More ideas clamouring for attention

So here’s a little overview of what’s currently bubbling in my head:

A game set in a world where the Roswell Incident was the site of Earth’s first extraterrestrial encounter, not a crash. Ship landed, aliens surveyed and encountered locals, contacted mothership and decided to stay. It is now the 70s or 80s (or now, not really decided). Something like District 13 meets Blaxploitation meets Alien Nation (with some Space Precinct thrown in for fun).

Roman Pathfinder, as mentioned in my last post, nominally called Republic. Still working out the kinks with different races and stuff.

A hard sci-fi game has popped up and is bubbling away, though I don’t know if anything worth talking about will come of it. It’s nothing special, just something I think would be fun.

A game centred around a Barony, or group of Baronies. Something like Game of Thrones, so I may just look at Song of Ice and Fire and hope. It’s mostly just a warcry of ‘For the Baronies!’ at present.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the old Cyberpunk game I played a lot of (but haven’t for about a year now). It was a hack together by a friend of the old World of Darkness system, as well as the Cyberpunk 2020 rules. He was calling it everything from Farpunk to just Punk, given his other groups had managed to get lost in space. I think really I want to resolve what was happening when we finished the session: I had been given a secret task, and then during play it became apparent I had to issue a ‘GO!’ order in front of other players. My mission: full-scale attack on a school for potentially psionic children. One of the group’s characters was also on the grounds at the time, and it became a race for the other players to stop the attack, whilst I tried to make sure they never made it.
Did I mention I was a crimelord and everyone else was a cop? Fun times.

Roman D&D – Republic

The default setting for D&D (and Pathfinder) is medieval, and it’s a fantasy world we all know pretty well, and understand.
A few years ago, I got to play in a Roman-influenced game, and it was a lot of fun. We fought undead in the north, surrounded by Gaul-like people, then headed back south to the capital, then crossed an ocean towards the Persian-style place. I’m told there was even room for some Greek island hopping, which we never got around to.

I’ve been daydreaming for about a year about my own Roman setting, and how I would do it. Let’s call it Republic for now. It would be my first foray in Pathfinder if I ran it, because I’d like to see how the play is different to D&D 3/3.5, and I’ve never actually sat down to it before.

Since Republic isn’t Rome, but Rome-influenced fantasy, we still need to cover the bases. Let’s start with classes. The four base classes are pretty easy to cover.
Fighters could be former Legionaries, or some form of auxiliary, or what have you.
Clerics might need to be renamed as ‘Priests’. We’ll argue later over whether we run with Christian Rome as the influence or not later.
Rogues would work, but would likely be made up of a lot of commoners, maybe indentured slaves (escaped or otherwise).
Wizard is where it gets tricky. I like the idea of scholars, but I don’t know how well Wizard fits. A scholarly Sorcerer would work just as well (though maybe the influence of that old game is at work here, since that’s how the setting worked).

Of the other classes, Druids and Barbarians fit, filling the roles of Fighter and Cleric. Monk and Paladin have less of a fit, Bard and Sorcerer are more of a variant of how the Rogue and Wizard might play. I’m still fiddling details in my head. Ranger would be the equivalent of scouts in the Legions, or might be woodsmen and hunters, and certainly fit well with the Druid and Barbarian mentioned above too.

The only other things that might fit are Pathfinder’s Oracle (inspired by Rome after all), possibly the Alchemist, Magus and Witch. I’m still not sure if they’re really needed.

Ok, now for some trickier parts – PC Races.
I’m pretty sure that the Dwarfs as trade partners to the north would fit pretty well, and something about Elves being some kind of Sylph would be interesting (it’s what I’m already doing with my Kingsmead setting after all). Gnomes and Halflings seem like they’d be an easy fit too, though might be best expressed as more urban/less rural cousinds of the Dwarves and Elves.
Do the Half Orc and Half Elf races fit? At a push. Again, more to twiddle there.

After that, limiting equipment is all that really takes precedence. I’ve got some ideas for where and why the PCs would adventure, and who doesn’t prefer the idea of the PCs meeting in a taverna, rather than a pub? Right?

