Monthly Archives: August 2012

Feelin’ encumbered

I’m working on a game, a part of this game centers around the creation and use of THINGS. You make stuff, you use it. It behooves you then to have a fair amount of stuff on your person, because, man, what if you need that busted helmet later? You could rework it into some sort of brain-enhancing helm, or just scrap it to help armor your jetpack! Or whatever.

Which of course means I need to start thinking about inventory limits and carrying capacity. Which means that I have to start thinking about encumbrance.

Ugh. Encumbrance. If rule zero of every RPG is “The GM is there to delineate arguments and make executive decisions,” then rule zero-point-five is “The rule for encumbrance is going to be ignored starting session 2 at the latest”. Now, perhaps your experiences are different, but me? I never see encumbrance used outside of computer RPGs, or individual situations that amount to “wait, can you even carry that huge thing?” tests. Honestly, overlooking encumbrance is one of those house rules which is so widespread in the realm of, say, D&D, that it doesn’t even make sense to think of it as a house rule. It’s the gorramn normative state, and paying attention to the weight you’re carrying from moment to moment is the weird exception. Certainly, some folks focus on it… this is why hirelings and mules exist I suppose, but I’ve never been in a game which bothered once starting inventory was purchased.

And of course, the world abounds with alternative rules… a ten-second google search for “rpg encumbrance” will net you six or so different takes on the same basic concept, running the gamut from “encumbrance is stupid, carry whatever you want” to crazy slot-based systems to a fairly brilliant system built on dot-based “encumbrance values.” All food for thought.

One of the problems with encumbrance is that it’s generally punative… you carry a lot of stuff and you make yourself slower (usually) or weaker (rarely). You carry too much, and you find that you can’t carry more, which is a subtle punishment but a punishment indeed. You have too much stuff and you need to make multiple trips to carry it or purchase a pack mule; minor and easily elided-over punishment, but punishment all the same.

On the other hand, if you ignore encumbrance, you…

… hm.

Oh! Oh, okay, if you ignore encumbrance you can have players carrying entire department stores in their backpacks, because your game economy isn’t robust enough to make selling of items a sensible option. That doesn’t sound right… I mean that it lets your players carry too much stuff around as they flit from dungeon to dungeon because you aren’t setting reasonable limits on how much useful treasure they’re acquiring. Or… not that… right! It’s that without the risk of encumbrance, players have no reason to stop flitting between dungeons and actually visit settlements, because you haven’t bothered to design settlements which are worth visiting on their own merits. No, wait, I mean that if you don’t encumber players, then they’ll have access to all kinds of equipment which will allow them to navigate around rails you’re trying to set down for them. Wait, that’s not right either. I think I mean this: if you don’t have a system of encumbrance in place, it’s too hard for you to screw over your players when you send a rust monster after them. No, it’s… it’s… RIGHT! It’s that your players are being packrats, and that’s annoying and silly. THAT’s the reason.

… hm.

OKAY, I’m being deliberately an ass here. Carrying capacity: good for realism, good for resource management, good for occasionally forcing players to make tough decisions.  Has its uses. I’m not after realism, no, and I’d rather the tough decisions be plot-oriented, but there’s nothing wrong with forcing a little resource management on the players, provided that it’s not a nightmare of bookkeeping for the poor GM.

My method? Well, I’m still sussing it out; part of the problem is solved, I think, by dividing stuff into two broad categories: Props, which cannot be permanently lost or destroyed, and mere items, which get lost and destroyed ALL THE TIME. Beyond that, a fairly robust system for making useful devices means that I’m selling the impermanence of inventory items, and hopefully quells the packrat urge. So, that’s one part of the equation.

