Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Hearts of Wulin & Pasión de las Pasiones: Origins GoD

For a host of reasons May got away from me and the blog. I’ve been running games and working on several projects, so I have lots of ideas and cool stuff to post. However I’m holding off for a little bit as Origins is next week! I dig that convention for the game space, chance to meet friends, and reliable access to food.

I will be running sessions for Games on Demand at Origins. Please come by and check that our amazing selection of games. I’m scheduled Thursday morning (9-1), Thursday evening (8-12), and Saturday morning (9-1). I’ll also be manning the desk for the last possible slot, Sunday morning. I’ve got lots of free time so I’m hoping to fill in if they need coverage, run pick-up games, and hang out with people I know from online and The Gauntlet.

Please come by and say hi! If you want to coordinate something, you can send me an email at edige23 AT gmail. I actually have a phone which can check my messages. It’s a crazy revolution in decades-old technology.

I have two games on my menus for the convention:

Hearts of Wulin
Virtue vs. Villainy! Obligation vs. Passion! Justice vs. Tyranny! The heroes of Wulin battle for a better world while struggling with their own intertwined duties, desires, and destinies. You are heroes trying to serve your family, faction, or ideals. High-flying action, romantic confusions, and secret schemes abound. This game aims to emulate the high drama feel of stories like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Fox Volant of Snowy Mountain; Painted Skin; Proud, Smiling Wanderer; Princess Agents, and more. Tales of misunderstandings, betrayals, and farce mix with martial arts action.

This PbtA hack borrows liberally from Apocalypse Engine games like Masks, Monster Hearts, and The Veil. We’ll tune characters and relationships in the first hour and then throw into action-melodrama in the wulin world.

I’ve recorded some sessions of this, you can check out the most recent ones here:

Pasión de las Pasiones
Pasión de las Pasiones is a PbtA tabletop role-playing game where you play the cast of the world’s most dramatic and exciting telenovela: Pasión de las Pasiones, as well as the family watching at home. In Pasión de las Pasiones, lies will be exposed, plots will be shattered, hearts will be broken, and if you’re lucky, you might even get a happy ending…at least for now.

We’re using the rules from the Magpie’s recently released ashcan of this. I love melodrama and this game has it. 

If you’re curious about this game you can see my online sessions here:
Twin Betrayals: Session One: https://bit.ly/2sJLalB
Twin Betrayals: Session Two: https://bit.ly/2kPsJs5
The Scent of Love: Session One: https://bit.ly/2JgUF2N
The Scent of Love: Session Two: https://bit.ly/2LqQpP1

I’m also bringing along a couple of “just-in-case” rpgs, including Magic, Inc which uses Action Cards and whatever else I find that looks easy to pack. I'd love the chance to run HoW a few more times for folks who are interested. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Familiars of Terra

I don’t often suggest Kickstarters on my blog but I want to point to one that’s wrapping up in the next couple of days: Familiars of Terra. This game comes from Liz Chaipraditkul (designer of Witch). Liz also oversaw Heroes & Villains and The Crescent Empire for 7th Sea 2e. I’ve reviewed the former and I’m running some fantastic sessions using the latter right now. The Crescent Empire’s hands down my favorite Middle Eastern-themed rpg supplement: smart, respectful, showcasing diverse cultures, and filled with imaginative space. You can hear my interview about her 7th Sea work here

What’s Familiars of Terra, well it’s “…an epic fantasy tabletop role play game set in Terra, a world where everyone has their very own animal familiar! You play a Seeker, someone who accepted the call to heroism and adventures through the land helping those in need. Using a standard deck of poker cards to resolve all checks and exciting familiar dueling mechanics, your familiar will evolve and change with every exciting adventure.”

The concept feels like Digimon meets Lgend of Korra. At least that’s the vibe the Quickstart suggests. That’s how I ran it for our online one-shot. Like the best settings and supplements it has hooks as well as room to find your own space. Sherri and I love how the system handles the familiars—everyone has them (ala The Golden Compass), but those of the PCs develop and grow. Add to that a strange magical-techno post-apocalypse and I’m hooked. I’m really looking forward to the final product. It is funded and they’re looking at stretch goals right now.

The interior art’s awesome too. I highly recommend it. 

If you’re interested you can check out the session I ran. I had a great time—and the players loved it to.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Archival Footage: Conspiracy X Scenario Sketch

Several years ago I ran demo scenarios for Eden Studios games at conVentions. I put together my own stories for Armageddon, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, City of Heroes, and Conspiracy X. I actually have an project I submitted ten years ago that's been under contract with them for three years. In any case I've been hunting around and found my notes for my 2004 ConX adventure. They're not complete, but you could easily use them as inspiration for a Monster of the Week scenario. I present this in its rough, unedited form. 

Characters are members of a “Clean Up” Team. They follow up on the work of an actual Field team. In some ways, their job is more difficult. Generally they are given a set of tasks to work from. These can range from discrete to more difficult. They are given a lot of leeway in how they handle things. If the situation is complex or requires finesse, usually a member of the Cell which carried out the operation will remain to brief them on what needs to be done.

The set up for this is that they will be given a discrete set of three tasks in advance of their going in to the situation. The area will also be described as one where there is potential for enemy interdiction, though you may want to downplay this particular aspect. Task #1: disposal and elimination of firefight and location; Task #2: Checking on possible witness to earlier events; Task #3: Sifting through materials at closed location for further evidence, preparation for storage and transport; Task #4: General survey of locality to make sure grumbling is at a minimum…any irritation should be general rather than specific.

Smallish town but not so small that they seem entirely out of place. Allow them to make their way around the city.

My thought, drawn from my experience in Ken’s game is that their contact should be out of it. They will want to keep this quiet.

What do they need to find out: 
  • Who the team was?
  • What they were doing here?
  • What did they accomplish?
  • What do we need to do to clean things up?
  • Are more of the team left?
  • Who has done this?
  • How can this be contained?

Remember that one of the central points to this should be that the characters have to maintain their cover very carefully. Breaking character too much could result in creating further problems.

Meet up with contact; dead in hotel room. Brings up preliminary problem: leave body or clean it up. Either case creates certain problems.
  1. I don’t know if this works with the scenario/threat I’m imagining, but an abandoned facility. Government property. Site of a relocation facility. Worn out. Good many of the locals tied by blood to those who were brought here and locked up. This could be a site for background research, a location for investigation or a hide out.
  2. One member of the team having lost it. This being based on what they’ve encountered and his own paradigm on contagion and transmittal. What is he planning in the meantime? Has he lost it really bad? Is he just out in the woods or will he try to destroy the town?
  3. Again, echoing Ken, the source of the contagion could be a book. Someone carefully making copies…either printing them or something else. Perhaps printing the outlines and then filling those in. Sending them out randomly as packages across the country.
  4. Perhaps that guy is left or perhaps one of the other members of the team has been taken. Both should be dangerous and wrong. Possibility of a showdown between the two of them.
  5. Ideally this should be done with a timeline of what is going to happen. They may be able to divert or lessen the craziness that is going on.

