My Games

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Superhero Funnel Design Update 2

This is my second post outlining my idea for the Funnel Jam. First post here. I have fallen way behind on this, but fortunately, the deadline has been extended.

I'll put the full text (of what I currently have) below, but tl;dr compared to the first version, I now have a completely different resolution mechanic based on dice pools and how to spend a limited number of successes across tasks, and I've also stripped-down the superheroes themselves pretty significantly.


The Superhero Funnel is inspired by the My Hero Academia Entrance Exam. The players each control some number of prospective superheroes who must go through a series of trials (Issues) to be accepted into the superhero school. Players will variously play their superheroes altogether as teams, play each superhero individually, or split their superheroes across teams with the other players. The goal is for superheroes to “survive” Issue by Issue and earn a sufficient number of Hero Points.

Ability Scores

Abilities are more about an approach or style than physicality or other specific abilities. Sure, there are certain things one superhero may be able to do that another simply cannot, given the differences in their powers, but it is generally assumed that, even as students, all of these prospective superheroes are capable of completing challenges, and they are being challenged not just on their raw power, but on their individual aptitudes and character.

Roll 1d6 for each Ability

SHOWmanship: Power displays, catchphrases, signature taunts, or moves.

TEAMwork: Inspiration, self-sacrifice, prosocial behaviors, public safety.

WILLpower: Endurance, resistances, overcoming limitations, facing fears.

TECHnique: Infiltration, ingenuity, trained skills.

EXAMination: Investigation, surveillance, planning.

Hero Points

The starting Hero Points (HP) are 10 for all superheroes. HP are awarded throughout the tournament such as for completing Issues. If a superhero falls to 0 or negative HP, they are eliminated from the Entrance Exam even if they are not defeated or outright fail an Issue.


The Entrance Exam consists of a series of trials such as obstacle course races, hostage rescue, facing supervillains, and investigations. One could think of each trial as an Issue of a comic book. Some Issues are team-oriented, while others are solo or free-for-all. Superheroes are awarded HP for completing Issues and may gain bonus HP by completing certain sub-tasks or be penalized HP for failing to meet certain conditions.

Action Strip

Issues and other superhero challenges consist of Action Strips, where single actions are Panels on the Strip. For a given Action Strip, roll as many d6’s as the decided Ability Score and an additional 2d6. Rolling 4 or higher on a die counts as a success. Each Panel costs a certain number of successes in order to be completed.

At the start of an Action Strip, the GM will lay out the Panels on the Page; explaining what each Panel entails and the base cost in successes for each Panel. Additionally, players may be able to suggest Panels of their own and the GM will determine the cost. These costs may fluctuate Page by Page, and additionally, the GM may spring Surprise Panels on superheroes as a result of their actions.

A Page consists of the Panels for all superheroes on a given side of a conflict (if there are multiple sides), and all Panels resolve in parallel. Meanwhile, available Panels, Surprise Panels, and costs are re-evaluated on the next Page.

By spending half the cost (rounding up), a superhero can create a Danger Panel. They roll 2d6, and on a full success (both dice >= 4) it is as if they paid full price, but on a partial success (only one die >= 4), they may suffer consequences such as increased costs of Panels on the next Page, fewer available Panels, fail the Panel but without increasing costs or losing Panels or succeed but evoke a Surprise Panel. On a full failure (both dice <= 4), consequences are even graver, such as failing the task and increasing costs, losing Panels, or evoking a Surprise Panel.


For this Issue, a group of bank robbers have taken hostages, planted a bomb, and are preparing to make their escape with the money. This Issue is a Three-Panel Action Strip where each Panel on the first Page costs 1 success, and the Issue is worth up to 5 HP. Bloodhound has 5 TECH but knows that she’s being tested specifically for her ability to keep the hostages safe and inspire confidence and that she will receive +3 HP if she can complete the Issue using TEAM, so she chooses to use her 3 TEAM instead.

