Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Fop

So, something a little different. A repost, from an old website of ours, now gathering dust, edited slightly and given a fancy new image but otherwise pretty much all that it had ever been.

We don’t fancy ourselves expert D&D 4E designers, so things like “balance” and “playability” are distant concerns compared to things like “awesome” and “woooooo”.  We don’t fancy ourselves as patient designers, so we’re stopping at the bare necessities for level one because utility powers seem too dull to be interested in. But we do fancy ourselves as fancy, and that’s what’s most important. Presenting…

The Fop

“That is such a fascinating sword you have there. I’ve always admired Elven craftsmanship. It’s a shame they’re never the same once you get blood on them.”


  • Role: Controller. You use guile, flattery, manipulation, and pure applied cowardiThe Fopce to distract opponents, move them where you want them, or turn them against one another. You lean toward defender as a secondary role.
  • Power Source: Martial. Technically. You use quick thinking, a deft tongue, and a well-chosen frock rather than, say, your arms, but your power nonetheless comes from within.
  • Key Abilities: Charisma, Intelligence, Dexterity
  • Armor Proficiencies: Cloth, leather, hide
  • Weapon Proficiencies: Dagger, rapier, crossbow
  • Bonus to Defense: +2 Reflex
  • Hit Points at 1st Level: 8+Constitution score
  • Hit Points per Level Gained: 4
  • Healing Surges per Day: 8+Constitution Modifier
  • Trained Skills: Diplomacy and Streetwise. From the class skills below, choose three more trained skills at 1st level. Class Skills: Bluff (Cha), History (Int), Insight (Wis), Perception (Wis), Stealth (Dex)
  • Build Options: Snivelling fop, scandalous fop
  • Class Features: Sartorial Appreciation, False Friendship, Social Recovery, Expressive Expressions, Cosmopolitan Linguist

In large cities, where the rich get inevitably richer and are thus allowed to be idle and the only escape from the excesses of hedonism or terminal boredom is in attending dinner parties, fops are inevitable. They come into being unbidden, trained in the most difficult social obstacle courses, they have raised the process of attending dinner parties not just to an art, but to a competition. Fops are experts on seeing, being seen, and seeing how others are being seen.

As a fop there are innumerable ways you can influence people. You could be a lesser noble with the most fashionably-cut frock coat and definite opinions on what is Done or Not Done in society, or the upwardly mobile in a neat black suit most concerned with making sure you’re out of the way when it would behoove you to be, or even a trusted servant practiced in high society long enough that he can be all things to all people to get his master’s, or his own, way.

Put on your finest clothes, read up on all the scandals in the neighborhood, put on a little more make-up (just a touch more blush, honestly, you can never overdo it), and venture forth, little fop, into the world.


Depending on their background and the particular nature of their social identity, fops tend to fall into one of two categories: sniveling or scandalous. All fops rely on Charisma to get their voices heard, secondarily Intelligence or Dexterity, and perhaps Constitution (as they tend to be slapped a lot).

Sniveling Fop- You prefer staying out of the way, holding on to your social situation through professionally applied cowardice. Oddly, this tends to make you the center of attention, as enemies would prefer to gang up on the weaker opponent, but you take advantage of this by making them feel bad about themselves for hurting you. Charisma is your most important attribute, followed by Dexterity (which will help you in avoiding attacks and taking potshots with your crossbow if the opportunity avails itself). Since you’ll be hit a lot, you may wish to make Constitution your third best score, because you need all the healing surges you can get. Pick the pathetic recovery class feature, and use it often. Keeping enemy eyes on you keep them off your allies, so don’t be afraid to select powers which work to your disadvantage.

  • Suggested Feat: Fetal Position (Human feat: Extremely Friendly)
  • Suggested Skills: Bluff, Perception, Stealth
  • Suggested At-Will Powers: Plead Excuses, Shriek of Terror
  • Suggested Encounter Power: Feign Death
  • Suggested Daily Power: Insufferable Wag

Scandalous Fop- You enjoy playing people against one another, manipulating situations to your advantage and creating a bloody pile-up out of which you will emerge unscathed. In battle, this means you get others to do the dirty work for you. Charisma is your most important attribute for manipulation, followed by Intelligence, which is necessary for making all of the most cutting remarks. Dexterity should be your third best score, for those rare times when you need to stop making catspaws and actually hit somebody. Pick the aggressive recovery class feature, and remember that you may need to dissolve one of your friendships in order to latch onto somebody more useful, which is in the finest fop tradition. Select powers which benefit from your false friendship.

