Plans for Parlor October 24, 2017 21:10

Tomorrow’s my birthday, so this is going to be the last blog post I ever write as a “guy in his 20s.” Starting tomorrow, I’ll be 30 years old and I’ll have to start taking this blog seriously. So let’s get serious. Seriously.

What is Parlor?

Right now, “Parlor” is Daniel Burrow (that’s me), Jake Paul, and our newest staff writer, Erica Speegle. Jake and I have been working on Retroscape for the last year and dabbling in Tephra when we get the time. Last month, we posted that we were looking for writers, and the talented Erica Speegle danced her way through our five-step application process.

What is an “Erica”?

Google tells me that “Erica” is a “genus of roughly 860 species of flowering plants in the family Ericaceae.”

Picture from Wikipedia

I don’t think Google got this one quite right. See, our Erica writes awesome stories and makes Retroscape more exciting. She’s trying to tie all of our crazy lab backgrounds together and make a colorful, cohesive world. That’s probably not something a bunch of pretty flowers could do.

If you want to learn more about Erica, I highly recommend that you check out her kickass Patreon. She has some of her writing for free, but be careful reading it because you’re going to get hooked.

How’s Retroscape Going?

For the last three months, I’ve been doing weekly playtests with nearly 20 players (not all at once -- we take turns!). It’s been invaluable in seeing how people interact with the labs, the world, and the monsters. The best part? Most of the feedback has been positive!

You may not remember when Tephra was in version 0.04, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as Retroscape at version 0.04. Of course, as a man who’s nearly in his thirties, that shouldn’t be surprising. I’ve learned a lot since I was 20 (yep, I started Tephra ten years ago).

Version 0.05 is about to release. We’re updating a lot. Jake’s done a killer job rebuilding our system documentation to make the game easier to get into and understand, and Erica’s been creating a stronger unifying story for each lab. We have a timeline now and everything.

Art by Luiz Prado

I’ve really enjoyed watching us build Retroscape, learn from Tephra, and grow as a company. We’re smaller now, but our output is pretty magnificent (largely thanks to Jake, let’s be honest).

The Plans

We’ll drop version 0.05 in early November, and I’ll continue my playtests this year. In January, I plan to start running playtest campaigns -- that is, a game where the players take characters on a long, fulfilling storyline, grow with them, and all that jazz. One of my main goals for Retroscape is to have stories where the characters feel like they grow, where one character becomes the hero of a small town while another takes his family’s machine shop and grows it into a steel-manufacturing empire.

Over the next year, Retroscape will continue to be a free and open playtest. We want to keep growing the fan-base, building our momentum, and seeing where things take us. Maybe we’ll start our own patreon one day, or start looking toward releasing our stuff in book form. But we won’t pursue those avenues until we know for sure that we have a kickass product. Quality first!

As always, come chat with us on our Retroscape Discord, or just check out our progress at

Until next time,


From Cracked Monocle to Parlor August 02, 2017 20:48

Hey friends!

In the past year, Cracked Monocle's gotten quite the shake-up. It's gotten so shaken up, in fact, that we've renamed and re-branded the whole endeavor. Now we're Parlor, LLC.

A lot of people are pretty emotionally invested in Cracked Monocle. It has a unique name and a fun logo, but -- if I can be entirely honest -- I was tired of every convention spelling it "Monacle." If it wasn't for that darned "a", I probably could've kept the name.

Instead, we're moving on to Parlor. And yep, we're using the unusual American spelling. We're not Parlour -- we're Parlor.

Why Parlor?

When I was ruminating over what I wanted to name our new endeavor, I kept thinking: I want a company that makes one think about playing silly games with close friends in a fancy room over fancy cocktails. That's the sort of life I want and it's how I want to spend my evenings. A dear friend said, "How about Parlor?" and the name stuck!

We're fully moved over to Parlor now with the launch of our newest free adventure, Jack's Bait & Boat Tours. It's the first adventure to have a Parlor logo on it, and that really excites me.

Who's in Parlor?

I, Daniel Burrow, originator of the whole Tephra line, am still here doing my thing. At my side is Jake Paul, working like crazy to make Retroscape and the whole Tephra line flourish. If you haven't been following Retroscape, that's definitely been our focus. That game is going to change everything. I couldn't be more excited. 

We're looking for a new writer (see here) and sometimes our favorite artist, Victor Helton, throws in his 2-cents. Otherwise it's just Jake and I, hanging around, trying to do some writing but mostly getting distracted by fancy cocktails.

We hope you'll keep hanging around, too, and playing our games! 

Are you in a Tephra or Retroscape game? If so, let us know in the comments!

Holiday Adventures in Tephra December 23, 2016 19:25

This magical, festive time of year can inspire amazing adventures, whether they be part of the over-arcing plot, or a pleasant break from crashing airships and mad scientists. While everyone in Rilausia celebrates the winter solstice in some form or fashion, each country has different traditions.

Here are a few ideas you can incorporate into your saga.

Evangless - Market Mixup

On the darkest day of the year, the bells of Tailemy chime to mark the Beloved Mother’s triumphant sacrifice to save the world from Aeon’s black despair. What started long ago as a feud between a couple of merchants competing to see who could mark the occasion with the most festivity  has become a nationwide spectacle of lights and bustling commerce. For a week, merchants host ostentatious events including auctions, raffles, and featured exotic entertainments and dining experiences. The cityfolk gather on the streets and breathe renewed life into the country.

Dalvozzea - Stranger’s Gift

The land of elves and farishtaa may be divided, but the Jinzium tradition of the Stranger’s Gift is ingrained across cultures. Long ago, when Aeon felt jilted by Jinzi’s obsession over the world together, he wove the bands of the great Angelwing Nebula to appease her. To commemorate this event, much like our world’s own “Secret Santa”, each person in Dalvozzea receives a random name of a family member or neighbor, and they are tasked with acquiring the ideal gift for that person. Sometimes, just as Jinzi reconciled with Aeon for a time because of his thoughtful present, enemies embrace, and farishtaa and elves come together for a brief moment of mutual delight.

Tordryon - The Frozen Flame Games

In the frozen north, the people of Tordryon partake in boisterous and energetic gatherings to celebrate the victory of knowledge and will over the harsh elements. These events are often filled with all manner of food and drink, as well as deafeningly loud drums and music that rattle the ice for miles. During the monthlong exhibition of nightly festivities, competitions are held to test a Tord’s endurance, strength, and ingenuity. This includes everything from frigid water sports to challenges involving hot coals. Visitors are encouraged to join in these games but should do so with extreme caution.

Zelhost - The Grand Ball

There’s no party like a Zel Haudi party--Zel Haudi parties are usually the best parties year round, and under Archduke Zimarati, they are bigger than ever. December 13 marks succession day, the biggest bash of the year, when the Zel Haudi’s dear leader began his reign. Even farishtaa have been known to turn green with envy upon seeing the celebrations. The finest orchestras fill the air with patriotic songs as nimble dancers dress like spreading flames in the national colors of orange and red. Zel Haudi cuisine and culture is offered up on golden platters as gun salutes pierce the smog and heat the already sultry night air.

