Monthly Archives: October 2012

Fiasco Playset: Candy Apples and Razorblades

Fiasco Playset: Candy Apples and Razorblades


We have a ghoulishly great Halloween treat for you, children. A one of a kind Fiasco playset, free of charge, and guaranteed to give you bad dreams for days. It will be a scream!

Okay, I’ll stop with the terrible Cryptkeeper impersonation. Fiasco is one of my favorite games, and I always thought it would be easy to write a playset. It wasn’t as simple as I thought, but I’m happy with the results. If you play Fiasco and enjoy scary stories about people getting into all sorts of messes on Halloween night, I think you’ll enjoy this.

A couple thank yous. Thanks to Bully Pulpit Games for making Fiasco. Be sure to check out their official playsets released each month. Second, thanks to “The Man Unmasked” for the playset template (download it and make your own!).  Thanks to Twitter people @dtrmcr and @triskaljm for some object suggestions. Finally, thanks to my wife Ashlee for whipping up a cover image.

It should be  a very fun to playset to use with Soundcrime #4. Let us know what you think, and if you’re interested in more playsets at Thoughtcrime!

Download the Candy Apples and Razorblades here.

Pulling the Trigger: Crono

Pulling the Trigger: Crono

The game is named for him; you’d think  this would be the first file completed. You’d be wrong. However, I think you’ll understand why it took so long as you read it over. Ladies and gents, the spiky haired mute hero himself, Crono!

Grab Crono’s Datafile PDF!



Solo d6          Buddy d8         Team d10

Mute Hero
Consort of the Princess
Enemies Through Time

Lightning Strikes
SFX: Area AttackWhen you target multiple characters with Lightning Magic , for each additional target roll an extra d6 and keep an extra effect die.
SFXLuminaire. For each die reading its maximum value in a pool using Lightning Magic that is not a Result or Effect die, step your Effect die up +1. If you step your Effect die up more than +1, immediately activate the Out of MP! Limit.
SFXSword Tech. When you use your Rainbow Blade and the effect die reads its maximum value, take another Effect die.
SFXDual Tech. When you use a Lightning Strikes power to create an Asset that helps an allied character in a conflict, that die always reads its highest possible value.
LimitOut of MP! Earn 1 PP by shutting down Lightning Magic. Recover during a Transition scene or by activating one of the Entity’s Opportunities.

New Game+
DEJA VU d6        MOON ARMOR d8
SFX: Memory of the Future. When you create a Resource during a Transition scene you may shut down Deja Vu while you have that Resource. If you do, the Resource comes in at the level of the Specialty it is linked to.
Limit: Requisite Timing. Discard a die showing its maximum value from your action pool before totalling Result and Effect dice to gain 1 PP.
Limit: Too Many Timelines. Step up Deja Vu by +1, convert it to a Complication and gain 1 PP. If you remove the complication, Deja Vu is recovered stepped up +1 until the next Transition scene.

Combat Master d10          Mystic Expert d8        Covert Expert d8       Athletic Expert d8
Vehicle Expert d8             History Expert d8

1 XP    when you formally declare an individual or faction to be an enemy of Guardia.
3 XP   when you personally conflict with an enemy leader.
10 XP when you either capitulate to or repel the Porre invasion.

1 XP    when you travel through time to investigate an event or lead.
3 XP   when you get stranded in the future or past.
10 XP when you discover a world or timeline that has been destroyed by Lavos.


Thoughts on this datafile:

1) New Game+ was actually the first Power Set I designed when starting this project several months back. I wasn’t happy with the first few iterations, however, and decided to come back to it near the end with a little more practice under my belt.  I’ve always had this picture of Crono in my head waking up one day and thinking “Why am I so strong? Where did this sword come from? Why is all the metal in my house shocking me and why do I feel like I’ve done this before?” Travelling through time, repeatedly altering history and living the same events over and over must be absolutely disorienting as heck.

2) Yes, I left out the Life spell. Of the seven main characters in the game, all but two (Lucca and Magus) have some healing capacity. I don’t feel bad adding Crono to this list for the tabletop translation.

