Monday, May 23, 2016

"Flavor text" magic for Savage Worlds

Do you remember when I talked about "Flavor text" magic for Barbarians of Lemuria? Well, why not using this for other systems as well?

So, here's my first draft for using "Flavor text" magic for Savage Worlds. Let me know what you think about it.

What is magic? When you answer that question you define how you want your magic system to be. I'm considering the following alternative: magic is simply flavor text.

Why do that? Because, depending on how you treat magic, that's what happens. Let's see some examples:

-The sorcerer casts a spell to hit a foe at range.
-The sorcerer creates a magic blade and strikes his enemy.
-The sorcerer charms the guard into letting him pass.
-The sorcerer opens a lock by touching it with his wand.
-The sorcerer levitates over a chasm to reach the other side.
-The sorcerer shapechanges himself into a wolf.

Picture the scenes above. Done that? Good. Now consider this:

-The warrior hits a foe with his bow.
-The barbarian strikes his enemy with his might axe.
-The cunning maid uses her appeal to convince the guard to let her pass.
-The rogue opens a lock using his tools.
-The acrobat tosses a rope to the other side of a chasm and uses it to cross it.
-The sorcerer shapechanges himself into a wolf.

Except for the last example, everything the sorcerer did was just something another competent hero could do, only using magic! What was magic in those examples? Just flavor text. Just a catch-all term for the action.

That said, how to deal with those cases (I'll let the last example for later)? How to codify the system?

First of all, in order to use sorcery (magic, conjurations, whatever), one must have an Arcane Background: Sorcery (or something like that) and a Spellcasting skill. Rename the AB and the skill as needed.

So, how will this work? Simple.

When in combat, the sorcerer may use his Spellcasting skill instead Fighting/Throwing/Shooting to hit and enemy. Magis is just a trapping for his attack and, while he may describe the magical effects of his actions, it's simply flavor text. Damage becomes Smarts (or Spirit, depending on your approach) plus Spellcasting. Sure, he can't be disarmed or spend his last "arrow", since everything is created by magic... Or you can use the following rule:

When using magic, if the caster rolls TWO ACES in any of his dice (skill or wild), the spell cast drained too much of his energy and it was the last his resolve could muster for now... Additional castings will result in 2d6 damage. If he spends a few hours resting/meditating/fasting he may cast spells without this problem once again (until he again rolls two aces).

What about using magic outside combat in order to perform tasks other heroes could do in mundane ways? Simply: Spellcasting skill roll -- magic is just flavor text and the risk is the same as above. -- Just consider this: if a rogue picking a lock would take 10 minutes to be successful, a sorcerer using magic to open that lock would need a 10-minute casting time (chanting, tracing runes) to conjure the spell. Remember: this is just flavor text!

So, magic is flexible? Yes. But there's always a catch. There's the stress mentioned above, and more: Rolling a 1 in the Spellcasting die may result in severe backlash. A random table could have interesting results here.

Ok, I got it. Magic is flexible, is considered flavor text, and have a few risks... But what about attempting real magic effects, like the shapechanging you mentioned?

I'm glad you asked that. Again, this is simple. Remember those bennies you've hoarded for being a great player, allowing everyone to have fun and creating memorable scenes? Use them!

A benny can be spent by a Sorcerer in order to conjure real magic. It's simply a way to have narrative control of the scene for a moment - i.e., just another flavor text, only more powerful.

Okay, I think this is it. If you have any questions or comments, please join the discussion. Also, I'd love to see your random backlash tables.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Top 10 RPGs

I was talking to a friend of mine last week about the RPG systems we like and dislike. You see, he's a good friend, we played lots of boardgames together, but we never had a chance to roleplay even an one-shot session.

If you understand Portuguese, you'll be able to read his reasons about his TOP 10 picks. Just click here and have a good read. If not, at least the titles shouldn't be language dependent.

Here's mine. They are not in any particular order.

Savage Worlds
My system of choice nowadays. Fast and fun (furious depends on the setting), this generic system is a boon to all Referees (GMs, DMs, Narrators, YMMV) since it's easy to adjucate and it compels you to create fantastic adventures. During another RPG system game, where I let the Referee's mantle to a friend of mine (you know how rare is the chance to play?), I thought to myself: this could work better in Savage Worlds; that mechanic is clunky... Yes, I'm becoming a fan boy...

AD&D 2nd Edition
I simply loved the system. Unbalanced, geared toward a specific genre emulation, but I loved my 3 books. I've played lots and lots of campaigns in my teens and AD&D 2nd is a system dear to my heart.

