Friday, 25 November 2016

Project Out Of Time – Shooting

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After my previous post about the proposed rules for melee combat in Project Out Of Time I had a lot to think about – I've even gone back and made some initial tweaks to the playtesting document. Today, I thought I'd have a quick look at shooting.

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In this particular genre, shooting actions may well be the most dominant of combat actions – after all, why get up close to take someone out when you can blow them away from distance with a super exotic weapon?! As a consequence, ranged combat is in real danger of being game-changing. Having said that, I like the idea that any form of combat can be devastating should you get caught out. By its nature it is risk-free compared to melee (unless your weapons blows up in your face when you roll badly), so the natural preference unless you can stack a melee combat in favour of an overwhelming success.

Taking these thoughts into account, ranged combat in Project Out Of Time works in a similar way to melee. It makes sense from a players perspective to only have to learn one distinct process – familiarity puts people at ease and allows them to concentrate on the tactics rather than the mechanics involved.


A ranged combat action starts with an opposed dice roll, with characters rolling as many dice as their skill level dictates and choosing the highest (taking various modifiers into account for things like being in cover). Players then compare their scores on the ranged table below.

A result of 'O' is a miss whilst the arrows >> push the defender back. Results in the bottom left of the table all deal with actual damage inflicted – Light, Medium and Heavy, as dictated by the weapon being used.

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Each ranged attack action costs a single Energy token (or more if a heavy weapon) and the active player is able to take as many ranged attack actions in a turn as the Rate of Fire of their chosen weapon. However, if the attacker has an attack roll result of 1 (so therefore a single 1 for Recruits, a double-1 for Grunts and a triple-1 for Veterans) then their weapon has jammed (or equivalent sci-fi orientated catastrophe) and cannot be used again this activation.

Some more exotic weapons will have additional special rules, yet to be defined properly. These will cover deviations to the normal procedure for things like heavy weapons, blasts, flame units, even energy-based lightening jumps from one enemy character to another adjacent enemy.

If you look at the table as it stands, things are below par for the shooter – only a 28 in 100 chance of inflicting actual damage. However, more skilled characters will have a better chance of hitting that sweet spot in the bottom left of the table and the pressure gets put on the defender to dodge the shot! Not to forget too that there will be operatives who have specialisms such as Sniper and Gunner (Heavy). These will also deviate slightly from the normal process for shooting and will gain all kinds of advantages.

Again, a lot of testing to do so we'll see how it all shakes down.

More soon!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Project Out Of Time – Melee

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Having talked about Factions and Managing Energy in Project Out Of Time, it's time to look at some combat!

For me, Melee combat rules for a game are pretty much the linchpin – even more so when it comes to writing my own rules. If I don't get excited at the prospect of a good old face to face scrap then (in the absence of something else stunning) I'm likely to lose interest quite quickly. As a consequence, compiling mechanics for melee combat has been the sticking point for all of my attempts at rule writing. In the five or so years I've been attempting to create something solid I've looked at pretty much every example I can get my hands on (for free at least).

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As I've mentioned in the past, I have an aversion to reinventing the wheel, but for combat rules I also have an aversion to simply copying someone else. Yet, it's hard not to subconsciously default to something that feels comfortable or familiar.

I've been searching for a solution that was simple, allowed both players to be involved and reflected the individual ability/physicality of the game characters taking part in the fight. I also like the idea that melee combat is not risk-free and that there could be consequences for rolling badly.

Up until now my ideas have been logical (to me at least) but clunky and not overly fun. I've looked at everything from rolling target numbers, adding stats to dice rolls, rolling dice with different number of sides. I got quite caught up with a rock/paper/scissors approach, where each melee attack choice had a natural counter. Problem was that three options wasn't enough choice and five or six became unwieldy and messy.

My quest for the holy grail of fighting rules has stressed my brain for the longest time, the answer sitting just out of reach and elusive in the corners of my mind. However, I do feel that perhaps with this project I have taken a positive step in the right direction. See what you think...


The current version of melee combat rules for Project Out Of Time fundamentally consist of an opposed dice roll. Both players roll a dice and compare scores. I constructed a nice table to illustrate the outcomes but it comes down to the difference in the dice rolls determining the severity of the result. Opposing rolls that are pretty close have minimal impact (a bit of pushing and shoving), but if one player rolls high and the other low, the outcome can be devastating.