3) Crono is the only MHRPG character I’ve seen (canon or third-party) who makes some positive use of dice not in the effect or result pools. I could be wrong.  There’s design space there no one’s touching. It’s sort of like when Magic: The Gathering began making cards useable from the graveyard and needed a new garbage can (“removed from game/exiled”).

Six characters down, one to go. Next week, the only fitting end I can give to this series  – the Dark Prophet, the Voice of the Black Wind, the mythical Fiend Lord himself – MAGUS.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Players, Part 3

7 Habits of Highly Effective Players, Part 3


Last week we discussed your character’s thoughts.  This week we talk about the actions your character takes.


Habit #4.  Make a Stand.

It’s quite possible to make it through a session where your character is never exposed to any emotional or physical risk.  A game where you always make the right move and maintain a perfect balance between right and effective action.

Such a game would be completely boring to me.

It’s not because I have problems with effective action, and it’s not because I want players to work against their own self-interests merely for entertainment. What I know when things are too safe and running too smoothly is that, while the group might be making correct actions, no one is taking bold action. No one is taking a stand.

I want to see characters putting themselves in positions where their beliefs, positions, and sometimes well-being can be challenged.  When you play it safe, you’re avoiding what makes that possible — conflict.  Making a lot of safe choices protects you, but makes our game a bit dull.

(Now, before we go on, I’m going to state that there are styles of play that take the exact opposite stance I take.  That is OK, and I hope you realize that while I’m not championing that style I realize it’s a valid style of play. Carry on and do your thing.)

It might seem like I’m advocating you taking needless risks, but that’s not it at all.  What happens in any good story is that most of the time our characters are being who they are, in situations that put them in conflict with other forces and characters.  At times, they are forced to make choices or take actions that bring what I like the think of as the “pitchfork”:  A three pronged road where to either side are a safe and a reckless choice, and in the middle is a choice that only that character can make.  Good shows bring their protagonists to the pitchfork at least once or twice an episode.  If  a character veers off to either side, we now that something is wrong; the character is obviously compromised or weakened somehow.  If that character keeps taking the side roads, something is seriously wrong with the character or something is seriously wrong with the show (for me, Boss is a great display of the former and the current season of Dexter is a great display of the latter).  We want to see that character walk the middle road, whatever the consequences, and we want to see what the result of that character being who she is.  It’s compelling in the stories we read and watch, and it’s compelling in the stories we play.

I need to repeat:  this is not about taking crazy risk or being obstinate and creating bottle-necks. It’s about knowing or learning who your character is and moving forward down the path that opens only for your character.  You can see where this piggybacks on Habit #3, because once you start thinking about your character’s thoughts, it aligns you and the character in such a way that you can start taking action as that character. “What does my character think?” rolls naturally into “What does my character do?”  If your goals and desires are vivid enough, what you should have a character that is a little bit unreasonable in a few ways.

Not “disagreeable”. Not “surly and uncommunicative”.  Not “I’m going to set a roadblock up in the middle of the session”. Simply unreasonable.  Every good story has one or more characters who have decided that they are going to be unreasonable.  Where others bend, they will not bend.  The players I want are going to play characters who do this, not to stop play but to build it.

As a GM, my main tool to encourage such play is to eradicate these  words: “nothing happens”.  Something must always happen.  It doesn’t have to be good –a failed roll might get you killed or locked up or whatever — but it has to be something.  Imagine you’ve waited for twenty minutes for your turn.  You announce your intent, roll a die and you fail.  “Nothing happens.” That’s painful. Pain like that leads players straight to bet-hedging mode.  If I know I have this small window of a roll or two rolls to have an entertaining moment, I’m going to play it safe, and I’m not going to roll the dice until I’m sure that I’ve got something providing a buffer against “nothing happens”.

Narration goes a long way here, but if your system allows it (or you want to design it), use whatever tools you have to give the player interesting (if not favorable) feedback.  Even bad news is better than no news. Another good trick is to make players own their failure.  “How did you screw that up?” is a great way to make even a failure a source of entertainment.

To get players to play less safe, it is vital that you as a GM create and environment where both success and failure are active and vibrant parts of your game.




