way to the Neverlands as a whole. Power and responsibility are deeply entwined in the Neverlands. Having humility is the difference between a Neverlander and a real, actual monster.

Not that all prideful characters are necessarily evil, but too much Pride can push a person in that direction. And with enough Pride, a Neverlander becomes something else, something dangerous. They become heroes. (Who are, if you need a refresher, the bad guys.)

Systematically, Prideful Actions are rolls or decisions that result in intentioning gaining Pride, or gaining Pride through the impact of one’s actions. A Neverlander can knowingly gain Pride by aiming to humiliate a foe or rival, or by accidentally dunking on a foe so hard that humiliation occurs as a result.

Pride is also earned through social conflict. Convincing someone to do something they’re disinclined to do (within reason and out of character limits) can earn Pride. Lies that result in the harm of another or the material gain of a Neverlander can earn Pride. Arguments in particular are a dangerous source of Pride.

Dignified Actions are actions that, through magic, tribe, profession, should be Prideful Actions, but don’t result in the accumulation of Pride.

A Champion may, for example, always defeat a lesser foe to defend someone else. Defending another is always a Dignified Action for Champions.

The Digiri can often deceive through lies and shadows without gaining Pride. Lying to help a friend, or harm someone who has harmed you, is a Dignified Action for Digiri.

A Kobalt Librarian never needs to worry about being seeming too booksmart or crafting something too perfect. Academic intelligence is a librarian’s niche, and Kobalt are ingenious craftsman.

And so on.
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Last night I scared myself with another audiobook.

Well, not another. It was the same audiobook that freaked me out last time. I just fast forwarded past the spookums.

But there was a scary part right afterwards. :(

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THE BASICS

Tribe
[This'll get its own post!]

Professions
"Professions” are a weird egg in this iteration of Neverlander.

They’re a character class based on something relatively mundane: a job. In this world of magic and spooky stuff, even these mundane jobs have roots in the supernatural. Denizen isn’t a job job, but I wanted a role that didn’t necessitate a career like, say, Physician does. Champion is both your typical fighter sort, and kind of law enforcement without the baggage of authoritarian power structures. A peacekeeper, but in the non-ironic sense!

But sometime in the events prior to actually playing your character, the majority of your community decided your selflessness or competence or plain coolness was enough to inspire them, and you became something more. You ceased to be “a librarian of Ghoulmuck Town” and became “THE librarian of Ghoulmuck” which comes with some measure of power granted by the love and belief of the people of Ghoulmuck Town. And with that change comes THE FUN POWERS and influence!

Heroes
Heroes, on the other hand, are all Chosen Ones and the like. Individuals who are born powerful, prophesied to be great, etc: the Blessed Farmboy, the Only Good Blackguard, or the Last Princess of the Mountain Lords. Stuff like that. Every antagonist is a protagonist ...and their very expendable retinue.

Gameplay
In theory, the flow of gameplay works like this: the monsters show up somewhere that needs them. They save the day and help people out and are generally cool dudes. This earns them the respect and fondness of a village, which makes them more powerful. This lets them take on heroes. Monsters oust these human jerks from the Neverlands. Monsters get noticed on a larger scale and more monsters respect and adore them. Which makes them EVEN MORE powerful! Now they’re able to take on EVEN STRONGER heroes! Eventually, so things go, they have the whole of the Neverlands backing their play and they GO WHOLE HOG on the invasion force and their evil-ass sungod.

Complications!
But there are challenges yet. More foes than the golden heroes of mankind.
There are Outlanders, who don’t come from the Neverlands or the human world. Alien minds and bodies and alien hungers. The Dijiri were once Outlanders, but the Neverlands came to accept them. Few Outlanders are as sociable.

Also beasts, which are those somewhat mindless but occasionally dangerous multitudes of wild animals in the Neverland, as varied and complex as the animals of the human lands. But grosser. Which makes them cuter when they’re friendly.

And Dreamers, who lurk beneath the bottomless holes in the Neverlands, and wake when light and darkness clash too loudly near their homes. There are rumors that the Nameless, who was mother to the Naja, was a Dreamer. She died of compassion, which does not bode well for the demeanor of the other Dreamers.