  • Suggested Feat: Schadenfreude (Human feat: Clinginess)
  • Suggested Skills: Bluff, History, Insight
  • Suggested At-Will Powers: Baseless Accusations, Snide Aside
  • Suggested Encounter Power: Advice
  • Suggested Daily Power: Backstab


Fops have the following class features.

Sartorial Appreciation-  Fops care a great deal about their clothing, and have a capacity for preserving it from damage which borders on the uncanny. A fop gains a +3 AC bonus when wearing cloth armor which he considers to be extremely stylish. In addition, because weaponry does so ruin the line of one’s trousers, a fop who does not have a weapon equipped gains a +2 AC bonus.

False Friendship- A fop may, as a Standard Action, pay a multitude of compliments to an adjacent opponent who can understand him, in order to befriend that opponent. Fops may only have one befriended opponent at a time, and may only befriend an opponent who they have not attacked this encounter (though a fop may befriend someone who has attacked him). The befriended state lasts until the fop befriends a new opponent or attacks his friend with a non-friendly attack. A befriended opponent is more vulnerable to certain attacks; in addition, a befriended opponent who attacks you, whether successful or not, takes 1d6 psychic damage (increase to 2d6 at level 11 and 3d6 at level 21) for daring to hurt his friend. If this damage would reduce the opponent to 0 or fewer hit points, it instead reduces him to 1 hit point.

Social Recovery- You have learned how to save face in social situations, and are able to use this knowledge to bolster yourself even in battle. Choose one of the following social recovery methods.

  • Pathetic Recovery: Your expertise hinges on cowering. You gain +1 to all defenses when adjacent to your befriended enemy.
  • Aggressive Recovery: Your expertise hinges on revenge. When you are bloodied, your attacks get a +1 bonus to hit.

Expressive Expressions- Your long history of bohemian socialization has given you lots of experience communicating with people you cannot, actually, speak with. You may perform attacks with the keyword social on enemies whose language you cannot speak at a -5 penalty to hit.

Cosmopolitan Linguist- As a city-dweller, you have been exposed to many, many tourists and many, many languages. You gain Linguist as a bonus feat, even if you do not meet the prerequisites.


Your powers are technically martial in nature, built off of a lifetime of socializing and using your naturally silvered tongue. Fop powers are called epigrams. Some attacks use the keyword friendly: friendly attacks can be performed on befriended opponents without losing their friendship. Most attacks use the keyword social: social attacks may only be performed on enemies who can hear and understand you. Additionally, if a social attack were to reduce a target to 0 HP or below, it will instead leave them with 1 HP. Social attacks may not be made on opponents with 0 HP or less.

Level 1 At-Will Epigrams

Plead Excuses (Fop Attack 1)
You drop to your knees and explain, in heartfelt and teary detail, why, contrary to all obvious evidence, you aren’t actually aligned with those dreadful adventurers, you weren’t even supposed to be here at all.
At-Will | Martial, Friendly, Social
Immediate Reaction | Ranged 10
Trigger: An enemy successfully attacks you
Target: The triggering enemy
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: 1d6 + Charisma modifier psychic damage.
Increase damage to 2d6 + Charisma modifier at 21st level.
Pathetic Recovery: Twice per encounter, when you successfully use this power, you may spend a healing surge.

Baseless Accusations (Fop Attack 1)
You explain, through supposition and hearsay, just what one of your friend’s allies has been saying about him behind his back.
At-Will | Martial, Friendly, Social
Standard Action | Melee touch
Target: Your befriended enemy
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: Your target, as an immediate reaction, performs a standard melee or ranged attack against the character of your choice. If this attack hits, the target takes a -2 penalty to hit any target except your befriended enemy until the beginning of your next turn. Agressive Recovery: Twice per encounter, when you successfully use this power, you may spend a healing surge.

