So, you’re rolling dice pools to hack your way through door locking systems or swinging through trees on ropes to escape cannibalistic war-bands. You come to a stop, realising that you’re surrounded on four sides and it’s time for you and your friends to face the enemy in an extreme gun fight…
How does it work?
Pulp RPG is about normal people in extraordinary situations, fighting to survive or rid the world of evil! But there’s danger in the hills and the forests are alive with terrors. You’ll hope you want to go first!
Today we’re going to look at combat, focusing on competitive rolling and the initiative sequence.
Initiative works differently from what most players may be used to; the players party and the games master each select a character from their sides of the combat. That character / non-player will then choose which attribute they want to base their initiative roll on. This is important because the character that wins the initiative roll will only be able to commit to a skill of that attribute.
We think it works because seizing the initiative is not always about how fast a person can move, like in some dexterity / celerity initiative systems. It could be as simple as pulling a trigger, outwitting an opponent or just being damn lucky. Since all starting characters will have a single attribute at 4 dice, it means that no one will be selected repeatedly for their high dice pool – it will come down to what action they wish to take.
When the winner of initiative is determined, the winning player goes first. After this point, the initiative is handed back and forth between each side of the combat until the last character or non-player has taken their turn.
It’s a little less natural but it allows for a little bit of planning without spending precious minutes deciding what combo of abilities the party wants to use, and since the roll is performed each round, it essentially stops initiative being one sided.
How do we roll competitively?
It’s as simple of rolling your dice pool and counting the successes compared to that of your opponent. Using your physical attribute with your close combat skills? Simply declare your action, roll your dice pool and compare the results to that of the opponent’s dice pool. If the result is an equal number of successes then the combat is a stalemate, if you beat their number of successes you score the hit, maybe with added bonuses.
OK, lets bloody some noses!
Damage will vary depending on what your weapon of choice is. Currently every weapon in the game will come as a standard unit with applied tags. Tags can add to the damage of the weapon depending on the target, add bonuses to abilities and provide role-play opportunities. A great example is the whip, in the hands of our protagonist, Tom Raider Jones:
Whip – Hand Weapon (tags: prehensile, slashing).
Not great against a single Nazi zombie:
Creature – Humanoid (tags: zombie, military training, well equipped, Will of the Fuhrer, Inexorable.)
That about sums up our little sojourn into the combat of Pulp RPG, tomorrow we’ll be looking at a couple of things from the games master point of view, looking at the categories and tags of players and monsters, with a little more depth to the weapon tags and damage in Pulp RPG.
Today we’re going to give you a sneaky look at character creation for CC’s Pulp RPG.
There are a few very simple criteria about how we design things, here’s the major one; character creation must be simple and swift so as to be friendly for your new players, yet possess infinite customization with levels of depth for your more experienced players. To tackle this problem, we considered all manner of mechanics but we’ve settled on a few solid ones.
So, let’s get into it…
There are four attributes which will be familiar to players of RPGs but we’ll go into a bit of detail here. The power level is unlike most styles of RPGs and since most pulp fiction characters are simple humans we feel the need to stress this. In Pulp RPG there are four main attributes that make up a character:
The physical attribute describes your athletic ability as a whole; shooting requires physical effort to aim and stay steady, running long distances is tiring, swimming through river rapids is difficult, and holding open a stone trapdoor requires technique and brawn – all these describe your physical attribute, sort of a doing statistic.
Intellect covers elements from academic learning, logical reasoning, to understanding sciences and engineering. Recalling ancient lore, deciphering complex codes, repairing a vehicle and understanding schematics – all these describe your intellect attribute, a sort of thinking statistic.
The charisma attribute describes your social acumen. Being heard over an argument, convincing others to help, wooing another person or calming a spooked horse. Charisma is almost always a competitive roll and acts like your characters presence in the room..
Finally, the luck attribute – which is used during the game to turn aside a poor result, avoid catastrophe or really hammer home a good shot. The luck attribute is also rolled in games sessions where pure chance can make you feel lucky, such as when determining which character is going to be targeted by an enemy. In these situations, rolling the dice of the luck attribute means the lowest score loses the contest and becomes the target of the attack.
