Category: Finalized

Fickle RPG v0.6 and the road forward

Today is a great day, as it’s release day! Specifically a new version of Fickle RPG. In theory I have finalized all the decisions from playtesting and brainstorming. Which means this v0.6 set of rules could become v1.0, with an art replacement and final read over for typos or mistakes.

So first of all grab the Fickle RPG v0.6 PDF and take a look!

What changed? Lots! If you’ve been following the development you know I’ve had a few ideas around player elimination on defeat, the idea of Karma/Luck/Fortune dice, renaming some elements (like Fate Coin), etc. After much playtesting and consideration I have locked down a lot of those elements with solutions I’m quite happy with.

Changes

  1. Art!: Yep, art is in, some of which you can see scattered around this post. Thanks to 4-5 hours of looking through http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/ that task is finally done. In addition I removed the zombie-specific tentacle images and went with a more generic “leaf” look to the pages and sheet.
  2. Luck Dice: Each person gets a Luck Dice when assembling their dice pool, and it’s normally a different size or color to distinguish. The Luck Dice can be allocated as normal to Fickle or Flat, and provide a more powerful version of either effect. If Fickle the Difficulty of just that Luck Dice is reduced by 1 (ie: Hard to Normal). If Flat it counts as 2 Successes instead of just 1.
    What this means is another great, meaningful, interesting decision has been added to the act of resolution. And because the overall dice pool sizes were reduced by 1 to accommodate (for example starting Attribute is now 3 instead of 4), a few annoying rules could be streamlined, such as total Stamina now being Attr+Attr instead of the awkward Attr+Attr-2. In addition NOT getting your Luck Dice makes a great punishment for players who are starting to be Defeated. All in all a fun, polished idea of the Karma Dice shared/common pool idea.
  3. Broken/Crushed/Defeated: Previously if a player was reduced to 0 Stamina in any Category they were Defeated and couldn’t participate. This wasn’t a ton of fun if it happened early on in a scene. So now there are 3 “stages” to Defeat: Broken, Crushed, Defeated. There are also cool new “Stamina Cards” to track and remember these stages per player. How it works is when a single Category is reduced to 0 Stamina, the player is Broken. They cannot use their Luck Dice, and cannot apply effects when Reacting (such as reducing enemy Stamina). BUT they can still otherwise act. And if everyone in the party is Broken, then the party wipes and loses the scene. Otherwise if a player gets 0 Stamina in TWO Categories they become Crushed. They suffer the cumulative effects of Broken, and also either lose the benefit of a Skill OR take a new -1 Skill (as an injury) for the rest of the session. And finally if they have 0 Stamina in all 3 Categories they are Defeated and only THEN can’t act. Stamina recovery after a scene is different too now, as you only recover 1 Stamina if you were Defeated, otherwise you don’t get any back.
  4. Skill Weakness: Now as part of generation you have to take a -1 Skill weakness, which should add even more flavor to characters.
  5. Game Session Example: Lengthy excerpt demonstrating a bit of a high fantasy session, which is nicely formatted and gives a good idea of the gameplay.
  6. Roll Testing: I wrote a simple software application to do every combination of Fickle/Flat/Luck to ensure there wasn’t a best path or approach to allocating. Some interesting results, and I’m quite happy with the spread.
  7. Defensive Reactions: I had an a-ha moment around these. The idea is if you wanted to React defensively, where you don’t try to do Stamina damage back, you don’t really get an advantage from that. When really the rules already covered that case, just no explicitly. Because the Difficulty of a check is based on the number of effects you apply, and since defensive Reactions are applying NOTHING, that means they should be 1 Difficulty easier, aka Easy 4+. So I didn’t even need to make a special corner case rule, I just had to state that fact. So happy with how easy that was.
  8. Exploit Coin: I renamed the Fate Coin to “Exploit Coin”, which makes for the also fun rename of “Tempt Fate” to “Exploiting”. I like the double meaning of heroic style exploit, and also the idea of exploiting the rules or a loophole. This was done to avoid the Fickle/Flat/Fate alliteration. But let me tell you I almost went the other way and committed fully to silly naming with Fickle/Flat/Fate/Fortune (instead of Luck Dice).

What’s Next?

