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!

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!

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!

Prosthetics by the Number: Crafting by the Score February 11, 2016 09:05 1 Comment

What could be more fun than lopping off an arm or two and building a new pair of mechanical arms that are better than the old? That’s why prosthetics is one of my favorite crafts. There are so many builds that can be improved with prosthetics, and the options are diverse.

You’ll first decide what material to use when you fashion your prosthetics. Metal is common, but it’s not the only choice. You can have wooden prosthetics for the more nature-conscious characters, or you can have organic prosthetics for those that don’t want their old limb to go to waste. Each of these materials has its advantages as well as its drawbacks.

  • Metal: Metal prosthetics offer three augment slots, plus the two from beta prosthetics. However, any electrical attack is immediately more powerful when used against a character with limbs made out of metal. In addition, metal-dissolving acids will damage the limb.
  • Wood: Wood prosthetics have one fewer augment slot in total, so you start with two and end up with a total of four with beta. These limbs are not vulnerable to metal-melting acids or electrical attacks, but fire is certainly more of a concern than before.
  • Organic: Organic prosthetics are made out of flesh, either your own or a “donor” for those that like to trade up. They have the fewest augment slots, starting with one and ending up with three in beta. Organic prosthetics do gain a bonus to being disguised, making it harder to pick out an organic prosthetic when using the Disguised augment. In addition, the organic limb does not have any special weaknesses that differ from your own, so you don’t have to fear electricity or fire any more than normal. A beta organic prosthetic can be rather terrifying once people see you whipping a rifle out of your arm or releasing fire exhausts from your natural-looking leg.

You may find it tough to choose how many prosthetic limbs to craft for yourself. To start, you can only replace your arms, hands, and legs. Additional specialties allow you to craft for other called shot locations, and even add extra limbs, but be careful! Each prosthetic limb will reduce your maximum wounds by one point. Want an arm with a mounted rocket-launcher and the other with a mounted shield? That’s two wounds gone, but those arms sound awesome!

The final step is choosing which augments go on which of your new limbs. Some can be placed on any limb you make, while others are more specific. For example: Weapon Mount can be placed on as many prosthetics as you have, even your eye! So if you want to hide firearms throughout your body, you now know the trick. Extreme Speed, however, is only available for legs. Choose your augments according to how you want your character to work. Do you want your character to have an arm that contains a Furnace that fuels the Flame Pores in the hand? Want the other arm to have a Freezer with Freezing Pores in that hand? Maybe you prefer the subtle approach and want a hidden weapon on every single prosthetic. The choice is yours to make.

Leave us a comment below with your favorite prosthetic design, or share your ideas on what you’d like to see prosthetics do in future expansions!

A Hundred and One Uses For Squibs February 04, 2016 21:18

What could be more fun that blowing stuff up, especially when it isn’t yours! Villains and construction workers will both attest that there’s a special kind of rush that comes from having your finger on the button that triggers the big kaboom!  The standard crafts from the Playing Guide are good for blowing up everything in an area, but when a situation calls for a controlled explosion, squibs are the best tools for the job. Don’t have time to fool around with locked doors? An expertly placed squib or two can take down the door without bringing down the rest of the wall with it.

Squibs have one feature that other explosives don’t, and that is versatility. Standard explosives are good for taking out a crowd, and that’s all well and good, but squibs bring a touch of finesse to the typically messy practice of combustion. The explosion from a squib is contained to a five-foot by five-foot area, and can focus their destruction to a single spot. This focused damage allows for tactical application of your dangerous explosive.

