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Month: January 2017

An adventure hook and an origin story

An adventure hook and an origin story

Hey team, Notebook GM here with a sneak peek at the hook for a long module that I’m hoping to release later this year. It also serves as kind of the origin story for Murrad itself. Hope you enjoy it, let me know what you think in the comments or on twitter @TheNotebookGM

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The bard leaned forward onto the back of the chair and the old wood creaked slightly. The golden cloak that marked him as a true Bard of the Northern Pass seemed to catch the firelight and hold it a moment before relinquishing it to the dark corners of the small tavern, “Ye downslope folk and yer small gods, ye forget the old stories. The times when Humans walked Murrad, and magic filled the air. The times before the Small Gods and their small wars. Once there was but five gods- Nue was firs… nah, hark here, and I will speak it proper.” As he put aside his pipe and drew himself to sit straight his cloak seemed to become more greedy with the firelight.

“In the beginning there was Thing and Nothing. Movement and Stillness. Positive and Negative. The interaction of these two gave rise to the Field- which grew slowly as they continued to effervesce. After eons the Field grew too vast for the cosmos that contained it and the cup runneth over.

From the spillage Nue was born, first of the Gods. Nue wandered the cosmos learning to weave from the Field- creating the stars. It was an inevitability that another would be born and eventually Nue found a companion.
Curious Vyr was next, and the two of them experimented with the limits of the Field, feeling the weft and wane as it moved to their wishes.
Playful Eche then arrived and the first family was formed- the three of them galloped through the universe filling it with wonders.
Ta’am came next and brought order to the cosmos: organized the haphazard creations of the other three, and created the Sun and the Three Moons for them to live on around a planet that Eche had grown fond of.
They named it Murrad.

In their creativity and harmony, they had forgotten to expect another, and so when Sim came they moved to make room. Nue created the seas, and with them an empire of coral and sand. Sim accepted the aquatic kingdom, but never forgave the other gods the slight.
Sim wove of kelp and created the Merrow, the first of the sentient races, as company and servants in self-exile. Nue saw the Merrow and, applauding Sim on a brilliant idea, created the Humans with a breath of magic.
Vyr took to the northern forests, and from wood carved the Dwarves. Vyr swathed the Dwarves in furs and taught them of craft and the hunt.
Eche wandered the dunes of the Yael and from glass and sunlight created the Orcs. Eche gave them laughter and poetry and a love of simple pleasures.
Ta’am walked among the grasslands and mountains of Erevor and from silver smelted the elves. Ta’am wrote of discipline, civility, and the value of a strong community.

The gods agreed to step back and allow these creatures the freedoms and shackles of sentience, without direct intervention. As even Gods are vulnerable to sibling rivalry, each wanted to see their creation best that of their peers.

The Magocracy of Nuera arose overnight- to the mind of a god- and in the shadow of its splendor the ire of Sim grew. Gathering the sages and warlocks of the Merrowfolk, Sim began to outline a plan to curb the power of the rival Humans.
As time wore on, the Magocracy of Nuera cast many in its shadow, and the 9 Sages of Nuera decreed that, in order to maintain their dominance, teaching the secrets of the Arcane outside of Nuera must expressly forbidden. The other sentient races objected, but lacked the power to stop the Sages from withholding their lore. For centuries the Magocracy ruled Murrad by hoarding magic, sure of their superiority.

The actions of the Magocracy further angered the sea god. Sim released the Horror, a great creature rose from the sea, and began to pull Nuera and her cities into the deep. So vast, so powerful, was this creature that even the collected Arcana of Nuera could not fell it. What Nuerans could escape did so, either by ship or spell, but the vast majority of the Human population fell. Hundreds of thousands died, pulled below by the great sweeping tentacles as the destroyed the continent.

Once the other gods saw what Sim had done they rushed to overcome the power of the titanic beast Sim had created and save what Nuerans they could. After a battle that lasted 100 years the Gods were able to imprison the Horror at the bottom of an ocean trench. Those Merrow who had helped Sim create the creature were given an edict: guard the Horror of Sim for eternity.

