#RPG – Actual Fucking Monsters RELEASED!

Aren’t we all just a little tired of shiny, brooding, romantic, tragic monsters with their ‘woe is me’ whining and carrying on? ‘Monsters we are, lest monsters we become’. Well, fuck holding onto your humanity. If we’re going to be monsters, let’s be Actual Fucking Monsters.

Drawing inspiration from works like Nightbreed and an endless array of 80s horror flicks and their revivals, Actual Fucking Monsters is a game of monstrous creatures doing horrible things and being tracked down and destroyed for it. You don’t win, you live fast, leave a bloody swathe in your wake and then are cut down by the forces of vengeful humanity.

Is that fun?

It sure as shit is.

BUY PDF HERE

BUY POD HERE

#RPG – Grimdark – Characters

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Art by Maxime Defoulny

So these rules are really me brainstorming how I would need to change the rules of D&D to better fit the ‘grimdark’ setting I am intending to crowdfund in the near future.

D&D is great for all sorts of games, but as a ‘general’ rules set doesn’t particularly excel at being anything other then D&D. Lamentations of the Flame Princess and other, hardcore ‘old school’ games hark back to the extreme peril of playing low-level characters in Gygaxian misery-dungeons, and often have a grind-house/grind-core heavy metal aesthetic, veering more towards horror than fantasy.

That’s great and all, but I want to do something with 5e, to appeal to people on a basis of more than nostalgia and to provide a familiar, but different, experience for people who are new to role-playing and have entered through the popularity of 5th Edition.

There’s something of a fetish for super-difficult games in computing, from Darkest Dungeon, Salt and Bloodborne to the Infamous, Dark Souls. Tabletop games are different, you can’t learn or hone the skill of the game or learn the attack patterns of the monsters, character builds can be optimised, but that tends to diminish the role-play. Difficulty, then, has to come from the sense to play tactically, carefully, swing the advantage in your favour and to deal with difficult and horrifying roleplaying and decision making.

We need to take that, lustrous, heroic edge off 5th Edition’s default rules-set to amp up the difficulty and make people play more carefully, but without turning it into a total meatgrinder.

Let’s talk about characters then…

Species

In the setting I am envisioning you would only be able to play humans. So far as the types go otherwise, there isn’t really anything much else that needs to be done. As a default the human traits – especially the variant ones – go a long way to helping compensate for bad rolls at character creation, mixing self-determination and the ‘hardcore’ nature of the ‘straight roll’ character generation – which I would foresee being the standard rules…

To read this full article, please donate $1 a month on my Patreon to get articles like this, access to me and discounts on apparel and PDFs of RPGs. You can get many of the same perks (but fewer) by following me on Minds.com and donating 1 token a month.

#200wordRPG #RPG #TTRPG – De-Escalation

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A game for two players, which uses dominoes. The aim is to negotiate an agreement between South Hanguk and Best Hanguk.

The game’s played in rounds, over issues determined by the first tile laid out each round. The game ends when you run out of tiles.

Play rock-paper-scissors to determine first player.

Rounds:

  1. Fill your hand to 5 tiles.

  2. The first player lays a tile and announces the issue.

  3. The opposite player plays a tile that matches a number on the laid out tiles, and describes a demand (if played on the side facing you) or a concession (if on the opposing side). You can also ‘give’. If you can’t come up with a description or play a tile, you ‘give’.

  4. The other player can now play a tile, and play continues until someone ‘gives’.

  5. Whoever doesn’t ‘give’ scores the points.

  6. Change first player and go to 1.

Tile Total/Points & Issue

0: The border.
1: Disputed region of Noot.
2: Diplomatic presence.
3: Hotline.
4: Prisoner exchange.
5: Agriculture.
6: Infrastructure.
7: Defectors.
8: Immigration.
9: Fishing rights.
10: Human rights.
11: Conventional Militaries.
12: Nuclear Program.