Let’s look at the options that squibs provide. Within the Explosives expanded crafting guide, there are more augments made available for your standard explosives as well as squibs. They can be made to explode silently and invisibly, to run and jump at their target, or even send their target flying. There are many combinations, that can be useful in any number of scenarios.Here’s a few of my favorite combinations:

  • The Bad Penny: (Ethereal Blast, Muted, Disguised) These small and shiny squibs are designed for the subtle approach to blowing things up. These can be handed off, placed in pockets, or left lying around, waiting for someone to pick it up.
  • Knock-Knock: (Demolishing, Collision-Detonated, Far-lobbing) These handy tools of the trade are your ticket into any door that dares stand in your way. Remember, if one doesn’t do the job, ten might. This item is also handy for support beams, stubborn windows, and trap doors.
  • Handful of Hornets: (Damaging, Impact, Shrapnel) Having trouble getting troublemakers to leave you be? Worry no more! The tiny shards of metal that explode from these little pellets will make it clear that you’re not to be bothered. While the rabble is busy bleeding, crying, and swearing, you’re free to go about your day unperturbed.
  • Splitting Headache: (Banshee, Concussive, Flash) If you’re more interested in disorienting rather than harming your foes, this squib is exactly what you need! Leave your opponents deaf, dizzy, and blind while you take a few cheap shots or make a break for it. Useful for bandits, ruffians, politicians, neighbors, and even worrisome animals.
  • The Vandal: (Paint Splatter, Ruinous, Sundering) It’s not unusual for explosives to make a mess, but the Vandal is designed to make a disaster in a very specific area.. Not only does it break everything in sight, it leaves a mess of paint to boot! People might judge you and wonder why you would ever want to do such a thing, but if they care about the condition of their outfit, they’ll keep their big mouths shut.
Squibs are fun and since they’re easier to carry than a standard bomb, your pockets have room for all the good times you can fit into your schedule. With a few specialties like Micro-Bombadier and Quick-Flick, you’ll be able to quickly place a considerable number of squibs when you need them. As an added bonus, you can even use squibs to help lockpick. By using a squib, you gain its damage as a bonus to your cunning roll. Just don’t make a mistake, because the lock will break and remain locked. Then you’ll need to use a Knock-Knock next.

Word on the Grapevine January 27, 2016 08:27 1 Comment

One of my favorite narrator’s tools is rumors. Rumors are like teaser trailers for movies; they offer a peek without really telling you anything. As a narrator, I enjoy throwing a few of these at my party and seeing what strikes their interest. From that reaction I can take a little time and write out a small sidebar adventure to go along with my campaign. It’s really fun to see which of those on-the-spot blurbs became the most memorable.

Coming up with rumors is really the fun part. This can be done by reading headlines in the newspaper for inspiration, vaguely hinting at a major plot point in your story, or even dropping clues that an old enemy is still lurking about. If it seems interesting to you, it’ll most likely seem interesting to the party. Here are some of my favorite ideas I’ve used and reused:

  • “Word is the circus is in town. I’d stay away if I were you. What you see is a distraction from what you don’t.”
  • “Someone saw some madman running through the alleys last night. He was wearin’ one of the guard uniforms. Makes you think, what if he’s still hiding in plain sight?”
  • “Welcome to [town name], you’re new? I know a new face when I sees one. Come in, join the festivities-- *in a hushed voice* Don’t draw any attention. They are watching you. Just play along and you’ll be just fine. Meet me at the warehouse by the [dock/stables/factories] at midnight. *resuming the loud, boisterous voice* Do enjoy yourselfs now. Can’t have too many smiling faces.”
  • “There were strange sounds coming out of that house again. The scratching and clawing, the pounding, and the screeching of metal. No one goes close to it. It’s supposed to be empty.”
  • “You heard about the mayor’s son? Nasty child, him. Hardly seen much of him any more. Usually at night, when he’s skulking around being suspicious. Most think he’s off dealing with them drug lords. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just off his knocker. Might even kill his own mum so HE can be mayor. Such a shame.”

The sources for delivering your rumors can vary. It can be someone talking in a low voice in the corner of a pub, an enthusiastic greeter giving the party a warm welcome to the town, or it can even be a poster or flyer either on a wall or blown into a character’s face by the wind. The source will determine how the rumor is perceived and responded to. Did a madman shout it from the rooftops? Maybe he’s just shouting nonsense, or maybe he’s telling the truth. The rumors don’t even have to be true. You could lead the party on a snipe hunt as a way of showing off the town, or driving the plot by having them poke around the place and getting into trouble. Rumors should add flair to your adventure, give the environment a sense of suspicion, and set the stage for the players to interact with.    