The table below shows the outcome of the fight from the attacker's perspective. Any + damage is inflicted onto the defender, but – damage is taken by the attacker. The forward arrows >> represent the defender being pushed back and subsequently backward arrows << is the attacker being pushed back. X, of course is a neutral 'no result' outcome as the combatants fight to a stalemate.

There are a few asterisks in there (*) and these could represent additional effects inflicted by certain weapons or abilities. I like the idea that the middle ground can be influenced by gear or skills, and a combatant can change the outcome of a fight in their favour in some way, like action tokens in X-Wing or the character damage chart in Wrath of Kings.

Melee outcomes based upon a D10 opposed roll

You will also see from the table that the results are split 50:50 between attacker and defender which seems the right way if all variables are equal and it's a level playing field. It doesn't take into account individual ability, however, so more skilled characters would roll multiple dice and choose the highest result.

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To help illustrate this better: two combatants of the same skill level will roll a single dice each, whereas a Grunt fighting against a Recruit will roll two dice to his opponent's one (regardless of whether he's attacking or defending) and chooses the highest result. A Veteran would roll three dice in a similar situation, two dice when fighting a Grunt, or just one if fighting another Veteran. Again, this would work the same whether they are considered the attacker or defender. This puts the advantage squarely in the corner of the combatant with the better skill.

The alternative approach to the skill level issue is to have the different levels always roll the same number of dice, regardless of their opponent. Recruits always roll one dice, Grunts always two and Veterans three. This would mean that a Veteran vs Veteran fight would have both combatants rolling three dice each. The implication here is that fights between Veterans would have less extreme outcomes as it's more unlikely a player would roll triple 1 or 2. I like the idea of this in principle as better trained soldiers are less likely to make big mistakes. The only downside that I can see is that these fights might be a little dull as each character effectively neutralises the other, rolling so many dice.

Having support from friendlies (or being outnumbered) also needs to be added into the mix, but it is yet to be determined what form this will take – simply adding more and more dice to the mix will only work to a point – much more play tests needed first. There must be a way for the lower level characters to take down a Veteran by outnumbering. It may be as straightforward as adding +1 to dice rolls for every friendly character in support - with a maximum of 5 friendly characters on the board at any one time this is unlikely to get out of hand, yet could be very decisive.

These melee rules are still very theoretical at present. Minimal play testing has been done so far (due to lack of spare time) but I'm loving the creative thinking and problem solving aspects, albeit just on paper.

More soon!!

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Project Out Of Time – Energy

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I like the idea of resource management in my skirmish games – be it Soulstones, Momentum, Fury, whatever. I also like the idea of having a pool of action tokens that you can dish out to your crew, allowing them to do a differing number of actions each turn when their individual skill sets are most required.

So, how do I approach this aspect of a game without obviously lifting the process from somewhere else? As much as I'm wise enough to know the pitfalls of trying to reinvent the wheel just for the sake of it, I have been looking for a different angle.

Having given an overview of Project Out Of Time, and had a quick look at some ideas for the factions, I thought I'd outline my thoughts for Energy tokens. This is my take on resource management...


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My entire idea for Project Out Of Time revolves around the concept of the Nandrocite Energy. It's the lightbulb moment that occurred whilst sitting in my bath all those months ago and boils down to the fact that a character's  action token pool is also their wound count. With this system any character can take as many actions as you like each turn but you're using up wounds to do it and you could leave yourself very vulnerable in the process.

In-game this translates to each character starting the game with a number of Energy tokens. This is their Energy reserves that allows the character to remain in the time period they have jumped to – if they run out of Energy the character is removed from the game, snapped back through time to the present.


When a character is activated they may take a single Walk action for free. That seems like a fair trade. Any additional actions will cost 1 or more of their Energy tokens. They may spend as many Energy tokens as they wish to, as long as at least 1 Energy token remains. Because the Energy is used before an action is executed, using the last token will cause the character to be removed from the game immediately without performing that final action (so you can't sacrifice yourself to achieve a game winning objective).

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Raw Energy deposits will be randomly dotted around the battlefield and can be claimed by individual characters. They can be used to either top up their own personal Energy reserves, pass on the raw deposit to a teammate so they can top up, or the raw deposit can be stored to claim Victory Points at the end of the game (cashed in with their employers). Any character choosing to top up Energy rolls a dice to determine how much Energy has been claimed from the raw deposit. If a raw Energy deposit has been rolled, and the amount of Energy determined, it cannot be subsequently passed on to a teammate.

