Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Game Designer's Notebook: Dogs in Broken Contract

Tawna the dog going after a totalitarian security officer.

One of the most frequently requested additions to Broken Contract has been dogs, and honestly, I was a bit resistant to the idea at first. My biggest hang up with dogs in games is that they have frequently been used as living shields. When I came up playing Dungeons and Dragons, they were a piece of equipment that you bought and were treated as disposable. Flash ahead 30 years, and in a game like Zombicide, they felt roughly the same way - like an object more than a sentient being. I just didn't like that dynamic, so I wanted dogs in Broken Contract to be different.

Broken Contract, in many ways, has been designed to highlight the individual. The models are designed on a flexible scale based on perceived character height, and every character is dealt their own individual Initiative Card each Turn. These are deliberate design choices, meant to create attachment and investment in the character's stories. Similarly, the animals in my life are all unique individuals, with wants, needs, personalities, and stories. The only way to do dogs justice would be to make them full characters.

Though I have rules written for dogs in three different sizes, as well as rules for Gen-Mod dogs, those haven't undergone any playtesting.. However, we've played a game with the standard dog, and it felt just right, so I'm going to share what has worked so far.

Dog from the Wreck-Age miniature range.

Creating Dog Characters

Wherever humankind goes, it's best friend follows. Dogs are loyal companions and were long ago proven to better the lives of those around them with their loyalty and devotion. Some work crews have dogs that generally hang back at their barracks compartments, and Black Squadron canine units exist throughout the mines. Other industries, like Agri-Corp, utilize dogs even more extensively giving them free range to work and earn their keep on their own.

Standard Dogs

Every Standard Dog Character starts with these Stats:

Core - Actions: 3 /Move: 5 /Wounds: 2
Combat - Shoot: - /Melee: 5 /Strength: 5 /Agility: 5 /Recovery: 5
Brain - Intellect: 5 /Perceive: 5 /Psyche: 5 /Lead: 6 /Dealing: 5

Points: 8
All Standard Dogs may take 2 upgrades for 1 point each.

I created a deck using blank cards available through

These are the current Abilities they can choose from if they draw an Ability Upgrade. Many of these correlate to human Abilities from the Ability Card Deck, so feel free to use those cards and use other cards as proxies during the draw. Just be clear with your opponent what you are doing with your opponent. Also, if you draw a Shoot Upgrade, which is a Stat dogs don't have, for now just treat that as an Ability Card Draw as well.

1. Aggressive - This Animal may re-roll failed Melee checks.
2. Deliberate - This Animal may re-roll Melee checks of 1 when performing a Strike Action.
3. Vigorous - This Animal may re-roll failed Strength checks.
4. Tenacious - This Animal may re-roll Strength checks of 1 when performing a Grab Action.
5. Biter - This Animal receives a +1 to Strength Checks when performing a Strike Action.   
6. Agile - This Animal may re-roll failed Agility checks.
7. Frisky - This Animal may re-roll Agility checks of 1 when performing a Dodge Interruption.
8. Hardy - This Animal may re-roll failed Recovery checks.
9. Spirited - This Animal may make Recovery checks with a +1 Modifier when they are Down.
11. Persistent - This Animal may re-roll failed Psyche checks.
12. Problem Solver - This Animal never needs to make a Psyche check to perform a Focus Action.
13. Caring - This Animal may re-roll Intellect checks of 1 when performing a First Aid Action on a Down Character.
14. Threatening - This Animal may re-roll Dealing checks of 1 when performing a “Stand Down” Action
15. Vicious Growl - This Animal may re-roll failed Dealing checks when performing a “Stand Down” Action.
16. Rascal - This Animal may re-roll Dealing checks of 1 when performing a Mercy Interruption.
17. Instinctual - This Animal may re-roll failed Perceive checks.
18. Fetcher - This Animal may re-roll Perceive checks of 1 when performing a Search Action.
19. Jumper - This Animal may re-roll failed Strength checks when performing a Push Action.
20. Secret Ability.
21. Bounding - This Animal receives a +2 Modifier to the roll when performing a Rush Action. Rolls of 1 still Stumble.
22. Game - This Animal may ignore a single Wound once per Act.
23. Secret Ability.
24. Stimulated - This Animal may start the Turn with an Extra Action once per Act.
25. Fixated - This Animal may start the Turn Focused once per Act.
26. Spontaneous - This Animal may trade their Initiative Draw up or down by 1.
27. Energetic - This Animal receives two Initiative Cards every Turn and may spread their Actions across both.
28. Fleet-footed - This Animal may re-roll Rush moves of 1.
29. Irrepressible - This Animal may re-roll Psyche checks of 1 when performing an Escape Restraints Action.
30. Protective - This Animal may re-roll Agility checks of 1 when performing an Impede Interruption.
31. Retriever - This Animal may re-roll Agility checks of 1 when performing a Catch Interruption.

32. Secret Ability.

Finally, if you're wondering how to add a dog to your Crew Roster Sheet, I just used the Adult box and edited the word Adult (10+) to Dog (8+). Thanks for reading. I hope you give dogs a try in your games.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Using the Crew Roster

The Crew Roster was a last minute addition to the Broken Contract Rulebook and has no example or explanation, so I'm going to break it down for all of you.

When we sat down to fill out sheets for playtesting the other day, Hal's first question was, "What is Crew Designation?"

