Posted on Leave a comment

#RPGTheoryJuly Role Play

My core activity in RPG publishing is as a publisher of solo rules. In addition to standalone solo rules supplements, every game I produce comes with solo rules built in. Way too many role playing games get bought just to sit on a shelf because the GM cannot sell the game or the setting to their players. Games with solo rules can be tested and played regardless of your players enthusiasm.

When it comes to Role Playing Game theory removing the distinct roles of player and GM. The Threefold Model Developed by Mary Kuhner suggested that any GM decision will be made for the purpose of game, or drama, or simulation. If on the other hand the DM decisions are being made by dice rolls they are not under the influence of game, drama or simulation.

What I am not keen on is the repetition of the word simulation. No actually wants simulation in a game, what they want, I would suggest, is believability which is a different thing entirely. In a simulation the Dragon would win every time, the BBEG’s hordes would over run the world and deathstar would probably not have been destroyed.

In a believable game system on the other hand as long as the rules are consistent and have some sort of coherent relationship with that they are trying to portray then most people are happy enough. There is a whole spectrum of games with different levels of detail in portraying the game world. In some you hit and knock off some hit points and others you shatter bones and wounds bleed and people go into shock. These are still not simulations they are simply portrayals of violence.

So any theory of role playing that hinges on the DM/GM has to be inherently flawed. Any that puts its emphasis on simulation is going to equally flawed. Of all the theories listed on Wikipedia that actually appeals to me is Color Theory.

Color Theory 
Developed by Fabien Ninoles in 2002, was developed on the French createurs-jdr mailing list. It is an inheritor of SCARF theory and SCAR theory, which then interacted with English language theories. In this theory the goals of system design are thought of as the primary colors of TV light – Green for simplicity, Blue for realism, Red for consistency, with notions like adaptability, tenacity, brightness, and visibility being extensions of the metaphor.[8]

One would hope that the systems I am designing come out bright white. I have a suspicion that they may come out a bit more fuschia/purple. I definitely favour simplicity and when you only have a few rule concepts in a game you naturally get consistency. Of course I strive for realism but if there was a weak suit, this would be it.

Posted on Leave a comment

Timeless Roleplaying

Timeless logoTimeless is one of those Netflix Originals that really appeals to me. I used to be a fan of Quantum Leap with its kitsch “Oh Boy” catchphrase. Rather than jumping from body to body as in QL; the Timeless team jump back to key moments in US history to try and stop someone from destroying the United States as we know it.

As the season 1 unfold a greater conspiracy unfolds and the season finale ends with an excellent cliffhanger, which I will not spoil for you.

The time machine of the heroes is called the lifeboat and was the back up for the mothership. The mothership is stolen at the beginning of episode 1. The lifeboat crew are jut enough of an adventuring party to enable them to handle a really nice mix of adventures. You have a military officer, historian and a tech. Between them they have enough of a skill set to cover all bases.

This whole idea of broadbased characters is one that has never fitted well with level and profession/character class based roleplaying games. The military character is called Wyatt Logan and portrayed as being Delta Force. He has the obvious combat skills but has also displayed skill in first aid, bomb disposal, military history as well as many social skills that turn up in RPGs such as seduction, public speaking, influence and deception. Rufus Carlin is the scientist character but also a programmer/coder, driver and pilot and even turns his had to black smithing to create some copper foil to build a capacitor. What character class would he be?

The other breaking point for many games is levels. The usual progression is from less competent or ‘1st level’ characters to more experienced and more competent higher levels. The characters in Timeless were chosen as the ‘best available’. They certainly are not incompetent.

3Deep characters are ideally designed to play these kinds of roles and tell this kind of story. The characters have wide ranging skills each of which can be nuanced by changing the stat bonus applied. A Blacksmith may use his Craft skill with his strength bonus when hammering lumps of pig iron but the same skill with his empathy when creating items of elegance and beauty. Sure characters improve their skills over time but you do not have to start from a point where their first encounter is 50/50 as to whether it will wipe out the heroes!

