Up and coming products

With regular posting having been very minimal lately a lot of fans have been wondering what's going on. Well here’s the news!

Three major projects are currently being worked on and their releases will be fairly close together!

At the end of November Duck and Roll will be releasing the first of two free products in: “Dead by Darkness” A horror game built using the world of darkness system to provide exciting one shot adventures centered around being pursued by a supernatural killer! Fans of the game Dead by Daylight should find it quite familiar.

By year's end the second free project should be released in its early form on the website. It’s a pathfinder variant that revolves around emulating the style, lore and mechanics of the incredibly popular Naruto Franchise. 

So why free projects? There are two main reasons for this, the first is that Duck and Roll isn’t a company solely dedicated to making a profit. These are incredibly fun games and systems and giving that joy to everyone at no cost is the best way to give something back to our fans. Secondly, these are passion projects that were created out of a love for game design and to see if they could be done. Thirdly since these games use existing intellectual property they can’t be monetized without a lot of legal hassle anyways. 

And the third major project is the long awaited “Behind the Vault door” a Pathfinder supplement focused on treasure, wealth, and magic items. If things continue on schedule Behind the vault door should be released sometime in the middle of 2019.

Sample Nations volume 4:

Alright! I hope everyone is excited for one last round of sample nations:

Lost Lorleic: The nation of lost Lorleic if defined by loss and sacrifice. Theirs is an ancient kingdom of dark magics, ageless curses and virulent diseases. Every era of Lorleic history is defined by a great cataclysm. Each cataclysm is ended only through the deaths of those in powers. Gods, Queens,  Churches, and countless numbers of the harried residents die for the good of the rest. With each era, each re-telling the story changes. A horrible disease ravages the kingdom until a desperate mad doctor is able to slay enough mutated victims to collect a sample of all their blood and concoct a cure. The ocean tides creep and rise slowly threatening to drown the world. Only a great divine flame, kindled with the bones of the gods can drive back the endless black sea. A terrible curse keeps the dead from staying in their graves until a pure and perfect soul is found and sacrificed to an unimaginable evil entity. For the people of this great kingdom there is no greater badge of honour than survival. some find it by scratching out meagre existences in harsh desolate lands. Some survive by feasting on the ruin left by the most recent cataclysm. Others, nearly identical, survive by scavenging from fallen pantheons or noble lines that were lost to save the kingdom for another few centuries. Most survive by serving, swearing to whatever dark lord or wicked god casts it's shadow over the land. But a few rise, a few stand and fight and oppose cataclysm, and in each generation a handful of those will succeed, while the rest will be crushed. Lorleic is home of the powerful and beleaguered lost legends of the world. Their hardships have made their people strong, in mind and body. It's not uncommon for the natives of this land to greet crippling loss with a dark and bemused chuckle. Lorleic's vast armies stand ever ready, many times even beyond death. Though despite their military might this noble kingdom is slow to go to war, always wary of when the next disaster will strike, at least until a great war becomes the next disaster. Of course if there is anything this nation does, it's endure. And it's not difficult to imagine even in the far flung future this ever suffering nation branching out into the stars to escape earth and slip neatly into the claws of fresh new cosmic horrors.

 

New Delaware: It was inevitable. As the state built more and more of its economy around providing huge tax breaks for big corporations it became more and more dependent on those same businesses. Of course they'd strengthen that stranglehold, growing bigger and stronger. It's what corporations do. Eventually the state became synonymous with naked corporate greed and it possesses wealth equivalent to the entire rest of the states added together. And as the number of  superhumans grew, new Delaware  saw an untapped market. Corporate heroes. Of course the other states gradually signed bills surrendering control of "Volunteer law enforcement" teams over to the government, but not new Delaware, they held firm. And sooner or later things were bound to come to a head. Of course on the surface you can't have opposing groups of superheroes warring in the streets, one has to maintain a veneer of civility, no this is a game of outperforming and out impressing the competition. Both sides making bigger, better, flashier, sexier, cooler heroes to try to win the favour of the public. Even as New Delaware toys with and threatens becoming its own sovereign nation it's hero teams are performing astounding feats of skill and power on the evening news. Many imagine the upcoming metahuman Olympics may well serve as a boiling point as New Delaware petitions to have their superhumans enter separately from the rest of the united states. Of course, the system falls apart without a steady stream of criminals and supervillians, something not lost to either side. It's easy to put on a good show when your opponent is in on the game, not unlike high powered pro wrestling. And if those same villains defeat heroes on the other side then all the better. Of course neither side would ever admit to funding the creation of villainous teams. But it does seem curious how they keep escaping and getting released so easily...

 

WWW.Finalfreefrontier.cyd:  What if there were a place free from all the laws, not only of man, but of nature? A place where immortality was the norm, gravity was measured on a slider bar, and consequence was a distant memory. Final Free Frontier. F3, the place to search for absolute personal liberty. It's more than a mere forum, it's a cyberspace that accommodates everyone from people sitting behind a screen all the way to purely digital entities. The only limitations are this: You cannot alter someone else' presence without their consent. You restrict someone else' experience without their consent. And you cannot shut it down. Of course this nation exists in no physical space in the world, unless one counts a collection of highly secure server farms scattered across the globe. But within that non space is an infinite world. A flat endless reality where each person is unto a god them self. An individual can raise a skyscraper with enough programming knowledge, and an aspiring artist might paint vast murals across the sky. Of course life isn't just a beautiful immortal paradise. Absolute freedom means that there are no laws to be violated, no taboos or social norms to hold people in place, and some gravitate to this place as a way to explore their darker nature's. It is a place that is both heaven and hell rolled into one. While the three basic rules are a fine safety net, there are countless horrors that can slip through. Many of the citizens exist solely as data, as living programs, thoughts and minds uploaded into computers, existing long after the body dies. Some were never even real to begin with. There may come a day when almost none of the citizens inside exist in the real world anymore. But if that time comes and something threatens the servers containing the world...well that would be quite an adventure.

 

National Tensions

So, you have a bunch of Nations, Kingdoms and Countries all set up for your world. Let's see how they can interact with each other. There are a number of ways that nations can view each other, and their relationships can be as complex as those between characters. So let's examine a few kinds of international relations

 Close allies: This is about as good as it gets, these nations are tied very neatly together. They likely share a great deal of trade, have frequent exchanges of citizens, ideas, and technologies. As a result it's very common for closely allied nations to slowly blend their cultures and religions, though this is not always the case. Since most nations tend to be pragmatic by necessity, close allies are usually formed between bordering countries. Often times close allies will experience mergers over times, but this is definitely not always the case. Often times even the closest of allies are happy to celebrate their differences and even use those differences as a fundamental part of cultural identity. And of course if a closely allied country goes to war then it's only natural to provide support by whatever means are possible. A good example of close allied nations would be Canada and the United states of America. Well, it would be as of a year or two ago anyways. 


