News

Word on the Grapevine January 27, 2016 08:27 1 Comment

One of my favorite narrator’s tools is rumors. Rumors are like teaser trailers for movies; they offer a peek without really telling you anything. As a narrator, I enjoy throwing a few of these at my party and seeing what strikes their interest. From that reaction I can take a little time and write out a small sidebar adventure to go along with my campaign. It’s really fun to see which of those on-the-spot blurbs became the most memorable.


Coming up with rumors is really the fun part. This can be done by reading headlines in the newspaper for inspiration, vaguely hinting at a major plot point in your story, or even dropping clues that an old enemy is still lurking about. If it seems interesting to you, it’ll most likely seem interesting to the party. Here are some of my favorite ideas I’ve used and reused:

  • “Word is the circus is in town. I’d stay away if I were you. What you see is a distraction from what you don’t.”
  • “Someone saw some madman running through the alleys last night. He was wearin’ one of the guard uniforms. Makes you think, what if he’s still hiding in plain sight?”
  • “Welcome to [town name], you’re new? I know a new face when I sees one. Come in, join the festivities-- *in a hushed voice* Don’t draw any attention. They are watching you. Just play along and you’ll be just fine. Meet me at the warehouse by the [dock/stables/factories] at midnight. *resuming the loud, boisterous voice* Do enjoy yourselfs now. Can’t have too many smiling faces.”
  • “There were strange sounds coming out of that house again. The scratching and clawing, the pounding, and the screeching of metal. No one goes close to it. It’s supposed to be empty.”
  • “You heard about the mayor’s son? Nasty child, him. Hardly seen much of him any more. Usually at night, when he’s skulking around being suspicious. Most think he’s off dealing with them drug lords. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just off his knocker. Might even kill his own mum so HE can be mayor. Such a shame.”

The sources for delivering your rumors can vary. It can be someone talking in a low voice in the corner of a pub, an enthusiastic greeter giving the party a warm welcome to the town, or it can even be a poster or flyer either on a wall or blown into a character’s face by the wind. The source will determine how the rumor is perceived and responded to. Did a madman shout it from the rooftops? Maybe he’s just shouting nonsense, or maybe he’s telling the truth. The rumors don’t even have to be true. You could lead the party on a snipe hunt as a way of showing off the town, or driving the plot by having them poke around the place and getting into trouble. Rumors should add flair to your adventure, give the environment a sense of suspicion, and set the stage for the players to interact with.    


As fun as rumors are, they should be used responsibly. Too much can distract from the story and leave the party confused, or railroad so far away from your main plot that you now have to find a way to get everyone back on track. A handful of rumors can be enough to keep the party interested when there’s a lull in the adventure. More than that and you run the risk of creating a conspiracy, and those last forever.


Please, comment below with any rumors you have used, or are thinking of using. Maybe share those fun moments when a tangent adventure became a saga highlight. If you have any questions about creating rumors, ask away.


Where Does the Story Begin? January 20, 2016 20:32

When I'm working on a new saga or adventure, the titular question of "Where does my story begin?" is often the first and last thing I consider. It can often be a difficult question to answer, because a story can have any number of beginnings.


When it comes to entertaining your players, it helps to know what they are looking for in a saga. You can take what you know and give it to them, or use it against them. I like to take a little inspiration from my players, using the little details they provide and seeing how far I can run with it. The biggest hurdle can be the first session. Whether you start in a tavern, on board a train, or waking up in the desert without any provisions or recent memory, the first session shapes the tone of your adventure. When in doubt, you can always rely on the tried and true pub, where adventures are prone to start.


The next aspect of the story you might consider is background. How much of the background do you reveal to your players? Give them too little information and they may not take interest, or they may not make connections you are trying to lead them to. Give them too much and they may find the story to lose a bit of the mystery it had before. You also have to think about how complex and involved you want your background to be. A saga that emphasizes political games and nobility will most often have some complicated back story that can only be handed out in bite-size pieces. When you get a feel for your players’ personalities and strengths, you can more easily gauge whether they might make good use of a piece of information.


Now, everything I’ve talked about so far is about the start of the game, or the start of the written story. However, that does not mark the beginning. When I look back at my favorite campaigns that I played in, I don’t often begin at the first session. Sometimes the story really begins halfway through, when the party has figured each other out and the narrator has dropped the first bombshell event. That makes the previous half of the campaign part of the back story. Whether this was intentional or not I may never know, but it does bring an important note to mind. When you are writing out your campaign, I find it’s best to create an outline of major plot points. With each of those points written out, you can look at the story you want to tell and determine where it will actually begin. It’s good to aim for an intended beginning rather than letting one happen naturally. You may open up in the tavern, and up until the party escapes the exploding mansion, you may realize that what happened in between was the prelude to the story.


The New and Improved Pulse Detector: More Detection per Pulse January 13, 2016 08:21

Now, your common run-of-the-mill Pulse Detector has one function: to pick up heartbeats. The range increases as the trinket is upgraded to higher marques. With one of these bad boys, you won’t likely be snuck-up on any time soon. However, there are several features that this device lacks, and here at Spendo’s Gallery of Improvements and Prototypes, we have taken to answering the big question: What else can it do?


For starters, let’s take a look at the primary feature. Heartbeats are common enough, as the majority of living things have one. Trouble is, not all of the lurking dangers you’ll face will have hearts conveniently shoved into them. For the mechanicals and the bizarre, we have developed a new feature! The Heartless Monster-Detector will tune into the sounds that accompany most automatons and machines. This upgraded Pulse Detector will now display any machinery with moving parts. A handy tool for the aspiring thief or the less-alert guard!


