Fantasy on the Sword’s Edge

The last post was about a campaign scenario with Swords Edge in an alternative history setting. This time, lets go straight fantasy.

This is being cross-posted as an update to the Sword’s Edge Kickstarter, running until 20 April 2017.
One of my ongoing games is a fantasy set in an alternate Korea in which the PCs are villagers in the far north, on the edge of civilization, whose village becomes the target of dark forces. Strange beings attack the village and carry off most of its inhabitants, and the PCs heroically seek to free their neighbours and confront the evil.

Im going to share the evil shaman narrative character and then two challenges the PCs faced. Challenges are built the same as narrative characters, its just that they are not individuals, they are obstacles. In this case, each success changed the narrative somehow. But first, the evil shaman.

Parnai (Good regular) 17
Concept: Sorcerer, +2
Physique -2; Charisma +0; Cunning +2
Command the Dead (Cun) +2; Eye of the Snake (Cun) +2

The sorcerer is a regular in order to leave him somewhat vulnerable he can survive three Stress before being removed from the scene but he is provided with Elements to represent his magic.

And the obstacles. Im going to include all the notes I made for each obstacle as well, to help give a better idea of how these run.

Tracking the Beast (average regular) 12
Concept: Path of the Wolf, +2
Physique+2; Charisma +0; Cunning-2

If not PCs have skills that can track the wolf, just have the players provide a narrative explanation for how they track it.

Success in “Tracking the Beast” reveals 1) What becomes obvious is that it was likely a wolf that took the child, though a wolf larger than any you have ever seen. 2) The wolf ran on four legs, not two, and it looks like it is dragging the child. 3) The wolf weighed around 400kg (880 lb) when it is rare for a wolf to weigh more than 55 kg

Path of Desolation (Poor regular) 5
Concept: Path in Darkness, +2
Physique+2; Charisma +0; Cunning-2

For each Success against the obstacle, the PCs learn one fact: 1) You easily discern the booted feet of soldiers the villagers all wear rope sandals or shoes, even in the winter (feet are bundled against the cold). 2) Although the tracks are not clear given the number of feet, you would guess there were maybe 25 or 30 soldiers and perhaps double that number of villagers. 3) They are moving at speed and the villagers are unlikely to keep this pace for long.

So there you have some examples of narrative characters for a fantasy campaign.

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Sword’s Edge, What is it Good For?

Swords Edge is a generic role-playing game, that is to say it is not tied to any genre or inspirational fiction. Instead, Swords Edge provides mechanics that can be used over a wide range of stories and campaigns. I should note that I am a believer that system does matter, and that I have created very targeted games using Swords Edge that have changed its mechanics those being Sword Noir: A Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery, and Kiss My Axe: Thirteen Warriors and an Angel of Death. However, I have also run a bunch of campaigns in varying genres with the base Swords Edge system. I wanted to share some of those with you and some of the narrative characters and obstacles used in those games. This is a supplement to the Genres section in the book, which details character ideas, opponents, and inspiration for fantasy, swashbuckling, western, modern military, and science fiction genres.

For these examples, each will have the name of the character, then in parentheses their rank and type. The number is the base Target Number which their Concept, Traits, and Elements can modify (if they apply and if the character has them). Minions are the weakest and go down after one success, Regulars are slightly tougher, with Traits and the ability to sustain three Stress, and then Heroes are basically the narrative character version of the PCs, but who lose ranks equal to the Stress sustained until their rank drops below Weak.

Due to length, Im going to break this into separate posts. The first of these is going to be alternate history campaign.

Back in the day, before I updated the system, I ran a very short game set in an alternate Rome centred on Alba Longa this was before the creation of Centurion: Legionaries of Rome. The characters were are exploratores legionary scouts and spies with Legio VI Ferrata (Ironclad), under the Legate (general) Titus Fabius Valens based in a fortress along the Dacian Ister Wall, on the banks of the massive Ister river. The story involved a rising in the barbarian lands to the North and the PCs finding out about this and embedding with the barbarians to protect the Alban Empire from this threat.

A couple of narrative characters from the campaign were Buretaxes, a Roxolani (Sarmatian) champion and Ostios, an Alban spy among the Roxolani. For a Minion example the lowest level of narrative character there is one of the Julong, the fictional barbarian tribe that are an early version of the Mongols.

Julong Warrior (Poor minion) 5
Concept: Horse Archer, +2

Buretaxes (Average regular) 12
Concept: Barbarian Warrior, +2
Physique +2; Charisma +0; Cunning -2

Ostios (Good hero) 17
Concept: Alban spy, +4
Physique 0; Charisma +2; Cunning +4
Shadow (Cun) +4; Insight (Cun) +2

These examples would work just as well in an actual Roman campaign, especially if you were planning to run a more “cinematic action” style of campaign. Centurion: Legionaries of Rome is designed more for a relatively gritty tone, where the characters are not extraordinary, but it might be fun to run something with high octane action, and Sword’s Edge can totally do that.

