Nephrite Games is ran by Rolo, a guy who enjoys tabletop and classic computer games. This blog is mainly about my own personal projects, but I also post information about upcoming wargaming releases and news from within the retro-gaming community.
Current Major Project: FRAG FRAG is a tabletop battle game in a dark universe inspired by 90s first person shooters. The latest version is available here.
I’ve been tinkering with ZDoom for years. After taking part in HUMP, I wanted to make more Heretic levels but wasn’t happy with the limited texture variety and enemy roster. I started making little edits to Heretic and trying to create a ‘toolset’ that would allow me to build maps without any of the issues that people have with Heretic. It started off with adding textures from Hexen, then tweaks to the monsters… very slowly it turned into an actual mod. I’ve started and stopped mapping for Heretic a few times, never happy with the designs I’ve come up with. It looked like the most recent map was going to go the same way, but I’ve turned it around and managed to tweak the layout into something I’m happy with. I’ve also locked down the features I want in the mod, making it officially a mod and not a universal toolset for Heretic mapping.
There is a new player character and I’ve gone through a few designs. First was a grouchy but good-hearted witch, then a powerful half-demon sorceress, but the current design is an older and more sinister witch.
The player is now a new character (the grand witch) with new graphics and sounds
Health & Armour
Armour system changed to match Doom (less generous than Heretic; 33%/50% damage resistance)
Added Life Sphere (+100HP up to 200HP, instant use powerup)
Replaced Enchanted Shield with Amulet of Warding (200% armour, same effects as Mega Armour)
Added herbs (+1HP pickups, heals up to 200HP)
Replaced Quartz Flask with large health potions (+25hp, instant use)
Weapons & Ammo
Staff has been replaced with a short ranged “Zap!” attack
Tome of Power turns zap red and does more damage
Amber wand replaced with the lavender staff (100% accuracy, but fires a fast projectile instead of a hit scan attack)
Large dragon claw pickups give more ammo
Ammo maximums have been increased for some weapons (dragon claw, firemace)
The hellstaff projectile is now 33% smaller
The firemace always spawns
The empowered firemace has been replaced. It now fires a triple shot at no extra ammo cost.
Dragon claw graphic and sounds have been replaced
Incorporated the fixed firemace graphics from the Heretic minor sprite fixing project
Power-Ups & Inventory
Added lore items which shed more light on the story when they are picked up
Quartz Flasks have been replaced with instant use large health potions
Morph Ovum has been replaced with Dog Mode
Chaos Device replaced with Boots of Protection (Rad Suit)
Time Bomb of the Ancients replaced with a much more effective Poison Flechette
Life Sphere replaces the Mystic Urn (same effects as Soul Sphere)
Flight, invulnerability, dog mode, invisibility, large health potions and Life Sphere are instant use power ups (Map, backpack, torch, tome of power are unaffected)
New graphics for Flight and Invulnerability power-ups (all instant use power-ups are now held in orbs/spheres)
Only one torch, tome of power, or boots power-up can be held at any time. Up to 20 flechettes can be held.
All non-boss enemies from Heretic can now be resurrected
All non-boss enemies from Heretic except the Weredragon have had their HP reduced by 10%-25%
The Weredragon’s attack now takes an two extra tics (reducing attack speed by 20%)
Replaced ImpLeader and MummyLeader with Black Imp and Hobgoblin (same concept, new graphics and sounds)
The Iron Lich no longer summons tornedos but gains a spirit summoning attack.
New Monster: Cultist (weak human, fires projectiles and drops wand ammo)
New Monster: Knight Archer (slightly less weak human, fires projectiles and drops crossbow ammo)
New Monster: Bloodclaw (stronger and faster version of the Saberclaw)
New Monster: Demon Prince (acts similar to a Cyberdemon)
New Monster: Tall Man (fast stealth monster, fires rapid fire projectiles and occasionally resurrects monsters)
New Monster: Bloodied Lich (resurrects enemies and performs an Arch-Vile attack; has less HP than an Arch-Vile but releases a hostile ghost on death)
Added Reiver from Hexen (slightly modified, no vampiric melee attack)
Added Wendigo from Hexen
Added Ettin from Hexen
Added Chaos Serpent from Hexen (10% size increase and slight increase in HP)
Added Slaughtaur from Hexen (more aggressive AI, lower HP and significantly reduced shield time)
Blood Claw, Reiver, Ettin, Chaos Serpent, and Slaughtaur can be resurrected (but not Tall Man, Bloodied Lich or Demon Prince)
Added pigs and chickens as NPCs. They don’t do anything.
