Protector Progress

Protector, our new superhero RPG is coming along. So far I’ve been concentrating on the character generation as this is a big part of getting the game off to the right start. I’m focusing on a light life path system. The character gets “Decades” that define a few skills and attributes. Then they get “Events” that happen within that decade. The events are major turning points in the character’s life. The player then uses one or more of the character’s events to define and sculpt their powers.

At the moment, this is very open ended, very story focused. It seems well suited for older more experienced players, but so far my young son has trouble with it. I’m hoping to nail down the process a bit more so generation is flexible and powerful for experienced players, but fills in almost all the blanks for newer/younger players.

To do that, I’m going to need a bunch of examples of heroes and villains for the book and a glossary of super powers. I think this will lead newer players to follow the examples by wrote but that’s ok. As they grow, they’ll learn to use the story to drive the character generation.

Protector

I’ve wanted to make a Superhero game for a long time now. I don’t want to just make another Supers game though. I’d like something that stands on it’s own. While making the Energy System, I finally had something that I felt would fit the kind of Superhero story I like. But a system by itself is not enough.

I want something that captures a few core concepts of the superhero genre.

I want super humans with a life before powers. This implies a life path system of generation.

I want the super human’s life to have some bearing on their powers. Their angst or desires should influence the way their powers are used or appear.

I want random powers, but to not be limited to random powers. Theres something really enjoyable about a super that has unexpected elements. I don’t want to be stuck with totally random though.

I want a world that is easy to understand, but one that shows the effects of a world of superhumans. A world that has superhumans for any length of time is a very strange world. The world will react.

I’d like some explanation for the superhumans other than “mutations” or “radiation”.

There’s something to be said for misfit supers and low power settings that are uniquely enjoyable. I don’t want to limit the game to misfits though. I’d like high and low power settings.

I’ve started work on all this already. I have the story already worked out. I just have to work out the lifepath elements and how to tie the powers into them.

Protector

My name is The Visionary. I was a young boy when Earth first needed a protector. The great nations of the world were on a path to greater and greater glory until The Great War, or as people call it World War I now.

That was when the Slavers came down from space and landed on the border of France and Germany. The European nations had been building up armaments for decades and mutual defense pacts were called upon and all the world went to war against the Slavers. But it was not enough. Tens of millions were gathered up. We could not defeat their air ships and all their technology.

Then, when all hope was nearly lost, a great stone fell from the sky, it looked like it would impact the Earth and wipe out all life but as it neared the Earth, but it stopped and floated above the ground. It had settled near the point of the original Slaver base. Without warning, men and women from all nations of the Earth felt a new energy inside them. Abilities beyond the realm of man were bestowed upon them. I received the gift of immense strength, resilience and the ability to fly. We became superhuman.

I was known as the Crusader in those days. We drove off the slavers and freed some of the many that were lost. The whole world rallied around us, we weren’t only superhuman, we were super heroes. It was the golden age.

Some of us were granted gifts of great intelligence, so naturally humankind rallied around them and they were promoted to leadership of many countries. The whole earth benefited for a time, but other super humans became jealous and seized power for themselves. Even this the world tolerated for a time, but when many of the celebrated heroes became despots and tyrants, mankind rebelled.

The war against the super humans as you know, eclipsed the war with the Slavers in it’s destructiveness. Millions more died in World War II. Humankind realized that to rid the super humans of their power, the great stone, our protector, would have to be destroyed. I myself took up a position in front of the stone and barred it from any harm. Many joined me, many died. As they fell, I began to feel their power flow into me. I became stronger, and stronger until there was nothing that could harm me.

From the beginning, I had not wanted to hurt any man. I also could not allow mankind to destroy their protector, the great stone that came from the heavens. I picked up the great stone from it’s resting place and carried it into the sea. I took it down to the deepest depths of the ocean where mortal man can not tread. There we stayed for many years. In that time, I was the primary vessel of the Protector’s power. In times of great need, I could see man’s groaning and I would emerge to set things right. Even then my presence was only tolerated.

The Protector still tried to help humanity. Although most of it’s energies were locked up in me, I could see across the globe many that were given small gifts that they had to conceal to survive. Super-humans were still feared and anyone showing a gift could be locked away in vaults to be studied.

It has been many sad years that I have sat on the ocean floor. I see through both space and time. I am The Visionary. I can now see deep into space. I see that once, there was chaos and suffering all throughout the galaxy until a great and mighty race took up the job of protecting any peoples that were being oppressed. People, not able to protect themselves. They heard our cries for help when the slavers came and they sent a member of their own people to rescue us.

I still cannot talk to my friend, our Protector. I do not know it’s thoughts. I only know that this great race has come to our rescue when the galaxy was about to turn it’s attention on us before we were ready.

There is one more call I have to answer. I can see it coming in time. A greater threat faces man and I do not know if we can overcome it. I see world after world fall to them. They are monstrous and terrible. I will go out to meet them in battle one more time. I see my aged frame falling to the Earth.