Luck also plays another important part during the game for the little things; is that guard looking in my direction? Roll your luck dice pool and let’s see how fate decides! In this way, the excitement can be shared by the players and the games master without derailing the story or side stepping role-play.
At character creation a player decides which of their attributes will be their characters best, good, average and poor attributes, which confer 4 dice, 3 dice, 2 dice and 1 dice respectively to their dice pools. It may sound a little restrictive but at character creation it can be very quick to decide what sort of character you wish to play and gives each character a known balance. The infinite customization comes in the next section; character skills.
We’re still working on the skills a character can take, but the idea is relatively simple; you choose your skills based on a broad spectrum of a life role or profession. A character has several skills depending on their Intellect attribute. Here’s an example based on a character who is a farm worker:
Mechanics – the ability to repair or modify vehicles on the farm.
Animal Welfare – to care for livestock in all forms with simple veterinary skills
Firearms – to guard and protect the land or livestock from predators or thieves.
Its important to note that skills are not specific to any single attribute, instead they are fluid meaning that a physically weak character may be able to think their way out of the box.
Getting across a cavern is rarely a simple physical task, sometimes you have to use brains to determine the best point to jump, the right angle and speed to jump from, be warned though; if you stretch the concept too far and you risk the idea backfiring; try and suggest you can charm your way across is doomed to fail!
That about covers today’s development blog. Over the next couple of days we’ll give you some insight into basic and competitive rolling, initiative and combat.
Stay tuned and we’ll give you some more meaty bits as the week comes to an end!
Have you ever wanted to be a mobster in the prohibition era, or fight martians attacking earth in the silver screen years of the 50s?
Well CC’s Pulp RPG aims to bring that to the table.
All you need are pencils & paper, the free copy of our rules and several six sided dice to start failing rolls and cursing the fickle gods of fate right away; whether you’re cracking the whip as Tom Raider Jones, chasing Zombie Hitler through panama in 1948, or drawing your peacemaker at high noon, then we’ve got you covered.
With the expansion and module model that we’ve developed, you can play through the exciting story of Tom Raider Jones in our curated adventure pack, or use his 1930s pre-war setting to raid your own tombs and shoot your own Nazis!
Whether you’re new to role-playing games or are veteran players, our years of world building experience, combined with our love of rolling dice will ensure you have some amazing sessions with CC’s Pulp RPG.
Keep your eyes peeled for the first version of the rules which will be available soon, for free, along with our first adventure pack “Chasing Zombie Hitler Through Panama In 1948.”
So you’re going be the Dungeon Master (DM) for your first game of Dungeons & Dragons? You want to leave your players breathless, panting for more and unsure if they can take another mouthful of awesomeness?
I’ve seen it before; in your head there’s a legendary adventure waiting to vomit out from every orifice in your face and splurge itself onto the page.
You want to be the best goddamn master of the dungeon to ever grace the halls of adventuring. The dramatic music starts, your pencil plunges down toward the pristine sheet of paper.
You’ve got this. It’s happening. Like the impetus of the virgin lover, you stab down that pencil-lead and besmirch the paper.
Except that at the moment of climatic pencil to paper contact you have doubt. Your hand wavers, your fingers loosen and your pencil… it’s dropped to the desk, rolling slowly off the desk.
It happens to everyone.
You all want to play Dungeons & Dragons and it’s no easy feat to draw up a gaming session to please everyone. Either you drew the short straw and you have to write the game, working like a pack mule, or you chose the role of DM as a creative outlet because you’re pretty avant-garde.
I’m going to cover some simple basics; the role of the DM, knowing your players, what to prepare, an example of an adventure setup and finally some notes on starting your first session.
So here’s how it works; here is how you turn that dripping mucus of a brain into the well-toned 80’s sword and sorcery hero.
If you don’t have a copy or cant afford the ones you need, you could try these helpful PDFs provided by Wizards of the Coast.
Before we Begin…
Let’s get a few things clear about being the Dungeon Master / Games Master (DM / GM).
