Good news everyone! We tested the demo, it proved everything we knew and everything we didn't know! Let's thank Chad from NYC Tabletop RPGs for letting us crash his wework gamer space. His crew runs tabletop games over in Brooklyn, New York and all are welcomed. If interests are peaked check them out on meetup, drop in on their comfy discord chat or if you're feeling frisky throw some coins at their Patreon.
In spite of me leaving some important docs at home, forgetting everything I was going to do with the premade adventure; It went better than I thought it would. The system handled everything the players wanted to do. We were able to see physical combat and a number of powers "in action". Among the boys in the lab, there were worries, concerns one could say; if people would be confused by the wording, how fast people would pick up on the internal logic and the system, the concept of your powers being used through your normal stats in order to make them feel more like an extension of the character and of course the powers themselves. Now we know which were “shadows” and which were actual problems. I will now share with you all the shadows that loomed in the darkness, the terrors in the night, that this demo has dragged into the light.
The first “shadow”, the learning speed and comprehension. What I mean is how long it takes to understand the system and how long until players start actively exploring out from the normal bounds of basic tabletop gaming. You can learn something but until you’re comfortable with it you won't venture deeper into it and we needed to know how long till they got comfortable. Answer, not long whatsoever. Once they knew their stats and they got a few tastes of how much they could actually do the floodgates opened. The taste came in the form of an out of combat medicine check that revealed a bullet wound was made by a large screw, not a bullet. The use of telepathy to skim the minds of the enemies, transforming into a tiger for stealth attacks, high density body blocks and face destroying super speed punches. Somewhere in between these points each player came to understand just what they could pull off and began to dive deeper. Fears dispelled, the”shadow” was just a jacket on the chair.
Second “Shadow”, Basic combat and out of combat. Ease, Balance, and Versatility are the cornerstones of combat in any game. Now when I say combat I really should be saying conflict because any time you want something to go one way but circumstances say otherwise, there's conflict. Wanting to beat a villain, pick a lock, break into a place, pass by unseen, win a race, keep someone alive; all these things would have some form of opposition ... conflict. That's what we tested as well, normal strikes, weapon strikes, power strikes, out of combat tasks and challenges as well as power assisted tasks out of combat. Other than one problem-child among the powers(We'll probably talk about that in a different post) it all went awesome sauce. Basic combat works which means we can implement more advanced combat options in the form of “COMBAT STYLES” (also a future post). Combat styles will add a crunchy layer to combat that lets you flavor how your character throws down. Out of combat actions worked too which now allows us to bring in PRACTICES, all the things you know and know how to do outside of combat (Ha! Not a future post, we already touched on it in a previous post but since changes are being planned, well, we will get back on it. In a future post). Fears dispelled, this “shadow” was jus- CRAP WATER BUG! Could have been worse.
Finally, the last “shadow” were things we knew before going in; Social Combat and the Demo. Full Disclosure, we actually started retooling Social Combat just after finishing the demo but the retool would take us a while to finish so we just went with the version that we knew wasn't going into the final version. You might ask "Et tu, Brutus!?!"; hear us out, since inflicting emotions is a large part of social combat in both versions and we wanted to see what people thought about the base idea we continued. The demo's layout was, to put it kindly, a little on the messy side, it was our first time making one but I don't think we did that bad. In the adventure we have easy, medium and hard options of running the encounters but they're right on top of each other which does add replayability but makes it difficult to read and the NPC list at the end of the adventure leaves much to be desired. It helped us learn though so we can say with confidence the next demo will be better. It'll have more focus on the setting, not just test the basic system and it will test some of the more advanced system options and who knows; maybe it'll even look good. Fear dispelled, it was the monster from the closet just hiding under the bed. Wait, what?
Once again we cannot thank NYC Tabletop RPG and the people that helped us test this out enough. From right to left; D,M,K and J(Thumbs Up).
Ethereal Deep Diver "Sam" | Stock & Bull Entertainment
"Fortune Telling" isn't what it used to be.
