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Author Topic: Apollyon Noir---Black Powder, Black Magic  (Read 20187 times)
GMSkarka
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Posts: 148


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« on: October 01, 2002, 08:11:26 AM »

As some of you may know from comments over on RPGnet and in my blog, I'm working with Jason Roberts (author of FVLMINATA) on an RPG based on my old 52-Pick-Up column entry-- basically, Napoleonic Dark Fantasy.

We've titled it "APOLLYON NOIR"--because this was the name of one of the Antichrists prophesied by Nostradamus, which a lot of folks claimed was "Napoleon Roi", Old Boney himself.

We've given it the subtitle "Black Powder, Black Magic" because, well, it's kewl as hell, and also pretty descriptive of the genre.

Basic set up is that when Napoleon's troops discover the Rosetta Stone in Egypt, they also discover a tablet that contains the key to understanding the secrets of ritual magic, lost since the ancient world.  Wham-bam, Napoleonic age with magic.

Below are some basic system notes that I've drafted, excerpted from emails I've sent to Jason.   Comment away!


Character Creation:

Concentrations:  Mind, Body, Spirit
   Mind:  Mental, Perceptive, Knowledge, etc.
   Body: Physical, Athletic, Coordination, etc.
   Spirit: Willpower, Soul, Charm, etc.

Players automatically receive one die in each concentration--they must decide if they are primarily active (+) or reactive (-) in initial focus.

Then, buy additional dice.  Costs:  Active(+) and Reactive (-) 1 point.  Wild (*) 3 points.   Characters get 12 points to spread among all three concentrations.

Concentrations are listed in the following format:  Wild Dice, Active Dice, Reactive Dice.

For example:  

Mind: ++-
Body: *++-
Spirit: *+-

Skills and Traits:   Traits are characteristics which bestow situational modifiers (example: Headstrong, bestows +1 active die for taking first action without considering options).  Skills are abilities, and are not scaled (you either have the ability or you do not)

The player either chooses or randomly rolls a character background (youth, education, etc.), which bestows 1 background trait and 1 background skill.

The player then chooses the characters' SPLAT (need name).   The SPLAT gives you 3 SPLAT traits and 5 SPLAT skills.  (each SPLAT lists a wide number of options, allowing the player to pick and choose--so no one member of the same SPLAT will be the same as another) (We've got a list of them, devised by Jason, and I want to check with him before posting them here)

Then the player either chooses or randomly rolls a character history (life path, biography, etc.), which bestows from 1-3 history traits and 1-3 history skills, depending on the final age of the character.   Then you're done.

System:

Each turn, player allocates concentration dice among as many actions as is needed.  
Active (+) is used for offense, action, dynamic moves.  
Reactive (-) is used for defense, reaction, passive skills, etc.  
Wild(*) can be used for either.  
ASIDE FROM WILD, NO DICE CAN BE SUBSTITUTED FOR ANOTHER TYPE.

Die type is D6.   Roll against Difficulty--either Static (#) or Dynamic (Roll).   Dynamic Difficulty is used for Drama, and carries more risk.

CATEGORY(need names).  STATIC        DYNAMIC
Zero                      0   No Roll
One                      3                   1d6
Two                      6   2d6
Three                      9   3d6
Four                      12   4d6
Five                      15   5d6
Etc.                      Etc.   Etc.

Static rolls, if failed, simply fail with no additional losses.  
Dynamic rolls, however-- For every 6 points by which the difficulty exceeds the roll, the character loses 1 die of that concentration (going from the LEFT--  that's right, you lose Wild first, then Active, until you can only react, and then not even that).   Conversely, every 6 points of excess equals a Victory, and multiple Victories hold beneficial effects for the character (critical hits, etc.).

Any time an Active or Reactive die rolls a natual 6 on a Dynamic roll, it replenishes one lost die from the concentration pool (starting with the last die lost, and working back to the left).

Any time a Wild die rolls a natural 6, the player has the option of replenishing a lost concentration die, or having the roll "explode"--i.e. it becomes open-ended (6, + another roll, and if you keep rolling 6s, you keep going).


Combat:

Use the core system above—straight opposed rolls for hand-to-hand, and Dynamic rolls against range-based difficulty for musketry.  

In the event of a ranged attack (opposed roll against range difficulty)—calculate the number of victories against the range roll, then have the target roll their Body concentration against those victories, plus additional victories due to type of weapon (Cannons do more damage than flintlocks).

Damage marked in levels:  Scratch, Flesh Wound, Light Wound, Serious Wound, Mortal Wound, Death.  

Target takes NO damage until all “Body” concentration dice are lost through failures.

Magic:

Use core system as base mechanic, with various flavors of magic (Kabbalah, Egyptian Sorcery, Freemason and Rosecrucian ceremonial magic) plugged in as “operating systems” with the appropriate mods.

