Games

A pair of old six-sided diceIn the fall of 1984, during a layoff from General Electric, I sold a “capsule review” to Steve Jackson’s Space Gamer magazine. A month later they accepted my “Mind Duel” board game. Within a year, I was working full-time as a designer and editor for GDW, then TSR, with a bit of freelance for FASA, West End, Flying Buffalo, and others. Nowadays (after an interlude spent in educational publishing) I’m publishing myself—and other people—via Popcorn Press.
Photo by sean_hicken

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck

Lester : February 1, 2017 8:00 am : Announcements, Game Design


Serious suggestion: Pledge a buck to How to Write Adventure Modules that Don’t Suck, and get a daily email with an added essay—each from a different author in the group. That alone is worth a dollar! James M. Ward has done a marvelous job of developing the book, and Joseph Goodman of Goodman Games always publishes a class act! At nearly ten times their funding level with about two weeks yet to go, they aren’t hurting for that extra buck, but as I said, it’s more than worth it to us gamers. I’m in the book, and I still pledged a buck for those daily updates! Cheers. —Les

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Creatures & Cards!

Lester : January 12, 2017 9:35 pm : Free Games, Game Design


[These rules came to me in a dream one night. A bit of family playtesting, and here they are for you!]

A fighter, a wizard, a priest, and a thief walk into a dungeon. The dragon says, “”Sounds like a party!” This game uses a standard poker deck to represent 2-4 fantasy heroes battling their way through an underground complex to find treasures and rescue captives. Who will emerge with the most loot and followers?

How to Win

At game’s end, the player with the most points of diamonds (treasure) and hearts (followers) wins! (Each card counts as its number value; Jacks count as 11 and Queens count as 12.)

Game Prep

  1. Shuffle the four king cards and deal one to each player. These are used to identify which character each will be playing.
    • Spades King is the Fighter, who can play two attack attack cards each turn and kill more than one monster at a time.
    • Clubs King is the Wizard, who can make a mass attack on monsters anywhere.
    • Hearts King is the Priest, who can heal a wounded follower or rescue a follower from the discard pile.
    • Diamonds King is the Thief, who can steal the lowest numbered treasure card from the player with the most treasure cards.
      These powers are explained in more detail later.
  2. Shuffle the rest of the deck and place it within easy reach of all players.
  3. Begin play with the Fighter, going clockwise around the table for player turns.

Player Turn

Each player goes through these 7 steps on their turn.

  1. Draw: Bring your hand to 5 cards.
  2. Followers: You may play 1 follower (heart card) from your hand to the table in front of you.
  3. Monster(s): You may play any number of monsters (club cards) from your hand, adding 1 monster to each player of your choice and any number on yourself.
  4. Attack: You may play 1 attack (spade card) on the monster in front of you (if there is one).
    • If the attack is equal to or greater than the monster, the monster is killed.
    • If the attack is less than the monster, the monster is weakened—place the attack card on the monster to show how many points remain to it.
  5. Counterattack: If any monsters remain in front of you, they damage your followers. Compare total remaining monster health to total follower health, and discard that many points of follower cards.
    • If any monster points remain, discard that many cards from your hand, then discard the monsters.
    • If instead, any follower points remain, keep that many points of follower cards and discard the rest. If needed, use a monster card to cover part of a follower card, leaving that follower’s remaining health uncovered. Discard the other monster cards.
  6. Treasure: You may play 1 treasure (diamond card) from your hand for each monster killed (see “Kings and Jokers” below). If you cannot play a treasure card for a monster, turn up the top card of the draw pile instead: if it is a treasure or follower, play it in front of you; if it is an attack, put it in your hand for later; if it is a monster, play it in front of you (it will affect your next turn).
  7. Discard 1 or more cards if desired.

Kings and Jokers

Kings remain in front of players, identifying them for the duration of the game. Jokers are a special attack that take the place of a normal attack.

