Tag Archives: sigil and shadow

State of the Grenade: Summer 2015

Just a bit of an update for projects we’re working on over here.


Sigil & Shadow

SigilThe game is getting closer and closer to being ready. There’s been some hefty revisions to how certain parts of the game have been approached. I’m pretty certain, though, that I’m finally at a point where I’m happy how the magic system and the supernatural powers work. Right now my main focus is in the flavor of things — the default cosmology and setting details. The goal is to provide a game world mythology that can be taken out easily and replaced with whatever mythos the GM intends to run, but still delivers plenty of flavor and intrigue so others would actually want to run the default setting.

Up until now, my goals with the game have been merely mechanical — I wanted to create a game that fills everything I want and love in the genre of modern horror and fantasy without all the stuff that I felt bloated things down for both players and Game Masters. Now that I have that, I want it to be something more than just a rules alternative. A friend of mine asked me the other night “What makes your game stand out from, say, the Buffy RPG?” All I could answer was in terms of mechanics. My goal in the next couple weeks is to provide a better answer with content to back it.

Main Sequence

Main SequenceSomething I’ve been keeping a lid on for a bit: Matt Bryant is currently doing some revisions and brainstorming for a big update of Main Sequence. He’s let me in on some juicy intel, some of which includes a provided setting that spans three eras of play. We plan on giving this version the works — a new layout and design, some better attentions to detail, that kind of stuff.

Another big announcement related to MS — WYRED is officially getting retired. I no longer really support or endorse it, as REWIRED was the direction I chose to take with that game.  Fans of the WyRM system shouldn’t fret, though! MS was originally a derivative of WYRED — pretty much the same game, just one had augmentations and the other had spaceships. So why not both? WYRED will now be merged with MAIN SEQUENCE, making the upcoming revision our one big go-to for WyRM powered science fiction!


I can’t give a proper ETA on either project. S&S is the top of my priorities, and I’m shooting to be complete by late August or September. MS is dependent more on Matt’s schedule, which is centered around his own full-time (and over) work schedule. We can assure you, though, that we’re putting in lots of work and love to make these releases spectacular. We will be keeping updates here as best as we can.


Sigil & Shadow Progress Report: Feb 2015

“Shadow” by Wolfgangfoto CC-BY-ND

Passing the 1-year mark since this project has started, I’m pretty damn impressed with how much it’s grown and changed. So many rules have been gutted, others drastically altered and streamlined. I have a folder filled player characters, several printed copies of draft rule books, and scattered notes among my hard drive. The latest January Draft I’ve posted has been my favorite by far, and even that is about to get a scalpel to it (thanks to a ton of feedback provided by play testers.)

The biggest item I have to report is a revision on the approach to characters in S&S:
There’s been significant feedback concerning the lack of motivation or incentive for a player to want to play an Illuminated character (the game’s term for everyday men and women who are exposed to the world of the occult.) In the previous play test versions, Illuminated characters wracked up more Bones (the “luck points” of the system) and had a steady refresh of them, where monster characters needed to indulge their Shades (one of four dark sources of power) to replenish their Bones (which they generally had less of.)

The new approach that we’re playing with right now is Castings. Now, all characters must select whether they’re Illuminated or Shadowed, and each casting is further divided into four archetypes. These archetypes determine how a character replenishes their Bones throughout a gaming session:

For the Illuminated:

  • Seekers: Characters who strive to seek out new thrills, new knowledge, and explore the unknown.
  • Hunters: Characters devoted to hunting down, undermining, and removing paranormal threats.
  • Protectors: Characters who are willing to risk their own safety standing up against the tides of horror.
  • Keepers: Characters who are sworn to keep others from discovering forbidden truths.

And of course, our Shadowed characters:

  • The Ravenous: Paranormal beings that fuel their powers from a source of desire, addiction, or hunger.
  • The Devoted: Faithful followers who are gifted power from gods, demons, angels, spirits, alien minds or even zealous oaths.
  • The Hosts: Individuals possessed by other beings, and must learn to live with this alien mind.
  • The Afflicted: Those forced to live with the curse of their existence.

Note: The Shaded were previously referred to as “Creepers”, but this terminology has been changed for several aesthetic reasons.

Distribution of Power

The use of Bones in Sigil & Shadow has also been shifted a bit. Previously, anyone could spend a Bone in the same ways you could in Covert Ops: re-roll a failure, make another player or the GM re-roll dice, or even prevent character death (at least a little bit longer.) In the current versions, any character may spend a bone to re-roll, but all other cool tricks are strictly a perk to being Illuminated. Shadowed characters, instead, use their Bone points to push their supernatural powers to their full potential.