She rolls 5d6 (3 TEAM + 2 default) and gets 4, 6, 1, 2, and 5, meaning she gets 3 successes. While this is technically enough to succeed on all Panels, she suspects that if she rescues the hostages or defuses the bomb, Meanwhile the robbers will have more time to make their escape, increasing the cost of that Panel on the next Page. She also suspects the reverse to be true- if she goes after the Robbers, Meanwhile the bomb will keep ticking and hostages will have less time to escape, increasing the cost of those Panels on the next Page. When the player asks, the GM confirms this is so, but would have kept it a secret if the player hadn’t asked, because they prefer the style of play that encourages player ingenuity, as was discussed in their session 0. She also suspects that if she does not rescue the hostages on the first page, then she will not receive the bonus HP (this is also confirmed by the GM).

Given these circumstances, she chooses the hostage rescue as her Panel for the first Page. She spends 1 success and, using her proportional strength and speed of a bloodhound, is able to pull the hostages out of harm's way, beat back her foes, and do it all with an inspiring smile.

Meanwhile, the bomb keeps ticking, and the robbers begin to make their escape. She’s close enough to the bomb that the cost for this Panel has not changed, so she chooses this as her Panel on the second page. However, instead of defusing it, she wants to detach it and toss it in the path of the robbers, blocking their escape. While normally these would be two Panels with a total cost of 3 successes (the cost of stopping the robbers had increased after the previous Panel), the GM allows this maneuver because it’s clever. However, Surprise Panel! A “supervillain” (actually one of the teachers, of course), intercedes the bomb, and without any more successes to spend, the robbers are able to make their escape.

Having succeeded at 2 of the 3 Panels, the administrators decide to award Bloodhound 3 of 5 HP. However, since she used TEAM and prioritized rescuing the hostages, she received the bonus HP for a total of 6. Having lost 3 HP after landing on a trap in the obstacle course of the previous Issue, this brings her up to 13 HP, still at the lower end of the superheroes who passed the first two Issues, but not so far behind that she can’t catch up.


  1. Bloodhound: Has the proportional strength, speed, and senses of a bloodhound.
  2. Gray Goo: Nanomachines convert non-living matter into other things (must understand the properties of the creation), and create virtual reality spaces.
  3. Vector: Unstoppable while moving in a straight line, vulnerable while pivoting.
  4. Pinball: Superspeed and proportional superstrength, but must account for inertia and other laws of velocity and acceleration.
  5. Snake: Floating orbs spontaneously appear around them. As they eat the orbs, they grow longer. Their sharp scales are dangerous even to themself.
  6. 2D: Two-dimensional. Can flatten against surfaces, slip through crevices, and fold like origami.
  7. Scanner Darkly: Superspy skills and gadgets, appearance and voice scrambling mask, separated brain hemispheres for multitasking, and deep-cover identity dissociation.
  8. Mushroom: Eating mushrooms makes them grow giant-sized or shrink to the size of a mouse.
  9. Flash Fry: Project hot grease and resistance to grease fires.
  10. Cinnamon: Emanate novas of burning-hot capsaicin.
  11. Mint: Emanate novas of ice-cold menthol.
  12. Alkahest: Project a universal solvent fluid.
  13. Kintsugi: Injuries make them stronger with scars of gold.
  14. Librarian: Paper Elementalist.
  15. Technomancer: Override software in devices and control them as an extension of themselves.
  16. Herbalist: While holding a plant, gain superpowers relating to its properties.
  17. Landfill: Telekinetic control of trash and waste.
  18. Schrodinger: While unseen, can be anywhere and nowhere in the vicinity.
  19. Laservision: Sees a laser-grid overlay for perfect accuracy and precision.
  20. Aye-Aye Aye: Has a long bony finger, like an aye-aye, with advanced supersenses.
  21. Memetos: A living idea that can infect the collective unconsciousness over time, or more rapidly the consciousnesses of individuals in the vicinity.
  22. Constructor: Rapidly construct cartoonish but functional devices and structures from minimal resources that break down shortly after use.
  23. Cleric: Summon rays of cleansing, healing, but also searing light.
  24. Parkour: Superhuman agility, dexterity, flexibility, reflexes, etc.
  25. Icarus: Waxy wings that melt away, dripping with the heat of Greek Fire.
  26. POP: Compel any non-living object to spontaneously combust. The force of the explosion and predictability of the detonation time is proportional to the size of an object.
  27. Chopper: Human attack helicopter cyborg.
  28. Flurry: Throw rapid and near-infinite consecutive strikes.
  29. Wavecrash: “Teleportation” via the internet and strike from the other side with the force of a vehicle speeding down the information superhighway.
  30. Babylon: Scramble or silence sounds, including language, and can emit sonic force beams.
  31. Triplets: Able to coordinate in perfect harmony; far greater than the sum of their parts.
  32. Warhead: Fortified with an organic metal shell. They can explode without harming themself, but lose their metal shell for the remainder of the Issue.
  33. Kafka: Proportional strengths and abilities of various arthropods, although their greatest power (and weakness) is their utterly horrifying appearance.
  34. Combo Ace: Store three pre-programmed athletic or combat feats like video game controller macros, infinite use unless replaced (30min programming time).