Monsters no longer drop items except for the Cultist and Knight enemies.
There is currently one map (E1M1) but the plan is to release 20 maps in four or five mini-episodes set in new locations.
The updates to this blog are hardly thick and fast nowadays. Unfortunately, that’s due to two issues: (1) a promotion at work and (2) being a key worker during a global pandemic. The overtime has been particularly extreme over the summer.
However, I’ve still been working on things (even if progress hasn’t been great, as I only have a couple hours each evening at best). Here’s what’s in the pipeline:
I’ve cleaned up Warzone Abridged, rewriting some rules to be easier to understand, adding rules for terrain (using material from Warzone 1st Edition, Warzone 2nd Edition, Dark Eden and Chronopia) and am currently in the process of combining it with the expansion book End of Days. This new edition is unimaginatively titled Warzone Abridged V2. The new rules are all written, but considerable layout work is needed on the combined army lists.
Frag has been tweaked and tidied up, and Episode 2 is almost done. Some layout work is needed, fluff pieces need to be written, and the extensive unique character chapter needs another balance check. Rather than releasing episodes, I am considering merging the two books similar to Warzone Abridged V2.
I’ve adapted Frag into a fantasy warband game, similar to Age of Sigmar or Chronopia, but only as a proof of concept. The core rules and an extensive elf army list have been finished, and no further work is planned for the near future. I’ll put up an upload of this soon.
I’ve finished the groundwork for a Heretic megawad / mod. There’s been plenty of modifications to the base game (weapon replacements, new enemies, item replacements, item re-balancing, new power-ups, new special effects, etc…) and the next step is to start creating some impressive levels to go with all the changes.
3D printing and Miniatures
I have two 3D printers, a resin (Elegoo Mars) and an FDM (Ender 3) which I’m using to print miniatures and terrain.
I am switching over to 15mm scale figures for most of my gaming projects, and I have a couple new 15mm platoons fully painted. I’ve had very positive experiences with several 15mm manufacturers, particularly Ground Zero Games and Brigade Models.
In addition to the above, I’ve continued collecting rulebooks and reading up on new developments in the Doom, 3d printing and tabletop communities.
It’s been a while. Work has been quite intense this year. There’s a lot to catch up on. Let’s start with a post on the expansion booklet I wrote for Tomorrow’s War.
I’m enjoying painting 15mm more than 28mm, and I’m actually making quite good progress with my miniatures! In fact, it’s caused me to look around for 15mm rules, especially sci-fi (I’ve been examining fantasy too, which will be its own separate post).
One rulebook I keep coming back to is Tomorrow’s War, which I have posted about before. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it in the past and now I’m getting into the official ‘Tomorrowverse’ setting.
I’ve written up a booklet that contains new armies and quick reference lists for existing armies (high power armies like the Darghaur aliens have a LOT of modifiers). Every army is based on existing miniatures (The Scene UK, Ground Zero Games, Critical Mass Games, Slap Miniatures, and Vanguard Miniatures).
Lately I’ve been really enjoying 15mm. I have assembled a lot of sci-fi in that scale recently and I have Darghaur (sold by Ground Zero Games) and some Critical Mass Protolene (sold by Ral Partha Europe) finished. The Crusties are another alien race to add to the pile. The difference this time is that instead of a platoon I have a whole company to paint.
I bought some contrast paints to experiment with, and tried them out on some 15mm Crusties from Ground Zero Games. I sprayed them white, painted them with GW’s yellow contrast paint, and painted the guns and leather straps. Finally, I gave them a simple brown wash.
The results are… passable. They took mere minutes to paint, and I have 80+ more of these to to complete so it looks like the method I’ll be going with.
Ground Zero Games are excellent by the way. Definitely recommend them if you want to try 15mm.
It’s Quake time. Quake doesn’t get huge amounts of attention anymore, but it has an active community still making content for it.
