Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stuff of Legends - Introduction and Overview

Over the past year or two (kind of don't quite remember), I've been working on an RPG. It's nowhere near finished, nor has it been playtested even once, but I want to talk about it anyway.

The RPG's name is Stuff of Legends. Surprisingly, no one has used this name before. Not even for a supplement, if Google is to be believed.
From the start, my RPG was designed with thought solely about myself. I wasn't satisfied fully with the games that were available to me and wanted something more. I'm under no illusion that my game will becomes popular, although I hope it will gain some traction.

As it is now, the game has been heavily influenced by the OSR and by GURPS:
  • The OSR: the type of gameplay, of simpler characters and an emphasis on roleplaying, appeals to me greatly. In fact, my favorite RPGs are OSR games - Ambition & Avarice and Lamentations of the Flame Princess for good examples. My group, and myself, have been enjoying A&A immensely, a thing I can't quite so about other games we've played lately.
  • GURPS: I love bell curves. I admit it. I like predictable results and informed rolls. GURPS has both in spades, although the game itself is too complex for me to appreciate fully. Despite the fact, I had played and run it before and I am generally pleased with the essentials. I'm borrowing the mechanics of GURPS, to a degree, since they work. They give a lot of power to the player in both design and agency. If a warrior wants to pick a lock, he can tell, nearly immediately, how good his chances are and that is a thing I like a lot.
I don't have a lot written down so far, but I have a pile of ideas as well as leading concepts:
  • The game is high fantasy. Very high even. Despite the fact, it isn't standard fantasy. Gone are Elves and Gnomes and Halflings and Dwarves. I don't find the mix very interesting. In the same vein, gone are the Orcs, Goblins, Kobolds and other monstrous races. They're a crutch and a staple, but ultimately they normally just serve as fodder. I've come up with my own races. They aren't very original, nor are they exceptionally odd, but they lend their own to the feeling and lore of the world.
  • The campaign setting takes place on a planet a lot like Earth, with minor differences. The specific area is basically North America, except that there is no connection to the now non-existent South America. Instead, the northern parts of South America are now a very large archipelago.
  • The humans are the majority since they are nearly the only race on the continent. The other three continental races, on whom I will elaborate in future posts, are either human variants or a vast minority due to natural circumstances.
  • Adventurers, the PCs, are made from the stuff of legends. This is the leading concept behind their design. They are stronger, scarier and more dangerous than even above average people. Despite the fact, they aren't unkillable or with considerable longevity - they merely identified that they have what it takes to exit the sphere of comfort of the mortal races and be legendary.
  • PCs start at level 1 and mature all the way to level 10. Much like several OSR games, the initial levels are simple to achieve but later levels take a lot of effort and come with considerable risks. Levels are gained using XP, but XP is awarded strictly for performing Deeds - amazing acts, as befitting their level of power, that shows the world what the adventurer is made of. Deeds can be claimed either by a single character or several, though some are restricted to one or the other and some claims may prove to be dramatic when there isn't an agreement on who did what.
  • The leveling process is split into 3 tiers, each containing a certain range of levels. This has bearing on how rolls work, as well as access to Titles (below).
  • There are only 3 classes and a character can only ever have just the one class. Each class has a unique mechanic that is easy to explain and use and lends to the concept behind the class. The classes are Warrior, Expert and Wizard.
  • The other part of a PC are Titles. Titles are tiered abilities that give characters extra edges and options. Some titles are single tier, while others are spread over 2 or 3 tiers. Through titles a player can better define his or her character. Many common fantasy tropes are represented through titles, like barbarians, necromancers, clerics, rangers, rogues or paladins. A character may have a secondary class using a title, which gives limited access to the secondary class' options.
  • Magic is a bit weird and casters are in control of their spells at all times. A roll is required to cast a spell, but a spell that fails doesn't simply not happen. Critical successes, failures and critical failures simply contribute to making that particular casting more interesting.
I may have missed some ideas and concepts, but this is much of it.
I'd also like to talk about the principal mechanics, while I'm here:
  • Dice: rolls are made under a target number, that number being a sum of character level, an attribute and a skill, plus any additional modifiers. Based on your own tier or the tier of a target, you roll a different number of dice - 2d6 for first tier, 3d6 for second tier and 4d6 for third tier. Criticals, both successes and failures, occur when two-, three- and four-of-a-kind are rolled. If the result is a success, it's a critical success. If the result is a failure, it's a critical failure. The effect a critical has is something I've not yet fully determined.
  • Progression: there isn't too much of it. You go up 9 levels and very little of your attributes change. The only numbers that constantly change are skills, which may be increased outside leveling up. In addition, titles, apart from the first one, are acquired solely through actively seeking them out, outside of leveling up.
  • Combat: avoid at all costs, if possible. Combat is deadly and dangerous and even the strongest, healthiest warriors are liable to drop within 4 hits at most. Armor, on the other hand, is a true life-saver. Good armor is expensive, though. To make the point - just as PCs should avoid combat, GMs are advised themselves to have monsters avoid combat.
  • Equipment: I don't find tracking equipment, weights or misc gear to be fun. This is why I'm gonna simplify all of it and make many assumptions - the party has sources of light, ropes, camping equipment and any other basic or cheap thing. The twist is that GMs are advised to track this when it becomes interesting. When escaping a jail but the skin of their teeth, the party is hardly going to have all, if any, of the above. As for combat equipment - simplified as well. There are 4 armors and weapons are DIY designs. I don't see a good reason to design long lists, particularly since someone always has an idea that just have to have.
My time right now runs short and I can't think of anything to add right now, so I'll finish here.
I'm available through G+ and Hangouts nearly all the time for interactions and what have you, so feel free to strike a conversation - I'm nearly always in the mood to talk, and brainstorm, about my game.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Dangerous Gnome in the Pink Robe