Now I’m gonna post the rules a few places online to get feedback (hello to anyone who reached this post from a website!) Then I have a Star Wars mini-campaign to wrap up, a few one-offs to run (maybe Fallout, maybe Mass Effect). Then I want to get a non-placeholder piece of art for the game overview, basically of a game in progress at my home table. Then if I’m happy with everything I’m going to make the character sheet PDF a fillable form. I’m also going to add the game to https://rpggeek.com/ and maybe a few other places (like darkshire.net, and maybe DriveThruRPG). Then if I’m happy with everything I’ll make the game v1.0 in a month or two. Which means all in all Fickle RPG will have taken less than a year from the first rule I wrote for the game. Not a bad turn around! After that I’ll likely take a break, let the creative juices bubble, and come back to one of my many other projects (maybe Echo Death).

In the meantime enjoy the new version, I know I have been!

Two settings I’d enjoy in Fickle RPG

I’m going to run a couple one-offs of Fickle RPG soon, and was thinking of settings/genres. Realistically I think we’re just going to rock and roll some Star Wars.

BUT there are two I came up with that I’d love to explore with the right group at some point. They are a bit more player-vs-player in terms of the intrigue and distrust involved, so that could be refreshing and an interesting stretch of the rules too (mainly because players allocating against each other instead of the Storyteller would add a whole new level of tension).

The Thing
First of all an Arctic base with the alien creature from John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). I think they remade the movie, but come on, as if you’re gonna beat Kurt Russell and the amazing and unique soundtrack.

Anyway after a suitable stable of scientists, engineers, and other blue collar personnel were created, I’d hand out secret Personal Goals. All would be blank but one, which would simply say “You are The Thing”.

Then let the chaos ensue!

Witch Hunt
The second setting follows a similar pattern. Not really based on a certain movie, but more the dark ages of witch hunts and burning at the stake, with maybe a bit of Warhammer-fantasy-esque low/gritty magic thrown in to have ACTUAL witches. Maybe a bit would be drawn from the cheesy Nicholas Cage movie Season of the Witch (hate him all you want, I still like a few of his clearly-for-a-paycheck movies, such as Drive Angry).

Anyway the session would open with the players (who are a mix of inquisitor/priest/commoner types) burning a witch at the stake. Then having to carry documents of the deed to some central library…or whatever…just some excuse to travel. But before they head out, I hand everyone a secret Personal Goal and tell the players it will say if they are a witch or not.

The M. Night Shyamalan twist? No one is a witch. And go!

Party of Light damage changes

After a few sessions of Party of Light with my nieces (who the game was originally designed for), I’m considering adding a tiny bit more complexity.

The reason stems of all attacks currently do 1 Stamina of damage. This results in fairly predictable fights, where enemies die at an expected, steady rate.

I’d like to change that. What I would do is first of all change the underlying core dice resolution. I’d change Success to 5+, then switch the difficulty tiers to:

Hard = D6, Normal = D8, Easy = D12, Heroic still D20

This results in odds of 33% Hard, 50% Normal, 66% Easy, and 80% Heroic.
Currently the approach is 4+ Success on D4, D6, D12, so 25%, 50%, 75%, and 85%. So with this change Hard becomes more likely, and Easy is a tiny bit less likely (not extremely happy about that, but the odds are still pretty good).

The second step would be adding a “Damage Dice” of D4 (now that it’s not associated with a difficulty). The Damage Dice in theory should be rolled at the same time, but realistically I imagine it’ll be a second step like how most D&D players do it. The result is the Stamina damage, instead of a set amount of 1. Of course all related Stamina values would be updated (such as total hero Stamina, item effects, etc.)

This also allows for Critical Hits to be a new mechanic. If you roll the max on your to-hit dice, you maybe automatically do the max 4 damage, or roll a bonus D4, or something.

I’d also likely codify and do a minor tweak to the “Powerful Attack” idea, which currently means a person making their check +1 difficulty to do double damage. Now it would be D4+2 damage instead. Or maybe just roll 2D4. I’d have to see what feels better, but I think the former because I don’t think my nieces have 2D4 each.

So yeah, should add a bit of variety to pacing, and make the system closer to a traditional RPG to help transition the kids as they get older. I imagine I’ll playtest this idea next time I run the game for them, and if it seems good I’ll write up the changes and release an updated rule PDF.

B&W line art for Fickle RPG

Because of the genre agnostic nature of Fickle RPG, I’ve been trying to decide what art would best fit. I think I’ve decided on old/antique black & white line art. Should print nicely, have lots of options, and is fairly easy to find.