Monday, July 19, 2021

Tunnels & Trolls / Mark of the Odd Hack

I haven't posted any TNT stuff in a long time but I had a random Mark of the Odd (Into the Odd / Electric Bastionland) alternate combat system idea that takes inspiration from Tunnels & Trolls and Maze Rats. I had always wanted to do something similar to this for D&D, but actually, I think it would be a lot more straightforward for MotO.

Just the combat mechanic alone could be like a MotO Hack for TNT-style combat, but I had intended at some point to make a TNT Hack that was going to be basically my attempt at an NSR-ification of TNT (New School Revolution), but actually, I feel like replacing the core combat mechanics of MotO with those of TNT gets me like 80% of the way to what I would have wanted out of such a hack anyway, so it kind of works as both.

Index of Prior TNT Posts

Martians (Part 1 and Part 2, never finished Part 3...)
TNT Character Subtypes (Part 1 and Part 2)
Character Types (Mystic, Huntsman, War Dogs, Warlord)

Also, I deleted my Reddit a while back and would prefer not to create a new one, but a few of my TNT posts on the tunnels and trolls subreddit have been pretty popular, one of them even got pinned onto the subreddit I think, so I would very much appreciate it if somebody could share this post there for me! As I said, I think it could be framed just as much as an NSR-ification of TNT as a MotO Hack with TNT-style combat.

Base Combat Mechanic

During combat, characters (PCs and enemies) can take non-attack actions on their turn, and then once all characters have taken their actions, there is a group opposed roll for combat. In Tunnels & Trolls, this group opposed roll is the default assumption, but you could also choose to break it up into individual opposed rolls between just two characters.

The order of operations may vary; like you could say certain kinds of actions resolve before or after the opposed roll- it's not the kind of thing I get too hung up on, but somebody could codify this.

All characters roll their damage dice, and then you add up the totals for each side, take the difference, and the losing side takes the difference in damage spread between the characters evenly or in whatever other way would be sensible.

Rolling the highest value on a die deals spite damage, meaning even if you lose the opposed roll, you deal the damage anyway. In TNT there are dice pools of only d6s, and you only deal 1 damage for each 6 on a d6. Because more dice are being rolled, it makes sense to only give 1 spite damage per die, but in MotO I think it makes more sense to just have it deal the full damage since you only have one die, or maybe two in some special cases, but not dice pools.