Allies: Allied nations share trade, travel, and often times international laws. An ally nation is best marked by civil agreements to uphold certain universal beliefs that all allies can agree upon. These are usually laws that regulate how one nation treats the world, and treats the people in that world. An allied nation in a fantasy game might be another country that also hates the undead and views them as a menace, or might be a fellow kingdom that forbids wild magic. Allies are bound together by agreements, and by a mutual benefit, usually relying on trade to form that foundation. An ally is a fellow nation that plays by the same rules, and if they go to war then you must strongly consider joining them. A good example being the United Kingdom and France, despite some personal differences, they both are members of the united nations, and often both fall into similar views on various accords regarding war crimes and environmental concerns.

Neutral: A Neutral relationship among nations generally comes between two far removed countries that don't rely on each other for much. This commonly occurs between two distant countries, particularly ones that don't deal a great deal in trade. A Neutral nation is by no means an enemy, and can still engage in trade of course, but they both agree to live and let live and to pursue their own goals quite separate of each other. A neutral country is unlikely to get involved in the wars of it's other neutral countries. Switzerland has a reputation for maintaining neutrality to a legendary extent.

Hostile: A Hostile nation is a country that carries on unacceptable practises within its borders. It's a country that conducts itself in a way that is morally reprehensible, a country that must be changed for the better, preferably by diplomatic means. In a near future world where cloning is abolished, a country that instead churns out and enslaves clones of its citizens may quickly find itself branded as a hostile nation. So too might a fantasy or superhero kingdom ruled by the use of powerful mind control. Hostile nations are the frequent targets of bans, sanctions, exclusion, trade tariffs, and military posturing and veiled threats. All of these ideas are meant to force another country to change, without resorting to war. These countries are also the most prone to covert operations, the use of spies, cyber attacks, election tampering, and the blackmail of top political figures. A good example of this would be the United states and Russia.

Cold war:  This is the step above hostile, open aggression, direct military posturing and threats. A cold war is the last desperate phase before a full war. Hostile nations are not changing and they are not backing down. Aggressions have reached a boiling point. At this point countries will form embargos, blockades, travel bans and other offensive economic actions. It's also common for the nations at cold war to push their allies and other neutral countries to take the same, requesting or demanding that stances be taken and battle lines be drawn. Countries in cold war are filled with tension, and any day they could find themselves battling to the death even while spies have been infiltrating and covert ops have been taking place for months or years already. Cold war is perhaps the hardest of these categories to identify, though "The Cold War" between Russia and United states springs to mind as a good example.

War: The ultimate failure of diplomacy. War is one of the worst things a nation can do to another. To use ones most terrible weapons and tactics on another group with the express purpose of harming them. War is devastating economically, socially, spiritually, mentally and physically. It causes damage to buildings, crops, animals, soldiers and innocents alike with little to no discretion or distinction. Countries at war almost invariably drag their allies into it, and thusly spread even more destruction and damage until either one side "wins" by outlasting the other, or until all involved are so weakened and weary and wounded that they agree to a peaceful resolution. If you need an example of a country being at war, just look at the history of any country ever.

Of course there are likely to be some outside cases where the lines between the above are blurred. International politics can be a lot more complicated than this, but let these categories serve as a good starting point for you.

Sample Nations: Part 3

Sample Nations: Part 3

We're back with even more samples of even more different nations, just for you. This series has been so popular and I'm glad you're all enjoying it!

Candor:  On the high gravity world of Bromine there was a civilization known as Candor, deeply advanced in many scientific pursuits. They had explored, sequence, and mastered every combination of DNA found on their planet. They had perfected quantum computers and written artificial intelligences so real they were nearly indistinguishable from the living breathing residents. But they were so focused on the path ahead that few ever bothered to look up. For all their wonders, they had almost no sense of astronomy, they never dreamed of the stars, they loved their huge dense planet dearly. As a result they didn't see their demise looming until the asteroid was visible in the night sky. They knew there would be no way to save their lives, but that didn't, couldn't, mean their extinction. Instead they sought to preserve themselves. In a diligent rush the people of Candor downloaded everything into a great archive. Not just the complete, unvarnished, history of their world, but their plans, their inventions, their sciences, and even their people. Thirteen billion minds, complete with their DNA patterns and sequences, and another billion artificial intelligences, all backed up. Of course, with their skill and ability, even that vast sum of data was stored rather easily.  It could fit into a container of hyper dense diamond, it could fit into something as simple as a bottle, or even be encoded onto a single drop of blood.  The exact details of the container aren't as important as the hope it represents. An advanced lost civilization and the technology needed to restore them, all in a small mcguffin sized package. The Hope of billions drifting through space waiting to be found.

 

Necropolis: They're out there, hungering for flesh. They roam the world constantly looking to eat, eat, eat, eat. They slaughter each other for huge swaths of land to own as territories to better harvest food. They hunt and kill every day, carving apart flesh and devouring it without ever feeling satisfied. They are wild and reckless and unpredictable ruled by sudden whims and emotions. The Living are truly terrifying. Living people are the nightmares that the eternal children of Necropolis fear. To become a citizen of Necropolis you need only do one thing, die. If you submit to a necromantic ritual that extracts your life energy and turns you into an eternal undying being then you may live forever in peace with your new kin. Once the savage needs of the living are no longer a problem the mind is free to pursue scholarly pursuits. Necropolis has no need for farms to produce food, and many of the eternal dead choose not to even have proper homes, often needing only a room or two to spend time in private and store their belongings. There are no starving, no diseased, no sick. And because the dead will live forever there is an ever expanding circle of friends and allies and community. It's easy to be kind and patient when you literally have forever to wait. Necropolis is a paradise, a place of peace and harmony, and they extend a peaceful hand to all the other nations of the world. But to the living, that hand of friendship can often look like a ghoulish talon reaching for ones throat.

 

Mars colony 1: There is a Nation still in the womb, not yet born, merely a concept. Mars colony 1. It is inevitable that Humanity will extend to the stars, it is no longer an option. The earth is beyond repair as long as it is occupied. Mars is the nearest colonisable planet, and it will all begin with Mars Colony . For the first time a nation is being chosen and assembled, handpicked individuals are being chosen and offered the chance to join. Thousands are already accepted and confirmed. They are members of a new country. They are dual planetary citizens. Even as massive domes are being constructed and built they are training and learning, filling out forms and gradually being introduced to each other.           There is a camaraderie and a confidence that comes with being part of an elite group. There is a change in viewpoint when you consider that within a few years you will never again see %99.99 of the people you know and see every day. Already laws are being formed for this new nation, sent out in weekly e-mails, posted on special forums. Every citizen has a hand in deciding how the new colony will work. Who will govern it and how? What method will be used to track time? What foods are available and not? Will there be a currency? A flag? This is perhaps the biggest step humanity has ever taken, and the world will be watching. Who is funding this colony? Who is permitted access? What could possibly go wrong? This is a nation like no other, still more meme, more idea, than place.

Sample Nations: Part 2

Since the response to my first batch of sample settlements was so positive I'm going to go ahead and give you all a few more. Let's get right to it!

