This is something I’m working on. It’s complete at the moment, but I wouldn’t say it’s done. For one thing, it took me all of 20 minutes to finish. For another, I haven’t playtested it at all. It was just something that took hold of my brain, and I had to get it out of my head. Take a look at it, post comments, give feedback, etc.
So this is what a playbook looks like in Wetwork, at least at this point in time.
Wary eyes, always looking this way and that. Hyperactive and excitable. Wears muted, plain clothing.
Violence +0, Dishonesty +1, Paranoia +2, Training +2
When you discover a hidden threat that nobody else sees, get 1 XP.
Cocky, flamboyant, hates authority. Kind of an asshole. Thinks he’s invincible.
Violence +3, Dishonesty +0, Paranoia +0, Training +2
When you aggressively defy someone else’s authority, get 1 XP.
Kid’s a fucking kleptomaniac. Don’t trust a word out of his mouth.
Violence +1, Dishonesty +3, Paranoia -1, Training +2
When you take something you shouldn’t have, get 1 XP.
When you use your brain to talk to a machine . . .
. . . if you’re making it do something violent or destructive, roll+Violence.
. . . if you’re using its awareness, roll+Paranoia.
. . . if you’re spoofing it or bypassing it, roll+Dishonesty.
On a 10+, it does it, no problem. On a 7-9, it does it but pick one.
• It does it in a noisy, inconvenient, or half-assed way.
• Someone detects your intrusion.
• It turns against you when you’re done.
Pick one to start. Pick another every time you earn 6 XP.
+1 Violence (max +3)
+1 Violence (max +3)
+1 Dishonesty (max +3)
+1 Dishonesty (max +3)
+1 Paranoia (max +3)
+1 Paranoia (max +3)
Teen Angst: When you’re Emotional, take +2 forward whenever you spend Reckless.
Detailed Files: When you roll 12+ on Technopathic Implant, get 1 Prepared.
Addict: You start every mission with 1 upper, and you can buy additional uppers with cash, 1-for-1. When you pop an upper, take +1 ongoing but give the GM 3 Drugged. The GM can spend Drugged, 1-for-1, to do the following. When the GM is out of Drugged, your upper wears off and you lose its bonus. Now you’re Exhausted.
• You flinch or hesitate at a critical moment. Take -2 forward.
• You see something that isn’t there, and can’t tell the difference.
• You overreact to something in a really unfortunate way.
Just a Kid: +1 to Coerce when you’re trying to get someone to underestimate you in some way.
Small and Skinny: +1 to Avoid Entanglements when you’re trying to fit through tight spaces.
Misunderstood Rage: When you’re Emotional, get +1 Lethal whenever you use Takedown, even on a miss.
Last week I went to Gen Con and, as usual, it was awesome. I got to see a bunch of friends I don’t get to see very often, I got to hang out with the Steve Jackson Games crew, getting to know them before I start working there, and I got to play in and run some great games. I’ll go through the latter, in no particular order.
I got a chance to run Becoming for a group of people, some of whom were backers, and it was great. It didn’t quite fit in the 2-hour slot because of some table chatter that took up time (explaining rules, talking about where the story should be going, and some confusion on how much to ask for in a bargain), but it was a success none the less. We played the “Exodus” Quest, and it was a lot of fun.
I also ran the “The Witching Hour” Quest for Clark and Amanda Valentine and John Adamus before the con started, and that was quite a lot of fun. One of the players even told me about having had nightmares about the game afterward, which I take as a good sign.
Aliens vs. Jedi
I ran this Fate Accelerated hack for some people and we all had a blast. Pro tip: if you call a thing “Aliens vs. Jedi” and let people make their own characters, they will all make Jedi. Every one of them. Seriously, there was not a droid or smuggler or starship pilot in the group. The closest thing we had to a non-Jedi was a mechanic-turned-Jedi.
The game took place between episodes III and IV, during the rise of the Empire and the formation of the Rebel Alliance. The players were a rebel crew, basically an independently operating cell of rebels who would occasionally phone home to central command, but mostly operated on their own. They were charged with rescuing another rebel crew from an Imperial detention facility in a remote system. When they got there, they found that it was both a detention facility and a research facility, and that the subjects of the research (the xenomorph) had gotten out. Chaos ensued. Jedi died and turned to the Dark Side during the course of the adventure. Very satisfying.
Carolina Death Crawl
Jason Morningstar’s Carolina Death Crawl is a game about southern Union soldiers who get separated from their unit, trapped behind enemy lines after having just gone through the state burning, looting, and pillaging. It’s a card-based RPG designed for one-shots and, as with many of Morningstar’s games, it’s dark and moody in the best way possible. Highly recommended.