The DM acts as a type of story teller and referee rolled into one. You set the scene; you give cues and clues to the players, allowing each of them a chance to act with their character. You are not their adversary, despite being all the goodies and baddies in the story you’re trying to portray. And portray is the correct word.
You are showing them the story as they interact with it, you’re not telling them what to do, but guiding them on the journey of the story you have planned. Keep that in mind.
No one wins in D&D like in conventional games. The success of a game can be measured in the enjoyment of the players and the DM. If you enjoyed telling a story and making the players creep to the edge of their seat in anticipation, then it’s a good game. If no one has fun, it probably wasn’t worth it… but we all have to start somewhere, so as DM you must bear the burden of the players’ enjoyment, initially…
Trust me, it’s worth it.
So here are several important considerations to your first time DM session. Let’s rock this Kasbah with love and violence…
Know Thy Players…
Murder Hobos shouldn’t be the default setting for a brand new party, but be prepared!
Whether you’re delving at twelve, dirty at thirty or part time retired and kicking butt, knowing your players is the best advice you can get. I’ll tell you why with an example:
We can all watch the same film at the same time and enjoy completely different parts of it. We all went to see the film together, so we kind of enjoy the idea of the film, but some liked the love story, others enjoyed the high paced violent race and a few enjoyed the antagonistic interactions between two heroes. We like the film, but we love different bits of it.
Playing Dungeons and Dragons is exactly the same.
It helps if you know what your players like about a story. You’ll find some players are more into the story than pillaging troll caves and vice versa. This is fine, just identify who likes what. When you know this much you can add extra bits in for everyone to have a little more limelight – that extra tough monster for the barbarian to squish or the helpless stable boy trying to get the attention of the serving maid next door.
The little bits can add a lot to how the players perceive the game.
How do you know who likes what? Well, start by seeing what people want to play. A barbarian will enjoy fighting; the paladin will want a noble cause of their choosing to follow; a thief well… a thief will like collecting things; and the wizard? Well those creeps have all sorts of agendas.
Get your players to generate their characters before you plan the first game. Ask them to give their characters an agenda privately to you – you can use this later.
While you’re at it, ask them some questions about their characters and make some notes. Here’s an example:
Gwen wants to play a barbarian elf. Cool. She says her character is driven by revenge. Revenge for what? Well, Gwen explains that her barbarian lost her tribe in a cataclysmic earthquake, toppling their homes into a chasm. She thinks a powerful sorcerer may be responsible.
You don’t have to use this right away. Your first game is going to be about getting the players role-playing and enjoying their first game. But never forget those simple ideas.
Notes, Maps & Preparation Time
So this is where the planning starts.
You’ve already got an idea of what your players want to be, and you have their agenda or motivation for adventuring. These are invaluable. But now you want to create something for them to play in.
The limitless sandpit that is your mind is about to get as hot as all the fires in all of hell!
First off: Don’t try and write everything down.
You’ll get easily bored and frustrated and when you come to run the game, you’ll be flicking through notes and papers and no doubt getting lost. Even if it’s all typed up, you’ll be scrolling around and pausing and losing the attention of the players. A second to get your bearings is fine, but you want them to be savoring your every word.
Secondly: no plan survives contact with the players.
No matter how hard you plan it, the players will always approach things differently to how you planned it. Read that bit again, here I’ll help:
The players will always approach things differently to how you planned it.
It’s like they know exactly how you DIDN’T think the encounter could go.
For this reason alone, you should have your encounters and notes prepared in such a way that you can flip to any of them at a moment’s notice. If you force them to make decisions that you want, they will feel railroaded and not enjoy the experience.
Go with the flow, but nudge them in the right direction. Give them choices as the session progresses, but always loop them back to the encounter you hoped they would find. I’ll give you an example:
You wanted the party to talk to the shady character in the tavern but they decided to take a trip to the sewers to kill goblins instead. No sweat – all you need to do is give them a brief combat encounter in the sewers, suggest they go back to the tavern to clean up and heal… and have that shady character waiting for them. The tavern keeper can approach the party when they order a hot bath and let them know that the gentleman in the cloak was asking about them.
