Tag Archives: tabletop rpgs

LORE and Belief Released

This world is not as it should be. There is no truth. Reality is what we believe it to be. If you think you can fly, then that flight is real to you. Others may see you plummet and die, but you might live on, soaring above the clouds. Anyone can dream, but it takes someone special to make those dreams real.

Here is the release of my May game: LORE, the Lightweight Omnipotent Roleplaying Engine, and its first sourcebook, Belief. Together, they form my first tabletop roleplaying game system.

LORE is an attempt to address some of the common problems with tabletop RPGs. It has an interesting dice system; a quick, easy, and original character creation system; and a system that’s lightweight, because roleplaying happens beyond the rules.

Belief is a game about changing reality, about subjective viewpoints, and about the search for a better world. It owes heavy debts to other sources, but it is its own being.

Download LORE and Belief.

Both of these books are beta releases. They have been playtested, but not enough for me to say they’re finished. Please, read them, play them, and comment with anything you think I did especially right or that I could change for the better. I’ve provided them in bookmarked PDFs slavishly laid out for optimal printing at your local print shop, and they’re released under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 License.

These are just the initial releases; I wanted to get them out and in people’s minds so that I could start getting feedback. Expect extras like quick reference sheets and maybe an adventure or three in the coming weeks and months.

What’s Wrong with Tabletop RPGs

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I love tabletop roleplaying games. They are, in some ways, the perfect game. That being said, they certainly aren’t without their flaws. I’ve been working on a tabletop RPG system, and one of the things any creator needs to ask is “what’s wrong with what’s already there?” and “how can I make it better?” Here, then, is a list of the things wrong with tabletop roleplaying games.
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Never According to Plan

The players in a tabletop roleplaying game never do what you expect them to.

Case in point: I’ve just started up a campaign of Promethean. It opens with the player characters being drawn to a mysterious, sprawling house, where they discover an otherworldly being called a qashmal who dispenses a cryptic riddle.

This is the second time I’ve run the beginning of this campaign with different players each time. The first group did what I expected: they searched the building top to bottom for clues, then proceeded to follow up on the riddle. This latest group, however, decided against that.
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The Eye of Boccob

The Eye of Boccob is a prestige class for Dungeons & Dragons Edition 3.5. I used it for a creepy NPC in a campaign I am running, when I realized that I needed an NPC that was capable of teleporting large numbers of people. It grew from there into a character that my player loved to hate. If you intend to use this prestige class in a campaign, keep in mind that it was designed to be a non-combat NPC; I make no guarantees regarding game balance or feasibility of this class for PCs. However, it could prove to be a useful utility class for a group that desires heightened abilities of surveillance and transportation. The full class description follows.

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The Space Beyond the Rules

I just had an annoying conversation with a friend about the relative merits of Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition versus the previous version of the game. I’ll spare you the details, as it’s been discussed ad absurdum elsewhere. It did get me thinking, though, about the role rules play in tabletop roleplaying games.

Tabletop roleplaying games, as I’ve mentioned before, can adapt to players’ actions much more easily and completely than digital games. This is due mostly to the GM‘s ability to roll with the punches and make up stuff in response to an unexpected path taken by the party. Since the origin of tabletop roleplaying games, the roleplaying proper, that is, the social interaction, character quirks, and people-focused play, has been largely separate from the rules. Tabletop RPG rules focus on things like combat, non-social conflict resolution, and supernatural powers. All the fluffy social and character-building stuff is allowed to just occur, with the rules keeping out of its way. Sure, there might be a Diplomacy skill or a Charisma statistic, but those are usually reserved for small parts of the roleplaying: deciding if a character’s argument was convincing enough, or just how pretty the elf princess is. Few systems dedicate more than a page or two to rules governing seemingly important things like falling in love or becoming homesick.

And that’s just fine. Combat, magic, disabling booby traps: these are things that most of us will never experience, things which are nice to have codified and defined for easy processing. Social behavior, however, is something that’s familiar to every tabletop gamer. Even the most reclusive, introverted dice-roller has the experience of getting together with people around a table to play. Human beings understand social situations better than just about anything else, so our creativity is broader and deeper in that area. And I think that’s the interesting part of roleplaying.

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Some Free Indie RPGs

I recently looked around on the internet for interesting tabletop roleplaying systems that I could read and try out for free. I’ve yet to play any of the ones that caught my eye for the first time, but I thought that I should share the highlights of my search.

In the descriptions, you might see the terms “simulationist” and “narrativist.” I’m using those words to describe how the game approaches the details of its rules. A simulationist game, in my way of seeing it, is one which offers a realistic and internally consistent world model which provides specific rules for a wide range of things. A narrativist game, on the other hand, is vague on details; generally, the players and game master can go along with the story, with the rules providing much broader strokes.

Here are the games that jumped out at me, in no particular order:

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Why Should Digital Game Designers Care About Tabletop Roleplaying?

I’ve made a few posts lately about tabletop roleplaying games. Many digital-games-focused folks may not be very interested in such things, since they seem so different from digital games. As I’ve said before, tabletop roleplaying games are a synchronous form of digital games. Why does that matter?

Simple. Imagine the perfect video game engine.

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Character Sheets: An RPG Primer

A very old version of the Dungeons and Dragons character sheet.

I haven’t addressed roleplaying games directly on Ludus Novus much. At first glance, they don’t fit in with video games all that well, and several times I’ve used them as a contrast to video games. However, there’s a distinction that I can make that I think makes them seem less distant.

When people say “roleplaying game,” they are usually referring to a rules system, often combined with a setting. To be clear, I’m referring to “tabletop” or “LARP” roleplaying games here. Dungeons and Dragons. Cthulhu Live. Traveller. Each of these seems so much broader than, say, Half-Life 2. While HL2 only offers one storyline, D&D is limited only by the Game Master and players’ imaginations. However, I think that a better analogue for a video game would be a roleplaying campaign.

I’ve run my short “one-shot” campaign, “The Dead of Apartment 4C,” three times. Each time, a different set of players has run through roughly the same plotline, just like each person who plays Half-Life 2 experiences the same potential narrative. The campaign uses the Fudge system for its rules, and I as Game Master have been the referee. For Half-Life 2, the Source engine is its rule system, and the player’s computer or console is the referee. Roleplaying games and video games look a lot more similar when we match a video game title to a roleplaying campaign rather than a system.

After the break, I’ll do a quick runthrough of some of the RPG theory I’ve picked up.

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