Rifts Done Right

RDR (maybe call it Radar) is a tag that I’ve added a couple of times. It is my latest probably not to be finished project. Specifically it stands for Rifts Done Right. It won’t technically be Rifts converted to a retro-clone given Palladium’s rather nasty policy of sending C&Ds to anyone who posts conversions of their material to other systems. Despite that routinely threads turn up at RPG.net about converting Rifts or doing it right. Most talk about converting it to a “better system” with as diverse a list including EABA, Savage Worlds, Mutants & Masterminds, FATE in several incarnations, Hero, and GURPS regularly coming up. I think that’s misguided as the “clunky, broken, and unbalanced” system Palladium uses is a big source of the gonzo fun that makes Rifts work.

Instead, I’m working on a retro-clone based (probably Swords & Wizardry White Box) game inspired by Rifts: a gonzo post-nuclear and magical apocalypse game about guys in powered armor adventuring with dragons in order to kill demons coming to Earth via tears in reality. After all, if you want weird gonzo science fantasy after the end of the world why not go back to the original “balance, we don’t need no stinking balance” game style. Palladium’s house system has it’s roots in the late 70s/early 80s old school style. In fact, they are arguably the last great old school gaming company.

Why am I bothering to post all of this? Because in surveying my A to Z Blogging Challenge planned posts I see just how many are RDR based. Given that I figured explaining it up front was worth while.

Sure, after April it might turn out to be another Space Monks or Demon Haunted World but I hope not. Both of those projects died for lack of players for me to test my ideas. After this Saturday’s Stars without Numbers game RDR will be what I run at local meet-ups. I find it hard to create RPG material if there is no game to use them. I’m hoping it’ll be a hit at the Meetup and become a monthly game.

Random Campaign Idea: Roaring Heroes

Imagine a time of great change, a new and unique popular music, the emergence of organized crime in many cities in the US, a ubiquitous underworld, rebellious youth culture, lots of stories of adventure and science, and many people pushing to the limits of human ability and endurance.

Well, if you consider women voting, the emergence of jazz (specifically Dixieland), people from Joe Kennedy to Al Capone to making fortunes running rum, the speakeasy culture, The Lost Generation and flappers, the birth of Amazing Stories, much of Lovecraft’s stories (the landmark Call of Cthulhu was written in 1926 and published in 1928), and things as serious as Lindbergh flight and as frivolous as pole-sitting(although it has a serious religious history).

So why not superheroes? I thing the 20s is a completely ignored period for superheroes, at least in gaming.

Potential heroes could include:

Pole Star: With the emergence of the first Polish nation in over a century the resulting surge of nationalism would inspire one young lady to become the embodiment of the Polish nation. Her powers first appeared on the battlefields of Polish-Soviet War when she blinded an entire Soviet infantry company (leading to their capture) with her “star light”.

The Limmerick: An Irish veteran of the war against British known for his banter while running circles around British troops later showed how literal those circles were. This speedster was also know for his improvised vibes at his opponents.

The Stylist: A record holder during the pole sitting fad would achieve a form of enlightenment and bodily control and go on to fight crime with his mental powers and unstoppable fists.

The Drunken Brawler: The other great fist fighter of the first generation of superheroes was a college student who first learned of his alcohol fueled powers while defending his girl and several others when a gang hit went down in his favorite speakeasy.

The Mol: However, The Drunken Brawler’s girlfriend needed protection the least. A champion trick shooter she would go on to join him in crime fighting in the Northeast US. Given his need for the illegal gin to fuel his abilities she actually held the more prominent position and certainly was the public face of the Flapper Duo.

I think a 1920s game would work best with a few ground rules:

  1. The nature of the heroes is probably better at a lower power level (even the original Superman was less powered than today) and with attitudes halfway between classic pulp heroes such as The Shadow and Doc Savage and the Superheroes decended from them. Domino masks and stylized street clothes should be preferred over tights.
  2. A lighter, early Silver Age style should prevail and even then a more DC “golly, gee why can’t she love me instead of Green Lantern” feel than a “how will I take care of Aunt May” Marvel feel.
  3. At the same time, this is the party before we all die in the wake of WWI. Most men who are heroes are probably veterans of that war and their angst over the killing and senselessness of the war is good. Codes against killing as well as superheroics being an expression of things such as finding meaning or thrill seeking (similar to the emergence of biker gangs after WWII) are good uses of the effects of the war.
  4. The Mysterious East is a double edged sword. Yellow peril is in the air and the Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu (or a suitable clone) is almost required. At the same time characters like Larry Darrell are finding a way to deal with the war and some mysterious powers (even Darrell uses hypnotism) in the Orient.
  5. National heroes could pop up all over Europe with the changes due to the war. That same nationalism deposed many monarchs who could make great villains or national heroes depending on how you play it. Is the Kaiser a villain scheming to re-enslave Germany or the last person defending it to the world?

A Pair of Random Thoughts

I’m not sure it’s the answer they wanted but a recent search that lead someone here: “where did people go in the 80s”.

Well, they did go and play D&D so it’s a valid answer.