Our next feature we’d like to look at is something of a no-brainer. With the ability to detect multiple heartbeats, and now machinery too, you may find it difficult to figure out what it is your Pulse Detector is picking up. Look no further! The Pulse Identifier saves you the trouble of guessing on the spot. This handy little feature measures the frequency of a pulse, and indicates whether it is organic, mechanical, or other. Now you no longer have to sit and wonder if your friend or coworker has been replaced with an automaton duplicate. Just turn on your Pulse Identifier and let the machine do the rest!


Finally we would turn your attention to this prototype over here. This is a marvel you won’t soon forget, or my name isn’t Spendo! This beauty of modern science is the answer to the oldest question in the world: Where did I put my keys? Search no further, folks! These handy, convenient, and quite charming Pulse Emitters will save you the trouble of searching again. These tiny devices can be attached to any surface, and will emit a pulse much like that of a heartbeat. This will allow the Pulse Detector to pick up the signal and, with the addition of the Pulse Identifier, display the whereabouts of your missing keys, tools, or other belongings.


Never live with uncertainty again, pick up your new and improved Pulse Detectors today! Our prices are so low, I’m practically giving them away!


  • Heartless Monster-Detector - 20 Princes
  • Pulse Identifier - 30 Princes
  • Pulse Emitters (each) - 5 Princes

SPENDO-BRAND: 91.6% GUARANTEED!


Automatons and You: A Comprehensive Guide January 06, 2016 18:35

Let’s take a moment to talk about one of the best features of Tephra: automatons (the craftable kind that are probably not immediately trying to kill you). At first glance, choosing between the different kinds can be daunting and choosing augments even more so. Worry not! This guide to automatons will take you through your first steps toward figuring out exactly what you want from the best craft ever devised.


Let us first examine the three types of automatons available in the Playing Guide and go over their benefits and drawbacks with a fine-toothed comb.


Boilers

Sometimes referred to as “steamers,” boiler automatons work as an extension of the operator. They boast a high number of wounds and a natural soak class comparable to medium armor, which can be combined with armoring to make these clunky bots some of the best defenders around. These automatons are controlled with a remote device, using the operator’s action points to take actions.

Recommendation:

Because of their high defenses and the method of control, it is most common for these automatons to be built with the passenger augment, allowing the operator to sit inside and take advantage of the additional armoring and wounds.


Fuseboxes

These automatons have their own action points and a small number of hit points. The function of a fusebox is to act as another hero with its own selection of specialties. What makes these automatons unique is that specialties programmed into them operate at a specific skill value (minimum of 1). With the right augments, these automatons can boast the most skill usage or the most attribute values in the party.

Recommendation:

There are two augments that raise the effective skill points these automatons use for choosing skills: Fusebox Specialist and Master Fusebox. Applying both yields a fusebox that at Marque IV has 25 skill points for any specialties it knows. This means it is a master of up to 5 specialties, allowing these automatons to serve as powerful snipers, brawlers, tacticians, or whatever you can dream up. On top of these augments, you can choose 3 attribute augments to give them higher attributes than most adventurers can possess.


Clockworks

Feeling wound up and ready to spring on anyone that crosses your path? You might be a clockwork. These little buggers are simple and deadly with the right augments. Programmed with directive augments, some of which allow sub-directive augments to be applied, these automatons can make even the most vulnerable target a well-defended person of interest surrounded by many, many bodies.

Recommendation:

Want these things to wreck the field? Go ahead and give the avenge-me directive with the protect-me directive to these spring-traps. Anyone that attacks you will be attacking your clockwork, which will then fire back with ferocity.


You are now fully prepared to build an army of metal death machines that will give any narrator a headache. Want to get really crazy? Build all three and see what the battlefield looks like then. Want to read more about automatons? The Playing Guide can help you there!


The Arachnoforge: From Pitch to Paper January 02, 2016 12:46

With the upcoming Narrator’s Accomplice being nearly finished, we find ourselves looking back on our favorite monsters and how they came to be. Some of them were created on the spot, others had months of writing put into them, and some started out as jokes before evolving into the amazing monstrosities that they are now. One of our favorite creations from the list of monsters has to be the Arachnoforge: the automaton spider that produces and manipulates molten metal. I had the pleasure of developing this beastie, and I wish to share with you how it came to be.

I was tasked with fleshing out and finishing a number of creatures from the Rogue Automatons chapter. When I took the dive into the automaton section, I saw a list of many mechanical monsters that needed work, love, and a hint of madness in order to be made whole. As fate would have it, the Arachnoforge, being first on the alphabetized list, would get the first wave of madness I could produce. I had a solid but sparse concept designed largely with the efforts of Martin Solis and Geoffrey Treece. There were notes about other ideas that had been added on, and some of them went in some interesting directions.

One of them made this thing out to be some sort of walking tank that forged and shot its missiles. While that certainly sounded cool, I didn’t find myself agreeing that something named the Arachnoforge should do that. No, I decided to go a different route. I decided this automaton should embody the tactics of a spider, and the mind of a predator. I wanted this to be a foe worth fearing.



I took inspiration from the initial note that the Arachnoforge should be a walking furnace of molten metal. It would secrete this metal from its thorax much like a spider’s silk, and shape it into anything it needed. The first use for this molten metal was the Arachnoforge creating a metallic latticework that would make the terrain difficult to walk through.

I wanted to have the feeling of entrapment on multiple levels, so I then thought, “What’s the most horrible way I can overpower some weak adventurers?” I looked through the initial concept notes, and the answer gave me one of those evil smiles you might find on Snidely Whiplash (sans the mustache to twirl). The Arachnoforge would grab at opponents, pinning them to the ground under its bulk. Then, held down, the Arachnoforge would slowly encased its in molten metal, limb by limb. That was when I knew this creature was going to be giving players proper nightmares..

