Jim started it, and I think it’s really, really awesome. The Free Kriegsspiel Revolution is, at its heart, a play style that hands over the mechanical side of things completely to the referee: “The referee is the rules”, as Yori says.
And FKR is freeform, navigated by both the players and the referee. ‘High-trust traditional gaming’ is the nomenclature (thanks S. John Ross). But the number one reason why I can’t, as in ‘I am not able to’, play anything other than FKR-style games any more is the creative freedom. The freedom to create whatever, whomever and however I want, without rules, without, as it were, a care in the world.
FKR is roleplaying the way we played as kids (or teenagers, after hearing about that strange game with the dungeons and the dragons, but without having seen the rules).
And that’s why Jim’s design challenge is so good: It’s NOT challenging, it’s LIBERATING.
The rules of the challenge?
Pick a genre, setting, or time period
Write one or two paragraphs on context
Produce one page of random tables
Give advice on tropes and how to use them
Y’all can write rpgs. Because what matters is not the page count, and not the pretty pictures. What matters is that it’s written by you. That it comes from your heart. That’s what matters, and that, my friends, that is FKR.
BREAKING Currently, I’m formatting and expanding the rules into a full-blown pdf. It’ll be available on my itch channel. Please be patient 😉
Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present “Bound for Glory”. This is the FKR version of Dungeon World. I hope you like it. It started as a hack for my minimald6 system. Feedback, as always, is welcome.
Pick one or roll 1d6: 1 Strong as an ox; 2 Tough as nails; 3 Nimble hands and agile body; 4 Brilliant mind; 5 Wise like a Sage; 6 Charming
Then: Pick one or roll 1d6: 1 Stronger than average; 2 Can take a blow; 3 Dexterous; 4 Intelligent; 5 Attentive; 6 Charismatic
Last: Pick one or roll 1d6: 1 Weak; 2 Fragile; 3 Clumsy; 4 Dumb; 5 Dull; 6 Repulsive
If the results you rolled contradict themselves, roll again, or change them.
Pick a class or roll 1d12 to determine. Please note that “moves” (also called “Specials” or “traits”) are kept deliberately vague – this enables and forces the players and referees to come up with their own personal interpretation and definition. This is the kind of old-school variety we’re looking for.
1 Arcane Duelist Before you pick or roll your your Moves; choose three Arcane Fighting Techniques (3) or roll 1d20 three times:
to 20. roll again
Now, pick two moves (2) or roll 1d12 twice:
fight with bladed weapons
use magic with your attack
know one fact about opponent in combat
ignore armor weight
use blade attack as ranged attack
combine arcane attacks
increased armor efficiency
you have a reputation
Follow these steps: 1. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Noble’s silks; 4-6 ten coins 2. You start with leather armor 3. Roll 1d6: 1-2 Bastard Sword; 3-4 precise Rapier; 5-6 Dagger and Parrying Dagger 4. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Adventuring Gear and Dungeon Rations; 4-6 Healing Potion 5. When you hit with a one-handed melee weapon, you do above average damage; ranged weapons are nothing you are proficient with.