Look over my CoCth notes for scenarios. See if anything there has promise or could work in a 4 hour setting. Perhaps there are details which could be reused.

One of the ideas being, especially if it is a book or an object, that it could have been found on eBay or else be being sold there. This would allow them to use their respective skills to hack to find out the identity of the seller and the buyer. I could use this to lead them to a more substantive investigation.

The lead in from the previous investigation is the most important thing to consider. What did group one come in to investigate and what did they miss? If we know that, then we can start to consider what we can put in front of the them to serve as clues.

At some point, there needs to be a combat. I shouldn’t be the thing that solves the problem, unless they’ve come to that naturally through the path of investigation. This combat should involve most of the group. Include a couple of opportunities of quick, abstract combats with some risk to them…if not actually dying, then perhaps a serious injury or something that will impair them. They probably have medical equipment in the car, but they will have to drag themselves over there. This, in itself, could be a problem or a trial.

In the late 1930’s, a U.S. team off the coast of Massachusetts apparently dropped depth charges, destroyed a number of shoreline facilities and finally raided a small unnamed town. A number of the residents were killed, some incarcerated and further numbers shipped to an internment camp far inland. They were held based on their immigration status as well as with some question of their subversive activities. Many of them died over the next several years, with their bodies being quietly disposed of. In 1944 however, funding for this covert project vanished and those people who had been assigned to guard the few remaining locals were reassigned to East Coast POW camps.

The center ended up becoming a kind of shanty town. Eventually a few of the older children were placed in local schools. While they suffered badly, eventually there was a movement for them to either move away, or make a place in the community. By the 1960’s only one family still lived in the internment center. As a covert project, the land ownership rights had been hidden for some time. While locals, including the local government tried to purchase chucks of the property, it fell under a Military/EPA listing. This had been the default for this land. As a result, many regard it as free land. There is a fence built around the area, but most people can get around this easily. There are a number of squatters who live on the property, hunters who make this a regular walk through and also people who dump in the area.

Several months ago, a local, Derek Rivard, decided to hunt around in the old internment property. His hope was to find something interesting to sell on eBay. He has a fairly weak antiques business that he runs out of this home. While digging around, sweating pouring off of him, his body shaking from the exertion, he uncovered a book. It apparently had been hand made, with pages and paper made from pulp magazine and comics which had been pressed together and bleached, sheets of cereal box cardboard formed the covers. Floss and thread held it together and it had been covered with some kind of faux leather. The interior pages had some strange writing, a mixture of languages, all in the standard alphabet, but with symbols. The ink was faded in places but in others, had simply become blackened. He took this home, gave it one round to sell on eBay, but that failed miserably since it had no pedigree. Some of the other stuff he found did sell. Rivard looked at the book and began to be infected. He placed the book with his other old books, slowly causing the ones closest to be transformed.

Then somebody came to buy, Mitchell “Mitch” Seigelson. They purchased another book from him. Perhaps a repair book for a particular car model. He got it home and read the book, becoming infected. He bought a computer and started ordering stuff off the internet, odd stuff. Since he lived a ways out of town, he was able to conceal most of this. However, he also needed victims to power what he was doing. It was this combination of strange purchases which suggested someone mucking around with bad stuff combined with a string of disappearances that brought the previous team to town. They were to locate this person, ascertain his level of knowledge and eliminate any kind of threat he posed.

This is the person that they traced down. They did some preliminary investigation, but had a pretty good idea of what was going on. The Cell team, a four person group, closed in on Seigelson. Unfortunately, this resulted in a firefight, with the result that MS was killed pretty early. The team leader called in a cleaning team, told two of the group to straighten things up at the house and get it prepped. He put his surveillance guy near there and headed back to town to wait for the call from the team so they could leave.

In the meantime, while investigating the house, and after having seen the body, the CDC person, Danafer, comes across the book. He is infected, sending him off-balance. He realizes that this book can transmute and infect other books. At this point he goes nutter. He kills the other evidence specialist on site, then goes out to kill the guy in the van. This he drives to a pond nearby and sinks. Then he heads into town to finish off the Cell leader.

[Background information on the previous cell. Should only be mentioned lightly at the start. Organization contacts could also serve as a possibility later on. Especially if they investigate at all what has gone on.]

The book is a kind of corrupting memetic disease, turning each person into a separate and demented version of this Demon. It incarnates depending on what the Vices and Sins are of the person involved. So, for example, Mitch had his own fetishistic drives. These were deepened by the possession. To change other books mimetically, it needs a lot of books around. Isolated and on its own, it takes a long time to infect. However, each of these “memetic beings (I need a better name for them) is independent from the other. As a result, this may cause strife and/or hostility between their various forms. Question remains: what other activities are going on in the town that the group can come across.

***One piece of evidence could be pieces of paper found out at the encampment…they would have been slowly transformed over the years. Perhaps they might find, in the records, similar incidents over the years as this thing reached out and managed to touch one of two of these people.***

***Another thought regarding Rivard. Certainly his weakness is a kind of sloth as well as a basic mendacity. It might also be possible that the group could find out that he has ordered a scanner. This should be set to arrive soon.***

The other time thing is that Danafer may be calling in an unpleasant Op to clear this place. This can serve as the other break point for the game. Either the base Guy will manage to scan and post a version of the book or else Danafer will call down high holy burning hell on this place, including the PCs. Mind you, Danafer is infected and crazy. Therefore he will not be open to rational discussions of whether or not something has been cleaned or not cleaned. He understands everything in terms of contagion.

