September Update

I'm a little late on my monthly update, 'things' happened over the last week that took precedence. You see, Sabre is based in part on the Runequest 6th edition rules, specifically to do with skills and some basic mechanics. Sure, a *lot* has been customised but I'd accidentally left some of their text in the manual and I needed to fix that, and acknowledge the origins underpinning the system. 

That's all resolved now, and for the better, as I found some old and indistinct rules in the system I'd forgotten to correct before release, so that's been fixed too. Win/win!

I've been thinking about my work schedule of late regarding all of my projects, and concluded I have too many plates spinning at the moment, so I'm having to trim down on a few of them in order to actually get the more important things done.

* I've nearly finished writing my current novel so that's of course the highest priority. The cover art for that is well under way too, so this should all be done by the end of October. 

* I had planned to revise my first series of novels a bit more and redo the covers. Most of the cover redesign is done, but instead of redoing the art, I'm just going to take better pictures of the current work and use some subtle touches to improve them a little. This will be a big time saver, allowing me to do more Sabre things.

* I'd like to do a burst on the Feydwiir Atlas, and get the entire northern end of the island finished.

* I have a lot of ideas for portrait art for the races for the main manual, and I'd really like to get started on those. They're not huge pictures so I think I could one done per week without too much trouble. I'd like to take another crack at some dramatic cover art too, but take a different approach this time. Not a high priority though. One factor to getting this done is to make sure people who have tried the system actually like it, and therefore make it worth the effort to get the artwork done. I'm starting to see some positive feedback (presumably after people have used it for a while) so I'm thinking about this more and more now.

* Once those are done, I'll take some time to create audiobooks for my novels, as many people have requested this for some time and I'm eager to give this a shot. 

* I've had a bit of a resurgence of interest in my canvas art, and had hoped to produce some more but I'm deferring this project until some time next year. 

* The Scifi version of the Sabre RPG is pretty much done, but I don't really have time to support another system while the first one is still incomplete. So I'm going to delay release for this until next year while I finish up these other things. Besides, the starship rules are slowly becoming detailed but again, I don't think it should be my highest priority right now. 

So that's my revised plan for the near future. I definietly will be supporting and working on Sabre over time so it's by no means been abandoned or anything like that. Oh, and my immediate gaming group had to shut down due to lack of players (some of whom had to travel some distance to get there), but I'll be starting a new one up in the near future, so Sabre Scifi development will undoubtedly continue! This campaign will actually be very low-tech, treating technology with the rarity of magical items, should be interesting!

August Update & Six Month Plan

I've been thinking about the items I have to work on over the next 6 months, and came up with this list (in order of importance).


* Finish my current novel (should be done by november).

I'm on chapter 17 of 22 so it won't be much longer. I've already started the cover art as well.


* Redo the cover art for the first novel series.

I have developed new techniques to make the covers more professional and eye-catching, so I'm eager to get this done. I'm basically doing digital, high-resolution versions of the current cover art, but without the stone effect blocking some of the picture. I'll also be able to make prints of the new art, should it turn out really well!


* Do another editing pass on the first novel series. (probably take 6-8 weeks).

The first novel, Nature Abhors a Vacuum, is in reasonably good shape but it's still far too long and not as focused on the main plot as my later work. Now that I've learned how to write (!) I want to go back and redo this one, and smooth out the later parts of the saga a little too, mostly in books 3 and 4. Book 2 had an editing pass earlier this year and books 5 and 6 are at the same standard as my current work. 


* Create audiobooks of my entire series. 

I've been wanting to do this for a few years, but felt that the series needed some final polish before going to the trouble. I'll be purchasing some quality recording equipment in order to do a professional job of this. Some people have mentioned I have a good 'broadcasters voice' so I'm hoping this is true and the final result turns out well! 


* Add several countries of content to the feydwiir atlas.

I have a lot of the little details done, but the flavour text and full descriptions of the other countries demands the part of my brain that writes novels, and it's busy at the moment *wink*. Once I have the books out of the way late in the year, this is my next big task. Won't take more than 6-8 weeks either.


