Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Games I've Read Recently - Remnants and Spellbound Kingdoms

So as recently I picked up some games recently that I found mechanically interesting and had inspired me to put some words into Last Knights of Camelot, which I am composing a post about currently. I figured I would detail what I found so interesting in another post:

Remnants: This game is a very rules light post-apocalyptic rpg where the main form of pre-apocalypse technology that survives are giant robots called ishin. These giant robots may be mechanical or magic, no one knows and no one knows how they work. They repair themselves if damaged, can replenish their own ammunition and drones, and new ones cannot be built. Basically the ishin are giant magic artifacts from a previous age. No one knows what the apocalypse was, or really much of any history. It's a wonderfully open setting that you can take in a billion directions if you want. The ishin are generally 12-20 feet tall so they're not super huge/powerful, but they are the most powerful tools of war available.

The cool things about the system is how the ishin advance and how players control them.
  1. At character creation all characters gets separate pools of points to get normal skills and ishin skills, so you don't have “this guy is awesome in his robot but sucks everywhere else” problems. Also stats affect ishin skills in such a way that characters are all equal, so the guy without good physical stats can still be an awesome pilot. Piloting an ishin really relies on that indefinable thing that so many anime mecha heroes have.
  2. Ishin get more powerful by suffering damage. Any time your ishin takes enough damage to be knocked out, it goes to sleep for eight hours and wakes up tougher. Any time you pull off some amazing move or really risky stunt you get Duress, which you can use to get upgrades for the ishin that sort of organically grow out of the suit as it adapts to the pilot's needs. So players have this interesting drive to push their ishin to the limits to keep advancing.  If a pilot dies the suit goes to sleep for eight hours and resets itself to factory defaults, i.e. starting stats.
I do wish the rules had more meat to them in some cases, like weapon types and damage, mech upgrades, etc, but its a game with an immense capacity for tinkering and customization. It would be a great game for an anime style mecha campaign and for some reason I keep thinking of Nausica of the Valley of the Winds since the ishin are very similar to the ancient war machines in that story.

The other game I picked up that I have read thus far is Spellbound Kingdoms written by Frank Brunner, who I played D&D with when I lived in NYC and is a good guy. Spellbound Kingdoms is a fantasy game that has two mechanics thus far that I love. The basic system is you build a die pull from your stat, skill, etc, take the best die and compare it to a target number, but the inspiration rules and combat rules really make it stand out (there may be more awesome bits, but I haven't finished reading it).

  1. Like many games, SK has a mechanic for causes that are important to the player, like relationships, deeply held beliefs, etc that can add to rolls in certain circumstances. These are called inspirations, and their use in play is cool enough. If you take a lot of damage in social contests you can take damage to your Inspirations, or people can attack them directly by killing beloved family members, trying to cause you lose faith in your religion by exposing corruption, etc. The awesome part comes up when you get an Inspiration above 4, which is not difficult at all really if you want to go for it. Once you get an Inspiration to 4 or higher, due to the magic of the world you cannot be killed (well, you can be, but you will come back somehow, you can't be taken out of the game permanently). So as long as you are fervently dedicated to a cause you cannot be killed unless your dedication to that cause is damaged (i.e. brought below 4); as long as your true love lives and you love her you cannot be stopped forever as you'll find a way back to her. So villains have an in world mechanical motivation to tear down the world around the heroes as opposed to just attacking them directly, and since this applies to villains to the heroes can't just kick the enemy's door down and make with the stabbing. While yes, unrealistic, I love the sort of narratives that could develop.
  2. Combat in SK is all about fighting schools and styles, something I think Harbinger would love. When players enter combat they choose a fighting style to use, each of which requires training to use anything other than the most basic elements and specific gear. Each style has a page sized table with a series of circles laid out in a irregular grid; each circle is an action you can take during a round. For example, a move may let you attack a target and move, attack with both two weapons, aim a bow, make an insult to damage your opponents Mood and boost yours, etc. Each of these moves has different effects, such as the aim action boosting the die size of a ranged attack made on the next round. You can start in a limited selection of starting moved called balancing moves, but from there you can move to any move in the same column or row in the grid as your maneuver last round. As I said the grids are irregular, so there are spaces and branches, thus to get to their ultimate moves of a style may take four or five rounds of maneuvering to get there. It looks like an excellent way to do a fencing heavy sort of game.
You can get the combat primers at the Spellbound Kingdoms website that will get you the basics of the combat map system.  I definitely recommend getting it and it is a meaty 300 page tome.  

I haven't been able to play any of these games yet, but I've been thinking of stealing Samhaine's rotating game group in order to try them out.   

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