While the other nations of Rilausia also celebrate the winter season, their festivities are too numerous and complex to describe in one post.

Thank you all for reading! If you would like to share your favorite holiday celebrations, in game or in real life, whether new or as old as time, please feel free to share on our Tephra reddit page here. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Keep the Train Moving November 30, 2016 08:50


Between the election and the holiday season, this month has been an emotional rollercoaster. In many ways, it feels like some campaigns I’ve played.  Good stories often feature drastic twists to keep things fresh.  Here, I will give a few tips and tricks you can use to keep your game moving forward in interesting directions.



Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal!

A great catalyst for a story is a gut wrenching betrayal orchestrated by a beloved character, especially when said character has been a huge (and pleasant) part of the story so far. As a narrator, betrayal is best served using a character the adventuring party has come to know, love, and trust. This setup will create intrigue as well as a healthy amount of doubt about whether the betrayal is real or even possible. As a player, you can also take the story in an interesting direction by acting out a betrayal, whether genuine or false. It’s best to collaborate with your narrator to work out how your actions can spur the adventure along (otherwise, you could derail the game and frustrate your fellow adventurers).
Examples include: The murder of a beloved character, a trusted ally switching sides to join the enemy, or a character in good standing suddenly kidnapping a noble’s child or valuables for ransom.


Let’s Get Ready to Crumble!

Another catalyst for reinvigorating your game is to destroy something impressive. Anything from an airship to a city will do, so long as there’s enough collateral damage to get the adventuring party’s attention. As a narrator, you have many tools at your disposal to wreck havoc, from dangerous NPC factions to mother nature’s finest horrors. For players, dealing with the aftereffects of a major disaster could be something you propose as a side-mission to blow off some steam. In either case, the way the world responds to massive destruction can help create new story arcs in your ongoing saga and add a dose of chaos to a simmering plot.
Examples include: An airship full of nobles crashes into Castle Hazard after a Bomb Rat attack, or a massive storm sweeps in from the horizon and devastates the ports in Evangless.


The Circus is in Town!

If you don’t want to destroy buildings or relationships, you can always put on a grand show. The idea here is to take some time to figure out what kinds of entertainment interest your adventurers and incorporate them into a grand performance. As a narrator, you have a wide array of options. Say your gaming group is really into combat competitions. Nothing delivers quite like a gauntlet challenge or a gladiatorial arena. The best part is that you can always throw a wrench in the gears by having something go wrong that sweeps the adventuring party into a new side-arch. For players, grand performances can present an enjoyable opportunity for collaborative roleplaying and staging amusing scenes.
Examples include: Gladiator combat, gauntlet arena, or traveling minstrels in a suspicious town.

I often use the above tips and tricks when I need a breath of fresh air in my sagas, and I hope they’ll inspire you to create some amusing adventures of your own. Thank you all for reading. If you’d like to share your favorite techniques you can comment below or start a post on the Tephra subreddit here.

Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

What Inspires You? October 29, 2016 15:31

Last week I posted a question on the Tephra subreddit. I asked members of the community to share their greatest Tephra inspirations and the community answered!

The first inspiration comes from Rozial who writes: “What inspires me is the characters and the world. Particularly, as a narrator, I listen to music and I picture moments that would go with the music. Those often turn into major moments of any campaign I run. I could provide a soundtrack to nearly every campaign I've ever run. Songs with lyrics inspire characters and orchestral songs inspire campaigns and moments.” I can directly relate to this, Rozial. I also find that music gets the creative juices flowing. I find that classical music resonates best with me, so that’s what I use most often.

Our next inspiration comes from Keegan Troye who writes: “As a player or GM I like to twist cliches into something new and creative. There is always a lot of room to expand old ideas and it isn't easy coming up with anything that hasn't already be done. So I'll watch or read things in a similar setting and see something that interests me and ask myself how can I take this and make it my own.” Keegan, borrowing ideas from other media is something I like to encourage for two reasons: 1) The stigma against clichés is something I disagree with. Clichés are catchy and enjoyable for a reason. 2) Borrowing can work for someone new to creating stories just as well as someone who has been plotting narratives for years.

7StarSpanner writes: “I personally tend to draw my inspirations from a lot of different sources, previous games, old cartoons and tv shows, video games, music, books. It's one of the things I love about Steampunk and this system, it's really easy to pull inspiration from a variety of different sources and remix them to suit the aesthetic.” 7StarSpanner, I do this all the time too, especially when it comes to dialogue. I like to mine quotes from movies or shows I’ve enjoyed and see if my players catch on. Plus it helps to visualize your setting when you use another story as your foundation.

Our final inspiration of the day comes from ObligatoryTankGal who writes:, “Personally, as a narrator, I let my players run the show. Players do the darndest things, and I've never seen a better source of inspiration for future quests and plot hooks. Once I had a player rescue and attempt to redeem the villain of an adventure instead of killing him. He is now dating said villain in character, and is working on establishing a new life for the fellow when he's not adventuring. I could never plan a flavourful storyline like that, without his unexpected actions. Even characters and actions my players have taken in other games, systems, and even worlds become sources of inspiration, and make appearances. Mechanically, I'm also a big fan of building on our RPG elders. I've borrowed ideas from a lot of old adventures from old editions of D&D, and other games for inspiration on dungeons, quests, and other adventures for my Tephra party.” ObligatoryTankGirl, I love this response, and I know people who do this all the time. Your prioritizing the players’ histories is wonderful because it gives players a sense of contribution beyond their immediate character’s choices. How fun would it be to play the villain in one campaign and then face off against that same villain in another?

Thank you all for reading, and thank you guys for your input. These are great responses and I love hearing from our wonderful community. Check out our Tephra subreddit here if you would like to join community discussions. I will be posting more community blogs in the future. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Tephra Iconic: Sir Henry Black October 20, 2016 19:03


I absolutely love the Tephra community and everyone in it. The discussions and ideas going on in our groups remind me that creativity doesn’t stop. Luiz Prado created this lovely fan art of Sir Henry Black last week, and it inspired me to dedicate this week’s blog post to Sir Henry Black’s origin and story. Thanks Luiz Prado for your wonderful work!

Born into the gentry and gaining inheritance to the estate after his parents’ death, Henry Black sought to give meaning to his life beyond his wealth. When the Hurricane Wars began, he left control of his country estate to his wife, Jessica Black, and engaged in battle after battle during the long Hurricane Wars.

When the wars subsided, he returned to his family home with several military honors, only to learn that there was a rebellion at his doorstep. A new domestic war began for Henry as he took up arms with the Royalists while his wife offered the Black Estate funds to the Militarists. This rift only widened between Henry and Jessica, who had gained powerful and influential friends in his absence.

During dinner one late evening, Jessica Black poisoned her husband’s meal and buried him in the woods. Henry barely survived, awaking from a brief coma and digging himself free from his muddy grave. After recovering, he proceeded to fight the Militarist threat and was later knighted for his efforts.

