Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wheels Within Wheels

"He loved maps, and in his hall there hung a large one of the Country Round with all his favourite walks marked on it in red ink." - On Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit.

Like Bilbo, I also enjoy maps, particularly dungeon maps; and especially ones that have some kind of trick to them. Today, I happened upon what may be the tricksiest dungeon map of them all:

Just look at all those discs ready to spin around and completely befuddle any adventurers wandering through. This beauty is the brainchild of James Eck, who's also written up a short module utilizing the design. Stats, when necessary, are given for both D&D 3.5 and the author's own Mind Weave system, but honestly there are so few numbers involved it would be a cinch to use with any system you care to name. Plus there's a few other interesting tidbits, like the single-use keys that respawn in portable - but heavy - chests. Very Zelda-esque.

But that's just a bonus - the map could easily be re-stocked for better integration into a campaign, or you could use some random tables to just let the madness build. You might even transplant it to another genre entirely - I'm thinking Indiana Jones would have a field day with the place.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Three TimeWatch Campaign Ideas

As the Kickstarter for TimeWatch enters its final few hours, I've been looking over the Jurassic Edition playtest rules and pondering - specifically, pondering how to tweak the rules for various already-established-but-official-RPGless settings.

The Legend of Zelda

Although it would seem that the more well-known fantasy rules would be most suited for adventuring in Hyrule, some of the games do have an element of time travel to them. Mostly these are hops from one set era to another, but the idea of taking action in one time to set up a success in another translates quite well.

For the adventure itself, I can see the PCs being a cross-section of various Hyrulian races banding together on account of Link disappearing, probably on account of temporal shenanigans from Ganondorf. In an amusing twist on the normal tropes of the series, releasing him would involve exploring a single location multiple times, in multiple times.

Assassin's Creed

Art by chadf
Honestly, it would only take the slightest bit of of reworking to turn TimeWatch into the Assassins and the autochron into the Animus, with Chronal Stability representing Synchronization. Or perhaps the Animus could be re-imagined as an actual mental time-travel device - this would be especially useful in explaining how more than one Assassin can travel to the same era.

In any event, this sort of game would probably draw quite a bit from Night's Black Agents as well as TimeWatch - you'd at least want to put together a Templar conspyramid, and all the better for one spanning multiple eras. 

And with the added element of actual time-travel, there's opportunity for both sides to try to re-write history to their own advantage. Players could even, theoretically, travel into the minds of their future selves, of course to find a dark, Templar-dominated cyberpunk or post-apocalyptic landscape. The big finale of this campaign would probably end up being killing the creator of time travel.

Which brings us to -

Back to the Future

All I really want from this is to have the characters from these movies stated out and set loose on a Tourist campaign. As things progress, they'd meet other iconic time travelers - I have a feeling Doc and Marty would get along great with Bill and Ted - and, of course, evil terminating robots:

Rumor has it that of these characters might get show up in the final edition of the TimeWatch book, bit if not you can probably expect to see them here in about a year or so.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Halftime Report

Well, not exactly half - of the two RPG Kickstarters I've been following lately, one of them is just over half finished, while the other will hit the halfway point later this week.

You thought this was going to be about football, didn't you? (Art by Aerion-the-Faithful)
Anyway, both of them have already hit their initial funding and are working on stretch goals, and both have initial $1 pledges that give access to playtest drafts, which I think bodes well for their future prospects.

Ending two weeks from today, Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone is, briefly, a Norse Myth-themed mecha game, with Vikings in magically-animated Giant skeletons fighting Dwarves in more traditional giant fighting machines.

The interesting thing about this project is that, while the initial book is for Fate Core, the stretch goals are all adaptations of the general idea for different systems. The first one of these is Dungeon World, which at the time of this writing is only about $1500 away. At the current pace it's unlikely that any more will be unlocked, but the list is fairly ambitious, and props have to be given to the author for that.

The other project I'm currently looking at is TimeWatch, a GUMSHOE-based time travel game. Saying it like that makes it seem fairly pedestrian, but really in looking over the rules so far it's probably the most successful I've ever seem about making time-travel be integral to play, rather than just a premise explanation allowing for various settings to be used in conjunction with each other.

It does this, ironically enough, by abstracting some of the more mind-bending aspects of time-travel, giving each character a "Chronal Stability" stat that comes into play whenever something paradoxical happens. There's already some adventures and examples of play available giving a good overview of how this all works - those blogged by etheruk1 deserve a particular mention.

