Shadowrun is no dungeon crawl: revisited

Last week, I modified an existing pbtA “move” for my Shadowrun.

Today, I’m changing it to fit into a truly FKR style game.

The “move” is this:

When you attempt to navigate the labyrinthine twists of the corporate building, describe how you do it, and then roll 2d6. Add nothing if you have no intel. Add +1 if you have okay intel. Add +2 if you have good intel. Add +3 if you have top-notch intel. Add –3 if you have fake or incorrect intel.

*On a 12+, hold 2. *On a 10+, hold 1. *On a 7-9, hold 1, but you encounter a guard/drone and/or find yourself in a bad place. *On a 6-, the security system is one step closer to detecting your presence and location! This is in addition to any hard move the GM has in mind.

Spend 1 hold to find something valuable or useful. (Spend 2 for both.) Spend 2 hold to get a clue as to the whereabouts of your target. Spend 5 hold to get a clue as to how you might elegantly retrieve what you’re looking for.

Spend 5 hold to find a safe exit or locate the CEO HQ.

One person rolls each time you navigate. The group’s hold from multiple rolls is pooled together.

Let’s FKRify it:

When you attempt to navigate the labyrinthine twists of the corporate building, describe how you do it, and roll 2d6 vs. my 2d6. Add +1 if you have okay intel. Add +2 if you have good intel. Add +3 if you have top-notch intel. Add –3 if you have fake or incorrect intel.

Roll each time you navigate.
Before you start, I write down how many “wins” you need to get what you want.

If you roll higher, you win, and something advantageous happens: you might find something useful, or you might find clues as to where in the building your target is at the moment. To gain a really BIG advantage, you have win several times during your run.

If you roll lower, you lose, and I’ll send my guards, drones, and autodefenses: the works.

Move: After the run

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.

Shadowrun is no dungeon crawl

Yesterday, we played the fourth or fifth session of our cassettepunk Shadowrun campaign.

It was huge fun, the characters had one interesting fight against two corp goons (during which the troll ex-bounty hunter finally could show what he was made of… impaling a physad elf on his horn, is all I’m saying), and they finally gathered all information they needed to start the run.

I treated legwork very handwavey. If they narrated cool stuff and/or rolled well, I gave them a piece of information. This worked beautifully.

But then it hit me.

I could handle this way simpler.

And I remembered Ray Otus’s variant of the so-called “dungeon move” for Dungeon World. The premise is as simple as promising: How can we skip tedious dungeon crawls and cut right to where the meat is? I know, this sentence disqualifies me in the eyes of many OSR fans, but if I’ve always, ALWAYS, hated one thing about old school fantasy – it is the godforsaken dungeon crawling. It doesn’t hold any fascination for me. Okay, back to Ray.

For the Plundergrounds zine, Ray’s fantastic OSR zine, he wrote this dungeon move:

When you attempt to navigate the labyrinthine twists of the dragon hoard, describe how you do it, and then roll+INT. *On a 12+, hold 2. *On a 10+, hold 1. *On a 7-9, hold 1, but you encounter a hoard denizen and/or find yourself in a bad place. *On a 6-, the dragon is one step closer to detecting your presence and location! This is in addition to any hard move the GM has in mind.

Spend 1 hold to find something valuable or useful. (Spend 2 for both.) Spend 2 hold to get a clue as to the dragon’s whereabouts. Spend 4 hold to get a clue as to how you might possibly harm the dragon.

Spend 5 hold to find an exit, locate the dragon, or find her nest.

One person rolls each time you navigate. The group’s hold from multiple rolls is pooled together.

So, let’s adapt this baby for Shadowrun:

When you attempt to navigate the labyrinthine twists of the corporate building, describe how you do it, and then roll 2d6. Add nothing if you have no intel. Add +1 if you have okay intel. Add +2 if you have good intel. Add +3 if you have top-notch intel. Add –3 if you have fake or incorrect intel.

