Friday, February 28, 2014

Werewolf in my Fate? Fate in my Werewolf?

So, I've been fiddling around with something.  Call it a love song to Werewolf: the Apocalypse written in the language of Fate.  It can be found here:

Spirit of the Garou

I have comments turned on in the Google Doc, so feel free to comment on the rules.  The majority of the page count are examples of things from the W:tA rulebook.

EDIT: this was actually playtested in a number of sessions, and worked pretty well.
It hasn't been playtested, but since I saw that Ryan Macklin and Dave Chalker were building a Mage: the Ascension Fate love song here: 

Enter the Paradigm Project

I thought now was a good time to post this.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dimensional Travel in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

In the Dark Salvation Event I have been running, there is a lot of dimension hopping.  So, it seemed worth having an extra mechanic for that.  Because that's what you always need, right?  An extra mechanic?

Dimensional Borders and Gateways
Every Dimension has a Border value of at least two dice, that represents the difficult of getting in to the Dimension.  A very difficult dimension to enter may have 2D12 or 3D12 as it's border value, while a pathetically easy one to enter my have 2D4.   Most Dimensions have a Gateway, a "normal" (whatever that means in the context of dimensional travel") method of entering and exiting that dimension.  The Gateway need not be a "physical" (again, whatever that means) doorway of some sort.  It could be a state of mind, an object one needs to possess, a ritual to perform, etc.  Some examples:

The Dark Dimension
Border: 3D12
Gateway: The G'Uranthic Guardian
If you go to the trouble of having a dimension that is hard to get into, why would you make the doorway so obvious?

Border: 2D8
Gateway: the Roots of Yggdrasil
Not the sort of all-inclusive resort spot you were hoping for.
Border: 2D4
Gateway: Sin of any kind, the road to hell is wide
Sominus needs labor-law reform in a big way.
Dimension Travel
The character arranging for the dimension travel rolls against the Doom Pool of the new dimension.  If you are moving to a new Act as part of the dimension travel, that would be what the Doom Pool will be after the hop, otherwise it will be the current Doom Pool.  You add the Border dice of the dimension to the Doom Pool for the roll.  However, if you are already at the Gateway to that dimension, you do not.  

This roll is an Asset creation roll.  If you succeed, you can create an Asset that represents your successful arrival into the dimension.  For example, "Just where we planned to arrive" or "Thog is surprised" or "Dimensional Currents are Smooth".  

On a failure, it means you were not able to enter that dimension.  You will have to go somewhere else (usually a different dimension) and try from there, or somehow get to the Gateway if you were not there already.  However, the Watcher can choose to allow you to arrive in the dimension anyway.  If the Watcher does this, the Watcher can use his/her Effect die against you for free to create a Complication, Asset, Stress, etc.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying House Rule Suggestions

I've played a lot of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (MHP) now, both as a Player and as the Watcher.  There are a few minor tweaks to the rules that I have found make things a little better, or at least clearer.  Here they are...

Mob Affiliation
Any character with a Mob Affiliation is actually a group of "characters" that act together. It always uses it’s Mob affiliation.  The most Stress the Mob can take is it’s Mob Affiliation die size; whenever the Stress exceeds that value, remove an Affiliation Die.  For the purpose of Area Attack, you can treat a Mob as if it were a number of characters equal to it’s current Affiliation dice (although it probably represents many more individuals).  Unlike normal characters, you can do multiple effect dice of the same type to a Mob (e.g. multiple physical stress effect dice).  If that’s the last die, the Mob is taken out.  A Mob is still capable of acting as long as the total “sides” of complications on it are less than or equal to the total “sides” of Affiliation dice it has left, but if the “sides” of it’s current affiliation drop below the “sides” of it’s complications, it is immediately taken out.  For example, a 3D6 mob would have to have at least 18 “sides” of complications (for example, a D12 complication and a D6) to be completely taken out.  However, if it already has a D12 complication, and then loses one Affiliation die, it would be taken out immediately.
Mob Affiliation is really just Team Affiliation under a different name, but the bit about complications is the big difference.  I've found that it is just not fun to let a mob be complicated out of the scene on a single D12+.  This makes them tougher.

Large Scale Affiliation
Any character with Large Scale Affiliation is a particularly powerful and dangerous individual.  They always use their Large Scale Affiliation.  Treat their Affiliation in the same way as Mob Affiliation EXCEPT that the dice cannot be targeted individually or by
Area Attack SFX.  
The idea of Large Scale Threats like Galactus having Buddy and Team affiliations of small die sizes and fewer dice has always been confusing and unecessary to me.  This just clears that up.  Note that Complications work differently here as well.

Associated Mobs
Some characters have a multi-die power trait that has the phrase “Associated Mob” next to it.  This trait represents a mob of followers for that character.  They do not get a separate action, and do not affect the way the main character takes Stress or Complications.  However, they can be targets of an Area Attack as if they were a separate mob, and can be assigned effect dice to reduce their numbers.  To simplify matters in such cases, as long as the effect die is bigger than the die size of the power trait, it will remove one die from the trait; smaller dice have no effect and do not track stress and complications for them separately.   Lost dice are recovered in a transition scene.
This is really just a clarification of the rules found on such characters as Multiple Man and Doctor Doom in the later books.

