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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.

Filtering by Tag: RPGs

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: 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!

Design Notes: Cypher System: UXP Deck

Nathan Rockwood

Please note that I am in no way affiliated with Monte Cook Games, and am not endorsed by them in any way, save through the licensing agreement that is part of their Cypher System Creator program, and that the product being talked about below is an upcoming release of mine using that system and license.  

Gaming with many different groups of people, I've seen quite a few 'types' of role player over the years. Despite the many stereotypes and how they encourage us to deal with gamers who seem to be 'out of synch' with the rest of their group (the rules lawyer or combat munchkin ruining the game for their friends, etc), I've found that it is often easy to tweak game systems and rules to discourage 'problem behavior' without breaking anyone's sense of fun.

With the Cypher System, I've been running into two types of player who are having trouble with the XP system. The first type refuses to fail any rolls, ever, and will spend XP constantly to ensure success, even when failure isn't that bad (and might make the game more fun, sometimes!). The second type never spends XP on anything but upgrading to the next tier, grinding after those 'levels' as fast as they can.

And so, to help modify those behaviors, I've created my own version of the XP Deck, adding bonuses and penalties to encourage more diverse spending patterns! Each card is unique (though the special effects on the '1 XP' cards do repeat, they appear in different combinations), and so I thought I'd call it the Unique Experience deck, or UXP. Examples below, and the deck itself on drivethru, thanks to the Cypher System Creator project!

Design Notes: The Deck of Tales

Nathan Rockwood

This is both a preview and a small design diary for an upcoming product I'm currently working on: The Deck of Tales, a set of randomizer cards similar to The GameMaster's Apprentice in general purpose, but quite different in execution. 

While I'm still a huge fan of giant walls of text, some of the most consistent feedback I received as to why gamers would avoid the GMA entirely was that the information and visual density was too much to handle. The steep learning curve was clearly a turn-off for many.

As an alternative that will hopefully work better for those gamers (and writers), I put together The Deck of Tales, using some of the systems and ideas from the GMA, but primarily relying on new imagery (specifically, the CC BY 3.0-licensed images available from, an amazing resource! I used art by users Delapouite and Lorc, as well as Carl Olsen, sbed, and Lord Berandas; any indie game developers reading this, GO THERE NOW! These are some amazing folks, and their work made The Deck of Tales possible!).

I'm not yet 100% sure this is done, but I've ordered a test print and am hoping to release the cards via DriveThruRPG/DriveThruCards within the next month--so any feedback or thoughts are appreciated, but the window for it to be applied is relatively small!