The tricky part in this change will be conveying that while characters replenish Bones from indulging in what drives their Casting, that the GM’s will need to be the ones to make the call if their actions were worth it or not. There’s already been some response like “Oh, so Hunters are just going to slay monsters and recharge” or “Seekers are just going to pick up a book and escape death later.” In my vision, it’d be more like the Hunter who stalks a vampire at a night club and manages to discretely undermine their attempt to feed earns a Bone back. Likewise, the Seeker who overhears a rumor about a haunting at a local cemetery and decides to stake out the location and document the necessary conditions for a sighting would recharge (while the person who stays in the New Age section of a book store for an hour gets funny looks and maybe a phone number.)

Other Fun Bits

I’m really trying to adapt the d00Lite system for this game to only require two, different-colored ten sided dice. Aside from the changes mentioned in the October Update, I’m changing the traditional character creation system to die rolls of 50+2D for each ability. I’m also taking a cue from various members of the BareBones community, and implementing a system of “Advantage/Disadvantage” where certain situations will allow a player to swap which die is rolled in the 10’s place of a percentile roll.

Feel free to ask any questions about Sigil & Shadow in the comments below! You can also apply for the playtest on this page!

Sigil & Shadow: October Update

Playing Catch Up on my Modern Horror RPG

Image by Vinoth Chandar Licensed CC-BY
Image by Vinoth Chandar
Licensed CC-BY

It’s been some time since I’ve given any public updates about the progress on Sigil & Shadow. I had the opportunity to play several sessions over the summer months, with each group bringing something different in the approach to the game. I had groups with all investigators, groups with mediums and wizards, mixed-bag monster hunters with both human and “creeper” characters, and one really gonzo all monster duo session.

Through these groups, we got to work out a lot of kinks. Stuff that needed tweaking, stuff that needed to be re-defined, and stuff that needed a Nerf-batting really hard. What started off as a mashup of BareBones Fantasy and Covert Ops with a modern-horror skin as evolved into its own thing — you can still see the foundation clear as day, but as a game it stands out quite a bit from its parents.

Some big examples:

  • Backgrounds play a bigger part: Backgrounds (taken from “Origins” in Covert Ops)  add a bit more to characters this time around. They still award perks like their CO counterparts, but they also determine starting income levels for the character. We’re also in the process of brainstorming “strange” backgrounds, which can be potentially rolled or purchased in addition to the normal backgrounds, which offer a weird gift or tie to the supernatural realm. Things like “Raised by a Cult” or “Seventh Child of a Seventh Child.” This was an idea proposed by one of our play testers, and I loved it!
  • Bones play a bigger part: Bones are an important mechanic in S&S. Just like in other d00Lite games, Bones are a sort of “luck” point that can be spent to give characters (yourself or others) a much needed boost.  Supernatural abilities, from the powers (or “Gifts”) creepers have to the powerful, free-form magic of Thaumaturgy, also use these points to enhance their effects.  The catch is: creepers (supernatural characters) don’t recover bones naturally like others do. Instead, they must indulge in the burdens of their Shades to replenish their pool. For instance: a Vampire (with the Ravenous shade) must feed off the blood of another to regain their bone points.Even if your character is just Illuminated (a term for the everyday men and women who’ve become aware of the supernatural world,) bone points are a big deal. At character creation, they’re used to cherry pick options (as opposed to rolling) as well as potentially acquiring new starting skills or improving your income levels. In play, a large pile of bones generally gives a “normal” character an upper hand when having to deal with forces both arcane and occult.
  • Streamlined damage system: One of the biggest departures from previous d00Lite titles is the new damage system. All damage is rolled with 2d10. The damage types are listed as: Low, Average, High, Total. “Low” is the lowest of the dice rolled, “Average” is the mean of the two, “High” would be the highest of the dice rolled and “Total” is both dice added together. It may sound a bit quirky, but in my tests at the table it’s really kept things moving. We’ve also tapered the Body Points a bit to a flat rating that may be slightly modified via an improved STR score.

Some Questions Answered:

How far along is the game? When’s it coming out?
If I had to stick a number on it, I’d say the game is about 80% finished. The current draft is a complete game in terms of mechanics, abilities, and tinker toys — but it lacks more flavorful things that DwD is known for: Broadstroke settings, random tables and guide lines to help a GM on the spot, etc. As for a release date, I’m afraid that answer is only “Not Yet.” The writing has been a labor of love on my part, with assistance coming from the small playtester team and Bill Logan when he has time. I will say that Bill and I intend to not rush this, especially now that we’re in the final parts of it, to ensure we deliver a solid product. Sorry if that drives ya nuts.

