Category: Inspiration/Ideas

Saturday Gaming Spark: Dragon 126 cover

A classic cover for Dragon 126 from Daniel Horne. Link.


Custom foamcore box insert for Arkham Horror: the Card Game

For a couple of games I have, especially card games, I’ve taken to making box inserts. With the right materials for construction it’s actually pretty easy to do and cost a fraction of commercial products. One thing that stood out for me regarding the Arkham Horror LCG box though was its reduced box height. My Netrunner box was a snap to whip up, mostly as I just had to match the height of the box. It was already large enough to store cards on their side. The Arkham Horror box is much thinner, making it a little more of a challenge to get assembled.

I ended up creating a square box frame that would keep cards stored in two main compartments laying on their side. I cut the sides so that it was about 4mm wider than a sleeved card. Keep that in mind as some sleeves can be significantly larger than the dimensions of the cards, so you want to take that account in any measurements. You don’t want to accidentally make the frame too small, crimping and bending up your sleeved cards. Another point, don’t bother with putting a base section for your insert. With enough center support sections you can create a frame that will hold up fine in the box and as an added bonus have more space to work with. My frame slipped snugly into the box.


To support the box frame more, I separated each main card compartment into two using a single piece of foam board. I then carefully measured the two parallel, center boards and added another pair of sections so that each could hold a small number of cards, perpendicular in orientation to the cards in the main chambers. This center compartment was also kept hollow to store any odd little bits (more on that later). I ended up with a very sturdy foam insert with a well supported center to keep the box from buckling.


A couple of points on construction, you want to use foamcore board that is about 2-3 mm in thickness. You can use thicker pieces of foamboard however I find that after lining up the sides and multiple sheets used to make compartments, you end up losing a lot of space in the box, so thinner is better. I also used a hot glue gun to assemble the pieces together initially. It will pretty much set immediately and give you a pretty strong bond. I can then go back and add PVA (i.e. white, or Elmer’s) glue to all of the joints and set it aside to dry overnight. To add even more strength with thicker foamcore, you can use sections of toothpicks as dowels along with PVA glue.

For ease of getting cards in and out, I cut a notch into the foamcore supports used to separate the compartment sections. This was so I could easily get a finger in to pull out cards, yet didn’t remove too much material to weaken the section of the card. You could try cutting a round notch but practice a few trial cuts before you do. I found cutting round edges a little difficult to do with foamcore board over straight edges.

As to the actual dividers for different cards I used sections of foamcore cut shorter than the width of the cards. I also kept them loose and didn’t secure them to the walls of the insert. Right now I am unsure how many expansions I will be getting and how the card types will expand, so I wanted to maintain some flexibility. However I certainly wanted lots of sections to properly divide many of the cards, especially the encounter card sets. Cut with a tight fit in the box they actually have enough resistance to stand up by themselves (although over time the edges will get worn). Once I get a feel for how I want to separate my cards, I can secure them using a little PVA glue.



The center compartments I have for pre-made player decks. Currently I am using one to hold the encounter deck of the first scenario. Also you can make out the center section. I trimmed a few thin sections of foamboard and placed them in here. Some other scenarios can have many locations, so these thin sections can provide a better visual representation how locations are linked to each other. In the end I have a pretty nice little foam insert, with enough room to keep my tokens, investigator cards, and other bits secured in ziplock bags.


By not using a single sheet as a base (and instead just relying on the box itself) I was also able to reduce the overall profile of the box allowing the lid to sit securely on it. My rules and campaign books lay on top of the insert and the cross design gives it plenty of support. The box is certainly thicker but not so thick that the lid won’t keep secure.


You can certainly buy frame inserts that are great quality and reasonably priced. However with a little effort (I cranked mine out in an evening), you can make a similar insert at a fraction of the cost and be just as functional. Don’t be put off trying your own hand at making foamcore inserts. They actually are a pretty easy project to do.

Life in Athas: Wages

As I ran my Savage Worlds Dark Sun game for a while, I really wanted to flesh out the world some. I opted to tinker with a lot of stuff including the notion of days, weeks, and months in a year. So I ended up changing quite a bit to fit what I wanted Athas to be.

One particular idea I enjoyed was that metal was rare and ceramic coins were used exclusively in city states. However if anyone follows my blog, they’ll realize I dumped keeping track of coins and stuck with abstract tallies of wealth being shares of treasure instead. It’s worked well for me, but I still needed some general yardstick of the value of currency for players.

If they found a haul of coins, how much would hirelings cost? If they needed to hire caravan guards or craftsmen to build something, what would be a fair price? So I decided to whip up some background information on typical wages in Athas.