2 Barbarian (Pick 2 moves or roll 1d20 twice):
Fight armed and unarmed
Herculean appetite (pick two or roll 1d6 twice, and you get a bonus on your roll every time you try to satisfy your hunger: 1 pure destruction; 2 power over others; 3 mortal pleasures; 4 conquest; 5 riches and property; 6 fame and glory)
messy and forceful attacks
ignore armor weight
one more appetite
less armor = more protection
impress with my strength
I have seen the world
make opponent lose an item when I attack really successfully, or smash it
eye for weakness
the weaker I get the more dangerous I become
learn a move from the fighter, the bard or the thief
blood-curdling war cry
I wear the mark of might
turn danger back on itself
my blood gods answer my rituals
wield two weapons
Follow these steps: 1. You carry: dungeon rations; a dagger; some token of where you’ve traveled where you’re from. 2. Roll 1d6: 1-2 You start with Leather armor. 3-5 You start with Chainmail armor. 6 You start with Scale armor. 3. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Axe; 4-6 Two-handed sword 4. You have Adventuring gear and dungeon rations 5. You do huge damage in melee, but ranged weapons are not your forte
3 Bard (pick 2 moves or roll 1d10 twice):
bardic lore (choose one or roll 1d8 once: 1 spells and magicks; 2 the dead and undead; g3 rand histories of the known world; 4 a bestiary of unusual creatures; 5 the planar spheres; 6 legends of heroes past; 7 gods and their servants; 8 reroll)
so charming and open, people answer one question truthfully
tell what has changed since I have left
classify magic spells when I hear someone casting them
Follow these steps: 1. Roll 1d6: 1 Your father’s repaired mandolin; 2 Fine lute (a gift from a noble); 3 The pipes with which you courted your first love; 4 Stolen horn; 5 Fiddle (never before played); 6 Songbook in a forgotten tongue. 2. Roll 1d6: 1-3 You start with Leather armor. 4-6 You start with ostentatious clothes. 3. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Dueling rapier; 4-6 Worn bow and and a bundle of arrows and a short Sword 4. Roll 1d4: 1 Adventuring gear; 2 Bandages; 3 Halfling pipeleaf; 4 three coins 5. You’re a lover, not a fighter. You inflict sub-par damage in fights
4 Cleric Before you pick or roll your Moves, first choose your Deity’s domain or roll 1d6 once:
Healing and Restoration
Knowledge and Hidden Things
The Downtrodden and Forgotten
What Lies Beneath
Then; choose one precept of your religion or roll 1d4 once:
Your religion preaches the sanctity of suffering
Your religion is cultish and insular
Your religion has important sacrificial rites
Your religion believes in trial by combat.
Now; pick two moves or roll 1d20 twice:
fight with blunt weapons
commune with my deity
lift the spirit of a dying person
serenity under magic attack
pain improves my spell casting
gain permanent physical feature of my god
dedicate this victory to my god; divine armor
to 20: reroll
Follow these steps: 1. You can cast these clerical spells without rolling dice (they’re called “rotes”): Light; Sanctify; Guidance 2. Pick two other clerical spells or roll 1d30 twice:
Cure Light Wounds
Speak With Dead
Cure Moderate Wounds
Cure Critical Wounds
Words of the Unspeaking
Word of Recall
Mark of Death
Storm of Vengeance
3. You carry dungeon rations and some symbol of the divine; describe it 4. You start with Chainmail. 5. Roll 1d: 1-2 Warhammer; 3-4 Mace; 5-6 Staff 6. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Adventuring gear and dungeon rations; 4-6 Healing potion 7. You inflict above average damage in melee, and your ranged weapons game is not bad, either
5 Druid Before you pick or roll your Moves; choose the type of land you’re attuned to, or roll 1d12 once:
The Great Forests
The Whispering Plains
The Vast Desert
The Stinking Mire
The River Delta
The Depths of the Earth
The Sapphire Islands
The Open Sea
The Towering Mountains
The Frozen North
The Blasted Wasteland.
Then choose a tell—a physical attribute that marks you as born of the soil—that reflects the spirit of your land. It may be an animal feature like antlers, leopard’s spots or something more general: hair like leaves of glittering crystal. Your tell remains no matter what shape you take.
Finally; pick two Moves or roll 1d20 twice:
Don’t need to eat or drink
speak with animals
choose a ranger move
see through an animal’s eyes
negate damage by shifting back to human form
shapeshift into inanimate natural objects
elemental spirit helpers
I deal damage so I can heal others
shapeshift into humanoids
attune to new land
shapeshift into the elements
to 20. reroll
Follow these steps: 1. You carry some token of your land; describe it. 2. You start with Hide armor. 3. Roll 1d6: 1-2 Shillelagh; 3-4 Staff; 5-6 Spear 4. Roll 1d4: 1 Adventuring gear; 2 Poultices and herbs; 3 Halfling pipeleaf ; 4 three Antitoxins 5. The damage you inflict in any fight is below average.