#200wordRPG #RPG #TTRPG – Martha

Hm0mU1525358792This is a game for two players. Each player describes a superhero in broad, general terms such as ‘I dress up as a bat and punch people, with gadgets’. They then describe three key events from their character’s past.

For example:

  • My parents are dead, murdered in a mugging.

  • A superpowered drug addict broke my back.

  • I was born into wealth and privilege. I never wanted for anything.

Each player then takes it, in turn, to present the opposite hero with a heroic dilemma, such as a choice between saving the woman he loves, or a bus-load of nuns.

For example:

I spend many nights praying for a just, benevolent god to bring back my parents, or to reveal who it was that murdered them. My prayers went unanswered. Fuck those nuns. Fuck them in their stupid arses.”

Using the engine of a flashback, that fits a key event, the player must describe something related to it, that informs their decision upon how to act. Play continues until both players have made three dilemma decisions, no key event may be used for a flashback more than once. This ramps up the challenge as play continues.

#RPG – Word Wizards RELEASED!

An RPG based around using words to complete tasks, rather than using mathematics. Compatible with popular word-tile games and great for learning spelling and vocabulary in a game setting.

Designed to encourage the use of words and to help kids with language the way many games help with mathematics, Word Wizards should help with vocabulary, spelling and teaching about synonyms.

Buy it HERE

Hardcopy can be purchased HERE.

#RPG – Tales of Gor Update

Gorpage

#RPG – What IS the Appeal of Apocalypse World?!?

8850393Trying, again, to ‘get’ Apocalypse World

I’ve tried, several times, to get my head around Apocalypse World. I’ve appealed for help, listened to Podcasts and Actual Play and read the book over and again and I still can’t see how there’s really a playable game in here – worthy of the name – or what the bloody hell the appeal is to people.

This is immensely frustrating as I generally have an intuitive grasp of games systems and their appeal, even if I don’t personally like them very much.

So why not share my experience and frustration to see if that helps people help me…

The Basics

TB1. The first, major, problem with the game is that it drips pretension to such a degree that it is almost painful to read.

TB2. The archetypes and friendship-oriented play seems singularly ill-suited to the trops of a post-apocalyptic setting (with the exception of zombie horror, which is often ‘social horror’ in a similar way to ‘social science fiction’. Setting and system are not in harmony.

TB3. Bleh, psychics. See 2.

TB4. ‘Master of Ceremonies’, see 1. It’s kind of a tradition to rename Games Master at this point, but particularly bad choices still grate. At least it’s not ‘Hollyhock God’. Terminology in general is a problem this and a lot of other pretentious games have. It renders their communication more opaque than is strictly necessary.

TB5. Moves. I loathe and detest the whole idea of ‘Moves’ as they are presented in this game. For me the great, grand appeal of the RPG over other forms of interactive entertainment is the sheer freedom that they have, in spite of the limitations of rules. Apocalypse World, however, seems to hard-code into itself an extremely limited set of interactions that herd you into thinking in terms of ‘moves’ rather than ‘what is my character doing?’ Weirdly, the same problem 4e D&D had.

TB6. Strictly in terms of probability you’re going to hit a ‘7’ on 2D6 21/36 times (nearly 60% of the time). This seems a bit too easy for what’s supposed to be a dangerous setting and 10+ is a ‘strong hit’ – or a good result. Modifiers don’t seem to, normally, extend to more than +/- 3.

TB7. Character creation is normally pretty sacrosanct. Allowing another player to interfere with your character creation by ‘highlighting’ a statistic for you seems to me to horribly dismantle perhaps the most important aspect of player agency.

TB8. Stat terminology pretension rears its ugly head again and while Hx seems like a reasonable concept it makes less sense later on.

TB9. Gear isn’t well described here and the apparent rules raise some red flag but it’ll have to be understood ater.

TB9. Harm and healing seems needlessly complex and counter-intuitive. Debility seems to make sense though, not dissimilar to FATE’s consequences. Again, not well described here which makes it hard to know what to really think at this point.