Finally, there are Nolanders. Nolanders are those monsters who forsake the rules and laws of the Neverland for incredible potency, and become something other than their tribe. A Kobalt Nolander is a Kobalt no longer. It has no tribe or profession, just great might the dire cost of that power. With that in mind, some Neverlanders have reached out to the Nolanders to talk alliances against the armies of man. None of these talks has succeeded.
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Okay, now there’s a specific NEVERLANDER collection for my slow rewrite!

It occurs to me that it’s been kind of a long time since I talked Neverlander in any depth. The basic premise is this: you are a monster. Inspired by games that humanize or normalize monstrous characters (Disgaea, Darkstalkers, Skullgirls, Undertale), Neverlander bills itself as “backwards D&D.” It’s about protecting communities from the ruthless greed and merciless righteousness of adventurers, who see you and yours as things to be vanquished. It’s about dungeons as homes and monsters as people.

A year ago, the sun rose in the Neverlands for the first time, and it brought heroes.

These Brighteners are empowered by a jealous divinity and they have no qualms about the havoc they cause in her name. They are merciless, golden demigods with deadly artifacts of their own devising and the powerful treasures they’ve plundered from the Neverlands. Villages are burning, cities are under siege and the Neverlands are scared.

You’ve been chosen to fight back. Not chosen by fate or the whims of some angry goddess, but by the people of your tribe or village. You are their favorite librarian, armed with the knowledge of spells and stars. You are the musician they all know and love, holding back the notes of a dangerous song. You are a fellow denizen, and you wield their hope like a sword.

The people of the Neverlands are exceptional. Not because they are innately strong or gifted, but because their monstrous neighbors and monstrous friends are the source of their power, the only power with the chance to stand against the sun and Her bright soldiers.

You play a creature from one of the many tribes of the underworld:

Alraune, plant people responsible for the abundant flora in the Neverlands
Dhunyr, immortal, blood-drinking aristocrats who once ruled the underworld.
Aragne, golem-spiders that craft themselves from the remains of their progenitor.
Wiht, the souls of the imperfect and murdered, given a second chance in the Neverlands.
Djiri, fiery tricksters who fled a realm of fire and into the underworld.
Naja, the blind serpent daughters of Nameless, the ocean’s failed steward.
Labyros, the great bovine thinkers of the underworld, unparalleled in logic and strength.
Ouryka, the carnivorous, canid story-singers of the underworld’s dark deserts.
Tusser, the stoney-faced trolls of the mountains, whose hunger cannot be sated.
Kobalt, cave-dwelling lizard metallurgists with a, uh, broad sense of what belongs to them.

And you served your community in one of the follow ways:

A Champion who stood at the village gates and kept the wilds at bay with might and steel.
A Physician who cured the ills of the body and mind with old techniques and arcane tools.
An Artisan whose crafts are powerful in the hands of others, but divine in their own.
A Librarian who knows the secret of stars and spells, to whom no book is a mystery for long.
A Musician who has wooed fans and foes alike with hints of a forbidden orchestra.
A Hooligan who uses special paths to steal from rich monsters’ hoards and clothe the poor.
A Metropolitan who has served the spiritual needs of your people with the secrets of gods.
A Denizen, no different from your peers, but up raised by equal hands and hearts.

(Beautiful character art by the incredible +Gremlin Legions!)
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Just sharing some notes from the TOTAL REWRITE OF NEVERLANDER.

I'm revising the monster "bible" to include some new info/influences. Since Neverlander started before Undertale was a thing, there are definitely some cool things in that space that I was to borrow from. The less-gonzo bits, anyway!

Anyway, THE PEOPLE OF NEVERLANDER:

SPECIES: ALRAUNE
Inspiration: The Sylvari (GW2), Alura Une (C:SofN), Filia (Skullgirls)
Most resemble: Dryads, Elementals, Mandrake
Naming conventions: [Color][Plant part] (ex: Bluepetal, Greenblade, Blackstem)

SPECIES: DHUNYR
Inspiration: Jedah (Darkstalkers), Dimitri (Darkstalkers), Morrigan (Darkstalkers)
Most resemble: Vampires, Werebats
Naming conventions: [Title] + [Spooky surname] (ex: Baron Sanguine, Countess Nightmare, Queen Beelzebub)

