Friday, July 18, 2014

"Yer After Me Lucky Charms!" The RPG

I wrote this RPG last November. It took me a day or two, and it was on a dare. :D

"Yer After Me Lucky Charms!" The RPG

Setting is Ireland during the English Occupation.

Player Character Types: (Choose 1 skill at 3, and one at 1, with the rest at 2)
All PCs may use Magic and have 3 life points

Aes Sidhe
Legendary elf from under the hill
Attributes: Pluck 2, Luck 1, Power 5, Faith 4, Smarts 3
Allowed Skills: Fight, Recover, Bless, Maneuver, Survive

Mischevious magical shoemaker
Attributes: Pluck 1, Luck 5, Power 2, Faith 3, Smarts 4
Allowed Skills: Fight, Notice, Heal, Fool, Escape

Shape-changing seal
Attributes: Pluck 3, Luck 4, Power 3, Faith 5, Smarts 1
Allowed Skills: Fist, Recover, Heal, Maneuver, Survive

Malevolent water-horse
Attributes: Pluck 5, Luck 2, Power 4, Faith 1, Smarts 2
Allowed Skills: Fight, Recover, Bless, Fool, Survive

Trickster sublime
Attributes: Pluck 4, Luck 3, Power 1, Faith 2, Smarts 5
Allowed Skills: Fist, Notice, Bless, Fool, Escape

Non-Player Character Types:
NPCs do not use Magic and have 3 Life Points

Attributes: Pluck 3, Luck 3, Power 3, Faith 3, Smarts 3
Allowed Skills: All at 3

The World - used to oppose skills checks without NPCs
No Attribute or Skill, but always equals seven, bits added mean additional difficulty.

Pluck (Tree) Ability to keep going - Skills relying on Pluck use the Tree Oat Bit
Luck (Clover) Ability to survive - Skills relying on Pluck use the Clover Oat Bit
Power (Cross) Ability to deal harm - Skills relying on Pluck use the Cross Oat Bit
Faith (Fish) Ability to heal body and mind - Skills relying on Pluck use the Fish Oat Bit
Smarts (Bell) Ability to think - Skills relying on Pluck use the Bell Oat Bit

Fist [Power] Punching and wrestling - non-lethal combat
Fight [Power] Shooting and stabbing - lethal combat
Recover [Pluck] Natural self-healing - heals 1 life point to self if injured and not dead
Notice [Pluck] Spotting hidden things - each additional point of success is something else spotted.
Bless [Faith] Healing minds - heals 1 life point to self or others if Confused
Heal [Faith] Healing bodies - heals 1 life point to others if injured and not dead
Maneuver [Smarts] Getting the better position - success means +3 to next Skill Check
Fool [Smarts] Misdirection and duping - mental combat
Escape [Luck] Getting out of Dodge - May break the encounter and flee if successful
Survive [Luck] A slip in time can save your life - A success avoids 1 Life Point otherwise lost

Magic Marshmallow Bits
Hearts - Confer healing so intense, they can even bring dead characters back to life.
Shooting Stars - Allow the caster to fly for one round.
Horseshoes - Allow the caster to act three times in the next round.
Clovers - Allow the caster to be invulnerable for that round.
Blue Moons - Make the caster invisible.
Rainbows - Teleport the caster anywhere and back.
Balloons - Make any three human targets weightless and floaty.
Hourglass - Allow the caster to turn back time to the previous round.

Play Setup

Players pick one PC type character at a time in any order established, but only one of each character type may be chosen. Players apportion skill points, and name their characters.
GM only plays Sassenachs.
Each player and the GM grabs a blind handful of Lucky Charms from the box. This only happens once, before play begins for the session. The GM may nominate a single person to grab handfuls, to avoid hand size disparities.
Since the GM has no use for Marshmallow Bits - Magic - he or she may auction them off to the highest bidder for Oat Bits of a particular type, and the GM may set a minimum bid. i.e. "I have here a Rainbow! I'm taking only Crosses for this, and minimum bid is three!" If the minimum bid is not met - or just on a whim - the GM may eat unsold Marshmallow Bits. If the minimum bid is met and paid, however, the GM must hand over the Marshmallow Bit bid for.


All skill checks are opposed. Skills unopposed by NPCs are opposed by The World.
Players add together Attribute and Skill, plus from zero to three Oat Bits of the proper type, and compare them to the NPCs - or other player character's - Attribute+Skill+Bits, or to The World.
Highest total wins. Any points over the loser 's total may be used to remove Life Points for Fist, Fight, or Fool.
At Zero Life Points, the character is either Unconscious (Fist) Dead (Fight) or Confused (Fool). Confused characters are unable to take any action, even to save themselves.
When you run out of the proper Oat Bits, you can only use Skill + Attribute
When you run out of Magic Marshmallows, no more can Magic be performed.
Bits added to actions of the World are shown openly - Players know how difficult a task is. Bits added to character - PC or NPC - actions are revealed simultaneously.

