Monthly Archives: September 2012

Worldbreaking the 13th Age: Etherkai, the Nightmare Dragon

Worldbreaking the 13th Age: Etherkai, the Nightmare Dragon


Some of you may be familiar with my failed project of the Worldbreakers (Never heard of the Worldbreakers? Check out my old site… ).  I left that mostly behind with At-Will, but I’ve been playing a lot of 13th Age lately.  I’ll talk more about why this is the game that fans of pretty-much-dead 4e fans really should play later, but for now I just want to share a little rendition of a classic Worldbreaker monster for you, rendered for 13th Age.


I realized that Worldbreakers actually have better hooks to do the things that I want them to do in 13th Age.  We lose precise tactical movement but guess what we don’t need? Precise tactical movement. Worldbreaker fling you across the map, make impossible leaps, tear the earth asunder….it’s actually easier to describe this with a loose system than it is a tight system (though describing it well in a tight system is very fun and a good challenge). I’m going to share with you Etherkai’s story, and you can get the playtest PDF here.  If you want to playtest and offer feedback, that would be awesome!


Does this mean that Worldbreakers are back? Maybe?  If Worldbreakers become some sort of product, anyone who was on my failed KSer is first on the list for what it comes out to.  Right now, I don’t know.  13th Age looks like it it will be way friendlier to 3rd party creatives, as does its community.  Right now I think I’m just going to have fun, and I’ll share my fun with you as I do it.


Etherkai, the Nightmare Dragon


The dragon Etherkai commanded incredible psychic and draconic powers, which led him to believe he would inevitably rule the underearth. This belief led him to the path of the conqueror, and he used his powers to subjugate many lesser beings. The conquests came quickly and easily, and soon his holdings were vast

His arrogance grew just as quickly as his empire and after many decades, conquest bored him. Once, food and cruel amusements were enough, but now Etherkai craved his followers’ adoration. He wanted them to worship him as their god.

Etherkai ordered them to open temples and hold services in his name. He then proclaimed himself the God of the Long Night. Thinking his worshippers were convinced of his divinity and in his thrall, Etherkai fell into a false sense of security and relaxed his grip on his empire.

With Etherkai’s guard down, his people searched the vast caverns of the underearth for a savior and they found an altar to a forgotten god. Desperate, they offered small sacrifices and offerings and in return they received small miracles. Old wounds the dragon had dealt them were healed, sight was restored to the blind and aged limbs were given youthful strength. This small god—his followers came to know him as The Chained God—was just as cruel as Etherkai, but his divinity was real. More importantly, the Chained God knew something Etherkai did not: a god can terrify and punish and take anything it wants…except its worshippers’ faith. Faith only comes if you give something to your worshippers they cannot find anywhere else. The Chained God was cruel, but not arbitrary, and he could show restraint while Etherkai was wanton and indulged his whims for violence and blood.

The Chained God gained followers quickly, trading power for worship and obedience. Soon, he asked them to trust in him. He would lend them his power, and they would use it to depose the fake god, offering as tribute Etherkai’s body and mind to the Chained God for eternal torture. When Etherkai next came for his tribute, he found rebellion instead and the would-be god’s people wrapped him in chains of bewitched metal, dragging him to the temple of their new lord. That day, Etherkai’s torture at the hands of The Chained God began. It did not end for more than a hundred years and the dragon’s screams filled an area of underearth soon called the Howling Caves.

It is unclear how Etherkai escaped, but the effects of his torture are obvious: countless wounds, burns that refuse to heal and a hyena-like cackle that is an audible image of his broken mind. He roams the underground realms, his quest for revenge against The Chained God and his former worshippers holding his broken mind and broken body together and moving them to action. When that ambition is frustrated, he bides his time by sharing his pain and insanity with any unfortunates who cross his path. Those who know of Etherkai speak of a mad dragon whose warped psychic powers tap into a realm of distorted dreams. Living on the verge of death and completely insane, he is the Nightmare Dragon. When he awakens, his cackle echoes through the underground realms.


Etherkai PDF

Pulling the Trigger: Lucca

Pulling the Trigger: Lucca

Next up, Lucca!  And after that, probably Ayla. Look, I don’t know why but the ladies’ datafiles are coming to me faster than the guys’. That’s just how it is. Check out Marle if you missed it.

Grab Lucca’s Datafile PDF!