So how do you plan an adventure and keep track of things?
You’ll need an adventure idea. Here’s my personal check list:
Your Antagonist and their Motivation
You can literally watch any episode of Scoobydoo and get a load of examples of this. Why did Mr Parkinson terrorize the farmers market? Well he wanted to tear it down and use the land to build expensive flats… those pesky kids got in the way!
OK, so not a great adventure, but you get the idea. Think up your unsavory enemy and give it an agenda, motivation and a name. Keep it simple. Then work on its stats, but keep them basic for now – if it’s a monster from the Monster Manual, that saves time.
The Plot Hook
Or more correctly: how to draw the players into your story as if it’s their own choice. This is tricky but manageable. That agenda you asked them for? Well you’ll need to try and weave that in.
Gwen from the previous example might start the game hearing of a powerful sorcerer passing through the town you set the game in – a boastful man who claimed to have the power to move hills and mountains. She won’t encounter him this game, but she may if you play again. Make it seem like this was a month or so ago – you don’t want Gwen stomping off into the wilds to find him right that moment.
The Number of Encounters
An encounter is any time the party come across someone other than each other in a meaningful way. Buying food is essential to the characters but isn’t meaningful to the game. It’s not really an encounter… unless the food market is filled with rumors pertinent to the adventure idea in your mind. Bumping into bandits or falling into a hidden pit in the middle of the forest is an encounter.
How many encounters do you need? That’s up to you. I only plan the important ones – the introduction, the request for help or the motivation to get involved, some clues gathering by asking right questions, then some combat encounters as they sum up the clues and wander off to get into trouble. Finally, the end encounter – where facing the bad guys and trying to thwart their plan occurs.
These are the encounters I record. You’ll need an idea of where each one is (market place, creepy old church, grotto in the forest they learned about from someone in the creepy church). You’ll also need to record any monster stats or if you’re quick, their page numbers in the Monster Manual.
It’s worth noting that having some extra encounters both combative and non-combative is always wise in case the players skip a lot of role-play encounters and accidentally get close to the end encounter too soon in the session you’re running.
What about maps? Well, in honesty, if you keep your first game simple, you don’t need maps, but they can add to the element of belief if you have one.
It doesn’t need to be a work of art. You can find tonnes online for free, or if you’re pockets are lined with digital silver you can purchase whole packs of them. Check out Dyson, his maps are awesome!
Rewards (if any)
Ha. Hahaha *snort!* Hahahahahahaha… *snort*
Yeah so keep this simple too; try two hundred gold coins each with some (uncommon) magical items (which you can find in the Dungeon Masters guide). If you’re not sure, you can generate treasure using random generators based on their character levels, try DonJon it’s pretty descriptive and gives a nice gold value to each bit!
Wrapping up – An Example
So here’s an example of the above in brief.
The party meet on the road to Ostogar, where they travel briefly with some traders who say the town is pretty pent up at the moment on account of people missing (brief information encounter).
The party travel onward to the town and are told by the guards that they won’t tolerate bad behavior on account of the missing people. If they want info, got to the Black Boar Inn, it’s the only place open at night for strangers (brief info encounter).
The Black Boar Inn is a bustling multicultural place that serves traders, where the party learn of some of the missing people. Descriptions and emotive information about how much these people were loved, or how rich they were, are common) (in depth info encounter with role-play and room for high jinks).
They are directed to Sebby, an old clairvoyant who may be able to help them find the missing people. Sebby gives them cryptic clues as to the direction and the terrain they will have to pass to find the missing people (info and role-play puzzle as they decipher the crazy old ladies words).
They find a local ranger who can direct them to where she thinks they need to go, and off they set.
Two dangerous encounters (a wondering Ogre who wants all their stuff, and a pit trap set by the kidnapper to trap more victims).
They find a grotto or dungeon at the end of their trail and venture down into it. I call this a micro-dungeon, there are several traps, 3 combat encounters and brief puzzle about how to get past a locked door and…
The final encounter – a hag who has been torturing her victims by cutting bits off them.
