Tag Archives: horror

Drivin’ Devilian — Sigil & Shadow Session Report

DevilianIt’s January, 1985.
Two brothers are cruising the winding rounds near the Rocky Mountains.
One of them is Jason Devilian, a professional daredevil. The other: Craig, a deadbeat drifter who just happens to actually be dead. He now possesses his brother’s DeLorean DMC-12. Together, they travel the back roads of America, seeking out weird shit and making sure they’re not a problem for anybody.

Okay, not the strongest narrative, but it was an ad-hoc session where I had no idea what to expect from the players. The suggestion from one of them was Supernatural meets Christine meets Knight Rider. The idea to put it in the 80’s came at the last minute. I had to run with it — because the 1980’s means a significant lack of mobile devices, internet, or any quick reference and “know it all” mentality. It was perfect.

Jason Devilian is an Illuminated Keeper, which is a calling to make sure that everyday people don’t stumble upon the terrible secrets of the occult and supernatural. It’s a role suitable for your typical Men in Black or guardians of forbidden knowledge — for Jason, it mostly stemmed that he didn’t want anyone to find out his dead brother was still hanging around as a ghost.

Craig, meanwhile, is Afflicted — a character tainted by the shadow of Scorn. He has no damn idea why he’s hanging around, or even why he’s bound to his brother’s DeLorean. Even though he’s bound to the car, he’s free to leave it and pursue his own agenda. The problem is: being a ghost, he exists primarily in The Echo, the part of the netherworld that immediately reflects the physical world. This side of the world is filled with spirits and other beings in limbo. Though he can manifest briefly in our world, his only real anchor is the car itself.

Strange cars on the side of the road are never a good thing.

While dealing with treacherous weather on a slick, twisting road, the brothers pass by a car that appeared to skid off the highway and almost over a ledge. They stopped to check things out, finding the passenger missing although the belt was still buckled. Craig manifested for a moment to talk with his brother — until a mangled corpse fell from a tree, at which point he said “Oh shit” and vanished. While Jason tried to find some identification on the corpse, Craig immediately scoped the tree-tops out from the Echo. What he found was a horrific “owl-man-beast-thing” about to descend on his brother. He fled back to the car, where he revved up the engine, flashed the lights, popped open the doors and yelled “GET IN THE DAMN CAR!” through the radio speakers.

"So I look in the rearview mirror and see a RUSH album cover?"
“So I look in the rearview mirror and see a RUSH album cover?”

As Jason slammed the door shut, Craig put the metal to the metal and immediately blasted off down the slick and sleeted highway. Behind them, the “Owl-Man-Beast-Thing” rapidly flapped its wings in pursuit of the two. Jason leaned out a window, and unloaded his shotgun on the monster. It screeched, and immediately pulled up to fly away in the night.

You know it’s a small town when an old man works the graveyard shift at a gas station.

After the encounter with the “Owl-Man-Beast-Thing”, they veered off up the road into a small secluded town that I was too lazy to name. Jason filled up the car, and went in for nachos and an Icee. He hounded the old man working behind the counter for information related to massive owl creatures, and picked up the usual cliche’d yarns of a local monster told around campfires.

Craig, meanwhile, took a stroll away from the car. He found an empty storefront filled with shadow people, who nervously ducked away from him and seemed to cower from everything. He picked up quickly that these spirits were more manifestations of fearful feelings and dreadful emotions. Though simple in their discussion, he found out two interesting facts about the Owl-Man-Beast-Thing: one, it manifests physically at night, and returned to the Echo during the day. Two: it was summoned and kept by town leadership who wanted to scare outsiders away. After returning to the car and sharing this information with Jason, the two bros figured it was time to mess some stuff up in this town.

Things Escalated Quickly.

Craig: So who do you think summoned this thing?
Jason: I bet the mayor knows. Think the old man can tell us where he is?
Craig: I got an idea. Give me the shotgun, and stay behind me. 

Craig manifested long enough to march back into the gas station and raise the shotgun up at the old man, who immediately panicked and threw his hands up. This was a tactic to see if he was armed — as Craig disappeared, Jason stepped immediately behind him to grab the shotgun and continue holding the station attendant at gunpoint. The old man, scared for his life (especially after being confused by the sight of a man disappearing before his eyes) hit the panic button to call the only two on-duty cops in the town.

