Let’s Test Out Yurei World!

So, I ended up creating a Powered by the Apocalypse game that wasn’t Jurassic World. The long story short of it is that, after playing After School Curse Club, I took a look at the mechanics of the game and realized how similar to Powered by the Apocalypse it was.

Eventually, the idea struck me to more or less take the base premise of the game and remake it into a full-fledged RPG. The end result is Yurei World. After expanding the base game into a standard PtbA game (as well as add a system to just make generic moves), I ended up deciding to add Playbooks. Originally, I didn’t consider it and just had it be the standard “pick one stat that gets +2, then pick another that gets +1”, but I soon felt as though I could give the game a bit of personality and customization by adding the Playbooks.

I only completed three, though I feel as though three is just what I need to test this out.

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We’re Playing FATEL.

Screw it. I can’t play FATAL. The rules are so broken and crazy that I have no idea why I even thought this was a good idea.

Which is why I’m instead going to be doing FATEL: “Far Away Tales of Epic Legends”. It, obviously, uses the Fate Engine. Now, obviously this means I’ll use Fate Solo, right? Nope! Instead, I’m going to merge that with CRGE-Kai Ni. Not only that, but I’m also fusing a bunch of other Engines like Tiny Universal, Tiny Solitary Soldiers, Oculus, and a plethora of other systems to create the CRGE-Kai Ultrazord. As for Drivers? ALL OF THEM!

We begin our game with having to change our Anakim character into the heroic Orc fighter Mercedes Benzon and the Elf Thief Michael Jord Ang.

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Crafting a Creature for my next LotFP session

So, I decided to use Creature Crafter to create my very own Slüg to take place in the sacred Halls of the Slügs. Originally, I’d be comparing this to Species and Societies, but the difference seems to be night and day. Where as Species & Societies is built around making an entirely new race of beings, the Creature Crafter is build around creating monsters.

So, we shall begin by assuming a baseline for the King Slüg to take. Luckily, we have a baseline defined for us in the introduction to Slügs. Next, we determine its potency.

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Crafting The Next Session For LotFP

So, I’ve decided to create an entire campaign out of the antics of Wiki Dot Pod and his band of merry men, of which he will get two new recruits soon enough. How will I flesh this out? Well, with something called the Adventure Crafter. It was bound to be used sooner or later at this rate and I’ve been itching to try this puppy out.

Especially considering that the Free RPG Day Modules that I thought were Modules were in fact splat books. Welp, can’t win them all, so I guess it’s time to crank out my own adventures.

So, cracking open the book and grabbing the sheet (along with teaching myself on how its used), I write down the name and date of this adventure. Next, I determine the themes. Already, I can think of the order. Tension, since Lamentations of the Flame Princess is pretty unnerving, Action, because it’s an OSR game, Mystery, keeping in tune to the mysteries such as the Crystal-Headed Children, and lastly Social & Personal, since they’ve gone insane to the point where they can’t hold normal conversation.

After that, I’ve pretty much finished what I needed to set up. I chose two plotlines already in progress: Wiki Dot Pod’s conquest and curing the insanity from the cast. For characters, I added Andrews.

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Let’s Enter The Doom-Cave Of The Crystal Headed Children

In the last post, I mentioned how I was gonna tinker with CRGE-Kai for playing Lamentations of the Flame Princess. This is to be a permanent upgrade for CRGE-Kai, though also an experiment. Previously, I played a game with the Ursa Minor engine, to which I fell in love with its mechanics. I decided, like with Mythic, to borrow those mechanics and implement them into CRGE-Kai. And thus, CRGE-Kai Ni is born. For book-keeping purposes, it’ll be referred to as CRGE-Kai, but from here on out, I’ll be calling it CRGE-Kai Ni. So, what did I add to CRGE-Kai? Well, the Turmoil system.

To recap, Ursa Minor has its own Chaos system, but it changes depending on how the characters interact with the game world instead of if the scene ended well for the players. An example would be asking townspeople around about Andrew. Although in Mythic, this would be smooth sailing, Ursa Minor would add a point of Turmoil due to how the characters effectively brought up old scars in the villagers and thus cause them to act wearier.

It also has its own random event system and a system where you can roll out entire sequences of scenes in just one roll, such as perception checks or travelling. There’s a lot to take in, so I recommend you read my Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells game to understand these mechanics. For their own Incident Rolls, they’ll replaced the Altered Scene results and Ambiguous Events.