Six Characters. Note: I used a tarot generation mechanic for the personalities. 
Forensic/Evidence Dispersal Specialist: Skills in investigation, Science: Evidence Dispersal, Science: Forensics. [Morgath Debased: Six of Gods (Reversed): Senseless death; genetic or destructive insanity; utter disregard for or active destruction of life and/or order; chaotic; The Priest: Lord of Archetypes: Faith, worship, loyalty, morality; Elf: Knight of Races: Ritual, historical patterns; the old ways]

Sifter/Documentation Specialist: Research connections. Synthesis. Research, Science: Intelligence Analysis, Wiretapping? [Soul: Three of Ideas (Reversed): Self-development, self-exploration, understanding; Ilvir Descending: The Trickster (Reversed): Plans undone, work demolished, tables turned against oneself; Ahadalayl: Seven of Days (Reversed): Stagnation, lack of development]

Security Specialist: Mostly physical skills, strong but low key. Sign language. Hard of hearing supported by hearing aids. [Arba-Kur: Four of Waves: Power misused, abusing a position; S'ave Knor Ascendant: Lord of Gods: Deep knowledge, thoughtful analysis, careful questioning; true understanding; the answer found; Trollkin: Four of Races (Reversed): Impotency, infertility, weakness; inferiority]

Surveyor/Assessor/Surveillance Specialist (Perhaps Department of Parks): Surveillance, Electronic Surveillance, Physical and Outdoor Skills [Makistani: Lord of Races (Reversed): Hesitancy, caution; difficulty in trusting own instincts; analysis; Yod(Reversed): Lord of Waves (Reversed):Openings, hidden exits discovered; Gild-Kur: Six of Waves: Wealth--of money, contacts, etc.]

Face Man/Health and Human or EPA or Census: Psychology, Questioning, Science: Applied Sociology [Pegasus: Five of Creatures (Reversed): Inscrutable signs, dreams, obscure references, ambiguity; Naveh Ascendant: Five of Gods: Sensible fear; solutions through uncomfortable means; necessary evil; The Seas: Six of Legends: Bounty, harvest, wealth from nature]

Break in/Disposal Specialist: Lockpicking, Criminal Skills, Body Disposal Methodology, Forensics purely for covering own work? [Larani Debased: Knight of Gods (Reversed): Blinding need for revenge;  honor and justice undone by unyielding nature; unyielding law; honor for honor's sake; Khamsina: Four of Days: Strength, patience, tolerance; Manticore: Six of Creatures: (Reversed)Lashing out, reactions; rain of blows, frenzy]

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Stories from Iruvia: Plot Hooks for Blades in the Dark

I’ve written before about one of my favorite urban supplements, The Kaiin Player’s Guide. It’s a player-facing resource for The Dying Earth RPG covering the titular city. Kaiin’s a hefty book detailing locations, people, and secrets, but it’s not for the GM. Instead the players may peruse it at their leisure. Eschewing ambiguity, the book clearly lays out problems. Players declare they want to get tangled up in a particular story.

That’s a useful approach for the fiction-first mechanics of Blades in the Dark. I’ve created a player-side resource not for Doskvol, but for U’duasha, an alternate campaign locale from the BitD Special Edition. This Iruvian city offers new atmosphere, color, and supernatural elements. I hope John Harper will eventually release a pdf of the Iruvian text for those who didn’t buy the special edition. Johnstone Metzger’s done an amazing set of Iruvian playbooks and those now have a Roll20 version. It would be great to have more players experience this material.

I’ve provided six hooks/rumors for each of the five neighborhoods of U’duasha. Some of this will only make sense if you’ve seen the full Iruvian appendix. But I hope a good deal of it could be useful for Blades in the Dark generally.

The district of miners, laborers, and craftspersons.
1. Nozar Tabasi, a respected tapestry maker, has been searching for his lost brother, Uktannu. However he’s unaware that family Anserekh killed and placed Uktannu’s soul in a Hull to preserve and exploit his mining expertise. Tabasi will undoubtedly pay well for those who can find (and possibly free) his brother. On the other hand, Makru Anserekh would like this nosy busybody to go away before others, such as his philanthropic sister Ishana, learn of his operations.

2. The I‘Rajin gang has a formal hierarchy built on contracts and connections. Their wealth and power make others wary of crossing them. But sometimes the gang’s internal disputes spill out into the open. Leader Saru Daava has been more agitated and reckless in recent months after one of her gang’s internal ledgers went missing. She has searched desperately and punished several of her enforcers. Currently she suspects the Vizier Akhita the Fair took the book, but has no proof and no idea where it went. That’s good news for the freelance Mirage Ozutok Sabanci who currently has the volume. He doesn’t quite understand its importance, but believes he should be able to sell it on for some coin. Depending on where it ends up, heads could roll.

3. The fixer and marriage broker Mete Balcan is much loved throughout the district. He can be found drinking in a tea house, wandering the market, or gambling in a back room. But Balcan’s façade hides a dangerous agent of the Empire. He covers his tracks well and few suspect him. He often hires scoundrels for strange tasks to indirectly gain information. His generosity to those who serve him well is renowned. However some serve him unwillingly, like the assessment clerk Tirgataô. He would love destroy the evidence the fixer uses to keep him in line and extricate himself from Balcan’s grip.

4. Long-time Rail Jack Nikou Kamran has a fairly encyclopedic knowledge of the comings and goings of various trains. She’s often seen at the station talking with younger Jacks or signing up for a short journey. She keeps a particular eye out for interesting shipments, especially those which people want kept quiet. Nikou knows there’s a shipment of valuable spices heading out from House Anixis, bearing saffron-like azayzl and vault pepper. Kamran knows the terrain along the routes and the necessary stopping points for deliveries, watering, and sidetracking from other trains.

5. Those who have suffered injustice often go to the district’s Khuset Spire to beseech at the Demon Prince of Justice. However of late, owl-masked vigilantes have been taking matters into their own hands here. The locals have a whispered system to ask for aid, pinning a message onto an owl in a particular place. The vigilantes are local merchants who have secretly banded together. They could need aid or be blackmailed. On the other hand, the I’Rajin would pay well for information on the group.

6. Some among the A’Tahim bristle at the gang’s focus on stability and protection. They would like to push further into an all-out war. Nozar the Welder works to undermine this approach. He’s among those overseeing Betu’at neighborhoods, protecting local citizens from other criminal gangs. He’s been pushing for confrontations and working behind the scenes stirring up trouble between  gangs. In some cases he’s hired outsiders to hit places. Nozar believes that if an all-out war erupts, the A’Tahim can seize control. He has several gang members under his influence who don’t exactly understand his intent. Nozar works to keep this project from his own leadership as well as his rivals. He has aid in the form of an I’Yalim officer who would like blood to wash the streets, Hunter Arman Radan.

The district of parks, theaters, and high culture.
1. People have sought the treasures of Mazaiyar the Guiltless for years. The master thief pilfered from the nobility while maintaining a respectable façade. When he passed, his associates rushed to raid his vaults for wealth and incriminating information. However they found nothing. The scavenger Sênêkas has a new lead. Mazaiyar apparently had a fascination with opera and may have concealed his loot in the Circle of Hearts, an aged theater. There some question whether theater manager Asatira Baastani knows of these matters, perhaps drawing on those resources herself. Currently the theater is in the midst of a long-running performance of “The Shah of Blackvale.” Actors and staff live on the premises making a search difficult.