Item the second is there is a lot of talk about how D&D in the 80s was a fad and we’ll never see it again. While I don’t disagree I think that concluding the hobby is doomed, Doomed, DOOMED because of it is false. Why?

This is one of the newest Meetups in Atlanta. Gee, didn’t that fad die over a decade before Dave and Gary first created our hobby?

I Want to Open a “5 & 23” Store

I mentioned in the last post my idea of how to write PDFs and how it falls into Zak’s “how I want to know about your setting” post. Yet, it came from much more random ideas on my part.

The idea behind a “5 & 23” supplement is fairly simple. Take an idea: character generation, artifacts, the Hierarchy, whatever and create two sets of things. First, you create 5 of something about the idea. These five are longer items like an essay or other exposition text. For example, with character generation you could make an outline of character generation, an alignment chart with explanations, a brief set of common knowledge, and a couple of other things. Then you make 23 shorter things, like sets of random tables, on the same idea. A logical one for character generation would be 23 sets of Devil in the Details tables. These might have some exposition but the core idea is these are at the game table usable things. In fact, they should be laid out so the GM can print out the charts on one page, complete and alone, and just pick the one he needs out of his notebook. For example, you could hand the elf tables to the player creating an elf while the one creating a cleric could pick the Hierarchy one or The Cults of the 1,000 Saints One.

Why 5 and 23? Because they are sacred numbers to Discordians and I’ve discussed before how influential Discordianism is for me and the setting. Influential enough that when thinking about making a product or two Discordian numbers guiding the form of product.

I was discussing this in early March with someone. While I won’t claim independent creation it’s nice to know I was at least thinking along similar lines to people much smarter than me.

What Do Welsh Porn Stars Know About D&D

The Welsh Piper expanded upon an excellent idea from Zak at Playing D&D with Porn Stars. GM oriented materials, especial setting materials, are written wrong. They are long tomes of text resembling histories or fiction instead of stuff you can use at the table.

Zak has since done a couple of posts that one could see as GM exercises similar to writing exercises. The first, as part of the original post, is “What’s Chewing On That Carcass? Table For The Last NonDungeon Place Your PCs Were…(roll d6)”. The second, a day later was “d6 Why Did that Happen?” table for the last city or settlement your PCs visited. The first seems less useful to me but the second is great in terms of explaining the secret behind what to me was just an event that the players fixated on.

Yet even the first, is useful if you look at Erin’s reasons this is so brilliant. It’s a weird, simple encounter table which makes it easier for me to customize my encounter/random event tables.

What really struck me is how my “5 & 23” idea for gathering PDFs of The World After info falls into this. It’s also a cheap and easy idea for blog posts.

Monday Pointers: Out Like a Lamb Edition

D4:Favored and Unfavored Abilities
Here’s a cool little house rule for generating ability scores. It’s from an abandoned attempted at the Fantasy Heartbreaker exercise by Mike Holmes and related by Ron Edwards in the second fantasy heartbreaker article. The irony is I found Madcat’s blog looking up one of my favorite heartbreakers, Fifth Cycle. Regardless, I think this idea will work it’s way into The World After, at least for generating non-humans.

D6:Produce a Setting Almanac, not Encyclopedia
This one is a bit old, but given I’ve got two posts in the hopper today that reference it I figured I should link to it. Zak, about to produce his first published setting, argues prose is the wrong way to present a setting. Instead we should have game rules materials: random charts, classes, lists, etc.

D8:Yet This is An Encyclopedia
The hot thing last week in the OSR seemed to be our very own wiki with many exhortations to link your favorite things.

D10:A Truly Random Contest
So, Fight On is having a random tables contest. The winners get to roll on a series of treasure tables for their prize.

D12:Not An April’s Fools
This Friday is the pre-order day for LotFPWFRPG: Grindhouse Edition and Vornheim (which is the above mentioned setting by Zak). I will be as close to #1 as possible to the point of considering writing a bot to do it.

Two posts in the hopper today (as in almost done) plus Thursday I’ll be putting up a “to be filled in as I go” index for the post a letter a day in April.

Turbert: Exiled Soldier Becomes a Wizard

Background:Reign is a fantasy RPG by Greg Stolze using the One Roll Engine (ORE). ORE uses d10 pools where a single roll determines all aspects of the outcome. Instead of looking for a specific number you’re looking for matching numbers. Taking a set of matches they have width (the number of matching dice) and height (the value on the matching dice). If you have multiple matches you choose which one (or ones in some cases) to use.

When I say they decide everything the best example is combat. In combat width determines when you hit and how hard (initiative and damage) while height is where you hit (1 hits a leg while 10 hits the head). Thus, combat consists of everyone declaring what they are doing then rolling. Width determines order of resolution. Additional rules cover multiple actions (take a die from the pool for each extra and look for multiple matches), dodging and other counters (you matches can neutralize their matches), and other complications.

A key idea is a limit of dice pools to 10 dice to avoid automatic successes.

