3 Rules to Designing Spaceships

My blog posts as of late have focused mainly on fantasy. Today we’re going to take a break from that and focus on science fiction (or science fantasy, since this applies equally to that genre) and take a look at spaceships. Making your own spaceship is fun and exciting. Ships can serve as the main setting for your game, places to visit on occasion, or familiar places to return. They are everything from the family car to the battle tank and all points in between. They fill a wide variety of roles but they still all have a number of things to keep in mind. So when designing space ships keep the following things in mind.

1) Have a Core Concept of What the Ship Is About.

No one designs a ships to fill every role. That is impossible and won’t sell. The “stealth racing family RV armored destroyer cargo carrier” (bet you can’t say that five times fast) would cost hundreds if not thousands of times more than if this were broken into five separate ships; either that or compromises will have to be made. Pick a simple core concept and stick to it. This should be as simple as a “cargo carrier” or a “destroyer.” Should a cargo carrier carry enough weaponry to defend itself? Yes. Assault a planet? No. Conversely, Should the destroyer carry enough cargo to give it fuel and food enough to carry out its missions? Yes. Enough to keep a gigafactory in operation for a day? No.

Well what about a “pirate ship” you ask? Simple concept but at its heart it wants to be the “stealth racing family RV armored destroyer cargo carrier” I mentioned earlier. Stealth to sneak up on its target, racing to outpace whatever it is after or after it, family RV since the pirates are going to be living there for a while and will get bored, armored destroyer since it needs to shoot at its query and take shots, and most importantly of all, have room for the cargo it steals. If you make that, it will cost more than any military vessel since they don’t need to have the cargo carrier in that ship. So it has to make compromises. Does it have to be both stealthful and racing? Possibly no. It could simply rely on one or the other instead of both. It could have the technology to not appear on sensors until only a short distance from their query. So its engines can be downgraded to only beating cargo ships. Does its armor and weaponry have to outclass warships or can that be compromised down to outclass cargo ships? By doing this, we just kept the price down and still have the pirate ship be effective.

2) Ask “Is This Necessary?”

Ask yourself this on EVERYTHING! This goes for weaponry choices to hallways. Yes, hallways. If there is any way to eliminate a hallway, do so. A hallway is cargo space not being used to transport cargo. If you have to have the crew recreation area double as the way to get from the bridge to the crew quarters and engineering while not wasting space on a hallways, do so. Reason why: that is space saved can be allocated towards cargo, making the ship more profitable.

3) Add Unique Flair

More than anything, this is the reason to make your own ship. Otherwise, you may as well simply buy a book of ships (such as the Foreven Worlds: Ships of the Border Worlds). Do you want the ships ideal for a crew without a mechanic? Make everything easy to repair. You want to show how this world’s technology just isn’t up to par? How about their armor is better than normal because they have been hit so often by raiders? Is it overusing gold and holograms to how just how rich the owner is? Give it personality.

Speaking of personality, our Prelude to War adventures feature a number of characters with lots of personality. Download the first two in the series The Rose of Death and State of Chaos, exclusively at DriveThruRPG.

3 Reasons to Run Published Adventures

For the JBE “office” game, I run Tales of the Yawning Portal for the group. I mean, I can’t run anything that we ourselves published because we know each adventure so well. And honestly, who can pass up a collection of classic adventures. Last week, we finished up the first adventure, the Sunless Citadel, and it reminded me why I love running published adventures these days.

A little background: I use to never run published adventures. The first campaign I GMed was Exalted 1e. There was exactly 1 adventure for that entire edition. Not only that, I was able to make the campaign based in what characters the players made. I was 30 before I ran my first published adventure, and I don’t see myself going back to that anytime soon.

So if you create your own campaign, here are some reasons why you might want to consider checking out published adventures.