Using illegal access to a person's social media accounts, personal records, networks of security cameras, and a causality analysis program, fortune tellers can build practical and accurate predictions.
Art provided by Alvaro Estrada
The last few months have been interesting at Stock & Bull. We’re hard at work bringing you the Project Powerpunk demo. And the biggest challenge of this is turning all our rules, ideas, and thoughts into a product meant for human consumption. A large portion of this is editing and rewriting our rules. The rest of it is organization: How do I display all of this information to my reader in a form that is clear to read and easy to understand?
If you have read a Tabletop RPG book, you may have some idea on how daunting a task this is. If the purpose of my rulebook is to teach you how to play my game, then what should I teach first? Or second? Do I start with how to create a character, or how to roll for a skill check? Which is more important?
Most tabletop RPGs use similar conventions. Most of which I believe were established with Dungeons & Dragons: start with how to create characters (because without those you can’t play the game), then introduce the rules of the game. It explains what the numbers on your character sheet mean, then explains how they are used to play the game. I can largely copy what other games have done in the past and get by.
Even still, Project Powerpunk is different. It’s not D&D, Fate, Gumshoe, GURPS, or Shadowrun. It’s different. The rules are different, the procedures are different. Within sections I still have a lot of choice as to how the steps are ordered. Take character creation for instance. Do I have you choose your powers first, or your traits? You can assume that I have complete freedom in what and how I accomplish this. However, each and every decision holds weight. It means the difference about you understanding or not understanding how to play Project Powerpunk.
While researching how best to approach the layout of the Project Powerpunk demo I came to the realization that I made lots of mistakes. I was too focused on the words, their meaning, and the order in which I was delivering them. What I never paid attention to was how I was displaying those words. What you are reading is just as important as how it looks like. Time and time again the subject of typography had come up in my research. I would have to learn its dark arts and esoteric forms to make meaningful choices about how the Project Powerpunk demo would look.
Typography deals with how text is visually displayed. Placing text on a screen, paper, or sign and showing it to someone is applying typography. It’s a crude example but true. You may think that I need no more than just picking a font and adding a cool background to my rulebook. Those are certainly a part of it. However, it’s a lot more involved. Typography goes beyond aesthetics, it’s utilitarian. The font I use, it’s size, the spacing of line and letters, how I point out key terms will do more than just make it pretty. It will have an effect on how readable the Project Powerpunk demo is. It’s the difference between you reading it from front to back, or putting it down after a page. Honestly, if I can’t hold your attention, does it matter how good Project Powerpunk is?
Let’s try with an example. Here’s a snippet of the rulebook:
Do you see any key terms in that paragraph? Maybe. Would you guess that the key term I would like you to know is “narrator?” Likely not. I’m more inclined to assume that your eyes jumped to NPCs since I have it capitalized. But that subtle difference is enough to throw off what is most important about that paragraph.
The next two are the same as before but with “narrator” made to look different than the surrounding text. I stuck with two very simple and easy to do methods. One is bold the other is italic:
Now choose which of the two makes the word narrator stand out more, bold or italic? I may split the vote on this one but I’m going to bet that more of you had picked bold for this. Why? Honestly, italics in this case does not really pop. The font used here is a sans serif font. In sans serif fonts, italics are simply made to be slanted versions of the original letterforms. There is not a large enough contrast to truly stand out against the rest of the text. Bold here does a better job.
If you’re scratching your head about why italics is so bad in this case take a look at these next two pictures:
I’ve got the same sentence in Times New Roman and Arial. Arial is another example of a sans serif font. Times New Roman is a serif font. Serifs refer to the small horizontal protrusions of every vertical line in each letter. Look at how the italicized version of a word in Times New Roman looks. It’s letter forms are actually changed, not merely slanted. In Arial, they really are just crudely tilted to one side. Italics make a real difference in serif fonts. Not so in sans serif ones.