Solo d10          Buddy d6          Team d8

Lucca the Great!
I Think I Can Fix It
A Perfect Lady

Flames of Genius
SFXArea Attack. Against multiple targets, for each additional target roll an extra d6 and keep an extra effect die.
SFXProtect.  When you use Gadget Aresnal to create protection for an ally as a Support Action, step up the effect die by +1.
SFX: HypnoWave – Spend 1 PP when you use Gadget Aresnal to inflict Mental Stress on multiple enemies. Inflict the smallest remaining die in your pool on all enemies as a Complication as well.
SFX: Napalm Mega-Bombs. When you use both Fire Magic and Gadget Aresnal in an action to inflict Stress, step up or double Fire Magic. Add your smallest die (minimum d6) to the Doom Pool if your action succeeds or your largest if it fails.
SFX: Dual Tech. When you use a Flames of Genius  power to create an Asset that helps an allied character in a conflict, you may replace two dice of the same size with one die +1 step larger.
Limit: Out of MP! Shut down Fire Magic to gain 1 PP. Recover by activating an Opportunity or during a Transition Scene.
Limit: WonderShot. When you use Gadget Aresnal to inflict Physical Stress, earn 1 PP before you roll. Use the highest showing die as your Effect die after you have totalled your Result.

Prism Amor
SFX: Proper Precautions.  Spend 1 PP to double or step up Accessories.
Limit: Risky Defense.  Earn 1 PP when you do not use Prism Mail in a defensive die pool.
Limit: Gear.  Shut down Accessories to gain 1 PP. Recover by activating an Opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

Covert Expert d8         Medical Expert d8          Vehicle Expert d8
Tech Master d10          Science Master d10

1 XP    when you spout technobabble to someone who does not have your level of expertise.
3 XP   when you adopt a child orphaned by war or disaster.
10 XP when you either defend your orphanage from attack or flee and leave the children with someone else

1 XP     when you create a Resource during a transition scene by fixing or upgrading something
3 XP    when a piece of tech you created is used properly for an unintended purpose
10 XP  when you accept or turn down the chance to collaborate with another inventor on an idea based on moral or ethical grounds


Thoughts on this datafile:

1) Lucca not being a Combat Expert is intentional. She uses her Accessories (think Sight Scope or Sun Shades) instead.

2) I changed the Prism Dress to Prism Mail. I don’t buy any of these ladies fighting in a dress.

3) Covert Expert comes from Lucca’s attempted jailbreak of Crono. She saves your behind if you don’t save your own. Also, few of these characters have any covert experience so if I’m going to give the Speciality to someone, it should be Lucca.

4) Since Chrono Trigger characters aren’t as high-powered as superheroes, I would consider allowing two d8 Scene Distinctions to help balance things out again. These die pools might be a bit small. On the other hand, characters like Lucca are STRONGLY encouraged to create Resources to cover that deficiency, so perhaps not. Something to think about.

5) Chrono Trigger power sets aren’t as narratively logical as proper MARVEL characters. Instead, they seem to be coming out as having one active set (weapons, powers, magic, etc) and one passive set (usually gear). I think it’s important to create it this way for the flavor of the setting, particularly Dual Techs. (Theoretically Triple Techs as well, but we have something else up our sleeves for that.) Chrono would never attack with a sword and lightning at the same time; he would attack with lightning while Frog goes into melee. Giving each character a unique Dual Tech flavor and encouraging single-weapon rolls is a big part of what I hope captures the unique Chrono feel.

Small Conquers Big: Building your Creative Work 15 Minutes at a Time.

Small Conquers Big: Building your Creative Work 15 Minutes at a Time.

Pressfield’s always got good stuff, but his piece on Thinking in Blocks of Time  really resonates with me and how I’ve been working lately.

To expand on this a little, here is something I’ve been doing.  I’ve got a lot of stuff to do.  Tons of stuff!  And in the midst of that, my writing I know can suffer.  I have a few projects that I am working on (Dicefighter revision, All is Lost, and something I’m calling “DungeonThing”) and I want to get at least the first two done before Metatopia.

MY old approach would be to say, ok, I’ve got to work on this evry day or on X day or something *completely vague and unhelpful*.

Here’s what I do now:

I write on Dicefighter for 15 minutes a day, and stop when that timer goes off.
I write on All is Lost and DungeonThing for 5 minutes each every day.