2. Like the rest of the world, darkness dominates Iruvia. But alchemists and botanists have developed plants which can survive and thrive, fed in other ways. There’s a strong industry in carefully tended flowers and herbs. They’re processed and converted into perfumes and scented oils for sale here and in other nations, sometimes mixed with Leviathan ambergris. Darya Zangane of the Falling Petals Market in particular uses unsavory methods to obtain cuttings, seeds, and whole plants from collectors in U’duasha and beyond. She’s made enemies in the process, especially Gemeti Anserekh who suspects her of stealing a rare rose from his secure greenhouse.

3. Those who wish to have an event recorded for posterity turn to the many faceted Guild of Painters in U’duasha. Like the city, the guild splits into four traditions, reflecting different styles and approaches. Painters use a reed-derived paper, carefully prepared and reinforced to last. Nobles expect treaties, agreements, large-scale contracts, marriage arrangements, and the like to be recorded in a painting. These serve as a history, though not an unchanging one as artists may be hired to “correct” an earlier image. Currently two traditions of painter families, Daqiq and Wahuma, vie for leadership of the art world. They jealously guard techniques and secrets. Hossein Daqiq presently rages about an amazing blue tint used by Omid Wahuma. Omid makes his remarkable paint from secret fungus gathered in the deepest vaults of the city’s underground reservoirs.

4. Plays and performances held in licensed theaters must gain approval from The Conclave. Such permission is usually granted by Seeker Abbas Eshtiaq without much trouble, provided those requesting have a good reputation, able patrons, or enough ready cash. When complaints come in from those above, Eshtiaq’s quick to revoke approval. In the last year, The UnCutting Blade, a group of disgruntled artists and performers have been putting on underground shows. These satirize the nobility, the Conclave, and the rule of the four demons. Eshtiaq has been trying to hunt down these performances, while the troupe’s leader, Rukhsana, has been trying to undercut and expose the Seeker.

5. The House of Dreams and the House of Majesties were once a single restaurant, the House of Majestic Dreams. However when the owner-chef died, he left two competing heirs: Poriya Vaansh, a master of classical dishes and Bawan Roşan, an experimenter who integrates foreign techniques. The two have been locked in a battle for over a decade, since the original restaurant burned down mysteriously. They steal each others’ staff, hijack ingredients, disparage recipes, and even engage in sabotage from time to time. In particular they battle to serve parties at the houses of the nobility.

6. Some consider Iruvian bees the great survivors of the cataclysm, perhaps thriving even more than humanity. The size of a thumb, these bees pollinate scattered plants and somehow continue to produce wax and honey. Killing a bee’s considered bad luck and a hive infestation can force a family to move out. Jahanabad Kamran, the Grand Apiculturist of Emberthorn Park takes special pride in the floral and wondrous products from his hives. However recently new honeys and striking waxes have made their way onto the market. The Forger Xartamos wants his identity and process kept secret: using specially-made Hulls as intelligent, mobile hives of ghost bees.

The golden district of the wealthy.
1. The Counting Lodge is both a tea house and place to play “Baaz Yafiri,” the Game of Deaths. This abstract board game has an ancient tradition, devotees, and respected masters. However a recent series of games between masters Kurigalzu and Azita Riahi has come to a halt split 3-3. The former has vanished for reasons only known to him. The latter is relieved because she has been pressured by the A’Tahim to lose the final game. However with nothing settled in the match, bettors and enthusiasts have been driven to a frenzy. 

2. River sailors who wish to partake in the delights of U’duasha have two choices: settle for the sketchy, violent entertainments of the River Lock warehouses or travel through Sukru’at to reach sections of the city with higher, but not too high class pleasures. Seneschal Mahdi Shajarian has seen an opportunity here. When his master, the reclusive Mehram the Corpulent, died he hid this fact. Mahdi has been quietly running affairs of the household. He’s turned the secluded estate into a house of pleasures. Using a network of servants, maids, and butlers from other houses, he provides discreet services for river captains and their crew. It’s a small operation, but a risky one. Shajarian has recruited a group he’s more than willing to cut loose if he can make a decent score.

3. Master Rajan, spy-master for the house of Anixis, looks to uncover the secrets behind the spectacular lanterns recently displayed by House Ankhayat. Long lasting, bright, and multicolored, these have become a point of pride for Eshala, the expected heir to the house’s fortunes. He has not sold any of these, preferring instead to display them conspicuously at gatherings. His artisan, Ajkuna of Thrask, accompanied him back from Tycheros. She has remained on the estate grounds since then, but has been looking for new materials.

4. Access to the Asha’va river locks offers lucrative trade for who can seize it. Though nominally outcast, The Forsaken gang have the tightest grip on that. That’s given them control over most water-based smuggling. But gang leader Torek has become angered as reports of other goods being smuggled in reach his ear. He has told his allies in the Dockers to keep an eye out the perpetrators. Unknown to him, a city surveyor named Burnaburiash discovered a series of underground tunnels leading to the river. He’s enlisted his cousin Ku-Baba, an inspector and assessor in his scheme. She makes sure certain packages vanish from the books and get left in the right place for Burnaburiash’s agents to pick up.

5. Two generations ago, House Anixis split as a brother and sister contended for control. The victor, Matriarch Pegah, still lives and pulls strings behind the scenes. However some resent her control and others worry about the number of buried bodies. A small group arranged to smuggle in Sevder Ferhat, the only surviving child of Bawan’s brother. Sevder has spent the last decades in Doskvol, building up a network of agents and informants. More importantly he has acquired a number of artifacts associated with the Demon Prince Ixis. He’s accompanied by a Mitra Aslani, an Iruvian in the pay of the Empire and a former agent of Elstera Avrathi, House Anixis’ diplomat to Doskvol.

6. Far and away the most common bird in U’duasha is the owl. These come in all shapes, sizes and species. Other birds don’t survive well against these predators. It is why the falcon serves as a symbol of status for the highest of the I’Yalim investigators. The House of Merciful Fletchers, run by Reza Safavi, sells unusual birds. He pays top dollar for new birds and the eggs of birds “borrowed” from collectors in the city. Safavi has heard of a bird of unusual plumage which has taken roost in one of the machine works near The Well, but has been unable to obtain it since the workers regard it as a good luck charm.

The district of schools and training halls.
1. Students of several schools of swordplay, including Serpent Alighting and the Falling Star, have been killed in recent months. They have been caught out in the evening and engaged in duels by Şeyda Behram, illegitimate daughter of Scholar Najra. She has mastered a corrupt style and secretly trains herself to kill her father. Several schools would like to discover who has slaughtered their students, while Behram herself would like to catch Najra in an ambush. But Erfan Mahmoodi of the Rising Moon school has noted the strange wounds on the victims and is looking into how someone learned such an unusual style.

