Game Chef 2014 – The Roman on the Rhine

I am very pleased to present the Roman on the Rhine, my submission to the game chef competition. This is a one-shot roleplaying game for 3-5 people to play  over a bit over an hour. This game is presented in the form of an interactive audio drama. All of the rules are present in this mp3 file, which you play in the background during the session in order to teach you the rules and manage the game.  This is a diceless and paper-less game which you can play in a car. For those hard of hearing, I also offer the text version of the rules in this post after the “Read more” line.

MP3 Download

As is typical in the game chef competition, this is more of a proof of concept and thought experiment than a fully polished piece. That said, it’s also free and I hope you find it interesting.

This game would not have been possible without the kind permissions of Wes Otis, whose RPG background loops were invaluable in producing this audio-piece. If you like any of the background music, they are all available over at DriveThruRPG.com.

1) Viking Dining Hall (Council Scenes)

2) ) Winter Background sound

3) Gladiator sounds (Transition)

4) Werewolf Forest (Senate Scenes)

5) Campfire (Also Senate Scenes)

 

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Posthuman Pathways – Now on Kickstarter

Posthuman Pathways is a transhumanist roleplaying game. It focusses on the changing world and the sacrifices we make in the name of progress. It’s about the change, over a single lifetime, of our society and what it means to be human.

Explore what path the world will take. Discover how technology changes the world and alters our species. There are countless paths that humanity might take, depending on what technologies arise and which decisions we make. Every time you play this game, you walk a different path and discover a different future. This game needs no preparation, no dice and no game master. Over three or four hours, you and two friends can discover the future.

This is now up on Kickstarter. I would love your support!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/Jagash/posthuman-pathways

Spread the Spark

I love Spark, and I know that many of you share this love. I want to help foster a community of people who learn, play and appreciate the game as well. The best way to do this is to run games at local game stores and conventions.

The problem is that I have limited opportunities to travel and run games outside of my own city. That’s why I’m running a little promotion and would like to ask for your help. I would like to invite you to run demo session of Spark at conventions and friendly local gaming stores. The three Quickstart bundles Here do all the preparation for you might need, including pre-generated characters. Just print and play!

In thanks, I will offer you each a free copy of the beautiful new Spark Setting written by Brian Engard. Carriers is a cyberpunk zombie game, where cybernetically-enhanced runners travel between corporate arcologies while trying to avoid the zombie hordes. I am really excited to share this with you, but this setting won’t be available for sale.

All you need to do is email me at genesisoflegend at gmail.com with “Carriers” in the subject line, telling me where and when the game is to be run. I will be happy to send you a pdf of the awesome new setting from Brian.

Help spread Spark among the masses.

Become a Carrier.

 

Examining Icons in Design

A vital part of an engaging RPG is establishing strong connections between the characters and their setting. The stronger those connections, the more meaningful the character actions and player decisions seem to be. We have had examples of this stretching back to the earliest days of alignments, hirelings and deities in D&D. Dresden Files offers places and faces, Fiasco presents Relationships and Apocalypse World deals with Fronts. I designed Spark with Setting Beliefs, Factions, and Faces who represent those factions.
For the ease of this discussion, let’s just label these all as Icons, as exemplified in 13th Age. Before delving in deeper, check out Rob Donoghue’s excellent exploration of this subject [1][2][3] [4] [5] [6] since all of my blathering is based on his analysis.  This is also related to Chris Chin’s discussion of Keys, in the other excellent article.

There is a lot of untapped potential in terms of potential Icons and I think it would be useful to unpack the idea. When I design my own games, I have started to ask 5 questions so I can get a handle on all of these setting Icons and design appropriately.

 

  • What: What type of Icon created within the setting? An individual, organization, belief, relationship, event, location, item or idea?
  • Who: Among the players, who is connected to a given Icon?
  • How: How does the Icon affect the PCs, and vice versa? How do they change?
  • When: When during the course of the game do the Icons affect play?
  • Where: How does the Icon interact spatially with the world?

Let’s show how this works in practice, shall we?