The other part is an idea inspired by this post, from the Game Mechanic; in brief, objects that get written on a character sheet are sacrosanct, and getting rid of them is an annoyance. Objects written on a post-it or otherwise are easy to get rid of. MAN. That’s a great concept. That’s a concept deserving of a twenty-five page paper on the ludic possibilities of really basic presentation and the power of the path of least resistance. That’s not something I’m doing right now… but I might at some point. For now though, I’m just running off of this notion that if you want to take something around with you… if you care enough to make it a part of a semi-permanent inventory… then you have to fill out a little card for it, that includes details like where you’re carrying it*. If you don’t care enough to keep it with you forever, then don’t… jot it down on a sheet of paper or whatever, but know that as soon as any in-game time passes it’ll be gone and forgotten. Whatever happens, inventory that you’re holding onto just to have doesn’t touch the character sheet. Less call to packrat, less emotional investment in any given item, and a mechanic by which its easier as a player to not bother carrying things around than to actually hold on to them at length. Cut off capacity limits at the knees.

*And there you have my only real mechanical nod to encumbrance and the penalties thereof… if you put a hundred things in your satchel, you’ll start gaining disadvantage on physical activities. If you are wearing three pairs of hats and shoes on your hands, you get social disadvantage, and so on.

Steam Crafting

Man. Life can be full of disappointments. The curry you made is too spicy, you win a free t-shirt but it’s the wrong size, your wife abandons you at the altar, you drive to Disneyland but when you get there it’s just a vacant lot filled knee-high with mouse corpses. DISAPPOINTING.

But nothing quite matches the disappointment of have a good title for your steampunk RPG, only to discover that, not only is it in use elsewhere, it’s being used for another steampunk RPG. And not only is that hedging in on your territory, it’s also hitting all of the bases you want to avoid (which is to say, whether it is good or not–and I haven’t played it and cannot say–it is very nearly the opposite of the game I wish to create, and so I have no wish to allow these titles to be confused).

Sorry, Steamcraft, looks like SteamCraft got there ahead of you. And it brought elves. Which means I need a new title.

Titling things is difficult. A title has so many jobs, after all. It has to tell you what the game/story/movie/whatever is about, it has to tell you what the tone will be, it has to suggest who will enjoy it, and it has to do all of this over the course of one to ten words. That’s a lot of load to place on so few words! That’s the sort of load which reeks of poetry, which I am not adept at.

So. What is this game about? Steampunk adventurers.

What’s the tone? Cheery, pulpy, emphasis on building things. Hence why steam + craft was such a nice duality.

Who is it for? Well, RPG folks, skewing somewhere between D&D and FATE in terms of how much we like crunchy bits in the rules and how much we like empowering players. None of this hyper-realist shit with tables and supplements and a hundred resources to track, none of this wiggly-woggly talking-stick story game aesthetic, just some folks who can screw around in a world which is controlled by a GM. Classic, man.

What does this tell me? I need some words that suggest crafting, suggest steam, are empowering, positive… like Steamcraft, but you know. Not that. Steam-Powered seems like a good concept to start with. Oh, or, steamfitter! The Steamfitter’s Guild. Conveys a sense of time (guilds seem old-timey, except when they write or screen-act), a sense of steam, a bit of construction (for people who know what a steamfitter is, at any rate) and of course a sense of camaraderie amongst the players.

Only problem is that there is no such guild within the game world. But, I guess that’s a minor problem?

Stuff to think on, at any rate.

In which I design some DnDNext classes!

I know, exactly what you were hoping for. Hey though, we’ve got two new classes to look at and I am SO HAPPY that I could just about faint because, friends, because they have put in something that I love. That I yearn for. That tickles me in all the good ways. Classes which are mechanically DIFFERENT. Utterly so. Not just in the effects that they have, not in the roles that they play, but at a fundamental way: sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards are all arcane classes, they have the same life-goal (cast some spells) but they feel different from the ground up.