*On a 12+, hold 2. *On a 10+, hold 1. *On a 7-9, hold 1, but you encounter a guard/drone and/or find yourself in a bad place. *On a 6-, the security system is one step closer to detecting your presence and location! This is in addition to any hard move the GM has in mind.

Spend 1 hold to find something valuable or useful. (Spend 2 for both.) Spend 2 hold to get a clue as to the whereabouts of your target. Spend 5 hold to get a clue as to how you might elegantly retrieve what you’re looking for.

Spend 5 hold to find a safe exit or locate the CEO HQ.

One person rolls each time you navigate. The group’s hold from multiple rolls is pooled together.

 

Campfire stories

The more 
– I’m tinkering with OSR systems 
– I’m adapting different systems to Arnesonian gaming 
– I’m thinking about what module or sandbox to run next,

… the more I’m picking up and reading (or re-reading, or re-re-reading even) storygames. pbta. Over the Edge 3rd edition. Itras By. Everway.

Hm.

I know it’s *entirely* possible to run, say, Warhammer or Shadowrun or D&D with them. Because I ran a five-year Shadowrun 1e campaign diceless (meaning randomless) or using the Everway fortune cards.

And then.

And then I’m asking myself, ‘why do you bother with hit points, modifiers, all that mechanical sh…tuff? Why don’ tcha go full frontal freeform again?’

You know, it’s my 36th year of refereeing rpgs. And the majority of those years, we played freeform, diceless, or later, with Everway cards. And now, with ample time on my hands, I’m starting to wonder what happened. What happened?

Time to return to where I came from. It’s time.

Moves or Skills? On the freedom of wordspace

Let’s say there is a genre of roleplaying games that characterize player characters by a special set of ‘moves’ (special abilities that are triggered when something occurs in the narration). And let’s also say there’s another family of games out there that have their origin in one game that more or less defined British OSR.

The first genre of games is commonly known as ‘powered by the Apocalypse‘ (pbtA, because the game that started it all is Apocalypse World). The second kind of games is known as ‘using Troika!’ (with the exclamation point) or similar phrases (because Troika! is the game that started it all).

Both games are very much different from each other. One aspect I’d like to focus on today is that of ‘moves’ or ‘player character abilities’. Both pbtA and Troika! have them. But there’s a huge difference in execution.

A typical pbtA move:

Bend Bars, Lift Gates 
When you use pure strength to destroy an inanimate obstacle, roll+Str. ✴ On a 10+, choose 3. ✴ On a 7-9 choose 2. 
– It doesn’t take a very long time 
– Nothing of value is damaged 
– It doesn’t make an inordinate amount of noise 
– You can fix the thing again without a lot of effort

In pbtA, you roll 2d6 and add your Strength bonus. Then, your result determines how many options you can pick from the list.

A typical Troika! Advanced Skill:

1 Strength

In Troika!, you roll 2d6 and compare that number to your (Skill+Advanced Skill). If you’re on or under, you’re successful. There is no list to pick options from.

Basically, both abilities/moves/skills do the same: they tell you if your character’s effort is successful. But while the pbtA ‘move’ makes you choose from a list (thus, keeping your narration in-genre because every character with this move gets the same list), there’s complete freedom of narration in Troika!.

So what would happen if we transported the pbtA move to Troika!?

Let’s see:
The Troika! version would look like this:

1 Bend Bars, Lift Gates

No list to choose from. Just the pure skill.
To contrast that: in a pbtA game, if the character with the Bend Bars, Lift Gates skill/move rolls a 10, the player could narrate: “I try to rip the heavy wooden door off its hinges. I pull hard, and within seconds, it comes loose. It all happens really quietly, and I can even fix the door later.”

In Troika!, a successful roll for Bend Bars, Lift Gates, could look like this:
Player: “I step back a couple feet, and then I throw myself against that door. A crack appears, and I rattle that thing like crazy.
Referee: “You’re not trying to be quiet, aren’t you?”
Player: “Pah, I don’t care! Ooooooooooopen! You sonofadoor, oooooopen! And now I’m really pulling hard!”
Referee: “Seconds later, you have ripped the door out of its frame. And you know what? You rolled so well, nobody in the castle has even heard you.”