The Nobles and their houses

I’ve been saying I’ll do this for a while, but I never got around to it. No time like the present.

So far, the only Noble households I’ve bothered with are Hawksmoore, Foxworthy, Mandeville, Wenlock and Dabbler. A great many of the nobles are resentful that upstarts with money are now able to buy themselves power and a title, but such is the way of the world.

The Hawksmoores have been the hereditary heads of the city of Queenstown, culminating in the current Margrave, Thomas Hawksmoore. They are also responsible for the manufacturing of any weapons and armour that the Queenstown Militia may need, and own a number of foundries and blacksmiths.

The Foxworthys made their money decades ago, and are heavily invested in the shipping and banking industries. Roughly a quarter of all ships coming into Queenstown are something to do with the Foxworthy family, and they own and lease a great many of the warehouses that merchants use.
Alistair Foxworthy is the current head of the Queenstown Bank, and a great many people are in his pocket because of this. His wife, Melody, is a portly woman with exotic and expensive tastes in food and clothing.

The old warhorse that is Lord Mandeville is an aging old coot, but his much younger wife is the real powerhouse of the family. She manages to keep the family well to do despite little or no industrial connection. Rumoured to be involved in the vice trade in some way, the Mandevilles themselves have no idea the levels that their matriarch has fallen to in order to keep their political clout. A great many of the Queenstown Senators are in the Mandeville pocket.
(A certain barmaid in Kingsmead may or may not be the missing daughter of Lord and Lady Mandeville, as their youngest ran away from home several months ago…)

The Wenlocks officially own the Northwood, the woods outside the North Gate of Queenstown where the nobles do all of their hunting. They own several lodges within the wood that can also be rented.
Always well educated, members of the family do have a habit of long stretches without being seen. It is thought that they travel about the world, and this is true. However, there may or may not be a connection with the Circle, a group of thieves and assassins that prowls the town at night, particularly the rooftops. There’s even a rumour coming out of the port that a similar group operates in the distant City of Festivals, and in the capital of the Northern Imperial Republic.

The Dabblers are a family of new money, having traded their way up to the Noble Estates in the past few decades. Their money comes from various businesses including tanning, shipping, the silk and spice trades, even tinkering and magical services.
Most other nobles resent them and their ability to do well with money. They owe a lot of their success to good dealings with Stonekin both in and out of Queenstown. Their presence in the Senate is still lacking in numbers, despite such a large amount of financial control of the city.

How’s that folks? Sound fun so far?

Spex and Google Glass

If you’ve not seen Google Glass yet (seriously, where have you been hiding), it’s basically a wearable computer that uses an augmented reality (AR) overlay to show various tasks and options and things.

Why is this exciting? You may recall a while ago I wrote a couple of posts about future software, designed to flow into the setting I was then playing around with in Greg Christopher’s Synapse rules. Why was this exciting? Spex.

Spex were the worn computers, offering the same overlay. Instead of the tiny screen just above an eye though, they had a flicker filter so that they’d opaque when on, or repeatedly (similar to how some 3D glasses work these days). They’d work with voice controls, eye gestures, could be hooked up to old-school systems with real keyboards and extra screens, could be used to immerse in virtual environments, and as I understood them also used an AR keyboard system (remember Johnny Mnemonic?), similar to the gesture controls.
But perhaps most importantly, the programs were less like Microsoft Word and Excel and more like Siri – a user was a manager of their bunch of programs, and the programs do all the heavy lifting and working.

I’ve still not covered the setting in more detail (expect that later in the week, I no longer really mind if players skip ahead), but it was basically the near future of Earth, with some fun tools that made it slightly different. Biodegradable ‘wet-tech’ – phones with throat mikes that slapped on like plasters on the neck, e-ink newspapers that would be used up and recyclable after a week of streaming updates.

I’ll tease that it’s the sort of stuff you’d expect from Ken Macleod’s writing…

A quick design breakdown

I thought today, since I’ve been thinking about it for a while, I’d do a quick design breakdown of the DiceBenedict system that I’ve been toying with. Specifically, where I stole a bunch of ideas from.

