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Excerpt from Damage & Healing

Posted on | September 10, 2013 | 1 Comment

A little taste of the rules….

Medical Attention
If a damage zone receives 1 point of damage more than its 2 Success Level penalty level on the Damage Track it is rendered useless and must receive immediate medical attention from someone with the Medicine skill. Every round a character requires medical attention they suffer an additional point of Threshold (see below) and must make a Good Stamina roll in order not to lose the body part permanently. In order to prevent this loss the character must receive artificial healing of some kind.  

Full damage (limb loss or death)
If a damage zone receives 1 point of damage more than its Medical Attention level that body part is lost, with two possible outcomes:  

1. If the damage zone in question is a limb the character immediately receives an additional 3 points of Threshold. The damage zones are permanently off the Damage Track and any location hits to that limb now result as a Torso hit. Luckily the world of Third Order is one where cybernetic or cloned limbs are available (at a cost).  A lost limb is easily replaced with an alternative.  

2. If the damage zone in question is the torso or head the character is dead. Hand the character sheet back to the GM.

Well, hope that wetted you appetite for more. We’ll put up a few extracts from time to time to show our progress.

See you soon.


Hot Cup of Garblag?

Posted on | September 9, 2013 | 1 Comment

Our first official merchandise! Amazing stuff – a great gift from a player!


Amazing what players will do for extra XP!

Short Break

Posted on | August 14, 2013 | No Comments

Hello Garblaggites!

You may have noticed we’ve had a short break, but we’re back now!

A combination of work, holidays and real life has meant Wessex and I have been otherwise engaged.

We’ve still been playing Third Order and this is leading us to reassess the skill sets available to characters. Again we’re finding that the rules are good and robust, it’s just the format the character and skills come in that are the last things to tweak. It looks like there are a few redundant skills or even ones that we’ve split out in the aim of balance, but found it not to have worked. So some lessons learned about the character.

Shortly I’ll be writing a Character Creation article. This will be the usual ramble, but this time trying to explore and explain how we have got to our character creation process as opposed to any other.

In the next few weeks we are also going to be working towards finishing the content for the first block of Ascendancy. It’s exciting times in the card lab as Wessex throws his wild ideas around and Fushi Cho tests the hell out of everything. The play-testing has been great fun. I think the next step is to pass the first block and the ‘finalised’ rulebook to some unknowns and see how they get on.

Well, sorry we’ve been a bit quiet, but as you can see we are about to be very busy and give a lot of new content and material.

So stay tuned. Like, comment and tweet.


GM Preparation – Part 3

Posted on | July 18, 2013 | No Comments

Hello Garblaggites!

So finally part 3 of GM Preparation.

Events. These are things that the GM wants to achieve to create a story. I like to think of them in two types: Story Events and Session Events.

Story Events. These are the big scenes of your campaign, the set pieces that frame the main story. These aren’t just the combat sections of a game, important social or investigative sections are also powerful events in a campaign as well. A campaign should be centred around a chain of main events that form the spine of the story. When the GM is creating a campaign it is often in tandem with the main campaign events. You’ll probably think of the show down with the big bad guy, the discovery of the falsified records or a key interaction with the Prince of the Realm. The main plot elements of your campaign should have a fairly well planned out event tackling them.

You should plan these carefully as they are often the parts of the campaign that the players will remember. They are also the key to moving the story along. The difficult thing with these types of event is that because they are clearly defined they often have more fixed entry and exit points. You really have to steer players towards them with the plot and what’s going on in your campaign. However, if you’ve followed the Campaign tips in Part 2, the players should want to head towards these even if they don’t know they’re coming or what the consequences might be. Don’t plan complex, dramatic events that don’t fit the plot and no player will head towards. What I find useful is having a few ‘floating’ story events in mind. These are some that could fit in at various points of the campaign and often flesh out the background or world, emphasising certain themes.

Session Events. These are often smaller, but no less important events that are often spawned from what the players have done in previous sessions. Players will go off on a tangent, push the limits of your game and generally get in trouble. You may have a flash of inspiration between campaign sessions from a film, show or book you’re into. These are great fun and give your game a great sense of flexibility. Responding to the players wants and actions well is the sign of a good GM. At the end of the day, you just don’t know what the players are going to do.