Sword’s Edge is Kickstarting right now. Please support it.

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Sword’s Edge on Kickstarter

It’s happening. You can find it here.

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Sword’s Edge – What’s Different?

Tomorrow, Tuesday 21 March 2017, the Swords Edge Kickstarter will go live. The goal is $2,700 CAD to help pay for editing, indexing, printing, and to recoup the funds already spent getting the Ashcan out. Backers will have access to a very rudimentary system document that will give the basics of the rules, and backers of the Minion (PDF) level and above will receive a PDF of the Ashcan on the successful completion of the Kickstarter. PDFs and print copies will come later aiming for October 2017 for PDFs and then November 2017 for print.

I’ve already written a bit about the game and my plans for it, but on the cusp of this going live, I thought Id answer a few questions that might help you make a decision about backing the game.

1) What is Different?
So what has changed since the original Swords Edge came out? There are two parts to this answer: the system and the product.

The system has not changed dramatically so that if you have played it before, you aren’t learning a new game. However, access to Elements the extra Qualities that are tied to Traits has been reduced so that one cannot pile on multiple Elements without spending Luck. Further, Advancement has changed also, restricting the speed of increasing power and specifying what can be Advanced. Traits no longer can except in very specific circumstances.

This has made the system more balanced. Players must now be more careful in building their characters and GMs have a better idea of the strength of the PCs facing their challenges.

Pivots also work differently, being much looser and generally hit in scenes rather than in sessions. This has also changed the role of Advancement, which is still used to Advance Qualities, but now also works alongside Luck as a resource to provide advantages to PCs.

There have been some other, minor changes such as the TN for the various Ranks but these are key.

The product, however, is much different. The previous Swords Edge System was an afterthought an answer to those interested in the underlying system for Sword Noir and later Kiss My Axe. It received some editing, but wasn’t really a game in its own right. The new Sword’s Edge is a more robust creation. It has been purpose-built to be a standalone RPG book, and so it now includes a GM section and sections on how to use Sword’s Edge in a collection of genres. There is more art and a cover that differentiates it from Sword Noir.

Sword’s Edge is now the parent and Sword Noir and Kiss My Axe will be the children.

2) How does it compare to Nefertiti Overdrive?
Sword’s Edge and Nefertiti Overdrive are two very different beasts. That is not to say their systems are completely different. In both, characters are created through abstract Qualities that can be used in a variety of creative ways. However, where Nefertiti Overdrive is built so that the characters succeed and the real challenge is in telling an entertaining story with crazy action scenes, Sword’s Edge is more traditional in that its rules allow a GM to scale challenges so that they are easy for PCs or insanely daunting. Sword’s Edge has the narrative challenge of Nefertiti Overdriveas the underlying system still expects players to have a large amount of control while having a very different style ofmechanical challenges so that opponents and obstacles can be built to overwhelm the PCs unless they get great rolls or work together really well.

Sword’s Edge has more balance than Nefertiti Overdrive, but it still requires a group that is playing cooperatively rather than competitively.

3) How does it compare to Centurion
Like Nefertiti Overdrive and Sword’s Edge, Centurion uses Qualities to describe its character, but there the similarities end. The Centurion system designed for games involving Roman legionaries was built so that the players and GM required a strategy with each roll of the dice. This was intended as a link to the strategy and tactics required in a military campaign. The game could also be quite brutal as was life in the legions and this separates it from both Nefertiti Overdrive and Sword’s Edge.

The only part of Centurion that is mirrored in Sword’s Edge is the use of Qualities and some of the underlying design philosophy. Mechanically, they are quite different.

Maybe those answers create more questions. If you haven’t seen or played Nefertiti Overdrive or Centurion, I’ve probably created a lot more. Hopefully, whatever I’ve done, I’ve also piqued your curiosity regarding Sword’s Edge. In the end, it is a light system that favours a robust narrative, provides a framework for players to create focused and evocative characters, and allows the GM to spend most of their time facilitating story.

I’ll be announcing the start of the Kickstarter on G+ and then remind everyone that it is live here and on Twitter later in the evening. If you don’t back, please help me out by passing word along to those whom you believe would be interested. Getting the word out is as important as putting the dollars in.

And thank you all in advance for your support.

You can find out more about Sword’s Edge here.

You can find out more about Nefertiti Overdrive here and purchase a copy here.

You can find out more about Centurion: Legionaries of Rome here and purchase a copy here.