6 Fighter (pick 2 moves or roll 1d20 twice):
Trained in armed and unarmed combat
Bend bars, lift gates
use armor to absorb full damage
third signature weapon enhancement (see below)
see clearly in battle
graft magical powers of a weapon onto signature weapon
name someone who will die in this battle and someone who will live
plow through enemy rows
assess enemy’s weaponry
wield two weapons without disadvantage
14. to 20. reroll
Follow these steps: 1. You carry your signature weapon and dungeon rations. 2. Signature weapon: (pick one or roll 1d6 once)
1 sword 2 ax 3 hammer 4 spear 5 flail 6 fists
Now pick two enhancements or roll 1d8 twice:
1 hooks/spikes 2 sharp 3 perfectly weighted 4 serrated edges 5 glows in the presence of any type of a certain type of creature 6 huge 7 versatile 8 reroll.
3. Roll 1d6: 1-3 You start with Chainmail and adventuring gear; 4-5 You start with Scale armor; 6 You start with Full plate armor. 4. Roll 1d4 twice: 1 two Healing potions; 2 Shield; 3 Antitoxin, dungeon rations, poultices and herbs; 4 twenty-two coins 5. In a melee, you inflict major damage. Ranged weapons are also good.
7 Paladin (pick 2 moves or roll 1d12 twice):
Lay on hands and pray
ignore armor weight
voice of authority
dedicate myself to a quest through ritual cleansing and prayer (your intention: Slay…/Defend…/Discover the truth of… Now, Choose two boons or roll 1d6 twice: 1 An unwavering sense of direction to…; 2 Invulnerability to…; 3 A mark of divine authority; 4 Senses that pierce lies; 5 A voice that transcends language; 6 A freedom from hunger, thirst, and sleep. Then: Referee will tell you what you have to do to maintain your blessing: Honor, no cowardly tactics and tricks/Temperance/Piety/Valor/Truth/Hospitality);
increased damage against a specific enemy
charge into battle
Follow these steps: 1. You start with dungeon rations, scale armor (armor 5). 2. You start with some mark of faith; describe it. 3. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Halberd; 4-6 Long sword 4. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Adventuring gear; 4-6 Dungeon rations and a healing potion 5. In a melee, you inflict major damage. Ranged weapons are also good.
8 Ranger (pick 2 moves or roll 1d12 twice):
Hunt and track
animal companion trained to fight humanoids (pick one or roll 1d10 once: 1 wolf, 2 cougar, 3 bear, 4 eagle, 5 dog, 6 hawk, 7 cat, 8 owl, 9 pigeon, 10 rat, mule; then, pick 1d4 strengths of your companion or roll 1d20 for 1d4 times: 1 fast, 2 burly, 3 huge, 4 calm, 5 adaptable, 6 quick reflexes, 7 tireless, 8 camouflage, 9 ferocious, 10 intimidating, 11 keen senses, 12 stealthy, 13 hunt, 14 search, 15 scout, 16 guard, 17 fight monsters, 18 perform, 19 labor, 20 travel; then pick 1d3 weaknesses or roll 1d8 for 1d3 times: 1 flighty, 2 savage, 3 slow, 4 broken, 5 frightening, 6 forgetful, 7 stubborn, 8 lame)
speak with animals
wield two weapons without disadvantage
in ranged combat, increase number of targets
commune with my deity
exploit weak spot
make safer camp
Follow these steps: 1. You start with dungeon rations, leather armor . 2. You start with a bundle of arrows 3. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Hunter’s bow and short sword; 4-6 Hunter’s bow and spear 4. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Adventuring gear and dungeon rations; 4-6 Adventuring gear and a bundle of arrows 5. You tend to avoid melees because you can only inflict average damage there (if you’re lucky), but when you use ranged weapons, BAM!