TNT has a rule that I think is really interesting, where ranged weapons have fewer dice, but can bypass the opposed roll. I would translate that here as ranged weapons or small weapons like daggers have d4 or lower as default die size instead of d6. This way, they have a higher probability of dealing spite damage (1 in 4 or 25% as opposed to 1 in 6 or ~16.67%), which is a more streamlined way to implement something like the ability to bypass opposed rolls by leveraging a feature of MotO that is unique compared to TNT; that you can have variable damage die sizes, and that the size of the die is inversely proportional to the likelihood of dealing spite damage. This likelihood difference is still a lot less than the default for ranged weapons in TNT, but also, the difference in the amount of damage dealt is also going to be much smaller in most cases, so I think it balances out (but that remains to be seen with playtesting...).

Armor still exists in this hack, where MotO armor is damage reduction just as in TNT, so it doesn't add to your side of the opposed roll, it only decreases the amount of damage you would take if your side loses the opposed roll. I also think you could add the shield rule from Maze Rats into this, where the shield can be destroyed to negate all damage; this would be somewhat similar to one of the abilities the warrior class has in TNT.

Why do this (if you're coming from a MotO perspective)?

  • If you like MotO but want to try out a different kind of combat system.
  • It makes combat a little less deadly and more dynamic (maybe, this is untested...).
  • It adds an interesting tactical layer for smaller / weaker weapons or ranged weapons that I think is both interesting, and kind of appropriate for this style of game, without making it significantly crunchier.
  • It seems like a pretty easy conversion, easier than trying to convert D&D combat to opposed rolls, so why not try it out?

Why do this (if you're coming from a TNT perspective)?

    • Mark of the Odd is a really nice, streamlined system that evokes many of the core values of old-school D&D and TNT, but with some more modern sensibilities.
    • If you dislike the dice pools of TNT.
    • If you want to try something new but familiar.

    Full NSR/TNT Hack?

    To make a full hack, I'd need to think about how to convert TNT WIZ (basically spellcasting points) for MotO, and also how to deal with progression and class balance given that there is no obvious equivalent to dice pools or combat adds in this system as-is. I'd need to decide if those are core elements that need to be converted, or come up with some different but equivalent way to treat the ability scores and how they relate to the classes, spellcasting, advancement, etc.

    I think by the end, I would wind up with a system that is conceptually, mechanically, and legally distinct from MotO or TNT, while still evocative of them, in much the same way that MotO itself is meant to evoke the underlying values of old-school D&D, while effectively being an entirely new and unrelated system.

    Friday, July 9, 2021

    Retrospective: Elves

    I've done a retrospective on my first blog post, Mythic Beings, and on my first game, Pixels & Platforms, where I discuss how bad I was and how much better I've gotten at writing and game designing, respectively. Now I'll do a retrospective on my first "Traditional" Fantasy Weird & Wonderful Table, Elves. I begrudgingly included a hyperlink, but it's pretty bad, don't waste your time. I mean, some of them are solid ideas, but some of them are... really not. This was before I really nailed down the concept, that the "Traditional" Fantasy Tables should subvert expectations in interesting ways, rather than just being random variants (like WoTC so often does...).

    Rather than going entry by entry and critiquing it, in this post, I create an entirely new batch. These are I think a little less Weird and more focused on being subversions of typical expectations of Elves. Personally, I prefer the weird, but I imagine this principle will be more appealing to most people. This is closer to what I tried to do with the Elves of Aquarian Dawn, but I think the elves below are generally better.

    Since that original table, I've improved in several ways, which will hopefully be reflected in these entries, such as deemphasizing superficial elements and placing greater emphasis on elements that lend themselves to being used in-game.

    While sharing a few of these on the NSR Discord Server and The OSR Pit, an observation was made that some of these are seemingly at odds with each other. I hadn't necessarily intended all of these to be part of the same setting. The non-specified elves referred to in the Dark Elves entry, for instance, probably shouldn't be the High Elves of the entry above, but could maybe refer to the Dryads. Where non-specified elves are referenced in an entry, I generally mean traditional fantasy elves.

    Also, thanks to Semiurge for a few good suggestions!

    I had wanted to write ten but got stuck on nine and now I'm out of the moment so I'm just gonna let it be what it is so it doesn't wind up in draft limbo forever.