The Free Radicals: In the depths of space there is a place where you can be free. It exists at the edges of the "controlled zone". No matter how much of space they try to own, there will always be more just beyond. This is where the peoples known as the free radicals reside. There is a place for anyone who wants it, but nothing is guaranteed. The people here come from all walks of life, all planets and species. From escaped clones and robots, to refugees, criminals, and other entities not recognized as sentient by the common people living safe in controlled space. There is no law, only a suggested code of conduct. trade is done in a thousand currencies. Bartering and credits, favours and secrets all pass between the residents freely. Many help each other simply out of the kindness in their souls and to help build a sense of community. It's a place where radiation shields fail, and air filters slowly die over time, scrubbed so much that they're barely there. But the radicals are growing, larger and larger. Every planet forced to become a colony, every new world and race conquered and subjugated, every batch of clones that falls of the back of the truck. Sooner or later this small fringe group will be large enough to be considered a threat. What will happen then?

 

The Dwarven Kingdom: That is its name. Its practical, clear, no room for mistaking it. That's how they like it. The capital is a massive city built on, above, under and around a mountain. It is known as "The Dwarven Capital". Of course that's not to say it's without its charms, or that only dwarves live within. While the every day soldiers, citizens, smiths and the like are predominantly dwarves, they have a close kinship with Gnomes. The gnomish people generally occupy the roles of bureaucrats, politicians, judges, historians, and scholars. While this isn't a law, it's common sense that running the country is "Gnome work", often said with a disdainful grunt. The Gnomes run the country, keeping it working smoothly and efficient, making the laws and policies that form the kingdom proper. They tend to live in the tops of the mountains, and in towers and other high places where they observe the majesty of their cities. Meanwhile, the ancient undermountain tunnels and temples, once the proud birthplace of dwarves, now have new residents. A century ago the Ratfolk began pouring out of their tunnels and warrens, hidden even deeper than dwarves ever dug. After a short but terribly bloody war, it came to be realized that the rats were merely fleeing the more horrific Drow hidden even beneath them. It didn't take long for an arrangement to be made. Now the Ratfolk serve as the soldiers on the front lines of the Dwarven army. They are aggressive shock troopers who fight zealously with hearts filled with gnomish propaganda. The Ratfolk know that any fate is better than being left to the Drow. And so that is the state of the Dwarven kingdom now, stalwart Dwarven craftsmen and citizens, zealous Ratfolk armies, and all of it lead by Gnomish politicians. But the Drow are still down there, getting closer to the Dwarven kingdom every day. And threats can come from all directions, even within.

Prosperia: In all the world, all the worlds, it's the same; people struggle, they fight for resources, they squabble and scrabble to claim another little piece of success while the rich eat the poor. But those civilizations were built by circumstance, built by flawed people, built on a bedrock of human limitation. Prosperia is different. A Nation built to be better, by people who are better. Since "The Event", a small number of people have been given phenomenal abilities. Strength, speed, flight, teleportation, and more. At first these few individuals took it upon themselves to use their powers to protect others. To fight evil, to uphold truth and justice, but they could only be as good as the world around them allowed. Eventually, more and more of them came to understand that a new system was needed, a new home was needed. Prosperia was founded. A man made continent, created using the abilities of dozens of empowered individuals, was carefully constructed. They watched for everything, making sure that the  global water levels didn't rise, that ocean temperatures and tectonic systems didn't shift dangerously. That set the tone for the precisions and social consciousness of the country.The nation is run by a council of super intellects who, with the help of empaths, are directly connected to the needs, desires, and fears of their populace. Between super strong and fast humans, and those with the power to generate electricity and heat the entire nation has limitless free energy. Super scientists work at rapidly progressing solar technology and soon  even those who work part time to power the country will be able to retire, while still leaving Prosperia able to sell surplus energy to other nations. Superhumans grow healthy crops of food in days instead of months, and by-products are carefully recycled. Prosperia is a beacon of light to powered people, home to the best of the best. But only the absolute finest humans are permitted entry without possessing superhuman abilities. But no matter how perfect things appear, life is never without conflict. What happens when a nation of superhuman people grow ever more bored with the peace and lack of challenge in their lives? Can the rest of the world tolerate such a massive and rapidly advancing superpower? Are superhuman abilities passed on genetically? If they are, then soon Prosperia will have nearly all the worlds superhuman potential within it's borders. And if not, then what happens when the next generation begins to grow up, flawed and imperfect as anyone else in the world?

Campaign Social Links

Hey you! It's gosh darn Whatever wedensday! And you know what that means don't you? No! You don't it could be anything. What? You read the title? Crap.

I'm gonna scream to you about campaign social links. So what is that? 1.) It's a mechanic ripped from my favourite game series and thrown into any tabletop roleplaying game. 2.) It's a system for organizing downtime. And 3.) It's a way to reward and encourage roleplaying in your game, while giving it a bit of mechanical crunch.

Enough beating around the bush, let's get to how it works: Simply put, you divide up a section of downtime, free time, or non adventuring time and allow each player to decide on what to do with that time, with a focus on spending time roleplaying with eachother or NPC's. And then provide mechanical rewards based on those actions, typically with a specific arc in mind.

Let's see how it plays out: The crew of the Lightningbug, an agile and beat up midsize space cruiser, have docked at a familiar space station for repairs. It should be two days before the ship is fixed. So the GM decides each party member gets 1 block of time. Captain Ray Spaceblaster decides he's going to slip into the local watering hole, Hailey's comet, and spend some time pitching woo at the complex and gorgeous smuggler Alerina Le'grand. The last time they spent together Alerina had offloaded a stolen empire laserpistol onto Ray, she'd insisted he was doing a favour by taking it. This time she notices that he's held onto it all these months, even though it's finicky and doesn't shoot right, she's so flattered she decides to help him out. The two spend a romantic evening  firing laser blasts at empty cans in the cargo bay, permanently improving Ray's skill with laserpistols. Meanwhile the ships's mechanic Morgan Ficksit decides she doesn't want her baby, the ship, to be left entirely in the station manager's hands. She decides to spend her block of time helping with repairs. In the process she meets the distinguished welder Alex Ironhull and the two start a promising friendship when Alex gives the ship a plasma resistant plating free of charge as thanks for a truly stimulating conversation about Zero point energy conductors. Meanwhile security chief Galthrax Goldax calls home to their hive to make sure that all 37 children and 8 spouses are alive and well and well fed, and maybe to transfer a few credits from the latest job to make sure little Glorban get's that surgery they need. Seeing their family strengthens Galthrax's resolve, they know that no matter what they have to make it home alive, earning a permanent bonus to resist slipping through death's door.

Generally speaking the GM lays out ahead of time an arc and progression for all the major interesting characters that can be hung out with and picks a reward for each time. Often this might be 10 scenes and 10 benefits, but sometimes more or fewer is appropriate. These are typically small bonuses that don't do much to shift the balance of power, but still enough that when it comes into play the player is reminded of their connections. 