TB10. Character advancement based on Hx seems to be just begging to be abused and could either turn every game into an orgy or a backstab-a-palooza.

The Characters

TC1. These characters just kill any desire I might otherwise have to play. The pretentious descriptions suck the potential joy out of them.

TC2. For a game with a largely non-explicit background, the explicit use of psychic weirdness relating to abilities not necessarily rooted in psychic power is an annoyance.

TC3. All these interwoven relationships are really going to fuck a game up if one of the players can’t make it from session to session and means that pregenerated scenarios for conventions are going to be in trouble if you can’t fill your table completely.

TC4. While you can get moves from other Playbooks with advancement, some moves on characters seem like things anyone should be able to get anyway and, again, the specificity of the moves is inherently limiting and anti-RP, a huge turn off.

TC5. Pre-set statistic grabs also limit your options and do not appear balanced, at all. EG: On The Battlebabe why would you take the second entry (total +3) as opposed to any other stat-grabs, which equal +4?

TC6. With gangs etc at your disposal from the get go, there’s much less impetus (or reason) to build, less goals for a character to have and less reason to take risks or do anything yourself.

TC7. Carrying +1 forward to your next roll often won’t make any sense. The Gunlugger, for example, will get a +1 on their next roll after having sex, but how will having had sex necessarily relate to what they’re doing?

TC8. Hardholder has all the problems that a Chopper has, but with the added problem of not being able to move, severely limiting game possibilities.

TC9. The other huge problem with ‘set moves’ is that they’re a bit of a throwback to very old RPGs where different things you did might have entirely different rules, whereas today (thankfully) most games operate under a unified rules-set. With every move acting differently, reference is demanded. I guess this is why there’s ‘playbooks’ but it seems like a sticking plaster over a basic design fault. Specialist booklets would normally be bonus material, not a necessity.

TC10. Helping or hindering people is based on your relationship with them, not your applicable statistic to the task at hand. So if you were trying to move a heavy object you’d be better off asking your girlfriend than Hunk Meatloaf the bodybuilder.

TC11. Rolling Harm in addition to taking it is going to slow down play. There’s also huge potential for abuse by Games Masters (sorry, MCs) and Players alike – repeatedly slapping the weapon out of someone’s hand on your attacks for example, will not be hard to do at all.

TC12. These Battle Moves aren’t explained at all. There’s a Battle Countdown but it doesn’t explain how it counts down, why it’s limited or what it does. It’s just thrown in there.

TC13. Why is ‘doing stuff under fire’ based on Cool and not based on what you’re actually doing? Given the layered rolling etc elsewhere why not roll Cool to see if you do better or worse at what you are really doing under fire?

Character Creation

Didn’t we cover this already? No, it’s more like the unspoken stuff from most games and a recap.

The Master of Ceremonies

MC1. So no predetermined plot. Fine. This is my favourite way to play but the game does not seem tailored to help the ‘MC’ with their improvisation, or indeed anyone else, another flaw with very set character types and set ‘moves’.

MC2. It’s useful to compare Apocalypse World with Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Where LotFP takes a ‘this is how I do it!’ tone, AW seems to take a more ‘this is how it IS done’ tone, which is offputting.

MC3. This mostly seems to be fairly generic advice, which can be useful, but again it ends up dripping pretension which just makes me want to be contrarian.

The First Session

TFS1. This was always the problem with FATE as originally written too, spending all that time on a formalised getting-to-know-the-characters and linking their backgrounds made it hard as fuck to throw together a game on short notice and was actually less meaningful than building relationships in play or in a free for all, or even simply ignoring the problem altogether.

TFS2. The worksheets seem like a good idea in theory, but as presented here it just seems like a confusing mess.

Prep for Play: Fronts

FR1. Fronts seem – like much in this game – needlessly complicated and hard-set where they don’t need to be and vague where they don’t need to be either. When should the clocks count down and why use clock terminology when the ‘clock’ only has six segments anyway and would be better and more conveniently represented by a D6?

FR2. Stakes aren’t well enough explained, or how they come into play.