As I said in Part 1, familiarity is key to good GM Prep. Knowing your setting (or creating the setting) allows you to really prepare well themed Story Events that the players will want as a goal. It will also allow you to quickly create Session Events that really fit into the world, but are not necessarily fundamental to the overall plot. Even better is to get to a stage where your Story Events look like Session Events. This is where the players believe you are reacting to their actions, but really they are just following the plan that you have lain down. This is something I always aim for (but don’t always achieve).

NPCs. These are the puppets in your show. Your conduit to tell the story. It’s important to provide interesting adversaries/allies for your players to interact with. When you think up the characters and creatures that the players might encounter, it’s important to understand what they represent or contribute to the overall story. When creating the campaign you’ll have particular bad guys in mind. There’ll also be some good guys you want to add in. What you should remember is that there is no such thing as black and white in the real world. If you want to create a realistic world, and people within that world, there should be shades of grey to most of your characters.

If there is an enemy species or race such as Orcs in D&D or the Vona in Third Order, remember that not all things about a people are evil. There will be some redeeming factors in their somewhere. I’m not saying make Orcs nice and fluffy, but are the heroes there to clear them out only to discover them in the middle of burying their dead from the last battle with hired heroes? It doesn’t change them fundamentally, but adds an interesting counter-theme. With individual NPCs you should make sure you have some idea of their motivations. What drives them? What would they kill for? What would they die for? Understanding these things about a story character will help your campaign greatly.

Make sure you name all your major NPCs (obviously) as well as any major figures in your world. There may be NPCs that the players never meet. You don’t have to flesh these out as much as the ones they do meet. However, you need to know the name of the Baron whose land the adventurers are passing through. It also might help to think about their reputation or what they are renowned for. Then when the players meet an NPC and ask them what they think of Baron Garblag, you have something to work from.

One final thing. Players will always want to know the barmaid/guard/henchman/librarian/pilot’s name. This is annoying. To you they are a throw away NPC; to a player they are a link into your world, a possible ally or resource. I’m not saying you should name them all in advance. What I am saying is have a dirty great list of names somewhere in your notes. As you meet NPCs and players ask that age old question, note down next to whichever name you assign who/what you gave it to. This really helps.

Ok, well this sums up our GM Preparation article. We hope that you find this useful and that there are at least a few pointers that you take away.

3 parts isn’t bad. I could write a whole lot more, but I wanted to touch on the main themes of preparation.

We’d love to hear what you thought of all 3 parts through comments, Facebook or Twitter.


Borax Trade Union

Posted on | July 17, 2013 | 2 Comments

This is the Boraxi language pictographic character that loosely translates into the overarching concept of the Borax Trade Union.BTU Symbol


Posted on | July 9, 2013 | 1 Comment

Hi there!

Sorry we haven’t put Part 3 of GM Prep up yet.

The good news is that we have been play-testing Ascendancy and working on Third Order rules and writing.

We haven’t forgotten though and Part 3 will be going up very soon.

We can’t wait to get kickstarters going and we are working towards that lofty goal.

So please stay tuned. Comment, share and tweet with us.

Some great things are in the works and we can’t wait to share them with you!


June 2013 Update

Posted on | June 28, 2013 | No Comments

Hi everyone!

So, it’s been a busy month.

Pencilwright has delivered a top notch first look at the world of Third Order.

Ascendancy was play-tested for the first time, with more games coming soon.

We’ve seen over 170 unique visitors to the website, up from just over 100 last month.

Social Media-wise Twitter we’re up to 38 followers and Facebook is up to 45 Likes.

It’s a slow start still, but we’re really encouraged by these beginnings.

The final part of GM Preparation will go up this weekend. We hope you enjoy it.

So, keep reading, commenting and tweeting.

Also check out the Facebook page – we often post cool stuff there.

Thanks for all your support so far and we hope you continue to enjoy what we have to offer!


First Iconic Artwork

Posted on | June 23, 2013 | 1 Comment

Hello All,

We’ve been working with Pencilwright on our first Iconic image – the Spacer. I think you’ll agree that it is pretty awesome!

This is the first Iconic, there will be plenty more where this came from though. So stay tuned!