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Kick the Edge of the Sword’s Start

It’s going to happen. The Sword’s Edge Kickstarter is going to be a thing. It should be going live next next week and running for 30 days. It’s going to be in Canadian dollars, which is kind of wonky since most of the backers of my last two successful Kickstarters were from the US, but I’m going to include an approximate cost in US dollars for all rewards.

Unlike my other two successful Kickstarters, Sword’s Edge is done. It’s actually been done for quite some time, but I had neglected it in favour of Sword Noir and Kiss My Axe. Sword’s Edge is the underlying system for both of those games, and both of those games alter it somewhat to make it fit their particular genre. Sword’s Edge has lived in their shadow for a while, but when I decided to update Sword Noir, I chose to update its foundation first.

I’m very glad I did. Getting my hands dirty with Sword’s Edge reminded me how simple the system is while still allowing for generous customization. It rewards optimizing a character for a niche, so playing a generalist is only useful if there a minimum of characters. A generalist in a crowd of specialists will have a hard time getting the spotlight.

And so, after working hard on getting its innards working, I finally have the outards in place also. I printed copies of the Sword’s Edge Ashcan for Breakout Con in Toronto (10-12 March). This is going to be a Kickstarter where I’ll have a finished products though not the finished product to send to backers as soon as it successfully closes. It’s an Ashcan because it needs professional editing and indexing. The Kickstarter will pay for that and also pay me for the costs already sunk into the project mostly art.

The target is going to be $2,700 CAD, which is about $2,020 USD with the current exchange. I believe this is a realistic and reasonable target, lower than both of my other games, and I’d be kind of sad if I missed it. If the Kickstarter fails to fund, Sword’s Edge will still come out, it will simply lack professional editing, won’t have an index, and I’ll be in the red when it hits the streets.

And for those interested in Lawless Heaven, it will likely be a stretch goal, probably at the $4,000 level.

Below are a couple of pages from the Ashcan. Pretty soon, that could be yours. Cool.

You can learn more about Sword’s Edge here.

You can learn more about Lawless Heaven here.

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State of the Edge

I’ve finished updating Sword’s Edge. I mean I’ve really finished. As in the Ashcan Edition has been sent off to the printers. This doesn’t actually mean that Sword’s Edge will be soon available at discriminating retailers near you. Those Ashcan Editions are specifically for Breakout Con in Toronto, running 10-12 March 2017 at the Holiday Inn at Yorkdale. I’ll be running three sessions of Lawless Heaven, my love letter to Korean action cinema using the updated Sword’s Edge rules, and the Ashcan Edition will be available there.

It’s an Ashcan Edition because it is not entirely complete. It has not been professionally laid out. It has not been professionally edited. It has not been professionally indexed. Does it need these things? Maybe not. The original didn’t have any of these. I would, however, like to have these, so I’m looking at costs and strongly considering Kickstarting once again. This would likely happen in April or May, but we’ll have to see.

Lawless Heaven is also done. Not only is it done in the sense that it is ready for me to run, it is also done in the sense that it could actually be published. If I Kickstart, it will likely be a stretch goal, because I would dearly love to have portraits for each of the characters and maybe some other art and a stretch goal might afford that. Otherwise, if Sword’s Edge heads out into the wild without Kickstarting, Lawless Heaven will likely follow it there.

So now I am working on updating Sword Noir: A Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery. Most of the mechanical changes will follow those from Sword’s Edge, but there are also some idiosyncratic parts of Sword Noir – like Flaws, Reputation, and the magic system – that will need to be fit into the new rules. We’ll see how that goes.

Wish me luck!

And if you are at Breakout Con, come and say hi!

You can find out more about Breakout Con here.

You can find out more about Lawless Heaven here.

You can register for a game of Lawless Heaven at Breakout Con on Friday at 20:00, Saturday at 14:00, or Sunday at 11:00.

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Breaking Down Breakout Con

It’s been announced: I’m an industry guest at Breakout Con, running 10-12 March 2017 at Holiday Inn Yorkdale in Toronto. In case you were wondering, this is what I’ll be doing:

On Friday, I’m running a game of Lawless Heaven from 20:00 to 00:00. I heard somewhere that Friday nights were made for fighting. We’ll put that to the test.

On Saturday from 13:00 to 14:00, I’ll be moderating a panel. More on that when the schedule is announced by Breakout Con. Hopefully I can learn some stuff at the panel, because the lineup is stellar.

I’ll be moving from the panel directly to another game of Lawless Heaven, from 14:00 to 18:00. I should be very ready to run a good game after basking in wisdom at the panel.

Sunday morning from 11:00 to 15:00, I’ll be running the final session of Lawless Heaven for Breakout Con. This will be bittersweet, as it means another amazing Breakout Con will be drawing to a close and it’ll be a whole other year until there is another one.

What will you be doing 10-12 March?

You can learn about Breakout Con here.

You can learn more about Lawless Heaven here.

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