Saturday, February 23, 2013

Research article on OSR/ConstantCon

Just in case you didn't see this post over on Google+, here it is:

Okay, so here's a thing I might be doing in the very near future. I was contacted about a retro-gaming panel for a professional conference. Basically, I am to write an article (in the area of rhetoric/media studies) about the OSR generally, and ConstantCon in particular. If I'm going to do this thing, I clearly will have lots of resources available from blogs and the various new publications like Playing at the World. What I'd also like to have is some support from this community.

I'd really like to be able to put together a list of questions for you about the G+ hangout communities, your relationships to them, what you get out of this, and so forth. I post them, maybe more than once, just so they get seen, and you send back your answers.

The answers will be included in a larger body of data which I'll sort and code and more or less put into some sort of taxonomy of responses. That way I can determine some sort of structure of meanings that feed into what people collectively are doing/feeling/experiencing. I also probably will quote particularly poignant or interesting points made by members of the G+ OSR community (very broadly defined).

The payoff, for me, is the ability to talk about how this particular community has taken something old (retro games of various sorts), something new (social media and other technologies), and used them to do new an interesting things. I'd also like to start getting a sense of the history of this thing, and how it came about. Part of that is about origins and originators, I guess, but the bigger story to me is the fact there was fertile ground for such a phenomenon. It got pretty big, pretty quickly, and has been remarkably resilient and flexible. It's a Cool Thing, and I'd be incredibly honored if you would help me in this endeavor?

So, who's in?

Here's a prospectus for the article.

Title: Welcome to ConstantCon: New Media and The Old School Renaissance in Tabletop Role-playing Games

Since 1974, the table top role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons has gone through many different editions and iterations. In 2000, the copyright holder, Wizards of the Coast, established the Open Game License for the third edition of the game. The OGL allowed third-party publishers to use the games rules and product identity as open source content for the production of game modules and other derivative works. The OGL not only covered the third edition of the game, but all previous editions, leaving open the possibility of creating new products for what was, for all intents and purposes, a defunct product line. One largely unanticipated result of that move was the rise of what is now called the Old School Renaissance (OSR), which marked a return of old school gamers to older editions of the game, but also to production, through the OGL, of new “retro-clones” of the original Dungeons and Dragons editions. Retro-clones like OSRIC, Swords and Wizardry, and others were successful both commercially and in establishing the basis for a whole new gaming community, one particularly suited for emerging trends in social media and online publishing.

These developments also have fueled the emergence of a variety of blogs dedicated to old school gaming, and opportunities for members of the community to become publishers in their own right. The success of these publishers has been driven, to some extent, by use of Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaigns to pay for art and publication, and other costs of new projects, though with varying degrees of success. Now, what is called the OSR is a loose affiliation of gamers and publishers. Recent moves by Wizards of the Coast to reissue their original products has spurred some to proclaim the death of OSR gaming, but the community has been able to maintain strong connections between its various factions through adaptation of the table top style of gaming to new media, especially on the Google+ social media platform, and gaming applications like Roll20. The result has been the birth of Google+ Hangout gaming, which some members of the OSR community refer to as “ConstantCon,” a reference to face-to-face gaming conventions like GenCon and DragonCon, which have traditionally been the means for gamers to gather, to mingle with publishers and vendors, and to game with strangers. This paper explores the development of the OSR on Google+, as well as the means by which OSR community members have used new trends in media production to produce new games, gaming platforms, and gaming supplements for the OSR community.

Friday, February 22, 2013


I'm on the road today, in lovely Dalton, Georgia, CARPET CAPITAL OF THE USA! No, seriously, they make a LOT of carpet here. But... does it match the drapes? In any case, I thought I'd introduce you to my newest character: Zehra the Thief. She's nifty, and managed to avoid almost certain death last night.

One of the greatest things about this era is that I can stay in just about any hotel and there is wireless. I brought my laptop, as well, so I got to game last night. +Adam Muszkiewicz was at the helm last night, as I wasn't sure how much time/bandwidth I would have to work with in running The Mysterious Temple of The Serpent God adventure for the Metal Gods campaign. He agreed to pick up the slack. "Bring a 1st level character," he told us, so I brought Zehra.

Zehra was an absolute gem on an otherwise uninspiring sheet of zero-level characters made with the awesome utility over at the Purple Sorcerer site. I believe +Jon Marr wrote that utility. It's great. Anyway, behold my sweet Zehra:

Occupation: Burglar
Alignment: Chaotic
Strength: 7
Agility: 18
Stamina: 9 (now 8, after her near-death)
Personality: 11
Intelligence: 14
Luck: 18

How could I not make this one a thief, I ask? How not?

She also got a nifty artifact from Doom of the Savage Kings: A +1 bronze buckler that allows her to dual-wield. She could do it with that Agility, anyway, but can have a shield bonus at the same time. Coolness. Otherwise she's a pretty standard thief: Leather armor (Don't you love a girl in leather?), short-sword and dagger (though I may have to upgrade to two short swords at some point), and a short bow (she's much better with missile weapons, anyway).

The way I envision her is this. Zehra was a streetkid in Mustertown who drifted into a life of crime. Her natural skills allowed her to move from petty filtching to break-ins and other larcenous pursuits. Eventually, she caught the adventuring bug, probably from hearing about the exploits of The Divine Order of the Purple Tentacle. She managed to hook up with another crew for a while, and acquired some skills as a thief. So, now that's what she does.

Zehra is always ready to do her job. She's a very driven person. If there's a lock to be picked, a trap to be found, a person to be stabbed in the back, there you will find our chaotic little Zehra. She does try to avoid melee combat though, as her childhood has left her scrawny, and not particularly strong. She also has a somewhat delicate constitution. That's why she went adventuring with one of my 1st level warriors, Thumpy McStabsalot. He is her personal meat shield. Thumpy doesn't mind. He likes her spirit. He is somewhat concerned that she's a bit bloody-minded, and would just as soon kill a person and take their stuff as help them out. Hey, man, life on the streets has made her what she is, right? Don't judge.

