It's not that I haven't been active on the RPG front. Far from it. Very far from it, in fact. It's just that I haven't been able to get off my ass to write about it. After all, it typically involves a lot of writing in the first place.
So why don't I just run through stuff on my RPG radar?
Rules, rules, rules!
I've always enjoyed making RPG rules. It's a weird sort of creative activity to keep coming back to, but there you have it. Anyway, I've worked in particular on rules for two games:
- Lark: This is my super rules-lite concept. Everything is based on the mechanic that the player rolls a die and adds an attribute while the GM rolls a die and adds a difficulty, and you compare the results. It also does away with "combat time" (i.e. rounds) and uses an abstract mechanic to handle fatigue, wounds, stress, etc.
- Empress 4e: The latest edition of my OSR heartbreaker. I just finished the first pass on it...in fact, there is still a little bit of missing material.
I can easily write a whole post on either of these games. For now, I want to say a little more about what makes E4e special.
Empress 4e introduces a concept I call specializations. These are kind of like skills but quite a bit broader. For instance, there's one big "outdoors" skill that handles survival, tracking, etc. Characters start out with a specialization (or two), and get a couple more as they go up in levels. Specializations themselves don't level up; instead, they provide a one-time +4 bonus to any 1d20 rolls.
These specializations are essentially plug-in subclasses. For instance, a warrior who takes the Bushcraft specialization is now a Ranger, essentially.
The specialist class thrives on these specializations. Not only do specialists get lots of specializations, but they choose one which they really focus on. This one actually increases its bonus every experience level.
So...the specialist specializes in a specific specialization, and specializations in general. Makes a lot of sense when you say it out loud!
The adventure continues
I've completed writing an adventure with Gen Con 2018 in mind: The Magician's House. I'm pretty proud of it. It's written for a 2nd level party using the DCC system, although it could easily be adapted to a lot of systems and can accommodate many levels of play (I think).
This is another one of those topics that I could easily discuss ad nauseum. So I'll try to keep it brief; besides, I plan to do some playtesting soon, so I don't want to spoil it in case one of my playtesters belongs to the throngs who come here.
Anyway...the premise is that the PCs have to go into a wizard's house to retrieve that wizard. He's needed in three days to stop a demonic army, and he hasn't been seen since he entered his house a couple months ago. The PCs have been hired by the Duke to go in and either find the wizard or find something to translate a certain ancient inscription.
The titular house is, of course, one of those places that's bigger on the inside than the outside. In fact, each room inhabits its own pocket dimension or another dimension, and they connect in ways that are odd and unexpected.
The mood I'm shooting for here is whimsy and chaos. Players are given a choice of seven pre-generated PCs. Each PC has its own motivations - each has two "win" conditions and one "lose" condition. A player "loses" if the losing condition comes true, and "wins" if the losing condition does not come true and either or both winning conditions does. As one may expect, these goals are many and varied, and players can cause trouble for each other by pursuing their own agendas.
However, this isn't a PVP extravaganza for muderhobos. It is possible for all the PCs to "win," although it is tricky if they are all in play. It's even possible to do so without getting into a single fight. There are various third parties at work within the house pursuing their own agendas, and most of them pose both risks and rewards.
The nature of the magic and the various encounters within the house leans heavily into my idea of magic in literature and fairy tales. A big influence on this adventure was Susanna Clarke's masterpiece Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. The mood, as well as parts of a few key encounters, were based on parts of this book.
Forum and Arena
I've been posting a lot in my favorite RPG forum, the RPG Pub. It's a great place where you can post about role-playing games, but (1) politics are off-limits, and (2) you have to civil. There are pretty much necessary features of any online conversation in 2018, but it's still taking a lot of folks a while to figure that out.
Anyway, I engaged a couple players from that community in some real-time online role-playing. By bringing in a couple ringers from my offline life, we got a great game going. I ran the DCC adventure Enter The Dagon (previously reviewed on this blog) for our first foray, and it was delightful mess of magic, mayhem and near-apocalyptic destruction.
I posted a long series of session reports on the RPG Pub. Enjoy!
Anyway, for the next adventure, someone else is going to GM. This coming Wednesday we'll be assuming the roles of Ghost Hunters and Psychic Detectives in a wuxia episodic RPG. I'm not going to publicize the title because it's yet to be published...at least, not until I get permission from the creator. Regardless, we're all really psyched to try it out.
Here's stuff I've been reading, and my impression so far:
- Hex Crawl Chronicles 1-7: Holy balls, these are great! I just picked up the series after bring mightily impressed by the first one, but the funny part is that they only seem to get better. Why didn't this achieve more recognition?
- Contessa bundle: This last edition was just ridiculous. I guess the charity bundles like this one get a lot of donated games. As the kind of guy who keeps his eyes open, this works out well for me. As for this bundle itself, I've barely scratched the surface. Will post to the blog when/if that changes.
That's all for now. I'm just trying to catch you up for the moment, but we may be able to get into more depth, soon.