The three arcanists are all playing slightly different games, you see. The wizard’s is a game of prediction, planning, and the constant, low-level hunt for More Spells to satisfy their need for infinite flexibility… on a day-to-day level, at least. From moment to moment they are utterly inflexible, and rely on what they have on hand. The sorcerer’s game is simple resource management (they call it Willpower, but we all know its Mana), with this mutation caveat: they gain powers by losing mana and being transformed by their bloodline: better to give in now and be powerful or be cautious and remain flexible? The warlock’s game is about finding the right moment: he exists at all times where the others are near the end of the day: two spells from empty. But man, those spells are intense, and once he catches his breath, he’s back up to fighting speed.

It’s great! It’s a fantastic melding of mechanics and story, where one acts in service of the other. I LOVE when mechanics and story act in service of one another. I wrote a paper on it once. Good times.

This, I think, is what DnDNext is doing really, really RIGHT at the moment: making different classes feel really different. Can they keep this up?

… probably? I don’t know!  I’m excited to see, but you know what else? I’m excited to attempt. Yes, why not. I want to make some classes… call them Class Predictions for where 5E is going to go. SO. Who’s next? Well, who else would we consider to be core classes?

Paladin, of course. Ranger. Barbarian. Bard? Sure. Why not.

Paladin: Let’s get the easy one out of the way: non-Vancian divine caster. Bam, right here. I like the Paladin as something of a cross between the sorcerer and the warlock; that is, he gets a pool of mana (call it “Faith” or some such) that has to last him through the entire encounter, but he can renew it once he’s had time for a short rest and, most importantly, a short prayer. This keeps him encounter-focused, which makes sense for the Tank of the Gods. The biggest challenge is healing, if we want to make HP recovery difficult (which I think isn’t that great an idea, but I can see the trouble with an infinite HP-fountain). Simple solution: all his healing effects require the expenditure of hit dice on the part of the healed. BAM, so you can heal at increased effectiveness, but you can’t heal indefinitely. Optional: a negative effect which occurs when he spends his last Faith point.

Ranger: Okay, easy mode: expertise dice, but for rangery things! That’s really the easy mode for every martial-type class, so we’re not going to use it. We’re after mechanical differentiation. My inclination is to focus on the “hunter’s quarry” aspect of the Ranger: he focuses on one creature and can make its life hell. So, he chooses an enemy, spends an action observing it, and gains Advantage against it (rather like the 4E Avenger). So, middling damage, great hit percentage, good striker. Fun enough? No? Well here’s where we pull in an aspect of expertise dice: every time he rolls, he can sacrifice this Ranger’s Advantage in order to fuel a useful effect, such as a dual-weapon attack or a disarming shot or, better still, shout an order to his animal companion, depending on his ranger schema. Optional: favored terrain, favored enemy, all that rot which I can take or leave.

Barbarian: Another option where emulating expertise dice makes sense, only we’d call them RAGE DICE!!! or sommat. Boo to that. Still, the nature of the barbarian is to leap in and out of a berserker state, we need not change overmuch from 3.X… though I’d like to do away with the post-rage fatigue, because, man, what’s fun about that? Still, I want a better measure of berserk rage than flat bonuses and counting rounds, because tactical elements make things so much more compelling. So… rage dice. BUT, but, but, he starts with two or so, earns one a round, and can’t spend them until he starts raging. They recharge when he’s not raging, though he needs a critical mass to re-enter a rage state. Optional: self-destructive potential of rages. Being fatigued for a while is lame, but losing a hit die whenever you enter a rage is a more long-term worry.

Bard: Hm. Difficult one, because, well, what IS a bard? Pulling from D&D history, he’s been devine, arcane, mostly rogue, mostly wizard, loremaster, quick-wit, and so on. There’s too much to go on, so let’s start from scratch. Let’s challenge the basic assumption that Bards Cast Spells With Music. No, bards have some magic, but its minor, and supports their jack-of-all-trades aesthetic; useful but never game-changing. To me, this means cantrips; no mana, no limits, just a tone of level-0 spells. Bards are cantrip masters, like Swiss army knives: a million tiny tools, coupled with some skill bonuses and excellent performance ability. Optional: music-based buffs. If they’re included, they’re like stacking cantrips, or Pathfinder’s Words of Power: each round you add another tone, which causes a tiny effect which adds onto previous ones, up to a level-based maximum. Easy to disrupt, but potentially useful.

