Friday, December 14, 2012

Spins on Elemental Magic

Many months ago, when I first brought up the issue of magic in the land of Kimatarthi, I mentioned that I wanted there to be multiple means to the same end. I would like players to have significant narrative power to use magic however they want to, even though there are existing ways to cast spells. So while the players will be able to tinker with various casting methods, I needed a base to start from. Enter the Classical Elements.

There are a ton of settings that use the Classical Elements as a basis for magic from D&D to GURPS to Codex Alera (which is past due to be made into a role-playing game). The cool thing is that, just as in real ancient history, there are different ways of interpreting the elements.

Classical Greek
The system that most people are familiar with are the Greek elements: Fire, Earth, Water, and Air. There are derivations from that, but it all comes down to the four. You can find this throughout Dungeons and Dragons and all of its spin-offs.

Classical Indian
Interestingly, classical Hindu mythology came to a similar conclusion, but added one more: Fire, Earth, Water, Air, and Ether. It's not so far off from the classical Greek quintessence, but including ether as a basic element should appeal to many (particularly our gang of Ethernauts). I could totally see how  or folks that want to mix a steampunk or weird science or pseudo-Enlightenment kind of vibe into a campaign might be drawn to an Ether element. Can you imagine summoning an Ether Elemental? What would that do?

What about Consciousness as an Element? Here it's represented as a King.

Classical Chinese
Another system that identifies five elements is Chinese: Fire, Earth, Water, Wood, Metal. I guess air was dropped, as it is not a substance. Interestingly enough, Jim Butcher throws Air back into the mix in Codex Alera. This kicks much ass.

Classical Bhuddism
There is a concept of seven centers of vital energy (chakras) in Bhuddism and Hinduism that is similar to the elements. These are identified as Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Ether/Sound, Light/Dark, Time/Space. This is a really cool concept. I can totally picture a Tech Level 11 Mage slinging around hexes that twist space-time.

That also brings up the point that in all of these mythologies, the elements are tied to different emotions, temperaments, body parts, planets, etc. My basic point is that there are so many different ways to parse our reality, why can't elemental magic draw upon any of those categories? What about a mage that draws upon actual elements? You know... a Carbon Mage.

Well they can. Play my game.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Kriegspiel Online

I wanted to point people to Kriegspiel.

It's not the one with a bunch of Prussians plotting how to kick assess across Europe. It's the one made by the French Marxist filmmaker. In many ways this makes it equally awesome.

It is a chess-like game, but more elaborate. You can read all about the concept and development of the game at the link above.  More importantly, you can download the software that will allow you to play without having to do lots of addition. It's a fun game and a great way to spend some hours playing against opponents online or just mucking about on your own.

Go download (it's free) and enjoy!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Life During Wartime

Every time I listen to "Life During Wartime" by the Talking Heads, I can't help but think that it would make an awesome movie, TV show, or (since I don't blog about those other things) role-playing game.

I love this song because it embodies the urban spirit that the Talking Heads capture so wonderfully in their music and it also evokes a vivid picture of the chaos of 1970s militancy. According to a book about the Talking Heads (fine - I found the quote on Wikipedia...), David Byrne was thinking about Baader-Meinhof (Red-Army Faction), Patty Hearst, and Tompkins Square in New York City when he wrote it. I don't think he'd object if I say that the song takes my imagination elsewhere, and that's where I think it would be awesome to run a campaign.

Whenever I listen to "Life During Wartime" I always think about the civil war in Lebanon and what would happen if something similar were imposed on the United States. It would be like West Beirut in an American context. If I were to run a campaign with this as the inspiration, the basic scenario would look like this:

In the near future, the United States is engulfed in a low-intensity civil war. Secessionists angry with Washington have taken up arms in their states and localities. While entire states have not seceded, local revolts have popped up in nearly every state. The country is divided along a spectrum, ranging from those who support independence for local areas to those who want to crush any disloyalty to the government. Incidents of terrorism and guerrilla warfare have become commonplace across the nation.

Democrats and Republicans are no more. Instead there are three new parties (As I've mentioned before, I love me some factions):
  • The Democratic-Republican (National Unity) Party - Most political leaders have rallied together against the secessionists and are working to resolve the problem, though without much success.
  • USA Whig (USA - Where Has It Gone?) Party - The new Whig party is the political wing of the secessionist movement. It works in Washington and in state capitals to directly further that cause and to obstruct policies that would otherwise bring about an end to the revolt.
  • The Liberal Unionist Party - On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who believe in no compromise with the Whigs, no mercy for secessionists, and a strong, unchallenged federal government.
The campaign is set (or begins) in Washington, DC and the player characters are college students trying to live their lives amid the chaos, politics, and fighting that has engulfed the country. It doesn't really matter what system it gets played on, but I totally think that players should get bonuses for incorporating lyrics from the song into their characters (e.g. "Got a van that's loaded with weapons;" "Lived in a brownstone, lived in a ghetto;" "We've got computers, we're tappin' phone lines."). Any player who is David Byrne also gets a massive bonus.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nothin' but a G-Thang (Gamer Thang), Baby

I'm becoming a terrible blogger. At the same time, I'm becoming a better gamer.

Ironically, I have not had as much time to write (or attend my regular gaming crew) because I've been busy at work designing games. I'm not quite sure why it took so long for me to bridge the gap between my career and my hobby of choice, but one day I realized that I should try to incorporate gaming into my job (or my job into gaming?), since I work with some of the greatest wargamers in the industry.

Granted war games are not my traditional mode, but designing them is a lot more interesting than writing papers -- especially when they also incorporate significant role-playing aspects. I didn't ever think that I would have professional conversations about GURPS or the analytic utility of dungeon crawls, but I have. I'm also learning a shit-metric-ton about game design, game development, and the American way of war. And.... I'm getting paid for it, so that's frickin' awesome.

Anyway, I aspire to update the blog whenever possible, and I intend to play games much, much more... since I can justify it as career development now. :) But since the gaming "world" is so huge, I'm not sure exactly where it will take me. Still, if you've read this far, you may very well tune in again [thumbs up, geek!]... and this is good since my wife is always impressed when someone who is not her logs in for a read.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Spy In Isengard

Stop the presses!

Stop. The. Fracking. Presses.

I just found A Spy in Isengard online. What is this, you ask? I wasn't quite sure either. All I knew was that as a kid I played this the crap out of this book, and it was a critical link in my jump from Choose Your own Adventure to Dungeons and Dragons.

As I remember it, the book was basically a choose-your-own-adventure format, but with a few interesting advanced steps. You have to create a character in the beginning, there is a character sheet with inventory list at the back, and a random numbers table in case you don't have 2d6 lying around (or if you're squeezed in the back of a station wagon with two younger brothers on family vacation).

