#RPGNET Interview Transcript!

[19:37] <+Ray_M_HGP> Hi! I’m Ray Machuga, owner and game designer for Higher Grounds. My newest game is Dhovaine. Dhovaine is set in a near-Earth fantasy setting where you take the role of a hunter and, when you’re not doing that, you fight the Void’s ever-encroaching awfulness in an effort to prevent her from doing Dhovaine (the world) in by devourment.

[19:37] <+Ray_M_HGP> (done. and yes, sorry. Was setting up my local recording of the Q&A!)

[19:38] <~Dan> (No problem!)

[19:38] <~Dan> Thanks, Ray_M_HGP! The floor is open to questions!

[19:38] <+Ray_M_HGP> Hit me!

[19:39] <~Dan> So let’s see… What is the tech level of the setting?

[19:39] <+xyphoid> what games is it similar to?

[19:40] <~Dan> (Howdy, rpgresearch!)

[19:40] <+Ray_M_HGP> That’s a huge question! The tech-level is pretty close to that of Earth’s tech, but it’s also a little bit beyond what we’re capable of. Imagine Earth’s technology if we had supernatural beings and magic to supplement our minds and endeavors. There are cars just like you’ll find in your driveway, but there are also zepplins and airships as well. Guns are a-

[19:41] <+Ray_M_HGP> thing as well, and they can be pretty devastating.

[19:42] <+Ray_M_HGP> Xyphoid: Similar games? I’ve pulled my inspiration from almost every game I’ve not only played but even read about. I’ve been told the mechanic (Three6 Engine), while totally unique and created by me, is close to GURPS. I imagine my game as kind of a mixture of Shadowrun, Rogue Trader and maybe even a bit of World of Darkness and Pathfinder.

[19:43] <+Ray_M_HGP> I purposefully attempted to pull away from other games as hard and as far as I could, so trying to find similar games is difficult for me, but that’s what I’d compare it to if I had to.

[19:43] <~Dan> How would you describe the game’s tone?

[19:44] <+xyphoid> what kind of hunter?

[19:45] <+Ray_M_HGP> The tone is very much epic adventure.

[19:46] <+Ray_M_HGP> Xyphoid: In Dhovain, there are hunters. A hunter is anyone who takes a job that can be posted by anyone with the cash to do so. These jobs can be pretty much anything, but tend to lean toward the “go kill this monster that’s been doing Bad Thing A.” You actually gain hunter levels as a separate growth table, as well.

[19:47] <~Dan> How common are monsters?

[19:47] <+Ray_M_HGP> Mortals, while not helpless, are typically Level 0 and don’t find themselves capable of defending themselves against the massive, dangerous monsters that are a part of every day life for a Dhovainian.

[19:48] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: Very common. As I mentioned, they’re a part of every day life for most everyone but the most sheltered, walled-in people. And even then, no one is truly safe.

[19:49] <~Dan> Is there any particular source of these monsters?

[19:49] <+Ray_M_HGP> There is nowhere that is truly safe against the natural occurances of Dhovaine. Monsters are very common, and the hunters offer a bit of a dividing line between the deadly things that are “out there” and the mortals just trying to make a living.

[19:50] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: A lot of it is biological. Monsters have been a natural part of the evolutionary chain of Dhovaine for as long as there has been mortal memory and record. The Void, however, has certainly compounded the problem because she can and does imbue monsters (and mortals) with her power to serve her ends.

[19:50] <+Ray_M_HGP> In a world where the magical is a mundane part of daily life, creatures have evolved by way of that as well.

[19:50] <+xyphoid> so given the tech is ahead of ours, are you fighting monsters with drones and missiles and stuff?

[19:51] <+xyphoid> or is it more personal combat

[19:52] <+Ray_M_HGP> Theoretically. Guided missile technology is not common. So sure, you could launch a nuke at the bigbad, but you may hit a neighbor, miss completely or worse. Though ballistics exist, there are a LOT of reasons why it doesn’t happen very often. The most common method of dealing with monsters, as well –

[19:52] <+Ray_M_HGP> as other threats such as in war and other dangerous situations, is physical combat or magic.

