Category Archives: Game Design


Changing Spells

On the weekend I played the “Mansions of Madness” board game for the first time. In this Fantasy Flight Games’ board game each player takes control of an investigator exploring a mansion full of cultists and (Cthulhu) Mythos creatures. The game is mission-based and there are about 30 to 40 unique missions. The map of the mansion is tile-based so there’s a lot of variety. One of the players takes the role of the Keeper and controls the investigator’s opponents. Like many other FFG games “Mansions of Madness” has several roleplaying elements, which I like a lot.

One aspect of the game that I like a lot is how spells are handled. For each spell there is a whole deck of cards, which are the same on the front side, but different on the back side. What you have to do to cast the spell never changes, but the effects vary a lot. The spell I got to use several times was “Wither” (at least I guess that’s what it is called. We played the German version of the game). It’s basically a simple attack spell. But because its effects changed constantly, it was interesting and exciting to use every time. One time it had the additional effect of killing humanoid enemies instantly, another time it caused extra damage but also damaged the sanity of the caster. There were also different outcomes when the roll to cast the spell failed.

The way “Mansions of Madness” handled spells got me thinking. Magic is often described as fickle, unpredictable, more art than science, but in most roleplaying games spells always work the same way. Wouldn’t it be cool, if the caster never knew what exactly happens when he or she starts casting? Of course there should be some kind of reliability, but wouldn’t an additional random element not spice things up?

“Mansions of Madness” uses cards for spells, which could work with roleplaying games as well. Alternatively one could create a table for each spell with various effects. ┬áThis might not work with every game and every genre, but the way this boardgame handles magic is both interesting and fun and perhaps I might use something similar in a future game design. After all, stealing someone’s ideas is the highest form of flattery, isn’t it? ;)


Shadowrun using Technoir? Might that work?

Technoir coverYes, I am still looking for alternative ways to run a Shadowrun game. While I am still trying to find a good way to use the Over The Edge rules for it, I also keep looking for alternatives. The first Kickstarter project I backed was Technoir, a cyberpunk roleplaying game by Jeremy Keller of Cellar Games. So why not use Technoir?

One of the strengths of Technoir are its simple but powerful mechanics, that can easily made to fit any kind of cyberpunk setting. But Shadowrun is not just cyberpunk, it also has a couple of fantasy aspects. That’s what makes it harder to find a ruleset that may handle this combination. Today, I have leafed through the Technoir rules again (you can download a free players guide here), and had an idea how to handle Metahumanity and Magic in Technoir.

For Metahumanity one could easily add Training Programs. So each of the Metahuman variants adds a new Training Program with fitting Verb and Adjective choices. The Elf Training Program could probably look like this:

Program: Elf
Verbs (increase each by one): Coax, Detect, and Prowl
Adjective (pick one): arrogrant, slender, long-lived

To add magic to the mix, one could just add a 10th Verb called Cast. Spells are then bought like Objects. Of course it would be helpful if the GM created a list of example spells to pick from. To keep the magic vs. tech dichotomy from Shadowrun players might have to choose whether their character wants to have access to either Cast or Hack. But if you want to allow characters who dabble in both Magic and cyberwear you might come up with a more elegant solution.

What do you guys think? Might this small hack allow me to run Shadowrun using Technoir? Or am I better off waiting for the still-missing HexNoir supplement?

Fallout Fudged

Fallout-New-Vegas-Dice-RollA while ago I had the idea to run a campaign based on the Fallout computer game series. I was actually just replaying the original Fallout computer game when I realized that it should be very easy to use the story of the game for a pen & paper campaign. The story is non-linear, quite interesting and has a good mix of combat, exploration, and hard decisions.

Since I wanted to keep the prep to a minimum I searched the internet for other people’s conversions. I quickly discovered both a conversion for Savage Worlds and one for GURPS but both weren’t what I was looking for. So I turned to Fudge, which I had been running with some success just recently. Alas I wasn’t able to find a Fallout-to-Fudge conversion anywhere, so I had to start working on my own.

Fudge is perfectly suited for such a task, since you can just use the attributes and skills from your source material. One of the mechanical aspects that make Fallout unique are the Traits and Perks. Traits are basically character backgrounds which are both a gift and fault at the same time. At first I thought about just using Fudge’s Gifts and Faults system, but then I decided to convert the Traits to Fudge. Here’s one example of what I came up with:

Fast Shot. You can shoot much faster than your fellow men, but at a price. You can fire an additional pistol or rifle during your combat turn without penalty, but all your weapons cause -1 damage.

Perks in Fallout work a lot like Feats in D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder. They either grant a bonus to certain actions or they allow the character to perform certian actions which are unavailable without the Perk. In Fallout you get a new Perk every few levels, but Fudge doesn’t use experience levels of any kind. So I decided that characters are allowed to buy Perks with experience points. This should be close enough to Fallout without moving away too far from the Fudge rules.

Converting weapons and armor were pretty easy with Fudge. I made things easier for me by not converting every weapon we’ve seen in the existing Fallout games but only picked a couple of iconic ones, like the 10mm Pistol. I am pretty sure that the balancing between weapons and armor is still a bit off, but I can easily fix that during play. Here’s an example of one of the weapons I created for my conversion:

240px-10mm pistol (Gamebryo)
10mm Pistol. ODF +2, Base Range 20m, Ammo: 12, Notes: semi-auto


My players and I are currently trying to schedule a first session for character creation and perhaps even to start playing. Within one session they should easily be able to get to Shady Sands or perhaps even start exploring Vault 15. I have no idea how long the whole campaign will be, but I am hoping to get a dozen or so enjoyable evenings out of the story of Fallout 1. Currently I am still finishing the bestiary and working on some notes for the actual campaign. As soon as the bestiary is done, I might actually release my notes to the public. So stay tuned. If you have any questions regarding my conversion, please feel free to comment below.