1) They Save Time

Oh my goodness do published adventures save time. The last campaign I ran that I created myself, I ran it on a Sunday, and I spent my entire Saturday prepping for it. I’d stat out every possible NPC they’d meet, even if it was only for a quick conversation because “you never knew what the PC’s were going to do.” I wrote mounds and mounds of read aloud text I never used. I’d read over source books in case they went off in some other direction I had not planned for or looking for some awesome treasure for them to get their hands on or … The list goes on.

When did I start prepping last week’s session? 20 minutes before we started. I don’t recommend doing that, but I was running late and work ate into my prep time. That right there is one of the biggest reasons why I use published adventures these days: because I no longer have the time to create an adventure for a specific group. The thing was, I still ran a good game. It would have been better if I had spent even an hour on it, but for such a short prep time, it was good.

Having said that, I still made the game unique. I rewrote the entire beginning. I added NPCs to the town. I created my own twists and turns. All of these modifications did take time—more than last week’s 20 min prep—but far less than the full day each session use to require. On the whole, I can run a great game at a fraction of the time required.

2) More Focused Characters

As any GM knows, players can do anything at any time. That is one of the things that make running a campaign so difficult—you have to be prepared for anything at any time. When I created my own campaign, I designed the adventures around the characters. Yet when I run a published campaign, the players make their characters around the adventures. Who is reacting to whom is reversed.

Think if it like this, if you let the players make whatever they want from any available source book, they will make characters that have little if anything to do with each other. Give them some direction and they will make characters around those ideas. Tell them you are running a specific campaign and they will make characters that fit that specific theme.

By giving them direction, you are channelling their creativity not hindering it, and you will get far less of the “the PCs can go any direction” that I talked about in the point above. A group where the players make characters without direction can result in an out of place character: three heroes, and a thief that wants nothing but violence and money, as an example. Then as the GM it is your job to figure a way to make them work together. Instead if you tell the players you are running a campaign where isolated villages are being attacked and you’re helping them, like in our adventures Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider and Rescue from Trykaven (available for Pathfinder and 5e), then the players will all be thinking about how the character they want to play fits in the adventure.

3) You’re Creating a Shared Experience

By running a published adventure, you are giving your fellow gamers an experience that they can talk about with their fellow gamers that other gamers can bond over. Look at it another way: adventures are stories. One crafted for a specific group is the campfire story while the published adventure is the novel or movie. How many times have each of us bonded with someone we just met while talking about a Marvel movie? The campfire stories, the only way I have found to bond with someone about that is to repeat that same story; bumping into someone that knows that exact same story has yet to happen for me.

So when we go to conventions, having played a published adventure is giving us something in common with someone we never met before. That is another opportunity to make friends and play new campaigns.

So do you prefer to run your own campaigns or do you run published adventures? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Looking for some awesome adventure? Our Deadly Delves line of adventures provides you with game sessions that your players will remember. On top of that, they are designed for busy GMs like you and me. Download our 5e, 13th Age, and Pathfinder adventures at the JBE Shop today.

Holidays in Gaming

Are you using holidays in your game? If you were like me when starting out as a game master, no you’re not. Yet holidays mark various places on the calendar, help recognize important persons and groups in your setting’s history, and much more. They give your game life where it otherwise feels flat, like there’s nothing going on in the world besides what the players are doing.

In the United States there are 10 major holidays and a near infinite number of lesser holidays. To break them down the major ones into more generic terms that are easier to use in your game, they are (in calendar year order):

  1. Start of the calendar year
  2. Recognizing the birth of a civil rights leader
  3. Celebrating nation’s leaders
  4. Remembering soldiers that fell on the battlefield
  5. Marking the birth of our nation
  6. Recognizing the common laborer
  7. Remembering someone that discovered this continent
  8. Remembering living soldiers
  9. Harvest
  10. Holiday for the nation’s largest religion

So how can you use these in your game? Some of these are quite obvious and able to be used without exactly as is: harvest, remembering living and fallen soldiers, start of the calendar year, etc.