[19:53] <+Ray_M_HGP> Computers have been a thing that I haven’t introduced into Dhovaine. So guided missile technology kind of flies out the window there.

[19:53] <+xyphoid> oh right, so much more fantasy-with-some-tech than earth-but-monsters, i read that backwards

[19:53] <+Ray_M_HGP> You’re more apt to see a zepplin fly overhead, dropping bombs on a particularly huge creature, if the need arose.

[19:54] <+Ray_M_HGP> No problem, Xyphoid. You are correct. Fantasy-with-tech. I wouldn’t say it’s Earth by any means, even though I’ve considered the fact that the world of Dhovaine could have easily been a separate timeline from ours.

[19:54] <~Dan> Hmm. I’m confused… I believe you mentioned that this is akin to a near-future setting, but it sounds more like 1930s tech.

[19:55] <+GenoFoxx> the slide-rule would be king

[19:56] <+GenoFoxx> Dan think flying cars and such only with vacuum-tubes

[19:56] <+Ray_M_HGP> I’ve envisioned the tech level a lot like Final Fantasy.

[19:57] <+Ray_M_HGP> Biotech and cybernetics. Firearms. Explosives. Cars and trucks. Airships.

[19:57] <+Ray_M_HGP> But tech is immersed, practically drowned in the fantasy aspect of the setting.

[19:57] <~Dan> How so?

[19:58] <+Ray_M_HGP> Well, I’ll draw from Final Fantasy again. There is a lot of technology, even to the point of being pretty darned Earth-like. But the fantasy aspect of that game takes the forefront.

[19:59] <~Dan> Can you describe what life is like for the average Joe?

[20:01] <+Ray_M_HGP> About 40% of the people live in larger cities. These cities are typically walled up and highly defended by all of the weaponry and manpower that money can muster. For the city-folk, life is good. You’ll have a roof over your head, either an apartment or, if you’re lucky or affluent, a house. You can buy food from one of the markets or a restaurant. You’ll –

[20:02] <~Dan> (Howdy, Jason_Pitre!)

[20:02] <+Ray_M_HGP> have a job doing anything from engineering, writing, design, art. Your life is probably punctuated by random violence as a neighboring Nation or rebellion comes up, but you get used to that over time. You’ll spend your early years going to an accredited school and perhaps –

[20:02] <~Dan> ( Jason_Pitre: Topic: (Link: http://highergroundspublishing.com/dhovaine.html)http://highergroundspublishing.com/dhovaine.html )

[20:03] <+Ray_M_HGP> even move on to secondary university where you’ll focus on what you want to do with your life. Your life is most likely under rulership of a king or a ruling body of some sort, and your streets are probably policed by military or a subsector of defense.

[20:04] <+Ray_M_HGP> For those OUTSIDE the cities, and this is a good majority of the people, life is a lot more difficult. It is very rural. People eke out a living as farmers or farmhands, adventurers, mechanics or whatever they find themselves good at, and can put food on the table. Settlements usually have between half a dozen to maybe fifty people, and –

[20:05] <+Ray_M_HGP> typically see passing tourists or travelers more than people who have come to settle down where they live. Outside the cities, the threat of monster, raiders, natural disasters or even just bad weather can make life incredibly difficult but still, settlements pop up every so often and a lot –

[20:05] <+Ray_M_HGP> of them thrive even under their harsh lifestyles.

[20:06] <+Ray_M_HGP> (done)

[20:07] <~Dan> Hmm… So it sounds like the world looks like a typical pseudo-medieval setting with various modern aspects in technology.

[20:08] <+Ray_M_HGP> That is a pretty accurate way of looking at it.

[20:09] <~Dan> Are there fantasy races?

[20:09] <+GenoFoxx> are there beam weapons?

[20:09] <+Ray_M_HGP> There are still what you might call knights. Soldiers are often seen wearing serious midieval style armor in addition to carrying scattershots (shotguns). Nobility exists and is a great dividing line between financial classes, adding a bit to the tension of the setting as well.