* Finish the introductory module to the Scifi system and release the manual.

I've put this on hold for now as the system is continuing to evolve, and I've re-written parts of this story twice already. We're still playing a scifi campaign on a regular basis, now with the inclusion of starships (woo!) but it's still very much in alpha and not ready for release. Besides, I want to do some proper cover art involving science things! I'll probably peck away at this over the next few months instead of just doing it all right at the end of my task list. 

The starship system looked to be fairly straightfoward, but then I decided to make individual character sheets for each crew station. The end result is superb, though it's been a lot of work. Been adding to the rules as we go with this, so there's much to be done on the ship side of things. I could probably release the scifi manual as is, now that I think about it, just that it wouldn't have the intro story to demonstrate some of the advanced mechanics. Hit me up on the sabre facebook page or through twitter (@stephennowland) if you'd like to get your hands on the manual sooner rather than later.


* Get back to work on the current novel series.

I'll be starting the as-yet unnamed third volume of the ballard chronicles, probably around february of next year. With all that other stuff out of the way, it'll be nice to focus on one thing for a change. Except...


* Create portrait art for the fantasy and scifi game manuals.

They're not huge, and I think with a little practice I should be able to make decent race portraits for the manuals and finally get rid of those 'placeholder' images. The scifi manual has this too, and given the races available (one is a giant bipedal space cockroach) it might be a little more challenging! If this goes well, I'll make a start on the bestiary art too, the wolf and storm crow want some new friends I'm sure.


So, that's my work schedule. I'd be doing more on the game systems but as the novel nears completion it really starts to push its way into anything else I'm trying to get done (hey, write meee!) so I need to get that out of my head before I can focus on the other stuff. Naturally, I need to pace myself too, for as much as I love working on all these things, I don't want to burn out either. That's a bad deal for everyone (including me). Well, back to it then!


July Update

We've had some great games with the Scifi system lately and I'm eager to get this thing online so others can have fun with it. I spent yesterday working on the 'basic' edition (it'll follow the same basic/premium pattern as the fantasy version) and it's nearly done. I just need to add a few more NPC templates and it's good to go. I've also started on the introductory adventure, which I feel should be released at the same time and it's basically what's holding up the release date at the moment. Once I get the five sample characters made, I'll get cracking on the story. I'm not running a game session this coming weekend so I'll make use of the extra time to hammer it out and get it done!

I've made good use of the development time anyway, tweaking and modifying things here and there. For example, using the Computers skill to hack (because it's the EIGHTIES!) into a robot to take control of it was a little too easy to accomplish, even though it was fun. So that was adjusted and the experience is richer for the extra attention. 

Finally, I just need a solid day to finish off the starship rules. I'm pretty excited about this section and our test campaign is getting very close to the point where they will want to take off, so I will simply have to get this finished sooner rather than later or they'll be very disappointed! 


June Update

So, after running some games of the scifi system, I've had some great feedback and put some thought into making adjustments to smooth out some mechanics. There's a lot of crossover between scifi and fantasy systems (since they're using the same backbone) so it makes sense to update them all at the same time. Mantaining three manuals has been challenging though!

The main fix has been to the approach to dealing with injury and healing. It's been a bit clunky, to the point that dealing with serious wounds (i.e. below 0 Hit Points) has been redone maybe eight times now. It's been a fine balancing act, but I think it's sorted out now. 

The main change is the Bleed condition now just subtracts a hit point every round, and you have this condition while below 0 Hit Points - only magic or first aid will stop the bleeding, and even then only temporarily. As soon as you move or act, the bleeding starts again. This has been changed from the fatigue mechanic, which is seeing less and less prominence in the system as it evolves. I'm really only using that for special effects, or lack of sleep, and sometimes from heavy exertion. 

Secondly, when someone gets to 0 HP or below, they make an opposed Endurance skill check (vs the attack roll) and if failed, they fall unconscious for 1d4 rounds. Success leaves them dazed for the same time, so there's always a consequence. Being unconscious takes a character out of the fight for a bit, and they are subject to 'death blow' as well, so it keeps combats short and punchy.


