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Topics - Azraele

Pages: [1]
1
This thread does what it says on the tin: I'm running a Dune-themed game for my friends. Clearly, the following situation will absolutely occur:



Certainly SOME kind of roll is called for here, I don't want them worm-riding willy-nilly. But what? I'm tempted to do something halfway between the 1e grapple/ thief climbing rules (since they're both d100-based, some variety of synthesis could work) but I feel like this deserves more... I dunno, gravitas?

What are your thoughts, braintrust? How do you translate sandworm-riding into Old School sensibilities?

2
Hello everyone!

My name's Joel, and recently I finished the design and writing on a martial-arts RPG that I've been working on for a few years now!
It's a post-apocalyptic successor game to Legends of the Wulin, which is rightfully renowned as one of the greatest wuxia games ever written.
It's currently getting kickstarted, but I've got hype threads for the commercial aspect of that.
With this thread, I wanted to come on and talk about the design, and some of the interesting challenges I faced while making it.

I wanted to start with a little info on the game's mechanics, which I've spoiler-tagged for ease of reading. These should get you caught up on the roots of the game and how it's played succinctly!

The very most basics: Taking actions
[SPOILER] This game uses a pool of 10's, similar to Legends of the Wulin, we call Effort. Dice are rolled and grouped into matches called Sets. The more matching dice, the bigger (and hence more powerful) the set.
Each set gives you an action. Once per turn, you can take a single action using just 1 die. Defending can always use single dice, if you like.
Additionally, there's actions you can take requiring no set (very mundane stuff, but you'd be surprised how effective throwing a humble lever can be in the right circumstance!)
You can save some of your dice form turn to turn in your Focus slots.
Finally, you have magic fuel called Prana which is produced from your Chakra. Each character has Seven total, but most are closed and inaccessible for starting characters (you open more as you progress).
The effect of an action is governed by one of seven Effect Charts, each linked to one of the seven Skills (Power, Endurance, Agility, Senses, Intellect, Heart and Spirit). Lower-ranks allow you to perform human-level outcomes, mid-ranks are the providence of machines, monsters and spirits, while the very top lets you achieve godlike feats.
Finally, characters have an Effortless trait roughly equal to their Effort/4. This is the Rank of action they can take without needing to roll dice. It can also be used as their defense if they choose not to use sets to defend themselves against a strike in combat.
[/SPOILER]
Characters
[SPOILER] Characters are one of three types: Strong, Cunning, or Enlightened. Strong have more Effort, Cunning have additional Focus, and Enlightened have more open Chakra.
Players select mystical martials arts moves, called Techniques or Yuddhukalha, to build their character from there. They can additionally select one of the subtle secret arts called Gupt Kala, which give them less direct ways to do things (such as social magic which can place emotional status effects on their foes).
Their moves must come from a teacher or a kung-fu manual: characters get the deepest access by beginning loyal to one of seven major clans, and the broadest access by being Ronin (clanless).[/SPOILER]
Fighting
[SPOILER] Asskicking time! Everyone rolls Effort at the start of round, and an additional d10 for Initiative. If combatants like, they can replace their Initiative with one of their sets in an Initiative Bid. Bidding continues until the true action order is established, then everyone begins to take their turns.
NOTE: This rule emerged out of playtesting! Players quickly noticed that setting the pace of combat was EXTREMELY valuable (it effectively "flips" your opponent's attacks into defenses!) so we added a resource-drain mechanic so there was a tradeoff for that privilege
On your turn, you use any Sets you rolled at the start of the round to launch attacks or take actions.
NOTE: Interacting with the environment can be a big advantage; the game runs in a modified Theatre of the Mind, with the description of the environment "solid" enough to have rules-consequences for players (but still allowing them enough imaginative wiggle room for awesome kung-fu stunts).
Concretely, powerfully superior positioning can grant Advantage, which can be used for bonuses. Conversely, getting into a bad position (like waist-deep in toxic sludge) will impose Disadvantage, which hurts your movement and defense options. To discourage turtling, we found that ranged attacks shouldn't carry Advantage except in special circumstances.