[20:10] <+StormBringer> POW

[20:10] <~Dan> (Howdy, StormBringer!)

[20:10] <+StormBringer> DAN!

[20:10] <~Dan> (StormBringer: Topic: (Link: http://highergroundspublishing.com/dhovaine.html)http://highergroundspublishing.com/dhovaine.html )

[20:10] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: There aren’t additional races in the core book, but there is likely to be additional racial options later on. For now, it’s mortals (Dhovaine word for humans) only.

[20:10] <+Ray_M_HGP> GenoFoxx: Those would be magically enchanted.

[20:11] <+StormBringer> (I landed in the middle of a Q&A again, didn’t I?)

[20:11] <~Dan> (Heh. Yup. 🙂 )

[20:11] <+StormBringer> (<laugh>)

[20:12] <~Dan> Is medieval armor that useful given the presence of firearms?

[20:13] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: Absolutely! It may not stop a bullet but it still offers a certain amount of protection. Shooting through a sheet of steel will still offer a little protection. Add on top of that, that there are just ad many people if not more, walking around with swords and spears.

[20:13] <~Dan> Are guns uncommon, then?

[20:13] <+Ray_M_HGP> In the outlands, melee weapons are far more common because they’re cheaper and you can forge them yourself with minimal tools and ingredients.

[20:14] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: No. They’re just expensive and hard to make.

[20:14] <+Ray_M_HGP> A high level hunter probably keens a scattershot, pistol and a sword. He’s probably protected more by magic than armor, as well.

[20:15] <+Ray_M_HGP> A melee weapon in Dhovaine, in the right hands, can be just as deadly if not moreso than a gun, especially if that gun is in untrained hands.

[20:15] <~Dan> I notice that you’ve mentioned scattershots twice… Are rifles not a thing?

[20:16] <+Ray_M_HGP> They are. Scattershot just happens to be my personal favorite.

[20:16] <~Dan> Ah. Fair enough. 🙂

[20:16] <+Ray_M_HGP> So it’s the most common example I use.

[20:16] * ~Dan nods

[20:17] <~Dan> How powerful is magic in the setting? What can it do on the high end?

[20:17] <+Ray_M_HGP> There could also be a sniper in a guard tower whose job it is, other than general security, to ping troublemakers who pose a deadly threat from 300m.

[20:18] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: High end, magic could level a settlement.

[20:18] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: Magic can also summon a spirit who would terrorize and possible level said settlement, as well. Magic is not just spellcasting in Dhovaine.

[20:19] <~Dan> What’s spellcasting like? Are there dedicated wizards?

[20:20] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: Magic, in Dhovaine, could be used to enchant a weapon that engulfs in fire, a flute that summons storms. It can create wands and staves of power. Spellcasters can summon, bind and command spirits. They can project their souls into the elsewhere. There are a lot of uses for magic beyond just spellslinging.

[20:21] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: Mechanically, spellcasting is much like rolling an attack or a skill. Aesthetically, there are traditions.. groups of spellcasters who adhere to a certain methodology and philosophy about what magic is and how you use it.

[20:22] <~Dan> Can you give an example of a tradition?

[20:22] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: Magic, on your sheet, is an attribute. it’s an inherant thing that you can either do, or you can’t. The methods by which you attain the attribute can be anything from natural talent, demonic pacts, eating a spirit’s heart or something even stranger or sinister.

[20:24] <~Dan> (wb, Stormy!)

[20:24] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: Yes! There is a tradition that I’ve based on the real Hermetic tradition of magic. They take in those who exhibit natural aptitudes for the craft and tutor them. Their methods are very formulaic, and have a lot to do with repeated words, gestures and ingredients. They’re very well-rounded spellcasters.

[20:24] <+StormBringer> (Thanks!  Had to get Pidgin set up correctly)

[20:24] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: They’re called the Eye.

[20:25] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: they take the name from their founder, who claims to have seen the eye of a true god when he first learned to cast spells, and learned all of the first formulae from the knowledge bestowed by the eye.

[20:25] <~Dan> Speaking of which, can you say a bit about the setting’s cosmology?