As for the survivors, the elves of Erevor took in the human refugees, and over time the bloodlines mixed to form the Gray Elves but Nue was devastated at the loss of the beloved Humans. Grief took Nue to the glaciers north of Hooftrod Pass where the god’s tears froze as they touched the frigid ground. From ice Nue formed the Satyr and bade them wander the northernmost mountain passes and look to the stars.
Sim, for this terrible treachery, was killed by the three remaining siblings and the creatures of the sea were left to feed on his sunken corpse. They grew to be the titanic beasts that still inhabit the seas today, further ensuring the safety of the Sunken Horror of Sim….”

The room had grown darker, quiet. The fire popped- somehow somberly.

“But somewhere out there, among the storms, it is said a small group of islands exists. Some say the islands are deserted- just the mountaintops of a sunken continent, others say that it is a shard of the lost landmass- possibly teeming with lost magic. Stories tiny human-like creatures and turtles larger than towns are told by the seekers what return. However the great fauna have claimed almost all who have sought to explore the Southern Seas…”

The cozy room was silent now and as the Bard trailed off the cloak seemed to release the firelight it had been stockpiling, leaving the room a little brighter.

“Anyway, so the lot of ye’re set to take a trip skirting the Seas… I’m sure ye’ll have a grand time… just don’t forget to leave a watchman, best ye have warning before the great creatures pull ye into the depths.”

These words seem to echo through your minds as the ship you had chartered sails through the air- and crashes into the hard, choppy seas.

Then the world goes black.

A pick-up RPG for a rainy day.

A pick-up RPG for a rainy day.

Hey Nerds- I know that updates have been spotty recently; the holidays always complicate things and I’ve been developing some other stuff for your entertainment pleasures that hopefully will be coming down the pipeline in the near future. For now, we will be returning to our regular twice a week posts, with Murrad on Mondays and other gaming fun on Thursdays. We may go down to one post a week in the future, depending on how much writing I am doing for and what comes of the project I’ve been working on. In the meantime, by way of apologizing for my tardiness I have a quick re-write of a d12 system I’ve been working on for a while. This is a pretty stripped down version, the original version didn’t uh… work. As in, it wasn’t fun and it was kind of confusing. What we have here is something I wanted to have in my back pocket because sometimes the Nat One Productions guys and I are just sitting around and I want to RP a scene to work through a plot idea and also I needed something that I could apply to several different layers of play (party, faction, city, nation) with just a few cosmetic changes. Sometimes I like to use mechanics like this to resolve conflicts between different entities in the world. Like so many light RPG systems this game really depends on the idea that everyone at the table is committed to making a cool story together which isn’t every table. Anyhow enjoy and let us know what you think in the comments!

Working Title RPG-

The Basic Mechanic

Two relevant attribute scores (ranging from 0-5) are combined and modifiers added (most often +1 or +2) to generate the Roll Under (RU) score for a given activity; a twelve-sided die is rolled and if the number shown is equal to or under the Roll Under (RU) score than the action is successful. A roll of 1 on the d12 is always a success and grants 1 Narrative Point. A roll of 12 on the d12 is always a failure and results in either a lost Narrative Point or an additional failure in the encounter.

Each encounter, depending on difficulty, requires a certain number of successful turns on behalf of the party in order to achieve victory. The Narrator, during prep or at the beginning of a scene must determine the difficulty of the encounter and decide how many successes the players must achieve in order to consider the encounter a success. The Narrator also determines how many failed rolls would result in a failed encounter. On the antagonists turn successful rolls reduce the party’s successes by one and a failed roll reduces their failures by one. Encounters should be sub-divided into groups (perhaps depending on the number of players in the scene, obstacles presented in the encounter, etc) to give characters small milestones. Once a milestone is reached enemy successes and failure can’t bring the party past that milestone, this will prevent an evenly-matched battle from dragging. The Narrator should feel free to award to additional successes or failures as narratively appropriate.

Character Creation
In character creation start each ability at 0 and distribute 14 points among the six attributes with no attribute going above 5. Skills should be worded as phrases to enhance their utility in novel situations. “Trained with Bo-Master Flicc (Physicality, Finesse)” is far more useful than “Good With A Quarterstaff (Physicality, Finesse)”. The Bo-Master might have taught the protagonist things such as wall-running, high jumps, acrobatics, and meditation in addition to sweet staff skills.