Jason Pitre’s Spark is a really interesting RPG that does a couple of things really well. First, it focuses on what PCs believe, and the only way to advance your character is to confront those beliefs and either confirm or refute them in some way. Second, I really like the way the conflict mechanic interacts with scene framing. Scene framing is a collaborative affair, with different players at the table taking responsibility for different facets of framing. Those who don’t participate in framing get to introduce and control NPCs, which is fun. The way Spark defines a conflict is simple: when two players at the table disagree about what happens next, there’s a conflict. The other players at the table get to support the participants, abstain, or introduce their own version of what happens, rolling against the other participants.
The Demolished Ones
The Demolished Ones came out at Gen Con, and is available now, so I ran a four-hour session of it at Games on Demand. It was a rousing success. The players loved the setting, loved Fate, and loved the amnesia conceit and its impact on character creation. A couple of them spotted the heavy Dark City influence on the game, and loved that too.
I recently read the most recent iteration of the D&D Next playtest, and was pleasantly surprised. I’ll breeze past the part where I thought it was very good, because that’s not what this post is about. This post is about knowledge skills.
D&D Next handles knowledge skills in a way I kind of dig. You get one or more fields of lore; these are things like Religious Lore, Forbidden Lore, Military Lore, Cultural Lore (in a specific culture or region), and so forth. When you make a roll to recall something related to one of your fields of lore, you get a +10 to the roll.
I like this for two reasons. First, it’s easy to adjudicate and there’s some amount of overlap. Want to recall something about an Aundarian general who held a particular pass for six days against overwhelming odds? That’s Military Lore, or it could be Cultural Lore (Aundair). Easy. Just pick an applicable field of lore and move on.
The other reason I like it is the +10 bonus. Seems high, right? It feels a bit like a tacit acknowledgement that failing knowledge rolls is usually just a null result that adds nothing to the story.
“I want to recall how to read these runes! I roll a . . . 5.”
“You can’t read them.”
The +10 bonus doesn’t ensure success, but it makes it very likely, and it’s a nice reward for investing in a knowledge skill.
All of this has given me an idea for another system of knowledge skills, one that doesn’t require any rolling at all. It goes like this:
When you create your character or level or whatever, you pick some number of Lore Skills. Lore Skills are things like Tactics, Arcane Lore, Religion, Underworld Savvy, or whatever. Things that your characters can know. When you want to recall a bit of information relating to a Lore Skill you have, you do. No roll. Having the Lore Skill means you know information relating to it, and not having the Lore Skill means you don’t.
But what about things that are really obscure? That’s where the Misinformation rule comes in. Sometimes the player stretches the bounds of a Lore Skill. Sometimes a particular bit of knowledge is known to too few people for it to reasonably be recalled, even if it would fall under the purview of a Lore Skill the player has. Sometimes you just want to make things . . . interesting.
When you want to, you can employ the Misinformation rule, which goes like this: I’m going to give you 25XP (or whatever, depending on the XP scale in the system you’re using). In exchange, you recall information but that information is incorrect in some potentially hazardous way. I know it’s incorrect and you know it’s incorrect, but your character doesn’t. You’re free to ignore this information, but if you act on it I’ll give you another 25XP.
So, most of the time simply having a Lore Skill is enough to get you the information you need. No rolling, no potential of boring failures. When failure might wind up being interesting, the GM hands out some Misinformation to stir the pot a bit.
A little something I put together for a thing I’m going to run at Gen Con.
For a while now I’ve been noodling with an idea for an Apocalypse World-based game called Wetwork. Wetwork is a cyberpunk game of corporate espionage, a game about the nature of trust and how it is both an asset and a liability. It’s a game in which you are bad people who do bad things for other bad people, but your choices either perpatuate or break the cycle.
It’s been sitting for a while; I haven’t made much progress on it. To tell the truth, I was a little stuck. I knew I wanted a lot of the trappings of Apocalypse World: moves, hard choices, a class-based system.
That last one was kind of a problem for me. I like AW’s class system, and I like the class systems of the games based on AW, but I couldn’t think of classes that did what I wanted them to do. The types of characters I wanted to portray didn’t fit easily into classes; there were moves that didn’t make sense for a hacker or a street samurai or whatever, but that I definitely wanted in those classes. What do do then?
Recently I had an idea, and I’ve been developing it. Instead of classes, I’ll use characters. When you choose a playbook, you’re not choosing the Hacker; instead, you’re choosing to play Ephraim Tanaka, an arrogant punk kid with a drug problem and a technopathic implant in his head. You pick up the Ephraim Tanaka playbook, and it has moves that make sense for Ephraim Tanaka, even if they wouldn’t make sense for a standard hacker. Doing this allows me to play outside the bounds of archetypes a little bit, while still utlizing them to some extent and providing ways to customize these specific characters.