Shriek of Terror (Fop Attack 1)
Taking in the situation, you yelp and quiver and moan in fright. The sight is so pathetic even your enemies want to protect you, though they hate themselves for it.
At-Will | Martial, Friendly, Social
Standard Action | Close burst 3
Target: One creature
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: 2d4 + Charisma modifier psychic damage and you may pull the target one square.

Snide Aside (Fop Attack 1)
You offhandedly comment upon upon the cut of an opponent’s coat, the state of his armor, or the fashion of her hat. The comment is cutting precisely because it’s so true.
At-Will | Martial, Social
Standard Action | Ranged 5
Target: Any enemy in range
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: 2d4 + Charisma modifier psychic damage and the target takes an AC penalty equal to your Intelligence modifier until the start of your next turn.

Helpful Correction (Fop Attack 1)
“Er, you there! Hello, sorry, hello, ah… is that how you’re wearing those bracers? Because, I know it’s not my place to say, but they’re upside-down. And, ah, reversed. You should remedy that; you look a fool, frankly. No, take your time; the look is the thing, after all.”
At-Will | Martial, Friendly, Social
Standard Action | Ranged 5
Target: Any enemy in range
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: 1d6 + Charisma modifier psychic damage, and the target is Slowed until the end of your next turn.

Pathetic Flailing (Fop Attack 1)
Is that how you think a weapon works? If you hit anyone with that it’ll either be because you’re very lucky or extremely skilled at looking like you have no idea what you’re doing.
At-Will | Martial, Weapon
Standard Action | Melee
Target: One creature
Attack: Dexterity vs. Reflex
Hit: 1[W] + Dexterity Modifier Damage

Level 1 Encounter Epigrams

Feign Death (Fop Attack 1)
As you see the deadly blow approach, you fall to the ground, explaining as you go that that last wound truly was the last one you could bear. Your opponents, over-eager to believe you out of their hair, buy it entirely.
Encounter | Martial, Healing
Immediate Interrupt | Personal
Trigger: An enemy’s attack would take you to 0 HP or below.
Effect: The attack does not take place. You are considered to be dead for all purposes (including immediate reaction to an enemy or ally dying, as well as effects for which you would make ongoing saves) until the start of your next turn. At the start of your next turn, you may spend a healing surge. You begin your next turn prone.
Pathetic Recovery: You gain additional HP equal to your Intelligence modifier.

Advice (Fop Attack 1)
You create some sound advice which your friend can’t help but see the logic of.
Encounter | Martial, Friendly, Charm, Social
Standard Action | Close burst 1
Target: Your befriended enemy
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: Your target does not take his next turn; instead, you move him his speed, and make a ranged or melee basic attack.
Aggressive Recovery: Your target gets a bonus to its attack equal to your Intelligence modifier.

Unfortunate Implications (Fop Attack 1)
“So, at the end of the day, how exactly is the money being split? I mean, if you’re willing to kill us for it, who’s to say you won’t kill each other?”
Encounter | Martial, Friendly, Zone, Social
Standard Action | Close burst 6
Target: All enemies in range
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: Targets take 1d4 + Charisma modifier psychic damage
Effect: Targets do not get a bonus for flanking until the start of your next turn.

Cower (Fop Attack 1)
You cringe, and shake, and beg for mercy, and otherwise make an embarrassment of yourself. The phrase “not in the face” may be involved. It’s very distracting.
Encounter | Martial, Friendly
Standard Action | Close blast 3
Effect: All allies in range gain a +2 power bonus to all defenses and you take -4 to all defenses until the end of your next turn. In addition, anyone who attempts to attack you before the start of your next turn takes 1d6 + Charisma modifier psychic damage.

Level 1 Daily Epigrams

Insufferable Wag (Fop Attack 1)
During an opportune moment, when a momentary hush descends upon the battlefield, you let forth the joke which you’ve been holding in all evening. Your opponents are less than amused.
Daily | Martial, Charm, Healing, Social, Friendly
Standard Action | Close burst 10
Target: All enemies in range
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: 2d6 + Charisma modifier psychic damage. Each target must shift half its speed directly toward you if possible. Until the end of your next turn, targets take 1d4 psychic damage every time they attack a target who is not you.
Miss: half damage, and the targets are shifted one square.
Secondary target: All allies in range
Effect: Targets gain temporary hit points equal to your Intelligence modifier.