9 Thief (pick 2 moves or roll 1d20 twice):
Find and Identify traps
I’m never caught by surprise
improved armor protection when outnumbered
throw melee weapons
to 20. reroll
Follow these steps: 1. You start with dungeon rations, leather armor. 2. You start with three uses of your chosen poison and ten coins. 3. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Dagger and short sword; 4-6 precise Rapier 4. Roll 1d6: 1-3 three throwing daggers; 4-6 Ragged Bow and a bundle of arrows 5. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Adventuring gear; 4-6 Healing potion 6. You do average damage both in melee and ranged combat
10 Villager (Pick 2 moves or roll 1d20 twice):
Looking so average everyone forgets about you
Luck is with the Dumb Ones
Follow these steps: 1. Roll 1d6: 1-2: Dagger; 3-4: Rusty sword; 5-6: Well-used pitchfork 2. You start with linen clothes 3. Roll 1d6: 1-5: Torch; 6: Lantern 4. You start with a pack lunch (1 ration; half a potato and gravy) and an unopened bottle of Bearhugger’s Whiskey 5. When you hit with any melee or ranged weapon, you do average damage; when you are drunk, you either (1-3) have a better chance to hit, or (4-6) your to-hit chances are lower, but if you hit, damage is way above average.
11 Wizard (pick 2 moves or roll 1d20 twice):
defend against a spell by giving up one of my spells
draw on a place of power to create a magical effect (roll 1d4 conditions or roll 1d8 for 1d4 times: 1 It’s going to take days or weeks or months; 2 First you must…; 3 You’ll need help from…; 4 It will require a lot of money; 5 The best you can do is a lesser version, unreliable and limited; 6 You and your allies will risk danger from…; 7 You’ll have to disenchant… to do it; 8 reroll)
I cast my favorite spell more easily
improved spell effect
fount of knowledge
analyze magic item
enhance magic item’s effect
control a person’s actions
create place of power
find and harvest place of power
to 20. reroll
You can cast these spells without rolling dice (they’re called “cantrips”): Light; Unseen Servant; Prestidigitation.
Pick two spells or roll 1d30 twice and write them into your spellbook (you have to roll dice to see if they work):
Visions Through Time
Contact Other Plane
to 30. reroll
Follow these steps: 1. You start with your spellbook and dungeon rations 2. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Leather armor, 4-6 Bag of books (armor 1) and three healing potions 3. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Dagger; 4-6 Staff 4. Roll 1d6: 1-3 Healing potion; 4-6 three antitoxins 5. In regular melee or ranged combat, you do little damage. Fighting ain’t your thing.
12 Write your own class The format is:
Name: (Pick 2 moves): followed by 10 or more entries (skills; abilities; background; dark secrets; etc) Follow these steps: (Include some short random tables for gear and weapons)
You and your people are not from around here – answer the referee’s questions freely and appropriately.
Non-magical heat and fire cannot harm you.
Crab-man: You can only fight with your claws. Your shell gives you the equivalent of chainmail armor. You can carry enormous weight, even if you are, in crab-man terms, weak. (Now pick 1 move or roll 1d2 once:)
You can never lose consciousness or be knocked out
Re-roll once (except when you´re standing at the Black Gates) per battle.
Challenges and combat
Roll dice when the outcome is uncertain. The referee rolls 2d6 vs. the player’s 2d6. Apply pluses or minuses if appropriate. Higher sum wins.
How many hits? Usually, an average of three hits till a character drops unconscious or dead is a good rule of thumb. Tougher characters may be able to take more hits, fragile characters may be able to only take 2 or even 1. Most important: Determine that number before playing. Be sure everyone is on board. Armor adds more hits.
Standing at the Black Gates When you’re dying you catch a glimpse of what lies beyond the Black Gates of Death’s Kingdom (the referee will describe it). Then roll 2d6 (just roll, add nothing). On a 10+, you’ve cheated Death—you’re in a bad spot but you’re still alive. On a 7–9, Death himself will offer you a bargain. Take it and stabilize or refuse and pass beyond the Black Gates into whatever fate awaits you. On 6-, your fate is sealed. You’re marked as Death’s own and you’ll cross the threshold soon. The GM will tell you when.