Between the lattice of metal web, the grappling style, and the victims being encased from head to toe in metal until they’re burned and suffocated, I felt great pride when I turned this in to the boss man. My pride went even higher when he said it was his favorite beastie from the Rogue Automatons Chapter. It was even the first one to get its artwork done! I couldn’t be happier with how the Arachnoforge turned out, and I look forward to getting feedback from people's encounters with it.


See below for the Arachnoforge’s stats and info, or check it out in our Narrator’s Accomplice.




Arachnoforge AP: 3 PAR: 4

Defective Automaton

HP: 108  |  Wnds: 12  |  Pri: +4  |  Spd: 25 ft (land), 35 ft (climb)

Brute +5 | Cunning +5 | Dexterity +12 | Spirit +0 | Sciences +0

Guard

Iron Frame - medium metal armor

Eva: -1 Def: +3

Soak:  3  |  6  |  9  |  12

Note: If armor is sundered, the Arachnoforge will gain +10 ft land and +5 climb speed.

Immunities: Anatomical effects (diseases, gases, medicines, poisons, venoms), bio-flux, and all abilities requiring a spirit resist. Fire does not damage the Arachnoforge.

 

Actions

1 AP

Piercing Clutch - Unarmed Grab

Acc: +6 Stk: +4

Damage:  6  |  12  |  18  |  24

Notes: On hit, target is grabbed and takes damage based on strike roll. Target may break the grab by spending 1 AP and rolling a Brute or Dexterity resist opposing the Arachnoforge’s Dexterity roll.

The Arachnoforge can maintain six grabs at once.


0 AP (Part of a Move)

Gridlock - Molten Metal

As the Arachnoforge scurries about, it can leave a thin trail of iron behind. Using its hind legs, it can fashion an iron web. Any space this web ends up on becomes a higher tier of rough terrain. If the terrain was not rough, it becomes minor terrain. If the space was Tier 4 Impossible terrain, then the space becomes a solid wall that cannot be moved through.

Note: The latticework of this web does look quite nice, though.


1 AP

Encase (Reflexive)

Once the Arachnoforge has grabbed an opponent, it can begin covering the victim with molten metal. For every AP spent, the victim has one called shot location encased in metal, causing them to suffer wound effects until their next breather. The molten metal also deals 1 point of unsoakable damage on contact.

Note: The neck wound effect will not bleed, but will instead cause the victim to begin suffocating.


Beware the Salvagers December 04, 2015 09:27 1 Comment

Within the borders of each nation exist armies trained for war. Evangless has earned its place because of its military, a powerful force in Rilausia. So, when these trained soldiers run from something, it must be for good reason. Salvagers are that reason. These automatons exist to consume anything in sight, break them down into material components, and build more of themselves. The endless army of salvagers, controlled by the calculating Solari Engine, rampage across the landscape. In their wake entire towns are reduced to flattened land, buildings and people alike consumed by the mechanical monstrosities.

Many brave observers have taken to collecting as much knowledge about salvagers as they can. To date it has been determined that there are seven types of salvagers, each with a specific purpose.

The most recognizable salvager is the devourer. It is also the most horrific. This model is a mechanical nightmare, compiled from mismatched scraps of metal and other miscellania. Its purpose is to gather materials and construct other units of salvagers, though on rare occasions one has been observed simply using the materials to make itself bigger and more fierce.

The scout salvager is a smaller unit, roughly the size of a horse, that has been observed skulking around. It appears to possess enhances senses in order to suss out its search parameters. Some have been deployed to hunt down inhabitants of a town, while others have run through in search of precious metals.

In most recent months, a newer model of salvager has been seen to terrorize settlements. The aptly named reaper salvager rampages through towns with the express purpose to kill any organic thing in sight. The massive bulk of this model seems to keep it relatively safe from attack, while its maw contains a toxic poisonous gas mixture designed to ensure the extermination of any organic subject nearby.

In our upcoming Narrator’s Accomplice, we’ll be giving you several salvagers to choose from. For today, we’d like to share a peek at the Mammoth Salvager:

 

Mammoth Salvager

Towering over most buildings, this salvager looks to be part crane and part battleship. It is barrel-chested, trunk-legged, and all around big. Its right arm is a crane with a huge hook attached to a thick chain. Its other arm ends in a three-fingered hand designed for digging or picking up anything it is placed over.

Initially designed to aid construction efforts, the mammoth salvager has become a siege engine. It swings its massive hook to smash walls, rip roofs off buildings, and stop airships from flying away. With its digging claw, it is able to literally uproot buildings with minimal effort and can upend an entire city in under an hour.

Combat

This thing is huge! How does it fight? It swings its bulk about and smashes anything foolish enough to stay in the way. The chained hook is a primary means for doing this, while the digging claw can pick up nearby people or objects and send them flying faster than an airship with somewhere to be.

Mammoth Salvager   AP: 3   PAR: 6

Massive-7 Defective Automaton

HP: 500 | Wnds: 82 | Pri: +0 | Spd: 40 ft (land)

Brute +50 | Cunning +0 | Dexterity +0 | Spirit +0 | Sciences +0

Guard

Riveted Metal Plates (super-heavy metal armor)

Eva: -8 Def: +10

Soak:  15  |  30  |  45  |  60

Weak Spots: Eyes, ears, head, neck (can be affected by called shots, wounds, and fatals made by any size weapon)

Immunities: Anatomical effects (diseases, gases, medicines, poisons, venoms), called shots, wounds, and fatals made by size-2 super heavy weapons, bio-flux, and all abilities requiring a spirit resist

Actions

1 AP

Tromp (normally as a move)

Acc: +1 Stk: +7 Reach: 35 ft

Damage:  26  |  52  |  78  |  104

Note: The mammoth can tromp any creature that is size 1 or smaller. While tromping, the mammoth can make a free unarmed attack against a creature it is tromping over. The creature can dodge out of the way by spending 1 AP reflexively.