In my mind she reminds me of nobody more than Alice Bag of the infamous Alice Bag Band:

She's pretty badass. Anyway, she almost died last night, but was saved by the Xalto, cleric of the Liquor Lord. Thanks, Xalto! I'm really, really looking forward to playing this one.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

MGoU-H: Mysterious Temple of The Serpent God, Session 5

When we last left out party, the group was light two players, Phil and Gabriel. Tonight they were back. This left us with a group of about 20 PCs. This wasn't so much a party as it was an armed mob of murderhobos. Very murdery murderhobos with snake murder in their hearts. A lot of them. So, we split the party, sending some of the guys outside of the main temple building. That happened a bit later.

In the interim, we found the PCs pinned down by two-headed laser snake fire. Their monkeying about with the jewels from which the beams emanated had paid off handsomely in the last session. Though Scrum burned off an extremity (You really got to hand it to that guy...), one of the laser snake's eyes seemed to have shorted out a mechanism and one of the jewel fell into the PCs' greedy little hands.

This left them under fire from just the one, remaining, functional head, pressed up against the base of the statue. I, of course, had forgotten this fact due to... well... why don't we just say, "circumstances involving a rich assortment of hoppy malt beverages," and leave it at that. In any case, they went to search the unexplored rooms in the main temple building, and didn't come under fire until after the first room was explored. It was opened. It was full of shit and piss. Apparently lots of prisoners had been held here very recently. Next room... more poo and pee. Next brought a surprise: Four Urchins! This was an Easter egg for the party, as its supply of urchins had worn somewhat thin in recent days. The last room: more sewerage.

Recap so far: Laser snakes? Check. Piss and shit? Check. Urchins? Quadruple check.

As all of this is happening, John's characters are investigating the other door on the bottom of the snake statue's dais. Inside he saw a series of glass tubes filled with a glowing red liquid. It didn't look like blood. After a few moments of discussion, somebody thought it would be a good idea to break all of the tubes. First, there was a terrible roll, and no tubes were destroyed. So sad. Next strike was a bit better, and the person taking the shot avoided the gout of plasma that vented from the pipes. This also had the effect of powering down the serpent idol. Laser snake disabled? Check.

It was time for the split party to do its thing. One group would go back down the stairs under the statue, and the other would explore the temple grounds. We followed the exploits of the latter group. They investigated the ruins to the north/northwest of the temple. A successful search turned up a partially blocked tunnel, leading down and back in the direction of the temple. What they actually had discovered was the High Priest's private entrance to the underground portions of the temple.

The PCs immediately encountered resistance in the form of several degenerate serpent men. They were dispatched pretty quickly, and the group continued downward though a series of turns, downslopes, and stairs. They encountered a trap or two, but took no real damage. As they reached what seemed to be the bottom of the stairs, they were confronted by another chaos serpent blob, this one accompanied by a true serpent man. While these creatures fought hard, they did not fight for very long.

This was where I had to call the game for the night.

All in all, they resistance they're encountering has been pretty stiff, but that back entrance at least seemed to be marginally less well-guarded than the main temple entrance, at least so far. They also still haven't turned their attention to the other opening they saw below the temple, down in the gorge. They'd encountered a giant lizard which presumably came from that opening. There could be more, but that also could have been the last one.

Next time, we'll pick it up from the end of the last fight. We also have the option of following the other part of the split party back down into the bowels of the temple via the main entrance. Of, if they choose to do so, they also could try they gorge-side opening. Lots of choices, but plenty of PCs to make them.

Tune in next week for more.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Faction/Domain System Test, pt. 1

Well, last night +Adam Muszkiewicz and +Wayne Snyder joined me for a test of the Faction/Domain rules I cobbled together for our DCC characters.

We began by deciding which of the stable of characters were going on adventure and which would remain i garrison. I said something about "adventure on the high seas," and we selected accordingly. Thieves, lots of thieves as they aren't quite as sinkable as warriors. We ended up selecting the characters on the voyage based on what we thought made the most sense at the time, taking no more than two PCs per players. The rest became the garrison contingent, and would represent us in the faction game.

At first I think we had a difficult time figuring out just what this mini-game was "about" for our party, and discussion quickly devolved into repetition of the same things over and over. The substance of the disagreement wasn't so much about how the the game was played, but rather about how the game meant something more than, "First you do A, and then you do B, and then you roll dice, and then you play cards." Adam was growing frustrated because I was repeating myself ad infinitum at that point, and I was growing frustrated because I, frankly, didn't quite understand what the point of contention was. We were lucky that Wayne was there, frankly, because it provided an opportunity to show rather than tell. He and I played a round, explaining in narrative terms what the dice and cards signified. After that, I think we were all pretty much on the same page. Then it started to get interesting.

Several problems emerged.

First, as designed, the card game could be too one-sided. If the players always go first, they will always play their strongest suits in the Card Game. If the GM represents the opposition, the opposition would always simply be responding to the players strongest plays.

We decided that there were two problems, really. One was that the GM needed to have some agency in the deal. This led to the second one: There was no one to exercise that agency. The GM really needs to have factions to represent. We used some part of our time noodling on that, and the result, frankly, is that we need more work there. I think part of the problem is that we still don't know who's who and what's what in Ur-Hadad and, more importantly, the Mustertown locale which we've adopted from the Purple Sorcerer modules. We know it's there, but not who is there. So, one thing that needs to happen is that I need a quick way to generate faction stats and NPCs to populate them.