Characters may never have more Energy in their reserves than they started the game with, unless they have equipment that allows them to do this in some way. Any excess Energy is lost.

If a character can get into base contact with a prone enemy character, they may attempt to harvest energy from the enemy character's reserves, if they have the appropriate equipment. In addition, when a character is removed from play they leave behind an Energy token that can be claimed by others.

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The idea with this whole concept is that, by every action costing Energy, characters need to pick up a refill to achieve anything in-game and not 'die from exhaustion' – sitting at the back of the board and shooting is not an option as you'll just waste away. One twist I've considered is at the end of every turn all characters lose a single Energy token – the cost of staying in this time period for another turn. This would force characters out into the gaming arena to claim raw deposits quickly in order to stay alive which would inevitably lead to more conflict (or the employment of very sneaky tactics to avoid conflict). Would this be too harsh or maybe restrict players strategic options? It should keep things fast paced for sure.

At this point in time the actual amount of Energy that characters start a game with is undetermined – playtesting should help with that particular challenge. However, it's unlikely that a character would have enough starting Energy to survive a game without a refill – players have to be proactive from the start (that's the thinking at least)!

Next time it's all about Melee!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Project Out Of Time – Factions

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Last time I gave a brief overview of my ideas for a new game – dubbed Project Out Of Time. Today I'm looking at factions.

Coming up with factions for a game can be one of the most exciting and tricky aspects I have found in my time tinkering with rules. When I had my fledgling ideas for Project Out Of Time I jotted down initial factions – these are they...

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Treasure Hunters

These will be your starter faction – the baseline – the faction by which all others are measured. These are often small independent operations, bounty hunter types or freelance teams. They don't have access to the best weapons or armour, but will instead rely on careful planning and hit-and-run tactics to get the job done.

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Corporate Mercenaries
The private army of the mega-corporations, these guys will be the complete opposite of the Treasure Hunters in many ways. They are the heavy weapon specialists, with heavier armour, but they're slow – a sledgehammer to crack a nut! They'll also be expected to deliver more than their opponents as their masters have invested a lot more cash.

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Time Cops
The concept of being able to travel back in time opens up all kinds of opportunity to derail history. The whole practice would need to be policed in some way, however futile. We need some time cops! The question here is whether this faction consists of SWAT type dudes, or whether to go down a Grammaton Clerics route (if you haven't seen the film Equilibrium stop reading this and go watch it now), or maybe a combination? Their mandate would not be collecting Nandrocite so much as taking down 'bad guys'.

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The Ishyri 
They are an alien race who are made up in part of the Nandrocite energy. They consider the raw Nandrocite deposits to be sacred – the mortal remains of their fallen – and will not allow others to touch them. This faction will lean towards the more high tech gear, with the idea that they are fast but fragile. Again we have a faction that may not be looking to collect Nandrocite in the same way as others, but certainly looking to get involved. I also toyed with the idea that these were an NPC faction that could enter the arena to mess up the best laid plans of others.

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A Borg-like alien race would find a great need in a power source such as Nandrocite. They would rely more on personal shields than armour and be able to research weaponry and equipment much faster than rival factions. They're unlikely to have the same troop morale issues that other races might but may rely more on being within a certain radius of the leader in order to function properly.

Crime Syndicate
This faction could take many forms, so much so I have no strong direction for it in my head right now. I like the idea of it being an almost free for all – the sandbox faction – where you get to try out all sorts of combinations of individuals. There would have to be some sort of honour code though - where betrayal was not an option (or maybe the opposite where it was every man for himself!).

There's plenty more scope for factions and races within the structure of the game, but this is where things started. More soon!!

Friday, 4 November 2016

Project Out Of Time – Introduction

Well of course I designed the rulebook first!

I mentioned in my last post that I had been looking at a sci-fi project that began with a rule mechanic that I thought up whilst in the bath one day. Rather than continue to scribble away in isolation I thought that I would share some key aspects of the project and maybe turn it into a more collaborative affair – a live project with a downloadable rules PDF at the end of the process.

To begin with, however, I want to tell you a story – the canvas upon which this particular masterpiece (!!) will be painted. The following is a translation of the scribbles from my notebook...