Fate Core Setting Issues:

Issues and their associated setting Aspects describe the tensions and broader problems in the setting, ones which the PCs will have to deal with during play.

  • What: A distinct issue which may consist of an event, organization or idea, with an associated Aspect.
  • Who: Everyone interacts indirectly with the Issue, but there are no formal connections to individual PCs. All of the character histories, troubles and high concepts will tend to be associated with the setting Issues.
  • How: It is easier for the GM to affect PCs when the Issue is involved thanks to the associated aspect. Significant actions on the parts of PCs can change the Issues over a longer time-scale.
  • When: Issues can affect any scene.
  • Where: Issues usually extend spatially across the entire area of play. While there may be some specific places where the issue is less significant, it is always there.

Fiasco Relationships:

Beginning a game of Fiasco involves establishing relationships, needs, locations and objects that define how the various characters interact. Relationships are one subset of those elements for the purpose of this discussion.

  • What: A single broad category of relationship (Romance) with a more specific detail (Pick-up Artist and Hopeless Romantic)
  • Who: Relationships directly shape two specific characters, though they will have larger indirect effects. This defines the past history of two characters.
  • How: It establishes the power dynamic between the characters; who is high status and who is low within the relationship.
  • When: Relationships establish the backstory, but largely fade to irrelevance once play begins. Relationships affect the PCs, but the PCs actions don’t alter the relationships mechanically.
  • Where: Relationships have no fixed spatial location.

AD&D Alignments:

Alignments in AD&D are powerful things that establish not only the importance of morality in decision making, but also a decidedly egalitarian spectrum of ethical positions. All of these discussions are all drawn from 1st edition.

  • What: Nine distinct alignments which are combinations of Lawful-Neutral-Chaos and Good-Neutral-Evil.
  • Who: Every character interacts with alignments, though there are very real obligations for religious characters to behave in accordance with certain alignments. That said, there are restrictions on alignments for certain classes, which indicates that core activities are antithical to certain ethical perspectives.
  • How: Every character can speak “Alignment Languages”, as a beautiful example of the importance of Alignments within the core setting assumption. These languages act as another communication channel, so that like-minded characters can remind the others to behave in accordance with their Alignments. There are also penalties for changing one’s alignment, and the deities in the various pantheons tend to be very judgemental on this subject. Paladins who act in evil or chaotic ways can have their divine blessings revoked, while clerics can lose their divine spells.
  • When: Constantly. Particularly in high-stress situations, such as when there are high stakes, divine blessings and correct decision making is rewarded especially. The cleric trying to convert a wounded patient into reforming their behaviour? That is part of the Alignment Icon.
  • Where: Relationships are tied intimately with the various religions and kingdoms which are distributed unevenly across a D&D world. The later-day Planescape setting illustrated that perfectly.

What do you think? Would you be willing to examine something else in the comments?

The Arboreal Squid

I recently realized that I never really described one of the fun features of the NeoNihon setting. As an ecologist by trade, I tend to love creating flora and fauna that fit the world. Shi-Tateyama is often described as a world of sweltering temperatures at sea-level, wtih frequent, harsh and corrosive tempests. Cyclones and tornados are common occurences, with commensurate effects on the native organisms.

The Plum Willows:

These are the native tree-analogues that spread across the planet. According to terran classifications, they are half-fungal with hyphea and thick, rubbery “wood,” the colour of ripe  plums. The countless drooping branches are tipped with photosynthetic “flowers” that most closely resemble pink cherry blossoms, each of which produces a single nut. When the tree is struck by strong winds, the entire organism bends rather than breaking, with flowers and seeds flung great distances.

The Squiderrels:

These are football-sized, arboreal squid that live in the Plum Willows. They fill the same ecological niche as squirrels, harvesting the Plum Willow nuts. They are remarkably adaptive critters, who may or may not have mastered basic tool use. They can change colour for no discernable reason and make an audible chittering noise when they form their highly-social colonies in stands of trees. When threatened, they have been known to swarm their attacker and excrete hydrochloric acid.  When wind strikes their tree, they choose to cling tightly to the branches, or to be safely flung into a long-distance glide.

I love worldbuilding. Just a little bit.