Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More freeform magic - Savage Worlds

Just as I wondered about alternative system for the freeform kind of magic of Mage, I suddenly find multiple alternatives! This is just as much a reminder and place holder for myself as it is a tips you you out there. Check out Clint Black's rules for improvised magic for Savage Worlds. They look quite usuable.

I guess Savage Worlds have a reputation for quite pulpy and cinematic action, but looking at how WoD games seems to be played I think it could fit. Personal horror or not, they can't get any less of that by Savaging them, in my opinion.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Freeform Mage system - in BRP?

As I'm presently stressed out, and slightly exasperated by the possibilities of getting a gaming group to schedule a session, I'm dreaming up new cool projects.

I used to think that the first edition of that wild and crazy game Mage had something. The setting was black and white to a fault, and the usual "class system" really created game groups where everyone was an oddball and nothing but metagaming would ever keep that group together.

But, the idea of magic as something as the whole basis of ontology and conscience was mindbogglingly cool. Suddenly everything was magic, and you could totally explore the modern world from that perspective. Except you were supposed to play conservative/reactionary people stuck in a superstitious world view. At least that was how it felt, when it painted the technomancers as the bad guys.

Now I picked up the big time about the Technocracy, and started to read it as if we would start playing those guys instead. I began to see interesting option. But, I was vary of the rules.

So, how about using BRP instead? You could just grab the standard Call of Cthulhu skill list and just add the spheres of magic, couldn't you? Imagine you have skill ratings in the spheres just like any other BRP skill. Then maybe you'll have another skill for actual spell casting and if you wanted to do something you'd allocate percentiles up until you reach your rating in that sphere, and if you want to do something more powerful you'll get Paradox. I have long been thinking it would be cool with a system where you would "bet" your chance of success against your character's limitations, and that would be an interesting way to make that happen.

I will probably never do anything with it, but suddenly I have some weird system hackery to occupy my mind with. Maybe I'll even feel tempted to toss some words into an search engine to find out if someone beat me to it. Maybe. It is more fun to just dream up systems, right?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Delving Deeper boxed set at last

Today I first held in my hand the boxed set of Delving Deeper boxed set. It took forever to arrive, and I will probably never buy anything from John Adams again. Still, I got a really warm and fuzzy feeling holding that box in my hands.

When I bought the White Box from Brave Halfling that box was joke. The bottom half was not even glued together, and the corners haphazardly closed up with tape.

This box on the other hand is gorgeous. The cover image is great and the box is sturdy. First impressions last, as they say. As I looked at the booklets, they also looked really nice and clean. No busy layout, no fancy stuff, just readable. Clerics gets no spell at first level, and there's a Thief class if you like that. Classic stuff.

While it looks like I have a hard time keeping a gaming group together, this is a game that just screams to be played. I long to try it out. That's a pretty good reaction for a new game, isn't it?

Monday, October 14, 2013

BRP did it first!

Being one of what China MiƩville once called "the Chaosium kids", I always thought the way things were done in BRP was the way you did things. Today I learned that it was not until 6th ed. Hero system in 2011 that the defensive and offensive capabilities, OCV/DCV, were decoupled and you could become good as parrying regardless of your offensive ability. Maybe there was ways to tweak it, but in an interview I listened to with the line developer (Steve something?), it was presented that way. Back in 1979 when Runequest was released we Chaosium kids had separate attack and parry percentile ratings for our weapons.

God how I love how that simple rules set over and over again shows how everything you could imagine is in there!

BRP did it first.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Material components, taking a cue from Mage

I have more than once felt that the game Mage: The Ascension could be really cool, if I just figured out how. The rules are a bit too vague, and the setting cool but unfocused. Sadly, it felt later editions limited it to become the same kind of superhero games Vampire and Werewolf was.

