Splitting the Party

We make Games

Character creation comes third

I’ve started to work out a sequence for starting up a Pentasystem game. So far, it looks like this:

  1. Pull out the coolmap and decide what themes on it engage you. Add in others, by all means.
  2. Find which entities connect to those themes, and divide up ownership of them among the players.
  3. Create main characters and give them motivating attributes that link to the themes and entities.
  4. Create supporting characters that are connected to the main characters and that put a face on the entities. Probably do this with an R-map. Make sure you build in some conflict (“family is important to me, I hate heretics, my brother-in-law is a heretic”).
  5. Add motivating attributes to the main characters which connect them to the supporting characters.
  6. Create some situations, as gateways, which will act as “inciting incidents” to the main characters you have – features of the world-as-it-is that they can’t ignore but will need to try to change, just because of who they are. Make sure, as well, that the things that can bring about change are things the characters are uniquely equipped to do.
  7. Engaging, conflict-filled gameplay ensues. Or such would be my assumption.

September 12, 2007 Posted by | Pentasystem | Leave a comment

Pentasystem: Player Currency and Character Currency

I finally got around to posting at Story-Games about my idea of the Coolmap,which (in very basic form) looks like this:

Ellipses mean themes, squares mean entities.

The black arrows
are the relationships between the entities (in this case, fantasy
races). The relationships are a kind of entity in their own right;
there are some themes that arise not just from one race or another, but
in the context of the relationship between the races. This is
why there are red arrows coming out of the black arrows. The red arrows
mean “if you have this entity, you potentially have this theme in your

(The three religions, incidentally, should be entities rather than themes.)

The idea is that you glance over the circled themes and
pick ones that appeal. The associated entities will have page numbers, so you can go and
check out only the bits of setting that you’re interested in.

Someone in that thread mentioned Verge, which builds a map like this as the start of play (and modifies it in play – indeed, as play).

Which led to this expansion of the idea, which also draws on Shock a bit. At the beginning of a game, you all sit around and talk about what on the coolmap appeals to you, and things you want to add (or delete). Everyone gets two vetoes, which they can use on either people’s suggestions of things to add, or on things that are on there already. You don’t have to use your vetoes if you don’t want to.

You write on any new entities or themes you’ve agreed on. You then pass the map around the group five times.

At each pass, you may initial any of the entities or themes. This means that you are interested in the entity/theme. You can initial the same one twice (though not more) if you are extra-interested.

After the 5 passes, if any entities are left with only one person’s initials, those people get an extra go for each set of initials they have on such an entity. They can put them on any entity, including another one with only one person’s initials (not theirs).

Now, “ownership” of the entities is decided by either informal discussion, a bidding system of some kind, or the use of a limited number of chances in much the same way as the above. “Owning” an entity means that you are, basically, the god, spirit, angel or patron saint of that entity – you are its GM. You can declare anything to be true about it (whole group may veto), and if anyone else wants to declare something true about it they need your approval.

Your approval, by the way, should always be given, although you can use “Yes, but”, “No, but” or “Yes, and”. Again, the whole group may veto, but the owner may not. The closest you have to a veto is the “No, but”, which achieves the same thing (you should find out what the person is trying to achieve, of course) by different means, or allows a lesser version which is more in proportion.

If you are the only person with initials on an entity, you can do one of two things. You can automatically own the entity, but you can’t create a main character which has it as a motivating attribute; or you can make it a motivating attribute for your main character, but ownership belongs to the group (or to someone else who volunteers to own it).

In general, if you own an entity, your main character can’t have it as a motivating attribute.

Entity owners get a “budget” of what were called pentapoints and are now called “fortune”. The size of the budget is based on how many initials there are against the entity. With this budget, you get to create supporting characters (and sets and so forth) to interact with the main characters. These are the “faces” on the entity: a priest for a religion, a member of the race for a race, and so on and so forth.

You earn additional fortune for hitting the themes that people initialled, again in proportion to how many people initialled them.

So pentapoints/fortune becomes a player currency; pool points are the character currency. Characters can be improved and helped, as well as created, with fortune – I’ve yet to work out exactly how this works.