 

2 AP

Chained Hook (heavy metal melee weapon)

Acc: +5 Stk: +10 Reach: 80 ft

Damage:  30  |  60  |  90  |  120

Note: This weapon can make grabs on massive-3 to massive-5 targets. Anything smaller cannot be grabbed.


1 AP

Shovel Claw

Acc: +1 Stk: +7 Reach: 35 ft

Damage:  26  |  52  |  78  |  104

Note: The shovel claw is able to grab anything up to massive-5 size (plus the immediate area).


Doesn’t this automaton look amazing? Tell us what you think in the comments below!


Character Spotlight: Vadim “Lockdown” Aristov November 03, 2015 12:27

Within the cities of Zel Host, one might expect to see the results of dangerous experiments roaming about, commonly evading even the authorities. This is where many mercenaries and bounty hunters have an opportunity to take on some high-paying jobs. Vadim Aristov is one such bounty hunter.

Born into a poor family, Vadim didn’t have much in the way of prospects. Both parents were assistants to local scientists, but their lifestyle hadn’t improved. Vadim took to making his own work by taking on odd jobs from anyone needing help. What started as an innocent service turned shady quickly, and soon he was helping to smuggle controversial and dangerous goods for some notable scientists. When Vadim had learned enough to get by, he started making a new name for himself. He had seen the dangerous side of society, and saw his chance for redemption. He designed his own weapons, tools, and gadgets to serve his non-lethal approach to capturing some of the most dangerous targets in Zel Host. With a crossbow launching rubberized darts and specially crafted grabnets, Vadim began to draw attention from other mercenaries and locals. His methods earned him the pseudonym “Lockdown” due to his penchant for completely neutralizing his targets.


Tactics

Vadim’s tactics are  straightforward; he doesn’t change his approach unless a situation calls for it. With his wrist-mounted crossbows Vadim will work to disable his target’s senses and hinder their movement. He favors called shots to the eyes and legs. Once his target shows signs of exhaustion, he will load his Lockdown Grabnet, a grabnet with three sets of handcuffs built in, and carefully land his shot on his target. Once wrapped up in the net, the target has a brief window of time to escape, but usually a called shot to the groin  will keep them from doing so. Vadim will approach the target, fasten all three sets of handcuffs, and knock the target unconscious for good measure. From there, Vadim delivers the target and collects the greater of the bounties. Many mercenaries and bounty hunters have started to copy Vadim’s methods, as a live target is usually more profitable than a dead one.


Creation Concept

This character concept was inspired by the Omnitrinket. I had seen other amazing combinations with this trinket, like a portable door frame that is also a pitcase. My idea is to combine the grabnet with handcuffs for a complete, non-lethal shutdown. When it came to applying it to a character, I had to consider how the character would work. In a game where it’s easy to find many ways to kill opponents, I felt compelled to take the Batman approach. The main feature is the grabnet, which must be removed before the target can do anything else. When I saw that Handcuffs had to be broken out of before any other action could be taken, I was inspired. With these two trinkets combined and used properly, I had my Lockdown. My hope is that this character might inspire other interesting builds from outside the box.





Vadim “Lockdown” Aristov

Level: 4 Ap: 4
HP: 33 Wounds: 12
Priority: 7 Speed: 20 feet, 5 feet climb, 5 feet swim

Guard

Leather armor with metal plates (medium armor)
Eva: 0 Def: 0
Soak: 3 | 6 | 9 | 12

Attacks

Rubberized Crossbow Dart (1 AP)
Range: 75 feet
Acc: 7
Damage: 3 | 6 | 9 | 12
Note: Rubberized darts do not deal fatal effects. Target is knocked unconscious once wounds are gone.

Lockdown Grabnet (1 AP)
Range: 75 feet
Acc: 7
Target is wrapped by a special grabnet containing three sets of handcuffs built in. The net can be removed by spending 2 AP. If the target becomes bound by the handcuffs, they can be broken with a tier 3 Brute roll.
Note: In order to break the handcuffs, the net must first be removed. In order for the net to be removed, the handcuffs must be broken. Anyone restrained by both is completely helpless until someone or something else sets them free.

Aim (1 AP)
Gain bonus on next ranged accuracy roll. May be used multiple times for a higher bonus, but lost if attacked before used.
Tier 1 +1 to accuracy roll
Tier 2 +2 to accuracy roll
Tier 3 +3 to accuracy roll
Tier 4 +4 to accuracy roll

Skills
Resilience: +2  
Agility: +1
Marksmanship: +6
Espionage: +1
Luck: +1
Armsmith: +5
Gadgetry: +5

Attributes
Brute: +2
Dexterity: +7
Cunning: +1
Spirit: +1
Science: +10

Reference

Specialties: Crossbow Craftsman, Trinket Crafter, Invisible Blade, Snap Reload, Aim, Sneaky Seconds

Augments: Omnitrinket, Grabnet, Handcuffs, Delivery, Scope, Accurate

Racial Traits: Innovative, Peerless, Reactionary

Stories: Lawman, Kinematician


How to Build and Play a Sniper October 23, 2015 13:39

The lone figure crouches behind a barrel, the only contrast to his silhouette is the glint of his rifle. He chances a look above the barrel and spots his unsuspecting target. He stabilizes himself on the barrel’s top and lines up the crosshairs. Time seems to slow down. While releasing a deep breath, he squeezes the trigger, and within a brief moment the target lies motionless on the ground. As confusion and panic spreads among the bystanders, the lone figure makes his exit.