Crew Designation: This is the official name of the crew. It should be something completely bland and dehumanizing like, Work Detail C1007. I chose "C" for the C Level of Orin Mine, which is where the action begins in the FerrumSky setting. 1007 would be for the first wave of assigned work details, and 7 being the 7th crew of ~10. In all seriousness, I named this on the fly. The number was actually higher, I thought about how I envisioned C Level as being the newest dig and that it wouldn't have many assigned crews just yet, but a low number like 7 seemed reasonable. Long story short, a random serial number of some sort is fine.

Crew Nickname: This is what your crew get's called. It can be a name granted to them by their friends, enemies, or themselves. Think about how you envision your crew and name them appropriately.

Faction: Currently, this would be Breakers or Black Squadron, but rest assured, more are on the way.

Character Name: I started this sheet out with my leader and crew namesake, Jensa. If names are hard for you, this is a cool sci-fi name generator that Hal used for his characters: Futuristic Name Generator.

Gen-Mod/Adult/Teen/Child: These 4 boxes are for the current 4 types of Character you can create in Broken Contract. Jensa is an Adult, so on this line I am only going to use the Adult box. You'll notice that the box says, "Adult (10+)". This is because Adults start out at 10 points. Adults can start out with up to two upgrades. I chose to use both, so I filled in both check boxes. This shows she is 10+2 = 12 points, so far.

Character Points: This is the total points of the Character type + upgrades. Jensa is 13 points because she was an Adult 10+ 2 (upgrades) +1 Leader upgrade (explained next).

Leader: Any Character can be designated as a Leader and gain an additional upgrade for doing so. That should be tallied here. Why are their two boxes? For room to grow in the FerrumSky Campaign Book.

Campaign Upgrades and Acts: For every Act that a Character participates in they get a tally under Acts. When they've completed 3 Acts, they get an upgrade, and the Act boxes should be erased so that they can start a new tally. A Character can never have more than 5 Campaign Upgrades. Note: A Character that gains an extra upgrade during the Character Creation Process needs to assign it somewhere. For now it should either be tallied here, or under Training. Remember, every Campaign Upgrade increases the Character's points by 1.

Training: This area is currently for Black Squadron Characters that take advantage of the extra Black Squadron Training upgrade for 1 point. Expect to see this area to be used more in the FerrumSky Campaign Book.

Within each of the above areas, I chose to note what upgrades they were as a running list.

Ability Cards: Some upgrades grant Ability Cards and they should all be listed here. These should already be tallied using one of the areas of check boxes so they do not need to be counted again.

Equipment Cards: List all of Equipment Cards this Character possesses. Each Equipment Card is worth 1 point. There are no check boxes here because this list is going to constantly change. In most cases Characters are not going to have more than 5 Cards because the Character Dashboard only has 5 slots.

Equipment Points: As noted above, each Equipment Card is 1 point. Total all of the Character's Equipment Points here. The combined amount of a Character's Character Points and Equipment Points indicates their total worth going into an Act.

Each Crew Roster has slots for 4 Characters, so a normal Crew starting at 100 points will take up multiple Crew Roster pages - typically 2-3.

I encourage you to use the blank space at the top to create a logo for your Crew. Have fun with it.

Thanks for reading and enjoy building your Crews!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Game Designer's Notebook: The FerrumSky Condition Deck

Last week I started work on the FerrumSky Condition Deck. This is not a new concept, many games use rolling charts for a pre-game sequence that throw the "unpredictable" at the players. I always loved the Strategy Card Deck from 2nd Edition 40K, so a deck presents a bit of warm nostalgia for me. What kinds of things will you find in the FerrumSky Condition Deck?

The other day Hal and I played a game where we drew the Limited Visibility Card, which gives -1 to the die roll on all Shoot and Perceive checks. This worked out in my favor because Hal brought along a character with a Shotgun with Bag Shot. The Shotgun has a low rate of fire (you have to Load for 1AP after every firing) so you really have to connect with every shot if you can. Anything that crippled the effectiveness of that gun was a win for me. I still only won the game by 1VP so it didn't dramatically affect the game. It did give us something else to think about while playing though, which is great.

There are a number of different types of Conditions. Some of the Conditions are environmental in nature, like Limited Visibility (harder to Shoot or Search), Ground Debris (risky to Rush), or Poison Air (harder to perform Actions at full capacity). Others are Faction-based escalations or alterations of circumstance like Workflow Re-Route (Black Squadron may add a free barricade), Door Jam (Breakers sabotage a door to keep it open), and the Show of Force/Growing Insurgence Cards which add 15 more points to your Crew Roster for the game.

One of the cards I am looking forward to playtesting with others is High Tension. Those of you who own Initiative Decks will know that there is an Extra Action Card in the Deck with no explanation of it's use other than during Character Creation if you've read the rulebook. There will be scenarios that will add it to the Initiative Deck in the future, but it will also make other appearances too, such as on the above card.

These cards will be Poker Card sized, so they are printed in sheets of 18. One of the decisions I will need to make in the coming months is whether to keep the deck to 18 cards or push it to 36. They will probably come in a combined set with the Left for Dead Deck, which will be used for part of the post-game sequence in the FerrumSky Campaign Book. If there are any types of Condition Cards you might like to see, throw those ideas my way! I'm happy to consider them.

Thanks for reading!