As fun as rumors are, they should be used responsibly. Too much can distract from the story and leave the party confused, or railroad so far away from your main plot that you now have to find a way to get everyone back on track. A handful of rumors can be enough to keep the party interested when there’s a lull in the adventure. More than that and you run the risk of creating a conspiracy, and those last forever.

Please, comment below with any rumors you have used, or are thinking of using. Maybe share those fun moments when a tangent adventure became a saga highlight. If you have any questions about creating rumors, ask away.

Where Does the Story Begin? January 20, 2016 20:32

When I'm working on a new saga or adventure, the titular question of "Where does my story begin?" is often the first and last thing I consider. It can often be a difficult question to answer, because a story can have any number of beginnings.

When it comes to entertaining your players, it helps to know what they are looking for in a saga. You can take what you know and give it to them, or use it against them. I like to take a little inspiration from my players, using the little details they provide and seeing how far I can run with it. The biggest hurdle can be the first session. Whether you start in a tavern, on board a train, or waking up in the desert without any provisions or recent memory, the first session shapes the tone of your adventure. When in doubt, you can always rely on the tried and true pub, where adventures are prone to start.

The next aspect of the story you might consider is background. How much of the background do you reveal to your players? Give them too little information and they may not take interest, or they may not make connections you are trying to lead them to. Give them too much and they may find the story to lose a bit of the mystery it had before. You also have to think about how complex and involved you want your background to be. A saga that emphasizes political games and nobility will most often have some complicated back story that can only be handed out in bite-size pieces. When you get a feel for your players’ personalities and strengths, you can more easily gauge whether they might make good use of a piece of information.

Now, everything I’ve talked about so far is about the start of the game, or the start of the written story. However, that does not mark the beginning. When I look back at my favorite campaigns that I played in, I don’t often begin at the first session. Sometimes the story really begins halfway through, when the party has figured each other out and the narrator has dropped the first bombshell event. That makes the previous half of the campaign part of the back story. Whether this was intentional or not I may never know, but it does bring an important note to mind. When you are writing out your campaign, I find it’s best to create an outline of major plot points. With each of those points written out, you can look at the story you want to tell and determine where it will actually begin. It’s good to aim for an intended beginning rather than letting one happen naturally. You may open up in the tavern, and up until the party escapes the exploding mansion, you may realize that what happened in between was the prelude to the story.

The New and Improved Pulse Detector: More Detection per Pulse January 13, 2016 08:21

Now, your common run-of-the-mill Pulse Detector has one function: to pick up heartbeats. The range increases as the trinket is upgraded to higher marques. With one of these bad boys, you won’t likely be snuck-up on any time soon. However, there are several features that this device lacks, and here at Spendo’s Gallery of Improvements and Prototypes, we have taken to answering the big question: What else can it do?

For starters, let’s take a look at the primary feature. Heartbeats are common enough, as the majority of living things have one. Trouble is, not all of the lurking dangers you’ll face will have hearts conveniently shoved into them. For the mechanicals and the bizarre, we have developed a new feature! The Heartless Monster-Detector will tune into the sounds that accompany most automatons and machines. This upgraded Pulse Detector will now display any machinery with moving parts. A handy tool for the aspiring thief or the less-alert guard!

Our next feature we’d like to look at is something of a no-brainer. With the ability to detect multiple heartbeats, and now machinery too, you may find it difficult to figure out what it is your Pulse Detector is picking up. Look no further! The Pulse Identifier saves you the trouble of guessing on the spot. This handy little feature measures the frequency of a pulse, and indicates whether it is organic, mechanical, or other. Now you no longer have to sit and wonder if your friend or coworker has been replaced with an automaton duplicate. Just turn on your Pulse Identifier and let the machine do the rest!

Finally we would turn your attention to this prototype over here. This is a marvel you won’t soon forget, or my name isn’t Spendo! This beauty of modern science is the answer to the oldest question in the world: Where did I put my keys? Search no further, folks! These handy, convenient, and quite charming Pulse Emitters will save you the trouble of searching again. These tiny devices can be attached to any surface, and will emit a pulse much like that of a heartbeat. This will allow the Pulse Detector to pick up the signal and, with the addition of the Pulse Identifier, display the whereabouts of your missing keys, tools, or other belongings.