    High Elves (Uruk)
    A brutal empire dominated by a Lich God-King. The centuries-old warrior caste, Uruk, wear into battle enchanted skins such as those of giant bats, lizard-men, wild boars, and dire wolves, making of themselves as monsters. When not warring to expand their territory, they raid villages at the outskirts, but strangely, seem mostly interested in collecting an iridescent but otherwise useless and valueless rock. However, recent reports from spies who have witnessed them at rest, depict the Uruk as gorgeous underneath their skins, as prioritizing beauty and aestheticism, valuing romanticism, consuming psychedelic mushrooms, and engaging in social grooming and other acts of camaraderie and companionship. The human kingdoms must now grapple with the knowledge that the "monsters" they used to gruesomely murder at every opportunity, are in fact more so like themselves than not.

    Dark Elves
    They are to elves as deep ones are to humans; an intelligent species from the deep oceans with the mysterious ability to hybridize with their land-dwelling others. Whereas deep ones often have fish-like appearances, the dark elves are more like cephalopods. Unlike humans and deep ones, the relationship between elves and dark elves is one of communication and collaboration. This often creates tension between the elven and human kingdoms, as the human kingdoms and deep ones are in a perpetual cold war, and they see the dark elves as a potential information leak to their enemies.

    These predators appear nearly indistinguishable from elves, although they are more closely related to birds. They prey on elves, especially babies, replacing them with their own young to be unwittingly raised by the elves. They are boogeymen and the stuff of urban legends; so well adapted to their craft that most elves don't even believe them to be real.

    Nomads with an advanced sensory-immune system. They have a symbiotic relationship with a mycelium network that thrives in their guts and spores off of them invisibly to the naked eye, giving them a means of communication amongst each other and nature that is indescribable to other creatures. For this reason, they are also hyper-aware of the effects of pollution and environmental destruction.

    Wild Hunt
    These elves long ago ascended to the realm of the gods, exploring the celestial heavens in massive golden chariots. They value logic and are often perceived as cold and detached, yet are generally compassionate and generous when one considers their reasoning. Their name is a misnomer passed down in legends, as they only return to the mortal realm when a great threat looms, and so their arrival has become associated with that of demonic incursions and other calamities.

    Magical, shapeshifting, playful creatures that developed alongside elves, not unlike dogs to humans. They come in many genders, such as many-tailed fox, big-testicled tanuki, serpent, coyote, dolphin, spider, and peacock, although most are gender-fluid. They enjoy tricks and pranks, usually harmless and good-natured. A common prank is to take the form of an elf and develop a romantic relationship with a human (the elves see past their tricks), and so in some human lore, they are considered monsters or demons.

    Their society is the nearest to that of the ancient and advanced Lemuria, the greatest kingdom at the height of the Age of Elves. Although a pale reflection of their past, they still hold ancient knowledge and powerful magical artifacts. While the longevity of elves usually preserves their society, the Lemurian Diaspora, little more than a century ago, has distorted history and knowledge that was already slowly slipping like sand in an hourglass. Lemurian immigrants are being exploited for their knowledge and artifacts, exoticized and tokenized by nobles, and scapegoated to direct the frustrations of the serfs.

    Veterans of an ancient war, and master warriors. Most of their kind have since passed on, and those who remain prefer to live in peace and contemplation as mountain hermits. They have little patience for those who invade their privacy and are prone to violence. However, to those who are virtuous and talented, they will teach their rare martial techniques, with feigned reluctance.

    Uncanny neotenous elves, child-like in both appearance and behavior, although with a level of social and emotional intelligence far beyond that of humans. Their society is immeasurably wealthy, advanced, and idyllic. Although pacifist, when threatened, and where no peaceful effort succeeds, eldritch creatures come from the aether to protect them. The nature of this relationship is not well understood by others. They will trade with others, usually to the benefit of the partner and more for their own entertainment than out of any need of their own, but will not support those who engage in war or colonial expansion.