Playing a sniper is among one of the most popular roles for Tephra adventurers. This role has the ability to look down the sights at a creature and silently eliminate it. It’s a tactical position to be in and in some cases the options for building one can be overwhelming, confusing, and unclear. In Tephra, there are many ways to build and play a sniper and with the wide selection of specialties, you have all the tools you need to design a sniper to fit your preferred playstyle.

Read more here


Tommy Torpedo - A Fun Example Simulacron September 15, 2015 15:56

We were recently asked for an example Simulacron character. Spencer McAdams, whom we refer to as "Tephra Superfan #1," was up the for the challenge! May I present to you: Tommy Torpedo.

Physical Appearance
Tommy Torpedo is not named as such for his speed alone. This simulacron's entire frame is designed for aquadynamics. His rounded features rival even some small military water craft, and his posture gives him the look of a seasoned soldier. His facial features include dark sockets for eyes, and a slightly jutting jaw. Attached between his shoulder blades, he has a third arm with a four-pronged hand mounted. He has the emblem of the Evanglessian navy etched onto his chest and both forearms. He stands rather short, and has a thin but sturdy form about him.

His Story
No one is quite sure who built Tommy. He was found washed up on the shore near an Evanglessian naval base a few decades ago. When his rescuers noticed that he was breathing, and filled with essence, they began to suspect he was some abomination that was sent to destroy them. Those concerns melted away when Tommy stood up, cleared his throat, and spoke with the strongest stammer anyone had ever heard. He was just as scared as any of them, and so they brought him to base and took care of him.

Over the years, Tommy served the navy as a shipwright. He had displayed a strong knack for fixing anything he could get his three hands on, and he was the fastest swimmer anyone had ever seen, earning himself the surname Torpedo.

A few years ago, Tommy retired from the navy. He decided to make more productive use of his life, and to find out more about the person who built him. He is often seen in workshops, helping to fix things for a little extra money, as well as following the clues he has to go on.

He is not known for keeping money for very long. He usually spends it immediately on any necessities, or towards finding more information on his creator. Lips loosen with money.

Using Tommy in Combat
Tommy has a knack for fixing things, and so he will usually do what he can to repair someone else's automatons, vehicles, or whatever needs fixing. When he's not repairing things, he's using his military training, usually in the way of charging single targets and punching the living daylights out of them. If an opponent is being very problematic, Tommy will begin grabbing limbs with his two regular hands, and then punching them in the face with his third arm. Ultimately, Tommy knows his role: help out in any way.

Haven't caught Simulacrons yet? Check them out. They're life-changing!


Fan Art! July 29, 2015 15:40

One of the best parts about working on a Roleplaying Game is that we get way more fan-art than other forms of "writing." I often think of Tephra as a toolset for the imagination. When talented artists get a hold of this toolset, magical things happen.

This is a compilation of art I found while strolling through DeviantArt one afternoon. (Click on the image to be taken to its DeviantArt page.)

Ki'j by madhatter6626:

Marshal Elbert by tvoie

Captain Hanz by Stabbykinz

Tephra Train by shadow20x6

DnD Tephra by hoboknifed

 

Illa the Ayodin by justamutt

 

Mantis Bot by CarressofVenus

Tephra Character: Jezebel Rothstein by experimential-curios

Ayodin - Tephra by meliorates (a coloring of one of Victor Helton's sketches)
Arrah McArney + Tony by ArrahMcArney

Rowan Kirin by nosferatu-girl

Swordswoman's Stance by Vimivix

 

Arrah McArney by ArrahMcArney

My Steampunk Persona - 'Error' by BlackCatXel

Ki'j by madhatter6626:

Steampunk Liquid Propelled Pistol by raschwolf
Villains by dontpettheskunk
That's it! Do you have any Tephra fan art or favorite steampunk artists? Tell us in the comments!

The Tephra Pipeline July 23, 2015 11:00 3 Comments

We're laying down the rails! We have a lot of things in the final layout and editing phase, and I wanted to share them with you.

The best part is that this isn't even close to everything we have in the works. It's a long process getting new products from beginning to end, so I'm only sharing the items that are so far along that I am confident they'll see the light of day. Some of them are coming out in August, some in September, and some might not come out for 6-9 months yet. But we are pushing along!

In addition to these, we're always working to get out more merchandise and tools to enhance your game. So keep an eye out or join our newsletter, so you'll never miss an update.

Adventures!

Extra Credit

Extra Credit is a light-hearted adventure, in which you are enlisted by a Tordryoni University to go on a field trip. If this adventure doesn't make you laugh, it's probably because you don't have a throat. Written by Tim Bedard (the creative lead on The Golden Bandit).

Machinations

This three-part saga takes adventurers through multiple levels, cities, and more! It's got an army of automatons, a giant airship, shock-troopers, a mercenary company, and more. This adventure has been in the works for years, and I'm excited to say that we are wrapping up the maps right now and just have a bit more art to finish it off. Written by Martin Solis.

A Big Misunderstanding

Do you ever sit down at the table and you realize, "I only have 2 hours and I only have 2 players... none of my material is going to work!" Worry no longer, friend, because A Big Misunderstanding is designed exactly for these moments. This adventure is a quick and fun adventure, but what makes it really shine is its replay value. It has four very unique villains for you to choose from. Between that and a fully realized downtown for the adventurers to explore, this will be a game that you can play over and over again and it will never feel the same twice. This will be the premiere game for Austin Witt, but he's already written 3 other adventures that are in the final editing phase!

From Boot Hill

I just finished the layout on this adventure last night - mix weird west, undead, and a bit of horror flavor and you've latched on to what makes From Boot Hill such a fun adventure. We spent entire sessions just exploring the ghost town, there's so much to do! New adventure by Patrick Regan.

