Category: Finalized

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

Party of Light: slightly improved character sheet

So after my last Star Wars themed game of Party of Light with 2 nieces and 2 cousins I realized the character sheet has a few problems that consistently come up. First of all though the game session went well. The kids were a bit rowdy and energetic, as is to be expected from kids, but they all had fun. Not sure how well the Star Wars theme came across since they weren’t as familiar with it as I expected (as they had all seen at least the original trilogy). So some of the players might have fit better with the standard medieval fantasy approach.

Anyway here’s the new sheet integrated with the rulebook: Party of Light (v2.1)

And here’s how it looks:(for reference the old one looked like this)

The changes are purely from experience and feedback I saw with the players. First of all everyone got confused that “Speed” was on the same row (and had the same style) as Might/Mind/Magic. They all thought it was an option for their Best/Worst stat. So I instead moved Speed down a row, and put the Damage dice instead (since the kids tend to like to line up the dice on their sheet, and there was no place for the D4). I also expanded the Stamina section since kids write really big, and it’s a hassle for them to erase. I shrunk the Backstory a bit to fit this. Otherwise just minor changes like lining up the background pictures a bit differently.

Another lesson I learned was kids love maps. We had a few scenes without maps during the Star Wars game, and they weren’t nearly as invested, and even asked “do we have anymore maps?” “when is the next map?”. So although it’s much more preparation (I’ve been spoiled by Fickle RPG!) to draw maps, and results in a more linear session, it’s definitely worth it to them.

Party of Light: Star Wars

I did a fun little re-skin of Party of Light, my light game meant for teaching kids the basics of RPGs. Previously the game was your typical medieval fantasy setting. I made a Star Wars version with the same mechanics, but a more sci-fi looking character sheet. This was because I’m aiming to play the game with my nieces and my cousin’s kids sometime soon, and Star Wars seemed like a pretty universally known setting. Plus it’ll be fun to try something where Magic isn’t a factor, and shooting, outsmarting, and using more mundane approaches to problems will work. Although the Force is in the game, it certainly has more limits and restrictions on what can be done.

Anyway here’s an example of the Star Wars version of the character sheet:

And the actual Party of Light (Star Wars version) rulebook and character sheet download.

This time I might not use so many battle maps, since those are a lot of work to prep and really restrict the path of the story. I had a huge backlog of fantasy style ones from various D&D campaigns, but I have very few for Star Wars, so I’d have to make them all. My previous Star Wars RPG experience was running an Edge of the Empire campaign for ~6 months, and being a player in an Age of Rebellion campaign for less time than that.

Session Ideas

Here’s my notes document for the game I plan to run for the above crowd. Should be a fun time. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that an enemy like a Flame Beetle won’t seem tired and overdone to a bunch of kids who didn’t grow up playing Neverwinter Nights. I can basically re-use all the standard tropes and concepts and they will be new to them.

– Start on Ord Mantell (L-7) in Cargo Port H-3911, which is on a raised platform over a river of silt
— Has regular shuttles to the Jubilee Wheel
– Characters were all trying to board a shuttle for their own reasons
– Suddenly a Chadra-Fan (short bat race) named Pok comes rushing up and begs the characts to help him escape
– Says he has information important to the Rebellion
– As they decide they hear Stormtroopers approaching from further down the platform
– Ideally rush onto a shuttle to the Jubilee Wheel
– Learn more about Pok on the flight, he says he has a data stick containing a new Imperial spaceship design
— Ship design is the “Cairo Class Destroyer”
– He needs to get the information to Kashyyk, home of the Wookies, to a friend Shew’hrruk

– Need to evade capture and get/charter a ship on Jubilee Wheel
– Get a Wayfarer class ship (use old EoTE map)

– Can choose to fly a shorter route across wild space (generally more dangerous), or along known hyperspace lanes (higher chance of Imperials)
— Wild space: Engine malfunction, have to land on a remote jungle planet Aleen, wander and find a camp of Silas Hadlock, who is dead, and his droid servants have been carrying on trying to survive. A flock of Ravenbeast (violet fur, horned, jump/glide) have been harassing the camp. Droids can fix spaceship if heroes clear Ravenbeast camp
— Hyperspace lanes: Need to refuel on Tanaab (agricultural planet), Imperial entanglements, fight in a cantina while ship is being refueled?
– In either case Pok dies or is gravely injured?

BOUNTY HUNTERS (can be dropped for time)
– On the next leg to Kashyyk bounty hunters on a Harpoon class ship overtake the Wayfarer and board. Right as they are recalculating a jump to Hyperspace.
– Fight on the Wayfarer

– Reach Kashyyk next, Shew’hrruk is hunting in the Shadowlands
— If pressed for time just find Shew’hrruk right away
– Descend to try to find him, end up fighting a giant Flame Beetle with Shew’hrruk, then give him information

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:

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.