Six years ago, I had my view on gaming flipped on its head. I was at the end of a two-year 4e D&D campaign; one that saw decks of power cards, miniatures, three different desktop applications, and combat encounters that lasted entire evenings. It was clear that, while we had a blast, that the days of such bloated systems were in need of ending. We needed something lighter, more elegant, and easier to run in the fewer hours we had.
That’s when Tim Kirk sent me a review copy of High Valor. And it blew my mind.
First off, if you haven’t seen it yet: CarPGis a new diceless rules-lite RPG framework written by my buddy Matt Bryant (the guy behind Main Sequence.)
While he designed it as a game to play on road trips with your buds, I’ve found it incredibly useful as a mechanic for playing Play By Post rpgs. In my past experience, play-by-posts worked either one of three ways: 1) The dice rolls were either handled completely by the moderator, leaving a sense of control out for the players. 2) The entire game was purely narrative focused, which while fun often felt more like a writing exercise than a game. And then lastly, 3) The die rolls were handled like normal (either on the honor system or with online dice rollers), and as a result the game system itself really bogged down the pace of the game.
CarPG: A Universal Framework. Appropriate for Road Trips & at The Table
by Matt Bryant
Looking for a nice role-playing game to pass the time on a long road trip with friends? Or maybe something fast and simple to play during your lunch hour at the office? CarPG is a lite, fast playing, and diceless framework for quick one-shots and minimal prep. It features a resolution mechanic that offers similar results as dice rolling, and is flexible enough to be expanded on or kitbashed into any genre or setting you need it for.
Fate’s Wheel Mechanic
Both the GM and the Player choose a number between one and ten. The players then add bonuses (attributes or skills) to produce a Success Range. If the GM’s number falls within that success range, the player character succeeds at their task! There’s a bit more to it, but that’s the meat of the system. Alternatively, those who enjoy die rolls can get the same effect by simply rolling a d10+bonus against a difficulty of 10.
Free to download, play, and abuse.
CarPG is an 8 page PDF, perfect for mobile devices or printed out in booklet format.
I have a curse where every time I say “I don’t need another OSR game!” I open up my wallet and acquire another one.
White Star is written by James M. Spahn and released by Barrel Rider Games. The gist of it is they took the rules from Swords & Wizardry Whitebox and hacked it into their own super slick science fiction game. Now, I’m already a rabid fan of Kevin Crawford’s Stars Without Number, and I was hesitant to toss $10 at a lighter, simpler game. Especially when SWN is a free pdf on its own, and is filled with some of the coolest toys in the sandbox.
But White Star hasn’t disappointed. Yes, it sticks with its white box roots pretty easily (matter of fact, it’s completely compatible with S&W Whitebox and suggests having your fantasy characters leaving their planet without any conversion necessary.) There’s only a handful of classes (Aristocrat, Mercenary, Pilot and Star Knight) and a couple generic “races as classes” (Alien Brute, Alien Mystic, and a Robot class.) It’s pretty straight forward, with only the classic six core abilities, a single “Saving Throw” rating, hit points and equipment (and maybe some spell like powers for the mystical classes.)
Where the Star Shines the Brightest
White Star caters to the pulpy, space-saga style games. As you can tell from the class name Star Knight, a particular movie franchise about wars in the stars is a major influence here. But its author has also made call outs to Flash Gordon and John Carter of Mars here. Spaceship combat is about as straight forward as personal combat, and keeping track of ship statistics isn’t anywhere near a headache. It may not have the random tables and setting tags that SWN has, but it does offer a nice broad-stroke setting with just the right amount of details for a GM to work with, leaving elbow room for them to expand how they want.
The layout is also formatted for a digest-sized, single-column style that has become a personal preference. I’ve been reading this book on my phone as much as my tablet or PC, and it loads fast and doesn’t hurt the eyes. It’s slick, with good font choices and decent artwork littered throughout. There are some typos and needed errata, but the folks behind it have been pretty frequent with the corrections. Once things are finalized, and the POD books are available, I do plan on purchasing myself one. But, in the mean time, I have no hesitation at the thought of printing out my own copy of the 127 page book on my home printer.