2. The Vaasu School provides education…to those who can afford it. Some actually study and learn there while other spoiled elites coast through to please their families. But a few run up against the limits of scholarship, moving into the realms of speculation and heresy. Some have turned to the Zindiq Sulili. This revolutionary firebrand teaches them forbidden arts laced with political commentary. He moves from house to house, salon to salon, always one step ahead of the authorities. He’s sought by Hunter Deemethresu of the I’Yalim, but the Gualim avoid him. He claims to know secret way to dismiss and fool the black-clad enforcers. In fact while Sulili possesses mystical powers, he’s something of a charlatan, using the trappings of subversion to raise his rates.

3. Lacking strong central institutions, social power is key in Iruvia. The four houses struggle over loyalty, influence, and reputation. They command society. However from time to time a member of the nobility will commit a reprehensible act in public, a transgression with witnesses which cannot be hidden away. In this case the fallen noble may seek redemption by supporting or establishing a Lodge of Charity. These lodges provide loud and visible charitable acts in their patron’s name. Nazanin sul-Kian has become a widely sought expert in establishing these Lodges. She knows how to stage for effect, have clients demonstrate believable penance, and hire reliable actors. More importantly she’s also good at funneling charitable monies back to a noble’s family, allowing them to appear extravagant in their generosity. Some, especially members of the Hadrakin, resent her corrupt work. Nazanin herself continues to look for new avenues to generate money using these Lodges.

4. Student Roya Mahdavi has developed a new and unbreakable cypher. A break-in led her to believe that the Ankhayat want to steal her work. She has gone underground, becoming politically active in a group called the Shadow of ar-Rafiyyah. They use strange graffiti encoded with her cypher to pass messages. Imperial agents and Enlil-nasir, second to Captain Hayansa of Anixis, have been seeking Mahdavi and her knowledge.

5. Siyabend Kardux of the Vaasu school has been slowly and carefully insinuating himself into the operations of the school’s archeological institute. While not a scholar, Kardux masters logistics, scheduling, and recruitment. As a result he knows where excavations take place, what they’re bringing back, and who has been hired to work. He’s looking for a reasonable partner, trying to avoid the scrutiny of the Hadrakin, who usually consider such areas under their auspices. Kardux also hopes to avoid the attention of cultists or the Unburned.

6. U’duasha doesn’t share Doskvol’s culture of broadsheets and daily journalism. Instead they have storytellers and pamphleteers. The latter travels throughout the city providing daily news and information at the tea houses in exchange for tips. Such storytellers have circles of associates, complete with streetrunners. The former craft longer, more in-depth pieces—bound volumes detailing their researches and reports. These authors write under pen names and their exposes can bring down notables. One such author, Apsu the Green, has gone missing. He had been investigating corruption and vanished monies involving the military and the current Warlord. Captain Nassim Hematti grabbed up Apsu, but is uncertain what to do with him. She’s tortured him for his sources, but so far the writer has given up nothing, hinting that if he dies he has allies who will publish his notes.

The city center which burns with eternal arcane fire. Home of the poor, the zealots, and the great steam machines of the city.
1. Cultists serving the Forsaken Gods have recently set up Spirit Nets to catch ghosts before they fall into The Well. The frighteningly sane zealot Atrus al Atrus collects these in a forgotten tomb near the heart of the city. He hopes to use these as power for binding other forces and perhaps to destroy the Hulls used by the mining companies. Atefeh Manesh, a Zindiq, has tried to pursue this, but her warning have been turned aside by Ekurzakir, a senior member of the A’Tahim and secret ally to Atrus.

2. The heat and power of The Well is turned to many purposes. At “night” it powers forges, great steam engines, punch & form machines, and material cutters. During the day the lifting of the barriers creates a wave of heat. It is a crushing task to manage. Unlike the Miners, these workers have no union. Lezgîn Ararat of The Forsaken exploits this, and materials which slip between the cracks come to him. There are those, such as Red Mot, who would like to unionize or at the very least pitch people like Ararat into the Well.

3. A new and potent beverage has appeared on the streets of U’Duasha-- A’tiraq-- a scarlet liquor of surpassing intoxication despite tasting like burning. Many have sought out who created and distributes this in hopes of obtaining the secret. The Rakshasa Mansahet intends to keep this under his control. By aging a cheap brew in specially treated barrels near the light and heat of the Well, he’s imbued the drink with power. Currently he uses a loose conglomeration of street thieves and fellow ghouls to move his product. He knows eventually he’ll have to face The Forsaken, but he doesn’t realize how intently the Gualim search for him since the drink echoes their biding techniques.

4. The Weedwall Souk is an occasional black market run amidst the twisted brambles of the Blackwood. It is said that anything can be had here for a price. Occultists and arcane practitioners frequent the place looking for rare substances. The Souk is overseen by Ozdemur, a masked figure who secretly represents the Unburnt. The market master is in fact a carefully crafted and statuesque Hull who escaped from the Aserekh. That knowledge would upset Arezoo Raeisi, a Rafiq for the Hadrakin who has used the Souk as a resource and recruitment center. She’s even sold some incriminating pieces, which Ozdemur has carefully kept as insurance.

5. From time to time bravos travel into the U’du area, looking for easy marks to taunt and injure. In recent weeks some have returned sickened, and a few have even perished from an unknown malady. Doctors sent into the U’du neighborhood have found no sign of this disease there. The son of Ashur-dan Ankhuset lies dying and his father has turned to less savory methods to find a cure. So far the source, the Deathland Scavengers, have kept quiet. Jaffar Farzin, a scavenger leader, found an artifact he has used to sicken those who offend him. While this began as a means of gaining justice for the downtrodden, Jaffar now has bigger plans.

6. Iruvians take astrology seriously as each star represents a demon exiled from the world. Though gone they still exert influence. The hours of the night are named after the most prominent constellations. Carefully trained astrologers are consulted before major decisions by the military and the nobility. In the last year, however, a new astrologer has operatied out of U’da. Armaiti of Dastani has developed an entirely new schema and set of constellations. She believes these readings reflect a new order coming to the world. Armaiti’s following has grown, with certain nobles secretly travelling have her perform a reading. Argamênos the Seer, master of astrology in the Vaasu, wants her condemned formally at the very least and has begun to make moves against her.

Friday, March 30, 2018

History of Universal RPGs (Part Eight: 2014-2015)

Board gamers make a big deal about theme. Those who care judge games by much the game’s mechanics reflect and deepen the theme. If there’s a disconnect then the theme’s “pasted on.” It’s one of the foundations of the Eurogame/Ameritrash divide. Board games of the former thinly apply theme. If you scrubbed it off, you’d have essentially the same game experience. The latter sacrifices playability in order to have shiny chrome that replicates the subject matter.

