Category: Fickle RPG

Fickle RPG online dice roller

During my last remote session of Fickle RPG I realized maybe half my friends who played don’t actually have enough D6s on hand, and had to resort to online dice rollers. Most of which aren’t designed in the least for the style of dice rolling that you do in the game. So I figured I’d make a simple Fickle RPG dice roller that everyone can use next time!

Fickle RPG Dice Roller: http://fickle.homelinux.com/

I think I’ll use that as the main link. But it’s a redirect that some places (like Facebook messenger) have problems with. So I’ll likely pass around the alternate link of https://horizoncarlo.github.io/ficklerpg/dice.html

The roller is made with plain HTML and Javascript and is totally enclosed in a single file. You can use it offline by just opening the HTML file in a web browser. Which is super handy as it’s braindead simple to setup, no install needed or whatever, and in case my hosting plan ever goes away or is down. You can download a ZIP of the dice roller.

Anyway suggestions are more than welcome! I primarily meant the process to be done with hotkeys, so you just press the number of dice you want, how many go to Fickle, and answer Y/N to Luck Dice going to Fickle or Flat, then it rolls and you get your total success right away. People might use the dropdowns and buttons though still.

Setting: Spaceship crash in Fickle RPG

With Covid-19 keeping all the fun RPGing remote, I ran a pair of sessions recently for Fickle RPG. We used Discord for audio/video and people scrounged whatever sheets they had lying around or could print, as well as a mish mash of D6s (I never realized how few of my friends had dice collections haha). The game is really meant to be played in person, as allocating the dice loses a lot of the bluff/guessing element when there’s an audio delay and people can’t be face to face. We also didn’t use the Underdog Bonus as it was easier remotely for people to just allocate/roll/total successes and tell me what they got.

The same theme was used both nights (was back to back Fri and Sat, super fun but mentally tiring). The first night had 4 players but unfortunately one had connection/internet problems so they bailed halfway through. The second night had 5-7 people that fluctuated as some people had to leave a bit earlier than others, or arrived late. I was somewhat rusty for the first night, and took what I learned and tried to correct the mistakes I made for the second night. Fun all around and I’m glad to play again.

Anyway here is the Spaceship Crash setting document.

Basically in the year 2285 Earth is a mess, as are a few settled/colonized planets in our solar system. The United Patrol and Colonization (UPAC) corp who manages it all wants to send out giant Worldships to look for new planets to exploit colonize. This plan fails and the ships lose communication just past Pluto. Which of course fires up a protest group of neo-Luddites led by Jeremiah Penwrick. UPAC tries a last ditch effort of just sending out any ship they can. The players are on one such ship, the UPAC Lentana, and the session starts with them rudely being awoken from cryosleep to the ship tearing itself apart in atmosphere. A sabotaged gyroscope is the culprit!

A few “a-ha” moments were that one player was a Penwrick traitor who was trying to sabotage the mission. The other is because the crew were in cryosleep for 93 years, UPAC actually advanced their technology well enough to get FTL travel, and had arrived on the same planet earlier.

Here’s a recap I sent to the gaming crew, and I’ll paste again here to get an idea of how it played:

Second Night: 15 person converted mail carrier. 1 meal of food after crashing. Radar was split into two. One other survivor who was wounded but was saved (was a female doctor). Found the advanced fuel rod buried under a rock. Found an intact cryosleep chamber of Almon Garcia, looked like he was in a coma, so they opened it up then jacked him full of post-cryo stims, which overloaded his body and killed him. Scavenged various food (superheated snakes, space potatoes, etc.). Storm was incoming, and on the way to the second radar piece it hit. Over the next day the water flooded and rose to 150 feet. They used the inflatable habitat as a floating thing with a crude paddle to try to get back to the ship. Dove to their ship, recovered Picard and the other radar, which ACCIDENTALLY had the safety rope cut from basically right at the raft. Player had an encounter with a merfolk/mermaid type creature with purple stones in it’s head that shut down nearby electronics. Eventually made another dive for the radar and got it. Climbed a mountain, with the help of a zero-G zone, and setup the radar at the top. It found a UPAC vehicle near a settlement. Went to the settlement, which was primitive, and the people there kept chanting “they’re back”. Finally the party asked how long they were in cryosleep (same 93 years), then it dawned on them that UPAC discovered FTL and made it to the planet 10 years ago. That crew fought and killed each other. The super advanced ship was still there and accessible. Everyone got on, and just as they were going to put the expended fuel rod in the traitor player smashed it. The traitor had saved another player’s life, so they sided together him. Then THAT player had saved another player’s life, so he sided with the traitors too. This left two loyal UPAC players who had a shootout/scuffle to the death with the other three. At one point the traitor’s buddy pointed the ship at a mountain to suicide. Turns out in the heat of the battle we literally ALL forgot about that, until 2 or 3 turns later when they asked what happened with the flying, so everyone smashed into a mountain and died.