The Troika! version offers considerably more freedom for the player. And for the referee, as well. This freedom also means more potential for conflict, or unforeseen consequences.

So now the sixty-four thousand dollar question is: What’s better?

And the only correct answer is: whatever floats your boat. But that is so cliché, it hurts a little to even write it.

Into the pbtA

Two days ago, I created a Dungeon World character randomly, using nothing but Johnstone’s Class Warfare, random.org and 3d6.

This was the result:

GUNTHER, Warrior
STR (18) +2
DEX (12) 0
CON (9)0
INT (12) 0
WIS (9) 0
CHA (13) +1
hp: 10
Load: 12
Recruiting for the causeWhen you recruit, also pick options equal to your CHA. On a 10+, all of them are true. On a 7–9, only one of them is true, GM’s choice. On a miss, none of them are true:

  • You gain the support of the locals, and my carouse in town before leaving.
  • You recruit a small squad of hirelings who do not have skills.
  • You recruit an additional, skilled hireling.
  • You requisition a piece of equipment from the locals.

Loyal CrewYou run a gang. They could be soldiers, pirates, thieves or mercenaries, but they’re yours and you are their captain and commander. By default, your crew is a medium-sized group (12-15 people), cautious, intelligent, and organized. In the normal course of operations, they obey your orders. Your crew are elite troops, a small-sized group (5-10 people). Roll +WIS to command them. They run a caravan. They’re poor, with shoddy equipment and no money.
The Weight of CommandWhen you issue a command to your crew during a charged situation, roll +WIS. On 1 10+, your crew obey you. On a 7–9, you have a problem to deal with first. Either they demand rewards, fight back, or try to back down until you make an example of one of them or convince them some other way. On a miss, eitehr one of them makes a concerted effort to supplant you as leader or they fall prey to their poverty.
Charge!When you lead the charge into combat, those you lead take +1 forward.

Now, a couple of days ago, Voidlight came up with this idea:

Today, I’ll do some Into the pbtA magic:
– Use a pbtA and plug it into ItO

Like so:

GUNTHER, WarriorSTR18 DEX12 CHA 13, hp10 
Moves (roll w/Advantage): 
Recruiting for the cause (CHA),  I have a Loyal Crew (CHA), Command my Crew (CHA), Lead charge into Combat (crew rolls w/Advantage for the first d6 rounds)

 



A randomly created character… for Dungeon World

What we need: Class Warfare (the book). And random.org.

Step 1: Roll Archetype.
In Class Warfare, there are adventurer, disciple, magician, rogue, and warrior. Random.org picks one for me:

I’m playing a Warrior archetype.

Step 2: Go to the Warrior archetpye section in the book, page 401. Right now, my Base Damage is d10, Load is 10+STR, maximum HP is 10+CON.

For Starting Moves:
1) Pick three warrior specialties (sub-classes) and all their starting moves, OR
2) choose only two warrior specialties, get their starting moves, and 1 level-2-to-5 move from either of them, but no other bonuses.

I let random.org decide:

So option 2 it is.

There are 21 Warrior specialties in Class Warfare.
This is what random.org picks for me:

A War Leader and a Captain.

My War Leader starting move is:

Recruiting for the cause
Wehn you recruit, also pick options equal to your CHA. On a 10+, all of them are true. On a 7–9, only one of them is true, GM’s choice. On a miss, none of them are true:

  • You gain the support of the locals, and my carouse in town before leaving.
  • You recruit a small squad of hirelings who do not have skills.
  • You recruit an additional, skilled hireling.
  • You requisition a piece of equipment from the locals.
My Captain starting moves are:
Loyal Crew
You run a gang. They could be soldiers, pirates, thieves or mercenaries, but they’re yours and you are their captain and commander. By default, your crew is a medium-sized group (12-15 people), cautious, intelligent, and organized. In the normal course of operations, they obey your orders. (random.org) Your crew are elite troops, a small-sized group (5-10 people). Roll +WIS to command them. They run a caravan. They’re poor, with shoddy equipment and no money.
The Weight of Command
When you issua commands to your crew during a charged situation, roll +WIS. On 1 10+, your crew obey you. On a 7–9, you have a problem to deal with first. Either they demand rewards, fight back, or try to back down until you make an example of one of them or convince them some other way. On a miss, eitehr one of them makes a concerted effort to supplant you as leader or they fall prey to their poverty.
I pick my Advanced Move from
the War Leader specialty:
Charge!
When you lead the charge into combat, those you lead take +1 forward.
Oh yeah, the stats:
I roll them with 3d6 and assign them the way I like:
STR (18) +2
DEX (12) 0
CON (9)0
INT (12) 0
WIS (9) 0
CHA (9) 0
So, my final character looks like this:
_____________________________________________________
GUNTHER, Warrior
STR (18) +2

DEX (12) 0
CON (9)0
INT (12) 0
WIS (9) 0
CHA (13) +1
hp: 10
Load: 12
Recruiting for the cause
When you recruit, also pick options equal to your CHA. On a 10+, all of them are true. On a 7–9, only one of them is true, GM’s choice. On a miss, none of them are true:

  • You gain the support of the locals, and my carouse in town before leaving.
  • You recruit a small squad of hirelings who do not have skills.
  • You recruit an additional, skilled hireling.
  • You requisition a piece of equipment from the locals.
Loyal Crew
You run a gang. They could be soldiers, pirates, thieves or mercenaries, but they’re yours and you are their captain and commander. By default, your crew is a medium-sized group (12-15 people), cautious, intelligent, and organized. In the normal course of operations, they obey your orders. Your crew are elite troops, a small-sized group (5-10 people). Roll +WIS to command them. They run a caravan. They’re poor, with shoddy equipment and no money.
The Weight of Command
When you issue a command to your crew during a charged situation, roll +WIS. On 1 10+, your crew obey you. On a 7–9, you have a problem to deal with first. Either they demand rewards, fight back, or try to back down until you make an example of one of them or convince them some other way. On a miss, eitehr one of them makes a concerted effort to supplant you as leader or they fall prey to their poverty.
Charge!
When you lead the charge into combat, those you lead take +1 forward.

So I’ve fallen in love again

…and this here is what my heart is beating for, right now.
Veil 2020 is Fraser Simons’s simplified variant of his own pbtA game, The Veil. It blends the simplicity of Whitehack classes with an innovative mood mechanic that helps players to roleplay their characters. Plus, variable damage – in a pbtA game! Very cool, I like all of it.

And you know what? That’s not the first pbtA game I really like – not by a long shot. Even though I call myself an old/ancient school roleplayer, it probably is more correct if I said a just like roleplaying a lot. I like reading rpgs, I like writing rpgs, I like refereeing rpgs, I like playing rpgs.

BUT. Almost every pbtA game I’ve ever read or played is packed with good ideas. Almost every game is a goldmine of inspirations and hints and possibilities. Of course, we also have true gems in the OSR, no doubt about that. I just think it’s worth taking a look at those games, as well.

That said, last December I wrote my adaption of Apocalypse World for our Landshut rules. That’s the beauty of pbtA games: You can hack them extremely easily to make them fit more traditional play styles. I know some hardcore purists don’t like that, but I couldn’t care less.

Really all you have to do is to simplify the “moves” of pbtA classes playbooks, slap your preferred dice mechanic on top, and you’re good to go.

Let’s create a Veil 2020 character, then.

Every V2020 character has six linked emotional states:
mad – peaceful
sad – joyful
scared – powerful.

Distribute -1, 0,0,+1,+1,+2 between these states. The higher a number, the more likely is success when the character acts.