Players attack with as many Sets as they like. Their target defends with Sets of their own, subtracting them directly from attack (only one defense per attack). Any positive number remaining post-defense is damage, which they can blunt either with their protective Aura (which is small) or absorb with their Health boxes (which cause injuries if damaged too much).
Weapons can be used once per round to give a bonus to attacking; different weapons grant different bonuses
Effortless defense can be used against an Attack, but sucks so it's generally a bad option. Armor increases it, but again kinda sucks so really only matters when things get super tight and dicey (as god intended!) [/SPOILER]
Magic Kung-fu
[SPOILER]
Players can unleash their kung-fu super moves by paying their cost in Prana (stronger moves require more Prana). These broadly either attack, defend, or allow for some new unique action (like dissolving into a swarm of rats or regenerating limbs). When used for attack or defense, they add their Rank directly to the attacking or defending Set, OR, if they have a Rank of 2 or higher, create one wholesale.[/SPOILER]
Magic fuel: Chakra and Prana
[SPOILER]
You've only got so much magic power! Each Chakra gives you a small pool of Prana (10 at first) that recovers only slowly every round (you get 3 back per Chakra at first). It's easy to burn through them all quickly and be left with your cheese in the wind! Thankfully, you also have some Chakra that are nearly open, called Slumbering. During your turn, you can take an action to Awaken these Chakra, which fill with Prana at the end of the round.[/SPOILER]
Getting injured: Wounds and Imbalances
[SPOILER]
If you lose a Health box or more to damage (they have 10 points each in most cases) you start taking Wounds. These offer a mechanical tradeoff; either you lose some of your Effort, lose access to some Chakra, close off Focus slots, or you have to abide by severe restrictions to your actions (like not being able to move using your legs, or not attack using your arms). Getting wounded can have a deadly impact on your ability to remain effective in combat! Post-battle, these Wounds can upgrade into long-lasting injuries called Imbalances.
NOTE: This came out of playtesting too! It's actually a super-recent rule that got into the latest draft. Imbalances were a little too easy to get in earlier versions of the game, encouraging players to much too defensive strategies. Adding a buffer retained the brutality of fights, but left the characters less crippled if they got their assess kicked[/SPOILER]

Everybody all caught up? Awesome! I want to discuss a couple of the weird and interesting issues I ran into designing this game and how I resolved them. I plan on posting an update a day, every day of the kickstart (now until the 18th of June). I'm gonna be covering topics like:
  • Some of the interesting consequences of the fighting system
  • Different elements like the war combat, monsters and vehicles I wanted to include and how I made them manifest
  • The importance of designing "what a person can do" and tiering the things characters, monsters and gods could achieve from there
  • The GM-facing rules like creating areas to explore and events to unfold
  • Some of the high-concept stuff like how I made higher-level characters function as bosses against groups of lower-level characters
  • The long, agonizing journey to crafting our theater-of-the-mind approach to battlefields
  • And other weird stuff that cropped up during the game's design!



Stay tuned, if you like that kind of thing! And if you have any comments or questions, chime right in! I'm thrilled to have made this game and I'm eager to talk about it with you!

3
I recently come to the conclusion that I have no idea what other people are doing with Dungeons & Dragons anymore. Now I want to point out before we start pointing fingers here that I'm not some reactionary: I did previously know what people were doing with dungeons and dragons (mediocre bullshit) and it brought me no joy. So initially this wasn't a cause for panic. But we've wandered into some strange territory here folks.

Behold the new alignment chart, earnestly proposed by D&D 5e players on that bastion of high-level thought, Twitter:

[ATTACH=CONFIG]4208[/ATTACH]

What is happening at your table? Like whenever you crack open the player's handbook and the GM is pitching you the game world and your role as a character what you're going to be doing like what the fuck are they saying? Are they referring to Dragonborn as "scaly bois"? Like is there no line between you just sitting in a room and eating snacks with your friends and what's happening in the game's universe at all?

What gets under my skin about this chart is that I saw in a post where someone was hell-bent on implementing it in their game in lieu of the alignment system. Hell. Bent. To me it paints a picture of a game where all the characters are pure comedic id-impulse caricatures. Paladins pledging themselves to Doritos and such like.

The very notion of something being "good" or "evil" and that compelling action from them is alien to these people. Objectionable, even.

Granted, I do think the Temple of Elemental Horniness might be pretty funny. You could have it built by the Cult of the Incels.

I don't know if I prefer turgid, uninteresting mayonnaise fantasy over the current Adventure Time-y, lolrandom tumblr humor. Really, i'm just frustrated that this is what people do with this game. If you possessed the capacity for abstract thought, I would tell you to be ashamed of yourselves. As it stands, when I encounter you, I will simply swat you with a rolled-up newspaper.

...