MORE ON THIS LATER

STAGES:

Or, how to handle different flavors of alt.history--

We present EVERY option, and let the players decide which "flavor" they prefer for their own campaigns--similar to Jared Sorensen's "styles" in octaNe (cinema verite, grindhouse, psychotronic, etc.).  We call them Stages, and name them after the classical Three Stages of Demonic Possession:  Infestation, Obsession and Possession.

Infestation:  the Dark has only a foothold in the world.  The "mysterious and secret warfare" that you mention above.  Napoleonic X-files (or Napoleonic CIB from ULTRAVIOLET....).  Infernal Machines are most likely not allowed in this setting, and any overt "monsters" are unique and far from the eyes of the world.  Secret History, rather than Alternate.

Obsession:  Magic is "out of the box".  The general population is aware that it exists, but there are still no overt displays.  There are official Offices of Magical Practices, Regimental Sorcerers, etc., but the magic is still largely "behind-the-scenes".  The powers of the world are beginning to be corrupted.  Infernal Machines begin to appear, but are still within the realm of believability (say 50 years in advance of their actual invention?).  "Dark Sendings slitering to assassinate generals"

Possession:  Full-on magical apocalypse.  Egyptian demons manifesting in the flesh.  Infernal Machines begin to hit the "steampunk" level.  Everyone is aware of magic.  (Houses with hex signs for protection, etc.)  "Deadlands"-style    Alternate History.  The earth is Possessed...the downfall of man has begun.

Each Stage will have its own adaptations to the core rules (magic gets easier, for example, the higher the Stage).  Additionally, we could make it part of the meta-game itself:  As the game progresses, the failure of players to "stop the bad guys" could result in a slide towards the final Stage.  Things start getting darker and darker.  The world changes.  (Well, we present it as an option, anyway).

As far as history goes--we give a good foundation of history and detail up to 1804.  Then, in the chapters describing the Three Stages, we give brief "adventure-hook" timelines up until 1815, showing how each Stage would affect events.

Pure-historical fans could even play a "Infestation minus One" Stage with no magic at all.
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Gareth-Michael Skarka
Adamant Entertainment
gms@adamantentertainment.com
Matt Machell
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Posts: 477


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« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2002, 08:41:59 AM »

GMS,

not much system comment, but I'm really glad you've decided to expand this, it was one of my favourites from 52 Pickup. It's an interesting setting, and the stages are a good way of focusing a groups mind on what kind of game they want.

What kind of splats are you going to use? It seems to me that these will affect the direction of the game considerably.

-Matt
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Jeffrey Miller
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Posts: 191


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« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2002, 09:09:55 AM »

Quote from: GMSkarka
Basic set up is that when Napoleon's troops discover the Rosetta Stone in Egypt, they also discover a tablet that contains the key to understanding the secrets of ritual magic, lost since the ancient world.  Wham-bam, Napoleonic age with magic.


Reading my notes for 1775 again, eh?  Well, I'll get you! ;)

Seriously, sounds cool!  Napoleonic is one of the "neglected" genres & settings, especially in American ed.

Quote

Then, buy additional dice.  Costs:  Active(+) and Reactive (-) 1 point.  Wild (*) 3 points.   Characters get 12 points to spread among all three concentrations.


Why would I ever buy a wild die, given that I can buy an active and a reactive for 2pts and have the same effect?

Quote

The player either chooses or randomly rolls a character background (youth, education, etc.), which bestows 1 background trait and 1 background skill.


Could you comment on why you're choosing random background choice instead of allowing players to build characters?  If you do want to remove that power from the player's pervue, I'd want to know what my randomly generated background is before I started building the character's attributes, to make more believable characters - maybe this should come first?

Quote
The player then chooses the characters' SPLAT (need name).   The SPLAT gives you 3 SPLAT traits and 5 SPLAT skills.  (each SPLAT lists a wide number of options, allowing the player to pick and choose--so no one member of the same SPLAT will be the same as another) (We've got a list of them, devised by Jason, and I want to check with him before posting them here)


Is a SPLAT an occupation?  education?  class?  divine justice? ;) I'm not sure I follow the _what_ of this (although the mechanic is fine - I like packages).

Quote
Active (+) is used for offense, action, dynamic moves.  
Reactive (-) is used for defense, reaction, passive skills, etc.  
Wild(*) can be used for either.  
ASIDE FROM WILD, NO DICE CAN BE SUBSTITUTED FOR ANOTHER TYPE.


This is really interesting, describing attributes in terms of active vs reactive.. I don't think I've seen this before.

Quote

Die type is D6.   Roll against Difficulty--either Static (#) or Dynamic (Roll).   Dynamic Difficulty is used for Drama, and carries more risk.

