A while back I announced a new project: Sigil & Shadow – a Barebones Game of Modern Horror & Urban Fantasy.
I wanted to post today just to ensure interested parties that this is still a thing, and hasn’t fallen to the back-burner. That last few months have mostly been about brainstorming — how should we approach character creation? What new mechanics are we bringing in? What old ones are we bringing back, and leaving out? The challenge of this product, for me, is to maintain the best aspects of the DwD “d00lite” design philosophy while also breaking some new ground, and shaping up a game that I would want to run at the table (and hopefully, you guys will, too.)
The college semester is winding down for this non-trad, so I’m looking forward to putting the hammer down on the forge this week. Already the initial draft is around roughly 80 pages — and I still have a bit to go. The first important thing about this project is going to be size — Covert Ops really pushed the edges of “lite” gaming design at around 100 pages. So there may very well be some drastic changes coming up, before we even start sending play test copies out!
- Style and Genre: At its default, the game swings more in line with modern horror fantasy style settings: World of Darkness, Unknown Armies, Buffy & Angel, and even Dresden Files have inspired the style and themes of the game. That said, those wanting more horror-investigation style games in the vain of Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green, Chill, and Beyond the Supernatural should also find something to love here.
- Bones and Origins: Before I even raised my hand to work on this for DwD, I was already working with a friend on developing a supernatural themed campaign for Covert Ops. I love the character creation system built around the Bones — do you let the fate of the dice determine your character? Or do you cherry pick everything at the cost of being able to manipulate your destiny? I felt this ties over to a modern horror setting equally well, if not more. Not only do you get to spend Bones to determine your origins, if you’re playing a Creeper (our term for supernatural characters) you can spend them to acquire new abilities or learn occult arts.
- Play Off Existing Mechanics: While I am adding some new systems for powers and magic to the game, I didn’t just want to add new stuff for new stuff’s sake. I wanted everything to feel organic to the existing d00Lite system, and play off rules that have already been established and show them in a new light. For instance, instead of just tacking a “sanity system” like in other games, I wanted to try something new. What I’m fiddling with right now is a Terror system that ties into the Descriptor and Moral Code mechanics, giving them a bit more play than what is normally used in BBF or CO. Imagine your character confronting a horrible, blasphemous entity for the first time — and the traumatic event causes them to take Suffers Frequent, Hellish Nightmares as a negative Descriptor — or having their Moral Code shift from Very Brave to Very Cowardly, and you get an idea of where I’m going with this.
- Generalized Skills: One thing I do want to state that is being changed is a departure from professions as skills, which I know is a hallmark of d00Lite. Character concepts operate less on “party role” and more on individual development. Because of this, you’ll see broader names like Marksmanship, Investigation, and Subterfuge. But I assure you, they’re still modeled off traditional d00Lite skills, and mechanically operate no different (although certain traits of these skills may be adjusted for genre sake.)
- A Supernatural Toolbox: We all have different styles of campaigns we want to run. Zombie apocalypse, vampire dramas, haunted houses — running “horror” is about as diverse as running “science fiction.” So instead of pinning everything down into details, I’m creating a quick system for GameMasters and Players both to design the kind of monsters they want to play with. Are your werewolves part of a curse? A bloodline? Demonic spirits possessing people? Are your vampires allergic to holy symbols, or are they quite fond of them? Are your mummies shambling corpses or beautiful immortal entities? Mythology is wide and varied, and modern literature and cinema continues to broaden those boundaries.
- Alternate “Magic” Systems: There’s three different systems in the game, completely compatible side-by-side but also designed to be stripped out if need be. The base level is “Manifestations,” which mechanically functions similar to spells in BareBones Fantasy. The skill itself is sort of a hodge-podge of Cleric and Enchanter, allowing “mediums” to tap into extensions of the human will to perform miraculous abilities, read auras, create small charms or scribe sigils of power. Thaumaturgy, on the other hand, is a more free-form, dynamic magic system. Academics who specialize in the occult can align themselves with beings and forces to control the different elements and fates. Lastly, Rituals are special thaumaturgic blue prints for any mortals to potentially cast spells — at a cost of time, energy and components. Game masters who feel Thaumaturgy is a bit too fantastic for their campaigns can easily trim that system out, but still use it as a guide for designing rituals for their players to uncover.
Expect more information to come in the very near future, as this is starting to finally take shape from the ether. Feel free to leave comments or questions here, or, join the BareBones Fantasy Community on Google+ (I’m admittedly more active there than I am on the DwD Forums. Shame on me, I know.)