Tuesday, October 15, 2013

[Q&A] Todd Lyles (Tiny Epic)

[19:04] <+Todd_Lyles> Right-o.  I'm Todd Lyles, creator of Tiny Epic RPG, a rules-light fantasy RPG enabled by a deck of illustrated cards.
[19:05] <+Todd_Lyles> I built the game to serve a need I had, which was the ability to run quick, one-shot fantasy games for increasingly hard-to-schedule friends, or at conventions.
[19:05] <+Todd_Lyles> In the process of creating it, I thought others might find value in it, so I have made it available via TheGameCrafter.com
[19:06] <+Todd_Lyles> @Vapor: the youngest person to play the game was 11. It went well, I thought, but he was raised by geek parents, so that might have been a mitigating factor. ;-) (over)
[19:06] <+Canageek> So, why cards instead of a table? Doesn't that drive your manufacturing costs up?
[19:07] <+xyphoid> ++ thegamecrafter, it's so great
[19:07] <+Todd_Lyles> I came upon the idea of using cards organically.
[19:07] <&Vapor> They are. When I get my martial arts card game written so going there.
[19:07] <+TheNabster> Fighting Game card games?
[19:08] <+TheNabster> Remind me to ask you later
[19:08] <+Todd_Lyles> For many years I had run a game at a local convention in Nashville. It was a variation of the Amber Throne War scenario from the Amber Diceless RPG.
[19:08] <+Catseye> card based RPGs I tend to like. They run very fluidly
[19:08] <&Vapor> Me too
[19:08] <&Vapor> Who did the art?
[19:09] <+Todd_Lyles> Roles were assigned randomly by combining a number of index cards. I noticed that not only did the players enjoy the random element, but it kept me coming back as well.
[19:10] <+Todd_Lyles> For example, (I'm not sure who here is familiar with Amber) you could play Brand as a Lord of Rebma, or Deirdre as a Master Sorcerer - and these combinations were facilitated in part by the simplicity of the underlying system. I decided to make something like it that was "generic" fantasy.
[19:10] <+Todd_Lyles> You can deal out a whole party of fully-fleshed-out characters in minutes.
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[19:11] <+Todd_Lyles> @Vapor: I did the art.
[19:11] <~Dan> Todd_Lyles: Would you like to link us to a sample?
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[19:11] <+Todd_Lyles> @Canageek: my costs are not where I'd like them to be right now, but I'm just getting started so hopefully I can get that under control. ;-)
[19:12] <+Todd_Lyles> If you scroll down to the bottom of (Link: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/tiny-epic-role-playing-game)https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/tiny-epic-role-playing-game you will see "Action Shots" of the game.
[19:12] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[19:12] <+TheNabster> Do you have character classes?
[19:12] <+TheNabster> Well I assume yes but what sort of classes
[19:13] <&Vapor> Cool Tod love the style
[19:13] <+Todd_Lyles> A character is built by a combination of (at least) 3 cards: Avatar, Profession, and Legend. The Avatar is your race/background, and describes your basic abilities. The Profession card describes your character's specialty, and the Legend card describes something unique about you, such as special training or background.
[19:13] <+Todd_Lyles> The Legend also suggests how you relate to the player characters seated to the right and left of you at the table.
[19:14] <+Canadork> Todd_Lyles: Best of luck getting profitable!
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[19:14] <~Dan> (Howdy, KJ!)
[19:14] <+Todd_Lyles> That's why I said they are "fully-fleshed-out" - that is, you not only have a character, but fodder for role-playing as well.
[19:15] <+Todd_Lyles> Anyway, the Profession is analogous to a Class. The current deck contains 24 of them.
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[19:15] <+Todd_Lyles> @Vapor: thanks!
[19:15] <~Dan> (Howdy, Dirian!)
[19:15] <+Todd_Lyles> @Canadork: thanks!
[19:15] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[19:15] <+TheNabster> Can you give us a few examples?
[19:15] <~Dan> Can you go over the core mechanic?
[19:15] <~Dan> (Question pause.)
[19:15] <+TheNabster> I see the staple stuff like Warrior, Rogue, Wizard, but I also see a Vizier?
