Neverwhere 3rd Edition – Development Diary

Reading the Graphic Novel
The Graphic Novel (Or trade paperback) version of Neverwhere is the collected edition of DC/Vertigo’s comic series of the book by Mike Carey and Glenn Fabry. You can find it on Amazon HERE.

It’s a strange thing to see a completely new visual take on something that was very much established by the TV series but, fortuntely, Fabry seems to manage to keep his tendency to make everyone over muscled somewhat in check. The overall vision is much more out-and-out fantastical than the TV series – unlimited by the BBC budget obviously – but it loses a little something in that I think, there’s less of a feeling of weirdness at the edges, which is important to Neverwhere in my opinion, and it plunges more directly into a complete, Alice in Wonderland, otherspace.

Particularly jarring, though I don’t know why, is the depiction of Croup and Vandemar who were so very well played in the TV series that it’s hard to see them any other way, though the idea of a Dickensian Fagin and a giant Teddy Boy are great they just don’t quite gel with C&V as written, for me.

This is all good stuff to see as this time around I’ve gone more with the idea of a reinterpretation, especially art-wise, so the approach in the Graphic Novel is a good, cautionary tale to see what’s right and what’s wrong.

All the characters, save those from London Above are much more exaggerated. Door looks like a goth-punk princess rather than a homeless girl and The Marquis is a (literally) black skinned dandy in 18th century finery.

There’s some new bit characters, like Don, sniffing after Jessica, that could be incorporated in and some new ideas like Old Bailey claiming to have been trained by Egon Ronay (to stew Rook? I think not…). Islington is a proper, winged angel and very androgynous, which works well as an image and is more in keeping with ideas of angels, though an angel stripped of its wings is also effectual.

There’s a half dozen extra hints, people and background details that can be worked up into something for the game, so re-reading that’s been quite useful. Onto the book next and my DVD copy of the series should arrive in a day or two!

Neverwhere 3rd Edition – Development Diary

System
The idea behind imploding/exploding 1s and 6s is that they can account of the occasional bout of good or bad luck without over-dominating as criticals can in other systems, like Cyberpunk 2020. A professional, competent character can expect to succeed even if they roll a one, at least at a usual task, it’ll take a string of bad luck to make them screw up and 6s allow anyone to – occasionally – have that string of heroic luck that makes all the difference. How this might work in practice could be:

Example One:

Sutter the Crouch Ender is trying to scramble away from one of The Shepherds who is pursuing him after a failed raid on the Shepherds to free one of the groups friends. Sutter tries to escape by wriggling through a sewer grate that he knows is too small for the Shepherd to follow. Normally the Games Master would let this just go ahead, but since he’s being pursued and is under duress the GM demands a roll. Sutter is ‘Small’ and ‘Wriggly’ and is a ‘Professional Tunnel Rat’. This gives him a bidding total of 5. The grate is ‘Small’ and ”Rusty’ and ‘Stinks’, giving it a bidding total of 3. Sutter rolls a 6, another 6 (explodes) and a three. This gives him a roll total of 7 (6, +1 for the extra six, nothing for the three). The grate rolls 5. Sutter’s total is 12, the grate’s total is 8. Sutter’s through the grate and away by a considerable margin.

Example Two:
Bork is a Bravo, he finds himself facing down a guard from Earl’s Court. Bork is a ‘Professional Bravo’ and is ‘Wiry’, ”Lithe’ and ‘Deadly’. That gives him a bidding total of six. The Earl’s Court Guard is a ‘Professional Man at Arms’ and it ‘Tough as old boots’ and ‘Experienced’. He’s also ‘Old’ which Bork bids against him. The Guard has a bidding total of 4. Bork rolls 1, 1 again and then six. This gives him a roll+bid total of 6, He scores one for his initial roll, takes away the 1 from the second and discards the six. The Earl’s Court Guard rolls 4, getting a total of 8. Enough to beat Bork who’s had a hard time of it in this fight so far.

Grim’s Tales: The Player as Games Master

The idea of giving the players more direct influence over the course that a game takes has gained a certain amount of cachet in recent years, though it’s not exactly a new phenomenon (many Games Masters seek player input into their games, game worlds and adventure settings and topics) it has become more and more mechanically formalised, which is a little contradictory as it’s more associated with the story-strong games than the system-strong games. This ranges from special points (Fate/Action etc) that let you interrupt the flow of the game to get re-rolls, trigger special powers or force a redaction of a scene to the more explicit worksheets, merits and flaws that can dictate the way the game will go or provide fodder for a Games Master to create a campaign from.

This isn’t all a bad thing, if you’re the sort of Games Master who can roll with the punches this sort of stuff can be a real boon, providing constant feedback and direction to the game, making it more of a negotiation between the Games Master and the players and helping everyone get something they like and want from the game. If you’re trying to guide characters through a particular story that you like and that you’ve worked hard on though, you can end up completely sabotaged.

The real problem lies with the fact that players can now interfere with something that was relatively sacrosanct, the plot. Previously Rules Lawyers could argue the toss over the application of the rules and that was bad enough, Rules Lawyers can be a real bane to successful campaigns, now players can also interfere with the plot and the story – in some systems – something that the Games Master could previously cleave to their bosom as relatively inviolate.

Grim’s Rules
4. Whatever the game, the guy running it is ultimately the one in charge.
5. Work with your Games Master, not against them – and vice versa.
6. Whatever the game, you don’t need to apply all the rules, as written, or at all.