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. This 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?
I blame two men for my recent obsession with RIFTS and neither of them is Kevin Siembieda. The fault is squarely on Christopher Helton and Luis Miranda. Let’s start with the most recent influence. Chris, of Dorkland! fame, and whom I was lucky enough to meet some years ago at Gen Con and have dinner with (something that needs to be repeated!) has been posting about his upcoming game of RIFTS in Google+ as well as discussing it in the Geeky Voices Carry podcast.
I have not played RIFTS in a LONG time. The last book I purchased for the line was The Coalition War Campaign, and that came out in 1996. (1996, really? It was World Book 11 and they seem to be up to 31!) However RIFTS in never far from my mind. It was my go to game for a long time; I played it all through high school and into college. However back in 96 I really could not deal with the system anymore, despite endless house rules and tinkering with it for years, I gave up.
That doesn’t mean I don’t think about RIFTS, in fact I’ve considered which system to adapt it for years. First I considered d20 Modern with the Urban Arcana, d20 Apocalypse and d20 Future books. I even wrote a little introductory short story to a campaign and came up with an idea on how to introduce the game to reluctant players. I never went through with it. I’ve tinkered with other systems, most recently Savage Worlds with the Sci-Fi Toolkit, the Fantasy Companion, Horror Companion and Supers Companion. I’m currently thinking FATE Core may be the best option.
Regardless, Chris’ posts have made me think about the system and the fact that broken as it seems, the power gaming and power creep I came to loathe in RIFTS exists in other games. True that while some games strive for the perhaps unattainable game balance, cause let’s be honest a creative power gamer can break almost ANY system, RIFTS just throws caution to the wind and embraces the gonzo crazy world where a scholar and a hatchling dragon could be in the same party!
This brings me to the second person, Luis Miranda. Dear friend since elementary school, we played RPGs together for years and actually got the RIFTS books at the same time. Back them I read and reread the books and got most of the sourcebooks as they came out. We played in each other’s campaign, and even when my interest in RIFTS weaned, Luis’ continued. He still is a fan, and my most memorable recollections of the game come from the adventures I played with him.
Some people requested that I make the house rules I created for my Falloout Fudged game publically available on the net. TodayI just created an Obsidian Portal campaign for it.
Setting up the campaign was pretty easy, but transferring my notes from Google Docs to OP’s wiki was (and still is) a bit of a chore. But I guess things will get easier when I am more used to the markup language they’re using on the site.
I doubt that I’ll get my players to sign up there, but at least I have a found a nice place for my house rules, and a perfect project to play around with OP’s new software.
The wiki still needs some work and I plan to add more information when the campaign progresses. If you have any questions regarding this game, please comment below!