 

Depending on the length of the game it might also be suitable to not provide a benefit each time. For example if Ray Spaceblaster had sold that laserpistol, or even just wound up saying something particularly uncharming he might make it only halfway through that step along Alerina's social link, earning some quality time at the bar, but not making it out to the cargo bay for some practice. You can typically break each step towards another benefit into 2 halves. One half is given just for spending some time, and the other by either good roleplaying, such as giving a thoughtful gift, saying the right things, or having done something personally meaningful to that character since last time. Or for very long games you could break each step into third's or quarters, but usually you'd be better off adding more different social links than making each one require more investment.

You can also feel free to allow players to spend their blocks of time together, playing off each other, and even assign them bonuses for doing so just like any other social link. After all the connection between players is perhaps the most important one in your whole game! It only makes sense to grow and nurture that bond. Just don't fall into the trap of giving out social link benefits anytime the party hangs out, make it clear these are only for during blocks of time that could be used to interact with other npc's.

Of course sometimes a player might want to do something else. In games with crafting mechanics they might want to spend some time crafting, or working out, or practicing their skills. This is fine too, and they should still receive some kind of reward or benefit, but typically it shouldn't be as rewarding as the benefits for spending time with people, and if you take the above advice about splitting each step into halves then spending time alone should be less than half as beneficial as spending it with someone else. The whole point is to encourage roleplaying after all.

It's important to make clear that this system is designed for specifically allocating benefits and setting aside time for roleplaying, it's not meant to replace little interactions. Ray blowing Alerina a kiss across a crowded room so she can mime shooting it down is still absolutely good roleplaying, it just doesn't give an on the spot bonus. Likewise it's important to keep in mind how much session time you want to devote to this system. If you decide to set aside 4 "Blocks" of time, and you have 5 players, that is 20 scenes of roleplaying and not adventuring, which might be fine for your game, but might not. You could even adopt a pattern of doing one entire session of downtime blocks between each bigger adventure, but always bear in mind what your group wants.

Hopefully this fun little tip has helped you to set aside a little time and a few benefits to encourage your players to get personally involved with all the amazing npc's that occupy your game.

Sample Nations

Sometimes you need a nation fast and don't have time to plan out a whole ton. Or maybe you want to include references to past historical nationalities to add depth to your world. Or maybe you just don't want to go through the hassle of making your own. Either way I've got you covered. Obviously these nations won't be as fleshed out or in depth as a real nation, they'll feel two dimensional help up next to a true culture, but there's no way to shorten hundreds of years of culture and history into a paragraph. I'll be posting several of these sample nations throughout the month so stay tuned for more.

Erebeuna: This is a nation with little land but vast influence. They are world leaders on matters of trade and diplomacy. The vast majority of their people are nomadic, traveling and trading far and wide. In medieval or post apocalyptic games they can serve as traditional traveling merchants and caravans, whereas modern games see them shift into a country with powerful control over shipping and transportation by controlling the most reliable transport trucks, trains, cargo ships and planes. Their appearance tends to vary pretty greatly. It's very common for them to find love during their travels and integrate their partners into the family business. To ensure ease of travel most Erebeunians are Polyglot's and even their native tongue Erbue is rife with phrases and terms borrowed from other languages. Their language is very focused on numbers. Erbue syntax puts numbers at the beginning of the sentence, and always uses numbers when they are available. For example rather than say "You kept me waiting for a long time." they would say "25 Minutes you kept me waiting.". They are historically peaceful and diplomatic, though they lack a strong army they are so entwined into the trade infrastructure of so many other countries that it is difficult to take direct action against them. 

Neo Dollywood: When she woke up in the cloning lab Dolly was furious at her existence. That someone would make her, create her, was unthinkable. But she channeled that rage. She freed the other Dolly's, now known as the Progenitors, and then began to create more. Neo Dollywood can grow from a vicious genetically perfect gang into an entire district of raiders and scientists and eventually even into a nation if left unchecked. They have seized the means of production, or rather reproduction, and use their numbers and physical superiority to steal what resources they need. Life has never been fair to them, and so they in turn are not fair to others. A Dolly generally finds few acts to be immoral and is very quick to act. It is after all the impulsive violent Dolly that first overthrew the facility that served as a template for all others. Most Citizens of Neo Dollywood look nearly identical to outsiders, yet to eachother they are each unique in their own ways. A different way of parting one's hair, a piercing here, a tattoo there, even how they stand and walk can show differences, and then there's the scars. The dolly have not only a single language but an identical dialect and nearly identical thoughts. a lot of their language is made up entirely of innate understanding. Some ideas don't even have words because they don't need to be said, there is so much to their language unspoken that most people have trouble speaking with "Native" Dolly's unfamiliar with speaking to anyone who isn't a clone of them self.

The Daericia: There is a great evil at the heart of Daericia, a terrible thing. A demon, an alien, a horrifying mutant, the exact nature of it is flexible. But what is known is that it hungers for the living. The people of Daericia live in the shadow of this creature and they give it sacrifices of their own people. In exchange for a monthly sacrifice the creature brings them peace and prosperity, serving as an adjudicator and wise elder, and bolstering the nation's military with its legion of underlings and strange gifts. But these are not a scared and harried people, they are thankful. Sacrifices are not slaves or servants or captured prisoners, they are celebrated heroes. One who pursues a career as a sacrifice wants for nothing. They may eat their fill, never want for companionship, are showered in praise and luxury. Each month the sacrifice is honoured in a festival of admiration for their courage. Daily prayers are offered to this powerful creature and it's seen as a beloved public figure, immortal and benevolent. Of course, outsiders rarely understand such a practice, and it's not long before a Daerician decides to simply keep their practices a secret. These peoples are prone to keeping to themselves and their own kind, they listen patiently to others talk about religion, but they firmly believe they see their god several times a month. Daericia is widely known for sages and scholars, educators and scientists or mages as appropriate for a setting.

Nations in Gaming

It's July, and that means over the course of the month all of North America is going to be celibrating their nation's birth. And that means this is a great chance to talk about Nations themselves as the theme for this month! As usual with the first article of the month we're going to talk about the basics of what our theme means. So what is a Nation?

A Nation is a group of people who share the same culture. They have connected or similar beliefs on a macro scale and a shared history, and usually a language. In truth that's all that really defines a nation. Most often we view nations through the lens of countries. Russia is a different nation from the United states for example. Or a better example might be that North and South Korea are different countries, but in many ways to have a nationality that is simplified to Korean is not  unusual. Of course there's no definitive measurement for when a nation is formed or broken, so people tend to use concrete ideas like borders and countries.

Nations can grow and change and evolve over time. It's almost impossible for them not to. Cultural ideas shift, leadership changes, values are adjusted, needs change. Sometimes this change comes about as a union of ideas and people, other times it's a division. The entire history of the world could be viewed as the division and reunion of nations over time. It is a powerful force not to be overlooked.

Of course though, this is about tabletop role-playing games after all, and this concept applies there quite strongly. You cannot have a role-playing game without some kind of national influence. If your campaign includes even a single person, then that person has come from somewhere, they have some history, some origin. Whether it's as simple as a "Generic fantasy knight" or as complex as "High inquisitor of the grand Nation of Wysteria, may it's light shine forever.".