The next Big Problem was translating what each class of characters brings to the card games. There are seven classes in DCC (Warriors, Clerics, Thieves, Wizards, Halflings, Elves, and Dwarves). There are only four suits in the deck of cards. While it's pretty easy to match Warriors to Swords (Spades), Clerics to Hearts (Cups), and Thieves to Clubs (Wands), the suit of Diamonds (Coins) was less easy to fit. Though we all agreed that it represented riches and wealth in some way, it was hard to determine exactly how. As for the demi-human classes, my original ideas were pretty much an ad hoc attempt to "make it work" as Tim Gunn would put it. I needed to get the draft of the system in place before I could tinker with it, so I did.

We resolved the problem to some extent by deciding that we wouldn't worry about the the classes not tied explicitly to the suits, at least for a bit. Instead we would focus on the suits themselves, and what they represent as narrative modes. As-written here they are:

·         Spades (Swords): These represent war-making ability. If you physically attack or defend, this is what you use. This is not combat in the sense that the PCs will die, but it will affect your faction's abilities in the art of war, and their skill at using it in ways that can intimidate or dominate foes. Common Actions: Attack Forces of enemy, defend against attacks.
·         Hearts (Cups): These represent diplomatic influence. This may take the form of making friends, soothing enmity, advancing one's own political position or undermining that of an enemy faction. Common Actions: Bolster own reputation, forge alliances, undermine reputation of enemy faction.
·         Diamonds (Coins): These represent material resources. This represents the ability to do a variety of things including monetary investments, ability to engage in mercantilism or trade, ability to secure specific material goods and ensure their quality. Anything you'd do with money is represented by this suit. Common Actions: Buy an asset, enhance an asset.
·         Clubs (Wands): These represent the ability to engage in subterfuge. You use this to accomplish or resist spycraft, thievery, assassination, and so forth (and to get away clean afterward, or to detect what was done to you and whodunit to you in the first place). Common Actions: Hide an asset, steal an asset, infiltrate a faction, assassinate a leader, etc.

I think this needs to be tweaked a bit to capture all of the nuances. For example, we discovered (as Adam insisted and I eventually came to see) that Influence, as such, is not just about the above-board talking and diplomacy. It's also about the underhanded shit, the bribes, the threat of war, etc. What emerged from this discussion (which mostly took place as we messed around with the Card Game) was the idea that multiple suits could be played toward the same objective, provided that there was an acceptable narrative to accompany it. This will ensure that our faction game will lend itself to the development of our in-character worlds.

We tested the establishment of particular types of assets. In this case, we built a military encampment (Level 1 War Asset)  began to fortify it (working toward Level 2 War Asset) and began to secure a source of income (Level 1 Material Asset) in the form of Crag Beerbeard's brewery/tavern.

In each case, the players used a couple of different suits of cards to describe what was happening. They used Influence (Hearts), supplemented it with some bribery (Clubs/Subterfuge), and so forth. The players paid an ante to be able to use particular suits of cards, played them. The GM responded in turn. The differences in the outcomes are the "Faction Point buy" toward the desired assets. So, for a 1st Level asset, we used a cost of 10 points, 25 for 2nd level. We're not certain if the level are where they need to be, but they seem to work okay so far.

We also worked out a way for the GM to push back against the players. At the end of the player turn, the GM plays for an opposing faction. This was more difficult, as we don't really have any factions made up at this point. That could emerge through faction play. The players accumulate assets and drawn attention, gain enemies/allies, etc. As this happens, the GM is responsible for filling in the gaps with specific factions and information about them (NPCs, strengths, weaknesses, etc.). I think I'd like to brainstorm with my players a little bit before designing these from scratch. I may have to push a little bit to get everybody to tell me how they imagine Mustertown and Ur-Hadad. Right now, it's all very hazy except for The Soily Dove and Tenkar's Tavern (of course it's the bars they know). I'd like to establish some merchants, priesthoods, etc., and basically make a map of the town. Maybe I can use the Vornheim stuff for ideas about what to do.

One potential obstacle to having that sort of clarity is that, while I'm an OCD control freak and need to nail things down concretely, Adam is reluctant to do so. He prefers to have a bit more openness in the setting. We'll have to arrive at an accommodation about this at some point. I'm thinking that maybe a very, very sketchy map of various districts of Mustertown and the surrounding environs would be a good place to start. Maybe Wayne and/or Adam could provide some map art for this. (hint, hint) Yeah, it's real easy to ask that of other people, isn't it?

Anyway, the system is just barely playable at this point. There's a lot of kinks to work out, but I think the brief play session suggested that it has great potential. I'm looking forward to seeing what kinds of things Wayne and Adam recommend after they've had a chance to think about it a bit.

Monday, February 11, 2013

MGoU-H: Mysterious Temple of The Serpent God, Session 4

Update: Blog Post #100 for Edgar's Game Blog! Here's to meaningless milestones!

For this session, we lost the services of two players. One was on vacation and the other couldn't make it for some reason. We gained the services of a new player, John, who typically plays in my face-to-face group. He seemed to fit right in with everyone else, and particularly so with Bear. They both have characters with the surname "Jenkins." (a la "Leroy Jenkins" of Internet fame. Just Google it, if you haven't seen it before.)

Despite our discussion after last session about limiting the number of PCs per character, the loss of Gabriel's PCs, the wizard formerly known as Ian, in particular, must have daunted the players. They didn't want to leave anyone behind, so we had sixteen PCs for this session:

+John Iverson
Doug Fleagle-1st level Warrior
Scooter Jenkins- 1st level Cleric
Sophia - 1st level Thief
Chuck Smidgeon - 1st level Warrior

+Adam Muszkiewicz
Banvha - 1st level Halfling
Absalom - 1st level Elf
Aram - 1st level Cleric
Caifenn - 1st level Cleric

+Wayne Snyder
Clave - 1st level Warrior
Denny - thief
Jerkal - wizard
Xalto - cleric

+Bear Wojtek 
Vane Barbute - 2nd level Warrior
Smolken, zealot of Ahriman - 1st level Cleric

Scrum Jenkins - 1st level Thief
Abel Ashencamp - 1st level Wizard

Question: Could Scrum Jenkins and Scooter Jenkins be related? Inquiring minds want to know!