Other fixes:

* Revised most of the melee talents and some weapons. Each type of weapon has a very different feel, and different purpose. This is described in the melee weapons equipment section.

* Skill fumbles yield 2 points in the skill instead of 1. This is something we've been doing in our local games for a long time, I just forgot to put it in the manual!

* Healing effects rarely differentiate between wound levels. Only 'Second Wind' (manoeuvres) and 'Cure' (hedge magic) are restricted to minor wounds (injured but still above 0 HP). This frees healing up a lot more.

* Firearms have had their damage dice adjusted - instead of throwing a bunch of dice and possibly getting a terrible result, you now throw 1 dice and add a number to it, such as 1d6+6 (for pistols). This is easier to do and gives them a nice, higher minimum to ensure a powerful hit. Longarms no longer have a talent to speed loading, so they take 3 rounds to reload but hit really hard when used (as you'd expect).

* Tweaked a few manoeuvres, mostly in the premium edition. 

* Fixed the overland movement table, as the math was all wrong (legacy stuff!) I'm aware that 6 metres per 6 seconds is a very slow movement rate, and I intend to recalibrate this soon. It'll probably just be doubling the movement rate for each race, and having the map grid be 2 metres per square instead of 1, so it'll play the same, but fit longer distances onto a table.

That's all for now. I doubt I'll be doing updates to the system for a while, as I really need to get back to writing this novel :)

May Update

I may not blog as often as I should, but rest assured I'm always working on things behind the scenes. Just when I think I've nailed down the system rules, a new, easier way of doing things pops into my head. Such is the case now, where I've streamlined a couple of clunky mechanics  involving special tactical abilities, and applied a new method which opens up a lot of new possibilities. This development happened while working with the scifi version of the system, which I have to say is awesome. That's getting closer to release as well, possibly in the next week or two.

In addition to this, I've refined the character sheet at the back of the manual to be more spacious, more asthetically pleasing and easier to use, with only the most important information present on the front page. It's a big improvement, which leads me to the next work-in-progress: the character generator.

The excel version we've been using isn't going to be able to cut it long-term, so I'm working with a programmer to put together an online HTML version with full automation, to make creating and maintaining characters easier. It's coming along nicely, with the database construction basically complete and the program itself slowly but surely coming together. It'll probably be a moth or two before its ready for public use (I want to do lots of in-house testing first) but it promises to really open up the system.

In the meantime, the new basic and premium editions of the fantasy system have been uploaded, and the excel generator removed as it's no longer up-to-date with the current system. The bestiary will be up in the next few days, as I need to go over it to bring it in line with the new version. More to come in the next few weeks!

Finally complete

After sorting out some software issues with the site, we've finally managed to get the Sabre RPG online. That took a bit longer than I initially thought, as I'd planned for an early January release! Still, the extra time has served it well, for I tweaked and modified a few things while waiting for the site to get fixed. Mostly, the work has involved streamlining things, as smooth play is one of the aims for the system. 

So it's ready for public use, though I don't consider it 'finished' as such. Consider it a very advanced public beta, and based on feedback, I'll tweak and modify things as needed. But after three years of development and play, I have to say it's pretty solid. 

The core rules settled down some time ago, after a big streamlining effort in the middle of last year. During the first two years it had accrued quite a bit of system bloat, and it really benefitted from being pared down. The aim was to keep a good amount of detail, while making sure it played well. Hopefully it's straight-forward enough for beginners to use (let us know!) yet with enough depth to satisfy veteran players.


Now, a word about art - the manuals don't have a lot. Sure, it has a nice watermark, cover and little graphical flourishes, but my plan to personally create all the internal art, such as race portraits, monster portraits and such, hit a stumbling block. I'm predominatly a landscape artist, and relatively new to the field of fantasy art, so I wasn't happy with the results of some of my work. I plan to keep practicing, but that'll depend on how many people try it out, too. In an extreme case, if it garners a large following, I might just end up paying a real fantasy artist to do the work.


