Kids RPG Journal – #14 Software

Today, I am going to take brief detour from the active kids RPG project to go over the digital tools I am using to create everything. I wanted to do this now, as I’m starting in on Affinity Publisher for the first time to make the character sheet, and there’s a slight learning curve I’m going through to develop a process.

The following programs are all great, and I enthusiastically endorse them. Each has significantly improved my workflow and creative processes, or will in the near future.

scrivener, clip studio, affinity designer, photo, and publisher

Writing – Scrivener

I switched over to Scrivener as my default writing and note-taking application a couple of years back and it is phenomenal. It allows you the ultimate flexibility in organizing your documents and document snippets all in a single project. I have a general Daily Writing project for each year, but I’ve also used it for technical specs, comic scripting, website content, adventure design, monster/folklore notes, and book scripts.

https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener/overview

Illustration – Clip Studio Paint

For digital illustration, I use Clip Studio Paint almost exclusively. I started out doing digital art with Illustrator and then later with Photoshop and used those exclusively for many years, but I have slowly been moving away from the Adobe products where I can. Clip Studio is a dream to draw in and feels the most intuitive out of all the software programs that I have tried, particularly using the Frenden brushes available for it (http://store.frenden.com/). It is the program that closest resembles my traditional workflow. I love having the ability to seamlessly go from red pencil sketches, to inking, to coloring all together, and then on top of it having robust vector, comic panels, text and word balloons. It really is a complete package.

The only thing I find lacking are the export options. If it had the ability to export vector layers to SVG, it would cover practically all of my digital art needs.

Yet what truly makes Clip Studio mind-blowing is that the iPad version of the application is identical to the desktop, so I can do 99% of my work anywhere and sync with Dropbox to have the fully compatible file on my desktop. Well worth the price of the subscription. The only issues I have with the app for iPad are all based on iOS issues and the hoops one has to go through to access files and assets with various applications.

https://www.clipstudio.net/en

Digital Art Assets – Affinity Designer & Affinity Photo

While I don’t draw with the affinity applications, I do appreciate them for their completeness and flexibility. I have completely dropped Illustrator and Photoshop in favor of Affinity as I can do everything I ever did on those programs without maxing out my CPU, paying subscriptions, random crashes, and all the other headaches that came with Adobe.

Any vector work I need to do is in Designer. I’ve gotten quite comfortable with creating with the pen tool and that tends to be the majority of my work there, unless I have some typography I need to create outlines with. For Photo, I use it mainly to crop images and create digital assets.

I don’t use most of the features available in Affinity on a regular basis, but they are great to have around when I do and the price for the level of polish and quality is unbeatable.

While I do have both applications for the iPad, I tend to do all my work in them on the desktop, so I can’t really speak to those versions.

https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/

Document Layout – Affinity Publisher

This is the program I’ve been waiting for for two plus years, but the beta for Affinity Publisher is finally out! InDesign was the last holdout of the Adobe products, and after a couple of hours with Publisher, I can say that I will be 100% done with Adobe for my personal projects (I still use the programs for the day-job). As much as I love with InDesign, so far Publisher has either matched or exceeded it in every aspect of laying out my character sheets. The text is very quick and intuitive to fine-tune, I haven’t had any trouble placing and altering images, and my test exports seem to work very well.

I’m excited to see what I can accomplish with the beta and when the real release comes out. I’m sure I’ll be putting a bunch of things here as I start building the adventure and various handouts, monster sheets, etc. I’ll document the process as I learn.

https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/publisher/

At a later date, I’ll talk about the hardware I use for various related projects and how those affect my workflow. Today I’m going to continue to lay out the character sheets for the boys and see how far I get with them.

Kids RPG Journal – #13 Adventure Journals for Christmas

Kids RPG Adventure Journal Christmas

On Christmas morning, the boys opened up a couple of packages relating to the upcoming kid-friendly RPG we’ll start playing next month. I finished the inks of their character sketches late Christmas Eve and put them in their new adventure journals that will document all of the cool stuff they do and learn in the game.

Kids RPG Adventure Journal Christmas

They also received their first sets of gaming dice. One from me, and Christmas themed ones in their stockings from Santa. It’s good that they got two sets, as the majority of roles in Dungeon World are 2d6, so they will now be all set once we get going.

They were thrilled with everything and are eager to color in the characters and start drawing maps.

