Sunday, 16 February 2020

Five parsecs 1.14

Version 1.14 brings a couple small tweaks:

* The term Stash is now a proper rules term, which means it should be in bold in the text.

* A few clarifications to common questions have been added to the back of the rules. In particular: No, you can't take weapons off dead enemies.
Yes, during the campaign turn, you can use items from your stash without having to assign them to a crew member. Stashed items just can't be used in battle.

* When rolling your starting crew, the Fame and Freedom motivations no longer generate a Rival. It was getting a bit too hostile to start out.

* Quest Rumors and Clues have been cleaned up. Before, the terms weren't always consistent.
The way it works now is that if you dont have an active quest, all rumors/clues are always rumors (which help you get a quest).

Once you have an active quest, all rumors/clues you find are clues towards resolving that quest.

The only mechanical change is that getting a quest now removes ALL rumors, instead of just removing equal to the die roll.

There's probably no reason to print out a new copy.

Also included is the fantastic campaign tracking sheet Chris on the Discord made. It's a separate file in the download so go check it out. Its completely awesome.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Renegade Scout - Idle thoughts

With spring approaching, the mind of young men and old geezers alike turn to the same thing:

"Can this game be improved in any way?"

So for fans of Renegade Scout, I have a few questions that will also go out by email to those of you who receive email through the Wargame Vault.
A lot of these revolve around how much value you put on maintaining the form of the original Rogue Trader mechanics vs having the spirit of them.

Why am I wondering? Because originally, I will admit I had no idea who the target audience would be. Renegade Scout is very much a product I made because I wanted it to exist and it didn't.
In my mind, I figured the primary player would be the Oldhammer crowd, hence things like compatibility was a key factor in the design.

But based on the emails I get and the conversations I have, I am not sure if that's really the case. I think a lot of people were in the market for either a more involved skirmish game and / or something with a bit of old school "feel" without being specifically retro.

I also found that people tend to adopt the Unified Space setting more readily than I expected (or mix it with their own setting ideas, which is awesome)

However I could also be wrong about that because the people who opt to write me are a self-selecting bunch!

So here are the questions. If you would like to answer these and give your input into the future of Renegade Scout, think about them then email me at

* Something that I struggled with several times during development was whether to combine the Toughness / Armor roll into a single roll (so combat would be roll to hit -> roll to kill, instead of roll to hit -> roll to wound -> roll for armor).

In the end, I opted against it, because as discussed above I felt fidelity to and compatibility with the original was important. But now I am wondering if this was a mis-step.

Would you prefer the wound/armor rolls to be merged into one?
Do you prefer them to be separate as they are now?
Do you have no strong preference?

* The character profile currently is the full profile from Rogue Trader. It's no secret that it's a bit long and occasionally you have to kind of hunt around for something each stat can actually do.

However, shortening it could be a concern for compatibility issues.

Would you prefer the profile to be shortened?
Do you prefer it as it is now?

* Reaction fire was decided against, due to my feeling that in a fairly alternating turn sequence it is less important.
But maybe this was a mis-step and the ability to have a couple grunts cover the advance of the rest "feels" very tacti-cool.

Would you prefer having a reaction fire system?
Do you think the game works better without one?

* The overall turn sequence is likewise an attempt at modernizing the old 40K turn sequence. It does provide a nice flow to the game, but can feel somewhat abstract at times.

Would you prefer a more modern, integrated sequence (say alternating units and figures take 2 actions, that sort of thing)?
Do you prefer the current turn sequence (Phases and players alternate within them)
Would you prefer the original IGOUGO altogether?

* How important is 40K compatibility to you?
Was it a selling point? More importantly, have you actually used it at all? Would lacking it deter you from using the rules?

* How important is "pick up and play" versus scenario driven play?
Would you prefer if the game had more army building options for pick-up games? Would you rather have more material for scenario play?

Looking forward to your comments and thoughts!

Sunday, 9 February 2020

The game funnel

I thought I'd talk a bit today about the process I tend to use for ideas getting whittled down.

Step 0 is I have an idea in my head.
We all have those. Depending on caffeine intake, we sometimes have a lot.
Get three gamers together and get them talking and you will have 7 game pitches half an hour later.

This stage tends to deal in broad concepts and open-ended ideas.

For example:
"A robot skirmish game where your robot might malfunction and do random things!"

90% of the ideas from Step 0 never go anywhere. At this stage we're just dreaming and dreaming is easy (and fun!)

Why does an idea fail to progress from here? Usually once you think about it a bit, there's either an existing game that already does it well enough or the idea, after a bit of time to think about it, doesn't have enough legs to stand on.

I've said before that a good game is usually a workhorse system with 1 cool idea. But if the idea isn't cool enough, then it's just one more set of rules in a world that definitely doesn't have a shortage of game rules.

Step 1 is the notebook stage.
At this stage we start writing things down. This isn't writing a full game (usually).
For me, it's a mixture of writing out concepts ("Robot Morality!"), a list of desired content ("20 robot morality modules") and fragments of rules written out.