Yeah, so these guys were fresh from combat with some god-awful monsters including degenerate serpent men and chaos serpent blobs, the the former of which can be pesky and the latter of which are some tough sons-of-bitches. Everyone was pretty much healed, but some of the clerics had increased their disapproval ranges and some of the wizards had lost spells. Ol' Sucker the egg-sucking hound was paralyzed. Magical healing did the trick and put him back in action.

I began by providing them with a reminder of their options. You can continue downward into the depths of the temple, or you can head back up to rest and/or check out those doors you ignored last session. They (of course) charged ahead, right into more peril. Peril, of course, was in good supply for this session.

Denny and Scrum (the thieves) crept ahead of the group to check out a corridor leading off from the room they started in. One of them managed to fumble at being sneaky. This draw unwanted attention from some creatures in the next room. A degenerate serpent man crept into sight, then another. They thought maybe it'd be a good idea to fall back into the other room so they wouldn't end up with another bottleneck situation in the narrow corridor. In fact, this time they came up with a Clever Plan: Instead of getting strung out in the corridor, they'd fall back into the room they came from and lay in wait until their enemies arrived, catching them in an envelopment from all sides. Then, of course, the Clever Plan fell apart.

A new and even more fiendish foe came on the scene, the True Serpent Man.

True Serpent ManRun True Serpent Men as intelligent creatures with knowledge of the terrain. If they feel the tide is turning against them, they will attempt to flee into the jungle to rest and recover, using Degenerate Serpent Men that might have survived to cover their escape. They also will wait for opportune times to attack (e.g. night time, from ambush, etc.).Init +3; Atk bite +4 melee (1d4 + poison DC 15 Fort to avoid paralysis) or as weapon +4 melee; AC 14; HD 1d10+2; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP Infravision 50 feet; Venomous Bite (paralytic); 1d3 Spells (roll d6 for each, ignoring repeated results): (1) Curse (2) Darkness (3) Ray of Enfeeblement (4) Scorching Ray; (5) Force Manipulation; (6) Binding; SV Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +3; AL L.

I ended up running them as stupider than the description, but at that point we'd been in battle for about 2 hours it seemed like. Here's why.

One of the TSM cast Darkness in the corridor where the thieves and, by then, Vane had congregated. This cut them off from the rest of the party. So, everyone pretty much abandoned the Clever Plan and went with their usual strategy of running toward the enemy in a mob, and cutting them into little bits. This worked, mostly, but Ol' Sucker the egg-sucking hound got done like Ol' Yeller (i.e., put down like a rabid dawg, for you youngsters). Similarly, Vane got critted by one of the degenerate serpent men. It was ugly. He totally got aced by that pathetic creature. Luckily one of the clerics managed to resuscitate him before the clock ran down, so he will live to fight again, but with one less Stamina.

The true serpent men couldn't cast a spell to save their lives and the only real trouble lay in killing the chaos serpent blobs. Eventually, they managed to kill everything in sight, and entered the next room. There, they found an empty sarcophagus and some weird machinery. Vane played with some of the levers on one of the machines, but it didn't seem to do much (that he could tell) beyond changing the pitch of the humming coming from the equipment in the room. Denny investigated the sarcophagus and found that the interior showed evidence of claw marks--shallow, but gouged into the stone. He also located the chest in which Balas Forktongue had found the Serpent's Eyes, which now were upstairs in the Serpent God statue.

They also found two doors. The first door led to a partially collapsed room with some odd, roundish platforms with partly hollowed-out tops. These were roughly eight feet across. They also found some human corpses, and looted them of treasure. There wasn't much else in the room. The other door was a massive double door. Denny checked and found a trap. He disarmed it and pushed open the door, revealing a downward sloping corridor. At this point I made it clear that they had other options besides heading downward. Surprisingly they decided to head back up to the main part of the temple.

Once upstairs, Denny and Scrum decided it would be a good idea to steal the Serpent's Eyes from the giant, two-headed statue of the Serpent God. Denny (I think) tried to pry one of them out of the silvery metal socket in which it was fitted, using the ceremonial blade he found at the site of Balas Forktongue's ritual murder. This... was a mistake. He got a nasty shock and activated the statue. From the adventure as-written:

Giant, two-headed, cyclopean snake idol. Looks like twin cobra heads, but with only one large eye in each head. The eyes glow with a baleful red light. Any attempt to remove them... will result in activating the statue's defensive eye beam weapons.Stats for Serpent God StatueRange 80 feet; Init +3; Atk eye rays (Missile +3, dmg 1d6+5); AC 20; HD 2x 8d8 (36 hp each head); MV 0; Act 2d20; SV n/a; AL n/a.
Each head covers a 270 degree arc of the Main Temple. While they can be brought to bear on anything within those overlapping arcs, the base of the pedestal and the doors leading into the pedestal and down to Level 2 are not targetable.

Using a mirror, Scrum attempted to reflect the eye beams. He lost that hand and took damage. So, mirrors do not protect from these. John sent his characters toward the other set of doors, the ones they had not opened the first time they visited this room. Everyone else tried to run/hide.

One good thing came out of this, though. The statue fumbled a to-hit roll, and the result was damage to the weapon wielded. I determined that the socket Denny had pried at had overloaded, and, in a spray of sparks, the head shut down, the eye falling from the now-melted socket.

And that was where we left off.

