Announcing the Revised Edition of S.M.A.S.H.

Published on 30 May 2024 at 22:13

It's coming close to a year since we released S.M.A.S.H., but that was far from the end of it's creative journey. Over the last 11 months since we announced S.M.A.S.H., we continued to play and work on the game. We put out a handful of our revisions in the Prisoner Omega adventure a few months ago, but that was not the end of our revisions, and now we think we're just about ready to release a new edition with a ton of new material and other revisions to make the game the best it can be.

Why so soon?

Let's start by addressing an obvious criticism. Yes, releasing a new edition only a year after the product's release is very quick. I suppose I can't really offer any justification, only an apology. The Black Orifice is basically just me, putting out products that I've designed, written, laid out, and published largely on my own (with a decent amount of help on the first two on that list from Nigel in S.M.A.S.H.'s case). I am essentially an amateur, looking to express my creativity and share that with the wider world. I don't get things right some of the time. I probably never get things 100% right.

Usually, when it comes to writing and designing I move on from one to the next fairly quickly as new ideas strike. S.M.A.S.H. is probably a special case because it seems to have hit a sweet spot amongst the people I game with and I have kept playing it despite working on several other products since its release. S.M.A.S.H. has also attracted feedback from the wider community to a level I've not really experienced before, including some "constructive" criticism. And with all that playing, and the desire to respond to the feedback, has come new ideas and the desire to work to address those concerns that have been raised.

A final factor in the timing of this announcement has been that it is UK Games Expo this weekend. I will be in attendance, running several games of S.M.A.S.H., and hoping to chat about it to anyone new to the game and try and get word out as much as I can. I want to be introducing any potential new players of S.M.A.S.H. to the revised edition, and I don't want word getting back to existing customers about a new product coming out without the opportunity to explain myself, and make sure you are all informed of the special deals that we are going to put out for our existing customers...

Pricing and special offers

Despite that it has close to fifty more pages in the book than the original edition, the revised edition of S.M.A.S.H. will have  the same RRP. It will also benefit from our traditional opening week discount offer, where it will be heavily discounted to encourage some early sales.

However, for existing S.M.A.S.H. customers we will be providing special discount links to buy the revised edition S.M.A.S.H. for just a single dollar for everyone who bought the original edition PDF, and a similar level of discount for the physical book for those who bought a physical book, pricing it just above printing costs (this price can fluctuate with time, so I can't really comment to what it will be at this point).

If you bought S.M.A.S.H. previously and enjoyed it, I am sure this revised edition will only elevate it in your esteem. If you bought S.M.A.S.H. previously and had a more critical appraisal, I would hope that we have addressed your concerns and the revised edition will allow you to fully enjoy the game.

So, What's New?

So, I guess you want to know what this new revised edition will be like. What has changed and  how has it improved the game? Let's have a look at some of the changes:

No AI Art

One of the biggest criticisms we received was over our use of AI art in the original book. To be totally honest, this was an issue I was somewhat naïve about when I put S.M.A.S.H. together. I generally use stock art in all my games, and had signed up for an account on Adobe Stock when i was writing Eternus and didn't realise that many of teh pieces I was using were in fact AI-generated, and didn't really have a full understanding of all the issues involved. Having educated myself further on the issue, I don't want to be "that guy" and want to be able to support my fellow creatives as much as I can, within the confines of my small budget. As such, removing AI art was a key goal of wanting to produce a revised edition. The money made from S.M.A.S.H. has been used to buy up some new licensed pieces of stock art to replace those pieces that were AI-generated. I'm not at a point where my budget allows me to directly commission art, but I have been able to expand my library of stock pieces, and made use of them in teh revised edition.

General edits and clarifications

Another common area of criticism was over the ease of use of the book. The asymmetrical nature of S.M.A.S.H. means that a standard RPG book layout with separate chapters for rules, combat and character generation didn't really work, but this meant that the book was perhaps not as obvious for many people to get into as it could be. I addressed this in a minor way shortly after release, adding an example of play document to the download pack, but I felt that more could be done. As such, the core rules, much as they are, are (hopefully) better explained, and the nature of teh product and how to approach it is hopefully introduced early enough that you can access the book if you're just picking it up for the first time. 