I posted this to invite a few different avenues of discussions:
1) An explanation. Your group plays this way and you're the sharing, caring, care-bears type of person who wants to gush about it. Motherfucker, feel free. It's a train wreck to to me but god dammed if I don't want to slow down and soak it in while I drive by
2) "Those people suck because-" or the "Pundit's Choice awards" as I think of them. Share your baffling gems of experience with this new, even stupider wave of gamers.
3) More ideas rivaling "Elemental Temple of Horniness": I'm talking about fucking Sadboi demons and Paladin subclasses based on being Stressed with caffeine-based magic here. There is gold in this chart and we'll mine it yet.
4) Yeah you can stow the whole "You shouldn't judge how other people enjoy the gaaaaaaame" I've fucking heard it, ok? I'm being rude on purpose you assclown.

4
[ATTACH=CONFIG]3845[/ATTACH]

Conquer the world, or burn it

What is Lone Wolf Fists?

A high-powered roleplaying game of martial arts set in the burning aftermath of Armageddon.

Lone Wolf Fists offers:

  • A jaw-pulping game experience with intuitive, detailed rules for fights, exploration, and world-conquering strategy
  • Slick, easy-to-learn mechanics engineered like a guided missile to rocket your players straight into the post-apocalypse!
  • Strategic combat that empowers players with over 70 unique kung-fu techniques offering tactical depth, creative approaches to conflict and spine-shattering power!
  • Multiple paths to world conquest! Build relationships with mystical masters; steal or win manuals of long-lost kung-fu magic, get drawn into a web of competing martial brotherhoods, slay terrifying demons of the post-apocalypse or summon them to do your bidding!
  • Mutants, demons, tanks and t-rexes swarming through a world of horror and adventure! Smash them into goo or take them for a ride in your violent quest for world domination!
  • A system that puts the power in YOUR hands by treating BOTH gameplay mastery AND skillful roleplaying as deadly weapons in your arsenal!
  • A complete and immersive game experience combining deep roleplay, challenging combat, high-stakes action, exploration of a deadly hellscape and much, much more!



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Build a character within minutes. Unleash your creativity with thousands of unique character builds. Play in a game that rewards both system mastery and creative approaches to gameplay. Earn your victories and keep your spoils in a campaign system optimized for short-term fun and long-term play. Experience true character and power growth in an evolving and challenging tactical landscape.

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Do you want to support the creation of the game as it finishes development? Make a one-time donation and download the game at DrivethruRPG.com or join the Five Emperors Patreon, where you can get in on the cutting room floor with new content as soon as it's written, be the first to see new art, and watch the exclusive lead developer Vlog!

Do you want in-depth developer commentary, including inspirations and mechanical insights available nowhere else? Read our Design Blog at The Mushroom Press.

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5
I've been working on this magnificent beast of a kung-fu/wuxia/shonen/ridiculous martial arts cartoon game for a few years. I'm going to talk about it now and you're just going to have to live with that.

Goals

I wanted to make an RPG based on Fist of the North Star. If you don't know what that is, I pity you. Feel free to legally watch the movie here; it's a fantastic late 80's/early 90's anime that is basically the Road Warrior plus pressure-point kung-fu.

But of course, I didn't want to be derivative (and there were more 90's animes that I loved). So I drew in Vampire Hunter D, Akira, Darkstalkers, Street Fighter, Weapons of the Gods, Ninja Scroll, Demon City Shinjuku...

Y'know, like you do. I pulled in everything awesome I could find that shared a sort of common thread and put them in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

So I had a "setting" that was reasonably kickass. Now, I needed a system to make all that work together. Also, you had to have giant kung-fu fights where like, D could leap off Kaneda's bike and stab a Kimon devil through the heart with the Asura blade. And you had to be able to break down buildings with your bare hands but like, not in the too-fluffy Fate way where you just *say* you're doing that but mechanically it's exactly the same thing as everything else.

Cool, fun, really destructive, and strategically challenging fights. And it had to be grimey and "wander the wastes-y", so your absurd over-the-top kung-fu powers couldn't just invalidate the grit.

And finally, it had to be something you could run and play and prep for just as confidently as you can with DnD ; which is to say, you should be able to explore (ala hexcrawls) and investigate (ala dungeons) and interact with the game-world in a meaningful way (ala.... Well, I mean, torches, rations, crafting, magic, basically everything in OD&D)

Writing it, but bad

I got some for-real interest from a tiny amount of people on good ol' /tg. I talked about it, people were into it, and I did the stupidest thing I could think of: I gave myself three weeks to write the entire game

I succeeded... Sort of. I took a lot of writing from the other, actual project I had been working on and combined it with a lot of sleep-deprived fresh work and created the Frankenstein's monster downloadable from this total sell-out shill link it's free just take it take it dammit

Of course, nobody can actually write a playable RPG in three weeks (or if they can, screw 'em; talented bastards) so this was a terrible, terrible mess.