Potential TimeWatch PC.
And hey, part of the TimeWatch setting involves psychic velociraptors from a parallel timeline - Dr. Dinosaur would approve.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Retro-clone Read-through - Character Creation, Part I

Today, as I understand it, is the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, and thus in a way the entire RPG hobby. What better day, then to continue my series examining ten of the games that have been closely inspired by it?

Possibly the most important part of the rules, it's no surprise that all of the retro-clones I'm reading through have the character creation rules right up front. For the next few read-through posts, I'll be creating a character for each game, following the processes of each as closely as possible.

While many of them suggest various ways to generate it, all of them use the general "Six stats in the 3-18 range" mechanic. In order to test the rules as scientifically as possible, I'll be rolling one set of stats the traditional way - 3d6 In Order, of course - and applying them to each. So, without further ado, here are the numbers:

10, 15, 9, 9, 13, 9, 9

Not a bad spread, altogether, though the number of nines seems a bit of an anomaly - and yes, there's an extra at the end, I got a bit carried away with the dice-rolling and decided to keep it around in case any of the rulesets have an oddball stat or something. Anyway, let's take a look at what we can do with these numbers:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Trio of Hypothetical FAE Campaigns

Although I'm a big fan of the Fate system, one thing about it I've never been able to properly visualized is how the advancement/character improvement mechanics are supposed to work. It is, of course, perfectly valid to play without having this feature, but I suspect there are a great many who are used to it.

Today, however, I came across not one, not two, but three different examples of how the process could work, using fictional characters as an example. Interestingly, all three use the Accelerated version of Fate, though the examples are applicable across all Fate variants.

First off, we have Luke Skywalker. Posted by Sketchpad, this example breaks each Star Wars movie into three parts, giving examples of various Milestones and even a Major Consequence (that hand-chopping thing). Also of interest to me was the last Stunt taken by Luke - "+2 when I forcefully defend myself from relatives" is, in terms of movie plot, useful exactly twice, one of which inspired Luke to take it. Presumably when the campaign continues this will get changed, but it's an interesting example of how fluid Stunts can be, as when as you read the rules they seem much more permanent.

The other two examples come from a newfound blog called Station53: the first is Batman, by Mike Lindsey, which uses Batman: Year One to show how Milestones can be used to tweak character concepts; and Conan by Reagan Taplin. This one is, in my opinion, the most impressive, as it uses all the Conan stories to build an ongoing picture of the Cimmerian's journey from thief to king. It's also kind of amusing to see the "Sneaky" and "Careful" approaches switching back and forth as one or the other become more important.

All three of these are well worth reading, as they make the prospect of a longer-term Fate campaign a much more graspable concept.

Sean-izaakse shows us the outcome when the latter two characters meet.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Great 2014 Retroclone Readthrough

Over the past few years, a great many different versions of Dungeons & Dragons have been produced, several officially, but the vast majority being retroclones or house rule collections of one sort or another. The author of one of them (Grey Six) has assembled a vast and possibly even comprehensive list of variations, the scope of which underscores the creativity of the OSR community.

It also underscores the difficulty of keeping up with them all. For some time, I've had a bunch of different rulesets sitting around waiting to be read, and so I figured - hey, it's a new year, why not read the whole stack at once and do a comparison?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Oldest School

Via Doc Grognard at Crawdads and Dragons comes news of Balrogs and Bagginses, an intriguing little document that is billed by Lars Dangly, the author, as a rules supplement for playing Dungeons & Dragons in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth setting.

Truth be told, it's practically a retroclone unto itself, with a number of interesting variations on the usual theme. Classes, for example, do not appear as such but are custom-built out of Backgrounds and Abilities. One particularly noteworthy feature here is the Hit Die, which can be bought up from d6 to d12, or bought down to d4.

Another fascinating design choice surrounds the available races - while the main character creation rules support the standard human-elf-dwarf-hobbit choices, the bestiary listings for troll and the various sorts of orcs list the attribute modifiers for playing those races, making an orc-campaign (or even a mixed group!) a supported possibility while keeping the Tolkienian feel.

The rest of the work supports this feel as well - Turning Undead, to pick a rather random example, is based not on the non-existent Cleric class, but the Light of Valinor or Elvish Gift abilities. There's a few other pieces that don't  fit quite as neatly - such as the hilariously hardcore Madness rule - but it's definitely worth checking out if you have any interest in Middle-Earth as a setting.