Backstab (Fop Attack 1)
Just when they thought they could trust you, your friend finds your dagger in their ribs, and that same ingratiating smile on your face.
At-Will | Martial, Weapon
Standard Action | Melee
Target: Your befriended enemy
Attack: Dexterity vs. Reflex
Hit: 3[W] + Dexterity modifier damage and the target is stunned (save ends)
Miss: Half damage and the target is stunned until the end of your next turn.


  • Speak with Your Hands- Prerequisites: Fop. Benefits: You may perform attacks with the keyword Social when unable to speak, at a -5 penalty. You must have both hands empty. This penalty does not stack with the penalty from using Expressive Expressions.
  • Shadenfreude- Prerequisites: Fop, Aggressive Recovery class feature. Benefits: Whenever your befreinded enemy takes damage, gain temporary hit points equal to your Intelligence modifier.
  • Clinginess- Prerequisites: Fop. Benefits: You gain an AC bonus equal to your Dexterity modifier against opportunity attacks when moving directly toward your befriended enemy.
  • Tailored Pockets- Prerequisites: Fop, Sartorial Appreciation class feature, Dex 12. Benefits: You may draw and sheathe daggers as a free action. You cannot draw and sheathe in the same turn.
  • Language Training- Prerequisites: Fop, Int. 11. Benefits: You learn two new languages.
  • Animal Ken- Prerequisites: Fop, Int. 11. Benefits: You may use attacks with the keyword social on natural beasts at a -5 penalty.
  • Fetal Position- Prerequisites: Fop, Pathetic Recovery class feature. Benefits: You may drop prone as a free action. Being prone does not grant combat advantage, and gives you an addition +1 to all defenses.
  • Extremely Friendly- Prerequisites: Fop, False Friendship class feature. Benefits: Increase the damage befriended opponents take from attacking you to 1d8 (2d8 at level 11, 3d8 at level 21).
  • Sneaky Socialite [Multiclass Fop] Prerequisites: Cha. 13. Benefits: You gain training in Diplomacy. You can use the fop’s False Friendship class feature. Choose a 1st-level fop At-Will power with the keyword friendly. You may use that power once per encounter. In addition, you look fabulous.

Things to do with Oracles

Here at Thought Check Games, we… like… In a Wicked Age. For what it is. For the most part.

… hm. Did that come across as wishy-washy enough?

Okay, no, we do, we like IAWA. It’s fun, it’s flexible, and if you’ve got dice in your pocket and a couple of folks who are all about making a story happen, then it is exactly what you need. No planning needed, just a willingness to take a step back and let the story flow naturally, and that’s cool. That’s cool.

It’s not really what we like in games. We like our games to be gamier, and the divide between GM and player to be a little more strict. It’t just how we roll. But for what it is, IAWA is good, and you know what it has that we freakin’ love? Oracles. Oracles! So elegant! So beautiful! Have you heard of these? Pick a genre of Oracle (Blood and Sex! Nest of Vipers! The Unquiet Past! Or, the correct option: God Kings of War!), and draw a few cards from a standard deck of 52. Each card yields a lovely little genre-appropriate evocative description, and these descriptions conjure images which become characters, settings, and events. Beautiful! If you aren’t familiar with just how delightful these are, then walk with us here, if you please, pull up one of those oracles. Even if you are familiar, look at all those Oracular Hacks suited for other genres entirely! Pulp adventure, urban horror… even spelljamming! Three of our favorite things!

(Confession: the set-up isn’t so great at this particular site. Sometimes we have a deck of cards but no Internet, you see, and would prefer printed oracles, but many of these can be tracked down or approximated).

So, why do we love oracles? Well, friends, because they are narrative CHUNKS. That’s interesting. Little bits of story that can attach with ease to other bits of story. Random, for interest, but genre-defined, for appropriateness. A narrative salt, which can make anything a little more savory.  And that’s what we’d like to propose right now.. methods of using oracles as a seasoning in any old game system.

