Quick Cortex Prime hack: Spies and monster hunters in Cold City

Cold City coverMy gaming group just wrapped up a Cold City campaign. It was fun, and we liked the setting, but afterwards the other players and I were unanimous in our dislike of the game’s system. There were some good bits, but too many bad bits getting in the way. For example, stats increase when you succeed and decrease when you fail, and if they decrease too far (which can happen on the turn of a single roll, especially if you were a min-maxer like me) that leads to a downward spiral and then it’s almost impossible for your character to become competent again.

Another player suggested that you could play a campaign with the same setting in another game like The Dystopian Universe Roleplaying Game (a Fate game). He was probably right, but I’ve never played that game, so I’m going to hack Cold City for Cortex Prime instead. Enjoy!

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Dream Questing as open table play: it’s been done, right?

I’m going to pitch a campaign idea, and I want people to tell me 1) whether they’ve ever done anything like this before, and 2) how it went. Ok? Here goes:

Heroes adventure through a fantasy world (the usual: fighting evil, slaying monsters, rescuing imprisoned royalty, saving the common folk, overthrowing tyrants, wielding powerful weapons and magic, exploring the wondrous lands around them, making a name for themselves, etc.). But they aren’t firmly tethered to this fantasy world, because in fact they are from the mundane world, without monsters or magic or heroes or wonder. In their home world they are normal people, unimportant, but sometimes when they sleep they appear in the fantasy world and become heroes. And when they wake, they vanish from that fantasy world until their next visit.

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Advise me: How should I blog my reviews of D&D Appendix E?

This holiday season, I’m using my free time to read some of the inspirational books and stories from Appendix E in the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition Players Handbook. This is based on a much earlier list, compiled by Gary Gygax for the original Dungeon Master’s Guide and known throughout the internet as Appendix N. (Admiral.Ironbombs has talked a bit about Appendix N and Appendix E on their own blog, here.)

Since I have a roleplaying blog already, and since this is a roleplaying-adjacent subject, I thought I might blog a little about my impressions of these books. I’m not a prodigious reader, and I’m not much for literary analysis, but perhaps someone will find my thoughts on these tales interesting.

But I’m in a quandary: should I put all my reviews in a single blog post or split them up, perhaps even into separate reviews for each book? A single post would have the benefit of keeping everything in one place, but it would be very long (even though the individual reviews will be quite short). Multiple posts would be more easily digestible, but I suspect harder to find any specific thing you’re interested in (maybe even needing an index post), to the point where they might crowd out the other blog posts on the site. I honestly don’t know which is best.

Dear readers, what would you prefer? One long post, or many short posts?

These Questions Two: What are your traits asking you?

John Cleese as Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
I’ll pose to you these questions two,
Ere that action you do.

(I know the bridgekeeper said the line in the film, but Tim the Enchanter is cooler and it’s easier to find good screenshots.)

The traits we use in roleplaying games frame a lot about how the game works and how characters fit into it. Three years ago, Fred Hicks encapsulated this (in an excellent blog post on Fate Accelerated Edition) by saying that the traits in the game pose a question that is answered when you pick which trait to use. In Fate Accelerated, for example, the traits are Approaches and the question is “How are you doing that?”. When you pick the Approach to use for a given action, the question is answered: Quickly, Carefully, Forcefully, Cleverly, Flashily or Sneakily.

I’d been thinking about something similar before Fred’s blog, and I’ve been thinking about it on-and-off ever since. It’s come to the forefront of my mind again recently because of Cortex Prime. Cortex Prime is a modular game system, so players (and especially GMs) need to have a solid understanding of what the traits in their games mean and why they’re there. (Cortex Prime is also why I’m using ‘traits’ as a generic term for rated stats that you pick when you need to roll or resolve something.)

I now believe that, contrary to what Fred wrote in his blog post, traits don’t pose a question for players to answer: they pose two questions, which players answer at different times. As well as the in-the-moment questions when players pick the trait they’ll use, there’s another question, posed even earlier, when the players establish the ratings of the traits on their character sheets.

In this blog, I’ll look at what these two questions are and what they mean, then give example questions for the main trait types in use today (and some new ones!). Hopefully this will be useful for GMs working out how to make their Cortex Prime campaign, as well as game designers more broadly. Let’s get to it!

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Sailing the 7th Sea is exciting but choppy

7th Sea (2nd edition) cover

7th Sea (second edition) by John Wick Presents is a roleplaying game of swashbuckling and sorcery in a fantasy version of 17th century Europe. I’m currently running a short campaign. The players and I are having fun, but I’ll probably never run it again and one of the players who had intended to run it himself has been put off from doing that. Some of the mechanics are great and powerful additions to the RPG designer’s toolbox; in other places the core rules feel unclear and frustrating, putting a burden on the GM to make rulings.

This isn’t a thorough review of the game (Rob Donoghue has you covered if that’s what you want), but it is a look at some specific areas that I feel are worthy of greater attention. First up is Stories, and players taking the helm for their own development.

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I bought the Nobilis and Chuubo Bundle of Holding

Cover of Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine

After weeks of umming and erring, I finally bought the Nobilis and Chuubo Bundle on Bundle of Holding, featuring the games Nobilis and Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine by Jenna Katerin Moran.

It’s not that I wasn’t sure of the games’ worth. On the contrary, it’s because I well understand the quality and beauty and ingenuity of these games that I considered buying the bundle, despite already owning both of the games. Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, the one that I’ve played before, is unlike any other roleplaying game I’ve ever tried, and the scope of the ideas it can add to a game designer’s toolbox is immense.

I bought the bundle because I hope the Chuubo supplements will help me sort through a few issues that are holding me back from running another Chuubo’s campaign. I really want to, but some relatively minor things are in the way, like the need to provide and use large amounts of stationery props (the Quest and Issue cards). I got some advice on this on Google+, so I might have eventually got round to doing it again regardless, but this Bundle is a prompt to dive back into this (occasionally mindblowing) game and see if I can sort through it.

Even without playing, there are so many great game mechanics in these games that can be lifted out and used in other places. That’s what I did recently with the emoting rules in my blog post on Revealed Emotionality in roleplaying games, but there is so much more gold to mine in these pages.

To make a long story short, there are only two days left on the Bundle of Holding. If you don’t have these games already, this is an excellent opportunity to get them at a bargain price. If you own them, maybe it’s time to give them another look. I’m planning to do just that.

There’s beauty here. Share it.