Jason grabbed the old man, and took him to the car, ordering him to show him where the mayor of the town lived. Meanwhile, Craig greeted the cops by phasing before the police car, causing them to slam the breaks (and spill coffee everywhere.) He then proceeded to lurk in the backseat of the cop car (being a ghost has its perks.) As the police drove up at the sight of a DeLorean blazing off into town, Craig then proceeded to manifest and paralyze the driver, causing him to stiffen up and continue to accelerate into the gas station. His partner tried to wrestle the hands from the steering wheel, only for me to roll a fumble and thus declare they drove into the gas pumps instead.

Spoiler Alert: The Mayor Didn’t Know.

But his wife sure did. Jason marched up to the front door of the mayor’s two-story house (the old man fled for his life), kicked in the door and proceeded to march in. Craig barely caught up in time to momentarily manifest and tell him to hold back while he scouted the upstairs. The wife could be heard hysterically calling the cops (who were occupied trying to get out of their car while gasoline was spewing all over.) Craig went upstairs to see that the mayor had pulled out a .357 magnum, and was waiting to ambush the perpetrator breaking into his house.

Craig proceeded to paralyze him as Jason walked in, grabbed his gun, and marched over to the mayor’s wife yelling at her to calm down. When the mayor regained control, Jason demanded to know who (or what) was responsible for the Owl-Man-Beast-Thing. The mayor had no damn clue what he was talking about, but Craig was willing to wager that the wife did — since she pulled out a candle, lit it, and began motioning her hands to conduct pyromancy.

Craig phased back into the real world, paralyzing the wife momentarily (allowing Jason to knock the candle out of her hand and out the window.) The mayor in that moment was horrified by seeing a ghost manifest out of nowhere, and crumbled into a catatonic state fearing for his life. That was about the time the wife snapped back, and grabbed the locket around her neck, muttering something in Latin and then being yanked out the window by Owl-Man-Beast-Thing.

The Fight was not pretty.

Craig manifested physically, leaped out the window, and attempted paralyze the Owl-Man-Beast-Thing. It was dramatic because Freebird came on the station we were listening to — and he failed miserably, plummeting to the ground and taking damage. Jason was barraged by the Owl-Man crashing through the window, and they both exchanged slashes and gun fire. Back outside, the Mayor’s Wife pulled out her lighter and began channeling her spells again. Craig ran back to the car, possessing it and revving it up. The witch attempted to fling fireballs at the DeLorean, but my dice sucked and nothing worked. Craig proceeded to send the car crashing through the white picket fence, and slamming into the witch at full speed.

Meanwhile, Jason unload a shotgun blast at close range (finally) into the Owl-Man-Beast-Thing, killing it and causing it to dissolve back into the Nether. Jason then dragged the bewildered mayor out of the house, then dragged his wife back in to the house. Craig set the place on fire, and they both fled back to the car to get the hell out of dodge.

Jason: So that was a thing.
Craig: Yeah… hey, I heard they’re making some movie about a time-traveling DeLorean.
Jason: Yeah, I saw that! That dude from Taxi is pretty damn funny.
Craig: We should go see it! I mean, we’re pretty much two tickets for the price of one anyway.
Jason: LET’S GO TO DENVER!

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Sigil & Shadow is in a free public play test. 

Sigil & Shadow: Seasoned to Flavor

A lot of folks ask what the mechanic differences between Sigil & Shadow and other d00Lite games are. The bulk of the mechanics are derived primarily from Covert Ops, with some of the fantastic from BareBones Fantasy sprinkled in. But I didn’t intend for S&S to be a mash-up of the two games with a new skin. I wanted things to have a certain ebb and flow to them, allowing the game’s pace to be optimal to my style of gaming.

moralityFor those who’ve never had the pleasure of indulging in DwD’s previous titles, here’s the hallmarks of the core system:

  • Percentile Based System — The core mechanic is about rolling under a percentile score, either against one of four ability scores (STR, DEX, LOG, WIL) or against a Skill (which the base half of the score is derived from half of an ability.) 00-05 always succeed, 95-99 always fail. Rolling doubles are critical success/failure.
  • Professions as Skills: The skills tend to use names that sound like classes in other RPG’s.
  • Multiple Action Economy: Performing multiple actions in a round is a big part of the game, but it’s handled rather elegantly: On your first action, you roll against your score as normal. Each additional action results in a cumulative -20 per action to the score (even if it’s against a different score.) Also, defensive actions (like dodging) also count as actions. So, all because you have a score of 100 or over and can make multiple attacks, you’re also stacking penalties for when you need to defend against others beating up on you!
  • Bones: being that the system is also known as the “BareBones” system. bones are the action point/luck/bennie economy of the game. The interesting factor is that you start off with a pool of these at character creation, and can permanently spend them to make certain key decisions which are usually determined by random rolls at chargen time.
  • Morality System: I think the d00Lite Moral Code system is my favorite alignment system. It’s a matrix where you select key moral aspects, and then rate it as somewhat, very or totally.