Never live with uncertainty again, pick up your new and improved Pulse Detectors today! Our prices are so low, I’m practically giving them away!

  • Heartless Monster-Detector - 20 Princes
  • Pulse Identifier - 30 Princes
  • Pulse Emitters (each) - 5 Princes


Automatons and You: A Comprehensive Guide January 06, 2016 18:35

Let’s take a moment to talk about one of the best features of Tephra: automatons (the craftable kind that are probably not immediately trying to kill you). At first glance, choosing between the different kinds can be daunting and choosing augments even more so. Worry not! This guide to automatons will take you through your first steps toward figuring out exactly what you want from the best craft ever devised.

Let us first examine the three types of automatons available in the Playing Guide and go over their benefits and drawbacks with a fine-toothed comb.


Sometimes referred to as “steamers,” boiler automatons work as an extension of the operator. They boast a high number of wounds and a natural soak class comparable to medium armor, which can be combined with armoring to make these clunky bots some of the best defenders around. These automatons are controlled with a remote device, using the operator’s action points to take actions.


Because of their high defenses and the method of control, it is most common for these automatons to be built with the passenger augment, allowing the operator to sit inside and take advantage of the additional armoring and wounds.


These automatons have their own action points and a small number of hit points. The function of a fusebox is to act as another hero with its own selection of specialties. What makes these automatons unique is that specialties programmed into them operate at a specific skill value (minimum of 1). With the right augments, these automatons can boast the most skill usage or the most attribute values in the party.


There are two augments that raise the effective skill points these automatons use for choosing skills: Fusebox Specialist and Master Fusebox. Applying both yields a fusebox that at Marque IV has 25 skill points for any specialties it knows. This means it is a master of up to 5 specialties, allowing these automatons to serve as powerful snipers, brawlers, tacticians, or whatever you can dream up. On top of these augments, you can choose 3 attribute augments to give them higher attributes than most adventurers can possess.


Feeling wound up and ready to spring on anyone that crosses your path? You might be a clockwork. These little buggers are simple and deadly with the right augments. Programmed with directive augments, some of which allow sub-directive augments to be applied, these automatons can make even the most vulnerable target a well-defended person of interest surrounded by many, many bodies.


Want these things to wreck the field? Go ahead and give the avenge-me directive with the protect-me directive to these spring-traps. Anyone that attacks you will be attacking your clockwork, which will then fire back with ferocity.

You are now fully prepared to build an army of metal death machines that will give any narrator a headache. Want to get really crazy? Build all three and see what the battlefield looks like then. Want to read more about automatons? The Playing Guide can help you there!

The Arachnoforge: From Pitch to Paper January 02, 2016 12:46

With the upcoming Narrator’s Accomplice being nearly finished, we find ourselves looking back on our favorite monsters and how they came to be. Some of them were created on the spot, others had months of writing put into them, and some started out as jokes before evolving into the amazing monstrosities that they are now. One of our favorite creations from the list of monsters has to be the Arachnoforge: the automaton spider that produces and manipulates molten metal. I had the pleasure of developing this beastie, and I wish to share with you how it came to be.

I was tasked with fleshing out and finishing a number of creatures from the Rogue Automatons chapter. When I took the dive into the automaton section, I saw a list of many mechanical monsters that needed work, love, and a hint of madness in order to be made whole. As fate would have it, the Arachnoforge, being first on the alphabetized list, would get the first wave of madness I could produce. I had a solid but sparse concept designed largely with the efforts of Martin Solis and Geoffrey Treece. There were notes about other ideas that had been added on, and some of them went in some interesting directions.

One of them made this thing out to be some sort of walking tank that forged and shot its missiles. While that certainly sounded cool, I didn’t find myself agreeing that something named the Arachnoforge should do that. No, I decided to go a different route. I decided this automaton should embody the tactics of a spider, and the mind of a predator. I wanted this to be a foe worth fearing.