Writing it again, but gooder

So now I'm writing and updating it on a somewhat more reasonable schedule. Chipping away at each section in turn, hoping that each leap will be the leap home.

And I want to talk about it.

Like, bad. I'm not here to shill, I just want to talk to people about doing a jump-kick off of a rocketbike and punching a building-sized demon in the face, or becoming a sentient robot with magical kung-fu and fighting a radioactive vampire. Or even just, like, hexcrawling in an over-the-top super-powered game with concrete-smashing kung-fu and scorpions that can destroy tanks.

So let's talk!

6
So I'm running my Carcosa campaign and one of the two thieves pleases a death god and is granted a wight servant as reward. Y'know, regular stuff.

He sends the thing into a family shop and has it kill the family that runs the place. Now, he has six wights. And a shop.

What prevents him from bringing about the end of the world, exactly?

The only thing that can harm wights is magic. So unlike vampires, they're cool with light and crosses and fire and garlic. They can continue to produce one another indefinitely. The wights created are under the control of their creator, making them perfect servants. This is a recipe for an unstoppable zombie apocalypse, except they're wights.

I'm in a bind here. I don't want this to eat my campaign. Thoughts?

7
What are you looking for in a module?

I find myself skimming most modules I buy for: dungeon maps first, monsters and cool treasure second, unique puzzles/features third, and then actually intended use a distance, often neglected fourth.

I get a lot of mileage out of stuff like Yoon-Suin, which isn't a setting book as much as it is a gigantic pile of plot hooks, ideas for interesting locations, random-generation charts, monsters, treasure, and weird, unusual effects (they have rules for magical opium which have come up an embarrassing number of times in my games).

What about you guys? What do you look for in modules and supplements? Which do you find yourself coming back to, and why? Anything you found yourself getting a lot of mileage from which surprised you?

Altruistic reason for post: I actually am curious, and this is great grist for discussion
Selfish reason for post: I want to write some modules for osr/fifth, and this is a great way to figure out what I should actually be making
(This is also posted on the D20 section of the big purple, but as soon as I submitted it I kicked myself for not thinking to post it here. So, there ya go.)

8
Continuing on from this post

We’ve got our ball and stick model with (mostly) thee lines per box.

Next, think about something worth building a dungeon over. The more potential you shove into this purpose, the more you’ll be able to come back to this particular well when thinking of what’s in the rooms.

For this one, my big idea was “mummy holding a Scrying orb”.

I made a note of that for use in the rumor chart later and started making the A and B plot of the dungeon.

B Plot: I’m starting with the ancient plot, since that will give me some ideas for influencing the current one, and what the dungeon is all about. I’m going with “temple of snake goddesses”. We’ll just say the Scrying orb is some kind of religious artifact and the mummy is an interred high priestess. There’s a million snake bad guys in this game, so I’m reasonably certain that I won’t have any trouble grabbing baddies from the monster manual to fill it out.
A Plot: For the current plot, nothing like Arabian nights with a little hint of Cronenberg: desert bandits turning into snake-people. Also, I never get to use yaun-ti, they’re perfect for this; different ratios of snake and person, really fun mix. We’ll say that these were human bandits who found the temple and started using it for a hideout. Its magic is transforming them into yaun-ti, giving them the power to talk to snakes, that kind of thing.

Having just one faction in a dungeon isn’t par for a decent dungeon. We need a rival faction. Going along with the snakey theme, I think a medusa in the lower levels would be a great bad guy to use. I’ll give her a blind minotaur boyfriend to increase her threat and because its unusual and cool.

Making certain I hit that dungeon par, I’ve got to put a weird nonstandard trick, a multi-room puzzle, and some logical traps protecting ancient treasure. Lemme sketch those out real quick:
•   I’m going to steal the snake transformation from Dante’s Inferno because I loved that bit. I’ll link that to some magical sarcophagi and aaaaawaaayyy we gooooo!
•   A statue which needs stuff put in its hands is pretty classic. I’ll put the stuff it needs on two different levels and lock the mummy and orb behind it to incentivize players to look for them (and thereby engage with most of the dungeon)
•   We’ll fill that floor with traps too, play up the temple of doom angle a bit. That’ll also make our floor 2 a nice buffer zone which explains why the medusa and the bandits haven’t just eliminated each other in open combat yet.
•   You know what? I’ll make it easier to get through that floor if you’re a snake. That will encourage players to experiment.