SPECIES: ARAGNE
Inspiration: Bishamon (Darkstalkers), Huitzil (Darkstalkers), Q-Bee (Darkstalkers), Muffet (Undertale), Arachne (Soul Eater)
Most resemble: Spiders, Clockwork, Durandal
Naming conventions: [Non-repeating, single-syllable sounds “constructed” with hyphens.] (ex: An-Su-Mon, Clik-Cla-Clak, Toh-Dos, Tok-Tone) [Ancient Aragne append some part of their strange arrangement to their names, like titles.] (ex: An-Su-Mon the Thousand-Armed, Clik-Cla-Clak the Many Mouthed, etc…)

SPECIES: WIHT
Inspiration: Hsien-Ko (Darkstalkers), Lord Raptor (Darkstalkers)
Most resembles: Ghosts, Wights, Zombies
Naming convention: [Human first name]+[Extremely goth lastname] (ex: John Darkrose, Abigail Spiderbell, Noah Coffinwood)

SPECIES: DIJIRI
Inspiration: Laharl (Disgaea), Etna (Disgaea)
Most resembles: Demons, Djinni, Oni
Naming convention: [Two-syllable, ‘v’ and ‘k’ and ‘j’ heavy given name] the [Exaggerated Profession] (ex: Vivet the Resurrectionist, Sishuk the Knowing, Tajit the Unseen)

SPECIES: NAJA
Inspiration: The Naga (Warcraft), Rikuo (Darkstalkers), Medusa (Soul Eater)
Most resemble: Naga, Lamia, Mermaids
Naming conventions: [Angelic names without ‘s’ in them. Slightly misspelled.] (ex: Arile, Metetorn, Rufiel, Admodey, Michiel, Lukifile)

SPECIES: LABYROS
Inspiration: Asterius (Persona 4 Arena), Asgore Dreamurr (Undertale), Tauren (Warcraft)
Most resemble: Minotaurs, Centaurs, Oni
Naming conventions: [Humble profession synonym]+[Roman or Greek name] (Laborer Titus, Crook Hela, Bard Persephone)

SPECIES: OURYKA
Inspiration: Jon Talbain (Darkstalkers), Forbidden Beast Eddie (Guilty Gear), Free (Soul Eater)
Most resemble: Gnolls, Werewolves
Naming conventions: [Short, absurd first name that ends with a vowel]+[Spooky compound word that includes a noise of some sort] (ex: Snippa Hellhowl, Varki Razervoice, Sayo Snarlsong)

SPECIES: TUSSER
Inspiration: The Yomi (Claymore), Dark Elves (Record of Lodoss War), Beowulf (Skullgirls)
Most resemble: Trolls, Ogres
Naming conventions: [A relatively normal name] + [Metal/mineral/ore][Bodypart] (ex: Bhetti Ironteeth, Kalveen Brassback, Rodder Coalblood)

SPECIES: KOBALT
Inspiration: Yukes (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles), Heartless (Kingdom Hearts), Armored Goblins (Labyrinth)
Most resemble: Kobolds, Goblins
Naming conventions: [Object but a few letters off]+[One-syllable sound]+[First name but maybe a little different] (ex: Toten ah Toten, Belh si Bella, Char vu Churl)
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In 2018 I want to finish one of the following:

[Exalted Heartbreaker]: A desert planet ruled by the heirs of an alien queen. The massive Gugalanai march toward the last bastion of the civilized world and only the blood of Izdubar, Queen of Earth and Heaven, can protect the final city of humankind. But the mindless, towering Gugalanai aren't the only force that want Izdubar's empire buried. Izdubar's reign has been cruel even to this dangerous age.

Neverlander: "Reverse D&D" was the initial pitch. In Neverlander, you play the denizens of a vast underworld tasked repelling the human (and elven and dwarven) church and their merciless god of light. It's about monsters of disperate tribes coming together to bolster communities and raise up their heroes. All while trying not wake the stirring emptiness beneath their feet.

Invisible World: A PbtA game where failure advises the undocumented abilities of the game's cryptozoological prey. Players take on the role of Keelers, individuals who broadcast their adventures on a spooky version of Youtube -- while trying to avoid being eaten, arrested or falling to their deaths. Mechanically, I'm toying with the idea direct confrontation is entirely to be avoided. This is a game about surviving and good footage, not offing monsters. Even if they really want to off you.

Each of these has been in my GDocs for literal years.
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