[19:16] <+Todd_Lyles> Right. I tried to cover both the basics, as well as some curve balls.
[19:17] <+Todd_Lyles> If you assume all of the basics are there, then the only ones that are less common would be: Necromancer, Beastslayer, Tinker, Swordmage, Spy, and Gunslinger.
[19:17] <+Todd_Lyles> Like most fantasy RPGs these days, Tiny Epic inhabits a world with a sprinkle of steampunk on it.
[19:17] <+Todd_Lyles> Regarding the core mechanic...
[19:17] <+TheNabster> Unnf I love guns in a fantasy setting
[19:17] <+TheNabster> Sorry continue
[19:18] <+Todd_Lyles> It's a dice pool system. You roll a number of 6-siders equal to the stat in question, counting anything 4 or higher as a success.
[19:18] <+Todd_Lyles> 3 Successes is generally good for most things, which means a Stat of 5 is "good".
[19:18] <+Todd_Lyles> 5 Successes is considered a "Legendary" outcome and has lasting effects.
[19:19] <+Todd_Lyles> For example, talking your way past a hostile guard might require 3 Successes on a Charisma roll.
[19:19] <+Todd_Lyles> Getting a hostile guard to give you directions would be 5 Successes.
[19:20] <+Todd_Lyles> Combat is slightly different, but I assumed there would be a question along those lines shortly. ;-) (over)
[19:20] <~Dan> Indeed! But first, is there a skill system?
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[19:22] <+Todd_Lyles> There isn't a skill system as such. The Avatar cards have Traits on them, which are situations in which your character excels. For example, "Making People Nervous" or "Exuding Calm" - if you convince your GM they're relevant, they good for +1 die to the roll in question.
[19:22] <~Dan> I see. Fair enough.
[19:22] <+Todd_Lyles> Otherwise, everything falls under one of 4 Stats.
[19:22] <~Dan> Okay. Combat! :)
[19:23] <+Todd_Lyles> Charisma, Intellect, Agility, and Strength.  This was done intentionally to keep things simple.
[19:23] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[19:23] <+Todd_Lyles> Right, combat.
[19:24] <+Todd_Lyles> So there are two derived Stats: Willpower, and Defensive Power. They are not listed on the cards - the players use dice to keep track of them. Willpower is Charisma or Intellect, whichever is highest. Defensive Power is Agility or Strength, whichever is highest. Collectively they are called "Defenses".
[19:24] <+Todd_Lyles> When a creature attacks a character, it has to roll a number of Successes equal to its WP or DP to Wound him/her.
[19:25] <+Todd_Lyles> In many cases this will be impossible given the size of the creature's dice pool.
[19:25] <+Todd_Lyles> However, if the attack roll contains at least one "6" in it, it is called a "Scratch" and the character's Defense is lowered by 1 point.
[19:31] <+Todd_Lyles> DP comes and goes fairly rapidly - as soon as the battle is over it refreshes. There are actions the character can take to cause it to refresh more rapidly.
[19:31] <+Todd_Lyles> WP requires rest to refresh.
[19:32] <+Todd_Lyles> This same system applies to the players, of course. For some strange reason I began explaining it from the point of view of their adversaries. ;-)
[19:32] <+Todd_Lyles> Before I go on, does this make sense? (over)
[19:33] <~Dan> Hmmm....
[19:33] <~Dan> So... DP is both the target number to hit as well as "hit points"?
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[19:36] <+Todd_Lyles> Except they can be recovered fairly quickly, yes, that's not an unfair assessment. DP is a measurement of the character's overall readiness, positioning, etc - of how "open" he or she is to attack. If the character is wounded, however, the player chooses one of his cards to flip over. As long as the card is flipped over, he cannot make use of its bonuses and
[19:36] <+Todd_Lyles> abilities. In that way you could say all Tiny Epic characters have 3 HP.
[19:37] <+Todd_Lyles> These are actual Wounds that require healing, as opposed to DP, which is a measure of the character's "guard" so to speak.
[19:37] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[19:37] <~Dan> Can you explain how weapons and armor function?
[19:39] <+Todd_Lyles> The Profession card lists some items your character is likely to carry with him, but frankly they have little impact on gameplay. A character's effectiveness at doing his "job" - whatever it is - is already captured in his Stats and Powers - listed on the cards.