I also realised that there was some confusion in how I was referring to some of the common terminology, like turns, actions, moves, activations. I've gone through the revised edition with a fine-toothed comb to tidy up this nomenclature to improve clarity and avoid any ambiguity in the rules. This includes some confusing text in the GMs chapter around building encounters.

Another valid criticism was the lack of a worked example of character creation. Well, this is no longer the case in the revised edition. We give you not just one worked example character, but a fully worked example for each archetype. 

Finally, there's been a revision to some of the conditions. Again, much of this is a tidying up of terminology and timings, but there are also two key changes:

Prone was considered a somewhat negative experience, reducing interactivity in the game. If characters could deal with prone it became trivial, whilst if they couldn't it was trivial. And worse, there were several ways to get around it that didn't really involve dealing with it directly (such as flying whilst prone). As such, it has been changed, both in how it functions, but also in its name. Now called Slammed (allowing it to thematically cover a wider range of effects, and so that it makes sense in its interaction with flight) and also applying a penalty that is not as directly taxing of your moves in the round, whilst still giving a notable penalty.

Secondly, there were a variety of effects called "lingering", or had the same mechanic if nit the same name. As a result, we rolled these all up into a new condition, Lingering. 

Story Hooks and Skills

One of the criticisms that I felt cut deepest with me was the comment made on a review that described the gameplay as being akin to the Adam West Batman series, with players simply gathering clues that lead to a confrontation in a very formulaic manner. This was not how I saw the game, nor how I intended it to play, but I obviously hadn't got this across. As such I think I needed some work to be done addressing the concern.

One aspect of this is to change the discussion around skills, and add in another couple of skills to broaden the scope of what they could cover. The rules around skills no longer only refer to discovering clues (although in many cases this could be a fairly abstract idea of what constituted both a clue and its discovery) and now talk about overcoming obstacles and difficulties, too. One of the new skills is key to explaining this idea: Athletic. Your character's athleticism is probably not going to help them discover many literal clues, but it could very well help them overcome a physical difficulty, such as jumping between buildings or climbing a cliff face. However, when you apply this concept of obstacles to other situations and the use of other skills, it hopefully opens up the ways in which the game can be played. Your interrogation skill could help you persuade the guard that you have just misplaced your pass and that they can let you past. In the previous edition this would have still been possible, but it would have been couched in terms of discovering a clue. Hopefully this now makes things clearer.

Another area that I felt was going overlooked in its importance to S.M.A.S.H. gameplay and story building was the use of story hooks. These should be used to build stories around and provide depth to your characters that allow you to explore who they really are whilst you are smashing supervillains in the face. Whilst  these have been only given a light touch of changes in the revision (including some cool new ones), there is an increased emphasis in the GM's chapter on how to utilise them in constructing adventures and campaigns.

A Whole Lotta Crunch

In addition to all that, the revised edition of S.M.A.S.H. has a large amount of crunchy new game material to get your teeth into...

  • The Power Splash rule we introduced in Prisoner Omega has been included in the main rulebook, giving you the ability to buy a power from outside your archetype.
  • A new system for building your super-team's base or giving them a powerful artefact.
  • A big revision to the Blessing power source, so that it works much more effectively for speedsters, martial artists and other heroes with multiple activations. It also has new alternative option for it's linked drawback effect
  • New power moves introduced across the hero archetypes, including a greater level of interaction with condition effects though the use of new power moves like Density Control. But not only that, there's also new power moves for cloning yourself and tearing your enemy's armour to shreds amongst others.
  • Some key rebalancing of some archetypes, including: improving the level of AGGRO bricks can generate, allowing more flexible martial artist reaction chains, rebalancing the every-hero keywords so that they are no longer any keywords that are better or worse than others.
  • Perhaps the archetype with this biggest revision is the mimic. In addition to some new tag types (more than just the practised tag we introduced in Prisoner Omega), many of their powers have undergone something of a revision, giving them more of a unique feel. The links between their power moves and the mimicked archetypes has also been rebalanced to ensure that no one archetype is an obvious choice.

Overall there's a ton of new stuff in this book and we really hope you will love it!

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