As for how I’ll go about the module, I looked up the Lone Crusader’s proposed idea, but ultimately decided against using it. The reason is that it involves stripping the module down to base elements. I played around with a module before without needing to do this, so I figure I can manage. Alright, let’s begin this experiment.

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Stat It: The Doom-Cave of the Crystal Headed Children

I never got the idea of “Races as classes” in OSR games. In other games, your character is often a race plus a class. Because what’s stopping an Elf from being a barbarian or a warlock as opposed to being the classical ranger or wizard? With some OSR games, your character is just… an Elf. That’s it.

One thing that is less weird (but still weird) is the level tables for some OSR games. One class has about 20 levels, like a basic class, but then suddenly another class has only 13 or 17. Granted, the system I’m using allows for going beyond these levels with small additions and they don’t have a ton to offer for each level anyways, but I just had to stop and think for a minute about this.

Oh, right, I should explain what I’m doing. Well, as you may have noticed, I put the brakes on the 2018 SGAM climax due to time constraints. Don’t worry, it’ll come soon. In the meantime, I might as well get my feet wet with the game I’ll be using for said climax: Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The name itself is what interested me the most out of it, as well as it being an OSR-style game, but it wasn’t the sole reason.

I remembered attending my first Free RPG Day game session at a Friendly Local Game Store that were offering people to play the one-shot adventures they had. Among the ones they offered, I was interested in one in particular: The Doom-Cave of the Crystal Headed Children. I’m not making that title up. We never actually played it, but the idea of playing such an interesting looking game with an out-there premise lingered, even as I look at the cover in my bag of assorted goodies I obtained that day.

Originally, I was intending to play Better Than Any Man, but that game ended up being a full-blown campaign setting, with the foreword pretty much saying that it wasn’t an ordinary Free RPG Day adventure that introduces you to the game.

This Stat It is going to be different from the others. Usually, I’d create the characters, then the story, but because I’m using a preestablished story, I need to introduce you to the story then the characters I’ll play. Be warned that there will be spoilers. So be advised and maybe pick up a copy to read along.

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The Markdown Mechanic

I never tend to get uncomfortable in roleplaying games and part of that is usually because I tend to challenge my comfort zone time and time again. So, when I was introduced to the X Card safety mechanic, while I wanted really badly to test it out (as I do with any new game mechanic), I couldn’t find a good moment to properly use it until the very end of the session, where I used it on myself because I got a little too intense with my character. Long story short, I was playing Dread with some friends for a Halloween event and my character went through a harrowing experience.

However, there are times where my comfort zone will be challenged and I feel odd for going past it. Case in point, I played a session of Night Witches that ended up becoming so uncomfortable that I deleted the scene. During that session, I used the Mark mechanic, which is used as a consequence of certain moves or actions, as a cudgel against me making jokes about Downfall (a movie detailing the, well, downfall of Adolf Hitler, which ended up having tons of gag subtitles) and Soviet Russia being Big Brother.

As I’m going to be tackling FATAL, a rather infamous game for its uncomfortable everything and a module for Lamentations of the Flame Princess which is said to be 18+, I decided to try and recreate that, but as a central mechanic. Namely, the intent is to be used as a cudgel against me going for either uncomfortable moments or discourage me from doing things I’d normally do.

The tentative name for it is the Markdown Mechanic, and while I would base it off Night Witches’s own mechanic of Marking, it’s a unique beast that only works with Night Witches. I need something that I can use across all RPGs.

The idea? A table of 20 items that you must roll on once you do something that triggers it. For instance, let’s say I’m playing a game that is kid-friendly and encourages players to resolve conflicts without violence. I don’t want myself to resort to violence in tune to the game, so I want something for me to use when I do decide to go with violence.

You may ask why I don’t just don’t do it… And, well, it’s mostly because I end up getting too into the game and suddenly I have members of the Soviet Union dragging two soldiers who were harassing one of the characters and unpersoning them. Ergo this punishment mechanic.

Also because I’m a glutton for random events and this gives me a chance to tinker with something that allows that to happen.

So, I’m gonna use the infamous Deck of Many Things as my go-to template for the list. Except the deck is a bunch of X-Cards with almost nasty effects written on the back. I should also mention that every time you roll a result, you cross it out and reroll when that number comes up again in the future, so as to discourage the same things from happening. The list gets refreshed when all the events are used. Also, the list applies mostly for traditional RPGs that use levels and die rolls, so tweaking may be required for games like Genesys or Cortex.