After so much war, Henry sought to focus on his faith and joined the Tailemite Church, favoring the peaceful life of a priest for the rest of his days. He found that he could not quell his adventurous spirit, however, and he left service to the church to take up law enforcement. This would be a brief role for Henry, as he found the system to be corrupt and inefficient, despite his attempts to change it. He soon broke away again and took to traveling, offering help to those who needed it and preaching the teachings of Tailemy on the way.

The character design for Sir Henry Black and Jessica Black are an homage to Tephra developer Henry White and his wife, Jessica. Henry’s tendency to play paladin-like characters became the strongest influence for this iconic character, and the tragic story that he and his wife developed give this character an amazing strength.

Thank you all for reading, and on behalf of Cracked Monocle, thank you to Luiz for this beautiful piece. If any of you would like to see more art by Luiz, you can check out his Facebook page here and his DeviantArt page here. Luiz is also doing “Inktober,” and his daily ink drawings are something to behold. You can find Sir Henry Black in our Rapid-Fire Guide, here. For more information on Jessica Black, check out our adversary book here. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Dark And Twisted Stories October 01, 2016 12:27

Variety is, indeed, the spice of life. I enjoy a different type of scene from time to time, and I know I’m not the only one. The same desire for variety extends to my games, and I often find myself craving a story filled with depravity and dark intentions. Of course, I have my own limits within that field, and I know it’s not for everyone. It’s because of this that I like to reference movies or shows that can accurately reflect how dark my story will go. In this article I will list a few stories that inspire my own dark sagas.

Penny Dreadful: First on the list is Penny Dreadful, a perfect example as it takes place in Victorian era England. This series tackles supernatural stories depicted within the era, including one Doctor Frankenstein, a personal favorite of mine. There are people sick with disease, victims dying from nocturnal monsters, and talk about the mysterious Jack the Ripper. There’s plenty of blood and gore to go around, and the depravity evoked in some scenes can leave the viewer speechless. If I were to rate the level of darkness here, I would give it a 10/10. I have been affected by some scenes that I did not expect to witness, and I have yet to find any story that raises the bar.

If you want to watch Penny Dreadful yourself, it is currently available on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing: When I want a lighter shade of dark story, I turn to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing. The movies may have had an action feeling to them, but there are dark atmospheres that emphasize individual corruption.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel depicts visuals that give more insight into the characters as well, and many of my stories are inspired by these scenes. My favorite character’s depiction is Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, as the reader learns how the characters have taken a different development than in their original story. I would rate these stories at a 6/10 on level of darkness as they don’t go into as much depravity as other stories. They are more lighthearted and more appealing to a wider audience.

Both of these films can be found on DVD, and may be available on streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu.

Written Horrors: When in doubt, it never hurts to turn to some classic literature to inspire your dark adventures. Many works by Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft can offer interesting experiences for your party, and, if you’re interested, you can even start to give the story some supernatural tones.

Thank you all for reading. If you have stories that inspire you, feel free to share them on the comments below or begin a discussion on our reddit page here. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Changing Places September 22, 2016 10:27


The world in Tephra is incredibly vast and very different from our own. Sometimes, you may decide you want to step away from the Tephra scene and play in a setting that’s easier to relate to. Adapting the Tephra system into a true Victorian Steampunk setting is easy, and I’ll give you some tips on making the necessary changes to our system.

To start things off, you may want to limit race selection. Humans are the go-to choice, but you could also include simulacrons if your setting includes intelligent constructs. Furthermore, you could change the names and histories of Tephra races and attribute them to mad science or eugenics.

How advanced do you want your setting to be? Bio-Zappers may seem too advanced. Maybe firearms are less common than swords. You may decide that different parts of your world may have different levels and types of technology. England may favor subtlety and tradition and focus on developing smaller trinkets and gadgets. Meanwhile, the United States might be experiencing an industrial boom that is churning out automatons and giant land vehicles. You could even adjust crafting costs to account for local strengths and weaknesses.

The second decision you need to make is your beginning point and how your setting diverges. World War I, or the Great War, makes for a memorable point in Victorian time. The Leviathan book series makes use of this period to spur the story, keeping a few events true to history while adjusting others to fit a fictional narrative. Maybe your setting takes place a few years after The Great War. Perhaps the repercussions are drastically different than in our history. Using real history as a guide can help to fill in any gaps. I personally struggle with developing and representing religion in my settings, so I’ll look up different historic faiths from around the world to inspire my writing.

Most importantly, remember that Tephra books exist to suggest rules. If you find that your setting requires adjusting these rules, you are free to make changes as you see fit. Sometimes you may want to give your party a new game mechanic to try out. It’s okay to use your creative liberties and give your party a great story. Don’t worry too much about breaking the game. You can always talk to your group and change things that don’t work.

Thank you all for reading. If you have any questions or tips you would like to share, please comment below or check out our reddit page. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Your Adventure Awaits September 18, 2016 11:04


September is halfway over and autumn is just around the corner. There are only 23 days until GameExpo in San Antonio, Texas, and Cracked Monocle is attending!

GameExpo has it all: Board games, card games, video games, and Tabletop RPGs. Expect an adventurous weekend overflowing with fun shenanigans! How could this event get any better? How about the fact that Daniel, the creator of Tephra, has three games on the docket? That’s right, Daniel Burrow himself will be running three Tephra games during this event!


The Tombs of Dust
8 PM - 12 AM      
An ancient artifact, buried deep under the desert, is said to have miraculous powers. But does everyone have the truest of intentions? Find out in this adventure for Tephra: the Steampunk RPG!



Derailing the Gold Standard
10 AM - 2 PM      
Is it a train heist, a bank robbery, or a heroic adventure to put an end to a thug's reign of terror? Join us for a crazy ride through this introductory adventure to Tephra: the Steampunk RPG!



Capitalism Killed the Capitalist
10 AM - 2 PM
Overnight, the branch manager's daughter went missing, and he's willing to pay anything to get her back. But she's just one part of the puzzle. Join us for this introductory Tephra adventure!

GameExpo is one of our favorite conventions, and it does the San Antonio scene proud. The convention staff are accommodating, the volunteers are friendly, and the atmosphere is alive with imagination and excitement. So stop by and join us!

We will have our Tephra Playing Guide and expansions on sale at sweet convention prices. If you haven’t picked up a copy of our game for yourself, or you want to get one for your friend, this is a great opportunity. Gaming accessories and awesome rhombic dice crafted specifically for Tephra’s Clockwork System can also be purchased at our booth.

Thank you all for reading. Check out the convention website here for details on Daniel's games and other events going on. If you have any convention memories with us you’d like to share, feel free to comment below. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood September 09, 2016 10:18

Something I have often looked for in the tabletop gaming community is a written module with different paths that can be taken. This adds more replay value and can offer an element of surprise to the game.

Introducing: A Big Misunderstanding.

This two-player module offers a quick and easy adventure for narrators of any experience to run. Contained within is a list of four villains with different styles of combat. Simply choose which one you want to throw against your dynamic duo and let the story begin!