[20:28] <+Ray_M_HGP> There are ancient scriptures about there being pantheons of gods. The oldest mortals currently alive still tell stories that their grandparents told them about the gods walking the earth. Currently, it’s all religious faith.

[20:28] * ~Dan nods

[20:28] <~Dan> Are there cleric types who invoke divine power?

[20:29] <+Ray_M_HGP> Without getting into spoilers too heavily, there were several pantheons of gods at one point and they suddenly vanished and took most of their gifts with them. Most of the tech that mortals use today came from reverse-engineered tech from the gods.

[20:29] <~Dan> Huh. Now that’s interesting.

[20:29] <+Ray_M_HGP> Not in the true and literal sense, though there are instances where a mortal’s faith can produce effects similar to that of a cleric in another RPG.

[20:30] <~Dan> So that car sitting out on the driveway is a reverse-engineered godmobile?

[20:30] <+Ray_M_HGP> Of course, those instances are used to create more faithful, but the truth of the matter is far deeper.

[20:30] <+Will> my cherub gets great mileage in the Citadel

[20:30] <+Ray_M_HGP> Some of it is, yes. There are other cars that are new models and have different technology but the original idea of the “car” most certainly came from that. But the thing is.. no one knows it. Everyone forgot.

[20:31] <+Ray_M_HGP> When the gods took their gifts, they also took the memories of themselves, what they gave mortals and a lot of what they did and why. Which is why religious orders must rely on faith, today.

[20:32] <~Dan> I suppose this explains the odd tech level.

[20:33] <+Ray_M_HGP> Exactly. I explained that to a playtester like this: “So you have this car outside, right? While you may know it works, you put gas in it and it goes.. you may not know where the tech came from, or how EXACTLY it works.”

[20:34] <~Dan> Gotcha.

[20:34] <+Ray_M_HGP> it’s also a reason why some of the most powerful technology is rapidly deteriorating, or worse, broken down altogether and inoperable.

[20:34] * ~Dan nods

[20:35] <+Ray_M_HGP> For example, there is a module I have been running where rival cities hired Hunters to find a machine that could supposedly act like a megaton nuke. The problem was, once they found it, there were minor bits that rusted away and no one knew how to repair it.

[20:35] <~Dan> Going back to the monsters for a moment, how recognizable are they? Are we talking trolls and dragons and such, or more exotic and original creatures?

[20:36] <&Silverlion> interesting, i was going to ask why the name was dhovaine but I had assumed earth as center peice.

[20:37] <+Ray_M_HGP> I included dragons, because.. dragons. Otherwise, there will be some that you might recognise, but they’ll be the animalistic kind. Giant spiders, primitive, saber-toothed wolves and the like. I also wanted to pull away from what’s been done with other rpgs and try to create some monsters that haven’t been seen before in lore or games.

[20:38] <&Silverlion> What other kind of powers are there? (and I’d like to note that the heaviest armors of the late armored age could stop black powder weapons…)

[20:38] <+Ray_M_HGP> Such as the Basking Tooth Lily, which is a giant man-eating flower that can think and uses psychic energies to attract prey. Its nectar is used in healing potions and to ease illnesses brought about by uncontrolled psychic power. There are the Vandal Plumes which are also plant-like, but have a life cycle where they –

[20:38] <+Ray_M_HGP> can actually uproot and meander around. They’re sentient and very malicious. There are bigger, badder monsters as well, that really defy explanation except to see their stats and their artwork.

[20:39] <+Ray_M_HGP> Silion: Dhovaine is a bastardization of what Google Translate says is the Irish word for “world.”

[20:39] <+Ray_M_HGP> Silverlion: Exactly. For guns vs. armor, I watched a lot of “shooting through steel plate 3/4″” videos.

[20:40] <~Dan> Mind if we pivot to the system for a bit?

[20:40] <&Silverlion> interesting.

[20:40] <+Ray_M_HGP> Silverlion: Powers range from being able to leap ten stories (in a single bound) to breathing electricity at your enemies. The list is vast.

[20:40] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: Sure!