Okay, so, it’s August 21st as I write this; no further classes have been revealed yet. I’d like you all to note this, so that if the remainder get shown, and the Paladin/Ranger/Barbarian/Bard are exactly like I predicted, I can declare myself to be a prescient GENIUS.

On the Generation of the Stats

Yesterday I went on a bit of a rant about random stat generation. That’s fine; rants are good for the spleen, after all. But today i felt I’d like to talk about that a little bit, and start clearing up in my own head why it is I feel this way. You can come too! Everyone’s invited!

First, let’s define a few terms. When I say random generation of attributes, I mean that certain fundamental characteristics of a character are decided using dice or another randomizer, like cards or what have you. Specifically, this is a concern over statistics of a character, not over actions of a character… using dice to determine how many HP a character loses is totally fine, but using dice to determine how many HP she HAS to lose grates upon me. Likewise, randomly determining skill levels and attribute values is frustrating, even if every use of those skills and attributes involves a dice roll. Random equipment and appearance factors and mutations and whatnot… that’s potentially here as well, unless there’s a dang good reason I should step into the world with random stuff in my pocket and DNA (Gamma World, for instance, where mutations come and go with the breeze and most equipment is laughably useless). And just for the record, even when the randomization is heavily weighted–“Roll 5d6, dropping the lowest two, eight times, dropping the lowest two, and put them in any order, and if there’s anything still under ten reroll the whole process again”–I still hate it.

Why? Well, let’s start by rescinding something… yesterday I called random generation a pennyfarthing: i.e.: an outdated technology which is notable only for its ridiculousness to modern eyes. Well, that’s unfair of me. Random generation has its place, and makes perfect sense, for people who see character generation as a part of gameplay. You see… a set of game mechanics creates a world, after all, one which operates on a set of rules and which, more often than not, features an element of chance in every interaction. Obviously, then, an element of chance exists when you come into this world; just as a person doesn’t choose who or what she is born as, a gamer shouldn’t be able to choose exactly what his or her statistics are. Like a real person, she just makes do with what she is given, apportions her energy as best she can, and runs with it. Fine. That makes for certain challenges, both for a person whose rolls average low, and the person who is forced to take a dump stat for one preposterously minimal roll. Even the high-roller with two 18s has to figure out how to play their character as the superhuman it is, and some folks love that roll-playing challenge. That’s fine. That’s dandy.

… that’s simulationist. UGH, it pains me in the gut to even bring up the term, to talk of that triad of simulationist/gamist/narrativist, but reductive as it is, it really does apply here. Random generation makes sense for a game that is about presenting a World that is meant to be, in its own terms at least, realistic. You know what, though? Screw realism. Screw it! I don’t want it here!

(Aside: I know that my viewpoint here is biased but I am utterly, utterly baffled by people who disagree with me. In RPGs and video games as much as in more traditional media, I am a fellow who craves stories because I value what they can offer BEYOND mere realism. Mamet can tell us all about how life is a desperate and pathetic struggle, but Beckett can do it better. The various Counterstrikes can be visceral and exhilarating, but never as much as Team fortress 2. Stylizing the world can purify it, cutting off the dross and leaving behind an idea more powerful than one which sits in a simulacrum of the real world.)