I just need to sit down and look through the rulebook to figure out what I want, and where to put each image.

So far some of the websites I’m thinking of searching through for art:

So quite an effort due to the amount available, but I think it’ll be very rewarding and make for a polished finished product.

Fickle RPG v0.5 and remaining playtest/brainstorm ideas

You think I’d be used to massive lapses in time since posts, but I still can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months since the start of my “alien campaign” for Fickle RPG, as well as the last release. That campaign has concluded now, and was a fun time, although a bit hard to organize with drop-in players. I think I’m going to try a few one-shots (or maybe two-shots) in a wider variety of genres for the next bit, once my friends have recovered from “planning burnout” trying to organize games.

Anyway even though the game is pretty light on mechanics (in a good way), I’ve been wracking my brain on a few key ideas, as my posts since then will show. I’ve been thinking primarily about player elimination via the Defeated mechanic, how the give and take of Stamina works in general, and a potential new decision point (“Luck Dice”) during resolution to really take the core mechanic to the next level.

A lot of that hasn’t been decided and needs further playtesting. Eagerly waiting for a time when I can wrangle enough players to do that. But in the mean time I do have a few minor “for sure” changes that I made to Fickle RPG, and therefore want to release v0.5 today:
Download the latest Fickle RPG (v0.5) PDF

Changes

Game Session Example section
  • Created a huge Game Session Example section showing two players working through a medieval fantasy encounter. Nice formatting with speaker icons too.
  • Now when creating a character you must choose a -1 Skill weakness. These are meant to be flavorful and interesting narrative elements as compared to crippling crutches. The example I give in the rules is “-1 Amputated Hand is interesting when desperately trying to hold a rope lifeline to an ally, but becomes tedious and regrettable if used every time the character opens a door.”
  • Added some Attribute allocation examples, basically preset “arrays” of numbers like 6/5/4/3/3/3.
  • Added a nice looking full page title page
  • Reworked the Creating a Character section to be a bit more verbose, and formatted similarly to Resolution.
  • A pile of new Storyteller tips and clean up of examples
  • Formatting consistency, reworked headers a bit, general polish

To Playtest

Honestly after the items below are hashed out and finalized I think I’ll move Fickle RPG to v1.0. Maybe get some art or pictures to break up the text a bit in the rulebook. Considering antique/old style black & white line art for that. Maybe a real world picture of a game in session too or something.

Because of how differently each individual player allocates pools I can’t just playtest these concepts myself. But the biggest concepts are “Flex” dice (really good single dice in the pool) and what to do when Defeated (staged effects with damage spillover).

So yeah, the list:

  • Add Flex Dice (or Fluke/Fortune/Fate/Luck…name undecideded). Basically a refined idea of “Karma dice” from before. Everyone gets a small/different colored 1D6 “Flex” dice that can be allocated to Fickle at -1 difficulty or Flat at +1 success (2 total) for just that dice.
    As part of this I’d reduce all attributes and pool sizes by 1 to better facilitate “pick up X dice, throw in Flex dice”.
  • Stamina should be Attr+Attr, which works out to the same due to smaller initial attribute (nice side benefit)
  • Post-fight Stamina restores to HALF (rounded up) instead of 1. For everyone, not just those reduced to <=0
  • If Category Stamina is 0 and new damage comes in it “spills over” to another Category (defenders choice, represents how their character deals with it)
  • Broken: 1st Category reduced to 0: Cannot React, lose Flex
  • Wounded: 2nd Category reduced to 0: temporary removes 1 positive Skill from related Category, or if no skills adds a new temporary -1 for rest of session
  • Defeated: 3rd Category reduced to 0: eliminates the player for the rest of the scene. Opponents use this always for first Category to 0
  • Opponents should just have a single Stamina stat, instead of one per Category, and are Defeated when it’s to 0. Makes characters using different attacks from their allies more effective instead of trying to coordinate on each category

Late night Fickle RPG brainstorming

Deep in thought, eyes closed with my headphones on and Phantogram pounding tunes (check them out!), trying to figure out defeated alternatives, Karma/luck dice, and a few other Fickle RPG tweaks.

btw Judge Dredd one-off went wonderfully! Real hoot, system held up well, was fun to play powerful folks with plenty of equipment. Pacing was a bit off, but that was my bad on having little experience with one-offs.