In addition to the variety of bosses, the combat environment will also vary based on where the fight takes place. In one encounter your party may find bear traps they can use to their advantage, while in another one they might scavenge from piles of rubble to find anything of use. The party’s decisions will drastically change how the story progresses.

For the narrator, this module includes notes and suggestions for shaping the story around your players. Listed within are adventure hooks to draw the players in, detailed maps and tables to resolve player actions, and story rewards based on player decisions and consequences. Not only is this module a great experience for new and experienced players and narrators alike, but it also provides a great environment to try new character ideas and different approaches to each combat.

I remember when this module was being tested. I hadn’t played in a game run by Austin Witt, the module’s writer. I was amazed at the level of detail this man put into his games. Throughout the session I listened eagerly to his descriptions of scenery, people, and even the actions of his bosses. I can see that same energy when I read over this module. The relentless imagination carves out an unforgettable scene that reels in your senses and takes you on an adventure. The dialogue and energy of the characters bring them to life, and suddenly your heart is racing in the middle of combat. I took inspiration from Austin, as I wanted to give my players the same feeling I had. I wanted to create an experience that would pull them in and leave them begging for more.

Thank you all for reading! This module is in the final touch-ups and will be released soon. Check out our store page here, or our products on Drivethru RPG for promotions and bundles. If you would like to be kept in the loop on current or upcoming specials, sign up for our newsletter here. Until next time, Cheers and gears!

Beware the Kind Old Lady August 26, 2016 12:13

There is a legend circulating small towns in Evangless, where dastardly deeds are done. Children go missing and are never heard from again, and blood-curdling screams dominate the night. Many a townsfolk has lost hope as these somber places faced a dwindling population, until that fateful day Mrs. Goodrich arrived.

No one could quite say where she came from, only that she simply showed up in town one day wearing a modest gown of earthen colors. No one could think anything mean to speak, but something always seemed off about her. Her skin seemed dry and leathery, and yet no one could call her anything less than beautiful. She would sit at the local tavern, or mill about the town talking to the laborers. There was something about her voice; it was soothing and yet carried a hint of menace. No one could resist sharing their woes with her, as she seemed keen to listen and had plenty of sympathy to offer. This would go on for a few days, and then she would just as quickly depart without a trace. The next day, without fail, the missing townsfolk would be returned safe and sound. There would be tears of joy all around, and then the big question would be asked: What happened? This is what the survivors would say:

Locked up by a gathering of bandits, the prisoners wallow in their cells and ask themselves many questions. Suddenly the carousing would stop and the bandits would draw weapons, looking on in horror. One of the bandits had been strung up by his feet, his heart ripped neatly from his chest and stuffed in his mouth. Hushed swears would be exchanged, and suddenly another bandit would be found strung up the same way. The crowd would turn again, and one by one be thinned out by this invisible spectre. Some would try running, only to be seen moments later pinned to a wall with various sharp instruments, their heart in their mouth. The panic would rise and eventually only a few would remain: the leader and two more pawns. In quick succession the two would be dispatched, leaving the leader, pale with terror, glancing at a figure that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The scene that would follow often went unseen as the hostages would  cringe and look away, but every account recalls hearing something before the leader would meet his terrible fate: a voice  saying, “Eat your heart out, dearie.”

Mrs. Goodrich is a simulacron, designed long ago for unknown reasons. Few have been able to find out much from her, save that she is not fond of rudeness and she believes in personal hygiene before all else. Her specialties and augments can be found below:

Soulless Blade (Frenzy): Spend 2 reflexive AP to deal a fatal effect rather than a wound effect.
Invisible Blade (Espionage): Light melee weapons cost 1 AP to use.
Phase Step (Agility): Move without being seen and unable to receive reflexive attacks unless the attacker rolls a Cunning vs your Agility.
Leave No Trace (Agility): Use Phase Step reflexively any time someone attempts to notice you.
Wall Runner (Agility): Run along walls for an additional AP cost to the move.
Staggering Strike (Overpower): For a weapon attack + 1AP, deal damage at one higher tier.

Weapon Mount
Hidden Blade

Thank you all for reading. If you would like to create a simulacron character of your own you can find the free PDF by clicking the image above! Please let me know what you think of this character concept in the comments below, and if you have any suggestions for a character build please comment as well. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Your Questions Answered August 05, 2016 14:13

Hello Tephra fans and newcomers alike! Today I am dedicating this blog post to answering questions posed by our community. Going forward, I will make sure to post one of these posts a month, so please ask us anything. This week I will answer some of your questions posted in our Tephra subreddit.


Question #1: Long Shot

Our first question comes from Lack_of_Wit: “The specialty "Long Shot" says that it doubles the range your weapon can accurately shoot to. But does that include other augments (like scopes) or other abilities that would help you shoot farther, or does it double the base range of the weapon before these additions?”

This question is among the most common, and our answer is this: Any ability that allows you to double your range is applied after you have added up your total range. For example, if you have a gnome with piercing sight and long shot using a medium firearm with a marque 2 scope, you determine your range as follows: ((Base range 100 + Scope Mq 2 100) x2 for piercing sight) x2 for long shot. Your range is now 800 with your medium firearm. Your base range is modified by the scope, so you have a minimum of 200 feet. After you have the range from your weapon, your piercing sight racial ability is an innate talent which doubles your range to 400. Finally, Long Shot is a trained specialty that boosts your range even further granting you 800 feet for you to shoot for 3 action points.

Please note the scope augment is the only augment (so far) that you can apply multiple times to the same ranged weapon. The above example is not the highest potential range a character can achieve this way.

Question #2: Squibs & Syringes

DamagedMicrobe asks: “Could Squibs, since they are alchemy, be put into a Syringed bullet from The Armsmith Expansion? If so does it just have to hit and it explodes? Or does it have to do damage and that would be it activating? Next question also involving Syringed ammo, would the contact augment get rid of the need for the ammo to do damage as long as it hit with the accuracy roll?”

I have personally addressed this idea before as I love firing explosives from my revolver. Can it be done? Yes. If you craft syringed ammunition and fill them with squib chemicals you can then fire them and explode on an enemy. Here’s the catch; unless you take the Quick Flick specialty and Instant reload (or any augments that reduce readying cost) you will need to spend the 1 action point to ready the explosive and ready it in the firearm. These can both be done with the same action point. As for the explosion, the mechanics for this will still follow the squib rules. An unaugmented squib syringe does not need to deal damage to explode since the syringe is now just a vessel. It will explode at the end of the turn it was fired unless augmented with Collision-Detonated.

Regarding your second question about the contact augment getting rid of the need for the ammo to do damage, the answer is yes. If the syringed ammo hits and does not deal damage with a contact potion, it will take effect.

Thank you all for reading! If you have any questions please comment below or visit our subreddit here. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Shootout at High Noon July 22, 2016 17:59

When I attended Chupacabracon in May I expected the usual con weekend: the Cracked Crew running Tephra games and generally enjoying ourselves. What I did not expect was to discover a fun new card game called Shootout. The first among us to try it out was our Fearless Leader Daniel, who promptly secured a copy himself. After a demonstration between Tephra adventures, I found myself also buying a copy.