This game is not copyrighted, and may be used freely for whatever you want. Add stuff, take away stuff, change stuff - it's all cool.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wrangling High Strung Into Playable Shape

I've committed to running High Strung Saturday the 26th. Three ex- players are returning to the fold for this game, two of whom are musicians. It's going to be a day-long one shot - 12 hours of play with breaks for meals and dessert. I anticipate much hilarity and vicious undercutting!

So I have to get High Strung into playable shape. Flesh out the tables. Find a fun consequence for all the Nasty Cards. Make sure I've covered everything. This will be an Alpha test - I need to make sure everything I need is there. If something arises in play that's not covered, I have to improvise, and note it down - "Need a frazzen in case the PCs decide to janx the ribby." or "Forgot to include Smapping in the Crozen interactions! Need Done ASAP! Used averaging with Dasking - worked OK?" - which is what my development notes generally look like...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Restarting Beginner's Luck

Next Sunday, I am restarting my long running IRC StarCluster game, the Beginner's Luck. I started it in 2003, and this will be the 10th season. The game was started under the StarCluster 1E rules, shifted to 2E the next year, and is now running under StarCluster 3E rules.

Here are the logs from the first two seasons:

Season 1:

This is the raw, unedited logs, put together into a pdf.

Season 2:'sLuck.pdf

This is edited, with an intro, and comments after.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Traditional Roleplaying and Doing The Same Old Thing

I have been, for a long while, struggling against a certain odd assumption. This is, bluntly, that there is no innovation possible/being done within the traditional RPG envelope. It seems to be a fairly common assumption - traditional RPGs are dead, they just don't know it yet - but it is also unconscious and for the most part unvoiced, showing itself mainly in circumstantial ways.

Here is the thing I keep hitting in a nutshell: _All traditional RPG designers are doing is what has been done before, either purposefully, as in the OSR, or blindly, in all other cases. All real innovation is coming from story oriented games or from 'the challenge is the game' games._

As a designer who does his best to push the envelope while still remaining within the traditional framework, this is crippling. It is akin to the "I read a game you wrote back in 2004 and it wasn't for me, so nothing you do could ever be of interest" put down - like one can't ever get better, or learn from one's mistakes, or even just change. This assumption makes every day a salmon day - I'm swimming upstream, against the current, so I can spawn and die.

What is funny is I never feel this from other designers. Never. They design the games they design because they are interested in exploring this way, and they assume other designers are doing the same thing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

First Review for Lowell Was Right!

Lowell Was Right! got its first review -

My favorite line was the first - "I've yet to play this game but based on my first cursory read through I'm kind of in love with it."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

I Don't Make Art

Reading posts from various game designers - I read a lot of stuff from all over - and I can see there is a fundamental difference between me and many of them. Many of them are trying to make art. I'm not. Everything in my games is purely functional, including the illustrations. When I make an illo, what I care about is that the information I am presenting visually is properly conveyed. That is probably why I prefer making my own illos - I can control the substance - and why I don't usually do illos for others.

These other guys care deeply about the look and feel. They agonize over the kerning. The typefaces. The way the 'art' is presented. The gutters. The binding. The 'heft' of the book. The texture of the paper. It's all about making art, and there is nothing wrong about that. It's just something fundamentally different than what I am doing.

I couldn't care less about these things. As long as the text is readable, I don't care about the typeface. I let the program I use to write with care about kerning. The printed book is an afterthought for me. That's why I stay away from two column format. It's terrbile for reading on-screen. The book covers are there to protect the pages. So long as the paper is think enough to prevent bleed-through from the opposite side, it's the last thing I would think about. There is no art there!

I don't think of the game book as art. It's just a medium to convey the game. It's why I prefer pdf to print - I can more efficiently get stuff across. I would ideally prefer to present this info in another way. I prefer html or xml to pdf, but people don't pay for works in these media. That's web stuff and it's free. Most people have finally gotten to the point where they accept the idea of paying for a pdf. A printed book is just a less efficient pdf. It has no hyperlinking or flexibility, but people *like* printed books, and I am forced to use them.

By day I am a well-paid tech writer, who writes about esoteric stuff like x-ray fluorescence and laser induced Raman spectroscopy. In that field, we write pdf user guides because of regulatory requirements and liability issues. The last thing people want to see is a "wall-o-text" that they have to read through from front to back. Really, nobody reads user manuals. Nowadays my real work is writing "How Do I Do This?" web documents that link together text, animation, video footage, e-learning, simulators, and whatever else is the best way to get that information to the customer.

I would love to write a game like that, letting the reader explore the things they are interested in, and not bother them with things they already know or don't care about. My games tend to be big because I put lots of group level tools in them. Lots of customization tools. If I could write them the way I write my technical documentation, the game book would only be as long as the reader wanted it to be.

Maybe Patreon is the answer, but somehow I doubt it. I don't think there is enough interest in what I do to support anything like this. I don't own the tools I use at work to make this kind of construct, and those tools are expensive.