Let’s look at those examples from Project Powerpunk again:
We already established that bold in this case was the better option, but ask yourself is it the best option? To all whom felt italics was the right answer before, you might have felt that way because bold in this case does not really pop either. I do agree with that assessment. Bold does contrast, but not a lot in this case. What if I combined the two?
Is this just right, not enough, or too much? It’s a small example so it may be hard to tell. I probably will get a different answer to that question from each person who reads this, but try to look at it objectively. Does “narrator” stand out from the rest of the words? Absolutely. Now, does it stand out so much that the effect is jarring? Does this combination of bold and italic make this block of text easier or harder to read? From what I have learned the latter is true. Typography takes a “less is more” approach to applying emphasis. By doing both I’m making this harder to read and directing your focus too much. It might not truly register by reading one paragraph. However, a bit of focused robbed at every instance over the course of a book and I’m likely to kill your attention span before you have finished reading the Project Powerpunk demo. That’s not good at all.
I bring up bold and italic because they are things that anyone who has used a word processor has seen and used. You might have fiddled with these decisions when writing essays for school and possibly made or avoided the mistakes I’ve discussed so far. They are not the be all and end all of adding emphasis to words or phrases. I just recently found out how effective small caps can be.
See how “narrator” looks? It’s definitely eye catching. All capital letters run counter to how our eyes are trained to read text and will always stand out (all caps is also an effective method of emphasis). But it’s not super jarring.
See how typography goes beyond aesthetics? It looks nicer and is easier to read. I’ve attracted your attention and helped conserved it at the same time. That’s not to say that small caps is the absolute best option for everyone or everything. It might not work well for everybody. It probably won't work well if I changed the typeface or the size of the text and it probably won't work if I were working on a different project with different needs. Typography’s true message is illustrating that regardless of what I choose, my choices have weight. Much like how it is to play Project Powerpunk.
"...you can go sideways, and slantways, and longways, and backways..."
-Willy Wonka, describing the effects of Gravity Control
This sketch and the previous rough brought to you by Alvaro Estrada.
Turning people into unwitting pawns is the purview of the power Mind Control!
This sketch and the previous rough brought to you by Alvaro Estrada.
Vera Bleacher A.K.A. Breacher: If Ares picked favorites then the bleacher family was it; they've fought in every war this country involved it's self in. Vera Bleacher, fourth youngest grew up in a house run like a platoon. Emotional availability and self expression were tossed onto the pyres of duty and efficiency. Tasks were doled out based on skills and abilities, hers was protecting the siblings. The girl could take a beating like nobody's business. Her near indomitable resolve made her tougher than most grown men. Shielding people from danger was her calling and when Uncle Sam called collect, she accepted the charges.
Desert storm two, the Russo-American flex fest in the sands (America's world trade center and Russia's Red Square were attacked by terrorists, mirroring the events of 1812). A war that to this day is shrouded in myth, mysteries and misunderstanding. She was there and the events that transpired aren't care to her either. What Vera and other Vets can agree on is that soldiers, enemy combatants, and rumors of special abilities vanish in the mists of the Contractors. Distant, dangerous, overpaid, maniacs that bled "need to know" and when word of Vera's toughness reached them they began moving in. Vera isn't sure when her powers surfaced; maybe after the third IED, the twelfth building breach, the chili diarrhea incident or hell she might have always had them but never noticed. But after the murder LLCs moved their chow table next to her scout's she knew it was time to go home.
Vera got her 50th documented kills, some IED fragments in her chest, a few medals and a medical honorable discharge. When she returned home she found her family in pieces. Most dead due to health issues sprung from; poisoned air and water from hazardous industrial runoff, dangerous work environments, drug addiction fostered by predatory pharmaceutical companies, growing criminal influence, and a government slashing funding to anything not connected to bullets and business. Home had become as bad as the lands she fought in and it's all the fault of a small few, a powerful few but now she has power too.
Image: Neck length Blonde hair, glasses, stacked and has a full back tattoo. The tattoo is dedicated to her time in the marines, as lead breach and the fifty confirmed kills she gained in service.