  1. Use an oracle during character generation! Okay, that was a bit of a gimme, but not to be overlooked… you can force players to have sets of characters who have some sort of relationship to one another without invoking GM’s fiat. Classy. While we’re hitting up the obvious, let’s mention…
  2. Plot generators. As a GM, draw a little web of connections… six or so nodes linked together, with one circled as “big bad evil guy”. Drop cards on the nodes. Consult the oracle. Instant vague outline of a plot. Oh, not ideal for an involved campaign, but if you need something on the quick, you could do worse.
  3. In a system in which playing cards are used as a means of task resolution, an Oracle can make the resolved task that much more unpredictable. We’re thinking, as a specific example, of Primetime Adventures… whomever wins a conflict is determined by a draw of the cards, which means that every time someone wrests significant narrative control, there are at least two cards on the table. The narrator might, for instance, grab one card from the bunch, consult the appropriate oracle, and use the image it contains as a seed for his or her description. For those who want to be surprised by their own stories.
  4. Metanarrative coupons! You know, any token which can be used to alter the way the game world works… fate points, hero points, whatever. If you can spend some points to declare that your character knows a guy who knows a guy who can disarm this bomb, you have metanarrative coupons in your game. Using an oracle, when a player drops a token, he or she summons the entity attached to the card, bringing the image from the oracle into the game world. These coupons become more limited in breadth (i.e.: if you cannot justify how the description attached to the card might help you, then you cannot use this card), but are more powerful in what they are creating. Perhaps unsuitable for something like FATE, where the economy of fate points is fairly tight and fast moving, alas, this is an idea perhaps better for games that do NOT already have a metanarrative coupon system. Think, like, D&D, where there’s very little narrative power in the player’s hands, or something like that. Perform an act of god-pleasing heroism, and you are given a little slice of fate… a card you can play at any time to change the world as you see fit. Neat, eh?
  5. We’re going to use numeral five to repeat the last one, which turned into a bit of a skimmable block of text: reward players with cards that they might play to add the entity from the oracle to the game world! Metanarrative coupons!
  6. A more specific incarnation of the above, requiring a more specific sort of oracle: clues. In a game about investigators which isn’t necessarily about investigation, if you’ll appreciate the distinction, an oracle may be made up of broadly-defined clues as to the identity of the murderer, the participants in the conspiracy, the cause of the mutations. By which we don’t mean “plan out the details and lay a trail of clues,” we mean “abstract the crime entirely… have characters gain a clue when it seems appropriate, maybe using card suits to determine if it’s something physical, forensic, recorded, or witnessed, and let them come up with their own conclusions.” Be flexible enough to keep your choice of villain parked where the clues could reasonably be pointing, and your players get to do some actual brain-straining before they move on to the mad shootouts.

Some of these we’ve done. Some, we need to try. One idea is missing, because it’s what inspired us to write this in the first place, and we’re working on making it maximally interesting. Is there anything else we’ve missed?

Fitness Quest!

Let’s fix Fitocracy!

… which is not to say that Fitocracy is broken. It’s… fine, we suppose, for what it is: a social networking site with a fitness focus that tracks one’s exercise in a manner reminiscent of RPG experience-gain and levelling up. Lots of folks like it. Lots of folks find it helpful. Ed’s wife is all about the up-levelling. But WE dislike it.

We find it ineffective. We find it dull. The nominal benefit, sociability, is terrifying, because we’re being social with Fitness People (and we are not Fitness People). The “character-advancement” angle is ineffective, because we are not swayed by little numbers which turn into big numbers… not those which lack a narrative attachment at any rate. And that, really, is the crux of the issue: we crave narrative. As humans, we crave narrative, and as RPG-folk, we are especially inclined to crave narratives… certainly, the story of the little number which turns big as one hangs out with pleasant people is sufficient for many… see MMOs of all stripes… but it’s not doing it for us because the little numbers are meaningless!

(The greater problem here is this attitude, of course: the numbers aren’t meaningless, they are indicative of our health, and the fact that we don’t consider that to be enough of an impetus to care about them is significant in and of itself, but outside of the bounds of this particular discussion.)

What if the numbers were meaningful? What if one’s fitness “level” meant as much as one’s character level? We put time and energy and care into our elven wizards, partly so that we might see them hit level thirty and start punching out gods, yes? Shouldn’t putting time and energy into ourselves be as compelling? How can we make it more compelling?