I see my own death, but when I die, the power stored up in me will again flow into all those that have gifts. You will get a portion of my power. You will grow strong. Then my responsibility of saving the Earth will fall to all of you.

They are now coming and I go out to meet them. Goodbye.

Ages

Players can star their game in any of the ages, depending on the super hero experience they want. Players may also choose to play at the transition between ages.

WWI

The war against the Slavers.

The Golden Age

The reconstruction and the rise to power of many super humans.

WWII

The war against the supers.

Misfits and Margins

The age of hiding, when any powers are weak and supers are feared.

The Coming Menace

A new alien threat comes to enslave Earth.

Skree and Thrum on DriveThru

Skree and Thrum

I’m taking Skree and Thrum and putting it on DriveThru RPG. It’s a short game of 25 pages, so it’s a digestible size. The setting is a jumping off point for the players instead of a locked down, fully formed world. I hear from a lot of players that they really just want to take a world in their own direction and not be locked down to an author’s ideas so I’m taking that to heart and trying it out. Think of it as an experiment.

This is the first RPG Store32 is offering for sale. Now, before you complain that the sky is falling, I’m pricing it at a dollar. I’m still interested in free games, so the game is Creative Commons licensed. Unfortunately there’s a lot of disregard for free games by the general gaming public. I’d like to see if simply by putting down a bit of money, a player is more likely to see the game to the table. I only have free options at the moment so I can’t really compare. Now I have something that I can put my theory to the test. Think of it as an experiment.

Skree and Thrum Coming Soon!

I stopped working on Skree and Thrum for a bit, but I’ve returned to it now and fixed up the setting and the instructions on how to play it. In all, the setting is a jump off point. I would really like to see how players might take it in wildly different directions.

So far reactions to the Energy System that the game uses has been very positive. It plays quickly but also has a lot of visual and tactile appeal because you get to roll a ton of polyhedrons. You feel awesome when you can fill your hand with d20s and chuck them because it’s an accomplishment.

The system deals with a lot of difficult situations very smoothly. Things like, fatigue (obviously, it’s the Energy System), healing, encouraging role play and allows the players to very organically build a character they really want to play.

So on the whole, I’m really happy with the game. It’s short, easy to read and get started on and offers a lot. I’d like to do a Supers game with the Energy System, along with a space opera but I’d like it to be something with a cool twist.

I have the cover to do. The other artwork is already done. It’s not much, but the book is only 20 pages so I don’t need dozens of pieces. The cover is about a quarter done. If I can sit down and get some time, I should be able to put it up on DriveThru soon.

Game of Draws

Over on theartifact.net, I wrote about a social conflict system that used draws for mechanical advantages over an opponent.

Then I thought, what if you made that the central resolution mechanic of a game?

I imagined two swordsmen looking for an advantage over the other.  Each character has their own draws, things that they want. They can be an advantage to them, or a disadvantage depending on the circumstance.  For instance “Has to win”, “Loves to make money” and “Wants to be a tough guy” could be some of a character’s draws.

Now what I’m thinking of for a resolution system is a system of offers that the characters can make to each other to get the advantage. For instance I’m going up against the character described above, I could offer him something like “First move” that plays on his “Has to win” draw and I can offer “Wait for my move” which means he can’t use his draw for this turn. The idea is that taking my “First move” offer is a trick that I can use to spring a trap with. Maybe my character has some kind of counter move that uses his attack to harm him.

The core idea is that each turn, a player has to choose between offers. I’d like to see multiple kinds of offers that would allow for a wide range of tactics.

My Self Inflicted 24hr Game System

I’ve been in a writing doldrums for a month or so. Then yesterday I had a few thoughts suddenly start buzzing around in my head and wrote them down.

The Energy System is a generic game meant to be applied to different settings. I’m shooting for something that can be played in a half hour. Because of that, the game doesn’t focus on individual actions by the characters. It focuses on the results. So rolling the dice isn’t about throwing a punch, it’s about the whole fight.

I have a setting in mind for the system where I’ll have more character generation, skill and equipment examples.

Energy System

More Thoughts On Solo RPGs

Still thinking about a solo RPG engine, I keep resorting to randomizers which tend to produce a mish mash of results. Sometimes a randomizer is brilliant, most times it just isn’t. The other element that I’ve been working off of is standard story tropes and trying to create a choose your own adventure on the fly but the engine still is to vague to guide a player.

What I have so far is to set the classic three act structure and then split those acts into two scenes each. The player could add scenes for a longer game but the idea is to start at two. Each scene gets a classic motivation that will be dominant. Here’s the structure I posted over on 1KM1KT a little while back.

Act 1 
Scene 1 Character generation. Get familiar with the character and set up a nice cushy life for them. Maybe they just got married. Maybe they just started a business and it's booming. Give them something nice.

Scene 2 A call to action. Roll against the motivations and use it to create the quest. If it's a positive motivation, then the character may have to leave the good life to take up the quest. The character taking up the quest could be reluctant if the call is from a positive source. If it was negative then something the character loved is destroyed. This should be played out in your rules but keep in mind that the odds are stacked in the favor of the motivation rolled. Maybe the character's business is saved but they realize that this kind of thing will keep happening unless they do something about it.