Kids RPG Journal – #12 Character Sketch Process

When I start designing a character, I don’t really stick to a solid process. I tend to go one of two ways:

One, I jump right in and start drawing something stiff and uninspired, then revise it a number of times until I have something I don’t hate.

Two, I look up some reference, think about it for a long while and only once the idea is clearly formed in my head, start drawing.

Since I don’t draw often enough to tell which method works better for me, I pretty much wing it every time. Since I am almost exclusively drawing for myself, I am pretty lax on reference and spend maybe a quarter of the time I should.

For the boys characters, I went ahead and did some really base drawings without much thought put into them. I knew that the Wolf Feral character would be wearing a cowl and that the Thunder Priest would be beefy. All of the characters are to be kids (which I don’t have a lot of practice drawing), so I needed to be mindful to keep them young looking.

player character sketches

My natural inclination is to draw in a very sketchy manner that I do not find appealing. I keep these in my sketchbook and draw in with mechanical pencils with either standard or red lead. Once I figure out the general shapes and features, then I can go in and clean up the line work and make everything tighter, which is what I’ll do for these in my next pass. For those, I’ll move into Clip Studio Paint on the iPad and come up with a few more sketches before going into the digital inking steps.

The Wolf Feral is pretty close to where I want to have him in terms of design, so I may have many more steps before finalizing him.

Bursten Sketch

Oliver, who will be playing the Thunder Priest, did not care for my initial design and wanted me to make him leaner, more muscular. I’m going to let him see the next drafts before I go too much further, but I’m not quite feeling the character yet, so I may do another pass or two before moving on to the iPad.

Thule sketches

Kids RPG Journal – #11 Ability Icons

Once I decided to go with four abilities instead of six for the character sheet, and to use the same nomenclature as Sidekick Quests, I needed to figure out how to get those on the page. Clever, Quick, Smart, Tough. I want to have some nice icons to use, and while the illustrations on Sidekick Quests are nice, they don’t quite fit the tone of the game I want to play.

I checked No Thank You Evil, and those are no good at all. I really don’t like the lazy association of glasses with intelligence, especially for a game with children.

So, it was time to make my own. I went with more nature-based icons and have each ability associated with an animal totem, inspired by the spirit Guides from John Harper’s, Wildlings.  I didn’t really go out on a limb with the animal associations, but here they are:

Fox : Clever
Falcon : Quick
Owl : Smart
Bear : Tough

The next step was going through a number of quick drafts, some of which illustrated very clearly that I don’t know what animals really look like. Then a couple of reference photos and search of how others simplified the forms, also keeping inspiration from the style of Wildlings and Viking carvings (which have featured prominently in my work for years).

ability icons for kids RPG

Once I had something that I was pretty happy with, I took a picture and started drawing the final forms in Clip Studio Paint on my iPad. I drew out the designs, though I debated if I should make them using vectors for more flexibility. In the end, I prefer to use Clip Studio, and while it has pretty robust vector capabilities, it does not have the ability to export into SVG or EPS, only rasterized images.

And here is the final for the ability icons for the kids RPG:

ability icons for kids RPG

Next, I will be working on the character illustrations for the boy’s PCs (player characters).

Kids RPG Journal – #10 Making Monsters

In fairy tales and folklore, when the hero of the tale comes across a monster, it is very rare that they fight and kill it. Instead they use their wits to find a creative way to banish, appease, or trick the monster.

I realize that D&D is based more on mythological heroes like Perseus and Thor, who are not only capable of going toe to toe with their monstrous foes, but almost exclusively hack and slash. Yet even in the myths, there are a large number of characters who outwit their foes. Odin and Loki rarely lift a weapon on their adventures, nor do they obliterate everything with fireballs and devastating magic. Their stories are more subtle.

When there is a monster intent on smashing Asgard, the gods rely on Thor to protect them, but the monsters in Odin’s stories are wiser and have goals other than killing and devouring.

If I want more of that feel in my game, I’m going to need more than just the character’s moves to encourage that. I need to be creative with my monsters.

Let Them Talk
One of the best ways to prevent monsters from becoming sword-bait is to give them a voice. If the players are interested in what the monster is going to say and what their motivations are, then they may be less likely to pound it into the dirt as soon as they see it. (Though some players will do this no matter the adversary.) In my world, nearly every monster will be able to speak or communicate in some way. Even the starving ones will be quite chatty about their hunger.

Make Them Hard To Kill
Another way to encourage creative solutions is to make the monster either resistant to the characters’ attacks or to make them to dangerous to get near. I will probably shy away from this method for a while until I’ve played with the boys more. I don’t want to frustrate them unintentionally.