Shootout is a simple and fun game to pick up and play, it can entertain groups of two to six people, and each game lasts about five minutes. The object of the game is to have an ideal hand of cards before a High Noon, Sun Up, or Sun Down card is revealed.

Starting with five cards, each player takes a turn flipping the top card from the draw deck and either adding it to their own hand or drawing from the top of the deck. After taking in a card, that player will then discard a card to end his or her turn. If a High Noon, Sun Up, or Sun Down card are flipped or discarded, then a standoff begins between whomever revealed the card and their chosen opponent. Victory in a standoff is determined by three types of cards: Weapons, Titles, and Familiarities. Whoever has the higher total score from one of each type of card wins the standoff. If more than two people are playing, the winner discards his or her remaining hand and draws seven cards, then discarding two. The game continues until only one remains.

In addition to the three types of cards needed to win, there are two types of special cards. The first kind of special card is used in a standoff to remove your opponent’s bonuses from one of their three cards. For example: I have a total score of 10 and my opponent has a total of 12. I notice his gun is offering a +3 bonus, so I play a Misfire card to remove that bonus from his score. I now win with my 10 against his 9.

The other type of special card has a red border and only takes effect when it is discarded outside of a standoff. These can cause you to trade cards with another player, skip your turn, or even change the result after a standoff. If the red special card is flipped over at the beginning of a turn, that player is affected by it. If these are discarded from a player’s hand, they affect the next player or a targeted player depending on the card.

This is a fun, fast-paced game that everyone can enjoy. It’s easy to pick up, set up, and play as often as you like. You can order a copy here on our website. Thank you for reading and until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Using the Ruined in your Game July 09, 2016 11:56

 As promised in the previous blog, the NPC stat blocks for the Ruined division of the Ashen Angels can be found below. These units were incredibly fun to design, not only because the aesthetic concept is something I greatly enjoy, but also because the way I imagine the Ruined fighting is something I haven’t seen a lot of in my Tephra games. I’d like to go over the inspiration and uses for these units before we get to the stat blocks.

When I first wrote up notes for the Ruined, I thought of them as knights. I wanted enemies that rarely touch the ground and charge at their opponents with devastating swords and jetpack gliders. Something that I feel has been missing in my Tephra games was a sense of three-dimensional combat, especially when fighting in the skies. I aimed for foes that would help create that feeling. The Ruined Knights fly by clanker mostly, favoring fast-paced charges to lash at their targets. Their battle style is mostly reactive, and they will simply charge at the most recent person to hit them.

The Ruined Bombers came second, and I didn’t want another NPC that simply shot a rifle or pistol. These are a group of extremists after all, and their tactics should be extreme. So I gave the Bombers (what else?) bombs. These units prefer to keep their distance in a heated battle, raining down destruction from up high. Ranged characters will have an easier time dealing with these foes, but that should not dissuade melee fighters from thinking up something creative. When it comes to fighting the Ruined, it pays off to go big.

The motivations of the Ruined are the same as the rest of the Ashen Angels; they fight to end the farishtaa oppression on their elven brethren. When including the Ruined in your sagas, it’s a good idea to expand on that exposition to give your players a sense of moral choice. Here we have extremists from an organization with a cause that some would deem noble, and yet their methods are incredibly violent and destructive. If you have players playing farishtaa or elf characters, make use of their prejudice for a more immersive experience.

And now, without further ado:


Ruined Knight AP: 3 PAR: 1

Elf Terrorist
HP: 25 Wnds: 12 Pri: +3 Spd: 30 ft (land), 60 ft (flying)
Brute +10 Cunning +0 Dexterity +5 Spirit +5 Sciences +0


Armored Flight Suit - medium leather armor
Eva: -1 Def: +3
Soak:  3  |  6  |  9  |  12


2 AP
Fallen Blade - heavy metal weapon
Stk: +5
Damage:  9  |  18  |  27  |  36
Note: Roll 2d12 for accuracy, ignoring bonuses and penalties.

2 AP
Aggressive Recoil (reflexive)
In response to being damaged from an attack, the Ruined Knight can make 1 move and 1 unaltered attack with its Fallen Blade against the person who damaged the knight.


Ruined Bomber AP: 3 PAR: 1

Elf Terrorist
HP: 20 Wnds: 12 Pri: +3 Spd: 30 ft (land), 60 ft (flying)
Brute +2 Cunning +5 Dexterity +10 Spirit +3 Sciences +0


Armored Flight Suit - medium leather armor
Eva: -1 Def: +3
Soak:  3  |  6  |  9  |  12


2 AP
Explosive Launcher - heavy metal weapon
Acc: +5 Range: 50 ft Radius: 10 ft
Damage:  20
Notes: If the accuracy roll misses a target, the explosive is fired to the nearest space that avoids the target. This may be chosen or rolled for using modified blind lobbing rules. (Give each potential square an assigned number on a 12-sided die.)
Targets may spend 1 AP reflexively  to resist the explosion with a Dexterity roll. Every tier above Tier 1 reduces the damage by 10.
Targets that fail to resist this explosive are pushed back from the center by 10 feet.
Explosive Augments: Collision-Detonated, Extended Blast Mq2, Knock Back Mq2

1 AP
Target Lock
The Ruined Bomber takes aim at their next target, gaining +3 to accuracy for the next attack.


Ruined Jetpack Glider (Clanker)

Wounds: 24
Evade: +1 (when evading an attack on the Glider)
Lose 5 ft of speed for every 5 damage dealt. Destroyed if brought to 0.
Augments: Flying, Efficient Movement Mq1, Improved Construction Mq1
Using a found Jetpack Glider requires a tier 2 Sciences roll.


Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoy using the Ruined in your games, and if you’re a player I hope you enjoy fighting or befriending them. Give us your feedback in the comments below and let us know how your Ruined games go. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Ashen Angels: the Ruined June 22, 2016 16:21 1 Comment

The strife between elves and farishtaa is well known. While many elves simply try to make the best life they can for themselves, some take up arms and fight their oppressors. These individuals brand themselves the Ashen Angels, marking themselves with wing tattoos across their backs. Seen as freedom fighters, rebels, and terrorists, the Ashen Angels take extreme measures to unseat the farishtaa leaders, believing that they can create a better Dalvozzea for all elvenkind.

In an effort to take down the farishtaa council, some members of the Angels have taken to the skies. These elves don specially-crafted winged packs and engage in daring, dangerous dogfights with farishtaan forces. Wherever they go, they leave ruins in their wake, earning them their malevolent monicker: the Ruined. These fallen angels show no mercy and will fight to their last breath. The Ruined employ many tactics during airborne engagements, favoring seemingly randomized attack sequences. Unfortunately, the only people to figure out the grand pattern in their attacks have all been rendered dead silent.

The Ruined trace their origins to the one known as the Valkyrie: an Ashen Angels operative who was captured, tortured, and forced into farishtaa conversion against her will. The operation was botched, and she became increasingly volatile. After fleeing her captives, she returned to the Ashen Angels, swearing to bring them into a new age of warfare. The Vakyrie leads the Ruined with an iron fist, inciting fear into her foes and enraging the public into riots with her vicious propaganda.