Pria, is a crew member onboard the United Colonies starship UCS Copenhagen. Born on Utopia she has a knack with all things technical and spends most of her time providing sensor expertise to her captain or navigating their next Tachyon Transit jump. Equipped with spacer jumpsuit, slate sleeve and scanner she has all the tools she needs to survive the rigours of space travel.

GM Preparation – Part 2

Posted on | June 15, 2013 | No Comments


So, Part 2.

There are many tools a DM/GM can use to help them prepare their adventures. More importantly, these tools help the GM deal with the destruction a determined set of players can bring to a campaign simply by going of on a tangent, splitting up or generally acting stupid in the face of plot. I think preparation begins with the choice of game and setting. As the GM, are you familiar with it? Have you played/run it before? Are you planning on using a module or coming up with your own campaign within a well-defined world? A DM setting out in an unfamiliar world needs to get reading. This article assumes a good level of familiarity and a tendency to run your own games.

Campaign. Generally an idea and a setting mesh together and an overarching idea for a game is born. This could be as simple as heroes rescuing a kidnapped princess. Or it could be a bit more complex or specific. Often reading through setting books a particular location or hook stands out to me as one I could use as the crux of a campaign (more on hooks below). This becomes the core of your campaign and the axis about which all other parts of the story spin. The players should always have this in mind; you need to make them want to complete the quest. If the end goal is not interesting or compelling your players are more likely to wander off the beaten track.

To this end you should give your players a heads up of the type of campaign you want to run and a suggestion of where it might lead. Don’t give it away, but don’t let the players create a set of rural characters for an urban campaign. This will help you in the long run. If the characters are better suited to the quest you will have an easier time as your goal and theirs will be closer aligned. A player that does not feel included or useful is a sad and potentially dangerous thing. Additionally as the GM, you are not really doing your job properly. Players may have a strong character idea in their mind before you even talk campaign, just check it fits and if not help them adapt it to your game.

Hooks. These are interesting or strange facts/events/places that beg for foolish players to explore them. Whispered rumours in taverns, a hole in aerial photography databases and so forth. Essentially the overarching campaign plot is a giant hook, but along the way it can be tempting to throw in hooks for side or sub plots to entice the characters or flesh out the world. Some bold GMs go for a ‘sandbox’ approach, with no solid central campaign and a whole host of little hooks for the players to explore or not.

The key to hooks is not to make them too obvious or so subtle that they’ll be missed by treasure hungry players. What can work well (and takes a bit more prep) is to have a few hooks that seem to head off on tangents, but actually are all symptoms of the same problem. When the separate threads weave together this can create a really strong sense of the world for players. Whatever you do, don’t have a strong campaign and then constantly throw tempting hook after hook in. You’ll never get to the goal!

Maps. Maps. Maps. I can’t say it enough. Maps are amazing tools for GMs and players alike. The GM can use it as a framing device for the campaign, setting out the area of adventure. It provides instant world information for the players, which can be carefully seeded by the GM. Also as the players continue their adventures this can be added to or changed. This can create a developing world, which is very engaging for players. They are opening up the world before them. Just remember you don’t need to be a map making expert, these can be basic. It’s just a really good idea to let players know where things are in relation to each other.

Key Locations. Its a very good idea to have some info on those special places that will prove to be key backdrops to the plot of your story. If you lay out a map with some interesting towns/tombs/systems/buildings on them, the players will want to go there at some point! Their characters might even actually know a bit about these places (if their particularly renowned or the character is a local). Preset adventures are great in that most key areas are highlighted. If it’s your own world you don’t need to fully know every nook and cranny, just to have some good points. What do they look like, the mood of place, the smells and sounds.

Scale. So Maps are a great idea as are Key Locations, but you need to keep a close eye on your scales. Make sure that the spatial scale works. How long does it take to walk across the kingdom? How many light years will the crew need to cross? It’s a matter of space and time. Think carefully before setting a time limit on a mission. The King might want the orc raiders slain within the week, but if the orc camp is ten days travel to the east something hasn’t been worked out. Or the King doesn’t know the size of his kingdom (perhaps a hook in and of itself?). Maps should help with this. So will thinking out key locations and hooks.

These points are mainly about bringing plot and world together. As a GM I try to keep these things in mind as I prep and run my games. I hope they help you.

Part 3 will go into NPCs and events.