[20:41] <~Dan> Cool… First, could you post that link to the character sheet?

[20:41] <+Ray_M_HGP> (Link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7udr21ff2692ih1/Character%20Sheet%20-%20Text.odt?dl=0)https://www.dropbox.com/s/7udr21ff2692ih1/Character%20Sheet%20-%20Text.odt?dl=0

[20:42] <~Dan> Looking it over here…

[20:42] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: No problem. It ain’t pretty, but it has served my playtesters well.

[20:43] <~Dan> Hmm… I see attributes and skills… Is this an attribute + skill system?

[20:43] <+StormBringer> There is something to be said for a clean, crisp design.

[20:43] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: At it’s core, yes. Attribute + Skill = Pool.

[20:43] <+Will> Is there a metasystem for powers, or do you design and fit them in specifically?

[20:44] <+Ray_M_HGP> Will: I’m sorry, I’m not sure what exactly you’re asking.

[20:45] <+Ray_M_HGP> Could you clarify for me, please?

[20:45] <+Will> Like, in some systems, you might ‘build’ a power out of some elements and tweak settings to craft ‘ranged killing attack’ into ‘scintillating narwhal BLAAAAST’

[20:45] <+Will> LIke the difference between Mutants and Masterminds and D&D.

[20:48] <+Ray_M_HGP> I’d say it leans more toward the mutants and masterminds style than D&D.

[20:48] <~Dan> What is the die rolling mechanic?

[20:48] <+Ray_M_HGP> There are “aspects”, which are basically like power trees which lean toward D&D style powers, but there are “powers” unique to each role that lean toward the M&M.

[20:49] <+Ray_M_HGP> Dan: Oh, I’m glad you asked. This gets crunchy.

[20:50] <+Ray_M_HGP> So, for skills, you have a daily pool. That pool is your attribute + skill. You have a base 3d6 on every skill roll. Your pool in that skill allows you to add dice to the roll as you see fit. Better rolls, better chance of success. Resting refreshes those pools. So it’s 3d6 + Allocated Dice > Target Number.

[20:50] <+Ray_M_HGP> 3d6 is the base for just about everything in the Three6 Engine.

[20:51] <~Dan> So you get 3d6 even if you’re unskilled?

[20:51] <+Ray_M_HGP> Some skills allow you to default, others can’t be used unskilled, or have a penalty to the pool unskilled.

[20:51] <+Ray_M_HGP> Defaulting just means using the 3d6 base.

[20:52] <~Dan> So you don’t get to use your attribute when defaulting?

[20:52] <+Ray_M_HGP> Skills that inflict a penalty allow you to keep the attribute, but give a pool penalty against that attribute.

[20:54] <+Ray_M_HGP> Hacking, for example, is a penalty -2 skill. It’s used with Logic. So say you have a logic of 1, and Hacking of zero and you want to try to override the systems in the zepplin you’re on to redirect the route. Your pool is 3d6 + 1 – 2. So 2d6.

[20:54] <~Dan> What is the rationale for “using up” skills?

[20:54] <+Ray_M_HGP> You can only do so much without resting.

[20:54] <+Ray_M_HGP> You only have so much to give before you’re exhausted.

[20:55] <+Ray_M_HGP> It’s basically a “tiredness” or “wearing out” system.

[20:55] <+Ray_M_HGP> Even the greatest writers need to sleep after writing ten pages of great work. It’s the same with Dhovaine.

[20:56] * ~Dan nods

[20:56] <~Dan> Are combat abilities skill-based as well?

[20:57] <~Dan> (brb)

[20:57] <+Ray_M_HGP> In a sense. There are weapon categories and each category has a level. Each weapon also has an associated attribute, such as a dagger using agility or a polearm using strength. Your pool for each combat round is attribute + weapon level + 3d6.

[21:02] <~Dan> So you don’t get better at using a given weapon?

[21:03] <+Ray_M_HGP> That’s where the weapon levels come in. You do get better. The more you use a skill, or a weapon, the better you get at that skill or weapon.

[21:05] <~Dan> Speaking of weapons, can you go into more detail about how combat works?