If you want to play a member of the Ruined: be warned, people don’t look favorably upon them. You can grab the Auto-Wright or Manual Wright specialty (from page 236 the Playing Guide) with the Aerial Propulsion and Lift augments, or the Flight augment in order to take to the skies with the Ruined. Outfit yourself with a cannon or some explosives, and you too can leave ruins in your wake.

Thank you for reading! If you liked the Ruined, use them in your Tephra adventures for an extra dose of chaos. Tune in next week for completed stat blocks and a look at the Valkyrie. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Convention Time! June 16, 2016 11:23

This weekend is going to be a blast! Not only is it a convention weekend, but it’s right in my own Houston neighborhood. Comicpalooza is happening this weekend, and from previous experiences it promises to be an enjoyable one.

Getting back into the convention scene has rekindled my creative spark, and this weekend I look forward to running all sorts of new adventures I’ve written up. I’ve found I enjoy running thought-provoking mysteries and adventures with unexpected twists. While Tephra’s combat is a blast, I get the most excited when the combats are interspersed among a great storyline. When I offer a mystery and a trail of clues, I’m in my zone. Watching the players’ reactions as they discover something they didn’t expect is one of the many reasons I enjoy running games.

If you look on the Comicpalooza schedule you will find two games scheduled for each day. We’re also open to running unscheduled games for those interested - feel free to come on up and ask! We will have our newest products up for sale (and may even use them in our demos).

The d-Infinity Indie Game Awards will also be announced this weekend. If you haven’t voted for the Narrator’s Accomplice, now’s the time! Just hit this link and click vote.

The convention has been a great event in the past, filling up the massive George R. Brown center with all sorts of attractions: arcade games, comic books, artist panels, and even the occasional Time Warp. There’s no shortage of things to do and people to see. Drop on by and say hello.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or con memories you’d like to share, please comment below. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Setting the Pace June 03, 2016 22:10

This week I started a new game with some friends, and while we were writing out characters and coordinating our party setup, we got onto the topic of experience rewards and how they set the pace of the campaign. One of my friends brought up an interesting technique he uses to control the length of his campaigns, and that got me thinking of other ways to extend or control how quickly your players can level up or improve within your games.

Limited XP Options

Let’s start with the technique that spurred my thoughts. When writing out your campaign notes, it can be messy parsing out the experience rewards from the plethora of choices the players can make. Instead, set up specific events that must take place before your players gain experience; maybe restrict experience gaining to anything that progresses the plot. This helps to cut out experience grinding from parties that want to hunt down goblins one hundred times before facing a major foe. By using this method you can also reward the party with currency or rare items without quickly tilting the scales. Remember, the party needs a challenge or they will get bored.

Keep Them Poor

Similar to the previous technique, you can opt to make sure your party has a lot of work ahead of them before they can buy that special gear they’ve been eyeing. This may seem cruel, but a party lacking resources will be forced to think outside the box to overcome a situation, and this can often lead to creative and amusing solutions. Can’t afford to buy a missile launcher? Buy a missile and make do! Smash it with a hammer until it explodes, or rig it up with some sort of fuse. A low budget shouldn’t stop your party.

Skimming Off the Top

If you want to add an element of realistic chaos, then consider how the world would react to a bunch of active adventurers keeping wealth on their person. It could be stolen, or suddenly their landlord is charging more rent. Maybe they have to pay for destruction of property and that’s taken out of their reward. Even when the party is out adventuring, maybe merchants will mark up prices when inquiring wallets walk by. Doing this makes any significant reward suddenly more cherished, and cultivates uncertainty.

With these techniques, you can extend your campaign with ease. Use any combination as you like, but also make sure the party won’t get too upset. It’s one thing to provide a challenge, and another to bully your party. If any of your players are sensitive to this kind of narrating, make sure they are informed and won’t take offense.

If you have any narration techniques you would like to share, please comment below. I’d love to see what you guys do to entertain your party. Thank you for reading and, until next time, Cheers and Gears!

It’s Like The Oscars, But For Independent RPGs May 27, 2016 16:00

Whether it’s movies, music, books, or newspapers, one thing people love to do is award those that excel beyond the rest. So why shouldn’t there be one for independent tabletop companies? Introducing The d-Infinity Independent Game Awards, a handy site where anyone can vote for the company that made that wonderful game they enjoyed.

What sets this award apart is that only small or medium independent companies are eligible for submission, creating a level playing field to show their accomplishments. This also creates an excellent source for you, the voters, to discover new games you might not have heard about. The awards are more than recognition; they are great for the companies submitted.

First and foremost, these awards are a great way for these small companies to spread the word about their products. Now not only will Tephra players be able to see it, but many who have never heard of us can discover and see just how popular it is. Anything that makes this community grow is definitely worth checking out. These awards also validate our work, since the companies submitted likely don’t have the budgets to match larger companies. Many members of our team, myself included, are aspiring writers who use our free time to contribute to these projects. It’s very motivational and inspiring to see those works awarded, as that is often the only payment we will see. Finally, and most importantly, these awards let us know that you care about us, and that what we do is appreciated and well-received.

To see our submission for the Narrator’s Accomplice and cast your votes, please click here. If you have any fond Tephra memories you’d like to share, please comment below. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

Games, Geeks, and Good Times May 17, 2016 21:20

This weekend was one of the best I’ve had in such a long time. I attended Chupacabracon in Round Rock, Texas, and I had a blast! It was so nice representing Cracked Monocle at the con, running one-shots and connecting with new players. I was also introduced to some interesting new tabletop games that were so easy to pick up and fun to play.

It has been ages since I have run one-shots at a convention, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it. My groups were very fun to run for, and some of the players attended all three of my games. Seeing people enjoy my games has really inspired me to write more short adventures, and I especially enjoyed the looks on their faces as they created and leveled their characters. It reminds me of the feeling I had when I first met Cracked Monocle and the world of Tephra. That spark of excitement as you flip through the book and discover your character’s potential is one of the greatest feelings in the world. As for my modules, I took the initiative and made sure each one had a different feeling to them, and after this weekend I feel confident I can publish these.

My first module was a combat-heavy session in which a masquerade party was crashed by a madman determined to acquire himself a new face. What I really liked in this module was how quickly the party banded together and worked as a team. I’ve often said that the most overpowered thing a party can do is work together.

My second module had an even mix of combat and investigative roleplaying, in which the party is on a boat sailing for a vacation spot only to be assaulted by ayodin in the night. Once the initial threat was taken care of, the party then took the initiative and worked together to figure out why they were attacked. My favorite part was when they had a “polite” conversation with the captain and left him crying in the corner.

My last module focused mostly on investigative roleplaying with a small combat interlude in the middle. The party was hired to investigate some property damage and found themselves wrapped up in a strange love story. I don’t often get to throw out false leads or cryptic clues to my party, but with each revelation in the story they became more engaged.