I also need to figure out how you deal with emergent themes or shifting interest. Perhaps you just revise the map at the start of each session.

August 17, 2007 Posted by | Pentasystem | Leave a comment

Underground Railroad: Play Example

I just finished this Underground Railroad play example. (8 pages, pdf.)

This isn’t Actual Play; it’s Virtual Play, an imaginary scene with imaginary players that gives a feel of what I’m striving for. It’s been a very useful exercise, because it’s shown me all kinds of weaknesses (and possibly unnecessary complexities) in the rules. The conflict rules are going to have a big revision as a result of it.

I think the most useful thing it gives to someone reading it is a feel for how the cooperative creation of the story happens.

A number of current Story-Games discussions have informed it in one way or another.

July 29, 2007 Posted by | Pentasystem, Underground Railroad | Leave a comment

Underground Railroad: Earthist Mystics

Earthist mystics, in my Underground Railroad setting, are kind of shamanic. Through various things I’ve been reading lately I’ve expanded my idea of how that might go.

My current thoughts are that there are, in these mystics’ cosmology, at least three concentric worlds: from inner to outer, the body world, the soul world and the spirit world. Most people can only perceive the body world directly, accessing the other two through it, but the mystics’ training gives them the ability to first perceive, then manipulate, and finally enter the soul world, and eventually the spirit world.

The soul world is perceived symbolically and works by relationship and analogy rather than by the rules of the body world. For example, distance in the soul world is not physical distance but relational or emotional distance. Your lover who is a thousand miles away in the body world is right next to you in the soul world. Even relatively inexperienced mystics can perceive these connections between people (though, since the people look nothing like they look in the body, if they don’t know both their body and soul appearance they won’t be able to connect the two). They can see if you’re lying or afraid or angry, as well.

The worlds are closely linked in people, of course – that’s more or less a definition of “people” to an Earthist mystic – so healers can see (and advanced healers can manipulate) the health and general state of the body through the soul world. I’m thinking of introducing a famous healer, Soul-Armed <whatever his name ends up being>, who lost part of his left arm in an accident but retained the soul version of it; he can put his missing hand into you and fix your internal organs. (I have in mind a section of famous people to use as both an enrichment of the setting and also, should you wish it, either main characters or supporting characters.)

Perception of the soul world differs between different people, because it’s symbolic. However, inexperienced mystics tend to see it rather dimly and in terms of shadows, while experienced mystics see it much more clearly and in terms of light. Who you are looking at also makes a difference: an experienced mystic will seem much sharper and brighter, even to an inexperienced mystic, than an ordinary person.

The small spirits of place, which basically inhabit the spirit world but can descend into the soul world if they want, can meet the mystics there and communicate with them. The relationship with the astronomical gods of the Lunar-Asterists is a matter up for debate. I want to include a mysterious teacher who is synchretizing the two religions and starting to gain a following for what is effectively a new faith. I’m planning to scatter quotes from his philosophy around the book (or maybe it will be someone else’s philosophy).

The spirit world is, for humans, uncommunicable and indescribable, since it transcends names and forms; it is a realm of pure being and identity. Mystics believe that by practicing their spiritual disciplines of concentration, renunciation and attention they can come to experience this aspect of reality, though of course they can’t say anything about it because words are inapplicable.

When a person’s body dies, their soul, no longer anchored in the body world, is drawn towards the spirit world. However, if there is something in the soul world that holds them, they may hang about until it is resolved. If they are very strong or determined, they can cause effects in the body world in pursuit of their resolution. (They’re ghosts or unquiet spirits, in other words, and a mystic will generally be called upon to find out what they want so that they can move on.)

Earthist mystics regard elemental magic, which affects primarily the body world, as something of a distraction, and when they study magic it tends to be the soul-oriented kind – communication, domination and the like. However, advanced mystics, who have integrated body, soul and spirit, can often perform soul-body magic like shapeshifting and healing.

