#RPGaDAY 18: Favorite Game System

#RPGaDAY prompts.

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Adventure! cover art.When it comes to running role-playing games, I like a fairly low complexity. I’ve got enough going on talking to everyone at the table in turn that addressing as many different questions and decision points that something as complex as Pathfinder raises is way more than I want to take on.

The Storyteller system’s always been wonderfully easy to run. There are attributes and skills, you can mix and match those to address whatever a character is trying to achieve, and then you roll some dice and check for how many made the target number.

Adventure!, and its cousins in the Aeon Continuum, Aberrant and Trinity, uses a variant on the Storyteller rules. There’s a constant target number of 7 now, and additional difficulty is represented by requiring more than one success, or gaining more successes than whomever the character is working against in a contested task.

So it’s really easy to adjudicate Adventure! and it’s crammed with flavorful pulp action abilities and is one of my first encounters with a meta resource for players to ameliorate dice results, Inspiration and Dramatic Editing. Player characters have a small pool of points to temporarily boost their abilities, and nudge the narrative. Depending on the GM, “Of course there are enough parachutes in this crashing plane for all of us” might just be the way things go even without Inspiration, but digging yourself out of a narrative dead end on your own abilities is almost always preferable to the GM handwaving it at the last minute because the players didn’t catch on to what they originally envisioned.

Uncovering Dusty Tomes

In pursuit of perfecting my home’s feng shui last night, I stumbled across a number of folios holding printed PDFs I accrued in the dawning days of role-playing’s adoption of the medium. Highlights include:

  • Issue 1 of Franklyn’s Almanack, the rapidly discontinued supplement series to Northern Crown. I liked the setting a lot, but never got to reading the first issue, let alone printing the second — which I did purchase, mind.
  • A host of Hero Games’ quickie Pulp Hero PDFs. My favorite remains Inner-Earth, a mini-setting describing a hollow Earth set-up with Aztecs, dinosaurs, Nazis and more. I got good use out of that setting for an Adventure! one-shot.
  • Executive Decision and …In Spaaace!, a pair of freebie — early subjects of the ransom funding model, perhaps? — games by Greg Stolze.
  • A pair of Trinity supplements, Terra Verde and Asia Ascendant; the latter only made it to manuscript stage, as the line was discontinued.
  • Many of Ronin Arts’ Mutants & Masterminds Archetype Archives. These were great: tons of archetypal starting characters to help games get underway. Only the one time I got to break them out, the players were insistent nothing there suited their individual visions. So it goes.
  • Kithbook: Pooka, my first-ever PDF purchase, and really, emblematic of my experiences with the species: buy PDF, print PDF, read print-out, forget about it. And I even slipped it in a super-fancy folio, with frosted transparent cover.

Some of this stuff is going away. I’ll keep the Almanack, Pulp Hero stuff and Stolze games, as they could still come in handy. The Trinity stuff I’m going to recycle. The Pooka book I will pass on to the fine fellow who cleaned out my Changeling: the Dreaming collection last month.

Castlevania: The Something of Something

Barghest of RPG.net posted some typed-up notes for a Castlevania supplement to Adventure! I’m always delighted to see more material for my favorite pulp action system.

It also gives some insight into the Castlevania mythos, which has always interested me, but I’ve never been willing to commit the time to digging it out of the games myself. The many Belmont family bloodlines display how farspread and varied the members of the monster-hunting tradition are.

In adapting the material to the system, Barghest makes two interesting choices. The Adventure! character types are renamed to suit the premodern era of Castlevania. That’s interesting in that most people claim to disregard the divisions of stalwart, mesmerist and daredevil.

Secondly, Barghest brings a video game mechanic, sub-weapons, over to Adventure!, right down to the rigors of using them: most are destroyed upon use and using them expends internal resources, Willpower in this case.

I am curious to see if Barghest explains the rationale for hewing so closely to the rules of the video game in that respect.

[Adventure!] Journey into the Inner-Earth

Flashback! This was originally posted to RPG.net in March of 2006, recounting my experiences running an Adventure! one-shot as part of a series of “RPG try-out” games at the local game store, Quarterstaff Games. Once a month for three or four months running, one member of the group would run a one-shot of a game they wanted to teach and other people in the group wanted to learn.

All told, we played five sessions before mud season / spring arrived and everyone realized, “Hey, we can do stuff outside in the evening now!” We began with a two part Iron Heroes session — two parts because it ran way over-long and everyone liked how the system worked enough to keep going — Shadowrun 4th Edition, a homebrewed fairy tale game and, to close it out, Adventure!

This was, for me, a very singular moment in my experience as a GM. Everybody was on and, after a little encouragement, got into the feeling of a pulpy, Indiana Jones-style adventure. It helped me realize that yes, I could run games and yes, people did enjoy them. This was a huge boost to my ego after spending time on various convention scenarios that wound up attracting no players whatsoever.

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