Despite an earnest intent to blog using my WordPress blog, that didn't happen. I can't clearly say why, but it didn't.
So I decided to make a Blogger blog and start fresh.

I think it is fitting that the new blog will start its run with an explanation for its peculiar name:
I was sitting here, thinking what to name the blog, looking at other RPG blogs to attempt to understand why they are named the way they are. The best I got to is that the names represent something about the gaming habits of the author. Looking at what made my games what they were, one particular session and incident stuck out like the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
We were playing Ambition & Avarice, and an old-new player (my best friend, recently returned to the locale, who we promptly had join the group since he's a kickass roleplayer and team player.) was using one of the homebrew classes - an Artificer. His character was a Gnome since that makes all the sense. He toted around a curious mechanical staff with something that's pretty much a shotgun strapped to the end of the staff. The character was conniving, zany, somewhat insane and very bored so he was inclined to start trouble and be a complete bastard.
The party had received a task to investigate disappearances from the town after a cave had opened up nearby due to an earthquake. On the side, they were informed that the town guard is paying handsomely for proof of bandits killed in the area. Preparing for looting and an easier journey, the party packed their retainers as well as a cart pulled by a mule.
Intending to get some bandits on the way, the gnomish artificer had went to the local tailor to pick out a garment to make himself look vulnerable to bandits. Due to a roll to determine what was left, I decided the poor roll left the single most garish thing there - a pink robe. He wanted to look harmless and an easy target and I doubt there's any bandit who would regard a gnome in pink as anything but.
While traveling, the heavier hitting members of the party hid in the cart, covered by a tarp, while the gnome drove it. On their way back from the dungeon, after having slaughtered some relatively weak vampires in their den, bandits did attack.
The bandits descended on the cart and made some threats and gnome's player, in character, appeared at ease but surrendered all at the same time and dismounted from the cart. As the bandits circled the cart to look inside, the gnome points his staff and without so much as batting an eyelash or letting on to his true intentions, make several bandits into half-bandits. The remaining bandits are taken care of in very short order by the other characters and some more loot was had as they were heading back.

The reason the blog is named in the spirit of that character is because that experience stood out as extraordinarily fun. I didn't question their plan, or the garment or their methods. They came up with something so silly and fun and absolutely bonkers and letting it go along, spearheaded by the gnome in pink, probably made a good session great.

Further escapades from the same session by the same gnome - extorting double the payment out from their employer using careful management of bodies and information, improving the image of the rest of the party by leveraging said management against the rest of the town, negotiating better conditions for the party within the town and getting acquainted with the local famous alchemist and getting relatively free lessons.
In all seriousness, this is one very dangerous gnome in a pink robe.

So that's the story of a gnome who's name we honestly can't remember but who turned a mediocre party into an amazing one, all at the same time becoming its leader and roleplaying so well everyone at the table improved. I think to name the blog after that gnome is more than fitting.