The Lifeboat Crew in period costume with their time machine

Playing in the Timeless universe is a pretty good intro to the the 3Deep game system. You do not need to know about magic and monsters (3Deep does both with ease). All the foes to be faced are humans, particularly Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s, The British, before American Independence, and the Mexicans at the Alamo. It is always useful when the bad guys where a uniform!

If you are introducing new players to RPGs for the first time then having a rule set that you can create a character in 10 minutes and the bad guys are obvious it makes life easier! The simple self contained plot is easy to comprehend and there is no real stretch of the imagination to try and visualise orcs, goblins and beholders! (Not that you would throw a beholder at a starting party but you know what I mean!)

If you have watched the show and you want a cute little one-off adventure then why not give 3Deep a go. It is available from Amazon (print only) and RPGNow both in Print and PDF!

Posted on Leave a comment

3Deep in the Doom Universe

For me one of the classic games of all time was Doom.
As a fun one off game you can put your players through the Doom maps using 3Deep as your system of choice.

The best game is probably had by playing it collaboratively. The main enemy on the first map are the zombie marines, shotgun wielding armoured marines and imps, those firgeball throwing humanoids. The objective being to run around the map, killing everything, find the secret locations and then the exit. This is classic first person shooter action. Playing it as a one off RPG is a fun session. Players respawn when killed so no one is going to have to sit out should the very first encounter go badly.

As a GM it is an interesting challenge. Can you bring this setting alive? Can you describe the scenes with the flickering lighting, barrels of toxic waste and lumbering undead to bring the setting to life?

I used this as one of the play test scenarios for the original 3Deep rules and ran is as a dream sequence. The characters in a regular modern day setting went to sleep and all woke up inside the Doom game world. At first they did not recognise it and feared death but after one of them found a chainsaw the players started to make their own Doom jokes and references. After the first character respawned they realised what was going on. They wrongly assumed that they would have to complete the game to escape but actually I wanted to do a total party kill (TPK). Once they were all dead in the same encounter the characters all woke up in their own beds, unharmed but in a cold sweat.

map of the first level in Doom
Episode 1 Map 1

Playing Doom

To play this setting you are going to need to add a few bits of equipment. The classic chainsaw, shot guns, machine guns right up the the BFG9000 if you get that far. There are several sets of armour including the standard armour, improved body armour and the helmet. The standard should be Medium Rigid and the improved is Heavy Rigid. The helmet is medium Rigid for the head only. The body armour covers only the chest and abdomen.

Doom Weapons

Shotguns would be a 2d6 piecing firearm. Up this to 3d6 for a double barrelled version.

The default pistol would be 1d6 or if you are feeling generous a 2d6 piecing attack. The 1d6 version eats up ammunition much faster. In practice more than twice the rate as a good 2d6 roll can take out an enemy in a single hit but this is much more unlikely with a 1d6 weapon.

The chaingun would be 2d6 per target when strafing or 3d6 when focused on a single target.

The dagger is a 1d6 slashing weapon and the all important chainsaw would be 2d6 slashing.

You can use standard zombies from the core rules for the marines but give the black armoured sergeants some body armour.

An Imp

The imps get to use their mana for producing fireballs. I would pay the 4pts for 1d6 of damage. Any special damage from rolling a 6 would be fire. They also have claws for a natural attack of 1d6 slashing damage.

Medipaks will give a +1 to first aid rolls and will heal 4 points of damage to any one stat. The full blown first aid kits are more powerful and five the same +1 to first aid rolls but restore up to 12 points to any one stat.

If you get taken out by an imp or zombie then I think you can assume you will be killed. At that point you respawn back at the starting point with the original pistol, knife and no armour.

Environmental Doom

There are a few environmental hazards. These are rivers and pools of toxic waste, rivers and pools of lava and exploding barrels.

Firstly the protective suits do prevent damage from toxic waste. They have a finite life time and the way I played it was to have the suits 10 points of v.strength (vehicular strength) . Each second the character was exposed did 1d6 of damage but only the special damage is applied to the v.strength. Once it reached zero the suit was effectively destroyed, eaten through by the toxic waste.