The secret for me is that 15 minutes is a productive block of time, but is also an easy block of time to find.  5 minutes is even easier to find and stilol productive.

I am finding it really helpful.  I can see the projects build up every day, and am always amazed at the progress I can make in a week.

On top of that, on the weekend I have chunks of free time.  If I have a ton of energy or more I want to work on with these projects, I can sit for a few hours if that’s what I choose.

I can take advantage of inspiration when I need, but working in these short bursts, lets me keep the creative pressure up so I always have something to write, and also short circuits the brain’s impulse to go “I’ve got no time for that!”  For freelance assignments I have developed a different workflow, but the two complement each other, so I can do both in the same day without feeling like I’ve burnt myself out on creating and writing for the day.
If you have some creative and/or personal project you’re working on, I completely recommend trying this approach.  Tell me how it works for you!


Pulling the Trigger: New Game (Cortex)+

Pulling the Trigger: New Game (Cortex)+

It’s no secret that we love the MARVEL Heroic Roleplaying Game here at ThoughtCrime. As Quinn and I were sitting around talking shop one evening, we got into a discussion of what things we would like to do with MARVEL that we could never actually publish for money. I started to talk about some Final Fantasy stuff at first before Quinn hit me with “have you ever played Chrono Trigger?”

Have I ever played Chrono Trigger? Seriously?!

Now of course he knew the answer to that question going in. It was less actual query and more creative nudge, but sonuvagun if it’s not an excellent creative nudge.  SO…..!

This post will be the first in a series (you know how much I like writing serial posts!) I’m calling “New Game (Cortex)+” where I write up Chrono Trigger characters using the MARVEL system. Quinn already called dibs on doing some Event writing, so that’s going to be his part of this. We’ll probably even do some Marvel Monday sessions with it at some point because, c’mon it’s fricking Chrono Trigger!!!

The first entry I submit to you all dear readers is Marle.

Wait, Marle??!

Yeah, Marle. I started writing with Crono but admittedly I’m not thrilled with that datafile yet. It needs a little more zing, so you’re getting Marle first. The text-only write up is below. Those of you who like shiny things should go here instead.


Solo d8          Buddy d6          Team d10

Questing Princess
Ancient Lineage
Sheltered Idealist

Crystal Spirit
ICE MAGIC d8           VALKYRIE BOW d6            SYMPATHETIC AURA d10
SFX: Area Attack (Ice Magic only). Against multiple targets, for each additional target roll an extra d6 and keep an extra effect die.
SFX: Provoke.  Spend 1 PP when an enemy with any Mental Stress fails an action against a hero. Step down the enemy’s Effect die and apply it to another enemy as a Complication.
SFX: Haste – When you make a successful support action using Sympathetic Aura, you may choose to have the targeted hero forego rolling the Asset die into his or her action pool. If you do, that hero may add the Asset die in as a free Effect die so long as the action succeeds.
SFX: Dual Tech. When you use a Crystal Spirit power to create an Asset that helps an allied character in a conflict, remove the highest die from the Doom Pool before the Entity rolls against you. Step it down and then return it once your support action resolves.
SFX: Safe Healing. Using Sympathetic Aura in the middle of an Action Scene to remove stress does not make the Stress worse if the  action fails.
Limit: Out of MP! Shut down Ice Magic and Sympathetic Aura to gain 1 PP. Recover by activating an Opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

Schala’s Pendant
SFX: Two-Part Key.  Both Magic Siphon and Royal Crest of Zeal can be used against doors, barriers or other wardings that originate from Zeal.
Limit: Dreamstone.  Earn 1 PP when damaged or affected by other Dreamstone-specific magic or items.
Limit: Royalty.  Earn 1 PP if you step up emotional stress inflicted by any other noble or royal characters.

Combat Expert d8         Political Expert d8          History Expert d8
Psych Master d10


1 XP when you activate an Opportunity to create a MAGIC SIPHON Stunt.
3 XP  when you follow an informative lead to a new era in search of how Guardia came to possess the pendant
10 XP when you are either satisfied with the results of your search or abandon the investigation

1 XP when you make a comparison between where you are now and life in the castle
3 XP when you have a rare item or artifact secured in the castle basement
10 XP when you either defend the Masamune from being stolen from Guardia’s vaults or allow it to slip into enemy hands.


A few thoughts on the datafile to close out.

1) I’m calling the Watcher the Entity. Just a little flavor thing. I don’t have a good Chrono name for the Doom Pool yet, so if you think of one let me know.