First Night: Bigger ship (25 people), less food concerns, had a “Mule” (open topped ATV type vehicle) since one of the players had chosen to be a pilot so needed something to do on planet. The 7 foot long radar also was intact. Found the advanced fuel rod buried in a field of snow. A few of the less Intellect-y folks failed a roll and saw a glowing white light, when touched they had a vision of a massive flood. Oh and the fuel rod when hooked to the Mule sent it into FTL across the planet. Found a swamp, blew up the explosive gas there, found lumps of “membrane” wrapped creatures. Tried to seal up part of the spaceship as a life raft in case the incoming storm was the apocalyptic flood from the vision. Had a run in with some local savages. Once the radar was setup it kept randomly breaking, WEIRD. Eventually jury rigged the Mule with the advanced fuel rod onto the spaceship/liferaft, and went to blast into space. Turns out the obviously sabotaged radar was done by a player, who was the pilot, who flew the ship straight up, then lol straight back into the planet

Fickle RPG v1.0 is finally here!

Hooray, what an exciting day, my favorite light, narrative, universal setting system is here. As a designer I asked myself back in 2015: “what if there was a tabletop game where combat resolution was as involved, interesting, and full of meaningful and unique decisions as the movement phase”, and after a lot of thought and brainstorming and playtesting Fickle RPG is the result. Throw in the key component of EVERYTHING (not just guns and physical attacks) being a first class citizen and treated equally and as valid a way to end an encounter. The core dice resolution mechanic which has bluffing, bidding, and meaningful decisions baked in as part of the process. The dice resolution was slowly refined and tweaked and I’m extremely happy with the result. The game has been played with a lot of people in a lot of genres that are vastly different (from cliche zombies to Judge Dredd to modern military to Star Wars) and has been great each time.

Without further ado enjoy the freshly pressed Fickle RPG v1.0 rulebook.

I 100% admit dragging my feet on one of he few last outstanding items, which was to take a component picture to replace the placeholder photo in the rulebook. Like painfully long (since I mentioned moving to v1.0 over a year ago), but hey, nobody’s perfect.

What’s Next for Fickle
Probably a few setting documents here and there as I play it more with friends. I think a Cyberpunk 2077 theme would be fun to try, plus playing evil monsters in a high fantasy setting, or superheroes, or even b-movie stuff like Tremors. I don’t intend to endlessly tweak the rules like I did with Dinosaur Cowboys as I think the game is in a great place, so yeah, unless I find some glaring typos or huge gaps in the instructions I’ll consider the game finished.

I also want to add Fickle RPG to RPG Geek as I have Dinosaur Cowboys listed on there and it feels pretty official and fun. I also tend to get a lot of traffic from Darkshire so that’d be another place to add. And I’d really be impressed with myself to eventually have Fickle RPG on DriveThruRPG (still for free of course).

