A roll in the hay with Kagematsu

Cover of Kagematsu

Kagematsu is a roleplaying game by Danielle Lewon, based on a design by S.R. Knipe. The simplest, most obvious summary of the game would be to call it a romance game, but there are aspects to it that prevent it from being so easily pigeonholed. If you’ve heard of Kagematsu, you probably know it as the game that must always be GMed by a woman, and that’s important to its exploration of gender and power imbalance.

I have been wanting to play it for a long time, and I’m glad I have because there is so much to say about this game!

Here’s the highlight, though: I had a great time playing Kagematsu. I want to play it again. I recommend it, but there are things that I wish the game did better so I fully understand if it’s not the game for you.

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To Me, My X-Men: Mutant Pathways for Smallville RPG

x_men_lineup_by_americanninjax_reordered
The Heart, the Leader, the Rebel, the Specialist, and the Hammer (for example).
Edit of an image by Matthew Humphreys

One of the best parts of the Smallville RPG is its character creation system, Pathways. Pathways is a lot of fun, and it lets players collaborate to produce an entangled web of characters for the game to come.

Players do Pathways by following the instructions on the Pathways Chart. The chart is an incredible piece of roleplaying design. You start at the top, and each row is a stage of the character’s life journey. At each stage, players choose options for their character, and those options list Traits that go on the character sheet.

The Pathways Chart in the Smallville Core Rulebook is specific enough to its source material that it can be used to produce the cast for a game modelled on the TV show Smallville (as shown in the rulebook’s example), and it is also generic enough that it can be used to create a cast for any similar Superpowered Teen Soap Opera.

Sometimes, however, the default Pathways Chart is not the right tool for the game you want to run. If the gaming group has an idea for a campaign that isn’t Smallville, but is more specific than a generic Superpowered Teen Soap Opera, going through the default Pathways Chart may be too long or too confusing, especially if the players haven’t played Smallville before. That was the case for my Worthington Academy game (in which the player characters are alternate versions of the X-Men in a British, Hogwarts-style boarding school).

Here, I present an X-Men-themed Pathways Chart that anyone can use for their own games. It should hopefully facilitate a game based on that setting, and provide a shallower learning curve for new players. Enjoy! Let me know what you think!

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CAMELOT Trigger: The Green Knights of Io

Orc Brute Trooper by rickyryan on DeviantArt.

CAMELOT Trigger is a setting for Fate Core that takes the characters and themes of Arthurian legend and gives them all the trappings of an interplanetary sci-fi mecha anime. In other words, it’s a setting composed of pure awesome. It was written by Robert Wieland and released in Fate Worlds Volume Two: Worlds in Shadow.

I’m about to play in a CAMELOT Trigger campaign, and as a big geek for the tales of King Arthur, I came to the first session a little over-prepared. Here are some of the character ideas that I took with me to character creation (and fleshed out since). They are all based on characters from the original legends, mainly the Orkney Clan and their supporting cast. If you use any of them, or if you like them, or if you have any other feedback, please let me know!

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Star Wars under the Microscope: What if Darth Vader wasn’t Luke’s father?

Our Star Wars timeline in Microscope. Only the events of A New Hope were considered fixed.

A long time ago (about a week), in a galaxy far, far away (an hour on the London underground), I sat down with three of my friends to play a game of Microscope that retold the Star Wars saga. Let me tell you about it!

“So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view.”

I used to write a lot of fan fiction. I don’t do that much anymore, because now I prefer to collaborate with other people when making up stories, but one of the pieces of fan fiction that I never got round to writing was an alternate Star Wars saga, exploring what might have happened if the franchise had gone in another direction during the production of the original trilogy. Things could have been vastly different if the producers had made different decisions at that early stage.

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Character advancement vs Character development

Anakin Skywalker's journey to become Darth Vader: Fear, Anger, Hate, Suffering.
Character advancement and character development sometimes go hand in hand… but character development isn’t always a joyful experience for the character itself

One of the great joys of playing roleplaying games, especially playing a single character through a long campaign, is in seeing your character grow and change. In traditional high fantasy games, it’s fun to rise from humble beginnings to be an important and powerful figure in the campaign world.

However, it’s relatively rare in roleplaying games to see the sort of deep, personal character transformation that you might see in books, TV shows or films. That’s because the sort of growth and change encouraged by traditional roleplaying games is different from the growth and change that most popular media is built on.

Character advancement is not the same thing as character development.

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I ❤ Heroes of the Hearth

Seven Wonders cover, from Pelgrane Press LtdHeroes of the Hearth is a GM-less, diceless story game by Stiainín Jackson. In Heroes of the Hearth, you tell the story of a group of villagers, the family and loved ones left behind by the fantasy adventurers who have left home to battle evil. It is included in Pelgrane Press’ Seven Wonders anthology.

I recently had a chance to play the game, and I  it. (I “heart” it, you see, because the heart symbol stands for love and “heart” sounds like “hearth”… Visual wordplay is difficult, ok?)

Before playing it, I’d been worried whether I’d enjoy the game. The characters were all pre-generated and I was concerned they would be flat or hard to customise. The scene structure seemed paradoxically to be very rigid and yet offer little support.

Which just goes to show that you should never review roleplaying games without playing them, because my fears were unfounded and I had a great time. Let me tell you about it!

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Hubris Box: A draft

Hubris Box is a diceless roleplaying game that I wrote based on a core mechanic created by Paul Richardson.1 In a game of Hubris Box, players collaboratively tell the story of a protagonist whose ambition spurs them to greatness before they are destroyed by their own flaws.

I posted about Hubris Box before, in a three-part series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) that presented the rules I developed for the game and an example of play that depicted the musical Hamilton as a session of Hubris Box with three players. Hamilton made sense to me as an example because it fit the narrative structure I was aiming for, but it turns out that a lot of people avoided reading those blog posts because they hadn’t listened to Hamilton yet.

Therefore, here are the rules for my version of Hubris Box with the play example removed. If anyone gives it a try, please please please let me know how it goes and what you think. This is a first draft and will almost certainly need tweaking, and I’d appreciate any feedback I get. Thanks!

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