Middle Earth Quest Character Sheet: Awesomeness from the 80s.

By the magic of Google, I have come to learn more. A Spy in Isengard was a Middle Earth Quest (MEQ) book published by Iron Crown Enterprises, which also published Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP), a system based on Rolemaster. I'm guessing that this book was a way to publicize MERP or maybe even it was designed to be a gateway drug book to heavier MERP games. I'm still not sure, but I'm struck by a couple things.

One, it's a little baffling to me that one publisher could produce so much at that time. Rolemaster, MERP, MEQ, a few books, and I recall couple similar Sherlock Homes books produced around the same time. For one, it drives home just how much the gaming industry was producing in the 1980s. But how big of an operation was Iron Crown? Was it a couple guys working out of a garage? If so, how did they get wide enough market access to be successful? Was it a wing of some giant corporate conglomerate? If so, how did they fund enough staff? Did the really sell that many copies of Rolemaster and A Spy in Isengard to turn a profit? Is that why the MEQ system ceased to be?

Two, it hits on the importance of having proper introductions to games. Not long ago on Google+, some folks were having a discussion about how a game product should be properly introduced to a kid who just picks it up off the shelf. Rightly, the issue is that many kids like myself grab something cool (A Spy in Isengard) at a local store and have no way to tie it in to anything.

I remember wondering as a kid what MERP was, but I had no idea how to find it. The local library didn't have information on it. Not even the country library had any information in the whole card catalog! Even if I had found something, I was beholden to the preferences of our friendly neighborhood game shop, and to my mom's willingness to drive me there.We didn't even have a comic book store in my town until I was 14. As a result, A Spy in Isengard was the only MEQ product I ever purchased.

What I'm saying is that an awesome product like A Spy in Isengard produced today would come replete with links to a website where more information could be had and more products purchased. I see on the Iron Crown Enterprises website they have produced a Sherlock Holmes game app. This is great. Hopefully ICE will be able to continue making great gaming products and not lose potential customers because they can be linked in to the magic of the internets.

Meanwhile, I'm totally going to rip a copy of A Spy in Isengard from Scribd and print it on the work Xerox.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Factions in the Sandbox

My recent post on the Bakdunis family has me thinking again about tools a DM can use to run a successful sandbox campaign. Anyone who has run a campaign has faced the challenge of balancing between railroading the players into the game that has been prepared and giving them the agency to make the decisions they want. I think most railroading happens because the DM is unprepared to deal with the players' choices.

A central way to avoid having to force the players down a path (or force your path down the players' throats) is to have a rich setting. Having a bunch of different options and bounding your players with ample choices will keep you from having to force one choice on them. A resource like Vornheim, chock full of tricks, tables, and quick outs, is a great tool to have on hand.

One way that I'm making Kimatarthi a rich setting is by laying out a canvass of factions for the players to deal with. The Bakdunis are the ruling family that came to power through a coup. Perhaps it was warranted, but no one pulls that off without making enemies. The city they rule has also become a mixing bowl of refugees from all across the land, different classes of people, different backgrounds, different customs... different expectations. All this creates friction.

Markaz is not just the ruling family and their supporters. There are the old elite families that the Bakdunis deposed and the non-elites who suddenly found themselves in competition with the world's refugees. There are the elites that were deposed by rampaging goblins and reestablished themselves in Markaz. There are the descendents of refugees, some of whom did well, others not as well. There are new elites, charismatic populists, clergy, merchants, kings and queens of the black market, and time lords crime lords. The Markaz Guard are not the only military organization in town, a development that always makes things interesting. And, of course, there are the Mages.

The PCs will start off as conscripted grunts in the Markaz Guard, but it will soon be clear that they will have the opportunity for freelancing, moonlighting, and the pursuit of their own separate interests. If these interests happen to run contradictory to their current jobs, well, that just makes for good plot hooks. They're bound to make friends, allies, rivals, and enemies. So if they don't want to take the job that's being offered one week, that's fine. This decision will, no doubt, put them in some other interesting position.

So what's the advantage of having a plethora of factions, as opposed to other tools for building the sandbox? Simply, it's because of the relationships. By creating a scenario in which the characters build relationships it will self-generate plot hooks and constraining factors, thus removing the need for the DM to railroad them into a particular storyline. The players can build trust and affiliations. They can build animosity that creates its own challenges. Our group's Slaying Solomon campaign has this dynamic, which played out in a major way this past week ( I have learned. I had a "kid" to "take care of" and couldn't "go play games this weekend."), and I think it's a great way to keep things rolling and make up some great stories along the way.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The People of Anamere II

Well, Jenna's two for two in my Plugs for Peeps. Either the rest of us need to get crackin' or I need to meet more people who are actually publishing gaming materials.

This series is pretty cool in that it provides everything you need to run a game, except the rules. So it gives you all of the set-up, characters, twists, turns, and all you need to do is plug in your favorite gaming system. You could run this as Risus or Traveller just as easily.

So go out and buy Sci-Fi Sandbox 06: The People of Anamere II. It's got a cast, and encounters in space and on a beautiful tropical paradise. I haven't read it yet, but it is promising anthropologists and an alien race of Otterfolk.

You can download it from DriveThru RPG by clicking... here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Bakdunis Family

Rise of the Bakdunis

Before the Goblin Wars, Family Bakdunis was one of the wealthy merchant families of Markaz. And, like all wealthy families, they were involved in politics and military affairs.While they had not been among the princes who ruled the city states, their wealth was able to buy them a certain amount of influence.

When the goblins appeared and swept across the land, Coron Bakdunis was Captain of the Markaz Guard. Unlike other cities, Markaz had time to consider its defense and prepare for the attack. It was not much time, but it was significant. Coron was known to be a man of action and of little patience. As stories and refugees rolled in from across the land, he saw the Prince and Governing Council dithering. Not only that, they offered no clear plan while they deliberated.

So, one afternoon, he made a decision and ended the deliberation with the assistance of a squad of his most loyal officers.

Coron Bakdunis comes to power. (or the Death of Nero - same difference.)

Coron put Markaz under martial law and prepared his force to meet the goblin horde. One of his key decisions--and one that had been blocked by the Council--was to retool several hundred of his finest fighters to be light, mobile infantry that could act as scouts and also waylay the goblins from behind the front line. He called these troops the Rangers.

He conscripted every man, woman, and child that could physically hold a weapon, training each to the best of their ability. As refugees arrived, only the sick and injured were allowed to rest. The others were put to work somehow. In the short period of time after taking over the city, Coron was able to establish a rag-tag force to meet the goblins at the city walls.