Using Monsters from any roleplaying game or other work of fiction
When you import any monster from a work of fiction into your game, • use the monster description • try to translate the feeling, not the numbers. • Make the monster as strong; quick; tough and scary as you want; there are huge differences between us humans; why should it be different between monsters? • Think about the monster’s ability to inflict damage. It might be worth one or more additional d6 in combat (see above). • How much much damage is the monster able to take before going down?
Let’s take the Dungeon World description of the bulette as an example:
Bulette Hates: when someone calls it “bullet” Solitary; Huge; Construct Special Qualities: Burrowing A seasoned caravan guard learns to listen for the calls of a scout sentry with a keen ear. A few extra seconds after the alarm is raised can mean life or death. Different cries mean different responses; too—a call of “orcs!” means draw your sword and steady for blood but a call of “bandits!” says you might be able to bargain. One alarm from the scouts that always; always means it’s time to pack up; whip your horse and run for the hills? “LAND SHARK!” Instinct: To devour • Drag prey into rough tunnels • Burst from the earth • Swallow whole
How would I use the bulette in my game? The land shark is Huge and can take a lot of damage. It’s enormously powerful and it will try to drag its prey underground. These two qualities alone are a huge advantage for the bullette in combat. It also has pretty good armor protection, so one average sword hit won’t do much.
Treefolk Assassin Bark skin; stealthy; acrobat; half-plant Short bow Instincts: To guard their sacred grove. Moves: • Scare away offenders • Aim for a sure shot • Blend into the forest
How would I use Treefolk Assassins in my game? Treefolk have a pretty hard skin that I instantly associate with Japanese hardwood harnesses, so that’s the protection they have. It requires a very, very good hit with a very, very good weapon to cut deeper and actually hurt a Treefolk Assassin. Nonetheless, they can take 3 hits before they’re out. They’re not very good in melee, but when they get to use their bows, they inflict really serious damage.
And as a last example; a monster I pulled from the Dungeon World Codex:
Space Hippies Group; Intelligent; Planar Special Qualities: Annoying Several scholars have discussed the “space hippies”. Like the acolytes of Leary; Charles Manson; and other negative counter-culture leaders; these bizarre and stereotypical alien flower children are “under the spell of an unknown “charismatic but dangerously unhinged leader”(chosen by the GM) and “stand for a sixties generation in the thrall of misled idealism.” The group shows a disrespect for authority and demands to be taken to a planet they call “Eden” (a dangerous Dungeon World location sure to kill them all). If the party refuses they will label them “Herberts” and begin to loudly mock them. Paladins and other formally good character may be forced to care for them or suffer the displeasure of their deity. Instinct: Guide innocents to destruction • Chant • Seek • Make an oval • Announce • Replay Woodstock
How would I use Space Hippies in my game? Space Hippies. Peace-loving slackers with no clue how to fight, and wearing puffy clothes. So, huge disadvantage in combat. They’ll probably surrender, cry uncle or turn cold before they can chant their last OM.
Weapons & Equipment
Some weapons and items of equipment might have “tags” (labels) detailing the item. Players; referees: determine if these tags are advantages or disadvantages. A “slow” handgunne might be disadvantageous in a fight against archers armed with shortbows because it takes so long to reload. You decide.
Examples: • Clumsy: The armor is really tough to move around with. • Forceful: It can knock someone back a pace, maybe even off their feet. • Extra Damage: It is particularly harmful to your enemies. • Ignores Armor: Damage goes right through. • Messy: It does damage in a particularly destructive way, ripping people and things apart. • Stun: When you attack with it, it does stun damage instead of normal damage. You can’t kill someone with a Stun weapon. • Thrown: Throw it at someone to hurt them. • Hand: It’s useful for attacking something within your reach, no further. • Close: It’s useful for attacking something at arm’s reach plus a foot or two. • Reach: It’s useful for attacking something that’s several feet away—maybe as far as ten. • Near: It’s useful for attacking if you can see the whites of their eyes. • Far: It’s useful for attacking something in shouting distance.