Mechanically, I’ve decided that this kind of thing (magic, psychic powers, superpowers and so forth) all falls under Special Effect: Unusual Powers. I suppose being a lightning calculator, having an eidetic memory or being a contortionist would too. Like any other Special Effect, you buy levels of it, each one more expensive than the last. This is independent of your rating in the related attribute, though. For example, if doing magic was going to be very important to your character’s self-definition, but you saw her as a beginning mage, you might buy one level of Special Effect: Unusual Powers but put four or five dice into her Mage attribute. She would be able to reliably light fires or whatever – she’d be very good at it – but she couldn’t shoot firebolts.

July 23, 2007 Posted by | Pentasystem, Underground Railroad | Leave a comment

Pentasystem: conflict

A couple of posts ago I wrote that I wanted Pentasystem conflict to flow back and forth like Dogs conflict. Dogs does this through “sees” and “raises”; you roll all your dice at the beginning, then spend the results a few at a time in each round of the conflict until someone doesn’t have enough to continue, or doing so would be too costly. You can get extra dice by “escalating”, changing the kind of conflict it is (for example, going from “just talking” to “physical”).

The Pentasystem already has the escalation idea (it’s called shifting the ground of the conflict, and it increases the seriousness of the consequences of rolling certain numbers on the dice). What about the “sees” and “raises”? It’s at least possible that I can achieve a similar feel, using a recycled idea from City of Masks.

In City of Masks, at one point, I had narration going back and forth like this: The challenger (initiating player, in Pentasystem terms) narrated first, then the responding player, then the loser of the conflict, and finally the winner of the conflict. If the responding player was also the loser, this meant three turns, otherwise four. I like this, and I think I’ll keep it. (The current City of Masks procedure is that the two take turns narrating, always heading for the outcome already determined, and the winner gets to decide when to stop, so it can go on for as many turns as the winner wants.)

The other thing I’m thinking about at the moment is, who narrates the outcomes and consequences? There’s no GM, so the authority that the GM normally has to declare “what happened” is allocated among the players. Currently, the Pentasystem text says this:

The owner of the defeated character, setting element etc. describes the ways in which the defeat brought about change.

I quite like this; it makes defeat more attractive. There are two things to consider, though: outcomes and consequences. Outcomes are what other games refer to as “stakes” (Dogs says “what’s at stake”), except that they’re more explicitly mechanical; they’re the way in which the world or the situation is affected, iin terms of attributes that are created, changed or removed. The above quote refers to the outcomes. There are also the consequences, which are the things that change about the characters. At the beginning of a conflict, the two players agree on alternative outcomes, which are “in question”; as they use attributes and other resources to engage in the conflict, they declare what attributes are being put “at risk”, that is, what may change as a result of having engaged in the conflict. I tend to think that regardless of winning or losing the owner of the character, element or whatever should have the say over what specific changes come about as a result of being in the conflict (because you can change by being in a conflict whether you win or lose it; consequences are based on the number of 1s and 6s you roll in the course of the conflict). This is part of what “ownership” means.

Oh, and that highlights a difference from Dogs fallout. In Dogs, you get fallout if you have had to use a lot of dice to win (basically). You get to choose whether you will have fallout from a conflict or not; you can just not push that hard. Everyone does, of course, because that’s what makes the game fun, but you don’t ever have to. In the Pentasystem, on the other hand, every time you roll dice you risk consequences. They could be good, they could be bad, they could not appear at all, they could appear in numbers as large as the dice, but there’s always risk; that’s why you have to nominate what you’re putting “at risk”. Just choosing to have a conflict risks consequences, and you don’t get to choose how great they are. But I think you do get to choose exactly what they are; that’s only fair.

I need to write this out in a proper flow which will handily double as a play aid. And do that worked example with the sky-cavalry commander and the talking cat.

July 20, 2007 Posted by | Pentasystem | Leave a comment

Pentasystem: Influence

Here’s an expansion of something I talked about in my last post. It’s strongly inspired by an idea in the version I saw of Tony Dowling’s Mathematica (now retitled Principia: Secret Wars of the Renaissance). Tony has a thing – I forget whether it’s an ability or a Secret, I think a Secret – called rank (and a parallel thing called wealth) which is about a character’s position in society. I was going to call mine Scale, but I’ve already used that term; I think I’ll call it Influence for now.