How about celebrating a civil rights leader? Well considering that the most discriminated against races (uh, ancestries) of the game are half-orcs or tieflings, how about a day where their contributions to the nation’s society are recognized. Or turn it on its head. Make it human-rights day because the elven rulers are keeping the humans from having a voice in their government. Is the day marked with celebrations or protests? Are the town’s guards brought out to prevent pick pocketing or riots?

The way you name a holiday says quite a bit about the leaders. If you call Labor Day Peasants Day that shows the rulers as looking down upon their subjects. Peasants Day would have a much different feel than Labor Day.

If you want to make you location anything but generic, come up with some quirky holidays. Something like Groundhog’s Day, International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Teacher’s Day, or Secretary’s Day. Try using something like National Health Day, a day where everyone goes down to the river and washes all the filth and grime off their bodies, which is perfect after a long winter of being inside. Or how about Hug a Gnome Day, the one day a year where gnomes are willing to sell in human markets, and the mayor wants them to come back more often so they are trying to spread good feelings among he gnomes. For the brutish types, how about Woodcutter’s Day. This day before the start of winter, all manner of trees that are unfit for being made into buildings or furniture are cut into firewood and sold to the people to help them last the winter. Naturally there would be lots of beer and other pleasures sold at such events, which can be a good cause for the reasons for the players to come together in the first place.

An important thing to remember is that while we all take the weekend (or some regular set of days off, no matter where in the week it resides) for granted today, the Five-Day Work week did not begin as a concept in the US until 1908. Europe was no better. For proof, Dame Maggie Smith in her role as the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey once asked “What is a week end?” Before that, the only days off for the average person were on holidays. This is why the holidays we now consider minor were not so minor a hundred to a thousand years ago. Not overworking your people is important so holidays were frequent.

With Halloween coming soon, why not download the Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider adventure for Fifth Edition at the JBE Shop. You can also find it for Pathfinder right here.

Happy Hogswatch (Or Whatever You Celebrate)

From now through Festivus and all the way through January 31, 2018, you can download anything JonBrazer.com and get 30% off your entire order with the “holiday2017” coupon code. May your Yule be bright, your Saturnalia be joyous, your St Lucia Day be merry, your Kwanzaa be celebrated with family, your Hanukkah be will lit, and have a Merry Christmas. 

From all of us at Jon Brazer Enterprises, have a safe and happy holiday.

What Are We Up To?

We love to hear what our favorite game companies are working on as much as everyone else. Typically we do not announce very far in advance, but frankly, there is no reason not to share with you what we are working on. So here we go:

Coming in September is the previously announced Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes. This book helps you to theme your character like someone that admires dragons, draws their power from a draconic ancestory or wants to hunt down dragons. With archetypes and class options like the draconic implement for the occultist or the wizard discoveries, there are quite a few ways you can create the character you want. Even more, there are spells in here ideal for those taking on a dragon, those that want to associate with dragons, or for dragons themselves. These spells enhance the natural abilities of dragons, making these creatures even deadlier, or penetrate straight them, turning them into useless wyrms. Look for this next month.

October sees the release of the Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin adventure for both Fifth Edition as well as the Swords and Wizardry. Whether you prefer your games with modern rules or an excellent revisit of the classic game, this is an adventure your players will not soon forget. A black dragon attacks a town and the players track it back to its lair and encounter more than a few surprises along the way. Prepare for more than you expected in this adventure. We are hoping to bring you both version of this adventure at the same time, but one may be delayed (hopefully not too long).

This is where our schedule starts to get a little uncertain. We are working on the equivalent of the d66 Compendium for Starfinder (currently unnamed). I am just not certain it will be ready for its target launch in November. This book will be a handy toolkit for gamemasters of science fantasy names. It contains names of aliens, planets, moons, robots, guns, and a whole lot more. No Starfinder gamemaster will want to be without this book.

Coming in December is the Pathfinder adventure Deadly Delves: Nine Lives for Petane by Christen N. Sowards of Lost Spheres Publishing. They have a Kickstarter going on now; check it out. In Nine Lives the players need to resurrect someone from a crypt, but which corpse is the right one? To make matters worse, an evil cult has been using the crypt as their own private playground. Even worse, monsters keep appearing out of no where. Good luck solving the mystery when your GM decides to run this 13th level adventure.

