Thursday, April 29, 2010

Adventurers in Oz

For the most part, the people of Oz are content to live their lives in peace and quiet. Their immortal existence assures them that they will continue to live this way for as long as they like.

But some Ozites, like our friend Woot the Wanderer here (Image (c) Amanda Webb and used with permission), think that there's more to life than simply living. With a marvelous fairyland to explore, how can you stay still?

So they wander the Land of Oz, taking in all the wonderful sights and meeting all sorts of interesting people (some of whom stretch the strict definition of people). They are also welcome in the homes of the more staid Ozites, trading stories of strange lands for a meal and a safe bed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Almost there!

The last illustration has been turned in and the layout is in the process of being finalized.

I should have something available for release by May 15th (L. Frank Baum's birthday). This will likely be the PDF version of the game, which will be available from DrivethruRPG, Paizo, RPGNow, and YourGamesNow.

I am planning to wait until I get proofs from all of my POD outlets, but once I'm assured that they can print the book so it looks like I want it to, you can pick up the dead-tree edition of the game from, CreateSpace, DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

3 years in the making, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is soon to be a reality!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Simian Circle Design Blog #3

For those who are actually looking forward to this one, here's a little bit on how I'll be using the rules to support the story.

One of my big inspirations for this sort of "cursed wanderer" genre is The Incredible Hulk with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. In keeping with this idea, there's got to be a way to keep the characters moving and reinforce the price they pay for their power.

So each community that the characters enter has a Chaos Tolerance. Every time the characters lose control of their powers (something that I mentioned last time around), they cause Chaos to happen around them. Every time this happens, it eats away at the community's Chaos Tolerance. This not only provides a solid mechanic so that players can recognize when they've worn out their welcome, but also saves the GM some effort as he doesn't have to describe every little thing that goes wrong in the community when a Chaotic event happens.

Chaos tolerance is not a supernatural effect, but the power of gossip. The more random things start happening, the more suspicious the townsfolk become of newcomers. Characters can try to weather the storm of popular opinion, waiting for Chaos Tolerance to return at the rate of 1 per week as the stories become old news and less interesting, or they can try to outrun the gossip, which increases their Chaos Tolerance by 1 per day of travel.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cubicle 7 Beats The House

(This is basically just me geeking out, which is why it's not part of my regularly scheduled posting).

I just made an interesting realization about Cubicle 7, one of the hottest up-and-coming game publishers. The secret to their up-and-coming-ness is that they don't have a house system.

Now, a little background: Most RPG publishers have what is known as a "house system." That is, a ruleset that is used for most, if not all, of their games. This has a number of advantages.

For one thing, it saves a lot of effort in making games. The basic rules already exist, so you can focus on things that make a given property or setting unique. Magic spells, elves and dwarves for a fantasy world. Spaceships and laser guns for a science fiction setting.

You also have the advantage that some players will already know the rules. If they bought your horror game, they already know the basic rules behind your steampunk game and are more likely to buy it.

The downside is that not all systems represent all settings equally well. If your system is tuned towards gritty realism, it's going to fail at representing a world of whimsical fantasy.

Cubicle 7 has managed to acquire all the benefits of using a house system and dodge the downside. How did they do this? By licensing other game systems.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space uses Eden Studios' Unisystem, which was used in such popular games as the Buffy The Vampire Slayer RPG and Witchcraft. Just a few tweaks to the existing engine and you have a system that does Doctor Who very well, I'm told.

Starblazer Adventures
is based on the Starblazer comics and uses Evil Hat's FATE system (the same one used in Spirit of the Century) to represent a much more two-fisted "rock and roll" ruleset than Unisystem was.

When Cubicle 7 announced that they were doing a game based on Charles Stross' Laundry series, they also announced that they were using Chaosium's Basic Role Playing system, most famous as the rules behind the Lovecraftian horror RPG Call of Cthulhu. The amount of potential (and very easy) cross-pollination is simply staggering.

So Cubicle 7 continues to beat the house. Good luck to them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Firing Characters (Out of a Canon!)

No, that's not a misspelling.

One thing I've always liked about RPGs is that you get to make your own character and have your own adventures and make your own mark on the game world. But when you're dealing with an RPG based on an established property (let's say, to pick a random example, Oz) you've already got a cast of protagonists who have all of the important adventures. Dorothy and company have melted Wicked Witches and saved Oz in a number of other ways throughout the stories. So if you wanted to roleplay in Oz, you've got to be Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman or Cowardly Lion, right?


When Wizards of the Coast launched their Star Wars RPG their ads featured stills from the Star Wars movies with multiple characters gathered. Even if a major character was in the frame, the ad instead drew a circle around the head of a minor character or an extra and asked the question "What's his story?" Sure, Luke Skywalker was the guy who blew up the Death Star, but he's not the only person in the Star Wars universe. And those other stories have the ability to be just as interesting and compelling as Luke's.

A lot of people seem to agree with me, because RPGs that focus solely on the main characters of the franchise are generally unsuccessful. The original Indiana Jones RPG from TSR focused solely on Indiana Jones and his compatriots. An old Doctor Who RPG (namely Time Lord) has an astonishingly complete list of stats for every Doctor and every companion to enter the TARDIS with the assumption that you are going to be playing those established characters. Neither of these games were successful, especially compared to other RPGs based on those properties that did allow original characters (such as the new game Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space)

Another problem that comes up when dealing with established characters has to do with expectations. Once a character gets a certain body of lore built up, especially if it's written by different people. Suppose that in a superhero game, someone decides to play Batman. Not just some guy who's kind of like Batman, but Bruce Wayne Batman. As a character who's appeared in thousands (if not millions) of comic books, several films and a number of TV shows, he's got a lot of background. Which means that every time somebody says "Batman would never do that!" someone else can come up with some instance in some media where Batman did just that. Suddenly, you've got everyone at the gaming table telling you how to play your character and no one agrees on what to do and, most importantly, no one's having fun.

But what about those characters that I've been putting up on the blog for the last few months? Am I suggesting that you completely ignore them?

No. My primary motivation in posting them is to show you what a character looks like and to demonstrate that my system can handle the majority of Oz character types. If someone decides to use them as their character in a game, I don't mind. Sometimes, just starting out, it's useful to have a character you're already familiar with. But I think you'll have more fun by putting your imagination to work on creating your own characters.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Oz Character of the Month: Bungle the Glass Cat

Maybe I'm just a bad liar, or I'm not into the elaborately silly pranks that people try and pull on April 1st. But mostly, I only stat up one character a month and I gave you a non-Oz character last month and, as much fun as it would be to write up The Terminator for AiO, you should get something Ozzy this month.
Name: Bungle the Glass Cat
First Appearance: The Patchwork Girl of Oz
Template: Small Animal
Size: 1

Athletics: 3
Awareness: 3
Brains: 3
Sneaking: 3 (glass body)
Presence: 2
Wits: 3

Traits: Crafted, No Arms

Friends List

Scraps the Patchwork Girl

According to Dr. Pipt, her creator, Bungle is indeed a bungle. Created to catch mice, she has no stomach to digest them with, and is more interested in her own unique (and beautiful, in her view) appearance. Her body is glass with spun glass for fur, with emerald eyes, a ruby heart, and whirling pink marbles for brains. For a while, a spell cast by the Wizard made these features invisible, making Bungle a rather ordinary glass cat, but the magic didn't seem to stick.
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