(Fair warning, by the way: the terminology of the Pentasystem, and the names of a good many things in Underground Railroad, are likely to change. For example, the game Sufficiently Advanced, which is coming out soon, has something called Twists which are completely different from my Twists. I’ll probably rename Twists as something like Rollups and Rolldowns – generically, Rerolls, which is what they are. As for UR, the onomastics are totally screwed up and suffer from incipient Bad Fantasy Name Syndrome. I need to sit down and figure out how little work I can do and still create believable languages as background.)

So, Influence. Like everything else, it’s rated on a 5-point scale and is an attribute. However, you can specifically have Influence of 0. This happens if you’re a peasant, a salaryman, a serf, a rank-and-file, a private soldier, a proletarian or otherwise on the bottom of the food chain. As an individual, you have 0 influence; your voice will not be heard, except maybe, hopefully, by people of influence 1 whom you know.

Influence 1 means you don’t have a recognized official leadership position in the prevailing hierarchy, but you have some local influence as a person of good standing – a prosperous peasant, a lawyer, a minister, a valued employee (perhaps a supervisor, but not necessarily) – someone generally who has some wealth and knows how to talk and will know people with influence 2. In the Army, you’re an NCO. (OK, that’s official leadership; some hierarchies are more official than others.) In the Church, you’re a vestryman or something.

Influence 2 means you do have a recognized position at the local level – you’re the mayor, line manager or what-have-you. You know people who have influence 1; you are willing, generally, to meet with people of influence 0, though you may dismiss their concerns quite lightly; and you know people of influence 3. You’re a lieutenant, maybe a captain, in the Army. In the Church, you’re a local priest.

Influence 3 means you have some kind of regional significance inside the hierarchy or are a minor celebrity outside it. You know people of influence 4 (you can kind of see a trend developing here, yes? In general, people know people with one more or one less rank of influence; they are generally willing to talk to people with two ranks less, and can get to see people two ranks higher by special arrangement, usually through a person of the intervening rank). You’re a major or a colonel in the Army. In the Church, you’re a bishop.

Influence 4, you have national significance; anyone in the country who knows the names of people who are important knows your name. You have direct access to the highest level of influence. You’re a cabinet minister, a general, a major celebrity, a captain of industry in the Bill Gates or Richard Branson kind of class, a vice-president if we’re talking about a corporation, a Cardinal if we’re talking about the Roman Catholic Church. Because, of course, Influence is not just an on-off kind of thing; you may be at the top of one pyramid (Bill Gates, influence 5 if we’re talking about Microsoft) but only partway up another, and still further down a third. A general is Influence 4 nationally, but Influence 5 in the Army, where a brigadier is Influence 4.

Influence 5, obviously, is where you don’t have a boss, you are the boss. Again, this may be limited to a specific context. It also doesn’t mean that you’re not accountable to a Board or Cabinet or College of Cardinals or whatever. But the buck stops with you.

On the Board/Cabinet thing, in fact, a general principle of influence is that a group of people who are at the same level has influence one level higher as a group than they do as individuals. So a mob of peasants has Influence 1, a deputation of respectable citizens Influence 2, a regional mayors’ conference Influence 3, and so forth.

The mechanical implication of Influence is that you command a certain quantity of resources. I haven’t worked out the exact details yet, but my starting point is that you command a certain number of people one level down, who in turn each command a number of people at the next level, and so forth, and their resources are, theoretically, your resources (inasmuch as they fall within the context of the hierarchy in which you have the influence). These levels also insulate you from people more than two levels below you, as a rule, though you may sometimes deign to speak with a peasant if you are a king, or a line worker if you are a CEO. You’re unlikely to pay much attention to what they say, though, if you let them say anything at all.

Concretely, if you’re a king, you may in theory command the whole country, but in practice in a given situation you may only have a squad of the royal guard with you. I need to work on the whole scaling thing, but that’s the principle: the more influence, the more resources, other things being equal.