Even the lacking of a nation can be part of your story. A newly birthed clone has no true parents, no cultural they are inherently a part of, and may even have few or no others like it to share that lonesome existence. In such a case that character is defined by missing a nation all their own. Others may be driven by a rejection of their old life, and may even desire to create a nation all their own. A nation without borders, a free nation. Or perhaps they'd rather make a kingdom, that could also be a fantastic concept for a game.

And there too are many games and stories about the attempt to recover a lost nation, whether figurative or literal.  Hidden cities of gold,  sunken kingdoms, and striving to make a nation "great" again. Of course these stories rarely end well. A nation is the product of evolution, and evolution doesn't run in reverse.

Stay tuned all this month for more articles about Nations and Nationality! It's gonna be a wild ride.

 

Shipboard weapons in sci-fi

Science fiction is filled with a ton of great and fantastic options for exciting storytelling and perhaps none of those options are as common as Space. There are so many wonderful things  about space that I want to devote a whole article to that it’s hard to pick where to begin. I’m going to start with a topic quite important to most people playing any tabletop game. Weapons. Specifically I want to talk about spaceships, spaceboard weaponry and the effect it has on diverse weapon options.

               A single breach in a bulkhead or wall can mean depressurization and death. Which means the ideal weapon aboard a spacecraft is not likely to be a high powered energy gun, or some sort of handgun that shoots armor piercing grenades or a laser sword. This creates a need for a wide variety of very different weapons. From a  gaming perspective this means there are a lot of potential ways of justifying weapons that might otherwise fall by the wayside in a futuristic campaign.

                One common category of shipboard weapons could be sensory weapons like flash grenades and sonic pulses and nausea rays that disorient, blind, or stun the target. Even chemical sprays and gasses that knock out foes could see common use. In the modern day these sorts of weapons are used to disperse crowds, abuse the innocent, and disable dangerous criminals. This category could also include psychic weaponry that disables the targets mind directly. All of these weapons could be specific to certain common alien races, or more widely reliable, but there are always going to be exceptions. It might be impossible to blind a creature with no eyes, while a creature that is mostly a giant sensory organ could instead be killed by a conventional flash bang for example.

               Another category is binding or restricting devices. This could be throwable shackles/handcuffs that latch onto a foe, or small metal spheres that when hurled expands into a writhing mass of cables and wires. At which point it’s basically become a high tech nets, though conventional or electrified Nets could work as well, especially if made of a superstrong cable. And then there are force field generators that could be used to create a box or a prison, or even just a tactical shield like a modern day SWAT officer. More esoteric variations include gravity well generators that create a centralized point of gravity that pulls people towards them. Instead of generators one could use gravity nullifiers that cause their targets to float about uselessly without some way to adhere to the walls of the ship. And then there are chemical sprays that fire a liquid or gas that rapidly changes to a solid. this can either be a very hard durable solid like a concrete foam, or something much more sticky, or even slippery. Any of the three makes for an excellent deterrent. Trapping a foe in place or making them unable to move or get away without falling over. Or imagine a handheld 3-D printer that can fire spools of super heated or chemically unstable thread that rapidly hardens into steel or titanium or diamond. These weapons may all require some cleanup after use, but it’s a lot easier to dissolve a known chemical compound than it is to completely replace a ship or section of hull. And some of these devices may even be used to make immediate temporary hull or system repairs.

               Then there are lethal weapons that don’t risk breaches. This can include melee weaponry such as swords and knives and staves. These melee weapons are easy to control and deal little damage to a hull or glass but can still dispatch an unarmored or lightly armored foe. And of course these weapons can be enhanced with more advanced technology, vibrating blades are particularly common, as are ones sheathed in flames, electricity or kinetic force fields. It is of course important that these advanced weapons don’t become strong enough to actually destroy the windows and hulls, otherwise they’re only marginally safer than ranged weapons. My advice here is to pick really cool designs for melee weapons and just roll with them. The diversity of real world melee weapons speaks volumes about how much humanity values look and feel and uniqueness over uniform efficency.

               Then of course there are even more unconventional weapons. Psychic weaponry that attacks a foes mind, time disruptors, trained packs of alien hounds, aggressive nanite swarms, well programmed attack drones or robot guards, and even conventional firearms programmed not to fire if they detect that their shot will hit the hull. These help round out the huge roster of dangerous deterrents for anyone thinking to board a vessel. The important thing is that it in some way can stop, hinder, or kill an opponent without doing the same to the ship.

               What all of this truly serves however is allowing a massively diverse range of weapons that might otherwise be hard to justify in a futuristic setting. Each of these weapons is fascinating in its own right and serves to make threats so much more varied and diverse than simply blaster cannons and lasers. And of course as always when it comes to sci-fi, don’t limit yourself based solely on what you see here. Keep your mind open to the possibilities that advanced technology allows!

Sci-Fi in Fantasy

As I alluded to in my previous article, Sci-fi can be so much more than robots and spaceships. In fact even traditionally fantasy specific games can be sci-fi. The two are not incompatible. Allow me to weave some ideas for a sci-fi fantasy setting.

 

With a thought a mage focuses and is connected to a great humming web of magic. Millions of mages the world around sending spells and tidbits of arcane lore to each other using raw magic as the conduit. For the cost of a few motes of spell power the casters mind obtains the incantation they're looking for. A few words and gestures are fed directly into their mind and their hands and voice follow along automatically. Perfect casting every time. Even the humblest of spellcaster can access ancient forgotten magic as long as they can pay for it with their own arcane essence. The  Spelltender elementals, carefully trained and mindless constructs of magic, filter and sort this magic. The mage focuses on finding good offensive spells, ones with casting components that they already have. But with a frown they expand their search to include spells with material components within 100 miles, and once they choose a spell a simple unobtrusive illusion visible only to them forms a glowing line directing them to where they can get the missing ingredient.

 The warrior places her palm on the wooden door. The dragon leather glove she wears grows warm and the reptilian eye on the back of its palm opens. She sees with the prowess of the dragon, detecting each foe in the next room. A lightly armored goblin packing three different wands. Three orcs, one wearing an animated suit of armor, the other two brandishing finely machined falchions. She formulates her plan,  wordlessly she directs the two small, and rather expensive, homonculi to action. They each grab one of the small magical spheres from her belt. One would fill the area with a potent cloudkill, ideally it would eliminate her foes. The other would create a powerful and deafening sonic blast. Cut off sight and sound and then attack anyone that survives the initial assault, focusing on the goblin with the wands.

"Planar date, 332836.5 Our journey into the depths of quadrant E of the elemental plane of  wind proceeds smoothly. Our Vessel, "The Intrepid" continues to provide all that we need without waste, without loss, and without the need for other fuels. If I live another thousand years I'll not have had every meal our ships' conjurors drives can produce. Our mission is to go forth bravely into the infinite unknown of the planes, to seek out new life and new civilisations. Though our vessel brims with powerful arcane cannons, force wall generators, and invisibility technology we hope to never need any of it. Our people have long ago passed the need for violence, and now we seek only peace, understanding, and knowledge."