[19:40] <+Todd_Lyles> If you can beat the Defense of your target, you Wound it. In the case of most enemies, that means it's dead.
[19:40] <+Todd_Lyles> Only heroes and villains suffer Wounds.
[19:40] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[19:40] <+Todd_Lyles> I'll say one more thing about this.
[19:40] <+Todd_Lyles> Actually.
[19:41] <+Todd_Lyles> Once I decided Tiny Epic was for one-shots, a lot of standard features of RPGs became irrelevant. This is why items and leveling aren't addressed - they simply aren't a factor if you're only playing for 1 or 2 sessions.
[19:42] <+Todd_Lyles> The GM can always create an item within the context of the scenario if it's important to the plot.
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[19:42] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[19:42] <~Dan> Hmm. Have you considered making those optional rules?
[19:42] <~Dan> In case people do want to play longer-term?
[19:43] <+Todd_Lyles> If things go well, I intend to create a Treasure deck, yes. (over)
[19:43] <+Amqui> Todd_Lyles do you think this is a good bridge for boargames/cardgames gamers to be initiated to tabletop RPGs?
[19:43] <+Amqui> boardgames*
[19:43] <+Todd_Lyles> Since I'm the illustrator and game designer (with a day job), the creative process takes a little longer than I'd like. ;-)
[19:44] <~Dan> (Oh, howdy, Amqui! Didn't realize you were "awake". :) )
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[19:44] <+Amqui> (Amqui is very quiet)
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[19:44] <+Todd_Lyles> @Amqui I'd love it if that were the case. I see a lot of boardgamers playing board games that are homages to dungeon crawls. I think there is an opportunity to pull them over to the real thing.
[19:44] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[19:44] <~Dan> How does magic work in the game?
[19:44] <+Amqui> but you haven't experienced it?
[19:45] <+Todd_Lyles> There isn't a magic system as such, partly because the game doesn't promote a specific setting.
[19:46] <+Todd_Lyles> So various cards grant abilities which are magic in nature, but they don't have any underlying relationship to one another other than the fact they are magic. As someone who spent many teenage/college years inventing elaborate magic systems, it has actually been liberating to throw all of that out the window.
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[19:46] <~Dan> (wb, Butterball!)
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[19:46] <~Dan> (Howdy, Blaster!)
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[19:47] <~Dan> So are there magic-using professions
[19:47] <~Dan> ?
[19:47] <+Todd_Lyles> @Amqui: I've introduced it to my boardgaming group, and they enjoyed it, but I can't say for sure whether they would seek it out otherwise. When I demo at cons I have to compete for attention alongside other boardgames, which can be tricky at times, since RPGs are seen as harder to get into.
[19:47] <~Dan> (Oh, hey there, CC!)
[19:47] <+Amqui> ok Todd_Lyles thanks
[19:47] <+Amqui> that's exactly we need "bridge games" ;)
[19:47] <+Todd_Lyles> Yes, there are magic-using professions: wizards, illusionists, druids, wizards, etc.
[19:47] <+Amqui> why we**
[19:47] <&Vapor> How does magic work?
[19:48] <+Todd_Lyles> I'll give you an example. Every card conveys an "Anytime" ability and a "Heroic" ability. The latter can only be used once per day before requiring rest.
[19:48] <+Bigby> So even though there is no magic system but there is magic using professions.  Can they do anything magical other than "attack with magic" as opposed to the warrior's "attack with [insert weapon]"?
[19:49] <+Bigby> I type too slow as it seems you are answering my question before I asked it...
[19:49] <+Todd_Lyles> This is the wizard's Anytime Power: "Wizard’s Staff (Active Magic)  Summon light, float small objects, conjure smoke, create drafts, and light campfires.  Useful and entertaining, but not dangerous.  It does come when you call it, though."
[19:50] <+Todd_Lyles> This the wizard's Heroic Power: "Word of Power (Heroic Magic)  Choose 1: Reverse the events of the past 7 seconds, Teleport your party to a location known to you, Shatter an inanimate object as large as INT Areas, Strike Enemies Dead (a Penetrating Psychic Magic Area Attack) or Dispel a Magic effect in your presence."