Wages in Dark Sun

Wages in Athas are loosely based on the piece standard (or silver standard for free folk outside the city states). For a 10 day week’s labor, a wage of one piece or one silver is earned. Most of that wage will go towards housing, meals, and water, allowing a laborer to have 2 or 3 bits (2-3 copper) pocket money for additional goods. While not earning a wage, slaves also would cost their owners approximately one piece per week.

Free citizens and craftsmen earn 2 to 10 pieces a week. Even though most laborers have wages twice that of a lowly slave, they still need to live somewhat frugally. Nonetheless they can eventually acquire some extra pieces each month, allowing for some luxuries. Most bodyguards and thugs will also take a wage of 5 pieces a week, while professional soldiers commonly get wages of 8 to 10 pieces per week. Although it might be expected these are low wages for such dangerous work, life is brutal and hard in Athas. Most able bodied warriors are willing to take a low wage if it avoids the alternative of toiling away as a day laborer (or even worse as a slave).

The more upper echelons of society ‘earn’ wages of 20 to 50 pieces weekly. This varies from wealthier merchants and low ranking nobles, up to more powerful merchant house leaders and highborn nobles. At this income, it is expected that even the most modest noble houses will have have at least 2 to 3 servants. However, commonly most of the upper society requires an income of roughly 15 pieces a week to keep up with household expenses. While they live quite comfortably, they likely do not have an exceedingly opulent lifestyle. The truly extravagant nobles would spend three to four times that amount weekly and be typical of a great lord or high ranking Templar.

Although Athas generally accepts a wage of one piece per week, this is commonly used as a yardstick for determining a fair wage for free citizens. Labor is cheap in Athas and most foremen will strive a hard bargain for that uncommon laborer being paid wages. Instead they will be offered 7 to 8 bits a week, as much as it would cost to have a slave to do the work instead.

In Tyr, this disparity in views on what is a fair wage has been coming to a head. As Tyr has thrown off the mantle of slavery, many of the newly freed citizens are calling for a two piece wage. This 2 pieces movement is exceedingly popular among the poor and low status populace. They feel this is a wage enjoyed by free citizens in the past and should be applied to all.

Many trade leaders and crafts guild leaders are countering with making one piece a true wage standard in Tyr, ensuring that all laborers and unskilled workers get this wage each week. The more shrewd merchants and nobles hope that this is popular enough among the third of Athas laborers now getting 7 or 8 bits per week, that they will agree with this compromise. Currently the 2 piece movement leaders and various head merchants and nobles are in fierce negotiations on what the wage standard in Tyr should be. Eventually, the rebellion King Tithian will have to make some official decree on the matter.

Netrunner Counter Trackers

A while back I made some simple credit and click trackers for Netrunner. They weren’t going to win over anyone with how they looked but the cards were functional. I seem able to stretch my collection and get a few people playing but couldn’t say the same with tokens from one core set. I also wanted something a little more portable than lugging a bunch of cardboard counters around all the time.

One thing about netrunner is it uses a lot of tokens. I like keeping track of information using counters, but you can get an explosion of markers and tokens on the table with some decks. Because of this I wanted to expand the card trackers I made to try and also handle other card conditions.

I ended up making a universal counter tracker. You could use it for virus counters, tags, even advance tokens if needed. It is limited to being only able to track 12 counters however. Another smaller tracker I made was for recurring credits. Just a small card to slip under another indicating between 0 and 2 credits, helping keep track of what is spent during a turn.

The look and design are clunky, likely enough to make any serious graphic designer gag. However they are functional. You can find them in the downloads section. Hope folks get something out of them for their games.

Thinking up a campaign for Gates of Antares

3_round_campaignGates of Antares is my sci-fi skirmish game of choice as of late. One particular aspect I enjoy about GoA is that it has embraces more narrative scenarios over just having your typical tourney smash em up. However, one thing the rules lack though is a set of campaign rules.

I’ve been thinking of some ideas to get a framework of rules together for campaigns. Digging around I fell in love with some stuff over on another wargaming blog, Steve’s Balagan. They worked up a branching campaign system which is concise, builds on previous battles, and doesn’t get mired down in a lot of rules. I love it. I still want to putter around with some ideas for dealing with casualties and resupply. I might dig into Star Army: 5150 for that, as they have some nifty rules for running a campaign game.

While I might consider working on some static campaign maps, I wanted to possibly consider using a random mission system for battles. There is some great stuff out there which looks nice. I may use the idea of a static defender and attacker to shake up the mission objectives some, but the rules I’ve looked at are pretty robust. I also enjoy that each side has some more hidden objectives to add to the flavor of a particular engagement. Certainly a bunch of great stuff out there to tinker with.

Terrene – a Savage Worlds fantasy setting

For a long time I had Expeditions of Amazing Adventure going which was a series of posts on some manner of a location or culture that could serve as a springboard for an adventure. Primarily my inspiration was a picture and I’d whip up some fantasy locale and occasionally throw in some adventure hooks. It was all very general and my original focus was for 4E D&D.