Our answer: by linking ourselves to the elf. By attaching narrative to exercise. By creating Fitness Quest.

Fitness Quest: A land of fantasy, magic, and exercise!

(A rambling thought experiment. This isn’t an announcement of a new site or anything).

This could be an online, browser-based massively multiplayer RPG (similar to Kingdom of Loathing or Twilight Heroes). Players sign up and are given a fantasy world, primarily text-based with decorative images. They start at level one, with access to a few areas to adventure in and quests to accept. And, of course, like most web-based games these days, they have a limited number of actions they can take in a day… they can go to X number of locations, battle Y enemies, tackle Z quest chains, so on and so forth.

The difference is this: for every action they take in game, they must perform an action outside of the game. Obviously, this is based on the honor system, but let us assume for a moment a world in which there is no dishonesty, shall we?

  • You want to access the Dwarven Mines, eh? They are ten miles away from your starting zone. In order to get there, you must log ten miles of walking/running. (If you are of a more limited mobility there should be a reduced or alternate means of getting there, perhaps involving something similarly cardiovascular. Something to thing about/work on. This same caveat applies to all future examples… alternatives can and should exist, though we admit to being unsure how they might work).
  • You want to hit that kobold with your sword? That’s going to take upper body strength! Do some pushups. Each one you can do in a set adds to your to-hit percentage–because it’s just an kobold, damage doesn’t really factor in all that much here, but against a tougher enemy, the strength of your hit might be affected as well.
  • You want to sneak behind the Guard and pick her pocket? Let’s hope you’re agile! The longer you can maintain a purely aerobic activity, the greater your odds of not getting caught swiping the keys. (Something like jumping jacks or air-cycling. Alas, walking/running may need to be excluded, and this is a category that the lack of props will hurt).
  • You want to cast illusion? Well, you better prepare the spell. The longer you can maintain a yoga form, the more effective the spell will be; the more forms you perform, the more spells you have access to.
  • You need a healing potion? Go drink a glass of water!
  • You need a useful pre-combat buff? Stretch!
  • Need to sleep off your wounds? Go for it, but when you log back in, we’ll ask how many hour YOU slept last night, and from that work out how much your avatar heals up! And so on! And so forth!

And of course, when you have finished a line of actions, which is to say, you have performed a number of health-type actions sufficient to be considered an extensive routine, then you have completed a QUEST. Not just a thing to do what gives you a little experience and leaves you otherwise out in the lurch, but a narrative quest which has some sort of rewarding epilogue. And of course, a reward.

Nothing too serious, but something effectively cosmetic, that you might display proudly on your little digital avatar (perhaps a bit of armor or a new weapon, or an item to decorate your virtual living space with. Possibilities are endless, eh?). Do enough quests, and you level up.*

As you level up, you get access to new and different quests! Ideally, if we were folks who knew anything about programming or large-scale video-game design, as you level up you can follow questlines which allow you to act in different ways in the world… you might join the assassin’s guild, for instance, and jump rope for ten minutes in order to garrotte a local nobleman.

Also, as you level up, the enemies and challenges get more difficult, but the maximum values that you can add to your skills via exercise increase… for instance, at level 1, you can add ten push-ups’ worth of effort to a swing of your sword. Get to level 2, buy a better sword, and you can add fifteen to every swing. And so on… the value of each push-up can’t increase (because, after all, the purpose is to get you to move MORE), but the maximum potential does. But the real reward is the new stories you encounter, and the joy of a sword that looks cooler than the one you had before.

There are numerous practical problems here, not the least of which is figuring out what numbers to plug into the above equation for realsies, and figuring out how to make this amenable to people who don’t want to or can’t perform certain exercises–who are we. after all, to tell a fella with no arms that, no, he can’t use a sword? It’s hopefully not an intractable issue, but it requires more knowledge of exercise than we have at the moment. The only thought that comes to mind is spending a great deal of time at character generation quizzing folks about their physical skills and generating a levelling progression based on that, but man, that sure sounds complicated.

(The philosophical problem is how to keep this interesting at high levels, beyond investing in some sort of procedural quest-generation like City of Heroes has. Kingdom of Loathing’s option is to allow you to reboot your character, but why would you want to do that here? No clue at the moment.)