  • Spades King: The Fighter can play 2 attack cards (in step 4) and add their values. Whether 1 or 2 attack cards are played, their total attack value is compared to the total monster cards value, possibly killing 1 or more and weakening another. Mark any remaining weakened monster as usual.
  • Clubs King: The Wizard may (in step 4) either attack normally or use a single attack card to kill more than one monster anywhere in play, even in front of other players. In this mass attack, compare the attack card’s value to each monster individually—if the attack value is equal to or greater than the monster’s value, that monster is killed, otherwise it is not affected.
  • Hearts King: The Priest can (in step 2) either go through the discard pile to rescue a follower and play it or heal a follower by discarding the monster on it. This action is in addition to playing a follower as usual.
  • Diamonds King: Once per turn, the Thief can steal a treasure from another player instead of turning up the top card of the draw pile (step 6). This must be the lowest value treasure from the player with the greatest number of treasure cards (not the greatest total value). In case of a tie, the Thief must take the single lowest valued card among the tied players.
  • Jokers count as magical attacks that kill all monsters in front of you. Play a joker in step 4 instead of a spade, then place it on the discard pile.

Ending the Game

  • Play through the draw deck once, then shuffle the discards to make a new draw deck.
  • Play through this second draw deck, then allow each player one last turn with the cards remaining in their hand.
  • Count the total points of treasure and followers together for each player. The player with the most points wins.

Design: Lester Smith. Playtesting: Christine Hofpar, Christopher Hofpar, Cristian Hofpar, Jennifer Smith, Karalyn Smith, Katheryn Smith; Chibi Illos: Peileppe www.peileppe.com (except Thief & Priest assembled by Lester Smith).

Copyright © 2017 Popcorn Press

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State of the Smithy

Lester : October 14, 2016 10:36 am : Announcements, Commentary, Fiction, Game Design, Poetry, Popcorn Press

“Blacksmith at Work” photo by Derek Key, CC by 2.0

A year ago, I had an audacious plan: Finish translating Aquelarre, write a sonnet weekly for The Pastime Machine, release a monthly 6-page D6xD6 RPG expansion, publish another poet or author monthly, launch a D13 RPG Kickstarter this fall, manage an annual Halloween anthology, attend a half-dozen conventions, and possibly publish a dice game and a couple of Monster Con card game expansions.

Today, I’m staring at a bucketload of unfinished business. My Aquelarre translation is overdue. I’m behind on The Pastime Machine. The monthly D6xD6 schedule is on hold after just two releases early in the year. I have a stack of unpublished poetry books and novels (including one posthumous title by an old friend). My D13 RPG project is delayed indefinitely (with a half-dozen illos already paid for). I’m barely able to leave my house. And the dice and card plans are in limbo (also with some art finished). While this year’s annual Halloween anthology, Lupine Lunes, is still a go (with family help), that project is much lower key than in the past.

So what happened?

You may know that I’ve have a neurological condition for a decade—a diagnosis of “more-than-migraine/less-than-seizure”—and over the past two years I’ve suffered some related prescription side effects. Add in new family responsibilities—including a daughter’s foot amputation—and I’m fairly overwhelmed.

As a generally upbeat, hopeful guy, I kept planning for the future, expecting things would sort out eventually.

I still believe they will, but the sorting out is taking longer than I had hoped. And part of that is facing the idea that I just can’t keep up the pace. I’m at diminished capacity. It’s sobering, but I can’t keep expecting to “recover.” This may be my new reality.

I love my work. Translating Aquelarre has been the opportunity of a lifetime, but I’ve been talking with Stewart Wieck (the publisher) about getting help. On the side, I’ll continue drafting a sonnet a week for The Pastime Machine. And with family help, we’ll finish Lupine Lunes. I can’t even think about the rest right now.

But one last thing: I apologize to everyone who was counting on me for more. That weighs on me. I’ve done my best, and my best wasn’t good enough. I’m truly sorry.

Sincerely,

Les

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