Now I've started thinking about the really interesting bad guys in the setting, the Nephandi, I decided I needed to read the Guide to the Technocracy. That power group was presented as the main evil in the early editions, but I have picked up this book in order to find a more positive slant on them. There are multiple shades of bad in this setting, and I felt Nephandi would be more interesting as bad guys, and the technos as misguided good guys. It's after all a game about belief, and even the kind who seems abhorrent to you has to be investigated for what they are.

One thing this books talks about at length is the magic foci used to cast technological spells. The magic in Mage is very free form, and based upon some basic spheres of knowledge. You can pick whatever sphere you like and by manipulating that get magical effects of that kind. In GttT the "mages" use implements, like a calculator, mirrorshades, guns and other technological gadgets which both channels and "hides" the reality wracking effects. For example, in order to cast a spell of perception, you put on those shades and the spell take effect. The implements are not just like a magic wand you wave about, it's a thing that related to the magic action being taken. This made me think of material components.

In some editions of D&D, you have to have a spell component to cast some spells. If the component is verbal it is easy to just say your character chants or shouts or whatever. That pesky bat guano or black pearl is more complicated. How often do you need to stock up? How do you track usage? Is that really fun? And so on...

Maybe you could use implements like in Mage instead? It would take magic back to how it worked in the Blackmoor campaign. Dave Arneson had a very tangible kind of magic in his campaign, that much can be gleamed from what he have said, and written in the FFC. It can't get any more old school than that, eh?

I would think it would have to be components of a lasting nature. One problem with the material components rules as they are in e.g. AD&D is that it's unclear how to manage the logistics. If you instead always have your item around, it solves that problem. I do like the idea of being able to improvise and take whatever item that suits the effect you are trying to achieve. Since there are no dice rolls involved in classic D&D spell casting, you could say spells cast without implements take one additional time increment to cast, a segement, round or whatever.

I'll file away this idea for the future. Right now it looks like I'll have few possibilities to actually test it, but if you do feel free to post your experiences!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

When do you need a game system to support your play?

A short while ago I read a forum post where someone claimed the game 3:16 did not work for them. I played it a few times and thought it worked fine. I searched out an episode of the Walking Eye podcast to compare, since they often have interesting things to say about games they've played.

Interestingly enough, on the podcast there was a player who did not feel the game "clicked" for them. The question came up whether the theme of the game was satire, and if it was reinforced by the system of the game. Considering you don't count hits in that game, but kills, I think it's pretty obvious. But, there are some subtle things in there I felt like talking more about in this space.

In the game you have a flashback mechanic. Using that you can take narrative control, and define the psychology of your trooper. This is where the game enters the "hippie game" territory. But, here's the interesting part. Using the flashback you can fail and succeed on your terms, but it does not force you to adhere to the theme. In fact, it's only the last flashback that's mandated, as Hatred for Home. Basically, there is an endgame and there is a setup. The latter picture mindless carnage and the former suggests moral doubt and satire after turning military glory into genocide. What is interesting is that up until that point, you can play it however you like. There's nothing forcing you down the path of satire. Sure, there is that end, but it's fairly open to interpretation and you get to choose the seriousness of it.

Some people like to point out that even though D&D basically only has rules for combat, it's not really about combat. I'm not going to get involved in that discussion, but I want to compare that situation to 3:16. In that game you have a setup which is all about killing. Your game system only involves itself with killing, and that which some consider its core, the flashback system, does not force the issue of the theme. Just like in the case of D&D, it's more about System than system. System with a capital S is the sum of what happens around the table, not just the rules in the book. I think 3:16 is a very subtle design, in that it rather tries to give you a playground and let's you discover its social mechanics than putting it into text.

Killing bugs and going into genocidal frenzy is something that can affect you, not only your character. This is something which I've also found happens in Dogs in the Vineyard. At least for me it does. When I first played it, I started thinking about how I felt about the events my character encountered. If you let that inform your character's actions is of course up to your individual play style, but I found it both challenging and refreshing. 3:16 is a game that works the same way.

If you don't feel a bit repulsed by your trooper's mindless killing you I don't say you are playing it wrong, but if you do get that effect it sure is a memorable one!
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