The city held, but not without massive casualties and widespread damage. Coron retained his position as both leader of the Guard and de facto leader of the city and began the long, slow process of rebuilding. He would not have much opportunity to be a builder, however, as he was taken by illness not two years after the end of the Goblin War. His brother, Kalan, succeeded him. Kalan would rule Markaz--and effectively most of the human population--for the next twenty years. He saw the people through the chaos of those early years, a famine, and the initial rebuilding of civilization. There have been a total of five Bakdunis rulers in the decades since the Goblin Wars.

In many ways, civilization is still being rebuilt, but the Bakdunis family proudly takes credit for both saving human society and reestablishing over the past decades. Many are prone to agree, but there are those who believe that the Bakdunis family has done little except enrich and empower themselves. They continue to rule, however, by way of their shrewd ability to build and maintain political alliances, to suppress the opposition, and to make sure that the right people get rich and the right people disappear. It's a robust system, but how long can it last?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Branches of the Geek Tree

There's a lively discussion going on over at Monsters and Manuals, prompted by Noisms' question about why we fantasy gamers care so much for historical research, when such research has yielded very little evidence of dragons, orcs, or hippogriffs.

My take on it is that it's in the genetic code of our hobby.

Remember that before there was D&D there was Chainmail, and Chainmail was a wargame. The wargaming hobby is steeped in the tradition of historical research and analysis. Every game designer looks at what came before and tweaks it. What if we changed the focus from battalions to companies? What if we changed the combat dynamic?  What if we consider the logistical challenges of this campaign? All of this requires research to fill in the blanks that the game designer wants to fill.

Good wargames have serious research behind them. Some are so good, they get used as reference materials. Some grognards even advocate the use of wargames to more thoroughly study and understand historical realities. The Holy Grail of wargame research is discovering that there was an apple orchard outside of Leningrad that forced a Panzer division to approach from a different direction.

Chainmail developed as a way to simulate medieval war, bringing combat stats to individual soldiers. Gygax then took the next step and said, what if these guys went and fought a dragon?

And Gary saw that he had made fantasy role playing, and it was good.

RPGs took off on a totally new trajectory, but D&D maintained that deep tradition of mathematical combat dynamics, infinite outcome tables, and room for innovation. That innovation requires research. The research could be for atmospherics, such as determining the size of an average medieval village. It can be material, such as evaluating the benefits of spears versus other weapons. Or it can be theoretical, such as imagining the macroeconomic impact of hippogriffs on the shepherds and the wool industry.

Even if we fantasy gamers look to different sources, this spirit of inquiry and invention runs strong. The same sorts of folks that like to ponder these questions are drawn to these different branches of gaming for this very reason - it's just that some of us like to fight Napoleon and some like to fight orcs.  In the end, we're all branches of the geek tree.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Non-Post: H/T Land of Nod

Matt over at Land of Nod has assembled great matrix for running bar fight scenes. I'm hereby stealing it. It's a great idea, and the mark of that is that it has my mind generating all kinds of fun spins and modifications.

After all, the first rule of game design is: Plagiarize.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bestiary: Slive

Without a doubt, my favorite contemporary fantasy author is Jim Butcher. And if you've read his Codex Alera series, you're familiar with slives. For those who haven't read the books: Slives are nasty, poisonous lizards - and while the hero of the books, Tavi, only encounters them rarely (once, as I recall), they do serve as the standard insult of the series. Any detestable person is referred to as a slive, rather than a snake, jerk, a-hole, dingleberry, or douche-canoe.

What I like about slives, with regard to my Kimatarthi campaign, is that they are fantastic creatures, but not overtly magical. So I thought I'd give them some D6 stats and steal them for the game. I don't think Jim would mind, since I know he's an avid gamer himself, but I hope his publisher isn't a douche-canoe, and just sees it as free publicity. So what do we know about slives from the books?
  • They have long, supple bodies covered in dark scales, and are nearly as long as an adolescent boy is tall. 
  • They have fangs coated in "a thick yellow liquid" that is a slow-acting, sleep-inducing poison.
  • Slives live in groups, and any creature bitten by one is likely to be devoured alive by a swarm. 
  • Slives are not quick, but apparently they are determined hunters. A person may outrun one, but she had best keep running for a few days, just to make sure the slive has given up the chase.
  • They can be found both in the wilderness and in urban areas, making dens in dead logs and garbage heaps.

I think the following stats would work.


Agility 1D: dodge 2D, fighting 2D
Coordination: 1D
Physique 6D: running 7D, stamina 8D
Intellect: 1D
Acumen 3D: search 4D, tracking 7D
Charisma 1D: intimidation 5D, mettle 3D

Strength Damage: 2D
Move: 7
Hit Points: 7

Natural abilities: cold-blooded (lethargic Aspect, or +7 to all actions until warmed up); bite +1D; venom (injected on successful bite, roll stamina to determine number of rounds before losing consciousness).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Real Life Awesome: Polar Expedition

A while back, I had the good fortune to attend a lecture by a man with an awesome name, Thorleif Thorleifsson. Thorleifsson is a Norwegian sailor, captain, and explorer, who along with Børge Ousland made an amazing trip around the North Pole. Part of what made it remarkable is that the entire expedition was completed in a single season. The Arctic Ocean only thaws enough for ships to travel its waters for a few weeks each year. That the thaw lasted long enough for Thorleifsson and Ousland to do the whole trip in one go is a scary sign of the changing climate. Anyhow...

This is the route they took, sailing out of Norway (top right) and heading east (counterclockwise on this map).

Some of the challenges they faced in real life offer great fodder for plot hooks and/or complications for adventures. These aren't necessarily unique, but it's cool to see these dynamics in action in real life.

Local Bureaucracy - Local bureaucrats exist even north of the Arctic Circle. The difficulty dealing with Russian customs in the east of the country required that they travel on a West-East route. In a game, local authorities can be used to deliver all manner of plot hooks: delays, extortions, pleads for assistance, obstacles to be avoided, etc.

Weight Restrictions - Backpackers will be familiar with the kind of economizing they had to do to maintain speed. Severe restrictions on weight meant that even small gifts (vodka, books) they were given along the way had to be tossed overboard. The trick is to be consistent. You can't one day out of the blue make everyone tally up their encumbrance... unless they had to head out on a small boat or cross a little bridge or squeeze through the needle's eye.

Workin' for the Man - One of the expedition sponsors wanted to tag along for a while. Not only was he not an experienced sailor, they had to budget for his weight, the weight of his food and water, etc. But sometimes pandering to your patron requires sacrifices. Imagine if a local spoiled prince wanted to accompany a party on a dungeon crawl.