But what’s easily it’s greatest strength is the love and support it’s getting from the fanbase and third party publishers
already. The game is OGL, and released with its own compatibility standards. Hitting up the White Star Google Plus Community bombards you with tons of house rules and independently released products. Matter of fact, I’m going to probably do a future write up over the Hyperspace Messenger add-ons written by Bill Logan of DwD Studios. The game stands fine on its own, but anyone who has followed me long enough knows I love games that encourage tinkering and DIY expansion.
White Star is a fun Science Fiction title that takes the modesty of whitebox rules and does a lot more than just adding lasers. It captures a particular cinematic or pulp flavor, and doesn’t leave you referencing a bunch of tables or rules when aiming for the stars. It may feel somewhat simplistic compared to even other OSR-influenced space games, but it’s a solid foundation that is easy to build upon.
Last couple characters were pretty combat heavy, let’s roll up some support shall we?
Today’s pre-made is a Snake Shaman. I went total utility belt with this guy, and he’d be a welcome addition to any runner team. I’m also using him to showcase a couple things about making characters in my SHADOW OPS hack:
For starters, all Magicians use the same skill. Hermetics and Shamans are two sides of the same coin. I also didn’t bother writing up all of the totems/mentor spirits because, frankly, I’m lazy. Instead, characters who want to incorporate their ties to a mentor spirit into the games should just use them in a descriptor. For instance: this chummer is a Snake shaman. Snake was a healer, detector and deceiver of sorts. Snake also wasn’t keen on combat. At the basic level, the descriptor of being a snake shaman would imply similar personality characteristics in the character: he’s cautious, tends to his wounded comrades, and is hesitant about being caught up in combat. Although not written in the current draft, I feel a GM who wants more mechanics to totems/mentor spirits could get away just declaring +10 bonuses / -10 penalties for spells and actions that fall in line with the mentor’s personality.
Those used to SR magician characters will probably feel underwhelmed by the number of spells they can start off with here. The key thing is that A) There’s only 16 or so spells in BareBones Fantasy, and B) Those spells offer a range of effects compared to other systems. Take Cleanse, for example. This single spell can be used to remove poisons, diseases, toxins, conditions such as blindness, etc. At level 3, it can be used to “cleanse” death from a freshly fallen comrade. Another factor here is this character in particular also took levels in Enchanter. Enchanters under the BBF rules can practically cast any of the 16 spells. The catch is: you’re doing so either in enchanting items (foci), brewing potions (or making fetishes), or at the speediest: casting runes on a person or item (which still takes a few turns to pull off.)
Lastly, for those who’ve never played Covert Ops, I’m listing the contents of the equipment packs bought. It’s so much easier at character creation to just allow packs to be acquired. I keep listing “Runner Packs” as a replacement for the Operative Pack every character starts with, although if I was running a contracted merc unit or corporate security squad, I’d probably stick to the original.
Origin: Shamanic Lodge Member (Perks: Shaman, In-Tuned Domain) Archetype: Street Shaman Descriptors: Mentored by Snake
The rain doesn’t phase me.
Distrusts people in business suits.
STR: 50 DEX: 55 LOG: 65 WIL: 60
BP: 25 DR: 5 INIT: 2 MOV: 8 Bones: 2
Magician Level 1 (Primary): 63%
Scout Level 1 (Secondary): 53%
Enchanter Level 1: 43%
Medic Level 1: 43% Spells:
Heal, Cleanse Gear & Resources:
Runner’s Pack: PDA, encrypted credstick, commlink, etc
Medic Pack: canteen, flares, surgical instruments and tools, bandages, hypodermic needles, several doses of common pharmaceuticals, defibrillator, appropriate professional credentials, etc.
Survivalist Pack: backpack, boot knife, machete, 10 days of military-style rations, compass,
collapsible tent, compact sleeping bag, GPS system, mess kit, flares, etc.