Quake modding used to be about strikingly different total conversions / mods (Air Quake, QuakeRally, Fantasy Quake, Horrorshow Quake, Special Forces Quake), but nowadays it is more focused on providing an enhanced and refined Quake-style gameplay within the original Quake universe. Quake+. The bleeding edge of Quake modding is Quake gameplay in hugely expanded and often breath-takingly beautiful worlds, often with new enemies. Arcane Dimensions is the most visible of these.
Then are more vanilla offerings that provide a classic experience – meaning no new monsters, no changes to weapon or monster behaviour, no complex scripting and minimal or no use of new textures. Masque of the Red Death by Tronyn is one of those. It’s a mostly vanilla offering sticking closely to the design of the original Quake, just larger and far more action packed than the original levels.
Masque of the Red Death opens with a desperate battle against huge numbers of knights, death knights, fiends and scrags. The beginning is one of the hardest sections and if you’re not a master of monster infighting the fight is almost unwinnable. It gets easier as you pick up new weapons but the battles against huge numbers of monsters carry on throughout the level. The architecture is impressive but vanilla. It doesn’t make you wonder whether you’re playing a next gen game in the way that limit-breaking ‘Quake+’ levels do. It’s most definitely a Quake level.
I found the fights enjoyable for the most part. The level gives you a clear goal – get the rune to the door to leave – and a clear sense of progression – fight your way up the tower to get the rune. What I didn’t enjoy was how the large monster hit boxes restricted movement and made the combat in tighter spaces more of a chore, particularly the fight against the knights along the battlements.
The number of monsters really felt incredible, but I managed to win most of the battles first time. Ammo was tight in a few spaces but I almost always had what I needed to progress, even though I only managed to find 1 out of 8 secrets on my first play-through.
Masque of the Red Death is certainly worth a try. It’s an intense experience with a satisfying sense of progression.
The Cacowards are the best source of quality levels and gameplay mods for Doom. Anyone who wants to expand their experience of Doom engine gameplay should look there for the best mods and levels. That isn’t to say that it covers all quality content, but it’s certainly a good start.
Special mention for the 2x upscaling project – a project that uses multiple AIs in tandem to redraw the Doom sprites at double the resolution.
This is a trailer for Sonic Robo Blast 2 ver. 2.2.
SRB2 is a mod for Doom that creates a unique 3D Sonic game in the style of the older games. Honestly, it’s probably the best Sonic has ever been in 3D. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect (3d Sonic sets a low bar). The controls have always been too slippery for my liking which makes precision platforming a pain.
It’s nice to see this mod getting some love. It’s over two decades old (originally created in 1998), and it was a technical marvel (for the Doom engine) when it came out. The new release looks like it has added a lot of impressive new effects (destructible terrain using polyobjects!) and I’m looking forward to trying this.
15mm gaming has become increasing popular at my local club, with games like Flames of War and Team Yankee being especially popular. But I am a weirdo who likes to explore obscure rulesets and create my own games where I can.
I also have a resin 3d printer. This combined birthed a nice little mini-project.
The current total is 9 Abrams (the basis for Command and Conquer’s medium tank) , 2 Mammoth tanks, 3 stealth tanks, 2 flame tanks, some prototype M24 Chaffee (the basis for Red Alert and Command and Conquer’s light tank sprite). I’ve also made a massive set of Tiberium terrain and spore towers. It’s been very difficult getting some of this to print but I’ve relished the challenge.
I would like to restate that this is a mini-project. I am doing a quick army list book for the Critical Mass rules with no major changes. Along I was mulling a mass battle 6mm to 15mm sci-fi game after FRAG, I don’t want to let this district me from FRAG anymore than it has.
On 20th June, Amid Evil left early access. I’ve owned it for a while, but not played past Episode 4 (of 7).
I have really enjoyed my time playing Amid Evil, but it hasn’t grabbed me as hard as DUSK did. Something about the combat in DUSK feels more polished, and I find the pseudo-realistic level design and atmosphere a little more immersive.
However, it’s still a great retro-FPS throwback. Seven episodes with four levels each, with gameplay that is reminiscent of Heretic. Some of the level design looks absolutely gorgeous, and the designer clearly had fun making crazy patterns in the level editor.