So on the one hand we have the excellent Azul, a game about tile-laying artists in classical Portugal. It’s a beautiful game with amazing components that reflect the source material. The theme’s easily forgotten, especially in the amazing play. On the other hand you have the Fallout Board Game. It’s a big, messy release from Fantasy Flight with tiles, figures, and artwork taken straight from the video game. It simulates Fallout—many of the most important systems carry through (gangs, missions, the SPECIAL perks). But that comes at the expense of play. It’s super random. At the beginning you suck and will get killed. Repeatedly. You could spend hours trying to build up your character and end up with 1 VP. Fun’s sacrificed at the altar of verisimilitude.

I’m wondering if the same structures apply to rpgs. Games like Dungeon World have a deep theme: it wants to simulate the classic D&D experience. It does that well, but when gamers hack it more broadly they have to work past baked-in default assumptions. On the other hand, you have thin reskins, like Rolemaster’s series of genre books which tried to overlay Modern, Samurai, Wild West, and more atop the most kludge fantasy game out there.

I mention this because today’s list has worn me out. Sometimes I’ll play a board game and I can tell the designer started with a mechanic. They love that mechanic; they built everything around that. The game’s architecture’s rests on that foundation. If it’s a simple thing, like Red7, then it’s awesome and stable. But if it’s a more convoluted teetering edifice (Euphoria) then my eye glaze over at the inevitable collapse. In reading through and translating many of the core mechanics from these games my eyes glazed over. Repeatedly.

I only include core books here. I’m also only listing books with a physical edition. I might include an electronic release if they’re notable and of significant size. At the end you’ll see some miscellaneous entries, covering borderline or similar cases. Some selections came down to a judgement call. I’m sure I missed some releases. If you spot something Universal I missed from 2012-2013, leave a note in the comments.

History of Universal RPGs (Part Eight: 2014-2015)

1. 6d6 Core (2014)
One of several games on this list released in a Creative Commons format. 6d6’s characters have a mix of "advantages". Each covers an area and has both a die value (1d6+X) and a character point rating. When players attempt an action they assemble dice from applicable advantages. Static and dynamic potentials (represented by markers) limit how many advantages they can apply. Finally the player compares the die roll plus mod total to a difficulty number. It reminds me of Lady Blackbird's compiling of traits, but with a lot of extra crunch.

6d6 has added complexity in combat and other situations where players may not have all their potential ready. It offers interesting tricks about shifting tokens between states to allow actions. I’m struck by the cascade of terminology for different advantages. They don't seem to impact play heavily, but instead categorize concepts. I understand the impulse to have a cool, encyclopedic approach, but it clutters the field.

You can see the online version of 6d6 here. There's a pdf and PoD version. The layout's clean, but the three column design makes it harder to follow, especially given the white space. The art's cc-sourced and doesn't add much to the book.

A note to publishers using DTRPG: you get to choose what pages of your game appear in the preview pdf. Make that choice carefully. Show us what the game does, give us a sense of the contents, and put your killer tech forward. Game fiction, dedications, explanation of how the game came to be-- they're less useful to someone considering the game. It's a small thing, but I'm constantly surprised by how many games have previews without real info.

Lester Smith, an industry veteran of GDW and TSR fame, created D6xD6. The titular dice refer to the basic roll of the game, generating results from 1-36. Character have a focus number for their abilities. If they have experience with the task, they have to roll higher than that number. If they're inexperienced or rusty with it, they have to roll below. Better rolls generate additional success levels. More difficult tasks subtract from the higher of the two dice rolled.

Characters themselves have four attributes (Brawn, Grace, Will, and Wits) and focus number. Players choose one attribute to be focused in, one to be weak, and the other two are neither good nor bad. They select a setting-appropriate occupation and up to nine skills based on that. Their focus number equals the number of skills chosen; broader experience makes you less good in any single one. That's complemented by three skills you're rusty in.

Overall it's a good, intuitive, and easy to get rolling universal system. You can see an online version at the d6xd6 site. The basic book includes seven settings, while the expanded version includes 26. Most of those individual settings plus others can be bought seperately as well. They're each 6 pages, so if you like reading quick new campaign premises, they're worth checking out.

Entropic seems straight-forward with the usual system suspects appearing. Attributes and skills have a die type (ala Savage Worlds). Higher rolls are better, with a default difficulty of 7. Entropic has a couple of interesting mechanical bits. For example doubles on successes are criticals, attacks do fixed damage, and players get three actions in combat. The Stat-Skill-Talents design triangle appears with qualities covering good and bad stuff (i.e. edges, hindrances, advantages, disads, etc). Overall Entropic feels very close to Savage Worlds. That's not entirely surprising given the publisher's history of SW supplements. They've supported the Entropic line with a couple of setting books and some more general sourcebooks.

Insight leans towards a trad approach universal gaming. The crunch spills forth: hit locations, split damage tracks for physical and mental damage, weapon tables with nine dimensions, multiple damage types (pierce, slash, bludgeon), values for senses, advanced skill combinations, cross-reference tables to success vs. difficulty. Insight has an base mechanic interesting: each of your six main stats offers a number of dice. Skills connect to those, so when you make a check you roll that many d10's. Those skills are rated as Unknown, Basic, Known, Trained or Specialized. That determines the number you need to roll on your each stat die for a success. Difficulty modifiers can increase or decrease that range.

It's definitely a game with detail in mind. It feels like fusion of GURPS, Storyteller, and d20 aesthetics. The base book includes a sample setting and rules for magic. The company's Norwegian, but the rules offer clear English. It's cleanly presented, but aims for a depth that I'm less into now. If you dig things like d20 Modern or CORPS it might be worth checking out. The designer has a fantasy adaptation available for free on DTRPG with the encouragement to purchase if you like it. They've also released a Age of Sail and Wild West supplements.

We can spot some patterns with generic systems. One the one hand publishers first release a genre game with a new system (Champions, Numenera, M&M). The system does well and players start hacking it and sharing fan supplements. So they develop a generic version (HERO System, Cypher, True20). On the other hand we have “from-the-ground up” universals (Forthright, Forge Engine). Cakebread & Walton’s OneDice takes another path; while the company released a series of complete genre-specific rpgs, they've also released this one usable for all settings. And they've continued to do that up to the present.

OneDice describes characters simply: three or four stats with six points distributed among them. Figured stats derive from those. Skills and other packages round that out. As you might guess, the system uses a single dice for resolution. Roll and add the appropriate attribute + skill against a difficulty set by the GM. OneDice is the epitome of pick up & play rpgs. Cakebread & Walton have supported the line generously. I sometimes complain about repeated rules across games, but given the simplicity of the mechanics that’s less of an issue.