Services A week’s stay at a peasant inn; 14 coins A week’s stay at a civilized inn; 30 coins A week’s stay at the fanciest inn in town; 43 coins A week’s unskilled mundane labor; 10 coins A month’s pay for enlistment in an army; 30 coins A custom item from a blacksmith; Base Item + 50 coins A night’s “companionship”; 20 coins An evening of song and dance; 18- coins Escort for a day along a bandit-infested road; 20 coins Escort for a day along a monster-infested road; 54 coins A run-of-the-mill killing; 5 coins An assassination; 120 coins Healing from a chirurgeon; 5 coins A month’s prayers for the departed; 1 coin Repairs to a mundane item; 25% of the item’s cost
Meals A hearty meal for one; 1 coin A poor meal for a family; 1 coin A feast; 15 coins per person
Transport Cart and Donkey; sworn to carry your burdens; 50 coins Horse; 75 coins Warhorse; 400 coins Wagon; 150 coins Barge; 50 coins River boat; 150 coins Merchant ship; 5;000 coins War ship; 20;000 coins Passage on a safe route; 1 coin Passage on a tough route; 10 coins Passage on a dangerous route; 100 coins
Land and Buildings A hovel; 20 coins A cottage; 500 coins A house; 2;500 coins A mansion; 50;000 coins A keep; 75;000 coins A castle; 250;000 coins A grand castle; 1;000;000 coins A month’s upkeep; 1% of the cost
Bribes A peasant dowry; 20 coins “Protection” for a small business; 100 coins A government bribe; 50 coins A compelling bribe; 80 coins An offer you can’t refuse; 500 coins
Gifts and Finery A peasant gift; 1 coin A fine gift; 55 coins A noble gift; 200 coins A ring cameo; 75 coins Finery; 105 coins A fine tapestry; 350+ coins A crown fit for a king; 5;000 coins
Hoards A goblin’s stash; 2 coins A lizardman’s trinkets; 5 coins A “priceless” sword; 80 coins An orc warchief’s tribute; 250 coins A dragon’s mound of coins and gems; 130;000 coins
…in FKR might come earlier than you thought. Heck, erlier than I thought, anyway. I just tried to get into the groove for some GLOG again. I had simplified attack/defense and exchanged it with opposed 2d6 rolls. Tried to keep hit points and damage rolls.
And it was boring. No, let me rephrase that: mindnumbingly boring. Boring, boring. Boring.
I tried the fistfighter class against an average guy. And I rolled my dice and rolled and rolled. And no, it wasn’t fun. Then I tried Moonhop, probably my most favorite GLOG hack. Same there. It just… doesn’t click any more.
The point of return, I have reached it. Future GLOG hacks will forever be highly inspirational source material for me. But they won’t be games I’d like to play. Same goes for Into the Odd.
Class: Fistfighter Fistfighters start with their fists. 4 hits.
Starting Skill: 1=Scholar (start with quill, notebook, and nice but functional clothing) 2=Street Tough (start with deck of cards, and scrappy clothing) 3=Spirit-Raised (start with very fine alcohol, and threadbare clothing)
If you want to play ICE like Bill, keep the following quotes from Neuromancer in mind:
With his deck waiting, back in the loft, an Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7. They’d left the place littered with the abstract white forms of the foam packing units, with crumpled plastic film and hundreds of tiny foam beads. The Ono-Sendai; next year’s most expensive Hosaka computer; a Sony monitor; a dozen disks of corporate-grade ice; a Braun coffee maker.
See? So my obsession with cassettepunk is pretty much spot-on. Ice on disks… how on earth can something as powerful and dangerous as ice fit on twelve disks? Simple. Here’s the reason:
“Just thinking out loud . . . How smart’s an Al, Case?”
“Depends. Some aren’t much smarter than dogs. Pets. Cost a fortune anyway. The real smart ones are as smart as the Turing heat is willing to let ’em get.”
“Look, you’re a cowboy. How come you aren’t just flat-out fascinated with those things?”