In its current form, the atlas depicts the primary location of the game, the Kingdom of Aielund. It should be more than enough to provide a starting place for your adventures, should you wish to run them in the campaign world of Feydwiir. I have preliminary work done on the rest of the world, it's really just a matter of formatting and checking to make sure it's all correct, so releasing expanded editions should be straight-forward. Speaking of updates...

Update Schedule

The initial plan is to provide a system update every six months, but I can step that up if demand increases. Each update will require re-purchasing a given product, but I plan to make it worth your while! I'll be sure to include a few more pictures, plus additional spells, talents and tactics for the manual, plus some more beasties, NPC templates and whole countries for the atlas. I won't be releasing errata sheets, as I plan to simply update the primary PDF to make sure any rule adjustments are fully integrated, so you won't have to chase any changes through separate files.


The likelihood of creating a hardcover print version of the manuals depends on demand, and of course the amount of art that's been added to the system - we can't have "placeholder images" dotted throughout the bestiary! But yes it's something that's being considered for the future. 

For now, check out the system and see if it's to your liking - we're quite proud of the result and we think you'll enjoy it!


As for the sci-fi version of the system, that's still in development. Converting the fantasy system over was pretty easy for the most part, but has yet to be tested. We'll get on to that in May and have an early release up in June for you to try out. I've crunched the numbers and it should work out fine but these things rarely pan out in practical tests, so we'll see.

There will be a system for space combat too, ship-to-ship, but the rules will be slightly different to ground battles so it'll come in a separate release. I'm pretty excited about what I've done so far and can't wait to try it. You'll be able to salvage, build or upgrade your own robots, vehicles and advanced weapons using a very elegant methodology. The system will be good for modern combat too, as I've been sure to categorise equipment into 'Modern' and 'Advanced' lists. So, this varient of the system should cover modern or futuristic settings very nicely.

I'm planning a campaign world that blends a medieval-style setting with 'relics' from the before-time, i.e. pistols, machine guns and other more advanced systems. Oh, and the only magic available is a Psychic skill, so it's more of a hard-science approach instead of a full blend of magic and science. Still, you could absolutely combine regular Sabre with the sci-fi system to create your own science-fantasy setting, as the core rules are exactly the same. Yes, I'm having a lot of fun putting this together!

That's all for now, peace out.

Nearly there!

Hello, I hope you've enjoyed the holiday season. I had expected to have the basic edition of Sabre online by now but Things™ happened, including said holidays. The good news is development continued over the last month, albeit at a slower pace. I ran a few games with my team and tweaked a few of the rules a tiny bit more, and I'm developing a few more adventure modules for use with the system. 

I'm really hoping to have the basic edition online within the next week or two, and now that my schedule is looking clear, I think it'll actually happen! 

Currently, I'm working on filling out the entries for the bestiary which should be done over the next couple of weeks, and then I'll be working on the atlas and the artwork. This week I'll be starting work on the cover art for both manuals, which will be the biggest, most elaborate digital art I've attempted yet. Thank god for the 'undo' function ;)

So the plan is to have these manuals available for purchase as part of a six-month subscription, during which time development will continue, adding art, fixing errors, balancing rules and adding new content every month for what I think will be $5. Some things will have a flat purchase cost, such as the excel-based advanced character generator, and individual story modules. I'm thinking $2 each - that's a lot of entertainment for two dollars folks!

This brings up an important design aspect to the system - I have no intentions of releasing add-on manuals and bloating the system out across many rulebooks. Changes and additions will simply be added to the main pdf. Later in the year I might consider creating a print version of the manual as it stands, but it'll be out of date within weeks of release. Nevertheless, if there is demand for a print copy, I'll make it happen! This will be after I have finsihed adding artwork to the main manual of course. The bestiary, with its copious artwork, will take much longer.

More to come when the system is finally online. Stay tuned! 

In the beginning...