7 Habits of Highly Effective Players, Part 2

7 Habits of Highly Effective Players, Part 2



Our first post laid the groundwork.  I’m going to slow this down a bit and discuss each point thoroughly.  This post is about Habit #3: Talk About  Your Thinking.

3. Talk About Your Thinking

There is this taboo about discussing the contents of your character’s head. I disagree with it but I get where it comes from. The taboo is clearly a measure taken against the dreaded monster of metagaming.
Metagaming and my thoughts on it need another post, but in short: I don’t think metagaming is as big a deal as it’s been made out to be. I don’t care if you the player use something your character doesn’t know to steer play, as long as the resultant play is interesting. If you are using the information to make the game more constrained and less interesting, it’s not the metagaming that’s the problem, it’s your use of it.
Again, this is a full post on it’s own,  but I need to be upfront that this habit will strike some people as very metagame-y. On the other hand, I feel that anyone who already does this is probably nodding her head right now.  For people in the middle, let me break it down a bit more.
Discussing at points what your character is thinking  creates more opportunities for better roleplaying.  Being in-character as much as possible rocks, but what I’ve found that having to stay in character doesn’t always create the best roleplaying moments.  I’m trying to be my character, but let’s face it: it is going to be difficult for me to get inside the head of a half human, half dragon creature, or to occupy the mind of a dwarf who has lived for hundreds of years.  Part of the fun is the trying, but the trying bears more fruit if I step outside  the process and attempt to figure out what the character thinks in this moment.  I create a clearer connection between myself and my character before stepping backing in his skin.
Going one step further, sharing or explaining that thinking about your character’s thinking improves the level of roleplaying at the table.
You an keep your thoughts to yourself and just act based on those thoughts. Sharing ups the ante because when you know how my character thinks, you can react in a way that complements or opposes your own character.  When you share your thoughts and I respond, we’ve implicitly framed a short scene based on our characters’ reaction to an event and each other, with not a single change to any rule anywhere.  We didn’t have to develop a language or incur cognitive overhead with rules for establishing a scene (nothing wrong with such). We flowed naturally into it because you know as a player something about my character and you moved your character towards or away from it.
Need I say it?  You can’t overdo this.  But once or twice a a session in response to worthwhile events this can be powerful.  Thinking about what your character thinks and telling the table about it is for me a part of great gaming.
As a GM, the easiest way to move players towards this is to ask them what their characters think about different aspects of the setting or session. The power of the technique  is inverse to the abstraction of the question asked.  Ask “What should be done to evildoers?”  and you are almost guaranteed something cookie cutter.  Ask “would your character prefer to travel by horse or mule, and why?” and you might be surprised at how far you can follow the thought.  Specificity wins; ask specific questions about a character’s thoughts for the best answers.
Another note: thought must always translate into action.  After you share your character’s thoughts, you should always explain what your character might be doing that indicates that, or what action he’s about to take because of it.
Don’t try to make your characters mind-readers. Sometimes you want to share your character’s thoughts but not put them “on the table” for reaction.  You might discuss what your character thinks, but also note that he keeps silent about it. In that case, you just acknowledge as a player what you know, but maybe later you suggest a follow up scene to discuss it. Maybe it doesn’t go anywhere and you simply learn more about someone else’s character, which is also great.

Pulling the Trigger: Frog

Pulling the Trigger: Frog

This morning’s Thoughtcrime goes deep into the Cursed Woods, looking for the one they once called Glenn…

Grab Frog’s Datafile PDF!




Solo d6          Buddy d10        Team d8

Mine Name is Glenn!
Scores to Settle
The Hero?

Legacy of the Hero
MASAMUNE d10                            NOVA ARMOR d8
WATER MAGIC d8                         HERO’S MEDAL d6
SFX: Area AttackWhen you target multiple characters with Water Magic , for each additional target roll an extra d6 and keep an extra effect die.
SFX: Grandleon. Instead of spending 1 PP to add a Physical Stress die into one of your die pools, step your Emotional Stress track up +1 after you resolve the roll.
SFX: Dual Tech. When you create an Asset to assist an ally’s attack, change one ally’s complication into a Stunt for that character.
SFX: Healing Waters. You may use Water Magic to attempt to heal Physical Stress.
SFX: Hero’s Honor. If you have a d12 in two types of Stress when you start your turn, end the Scene as you see fit and remove all of your Stress.
Limit: Out of MP! Earn 1 PP by shutting down Water Magic. Recover during a Transition scene or by activating one of the Entity’s Opportunities.