Also, and this is the important bit, if the main characters can get to you and win a conflict against you, they can get you to use your influence to change things towards the way they want them. You can’t change the law of the land by winning a conflict with a peasant, only with the King (or the Royal Council, perhaps). You can get local things done by winning a conflict with an Influence 2 person, regional things with an Influence 3 person, and so forth.

Such, at least, is the principle.

July 19, 2007 Posted by | Pentasystem | Leave a comment

O Hai, I Stoled your Dogs

So I finally bought Dogs in the Vineyard. I’m slowly, slowly moving towards maybe playing it, though having been a late teens/early 20s religious judgemental person I kind of shy away from reenacting that. I mainly bought it for the ideas I could steal be influenced by, and it was not a disappointment in this regard. Not at all.

I took notes as I read through the PDF, and here they are (slightly expanded). Some of them are me paraphrasing Vincent fairly directly, others are my thoughts triggered by things he says. Not all of them, probably, will actually get into the Pentasystem, but I suspect most will.

  • If you think the element you plan on introducing could be controversial, ask the group.
  • Attribute phrasings:
    • A bit of personal history (“I once survived in the woods for 3 days without food or shelter”).
    • A simple fact: “I’m a survivor.”
    • A skill: “Survival”.
    • An attitude or catchphrase: “I can survive anything.”

  • Attributes are rated based on how interesting or important they are, not on how “good” they are.

  • Character death (or even character injury) only happens when it is explicitly and voluntarily put in question [in fact this is not strictly speaking the case in Dogs; the dice outcomes can generate a conflict in which the stakes are “your character dies”]. The replacement character gets all the same resources of the old character, plus a bit.

  • Set the scene, say what resources you’re using and what you’re attempting with them, roll dice, then start narration of actual actions.

  • Possibilities in combat: Turning the opponent’s action back (reversing the blow), defending against it (block or dodge), feeling it but going on fighting (taking the blow). Last always has consequences. (Margin of victory in each sub-conflict, I think.)

  • Does the responding player get a response and then an opening themselves? At the moment only if they change the ground do they get to take the initiative. Perhaps they get a response (see) with their bare die roll, but if they bring in other resources (e.g. rerolls) they take initiative (like a raise).

  • Can you hold back successes for follow-up conflicts if you Give in a Pentasystem conflict? I think not.

  • Follow-up conflicts are such if the stakes follow directly from the previous conflict’s resolution. They can’t have the same stakes unless they have different participants (i.e. not identical participants), AND a different place, AND a different opening ground of conflict.

  • Consequences for the inconsequential: if nobody cares what happens to a supporting character, instead of assigning consequences to that character, give the characters that everyone does care about some equivalent advantage.

  • Relationships (enmeshment): becomes usable in a conflict when the conflict involves the target of the enmeshment as either the opponent (possibly in the form of a representative of that thing, e.g. organization), the setting (if the target is a place or the place represents the target, e.g. a church for the Church) or as what is in question or at risk in the conflict. Cause of the conflict would work as well (I’m in this conflict because of this enmeshment.)

  • In multi-way conflicts, at each turn the person who has initiative gets to say who is affected by their actions, and all those people have to stay in by rolling or bail out by giving up their outcome. Maybe they get to respond in reverse order of the size of the dice they rolled in each round (so anyone rolling a 1 goes before anyone whose smallest die is a 2; if two people roll 1s, look at their next smallest die and so on; in case of ties, go clockwise). 

  • I want to replicate the back-and-forth of sees and raises, but I’m not sure my die mechanic supports it. I’ve thought about “you cluster your successes that show the same number together, and that’s a turn,” but I’m not sure how it would work exactly.

  • “A raise is something your opponent can’t ignore.” 

  • Assisting: Your character has to be clearly capable of helping, it has to clearly be an action that would help, and if anyone objects that it’s not reasonable, it doesn’t happen.

  • When assisting, you lose the successes you assist with from your own conflict if you are also in a separate part of the conflict.