DM Preparation – Part 1

Posted on | June 6, 2013 | 6 Comments


I’ve been roleplaying for almost 25 years, ever since my dad brought home a certain red box set. For a few years I was a player, learning from my DMs without realising. It’s too long ago to remember every session, but I do remember one chap I’ll call PW, who ran the definitive AD&D game for me. [Nostalgia Alert] He was a good storyteller, strong on action scenes, subtle with plot and always prepared for our adventures.

My swashbuckler Talfor Apalpius will always be one of my favourite characters and a name/concept that has recurred in many worlds (finally coming to rest in Five Cities). I was challenged as a player and had to work hard to get my rewards. These rewards were always cherished, but I always wanted more. PW was driving me on, without me even realising. Always there with the right balance of carrot and stick, action and plot. Always prepared and thinking ahead. Years later PW moved on.

Before he left I had started to DM myself. My style was generous and raw. I made stuff up on the fly, improvised on a regular basis. I gave out ridiculous amounts of XP and lots and lots of treasure. They loved it! However, I kept overpowering my players and having to start again. We could discuss my egotistical/megalomaniacal tendencies, but let’s just say I loved being in charge. More than that, I got a real pleasure out of providing an entertaining experience for my friends.

But my DMing (or GMing as I grew older) was still raw and all about a fun experience rather than a coherent plot. Anyway, PW was moving to university and he had limited space. So he asked me if I wanted to take his collection. Of course I accepted and found a series of boxes and bags appear from the back of a jalopy. It was all AD&D 2nd ed and there were loads. So much that I had inspiration for games for years to come. I think this was when I actually became a GM, I was so interested in all the details of these worlds. From then on 90% of my roleplaying experiences have been behind the GM screen. It was also when I started thinking about my own games.

That was a long way off though and there were players that needed games running! I soon realised that as the players (and my) age tipped over 18 they became more interested in the arcing plots and subtle stories. Obviously they still wanted all the shiny things too, but they were trying to get involved in the story. I began planning long stories and grand campaigns. The heroes would be akin to Frodo on such an awesome story that surely they would never forget it. The problem with this approach was that we often would never reach the end. There would rarely be the payoff. I’d shifted from no prep to too much prep.

With no prep, I was flexible and able to shift the story to match (or mock) the players desires. Stories were interesting and ferocious, but with no goal. This often led to an empty feeling. Standing in a pile of dead orcs with a magic sword in hand, but not sure why you stormed the village? Done that. At the time it didn’t matter, story was not the focus. Yet I think those early years of ‘just get stuck in and rolling some dice’ helped me a lot later on. Things were fun, but disjointed and there were many inconsistencies.

With too much prep, I was detailed and describing an intricate and subtle(ish) story. However, I was rigid and unable to quickly step beyond the well laid plans. The stories were better, but if I hadn’t prepped the latest player tangent (which always happens) there was a startling difference between the planned and off-the-cuff moments. One particular Vampire: Dark Ages campaign stands out. I set the game in Venice and had done my homework and then some. There were moments when the players stepped off the beaten path and found a paper thin trail. Luckily the story was strong enough that these few parts were quickly forgotten.

After many years I had begun to create my own world, what would become Five Cities and branched out into the sci-fi world of Third Order. At this point I still had those boxes that PW had set down on my doorstep and would often look through them. They still provided inspiration for games, but also a good benchmark for the ‘stuff’ to put in a game.

These days I only run my games. Sounds a bit egotistical, but it’s actually a long term play-testing plan. Mostly it’s Third Order and I feel people think that I don’t really prep. True I don’t have notes on everything in the session, maybe a map. However, something that PW made me realise was that the more familiar you are with the world, the more you can be flexible with the structure and give a little to deal with unexpected twists and turns. You’ll also have a stronger grasp of the themes that run through the game and be able to gently steer people towards any goal.

You need to have flexibility for those players that want to go off on what you would consider a tangent. Familiarity with the world will pay off in terms of being able to ad hoc fill the gaps, you’ll know exactly what should be in there. You’ll also need some structure, some plan. Familiarity with the world will pay off in terms of the overarching place in the world the players inhabit. It will allow your story to ‘fit’. In creating my own game and settings I’ve taken the final step in familiarity. I am these worlds (in so-much-as they came from my brain).

So that’s Part 1, my approach and general comments. Part 2 will go into specific preparation techniques.


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