Way of the Exploding Sword – action-gaming with the Index Card RPG

Art © Jörg Drühl


Here we go!

I’m presenting the latest incarnation of my tag-heavy, freeform ICRPG.

Character Creation
  • no stats
  • write down 6 tags – they can be as short or long as you want, single words or whole sentences
  • mechanically, each tag counts as +1 to your roll
  • weapons and armor are tags

Example:
E. Honda,
Class: Sumotori
Bioform: Human
extremely heavy, strong as an ox, one of the best sumotori in the world, tough as nails, Buddha Thousand-Palm-Slap, deals massive damage

Combat
  • Method A:
    In a fight, add all relevant tags to your d20 roll. If there are any disadvantageous tags, subtract 1 from your roll for each. The gamemaster/referee does the same for monsters and npcs.
    Higher roll does damage.
    If one side has severely more powerful tags, add +1d4 to that side’s roll.
  • Method B:
    Count the number of relevant tags.
    If 0–2, roll 1d4
    if 3–4, roll 1d6
    if 5–6, roll 1d8
    if 7–8, roll 1d10
    if 9–10, roll 1d12
    if 11+, roll 1d20

You roll vs GM/referee’s roll.Higher roll does damage.

If one side has severely more powerful tags, add +1d4 to your roll.

optional:
Principle of Narrative Truth
  • Everything the players describe happens exactly how they describe it, when they describe it.
  • Narration must not describe the defeat of a character if they still have hit points/heartbeats left.
  • Higher rolls in combat now grant the right to narrate, and the side with the lower roll also takes damage.
  • This way, when winning a roll, a player could also describe how their character gets hit and/or injured, only to have a sensational comeback (when, mechanically, the opponent has been reduced to zero hearts).

One fighting against many
Your total result (roll+tags) counts against every single opponent – or you treat the horde as one single opponent

Checks and Attempts
roll d20+relevant tags vs. target number

Hearts
either roll damage+relevant tags and subtract total from hp
or
1 heart = 3 heartbeats
1 hit = -1 heartbeat
1 crit = -1d4 heartbeats

Spells/Loot
have tags, GM/referee determines
when using loot or casting spells, GM/ref rolls 1d20; 18+: loot/spell has extremely beneficial effects, maybe even functionality it usually doesn’t have

Superheroes
Every tag is a +3 instead of a +1 to your roll.



Example combat, just the mechanics, no narration

_E. Honda, _
Class: Sumotori
Bioform: Human
extremely heavy, strong as an ox, one of the best sumotori in the world, tough as nails, Buddha Thousand-Palm-Slap, deals massive damage
:heart:

Horde of goblins
there’s a lot of them, swords
:heart:

Honda amazingly has 6 tags that are relevant for a fight. Note that if Honda or the goblins wore armor, it would also simply count as one tag. Honda adds 6 to his d20.
The goblins have 2 relevant tags for fighting. The goblins add 2 to their d20.

Round 1
Honda: rolls 9, +6 = 15
Goblins: roll 14, +2 = 16
=> Goblins hit, Honda loses 1 heartbeat and has 2 left.

Round 2
Honda: rolls 12, +6 = 18
Goblins: roll 10, +2 = 12
=> Honda hits, Goblins lose 1 heartbeat and have 2 left.

Round 3
Honda rolls a 20 (crit!), +6 = 26
Goblins roll 10, +2 =12 and cry
=> Honda rolls 1d4 to determine how many heartbeats the goblins lose, and rolls… a 1; the goblins are down to 1 heartbeat

Round 4
Honda rolls 16, +6 = 22
Goblins roll 13, +2 = 15
=> Goblins lose their last heartbeat; their fate now is in Honda’s hands. Will he slaughter them? Spare them? Befriend them? Enslave them?

Freeform Index Card RPG = TAG HEAVEN!


(c) Nick Hiatt

A couple of days ago, I posted about my mediocre experiment of combining an old school dungeon crawl with ICRPG AND playing this with old friends who are deeply into freeform. It was, how can I say, a disaster waiting to happen. 

Still, I think ICRPG is a beautiful game that I can tweak and bend and torture till it does what I want (tee-hee-heeeeeee).

My goal: turn ICRPG into a game that only requires the barest minimum of system knowledge and look-up during game sessions – it has to flow freely, and numbers and knowledge must disappear as much as possible.

My solution: as a few people here on the forum suggested, I’ll use tags. And by ‘using tags’, I mean I’ll use them like there’s no tomorrow. With the exception of stat bases and hearts, everything and their dog will be tagged. Like crazy. I’ll determine what tags a piece of Loot has when the moment has come. It’ll be a spur-of-the-moment, impromptu decision, just like back in the old days when Dave Arneson and the Twin City gamers invented roleplaying. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll get more specific when time passes. We’ll see.

(insert thinking man pose here)

So, for instance:
  • Let’s take the Amulet of the Fortress: spur of the moment, I’d tag it like so – ARMOR, IMMOBILE
  • or the Amulet of Secrets: HIDDEN KNOWLEDGE, INT, WHISPERS ADVICE
  • an easy one, the Book of Traps: BUILD TRAPS, DETECT TRAPS

After tagging, the fun part begins.

The players write down the tags, and so do I. The tags are all they have and know. No numbers, no mechanics.

When a situation arises where a piece of Loot or a Spell might fit, I roll a d20. The higher the result (I’m thinking 18+), the more effective that Loot or Spell works. How do they work? I’ll make a ruling. Maybe the Amulet of the Fortress grants you more armor, but a really good d20 roll might also turn you into a rolling fortress, with two cannons blazing from your shoulders. Or the Book of Traps might turn into an actual trap you can use once before becoming a book again.
This way, the “Wonder” part of Hank’s “Danger – Energy – Wonder” advice will be active a lot more often. And magic and magic items will once more be unpredictable and… well, wondrous.

I really, really like that.