  • Setting what’s in question: I think my as-yet-undocumented idea of “scale” enters in here, rather than Vincent’s guidelines “GM should push for small stakes”. (Basically, depending on how interested you are in something, more or less powerful characters will turn up to oppose you on that issue; if you beat a powerful character (who, of course, has more resources and so is harder to beat) you can make bigger changes in the world.)

  • Good follow-up conflicts involve stakes which come out interesting either way (of course, but worth repeating).

  • Conflicts which are too large will mean escalation is always the best choice.

  • No hedged outcomes. They’re outcomes – things that happen. Nothing should be said, in the set outcomes (what Dogs calls “what’s at stake”), about how they happen. That’s what the conflict is for.
  • Conflicts arise because people want things. What do the supporting characters want? 
  • Proto-NPCs or partially generated supporting characters – definitely needed. At least with pool points assigned and some ratings for a few attributes. Then match these with the necessary handles as required.
  • Group-as-character, with an attribute for each person perhaps? This was an early idea I’ve been moving away from. Perhaps it’s time to look at it again.

  •  Demonic Influence acts kind of like the momentum of the situation – parallel to 5-act structure determining additional opposition or inertia for unopposed actions?
  •  Anything the characters want to do is automatically OK until it conflicts with something another character wants. Then, conflict. (Roll dice or say yes.)
  •  Don’t keep the secrets, reveal the secrets.
  •  Create situation, not plot; people who want things, not supervillains. Create situations where the characters will take sides. Then complicate whichever side they take. (Plot is how characters respond to situation. You can’t know that in advance.)
  •  Enmeshing with something says you want to be in conflict with (or about) it. Taking an attribute says you want to use that as your means of resolving conflicts.

And a couple of “structuring the book” points:

  • Summarize after each major section – quick reference.
  • Rules index! This is an excellent idea for a game with a lot of rules.

July 18, 2007 Posted by | Pentasystem | 1 Comment

Fallen Power 19

1.)What is your game about?
”Fallen” is about voluntarily fallen angels kicking demon criminal ass in a modern setting. It’s about imperfect powerful beings trying to redeem themselves or simply try and help humanity. It’s also about exploring the themes of revenge, justice and punishment

2.) What do the characters do?
They act as an ad hoc judge jury and executioner for demon criminals and their human pawns that mortal law enforcement is unable to to apprehend. At the same time, they keep up a ‘’front’’ of mortal life and make sure their loved ones don’t come to harm.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
The GM handles the world and the NPCs. Players roleplay their character’s actions and personal stories.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The setting is modern, a world where demons are slowly taking over the darker sides of humanity (criminals and sinners) and making the world a much worse place for everyone. These demons are the adversaries.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
Character creation is focused on skills, attributes and powers. These are the tools the characters will be using in the face of adversity. Initially, the player will be asked to answer a few questions about his character, such as: general concept, previous duty in heaven, reason and method of the ”fall”, the host chosen and a few more. This makes the character a bit clearer for the player and adds some background. Archetypes can be used if the player doesn’t feel like coming up with all aspects himself. Archetypes function as guidelines, making character creation choices easier by restricting point placement and powers available.

6.) What types of behaviours/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
There is no alignment or ”humanity” mechanic. Making combat violent is however rewarded through a ”bloodlust” pool mechanic that allows for special stunts or powers.

7.) How are behaviours and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
There are no rewards for style of play or behaviour. You can either be a good guy that goes around saving people, or a bad guy killing with little evidence or reason.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
The GM narrates and controls the environment and the NPCs. Players control their characters.

9.) What does your game do to command the players’ attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
It offers you what you need to create an interesting character with depth and personality. Character creation helps make each character unique and detailed while not bogging down the chargen section. Sending that character into danger (both physical and mental) makes for dramatic roleplaying.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
Players roll Skill+Attribute vs a difficulty and count their successes. It’s a d10 system.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
The combat mechanics reinforce that combat is horrible and scary and death is a distinct possibility. The violent acts that are bound to be committed by the Fallen provide an interesting mechanic as well, seeing as they’re supposed to be the ”good guys” fighting evil.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
They will advance by gaining experience points with which they can buy skills/abilities/powers.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
Well being able to buy additional powers or get better at existing skills/abilities/powers makes your character better equipped to deal with adversaries. You will be able to purchase new powers or ”upgrade” existing ones.