Read the list

A Cozy Den Post-Mortem

I ended the post for my A Cozy Den game abruptly all things considered, even if it was for a joke. In truth, there’s a lot of things on my mind for both the session and the game. You could consider this to be a mashup of a review and an editorial.

So, let’s start from the top. As I said at the beginning of the session, the setting and premise are very interesting. The RPG industry is filled to the brim with fantasy games first, sci-fi games second, and rarely any room for other types of settings to crop up except for some variation of horror, leaving the other types being few and far in between. A good selling point for me is a setting that’s completely different from the norm, and A Cozy Den does exactly that. A slice of life game but the twist is that you’re a lesbian snake girl living with other lesbian snake girls.

However, I feel as though I did not properly play it. Of course, I don’t mean I flubbed the rules or anything, but rather I shot the meaning of the game in the foot. It was originally meant to be just a cozy, cute game about lesbian snake girls cuddling each other, and I turned it into this Lifetime soap opera. I did this for a lot of games, yes, but those other times were deliberate, like using a game based off an anime to instead have a Greek setting or setting a Cute Ship Girls doing Ship Things RPG in a film noir genre. This was more accidental.

My basic aim was to write a hurt/comfort story. You had Jessie who got kicked out of a bad home and then you had Steph who lost her love in a snowstorm. The overall idea was for the two to bond together and end up filling in the pieces. And yet… the chemistry didn’t mesh. My mistake was playing up Jessie to be this tough ass “I don’t give a crap” outlook until a moment where she breaks down and shares her feelings with Steph. And yet, that moment never happened. I probably should have made that a more likely possibility instead of leaving it up to CRGE-Kai to decide. It probably wouldn’t have changed a lot, but at least I could try and break out of the first stage.

The gameplay is very chill with how it’s played. There’s instructions on how to do the first scene, kinda like in Bliss Stage, though it’s mainly establishing what a particular Lesbisnake wants. And most of the time, that need would be randomly generated. This is a repeated process until players have a solid idea of what to do. Effectively, it’s training wheels. I kinda like this idea since it helps people who otherwise aren’t good at roleplaying to get their feet wet.

Another thing I liked were the Threat Cards. Usually in a PbtA game, rolling a six or less results in massive consequences, such as in Titan World, when rolling a six or less results in you meeting your end at the hands of a Titan. Here, the consequences are that of drawing a card. Most times, it results in damage to you or your Den. However, at the bottom of each card is a need, something to help drive the narrative. This also helps in creating a solid ground for players to work off of when starting out.

For an example, Jessie and Steph were rolling about until they got a Threat that had Steph losing her keys. This created a narrative where Steph had to go and look for the keys, which resulted in the internet being unplugged. Sometimes life is like that. One failure leads to another failure. For a good while, the game seemed to be pretty alright.

Then I decided to make a plot twist where Steph’s lover survived the blizzard. I guess this was okay to do, but it definitely smacked the romance angle away. Now it’s a story about how Jessie’s father was a jerk. And personally, I felt like that’s when I broke the theme of the game unintentionally. I mean, yeah, the game tried to go back into the comfort of having the two Lesbisnakes take Cassie in, but then Jessie’s father comes, they have a huge brawl, and it results in Steph basically killing the Manserpent. That definitely rubbed me the wrong way. Like, I feel like this is x-card territory right there. And then I had tried to do a bittersweet ending, but that’s when I decided “oh hey, remember how there’s this awkward period where it starts to become spring and then we get tons of sudden snowstorms?” and killed off the couple. That’s when I decided to end the session with a joke and here we are now, where I explain what I thought of the game.

As I mentioned before, the premise is a much needed rarity and the execution are good. However, there are some snags I have noticed. Not huge, game breaking snags like “roll under a small number with 3d6” but tiny, subtle snags. For instance, the move Cuddle isn’t necessarily a move in the same regard as others. There’s no results for rolling a success or a partial success like the others had. It’s instead a procedure where one party asks the other to cuddle. I mentioned how this might be the “free parking” move, where it’s a safe move to make because there’s no harm and no foul in using the move compared to the other six. However, you have to allocate that move to one of your seven stats.