So, before finalizing the blueprint, I want to know what the in-game and meta-game purpose of the rooms are, so I’m going to make the key. This lets me catch any elements which don’t make sense, or don’t encourage creativity, strategic thinking, and puzzle solving.

Once the key is done, typically I would hit the graph paper. In this case I’m using MS Paint for demonstration purposes. I just make a quick square grid and get painting. This is the lengthiest part of the design, but super important; actually seeing how the levels work in two dimension helps you to catch any inconsistencies which would make them not work in three dimensions.

Once the map is done, I shift back and forth a few times between the map and key until I get the dungeon feeling nice and challenging. At this point I make the wandering monster charts per floor, into which I put the behavior of the dungeon's denizens (I do this rather than more advanced techniques because it is easy and I am lazy)

Once I’m satisfied, I add a few details to make the dungeon fit into an ongoing campaign. I give it a rumor chart based on the elements in the dungeon, a triggered event for when players enter its hex, and I make the magic Scrying orb a little cooler than usual by giving it some character.

Now my dungeon is compleeeeeete! Not bad for an hour and a half’s work.

9
So I've been trying to get the art of jacquaying the dungeon right for a while now (ie: making it nonlinear). I've made about a million of these things and finally had the balls to share a few to decidedly mixed reviews.

Sharing was really informative, especially simplifying the initial blueprint to a ball-and-stick model. Since then, I've adopted the strategy of beginning all dungeon blueprints with that model to ensure that they're properly jacquayed before fleshing them out with a more complete blueprint.

I've been doing this for a few months, and I noted a really stupid-simple hack that, maybe it's obvious to you guys but it shocked me: just make sure the majority of points have a minimum of three lines leading to them

This basically makes linearity impossible. One entrance per room makes it a dead end. Two makes it linear. With three, you have an option for how to proceed in every single room (or a least the majority of them: some choke points are desirable)

Check it out on this shitty thing I made: [ATTACH=CONFIG]860[/ATTACH]

I literally sketched that out in 15 minutes. It's just the ball-and-stick model, and it CAN be solved in a basically linear fashion, but importantly: it doesn't have to be.

So with the understanding that I may be revealing my own ignorance of a super well-known hack, I share it with all of you. Enjoy!

10
So Carcosa: lots of good ideas, lots of weird ideas, and lots of regretful decisions.

I could have done without the squick. And the hexes in the crawl oscillated between great and pointless. And probably a lot of the “roll a D20 to determine how to roll your other dice in a neverending cascade of what” should have been cut.
Anyway.

Point is I’ve got blueballs for a really good Martian-chronicles-meets-Lovecraft kind of ‘crawl. I’m left looking at this gorgeous 400-point hexcrawl map and thinking: “Yeah I could crowdsource this”

So it’s my birthday and I want to do…. Something, with the inspiration that Carcosa gave me. Here’s some points:
•   I like the idea of learning rituals to do magic stuff. Like, “Go to this temple in this hex, sacrifice a monster you found in a different hex, and you get to summon some horrible Cthulhu beast”. (Leaving the squick at the door, and just doing the completely not objectionable dark magic.)
•   I’m thinking anybody can learn these rituals. Why should MU’s get all the jollies?
•   I want to do B/X because ACKS.
•   I’ve been convinced that even thief might be extraneous. Maybe just ACKs fighter and mage?
•   Barsoom-meets-Lovecraft-meets-Moebius-meets-Carcosa setting. Swords and nudity and fat white alien larva.

400 point Hexcrawl folks. Let’s see how many we can come up with.

And feel free to do the awesome thing that Carcosa did: “You get the Thing in this hex, but have to go to this other hex to use it”. I love that.

[ATTACH=CONFIG]729[/ATTACH]

Stuff you could do:
•   Hex description!
•   Simple dungeon!
•   Weird monster!
•   Magical ritual! (What it needs, what it does, where you do it)
•   Random table!
•   Magic or weird science item!

Go nuts. I want all your strangest. And remember: nothing is too bizarre for pulp not-mars.

11
Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion / To make a castlecrawl
« on: October 19, 2016, 12:49:49 pm »
So I’m working on my next dungeon. It’s a castlecrawl somewhere between castle Ravenloft and Castlevania. Its heavily influence by Zak S’s Psychedelic Panic Dracula. Finally, I’m coring it in B/X but trying to also make sure it doubles as 5th ed compatible (because I am a masochist).

