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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

PnCing OGL

Or, how to incorporate Pulp in the Cup with D20 rules.

Treat all rolls like oppositional roles, even rolls against a difficulty class (DC).

For rolls against a DC, subtract 10 from the given DC, even if that leaves a negative number. Call this the difficulty adds. So when the player rolls their d20 and adds his bonuses, the GM rolls a 3d6 and adds the difficulty adds. If the player's total beats the GM's total, the player succeeds.

For saving throws against a fixed DC subtract 10 as before, but this time the player rolls a 3d6 and adds their bonuses, and the GM rolls a d20 and adds the difficulty adds to that.

In character versus character contests where both are equally footed (like arm wrestling, foot racing or competing for initiative in combat), everyone rolls a d20.

But in cases where one is acting and the other responding (such as when one is sneaking and the other guarding, or when one is attacking and the other parrying) the initiating player adds their bonuses (or boni) to a d20 roll and the responding player adds their bonuses to a 3d6 roll.

That ought to do it. It will also add some thrill to the game, I think.

Shadows of the Emerald City

Free RPG day has come and gone. I wanted to use it to make a dry run on my new campaign setting idea but no one showed up at the store. Sad. It looks like RPGs are in decline again from where I'm sitting.

About the setting: "Shadows of the Emerald City" (formerly "Mutants of Syracuse")

The Basic Idea: Make an actual city (in this case, Syracuse NY) the setting of a campaign. Syracuse is your typical upstate blighted urban city, standing always in the shadows of NYC (and even Rochester), yet a home to several people whose families have lived here for generations, with strongly defined ethnic neighborhoods and festivals that bring a taste of their cultures to the front. The city is struggling with harsh economic realities and faux relief proposals, just like any American city in a post industrial age. It has its local personalities (car dealers and mall builders, for example) and its own personality.

But also, unknown to the general population, the city is at the nexus of several circles of arcane power, a mysterious reservoir of concentrated perturbations of psychic force that has drawn the attention of those who live in the background of the world. The immediate effect is that this power has imbued several of the residents and given them (or cursed them) with strange powers and advantages, forcing them to go into hiding from the public. This has attracted ambitious scientists who have attempted to harness and understand (typically in that order) these strange powers to their own uses. But others have also noticed, others from in and outside of the Galactic Confederacy of Worlds, which sees Earth as a protected zone and Syracuse as its point of contact, but also yet others from alternate planes of existence also are drawn into the Mystical Vortex, including the Ancient Ones walled off in their Dimensional Prison wishing to reclaim their old authority over Earth. But first the must prevent the Final Cause from being born in the south side of the city.

In this campaign, player characters are Syracusian natives who have become thus surprised by their new powers and have begun to discover this alternate world that co-exists "alongside" the city. They discover the "openings in the hedge" that allow them to see the real contest of power that mundanes aren't able to see. In part, this is like a "Men in Black"/"Harry Potter" type of campaign where the existence of the hidden world is kept secret at all costs. Players have to solve the mysteries behind the curtain while maintaining the facade of civil society.

Often this involves adventures that are set among landmarks familiar to locals - bars, villages, malls, research institutes, and so on. The way these function as portals to the world alongside is in having things like a basement below the basement, the loft above the loft, the floor between the floors, the coliseum inside the phone booth, etc. Also, while the city setting follows the actual city to a large degree, in the actual narrative it is described as an alternate history of Syracuse so that features attributed to locations and persons in the city are not to be confused as attributions of actual locations and persons in the actual history of Syracuse. The setting is set in an alternate version of the 1990's prior to Y2K, Destiny Co. has placated the city boards by rebuilding the New White City" roller coaster park, and Franklin motors has reopened its plant to produce an innovative hybrid vehicle. This also allows a bit more color to be added to the setting.

I am adapting the setting to Mutants and Masterminds because it is a rules lite, narrative friendly, and widely used set of rules. I had to concede that this is a kind of superhero setting but in my mind it is definitely not a four color high power one (no capes!). Fortunately, M&M allows for power level adjustments and their new "Iron Age" supplement captures the vibe I want.

With respect to Christian integration; I am aiming to follow C.S. Lewis' example in his novel "'Til We Have Faces", which is basically to operate within a pagan interpretation of life but to make Christian points from within it, something that a Christian writer is well within their rights to do. The point of course is to work around the cloying familiarity (or rather the "quasi-familiarity) with the Christian tradition that causes people to dismiss understanding it out of hand while subtly reintroducing it afresh one little nudge at a time. And of course, the point is still to entertain and have fun in a creative and social way.

Big Gnus: You want a piece of me?

I have just received word that I (the Gnu) will be in print next year. The up coming volume of Open Court's series of books on philosophy and popular culture "Anime and Philosophy" will contain my chapter entitled "The CPU Has Its Reasons", an exposition of William James paper on the will to believe, using "Armitage the Third: Poly-matrix" to illustrate it.

Finally, my fan tribute op has come.

(And I suppose it has some pedagogical value also.)