Playing Catch Up on my Modern Horror RPG
It’s been some time since I’ve given any public updates about the progress on Sigil & Shadow. I had the opportunity to play several sessions over the summer months, with each group bringing something different in the approach to the game. I had groups with all investigators, groups with mediums and wizards, mixed-bag monster hunters with both human and “creeper” characters, and one really gonzo all monster duo session.
Through these groups, we got to work out a lot of kinks. Stuff that needed tweaking, stuff that needed to be re-defined, and stuff that needed a Nerf-batting really hard. What started off as a mashup of BareBones Fantasy and Covert Ops with a modern-horror skin as evolved into its own thing — you can still see the foundation clear as day, but as a game it stands out quite a bit from its parents.
Some big examples:
- Backgrounds play a bigger part: Backgrounds (taken from “Origins” in Covert Ops) add a bit more to characters this time around. They still award perks like their CO counterparts, but they also determine starting income levels for the character. We’re also in the process of brainstorming “strange” backgrounds, which can be potentially rolled or purchased in addition to the normal backgrounds, which offer a weird gift or tie to the supernatural realm. Things like “Raised by a Cult” or “Seventh Child of a Seventh Child.” This was an idea proposed by one of our play testers, and I loved it!
- Bones play a bigger part: Bones are an important mechanic in S&S. Just like in other d00Lite games, Bones are a sort of “luck” point that can be spent to give characters (yourself or others) a much needed boost. Supernatural abilities, from the powers (or “Gifts”) creepers have to the powerful, free-form magic of Thaumaturgy, also use these points to enhance their effects. The catch is: creepers (supernatural characters) don’t recover bones naturally like others do. Instead, they must indulge in the burdens of their Shades to replenish their pool. For instance: a Vampire (with the Ravenous shade) must feed off the blood of another to regain their bone points.Even if your character is just Illuminated (a term for the everyday men and women who’ve become aware of the supernatural world,) bone points are a big deal. At character creation, they’re used to cherry pick options (as opposed to rolling) as well as potentially acquiring new starting skills or improving your income levels. In play, a large pile of bones generally gives a “normal” character an upper hand when having to deal with forces both arcane and occult.
- Streamlined damage system: One of the biggest departures from previous d00Lite titles is the new damage system. All damage is rolled with 2d10. The damage types are listed as: Low, Average, High, Total. “Low” is the lowest of the dice rolled, “Average” is the mean of the two, “High” would be the highest of the dice rolled and “Total” is both dice added together. It may sound a bit quirky, but in my tests at the table it’s really kept things moving. We’ve also tapered the Body Points a bit to a flat rating that may be slightly modified via an improved STR score.
Some Questions Answered:
How far along is the game? When’s it coming out?
If I had to stick a number on it, I’d say the game is about 80% finished. The current draft is a complete game in terms of mechanics, abilities, and tinker toys — but it lacks more flavorful things that DwD is known for: Broadstroke settings, random tables and guide lines to help a GM on the spot, etc. As for a release date, I’m afraid that answer is only “Not Yet.” The writing has been a labor of love on my part, with assistance coming from the small playtester team and Bill Logan when he has time. I will say that Bill and I intend to not rush this, especially now that we’re in the final parts of it, to ensure we deliver a solid product. Sorry if that drives ya nuts.
Is this a fan game/homebrew like your other stuff?
No. This is actually going to be a published, edited book through DwD Studios!
How is your game going to support (X Monsters)? What kind of setting is it?
The game broadly labels itself as “A BareBones Game of Modern Horror and Gothic Fantasy.” While we may establish some universal concepts for the implied setting (such as Creepers, the Illuminated, Shades etc.) it’s not a setting so much as it’s a toolbox for the GM to build their own. Instead of concrete definitions of what every vampire does or how every zombie behaves, we’re using a template system that can be used multiple ways: A GM, for example, may want to use their own mythologies. They can design their own creeper templates, with powers and curses, as sort of the “campaign standard” for their world. Flipside of that: a GM may openly encourage the players to design their own monsters. They can either used pre-generated templates, or use the guide lines to create their own unique spin.
This has been my design intention from the beginning. I’m a huge fan of horror and supernatural RPG settings. When I set out to develop S&S for DwD Studios, my goal was to create a flexible game that could be used for a variety of play styles: I have ran gritty, nihilistic Lovecraftian horror with this setup. I have run a ton of Buffy-inspired monster hunts. This game can swing from serious to silly, from dark to fantastic as much as you need it to. And if I don’t approach something the way you would like, that’s fine! I hope I at least give your a huge launch-pad to crank your own stuff out quickly. The game is going to be licensed under creative commons, and the guys at DwD are always eager to help people take their fan supplements to official material.
Does Sigil & Shadow have any tie in with Malevolent Domain, the recently announced Zombie Horror RPG by DwD?
Aside from maybe stealing a couple ideas from Bill in terms of mechanics, the two games are separate (although both using the in-house rules set.) Sigil & Shadow is all about occult mysteries and ancient shadow conspiracies against a backdrop of a naive modern society. Malevolent Domain, meanwhile, is more of a survival setting in the aftermath of a zombie virus outbreak. Being in the same rules system, there may be some overlap (and some great mashup ideas) but, ultimately, the two games are very different in tone and cater to different styles.
How much compatibility will S&S have with other DwD titles?
I’d say mostly compatible. The core percentile mechanics are the same, and most of the core rules found in BBF and CO will be seen here. That said, there are some noticeable changes. I plan at release (or sometime close to it) putting out some cross over guidelines. Just know that, yes, you’d be buying another BareBones system game, but it is different from the others in a lot of ways.
I don’t have forever, and my game table is waiting! How can I get my hands on a play test draft?
Easiest way is to buzz me over Google Plus.
Alternatively, use the following form to email me. Please mention why you’re particularly interested in Sigil & Shadow, and what kind of feedback you plan on giving.