NaGa DeMon: The first step is always the hardest

NaGaDeMon 2012 Sometimes it’s really hard to come up with a good idea if you need one. For the last few days I’ve tried really hard to think about a cool setting for the game I want to design this month. A while back I had decided that I want to work on a Science Fiction roleplaying game and inspired by the awesome Barebones Fantasy I decided to come up with a simple system that uses percentile dice for task resolution. But deciding what kind of setting I wanted to use was extremely hard. I had a few random ideas but when I tried to write them down, I already started to hate them.

This morning I finally overcame my “game design block” (yeah, I know such thing does not exist) and wrote down a short “captain’s log” as inspiration for the setting. The unnamed captain of a Terran League vessel talks about his last mission and some of the things happening in the year 2512.

Captain’s Log November 2, 2512

We are currently on our way back to base after our 3 months scientific mission to the Orion nebula. Everyone is really excited about the work we did there and our lead scientist Prof. Ashikaga can’t wait to finally analyze all the data we collected.

Yesterday, while making a short navigational stop our sensors picked up an alien vessel. We are not entirely sure, but it may have been a Valar vessel. There has been no formal contact with that species, every attempt to communicate with them has failed so far. It seems as if they prefer to be kept alone. Perhaps some day they will break the silence, but until then we keep our distance.

The situation at home still deeply worries me. The leader of the Technologist party, which has held the majority of the Council since we took out first steps into interstellar space, has been assassinated. Tensions are high right now and accusations are thrown. Some people believe it was the work of terrorists. I am sure we can get more information on what happened when we get back to League space. But I hope this is not a sign of things to come.

Tomorrow we will make another stop but this time to allow our Arelian guest Charan to disembark. He has been a great asset for our mission, especially because the Arelian’s knowledge of slipstream technology helped us to fix a few kinks with our drive. Chief Engineer Chantilly is sad to seem him go, but Charan obviously got an important message by his government and need to return to his homeworld. The Arelian Commonwealth has been struggling with a civil war for some time now, so I think this might be related.

Ok, it’s time to return to the bridge. I’ve to relieve my second in command, who’s on watch right now. We’re still in the slipstream, so I doubt it will be an exciting watch, but you never know.

The names are of course still subject to change. The main idea behind this short piece of fiction was to motivate me for the project and to get an idea what the setting might look like. There’s obviously FTL travel using something called a slipstream drive. There’s something called a Terran League ruled by a Council, and the captain mentions several alien species like the elusive Valar and the Arelians who obviously have closer ties with humanity. Everything else still lies in shadows, but more will be revealed over the next weeks (at least that’s my plan).

First Look: Barebones Fantasy Role-playing Game

Bare Bones Fantasy cover I think I first read about Barebones Fantasy by DwD Studios a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled upon a post showcasing its cover on Google+. I have to admit that the cover did its job tremendously – it immediately made me interested in the game. So I started following the news about this game and finally picked it up from DriveThruRPG on the day of release.

So what is Barebones Fantasy RPG anyway? As the name implies it is a rules-light fantasy roleplaying game, but it’s not as barebones as you might expect. The 84-paged core rulebook contains all the rules you need to run the game, an extensive bestiary, and even a setting.

The interior of the rulebook is all black and white but is very well laid out. Because of the small size it probably looks great on tablets, too. But I haven’t checked that yet.

What sets Barebones Fantasy apart from a lot of other rules-light fantasy games are mainly two things: first it uses a percentile dice mechanic and secondly it uses the iconic fantasy classes as skills. So instead of having a Cleric class, there’s a cleric skill that allows you to perform priestly deeds. I like that a lot. What I also like is that BBF doesn’t use any complicated formulae to calculate skill chances and other values derived from the attributes. For a percentile system there’s surprisingly not a lot of number crunching involved.

Character creation is pretty fast. You roll up the four attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Logic and Willpower), select a race (Elves, dwarves, halflings, and humans are available), and select your skills. After that you calculate the skill scores and come up with one beneficial and one hindering descriptor (think of  something like “skilled hunter” or “has a limp”). Last but not least you determine your moral code. You basically have to decide how Kind, Focused, Selfless, Honorable and Brave your character is. This moral code is meant as a guideline for the player on how to play his character.

Another thing I like about this game is how magic works. The number of spells characters can cast is quite limited but each of the spells is very flexible. The Aid spell for example allows the caster to buff one of another character’s attributes. Which attribute that is can be chosen each time the spell is cast. The spells also improve with the caster’s level in the Spellcaster skill.

For a game that calls itself barebones it is surprisingly complete. You are looking for rules to create your own magic items? There in there. You like extensive equipment lists? You won’t be disappointed. In your opinion no RPG is complete without a bestiary? If so, you will be glad to hear that BBF’s bestiary contains not only a bestiary but also guidelines for monster creation! There is even a section that contains an adventure idea generator which allows you to roll up a basic adventure in mere minutes. There’s even a random dungeon generator included. The book also contains some details on the Keranak Kingdoms, BBF’s setting. The setting descriptions are in very broad strokes, but should be enough for any veteran GM to get the ball running.

The game is currently only available digitally, but what you get in that 25 MB ZIP file would make a great boxed set. Aside from the core rulebook PDF,  it contains a 16-paged adventure called “Maidens of Moordoth” (which I haven’t read yet), a player reference sheet, the character sheet, two maps of the setting (one with and one without hexes), and last but not least you get printer friendly versions of all of the PDFs.

The whole package costs mere $9.99 which is a great price for so much stuff included. What’s even better is that the rules are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike license. Which means you are allowed to create your own derivative works like adventures etc. The official DwD Studios site even has a page that let’s you download the interior background graphics, so that you can create your own documents with the official look and feel.  Barebones Fantasy actually makes me excited about running a fantasy game again!

Passing the torch!

Not too long ago Puerto Rico Role Players once again participated on the Central Fan Fest, a local convention dedicated to Anime, Cosplay, Sci-Fi and (with our presence there) RPGs. This convention holds a special place in my heart because the organizers were the first to give us a space were to share our love for games back in 2010. I can’t believe it’s been two years!

I’ve written about cons, specifically local cons before. One of the things we do in Puerto Rico Role Players is promoting the group. We have periodic activities and cons such as this lets us reach new people who have not heard of us. We also do demos… We try to select games that have a wide appeal, we’ve done Star Wars, D&D, Pathfinder, zombie games, and on every occasion we try to introduce role-playing games to people who know nothing about them, on the recent con I had just such an opportunity. Continue reading Passing the torch!

A Roleplaying Games blog