These are just three simple little prompts that can help you take your fantasy game and add a light, or even heavy dose of sci-fi into it. By using magic as a substitute for technology, and monsters for aliens, it's simple to take many common tactics, storylines, and plot devices and use them in your existing fantasy game. Hopefully this has helped make your game a little more exotic.

Sci-fi Month

It's May, and thoughts of space are in the air. So this month's theme is written in the stars. This is Sci-Fi month! All month long we'll be talking about space, science fiction, technology, and their places, uses, and adaptations.  So to get us started let's take a look at what makes something science fiction and some of the common ideas and themes of the genre.

To start off, science fiction is ironically more of an art than a science. It's something that is felt more than tested for.  The same quality, depending on how it is explored and presented can make something sci-fi, or not.

A story about internet monitoring, hacking, and privacy invasion in the modern age could easily be science fiction. Even if it contains only real, currently existing technologies. There's nothing futuristic, impossible or advanced about it yet the story is still about technology and its impact.

Conversely something like Dragonball Z features robots, androids, cyborgs, aliens, space ships, and time travel, but it's still not quite something most people would call sci-fi.

In a fantasy game like DND adding in a Revolver, and a Robot, and even a boat that can sail through space doesn't make it science fiction. And yet using only magic you could make your fantasy game into a sci-fi game. But I'll cover that more in another article.

The things that make up a science fiction story change over time. The nuts and bolts so to speak are different. What used to be "The Ether" and Lightning and radiation and chemicals has been replaced with hacking, cybernetics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing and quantum theory. The new impossible sciences are always growing and changing as fast as we expand what is possible. It's not the technology itself that makes Sci-fi, It's the exploration of that technology and what it means.

To me, science fiction is the examination of technologies and capabilities that are, were, or could be. Really good science fiction makes you consider the far ranging implications of what people are capable of. We know that you can't just staple a body together, zap it with lightning, and make a living being. But Mary Shelley's Frankenstein didn't suddenly become a fantasy story. Because it explores the repercussions of the modern Prometheus. It asks the question of if it's right to create life, what ones responsibility to that life is, and how such a life might experience existence. The same story is even more relevant today when we're so close to the process of cloning humans. Technology does not determine sci-fi.

This exploration of science can be done in many ways, it can be an adversary, or a tool, it can be benign or benevolent or malignant,  it can be subtle or overt. But we'll go over all of that later in the month. So consider that something to look forward to in the future.

 

 

Cool action

So, you’ve just gone through a tough dnd encounter. Enemies slain, xp gained, treasure get, but it feels somehow unfulfilling. Everyone just kind of stood around and attacked. You had cover, and interactable terrain, and lots of options, but none of it got used. The whole fight might as well have been in an empty room. I hear this problem come up a lot, but I’ve found other people too quick to blame the players. There’s a simpler truth.

Pathfinder does not incentivize, and often even penalizes, being cool. Sure, dashing around behind the enemy to attack from their blindspot is neat, but it actually just provokes an attack, keeps you from full attacking, and gives no bonus. Trying to disarm or trip a foe without the right feat provokes an attack, and the benefit is vastly outweighed by losing your ability to attack that turn. Flipping a table over for cover is stylish, but only of minimal value. For the same action you could drink a potion that would provide a similar bonus to ac but last much longer and follows anywhere you go.  Throwing a chair at someone is awesome, but when you have a sword on hand it’s kind of lackluster.

So it’s hardly fair to blame players for not using stylish but ultimately inferior tactics. Which is why I have introduced a “Cool action” into my game. This is an extra action that players can take on top of normal actions, but can only be used for stylish things. This can be an attack with an improvised weapon, a combat maneuver, or an interaction with terrain (such as by flipping a table of cutting or a rope or the like). But the important part is that this is meant to be a less tactical option. If your party fighter is built specifically for disarming then making a disarm attempt is not a stylish or cool action because they’re optimized for it, it’s what they would be doing anyways. The goal should be to encourage players to do things they wouldn’t otherwise be doing. This helps mix up combat, making it more diverse and interesting and rewarding players for thinking of fun clever permutations on combat.

This system takes a little bit of getting used to as you and your players think about what a good use for their cool actions might be and what would be an abuse of the system. Once you’re adjusted however this system allows a plethora of fantastic opportunities to help spice up combat. And don’t be afraid to let some of the villains be stylish too, turnabout is fair play after all. Hopefully this has helped make some of your blander encounters out there a lot more engaging.

Multiplying your possibilities

Hey all, It's whatever Wedensday, and you know what that means! It means whatever I want it to mean. And this week I want to share a story about game design with you, one that leads to a very important tip. I've been hard at work putting together some content for an upcoming play test and I wanted to go through the whole process with my players. I wanted them to be able to create characters and pick and choose using a bunch of different abilities for the content I'm making. It was a fairly low level game and I have about 80 pages. each page had three or so abilities on it. I had about 240 abilities, which was a pretty good selection.  I had a few hours left to work on things before people arrived. Each of these abilities had a cost to use, A cost to learn, a time required to use it, an element, a range and prerequisites. What I could have done was make probably three or four new abilities, maybe even five if I hurried. But I had a much better way to expand the number of options.

I instead wrote four abilities that could be taken to modify other abilities. You could now change the cost of learning a technique by taking on a weakness, you could make it take longer to use in exchange for reducing the cost to use the power, you could make a technique faster to use by raising the cost, and you could ignore some of the normal requirements in exchange for increasing the cost to learn it. Because these modifiers could apply to nearly every single technique, each one created a vast number of options. Now instead of 240 abilities, there were effectively 1,200. Now of course, there naturally would be many combinations that weren't as likely to be chosen, but they still existed. So by the time the players arrived to test, I had a massive plethora of customization, just from adding a few modifications.

Almost anyone is familiar with this sort of ability creation. DnD 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder all use metamagic's extensively to create millions of theoretical spells. (If you count, Silent Magic missile as different from magic missile). And some systems like Gurps and Mutants and Masterminds are built so completely on these abilities that they present infinite options.  

As a game designer, these concepts are so incredibly useful for rapidly expanding possibilities that they should not be overlooked. But there is a danger to these sorts of things as well. If every player had, for example, 12 abilities, it would have taken 20 sessions to test all 240 abilities I had before. But by adding those four modifiers, it would now take a thousand sessions to playtest each combination once. And that's not even counting abilities that can be modified by more than one thing. If your system is carefully designed, and these modifiers are made with a lot of consideration, you can estimate that most of these new abilities will be benign. But if you want to test everything you need to be careful of how much theoretical content you're creating without actually writing. Look for and think about special outliers that might be unbalanced if combined with the right modifiers, and never stop looking at your own content in new ways.

Hopefully this has been helpful for all you up and coming home brewers and game designers.

