Version 4.0 of Karma in the Dark is ready for its rough release.
What do I mean by "rough release?"
The update/revision is complete enough for play testing. The character, team, and safe house playbooks have been finished into pdf form. The main rulebook is currently available on Google docs; I still need to finish its InDesign layout before it can be transferred into a pdf.
My list of upcoming tasks:
After those main tasks, I have a few small pieces to finish, like a description of the items on the standard gear list. I also want to update/refine the Quick Start kit I tested last spring to help groups run one-shots.
All of the base character playbooks (i.e. not anti-heroes) have been transferred to the new layout and updated for version 4.0. Each playbook received changed xp triggers and tweaks (or a complete remix) to special abilities.
The new format incorporates the upcoming changes to the Contact system (e.g. if you have 3-bond with a Contact, they also act as an expert cohort for you) and the inclusion of attitude abilities, which are gained after your get your first jaded instinct. You will also see some term shifts on the sheet, with virtue now being called personal code.
Finally, with the added content and needed layout space, I've added a downtime sheet for each character, based on their soul, to track professional skills, recovery, and projects.
You can download the playbooks here and preview them below.
The team playbooks were also done, but lost due to a technology error. I've spent the past week trying to recover them with no luck; my goal this weekend is to get them all recreated.
This is a brief update to explain the non-update.
Since July 23rd, I've been spending a lot of time in hospitals, having various tests conducted, most of which require me to be on no medications (or caffeine, ugh). So I pretty much lost a month to waiting rooms and tests and feeling sick.
As of Friday, they've officially locked in my diagnosis (yes, it's POTS....yes, it took the medical field months to confirm what initial tests already determined) and ruled out any other contributing conditions.
I should be getting some improved treatment in September, when my specialist is back from vacation.
I've also been able to cut back at work from 14-16 hour days to closer to 11 hour days. That difference is huge. Once I'm feeling better, I look forward to taking advantage of it.
It's been a frustrating week or two of having free time, but feeling too sick/tired to do anything productive with it. You know you're brain dead when playing World of Warcraft feels too mentally taxing.
In summary: I'm cautiously hopeful that things will improve in September. I'm going to keep chipping away at the update for Karma and edits to Tides of Gold...but there will likely be no major progress until late September. Which is disappointing...and may be underestimating how I feel in the next few weeks, but it's become impossible to predict productivity so I'll just aim for September progress.
With some of the rules changes to version 4, I need to add information to the character sheet. I went ahead and played around with the layout and style while I was changing content.
Most notably, Contacts have become a key mechanical feature. They continue to have a bonds/grudges system with bonuses and complications, but they also effectively take the place of expert cohorts from Blades in the Dark.
With the content changes the character sheet will be two pages. While it moves away from the 1-page simplicity of the Blades model, it lets me fit the mechanics into the sheets without overcrowding. Essentially you'll have a main character sheet and a downtime character sheet. That sheet will allow you to track everything downtime related:
Basically the data you don't need during missions (i.e., the bulk of play).
As in all things, the new character sheet format is in the testing phase and still open to future updates.
It turns out that spending 3 weeks on a pirate side-project is exactly the mental break I needed to feel inspired to work on Karma in the Dark again. I've spent the last few days reviewing the completed chapters and chipping away at the incomplete ones.
Version 4.0 is going to come with the long-promised antihero playbooks. When a PC would die or be forced to retire from becoming too jaded, they can come back as an antihero instead.
[Rule summary after the break]
I have a problem.
The problem is keeping projects small.
I pretty much just spent my entire annual vacation getting Tides of Gold to the point it can be play tested with relative ease. By relative ease I mean that I lean on the SRD for the Forged in the Dark game engine. Unlike the current state of Karma, I'm not trying to replicate the entire game system.
Tides of Gold, version 1, has been released.
The game is ready for groups to pick it up and play. It includes a full setting that includes 9 detailed ports, 50 factions, and enough world detail to spark ideas for groups, but enough empty spaces for them to make it their own. It also includes 3 crew types and 5 PC playbooks.
The rule changes from the base Forged in the Dark engine are minimal. I did that on purpose, so people could bring Blades playbooks into this setting, or take the ships of this game into the Blades setting. There are a few rule additions for sea travel and ship combat. In the future I want to add some faction-economy mechanics, but I'd like to get these initial systems well tested before I layer on anymore complexity.
Overall, I'm really happy with this release. Design wise, it pushed me in a very different direction than Karma in the Dark. While Karma has been all about exploring mechanics, this release is all about creating an interesting world that's easy for GM to adopt for their own purposes.
I also invested a lot of time in the artwork. While my skills are still developing, creating an illustrates bestiary with 20+ original monsters took me into new territory.
So yes. Now you can play pirates. Or pirate hunters. In a unique, Mediterranean inspired world.
I started Corsairs on the Dark as a one-weekend project, to create some unique playbooks for the Blades in the Dark setting and let people be ship-based crews. Recently I went back to wrap up the project, and as I tend to do, end up getting sucked into design questions and quandaries.
At this point, the game has:
All of those materials can be found here.
I have short summaries on about 9 factions I need to lay out and edit. I also have a quick start rules document about 30% through layout, which includes the ship combat and sea travel rules. The quick start mostly covers unique rules, flow of play, and easy reference for common mechanics. It assumes you own Blades in the Dark, and is intended to be a stand alone game.
or now, I plan to keep the project within this scope. I have ideas about some faction/trade/living economy type of mechanics, but I want to get the next version of Karma out first.
Full information is in my blog.
But for people who primarily track the game's progress here, the summary is:
I have a chronic illness called POTS that started significantly impacting me in February. As a result, my ability to predict my productivity in all areas of life (including this game) has disappeared.
I'm still committed to working on this, but priorities like keeping my day job and taking care of my basic health have to come first.
I may spend more time messing around with smaller side projects like Corsairs and Pet Brigade. This happens when I don't mentally feel up to wrestling with Karma's more complicated/layered mechanics, but still want to do some sort of design work.
I'll continue to update here as I make progress.
JUN 24 EDIT: Added two new links
I will be posting links to chapters from v4.0 as I finish the initial version (i.e. copyediting, style editing, and potential design tweaks still to come).
Since these are being linked as I go, it won't really work to use them for learning the rules until the majority have been posted. I'm releasing them more to give the interested a preview of the next version and the chance to see the cycle of development more directly.
The new rulebook is designed to be read in the order you will need information. It will include rule reference sheets for quick look up/reference while playing.
Game Phases Section
(this section is not being written entirely in order so some references will be to rules in earlier chapters that haven't been finished)
I finally finished the "creation" chapters of the book. So the Overview/Core Concept section (the latter of which now is really about the core mechanic and not +every other game mechanic), World Creation, Character Creation, and Team Creation are finished.
On one hand, this feel like a small amount of content. On the other hand, it represents the biggest creation/addition of new mechanics in the entire book. The part of me that thought, "Sure, redo the safe house system by dropping bland upgrades and creating 32 new special abilities to replace them," was obviously bad at math...because making 32 special abilities balanced and interesting it a headache. Especially as these are being added to the 49 team special abilities and 108 character special abilities and 91 special contract abilities already in existence.
280 special abilities in-game. I think I have a problem with limiting ambition. And that's before I add the antihero playbooks.
The remaining edits fall into two main categories:
1) Writing up new rules. So not content generation per se, but still work.
2) Adding sandbox tools and random generation charts.
The second might be added in version 4.1 just so I can get the next version into playtesting sooner.