I took inspiration from the initial note that the Arachnoforge should be a walking furnace of molten metal. It would secrete this metal from its thorax much like a spider’s silk, and shape it into anything it needed. The first use for this molten metal was the Arachnoforge creating a metallic latticework that would make the terrain difficult to walk through.

I wanted to have the feeling of entrapment on multiple levels, so I then thought, “What’s the most horrible way I can overpower some weak adventurers?” I looked through the initial concept notes, and the answer gave me one of those evil smiles you might find on Snidely Whiplash (sans the mustache to twirl). The Arachnoforge would grab at opponents, pinning them to the ground under its bulk. Then, held down, the Arachnoforge would slowly encased its in molten metal, limb by limb. That was when I knew this creature was going to be giving players proper nightmares..

Between the lattice of metal web, the grappling style, and the victims being encased from head to toe in metal until they’re burned and suffocated, I felt great pride when I turned this in to the boss man. My pride went even higher when he said it was his favorite beastie from the Rogue Automatons Chapter. It was even the first one to get its artwork done! I couldn’t be happier with how the Arachnoforge turned out, and I look forward to getting feedback from people's encounters with it.

See below for the Arachnoforge’s stats and info, or check it out in our Narrator’s Accomplice.

Arachnoforge AP: 3 PAR: 4

Defective Automaton

HP: 108  |  Wnds: 12  |  Pri: +4  |  Spd: 25 ft (land), 35 ft (climb)

Brute +5 | Cunning +5 | Dexterity +12 | Spirit +0 | Sciences +0


Iron Frame - medium metal armor

Eva: -1 Def: +3

Soak:  3  |  6  |  9  |  12

Note: If armor is sundered, the Arachnoforge will gain +10 ft land and +5 climb speed.

Immunities: Anatomical effects (diseases, gases, medicines, poisons, venoms), bio-flux, and all abilities requiring a spirit resist. Fire does not damage the Arachnoforge.



1 AP

Piercing Clutch - Unarmed Grab

Acc: +6 Stk: +4

Damage:  6  |  12  |  18  |  24

Notes: On hit, target is grabbed and takes damage based on strike roll. Target may break the grab by spending 1 AP and rolling a Brute or Dexterity resist opposing the Arachnoforge’s Dexterity roll.

The Arachnoforge can maintain six grabs at once.

0 AP (Part of a Move)

Gridlock - Molten Metal

As the Arachnoforge scurries about, it can leave a thin trail of iron behind. Using its hind legs, it can fashion an iron web. Any space this web ends up on becomes a higher tier of rough terrain. If the terrain was not rough, it becomes minor terrain. If the space was Tier 4 Impossible terrain, then the space becomes a solid wall that cannot be moved through.

Note: The latticework of this web does look quite nice, though.

1 AP

Encase (Reflexive)

Once the Arachnoforge has grabbed an opponent, it can begin covering the victim with molten metal. For every AP spent, the victim has one called shot location encased in metal, causing them to suffer wound effects until their next breather. The molten metal also deals 1 point of unsoakable damage on contact.

Note: The neck wound effect will not bleed, but will instead cause the victim to begin suffocating.

Beware the Salvagers December 04, 2015 09:27 1 Comment

Within the borders of each nation exist armies trained for war. Evangless has earned its place because of its military, a powerful force in Rilausia. So, when these trained soldiers run from something, it must be for good reason. Salvagers are that reason. These automatons exist to consume anything in sight, break them down into material components, and build more of themselves. The endless army of salvagers, controlled by the calculating Solari Engine, rampage across the landscape. In their wake entire towns are reduced to flattened land, buildings and people alike consumed by the mechanical monstrosities.

Many brave observers have taken to collecting as much knowledge about salvagers as they can. To date it has been determined that there are seven types of salvagers, each with a specific purpose.

The most recognizable salvager is the devourer. It is also the most horrific. This model is a mechanical nightmare, compiled from mismatched scraps of metal and other miscellania. Its purpose is to gather materials and construct other units of salvagers, though on rare occasions one has been observed simply using the materials to make itself bigger and more fierce.

The scout salvager is a smaller unit, roughly the size of a horse, that has been observed skulking around. It appears to possess enhances senses in order to suss out its search parameters. Some have been deployed to hunt down inhabitants of a town, while others have run through in search of precious metals.