Here’s the big list of what separates S&S from the rest of the d00Lite family:

  • Design Goal: Players only need 2d10 to experience the whole game.
  • Character Creation: Lots more options for Bone expenditure to tweak the character. Ability scores are now 50+2D. Starting characters may take two skills at Level 1, receiving a third from either a Background or spending a Bone.
  • Castings: Characters fall under one of two alignments (Illuminated or Shaded), further divided into four castings. These archetypal roles determine what drives or burdens allow the characters to replenish their Bones during play.
  • Backgrounds: The core backgrounds are similar to Covert Ops, with mild tweaks. Backgrounds now also have a Monthly Allowance tied to them to determine funds the character has. There’s also Special Backgrounds, which are really weird and give strange little benefits to the character.
  • Skills: Skills have been flavored more as archetypes than professions. A lot of them have been condensed/streamlined compared to the original system. A “Socialite” skill has been introduced, replacing “Leader” which I felt was too crunchy and genre specific for this broader, more open ended title.
  • Equipment: Characters have a Monthly Allowance based on their background, and can pay a Lifestyle cost to cover their holdings such as home, vehicle, business and what kind of random belongings they may own. Characters still pick around 5 specific pieces of equipment (like weapons or equipment packs) to establish what they generally have on them at any time.
  • Weapon Damage: All weapons roll 2D, and are rated as Lowest, Average, Highest, or Total. Lowest and Highest means, well, lowest or highest die rolled. Likewise, Average is the average of the two, and Total is the sum of both. Unarmed is still 1D/2.
  • Body Points: All characters have a base BP of 20 points. The STR bonus for damage now also serves as bonus BP for the character.
  • Advantage/Disadvantage: Characters who have advantage roll their two dice, and uses the lowest in the tens place. Disadvantage, therefore, means the highest die is used in their tens place. This replaces a lot of circumstantial rolls that originally cut scores in half. For instance — being shot at without partial cover leaves defensive actions at a disadvantage, where originally in CO the character’s DEX score was cut in half.
  • Driving: Operating civilian vehicles are just a given, and any actions taken with a vehicle are based on the DEX ability instead of a skill. Those who want to pilot/drive more complicated vehicles can do so by taking a specified focus under the Technician skill. DEX is still used for piloting, but they’re considered to have operational and diagnostic training.
  • Manifestations: The Medium skill allows the character to acquire special powers. These powers are actually based on or inspired by the spells found in BareBones Fantasy. They are relatively scaled back in power, however, and the amount the character adopts is greatly reduced (two at first level, one again levels 3 and 6.)

Here’s what has been added:

  • Terror System: An optional system for fear and terror. Players encountering terror make WIL checks to resist being frightened, going temporarily insane, or traumatized to the point their Moral Codes shift! The table of effects rolled on uses the sum of 2D, putting the most extreme results on the lower end of a curve.
  • Gifts: A system of general powers and abilities that players can pick and choose from to flavor their own supernatural characters.
  • Occultist Magic: Comes in two forms — Rituals and Thaumaturgy. Both use the Academic skill (with Occultist focus). Rituals are slow, time consuming spells that either Illuminated or Shadowed characters may pick up and learn. Thaumaturgy, on the other hand, is spontaneous magic that uses a free-form system. Both spell systems are centered around the six Arcanum: The four elements (Fire, Water, Air, Earth) and the two fates (Life and Death). The elements include not only the literal forces, but the common tarot interpretations as well. For example: Fire is an element of emotions and passions, air is an element of the mind, and water is the element of illusions.Sound interesting? Then go download the play test and let me know what you think!