Water - Water, water all around and not a drop to drink... I don't imagine that most players are looking to play a logistics game on game night, but periodically challenging the PCs with scarce resources can lead to interesting decisions. As with weight restrictions, the key is coming up with a particular circumstance in which the scarcity of food and/or water is an issue.

Time Constraints - Thorleifsson had to race against time to make sure that the sea did freeze up again. They had a window of about three weeks during which the entire sea is navigable, then it begins to refreeze. This hearkens back to an age-old trope, but it's a good one at any level. Rescuing the princess before her wedding to a horrible suitor, outrunning a bolder, or climbing the mountain before the baddies - they're all good, race against the clock plots.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Land's End

Land’s End is just that – the end of the world. North, south, east, or west – whichever direction you travel, sooner or later you will reach Land’s End. Not many people in Kimartarthi have seen it, as there are few places near civilization where it is visible. And it’s not a destination, since, well, it’s the end of the world and there ain't much there.

Those who have seen it, though, say it is a strange and marvelous thing. The land simply ends and drops off into a sea of mist that stretches out beyond the horizon. There are strange tales about Land's End, too. Some tell stories of men who have strayed too close to the mist only to be seized by wraiths, pulled their deaths, and never heard of again. 

What terrible fate beyond the grave could await the poor soul who perishes beyond the borders of the world? Only those risking a TPK may ever find out!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

ACKS Modern & Zombies

The description of the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System begins:  
In a world of fallen empires, some relics of the past are good only for a beastman's bludgeon; others make ruin delvers rich.
It captures the old-school dynamic of adventurers of purse and fortune battling baddies, getting rich, getting powerful and becoming lords themselves. Of course this implies that there is a world of riches, power, and glory sitting out there, just waiting to be won - hence the "world of fallen empires" bit.

I've been watching The Walking Dead recently and have had conversations about the political underpinnings of the story. Like much zombie fiction, the drama is derived from the tension of people struggling to survive in a world that has fallen apart and suddenly turned hostile.Yet there isn't much in the zombie genre that focuses on what happens next. What is life like twenty, thirty, or fifty years after the zombie apocalypse? Assuming mankind has rebuilt to a degree and begun to reestablish semblances of order, this would also be a "world of fallen empires."

The scenario is begging for a system that, like ACKS, puts the players on a path to glory. A post-zombie apocalypse world offers countless ruins filled with ancient secrets, horrors, and opportunities for greatness. The emerging political order is bound to be rife with warlords to battle and isolated communities in need of heroes and leaders. In true Hobbesian fashion (which makes for great role-playing drama, of course) an inevitable Leviathan would emerge. Is this a tyrant waiting to be deposed, or is it the PCs? It could be a bit like Mad Max, but perhaps not so resource poor. After all, it's hard to get rich enough to build an empire if you're killing every highway robber for his tank of gas.

So that's what a couple hours of country driving produced yesterday: a Mad Max-Zombie Apocalypse-ACKS combo. This could be hella fun.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Knights of the Astral Sea #27

One of the players in our group writes up each Knights of the Astral Sea session in the form of a letter from his character. The latest installment can be found here at the Eleven Day Empire and here at Risus Money.

The highlight from my character's perspective: Imagine this little girl and a cat walking into a room of captured sailors/privateers to interrogate them. Not surprisingly, the had nothing to say until the officer's "exquisite mustache" was set aflame, a scrawny pirate was electrocuted, and the big fellow's brain was possessed, forcing him to beg for mercy. Only the cat spoke Spanish, by the way - the little girl was just there for effect. It was fun!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

D6 Homebrew Character Sheets

Check it out. I modified the old D6 Fantasy character sheets.

If I'm going to run a homebrew D6 campaign that splices in some narrative aspects that I like about FATE, then the conventional D6 Fantasy character sheets just ain't gonna cut it. So I dropped the Advantages / Disadvantages section in favor of a place to write in Aspects.

 I made a few other changes, too. Some of the basic Skills that were listed on the old sheets would prove less useful in my campaign, so I got rid of them, and added some other skills that I think will be useful.

Also, there were a couple of little things I didn't quite like in the old sheets. One was that the skills you need most often for combat are scattered all across the paper. So, I consolidated them into one box - sure it's a bit redundant, but I think it'll make things easier on the player. It also annoyed me just a little bit that the lines for writing in your weapons alternated between melee and missile weapons. I just sorted it so your weapon types are all together. There are a couple other little changes too.

I have these in .pdf, too, but I can't be bothered right now to set up somewhere for a download. If anyone's actually interested, just let me know and I'll send you copies.

Update: I had the idea that I could probably just link it to a copy in Google Docs. So I did that instead of the crappy .jpg. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bestiary: Tamirac

The wilderness of Kimatarthi is made all the more dangerous by groups of prowling tamiracs. These clever and extremely adaptable animals can be found in any sort of terrain. They are just as likely to be found leaping among rocks and trees or scurrying across the open land. Some have even been seen scavenging in city garbage heaps. They are quick and can easily squeeze through such narrow openings, that it can seem as if they disappear into thin air.

The tamirac has a lean and hungry look about him. (ArthurWeasley)

A typical tamirac is the size of a medium-sized dog with a mouth full of tiny, needle-sharp teeth, and is not much of a threat. Unfortunately, one will rarely encounter a single tamirac. They hunt in packs and are known for their exceptional cunning. Stories abound of unassuming hunters tracking down their kill, only to find a pack of tamiracs laying in wait. Their ability to mimic the sound of wounded or lost animals, and even children is renowned. "As sly as a tamirac," is a common expression, though one rarely used in a flattering way. Their favored tactic is to cut an individual off from the group, surround their prey, and then attack from multiple directions. Any tamirac that comes under attack will spend that round distracting the victim, dodging while the others attack the flanks.

Number appearing: 2D6+2
Fighting: 3D+2
Dodge: 3D+2
Stealth: 4D
Damage: bite (2D+1), claws (1D+1)

Friday, July 27, 2012

George Rasmussen, Colonel, 5th Merlin Regiment

Holy crap.

So July is nearly a wash in terms of blog posts. But that is just an indication that other stuff has been keeping me busy. It started with some holiday travel and then we almost bought a house, but then we didn't buy a house, but we still did all the work that you need to do to buy a house... basically it meant no free time to blog or even to game. Rather than let it go and not post ANYTHING, here's an older piece.

I love creating characters. It may be the actor in me, but one of my favorite parts of gaming is developing a character concept and running with it. I'm sure many players can relate to the bittersweet moment, as your character's bones are being absorbed into the ocher jelly and you realize that your pointy eared bard, Elvish Elvis, will never sing again... BUT you get to roll out some other character that you've been thinking about for months!