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
I want the players to feel compassion for crime victims and rage towards the perpetrators. I want them to feel like going outside with a trunk full of guns and kill every demon they can find. Then I want them to doubt their very nature, after they’ve just killed a demon begging for mercy.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
The horrible nature of violence is one. Although the game is largely about outright killing horrible horrible demons, violence is in itself a horrible act.
Besides that, the imperfect nature of a fallen angel merged with a mortal and the implications this kind of existence entails is key to the game. Balancing demon hunter by night with white-collar job and family by day is an interesting idea.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
I’m really excited about the possibilities of character creation (besides the fact that you’re a fallen angel, anything goes. You can make low-key, gritty characters with deep background stories and depth, or just use an archetype to create an ass kicking angel) and the themes presented in the game(nature of violence and revenge, guilt, justice).

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
Being able to create a rather unique character is one of the pros. You are completely free to create anything you feel like with no strict rules, while at the same time still create characters that fit with the game and style of play.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
I currently plan to publish a pdf. A softcover edition through Lulu would be nice as well.

19.) Who is your target audience?
Definitely adults, quite possibly experienced gamers looking to invest time in a game either too shallow or too deep.

June 28, 2007 Posted by | Fallen | 3 Comments

Underground Railroad: Setting Design Principles

I’m starting to come up with some principles for designing the Underground Railroad setting. As I said in the Story-Games RPG Fantasy Setting Wishlist thread (which I am so mining, oh yes I am):

Setting stuff that isn’t just “Montanus exports opals and wool and is
dry and cold” but gives you a reason to be a character from Montanus
and tells you what that means in terms of who you are likely to be in
conflict with, what your abilities are likely to be, what you probably
care about…

So every place will have at least one thing about it that makes it a cool place to be from, and one thing which makes it a cool place to set a story or part of a story. Every institution, every setting element generally, should have at least one thing which makes someone say, “I want that in my game.” Otherwise, why is it in the setting material? And always, always looking for the potential conflicts. Always.

And subsequent to that, of course, I figured out why you would want to be from Montanus. Because some people from Montanus ride flying horses. Which also fits in to Daniel Solis’s request in that thread, in response to several people saying “Airships!”: “More flying in general.”

Why am I putting so much flying in a setting called Underground Railroad? Because flying is cool, that’s why.

June 28, 2007 Posted by | Pentasystem, Underground Railroad | Leave a comment

Underground Railroad: Cover Inspiration

It is far, far, far too early for me to be thinking about a cover for Underground Railroad (the first Pentasystem setting). However, inspiration strikes when it strikes. Here’s what I envisage.

The cover features a young woman, small and slender, like a jockey. Her skin and eyes are brown; what you can see of her hair is black. She is wearing tight-fitting (but not cheesecakey) white leather boots, pants and shirt, and a vest, open at the back, which is covered with white feathers in neat rows. She has a white flying helmet with goggles pushed up, and streaming from the back of it, attached by its middle, a white scarf. A matching white sash is around her waist, where an ice wand is holstered. (I don’t know what an ice wand looks like. The artist has to do some work.) She is leading a large white horse with white wings; the horse is grooming its wings with its teeth, because the woman has stopped to argue with (and it’s clear from her expression and body language that they are arguing) a small black cat which is up on its hind legs – not in a Peter-Rabbit kind of way, just like an ordinary cat that really wants something from a human.

I’m reasonably sure that her name is Suan; I am sure that she’s the commander of the Montanusi sky-cavalry employed as mercenaries by Anavalus IV of Koskant. The cat is a Jorian talking cat called Skyport Midnight, and they are arguing about whether he can have a ride on her flying horse, The Zephyr. I’m strongly considering making this my conflict example in the rules text.

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June 27, 2007 Posted by | Pentasystem, Underground Railroad | 2 Comments