*Have we mentioned that we don’t like XP and eschew it whenever possible? No? Well, we’ll talk about that in the near future. Promise.

Happy New Year!

New year! New possibilities! New WORLD.

New idea. We have a proposal for you. It will be astounding. It will be interesting. It will be something.

First off, take a look at this, from which we gathered inspiration. Its about being a sommelier of game, pairing a setting with a ruleset which complements it. Neat, yes? In a world whose history spans centuries, different periods are more appropriately played with different mechanics… some which focus on martial flair, others which focus on social interaction, et cetera. Keen idea, yes? Certainly, it’s something that interests us here: we love thinking about the way something that is entirely mechanical feels narratively, which is why one of our hobbies is setting up little microgames.

But why, we ask ourselves, must these settings be so entirely separate? What if the players could go from the epic pulp action of the Demonfall war to the more socially-oriented, gritty world of the New Empire, and (more importantly) back again. What if they could experience these settings, ebbing and flowing into one another?

The short answer? Because it would be INCREDIBLY difficult for a GM to maintain two consistent universes with radically different rules. No way around that. But not, we think, impossible.

Consider two worlds: one is defined by… oh, let’s say GURPS, for the sake of argument. It’s a world of specificity… it’s a point-buy universe. It’s simulationist, which is to say it’s all about the LAW. On the other hand, you have something like… oh, PDQ. It’s a world of approximation… it’s a free-form trait universe. It’s narrativist, which is to say, it’s about being incredibly adaptive.

Whatever you can build in GURPS, you can recreate in PDQ. Approximately. It won’t be exact… it can’t, and it wouldn’t make sense to be, but you can approximate all the goods you buy through collecting them under the penumbra of a free-form quality. This gives you characters who exist in two simultaneous forms… one (relatively) gritty and realistic, the other much more loose. One certain, the other mutable.

One equally effective when injured, the other made weaker with damage. One limited in the skills he or she can use, the other able to attack with a profession or socialize as an attack. One, in all likelihood, possessing an extra low-level skill or two that the other just didn’t have room for. Two visions of one character. All you need now is a way to flip between them.

Well that’s not hard. The GURPS character must exist in the GURPS world, and the PDQ character must exist in the PDQ world, otherwise the math just doesn’t bear out. This suggests to us that there are parallel worlds… perhaps linked by a portal or two (see Fringe), or perhaps portals can be created from time to time (see Sliders), or perhaps they have the natural capacity to slip between the two at will. Each world is drawn in the same broad strokes, but the specifics may differ… from the mechanical necessities, which make battle in one world or the other a very different proposition, to the occupants, to the set-ups of a room. Think of the strange dungeon complexes which might be made by forcing players to encounter doors which are locked in GURPS but open in PDQ, or choose between an obvious trap in PDQ or an obvious ambush in GURPS, or otherwise flip between worlds to progress! Perhaps the PDQ universe has a goblin city with a jail in the center, so our players flip to the GURPS universe, where the same city, with the same outline, is run by the humans who were able to fight off the goblins in this particular timeline. Perhaps the PDQ president has been replaced by an evil robot double, so we must find and abduct his identical analogue from the GURPS universe. Perhaps we slip into the PDQ universe, where we can more effectively interrogate someone, to learn secrets from a spymaster that we can take to the GURPS universe, where the knowledge will make skill checks significantly easier. Who knows?

But beyond even the practical possibilities of the twin universes, there is the different feel of them. Played right, one can feel like the “true” world, and one can feel like the dangerous “alternate” world that the PCs must dip into. Whether you see GURPS or PDQ as the better home world most likely depends on whether you are aligned with law or chaos. Regardless, the shift can (and should) be unsettling but essential.

As a final note, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that the finest PDQ sourcebook is Truth and Justice, and that there’s a mighty fine GURPS: Supers, and a grand tradition of crises on arbitrarily huge numbers of Earths in comic books. So, that’s a thing to consider.

Alas, for we do not have a group at the moment upon which we can force this idea, even though we have a niggling little plot bunny in the back of our collective heads, so we leave the general idea on the table for the world’s enjoyment.