So here's the character I'm currently playing in our Knights of the Astral Sea GURPS campaign

Sir George K. Rasmussen, Colonel, 5th Merlin Regiment

The eldest son of Baronet Percy Rasmussen, George Kyle Rasmussen was educated at Charterhouse until his magical potential was recognized, at which point he was transferred to Carmarthen Academy to continue his training as a wizard. At age 16, he was commissioned an ensign in the Magickal Brigades, and, serving under Lord Brandybuck, he was sent to India to further his skills in the Oriental magicks.

The first test of his mettle was in 1849 at the Battle of Chillianwala, where the British fended off the rebel Sikhs, and he later participated in the glorious victory over the rebels at Gujrat. Having helped preserve the Raj, Rasmussen remained as advisor to the Commissioner of the Punjab until he was sent to accompany an exploratory party that trekked the extent of the Persian Empire. After a 26-month expedition, the party ended up in Gombroon, where they spent some time more at the East India Company house, trading tobacco, drinking panch, and occasionally hanging Qawasim pirates.

Already well-versed in the magicks of the Mohammadeans, Rasmussen was made a liaison to the mages of the Sublime Porte when he was sent to the Crimea in 1854. He took shrapnel to the leg while shielding the thin red line at the Battle of Balaklava, but rather than leave the war, he was able to repair the bone using an Oriental healing spell. Fully recovered for the Siege of Sevastopol, he commanded the thaumaturgical effort that caused an entire Russian artillery regiment to be swallowed into a chasm. For his performance and gallantry he was brevetted-major and awarded medals by both Queen Victoria and Sultan Abdulmecid.

He served the rest of the war as an aide-de-camp to General FitzRoy Somerset, and then was sent back to Delhi to assist in putting down the Indian mutiny. In 1859, he was summed back to England to act as secretary to the Duke of Beaufort, who was anxious to make use of the young wizard’s skills at Whitehall. Sir George spent much of the next decade in the political realm, where he developed a name for himself among the “Wizard Peers,” who were becoming ever more opposed to the “Vicar Peers,” who favored the clergy. In 1870, he was given command of the 5th Merlin Regiment and returned to support the Raj.

Returning to London in 1873, Rasmussen found that the daughter of his good friend Sir Quincy Campbell, member of the House of Commons, was taken ill. In fact, she had been possessed by a demon. Sir Qunicy, not trusting the clergy any more than Rasmussen himself, requested that he be present during the exorcism.

 Something went terribly wrong. After a blind light and wrenching vortex, Rasmussen awoke on a strange plane in the body of a 10-year old girl. Though a very experienced wizard, he found that he has neither his full magical capacity, nor the ability to reliably use it.

Of course, George is still a foul-mouthed, battle hardened, and rather bloody-minded spellcaster. He also enjoys drink to a good degree, but tends to stick to feminine drinks, such as Champagne, out of consideration for little Julia, who he does hope will get her body back someday. He hates to think that the poor child is stuck with his gout.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Connections Wargaming Conference

There is little to no convergence of my professional life and my hobbies - likely because my hobbies include slaying orcs and casting Explosive Lightning. From time to time, however, I do get to play games at work, but sadly they have not yet included orcs.

Posting this plug on my blog is a rare crossover, though. If there are any serious military or academic grognards that happen to read this and are going to be at the Connections 2012 Wargaming Conference in Washington, DC, please let me know. I'll be there for a day or two.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bestiary: Abuca

 Since I need to populate Kimatarthi with things to kill PCs (or at least make things more interesting), I decided to run with some of the ideas I brought up in my previous post about artistic renderings of prehistoric animals. So, here's a first shot at attaching D6F stats and a description to a critter. I figured I might as well make it something that will ruin your night.


Few beasts in Kimatarthi strike as much fear into the hearts of travelers as the abuca. Also known as "Night Stalker" and "King of the Shadows," this fearsome beast hunts in the dead of night, and is rarely seen in the light. Silent and quick, the abuca has been known to snatch individuals from the midst of their camp, should they but stray too far into the shadows.

The Abuca: King of the Shadows (DiBgd)
The abuca shuns light and can usually be kept at bay by keeping a fire burning all night long. Unfortunately, hungry specimens have been known to overcome that fear without much difficulty. Indeed, few people can give an accurate description of one since nearly every encounter with an abuca is in darkness... and such encounters are usually as short as they are violent.

With its heavy paws and powerful jaws the abuca is a fearsome predator. An abuca will patiently stalk its prey, waiting for the right moment to strike. It will almost always strike at the back of its victim's neck in an effort to demobilize it and snap its neck with a violent shake. A victim that is successfully hit by this sneak attack will have to make a roll against the abuca's Fighting skill. Failure means that the beast has a solid hold on the victim's neck and will shake him until dead beginning the next round.

Number appearing: 1
Fighting: 5D+2
Dodge: 3D
Stealth: 7D
Wound levels: 3

Damage: Bite (5D+2); Claws (3D+1)
Special attack: Neck snap (6D) - automatic damage the round after a sneak attack, unless victim beats the abuca's Fighting roll. This damage will recur each round until the victim is dead or the abuca is compelled to release him.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Western Desert

Between Land's End and the High Mountain range is the Western Desert. It is an inhospitable land, rocky, barren, and chapped by vicious winds that blow from beyond the end of the world. Life here is sparse, existing only where it can find refuge in the crevasses and cracks amid the hills, canyons, and badlands. There are no cities, no goblins, no wandering tribes - only a hard expanse to be crossed as safely and expeditiously as possible. The only people in the Western Desert are but passing through.

It is an unfortunate fact of geography that the only way to travel between Kimatarthi's two population centers is through the desert. The Great Rift makes east-west travel impossible. For over a thousand years, Markaz has served as a departure point for caravans heading to the distant southern city of Bryss, and as an arrival point for those coming north and east. The journey can take nearly two weeks, though it is said that daring drivers know secret paths that will cut that time in half.

Scattered across the desert is a chain of caravanserais that serve as way-points for travelers making the arduous journey. Most are ancient structures, built hundreds of years ago. Though they serve as places to replenish water and trade with other travelers, they are little more than rough shelter from the night. 

Though many have traveled its expanses, the Western Desert remains a mysterious and foreboding place. The best worn paths often run very close to Land's End, and it is said that the wraiths and spirits that live in the mists beyond sometimes abandon their sanctuary, seeking human flesh. Indeed it is not unheard of for entire caravans to go missing in the desert and never return. It takes a certain mettle to make the journey, but those who do are those that can profit from being the lifeblood of the world's commerce.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

More Neigborhoods

Here are some more ideas for neighborhoods that I will use to flesh out the city of Markaz. These, along with the others, will provide a few areas to play around with in the beginning, with more to be added as needed.