“Well,” he said, “for starts, they’re rare. Most of them are military, the bright ones, and we can’t crack the ice. That’s where ice all comes from, you know? (…)
“You got it. Corporate core data for Tessier-Ashpool S.A., and that ice is generated by their two friendly Al’s. On par with anything in the military sector, looks to me. That’s king hell ice, Case, black as the grave and slick as glass. Fry your brain soon as look at you. We get any closer now, it’ll have tracers up our ass and out both ears, be tellin’ the boys in the T-A boardroom the size of your shoes and how long your dick”
Ice is made by Artificial Intelligences. But it gets better:
Case sighed. “Well, I got a user-friendly Chinese icebreaker here, a one shot cassette. Some people in Frankfurt say it’ll cut an Al.”
Ice on cassettes. Of course. I know Godfather Gibson probably didn’t mean it that way, but that’s my selective interpretation of the source.
And ice can be brute force, or really sneaky:
“I did, once. Just an idea, back then. But that’s what ol’ Kuang’s all about. This ain’t bore and inject, it’s more like we interface with the ice so slow, the ice doesn’t feel it. The face of the Kuang logics kinda sleazes up to the target and mutates, so it gets to be exactly like the ice fabric. Then we lock on and the main programs cut in, start talking circles ’round the logics in the ice. We go Siamese twin on ’em before they even get restless.”
Another fun fact: You don’t read dozens and dozens of brand names for ice. We know Gibson loves doing that, but NOT for ice, and icebreakers. Ice is monolithic, off-the-shelf, illegal drek hot shit, and so are icebreakers.
Which brings me to a conclusion:
In my cassettepunk Shadowrun games, I won’t be using any brand names for ice, not even different kinds of ice, as both Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2013/2020/3/Red are doing. Breaking or melting ice will be a single die roll, or, if it’s really tough, several dice rolls. The hacker/decker MUST be successful in every single roll, or the ice will do horrible things to him and/or his deck.
If you make it out of … in one piece and have retrieved the item you were told to, but have no idea what it does, pick one among your ranks to roll 2d6. Add +1 if you have Powers watching over you. Subtract 1 if the corporation you pissed off is small fish. Subtract 3 if it’s a Big Player. *10+, your theft simply shifts business advantage from one corporation to another. *7–9, business equilibrium is shifted as above, but the corporation is on y’all’s asses now, actively. *6–, the item is the cause of a major corporation war that’s building up slowly.
Diceless Dungeons is a gem. Way too few people know this roleplaying game, written by my friend James George. One of the reasons why people might not want to try it is because it’s… diceless. But it’s one of the most elegant and STILL old school-ish games I know.
And this is how it works:
I’m creating an adventurer. Every adventurer starts with ten health points and three talents. I pick Cunning (detect some vital clue once a day), Healthy (heals double wounds when resting) and Stealthy (hide from and sneak past enemies).
I could have also picked the sorcerer’s apprentice. And while in the basic rules, the apprentice is all you get if you want to play a magically-inclined character, it’s simple to change this class into a full-blown sorcerer. Casting spells is draining, and the character loses 1 health point when doing so.
Then, pick some equipment and you’re good to go.
But how does combat work?
Combat is divided into one-minute rounds. Depending on the strength and number of the enemy, it lasts shorter or longer. Fighting weak enemies takes 1 to 2 rounds, average enemies 3 to 5, and strong enemies 6 or more.
The DD rules state a very important rule then: “Thus, victory in battle becomes a matter of surviving to the end of the fight. But this is not without risk, because for every round spent in combat, the party takes one wound to be assigned to whatever character the players choose”.
The players describe what their characters are doing, the referee describes combat and wounds and injuries and blood and gore, and after the monsters have inflicted their total damage, the fight is over, and any player character who still has health left survives. Dead simple, but very, very elegant.
Every monster comes with a Damage Bonus that’s added to the base 1 damage it inflicts each round. A skeleton, for instance, has 3 Damage Bonus. That means it adds a total of 3 wounds to the number of wounds/rounds. Weak skeletons die after 1 or 2 rounds, and inflict a total of 1 or 2 wounds — but the Damage Bonus buffs this up to a total of 4 or 5 wounds.
The elegance of DD’s combat rules really shines when you take the “Pacing Encounters” rule on board: The referee can add rounds with zero damage to combat encounters. This breaks the pattern and destroys predictability of combats.