New font on Fickle RPG Star Wars sheet

Remember the old Star Wars sheet and how I mentioned wanting to use a proper futuristic sci-fi font? Well I found a good match. Of course the iconic Star Wars font worked for the bigger sections, but there isn’t really a smaller or standard font in that setting. I ended up using JLS Data Gothic. I also moved a few images around and tweaked some spacing (mainly total Stamina is now centered). All in all that little bit of extra effort has really made the sheet pop:

Download the Star Wars sheet

Considering complexity with re-rolls


I was thinking about how re-rolls could be integrated into Fickle RPG recently. Mostly as a fun thought/design exercise, since I think there are enough decision points in the resolution process already. I could see three approaches:

1. Replace Underdog Bonus: Right now if you allocate less Fickle dice than your opponent you get the “Underdog Bonus” and your dice can “Explode”, which means on a roll of 6 you roll another free D6. These can chain. This gives drastically outskilled (like 7 dice against 3) characters a chance, and also gives another choice when allocating similar sized dice pools (since it’s an advantage you could try to allocate for).

Now arguably this isn’t insanely impactful. There certainly have been cases of Exploding dice with Underdog “going off” and turning a lost resolution into a win.

Replacing with re-rolls would be quite simple: If you allocate less Fickle dice and get the Underdog Bonus, you can choose to re-roll your Fickle dice. The question would be is it a FULL re-roll (all dice must be re-rolled, even existing successes) or a chosen re-roll where you don’t have to re-roll your dice. The former is less powerful, the latter is much more powerful and almost doubles your dice when it comes to odds. The downside is does this make Underdog too tempting? The choice changes a bit too if you allocate just a single dice, as then it doesn’t matter if you’re full or choice re-rolling.

1a. Optionally Replace Underdog Bonus: This might be a non-choice because one is obviously superior, but maybe whoever has the Underdog bonus could choose (before rolling) whether they want Exploding or Re-Rolls.

2. New Mechanic if “Doubled”: The second option is to have a new decision during allocation: If your opponents dice pool is double/twice yours, you can re-roll (again would have to decide on full vs choice re-rolls). This would come into play if say you had 4 dice and the opponent had 8+. Problems? Tons of them…this is the least likely way I’d implement re-rolls. For one thing it’d be pretty rare. There would be awkward timing I could imagine where the player declares they’re going to do something that would give them 5 dice, then the opponent describes their reaction with 6 dice, then the player wants to switch their choice to instead use their 3 dice attribute to get the “Doubled” re-roll, and then maybe the opponent wants to adjust to counter that, and so on. Realistically we always have the acting person declare first before the reactor, but yeah, could still be an issue. The other problem is somewhat present already in the game, and that is the player might choose their action purely for the best odds they have, and less so for the story or what their character would actually do. For example they might normally shoot with their Intelligence, but hey if they shoot with Strength this time they get the Doubled bonus. All in all a flawed concept on how re-rolls could be added.

3. Pool of Re-Roll Tokens: The image at the start of this post might have given it away, but I’d be really tempted to use an approach of the players (as a group) and the Storyteller each getting a resource pool of spendable re-roll tokens. Sort of like team re-rolls in Blood Bowl. This almost goes back to the old Karma dice idea on how to set it up, in the sense of would the pool be sized from 1 re-roll token per player, or a set number, or what. Could that pool grow? Would it be sized well enough that re-rolls would be used regularly to be useful and interesting, or would they be too stingy and never be used? Would a re-roll pool lower the impact and weight of the Exploit Coin? Would players end up burning their re-rolls guaranteed for the last resolution or two of the night just because they know the pool resets next session? Would it add too much tedium of checking if the player is going to re-roll, then the Storyteller declaring if they are? Would I end up naming the pool “Fate” and then having to put a little note on the bottom of the character sheet as to what Fickle, Flat, and Fate are? Or name it Fortune and rename the already renamed Exploit Coin back to Fate?

If I went this route I envision tokens like these or these from Litko:

Conclusion
Anyway the idea of re-rolls is interesting. When used it would lengthen resolution as you’re doing an extra set of rolls. There are flaws and downsides to all of the ideas and implementations above. After getting the choices down on paper I actually think I’d lean towards replacing the Underdog Bonus, as it’d be more reliable than Exploding dice. I’m going to try it for my next game, just to see, but basically it’s an interesting exercise for my brain, but sometimes a cool mechanic doesn’t necessarily fit into a game well.