That series grew and eventually I had a ton of posts. So much so I compiled them into their own section. But it sort of lingered in my brain to do something more with it. I rolled around the idea of maybe compiling them together in a campaign setting.

For my 4E game I ended up making my own setting thrown onto a map from Warhammer. Mixing in the points of light setting along with tweaks I made (using the map as fodder for names), I ended up with Terrene. For well over a year, it was home to my players for our 4E campaign.

I stopped playing 4E and drifted over to Savage Worlds, but the thought of revisiting Terrene was still there. So I looked over at my expeditions blog posts and decided to write them up as part of a generic fantasy setting for the world of Terrene. Adding a sparse bit of rules and some twists to the SW Fantasy Companion, I ended up with a pretty open setting with a few key points:

Few new rules and edges – There are a smattering of new things in the setting. I pretty much wanted to keep it a vanilla setting easily sticking with the SWD and Fantasy Companion books. I have a new race, a new humanoid monster type, and sprinkled in a default skill choice for all of the races.

Portal gates – One quick means of getting around would be through portal gates that allowed instantaneous transportation, but at the same time it is unreliable. Maybe players will land at their intended destination, or maybe not. I think this helps facilitate grand adventures. If the players want to take off to the frigid north or steaming jungles, they have the means to do so and not get mired down in spending weeks or months on the road.

However the travel comes at a cost. Maybe you’ll end up where you want and maybe you’ll end up stuck deep underground in the middle of some lost city. I dig that and it can make for some fun adventures. The portal gates open doors for adventure, not close them off.

No one major power – The Empire exists but there are lots of other kingdoms. The Empire is not necessarily a force of good either. Many leaders, nobles, and lords have selfish interests. This allows for players to be heroes in the world, or be able to serve as mercenaries to the highest bidder if they wish.

There is also some room to play off other powers, be in wars, or take part in espionage if players want. Competing regions means there’s some room for players to have some fun working for different kingdoms, or potentially carve out their own fiefdom.

Long history and fallen cultures – The Pomdarians that are somewhat of a mystery. They are this ancient race of lizard folk that had an immense empire and then overnight they disappeared. What happened to them? There was the entire continent of Alondarra that sank to the bottom of the ocean. What became of them? Over thousands of years many races reached epochs and declined, leaving a wake of ruins and treasure to be found. That makes for some interesting stuff to base adventures on.

So you can find Terrene and a basic map in the downloads section. Admittedly a lot of the the location names are awful. I hobbled myself originally sticking with some goofy alliteration for the expedition posts, but they are serviceable (and certain folks will be changing them). However I hope folks find some useful stuff here for their games.Willingham-Centaur


Random Sci-fi adventure generator

TravellerArtASo my sci-fi Savage Worlds game is chugging along. Generally it’s a big sandbox game. The players are flying around in the Scalawag and seeing what trouble they can get into. I employ a sci-fi version of a job board. Each system they jump into they have a few options on employment opportunities. For my game I scooped up the idea of Traveller’s FTL travel. You jump so many parsecs and it takes about a week in this alternate space, regardless of the actual distance traveled. In effect is this age of sail feel for the game, allowing players to potentially run from the law or bounty hunters (and making pursuits after baddies all that more aggravating).

I also fell in love with an idea from Traveller Patrons books. Essentially when the PCs get a patron, after making the initial meet and accepting a job, the GM rolls a d6. While the typical results mean that opposition or the expected situation is what the patron described, there is a chance things could be far more difficult, or that the entire situation is not what it initially seems. I loved this concept as I’m certain I tend to telegraph any secret intentions from NPCs. Not to mention this sort of mirrors events in real life. Sometimes things are a lot easier than expected and sometimes well… sh%t happens and everything goes pear shaped.

A fan made supplement I’ve long gushed over, Savage Space, has a great adventure generator. But I wanted to tweak it some. I expanded the potential outcomes and settled on a series of 8 x 8 tables. As a GM you roll two different colored d8 to represent the rows and columns of the tables. In general an adventure framework is:

Players must [Do][Something] at [Location] against [Opposition].

So I have a series of tables for the Do, Opposition, Something, etc. As a twist, sometimes the players might have to go through some hoops to complete an adventure. Success or failure from previous adventures might impact future tasks, so I created another chart to mimic that. This would also potentially throw in complications to the adventure. To add some structure, certain types of adventures would utilize particular types of side missions, and additional charts I whipped up reflect that.

The end result you can find in my downloads section. This adventure generator isn’t perfect and sometimes you get some wacky combinations that need to be reworked some. However I’ve been surprised how flexible it is. It really has become a great way to spark adventure ideas and a helpful tool for creating a foundation for a potential mission. Hope folks find some use for it in their games.