That is all we have for you right now. We are working on so much more than that, but I cannot pin down a date when any of it will come out at this point in time. We hope you are as excited about it as I am.

Be sure to use Coupon Code OpenStore25 when you download our PDFs from the JBE Shop. Downloading direct from us helps us produce more of the games you love. As always you can find all of our PDFs at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow, the OpenGamingStore. and Paizo.

Starfinder: Unleash Star Battles for Epic Space Encounters

Beyond the Basic Star Map
Never play on an ordinary star map! Star Battles: Hex Space Maps 1 and Star Battles: Hex Space Maps 2 takes your Starfinder game beyond the basics, bringing exciting visuals to your table. Have your ships skim planets, buzz space stations and rocky rings, whirl through nebulae, and fight in dawn’s glorious light. These maps sport 1-inch hexes, ideal for an epic showdown between all of your starship miniatures!
Star Battles: Hex Space Maps 1 & 2 each feature:

  • 6 maps, each measuring 12″ x 18″
  • Those same maps reformatted for printing on 8-1/2″ x 11″
  • Easily copied images, ideal for use on a VTT.

Enjoy epic space battles in your Starfinder game today!

Download Star Battles: Hex Space Maps 1 & 2 at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow, Paizo, and the OpenGamingStore.

Pre-Printed Cards
Order the pre-printed cards and get all 6 maps in this set on 12” x 18″ pages, folded in half and delivered right to your door! Order your copies today exclusively at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow

Starfinder: Even More Star Battle Previews

You may have noticed yesterday that that cover of the upcoming Star Battle: Hex Space Maps has a “1” next to it. That’s because we have the second already to go and launching tomorrow. The first focuses on more ring worlds and sunrises. The second focuses on nebulae, solar flares, rock worlds and we’ve even got a space station in there as well. Each set has 6 maps pre-printed with 1″ hexes perfect for your minis. These maps are a serious upgrade over the basic map and and a great enhancement to your game. These can be incorporated into your game right away and will make for a more memorable experience.

Click on the maps below to see a larger preview.


Starfinder: Star Battles Preview

In two days, the Starfinder Roleplaying Game launches and we at Jon Brazer Enterprises could not be more excited. While we are working on new alien races and class options and places to go, we decided that that is not where we are going to put our energy right away. Instead, we are going to help you play the basic game straight out of the core book. Unlike the launch of Pathfinder back in 2009, there isn’t 30+ years of history with the core game nor is there 9 years of history that the base engine of Pathfinder was built upon. This game is brand new and science fantasy as a genre is not nearly nearly as developed as a more mundane science fiction genre.

So how are we helping? Well the game includes rules for ship combat and Paizo sells a Basic Starfield Map Pack for your space battles. While it is necessary to get the basic map out there, we are Jon Brazer Enterprises. We enhance your world and your game; we go beyond the basic. We have a map pack that you can order Thursday for your game from DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. If you are the kind of person that would rather have the PDF and print your own, you can download the PDF from all our regular retailer locations and it comes pre-sized for you in 12″ x 18″ as well as 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper. Additionally, we are working on having it available for those that play Fantasy Grounds, but that will not be available right away.

Check back on JonBrazer.com on Thursday for links to where you can order and download your copies.

Click on the images below to see a larger preview, and happy gaming.

Starfinder: Awesome Space Battle Maps

It is only 10 days until we Starfinder Compatible Publishers can release our products, and it is well past time I start sharing with you what you will be seeing from us right out of the gate. The first thing that every GM needs is an awesome grid to have space battles. I mean, what is a science fiction game without space battles and if you can’t do so on an awesome map, it just isn’t going to look nearly as good. So JBE is here to give you pre-printed terrain for your games to look amazing. Click on the images to see higher resolution of these awesome maps that will be available on day one.

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