GURPS - Generic Universal RolePlaying System
How many years of my life I spent playing GURPS? To many to tell. A 7-year campaign and another 5-year campaign may hint at that though. I needed to re-bind my Basic 2nd edition twice, as it was the book I used the most (to be clear: my Rules Cyclopedia is in better shape than my GURPS Basic). Point-buy was something I've never saw before when I was a pre-teen, and that seemed to open my mind to many more worlds... Also, all the source books were a labor of love, and kept me reading them over and over again.

Barbarians of Lemuria
Few game systems can emulate a genre better than this one. Simple and with an old-school feel, this game is perfect for a sword & sorcery adventure. 2d6 + modifiers solve all your dillemas, from hack and slash a foul sorcerer to sneak past the guards. As a plus, the quick character creation also gives you a quick background to work on.

Dragonlance 5th Age
Card-based RPG during an age of lesser railroady plots. The magic system could be abused, and fighting giant beings was really dangerous (or even impossible), but helped to set the tone of an Age of Mortals where the shades of gray seemed brighter than light and dark combined.

Fudge is too dear to me. It was the game that allowed me to publish my first RPG back then. And that opened the doors to me: I was able to become a novelist. But I digress. Fudge is a marvelous toolkit, allowing virtually anything, but as a plug 'n play system some assembly is required. On the hands of a experienced Referee it's a blast -- on a novice's hands there'll be lots of trouble.

Epées et Sorcellerie
Basic D&D meets Chainmail and the offspring is one of the greatest indie games ever made. It's a shame there's not so much love for this, but I think French designers are better at creating their games than promoting them.

There was the OGL. There was Microlite20 (D&D 3rd in less than 20 pages). And there was Microlite74. While M20 focused on D&D3, M74 tried to cover Classic D&D. The result was incredible, as everything was rewritten in a concise way. Yet, I still dream of the day where Epées et Sorcellerie will receive a Microlite treatment and become a small game as well.

Steve Kenson is one of the best Supers authors out there. ICONS takes Fudge, inject it with some radioactive material, and creates an astounding Supers RPG.

Storyteller / Storytelling / Whatever it's called nowadays
I can't deny the importance of Vampire/Werewolf during the "Great RPG Revival" in the 90s. Many people that never thought about playing RPGs were drawn to the games as a moth to the light, and in despite of the angst-ridden emo LARPers, the tabletop games were interesting. I remember fondly the X-Files campaign I've narrated at the time and I miss those times.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pointcrawl, pathcrawl, dungeon crawl

As I'm writing this, I have a small hexmap in front of me. It's a 30x30 hexmap, with a 12-mile scale. So, grab one yourself. Generate a random one if you must.

Done? Good.

Now, I believe you are familiar with the terms pointcrawl, pathcrawl and dungeon crawl. If not, click on the links I've provided. I'll wait.

Back? Fantastic.

Now generate a random dungeon. Any size will do, but use only 1 level (for now we won't need more than that).

But why do all this?

Let me explain. When you talk about a point/pathcrawl concept, you are saying the connections between important sites on your map are important--those connections are the corridors of your dungeon, and those sites are your rooms.--We'll merge this concept now.

So place your dungeon map over your wilderness hexmap. If you are using an image editor, you may use a multiply effect on the dungeon layer and lower the opacity a little. Now that's done you have a large dungeon over your wilderness.

Each room is now a site, an important landmark, a settlement, a lair, a ruin... Each corridor is now a path, a way to link those sites: roads, trails, landmark chains, river banks...

Then you will ask me: why this particular path goes north 20 miles and then returns south, just to link this two towns 5 miles apart? It's because:
-there's a ravine
-it's a route used by pilgrims and now it's considered good luck to follow it
-the contractor who built the route was earning his money based on the amount of paved miles
-all the above

Those little things give color to your world. Suddenly, a twisting path becomes part of the setting and all you needed was a dungeon map overlay. ;-)

PS: This also works if you use a Traveller Subsector Map Generator as an overlay.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The beauty of small maps

I like maps. No, I love them.

I love creating maps of imaginary lands, tracing the line of trees, thinking about the state of affairs of the people who live there...

Maps don't need to be pretty, though: they need to be understandable (is that a word?). So, if you show me a nice map in full color or some hexagonal tiles on a map, I'll be pleased anyway. Just give me some map scale to understand what's hapenning and I'm game.