Give Them Creative Impulses
In most RPG, goblins sole purpose is to try to stab people or fill them full of arrows. In folktales, they are interested in kidnapping people, tricking them into eating goblin fruit, or just pinching them black and blue. The second is much better suited for storytelling and finding creative ways to defend against them

I’ve come up with a categorization for monsters based on psychological impulses and the tropes in folklore. Each monster fits into one of six archetypes based on their compulsions. I’m hoping this gives me some interesting roleplaying aspects to keep things fresh. I’ll definitely explore this more in future journal entries.

Give the Players Alternatives
Each monster needs to have alternative ways to defeat/thwart them outside of combat. Last year, I put together a list of more than a hundred precautions against monsters pulled directly from folktales and stories. I have them in the following categories:

  • Consealment
  • Binding/Warding
  • Cleansing/Purifying
  • Irritants/Offenses
  • Pacification/Offerings
  • Distractions
  • Misdirection
  • Rituals
  • Bargaining
  • Core Essence
  • Destruction

Each monster I create for the game will have a minimum of two of these precautions that can be used to defeat them. The challenge will then be to find fun ways for the boys to discover what precautions can be used for each monster and see if there can be some more satisfying ways to complete quests and stop monster mayhem.

Kids RPG Journal – #9 First Look at Seether Class

Finally, I’m taking a look at the starting moves for the Seether, the chthonic shaman class chosen by my wife.

Seether

You are wise woman in touch with the dark energies of the earth. Through trance-like seething, you channel the mysteries of the deep, the ways of fire, and  serpent magic.

Burning Touch
You are able to focus your energies to make your touch red-hot. Extended contact can cause organic materials to combust.

Earth Memory
You fall into a trance and send your fetch into the deep earth to find answers. On a 7+ you can ask a single question of the GM. Anything below 7, the denizens of the deep earth notice your presence.

Serpent Dance
When you are engaged in conflict with another, you can cause your body to tremble and shake with the movements of the serpent. You can choose to either quick strike for a +1 on Hack and Slash or whip out of harms way to defend for +1.

Buried Knowledge
You know things from deep beneath the earth and gain +1 on all discern realities or spout lore moves when dealing with the underworld and things that grow there.

 

Related Links:
Wolf Feral Class
Thunder Priest Class

Kids RPG Journal – #8 First Look at Thunder Priest Class

Here is a quick view of the Thunder Priest class chosen by the other son.

Thunder Priest

You are devoted to the warrior god thunder, Thor, and have learned to channel some of the natural powers of the storm.

Hearty Revelry
You are a large presence, particularly when you have a full belly. People hang on your every word and feel compelled by your boisterous tales.  When you attempt to discern realities or parley with others while eating and drinking, you get +1 on the roll.

Bend Bars, Lift Gates
When you use pure strength to destroy an inanimate obstacle, roll +TOUGH. 10+ choose 3 below. 7-9 choose 2.

  • It doesn’t take a very long time
  • Nothing of value is destroyed
  • It is not too noisy
  • You can fix without a lot of effort

Thunder Touch
When you touch a being with your hand, you can channel the thunder from inside to push them away from you.

Storm Charge
You can charge a metal weapon with lighting to do an additional +1 damage.

Signs of Battle
When you attempt to discern realities when you come upon a scene where a battle has occurred, you gain +1

I borrowed the Bend Bars, Lift Gates move directly from the Fighter playbook. I’m not 100% sure if I am going to keep it the same. I’m curious if the multiple options would work well for the boys or not. It might be something that changes as we play the game. Flexibility will be key.

I gave this class two more investigative abilities because the play may lend itself to more combat and I want to give him other options.

Related Links:
Wolf Feral Class

Kids RPG Journal – #7 First Look at Wolf Feral Class

A quick look at the wolf feral class, played by one of my sons.

When making a class playbook for them, I am cognizant to keep descriptions simple, but mindful to not dumb things down. Each class will have some core move which will assist them in either investigation or conflict resolution outside of combat.

Here are some of the starting moves for the class. I may add one or two more after I get some of the other classes set up.

Wolf Feral

You are a member of the Ulfhednar, an order of humans who can channel the powers of wolves. You wear a pelt that gives you the senses, reflexes, and ferocity of the wolf.

