#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.

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.

Retooling Mage: The Ascension

Something about role-playing inspires a do-it-yourself attitude in many hobbyists. If they don’t like something, they’ll often modify to it their needs, or roll their own. So it’s no surprise that Mage: The Ascension, a game about independent individuals all proclaiming they understand the true secrets of the universe — and perhaps later learning that it’s all an illusion of sorts — should accumulate more than a few projects to do it right, better or to taste, depending on the author. Sometimes I think it’s a right of passage, whereat the burgeoning role-player decides that in the end it’s all made up and hell, they should do it the way they prefer.[1]

At any rate, yet another discussion on RPG.net of where Mage: The Ascension went wrong — or right, depending on one’s perspective — or whose fault or genius it was got me thinking about the Mage conversions that proliferated over the years. I mean, this is a game whose last supplement was published in 2004 and people are still not only casting blame and gnashing teeth, but trying to do it their way. So here’s a quick rundown of the Mage conversions I’ve run across on the web:

  • Mage! was a conversion document by an RPG.net poster by the name of Redfox Whiteruff for running a Mage game using the Aeon variant of the Storyteller system, particularly the version in Adventure! The PDF doesn’t seem to be in circulation on the web, or I’d link to it.
  • Unisystem Mage was my own modest attempt at a Mage conversion. I’ve yet to playtest the thing, so all I can say is it exists and is freely downloadable.
  • World of Darkness HERO, by Robert Harrison, encompasses much of the original World of Darkness as it stood in the second edition era, written for the HERO role-playing system.
  • Malcolm Sheppard released notes almost immediately upon publication of Mage: The Awakening in 2005 to use the new ruleset to run traditional Ascension games. They’re quick and dirty, but really that’s all one needs.
  • Mage: The Dirty Version, also by Malcolm Sheppard, is a more drastic retooling of the core premises of Mage, altering content to fit the new view.
  • Ascension Nova, on the other hand, is a currently on-going effort to perform a more robust marriage of the Storytelling system and the Mage: The Ascension setting material.
  • GURPS Mage: The Ascension and GURPS Thaumatology get honorable mentions; the former for being an official conversion of then-contemporary Mage to GURPS third edition and the latter for providing a ready made structure to rebuild the Sphere magic system in the fourth edition.

05/28/2010 9:38 AM: Shame on me for failing to include Malcolm Sheppard’s “dirty Mage” reinvention.

[1] Which is not to say “it” is necessarily inconsistent or arbitrary; just arranged to suit one’s own preferences.

Using Aeon / Exalted Style Target Numbers in the Original World of Darkness

This post was going to be in response to a request on RPG.net for help using the Aeon / Exalted Storyteller target number variation with original World of Darkness games. It brought to mind something I ran across many moons ago — May 17, 2003, according to the creation date of the HTML file — a table that allows one to convert task difficulties from the oWoD system of variable target numbers and successes to Aeon Storyteller by way of a quick table.

Fortunately, someone with sharper recall than remembered where on the web the original was located, so I saved myself the agony of reposting someone’s work without permission or credit. You can find Bruce Baugh’s charts for converting oWoD difficulty ratings to the fixed target number system used by the Aeon Universe* and Exalted games on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. I myself used them to great success in a short Changeling: The Dreaming game I ran in 2003 — mostly it was the sample adventure in the back of the first edition corebook, as I recall.

* Yeah, I know it’s officially called the Trinity Universe. It’s a habit I don’t really want to break.