During the last year or so, I began to focus on some areas of my maps. Yes, it's nice to know there's a whole new world off to the edge of a map, but look at what you have in your hands! Look at it. Picture how many wonderful adventures you could have there.

Of course you love Hyboria and that massive land to explore. Of course you think Toril or Oerth is fantastic (YMMV). But do you need all of those?

How much adventure can you find in a single city (Ptolus, I'm looking at you)? Or in a small area like Skyrim? Or in a trifecta of cities like San Andreas, San Fierro and Las Venturas? Or in Dracula's Castle?

Small maps have everything their bigger cousins have, but in detail. And this detail may give you lots and lots of choices in your game. You don't have to showcase your whole world, thinking about The City of the Week (like the Monster of the Week on saturday morning cartoons), as you can make that small world more alive to your players.

Yes, I still create large maps (ask my daughter), but nowadays I'm zooming in. There's beauty there you don't see easily in large maps.

Beauty that enhances any narrative.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Random notes on a random map

I was trying to find something in a pile of text files on my computer and then I've found this:

Mentioned Hexes:
0100 - The Circle of Stones atop the Montain
0102 - The Holy Temple of the Woods
0107 - The Ruins atop the Hill Mine
0204 - The Town plagued by the Undead
0208 - The Hamlet with vanishing women
0210 - The City
0309 - The Raubritter Ruined Stronghold
0403 - The Ruins of the Mountain Temple
0501 - The Rift of the Gargoyles by the Stone Altar on the Mountain
0504 - The Hamlet on the Woods
0601 - The Buried Pyramid
0602 - The Cursed Hamlet on the Woods
0607 - The Town
0702 - The Burial Chambers of the Dark Mummy Lord on the Ruined Monastery

0005 - The Ruined Keep
0305 - The Home Base Hamlet
0407 - The Watchtower
0410 - The Hamlet plagued by the Raubritter
0608 - The Ruins on the Plains
0705 - The Lair of the You Shall Not Pass creatures

-Priestess go from City (0210) to Hamlet (0504)
-Cleansing cerimony goes wrong and Priestess accepts her dark side - she's initiated (0403)
-Priestess becomes High Witch on Lesser Sabbat (0501)
-High Witch awakes Demonic Hamlet (0602)
-High Sabbat (0100)

Dark Mummy Lord
-Dead return to life due to broken seal (0204)
-Seal recovered on Forest Temple (0102) & Scroll of Undead Restoration stolen - only a copy is recovered
-"Test" of the Scroll on ruins (0403) during a cerimony
-Dark Mummy Lord awakes (0702) and is brought to the Pyramid (0601)
-Dark Mummy Lord's power arises (0601)

The Deros ("drow dwarves")
-Miners go from Town (0204) to Hamlet (0208)
-A special sacerdotal crafted crown with jewels is missing on Town (0607)
-Women disappear from Hamlet (0208)
-Gem merchant robbed on the road from Hamlet (0208) to City (0210), Raubritter at 0309 suspected -- gems turn people suggestive (minor Charm Person spell) when worn
-Deros x Underground_Creature War due to collapsed mine passage linking the two territories (0107)

I'm pretty sure everything above links to the map at the top of this post. Maybe I should give this another thought...

Friday, October 23, 2015

Horror games purchase

This was on my email this morning:

A glistening, squamous opportunity squats before you in the Bundle of Nerves +3, wherein you may snatch up the Lovecraftian horror of Silent Legions at a drastic discount. For only $9.95, you can get this undulating mass of modern OSR horror gaming and GM tools, with Sine Nomine-style implements for building your own primordial gods, nameless cults, ineffable horrors, and sandbox investigative adventures for fleshing out the non-Euclidian domains you might create. While Silent Legions is a complete game that's fully compatible with my Stars Without Number, the tools in this book are system-neutral and work handsomely with your nightmarish game of choice.
Not only that, but this trifling price gets you a PDF of the sterling Savage Worlds Deluxe plus its 166-page Horror Companion. And for those who care to part with a little more, you can have the dark promise of Accursed, Rippers 1e and its Companion, and the luxuriantly-illustrated dark-Celtic oppression of the Shadows of Esteren Prologue + Universe.

And I promptly clicked on this link to buy it. What's not to love here? Even if I do have one or two books, the bundle is well worth its price.

(No, I'm not affiliated with them. I'm just saying it's a good bargain.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

And just another hexmap

Island maps are always good places to adventure. Here's another (click to embigger).