An observation: This is still far, far too many PCs to manage. We really ought to do something about that.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Domain/Faction System for DCC

Without any further ado, my attempt to craft a domain/faction system for DCC. It's supposed to help make clear the reasons we need stables of characters, and what those characters in garrison might be doing while the rest of the PCs are out adventuring. It's still a work in progress, and needs to be playtested. If you use it, please let me know about your experiences.

The Divine Order of The Purple Tentacle
A Domain/Faction Play System for DCC

This rule set governs the development of a stable of "garrisoned" PCs as a faction within the game world. These rules suggest using a combination of player characteristics, dice, and playing cards. The result will include strategic, tactical, and random effects on the faction's in-game story.
This sort of domain play should be a feature of DCC from the point where a funnel character levels the very first time. It should be on players' minds for their PCs. It should help to drive the story of the campaign, but from the perspective of the guys who got left behind in garrison. This means it also gives you an excuse to have a “stable” of PCs at various levels, to continue running zero level funnels, and more or less to keep your pipeline of new and developing PCs flowing. Most importantly, it should be really fucking fun.
The highlights of the system include the following:
1.      Use of the Garrisoned PCs' Characteristics to Determine Aspects of the Dice Game and the Card Game: Who are these people, and how can they help or hurt you? These characteristics include the classes of the characters and, in the case of the Garrison Leader, his or her status as leader. That status allows him or her to apply an additional bonus, based on class, to the Dice Game. The classes and numbers of PCs also can affect the dice chain for the Dice Game.
2.      The Dice Game: We love dice! Let's roll some dice! The subsystem of the game draws upon the makeup of the garrisoned PCs to drive a dice game. The outcome of the game affects the card game subsystem by modifying the worth of cards, among other things.
3.      The Card Game: Would you like to play a game? The GM and a player who represents the faction play a hand of cards. The outcome of the game determines whether the Player Faction succeeds on its turn at developing or enhancing an Asset.

Factions for DCC

For our purposes, a faction consists of all PCs in a given campaign. Even if the player leaves the campaign for a while, the characters could contribute to the faction goals. These characters are considered garrisoned, and thus are "on the shelf" until such time as that person plays again. They become part of the lore and history of the faction, and are enrolled in its records of membership.
For our purposes, when a new member joins the ranks of the Mercenary Company (name uncertain at this point) he has chosen for him a name by which he will be called by his brothers and sisters in arms. When he or she dies, an obituary is written to record the means and circumstances of death.
Many of the brothers and sisters are running from their pasts, seeking to make new lives for themselves, with new identities. Some have lost everything they had. Some never had anything to lose. Whatever their reasons, they seek to make their way with a band of brothers and sisters bound not by their own blood, but by the blood of their slain enemies.
Factions start off weak, but (if they persist) grow in power. They add membership. Their ranks swell with veterans and leaders. They add resources, assets, and infrastructure. They become both more competent and more visible. This means that they can attract the attention of other factions, for good or for ill.

Describing Factions in Mechanical Terms

A faction is a group of player characters who are aligned for some purpose. Each faction is characterized by:


What kinds of characters, at which levels. Having the various classes of characters means that you gain particular advantages, based on class. However, when you have three or more characters of a particular class in garrison, you may run risks of having their natural tendencies run against you in the Dice Game (e.g., three or more thieves may draw Scrutiny from the powers-that-be).


This comes from the highest-level character in garrison. If there is more than one PC of that level, pick one. The class of the character chosen to lead provides a bonus to any attempt to accomplish that class's Talent (see below) during the Dice Game. It also allows the players to select roles for their PCs in the party (e.g., Captain, Lieutenant, etc., in our case, since this is a mercenary company).

Faction Points

This functions like hit points for a faction. It starts out at the level of the highest level character in the faction, and receives bonuses based on the faction's various assets. It's the equivalent of experience points for factions, and they have as many Faction Points as the total cost of all Assets. Assets and Faction Points should be tracked and recorded.

Faction Coffers

Players who go into garrison pay 10% of their treasure into the Faction Coffers. This number must be tracked, just like Faction Points. It gets used to purchase the ability to play cards in the card game as well.


(class-specific characteristics): Force, Diplomacy, Guile, Arcane Power, Fortune, Infrastructure, Gravitas. These are dealt with through a combination of the Dice Game, the Card Game, and deployment of Assets.


These are material, social, arcane, divine, and other sorts of resources that can be used to accomplish things for the PCs, both in the faction and in role playing terms. For example, a Stable is something that a Faction could have as a material (suit of Diamonds) asset. Having this might add a bonus to its Force talent if it tries to attack or defend. In terms of the role playing game, it could ensure that PCs needing horses for some purpose could access them as needed, have them cared for and fed, and so forth. Assets are purchased by level. Assets are classified by suit of the cards and what those suits represent in the Card Game. The level of an Asset adds a bonus to one suit in the Card Game. If an Asset is played to gain a bonus in the Card Game, it is Imperiled. Loss of that trick means that the Asset is downgraded a level, or destroyed if only a Level 1 Asset.

Faction Example

Faction Name: The Divine Order of The Purple Tentacle
Highest Class/Level (choose one PC to be "leader" in garrison): Warrior 2nd Level (Vane) or Cleric 2nd Level (Kormaki). The governs some aspects of the Dice Game.
Faction Points: The total of Faction Points accumulated in the Card Game. This is sort of like XP for factions. Faction Points must be greater or equal to the total point value of Assets held by the faction.
Faction Coffers: Whatever money they've put into the faction, minus any upkeep. Used for playing the Card Game and for buying additional chances to play a card in the Card Game.
Talents: These vary depending on how many of each class of character is garrisoned.
1.      Force: # of Warriors
2.      Diplomacy: # of Clerics
3.      Guile: # of Thieves
4.      Arcane: # of Wizards
5.      Fortune: # of Halflings
6.      Infrastructure: # of Dwarves
7.      Gravitas: # of Elves
·         Small house in Mustertown (Type of Asset: Material (Suit of Diamonds) Initial Cost: 10 Faction Points / Upkeep 25 sp per Faction Turn): Allows PCs to store their belongings rather than carry them with them. Can be used to garrison up to 12 PCs.