I am (heavy sigh) narrativist in my viewpoint. The story is the thing… the progression of characters and plot, not according to the rules of the world but according to the confines to the drama. To me, an essential part of this is separating character creation from the game, because the character is NOT a part of the world. No, no, a PC exists in the Abstract Story, which is an external affair. She is crafted, and has a journey put in front of her, and a purpose in life, and all that good stuff which is anathemic to random generation. What if I don’t want to tell the story of the guy with a 3 in Charisma? What if I don’t want to tell the story of the lady with three 18s? It’s not a balance issue, it’s an ownership issue: she is my creation, so I cannot help but take umbrage when control is taken away from me, just as much as I would if the GM declared that she walked into an obvious trap against my will.

When do you gain ownership of the character? DnDNext makes it clear to me that ownership begins at step two, after the attributes are generated but before they are assigned. That’s not okay with me… I want ownership from moment one. I don’t think that makes me unnecessarily greedy–I’m not opposed to playing a character who is weaker than his associates–but it does make me controlling. I’m okay with that.

You disagree? That’s fine too. Play however makes sense to you. But I am going to be a little perplexed and, yes, annoyed when a game I have some emotional investment in makes it clear that they don’t stand with me.

Some thoughts on the new DnDNext packet.

Oh, Wizards. Oh, oh you wound me! Oh, I believed in you, and trusted you, and thought you would do no wrong and then what did you do to me? What is my reward?

You generate ability scores randomly by rolling dice.

Ugh. UGH. There is a wide and varied world of games and mechanics out there, and they all have their place, and any can be well done, and any may bring joy, but there is one that I cannot stand. I cannot abide it, and react with revulsion when it is placed before me, and that is random stat generation. I HATE IT. Beyond rationality. I am not unbiased here, I am pissed.

It’s a throwback of a mechanic. It’s like if the Tour de France decided that from now on it’s penny-farthings only. And what’s worse is the language of the document, which I can’t share here. It suggests that this is the normal way of things, and posits pulling from an array as an inferior secondary choice. No point-buying exists at all. Ooooh how this burns me; I know that D&D cannot ever escape the rule that stats fall between 3 and 18, any more than they can ignore the fact that the d20 is the most important die, but man. It tears me up.

And what’s worse is that I’m so EXCITED by the rest of what I’m seeing, by and large! Fighters have been rendered Interesting, and finally feel like they’re their own entities with these new maneuvers. Clerics look more useful, and wizards more squishy, and rogues… about the same, but I loved the rogues, so that’s fine and dandy. I thrill to see the possibilities of backgrounds and specialties although, not to put too fine a point on it, the fact that choosing backgrounds and specialties is presented as optional really cheeses me off, and underlies what I think is the worst choice Wizards of the Coast are making thus far, and that is the “modular” aspect of the game.

Some of this a problem with the language of the document. But man… don’t tell me about an awesome option and then suggest I don’t get to have it. That’s no way to ingratiate yourself to the players! That’s just being a butt! The world abounds with modular gaming experiences… just make D&D. Give folks suggestions on how to alter it, sure, but know that house rules will be the norm because that’s how these things work. Trying to be all things to all people will just muddle the product.

OH! And Specialties, despite having the worst name I’ve ever seen, are great! It looks like there’s some provision for multiclassing in a 3.X manner, too early to be certain, but these let you multiclass in the 4E manner as well… I am a Fighter with the barest hint of Wizard, which means I don’t have all that magic ability but does mean I can cast magic missile. That’s baller. All of them are baller. I’d like it if there were some capacity to create a specialty of free-flowing feats, if I so desire, but I’m not going to freak if I can’t… there’s something to be said for a list of feat choices which synergize automatically, and should prevent folks from suffering from feat-paralysis. If there’ll be option bloat… and there will be… better to suffer it early than every other level, right?

Last note, and this is not unique to this edition: if there is a game out there that handles ritual components in a fashion that is as user-friendly as D&D’s “turn money into totally abstract component stew, and then turn that into magic” but isn’t so goddamn bland and idiotic, someone tell me about it, because man. I would be all over that action.