CATEGORY(need names).  STATIC        DYNAMIC
Zero                      0   No Roll
One                      3                   1d6
Two                      6   2d6
Three                      9   3d6
Four                      12   4d6
Five                      15   5d6
Etc.                      Etc.   Etc.


Who decides whether a roll is static or dynamic?  as a player, I'd never ever ever choose dynamic without a carrot. I'm not sure extra "success" is enough for some players - everyone always 'takes 10' or 'takes 20' in D&D whenever they can.


Quote
We present EVERY option, and let the players decide which "flavor" they prefer for their own campaigns--similar to Jared Sorensen's "styles" in octaNe (cinema verite, grindhouse, psychotronic, etc.).  We call them Stages, and name them after the classical Three Stages of Demonic Possession:  Infestation, Obsession and Possession.


Good way to handle the different "canon" you could end up creating.  If you've plans for suppliments, would you continue this practice?  Could make for a lot more work, and betray your own bias. :/


Quote
Each Stage will have its own adaptations to the core rules (magic gets easier, for example, the higher the Stage).  Additionally, we could make it part of the meta-game itself:  As the game progresses, the failure of players to "stop the bad guys" could result in a slide towards the final Stage.  Things start getting darker and darker.  The world changes.  (Well, we present it as an option, anyway).


Would you have seperate rules for adapting the ruleset to the different "stages" or would it be simple as adding a "stage aura" value into rolls?
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Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2002, 09:13:07 AM »

System Question to make sure I understand.

from the example above Body * ++ -

I'm trying to batter down a door, I roll 2d6.
I'm trying to dodge a run away carriage, I roll 1d6
I can add the wild die and make it 3d6, or 2d6...when...every action.

So every action will be + plus * and every reaction is - plus *?
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GMSkarka
Member

Posts: 148


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« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2002, 09:44:32 AM »

OK---quick rundown of responses:

Matt:  The "splats" are going to be supernaturally-focused groups (various magical brotherhoods, supernaturally-touched character types, etc.).  A "splat-less" player is possible, choosing instead to "merely" be a dragoon, or a naval officer, or a doctor, or a spy, etc.  

eogan: ( Lots of questions! )

You'd buy a wild die because using a wild die provides benefits that using reactive and active dice don't (swapable, explodes, etc.--plus there are other benefits specifically related to magic that I haven't gotten into yet).

I allow for random histories because I've always liked the character creation systems of Traveller and Cyberpunk. I like seeing a character's life unfold--it's almost a game in itself.  Recognizing that not everyone likes random, we're also allowing for player-controlled versions as well.

The gamemaster decides whether a roll is static or dynamic.   Dynamic rolls are for high-drama situations, where a lot is on the line.

Stages will have specific rules, as well as reduced difficulties for certain actions (which I guess falls under the "stage auras" idea you mention).

We currently have no plans for supplements.  We're not at that stage yet. If we do them, however, we will continue the "cover every angle" aspect.

Valamir:  That's pretty much it (although, depending on when you NOTICED the runaway carriage, you could argue that dodging it is an active roll, rather than reactive.).  

Wild dice are distributed every turn---saying "every action" is not quite true, because you can perform multiple actions in a turn, as long as you have dice to do so.

I think that covers everyone?

GMS
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Gareth-Michael Skarka
Adamant Entertainment
gms@adamantentertainment.com
Jared A. Sorensen
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Posts: 1463

Darksided


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« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2002, 09:59:00 AM »

Quote from: GMSkarka
OK---quick rundown of responses:

Matt:  The "splats" are going to be supernaturally-focused groups (various magical brotherhoods, supernaturally-touched character types, etc.).  A "splat-less" player is possible, choosing instead to "merely" be a dragoon, or a naval officer, or a doctor, or a spy, etc.  



My immediate (and no doubt expected) reply is: "Why?"

Why be afraid to limit the range of character types, as it were. Or rather, allow any "profession" but pre-define and constrain several roles within the game. For example, all PC's are a member of a magical brotherhood (which serves as a common thread and...well, other stuff I'm sure!)...no matter if their profession is doctor, blacksmith, nursemaid or politician.

But that's totally what I'm into.

- J
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
GMSkarka
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« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2002, 10:03:51 AM »

Quote from: Jared A. Sorensen

My immediate (and no doubt expected) reply is: "Why?"

Why be afraid to limit the range of character types, as it were. Or rather, allow any "profession" but pre-define and constrain several roles within the game. For example, all PC's are a member of a magical brotherhood (which serves as a common thread and...well, other stuff I'm sure!)...no matter if their profession is doctor, blacksmith, nursemaid or politician.

But that's totally what I'm into.