Meaning that, if you decide to make Cuddling a move for your +3 Stat, then, unless the GM decides to have you roll for it, it’s practically useless. It could be me not understanding the move in particular. However, that brings me to the main topic of this review/editorial. See, I came to a revelation that Powered by the Apocalypse games aren’t my jam for one simple reason: the Moves.

It’s a weird thing, I know, but hear me out.  In most RPGs, the actions you do are reflected in a broad series of stats. You want to lift weights? Roll Strength. You wanna jump high? Roll Dexterity. And so forth and so forth. Some games create a narrower yet equally broad set of stats called skills that dictate how good you are at a skill and thus in those cases, the two would be Athletics and Acrobatics respectively.

But with the Powered by the Apocalypse kind of games, while you do have stats, those stats apply to skills that are only specific to certain scenarios. Going back to Titan World, almost all the Moves have to do with one aspect of Attack on Titan: fighting the Titans. In order, one move has you avoid danger from Titans, aim to kill a Titan, kill that Titan (which you need to do twice), fight a dude hand to hand, become aware of a situation, try not to freak out, rescue someone from the jaws of death, and what is essentially a death save. For stuff outside of that, like gathering knowledge or conversing with people? Nope. Nothing.

Now, if these were just the set of skills you can roll off, that’d be fine, but the way the system is made, those skills are the only things you can use for rolling. And some of those skills are locked away to be used by higher leveled characters. It says something when the very first move I made in a PbtA game on this blog was Intimidate, an Advanced Move for the Warrior class in Titan World, simply because that was the only Move that fits the context of the scene.

I had to be really creative with how I were to use the seven skills in A Cozy Den, such as using Hunt to actually traverse from the den to outside or using Arrange the Den to look for the keys. It didn’t help that three of the seven moves have a very similar function: relaxing. Bask lets you lay in the sun, Nap lets you… well, nap, and I already mentioned what Cuddle does. However, Nap has the mechanical bonus of adding a +1 to your next check, which, when coupled with the “match the situation to your personality” part of the check, can result in a +2, which ends up being a far better advantage than just 1. Granted, each of the moves can be used in their right context, like, you need to get warm and you didn’t get to cuddle so you decide to bask. However, if you wanted to do anything other than rearrange the den, bask, nap, socialize, wrestle, hunt, or cuddle, then, well, you’re outta luck.

You can see how PbtA games can be extremely limiting. In a way, I find it very ironic. The game that best summarizes the kind of system I’m talking about with attributes and skills is D20, yet I rarely play D20 solo for the reason being that, for the most part, all of them are set in a similar fantasy setting. Meanwhile, the PbtA games have great, fantastic settings that stick out from the norm… and yet they have limitations to how you can play them. The only game that doesn’t have a problem like this is Headspace, since each character has their own three sets of skills and due to the mechanics of Headspace, anyone can use most or all the skills, as well as Dungeon World, which has the Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma skills condensed into their own respective moves. And I guess you can make the same extension to Apocalypse World.

Sure, you can have it be base rolls off the stats if you wanted to. Titan World, Night Witches, even Apocalypse World has basic stats to use for rolls. However, A Cozy Den doesn’t have normal stats. As I said before, it’s three levels of Femme, three levels of Butch, and a middle ground, and only three to four of those seven would get points. Contrast this with the other games. Apocalypse World gives you a choice of four sets of stats, all of which are balanced in terms of point totals and most always give at least three of the five stats points. Titan World, Night Witches, Headspace and Dungeon World gives more of a “assign these numbers to these stats” function, but it’s mostly the same: an average spread of points that guarantees that at most one stat has a 0. The only exception is Night Witches with the justification being that the point total goes to either 0 or 1 depending on what rank you are, that and there’s only four stats total, one of which automatically gets a 0 and it’s something you earn as you play the game.

I get what A Cozy Den is going for. Three varying degrees of Femme and Butch followed by the blend of the two. Not to mention allocating the seven Moves to the seven Stats. Thing is, I felt like it can be easier to utilize if it was just three stats: Femme, Butch and Futch (the blend), then assign two moves to each Stat, with Cuddle being a special move that isn’t dependant on stats. Though looking up the terms, I do notice how the spectrum of Femme to Butch is exactly the same as the spectrum in the game, right down to the middle section being called Futch. With that in mind, I now understand why there’s seven stats and why sizing it down to the three I mentioned wouldn’t have worked as well.