More on steam…

Continuing from yesterday: I’m working on a steampunk RPG because I have a particular genre philosophy which I don’t think has been effectively met yet. The game must be about Props, because that’s essential, but there must be an inherent steampunky aesthetic to the props, and to talk about that I’d like to briefly mention my old fried Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura.

Crafting was a major part of that game, at least if you went the non-magical route, and so it is likely to be a major part of my game (though I’m not even close to sure of the mechanics as of yet). The idea was easy enough: you get a blueprint for something, say a Tesla gun. It asks you for two ingredients, always two… in this case, a Tesla rod (a short-range electric weapon) and a sniper rifle. Now, on the one hand, there’s something ludicrous here: there’s nothing in a sniper rifle that makes sense in this application–it fires bullets super-fast using applied chemistry, and a Tesla gun fires bolts of electricity. Bits of the Tesla rod make sense, until you note that the primary ingredient in that is a shocking staff, a melee weapon which needs have no ingredients that send the bolts of energy flying. But that’s part of this aesthetic… pieces of gadgets aren’t really there for the reasons they would be in real life. No no… they convey ESSENCES. The staff has the essence of electricity in it, which is lent to the rod which alters that essence to bolts. Next, there’s the sniper rifle… it’s got chemical energy-powered bullet propulsion, but really it’s got the essence of distance… that’s what it brings to the party, and that’s the logic we need to have on hand when we set about crafting.

So that’s what I want to work in. And the first step of that is to look at the ridiculous steampunk frippiries… the gears and pipes and blinking lights… and say “Okay, these need to make sense. Even if they’re just hot-glued on and not connected to the mechanics, they have to have an essence which they bring to the party”. And from that we get the four Styles, the closest thing this game has to traditional attributes.

If it is Props which make an Adventurer, and we are here of the assumption that it is, then what is it that makes the particular class of Adventurer which we would call Steampunk? What is it that separates the paragon of Victorian science from those lesser sorts of adventurers (note the lack of capitalization) who delve dungeons and sling spells? What distinguishes a proper Adventurer from a pulp-noir detective or a Lovecraftian un-hero or even an atom-age science hero?

Well, Style, of course. Doesn’t it stand to reason? Oh, certainly, there are ideologies to be dealt with… there is a zeitgeist unique to the steampunk world, but that’s not as fundamental as the fact that, blast it all, if you’re a steampunk Adventurer, you have gears all up on your hat and whatnot. You’ve got springs and wires all sticking out of your shoes and winding up your calves. Your watch is decked out in flashing lights and gems of a modestly alchemical bent. In short, your Props are covered in Steampunk Filigree: decorative nonsense in a particular decorative mode.

Oh, but it’s not nonsense, is it? Though an observer might think that you have merely hot-glued some old cogs to your battered top hat, they don’t realize that, because you are a Steampunk Adventurer, this fashion of Decorative Filigree actually works! Gears and cogs are used in watches, which are meant to be unerringly precise, yes? And so it stands to reason (a certain sort of reason) that gears and cogs are emblematic of precision in all their forms. Thus if you have rifle which is covered in gears, it is de facto a more accurate rifle than one without! The logic is unerring. So too, if pistons and valves are used to provide the raw power to machines–they are the muscles of automatons–then an object decked in pistons and valves must allow its operator to use more force. A hat with such mechanical fripperies isn’t useless: it allows your thoughts to be more forceful, granting you a greater capacity to think your way through a puzzle.

Springs and wires are essential to the tools of thieves and assassins–hidden blades rely on the silent transfer of energy–and so objects of that bent are especially subtle, and lights and gems are the domain of alchemists and other fringe scientists, and objects of that construction can better perform acts of alteration and manipulation.

Accuracy, Force, Subtlety, and Alteration. These are the Styles of a Steampunk Adventurer, and they are bound immutably to gears, pistons, springs, and lights, respectively. A Steampunk Adventurer’s Props are ever-accompanied by one or more of these decorative elements, which enhance its abilities in a way which makes perfect, logical sense.