This thing got tall and deep. It grew from its original 5-floor plan to nine floors (I might have gotten carried away). I’m currently in the process of filling out the key for the thing and staffing it with monsters and treasure.

But I’m having the problem that I grew up in the 3.0/3.5 era of GMing and its where the bulk of my experience lies. I’ve greedily embraced the OSR But I’ve only ran 4 sessions of it (they’ve been great!). I’m spoiled to challenge ratings and “appropriate treasure per encounter” etc. etc.

I want there to be lots and a great variety of monsters, some “required slaying” for this dungeon. But I don’t want to make an inescapable deathtrap where the thrill of variety drowns in the slog of perpetuity.

This is where you guys come in. I could use some advice on the following areas:

-How does one gauge the danger of monsters to a party at a given level in the BECMI/BX system? HD? Attack type? More importantly: Is such a consideration even the right direction to approach this from?
-How many levels is too many levels to explore in a night? I have an inkling towards this based on 5th ed’s “encounter days”, but I’m not certain. Is there a “rule of thumb” about how many rooms/monsters per day per level of the party?
-Is it possible for a party to (rationally) flee a flesh golem, but also attempt to vanquish a vampire? I would love to have both a chase and a confrontation in the DNA of the castle, but I don’t know that its realistic to expect both.

I’ve got the unkeyed floorplans and my schemes for each if that would be helpful. Any and all advice, thoughts, questions, etc., happily welcomed!

12
It's all in the title folks. This dungeon is going to be the sample for my patreon, and I will be the first to admit that I am a rank amateur at making a presentable, gameable thing.

But I've been a GM for years and I'm pretty confident that I can make a dungeon a month.

So, in exchange for some criticism, here is a free dungeon, made for use with ACKS but broadly compatible with any OSR

To give you some idea of the direction I was grasping for, here are some notes:

1. It is missing the rumors chart and adventure hooks in this draft. That is because I stayed up all night finishing the key and I am tired. They will be added to complete its utility.

2. It is OSR/BECMI compatible, but has not been upgraded to be fully compatible with 5th edition D&D yet. This will also be done, given time.

3. This dungeon is meant as an introductory adventure. It adopts the OSR mindset of level-neutrality in that, aside from a general power curve around 5 HD, there is no thought given to encounters being "level appropriate". Daring this dungeon should be done with caution, every time, by everyone.

4. I have a copy of deities and demigods, which when filtered through the strange genius on exhibit in this article, spawned this dungeon. I hope you like Celtic Deities.

5. Wow I am really tired.

6. I have never done anything in publisher before. I kind of hate it. I had to resort to drawing the map in bloody ms paint. If anybody has any helpful pointers for better mapping or how to wrangle publisher to not be a jackass, I would very much appreciate it.

7. As a GM, I am a bit of a Monty Haul. There is a lot of treasure in this thing. Most of it is balanced by a horrible drawback, but your characters stand to gain a lot by risking this dungeon. You've been warned.



Thanks as always for your time and consideration.

13
So I was watching this video

And at about the 44-minute mark, they get into the genesis of roleplaying games as they evolved from wargames. Zak posits that the roleplaying elements evolved from the mechanics, rather than from word of mouth, as John believes.

But Zak puts forward a really interesting idea: that the moment you start seeing the fluff as potential crunch, you bridge the gap between wargame and roleplaying game.

So that notion got my gears turning. And as it always does, my child-like mind drifted to Heroquest.

For the unwary, here is a brief rundown of the best thing about heroquest

Looking into it further, it turns out that heroquest became its own kind-of roleplaying game: Warhammer Quest

Taking a gander at the rules, they have a very “red box” feel to them, which is rad. 32 pages, covering pretty much everything you need for a full campaign.

So… Is this a failed branch of RPG evolution? An RPG that grew from a board game, rather than a war game?

And more broadly, can any game “evolve” into an RPG with a sufficiently detailed setting? Does looking at the Fluff as potential Crunch make any game an RPG?