When I wasn’t running my sessions, I was either sitting at the sales table chatting up anyone nearby, or I was exploring the great games others were representing. One table close to ours had two interesting games that just about all of us took turns playing over the weekend. The first game we tried was Shootout, a Western-theme card game where you and your opponent(s) take turns flipping and discarding cards until a showdown is flipped. The goal is to arm yourself for these showdowns and win, but there’s more than one way to do so. The other game, made by the same company, was Palette Swap. The goal of this game is to acquire different color combinations on your side and your opponent’s side based on the objectives in your hand. Both games have an interesting psychological element that is definitely fun to play with.

In three short days I had a better time than I have had in months, and I look forward to returning to the con scene. If you’re hoping to catch us at a future con, keep an eye out on the blog or on our pages. We love seeing you guys when we go out there!

Thank you all for reading. If you have any con memories you would like to share or conventions you’d like us to attend, please comment below. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!

The Gaming Community: All Are Welcome April 12, 2016 11:39 1 Comment

By: Spencer McAdams

It is a bitter irony that the community in which gamers, nerds, and geeks seek like-minded friends to share their interests, free of judgement, has its own bullying problem. Let’s be clear: it’s a problem for those who are not white, straight, and cis-male. I have witnessed this firsthand, and it is appalling that there can be such hatred in a community that should be the most welcoming.

Three years ago, I was at a convention with Cracked Monocle, running one-shots and generally having a good time. It was my turn to run a game, and a new party had just assembled itself right in front of me, ready to go. As I walked them through character creation, I noticed one of them became noticeably upset. When I asked what was wrong, one of the other players pointed out someone who had walked by our table. That person had made a comment about the player, to the tune of “put on some guy’s clothing.” It was then that I actively noticed the player as being trans, something I had dismissed earlier as I generally don’t care who is at my table as long as they are having a good time. We did what we could to ensure this player had a safe and friendly environment, including watching out for the identified person and making sure any further attempt to intimidate was avoided.

In a single passing comment, an individual was immediately singled out for absolutely no reason, and made to feel uncomfortable. No one should feel threatened or intimidated when sitting down to enjoy a game, comic, or whatever passion they seek. To make matters worse, my example is just the tip of the iceberg. Women, people of color, and people within the LGBT community are often faced with threats of death and/or rape. It’s appalling how far people will go to single someone out and bring them down, and it’s baffling to imagine why they would do so.

It is our responsibility as members of this community to make sure it is a safe place for everyone. This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated as it will only drive everyone away, or escalate and get worse. If you or someone you know have been the target of any of this unacceptable behavior, please don’t let it go unknown. Speak out and spread awareness, like the article shared below. Silence will only give those people more power, while speaking out will take it away. The Tephra community is built on the idea that everyone should feel welcome, have a great time, and share their experience with friends. We care about our players, and we will do what we can to ensure their experience is a great one.

If you have a story like mine, please feel free to share. We appreciate your input, and I hope this article helps to spread awareness. Thank you for reading, and until next time. Cheers and gears!

Click here to read the article that spurred this one.

We’re supporting RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization that was named one of "America's 100 Best Charities" by Worth magazine.

If you've been waiting for a good chance to get the Tephra: Playing Guide (along with hundreds of dollars' worth of other titles), this is the best chance you've got. You get the Playing Guide when you go to this page and donate to the RAINN drive. We're not making any profits on this one - this is all just for a worthy cause.

Sagas: One Bite at a Time March 30, 2016 08:48

For someone who hasn’t run a saga before, it can look like a lot of work. Ask any narrator you know and they’ll tell you how much work they put in. Don’t worry, because the size of the project is all about perspective. Let’s look into what I call “Bite-Size Sagas.”

When I started running games, I ran one-shot adventures. It’s easier on the Narrator because you only need enough content to last a few hours, and that small window of time allows for a lot of improvisation. When I started looking into running sagas, I was concerned that I may lose interest if the project was too big. Then I thought about how I wrote essay papers in school, and that inspired me to start treating sagas like an essay.

To create your Bite-Sized Sagas, you first need an outline of your story. Make sure to emphasize only the important plot points. Once you see your story written out like that, take each plot point and break it down into smaller pieces. For example: One of my plot points involves uncovering a noble’s horrible secret. Well, the party won’t up and find a secret lying on the road. That’s going to take at least three sessions, so I’ll allow it to take five to include time spent exploring and general player shenanigans, and in each session the party will get a clue to guide them back to the plot point. Once you do this for your plot points, you have a general idea on how many sessions your saga will take. All you need to do at this point is fully write out your first, and maybe second, session preparation notes.

As you progress through your saga, you’ll take some time and write out the next session notes. If something didn’t go as you thought it would, you don’t have to go and rewrite everything afterward. All you need is to change the reason your events take place. In an adventure, mark down the important parts as Point A and Point B. How the party gets there can be unknown and unpredictable. You may also take inspiration from your party members and change certain points of the saga. As long as you keep your notes organized and tidy, you won’t feel overwhelmed or scattered about. I’ve been using this method for two years now, and it’s made my sagas much easier to manage.

Thank you guys for reading! Comment below if you have your own techniques you’d like to share, or if you have questions that weren’t answered in this article. Until next time, cheers and gears!

Building a Better Sim March 18, 2016 22:35

A new member of the Tephra community asked a question that started a discussion on our development page. We love answering questions on how to go about building specific character ideas, and this question was my favorite one so far.

We were asked if it was possible to build a simulacron with a turret that is either mounted on its back or appears from inside its back, and how we would go about building this. This involves my favorite things: Simulacrons, prosthetics, and turrets. We then took our time to go over the idea and see where we could come at it. Many of us had the same idea with different tweaks. One idea was completely different and, I thought, amusing and interesting. Let’s go over the ways this could be built.

Be the Turret

Strictly using the Playing Guide, this build is mostly aesthetic and flavor, but interesting nonetheless. The Specialties needed are Prosthetician, Turret Stance, and Itchy Trigger Finger. This allows you to build a prosthetic arm on your back and be the turret. Your Turret and Itchy Trigger Finger will give you plenty of opportunities to make shots, though some at the cost of accuracy, and because you’re a Sim, you won’t suffer the wounds lost from adding the extra limb, nor do you need the nerve crafting specialty thanks to the Augmentable Body trait. If you take the Armed for Battle trait from the random traits, your arm can then become the gun you need. Plus, this build is possible to make at first level so you can build yourself as you level up to become a better turret.


The Auto Turret

This build uses the Armsmith Extra expansion, specifically the Turret Builder specialty. Because turrets are weapons that simply require a stance to fire with, they can still be mounted on anything on which an average gun could be mounted. So, the specialties needed are: Gunsmith, Turret Builder, They’re All Guns To Me. You can take the Mechanical Knowledge random trait for your Sim to provide the weapon mount augment and any other augment you want. Now, this build has a specific objective, but it can always be adjusted for your taste. The first augment for the turret is Automated, which requires that you have invested a single point in automata. You will also need to add the Rotating Barrels augment from Armsmith in the Playing Guide to reduce the readying time to zero. The third augment needed is the Seek & Destroy System. This gives you a mounted turret that will automatically shoot any target you choose, forcing them to make a dexterity save to avoid being hit. At second level, to make this build more effective, you can take Beta Turrets and add the Body-Part Seeker and Deadly Accurate augments. The Body-Part Seeker allows your automated turret to make called shots, and the Deadly Accurate increases the damage tier, making every shot a Tier 2 damaging shot. You might also take Devastatingly Accurate in place of Body-Part Seeker to give your turret Tier 3 damaging auto-shots. The options are all yours.