Subsystem 1: Using Character Classes and Characteristics

Purpose: To use the "personnel on hand" to determine how easy or hard it is to accomplish certain kinds of tasks. Different character classes provide different resources to the DCC faction in question, but each provides both a positive and negative tendency. These can be taken advantage of in the dice and card games.

Character Classes

·         WarriorsProvide: Security / Disadvantage: Threat to other factions
·         ClericsProvide: Diplomacy/ Disadvantage: Zeal makes people nervous.
·         Thieves— Provide: Guile / Disadvantage: Scrutiny of the factions underground networks.
·         WizardsProvide: Arcane Power / Disadvantage: Danger (extra-planar and domestic)
·         HalflingsProvide: Fortune / Disadvantage: Unexpected Costs.
·         Dwarves Provide: Infrastructure / Disadvantage: Miserliness. Obsessed with keeping rather than spending treasure. Add or subtract the number of dwarves from any card played in the suit of Diamonds in the Card Game, depending on whether you won or lost the Die Roll for that Class in Character Attributes Game.
·         Elves Provide: Gravitas due to their higher logic/artisanal grandeur. Basically they can bring in big picture strategies lesser races cannot even fathom, but they'll spend all the money on fancy vine embroidered drapes and meticulous paintings of cavorting wood nymphs. / Disadvantage: Hubris willful blindness and ignorance that springs from an overinflated sense of one's own righteousness. It could result both in the sorts of additional expenses associated with Halflings as well as unwanted attention from the rulers of Men. They still hate the Elves, and are suspicious of the influence of groups of them.

Subsystem 2: Rolling the Dice

·         Make an opposed roll for each class of character. These opposed rolls reflect the tendencies, both positive and negative of the particular class.
·         The default rolls for each Good/Ill Class Talent is 3d6.
·         Depending on the class of your Faction Leader, you may either (a) step up (or down) one die on the Simple Die Chain or (b) make one of your dice "exploding" on Roll 1 for that class.
·         If you have 3 or more members of any class, you may add one step to your die chain for Roll 1; you must also make one of Roll 2's dice exploding.
·         Make one roll for each class tendency, and subtract Roll 2 from the Roll 1.
So, for example, The Divine Order of The Purple Tentacle is engaged in faction play. In garrison they have the following characters.
Warriors: 2nd level (Faction Leader), 1st level, 1st level
Having a Faction Leader in this class means that I can either make one of the Roll 1 dice go up one step in the Simple Die Chain or make one of them exploding. He decides to go up the dice chain with one die (Roll 1 is 2d6+d8, and Roll 2 is 3d6)
Having 3 members in this class means that another die in Roll 1 also goes up the dice chain, but it also means that I get one exploding die in Roll 2. (Roll 1 is 2d8+d6, and Roll 2 is 2d6+d6!)
Clerics: 2nd level
This stays at 3d6 for each roll
Thieves: 3 1st level
This goes to 2d6+d8 for Roll 1 and 2d6+d6! for Roll 2.
Wizards: 1st level
This stays at 3d6 for each roll
Halflings 1st level
This stays at 3d6 for each roll
Dwarves: None
This registers as zero for Difference between Roll 1 and Roll 2.
Elves: 1st level
This stays at 3d6 for each roll
Roll 1
Roll 2
Good Luck

The rolls tell the story about what the PCs have to deal with in this faction round. Looking at these scores, we see the following story lines emerging:
·         The steady leadership of the 2nd level Warrior gives them a +2 to attempts to exercise force, but doesn't provoke anyone else in the process. Impact (on card game): Add +2 to the value of any Spade played to accomplish something.
·         The Clerics' presence suggests that this group might have cultish tendencies, and some religious factions are mildly perturbed. Impact (on card game): Any attempt to exercise Influence is at -1 to the value of Hearts.
·         The Thieves have caught the attention of the authorities. Impact (on card game): You will have -7 to the use of any Clubs.
·         The Wizards' use of their arcane prowess has created an advantage for your faction. It may be applied in any area. Impact (on card game): The wizards' influence could be used to offset the problems caused by the thieves' failure. That would make use of Clubs in the card game at -2 instead of -7, a marked improvement.
·         The Halflings have eaten you out of house and home again. This increases your Upkeep costs for this Turn. Impact (on resources): Lose money from Faction coffers.
·         No Dwarves. No impact. However, if an enemy faction attempts to take advantage of you using Dwarves, then you could be at a disadvantage.
·         The Elves are successful, and classed up the joint somewhat. Impact (on card game): You may add +2 to Hearts, adding to your Influence.

Subsystem 3: The Card Game


The purpose of this subsystem is to use the information and outcomes generated in the first two subsystems to play out the Faction's "moves" for that turn. All you need to accomplish this is a deck of common playing cards, with the Big and Little Joker included.
This game allows a faction to create, enhance, deploy, and repair assets of various kinds. It also allows the GM to play against the players, assuming the role of various factions and their subtle interactions with the PCs. This interaction is necessarily abstract. If the players want to attack a particular person in a faction that is a part of the role playing experience, then they have to do it in that game, not this one. The GM should determine the level of the PCs' Faction Leader. Then the GM should go one die up the die chain from that level (e.g., Level 3 faction leader means that the GM rolls a d4). The GM rolls that die for each class of character controlled by the faction he or she plays against the players.
The specifics of any given person or asset are part of the narrative surrounding the faction, but they get expressed using this mechanic for purposes of the Card Game.
So, for example, a playing in the suit of Clubs would represent something to do with Subterfuge. You could be recruiting a spy (new asset), or attempting to use your thieves to enhance your wealth (deploying an asset), adding a network of traps to your home base to deter infiltration (enhancing an asset), or attempting to rebuild a spy network that was "damaged" by a previous turn (repairing an asset).
On any given turn, you can play in all four suits, should you choose to do so. However, each time you attempt to take a trick, you must expend 10% of the treasure in the Faction Coffers.