Is this a fan game/homebrew like your other stuff?
No. This is actually going to be a published, edited book through DwD Studios!

How is your game going to support (X Monsters)? What kind of setting is it?
The game broadly labels itself as “A BareBones Game of Modern Horror and Gothic Fantasy.” While we may establish some universal concepts for the implied setting (such as Creepers, the Illuminated, Shades etc.) it’s not a setting so much as it’s a toolbox for the GM to build their own. Instead of concrete definitions of what every vampire does or how every zombie behaves, we’re using a template system that can be used multiple ways: A GM, for example, may want to use their own mythologies. They can design their own creeper templates, with powers and curses, as sort of the “campaign standard” for their world. Flipside of that: a GM may openly encourage the players to design their own monsters. They can either used pre-generated templates, or use the guide lines to create their own unique spin.

This has been my design intention from the beginning. I’m a huge fan of horror and supernatural RPG settings. When I set out to develop S&S for DwD Studios, my goal was to create a flexible game that could be used for a variety of play styles: I have ran gritty, nihilistic Lovecraftian horror with this setup. I have run a ton of Buffy-inspired monster hunts. This game can swing from serious to silly, from dark to fantastic as much as you need it to. And if I don’t approach something the way you would like, that’s fine! I hope I at least give your a huge launch-pad to crank your own stuff out quickly. The game is going to be licensed under creative commons, and the guys at DwD are always eager to help people take their fan supplements to official material.

Does Sigil & Shadow have any tie in with Malevolent Domain, the recently announced Zombie Horror RPG by DwD?
Aside from maybe stealing a couple ideas from Bill in terms of mechanics, the two games are separate (although both using the in-house rules set.) Sigil & Shadow is all about occult mysteries and ancient shadow conspiracies against a backdrop of a naive modern society. Malevolent Domain, meanwhile, is more of a survival setting in the aftermath of a zombie virus outbreak. Being in the same rules system, there may be some overlap (and some great mashup ideas) but, ultimately, the two games are very different in tone and cater to different styles.

How much compatibility will S&S have with other DwD titles?
I’d say mostly compatible. The core percentile mechanics are the same, and most of the core rules found in BBF and CO will be seen here. That said, there are some noticeable changes.  I plan at release (or sometime close to it) putting out some cross over guidelines. Just know that, yes, you’d be buying another BareBones system game, but it is different from the others in a lot of ways.

I don’t have forever, and my game table is waiting! How can I get my hands on a play test draft?
Easiest way is to buzz me over Google Plus.
Alternatively, use the following form to email me. Please mention why you’re particularly interested in Sigil & Shadow, and what kind of feedback you plan on giving.

(After)Friday Free-For-All 6/13/14

Well, crap, second edition of the Friday FFA here and I’m already a day late.  I’m going to blame Friday the 13th, the Full Moon, and Mercury in Retrograde like everybody else does. Anyways, the ramblings this week seem to have a percentile-system based theme. Roll out some double-naughts and feel free to leave comments!

RQ Essentials Cover SmallRuneQuest Essentials

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Wizards of the Coast’s announcement that Basic D&D will be a Free PDF  probably got some of its competitors scrambling to compete with ease of point of entry.  I’m not sure if that was the motivation behind RuneQuest Essentialsbut the timing couldn’t be more perfect. It’s a free, distilled version of the RQ6 rules — significant rules, magic system, monsters and setting details have been omitted.  Still, it’s a hefty two hundred page PDF that includes a pretty solid foundation of character creation, combat mechanics, and bestiary.

I’ve never actually played or read any edition of RuneQuest, but I’m aware of its influence on the industry. I have played Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu and I also own a few PDFs of Mongoose’s Legend, which I believe is derivative of RuneQuest second edition. Either way, this is my first foray into reading any official RQ book, and I have to say at first breeze-through the “Essentials” feels like a solid game to itself. The artwork and layout are pretty stellar, and the book seems full of ideas and guidelines for scaling the game. Even knowing a chunk of the magic system is missing, what’s presented here feels more than enough for anyone who’s spent entire campaigns in other games just using core rule books. If you’re wanting some detailed fantasy but sick of twenty siders, this is definitely worth the look.