Treasure! Yayy… oh wait there’s a twist! They find a clue… the hag is only one of three hags, so where are the other two? And there’s your link to the next gaming session.
Don’t try to go beyond what you have planned for each game. Once you run a game or two you’ll work out your pace just like you would learn to jog. Finish where your material ends, have a chat with your players and see if they can give you any feedback – accept good and bad feedback like a star player would, it’s a good mental place to be.
But don’t bend over backwards to cater for every gripe and niggle for each player. Chances are you are doing this as a favor and would love to play once in a while.
Learning to play D&D as a player is much easier than being the DM and your players should understand this.
Starting your First Game Session
Alright, so you’ve got your story notes, you have the books with scraps of paper to bookmark the important stuff. Your dice are warmed up. You have drinks and snacks on the table and everyone has sat down to start. But what is this? One of your players is sat watching the sport on his phone!
If the game is going to work and be enjoyable, you need everyone’s attention to give this amazing game its best shot. Give your players plenty of notice that they’ll need to ignore social media for an hour or two. Give them a social media break for a bit in a nice lull in the session.
So you sit down, open your note pad or laptop.
This is it. Your imagination is about to do battle with reality. You take a second to gather your thoughts. Everyone is looking at you…
Hit them with your first line like it means something. Start this bad boy up likes it’s a chromed Harley Davidson signed by Meatloaf, discovered by a post-apocalyptic tribe 200 years from now. Go full throttle on those natives and let them have it! But how do you do this?
I’ll tell you how!
Have your first line practiced. Get everyone settled in; all rules checked up with no more questions left to be asked. Absolutely don… Dave! Put your bloody phone away!
Depending on the type of story you’re showing the players will determine your first line, to a degree. For me, I sometimes start my party in peril.
But for your first adventure, you want to set the tone like any good author would. There are tonnes of this information on the net, but I’ll give you my opinion.
Which sounds better?
“OK, so you’re sat in a busy tavern when someone walks up to your table and says they need to talk to you in private…”
“It is night time in autumnal Ostogar, the town of bones. The Black Boar tavern is in full swing and the patrons, a colorful plethora of cultures and races sing and drink together, enjoying the sanctuary of warmth from the bitter cold outside. In the midst of the crowd, two cloaked figures catch your eye. They seem to be trying to get your attention without raising their voice over the merry din. What do you do?”
OK so maybe I’ve embellished a little bit here and there. But the idea is pretty obvious. Even if you don’t maintain this level of detail all the way through your game session, you still got everyone drawn in from the very start. The players will already be thinking along the same lines and wondering what is going to happen.
My example is pretty vanilla here, but that’s OK for an example. I’ll write a blog on great opening descriptions. another time.
So there you have them; things to consider when you’re about to become the DM. It can apply to any table top game where players’ role-play with you and each other.
Go forth and smack their pretty faces with a fist full of plot!
You can thank me in the comments… right?
In the next installment I will cover slightly more advanced topics:
Are you ready to return to that (your) age of wonder?
Since 2011, Fria Liga (Free League), have released a host of interesting and unique RPGs. Their latest, Things from the Flood (TFTL) has a massive 2.79 million Krona pledged of their 100,000 Krona goal. They’re doing great!
So great, Fria Liga have won a guh’Jillion awards already. Shiny gold ones, too.
Based on the strange technology inspired artwork from Simon Stalenhag, TFTL is a retro RPG set in the “80’s that never was” complete with elements of Stranger Things, ET and perhaps even the Goonies.
After the completion of an underground particle accelerator in 1969, things start to get weird. Machines start to populate the landscape and unusual events pull you away from your family life.
You start the game playing as kids in a juvenile and private era of wonder, exploration and mystery. The secretive world of kids on the loose… are yours again.
There’s no death in TFTL – you just get too old and leave for your adult life of humdrum – but there are still dangers.
So why is it good and why should you try it?
The primary element of play-ability is that you play a child… again. Let’s say your character is 10 years old – hey you can role-play that already, you were there once! The concept is much easier to comprehend than playing a 300-year-old elven wizard in a culture you’ve never seen before!
I’m agreeing with Fria Liga; this game is newbie safe.