Amphibian Anatomy
SFX: Cold-Blooded. Step up or double any Amphibian Anatomy power for one action. If the action fails, add a die to the Doom Pool equal to the normal rating of your power die.
SFX: Slimy Delivery. If you include Prehensile Tongue in a healing action and fail, step up Emotional Stress instead of Physical Stress.
Limit: Unworthy. Change any Amphibian Anatomy power into a Complication for non-combat Conflict and gain 1 PP. Remove the complication to enter combat.

Combat Master d10          Mystic Expert d8        Political Expert d8       Athletic Expert d8

1 XP    when you use two Amphibian Anatomy powers in a single dice pool.
3 XP   when you take Emotional Stress being reminded of your one humiliating defeat.
10 XP when you finally break your curse or ignore the chance to be fully human again.

1 XP    when you use the Hero’s Medal in a dice pool.
3 XP   when you visit Cyrus’ grave.
10 XP when you either find a successor to the Hero’s legacy or bury the tradition permanently.


Thoughts on this datafile:

1) Frog’s Ye Olde English Accent is precisely that – English only. In the Japanese version, Kaeru* has no unique speech. He’s also more of a go-getting buttkicker; the knighthood and honor issues are there, but less important.  One retranslation on the latest DS version makes this quite clear.  In the flashback scene where Cyrus saves Glenn from the mob of kids, Glenn states that he didn’t fight back because he knew he’d seriously hurt the other kids if he did (“getting hit hurts…  even for them”) as opposed to the “you’re a marshmallow, Glenn” comment from the original SNES game. This MHRPG adaptation of Frog is based largely on the English SNES version.
*Kaeru is of course Japanese for ‘frog’ but is also a multiple entendre as the word means “to change”, “to hatch” and “to return (home)” as well. Clever, eh?

2) Frog is a difficult character to transfer over in that all of his appeal is character and backstory. His continual struggles with himself, Magus and the legacy of Cyrus are gripping storytelling and he’s carrying around one of the game’s major macguffins, but his Techs are..  well…  “bland” is putting it nicely. There’s nothing he can do that other characters can’t also do. (Compare this to Marle, Lucca and Ayla who have both compelling stories AND unique Tech mechanics in Provoke, Protect and Charm respectively.) With the exception of Grandleon (see below), none of Frog’s SFX are based on Techs. All the Techs are hard-coded into the Powers (Masamune + Prehensile Tongue for Slurp Cut, Healing Waters + Area Attack for Cure 2, etc)

3) The Grandleon (the Japanese name for the Masamune) SFX replaces Frog Squash and attempts to incorporate some of what makes Frog an interesting character – the high standards he sets for himself. In a similar train of thought, the “Blessing or Curse” Milestone is also a matter of Frog’s self-perception. Being transformed seems to physically help Frog and the only people to really mess with him about it are Magus and the Mystical Knights (Flea, Ozzie and Slash). It’s not really about being a frog, it’s about losing gracefully.

4) Every character so far has a sort of mechanical light motif. Marle makes sure no one’s actions are lost. Lucca creates huge dice. Ayla creates lots of dice. Robo can take a temporary setback to boost himself. Frog grows more powerful as he gets beat up.. to a point. So long as he walks the thin line between victory and defeat, he is an absolute monster (pun intended).