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[19:51] <+Todd_Lyles> I would say that Magic Powers are most likely to grant options (as in the above example).  (over)
[19:51] <~Dan> So a wizard really only has one effective spell?
[19:51] <+Todd_Lyles> The full character is a combination of 3 cards.  Both the Avatar and Legend cards might also convey Magic abilities.
[19:52] <+Todd_Lyles> Several of the Legend cards describe membership in Magic Schools, in which case you have additional abilities.
[19:52] <~Dan> Ah, I see.
[19:53] <+Todd_Lyles> With the real estate available to me on a Tarot card, I tried to reduce a wizard to its essential wizardness - i.e., the Glass Cannon.
[19:53] <~Dan> Heh. :)
[19:53] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[19:53] <~Dan> I see that you have monsters as a free download. Are there any monsters in the core rules?
[19:54] <+Todd_Lyles> Earlier I said an 11 year old had played this game. By sheer luck he ended up with a combination of cards that allowed his Wizard to use Word of Power (the Heroic Ability) 3 times per day. Needless to say, he had a good time.
[19:54] <+TheNabster> Even in other games
[19:54] <+TheNabster> Wizards are OP
[19:55] <+Todd_Lyles> All of the monsters are in the free download. There isn't room in the tuckbox for documentation - that's why I offer it all for free from my site.
[19:55] <+BlasterKyubey210> Eh, to be fair Nabster, he got luck
[19:55] <+BlasterKyubey210> if anything else
[19:55] <+Todd_Lyles> The character creation process (recommended):
[19:56] <+Todd_Lyles> Deal 3 Avatars to each player. They pick one they like the best and discard the other two.  Then deal 3 Professions. They pick the one they like best and discard the others. Repeat the process with Legends. So it's semi-controlled randomness.
[19:56] <+Amqui> is there any other types of cards other than the 3 making the characters?
[19:56] <+Todd_Lyles> @Amqui: not at present.
[19:56] <+Todd_Lyles> There are cards which enable you to draw other cards, even during play.
[19:57] <+Todd_Lyles> There is a Legend card called "A Life Well-Lived" which basically means you're multi-classed.
[19:57] <+Todd_Lyles> During the adventure you can use your Heroic Power to draw a 2nd Profession from the deck.
[19:57] <+Todd_Lyles> Another Legend called "Wild Magic" works similarly but the Profession has to be magic in nature.
[19:57] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[19:59] <~Dan> You mentioned steampunk elements in the game. Can you expand on that a bit?
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[20:00] <+Amqui> how does it compare to Everway?
[20:00] <+Amqui> (or differ)
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[20:01] <+Todd_Lyles> There are two professions, Tinker and Gunslinger. Then a Legend called "Half-Clockwork". So just a sprinkle of steampunk at present. ;-)
[20:02] <+Todd_Lyles> @Amqui: ah, Everway! I never played it, but I'm an armchair fan of that game. I especially like how they handled the little innate powers you could buy for your character. Such a simple little system.
[20:02] <+Todd_Lyles> What was it...Frequent...Flexible...Major?
[20:02] <+Todd_Lyles> I forget.
[20:02] <+Todd_Lyles> Anyway, the only two things I can really claim from Everway is a trend toward simplicity and the use of cards.
[20:03] <+Todd_Lyles> That said, the cards aren't really *used* during gameplay that much other than the ways previously described in this chat.
[20:03] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[20:03] <+Amqui> Todd_Lyles ;)
[20:04] <~Dan> So is the actual product purchased just the cards, with everything else downloaded?
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[20:05] <+Todd_Lyles> Right - the only item for sale is the cards. (over)
[20:05] <~Dan> Do you sell PDFs of the cards as well?
[20:06] <+Todd_Lyles> As for the docs, I recently revised Monsters & Adversaries. The changes there are having a cascading effect across the other docs, so expect the GM's Guide, sample adventure, and Player's Guide to be updated in the coming weeks.
[20:06] <+Amqui> why no cards for monsters?
[20:06] <+Todd_Lyles> As for selling PDFs of the cards...I haven't thought of it, no.
[20:06] <+Todd_Lyles> I'm open to it, of course. Just getting the cards out consumed most of my brain though.