Quote: *Drunken burp* I Killed Fitty Men!~ ("In 1812 both Washington and Moscow burned, 2001 The world trade center and Red square are attacked, coincidence?!")
Absorption: Absorb energy to enhance your character instead of taking damage
Native Element Control Kinetic: Control elements to attack, defend and build
Weaver's Note: In Vera's mind she believes that there is no safe place, no shelter. The Front line is everywhere. She does her best to give off the air of a retired Vet but; inside she is paranoid and terrified that she is now trapped in a never ending war. Feeding into her paranoia or promising the next mission will ensure a better protection from outside forces usually works to convince her to "soldier on".
Vera was inspired by the song "B.Y.O.B." I have included it here for your listening pleasure.
Here's a rough sketch of one of the Demo pictures!
Are we excited? Yes, yes we are.
Are you excited? We hope so!
Malic Duo A.K.A Apex: Young Malic's aunt Mabel told him he was going to be something great, told him he came from good stock. She told him to walk tall like his proud mother and to share her pride, speak with authority like his law defending father and to share his authority. Above all else, he should always be proud of where he came from. Like most things from Mabel though this was just brightly colored spackle covering a bigger problem.
Aunt Mabel was really just an abused wife who never had a child of her own due to the ferocity and frequency of the beatings she endured from her alcoholic husband. She needed someone to believe the lies that she'd lost the heart to believe in. In truth, Malic's mother died of a Overdose a few weeks after giving birth to him and his father is a lifer, lost in the prison system; bouncing from jailhouse to jailhouse.
Once the truth came out, Malic left Mabel and made a beeline for the City. He got a job off the books, paid in cash at nights end. Turns out there's all sorts of unsightly work for people running from their name. He used that money to buy a new identity; new name, new face, new family, new him, the whole nine yards. He shed the lies of Mabel and carved himself a new lie all his own. It was all going well, his sculpted physique and rehearsed charismatic personality brought him admiration, accolades and envy. An unscrupulous man’s woman took a liking to Malic, while the unscrupulous man took a liking to the idea of post-mortem Malic. At the woman’s penthouse the couple planned to strike down Malic, but in the heat of the moment his powers surfaced. Call it a spirit animal or the physical manifestation of his desire to change but Malic became a beast of claws, fangs and fury.
While the blood and viscera coagulated on his claws and the taupe accented walls; he took a new name for his new form. Apex. To forever commemorate where he was reborn and what his place in this world is. The Top. Where he stands unopposed, with no equal. Now he is brash, blunt, he wholeheartedly believes that might equals right, and he is out to enlighten the world beneath him that he is always right.
Image: Malic stands tall with his just under bulky frame, ocean blue eyes and short black slicked back hair. Sharp is his preferred style of dress, If he isn’t walking under the light of the day star he prefers to walk in the skin of his apex chimera.
Quote: "An appetite for destruction , quick to violence, strifeful, impatient? You say this as if it were a bad thing."
Animal Transformation: Change into beasts or even Chimeric monsters of your own design!
Body Adaptation: Alter the body to survive harsh environments!
Weaver's Note: For all the bravado and flexing he is a boy running from a legacy of victims. Giving him the opportunity to show off or victimize peoples or groups is his catnip. Rebuke him with his short comings or compare him to his failed family members when necessary.
Malic was inspired by the song "Big Cat." I have included it here for your listening pleasure.
We're making a demo for the game! How does one make a demo for a tabletop RPG?! Start with a Dash of adventure, Stir in pre-made characters and bake with only the rules necessary to run that adventure. Set on the internet for one month and read the feedback.
A quick breakdown; It's for 2 to 6 players including a narrator. Each player chooses one character. Each character comes with a quick backstory to get a feel for them, their own unique powers, with a few tricks to get you thinking. The Adventure involves intrigue, action, twists, turns and rewards out of the box thinking.
Stay tuned to the blog to keep abreast of our progress with the demo, sneak peeks of the characters, sketches of some of the art (some might just be crude concept sketches) and more about the world you'll be stepping into.