Bakdunis Market
The biggest market in Markaz is (conveniently) named for the family that currently governs the city. The market is an enormous plaza paved with stones and crisscrossed by a network of market stands, and it sits at the foot of the cliffs, overlooked by the Citadel. Some parts of the market are more permanent structures of stone, wood, or mud, while others are clearly of the temporary canvas variety. At its heart is a huge fountain that is fed by one of the several springs that supplies Markaz. The fountain fills a cistern that spills into an aqueduct that flows down from the market to other neighborhoods. Every demographic in the city can be found here, as can anything that can be bought or sold - it's only a matter of price.

There's always a rug stand, isn't there? (Almosawi)

Gullytown is a slum that sits in a ravine between two wealthy, hilltop neighborhoods. An open sewer runs down the middle, fed by runoff and waste water from about half of the city. A large stone bridge flies high over the shanty, allowing more civilized folk to move between rich areas of town without having to mix with the poor. Many houses here seem to be little more than temporary shelters and they are piled nearly one on top of another. Walking from one end of Gullytown to another will often take you straight through someone's home. During the heavy rains that happen every year or two, the sewer is likely to overflow, killing lots of people. But usually, the high walls of the valley provide shelter from the sun and brutal heat of Kimatarthi.

Garden City
Home to many of the old merchants and elite families of Markaz, Garden City has been able to tap into the aquifers below the hill to provide water for old trees that line beautiful winding boulevards. Large estates and private homes are hidden behind high walls, and lush gardens and terraces provide the public shelter from the brutal heat of the day - unless you're not the right kind of public. It is one of the nice neighborhoods that hovers above Gullytown.

For centuries, Markaz has dumped its garbage at the base of the cliff just west of the Citadel. This area is now a sizable hill where many of the city's poor make a living sorting out reusable scraps from other refuse. Many of the residents live in ramshackle homes built on the rubble. Some of the older, more established families (who constitute an "elite" of their own) live in homes that are built into the hillside itself - though no one is quite sure if these were carved into the earth, or if the original structures were swallowed up by decades upon decades of rubbish.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microscope: Who Colonizes the Colonizers?

It turns out we were short a key person for our scheduled gaming session this weekend, so instead we pulled out Microscope.  It was an awesome session with the usual suspects.

At the outset, everyone wrote down two ideas for the Big Picture on index cards, and we compared them to see where there may be synergy. After four of five players suggested themes dealing with colonialism, we decided the big picture would be "Colonizers from a different world displace the native inhabitants."

It's hard to give a narrative of a Microscope game, since it really captures historical snapshots more than a consistent story. But here are some of the interesting moments we encountered along the way:

  • The colonizers, who arrived in generation ships, had super-human powers, and at least the colonial council (known as the League of the New Dawn) seemed to be dominated by super villains. This is what gave rise to the session's tagline: "Who colonizes the colonizers?"
  • We eventually determined that the natives were smallish, fuzzy and purple with flying squirrel-like membranes, vestigial displacer beast tentacles, and six fingers per hand. The supers derisively call them Lemmings, but we never came up with any other name. They are not exceedingly bright, but eventually learned how to imbue themselves with super traits which they used to massacre the colonists.
  • The colonists had names like Blue Duke, Hollow Johnny, Crystal Gale, and Neurolock. The "Lemmings" had terrible names that roughly paralleled those of their colonizers: Gut Hornet, Lt. Agent Orange Jar, and Mustard Love, for example. 
I'm freakin' Picasso.

  • While the poor Lemmings sat on hoards of unobtainium, which they made into beautiful jewelry, the supers needed it to enhance their abilities and ward off the dreaded Elker Plague. The Trail of Lemming Tears inevitably ensued.
  • One time the Lemmings managed to hijack a generation ship, only to crash it into a mountain! Lulz!

As is inevitable in Microscope, we discussed which eras we would like to run games in. Risus Monkey wanted to play in the Age of Exploration, when the supers arrive on the new world. Oddysey wanted to play during the war the Lemmings and humans fought against the supers. Personally, I'd like to explore the era when the Lemmings somehow get their own powers and seriously fight back against the colonists. Clearly the Monkey is in the idealized Marvel 1602 camp and while I'm over reading Orientalism with Oddysey.

Yeah, our group is kinda awesome like that.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Neighborhoods of Markaz

One thing that has fascinated me about every city I've ever visited is the proximity of diversity. In old cities and in cities that have seen rapid change, the style, look, and feel of each block can be different. Often, the difference is as varied as the number of buildings.

But it's not just cosmetic differences. In a huge city, within just a few blocks you can have completely different communities, different people, different social norms. Cities always have areas that are "off-limits" to certain groups and the difference of a few meters can be the difference between strangers and family. Cities are inherently high-context environments, and as such, they offer enormous opportunity for gaming scenarios.

I see my main city of Markaz as a scratchpad for all the amazing, awful, wonderful, horrible things that have fascinated me about cities. Here are some concepts for a few key areas in Markaz. I think these can serve as interesting locales for the PCs--at least initially--and others can be made up as needed.

The northernmost part of Markaz is the original settlement, which eventually grew into a fortress. It remains a walled town that overlooks the rest of the city. Citadel is home to the Palace, the townhouses and walled estates of the city's elite, and a number of fancy shopping and dining districts. Thought the original city walls and gates still stand, they are mainly used by the elites to make sure that no one too unsuitable is able to wander freely up the hill.

The Empty Quarters
Long ago, when the goblins laid siege to Markaz, they breached a portion the southernmost walls and laid waste to some parts of the city. Since that time, those areas have been taboo and even the poorest of the city are loathe to live there. That does not mean the area is devoid of activity, though. A great deal of nefarious activity takes place in the Empty Quarters, and goblins still live like vermin in burrows between the abandoned buildings. It has become a lawless area, convenient for those who want to avoid attention.

This neighborhood is positioned between the city's Eastern Gate and the hill that leads up to the Citadel. Not surprisingly, Barracks gets its name because the City Guard barracks are here. With so many young soldiers running around, it should also come as no surprise that many of the cities finest boozing, gambling, and whoring establishments are also here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Plugs for Peeps!

It's been a crazy week, and I've barely been able to find time to write these 100 words.

But it's totally worth mentioning that a member of my gaming family has published a small module via Occult Moon! Occult Moon's Toys for the Sandbox series puts out sharp, compact, flexible scenarios that are completely system neutral, so they can be incorporated into any campaign.

