Sunday, November 30, 2014

Early lessons from the Dracula Dossier -- Improvisational Campaign Design

In a previous post, I noted the exciting kickstarter campaign for the Dracula Dossier for the RPG Night's Black Agents.  This book (really three books now) provides the material needed to run a contemporary campaign to uncover a long running conspiracy connecting Dracula to the British secret service.  I will leave it to the kickstarter page to describe the setting in more detail.  For now, I want to describe some lessons of the draft document (offered to most backers at around $40 or higher pledges who get the ebooks).  Specifically, I will discuss what we can learn from the "improvisational" nature of the campaign and how it can inform Cypher System design.

Nodes Globes -- Dan Zen=(Flikr)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Varieties of "The Estate"

A central component of The Strange core campaign setting is the Estate.  I won't dwell on defining this organization as it is so prominently featured within core rule book.  Suffice it for our purposes that the Estate is a nongovernmental organization seeking to protect the Earth from potential threats from the Strange.  There are several different game experiences one could create with players as Estate agents.  After a brief mention in a previous post, I wanted to talk in more detail about the different ways you can portray the Estate that will affect how you tell stories within your Strange campaign.  Different styles of play call for different approaches to the Estate.

Paul Long --

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Adapting the Dracula Dossier

One of the elements of The Strange I consistently rave about is it adaptability.  Previously, I mentioned that I am adapting Delta Green as well as other settings (e.g. Warmachines, Primeval Thule).  A recent kickstarter has me reconsidering some of my plans.

I recommend everyone check out the kickstarter campaign for the Dracula Dossier.

Dracula's Castle -- Lisa Cyr (Flickr)

The Dracula Dossier imagines a campaign in which it is revealed that Dracula was (is?) real and the events of Bram Stoker's novel are a redacted version of a British intelligence operation to recruit him as an asset.  The kickstarter will fund an unredacted copy of Stoker's novel (for use as a prop for the game) with clues for players to follow to unravel the history of this secret program.  The game materials are designed to allow players to follow clues from the unredacted novel to a wide variety of locations and people.

I see this as a potential supplement to or replacement for my original Delta Green campaign idea.  It would be natural for Estate operatives to get caught up in the investigation of the reality behind the novel Dracula.  Maybe they receive the unredacted document from an anonymous tip.  Should they believe the document?  Is this fictional leakage "leaking back?"  Have there been strange manifestations on Earth for much longer than the Estate ever thought?

Part of what excites me is how easy it will be to adapt the campaign from its home system (Night's Black Agents -- using the Gumshoe system) to the Cypher system.  Both games are narratively focused which gives players opportunities to adapt their skills to given situations.  Instead of "spending" a skill point (as in the Gumshoe-based systems), the Cypher system has players "buy down" the difficulty of a skill roll.  The Gumshoe architecture underlying the Dracula Dossier makes it easy to adapt by simply assigning difficulties to various challenges, investigation tasks, and even the NPCs and creatures.

So, check it out.  Anyone who pledges at the level that gets the draft game information (which is already largely complete -- though still awaiting proofing, additions for stretch goals, and layout).  I think it could prove inspiring for many Strange GMs.

I may be posting more about this as I get into the details.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Strange Encounters Preview -- 13th Age Backgrounds in the Cypher System

I am back with another preview of an upcoming segment of Strange Encounters.  I will be discussing the use of 13th Age backgrounds in Cypher System games.  In 13th Age characters do not have specific skills.  Instead, they invest points in backgrounds.  For example, instead of having a "streetwise" skill, a character may have a backgrounds as a member in a thieves guild.  Characters invest in these backgrounds and can then invoke them (as if they were skills) in situations where the background is relevant to whether the player can accomplish a task.  The former guild member can invoke this background to suggest that he can case the new town to identify guild sign, find the right people to ask questions, etc.  This provides many more storytelling options (and flexibility) than an nondescript skill roll.  It also encourages players to connect their characters to the game world, build their own history, etc.

For an overview of how this works, see this blog from Pelgrane Press.

I will discuss how to adapt this to the Cypher system soon -- with a more detailed discussion to follow on this blog.