 

Style points

Alright, April is officially style month, and I'm gonna start it off by firing a hot houserule at ya. This is something called a "Style Point" that we use at my table. It started off as a class feature for a class I was writing, but now It's grown and mutated into a house rule all its own.

The basic idea is this: Everyone starts off the session with a "Style Point" and you can spend that point to take a non offensive action at any point you want. Including in the past, as long as it can't be proven that you didn't, and if doing that action needs a roll, such as a skill check, you automatically get a 20 on the roll. This should be used to do something cool or exciting rather than boring and practical. For example

"As the assassins burst into my room I roll out of bed. I'm going to spend my style point and pull the wand of lightning bolts I had stashed under my pillow so I can blast these fools on my turn."

Is cool and interesting. Using the point to have stashed a magic item in a useful easily retrievable place in the event of enemy attack is a great use for this power.

"I attack the enemy, thats a +6. Oh actually +8 because I am gonna use my style point to cast bull strength before we entered the room." That's boring and not a good use of style point.
 

But something like "As he goes to strike me he finds I defend not with magic, but with my bare forearm, blocking the blow as rage fills my eyes. He realizes I  don't intend to engage in the spell battle he has in mind. I'm already deep in the sway of my Transformation spell, making me a deadly warrior."  Could definitely count as a use of a style point, as long as the player hadn't cast a spell since the time they declare having cast Transformation in the past.


After all the point is to be stylish and exciting, not to give minor tactical benefits. The other important thing about style points is that when you do something really cool, you get back the style point, but you can never have more than 1. This is to prevent players from hoarding them and holding on for too long and encourages them to use those points when they have an idea.
 

I've found this system really encourages players to get creative and not worry too much about their limitations, since anything is possible if you have enough style. The other benefit of this system is that it's very easily adapted to any kind of game no matter what the base rules are.

Homebrewing Basics

In honour of the announcement of Pathfinder 2nd edition, Duck and Roll is celebrating March as Homebrew month! We’ll celebrate all the homebrewers who intend to vigilantly keep pathfinder first edition running long into the next decade. All month we’ll be looking at how to homebrew, why you should, and what makes it truly exciting. To start off we’re going to take a look at the basics of homebrewing.

To start off, let’s look at the simplest part of making your own content for your favourite tabletop RPG. First and foremost you need a core idea for what you are trying to create. Ideally you want to be able to summarise whatever you’re making into one or two sentences. If it takes more than that to express the basics, you might need to focus more tightly.

Once you have a basic idea of what you want to make you need to establish some familiar ground. It’s important to be able to relate whatever you’re making to another official part of the game. Some systems make this incredibly easy. Making anything new in world of Darkness comes with a beautiful framework already in place for you. Working through a system like pathfinder it can be useful to find a similar class to compare yours to, or a feat or feat chain or item ect you can match up with side by side.

Once you have something to compare to, you can start thinking about how you’re deviating from the most similar work and why. You can think about stylistic differences, about mechanical rules permutations, and about adding, removing, and changing other major qualities. All of this is to better suit your core concept.

Now that you have your first draft, look it over. Read over everything you have, and how it works. Does it stand up on its own? Is it free of typos or other copied and incorrectly altered text? Does everything make sense, even for someone who isn’t familiar with the original material it was similar too? And lastly does it match your concept? If anything isn’t satisfactory, go ahead and change and reword it.

Finally you’re ready for the most intensive and fun part. Playtesting. First, make something using your new content. A new character, a monster, a dungeon. Whatever it is, make something with it and see how it feels. Did making the character run smoothly? Does the NPC feel right and make sense? Did anything give you trouble or make the creation process more difficult? Fix those things. Now do it again different. Make a character stronger or weaker, or a different dungeon with the same device or trap, or another character who uses the item differently. Does everything still hold up? Have all the problems been smoothed out? Good. Repeat one more time from a third perspective, with a third different use.

Now that you’ve tested out your content, you like it and you think it’s done it’s time to watch it be handled by others. Get someone else to use and test your content, as many people as possible, as often as possible. And take notes of what people ask you, what they think, and what they do and want to do but can’t. Now you have to carefully make sure to sort out the valuable and important ideas, from the irrelevant. Sometimes people will have incredibly useful of insightful ideas, other times they might not really have any clue as to what they’re really asking or suggesting. Remember, your final product is yours, but the more people can use and enjoy it, the more rewarding it will be.

Hopefully this has been a helpful outline of the basics of how to homebrew your own content for whatever your favourite game may be.

Love as Motivation

In my previous article: The power of love I briefly wrote about  how love could be a powerful motivating force. I'd like to really focus in on that idea for this article and look at the many ways in which love can motivate. These motivations are not necessarily all heroic or noble mind you, and they can easily serve to motivate a villain or anti hero as they could anyone else.

Courting: Courtship, the winning of romantic love through great displays, is a classic of fiction. The knight slays the dragon to win the hand of a beloved noble. The street tough robs a jewellery store to get something nice for their cute new gang member. The smuggler battles a galactic empire to impress someone. The mad titan who wishes to impress death itself with a grand sacrifice of lives. The things that people do to impress and win the love of others can be grand gestures indeed. Almost all creatures can feel love in some form or another, and that feeling can drive one to achieve impossible goals, for better or worse.

Impressing others: I was strongly tempted to put this under courting, or to even just call it "Friendship courting" but regardless of the name the concept is the same. This is something I really don't see enough of, and I quite want more. The idea of wanting to make new friends or impress the ones you have through huge displays of prowess, or dedication, or brilliance is a underappreciated form of motivation. There is no doubt that it is absolutely an expression of love however. This can also extend to wanting to impress or fit in with a group, whether that's the party, military organization, religion or cult.

Protection: What wouldn't you do to save someone you love? Many of the greatest stories ever told are those of heroes battling to defend their  loved ones from a threat vastly beyond their own means to combat. A knight battles an army of ghouls and ghosts to save their beloved from a demons grasp. A parent with a very particular set of skills sets out to save their Taken child. The world is in danger and it just so happens that a heroes loved ones live on the world. A rare illness, and an even rarer cure far away. This is an absolute classic motivation, but it also extends to the love of one's self. Sometimes merely surviving is a goal all of its own.

Revenge: Vengeance is an incredibly powerful force. It's a desire that knows only a destructive goal of making someone else pay for what they did. It can often occupy the same space and masquerade as justice, allowing it to take the shape of a noble endeavour. Taking vengeance for harming a loved one is an incredibly relatable goal. Everyone has at some point been wronged only to want desperately for the person who hurt them to pay for what they did. The reason is that this is classified as vengeance, and not justice is that real justice is indifferent to who was harmed. The burning down of /anyone's/ house is cause for justice. The burning down of /your/ house is cause for vengeance. And this article is specifically focused on the context of love and loved ones.