Suits and What They Mean

·         Spades (Swords): These represent war-making ability. If you physically attack or defend, this is what you use. This is not combat in the sense that the PCs will die, but it will affect your faction's abilities in the art of war, and their skill at using it in ways that can intimidate or dominate foes. Common Actions: Attack Forces of enemy, defend against attacks.
·         Hearts (Cups): These represent diplomatic influence. This may take the form of making friends, soothing enmity, advancing one's own political position or undermining that of an enemy faction. Common Actions: Bolster own reputation, forge alliances, undermine reputation of enemy faction.
·         Diamonds (Coins): These represent material resources. This represents the ability to do a variety of things including monetary investments, ability to engage in mercantilism or trade, ability to secure specific material goods and ensure their quality. Anything you'd do with money is represented by this suit. Common Actions: Buy an asset, enhance an asset.
·         Clubs (Wands): These represent the ability to engage in subterfuge. You use this to accomplish or resist spycraft, thievery, assassination, and so forth (and to get away clean afterward, or to detect what was done to you and whodunit to you in the first place). Common Actions: Hide an asset, steal an asset, infiltrate a faction, assassinate a leader, etc.
·         Jokers: These represent Good (Big Joker) or Ill (Little Joker) fortune. They may only affect other cards in your own hand. By playing them, you gain an advantage of some kind. This is represented mechanically as a +3 bonus or a -3 bonus to the ordinal value of a card played (e.g., a 10 would become a King (Big Joker) or a 7 (Little Joker)), The Big Joker always helps the PCs and the Little Joker always hurts the PCs.


·         Numbered Cards (2-10): Represent power level of the particular resource. The highest total of card and/or bonus played by the player and GM wins the trick.
·         Face Cards (Jack, Queen, King): these cards represent the values 11, 12, and 13, and are all higher than the number cards in value. Alternately they represent specific NPCs, and the ability to establish or call on the favor of some person or group. The Assumption Game: By beating a face card the players "Assume" the face card played by the GM. The players take that card to name an NPC appropriate to the suit. The GM may do likewise if he or she wins the trick. Use this element of the game to tell a story about who those NPCs are and what they do. Optional: Face cards could be ranked by social class as well as by the suit of the card, as well as the meaning of those suits for game play (War, Influence, Wealth, and Subterfuge). The Jack of Clubs would be, for example, a lower-level thug, fence, dealer, pimp, etc. The King of Diamonds could be the richest slaver in Ur-Hadad and the King of Clubs may be a leader of the criminal underground. In any case, these are NPCs and playing that card means that you are establishing some sort of relationship or playing one out, if already established. The "classes" represented by the cards are relative to the PCs. 1st Level guys are not going to control Kings.
·         Aces: Ace beats any other card, and may be played out of suit. This is a defensive maneuver. It stops completely the other faction's move. The Ace is worth 15 points in point value, for purposes of accumulating Faction Points. If played in its own suit, it can Assume a King. This is the only way a King can be Assumed.
While the cards have mechanical values, it's a good idea to use this play style to establish running narratives about the PCs and their in-game context. Name some guilds and guild leaders, meet nobles, wizards, and other patrons. Establish allies and networks. Get real estate and build a chapter house. Fight against the rival mercenary company (i.e., the Evil Dojo/Sensei). That sort of thing.
Remember that the cards represent things like character archetypes and narrative tropes. In fact, it would be pretty cool to do this with tarot cards and include the major arcana. They would then be used to add narrative elements .

How to Play The Card Game

The players Ante 10% of the treasure in the Faction Coffers. Note: The players must contribute 10% of each PC’s monetary treasure each time he or she is put into garrison status. This total is added to the Faction Coffers.
Deal a hand of seven cards each to GM and Faction. The other players work together to determine what cards are played (if any) and when.
The GM and Players play their hands against each other. The players go first. After that, the next play is made by the side that took the last trick. Option: Alternately, roll some more dice to see who goes first. How about 3d6, and GM always goes first on ties?
They may play the cards in their hands in whatever combinations work to further their goal for the Faction Turn. If they do not think they can win a trick, then they may elect to fold without playing. However, they will lose the Ante of 10%.
The PCs' Faction may play one card in each suit per 10% of treasure anted from the Faction Coffers. That is, the initial 10% ante only covers playing a single card in one suit. After that, if they wish to play cards in additional suits, they must ante 10% per suit (i.e., 10% of the initial treasure in the Faction Coffers). This ante is considered money that has been spent. They do not get it back under any circumstances.
Each suit, as discussed above, is used to accomplish particular kinds of goals. What goals you might be able to achieve will depend on (1) the results of the dice game, (2) the cards in your hand, and (3) the cards in the GM's hand. Depending on the specific goal you're trying to achieve, you should have a reasonable path toward winning the trick. You may not pursue goals for which you do not have cards in the relevant suit, except when the outcome of the dice game has given you a bonus in that suit. In that case, you may play the bonus as the equivalent card in that suit. So, if you have no Clubs, but have +5 bonus for Subterfuge (i.e., Clubs), you may use it as the 5 of Clubs.
The players and GM must also play any Jokers held. They play these with a suited card or in addition to a bonus if no card is held in that suit. They do not however have to play the Jokers on any particular one of the tricks if they make multiple plays. They simply have to play the Jokers on one of them, or, if they have both Jokers, then they can play them both on one trick or one each on two tricks.

