Braving the Breadth of the Dice Pool – Branching Out

I’ve been discovering a lot of exciting new game systems these days, new ways to use dice and some rules to tell vivid stories. My time of blissful insularity within the D&D 4e bubble has apparently ended sometime in the last two months, and I am willing to blame Twitter, and the release of Leverage RPG in particular. Since then (about November) my collector’s mind has been fascinated by clever ways to represent complex realities in elegant game terms. By all means, d20 (D&D) works great for what it does, but it also is by no means the only way to play games.

Spurred on by the narrative freedom that Leverage places in the hands of players, I’ve become more interested in mechanically graceful ways of steering player creativity and ownership of the story rather than tactics or mechanical optimization, since in the end, the Story and collaborative storytelling is what keeps me coming back to RPGs. The limitless freedom and collective creativity they offer cannot be emulated by the best books, movies, or video games.

So to conclude this Friday post after a week of busyness, I’m going to take a break from developing X-Com RPG and list a couple games that have surfaced on my radar, and a little bit about why they are fascinating me.

Games On My Mind

CortexPlus (in various forms) – I’m very excited by the possibilities for CortexPlus, but then you knew that, and I don’t need to go into it. I’m really enjoying the hacking community inspired and fostered by Leverage. To name a few that I’m watching lately:

I’m also toying with a world-building/city-building game that uses some CortexPlus with some juicy bits of some other games.

Diaspora – A hard science fiction game set in space where players collaboratively create a rich cluster of worlds that then forms the setting of the game. It uses a FATE-based rule system meaning skill rankings, aspects, and rolling 4 Fudge Dice. If you don’t know about FATE it’s a very slick way to drive games with lots of story involvement and has been inspiring ideas in me since last year. (see here for 2-page pamphlet of the basic FATE rules) Diaspora includes fascinating stand-alone mini-games for personal combat, platoon combat, space combat, and social ‘combat’ that I find to be very well designed. I aim to use a very close version of personal combat as the basis for X-Com trooper missions, and I hear from players that the social minigame has produced tremendous results, even for uninvolved players just watching. I’ll have to check that out more closely.

Spirit of the 7th Sea – This is one I’ve just begun playing as a player on RPG Table Talk forum, but I’ve loved the setting for over about two years. It’s a Play by Post game and is going slowly, which is good given my current schedule. 7th Sea is an old-ish game with a fascinating swashbuckling action setting mirroring 1700s Eurasia with a heavy dose of magic and fantasy. @SamlDanach from Twitter did a glorious job adapting the setting into the ruleset of Spirit of the Century (a popular FATE game for Indiana Jones-style pulp action featuring big time heroes and such tropes as biplanes and Nazi zombies). I find SotC rules fit the tone and genre of the 7th Sea setting gloriously, and I’m excited to further explore the world.

My character, Henri d’l’Artois is a French-styled Zorro, with lots of flash and flair, a healthy dose of teleportation sorcery, and the attitude of the Scarlet Pimpernel or V for Vendetta. I haven’t seen or read it but I hear he’s also very similar to Scaramouche. Since I have a very special place in my heart for Les Miserables, I am excited that the story so far portends unavoidable involvement in something similar to the French Revolution. We’ll see what grand deeds our heroes can manage.

That’s enough for today, although I haven’t even touched on Capes, ORE: Reign, Hollowpoint, Statecraft, or Danger Patrol. Maybe I’ll dig into those next time.

Do you have any opinions about these games? Have you found ways that best facilitate or evoke storytelling from you and your friends? I want to hear about it.

Want to playtest some X-Com RPG? Let me know, either in comments, on Twitter (@atminn) and I’ll be very glad to have your feedback and involvement.

About Adam

I'm a husband, father, explorer of the inexhaustible, and synergy cultivator. Starting with D&D, my explorations into role-playing and game design have brought me to savor mining diverse systems, initially Cortex Plus, then PbtA, ORE, Forged in the Dark, and now anything I can get my hands on.