Sigil & Shadow: The Road Ahead

So first off, I’d like to announce a change of plans:

Sigil & Shadow is going to be the first “big-time” release under the ChaosGrenade Press logo. I originally embarked on this at the request of DwD Studios; but after some long talks and contemplation, my gut instinct is to finish this product up under my own roof. Please, please know that there is no bad blood or falling out with Bill & Larry at DwD. Those guys have been nothing but supportive of this endeavor, and it was a really rough call for me to decide to finish this another way. Their developer DNA is still a huge part of this project, and I’m thankful to them for allowing me to carry on with this. They have a lot of cool stuff coming out — including White Liesa spy-thriller using White Box S&W rules, due out this weekend. Better believe I’ll be throwing more greenbacks at them.

folding-map-360382_1280So What Happens Now?

The first big priority is that, for all the folks who’ve been waiting to see this game, to get something in your hands. I’ve had a loyal cadre of play testers who’ve been amazing with their feedback and support, but I know there’s still plenty who keep asking “Okay, where is it?”

The first stage in my road map is to brush up a public play test copy, hopefully in time for the holidays. It’s going to be a no-frills, minimal art version similar to what I’ve been putting out for the closed playtest groups. It won’t be fancy, but it’ll be the core of the game. I feel pretty confident this far down the road that the system is pretty complete, and just needs to be checked for fiddly bits and oddball numbers. I’m hoping a public playtest of this will give it the scrutiny it needs in that department.

Following that, I will begin putting things in motion for the final release version of this game. I’m blessed to have a local circle of talented artists, layout, and editing buffs who are wanting to be a part of this endeavor. These are folks who share similar interests in games and media with me, and I believe working together will bring a cohesive and thematic experience to the presentation. The downside is we will be taking a while to get it right — but on the upside, we will be transparent with the process and keeping more up-to-date as it develops.

The end goal is to have a free, core edition of the game available for free online. Again, this will be a no-frills version, but it will be all of the Creative Commons content in an openly distributed document. The premium digital version and the POD copies will include extra setting, GM tools and content not available in the free copy.

Keep your eyes peeled here
(or follow me on social media — @TheChaosGrenade on Twitter, ChaosGrenade on Google+)
for news on the upcoming public playtest. And, more than ever, thanks to everyone who’s been involved with this journey so far — both online and face to face.

Free-For-All Friday: Gory Abominations Edition (6/20/2014)

Pandemonio Released for Free!

121027Pandemonio is an updated “amalgamation”  of the Book of Pandemonium role-playing games by Rafael Chandler, and this week he released it as an early Free RPG Day present! This bills itself as “a fast-paced game of splatterpunk action set in a world of violence and decay.” From the description:

“You’re a Disciple, a supernatural warrior on the front lines. Wielding bizarre magics like Sexpletive, Death Panel, Photobomb, and Gunfetti, you must hunt down the diabolical and divine, rescue innocent civilians, and maintain a grip on the tattered vestiges of your humanity. How far will you go to destroy your enemy? Will you resort to cannibalism? Are you certain? Listen, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”

So far, I’ve only glanced through the Player’s Guide and already I’m blown away with the amount of brutal content that is given away here.  There’s at least 75 pages of Magic that includes some of the most hardcore spell lists I’ve seen in a while.  The artwork varies in styles but it’s all pretty perfect for an over the top, gruesome game. Plus, the system focuses on d12’s — it’s about time they get some more love!

If you’re looking for an off-colored modern day gore-fest of slaying angels and demons, you can’t go wrong with Pandemonio — especially at the cost of Free.

 

Chaos Hordes Released!

This week I discovered Prismatic GM’s old-school blog The Borderlands via re-posts sharing his latest project, Chaos Hordes.  A compilation of his Fortnight of Chaos articles, the document is a collection of Warhammer Fantasy inspired write ups for various chaos marauders, demons and mutations for use with OSR-styled systems. I’ve always enjoyed the Warhammer setting and universe, but have always struggled to acquire or run the games with my groups. This fan project has delivered in all the right places, and now I’m seriously contemplating using it along with Lamentations of the Flame Princess to run a very “grim dark” setting.

Sigil & Shadow News:

I’ve started sharing with a select circle of peeps for possible play testing and feedback.  Already have had some good ideas returned to me, and I’m hoping to get some more actual playtime in over the next couple weeks with some separate play groups.

 

That’s all I got for this week! Hope everyone has a good weekend (remember it’s Free RPG Day at participating game shops!)

 

Sigil & Shadow Update

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!

SigilBut here’s a bit of the design philosophies I have in place that I’m pretty sure are going to stay:

    • 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.)