In most recent months, a newer model of salvager has been seen to terrorize settlements. The aptly named reaper salvager rampages through towns with the express purpose to kill any organic thing in sight. The massive bulk of this model seems to keep it relatively safe from attack, while its maw contains a toxic poisonous gas mixture designed to ensure the extermination of any organic subject nearby.

In our upcoming Narrator’s Accomplice, we’ll be giving you several salvagers to choose from. For today, we’d like to share a peek at the Mammoth Salvager:


Mammoth Salvager

Towering over most buildings, this salvager looks to be part crane and part battleship. It is barrel-chested, trunk-legged, and all around big. Its right arm is a crane with a huge hook attached to a thick chain. Its other arm ends in a three-fingered hand designed for digging or picking up anything it is placed over.

Initially designed to aid construction efforts, the mammoth salvager has become a siege engine. It swings its massive hook to smash walls, rip roofs off buildings, and stop airships from flying away. With its digging claw, it is able to literally uproot buildings with minimal effort and can upend an entire city in under an hour.


This thing is huge! How does it fight? It swings its bulk about and smashes anything foolish enough to stay in the way. The chained hook is a primary means for doing this, while the digging claw can pick up nearby people or objects and send them flying faster than an airship with somewhere to be.

Mammoth Salvager   AP: 3   PAR: 6

Massive-7 Defective Automaton

HP: 500 | Wnds: 82 | Pri: +0 | Spd: 40 ft (land)

Brute +50 | Cunning +0 | Dexterity +0 | Spirit +0 | Sciences +0


Riveted Metal Plates (super-heavy metal armor)

Eva: -8 Def: +10

Soak:  15  |  30  |  45  |  60

Weak Spots: Eyes, ears, head, neck (can be affected by called shots, wounds, and fatals made by any size weapon)

Immunities: Anatomical effects (diseases, gases, medicines, poisons, venoms), called shots, wounds, and fatals made by size-2 super heavy weapons, bio-flux, and all abilities requiring a spirit resist


1 AP

Tromp (normally as a move)

Acc: +1 Stk: +7 Reach: 35 ft

Damage:  26  |  52  |  78  |  104

Note: The mammoth can tromp any creature that is size 1 or smaller. While tromping, the mammoth can make a free unarmed attack against a creature it is tromping over. The creature can dodge out of the way by spending 1 AP reflexively.


2 AP

Chained Hook (heavy metal melee weapon)

Acc: +5 Stk: +10 Reach: 80 ft

Damage:  30  |  60  |  90  |  120

Note: This weapon can make grabs on massive-3 to massive-5 targets. Anything smaller cannot be grabbed.

1 AP

Shovel Claw

Acc: +1 Stk: +7 Reach: 35 ft

Damage:  26  |  52  |  78  |  104

Note: The shovel claw is able to grab anything up to massive-5 size (plus the immediate area).

Doesn’t this automaton look amazing? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Character Spotlight: Vadim “Lockdown” Aristov November 03, 2015 12:27

Within the cities of Zel Host, one might expect to see the results of dangerous experiments roaming about, commonly evading even the authorities. This is where many mercenaries and bounty hunters have an opportunity to take on some high-paying jobs. Vadim Aristov is one such bounty hunter.

Born into a poor family, Vadim didn’t have much in the way of prospects. Both parents were assistants to local scientists, but their lifestyle hadn’t improved. Vadim took to making his own work by taking on odd jobs from anyone needing help. What started as an innocent service turned shady quickly, and soon he was helping to smuggle controversial and dangerous goods for some notable scientists. When Vadim had learned enough to get by, he started making a new name for himself. He had seen the dangerous side of society, and saw his chance for redemption. He designed his own weapons, tools, and gadgets to serve his non-lethal approach to capturing some of the most dangerous targets in Zel Host. With a crossbow launching rubberized darts and specially crafted grabnets, Vadim began to draw attention from other mercenaries and locals. His methods earned him the pseudonym “Lockdown” due to his penchant for completely neutralizing his targets.