14
The humidity and heat of the city made it like a living animal in the night. The human filth pumping through the arteries of its streets were its blood and bile. She swam through its veins like a virus, scudding along the slick mirror of wet asphalt with confident strides. Her every nerve was raw and alert. Hunger verging on frenzy drove her. She craved crisp marrow-rich bones and hot, red globs of flesh.
She turned a corner into a garbage-choked alleyway. Her stalker didn’t know that she felt him following her. As he homed in on her his shadow swelled in the orange illumination of the last lonely streetlight. She heard the velvety click of his switchblade, felt his hot breath even at this distance.
“Scream and you die, Honey”
He was right behind her now, adrenaline making his pitiful mortal body tremble. She smiled to herself, her face split by the inhuman wideness of her maw. She turned on him. His face contorted into a mask of terror as he crumpled. He managed to churn out one terrified moan before it was choked out by the wet crunching of bone and flesh.


And so begins my game Parliament of Crocodiles.

You guys are going to have to forgive the awkwardness of this post. I’m pulling my head out of designing for like, the last two months. It’s been wall-to-wall blog posts and design work. Talking to people has been minimized, so I almost certainly sound like some variety of human-mimicking killbot.

The tl;dr

•   I’m making a game where you can be a monster.
•   It’s kind of like vampire.
•   It has a simple system, but there’s a ton of mechanical robustness underlying it.
•   You can be lots of different kinds of monster.
•   It’s designed for id-release and its also vaguely Objectivist (caught me by surprise, probably been reading the Fountainhead too much lately)
•   This post just GOES ON FOREVER. Good luck reading the whole thing

And now, on to the “I have an afternoon!” version of that:

The Inspiration

This game came out of a weird mental alchemy. I had the great pleasure of picking up a horror movie I’d never heard about before: a little flick called Let the Right One in. It’s about a little girl vampire and the little boy who gradually becomes her thrall. It’s an extremely visceral and character-centric movie. Let’s say it had an effect on me.
A little bit later (like within the same few weeks) two other events added their weirdness to the soup of this movie in my brain. I got the chance to finally watch American Psycho (and I now understand why people love this movie) and I went to the zoo with my kids.

The zoo thing I think may have been the reactant. I was pushing the stroller with my youngest in it, checking out the crocodile pond, with both of these movies buzzing around in my head. This was one off those croc tanks where it’s on two levels: you can see it from above (like a victim would see it), where all the crocs just look like floating logs. But if you go down to under water level you see the crocs from below (as another crocodile would) and they’re perfectly visible animals, arranged like they’re sitting in parliament.

So there it all was: the metaphor, the name, and the central conceit of the game. You were a hunter living invisibly to your prey, but instantly known to your fellow monsters. You were in the Parliament of Crocodiles.
…..
In addition to the above films, I’ve always been a fan of two films my super negligent family let me watch at way too early an age. Those being Interview with a Vampire and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Those two, most notably the powers of Dracula and Louie’s torments, had a strong influence on the game.

Books that have influence the game have come to include the masterful treatises on realpolitik (both penned long before the term came into existence) the Prince by Machiavelli and Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes. Also, in general, the works of Ayn Rand with her peculiar, sociopathic protagonists greatly influenced the tone of the game.

Other influences include Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Frankenstein the modern Prometheus, the films of David Cronenberg, and various bits of myths, legends, fairy tales and folklore.
…..

Vampire: where it succeeded and failed for me


I was a big fan of Vampire; the requiem’s later books. Damned cities and the Danse Macabre in particular. The reason I liked them was because they gave mechanics to…. Well, things that had needed mechanics since the core book. Namely territory and social rules. Both products also had a lot of meat and style which made them a joy to read.

I especially was a fan of Damned cities, with its descriptions of forgotten sewer catacombs and abandoned subways buried far from the light of day and the memory of man. I’m with Zack S. when it comes to dungeons, so this stuff really set my imagination on fire.

There was a lot that I couldn’t game in Vampire though.

For instance, there were too damn many vampires. It seemed like there was supposed to be a thriving community of dozens or even hundreds of vampires in a city (fucking… What?!). The factions, which never made sense to me, made no sense without at least this many vampires in a city. The Disciplines oscillated between useless and merely disappointing. The Mekhet never lived up to their own (humble) hype (and were a piss poor replacement for the awesome Malkavians of yore). There was no unifying antagonist, nor compelling reasons for protagonists to really…. Do anything.

Say what you will of old vampire, the punk added a needed kick in the ass to the gothic. It was a furious and directionless youth culture energy that propelled you to rise up and best your elders, or at the very least flip them off and pull the trigger on your shotgun. The name of the game is literally meant to evoke the ennui of eternity… Not really compelling stuff to play.

