Brain Fizz, Episode 2
Things are busy in the Howitt household at the moment. In addition to having some Actual Work to do (I mean, I'm writing about computer games, it's only JUST actual work), we've just finished running Journey to the End of the Night, a city-wide chase game, and we're gearing up for Spirits Walk in Melbourne come early March. (Spirits Walk is rad as hell, by the way, kind of a combination between Unknown Armies and Book of Spirits and Blue Peter. If you're in Melbourne on the 7th, 8th or 9th of March, book a slot using the link above and come along!) Oh, and I'm planning a livegame for my wife's 30th, too. So, you know. Lots on. But I've been tooling away on Shadow War (Or Shadow Council, or whatever name it ends up with) and had a bit of a think about how to rationalise card-based mechanics into roleplaying. (You can see my mad scrawlings on the image above re this along with a subtle note to include more cults in the game.) So - ROYALTY. I've never liked face cards. They always seemed... bulky, extravagant, aesthetically overblown, and as a man used to a base 10 numerical system they skew the probability of the deck out towards base 13, and who's got time for that? I'm not removing them from the deck, but I'm giving them a reason to be there. At the start of the game, the GM picks (or rolls randomly) to select the ROYALTY in the city, who are the major power blocs in the game. (They're not all actually royals, mind, just Very Important People.) You end up with 12... and, as you might have guessed already, each of them is assigned to a suit. (Suits, by the way, govern rough capabilities. Clubs are Power, Spades are Subtlety, Diamonds are Resources and Hearts are Charm. Every character has a strong and weak suit.) So how does this affect the game? Well, every asset and player has a small stack of cards - between one and five - allocated to it at the start of the game. Every time they act, they draw a card - if it's their strong suit, they get to draw again from the main deck, as some event occurs which plays into their strengths. If it's their weak suit, it's discarded and a second card is drawn from their stack as events conspire against them and wear down their abilities, luck, and stamina. But if you draw a face card, the Royalty have taken an interest in what you're doing. Maybe they're not fully aware of your actions and make things more difficult by complicating matters, or maybe they make you an offer you simply can't refuse in exchange for their assistance... but, rest assured, things just got a lot more interesting for everyone involved. This is a massive curveball for the GM, of course, because it generates a relationship web at random during play, but I think it'd be a great challenge and make for some interesting stories. Just why IS the Royal Poet caught up in your efforts to assassinate the leader of the God's Blood cult and replace her with a lookalike? Is Red Hand, Bloodcursed High Elf ex-Kingsguard, being manipulated by the blackmailer Kaverna, or is he trying to hunt her down? It should - once I've written the damn thing - generate a world which ticks away during play and refuses to stand still, where NPCs have a mind of their own but are steered by the GM. That's it for this week; hopefully it's enough to whet your appetite. By the way, if you were going to buy an RPG about betrayal, brutality, and secret wars in service of the crown by deniable agents, what setting would you like to play in? - G
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