Setting & Expansions!

These are some big books that I am elated to share with you. While we're getting to the point where we can pump out adventurers pretty quickly, getting out some of these bigger 100-200 page books is a challenge. But we're working on them! First in the queue:

Adventuring in the Outer Reaches

Take your game into the chaos of old Paldorus, the crucible of the Izedan desert, or into the frigid wastelands of Siyesh. The world of Tephra's not a nice or normal place, and this book's going to prove it. Not only will you be getting a mountain of setting, you're going to see: a half-dozen new races, game-changing specialties, and a slew of new crafts ranging from turning yourself into a monster to building ancient Izedan ray guns. This is the book that you're courageous explorers have been waiting for!

The Industrial Carnage of Evangless

From the beautiful capital cities to the war-wrecked western lands, Evangless is the world's industrial juggernaut and a land in turmoil. New organizations, specialties (we love specialties!), and a ton of setting and adventure concepts will keep the adventurers constantly in the action. If you thought Evangless was a nice peaceful Utopia, this book will prove that thought entirely wrong.

The Encyclopaedia Automata

The playing guide only teased you with automatons. This book is going to obliterate the subject. We'll start by giving you all new ways to play automatons, letting you combine different elements together or build up giant automatons that you can pilot. Then we're going to introduce new automatons: magnetech automaton swarms, golems crafted from the earth, and aetherial manifestations, to name a few. We're going full-steam ahead into automaton crafting! New content largely written by Jeffrey Wood.

The City of a Single Law

There's a city that sits on the northern tip of Izeda. It's partially Evanglessian, partially Izedan, and entirely unstable. This is the city of Dis, and it's got only one rule: no person can own another person. This city-delving expansion is written by Gustavo Martinez.

For Narrators!

The Kickstarter Adversary Book

Yep, I'll be releasing the Adversary Book to the public soon - it's full of 50+ fully-built NPCs that you can throw into your game. It's surprisingly cool! This is entirely done - I just want to give our Kickstarter backers some time to enjoy it exclusively. That said, if you do  want one, you can get it with our Extreme Softcover Bundle. It's the only way!

The Narrator's Accomplice

And finally, the one I care the most about: the Narrator's Accomplice. This is the book that will take your games to the next level. We've got traps, environments, narrating advice, tools, house rules, rewards, relics, and a ton of monsters, otherworldly beings, scientific abominations, and crazed automatons to give you everything you need to take your Tephra game to the next level. This is the one that I am most personally invested in, as it's my top priority book. I promise: it is going to take your game to the next level.

Let me know what you're most excited about and what you want us to focus on next!

Cheers & Gears,

Daniel


Our Convention Schedule July 13, 2015 14:00 1 Comment

Cracked Monocle and Tephra: the Steampunk RPG are pretty well known in the Texas convention circuit. We've been to over 30 conventions in the past 5 years, from Ikkicon to Clockwork Con, A-kon to Comicpalooza, AetherFest to San Japan. We've hit up a lot of conventions, and we love going to them. I get tons of questions from our Texan fans about what conventions we're hitting up next, and people everywhere ask us if we're going to GenCon, Origins, Dragon*Con, or the GAMA Trade Show. 

Unfortunately, for the next little while, the answer is always going to be "No."

For years, Cracked Monocle has been very focused on going to conventions. It was like a drug: we can get in, play Tephra with a bunch of awesome people, grow, sell some books, and have a great time. But conventions were also immensely time-consuming and draining. 

In the last few months since taking over again, I've decided to not focus on conventions. I want to grow Tephra's product-base. I want to believe that people are playing Tephra at home and not just with us at the conventions. I want to spend those weekends writing and releasing great new material, not showcasing old stuff. 

However, don't write us off yet!

The famous Charlie Stayton of Cracked Monocle East will be hitting up game stores in his area and Mars Con in January. If he gets any other events, we'll be sure to announce them!

Then, the first convention that the new Cracked Monocle in Texas plans to hit up is ChupacabraCon. This local Austin con focuses heavily on roleplaying games, creativity, and new ideas. I love it dearly. I love it so much, in fact, that I volunteered to be their Media Coordinator.

(So if you hadn't heard about it until now, it's because I was doing a poor job. But you've heard about it now, so I'm doing a good job once again!) 

I'm sorry that we won't get a chance to play together for a while, but I hope you enjoy everything that Tephra is able to offer in the upcoming months. We're excited to release all this new material, and we hope that your home games benefit greatly from it!

Cheers & Gears,

Daniel


Planning by the Negatives July 06, 2015 11:00 2 Comments

I run a weekly Tephra game, and I've had a number of players say that the way I run games is unlike anybody else. That's not necessarily a boast. My games tend to be extremely political and I aim to have a high sense of realism while keeping a large cast of NPCs. My games will regularly go 3-4 sessions without combat, leveling is slow, and treasure is next to non-existent.

Last week, I had a customer complain: "I'm tired of losing. Can't we just win for once!?"

I thought this statement was funny. From my vantage point, they had just done a phenomenal job! In that session, I had planned for:

(1) The local nobleman to die of poisoning.
(2) The adventurers to be chased out of the mansion by a king-appointed private detective.
(3) For the butler that had been helping them to be hung for treason.

At the end of the day, they saved the local nobleman, they convinced the private detective that they were in the right, and they managed to chase the noble's advisor that had been slowly poisoning him out of the city. It was a hugely successful adventure... if you compare it to the disaster I had planned for them.

I don't plan good things. I plan my sagas to be like Game of Thrones episodes, where everything bad is going to happen and all the great characters are eventually going to die off in some horrible way. It's up to the players to prevent the bad things from happening, and they often do. But when you're accustomed to great victories, tons of treasure, and happily-ever-after, even the best of my sessions tend to be let-downs.