I’d like to play a Zen-minded netrunner, so I go for this spread:

0 mad  +1 peaceful
-1 sad  0 joyful
0 scared +2 powerful

So, I have a peaceful, slightly sad, but enormously skilled netrunner. Every mood has a direct impact on my actions, so, when using the original rules, I roll 2d6+mood and hope to score at least 10 (for a clear, clean success; 7 to 9 is a mixed success, 6 is a fail).

Now, the class:
I’m playing a Pusher (netrunner). I have neural interface plugs all over my body, a cyberdeck, and I use my mind to navigate the endless sea of data. I can take 4 harm (that means, a good hit with a medium autopistol or sword will kill or at least K.O. me). I get to choose a specialty, and that is, I can manipulate people’s cybereyes to make them see illusions.

I buy a light autopistol and keep the remaining 200 eurobucks in my pocket.

So this is my V2020 character:

Acid Shogun, a pusher
0 mad  +1 peaceful
-1 sad  0 joyful
0 scared +2 powerful
netrunner (specialty: cybereye manipulation/”illusions”)
4 Harm
light autopistol (damage 2d4, take lower)

and translated into Landshut rules:

_____________________________________________________
Acid Shogun, a pusher
peaceful, slightly sad, but enormously skilled netrunner (specialty: cybereye manipulation/”illusions”)
4 Hits
light autopistol
_____________________________________________________

It really doesn’t get any easier than that!

Behold the Master of Contradiction

Well well well well… yesterday, on MeWe, I asked why we’re inventing new rules all the time instead of using the myriad of the ones already in existence. Today, I’m thinking aloud about a way to play without hit point and without damage roll. . . . . (dramatic pause) . . . . No hit points? No damage roll? Why? For several reasons: I, as referee, am much too lazy to keep track of hp. I tried using d20s as hp tracker, but even that is way too much work for me. The fewer numbers all players (including me) have to track at the table, the quicker the game moves. Different options a) I could ref like some of the old grognards: they simply don’t count hp. Instead, they guesstimate and handwave. This is a possibility, and I did that for many, many years in my games. The problem is: it started to feel very arbitrary, kind of like the Great Norbert Show. Nope. b) The most obvious path is to use “hits” instead of hit points. Things like “three strikes and you’re out”. Some old games do this. Apocalypse World does it. This works, but sometimes, it feels a bit… stale. c) The option I favor at the moment is to replace hits with “tags”. A prefect example for that is the pbtA game Legend of the Elements. Its combat move is as follows:

Commit Open Violence (+Hot)When you strike out violently with intent to kill or incapacitate, roll +Hot. On a 10 or greater, your attack is successful; Tag the target appropriately. On a 7, 8, or 9, choose one:~ You don’t Tag them.~ You’re left in a disadvantageous position. ~ You’re left open to their counterattack.

And how does the book define tags?

Tags are small descriptive words or phrases that are applied to characters, and Environment Tags are phrases describing the state of a location (…) In one sense, Tags do nothing on their own (…)All the mechanics in the game flow from the fiction, and Tags are fictionally binding. If a soldier has the Trapped In Ice Tag, just because the numbers haven’t changed doesn’t mean the MC can just describe them breaking free and running. They’re trapped, after all! The MC would need an opportunity to use one of the MC Moves to have that soldier break free.Similarly, with some moves it would make sense to apply lethal Tags. For example, if the Warrior swung his battle-axe and rolled a 10 on their Commit Open Violence roll, it makes perfect sense that they could apply the Mortally Wounded Tag or even the Dead Tag. That’s how MC characters are taken out of the action, not by any loss of a mechanical resource but when they fictionally aren’t participating any more.

If you analyze that move, you’ll find that what it does, basically, is:
it describes the result of an action that might hurt a character. The consequences (for npcs) are free-flowing, a successful ax attack to the face might (or should) result in the death of the character.

On the other hand, player characters are treated better. They can get hit three times; first mildly, then moderately, and finally, severely. They can mitigate the effects by spending Fortune points. I really like that mechanic, and I’ll definitely try it with my players.