2) I’m writing these datafiles assuming play starts AFTER the events of Chrono Trigger but BEFORE Chrono Cross. That said, I’m also trying to write the Milestones such that they make some sense if your group wants to actually play THROUGH Chrono Trigger as well. Funky, hunh?

3) You may have expected the Gear Limit on the Pendant. I thought about that for a while and decided against it. First, I think Dreamstone is a far more interesting Limit but that’s not the main point. Only once in Chrono Trigger does Marle lose the pendant and as soon as she does, she effectively becomes an NPC.  Any time Marle is in your party, she has the pendant so I will honor that here as well.

4) I’m really proud of Provoke. Haste is cool too, but man… Provoke makes me giggle with glee. One of the problems with the Confuse status in many tabletop settings is that it takes away player agency. In some games player agency is not assumed to begin with so no harm no foul, but for a game like MARVEL it doesn’t make as much sense. Using the mechanic here, the Confuse “probability” is “calculated” after a move has already failed so it’s less of a sting to the player being targeted. Feel free to wiggle your butt at the Entity when you spend that Plot Point.

5) Marle has a whole load of nothin’ to do after the events of Chrono Trigger. Lucca opens an orphanage, Robo becomes a part of FATE, Crono needs to save his mom but Marle? N’eh. She’s the queen. Not very action-packed..  well, at least until the Porre military shows up five years later. Finding her buy-in to the plot going forward definitely required a little imagination and character interpretation.

The Lost Datafiles: Ultimate Spider-Man

The Lost Datafiles: Ultimate Spider-Man

Like anyone who enjoys and/or works on the Marvel RPG, making datafiles becomes something of an obsession.  There’s stuff I can’t show you, but there is way more that I’m confident I can share with you…like Miles Morales and his best buddy Ganke!  Enjoy.

special thanks to Judd Karlman, Matthew Gandy, and Dave Chalker for their input.


Miles Morales [secret]


Solo d8
Buddy d10
Team d6


Did I..just do that?, Principled, What would Peter Parker do?

Power Sets


Electric Blast D8, Enhanced Senses D8, Enhanced Stamina D8, Enhanced Strength D8, Invisibility D8, Superhuman Reflexes D8, Wall-Crawling D6

SFX: Unleashed. Step up or double any Spider-Powers power for one action. If that action fails, add a die to doom pool equal to the normal rating of that power die.
SFX: Multipower. Add more than one Spider-Powers power die to your pool. Step back each Spider-powers power die in your pool once for each die beyond the first.
SFX: Spider-senses. When you have Enhanced Senses in your pool, you can spend 1 PP to reroll
SFX: Venom Strike. Whenever you make a SHOCKED complication and Electric Blast is in your pool, add d6 to the roll and step up the effect die.
Limit: Lacking Confidence. Step back all Spider-powers to gain 1 PP. Take an action vs the Doom Pool to recover.


Acrobatic Expert, Combat Expert, Covert Expert


With Great Power…

1 XP when you take a course of action that you think Peter Parker would make.
3 XP when you encounter a foe of Spider-Man or you explain to bystanders that you are the new Spider-Man.
10 XP when you defeat a former arch-enemy of Spider-Man by yourself or declare a new super-villain, not previously affiliated with Spider-man as your own arch-enemy.

Unlimited Potential

1 XP when you get an extraordinary success against a foe you are fighting.
3 XP when you use a new stunt or use a power you have not previously used.
10 XP When you beat a foe that has stressed out one or more heroes with more experience than you or admit that this super-hero stuff is hard and
seek out an older super-hero to be your mentor.

(Watcher Datafile)



Buddy D8
Team D6
Solo D4


Endless enthusiasm, Mostly Unnoticed, Spider-Man’s Confidante

Power Set

Partners in Crime

Encouragement D6 Wild Speculation D8

SFX: Sound Counsel? Whenever Ganke is in a transition scene with Miles Morales, Miles can make a roll vs the doom pool. If the roll succeeds, step up any resource die Miles gains in the scene by one. If the roll fails, step it back by one.
SFX: You Can Do This! Whenever Ganke is in a transition scene with Mile Morales, Miles can spend 1 PP to step up 1 Spider-Power until the end of the next action scene.
Limit: Strict Curfew. Add a D6 to the doom pool to remove Ganke from a transition scene.