“Character Sheet”

Name, Profession/Description

Health: Stamina, immune system, and endurance
Verve: Vigor, spirit, and enthusiasm
Reason: Ability to recognize and synthesize information
Senses: Sense acuity, intuition, and alertness
Physicality: Actual muscular strength
Finesse: Ability at fine motor skill

Skill [Attributes Used]

Skill [Attributes Used]

Skill [Attributes Used]

Inventory (Brief description of what you look like carrying your gear and what all you have. Encumbrance works the same way, at any time the Narrator can ask you to describe what you look like carrying everything you have in your inventory and make a ruling on encumbrance)

Character notes/Traits

Armor and Special Items:
Armor and magical items both work in the same way. Each has either an assigned RU or else an associated pair of attributes (like a skill). Some items (see below) will use one skill and a static RU score imparted by the item itself. Rolls made with these attribute sets are subject to the +1/+2 bonus related to familiarity at Narrator discretion.

Dragonscale Breastplate (RU 8)

Awesome Dueling Sword of Awesomeness (Finesse, +3)

For any scene where failure would have an interesting consequence the Narrator sets up a “Success Threshold” and a “Failure Threshold”. This marks how many of each possible outcome the party must have before the encounter is considered completed and consequences triggered. Failure does not always mean death or injury, consequences are determined by the Narrator based on the context of the scene.

At the beginning of each encounter the players should determine their overall goal for the scene, allowing the Narrator to adjust the difficulty as needed (running away should require fewer successes than fighting, etc.). Each character must then roll a d12, adding their Sense and Finesse scores to the number shown in order to determine turn order.

On their turn each player states their goals for the round and rolls the appropriate combination of attributes to determine success or failure, narrating the consequences once they determine the outcome.

Sample Exploration Skill Rolls
Track/Hunt (Sense, Finesse)
Forage (Sense, Reasoning)
Navigate (Sense, Reasoning)
Climb (Physicality, Reasoning)
Swim (Physicality, Health)
Endure (Health, Verve)
Awareness (Senses, Health)
Haul/Lift (Physicality, Health)

Sample Social Skill Rolls
Convince (Reasoning, Verve)
Flirt (Verve, Finesse)
Deceive (Reasoning, Finesse)
Inspire (Verve, Health)
Intimidate (Physicality, Verve)
Barter (Reasoning, Finesse)

Sample Crafting/Knowledge Skill Rolls
Blacksmith (Physicality, Finesse)
Alchemist (Reasoning, Finesse)
Healer (Finesse, Reasoning)
Lockpicking (Finesse, Sense)
History (Reason, Verve)

Sample Combat Skill Rolls
Heavy (Physicality, Health)
Light (Finesse, Reason)
Bow/Crossbow (Finesse, Sense)
Thrown (Physicality, Sense)
Divine (Health, Verve)
Arcane (Reason, Verve)
Psionic (Health, Sense)

Narrative Points
During an encounter a roll of a 1 on the d12 grants the character a Narrative Point. This point, which should be represented with a physical object such as a poker chip, allows the player to change the circumstances of the encounter in some significant way. Perhaps the noble they are arguing with begins to choke on a chicken bone, perhaps beheading that particular alien spooks his allies allowing the players a chance to seize the advantage, perhaps the officer realizes her gun is out of bullets. These points can result in the Narrator changing the difficulty of the encounter but should not result in instantaneous victory or failure unless there party only has one or two additional successes before the encounter would end anyway.

There is no official system of gaining “levels” in Working Title RPG. Games at different scales require different reward systems and progressions. However, in order to reward players some Narrators may decide to implement a system similar to the one that follows.

Arc Points: Upon completion of a story arc, dungeon or other goal the Narrator may decide to reward the players with Arc Points- these points, representing accumulated experience and new tricks can be used as follows.

7 AP: Raise an attribute by 1 (No attribute can go above 6 and a roll of 12 is always a failure)
5 AP: New Skill

Characters should be encourage to roleplay their gradual improvement as their characters as they work towards their AP expenditure goals, in order to avoid the classic RPG “Mario red mushroom sound” level up experience.

Narrators are encouraged to create systems that suit both their style and their players’ but to avoid prioritizing the mechanical bonuses over narrative bonuses, interesting items with ancient histories, the favor of the gods, the latest in warp technology, a serendipitous encounter with an eyewitness to the crime, a particularly helpful NPC, amulets blessed by a voodoo priest to protect you from negative spirits, or a signed letter by the President are all far more engaging rewards than “2 Arc Points”.