The invulnerability power up can be treated the same way. Or simply make the character invulnerable for a minute. That is easy to track with 1 second combat rounds!

If you click the map above you can get all the maps from all the versions of the game.

If you want to have a go then you can pick up the 3Deep rulebook for $9.99 as either print or PDF or both for $14.99 from RPGnow. Click here to more info or to buy.

Posted on Leave a comment

Roleplaying Sense8 part 2

This is the follow on post to last weeks introduction

The biggest standout feature of the Sense8 world is ‘Visiting’ where each character astrally projects themselves to any other Sensates location when they think of them. The visitations start as short and disorienting ‘visions’ but all members of the cluster soon adapt. Simple tricks like sharing a phone number and then calling it prove that the experience was real and not imagined. It was almost a case that the more faith they each had that the vision was going to work on demand then the more likely it was to work on demand.

So how does this work in 3Deeps game mechanics? Does it complicate the game?

No it doesn’t. In fact no game mechanics are needed at all. As all sensates have the same powers and abilities no rules are needed. The visitations initially happen only at the GMs instigation and he or she slowly hands over control to the players. As long as no player decides to try and break the universe and go off the genre material, and that is just down to the GM to enforce.

How do you play a sensate visit?

When one character jumps into the space of a fellow sensate then although the world (and any NPCs) see the original person, all stats and skills of the second sensate are the ones used in the scene as long as they are there. So you can have one character with a strength of 2 and no combat skills replaced by a character with a strength of 12 and +4 in combat. For the duration of the visit then the warrior type will do the fighting. In terms of game mechanics the only apparent difficulty is the characters speed. If one character acts on round 3 and 6 and the second character acts on 2, 4, and 6 when do they act if they are swapping in and out during the same turn? The answer is they can act on their round regardless. It is as if both are there and acting independently but occupying the same point in space.

What about damage?

The sensate who is actually present will take the damage but the effect of the damage is applied to who ever is currently acting as long as the physically present sensate is still conscious. So in the example above with a strength of 2 and 12. If the 12 strength sensate is fighting and takes 8 points of damage to their strength then they continue fighting but with a strength of 4. If they were to swap out then the current strength of the sensate would drop to -6 (2 minus the 8 damage).

If a third sensate wanted to join the fight and jumped in then they would have their full strength until they took some damage.

Posted on Leave a comment

Roleplaying the Sense8 universe

Sense8 is a visually stunning science fiction series from Netflix in which 8 individuals from around the globe find themselves mentally linked. Initially they only experience violent visions from each others lives but those connections develop to the point where they can step into and out of each others lives and are able to share skills and literally put words into each others lives.

Turning this into a role playing game is a challenge for any GM but the crux of the story telling in Sense8 is about skills and natural strengths and abilities be it Will’s experience as a Chicago cop or Sun’s kickboxing.

Everyone has their own story

As each sensate can see, hear and experience everything that every other sensate experiences and can set into their life at any time what you as GM need to do is run eight interconnected plots at once. Sense8 had a single season long story arc that ran though each each of the two seasons. Within that each character had their own lives; Wolfgang is involved with the Berlin underworld, Van Damm is struggling with drugs and gangs in Nairobi.

So to play this you can start with the birthing of the cluster. Maybe start each player in an individual adventure but then invite another player along. From that point on role play each players character in their own stories but each player can swap roles at any time, they just take their character sheet with them. One second their character may be cracking a safe in New York, the next second they are having to fight corrupt prison guards. As you introduce new members to the cluster then you run more parallel adventures and anyone can hop into anyone elses adventure.

At first it will seem chaotic but this is role playing like your players will never have experienced.

Sense8 was such a ground breaking series that even after the show was cancelled (each episode cost $9Million to make) the fan base protested to the point where a 2hr finale special is going to be make to finish the story.

The two season cannon means that you can easily binge watch the entire story to bring yourself up to speed before attempting this.

As a roleplaying challenge it is a once in a lifetime experience and this is exactly the sort of challenge that 3Deep was written to make possible!