6. P.E.R.K. (2014)
aka The Pretty Easy Roleplaying Kit. PERK uses a d6 dice pool system: roll those against a difficulty (4 is default) and count those that match or beat the TN. You need one success, but the difficulty of the action determines how many positive dice results you need to get a success. Extras successes can raise the action’s final effect. PERK makes their explanation of this more complicated than it has to be- with "success" on individual dice confused with overall "successes" needed.

A word on d6 dice pool systems: I've been running Mutant: Year Zero (and its offspring) for a long time now. It uses a d6 pool system. In those you only need a single “6” for success. You'd be amazed at how many times people fail, even with a metric shit-tonne of dice. PERK’s target number of 4 seems like a merciful approach.

PERK characters have basic dice pools (Action, Defense, Strength, Stamina, Focus) with others possible. That's supplemented by PERKs-- race, role, classes, as well as talent, gear, and skills. The company only released a single supplement: P.E.R.K. Urban Horror, though Dire Ninja Media also promised a dark urban fantasy game called Underlife. That game (and the novel based on it) doesn't seem to have materialized. The system's still available, but their webpage hasn't updated since late 2016.

7. Storium (2014)
I’ve written this whole list and put off this entry until the very end. That’s because I have a confession. See I backed Storium during its Kickstarter. It had a great pitch: online, collaborative, text-based roleplaying with content developed by an amazing array of authors. It would provide evolving tools to support that play. A central hub, clever organization of material, notifications. It would be awesome and it would truly be universal.

But I’ve never actually played it. I don’t know why I feel ashamed about that. I have plenty of rpg projects I’ve backed that I haven’t got to the table. I have plenty I’m certain I’ll never get to the table. But Storium sounds so cool. And it might be a way for me to overcome my dislike of play by post games. I’ve tried them and there’s something about the medium that kills me. Even when we’re creating a cool story, I can’t bring myself I write responses. I don’t know what it is.

Storium’s gotten a ton of positive word of mouth—and you can try it for free. But I know it’s dropped off the map for many of its earliest and most enthusiastic advocates. When I’ve talked to folks about their experiences, they describe a trail of dead and half-finished games. OOH that’s how I’ve heard PbP games described in general…

8. Zettel-RPG (2014)
A short, saddle-stapled German rpg. RPGGeek lists it as part of Gratisrollenspieltag (aka German Free RPG Day). The Geek makes this great comment about the game, "Jens Stengel's photographs of everything from dice to walnut shells provide a refreshingly unorthodox backdrop."

9. CdB Engine (2015)
CdB apparently stands for Cacería de Bichos, which I’ve seen translated as Bug Hunt, Bitter Hunt, and Bite Hunting. It’s a massive Spanish-language universal rpg split into three volumes: Manual del Jugador (300 pages), Manual del Director de Juego (288 pages), and Manual de Equipo y Vehiculos (336 pages). That last book may hold the record for a game-associated equipment supplement. CbB’s blurb describes it as "hard, realistic and considerably tactical." That makes me suspect it might not be for me. The same rules also power the game Walküre, a transhumanist alternate-reality rpg.

It looks like the company has supported the line, judging by this page of supplements. There's a solid review of the system here. If you're curious about it, check out their crowdfunding page which has descriptions and sample pages

10. Cypher System (2015)
Cypher comes out of Numenera and The Strange, two already versatile rpgs. The latter's multiversal setting offered a proof of concept that the system could handle multiple genres. Numenera and The Strange have core books with dense information and detail on the setting. They're about disgorging a ton of content. Cypher’s core rules does the same, but with character options and bits as the detail dump. It's a massive book with dense layout and text. But what’s weird is it isn't that complicated a system. In fact, I think it conceals its simplicity under a ton of chrome.

Characters have only three stats (Might, Intellect, and Speed). When they attempt something challenging, the GM sets a difficulty from 1 to 10. The player negotiates to modify this. The final difficulty times three is the number the player must meet or beat on a d20 roll. Stats don't affect the roll directly, instead players can spend from these to reduce difficulty. So state task, GM assigns difficulty, modify difficulty, roll a 20.

The complexity comes in the modify difficulty section. Characters have skills, talents, gear, weapons, armor, and effort. Each can reduce that difficulty. Nothing creates a huge swing, instead you collect incremental shifts to make things easier. Some of these details can be complicated. For example, using a stat to reduce difficulty isn't straight 1 for 1. Instead characters spend Effort which is three points from their relevant pool to reduce the difficulty by a step, BUT that cost can be modified by an Edge. At higher tiers characters may spend this effort to reduce it by more than one, but that costs 2 from the stat not 3. Also you can only apply an Edge once in the sequence of an action—to effort or other special abilities. Learning the system means pushing aside the bells and bobs to see the core; playing the system means mastering those bells and bobs.

Cypher's core simplicity extends across the board; for example damage is measured in a handful of states. It reminds me a little of True20, core simplicity with levels and classes, plus a lot of ornamentation atop that. The game also has a couple of key mechanics outside basic resolution. For one, experience is about exploration and discovery. As written the GM doles out experience not for mission success or defeating villains, but for learning about the world. It's a cool concept, but requires tweaks depending on the setting.

GM Intrusions are the other key idea. At any point the GM may add an unexpected complication to the situation. This is aimed at a single character's action (though the repercussions may be broader). The GM offers experience points to the player in exchange for permission to have this happen. If the player accepts they have to deal with the problem, get 1 XP, and give 1 XP to another player. Players can refuse by spending XP. The intrusions feel like PbtA soft moves, but more parallels GM compels from Fate. The rules encourage the GM to intrude at least once per session, but no more than once or twice per character. That seems fairly doable.

I've run three different Cypher games this month hoping to learn via stress-testing. I’m still figuring out what I think. Character creation’s a mix of loose and restricted. The different setting books have key shifts about heightened powers and the cyphers (one-use items which are a main feature). Probably the most challenging part for me has been setting the difficulty number cleanly. The GM’s supposed to do that without reference to a character’s skills, assets, or position. It’s on the players to bring those forward. As well a player’s stats act as a pool—a spendable resource and a measure of damage taken. Some characters will death spiral; others won’t

Monte Cook has recently released a 16-page quick system guide for Cypher. It does a good job of distilling the basics. The following year Monte Cook ran a "Worlds of Cypher" Kickstarter, adding several new full-book settings. It included Predation (timepunk dinosaurs), Gods of the Fall (like Godbound), Unmasked (weird '80's teen supers), and a collection of chapters handling different genres.