It’s been a little while since I’ve posted here, hasn’t it? I’ve had a busy month or two, and the next month or two promise to continue to be busy. That’s what I’m here to talk about. There are two really big things going on in my life right now.
The first is really exciting. You may have heard that Becoming funded! It’s written, there’s art, it’s been edited, and it’s going into layout now. It’s turning into a thing! I’ll probably post more news as we get closer to release but, for now, I’ll just let you know what my big milestones are. First, I plan to have the PDF to backers sometime in September. Sometime after that, maybe October or November, the stretch goal PDF will go out to backers. The next milestone is for the physical books to go to backers in December; I’m really hoping I can be done with everything Kickstarter-related by the end of the year. Of course, in January or February I’ll likely start selling the book in both physical and electronic form. Yay!
The second thing is even more exciting, but also a little terrifying. I got a job at Steve Jackson Games! I’ll be the Marketing Assistant there, and this means I’ll be moving to Austin, TX in late August. This is a huge change for my and my wife, and that’s the terrifying part. There’s a lot involved in moving across the country, and we want to make sure we don’t forget to do anything.
What this means for this blog I’m not sure at this point. Probably less frequent updates, but I do want to keep you all updated on Becoming’s status and on the status of the move. I’m going to be driving cross-country right after Gen Con, and I’d like to try to blog that experience — provided there’s more to say than, “Well, we drove another 8 hours and now we’re in [INSERT CITY HERE].”
Anyway, onward to adventure!
The following is a guest post from occasional guest poster Marcelo Dior. Enjoy.
Tomorrow, I’ll break a 18-month stint away from Dungeons & Dragons. Back in winter 2012 I was clocking three D&D games a month, with very little interruption. I’d run a Star Wars game in the summer and the occasional Savage Worlds one-shot, but I’d been pretty much running D&D games since the very dawn of 4e, with Keep on the Shadowfell. The same campaign with mostly the same people since February 2009. Then in early 2012 I flipped.
It wasn’t burnout, not really. And it wasn’t a problem with my players (I’m playing with them to this day). I just got fed up with D&D. One day I looked at my gaming shelf and felt bad for not playing all those games. I had two dozens of games that I hadn’t played for a long time or had bought it and never played. I had to run those games and D&D was in the way.
So for the last year-and-a-half I ran Hellas, Eclipse Phase, Savage Worlds, Amethyst, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Alpha Omega, Fading Suns… It’s been a good eighteen months away from Dungeons & Dragons. It showed me something that had been right in my face without me seeing it: D&D is a gateway game. There’s a world of awesomely good games out there. Games that explore facets of gaming that D&D doesn’t even dream of.
Yes. I’m saying D&D is a basic game. Too basic for me. It’s okay to disagree, this is that kind of personal truth which doesn’t invalidate different truths. So… Why am I back? Why will I ran a D&D game tomorrow evening? Because I’m longing a simpler game. I want to play a glorified miniatures war game. It’s like watching deep, complex movies all the time. Sometimes you just want Arnold Schwarzenegger for 95 minutes bashing shit up.
I’m planning four, maybe five sessions for the next months. Those will be for my players to bash shit up, for me to throw “bashable” shit at them. Is it a comeback? Not really. I mean, I don’t know. I’m just thinking one session over.
I’ll let you know.
Tonight John Adamus and I recorded a live Q&A for Becoming. Here’s the video:
The Becoming Kickstarter is live, and there’s a specific reward tier I want to talk about today.
The “Merchants and Scholars” tier is $60, and gets you four copies of the softcover book for your game store or library. The reason why I included this tier for game stores should be obvious: four copies of an RPG is about the right number to last a store for a while, and the store gets those copies before the book is publically available. That, and you’re getting those copies at a reduced cost, easing your burden a bit.
But why did I include libraries in that tier? A couple of reasons. First, my wife Nicole is a librarian. She’s given me a healthy amount of respect for libraries as repositories of knowledge and centers for community. Beyond that though, libraries are starting to become places to go game too.
Many libraries have RPGs on hand, and many also have scheduled game days when people can come in and learn how to play those games. Most of the games these libraries have are the big ones, games like D&D. That people are learning about D&D through libraries is great; it gets people into the hobby, and it’s a fun game. I want to expose those people to other games, show them that D&D, while awesome, is not the only game in town.
And librarians, if $60 is too steep, there’s nothing stopping you from going in on that tier with multiple branches or libraries! Maybe you know a few librarians at other locations who want a copy for their collection.
So that’s why libraries.