Sunday 28 March 2021

Standing stones in Romance of the Perilous Land

In ROTPL megaliths, stone circles and standing stones created centuries ago by both giant and druid, are imbued with the power inherent in the land. Here I'll talk about some of the ways standing stones can be used in your game.

Giant stones

Back when the land was new the Worldspeakers used their new-found magic to craft impossibly huge standing stones carved with words of power. Generally these were to denote territory and ward off anyone who might attack the tribe, but others were made to heal after battle. In some cases stones are situated near baths crafted by Giant masons where warriors would lick their wounds in the presence of healing magic. Rugged giant runes are carved into every surface, though by now the magic within is latent at best. Reading these runes requires both an understanding of the Giant language and a severe History or Languages (Mind) check (runes are generally weathered away and really hard to read). Usually it's easier to get a Giant to read it for you, but that always comes with a bargain. Speaking the words activates the magic. Healing Stones usually will heal everyone standing in the circle 3d8 once per sunset. A cunning folk can spend 3 spell points to gain an extra d8 healing for the group by magnifying the magic through themselves (often leaving them a little frazzled).

Druid stones

Stones erected on the behest of the druids are much more recent than the Giant stones and serve different purposes, mainly to venerate the pantheon of the Perilous Land or to mark a magical treasure. These stone circles are much smaller, from 10ft stone slabs to 1ft rocks compared to the behemoth 20ft or more of the giants. Like the giants the druids carved intricate runes into the stone for various purposes. These runes are in the esoteric Druid language which requires a tough Language (Mind) check to read. The magic within is younger and therefore much more potent. Some singular stones have the symbols of the gods etched into them, usually coupled with offerings of mead, flowers and food depending on the god. Druids gather around major stone circles like the Ring of Drydych in Ascalon on feast days to perform ceremonies (coming of age, crowning). 

Doom stones

So called because many were created in the Age of Doom, Doom Stones were generally created by unfortunate souls being turned into stone, or evil creatures becoming stone after being defeated by the forces of good. Long Meg and her Daughters are Doom stones in Hutton, created when a family of witches was defeated by Merlin himself. While Doom Stones aren't magical (even if they're a result of magic), they can be reversed through powerful incantations and the right item. It's usually thought of as bad luck to camp near a set of Doom Stones. Anyone who does suffers a Setback on a single check determined by the GM until the next sunset.

Secondary effects of standing stones

Standing stones attract various denizens of the Perilous Land to them. The decaying Worldspeaker magic can only be felt by those of Otherworldly origin, so it's common to find fairies, bugbears, gnomes, bogies and pixies in and around Giant stones. Druid stones attract those who wish to pay their respect to the gods, as well as spirits who are accidentally tied to this world by the stones. Doom stones often attract black dogs, hags and werewolves. Witches and crones tend to stay well away from Doom Stones.

Quest ideas using standing stones

1. The bones of the Worldspeaker Vardan are believed to be buried near a Giant stone. They are said to contain properties to reverse death. When a knight falls gravely ill, the heroes must find and gather the bones on sacred giant ground. 

2. Every Yule a local village is terrorised by phantom riders tethered by the local druid stone.

3. A group of Doom Stones suddenly turn back into the villagers they once were. When integrating back into society others notice they've returned... different.

4. A recently reactivated Giant Stone has caused a rift to open to Otherworld. A mysterious Piper is enchanting the local children and leading them through the rift. 

5. Arthur wants to take a Giant Stone as a tactical position to use its healing properties. Mordred has the same idea.

6. A spirit appears at a Druid Stone pleading to be reunited with his love who is still alive. The problem is that they disappeared into the wilderness a year ago in their grief.

7. Pixies are hosting an annual Pixie Ball in a Giant stone circle. The heroes must magically disguise themselves as pixies and attend the ball and get hold of a pixie flute.

8. A thick dogs has rolled over a town. People are being taken by a group of hags, attracted to the Doom stone that a local cunning folk has taken into their home in order to reverse the spell.

Sunday 7 March 2021

RATKING BOSR business card RPG out now

 If you know me or have been following this blog for the last decade, you'll know I love tiny games. Restriction breeds creativity, which is why I wanted to get involved in the latest business card RPG jam over on Itch. 

RATKING (it always has to be shouted) sits in the realm of British Old School Roleplaying (BOSR), influenced by games like WHFRP and Fighting Fantasy. This is an entire ruleset on one side of a business card, and a full adventure on the other. 

RATKING uses a coin flipping mechanic (it has to be a grimy, crappy coin) as task resolution because dice don't fit easily into wallets along with the business card. You choose a gutterpunk career (no ability scores here) and head out into a murky world where Chaos and Order are in constant flux.

The Chaos/Order mechanic is my favourite part. Every day the Ratking (the GM) flips a coin to determine how the winds are. If they're chaotic the rules change. Enemies act before PCs in combat, enemies also may get stronger and NPCs react differently. I've taken inspiration here from Soulbound, which uses a Doom mechanic to similar effect. This adds a layer of uncertainty to the game. Do you really want to head into the crypt during a Chaos wind? What if you absolutely have to? What if the Chaos lasts for days?

On the flip side is GHOULFOG, a tiny adventure. A stinking mist rolls into town and things quickly go to hell. 

Business card games present some interesting design challenges, particularly if you're creating a traditional RPG. A fair few rules have to be implied or left to the players to houserule - obviously you can't cover all bases. For instance, RATKING only mentions when something is a success, implying the converse is a failure. Combat, too, has to be streamlined. There's no space to go into detail - there are no rounds or actions, so it's up to the players to decide the flow based on their judgment. 

I wanted three main elements. The game had to be an open, trad design that worked purely with the rules on the card. It needed to have mechanics that reflected the world and it also needed to have an adventure. The last one was important because an adventure could build a slice of the world while showing how certain mechanics like the winds worked. 

These are my favourite kinds of games to design because they present a puzzle. I ask myself what game I'd want to create regardless of size and figure out how to bring an authentic experience to a tiny format. 

Download RATKING here 

Wednesday 3 March 2021

Make your game

 Make your game.

Put it out there and make money from it. 

I've seen so many people who say they've been thinking about writing a game but they're too nervous to release it. 

Someone out there needs your game. Some people will say that any new game needs to be distinct, something they've not seen before, but no matter what your game is someone will probably love it. 

If making your game brings you joy, it's going to bring someone else, maybe a whole group joy too. 

Make your game.