[20:06] <+Todd_Lyles> Amqui - I get variations of that question a lot.
[20:07] <+Todd_Lyles> Most of the time it's, "Why no GM deck?"
[20:07] <+Todd_Lyles> The most honest answer is, the cards that exist today took all my time to produce.
[20:07] <+Todd_Lyles> I'd like to address the other side of the equation, of course - to produce some aid for the GM that makes his or her life easier.
[20:08] <+Todd_Lyles> I have some ideas on that but nothing concrete as of yet.
[20:08] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[20:08] <~Dan> (brb)
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[20:08] <+TheNabster> You said you had the idea of the Treasure deck as an expansion at some point
[20:08] <&Vapor> Any chance of an SF version?
[20:08] <+TheNabster> Do you have any other plans? A different setting perhaps? Maybe Sci-fi?
[20:09] <+Todd_Lyles> Yeah, everyone who plays it at cons comes up to me asking about sci-fi.  I think it's great that everyone jumps to that.
[20:09] <+TheNabster> >And then you can pull a munchkin, go "Screw it" and throw all the decks together You are now a half-fay Cosmonaut with Vampire Ancestry
[20:09] <+Todd_Lyles> I think it would lend itself really well to pulp or space opera.
[20:10] <+TheNabster> I think it would aswell
[20:10] <+Todd_Lyles> TheNabster, I like the way you think.  Like Munchkin, but an actual RPG.
[20:10] <&Vapor> I'd be glad for Space Opera :D
[20:10] <+Todd_Lyles> Originally the Stats were much more fantasy-centric.  For example, instead of Intellect, I had "Lore".  One of the reasons I picked Intellect instead was for just that reason.  Interoperability with a hypothetical sci-fi version.
[20:11] <+Todd_Lyles> For another hour in the day!
[20:11] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[20:11] <+Amqui> Todd_Lyles yes, why no GM deck? :P
[20:11] <+Amqui> I guess you want to slay closer to traditional RPGs than card games
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[20:14] <+TheNabster> Welcome back Dan. And Hail stranger
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[20:15] <~Dan> (Howdy, Squide!)
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[20:15] <~Dan> I forgot to ask earlier, but what stats govern melee and ranged combat?
[20:15] <~Dan> Strength and Agility?
[20:16] <+Todd_Lyles> STR = Melee, and AGI = Ranged, except when they don't.  ;-)
[20:16] <+Todd_Lyles> Professions sometimes change this dynamic.
[20:16] <~Dan> Ah. Like, I'm guessing there's a swashbuckler that uses AGI for melee.
[20:16] <+Todd_Lyles> Monks can use INT whenever STR is called for, including Melee.
[20:16] <+Todd_Lyles> And right, Swashbucklers use AGI.
[20:17] <+Todd_Lyles> Magic normally uses INT - but then some cards, like the Half-Elf, allow you to switch Charisma for INT.
[20:17] <+Todd_Lyles> But the general rule is STR for Melee, AGI for Ranged.
[20:17] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[20:17] * ~Dan nods
[20:29] <~Dan> So for creatures with really high DP, the PCs really have to whittle them down with Scratches?
[20:29] <+Amqui> so I assume this is assumed the DM has somewhat a base in tabletop RPGs before DMing Tiny Epic?
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[20:30] <+Todd_Lyles> Most monsters don't have ridiculously high DP, actually.
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[20:31] <+Todd_Lyles> (For exactly the reason suggested by the question - the tedium in "whittling" them down)
[20:31] <+Todd_Lyles> However, if a single creature is intended to fight the entire party, it is easily modified to be an Elite or Boss version of the base creature.
[20:31] <+Todd_Lyles> This gives it enough staying power to pose a credible threat.
[20:32] <+Todd_Lyles> @Amqui: I wrote the GM Guide with the assumption that the reader hasn't GM'd before, but I don't know if I was successful...!
[20:32] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[20:32] <+Amqui> ok
[20:33] <~Dan> (Howdy, Canageek, Seras!)
[20:34] <~Dan> What games influenced your game design choices?
[20:34] <+Seras> (Evening, all)
[20:35] <+Todd_Lyles> Specific to Tiny Epic...Amber Diceless, Big Eyes Small Mouth, and classic D&D.