There is one exception. While most ORE games are point generation Reign offers a second method. One Roll Characters are created by rolling 11d10. This ensures one match. Matches of 2-5 dice give abilities according to a chart with each number representing particular profession (all 9s are magical abilities while all 6s are warrior skills). The values are cumulative so if you roll four 7s then you get the two 7 abilities and three 7s abilities as well. If you have 6+ matches, re-roll the dice over 5 matches. Waste dice, those that have not match, are used on one of three charts (your choice) to give a variety of things that happened in your past.

Reign: Enchiridion (the generic rules only version) give generic tables. I know the various supplements give tables specific to different cultures in the default setting of Heluso and Milonda. I’m not sure if the core book with setting has a generic or specific cultures or both.

Generating the Character:Given I own Reign: Enchiridion Turbert will be a generic table character. To provide setting details when done I’ve decided to make a Forgotten Realms character. Stats all start at 2 (the stats are BODY, COORDINATION, SENSE, COMMAND, CHARM, KNOWLEDGE) and I have a MD (a special die which isn’t rolled but whose roll is picked after the rest of the pool is rolled) in my native language.

Rolls: 5,5, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 1, 10, 6, 7

Matches: 2×4 is an Able Seaman, 2×8 is a Squad Leader, 3×9 is a Hedge Wizard

For the unmatched dice I’ll just go table A, table B, table C, and the back to A. This gives me: Exiled, Diplomatic Incident, Saved Someone’s Life, and Rescued an Injured Animal
Able Seaman: COORDINATION +1, fight +1, climb + 2, student: sailing +2 (skills to specialize in something are called expert: thing except for KNOWLEDGE based ones which are student: thing)

Squad Leader: COMMAND +1, fight +1, ride +1, tactics +1, inspire +2

Hedge Wizard: counterspell +2, eerie +1, sorcery +1, spells +1

Sorcerer’s Apprentice: No, I didn’t roll this, but it’s the 2×9 result which I get for rolling 3×9 as well as the Hedge Wizard 3×9. KNOWLEDGE +1, lore +1, eerie+1, sorcery +1, spells +2

Exiled: plead +3, dodge+1, run +1

Rescued and injured animal: student: animal training +2, Advantage: animal Companion +3

Diplomatic incident: Patron +5, problem: enemy

Saved Someone’s Life: Patron +5

Turbert Ymor
Fight: 1
Run: 1
Vigor: 2
Eerie: 2
Plead: 3
Climb: 1
Dodge: 1
Ride: 1
Inspire: 2
Student: Sailing: 2
Tactics: 1
Lore: 1
Sorcery: 2
Counterspell: 2
Student: Animal Training: 2
Advantages Patron:
Animal Companion:

Burning Hands(1): One target within 100 paces takes width and waste die shock damage if it fails to dodge.
Light Fire(1):Starts a full fire in a bundle of flammable material that is no more than one person can carry.
Wizard Challenge(3):One target within 100 paces is targeted with an arcane bolt doing shock and width if not dodged while the activation dice become gobble dice against the next spell (helpful or harmful) directed at the caster.

The State of Superior and the Other Lake States: Encounter Tables

Setting info via The Zak Method.

After The Night of Blood and Tears human remnants in the Great Lakes regions of the US and Canada huddled into medium cities that survived. Eventually these settlements evolved into the Lake States, dominated by Superior. They are human purists and virulently anti-magic and nearly as anti-psionic.

In the Lake States there are three basic types of areas in The Lake States: urban, farmland, and fringe (originally wastes).

Lake States Encounter Tables

Lake States Urban Encounters
2 Escaped Extra-dimensional Being
3 Rouge magic user or psychic
4 Lone wolf patrol
5 Military convoy
6 Full wolf patrol
7 Common public services bot
8 Party officials
9 Off Duty Regular soldiers
10 Police patrol
11 Common workers going to or from work
12 Drunks
13 Skinhead Gang
14 Prostitute
15 Slave laborer
16 Adventuring Party
17 Black market dealer of some kind
18 Stoners
19 Escaped slave laborer
20 Minor mutant
Lake States Farmland Encounters
2 Extra-dimensional Being
3 Rouge magic user or psychic
4 Lone wolf patrol
5 Slave laborer
6 Full wolf patrol
7 Farming bot
8 Adventuring Party
9 Farm products convoy
10 Military Convoy
11 Military Patrol
12 Farm Workers
13 Farm products convoy
14 Drunks
15 Farming bot
16 Escaped slave laborer
17 Smuggler
18 Industrial resources convoy
19 Minor mutant
20 Major mutant
Lake States Fringe Encounters
2 Lone wolf patrol
3 Smuggler
4 Full wolf patrol
5 Military Patrol
6 Extra-dimensional Being
7 Malfunctioning bot
8 Magic-user and apprentices
9 Refugees
10 Adventuring Party
11 Wild animals
12 Giant Ants
13 Giant Deer
14 Mammoth
15 Giant Bear
16 Dragon
17 Demon
18 Escaped slave laborer
19 Minor mutant
20 Major mutant 

Everything in this box is released via Creative Commons or Open Gaming License as best suits your needs. Please licensing page for details.