7 Habits of Highly Effective Players, Part 1

7 Habits of Highly Effective Players, Part 1
We’ve discussed running games with no story or plot ahead of time, but  do you know how those games run best?  When they are populated with players running their characters with a suitable mindset.  As you have come to expect, I  disagree with some common wisdom on what makes a “good” player (I hate the good/bad dichotomy in  RPG discussions, but that is another post altogether ), and probably agree with other sources of wisdom. When I run games, I look for players who will utilize these habits or players I can help incorporate them.
Here’s the list:
1. Have Goals
2. Have Desires
3. Talk about your Thinking
4. Make a Stand
5. Stop Trying to be Right
6. Fear is not inaction
7. Play and Watch
0. Think Before You Play.  OK, I am cheating a little here with the numbering scheme, but I need to say that everything here assumes that you think about the game that you are playing, and your role within the larger structure.  If you just want to see your part and little else, then my advice probably won’t mean much at all for you or group.  When I look for people I want to play regularly with, I look for people who want to examine what they’re doing in the space of the game.  The greatest aspect of RPGs to me is that you get to “watch” the same the story you’re making, and I want most to play with people who appreciate or can be made to appreciate that.
1. Have Goals. At the basic level,  it’s just important that your character wants something big.  Does your character want to be a lord?  Does your character want to have the world’s largest collection of magic swords?  It doesn’t really matter what that goal is as long as you have something that you want that’s too big to get right away.  The best goals are ones which will force your character to change over time to achieve.
Goals don’t have to be things negotiated with the gamemaster.  If you negotiate with your GM, he can throw out hooks for you, but the best part of having character goals is how it drives your play, not what it enables your character to get in the story.
2. Have Desires. Sounds like goals at first, but when I discuss desires I am discussing needs your character have which act on the short term, on the level of impulses. You can have goals which guide you long term, and desires that effect you in the short term.  A great character design pattern is to make a character with a strong goal with a strong desire that often stalls his progress towards his goal. A character who wants to be a lord, but with a desire to always speak the truth (and bluntly) is going to be in many situations where he could advance his stature, but sabotages himself as he tells yet another noble what he really thinks of them.
An alternate way to describe desire: impulse, compulsion, need.  What does your character have to do, even when it is sometimes not in his best interest?
Next week we’ll talk about habits 3-5, but for now let’s talk about 0-2.  What do you think?  Have you encouraged players to do any of what I’ve listed?

TechNoir – The Triangle Transmission

TechNoir – The Triangle Transmission

In case you haven’t noticed by now (what with all the Chrono Trigger MARVEL stuff coming out), I’ve taken a REAL fondness to desktop publishing. Now mind you, I’m using Scribus, GiMP and InkScape instead of a proper Adobe suite (that crap is bloody expensive) but I think it’s turning out rather well.  The production of more ‘pick-up-and-use’ gaming material has been a primary goal for ThoughtCrime since its launch. I hope training up some basic layout skills will move us further along towards that goal.

Anyway, these little two-page projects have given me the confidence to try something a bit more substantial. I’ve had a TechNoir  Transmission sitting around my hard drive for several months now, just waiting for Jeremy Keller to break loose from the myriad of other projects he works on (MARVEL, FateCore, MechNoir, HexNoir, etc) to take a look at my idea. With his blessing and encouragement, I went ahead and tried to write, format and lay the whole thing out myself.

The job was a bit bigger than I expected though admittedly I’m still pretty new to Scribus at the same time, so factor that in. It took me probably a month to put together, but..

No. I’ll let you judge my level of success for yourselves. With no further ado, the latest offering from ThoughtCrime Games….



Get The Triangle Transmission PDF here!


Webcomics: Greyfriars

Webcomics: Greyfriars


Hello! When I’m not curating new Soundcrimes on the site, I write short stories and comics.  I’ve just launched a new webcomic called Greyfriars, and I’d like to share it with you.

Greyfriars is an all-ages supernatural adventure based on the true story of Greyfriars Bobby. Famous as the world’s most faithful dog, Bobby stayed by his master’s grave for fourteen years before he died himself. There’s a statue of him in Edinburgh, Scotland,  and several movies and books were made about him. If you’ve seen the Futurama episode “Jurassic Bark,” then you’re already familiar with this story’s influence.

Bobby isn’t the only legend surrounding the cemetery, and when I heard these stories, it inspired me to combine my love of Gothic horror, children’s adventures, and Celtic mythology. What if Bobby wasn’t sleeping in the cemetery just because he was loyal? What if he knew about the dark forces at work there, and he was continuing his master’s duties as a guardian against the supernatural?