11. Krendel Core (2015)
A system with an unusual opening. Universal rpgs have a common problem: where do they start? Genre-specific games can begin with a setting summary, lay out typical play, or drop game fic on unsuspecting readers. OOH universal rpgs don't have that defaulting beginning (though some still vomit game fiction forth). Krendel starts with a discussion of the gamer contract and expectations. From there it moves to explanations of Declaration vs. Intent, Narrating Success and Failure, and Tailoring the Rules. I haven't seen another game on these lists begin with that high level discussion. We've had "what is an rpg?" and "This is why I wrote this universal heartbreaker" intros, but nothing quite like this.

Krendel itself uses a single d10 roll for resolution. Actions have a target number of 4 + skills & bonuses - penalties. Players try to roll as close to that number as possible without going over. If they succeed, they get successes equal to the number rolled. Difficulty applies penalties to the TN and successes can be spent on various effects. It reminds me of Fading Sun's roll under mechanic.

The game’s simplicity connects to some serious crunch in places. The discussion of scale, volume, area, and range came out of left field and signaled a shift in the rules. Krendel opts to present all the mechanical bits before we get to character creation or even a sense of what characters might look like. Eventually we get to the lists of traits and skills and their associated rules, but the thread’s hard to follow.

Krendel has a ton of optional mechanics. It presents these in callout boxes next to their corresponding system rather than pulling them to a distinct chapter. I like rules options and I dig that it's as much a toolbox as it is a system. But while I appreciate having options close by for later reference, it distracts while reading initially.

Overall Krendel feels trad, complete with pages and pages of powers and abilities, detailed guns & equipment lists, systems for building unique items, defined environmental threats, and more. Also in some places Krendel seems tied to a specific setting (the Artifice section) and in others moves to the universal. It has great chapter header art, but the in-chapter illustrations look sketchy at best. If you'd like to check this out, both the Core and the Power rules can be found for free right now on DriveThru.

12. Lite (2015)
A German-language universal rpg. Until recently you could find it on DriveThruRPG. Lite’s a stat-based, dice pool system with point buys. It was released with a Creative Commons license (a more and more common approach). Designer Jürgen Mang also created the comedy RPG Das Weltenbuch and the SpacePirates RPG. The latter has had a long life, with several supplements.

13. PowerFrame (2015)
An anime-inspired universal rpg, though not as far down that road as OAV or BESM. PowerFrame has a cartoony look and a clean layout. Characters have abilities measure from -5 (appalling) to +5 (masterful). To test an action, players roll a d6 and add their relevant value. These dice explode both up and down. The final result has to beat a target number set by the GM. A roll of -3 or less is a critical failure.

To build a character players pick from a list of abilities and assign points to those. The game seems simple enough, though it does use specific ranges measured in hexes and the weapon list from the rules primer takes up a full page. Armor has protection ratings in each of the four different types of damage. Overall I like the look and feel of the game, but it drops down to trad lists and approaches in places (distinct action types and lists, dual-wielding rules, movement points, travel & exposure). If you're looking for something relatively easy to pick up and play, but want a hex-map anime combat feel, this might be for you. There’s a quick start available.

14. QuestCore (2015)
An rpg from a Swedish company. QuestCore came from a Kickstarter which I think supported both the language editions. It has a small core book-- less than 60 pages. The blurbs mentions D&D and d20 as inspirations a couple of times. The system itself uses the oft-ignored d12 for resolution. Characters have seven basic stats (Will gets added to the usual lineup) and skills. Overall it feels like a slimmed down version of d20. tdphillips does an extensive read-through over at RPG Geek and confirms that assessment.

The Kickstarter page is worth looking at. It's nicely designed and presented, using the best of the game’s art assets. It sets up some of the games selling points: simpler than D&D, Skip Williamson's writing an adventure, universal mechanics. But there isn't much meat to the discussion beyond that-- no quick start or sample material to seriously examine.

15. Those Who Play (2015)
Subtitle: A Narrative Focused RPG. Another one funded via Kickstarter; this had modest goals and 45 supporters. Those Who Play appears to be built on a d10 dice pool system with abilities and skills associated with one of four pools: Physical, Mental, Spiritual, Social. Beyond that it's hard to say-- the KS page is remarkably thin on details and there's no reviews so far. And the 114 page pdf goes for $18.29 on DriveThruRPG. That's about $7 more than if you'd backed the KS originally.

16. Universal Adjacent
Several games come close to being universal but place some bounds on play. I'd originally planned to put Chronos Universal LARP on the list above, but the game has a multiversal setting. In each world players can explore "Aether" which has shaped history in different ways. Chronos uses special cards for generation and resolution.

Downfall has you play child characters in a decaying civilization. While you can use any kind of world, the play's structured around telling those stories of collapse. It’s a sharp game and worth checking out. Will Hindmarch used IndieGoGo to fund Odyssey: Journey and Change a few months before his Kickstarter for Project: Dark began. Odyssey delivered in late 2014. In it you explores stories of journeys and how those change the characters. It's an interesting concept applicable to many settings. Finally Primetime Adventures 3rd edition offers the most recent version of this TV-themed rpg. You can play out any genre, but done as a television show. That framing device shapes the narrative. Players who love PTA seem torn on this revision; some appreciate the changes while others prefer 2e. I hope we can see some violent edition wars over this.

17. Electronic-Only RPGs
The following universal rpgs have a substantial electronic-only edition:
  • AARG Preflight Edition: A 3d6 based system. Designer Steve Keller released this slim version, but doesn't seem to have followed up on that.
  • Amazing Roleplaying Game: Has a fully generic version and one with an alt-history steampunk setting.
  • Cornerstone: Ben Dutter's 1d6 based "answer to Freeform Universal, Fate, GURPS, and Savage Worlds.”
  • Modos Roleplaying Game: Though it presents the fantasy genre as a default, Modos is intended for universal play.
  • Monad System: An Italian universal rpg which has released several supplements in recent years
  • Multiverse Adventures: The in-house generic system powering many of Starbright Illustrations shovelware rpgs.
  • Pangenre 2e: A d20 universal system which does away with ability numbers, classes and levels.
  • The Sigil System: The universal version of the system Stormforge Publishing uses for their other game The Runed Age. The company also released The Glyph System, a lighter version of this.
  • Simpli-6: Base rules includes the "Arkalanon" setting. The publisher has released a couple of supplements including Mythic West and Mars Rising.
  • Solo Gaming Rules: Pretty much what's written on the label.
  • VIP Core: "VIP stands for Variable Initiative Point. The system gets its name because in the VIP System all actions have an initiative point cost."

History of Universal RPGs (Part Eight: 2014-2015)