The Monkey With a Minigun

One of our developers takes an interesting angle when addressing questions like this. While most of us think similarly, he will approach it from a completely different angle and produce ideas like the Monkey with a Minigun. This build makes use of the Pets and Predators expansion, which allows you to tame and create your own animal companions. It requires a compartment augment on the torso (gained by racial trait), a small animal with augments or traits that allow it to fire weapons, and a specialty or two that improve your ability to give this animal commands. Because the Pets and Predators behave differently from previous crafts, you will have to ensure you can issue a command that will be repeatedly carried out until it is achieved or you issue a new command. At the start, your pet will only act with each command. So for your monkey with a minigun, you’d have to command it every time to attack. However, with a few specialties, you can issue a complex and long-term command for the monkey to attack anyone in sight, anyone that gets close, or whatever the situation demands. This build is interesting because it combines machinery and organic life in an interesting way, and could lead to some amusing stories down the road.

Now you have some ideas for your Simulacron with a Turret, and there are still other ways to build that were not covered in this article. You could look to Clockwork Automatons for some inspiration, or take a page from the last example and look for a unique alternative. As more expansions are released, there are sure to be more amazing and amusing character builds.

Thank you all for reading! If you have any questions or any build ideas you’d like to share, feel free to comment below. We love to hear what our community comes up with, and as I mentioned we love to take on challenges like this. Until then, Cheers and Gears!

Putting the Character in NPC March 04, 2016 19:46

One of the best perks of being the Narrator for a saga is the ability to play and control all the NPCs the adventuring party will cross paths with. From friendly to hostile, these characters are what make the world feel alive, and players can get a lot of entertainment from interacting with an NPC they like. If you think the idea of coming up with these personalities is daunting, allow me to put those worries to rest. Here are a few tips that you can use if you find you are drawing a blank on an NPC.

Copy and Tweak

One way to generate personalities is to take inspiration from characters you have seen or read. Think about what made them stand out to you, and try to emulate them as best as you can. If you are new to Narrating, this may be a good way to help you become comfortable playing the many personalities your party interacts with. When you do this for a while, you can begin mixing and matching your character inspirations to create some new and interesting personalities.

For example: say you begin taking inspiration from classic literature. You want a clever NPC personality and a passionate NPC personality. You decide to bone up on your reading and emulate Sherlock Holmes for the first character and Victor Frankenstein for the other. As you become more familiar with narrating, maybe you decide to mix the personalities together, combining the cunning of Holmes and the passion of Frankenstein. You now have a new personality to use.

Simplify Yourself

One method of generating character personalities is to reflect on yourself and take a single aspect as inspiration. Are you passionate about painting? Maybe your NPC is an art connoisseur, or an inspired painter full of wonderlust. You might decide your NPC should be passionate about a different kind of art. Maybe you have a strong disgust toward insects, and you really don’t like warm weather. Well now you can take that and create an NPC off that aspect. Once you get the hang of this, you can start using personal aspects that you don’t have. Rather than being disgusted by insects and disliking warm weather, maybe your NPC is disgusted by horses and dislikes dry weather. Using this technique can help in a pinch, while also allowing you to create your own characters as you give them more aspects over time.

Use your Party’s Characters

No, I’m not saying you should take their character sheets and play those characters. What I mean is use your players’ characters as inspiration for your NPC personalities. A good way to make an NPC they will enjoy is to make one that mirrors some of their interests, quirks, or even speaking patterns. On the other side, a good way to make a villain is to make them the opposite of a player character. If one of your players is playing a noble knight determined to prove himself the living ideal of honor, then a good villain would be one that puts up a facade of honor, while acting shady and dishonorably taking the party down. This method can help to generate some interesting NPCs as you try to think in opposition of your party. Of course, it’s all in good fun. No story is complete without a good dose of conflict.

Using these tips you may find your Tephra games are more enjoyable. Go ahead and try experimenting with accents, speech patterns, and word choice. If you have a favorite NPC or two that you have used or seen used in your games, feel free to share them with us down below. I would love to see what you can come up with.

Specialty Gear and Other Rewards February 24, 2016 19:52

Let’s face it, adventuring doesn’t always pay the bills. An adventures are constantly on the move, and that can make it difficult to hold down a steady job. Because of this looting often becomes their primary source of income. Adventurers love loot, especially if it’s shiny and worth a fortune. Today, we’ll look at some some fun options you can use to add variety to your party rewards.

Money and Valuables

Small statues, gemstones, and the enemies’ wallets are great ways to keep your players funded for their heroic rampage. However, restricting your players’ income can force your players to get creative with how they spend the scarce resources they have. With limited funds a party must choose how they use what they have and suffer the consequences of their decisions. Your other option is to create moments and reasons for the players to spend more of their rewards than they had planned to. These options can be combined as well, making funds scarce and quickly consumed could open interesting story elements and change the way the players see the world. Additionally, the second option can create interesting side-stories depending on how you go about removing their excess funds. You can impose charges on their necessities, have a thief sneak in and steal as much as they can, or even run the risk of your players losing their funds if they are not holding onto them tight.


Rewarding players with a new story or title can be fun and they provide an immediate benefit. They’re like background stories, but their effects are entirely up to you, the narrator. They can be used to track a character’s influence in a town, their reputation with a specific organization, or provide a specific bonus. When making up your own stories, consider what kind of effect they’ll have on your saga. Another option is to create a series of stories that combine to create increasingly powerful effects.

Special Gear

The most exciting reward players can receive is special gear that cannot be obtained through normal methods. They provide you have the opportunity to come up with truly fantastic tools and weapons that open up new options for players to use on and off the battlefield. Rewards like this should only be used on rare occasions in order to preserve the excitement players experience when they find one. Take into consideration how each of your players likes to play, and try to shape your gear rewards around that. Some items might serve as temptation for your party to take risks they wouldn’t normally take. You can also use this kind of reward to spur an entire adventure arc in your saga. As for the items themselves, you can create anything you want. Do you want to create an item that allows a player to apply weapon augments to their unarmed attacks? How about a suit of armor that allows the wearer to fly? This can also be an opportunity to showcase some interesting gadgets. An investigative character may favor a listening device, allowing them to eavesdrop from great distances. Another interesting item you could offer is a bag of chemical pills that change color depending on the kind of liquid they are dropped in, which may reveal whether a drink is poisoned or medicinal. The possibilities are endless, and anything you think of could prove a deserving reward.

What kinds of fun rewards have you received in your Tephra adventures? Do you have an idea for some interesting loot to tempt the party with? Comment below and share your ideas!