Captain's Logs from the Sandbox 03: The Mining Colony on Elkos IV is one of these modules that can be dropped into any space opera campaign. Set on a mysterious ice planet, it lays out several different scenario options, complications, twists, and characters--plenty of fodder to help any GM plan her next game... or help out on those last minute, fly by your knickers nights.

Go download it from RPG Now - Now!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Prehistoric Fauna

There’s an art to using prehistoric animals as templates for beasties in a campaign. Unless you’re actually running a “Lost World” style adventure, you run the risk of diluting the theme of your own campaign. I’m all in favor of dino campaigns, but sometimes that’s not what you want. All you really want is a cool looking animal that makes your campaign exotic and unique without using a xorn or some other ultra-fantastic critter.

I bring it up because Jeff of gameblog fame pulls this off perfectly in his recent Doom of the Jaredites campaign. In an epic move, he casts chalicothere as the Jaredites’ cureloms, which he re-envisions as a kind of pack-ape—and everything about that is pretty freakin’ awesome. His entire campaign concept is downright inspired, I might add.

I’ve also looked to prehistoric animals to populate the wilderness of my campaign. My challenge is that Kimatarthi is a world that is only slowly coming to realize that it is a high-fantasy world. So while there are some built-in fantastic elements—like the edge of the world that drops off into mist—I want these to be modest enough that they could be dismissed as mundane—in other words, the Perfectly Normal Beast phenomenon. I want variety beyond wolves, lions, honey badgers, etc., but I don’t want wyverns, either. So the kinds of imaginary beasts I’m leaning towards are stirges, slives (from Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera), large spiders, an occasional roc – fictional, but non-magical beasties.

Prehistoric animals fit this bill, too… as long as they don’t look too prehistoric. Lots of prehistoric animals have a look that just screams “Lost World,” but that's not what I want. No saber-toothed cats for me—they’re too iconic. Instead, I like these guys.

Pakicetus: ancient whale, wandering monster (ArthurWeasley)
The pakicetus (which will have a different name) fits the bill. It has a unique look without being too Lost World. Even though these were probably amphibious in real life, I’ll make them into very clever pack hunters. The pic is just a cool way to add flavor. For additional coolness, this thing’s decedents evolved into whales! How awesome is that?

Patriofelis: rock-climbing dire otter (DiBgd)
I also like patriofelis because it looks like some kind of rock-climbing dire otter. This works well with all of the rocky regions that define Kimatarthi. It’s catlike, but definitely not a cat. Again, it’s the look and the flavor that appear to me.

At some point in the future, I’ll flesh these out with stats and give them a run. I’ll do the same with the slives, which are pretty badass.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The City of Mudun

Real life is still a bit hectic with a new addition to the family. I've only just made it back to the gaming table after hiatus of two and a half months. (There's a good write-up of our session here.) Hopefully, I'll get in more game time and more blog time. I've been asked to do some more posts that describe my world of Kimatarthi and lay off the mechanics for a bit. ...ok, so it was my lovely (but non-gaming) wife who made the request, but I thought it a wise suggestion anyhow. Hey - I have at least one regular reader!

The City of Mudun

Like most cities, Mudun was destroyed in the Goblin War. Anyone who didn’t flee met an unspeakably brutal end. The city was sacked, and only a vacant, crumbling shell was left. It remained like that for several decades until an exodus known as the Great Rebuilding. The overcrowding, disease, and poor quality of life in Markaz eventually began to create agitation and instability in the city. Desperate, the rulers organized a military campaign to retake Mudun and reestablish a human presence east of the Lowlands. It was the last great Bakdunis campaign against the goblins. After clearing the city and the surrounding area, thousands of civilians were sent to reestablish Mudun.

The original city sat on either side of a river, but the goblin threat is still very real and Mudun is a frontier town. To bolster the defenses, the rebuilt Mudun exists only to the  north of the river, and all but one bridge connecting the banks were destroyed. On the south side of the river is the scarred and crumbling ruins of the old civilization… and the vast majority of the region’s wealth.

Mudun was chosen as the first city to rebuild because of its proximity to arable land, pastures, and mineral resources. Yet the sheer number of goblins continues to make access to these resources perilous. Each day just before dawn the Bridge Gate is opened, and people flood across to do their work in goblin territory. Each evening at dusk the gate is locked again. It makes work life difficult, but it is the only way to preserve the city from the ever-present goblin danger, as those unfortunate souls who are occasionally stranded on the wrong side of the river would attest if only they could be found.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hit Points and Consequences

Risus Monkey wrote recently about the utility of using consequences as a component of games. While he was talking specifically about Risus, it’s a useful tool that can be used in a wide variety of narrative games, and one that I’ve incorporated into my own “D6F” house rules.
The way I’ve chose to do it, however, is a bit of an experiment, so I’m excited to see how it flies in game play. While the standard options for gameplay are usually either use a stress scale with consequences or use hit points, I choose both. I want to have my hit points and eat them, too. Here’s how it’ll work:

All characters have hit points. But whenever a character takes damage, her player will have the option to take that damage as a consequence comparable to the amount of hit point damage, rather than as actual hit points. So, for example, she could opt for either “Stunned” or 3 points of damage, “Busted arm (Wounded)” or 7 points, “Incapacitated” or 20 points, etc.

Consequences are taken as a temporary Aspect, but the severity of the consequence determines how long the Aspect persists. I haven’t worked out an exact scale yet, but something like “Stunned” will only last a round or two, whereas “Incapacitated” could last several weeks or months of game time. It could even lead to a permanent Aspect, such as “Gammy leg” or "Hook" if it were serious enough.

Buster should have taken the damage...
I anticipate that players will choose to take light consequences early in the fight, since they will wear off quickly, and more serious consequences only when their characters are truly threatened with death. Effectively, this will give players a way to avoid death by a thousand paper cuts and hopefully lead to bigger, more dramatic climactic battles. At least that’s the idea.

There may very well be good reasons why system designers give the option to do either a scale or hit points. Maybe it gets too complicated during actual play. Who knows? The only way to find out is game testing. It seems totally manageable, though, and should bring some interesting, imaginative, and fun choices to the table.

Friday, May 18, 2012

On Points

As I discussed in my last post, I’ll be using an Open D6 + FATE rules combo (D6F) for my upcoming Kimatarthi campaign. One of the main points of convergence that I see is in the use of Character Points (or FATE points, as it were…). In both systems, points can be spent to gain bonuses, modify scenes, or otherwise moderately impact the game narrative.  As per the Open D6 rules, D6F will manifest the bonuses as an extra wild die added for each character point spent, and will also use Character Points for character development. As per FATE, spending a Character Point will be related to a character’s Aspects. Where D6 and FATE depart is in how the points are earned, so this gives me some room for tinkering.