But take heart! During the next session, I had the surviving nobleman provide them with coin and supplies in exchange for saving him, and now they have a powerful ally in the fight to come. See, I'm not all bad, right?

Tephra: Back on Track July 02, 2015 16:59 2 Comments

TL;DR - Hey everyone, I'm back in charge, the Kickstarter is all caught up, Tephra's debt-free for the first time in three years, and we have a ton of material coming to you soon! Thanks for playing! 

I am proud to be back in charge of Tephra again.

Tephra's had a rough history, but it's primarily the story of a young 20-something's youthful neglect. A few years ago, I had a friend and artist tell me, "Daniel, you are the most professional person I know, for your age." I took that as high praise. Now-a-days, I look back at that and almost feel like it's ironic.

I began working on Tephra when I was 21, nearly 7 years ago. I was a few years into college, had plenty of D&D games going on, and I just liked world-building. Tephra was an extension of that. It was a few months after I started developing Tephra's setting that I decided to start building Tephra as a game. With the help of some dear friends, we made it happen.

In 2010, we started going to public anime conventions to showcase and playtest Tephra. That was a blast and addicting. While never easy, it was always fun getting people's feedback, feeling their excitement, and sharing our growing game with them. We never had much money; the cost of going to those conventions was something that was probably beyond what a few college kids could pull off. But we kept going! We kept pushing forward!

In 2012, the Tephra book was nearly done, and I decided to run a Kickstarter. I didn't need much - only about a few hundred dollars to cover getting an ISB number and some other start-up costs. When we put up the Kickstarter, all we wanted was a $1000. We honestly didn't even really think we'd hit that. (I mean, we wanted to sell our book for $30 to $40, and none of us could afford to buy the very book we wanted to sell.)

But it blasted off. I launched the Kickstarter, sent out over a hundred private messages to people on Facebook, and was in bed around 4am. When I woke up the next day around 10 or 11 (I miss those days of sleeping in), our Kickstarter had already blasted past $1000 and was solidly in the $2000s. By the end of the first 24 hours, we were over $4000.

It was a crazy month, watching that Kickstarter swell and grow like it did. I had no concept of what that money was like, and when I the Kickstarter ended at nearly $23,000, I was dumbstruck. Friends might remember me during that month, constantly trying to rebudget and rebuild the math. I felt like it didn't work (haha, I was right), but I just couldn't get the numbers right. I distinctly remember telling my roommate when it hit $16,000 that "I ha[d] no concept any more of how much money that [was]."

Needless to say, I made some errors with running the Kickstarter.

It took me about 6 months to fulfill the "harder" part of the Kickstarter - I shipped the Playing Guides to all of my US backers. But the custom Adversary Book and the international backers, well, that was more difficult. First, I had no idea what my shipping costs would be and the international backers took me off-guard. Second, the amount of work required to finish that Adversary Book took not only me off-guard, but my entire development staff.

Now, I want to tell you about how we powered-through and overcame all the odds. But that story would be exactly that: a story. Near the end of 2012 I started to lose hope, and midway through 2013 I was getting pretty burnt out.

That's when I moved to Austin. My lease was up in San Marcos and I needed to get away. I moved to Austin and looked for a new job, and I found a great one. It added a great deal of stability to my life and I learned quite a bit about logistics and running a business, skills I desperately wish I had possessed a few years prior.

In early 2014, I resigned. I felt like I had done enough damage to Tephra and I was tired. Things were out of control and I didn't know how to salvage it. I felt like it had gone as far as it could with me at the helm. My friends, Jeffrey and Alex, graciously took over. They held down the fort and tried to grow Tephra, but I was of no help to them. A few months ago, they came to a similar conclusion: they had done as much as they could with Tephra.

It was sad, but it was time to move on.

...or was it?

This last year has helped me grow a lot. I've learned a lot of things from working my day job and I've gained a lot of stability. I feel more grounded than I ever have. So when Jeffrey and Alex let me know that they were calling it quits, I felt excited: now was my chance to take back over and fix everything.

And that's exactly what I've been doing.

Though I work a full-time job and have a great social life, I am on the warpath to get Tephra moving again. What I discovered was a huge swath of content that our teams had developed that was just sitting around. I had stores and stores of writing, specialties, augments, crafts, setting, characters, EVERYTHING... all of this unpublished material just waiting to see the light of day. So that's exactly what I want to do: bring that material to you.

But there was one thing I had to do first: I had to finish the Kickstarter. And I have. Okay, okay, I have a few more people who need their books (I am tweaking the adversary book for them), but everything else is mailed. I am happy to say: it's finally over.

Today is the first day in over 3 years that Cracked Monocle and Tephra are not in severe debt. And I aim to keep it that way.

Now for the growth part.

Get ready to see more and more!

Daniel


Did the Golden Bandit really just try to steal an entire Clocktower? May 01, 2015 12:45

The Golden Bandit (& other Rangston Adventures) has just released!

We've been working on this little doozy for a while. Rangston's a troubled town in Western Evangless, where the law isn't well enforced and inventors just want to have fun. It's a place where people like the Golden Bandit can pull off heists so spectacular that they involve stealing a whole clocktower. It's a place where cattle barons and Brimstones fight to keep everyone under their thumb.

I've never been happier with an expansion release. Not only is Victor Helton's newest art spot-on, but this adventure also comes fully-packed with a ton of ideas, adventures, and people to use in Rangston. And if that doesn't get you, then how about the full list of background stories and a new craft: Widgets?

But what really tickles my fancy is that this book's creative lead also made a cool tune to go with Rangston. You can check it out on our Soundcloud.