Act 2
Scene 1 Set up for the fall. The events of this scene set the player up for failure. If the scene is positive, the character thought they were doing the right thing but finds out it was all a trap, or he hurts the wrong people and has now made enemies. For motives like "Someone that helps" perhaps a mentor informs the character that they will have to accomplish some extraordinary task to succeed.

Scene 2 Put them in the worst position you can imagine. This is where the character is brought as low as they can go. (I'd have to work up ways of using the positive motivations to do this.)

Act 3
Scene 1 Get them out of it. The character must escape from jail, beat back the robot hordes, whatever.

Scene 2 Resolution. The final showdown. Will this be a comedy or a tragedy?

In each scene other than character generation roll on the following table.

Roll 1d20
1 Someone to pursue a goal (the Protagonist)
2-3 Someone to avoid the goal (the Antagonist)
4 Someone that helps (like a mentor)
5-7 Someone that hinders
8 Someone encouraging to consider a plan
9 Someone encouraging to reconsider a plan
10 Someone encouraging logic or reason
11 Someone encouraging feeling or emotional fulfillment
12 Someone encouraging excersizing control
13 Someone encouraging being uncontrolled
14 Someone to appeal to conscience
15-16 Someone to appeal to temptation
17 Someone who supports (speaks for) efforts
18 Someone who opposes (speaks against) efforts
19 Someone to express faith
20 Someone to disbelieve

The next piece of the puzzle is to give the player goal posts to reach in the story. This might be randomly generated, something to the effect of, “The main character is pressed by enemies until a resource is used up.” Which would be followed up by specific guidance that this could mean health, meaning the character is severely wounded, ammunition, fuel, food, water or whatever resource the player might target. Pick a target and then play the scene out until they’ve reached that low point.  Others might be “Trapped on all sides” or “Outmatched in skill” with the idea of having a healthy list to work off of.

Lastly, I wanted to think about classic solo games and what they use to entertain the player. There are only a few general strategies that I’m aware of.

First is the puzzle, games like solitaire create a puzzle to solve by restricting the type of moves available and then scrambling the resources the player needs. I haven’t worked out how to do this in an RPG yet.

Next is the mob, a lot of games have a number of pieces that automatically move toward the player’s pieces and the player must avoid or defend against the mob. This is more native to an RPG but one of the things that most games of this type focus on is strategic movement. For RPGs that use miniatures and grids to play, this is slightly easier to emulate but there are a large number of games that do not handle tactical movement. I have to resist the temptation to create additional rules to fill in the blanks. There needs to be a way to use existing rules, even when they’re not well developed for this kind of challenge.

The third is the stronghold, where the players must out maneuver defenses to gain access to a specified point. This at first looks easy but is one of the hardest to accomplish since the defenses have to be well arranged and the underlaying pattern should be difficult for the player to unravel. Only, the player is the one setting up the defenses so already has intimate knowledge of them. Still, using something like the Tech Challenges in The Artifact could simulate this.

The fourth is spending resources, here the player has what he needs to accomplish the task and can apply the resources in many different ways but only a small subset of approaches will actually work.

I think these structures could flesh out how the player builds a scene but there needs to be specific instructions on how they’re implemented. That’s what I’ll be working on next, adapting these structures to RPGs so that using them is a connect the dots for the player.

Solo RPG Engine

I’m thinking of developing a system for playing RPGs by yourself. There are a number of challenges to this. Mainly, how do you generate an interesting story without resorting to a load of random tables. My thought is to use the classic story structure to make this engine work. The player would roll on a table of the classic motivations for each scene. That would tell them if they were playing the Protagonist or the Antagonist in this scene. Other elements, possibly a deck of cards, could be used to flesh out what the type of challenge is.

Another element is that RPGs are inherently social. They are stories. If a story is not shared, then it feels empty. So I think there should be a healthy dose of structure as to how to record the game. Posting the story on a forum or a blog would suddenly make the game a shared story again.

The important thing that I want to shoot for is to make this system independent. There are a few solo RPGs out there already but they depend on custom systems to play. I’d prefer one that makes any RPG playable by one person.

Star Punk

Star Punk

Star Punk

For 2013 24hr contest entry, my game is a space opera without limits. In Star Punk the players get to collectively define major technologies of the game setting. There’s no limits to what the players are able to choose as their traits. Go munchkin on it or create some kind of balance to your abilities. It’s up to you where the game goes.

To create the pocketmod, print out the page and then fold it according to these instructions.

This is my first game to include a full index! Only the rest of the game is only seven (actually 6) pages. Hey, it was part of the contest to have an index.

My 2013 24 Hour RPG Attempt

I started my Harder Than Granite 24 hour RPG entry today. I’m mostly done with it. I’d like to get a playtest in before submitting it. My entry this year is called Star Punk. A narrative game about insanely powerful space opera characters.