Styles and props, you see, work together in a manner drawn from my own Lifestyles of the Lich and Famous; a prop gives you a pool of dice, and your styles determine the die types it contains. Gluing gears to your hat means that you can pick up an extra die for Accuracy when you’re using that prop (which, if it’s like most hats, means that your Mental Accuracy–that is to say, your perception–is extra strong).

We’re back! Also: steampunks!

Hey there; I’m in position to have Internet reliably again, to think about games and such again, and to post here again. That’s great!

I’m also in position to talk about what I’ve been up to for the past week in my off time. Well, week and a bit. I’ve been working on a game, and it’s very close to going into playtesting, as soon as I wrangle up some people. I know, I ACTUALLY intend to do some playtesting, rather than just cobble together mechanics which seem like they look good and move on with my life. That’s how you can tell I’m serious.

Y’see, a while back I said to myself that I don’t know that I’ve ever played a good Steampunk game. Not as an RPG, or a video game, or even a themed board game. I’ve played a few bad examples, and I’ve played good nearly-steampunk games, and I played the heck out of Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, which is an absolutely fantastic CRPG, but is also very much a fantasy/steampunk, and I don’t want that. It’s not bad, but it’s not what I want… I want something drawn more off the pulp-adventure vibe, in a universe that is mundane but for the power of Science!, and that means no magic, for me at least.

Moreover, what I want is a game which is based around the fundamental aesthetic of steampunk. Or at least, what I see as the fundamental aesthetic. You see, it’s not about a Victorian ideology, although that’s certainly relevant. It’s not the tone of scientific advancement or the genre-specific setpieces or the subtle commentary on the dangers of progress run amok. It’s not airships or atomatons. No, man, steampunk is about STUFF. It’s about carrying COOL STUFF that has more COOL STUFF glued to it. It’s about having gears on your hat because it’s awesome. It’s about goggles. THAT’s what steampunk is to me… it’s cosplay, so whenever I approach a steampunk game that puts some sort of limitation on what you look like, it feels wrong to me. That’s what I’m currently trying to remedy.

So, I’m going to share of it with you. Just a few piecemeal bits as I make them up, and I’d like to get comments or criticisms as need be, but I’m going to hold off on major mechanical  discussions until some more testing has happened. But I do want to share a little, because, well, that seems like a useful thing to do.

The defining aspects of an Adventurer are not his skills or attributes… he can be assumed to be skilled at most tasks and blessed in all ways. His profession is important, as is his stature and his interests, but are they fundamental? Again, no. An Adventurer’s defining features are his Props–these are those objects he carries wherever he may go. His electronium top hat, or her father’s antique welding-goggles with the adjustable focus… his steam-augmented greatcoat or her spring-loaded grappling pistol. These are the objects an Adventurer ALWAYS has on hand, for to be without them even a moment would be unapproachably gauche. Those most dear to an Adventurer are tied directly to his capacity to act; when a scientific problem comes along, an Adventurer does not think “Well now, what is my Science skill?” No! She says “Aha, a scientific problem is before me; let me look at it through my welding-goggles, for those are the Tools of Science!”

So too, a hat may be the Tool of the Mind, and a weapon the Tool of the Body, and an appealing outfit the Tool of Charisma. But this need not be the case! If you wear a cape not to impress, but to better hide in the shadows, then it is your Physical Prop, and your Social Prop may be whatever you most associate with interfacing with others. If you only think straight when you have your pipe, then THAT is your Mental Prop. If you are of a mad sort, your Science Prop may be a photonic-lance pistol. While an Adventurer must have at least four Props–Mental, Physical, Social, and Science–it is her own place to determine what they are, and how it is they have come to represent her.

It’s a game about props, you see. Next time, I’ll talk a little about gluing steampunky crap to your props. Current working title: One of Them Steampunks. That probably won’t stick; dear friend Aaron has suggested Gears and Gadgets, which might. Time will tell.