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This is the blog of Larcenous Designs, LLC, through which I (Nathan Rockwood) will be publishing thoughts and ramblings related to my business' projects, which may include anything related to games, game design, and the use of gaming in education. 

Comments will be moderated without mercy.

GMA Fantasy Deck Kickstarting August 8-September 4!

Nathan Rockwood

I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but I am under no delusions about the size of my blog's readership... 

I'm running a new Kickstarter! As of posting, we have funded, and now are expanding the community reward (a Deck of Many Things-/Wild Surge Table-esque list of random magical effects) with each new backer!

From a design standpoint, I think this is my favorite deck. Thanks to the inestimable Max Johnson's excellent graphic and technical design work, I was able to include a new field: a set of 120 fantasy images, one on each card. Several backers of the first Kickstarter mentioned that they would have appreciated something like this, based on their use of Rory's Story Cubes, so now there are 20d6 worth of images!

The images themselves are drawn from the excellent resources at, which are CC-licensed; for the full credits of the ones I used here, check out the Quickstart Guide via the KS page!


Design Notes: CyForge

Nathan Rockwood

I've been running Numenera for a group of 9 high school students every week for this past school year, and I've started running into a problem: I'm often not happy with the cyphers I'm providing.

I love the long random lists and the cypher deck that I have for the system, but now that I've got the hang of the rules, I find myself constantly altering the results to tailor them better to fit the current situation, setting, and characters. I could, of course, just make a new list, or design specific cyphers however I want, but neither of those options are appealing to me. For not only "fairness" but also longevity, I want a solution that produces cyphers which are both partially random and intended to be altered to taste.

The CyForge deck was my solution to this problem. Drawing on ideas from both The GameMaster's Apprentice and the Deck of Tales, I used images (thanks again to the amazing folks at!) and text to provide three keys that let me hammer out a functionally endless number of cyphers (or artifacts, or powers...).

I am, of course, always considering the best way to balance iconography against text. If you have any thoughts on that, please comment below!

Design Notes: CypherHeroes I

Nathan Rockwood

This one was a BLAST to write!

I love superheroes, but I always feel like game systems kind of miss the point by not focusing on the important things. Many heroes are better defined by their villains and their reputation than by their actual abilities. Batman, for example, relies on his persona to strike fear into the hearts of baddies, and would be much less interesting if it weren't for the Joker, or even Catwoman and the other antihero/villain mashups he has to decide how to deal with.

CypherHeroes I focuses on bringing those kinds of things into the Cypher System, using the mechanics of subtle cyphers to make it interesting. Because subtle cyphers have no physical form, we can use headlines, characters from the hero's Rogue's Gallery, and even their signature moves (Dangle From Rooftop by Foot, anyone?) to fill out their list of powers without making all of them constantly accessible.

And... the art just looks so awesome!