FR3. With regards to opposition, so far at least everything seems to depend on the players FAILING. Not on an enemy succeeding. This would seem to rather rob NPCs and enemies of agency or, indeed, having a point. This isn’t like in Numenera, ‘baddies’ seem to be genuinely pointless. This may clear up in a bit.

Rules of Play: Moves Snowball

RoP1. Yeah, even the example of play shows the problem with the set moves.

RoP2. MC ‘moves’ don’t even seem to be moves and have, again, been unnecessarily formalised. This is stuff that emerges naturally through play.

Rules of Play: Harm & Healing

HaH1. Sources of harm don’t appear to include enemy action (as a direct attack) just screwing up, still.

HaH2. Cinematic harm doesn’t seem to fit with the implicit setting.

HaH3. How does harm against/from enemies work? Seemingly by fiat, or by forcing the player to make a roll – and fail. Sucking the tension out of the game. NPC harm is also a special case – again – further complicating matters.

HaH4. Gang damage seems like it wouldn’t work too well in practice either. A PC group could blast away at an enemy army forever and never do it any harm – at least by the rules.

Improvement

Imp1: Still not convinced the advancement system isn’t ripe for orgy-led/Hx tinkering abuse and handing over control of your highlighted stats to others robs the player of choice in character creation.

Imp2: Multiple characters? Because it leeches away player investment in characters and is ripe for abuse, again.

Basic Moves

BM1: ‘Bargains’ are a genuinely interesting ideas for a mechanic (yes, but…) but aren’t particularly well described or covered.

BM2: The battle clock is better described here, but still seems unnecessary and something that would emerge during play anyway.

Character Moves

CM1: Why are we filling a book with repetition?

The Character’s Crap

TCC1: Abstracting money is old hat and has always been super annoying. Abstracting barter makes more sense, after a fashion, but does harm immersion.

TCC2: As with most low-fi game systems the absence of distinction between types of gear and weapons makes them far less important, which can harm story and character specialisation due to the meaninglessness of the choices. The descriptive words here also seem somewhat useless or unnecessary to point out. This is especially an issue with the vehicles.

Advanced Fuckery

AF1: So it takes the advanced and optional rules before making things easier or harder is even an option.

Conclusion

This was probably the most useful thing in ‘grokking’ the game (even though its for Dungeon World), but I still l don’t really ‘get it’. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/3269630/dwdotcom/eon-guide/Dungeon%20World%20Guide%20pdf%20version%201.2.pdf

AW is complex where it should be simple and simple where it should be complex. The ‘moves’ make it relatively inflexible and each move restricts a player unduly by their playbook and in their actions – as well as being further disempowered by several, deliberate system choices as written.

Relying on players fucking up, rather than enemies doing well is done better, IMO, in Numenera and the rules here as a whole seem manifestly unsuited to the implicit setting, as well as being hugely open for abuse.

I just cannot understand the appeal here. The disjointed mechanics and design choices seem antithetical to roleplay, to immersion, to the implicit setting, to making reactive, in-character choices and on top of that are ripe for abuse.

Character customisation and scaling is particularly pathetic, you only have statistics that range (normally) from -2 to +2.

If I were to use this for anything I’d have to tear it down to virtually nothing, boost the scale (2d12 would at least take the scale to 10, -4 to +4), get shot of the moves and cut out all the needless hectoring and pretension.

I’m not saying any of this to be mean. I have issues with other systems whose popularity escapes me as well (Savage Worlds for example) but AW appears to be a particularly egregious example where I can’t see anything that it actually does well enough to justify the love some people seem to have for it. There’s pretty much nothing a more conventional RPG doesn’t do better.

The one good thing I can take from it is only the nature of dice results.

1. No, and something bad happens.

2. Yes, but something somewhat bad happens.

3. Yes and something good happens.

This also might work even better if it were further expanded.

The appeal of this game as a means of doing anything remains a total mystery. What the hell does it do well? Why did it get all those awards?