Loss: When a loved one vanishes from our lives, the love we felt doesn't go with them. Grief, pain, sorrow and loss can be very powerful motivators. Doing anything and everything possible to honour the ideals and memories of the fallen. devoting ones self to making sure no one ever feels this pain again. Finding a way, any way to make the pain and hurt go away. Loss is the most complex motivation covered here because people handle it so differently. It's not an attack against ones loved one, it's not a burning desire for revenge, it's not the need to have someone else love you. Loss is a pain of the heart, with no clear solution, no way to break it down and understand it. It is for the person in pain to decipher and resolve in whatever way they can.

 

Love and the Species

Many campaigns and games are filled with very different and unique races, species, and offshoots. Often times these groups have their own cultures and identities. With such groups it would not at all be uncommon to see very different types of love, or different ways of expressing that love.  And even if your game is only one kind of race there is certainly the potential for different cultures to poses different customs and ways of handling love.  So let's take a look at some considerations for how societies and races handle love.

Understanding love: There's a lot that can be learned just by looking at how people quantify love. Take a society that believes there's only one kind of love. They may experience a great deal of trouble and confusion when it comes to identifying their feelings, especially towards close friends, lovers, and family. They may realize that these are different kinds of love, and yet without an understanding of why; they may face many uncomfortable experiences in life. Meanwhile a culture that has 1,000 kinds of quantifiable love speaks of a very emotionally intelligent people who have an easy time quantifying their feelings. Likewise there may be races with no understanding of love and how it works, whether they be incapable of it, or even incapable of any emotion.

Expressing love: Sometimes saying how you feel can be very hard. Races and cultures can have many different ways of expressing ideas. A vampire experiencing something close to love might choose to enslave or torture the object of their fascination. Meanwhile someone else might write a nice letter or e-mail. Perhaps a Dwarf would create a gift for their beloved, while an Orc might take to bullying or teasing them, intending it to be harmless. Other's might not know how to express their feelings at all, and that can be every bit as painful and confusing as not being able to understand. Some groups might have varied and clashing romantic ideals, others might have a very formal and well documented courting system. Also consider the symbolism of love. Is  love represented by a heart? A Kidney? A sea sponge? Are lovers seen as waifish whimsical poets and young idealists? Or is the archetypical lover someone older, experienced, nurturing and supportive?

The rules of love: "All is fair and love and war" but does this hold true for all peoples? Every society has customs and beliefs about who, how, why, and when you should or shouldn't love someone.  Some might contain love to within the same social caste, or even only to someone of a different caste, or to people  above or below a certain age, or of only the same or different species. There are of course also rules for conducting courtship. Is it taboo to hit on a friend's ex? To seduce away their spouse? To date a friend's great grandmother? These rules and values become moral touchstones for a civilization. They speak volumes about how to view love, life, and themselves, and the world around them.

The differences of love:  Even more dramatic than how they pursue and quantify love, some races may experience it differently. Perhaps a long lived race only feels love for anything in relatively short intervals of time. They love passionately for a few years before completely shedding those feelings. Perhaps a race loves incredibly easily, every bit as committed as a more slowly built bond.  It's also possible there are some beings that cannot feel real love at all, and instead are only capable of lust and obsession.  You can also create brand new kinds of love that most people might never even consider a possibility, or envision a culture or race that only feels a single type of love.

Hopefully this look at love among different cultures and species has sparked some ideas or a new take on a classic ideal.

The Power of Love

Something to consider when planning a campaign is exactly how powerful is love? This can mean a number of different things depending on the game and setting and style. But any game in which there is love will eventually find it tested and measured in some way. The strength of love can be a big part of conveying your theme. So let's take a look at the ways that you can express how weak or powerful love is in your particular game.

What people will do for love: This is a simple but important question. What will someone do, or endure, for love? Will they risk their life? Their wealth? Their immortal soul, if they have one? Is this a game where someone will sneak across miles of war torn battlefield to be back with their family? Is this a game where there's "Another one in every port" and yet you lie awake at night thinking about the one that got away?  Does your setting value love as a reason, as a driving force? Or is it seen as foolishness to choose love over responsibility or ones own gain. If you tell a member of the police, the space rangers, or the city guard "Please, it's for love" how do they react? Will you be met with a harsh stonewall and a grim rebuff? Or do they offer a personal escort, because they'd do "Anything for love"

The Authority of love: I love respected? Is it revered? Is it a well known fact that true love is the greatest force in the world? Think of the authority that love holds in a story like The Princess Bride. The difference between a healer turning someone away and bestowing a literal miracle is the fact that true love was in danger.  Can you justify refusing a marriage to a wealthy noble because you cannot love them? There are many who style themselves as champions of love, those who will do anything under the authority of promoting love and happiness and see it as a divine duty.  And in some games love itself may actually be a true sentient force that can make demands.

The mechanical power of love: In the vast array of RPG's it's hardly unthinkable that love can provide a very real quantifiable power. A super hero who gains strength, speed and stamina in accordance with how loved they are. A priest of Love itself given divine magic by the bonds that people form. A changeling that feeds primarily on love has everything in the world to gain by promoting it.  Growing strong on real love and drunk on romantic dreams. And these are all just mechanics that can already be found in games. It would be easy to create extra bonuses or rules for benefiting the idea of love in your campaign. For more on this check out the article: Mechanical power of love!

Mechanical effects of love

 

If you want to really sell and promote love in your game you can help re-enforce that idea through some customized mechanics. Many players identify much more strongly with quantifiable values rather than abstract emotional ideas. Some games already include mechanics for love and motivation, while others have systems easily adapted. Here I provide a small selection of love based rules for  several of my favourite role-playing games. Most of these mechanics will benefit from having the players pick a specific number of people/places/things that they love, usually from 1 to 3 at the beginning of the game, but it can vary from campaign to campaign.

Pathfinder/ 3.5: Both of these systems have a hero point/action point variant option already in place. The easiest adaptation is simply to allow the players to gain an extra point they can use only when acting in the name of a strong love. Alternatively you could allow the players to receive a +4 on an attack, save or skill check as long as it relates to protecting and furthering their love.

World of Darkness: Love can be used as an excellent addition to the Vice and Virtue system. Consider allowing the regaining of a willpower when protecting or impressing someone's loved one. This mechanic is exciting because it's not just when they're in danger, it can also be for trying to impress them or improve your relationship. This means it functions as a virtue, but also a vice. Even lying to make yourself seem better to the person you fancy might qualify for a willpower point, provided of course that lie can blow up in your face later.

DND 5th edition: his is a pretty easy one to guess. Fifth edition really only has one major bonus to apply, and that's our friend Advantage. Consider allowing a player each to get advantage on any one roll as long as it relates to something their character loves and values. This system is extra easy to implement since a 5th edition sheet already has a spot for bonds and allies and allegiances, making it a snap to define who is or isn't an acceptable loved one.

Savage worlds: Another easy system with a great built in rewards system. Give each player one extra special Love Bennie that they can use only in situations relating to their character's love. Simple, easy, and encourages the players to have their characters feel strong about someone or something.

Mutants and Masterminds: Another great system with a built in hero point system. Simply reward an extra hero point when someone's loved ones are in danger and watch the heroic expressions of love unfold.