Cheers & Gears


Mementos just got a Lucky Update! April 29, 2015 15:33

One of our classic favorites, Mementos, just got an update!

I've always had a weird love for Mementos. It's unusual. It's not one of the normal ideas; this isn't "crafting a sword" or "building a rifle." This is taking a normal every-day item and "crafting" some lucky or unlucky traits into it. It lets you take your character's lucky signet ring, and suddenly it has all of these reality shaping "powers" that only exist at the table.

But Mementos can also be used for some pretty intense tricks. Let's say you're a beta rifle crafter. Now you can take your beta rifle and make it a memento. Then you can bind it to yourself, so even if you lose it or it gets destroyed, it'll somehow coincidentally wind up in your possession again. Mementos isn't just quirky, it's powerful!

So what's new with Mementos? We've just updated some of the formatting and added 8 new lucky and cursed items for you to use in your game (or just for inspiration). And they cover every level, from the easier trinket to Lord Hazard's Signet Ring - a kingdom-shaping lucky ring.

Mementos is available here for just $1.99, and it's a steal!

Remember: If you buy the file from us, if we ever update the file, we'll update you too. That way you always have the newest file. Game on!

Free Adventure Concept: She's Gonna Blow! April 26, 2015 23:30

Are you running out of freaking awesome adventure ideas? I know my well sure dries up on occasion... so here, have an adventure concept. Don't worry about paying me, this one's on the house:

She's Gonna Blow - Free Concept Adventure! 

 

 


Proven: Monocles CAN Protect You! April 07, 2015 16:00

The deliciously funny Zachary Weiner has released a new kickstarter, and it is simultaneously the most ridiculous non-sensical illogical kickstarter I have ever seen... while being completely freaking awesome. 

May I introduce the Gentleman's Single-Use Unlubricated Monocle:

This is entirely ridiculous, but I can't help but support it. 


Site Tweaks & Character Sheets April 06, 2015 14:00

Have you been over to our Tephra website? It's a pretty hopping place for all things Tephra. Unfortunately, it hasn't been touched much in the last year. But I'm changing that!

I've been going over it, updating things, and making it a more accessible website. I even found some dead links (uh oh!), but they're all alive and working now. 

The craziest thing I discovered was that our character sheets were no where to be found. How has anybody been playing Tephra without character sheets!? Thankfully, you can always find our character sheets in the back of your book. But now you don't have to. Just go on over to this page:

You'll be able to download not only three versions of the character sheet, but also the automaton sheet, a map of Rilausia, and a bunch of fillable cards (for specialties, augments, and crafted items). It's useful stuff!

If anything isn't working, let me know! Send me a message at Daniel@Scheme.Works and I'll take care of it. 


Stop Giving Cracked Monocle Money April 04, 2015 14:24

In hindsight, I could've phrased that title a bit better.

If you are tired of giving Cracked Monocle money (or, more likely, you've purchased everything we have for sale and you still have mountains of money left over), you could always fund somebody else's dream of owning a deathray.

That's right, a deathray. Or, at the very least, a giant laser cutter. 

See, there's this local group in Austin:

I'm at least 90% sure that they classify as super heroes in some way. And if not super heroes, they're at the very least delusional artist. It's often the same thing, right?

They are trying to get an amazing laser cutter. And there are a ton of cool perks that go with that. Interested in checking it out, funding their dream of world domination, and getting some cool stuff for it? Check it out here


Tephra has a Subreddit! April 03, 2015 11:27

I will admit, I'm not a reddit user. That largely stems from the fact that I barely give myself enough time to check my emails, see what's going on in our forums, or keep abreast of anything happening in the real world. So when I found out that some of our fans had created a Tephra subreddit, I was pretty pleased!

You can probably guess that I have no idea what it takes to make a subreddit. I'm still working on figuring out how to "log-in." But I'm sure that most of you are reddit aficionados (because I read something about reddit being one of the highest-trafficked websites ever), so stop on by and say hello. I'm sure the dedicated souls who built that subreddit will appreciate a bit of company!

You can check out the Tephra subreddit here.


Best Tephra Release EVER! April 01, 2015 21:07

It's April Fools' Day, so obviously that title is hyperbole.... right?

Well, not entirely.

I'm here to celebrate a few things! The biggest and most important is the smashing release of our newest free supplement, the Anti-Graviton Magic 12-ball! This little gizmo will introduce tons of physics-breaking awfulness into your already chaotic Tephra saga. If you didn't know how to ruin everybody's gaming experience before, this thing will surely do it! And the worst thing about it is that, when you read it, you'll start to think, "This thing is kind of legit. Maybe I should use it?" Then, you'll come to your senses and realize, "NOPE!" And you'll be right! 

Now that you've settled down from your excitement over the Magic 12-ball, what other exciting things are going on? 

Well.... what if I told you that we are now selling the Tephra Playing Guide? That's awesome, right!? Wait, you already have that? No no no no, I meant the PDF. Yep, the long-awaited Tephra Playing Guide is now in PDF form. Get it here!

What else could possibly be new? 

I'm glad you asked! 

Aether!

You've always wanted Aether. I know you have. Well now's your chance: the 5-star awesome Aether system is now available in a surprisingly cheap PDF form. You should grab it here

By now you're wondering, "Daniel, is that all you have to talk about? New product? I'm not made of money, so stop trying to sell me things!" To which I respond: "Why then are you reading a blog on a webstore?" 

But let's put aside my inherent snarkiness and instead gaze over to the top right, where you will see a link labeled "Free Stuff!" in the navigation bar. Yep, that's free stuff. Nope, there's not much there right now. But there will be! For now, though, go enjoy decimating your sanity with the Anti-Graviton Magic 12-ball. And those other cool PDFs we have up for sale.