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Welcome to Project Out Of Time

The story initially unfolds in the far future.

A new chemical element has been discovered (we'll call it Nandrocite for now). It turns out that it's been on Earth for millennia but has, up until now, been undetectable.

Since its discovery, Nandrocite has become essential to everyday life on the planet. As well as providing a clean source of energy, Nandrocite has a secondary property - it can be used to facilitate semi-reliable time travel. Stray radiation from dormant molecules was discovered to cause that feeling of deja-vu as the affected individual flickers briefly in time - this phenomenon was researched further, but it took alien technology to finally put the pieces together.

When Nandrocite is passed through a Quantum Projector, a gateway is created that allows an individual to travel back in time for a limited period. The individual is only able to maintain their presence in a time other than their own (i.e. Out of Time) via a Stability Matrix. This piece of sophisticated alien technology has been interpreted, emulated and jury rigged by every significant race or faction to further their own goals.

The matrix is usually housed within a suit that requires an immense amount of Nandrocite energy. The energised suit protects the wearer from physical harm, in addition to anchoring them in time. However, physical damage will affect the suit directly and increases the energy drain as it attempts to maintain and protect the stability matrix.

Once the suit runs out of energy, the individual becomes vulnerable to physical harm and the ravages of time travel. At this point, the matrix trips an emergency protocol and the individual is snapped back to the present, to ensure they make it home. This action is so violent it can often cause injury (and on occasion death) in its own right.

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Nandrocite has become the single most sought after commodity in the galaxy. Governments, crime syndicates, corporations and mercenaries, from many different races, are hunting down the last few remaining sources. The Nandrocite element is becoming so scarce and the rewards so high that teams are being sent back in time to recover Nandrocite from locations that were, at some point in history, destroyed before the Nandrocite was extracted.

These teams usually consist of specialists, each bringing their own unique set of skills to the mission. In addition to Nandrocite, the teams are discovering other artefacts of value and long lost treasures. They're also running into other teams with a similar mandate. As an individual in charge of one such team, it's your job to recruit the right operatives, guide them through their missions and keep your superiors happy with the return on their investment.

Next time I'll look at some of the factions involved and the thinking behind them...

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

It's Been A While...

Inspiration can come from anywhere

Hobby time was getting so squeezed that I decided to take a month out (a lack of enthusiasm didn't help either).

During that time I've had a birthday, bought myself an Xbox One S (which I've played on precisely twice!) and done a host of chores. At best my only available time for any hobby stuff is after 8pm when the boy is in bed and dinner is done. Quite often I don't have the energy or inclination to dig out hobby gear (or set up the Xbox) by that time and end up just watching tv, surfing the net or playing Warcraft on the iMac - all easy solutions at the end of the day.

However, the one way I have managed to keep my toe dipped in the hobby waters is by revisiting some of my rule designs. Having burned myself out with three solid months of going round in circles with my Hood project, it had all got shelved for another day. Whilst I am yet to return to my medieval-inspired game I have been looking at my sci-fi project.

Earlier this year I was sitting in the bath and decided to use the time to devise a rule concept I'd not come across before. It could be for any aspect of a ruleset, but I wanted something new (to me at least).

I had until the bath water went cold - no pressure then.

Ironically, in that stress-free environment I stumbled upon a concept I really liked. The concept didn't fit with my Hood project but it would work in a sci-fi environment. Inspired, I built an idea for a game around it and sent out my draft to the usual suspects - Bull and Mr Awdry - for some input. Typically, a few weeks later whilst at Salute, I was introduced to a game that used an almost identical system. OMG, I thought I had been original, but I guess it's not uncommon for people to come up with the same idea in isolation. It killed my enthusiasm for the project and has been on the backburner ever since.

During the past month I've revisited my notes and tried to expand on my initial thoughts and build it into a playable game. Even if it never sees the light of day, it's been a good exercise to keep my brain ticking and thinking creatively. I don't have the inclination or the resources to push either this project - let's call it Project Out Of Time - or Project Hood to a commercial release but I decided a while ago that as and when they reach a playable state I shall post both on the blog. If other people can have fun with them then that'll be great - and any constructive feedback will be a bonus.

So keep an eye out for those at some point - if I can get one up online for Christmas that would be quite cool.

In the meantime, now that we're into November, I'm going to be making more of an effort to take up the hobby brush and get some painting done.


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