Keen Senses
Your senses are those of a wolf. In particular, hearing and smell are much more sensitive than normal humans. Darkness does not hinder you, but loud noises and strong smells may make it difficult to focus.

Vicious Bite
When you try to bite someone or something, it is extremely painful. You can hold someone tightly with your iron jaws.

Wolf Step
You can move silently and quickly like a wolf, covering large distances with preternatural speed.

Natural Hunter
When you follow the trail of a living being, you roll +CLEVER +1 On 7+ you are able to follow until conditions change. On 10+ you are able to gather information about your quarry.

Kids RPG Journal – #6 Character Sheet Changes

One thing I want to focus on early is focusing on pairing down the character sheets for Dungeon World. I want to make it nice an manageable for the boys to just focus on the parts of their character that they’ll need for play.

A few things that are extraneous for our game and will be scrapped for now:

Alignment – I can’t see any benefit to trying to get the young ones to wrap their minds around the various alignments and limiting there role-playing abilities. Their actions will have consequences in the game, I think that will be enough to keep us going.

Race – Just going to start out with the standard human race for everyone. Keeps it a little more in the mid to low fantasy vibe I’m working, and gives me a little extra room on the character sheet.

Then there are a few things, I’m thinking about modifying and simplifying:

Abilities – Do I really need all six of the abilities to play? In Sidekick Quests, it has Clever Enough, Quick Enough, Smart Enough and Tough Enough, while No Thank You Evil! uses Tough, Fast, Smart, and Awesome. Clever can include both Charisma and Wisdom for most situations, just as Tough can include Strength and Constitution for most situations. I want to create an icon for each ability to make it a little more kid-friendly and appealing.

The other consideration is do I really need to keep the standard 3-18 range for abilities? I’m not sure that is the most intuitive versus a 1-10 or even 1-6 range, but changing it may make me have to adjust much more than just the numbers on the page. Since the ability modifier is what is predominantly used to make decisions, I might be able to get away with some additional simplification.

Hit Points – I like a more graphical or physical representation of the character’s health, so I may try to set something along those lines and make sure that the health points stay fairly low. Since neither Dungeon World, nor Sidekick Quests increases HP on leveling up, then I think something more graphic would still fit on the sheet nicely.

Moves – I’m really only going to come up with a few of the starting moves for each of the PC classes and some of the moves that they can add on once they start leveling up. I’m not trying to build completely new playbooks just yet, particularly since a lot of that work may change as we progress in the game and find out what moves work best, are over powered, or simply don’t serve the story. Also, it will keep the sheet less cluttered and I won’t have to create icons for each and every move that the character may gain over the course of our play.

Gear – All of their gear will be on illustrated cards where they can see just exactly what they carry on their persons. I’m not really interested in the encumbrance and weight rules of games (nor do I typically worry about a lot of money issues and provisions like rations), but I want the boys to flex their math skills, so I’ll have them keep track of all their weights and spending.

Kids RPG Journal – #5 World-Building Themes

Even before I made the decision to go forward, I pretty much had a solid view of the world I wanted to build for the game. It is a combination of four main themes over a medieval fantasy world:

Teutonic/Viking – No surprise here. Nearly everything I’ve ever worked on has some sort of Teutonic influence. I say Teutonic instead of Viking, to include other northern European influences outside of Scandinavia. Since this is for the kids, a lot of the aesthetic will be reminiscent of How To Train Your Dragon—a huge area of interest for the boys right now.

Not Too-high Fantasy – This land is not going to include dragons and flashy wizards, goblin armies and wild magic, though I may edge into that territory at times. I am more drawn to the monsters of ghost stories and regional folklore, so the scale will tend towards the frontier-level, with events affecting local farms and towns. The monsters will be a little more fairy-lore and less world-ending. Magic will be very present, but I’m going to try to keep it more like the runes and curses of the sagas and less standard D&D.

Pirates – The other design aesthetic will be pirate-influenced. This is another area that the boys like, and I think it will be interesting to meld the Viking and Pirate designs and tropes.

Academy – Finally, with the boys deep into Harry Potter, I will also be including some elements from the academy style stories. The primary setting for the game will be at a school to train young kids to use their skills and deal with the problems (usually monsters, and maybe pirates) affecting the areas around them.

I like the school theme because it includes various things that the boys are currently dealing with. It makes it nice to have a base of operations and lends itself to stories and adventures are episodic in nature. Plus, it allows for fun recurring characters and more social dynamics than dungeon-crawl and murder-hobo campaigns.