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.
It’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.
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!
Revisiting my old fantasy setting ideas in a new way — using the Cypher System Rulebook.
Last month, for my 33rd birthday, I decided to take a break from The Strange and run a more “traditional” fantasy game using the Cypher System Rulebook. The tricky part was I knew a couple of my players were burned out on the fantasy stuff, which made the weird aspects of our previous game so appealing. Having a conversation with one of them, I decided to scale back and lean towards a more ancient world/bronze-age setting to remedy the bad accents and tropes of high-fantasy feudalism.
What I ended up doing was recycling the setting notes I had for my Scorn of the God-Eaterssetting (as well as a couple of other settings I ran using ACKS/LoTFP). The original concept was sort of a colonial/baroque era setting where exiled prisoners and heretics of an empire were forced to survive on a savage continent. Now, it’s been revised to: Descendants of a conquered empire have fled across the Shattered Seas to regroup and rebuild away from the wrath of an evil Pharaoh who usurped the throne.
It worked surprisingly well. The player characters felt unique and diverse, each one bringing a cool spin on old concepts. We were able to build off the flavor of the setting without having to adjust mechanics or house-rule everything crazy (the house rules I have are really just setting guidelines.) Even though we had a long play session, the pacing was pretty spot on — even with me going to the extremes of using miniatures (because I wanted to, not because they were needed) combat felt engaging and constant and wasn’t bogged down in rule-lookups or complex mechanics at all.
After a great session like that, everyone was on board for a campaign to emerge from this. Previously with The Strange, I was running episodic endeavors that were sort of a “Recursion of the Week” affair. Focusing on a specific setting and genre I felt would alleviate the sort of disconnect we were experiencing every time the characters hopped realities.
I’ll be blogging about this endeavor more throughout the rest of the year.
In the meantime, feel free to peruse my OneNote workbook for the campaign that I’ve set up for my players.
Today’s post is looking at five different supplements available from RPGNow, each of them no more than a few bucks. I’ve been enjoying the hell out of White Star. And one of the solid strengths of it is the amazing community and third-party support that is running with it.
Author: Matthew Skail Cost: $1.99 Page Count: 11 (including cover and license)
Psionics is what it says on the tin: a psionicist class for White Star. The “Star Knight” and “Alien Mystic” classes are fine for Jedi-style flavor, but I know in my particular home campaign I’m not really a fan of having them. Not to mention their meditations and gifts felt too much like D&D counterparts, which isn’t exactly what I was hoping for. I loved the “Psychic” class out of Stars Without Number, but it’s a bit beefy to implement in the liter rules of White Star.
So for an alternative, Matthew Skail gave us a class that acquires a number of powers (and a limited number of uses a day) based on level. The difference here is each power (called disciplines) is available to choose from level 1, and it scales by the character’s level. Psionicists also get to choose a focus at level 1, which is an ability they can use that doesn’t spend one of their daily power uses.
What’s great is each discipline has a variety of uses, and even when you can only kick them off once a day they turn out handy. For instance: “Cellular Adjustment” provides a pool of d6’s equal to level. The duration of the power, however, is 1 hour. In that time, the psionicist can take that pool of dice and spend it how they want between themselves and others. Some of those dice can also be spent to grant a target extra saving throws versus poison or disease, and at max level can revive someone who was recently slain (but with some tolls put on them.
Other powers are what you would expect — mind assault, shielding, remote viewing, telekinesis, etc. But all of them offer an array of effects and aren’t just one time tricks that are spent and gone.
Pros: A damn fine alternative psychic-powered utility class that offers options but is mechanically sound for the lighter aspects of the system. Would even make a good class for fantasy-based games using Whitebox style rules. Artwork is pretty cool and appropriate.
Quibbles: The only cons I have about this are minor nags of preference: the flavor text still has this element of the fantastic, such as references to the “Akashic Overmind” and forming temples at higher level. This is easily remedied with hand waving, and isn’t terribly distracting. There’s also something not quite grabbing me about the choice of font and size, and I wished the tables and pictures ran alongside the text as opposed to being breaks between text and taking up their own real-estate — leaving a bit of negative space on the page. I’m guilty of these things in my own self-released games, though, so I really have no room to talk.