In D6F, I see three ways to earn Character Points. The inclusion of Aspects, as per FATE, gives players the ability to earn character points when their Aspects are compelled or when they create in-game drama. Character Points will also be earned for successfully completing adventures and otherwise moving the story along. But the third way to earn points is ripped from a totally different source – Old School Hack.

Oh yes. In addition to normal rewards and compels, character points will also be distributed by the players, among the players like Awesome Points in OSH. Because who doesn’t love a bowlful of awesome? Our group loves OSH, and part of what makes the sessions so much fun is chucking candy rewards at each other for entertaining the rest of us.  Awesome points keep players engaged in the story, keep them striving to perform, and provide serious incentive for the players to work as a group. Too often in games, players tune out their comrades while planning out their next perfect, damage-dealing move – something that it impossible if you need to keep your teammates invested in your character to level up. Awesome Points are one of the crowning features of OSH, and I really think they will contribute to the fun factor of any campaign.

Friday, May 11, 2012

D6F - Playing to Disadvantages (and Advantages)

As noted in my previous post, I’ve decided to run my campaign with a base D6 rule set, but with some good stuff from FATE grafted on - a beast I like to call D6F. The main thing I’m taking from FATE is the use of Aspects, which describe what a character is like, and give bonuses for using them in relevant situations.

The D6 system does have a similar mechanic in its use of Advantages and Disadvantages, but I find it unsatisfying. There are a lot of systems that incorporate the idea of character flaws into the game, but do so for the purposes of character depth only. FATE, on the other hand, makes disadvantages a critical part of game play and players are rewarded with FATE points for making their lives more difficult. So there’s a payoff beyond plain game flavor.

Take, for example, my character in our GURPS Knights of the Astral Seas game. I took a handful of disadvantages in order to get a few more character creation points, but they basically mean nothing now. Honestly, I’m not even sure what they are off the top of my head because I don’t ever use them. There’s no penalty for not playing them, and when I have role-played to them, it has often felt like a forced non-sequitur.

To its credit, D6 does give the Advantages/Disadvantages rule set some real in game purpose, but at the end of the day, it's still just a matter of character depth. I’m a real believer that human behavior responds to incentives—both in the free market economy and in gaming.

So, by making the D6 Advantage/Disadvantages into FATE Aspects, the mechanic will become an active part of play. What does this mean? Well, FATE’s FATE Points easily become the D6 Character Points (note: don’t confuse FATE Points with the D6 system’s Fate Points – ugh.) Players in my D6F system will have to spend character points to invoke the advantage of an Aspect they have. Similarly, they will earn Character Points for invoking a disadvantage or by subjecting themselves to a compel.

But wait – there’s more! In the D6 system, Character Points are not only used for doing cool stuff during the game, they are the mechanism for character development. So by taking disadvantages and creating more trouble for themselves during play, the players will actually be earning points to build their skills and attributes.

So now, instead of simply having to play out a character’s “Misogynist” Aspect with periodic derisive comments, they can actually earn Character Points to buy new skills or do awesome stuff simply by reminding the GM that bartering with the lady shopkeep may not go as smoothly as anticipated.

I think this blend of the systems nicely captures the best mechanics of both. Naturally, there are a number of corollaries that follow from this marriage, so stay tuned!

Monday, April 30, 2012

And the System is...

One of the reasons I decided to start this blog was to give me an outlet to think critically about turning my imagined campaign setting into an actual campaign. One of the biggest matters I had to resolve was figuring out which system I wanted to use to play it. So I’ve been thinking about it for the past two months, and I think I’ve made up my mind.

The verdict is in: I plan to use D6 Fantasy, augmented with some narrative FATE rules. Since everyone who blogs has to make up terms and systems and stuff, I’m going to call this hybrid system of mine D6F (pretty clever, eh?).

D6 is pretty basic, but the main thing I added from the FATE system is the use of Aspects that will replace the Advantages and Disadvantages of D6, and be central to doing cool stuff and leveling up. I plan to expound on how it all will work in subsequent posts, but let me first explain why I’m keen on D6 Fantasy as my base system.

I’m familiar with it and it's easy

D6 is a super-easy, skill-based gaming system. Having played the old Star Wars D6 back in the day, I always found it to be straightforward and playable. We even recruited several non-gamers to play with us, which I attribute to both the accessibility of the system and our group’s general awesomeness (“Trust me, no one on Coruscant will be looking for a shaved Bothan!”). I also tried to adapt it to a fantasy setting a few years before West End Games published the D6 Fantasy rule set. It wasn’t nearly as good, but it also didn’t lose nearly as much money. (Sorry. Too soon?)

It’s cinematic, yet narrative

One of the great things about the D6 system is that it lends itself to quick-action, cinematic games. This is why I recently suggested it to Oddysey for her Summer ’11 Grimdark, Cyberpunk, Racing Campaign (HAWT!). While the system inherently leaves room to incorporate as much or as little narrative gaming as the group would like, I hope encourage more of this by grafting on the FATE rules.

…And flexible

Like many narrative games, there is ample space for players to develop the characters they want without being tightly bound by preset templates. Want to play a Fighter or Assassin? Sure. Want to play a Samurai Landscape Artist, a Mind-Flayer Graham Cracker Merchant, or Cthulhu’s Tech Support (so he can place that Call)? No problem! This will surely make people like Risus Monkey happy, but it also avoids the “Risus death spiral” that irks some folks I game with.

It's got plenty of dice rollin'

I like rolling dice. I like rolling eight dice at a time. I like exploding wild dice.  I like being able to cash in points to buy more exploding wild dice – even if they all only have six sides. Unlike some narrative games, there is still plenty of crunchiness in the D6 rules that means lots of dice to roll for skills and difficulty levels and stuff.

It has open-ended, skill-based rules for magic

Here’s the big one. D6 Fantasy outlines four basic magic skills that govern casting, and the players are given considerable leeway to determine how their spells manifest. However, the system is flexible enough that totally different casting skills can be used. This is important because magic in my world is a new and unknown phenomenon. It will be rare and uncertain at the beginning of the campaign, but I want to give the players enough freedom to explore and invent their own ways of tapping into the arcane. I think the simplicity and flexibility of this system will give my players considerable room for interesting and creative innovation.

D6 uses metric!

To hell with you and your 5’ squares! Who needs 25 square feet of personal space, anyhow? It’s all about meters and liters and grams, baby. It’s the only way to measure.

I’m pretty excited to give this a whirl, and I look forward to discussing how this will work in coming posts. In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions, I’m happy to hear them!