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
SPENDO-BRAND: 91.6% GUARANTEED!
Automatons and You: A Comprehensive Guide January 6, 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 2, 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
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.
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.
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 4, 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:
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
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.
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.
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 3, 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.
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” AristovLevel: 4 Ap: 4
HP: 33 Wounds: 12
Priority: 7 Speed: 20 feet, 5 feet climb, 5 feet swim
GuardLeather armor with metal plates (medium armor)
Eva: 0 Def: 0
Soak: 3 | 6 | 9 | 12
Rubberized Crossbow Dart (1 AP)
Range: 75 feet
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
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
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 1 Comment
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.
Proven: Monocles CAN Protect You! April 7, 2015 16:00
The deliciously funny Zachary Weiner has released a new kickstarter, and it is simultaneously the most ridiculous non-sensical illogical kickstarter I have ever seen... while being completely freaking awesome.
May I introduce the Gentleman's Single-Use Unlubricated Monocle:
This is entirely ridiculous, but I can't help but support it.
Stop Giving Cracked Monocle Money April 4, 2015 14:24
In hindsight, I could've phrased that title a bit better.
If you are tired of giving Cracked Monocle money (or, more likely, you've purchased everything we have for sale and you still have mountains of money left over), you could always fund somebody else's dream of owning a deathray.
That's right, a deathray. Or, at the very least, a giant laser cutter.
See, there's this local group in Austin:
I'm at least 90% sure that they classify as super heroes in some way. And if not super heroes, they're at the very least delusional artist. It's often the same thing, right?
They are trying to get an amazing laser cutter. And there are a ton of cool perks that go with that. Interested in checking it out, funding their dream of world domination, and getting some cool stuff for it? Check it out here.
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