Author: M. A. Hunt / Leviathan Publishing Cost: $2.99 Page Count: 17 (including cover and license.)
So I’ve established my home game is a bit more gritty science fiction, but that’s not to say I don’t have a special place in my heart for pulpy science fantasy. I’m a lover of Heavy Metal magazine, my dad raised me on old Flash Gordon serials, and Krull has to be one of my favorite movies. Drongo cites Burroughs and Howard as inspiration — and frankly if you don’t love those guys, I’m not sure we’re on the same level.
This is a world ruled by a powerful magician in a city that marries science and magic, who is ruthless and is described as being only steps away from godhood. This is a world of swords and rayguns, of nomadic tribes and futuristic armies (and at least one time traveler.) The booklet gives us a brief history, seven major factions, about seventeen regions/places of interest, descriptions on a handful of common languages, a couple pages devoted to the ruler Tiverrig, Tamer of Worlds, and finishes with a brief bestiary of six creatures. The artwork is thematic and kicksass, the font choice is crisp and looks good on my tablet. It’s gonzo without being overboard, and is a great example of a setting that can pull in things from other OSR games regardless of genre.
Pros: An awesome Gazeteer for an insane setting that fits the bill for those wanting to go more sci-fantasy/pulp with their White Star games.
Quibbles: No map provided, which is a bummer since we have all these cool regions offered to us. I’d settle for a plain global map, with blobs of regions just so I knew a vague concept of where everything was in relation to each other.
Author: Bill Logan / DwD Studios Cost: $1 Page Count: 10 (6 pages of rules, 2 covers + inside cover)
This tiny rules add-on introduces a mechanic for stunning opponents using a tweak to the Saving Throw system. From there, it provides a few new weapons and a couple pieces of defenses specifically around stun attacks.
Pros: Manages to successfully tack on stunning/knock-out system without having to track “bashing” hit point damage or adding an entirely new subsystem. DwD products have a nice layout for the digest format, meaning easy to read on a tablet.
Quibbles: For a buck it’s hard for me to say it’s a bit short, but I wished there was a little more to it. Regardless, it’s a sound mechanic and at least the nice layout and formatting means I have no probs stuffing my printout for game night.
Author: Bill Logan / DwD Studios Cost: $1 Page Count: 16 (12 are rules)
This is substantially beefier than issue #1, and in a lot of ways is a steal. This book functions a mini-bestiary, I suppose, of NPC robots to use at the game table. It takes the assumption that PC robots are unique, cool, or stand out compared to normal everyday ones. That said, Bill has provided 9 fleshed out robots to serve as a basis for different uses (medic, scout, protocol, etc.) He’s also provided a variety of scanners, and each robot is listed with a cost should a player want to recruit the aid of one (or more.)
Pros: A robot for (almost) every occasion, fully statted out and ready to roll in your campaign.
Quibbles: Would have been cool to have some add-ons for PC robots, but once again for a buck who can complain?
Author: Bill Logan / DwD Studios Cost: $1 Page Count: 20 (16 is material, the rest is covers/license)
Bill’s gone crazy, folks. I think my comment towards issue #1 drove him mad, and now he’s pumping out high-value products for dirt cheap.
Aliens is all about creating new “race as class” Alien types tailored for your campaign (or completely made at random.) The first chunk of the supplement is an easy step-by-step guide to cherry pick or randomly roll up features and characteristics of the new alien race. When it’s all wrapped up, you tally up XP value based on the results. This is what it takes to reach level 2 for the character, and each level after doubles that value. Easy peasy.
But he doesn’t stop there — He then presents 5 sample alien classes, each one with a full page write up and full colored artwork by the incredibly awesome Khairul Hisham.
Pros: A really fun, random, old-school style method of generating new and unique alien races to populate your game. Once again, good layout and the artwork rocks.
Quibbles: The overwhelming sense of guilt I have for only paying a buck for this.