Use of Assets in The Card Game

An asset can be used to enhance a turn in the Card Game. A Subterfuge Asset, for example, can support an attempt to take a trick in the suit of Clubs. The Asset provides a +1 bonus per level of the Asset. However, if the faction deploying that Asset loses the trick, the Asset is downgraded one level or, if it is a Level 1 Asset, destroyed.
What the Outcomes of The Card Game Mean
The Card Game is an attempt by the faction to build their infrastructure, contacts, influence, force or arms, etc. Winning a trick in the Card Game helps the Faction to earn points toward a specific Asset they are trying to acquire, to enhance an Asset held, to repair an Asset, or to attack an Asset help by an NPC faction.
Winning a trick against the PC faction helps the GM to diminish the number of PC Faction Points toward a particular Asset, such that he or she is able to downgrade or even to destroy that Asset. The GM may also attempt to build a particular NPC faction by acquiring, enhancing, or repairing Assets held by that NPC faction.

Accumulating and Using Faction Points

·         You accumulate Faction Points toward (or against) progress toward a particular goal.
·         The number of points won on the trick is the difference in card value between the cards in that trick.
·         Goal costs are in levels, just like experience points. Maybe go 10/20/40/70/100 for levels 1-5. The 100 point goals are massive and expensive projects like castles. Really, really nice castles. [These Faction Point goals may need to be tweaked.]
·         The Players and GM must determine what level something is. Enhancing an Asset costs a number of Faction Points needed to reach the next level of that Asset. So, a Level 1 Asset (worth 10 Faction Points) would need to accumulate 10 additional Faction Points to reach Level 2, which requires 20 Faction Points. You may not skip levels.
·         Repair costs are half of the original cost of the asset.
·         If an asset is destroyed, it must be built again from scratch.


Assets, like the cards themselves, fall into four categories, and these categories parallel the suits.
The suit of Spades help build Assets used for War. Examples include guards or other security forces, siege engines, fortifications, and so forth. Even though some of these are material goods, they also are warmaking tools, so they are dealt with in the Spades suit.
The suit of Hearts is used to create Influence. Examples of Influence Assets are things like contacts, diplomats, neutral sites and meeting places, relationships with arbitrators of disputes, and so forth. The idea here is that you are attempting to either build or sabotage diplomatic relations in pursuit of Faction interests. What that means in play must be conceived and negotiated by the GM and players.
The suit of Diamonds is used to create Material Assets. These are things like Commerce Assets (e.g., Taverns, Brothels, Trading Companies, Ships, etc.). These are thing that grant the Faction a bonus to its Faction Coffers each Faction Turn. This allows the Faction both to accumulate more treasure and to take additional actions they might not otherwise be able to take during the Card Game.
The suit of Clubs is used to engage in Subterfuge against other factions or to protect against the subterfuge of other factions. Subterfuge Assets include things like assassination attempts, placement of spy networks, bribery of representatives of other factions, blackmail and intimidation and the like.
Every Asset has Upkeep costs. These are deducted from the Faction Coffers at the beginning of the Faction Turn. If upkeep cannot be paid, that Asset is degraded by one level. If it is a Level 1 Asset, then it is destroyed. Upkeep for Assets costs 25 sp at 1st Level, 50 at 2nd level, 100 at 3rd level, 500 at 4th level, and 1000 at 5th level.

NPC Factions

So far, I haven’t discussed what non-player factions might look like, but I make the following assumptions.
Non-player factions exist. Some are incredibly powerful, and some are probably as weak as a beginning PC Faction.
The GM is encouraged to develop NPC factions in consultation with the players to begin with, and to develop others as Faction play develops narratives that make such NPC faction necessary or sensible.
If no NPC Faction exists, then the GM should act as if the NPC Faction is thoroughly average and has no Assets. Thus, in the Dice Game the NPC faction would roll a flat 3d6 on its rolls.
NPC factions are described in the same terms as PC factions, but tend to be focused around one or two suits of cards. A typical rival mercenary faction, for example, would have a focus on Spades (War), but may have other foci (e.g., Subterfuge, Wealth, Influence) depending on its overall character, its alliances, its purpose, and so forth. So, for example, a group of do-gooder, goody two-shoes type mercenaries might have both War and Influence as foci. What that would mean in game terms is that its composition would be mainly of Warriors and Clerics. These are righteous soldiers. They may be in the employ of a temple or leader. They may be crusaders from another land. Their backstory is up to the GM, but should have something to do with the PC Faction’s history, composition, or whatever.

Example NPC Faction

Faction Name: The Lords of Light
Description: This faction represents a sect of holy warriors of lawful alignment. They are rivals of The Divine Order of The Purple Tentacle because of their tendency to revel in Chaos, and perceived disrespect toward The Lords of Light.
Leader: Brother Amos, 3rd Level Cleric (Gorhan, the Helmed Vengeance, god of valor and chivalry)
Faction Points: 20
Warriors: Two 2nd Level and Five 1st level (these NPCs have not been determined by Card Game)
Clerics: One 3rd Level (Brother Amos, leader), One 2nd Level, and Two 1st Level (these other NPCs have not been determined by Card Game)
No Other Classes Represented.
·         Force: 7
·         Diplomacy: 4
·         Guile:0
·         Arcane: 0
·         Fortune: 0
·         Infrastructure: 0
·         Gravitas: 0
Faction Coffers: 750 sp
·         Medium house in Mustertown—Total Value 20 Faction Points (Type of Asset: Material (Suit of Diamonds) Initial Cost: 10 Faction Points / Upgrade to Level 2 (10 Faction Points). Upkeep 50 sp per Faction Turn): Allows NPCs to store their belongings rather than carry them with them. Can be used to garrison up to 20 NPCs.