[21:06] <+Ray_M_HGP> Combat works much like other games. You roll initiative to see who goes first, and initiative is fluid; it can change during combat. After that, it’s divided into two main phases, attack and damage. During the attack phase, turns go by and you get to make attacks based on your pool (3d6 + weapon attribute + weapon level). Your opponent gets a chance to –

[21:07] <~Dan> (Howdy, Indi!)

[21:07] <+Indi> O hai

[21:07] <+Ray_M_HGP> defend using their defense pool. When an attack scores a hit, you move into phase 2. You take raw damage, which is basically your roll + weapon damage roll subtracted by your opponent’s soak. Remaining damage is applied to health.

[21:08] <~Dan> (Howdy, Thiatas!  Welcome to #rpgnet!)

[21:09] <+Indi> Do you have a quickstart/character sheet I can browse through?

[21:09] <+Ray_M_HGP> (Link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7udr21ff2692ih1/Character%20Sheet%20-%20Text.odt?dl=0)https://www.dropbox.com/s/7udr21ff2692ih1/Character%20Sheet%20-%20Text.odt?dl=0

[21:09] <+Ray_M_HGP> That’s the character sheet. Quickstart is being worked on, and will release within about a month.

[21:09] <+Indi> sweet ty

[21:11] <~Dan> I forgot to ask… Are the dice pools additive, or are you counting successes?

[21:11] <~Dan> (Howdy, Geek2theRight!)

[21:11] <+Ray_M_HGP> Additive. You add everything together against a target number.

[21:11] <~Dan> Gotcha.

[21:12] <+Indi> Dan told me you compared th game to final fantasy, leads me to ask “which one?”.

[21:12] <+Ray_M_HGP> I’d say 15, if I were to seriously compare.

[21:12] <~Dan> What sort of magic mechanic do you use? Are there magic points, for example? Fatigue? Spells per day?

[21:13] <+Ray_M_HGP> Magic is an all or nothing attribute. You either have it or you don’t. Once you have it, however, you can get better at it just like any other attribute. There is a mana pool which is your spiritual power. Mana is used to fuel just about every non-mundane thing your character can do, including spells. Once you’re out of mana, you have to get some back before-

[21:13] <+Ray_M_HGP> you can cast again.

[21:15] <~Dan> Do you include a bestiary, and if so, how large?

[21:16] <+Ray_M_HGP> Basic bestiary is included in the core book, and a chapter is devoted to it.

[21:17] <~Dan> So in the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?

[21:18] <+Ray_M_HGP> Absolutely! First and foremost, this game has been designed from the very beginning to have our company motto in mind. “Tabletop freedom. Console feel.” basically, I wanted to take the feelingyou get when you play a great console RPG and bring it –

[21:19] <+Ray_M_HGP> to the tabletop. Everything I’ve done with the system has been desgned explicitly for that purpose. The crafting system, for example, is incredibly extensive and there is a blueprint for just about every item that you can use in the game. Blueprints include the means –

[21:19] <+Ray_M_HGP> by which you create it, how long to make it, what the rolls are and what ingredients and tools you need. Just like if you’re popping in Skyrim and try to craft armor. The skill system is also like a good console rpg. The more you use the weapons and skills you have, the –

[21:20] <+Thiatas> Thks Dan!

[21:21] <+Ray_M_HGP> better they become. I really wanted to try to make a tabletop rpg that steers away from the heartbreakers and common tropes you find in games, as well. And I think it’s been a success so far in that front.

[21:21] <+Ray_M_HGP> (done)

[21:21] <+Ray_M_HGP> Oh, and our Kickstarter will be coming soon. I hope you will keep an eye out for it!

[21:21] <~Dan> As a reminder to folks, my tip jar is here: (Link: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/)https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/ 🙂

[21:22] <~Dan> Thanks very much for joining us, Ray_M_HGP!

[21:22] <~Dan> If you’ll give me just a moment, I’ll the log posted and link you. 🙂

[21:22] <+Ray_M_HGP> No problem, a pleasure as always, Dan!


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