Also, the factions? Some of them had no representation in their own game. The Carthians, which I thought were awesome, didn’t have a clear goal that actually made any actual changes to anything. They were sort of vampire communists (but not really) as opposed to the vampire feudalists (which were led by capitalists? Kind of?). And their big thing was supposed to be that they wanted to coexist with humans, but actually that was a terrible idea if you paused to think about it. So, their main thing, if attempted, would kill a chronicle. If it was attempted in a big way (even just one city!) it would kill the setting. Not well designed.

So there was a ton of Vampire: TR that I couldn’t use. I loved it enough to run it anyway, and with some duct tape and some pruning shears, and liberally aided by Damned Cities and the Danse Macabre, I did run a few decent chronicles. Each one was plagued with problem from the setting, the rules, the pacing, the XP system… Yeah I could go on for a while but no. I’m not here to rant about Vampire and how it failed me. I’m here to talk about why my game is good.


Let me be clear, because it might seem like I don’t like V:TR. The contrary is actually true: I fucking love V:TR. What’s good in it is so good you guys, seriously. But as a game and as a product it was overall a failure for me, which has led me to having a very particular kind of blue balls for running something with just the good parts of the game.

So, the genesis of POC was this gaming frustration, plus all of the above mental alchemy from the inspiration sources. It is truly a strange game I have conceived.

What I was trying to do (whether I am succeeding is debatable)

So the game. All of the above films portray either vampires or murderers who are…. Strangely driven in their urge to kill. So the characters you’ll play are similar creatures. They look human (or if not, have a suitably horrible way to pass for human). Much like the monsters in the films, they are a significant cut above the mortal herd in terms of power and genius. Each one of them is driven by an insatiable urge to slay human beings.
Like Louie, you can choose to struggle against this urge, or like Patrick Bateman, you can revel in it. But like them both, it has a powerful effect on you.

The other players in the game are not assumed to be your pals. Or, even necessarily know about your existence. They’re cast in the role of rival predators (which, they are). I had to create pacing mechanics where players get structured turns for this to work, but in playtest they run together pretty smoothly. Also, this helped to create all the natural consequences of competing powers: there are rivalries, and blood-feuds, and alliances of convenience, and whole rainbow of horrifying options for competition and cooperation.

Okay so I wanted to make a system that had all of the following:

•   You can make your own monster character with a lot of customization. You could be a vampire, werewolf, Frankenstein-thing, wriggling mass of lovecraftian tentacles, wendigo, ghost, selkie, sentient virus, demon, warlock, immortal alchemist, etc.
•   The scenes present in the above movies where the protagonist is clearly struggling with their overwhelming urge to kill happen naturally as a consequence of the mechanics of the game.
•   Actually, generally all of the major beats from those inspirations (as well as more specific ones depending on the monster built and the type of horror it evokes) happen as a consequence of game mechanics. I hate it when designers just say “Do Genre Trope please!” instead of actually designing rules that make it happen.
•   Characters would be powerful and dangerous to NPC mortals
•   Characters could compete against each other within the framework of the game, without ruining the campaign
•   Characters could die and revive with consequences. Or new characters could be built quickly and easily enough that players weren’t excluded from a game because their guy died. BUT, to make certain that loss had enough teeth that you’d fight to stay alive anyway.
•   A sophisticated resource and territory system that allowed for conquest and fruits of the conquest while remaining true to the horror roots of the enterprise (yeah this part has proven to be a fucking nightmare by the way. But it’s taking shape so…. Yeah, worth it)
•   A system with mechanical balance (or, more accurately, sophisticated imbalance leading to distinct strategies while retaining an initially level playing field and allowing for mid and late game surprises) AND satisfying genre fulfilment AND AND a sense of real-world verisimilitude.
•   Finally, it absolutely HAD TO HAVE a system which was simple, accessible, and robust. Like Chess, or Risk, so as a commercial product it could appeal to the juicy, juicy casual market. OPEN YOUR WALLET GRANDMA.
•   It had to escalate all the way from dirty murderers in the street to the end of the goddamn world.

As I have been designing it, it has sort of become an Objectivist Hero game, with a healthy smattering of murder and sociopathy. Characters are driven by their desires first and foremost, without any pretense of nobility or classic heroism. It’s sort of an id-release game where being horrible and selfish nets you huge in-game gains.

Also, it can be a competitive roleplaying game like Paranoia. As a matter of fact, the underlying threat of competition between players drives the resource-acquisition of conquering and enthralling the human populace, which in turn escalates the powers and reach of the characters in this awesome feedback loop of the world slowly getting eaten by monsters.

 …

God I am a windbag
Um. That went on longer than expected. If anybody is still here: Questions?

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