As of writing this post, it's been nearly three years since I started work on this game system. Sabre has evolved a long way since its inception, with ideas tested and discarded where necessary through rigorous playing and conceptualising. As of this week the core mechanics have been locked down, with only minor tweaks and additions taking place from now on. This site is just about ready to go, with only a few backend issues and additions to complete before it goes 'live'. But first, some history! 

It all started when our gaming group, of which I am usually the Game Master, began trying out different systems to give us a better gaming experience. We had been playing 3.5 edition D&D, then switched up to Pathfinder for quite a while before tiring of the time-consuming nature of high-level combat that system imposes. So then we tried out the 5th edition D&D beta test and enjoyed that until the over-simplified skill system began to grate on the player's sensibilities. As a GM, I really enjoyed the swift and straight-forward playstyle of it, however! 

Then we looked at Runequest, which has a fantastic skill system but we were quickly turned off by just about every other aspect of it (disclaimer: your experience may vary!) This is when "the discussion" began, to determine which system we were going to stick with long-term so we could actually get some proper stories and character development going on. The group couldn't settle on any one system, so in exasperation, I decided I'd build my own system! And it would be called "SteveQuest", and all would be well!

Two days later I start to think this really is a good idea, and come up with the actual working title of 'Sabre' just so we have something to call it that wasn't ridiculous. I'd been modding and 'home ruling' our previous game systems a great deal anyway, so I figured it was time to take it to the next level. 

The result as it stands now is a system that flows smoothly in combat, provides excellent detail and flexibility in all situations a character or party might find themselves in and is remarkably well-balanced. I even managed to dust off my old world-building notes from my days of crafting modules for Neverwinter Nights and develop it into a full-blown atlas. I'd been running all of my campaigns in my 'Kingdom of Aielund' setting anyway, so I put all of that knowledge together and spun out something very much akin to the stories in my novels. The name 'Sabre' seems to have stuck, with the playing group quite taken with it, and thus, the Sabre RPG was created.

So when can you try it? Soon! Very soon now. It's being published under the Open Gaming Licence so there will be a freely available 'basic' version you can sample. I just need to make an introductory adventure that'll demonstrate how things work in Sabre and it's good to go. Oh, and the site needs finishing too, not much left to do there. If you like the basic version and want more to sink your teeth into, there's a Premium version that's twice the size. 

The basic rules set has three different styles of magic, whereas the Premuim edition boasts the full ten fields of magic, including Sorcery, Psionics, Artifice and Alchemy. There's also more talents (sort of like D&D's feats), more abilities and skill to choose from. Development will be ongoing, so if you subscribe to the premium edition you'll get free monthly updates of tweaks, additional talents, tactics and spells and artwork. Speaking of such..

In the next few months I'll be creating the cover art and some select pieces for the interior of the manuals. The problem with being an artist and writer is although I can do it all, it's a question of finding time to get it done! But as time goes on, I'll add more and more pieces of art to the manual, bestiary and atlas. They're all a bit lacking at this stage but in terms of rules and what they offer, they're solid and very usable. I just need to add some polish. Let's call it an advance beta :) The art will look something along these lines:


So let's talk schedule. I'm currently in the process of finishing my latest novel, which I hope to have in stores before xmas (the ebook version anyway), so it's my primary focus. After the holiday break, I'll be dedicating a couple of months to Sabre, mostly art but also fleshing out more details in the atlas and flavour text in the bestiary. My health isn't the best so from time to time I'll take a break to avoid burnout, which is a real concern in passion projects like this. I won't let that happen! So, keep an eye out on the website during December, as we'll definitely have the Basic Edition online so people can get their hands on it and give it a whirl, and probably a version of the Premium Edition without art. 

I have to say that the last few games I've ran have been some of the best with Sabre, and defintely the best of nearly twenty years of roleplaying. Everything just sorta works, y'know? I've been having fun designing traps for my unwitting player group (the last thing to be added to the system) and it's working a treat. Being able to put together a character instead of a class or collection of abilities has made a huge difference to the way my players have interacted with the stories I run, too. Anyway I'd better get back to finishing this novel so I can get on to Sabre good'n'proper!