Churn out 2-4 pages of hand-written notes at this stage. You could be a modern person and use a computer but I sometimes tend to "think better" with pencil and paper.

80-90% of the ideas that make this stage never progress beyond it.
Trying to actually put an idea down on paper has a brutal tendency to reveal that it's all gibberish.
Maybe the mechanics you write out just aren't that great and the "right" dice roll or engine keeps eluding you.
Maybe the passion just runs out at this stage.

Step 2 is the draft stage.
Turn to your computer (or a bigger, nicer notepad I guess?) and start writing an actual, playable game.
At this stage, you are writing actual rules, translating the ideas from step 1 and your head into something a group could sit down and play.

Include the basic concepts needed to play: This version needs to account for common, obvious questions ("What happens if I shoot at a tank?") but it can (and should) leave out a lot of the chrome. Campaign rules, your D1000 table for Situational Robot Morality Quirks, the rules for off-map artillery fire, that stuff can all be left to the side.

What you are hoping to end up with is a set of rules that are playable, at least with your own group. Page count will mainly depend on how complex your project is. I'd say 20-30 pages is a good middle ground for a typical game but don't sweat it exactly.

Once you are at this stage? The failure rate will depend primarily on experience.
You see, at this point you have what a lot of people are perfectly happy with: A game that broadly works, that you can tinker with and which your group can play.
Heck, for groups with a fairly open-ended play style, this may be all you ever need. The GM or group fills in any blanks when they show up.

So progressing to the next stage is not always a requirement (or even desirable).
But if you want to publish this thing, then we gotta get over the hump to Step 3 and that is where things get gnarly.
If you are inexperienced, you will run into the fact that you may not know what to look out for: The game will have rules that are worded poorly or ambiguously. An important concept may never be explained because it was obvious to everyone at the table.
Maybe you really hate writing out terrain rules and now you have to account for all of that.

Filling out a game from Step 2 to a stage where you can publish is often 50-80% writing crap you don't want to write, because someone else will need it. I hate writing terrain rules, but they have to be in there because some guy in Virginia is not going to know how I handle it at my own table.

What about that section everyone skips that talks about in-game scale and what each figure represents? Anyone enjoy writing those?

I tend to call this "The Suck" because its writing things that aren't that much fun, but are important.

So between The Suck and all the things you don't know yet, there's a high chance your game stops here. In fact, take a look at almost any project on forums and message boards and this is where they died.
When I did research before doing Renegade Scout, I found 6 or 7 attempts at reviving / cloning / redoing Rogue Trader. They all died here.

Am I amazing at writing then, since I made it?
No, but experience counts for a lot here. If you have a mental check list of obvious things people will ask about (because they asked you about them last time), you know where things should go and you have a sense of how to phrase things, you can get to a point where only 10-20% of designs fail at this stage.
How do you get those? By doing it and screwing it up. Or by doing it and doing okay.  Or maybe your first game is great! Either way, there's no substitute for actually putting in time at the keyboard.
The good news is that while talent matters, a systematic sense of what to look out for is something anyone can develop with experience.

Step 3 is the Actual game
Okay, so you've tested your game, badgering someone else into testing it too, you've fixed all the stuff that wasn't explained well, tweaked the mechanic that was obviously broken, adjusted the thing that made no sense.
You've added your chrome and fluff text and found some stuff to put in there to look pretty (or go for the 80's typewriter look).

Congratulations. You have a game to inflict upon the world.
Pour one out for the 100 games that died along the way so that "Laser Robot Feels Bad" can fly to the top of the Wargame Vault best sellers list.

If you have questions, let me know.

PS: Someone should definitely write this game.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Sad news today

Unfortunately we had to put one of our cats to sleep yesterday, due to kidney failure.

Mittens was 17 years old, liked to snooze in the sun in the mornings, practiced getting the humans to fill her food bowl without having to meow for it and headbutting people for attention, preferably while they were playing video games.

She'd been part of the family as long as it has been a family. We found her as a stray in Vermont around when we got married. She drove cross country with us from Vermont to Oregon and flew halfway back to Michigan.
A well travelled lady of definite opinions, we'll miss her terribly.


We also ended up with a vet bill of around 700 dollars. If anyone would like to help us out by grabbing a few things from Wargame Vault or by donating to we'd deeply appreciate it.

All the best and you'll hear from me soon on happier topics.

I accidentally put the wrong address in the original post. The paypal address is
If you tried to send to the "" address it went nowhere. Just cancel the payment and you can redo it. So sorry!

Friday, 10 January 2020

5 Parsecs 1.13

As promised, the next release would be mostly bug-fixes and that's what we got.

Basically, a number of typos, awkward wordings and similar have been cleaned up.
If you printed out 1.12 there is no reason to print it all again.

If you waited to print, go for it now.

The main correction that might affect game play is that the bonus XP for killing a Boss is now applied whenever you kill a Unique Individual (which was meant to have been the case in 1.12).
I also adjusted the Trade table a tiny bit to lower the odds of useless junk.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Sooth Sayers for Five Leagues

The first magic using class is available for Five Leagues: The Sooth Sayer.