That said, it still doesn’t change my overall thoughts on the PbtA system. I guess I need to watch an Actual Play of a PbtA game to understand the overall context of how the game’s usually done, since it might be because of my overall dependence on rolling for even the most basic things if it invites just the slightest chance of failure, like what happened with the sudden snowstorm ending.

However, looking through the books made me think. Despite the limitations, I still enjoy the PbtA games and find them interesting. Winging it is one of the major things a GM has to do when doing a game, because there are chances where you’ll come across something that isn’t covered in the rules. So, I guess I just answered my own concerns with how PbtA games are played. It doesn’t help that my favorite game that I’ve played at CanGames was Circles of Power, a PbtA game.

One more thing I want to point out that I like about A Cozy Den: The Personality Chart. It’s a matrix of several personality traits that helps define what your character is like. Is your character platonic or lustful? Is she manic or lazy? You assign points to them to best sum up your character and then, later in the game, when you make a roll, you have the option to roll on the chart for a bonus, provided that the situation best suits the character’s personality. For instance, a lazy Lesbisnake would be able to nap easier because they can roll on their personality to get a +1 bonus on top of whatever bonuses their stat has. This concept is very good and even well balanced (even with a full 11 on your personality, you have a 2.78% chance of failing). However, I never found an appropriate time to utilize the personality chart, though that’s mostly due to the fact of the move list being limited, as I can only match up a few skills with a few contexts. However, with skill-based rolls like in D20, this actually works to its benefit, so it’s definitely a good idea.

Overall, A Cozy Den has this experimental feeling to it, taking a unique setting like Lesbisnakes living together, using a simplistic system like PbtA, and creating an overall “feel-good” kind of game that anyone can enjoy. For the most part, the experiment is a success and I had enjoyed playing the game. Despite some of the flaws I had with this game, which I can easily tweak out if I were to play the game again, I feel as though this would be a great game to play with friends, provided they’re okay with the concept. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air for me.

The Coziest Den

I always have a rule of thumb for picking out RPGs to play. If the setting is interesting enough, it’s worth a check. If I feel like I can play this solo, it’s worth a play. There were definitely games that I solo played just because of its setting and premise: A Flower for Mara, Titan World, and Bliss Stage being such examples.

This game is no exception. A Cozy Den has this for a setting: players are a race of snake people called Lesbisnakes who are part-human, part-snake, all lesbian. The game takes place during the chilly winter months as Lesbisnakes live in dens to hibernate. The more Lesbisnakes there are in a den, the better, and the aim is to make… a cozy den. Roll credits.

This setting is just amazing and it’s not because it appeals to the LGBTQ community, since lots of games can be tailored to appeal to that demographic. You play as a snake girl who lives with other snake girls to survive the winter. It’s a simple slice of life kind of game, which you barely see any of in modern RPGs. The closest ones are games that try to emulate Stranger Things, such as Tales from the Loop or Kids on Bikes. Not to mention that romance is involved in this game, hence why it’s this year’s Valentine’s Day game.

The engine I will be using is CRGE Kai since I barely use that at all even though it’s my go-to engine. Not only that, but I will be using the Social Focus Table from Mythic GM Emulator’s Variations. Character Creation is simple because I’m the only person here. The idea is that the group must be unanimous with what species of Lesbisnake they want to play as. I’m going with a Garter Lesbisnake.

We unfortunately come across a problem. The book mentions a character sheet, but as I skimmed through it, I saw no such sheet. This is an appropriate time to point out that I have a physical copy of the game and not a PDF. Thankfully, I found a sheet on the official website and it just so happens to be a Garter Lesbisnake. Though it wouldn’t matter which species it was that much given how everyone plays the same species and as such every option for each species is virtually the same.

However, I decided to take advantage of a feature that the book had. You could say that this is sponsored by Bits and Mortar, as it’s with them that I was able to nab myself the PDF of the handouts, the necessary half of the game that was missing from the book. With Bits and Mortar, you can get free PDF copies of physical books you’ve purchased, or in this case, handouts, provided they were published by someone who has joined the initiative. A good chunk of indie developers have joined this initiative, including the publisher of this game, Serpent Cyborg, and my favorite company due to their constant stream of character development-driven games, Genesis of Legend Publishing. Definitely worth a check out if you have a book of a game you like to see on PDF.

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