My sister-in-law Junelle Faye (@junabelle) illustrates the comic, and her Wacom tablet brilliantly captures all the animals and mythological beasts prowling in my head.

You can read the comic every Wednesday at, and follow our Facebook page for updates, sneak peeks, and recommendations for other kid-friendly frights.


~David (@quickermcwild)

Pulling the Trigger: Robo

Pulling the Trigger: Robo

After 400 years of toil, it is completed. Let us celebrate our reunion..  with Robo’s datafile!

Grab Robo’s Datafile PDF!



Solo d8          Buddy d6         Team d10

Spiritual Machine
Practically Indestructible

R-Series Defense Platform
SFX: Area Attack. Against multiple targets, for each additional target roll an extra d6 and keep an extra effect die.
SFXShock. Useable only when the Overload Limit is active. Activate one of the Entity’s Opportunities to replace Laser Battery (d8) with Plasma Discharge (2d12) for your next action. Shut down the Overload Limit until the next Transition Scene. 
Meltbeam. Useable only when the Overload Limit is active. Activate one of the Entity’s Opportunities to step up all Effect dice +1 for your next action as long as the pool includes Laser Battery. Shut down the Overload Limit until the next Transition Scene.
SFXHigh-Tech Healing. Using Nanite Generator  to remove Physical stress does not make the Stress worse if the  action fails.
SFXDual Tech. When you use an R-Series power to create an Asset that helps an allied
character in a conflict, instead grant a d6 for each step of your Effect die. The assisted player may keep as many Effect dice as d6s you granted.
LimitOverload. Earn 1PP by taking an Overloading (d10) Complication. Recover during a Transition scene or by using the Shock or Meltbeam SFX.

R-Series Chassis
SFXImmunity. Spend 1 PP to ignore physical Stress inflicted by an enemy’s attack.
SFXUzzi Punch. When you spend 1 PP to keep an extra Effect die in an attack pool containing Superhuman Strength, keep two Effect dice instead.
LimitRobot. Earn 1 PP when you are damaged or affected by electronic means.
LimitSelfless. Earn 1 PP by accepting the Physical Stress that would be dealt to an ally. This Stress can not be reduced or altered in any way.

Tech Master d10          Science Master d10        Combat Expert d8

1 XP    when you make a decision against your own self-interest.
3 XP   when you volunteer for a task not possible for a human.
10 XP when you either accept being installed into a new system or shut down that system.

1 XP    when you ask Lucca or another character about a human emotion or experience.
3 XP   when you muse aloud about the Entity.
10 XP when you either save Atropos from reprogramming or deactivate her permanently.


Thoughts on this datafile:

1) Robo is another character where some liberties are taken with the description of certain attacks. The description of Area Bomb/Proximity Bomb says “damage enemies with Meltbeam”, so rather than have Robo continually exploding(?), this Tech is explained as being a powered-up laser beam.

2) Robo tends to get beat up for the sake of the team on several occasions. In the Proto Dome, he holds doors open with his body. When he is first discovered, Robo tries to defend Crono and either Lucca or Marle from the remaining R-Series by letting them thrash him. A similar event occurs during the fight with Atropos, which Robo insists he must do alone. The restoration of Fiona’s Forest is also brought about at Robo’s expense – 400 years of work and disrepair. The Overload and Selfless Limits as well as the Immunity SFX seek to represent this mechanically and provide Robo with a unique way to power his most spectacular abilities.


Marvel Mondays #11: Notes from the Underground

Marvel Mondays #11: Notes from the Underground

Luke’s first attempt at recruiting –Bruce Banner — didn’t really go so well.  Maria Hill broke up the party around midnight on Registration Day.  Luke goaded Banner into hulking out, which got them out but also sent Hulk on a S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier destroying rampage.  Luke and Beast parted ways (“There’s no problem to which summoning the Hulk is a proper answer, Luke!”), bu a late to the scene Moon Knight was eager to band with the hero for hire.

Luke sees the need to organize heroes to fight for what’s right and oppose the SHRA.  He’s tough, but he knows he needs more than just him and Moon Knight.  He’s going to have to recruit some heroes and build an network…

Join us tonight and see what happens during recruitment.