Vadim’s tactics are  straightforward; he doesn’t change his approach unless a situation calls for it. With his wrist-mounted crossbows Vadim will work to disable his target’s senses and hinder their movement. He favors called shots to the eyes and legs. Once his target shows signs of exhaustion, he will load his Lockdown Grabnet, a grabnet with three sets of handcuffs built in, and carefully land his shot on his target. Once wrapped up in the net, the target has a brief window of time to escape, but usually a called shot to the groin  will keep them from doing so. Vadim will approach the target, fasten all three sets of handcuffs, and knock the target unconscious for good measure. From there, Vadim delivers the target and collects the greater of the bounties. Many mercenaries and bounty hunters have started to copy Vadim’s methods, as a live target is usually more profitable than a dead one.

Creation Concept

This character concept was inspired by the Omnitrinket. I had seen other amazing combinations with this trinket, like a portable door frame that is also a pitcase. My idea is to combine the grabnet with handcuffs for a complete, non-lethal shutdown. When it came to applying it to a character, I had to consider how the character would work. In a game where it’s easy to find many ways to kill opponents, I felt compelled to take the Batman approach. The main feature is the grabnet, which must be removed before the target can do anything else. When I saw that Handcuffs had to be broken out of before any other action could be taken, I was inspired. With these two trinkets combined and used properly, I had my Lockdown. My hope is that this character might inspire other interesting builds from outside the box.

Vadim “Lockdown” Aristov

Level: 4 Ap: 4
HP: 33 Wounds: 12
Priority: 7 Speed: 20 feet, 5 feet climb, 5 feet swim


Leather armor with metal plates (medium armor)
Eva: 0 Def: 0
Soak: 3 | 6 | 9 | 12


Rubberized Crossbow Dart (1 AP)
Range: 75 feet
Acc: 7
Damage: 3 | 6 | 9 | 12
Note: Rubberized darts do not deal fatal effects. Target is knocked unconscious once wounds are gone.

Lockdown Grabnet (1 AP)
Range: 75 feet
Acc: 7
Target is wrapped by a special grabnet containing three sets of handcuffs built in. The net can be removed by spending 2 AP. If the target becomes bound by the handcuffs, they can be broken with a tier 3 Brute roll.
Note: In order to break the handcuffs, the net must first be removed. In order for the net to be removed, the handcuffs must be broken. Anyone restrained by both is completely helpless until someone or something else sets them free.

Aim (1 AP)
Gain bonus on next ranged accuracy roll. May be used multiple times for a higher bonus, but lost if attacked before used.
Tier 1 +1 to accuracy roll
Tier 2 +2 to accuracy roll
Tier 3 +3 to accuracy roll
Tier 4 +4 to accuracy roll

Resilience: +2  
Agility: +1
Marksmanship: +6
Espionage: +1
Luck: +1
Armsmith: +5
Gadgetry: +5

Brute: +2
Dexterity: +7
Cunning: +1
Spirit: +1
Science: +10


Specialties: Crossbow Craftsman, Trinket Crafter, Invisible Blade, Snap Reload, Aim, Sneaky Seconds

Augments: Omnitrinket, Grabnet, Handcuffs, Delivery, Scope, Accurate

Racial Traits: Innovative, Peerless, Reactionary

Stories: Lawman, Kinematician

How to Build and Play a Sniper October 23, 2015 13:39

The lone figure crouches behind a barrel, the only contrast to his silhouette is the glint of his rifle. He chances a look above the barrel and spots his unsuspecting target. He stabilizes himself on the barrel’s top and lines up the crosshairs. Time seems to slow down. While releasing a deep breath, he squeezes the trigger, and within a brief moment the target lies motionless on the ground. As confusion and panic spreads among the bystanders, the lone figure makes his exit.

Playing a sniper is among one of the most popular roles for Tephra adventurers. This role has the ability to look down the sights at a creature and silently eliminate it. It’s a tactical position to be in and in some cases the options for building one can be overwhelming, confusing, and unclear. In Tephra, there are many ways to build and play a sniper and with the wide selection of specialties, you have all the tools you need to design a sniper to fit your preferred playstyle.

Read more here