Let’s stay with the Weak Skeleton. It dies after 4 or 5 rounds. Let’s say 4. Without the “Pacing Encounters” rule, the players might figure out at some point that a Weak Skeleton dies after 4 rounds and will therefore inflict a total of 4 wounds. WITH the Pacing rule… the damage “profile” of the Weak Skeleton might look like “0-0-1-0-3”.
And NOW the secret: You don’t really need to PLAN zero wound rounds. All you need to do is this: Adjust the wounds inflicted by the monster to the narration of the players. Feel free to even increase total damage if they describe stupid actions. Feel free to decrease total damage for really smart decicisons. That’s all. All you need is the total number of wounds a monster will dish out. Everything else depends on the description.
Let’s do this.
I’m creating a Shadowrun character, and I’m translating the skills on the fly. I pick Smart (detect some vital clue once a day), Healthy (heals double wounds when resting) and Stealthy (hide from and sneak past enemies). 9mm Glock, a kevlar vest. 10 wounds.
My buddy is creating another adventurer. Acrobatic, Hardened (survive three rounds after death), Nocturnal (operate in total darkness). He is obviously some sort of Shadowrun physical adept. Ares Predator I. 10 wounds.
The referee sends a Strong Corp Security Team to kick our asses. It will inflict a total of 15 wounds if we go all in, exchanging bullets, maybe even 20 if we’re stupid enough.
If my buddy and me are acting smarter, ducking and weaving, shooting behind cover, the Corp Team might only do 10 wounds on us.
The rest is all narration and narrative positioning.
My Shadowrun is the setting of the first edition. It’s cassettepunk. It’s the future as seen on 80s television. And it’s FKR, super minimal rulings.
How do I make decking (“hacking” in other cyberpunk games) make interesting?
I use random tables. Tables are your friend, especially in freeform games.
In my game, I’m using my ICE generator table:
And then, I simply drop a few dice on a sheet of paper:
Now I take a pen and group the dice together. That’s purely intuitive.
The circles are computer sub-systems, or something. Each sub-system has to be hacked into seperately. Once you’ve hacked into a sub-system, you have access to its contents.
There is ICE. There’s always ICE…
So what I do is, I look at what ICE I rolled… for instance, this:
…and then I compare the numbers I rolled on the dice with the the numbers I rolled on my ICE table.
That way, I get an assortment of ICE that might be present in the sub-system:
In my Shadowrun, White ICE checks your identity and alerts other ICE or sysads, Gray ICE attacks your cyberdecks and utilities, and tries to crash or destroy stuff, and Black ICE attacks your mind and body directly, trying to kill you or fry your brain.
The NAME of the ICE is all I have. Its function isn’t predetermined. I prefer it that way because it leaves room for creativity.
So, taking a look at the ICE present in the sub-systems, I (hopefully) come up with some ideas of how they work:
The Medium-strength gray Flip Flop in the top circle: It’s medium strength, so I roll 2d6 vs. your 2d6. It quits and reboots ALL of your running software repeatedly, trying to overload your deck. I’ll also roll a d6, and a 1 indicates that the Flip Flop destroys a piece of software or hardware.
The Very Strong gray Probe in the circle on the left: It’s very strong because I rolled two sixes. I’ll roll 2d6+3 against your 2d6. This Probe does indeed, remove tiny pieces of code (a few zeroes here, a few ones there) from your active software, thus crashing it.
The Medium-strength Solar Flare ICE in the circle on the right: I’ll roll 2d6 vs. your 2d6. This Solar Flare tries to blind your deck and software by reducing the system’s signature very rapidly. Don’t ask me what that means technically. I just imagine all the visuals getting brighter and brighter, in a fraction of a second. It might even fry a chip or two on your deck: 1 on a d6.
The Mil-grade Sparker ICE in the same circle: Uh-oh, military grade. If you don’t roll a 12 on your 2d6, it’s got you. Sparker overheats your deck by sending massive amounts of requests. It’ll fry a component or two of your deck if I roll a 1 or 2.