Sigil & Shadow Playtest

I had our first full-session play test for Sigil & Shadow last weekend. We only got midway through the adventure, but it feels like everyone had a good time. Character creation was relatively painless, although there were a few hiccups in trying to explain the skill development progress. There were some other minor issues that have already inspired some quick revisions and editing, so hopefully those won’t be a big deal anymore. Monday I plan on sending out emails to select folks who have shown interest in play testing and feedback for the game.

Erinbour & Barebones Fantasy: Dynasty

I want to bring some attention to the guys at Heroic Journey Publishing.  They are developing an interesting new fantasy setting called Erinbour, and I’m really excited to see where they take it. Mark Reed has been posting a lot of historical and background information, as well as details on the magic and religion and how it operates within their world. A couple interesting design decisions that have grabbed my attention is that they are co-developing the rules for both Pathfinder and BareBones Fantasy. I think this is stellar because not only does that broaden their audience market, but it helps expose BareBones Fantasy to more players as well.

The other interesting tidbit is that this is also to be the official setting for their BareBones Fantasy: Dynasty game book! Dynasty is supposed to be bringing epic campaigns in the lieu of settings like Birthright to the d00lite rules. I’m excited to see their take on the style, and to potentially have politically-heavy domain-based games using the BBF rules.

That’s All I Got.

Let’s hope next week I can stay on schedule. If you have any news or game promotions you want me to plug, leave me a line in the comments. Also, feel free to stalk me on Google Plus.

Friday Free-For-All: 6/6/14

In an effort to try to get more regular posting on the Chaos Grenade, I’m devoting Fridays to weekly ramble updates. These are essentially posts with collected, random stuff that I’ve been wanting to share but couldn’t justify writing a whole article over.

REWIRED: REVIEWED!remington_typewriter
Rob Lang over at The Free RPG Blog has posted an amazing review of REWIRED. Seriously flattering, and upon reading it you’ll be craving stew. Not joking. Even the stuff he found as faulty, I am 100% okay with because I wasn’t setting out to do anything new other than having a set of rules I’m comfortable running. What he calls the Achilles heel of the system, I consider it a personal strength, but I get where he’s coming from. Regardless, he gave it high marks, and in my book his is the approval any and all Free RPG writers should aspire to impress.

On top of that, thanks to his review REWIRED has been downloaded 1200 times this week! If you’ve discovered REWIRED through him and you’re reading this, please take time to comment and say hello! PS — In addition to Free-for-All Fridays, expect REWIRED Wednesdays for carried support!

Sigil & Shadow Progress
The initial draft is starting to wrap up — essentially all of the rules I want are present, I just need to fill in the good setting bits and inspirational fluff. This weekend marks the first official full playtest! My guinea pigs test players will be my monthly GURPS/d20 group, who just happen to be the players with the least input or knowledge of this project. Which is awesome, to me, because that means what I get from them will be completely raw reactions and feedback. Once I have a real, solid session under my belt, I plan on touching up the rough draft a bit and then proceeding with contacting people for further game testing.

Tavern Keeper
I’m in the process of setting up a REWIRED play-by-post using Tavern Keeper, a new community for rpg campaign management. Still in its early stages, I’m already charmed by what it has to offer. It has thinks you’d expect: A wiki, a discussion area, a place to keep track of characters and journals, etc. Some of these features feel barebones compared to other sites, like Obsidian Portal, but what won me over is their role-play support: you can set up scenes, with cool little dialogue bubbles between characters, that also include a built in dice roller! Plus, the GM is able to create NPC’s and toggle which character they are acting as in a role-play scene. It’s really motivated me to get back into running play-by-posts, and I’m excited to see where our campaign goes.

A Personal Update
My lease ends in July. For the past few years, I’ve been living with a rotation of friends in an apartment complex. It’s been a great time, helping me get my life back in line and helping me dust off the cobwebs of my creativity. There’s been a lot of parties, a lot of adventures, and a lot of gaming.  But now, I’m pretty much waiting for the all-clear to move into my next home. I’m excited because as much fun as I’ve had here, I’m looking forward to living in a house again, especially where my only room mates are my girlfriend and cats. Plus, I’m getting my own gamer cave / office again. We’re stupid excited to be moving into a place where we have our shared space, but also our hideaway spots. I also feel this will bring back my youtube videos and other side hobbies like it, as I’ll have more space and privacy to not be self-conscious about.


That wraps up this week’s Free-For-All. If you have any reviews of REWIRED, a cool self-published game, or anything else you want me to rant about feel free to leave me a comment or stalk me on Google Plus.