So originally it spawned from the idea of a system built using only d12s, but after looking at how the probability curve behaved, I wanted to try it with some other die types. And yeah, it worked OK for most of them (I’m still not sure how well d4s work, but I don’t know if I need to worry overly much about them at this stage).

I’ve dropped the term ‘Aspects’ to describe part of a character, given that the character dice modifiers are all derived from the Aspects part of the FATE system. The idea of using various different facets for character modifiers comes from a bunch of gaming, but I think FATE had a lot to do with it. For a while, I contemplated them as adding additional dice, but I didn’t like that mechanic. Safer to stick with just the pair of dice, makes things a lot easier!

So we have the character modifiers and scene modifiers. That’s also another little nod to FATE, which had location Aspects that could be tagged for bonuses to dice rolls.
Limiting how many character modifiers could be tagged came around early, realising that a character would have a whole hoard of stuff they could use (and therefore skew the probability way off). The limit being specific to the dice used is new. It seems to have worked in play tests so far.

Spin points come from a variety of sources: FATE points, the honour pool in John Wick’s ‘Blood and Honor‘, but also from Action Points in Dungeons and Dragons (and actually from d20 Modern, which I enjoyed playing the crap out of about 6-7 years ago). I liked the idea of the group as a whole having to manage the resource.

SFX/manoeuvres come around from FATE too (I owe them a bunch really, it seems). But they’re also I think tied to the magic system in D&D (specifically the old multi-round casting times), and the similar system in Legend of the 5 Rings.

How combat handles has yet to really come across (playtesting it a bunch tomorrow afternoon), but I think it owes at least a nod to Feng Shui, or it will do once my first player breaks the system – he has told me his first character advancement will involve making his spells quicker, so he can cast every turn including the first, if he so wishes, and can boost effects quicker.
The loss of parts of the character came from a one-on-one playtest of the 6d6 system last year. Characters being hindered by their pain made sense to me, and certainly struck a chord with other games I’d seen with permanent damage hindering the character in the future (Legend of the 5 Rings, Vampire: the Masquerade and Blood and Honor all jump into my mind thinking about it, and the Dresden Files RPG – FATE again – has a nasty trade-off with a permanent character aspect change in some circumstances).

Overall, I think the focus is on a more story-driven game, which is what I play these days, and even how the D&D and Cyberpunk sessions I’ve played in recent years have gone. I don’t know whether this is because I’ve had more exposure to that kind of game, but I know I’ve tried to have a decent narrative background going back as far as I remember. Whether the rest of the group was playing that way or not. I think I’ve started playing with groups who follow that idea more.

Maybe I’ll play something quick and nasty soon and the rules will take a swing in that direction. We’ll see. I’ve yet to work out the best way to resolve combat damage, so maybe it will get brutal and deadly.

Races of the Old Crown

Well, I’ve more or less finished the races. Here’s some blurb on them. I hope they whet your appetite some.

Menfolk are a youthfully active and opportunistic race, and a great many empires and kingdoms that cover the face of the world are led by Menfolk.
They make their homes in all terrains, among all other races.

Menfolk vary plenty in size and complexion, though normally fall between 5 and 6 and a half feet tall, ranging in skin tone from a deep rich brown to an almost alabaster pink. Their hair ranges from black to white, through various shades of brown, though their eyes show the greatest diversity.
This diversity is perhaps one of their greatest strengths, and (though far from unknown) they tend to be the least xenophobic of all the races of the world.

Sometimes seen as brash and impulsive by the more stoic and pensive races, they are nonetheless useful to the world, each other, and the other races in countless upon countless ways.

Renowned as warriors, and raised from a young age to follow a millenia-old culture of warrior nobility, the Draken resemble nothing is not upright lizards. Their ancient Draken Empire was one of the first to form following the fall of the Oon, but is now also long since gone itself.

Adult Draken stand between 6 and 7 feet tall. Their leathery skin is covered in fine scales ranging in hue from green to gold to red to blue, often mottled with patterns of other colours. The scalles are noticeably larger in a ridge from the nose to the back of the head, and on down the back.
Draken have a short tail, and their three-toed feet end in claws. Occassionally, elder Draken grow a bony protrusions from their cheeks, and behind their flat ears.

