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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.

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!

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!

Games as Lit: Flower, Part One

Nathan Rockwood

As the 2015-2016 school year draws to a close, I finally find myself with enough time to turn some of my notes on games I’ve used in class into readable after-action reports. I’m starting here with my first foray, Flower, and breaking this into two parts. This post will detail why I chose the game, including my reasons for considering it to be a piece of art and literature; the next post will cover technical implementation and results!

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