A semi-mystic character who can predict what is going to happen both off the battle field and on it.

The supplement includes the character and campaign rules needed, new items to make or search for and rules for how to use and improve The Sight.

While each magic class will have its own quirks and mechanics, this will likely be the general template they will be based around.

Friday, 3 January 2020

The year of the Weasel. Or at least another one

So I was just informed that 2019 is going to have a sequel, so I figured I should say a few words.

Learning from past experiences,I am not going to talk too much about specific plans for the new year since that stuff never actually works out.

So instead let's look back at a few things that happened last year personally and professionally and I guess shed some light on some decisions.

* I've mostly decided to step back from social media. I've written and deleted a few posts about this but in the end I guess who cares?

The RPG social media scene has 0% relevance to anything I want out of gaming, so I stopped reading it. I'd say something incisive but honestly, my interests have just drifted and what I want out of gaming is not what the D&D/OSR oriented social space caters to.

I realized after a little while that in part, it was just a reflex. You see the icon and you click on it. What for? No reason really. You aren't going to meaningfully interact with something someone said while you are waiting in line at Best Buy. You are just conditioned to click the button.

So I quit all that and aren't likely to go back. We do have a twitter account now, which is purely for announcements.

* I do want to get back into the wargamer blog sphere more though.
I am not sure if it's the tendency towards longer posts and the fact that you aren't writing "for a discussion" or something else, but I find the content tends to be of a bit higher quality.

* This all doesn't mean I am vanishing off the internet. Ya'll clearly have no difficulty reaching me by email or otherwise, so please continue doing so.

* We started a Patreon. I had no idea how that might go but so far, I think it's been pretty positive and has resulted in some cool bits.
I'll have to continue dialing it in over time, but I do think it's the solution to the ongoing support question.

I must admit it does add a new level of worry. Now I not only have to fuss if sales are low but also when I see the Patreon go down. But you win some, you lose some, right?
There's also the question of what people want out of it and how those expectations match up to what I want to make. That's all stuff we can figure out though. I think ?

* In the war gaming scene, I think "War band" type games are still the big hot thing, but I do think it'll level off in the new year. If you want to get everyones attention, figure out the next big wave and get in front of it.

* Solo gaming continues to be super strong. I guess I should be worried if I am ending up as "The solo rules guy" since I don't want to ONLY write solo games.
However, doing solo stuff is also really rewarding and when I get emails about "You got me into / back into minis gaming", it's usually from those folks.

I imagine 2020 will still have a strong solo focus, but it won't be exclusively so.

* A thing I want to focus more on in 2020 is barriers to entry for gaming. I've always aimed most of my games at a very affordable, easy level: A few squads, some terrain, 2 feet of table space, one rulebook, that kinda thing.

I want to continue working on and refining that. I often talk to people who are interested in miniatures gaming, who 100% would be into it if they got to try it or who have played and enjoyed it, but they are scared off by the perceived costs, work involved, difficulty in getting started etc.

The big boys (GW, Battlefront etc.) are good at teaching you a lot of things as a new player, but they still come with the expectations for a 400 dollar army and a 6 foot dining table.

* I am not going to talk about specific projects for the new year. I have several on my "viable" list, plus I have outstanding "debts" to finish and release/rerelease.

* * * * * *

* On a personal level, as you might be aware we got run over pretty hard at the beginning of last year.
Between our landlord fucking us and my wife having to change jobs unexpectedly, we had some huge unexpected expenses and missed out on some money we'd been counting on, which meant running up tax debts.

After that, we had another rather tumultuous thing happen, which took our lives over for a bit and caused a ton of stress.

If you've wondered whether I was slowing down in writing/releasing stuff, that's the reason. I've had periods where I simply didn't have the mental reserve to create, because we were dealing with ..well... life.

This year has felt like it was one long crawl back to normality and now, as I'm looking out the window in January 2020 while death metal is growling out of my computer speakers, it finally feels like we're here again.
In fact, it feels like we're better than we were before, but you know, I could have done without getting fucked for a year straight.

But on the upside, we're all healthy, the place we live at now is great, we have a core of friends who looked out for us.

And I had a thing I didn't even realize:

When everything came crashing down around our ears: The landlord was threatening us, our lawyer was saying "yeah, they're wrong but that probably won't matter" and we realized my wife would have to switch jobs, lose pay and miss out on a bonus we had planned around (stupid I know).
We were faced with moving in the middle of winter and having a budget of 0 dollars to do so.

I was desperate and late one night, I made a blog post asking for help because I had no idea what to do.

And people responded. People I knew threw money into the bin. People I didn't know. People who said "A friend of mine said you were cool and needed help", People who said my games had helped them out so now they were saying thanks.

At the end of it, we had enough to cover our moving expenses and move-in deposits etc.

I was stunned. I was crying in front of the computer on more than one occasion.

The fact that a bunch of relative strangers would do something like that blew my mind. I still sometimes wonder if it actually happened, if that makes sense.

So 2019 ? 2 stars out of 5 but the fan-fiction made it a 5.
I hope to see you this year too.

* * * * * *

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