Known as a proud and noble people, they often cut an imposing figure through crowds. Questioning a Draken’s honour will usually result in a brief but brutal physical attack, and sometime death.

Notable NPC Draken:
Candle, Sheriff of Kingsmead

The Giantkin are a race of hardy, muscled and above all tall beings with a connection to the primal forces of nature.

Usually dwelling in mountains and scrubland, the scattered tribes of the Giantkin vie with each other for territory, when they aren’t engaged in similar struggles with neighbouring tribes of other races.
They thrive on their competitive nature in almost all things; a Giantkin marketplace is rife with angry bickering and bartering.

Standing between eight and ten feet tall, their skin is the colour of their mountain homeland – mottled brown and grey. Their skin is thick, and leathery, and their frames are always tight with muscles beneath it.
During puberty, the lower canines of males tend to grow to become small tusks, whilst the upper canines in both sexes become much more pronounced.
They typically wear their hair in long braids, and wear the warpaint of their clan upon their faces (warrior or not).
Giantkin have life spans comparable to those of Humans.

Anything that can be conceived as a challenge invites Giantkin to keep score, tracking their progress against both their comrades and themselves. A sellsword might remark on how many times he has drawn first blood in battle, and he’s certainly mentally tracking his own performance in open warfare against those stories of his tribal ancestors.
This competitiveness can take the form of good-natured rivalry or of angry, spittle-driven argument. As a race they have no patience for cheaters, gloaters, or sore losers, but can be very hard on themselves when they fail to measure up to their own past accomplishments.
Daring that borders on foolhardiness is also a common trait.

They have no fear of heights, climbing sheer mountain cliffs and leaping great chasms with ease. Their nomadic lifestyle of hunting and gathering instills in them an inquisitive interest in whatever lies over the next ridge or at the head of a canyon. To a wandering hunter’s mind, that curiosity can lead to better hunting grounds or a good water source that would otherwise go undiscovered.

Whilst they have no real track with the worship of gods, they revere the spirits of nature and their ancestors, honouring them in songs and sagas that date back hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Their wise men, called spirit-speakers, seek to bring them closer to the natural world in every way that they can.
Their chiefs lead from the fore in battle, although most of their warriors seek to lead in this manner.

The Wode are a furred, horned race, somewhat shorter than Menfolk. They are often seen as primitive, and their tribes squabble for resources both among themselves and their neighbours.

Wode are as prolific as Menfolk, but as a people they’re less creative and more prone to warlike behavior.
Wode live in the wild places of the world, although they are also prone to staying close enough to settlements; they like to prey on trade caravans and unwary travelers.
The chieftain of a Wode tribe is usually the strongest member, though some chieftains rely on guile or mystical might more than martial strength.

A Wode’s skin is often sallow, with eyes ranging the same gamut as Menfolk. Big, pointed ears stick out from the sides of the head, and prominent sharp teeth sometimes jut from the mouth. Wode have coarse, wiry hair across their entire body, ranging from dark to light brown.
Their horns can be similar to deer, goats or rams.

In recent centuries, the Golem have appeared in and around the Old Crown. Whilst not frequently seen, they are at least known.
Constructed from articulated plates of metal, wood, or clay, the Golem seem to be ancient servants of the Oon, who after millenia have awakened to the potential of sentience. Most modern scholars believe an Ascended must have had a hand in this sudden change, though they do not know which, or whether the god continues to exist.

They stand at about 5 feet when made of wood, 6 when made of clay and 7 when made of metal. They have eyes that are glowing points of light, of varying hues. They repair naturally over time, in the same way that other races heal, though like other races the process is not perfect. A buckled metal leg may heal crooked, and a severed limb seldom grows back as more than a stump.

Originally arriving from the City of Festivals, the Golem have integrated into the Old Crown easily. They vary in personality, but are usually seen as friendly enough, if a little lacking in personality.

Notable Golem NPCs:
Captain Truth, Queenstown Guardsman