[20:35] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[20:36] <~Dan> That's an interesting mix. :)
[20:36] <~Dan> Are those your go-to games?
[20:39] <+Todd_Lyles> Honestly, I don't have any go-to games at the moment. My friends all have kids & other commitments. My wife is in grad school. I have a demanding day job. Game time is limited - that's why I created this game. I always have a quick, light-weight fantasy game ready to run at a moment's notice, should the opportunity present itself.
[20:39] <+Todd_Lyles> I enjoy the games cited above, but I haven't played any of them in over a year, easily.
[20:39] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[20:40] <~Dan> Would you make equipment a factor for a hypothetical scifi game?
[20:43] <+Todd_Lyles> In pulp/space opera, it's debatable whether equipment is a factor, really. I think I could use a similar approach with ray guns. Actually, the biggest challenge to a sci fi game is limiting references to a setting.
[20:44] <+Todd_Lyles> One of the creative constraints I chose for Tiny Epic was not to push a specific setting on the GM/players.
[20:44] <+Todd_Lyles> If I wrote one, I wanted it to be a separate as I could make it.
[20:45] <+Todd_Lyles> That's easier when you're dealing with standard mythological tropes than with alien races (I think)
[20:45] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
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[20:45] <~Dan> I can see that design motivation. I'd just be concerned about having PCs picking up heavy-duty equipment and having it have no effect.
[20:47] <+Todd_Lyles> So it hasn't come up yet in playtesting or con games. It may be the designs of the games themselves, which are very much "in media res"
[20:47] * ~Dan nods
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[20:47] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, MrTwist!)
[20:47] <+Todd_Lyles> (over)
[20:48] <~Dan> So the focus really is on one-shots?
[20:50] <+Todd_Lyles> That was the design focus, yes - it's easy enough to revisit characters you've enjoyed playing, of course - you only have to write down the cards you had.
[20:50] * ~Dan nods
[20:51] <~Dan> Now, just so you know, you're more than welcome to hang out as long as you like and continue to field questions. A Q&A just means that you have the floor to yourself.
[20:51] <~Dan> That said, is there anything you'd like to mention that we haven't covered in the last 10 minutes of "regular time"?
[20:51] <+Todd_Lyles> The hypothetical Treasure cards would add additional flexibility. But in general the characters produced by the game are already fairly competent. In old school AD&D terms I would place them between 8th and 12th level. ;-)
[20:53] <~Dan> Wow! :)
[20:53] <+Todd_Lyles> If you'd like to hear an audio version of me answering similar questions, All Games Considered interviewed me here: (Link: http://www.agcpodcast.info/2013/09/agc-interview-26-tiny-epic-1355.html?m=1)http://www.agcpodcast.info/2013/09/agc-interview-26-tiny-epic-1355.html?m=1
[20:53] <+Todd_Lyles> As for anything else I'd like to mention...
[20:55] <+Todd_Lyles> I'm based in Nashville, so I intend to make it to the cons in the region over the next year.  Follow me at @tinyepicrpg or (Link: https://www.facebook.com/tinyepicrpg)https://www.facebook.com/tinyepicrpg to know where I'll be. If you buy the game from me at a con, I can offer a better price and some promotional cards not available in the main deck.
[20:56] <~Dan> Cool. :)
[20:56] <+Todd_Lyles> Thanks for the opportunity to speak to everyone!  You guys were great! (over)
[20:56] <+Bigby> Do you plan on making it to GenCon?
[20:58] <+Todd_Lyles> The trickiness with GenCon is we have gone to DragonCon for many, many years. It would be difficult for me to make both cons in quick succession. I realize GenCon is where it's at, gaming-wise, though. ;-)
[20:59] <+Todd_Lyles> Running at small cons is a lot of fun though, since you're usually the only game there no one's heard of before. You get a lot of walk-ups and opportunities to make your pitch.
[21:02] <~Dan> I'll go ahead and log the chat here if you don't mind, Todd, but again, you're welcome to stick around. :)
[21:03] <+Todd_Lyles> Thanks!
[21:03] <~Dan> I'd also like to thank you for coming by this evening to chat with us. :)

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