Author Archives: Jeremy Keller - Page 4

Transmission: Twin Cities Metroplex

So, people are already starting to playtest Technoir, even without the playtest document out yet! That’s amazingly awesome. Between the video I posted, the rules summaries in the Player’s Guide, and questions I’ve been answering in the comments here and on RPGnet, people are able to get a pretty good sense of the game.

So here’s one more piece of the puzzle: the Twin Cities Metroplex Transmission. It has Connections you will need for making a protagonist and a bunch of other plot nodes and stat blocks to make sure you have some content for the game.
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Technoir Dice Mechanics

I wanted to post something about the core mechanic for Technoir. But instead of simply using text, I thought it might make things a bit more fun if I showed you how it works. So here’s a little video demo of the game in action.

Sorry if it’s a bit shaky. Bit difficult to hold an iPhone steady while talking.

That Will Be Money Dollars Please

There’s a trend in games on the lighter end of the spectrum to ditch currency in leu of a game mechanic that simply tells you whether or not you can afford something. And for the record, this is a trend I agree with. I don’t want to keep track of my dollars and pennies for most games. Especially in ones in which equipment is low on the totem pole of character competency. I used this kind of mechanic in Chronica Feudalis, in fact, with its purse system.

But Technoir is different. I wanted it to have that gear-porn element. The gun with the scope needs to be more expensive than one without. I wanted to make sure that the choice of what you buy, at any level, is meaningful. Technology is cheap in the future, but there’s still a cost when everyone is nearly broke. If you’re criminals and thieves, money matters. There comes a point where abstracting all of that becomes more trouble than it’s worth. Read more »

Starting Out

My first ideas when starting a new game design have the biggest impact on the whole process. It’s something to be careful of and respectful of.

Let’s say I get this cool idea for a dice mechanic. Say, step dice attributes + dice pool skills. There’s a lot of assumptions in that little formula. The first is that there are dice at all. The second is that we’re going to have attributes and skills. That means that, if this is our core mechanic, we’re testing competency more than anything else. That probably  means this is an adventure game rather than a story game.[1] So we’re already on the road towards legacy GM/player roles.
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  1. [1] Going by Ryan Macklin’s definitions found here

What Doesn’t Kill You…

I’ve been reading Dashiell Hammett off and on over the last few years. I’m a big fan of Hammett-inspired films like Miller’s Crossing and Brick. This is hardboiled fiction at its best as far as I’m concerned. One of the elements that defines a hardboiled protagonist—besides the cynical attitude—is a willingness to face danger. To get hurt, beat up, or even worse in order to do the job. Generally they get punched in the face a lot.

Hardboiled is an influence on cyberpunk, but it is something I am emphasizing even more so in Technoir. In cyberpunk RPGs there is a tendency to spend a couple hours planning in order to get in and out unseen, unscathed. Hardboiled protagonists walk in the front door. They make their presence known. They make people nervous. They shake the tree and see what falls out. The best way to infiltrate enemy headquarters is to walk up to one of their goons, get tasered unconscious, and taken prisoner.
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Kickstart My Heart

It’s payday for me today, and I’m going to head over to to support a couple of projects I’m interested in. Kickstarter seems to be a pretty solid model for funding independent or small-press creators. I’ve never actually backed anything before, so I figure today is a good day to start.

Unless you read my blog through some vector that miraculously doesn’t intersect with any of the Evil Hat crew, you already know about Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. I’ve been watching this game’s development for over a year through Daniel Solis’s blog. It looks like it’s going to be nothing short of gorgeous. Daniel used Kickstarter previously to great success with Happy Birthday, Robot! and Do is already well over its goal. For the various milestones it has passed, Daniel and Evil Hat have been adding to the goodies you get at different backing levels. What’s also super cool about this particular kickstarter is that Evil Hat has found a way to allow retailers to get in on the action as well.

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Player’s Guide

In my previous post about hack points, I mentioned a Player’s Guide for Technoir. The Player’s Guide is a 16-page booklet that contains barebones rules for protagonist generation, inflicting Adjectives on other characters, and recovering from those Adjectives. It also has a list of Training Programs, descriptions of the nine Verbs, many Adjective examples, an overview of the favors that Connections can perform, and an Object catalog with a glossary of all the Object tags.

You can likely glean most of how to play the game from this document alone. What it is lacking is information for how everything flows together: how the protagonists, through their Connections, link to the node map and the plot; how the plot nodes relate to each other and how the node map is generated; how inflicting Adjectives can be sequenced into the conflict resolution system; how the Push economy plays. These will all be dealt with in the core book (which is essentially the GM’s guide). Read more »

Hack Points

One of Chronica Feudalis‘s first ever fans, Nathan Frund, emailed me the other day. He had been following my posts about Technoir and was curious about how easy it was to hack it. Nathan knows his hacking: his blog (Platonic Solid) features the first fantasy hacks for the Chronica system.[1]

I told Nathan about some key areas where Technoir was really easy to hack. In our discussion, Nathan called these “hack points.” So I’m stealing the term from him.

Being hackable has been part of Technoir‘s design from the start. Here are a few examples of easy ways to modify the game:

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  1. [1] Nathan also has some intersting thoughts on using Agile software development techniques for game design purposes.

Shells and Seeds

I notice this tendency while I am designing RPG rules to create shells. That is, game mechanics that have a certain size and shape but require player interaction to fill it up with something. It’s a set of requirements. And when those requirements are met, the player is rewarded.[1]

Consider Wushu‘s core mechanic. For each detail you give in your described action, you add a die to your pool. FATE’s Aspects are shells at the time of character creation. Come up with a phrase about your character then you will have this trait to use in gameplay.

Shells are good design tools. Shells fight blank page syndrome by giving players smaller, less-intimidating pages to write on. Don’t worry about your whole action, just tell me the next detail. Don’t worry about your whole character, just give me one phrase about her.

As good as shells are, I’ve been working on a different approach when it comes to game design: seeds. Seeds are low-mass game elements that use player interaction to become something bigger than they started as. Read more »

  1. [1] The terms I use in this post, like shell, probably have a different definition to others in the gaming community. So consider my terms and definitions herein useful only in the scope of this post and any discussion of it.


A few months ago, I posted the first design element of my new game: it’s character sheet. The game didn’t have a title then, but with some help it has since been dubbed Technoir. Much of this game has been designed by the process of creating the character sheet. So, as it has been revised, its evolution is reflected in the changes of the character sheet over the playtesting process.

Here is the revision made soon after that previous post:

revision 1 Read more »