The adventures are more like mysteries in which the characters have to solve the enigma in a world that is only slightly different from our own. I think Stranger Things is a good way of looking at it.
Check out some of the art work:
And as ever, it gets better.
2018 – Things from the Flood.
So, it’s a decade later, you’re now in your teenage years and life is different. You’re growing up, changing not just in yourself but in a world that is rapidly developing. And the dark waters have risen.
Things from the Flood brings new elements of danger and “raises the stakes” to Fria Liga’s previous game.
I wonder if they’re going to go all the way into retirement?
With familiar iconic archetypes such as the outsider and the party animal (available in the Kickstarter project) you’ll not be in over your head for character concepts.
The Kickstarter is still open with just a week left to go.
Grab your copy for about £30 (not including the postage) with the extra bits for backing the Kickstarter project and seek out those mysteries!
You’ll want to play it with your friends, even your friends not into gaming. Then they’ll want to play it more, and before you know it, it’ll all be your fault they can’t stand the sunlight and hiss at passing cats.
Themeborne, an independent group of game developers based in Nottingham, UK, kicked off their new endeavour with the amazing Escape the Dark Castle – frankly, one the coolest games you can learn to play, and teach your newbie mates.
An elegant cooperative card game you’ll want to play / smash in the face again and again.
I’ll get to telling you why shortly, but first, let’s meet the gang.
Thomas Pike, games writer and critic; Alex Crispin, designer, illustrator and mask wearer also a musician and composer (guess that’s where the cassette tape came from); and James Shelton, co-designer with experience in film making (he did the promotional trailer).
Escape the Dark Castle (EDC) was successfully funded on Kickstarter at the end of June 2017, gaining a cool 2119 backers and smashing their £11K target with nearly £90K pledged.
What made it so good?
The game. Duh.
EDC puts you in the shoes of one of the several medieval citizens imprisoned in the Dark Castle, the cook, the smith and so on. Each character has particular strengths in one of three attributes; Might, Cunning and Wisdom.
Each character has a single special dice which they roll when the time comes and the combined rolls of all the characters determines their success or failure of certain goals in their epic escape.
You find loot, special items, magical googaws and the iconic GOLDEN AXE (which can backfire a little) which was available to Kickstarter backers and will be made available again in the upgrade box.
The theme of the game is very much 1980’s fantasy – the artwork is black ink on white, reminiscent of the glorious Hero Quest days when artists couldn’t afford paints and printing technologies were not as they are now (it also explains the cassette tape bonus on the Kickstarter project, retro). The art, the concept tape and the amusing 80’s style trailer all add to that nostalgic feel – rekindling some long-forgotten childhood memories (which I embrace).
Here’s some tasty boasting from the Kickstarter which I can confirm, having the played the game extensively… the perfect selling points are:
Its super quick to setup, learn and play (you can go at your own pace though!)
It doesn’t exclude totally new players to the game, the genre or the hobby. The rules are that efficient.
It’s a totally social game – no one gets left out, most age groups can play it and enjoy it fully, and you can drink tea, eat biscuits or get smashed on looted grog.
It’s random each game, so you’ll never play the exact same game twice.
It’s actually hard. I think we win on average 25% of the time. There will always be a crux moment where you realise that the game just got much harder to do!
EDC does all of these things, and I can’t wait to play it by candle light on a stormy night in the middle of winter and feel that sweet cosiness.
Welcome to The Creator Consortium. Not just a website; this place will become a centre of creative energy over the next few weeks as the team here start to populate the site with snapshots of the work we’re so desperate to show you. Projects from our past mixed with fresh content just for the site; we’re going to be bringing you short stories, articles about what we love including all aspects of nerdery, roleplaying game adventures, boardgame writeups, reviews and much much more.
We hope to expand this endeavour into many new spaces and bring our creators together in videos, streams and podcasts. The goal is to let the creators talk to you and share what they are passionate about so you can watch them, and us, grow.
The future of this enterprise has us very excited because we’re not just doing this for ourselves; we want to foster a community so we can share our experiences into the future and create many amazing new ones.