“Dark City” as a surprise setting for Fickle RPG

In case you haven’t seen Dark City (1998) you really should go watch it. You also shouldn’t read anymore of this post first because it will have spoilers.

So first of all Dark City is a bit like The Matrix. Except instead of the main character knowing about the concept of the Matrix, and then discovering it the details throughout the movie, the protagonist in Dark City wakes up in a bath tub, confused and alone, and we as viewers slowly unravel the mystery of his world. The plot seems to be mostly about solving a murder, but really he uncovers the horrible truth that he’s trapped aboard a giant lab where alien creatures test on humans in an ever changing city. There are cool hints to watch for on subsequent viewings, great atmosphere and art, and overall a really mind bending idea.

I’d like to a similar concept with Fickle RPG. I’d frame the one-off/mini-campaign to the players as a standard detective story. I’d say maybe 1920s era to them, and that they’d be trying to solve a mystery. But as they dig through the plot elements and story they start to uncover things that can’t be true. Like who are these strange looking men shuffling around at night? What is this empty injection they find near a sleeping vagabond? Why can’t they leave the city? And slowly the plot would continue and they’d end up at the big reveal.

I think this is a fun idea because it throws a lot of player assumptions out the window. Like “I know the rules of this universe”, and “a city in 1920 can’t suddenly change”. And it’d be a bit of a test of my GMing skills to keep a straight face as they start to realize not everything is as it seems. I’d also have to work really hard to make sure they got the right clues (the old “give 3 clues when you want the players to find 1”) to make sure the story continues at a good pace and is revealed without my standard weakness of a giant exposition dump.

I could see a similar style game in the Cthulhu mythos, where the characters are digging into a crime in a small town, and discover cultists, and oh wait the cultists actually have summoned some dark, fantastical creature.

Encounters and hazards for car chases and races

Here’s a big list that might be a useful reference for you when having a modern day car chase or race. You and the players can throw these curve balls into the mix to add some excitement.

  • Motorcycles or dirt bikes, perhaps a gang tour
  • Giant crowd or carnival
  • Person (old, homeless, kid) or animal crossing the street, bee or other insect flying inside the car
  • Drawbridge slowly going up
  • Detour due to bridge being closed
  • Train on tracks, or trolley car in road
  • Parking garage
  • Garbage truck backing out of alley
  • Rock slide, avalanche, mudslide along the road
  • Rain, fog, sleet, snow, hail, freezing rain, ice, dust storm, or other weather
  • Tunnels
  • Have to split across a few roads or blocks
  • Going into the opposite lane
  • Going down a dark alley and turning off lights and engine
  • Jumping an off/on ramp
  • Emergency cargo dump to try to gain more speed
  • Nitro boosts
  • Look away at distraction, look back and crash
  • Fruit cart or other market items in the (perhaps closed to cars) street
  • Semi truck rolling over to get out of the way or spilling chemicals
  • Sudden ambulance or fire truck
  • Rolling roadblock of semi trucks that have to be weaved through, or funeral, or old people
  • Oblivious taxi or drunk driver
  • Driving through construction site or wood frame houses
  • Workers crossing the street with a huge pane of glass, massive painting, moving a piano, etc.
  • Black ice, oil slick, or other slippery conditions
  • Spike strips or flat tires
  • Huge pile of cardboard boxes, could be full of packing foam
  • Having to drive through a fire (forest, maybe burning building)
  • Road closed due to a wreck
  • Pot holes, open manhole cover, or other debris
  • Police road block (for player or someone else)
  • Running out of gas or overheating the engine or even having the engine catch on fire
  • Hacker messing with the traffic lights
  • Airplane landing on the road
  • Water main breaking and flooding the road
  • Tire rolling across the road, or blown tire treads on the road
  • Driving through a corn field
  • Swarm of insects or birds hitting the windshield
  • Driving on 2 wheels (“skiing”) to go between a narrow space
  • Driving through a war zone or active police/SWAT scene
  • Going up or down stairs or through a hilly park
  • Damaged hood flies up and blocks the view out the windshield
  • Jumping between cars, or from an overpass to the roof

Thanks to some great suggestions from this Reddit thread.