We're not limiting, because we're specifically addressing (both within character creation and with the inclusion of Stages) the common criticisms of historical games:  "Why didn't you include X" and "Why did you have to include X"

Part of the design philosophy at work here is to allow for the widest range of campaign types possible.

GMS
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Gareth-Michael Skarka
Adamant Entertainment
gms@adamantentertainment.com
Bailywolf
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Posts: 729


« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2002, 10:14:06 AM »

Since your tone dial ranges from magic on the down-low to magic breaking loose in the streets... how will you present your setting material?  The tone levels will certainly alter the setting in more than superficial ways...will you describe the setting by threes?  Giving a general bit of background on...say... Viena, then dialing it to each tone in turn? Or will you have one default tone, and then provide advice on how to modify the setting up or down the funcky-stuff-o-meter?

-Ben
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Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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student, second edition


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« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2002, 10:48:04 AM »

Quote from: Bailywolf
Since your tone dial ranges from magic on the down-low to magic breaking loose in the streets... how will you present your setting material?  The tone levels will certainly alter the setting in more than superficial ways...will you describe the setting by threes?  


How about a dial for the characters themselves? Do they remain a constant, or do they "beef up" to match how wild the setting is?
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GMSkarka
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« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2002, 11:07:44 AM »

Stages are described in individual chapters.   After that, setting information (including possible timelines) is covered in variable boxed text (3 seperate boxes---one describing real world/stage 1, one for stage 2 and one for stage 3).

Characters do not "beef up", per se, but certain character splats will only become available at certain stages.

GMS
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Gareth-Michael Skarka
Adamant Entertainment
gms@adamantentertainment.com
Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2002, 11:22:59 AM »

I'm groovin' on this.  

There was a miniatures wargame that was some fantasy horror/Napoleonic cross over a while back.  Forget what it was called now, but it might be a source of inspiration for combining fantastic elements with a Napoleonic army.  Not sure how "historically rigorous" it is.  I've been told it was pretty good, but never had the chance to play it.

So from this can we presume that your semi-retirement is currently emphasising the "semi" part?
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GMSkarka
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« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2002, 11:37:01 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
There was a miniatures wargame that was some fantasy horror/Napoleonic cross over a while back.  Forget what it was called now, but it might be a source of inspiration for combining fantastic elements with a Napoleonic army.  Not sure how "historically rigorous" it is.  I've been told it was pretty good, but never had the chance to play it.


It was called "Flintloque", which was the skirmish-level game, and spawned a larger-scale game called "Slaughterloo".   It was not historically rigorous at all---in fact, it was basically Games Workshop Warhammer does Napoleonic:  Instead of the French you had Elves, the British were Orcs, the Prussians were Dwarves, etc.

Quote from: Valamir

So from this can we presume that your semi-retirement is currently emphasising the "semi" part?


Essentially---I've just decided to walk away from the "industry", and concentrate more on designing the kind of stuff I like, specifically targeted at a niche audience, without thought of "the market", so to speak.   I would have never gone ahead with this idea under my old modus operandi, for example.

I guess you could say that I've decided to go 100% indie.

GMS
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Gareth-Michael Skarka
Adamant Entertainment
gms@adamantentertainment.com
Ian Young
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Posts: 6


« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2002, 11:49:28 AM »

Quote from: GMSkarka
Basic set up is that when Napoleon's troops discover the Rosetta Stone in Egypt, they also discover a tablet that contains the key to understanding the secrets of ritual magic, lost since the ancient world.  Wham-bam, Napoleonic age with magic.
Just a quick, off-the-cuff thought that occurred to me regarding the setting (I'm still digesting the mechanics).  This lost magical tablet -- have you considered that it might be the true Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus? Or possibly the true Lemegeton Claviculus Solomonis (Lesser Key of Solomon)?  If you have already, bully for you!  Carry on!

!i!
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Cold Mountain/b]
A Storytelling Game in a Mythic, Prehistoric Ice Age
http://pages.prodigy.net/idyoung/newland.htm[/size]
Valamir
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« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2002, 11:56:03 AM »

Quote from: GMSkarka
It was called "Flintloque",


That was it.  Your evaluation is not surprising.  The people who told me it was good were devoted GW players.


Quote

I guess you could say that I've decided to go 100% indie.


Woo-hoo!  Skarka Unleashed...coming soon to a gaming table near you.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2002, 01:25:24 PM »

Quote
Use core system as base mechanic, with various flavors of magic (Kabbalah, Egyptian Sorcery, Freemason and Rosecrucian ceremonial magic) plugged in as “operating systems” with the appropriate mods.


This is intriguing. What do you mean by the "operating systems" comment? Can you expand on that at all? It sounds like you have a concept, but I'm not getting it, precisely. Does it mean that there's a separate magic system for each school of magic? Or does it simply imply the list of mods for the school?

Very Curious.

Mike
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