Heroes Don’t Need Dice

My continuing blog about game design at Ancient Scroll is now up!

Last time we talked, you and I went over the goals Jessica and I have for our urban fantasy RPG. We also talked about how those goals serve as a compass when we got lost in the morass of game design. Well, one of those goals is about to take physical shape. That’s the goal of making the characters we play in the game heroes.

Read more here:

Magic in the City

My first journal entry on game design for a new urban fantasy game is up!

Jessica and I are both fans of urban fantasy, but if you look at the choices for games in that genre… well, there’s a problem. It isn’t a problem with the games, per se, it’s more like our problem. What is that? Well, all of those games are rooted in other people’s settings. For me, whenever I make a character, it feels a lot like writing fan fiction. I’m playing with other people’s toys. Also, I have ideas for characters that just don’t fit those settings, and I have to modify my character to fit the setting.


My Star Trek System

A lot of folks I know are Trekkies. My buddy Chris Colbath is nuts for it. Recently, another friend of mine (Dan Waskawatzibah) has started watching Star Trek on Netflix and has begun to get the fever. He asked me, "What kind of system would you use to run a Trek game?"

I thought about it for a moment, and then remembered that I already designed one. A long time ago, I sort-of-designed a semi-hard science fiction RPG I gave the playtest name The Fifth Stat. Each race in the game had four stats–something typical like Strength, Willpower, Education and Charm–but each race had a unique "fifth stat." That fifth state made each race unique.

As soon as Dan asked me, "What kind of system would you use?" I remembered The Fifth Stat and said, "Here's how you do it."

The Fifth Trait
For humans, the fifth stat is "Hope." Mr. Heinig once told me, "The theme of Trek is, 'We're gonna make it.'" And he said it with such conviction, such sincerity, I bought it. I even started watching Deep Space Nine just because of the way Jess said, "We're gonna make it." And thus, for humans, the fifth trait is "Hope."

For Vulcans, the fifth trait is, of course, "Logic."

For Klingons, it's "Pain." For Ferengi, it's "Greed."

For Romulans, it's "Passion."

For Bajorans, it's "Faith."

… and so on. I won't give you the rest–because I plan on making it a real game one day, except without the trademarked stuff that can get me sued–but that's the basics. 

And Jess & Chris, if you guys make it out to Phoenix, I'll run it. I love you guys. The best gift I can give for my friends is games.

This one's yours.

Sheldon’s Game about Angels and Demons

My friend Sheldon asked me (via Facebook) to make a game about angels and demons in the modern world. Upon asking, the mechanics for the game popped into my head. Here they are.

Character Creation
Players take the roles of angels and demons. Specifically, each player makes two characters: one angel and one demon.

The stats are simple. Each celestial (let’s use that term for both angels and demons, since they are the same thing) has two sides to each character sheet. On one side are the seven deadly sins. On the other side of the sheet, we have the seven saintly virtues. Both oppose each other.

Wrath vs. Patience
Greed vs Charity
Sloth vs Diligence
Pride vs Humility
Lust vs Chastity
Envy vs. Kindness
Gluttony vs Temperance

The virtues and vices each have their own rank in points, but the total points of each pair must add up to ten.

For example, my character, an angel, has the following set of sins and virtues:

4 Wrath vs Patience 6
3 Greed vs Charity 7
2 Sloth vs Diligence 8
4 Pride vs Humility 6
2 Lust vs Chastity 8
4 Envy vs Kindness 6
2 Gluttony vs Temperance 8

Each set adds up to 10.

Do determine the rank of each virtue and vice, roll 2d4. Then, assign the number you rolled to either a virtue or a vice, thus assigning the corresponding number to the other side.

For example, for Wrath vs Patience, I rolled a 6. Because I’m an angel, I decide to assign that 4 to Wrath, giving my Patience a 6.

Whenever your character takes an action, consult the sins and virtues. You get a number of dice to roll equal to the appropriate sin or virtue. Each even numbered die represents one story element the player can narrate and each odd number represents one story element the GM can narrate.

Falling from Grace
Whenever an angel takes an action that uses his vices, he risks falling from grace. Make a roll on a d10. If the number is greater than or equal to the virtue, mark that virtue. It is in risk of falling. If he makes another action that calls on the same sin, perform the same procedure. If the roll is greater than or equal to the virtue, it goes down by one rank and the corresponding sin goes up by one rank.

If an angel’s sins are ever greater than his virtues, he is danger of falling. JHVH is a rather unforgiving fellow, so one more action that increases a sin by one rank means the angel becomes a demon.

Demons can never again become angels.

Kewl Powerz

As for kewl powerz, angels and demons exhibit all kinds of fantastic abilities throughout literature. You get three kewl powerz that you’ve seen or read angels do. Consult your GM about the kewl powerz you want and get his or her approval. If they approve, you get the kewl powerz. If they don’t, ask why, talk it out and come to a compromise that makes both of you happy.

Angels and demons never need to roll to use Kewl Powerz. Kewl Powerz trump all other mechanics; the celestial gets to narrate the outcome of the action. The only time celestials should roll when using Kewl Powerz is when someone else is using their own Kewl Powerz against them. This includes other celestials, vampires, werewolves, wizards, witches or whatever else you see fit to co-exist in your angel/demon world.

Hearts and Wings
Based on what I’ve seen and read, the only way to truly kill an angel is to destroy his heart. If you can remove an angel’s heart, you own him. You can command him to do whatever you like. If you destroy his heart, he dies.

If a celestial eats the heart of another celestial, he gains that celestial’s Kewl Powerz.

If an angel’s wings are ever removed (voluntarily or involuntarily), he ceases being an angel (or demon) and becomes mortal.


There’s your game, Sheldon. I could write more, add more fluff, etc. And maybe I will for the Big Book of Little Games. Hope you like it. 🙂

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