Area Attack SFX
The most D6’s you can add is 5, but you can still add extra effect dice beyond 5 if you are targeting a lot of characters.  For example, if there is a 5D6 Mob and three normal characters in a scene and you targeted them all with Area Attack, you would only add 5D6, but you could use up to 8 Effect Dice.   
When you have multiple Mobs in a scene, Area Attack just gets silly very quickly in it's handling time.  This just makes it clear there is a limit.

XP for Resource
You may spend 5/10 XP to make a D6/D8 Resource last until the end of the event.  If, for some reason, the resource becomes larger during an action scene, it resets to it's "Natural" level at the end of the scene.

Watcher Stress-Changing
The Watcher may spend a doom die (any size) to change the type of stress being inflicted on a Watcher character.
I'm betting a lot of Watcher's play with this rule anyway, but I can't find it anywhere.  It clearly says Player Characters can do it.

D12 Max
An effect die can never be treated as higher than a D12.   You must first do a D12 (stress, complication), and then on a different action get at least a D4 to step it "past" D12.   Therefore, it is not possible to "one-shot" someone out.
When people have a lot of plot points, it is VERY easy to take a Watcher character, by getting multiples of 5 over their total and stepping up the effect die to D12+.  I've seen it happen a lot.  This rule slows this down ever so slightly.

Dark Salvation - the TDV Objective Tracker

In a previous post, I introduced the Dark Salvation event.  The key to this is...

The Techno-Demonic Virus Objective Tracker

I can hear your gasps of awe, really I can.
Basic Operation
The Tracker works like this.  There six Progress tracks on the Tracker: Scientific Understanding, Mystical Understanding, Synthesis!, Technical Details Determined, Occult Considerations Considered, Counter-measure Developed!  Each Progress track works like a stress track on a character.  If the stress on that track exceeds a D12, then the heroes have achieved that goal in the story.  For example, if the Scientific Understanding track is completed, it means at least one of the heroes now understands all that is important, scientifically speaking, about the TDV.  The tracks must be completed in the Order shown, and all earlier tracks must be completed before moving on.  So, to make Progress on Synthesis!, the heroes must have completed both of the tracks above it.

Progress Rolls Once per Transition scene, any player, but only one player, MUST make a Progress roll against one of the tracks.  This is instead of a recovery roll or creating a resource.  That player chooses which track to roll against if there is more than one option available.   This roll is opposed by the Doom Pool of their current dimension, that is the dimension where the immediately preceding Action scene took place. This is true even if the transition scene involves moving to a new dimension.   The other players may all assist in this roll by providing one relevant die trait from their own character sheets.  This will often be a specialty, but could be a distinction or a power if it seems useful given the circumstances of the roll and what has just happened.

Stating Facts about the TDV
If the roll is successful, the player should mark the progress on the Tracker.  That player also should state one important fact that has been learned about the TDV, in accordance with the concept of that track.  For example, on the Synthesis! track, the fact should have something to do with how the scientific and mystical elements of the TDV are or were combined.  This can be anything the player wants it to be, although the player is encouraged to discuss the fact with their fellow players before deciding.

If the roll fails, the Watcher states a fact about the TDV, but no progress is made.  The heroes are treading water or have experience a setback, but at least they learned something that might lead them to the next piece of the puzzle.

Some guidelines on facts.
  • The fact should, if at all possible, naturally lead to some next destination or activity for the heroes. "The TDV is constructed from dark matter" is a mediocre fact.  "The TDV is constructed from dark matter generated at the Arcturus Skrull Research Facility" is a great one.  You know where you are headed next.
  • The fact should naturally arise from what just happened in the story.  Don't stretch for it, or try to link in something totally unrelated.
  • On the other hand, feel free to point the fact towards something of interest to you.  Always wanted to roleplay in the Microverse?  State a fact that brings the Microverse into the story, and you'll probably get your wish.  
  • If the progress track that was rolled against is not yet complete, the fact should NOT resolve that track in any way.  It should be a piece of the puzzle but not the final piece and should leave something unresolved.
  • If the progress track IS completed by that roll, then the fact should be the final piece of that particular puzzle pulling together all the previous facts into some kind of harmony.
Write the facts down in the boxes on the right; Insights for the first half of the Tracker, Strategies for the second half, but you'll probably have to expand to the back of the page.  In the second half of the Tracker, the facts might be less about knowledge and more about concrete actions the heroes have taken, for example "The sliver of the Crimson Gem of Cytorrak obtained from Hela will be a crucial component of the countermeasure".

The final Synthesis! fact is very important.  This should be a summary of all the previous information, putting together all the knowledge created so far, into one, holistic picture of what the TDV is all about.  The final Counter-measure Developed! fact is even more critical; it should outline the actual strategy to bring about the end of the TDV's threat to the Marvel Universe.

The Finale
Once that final fact is in place, the heroes now have a game plan and the Event is nearing the finale. Executing the plan may take one Action scene or twenty, depending on how complicated it is and who might be opposing it, and there may not be a guarantee of success, but the heroes now know what they need to do.

The Doom Pool
In Dark Salvation, a new Act starts every time the players travel to a new dimension.  As long as they stay in the same dimension, they are in the same Act.  The initial value of the Doom Pool is determined by the status on the tracker.  In the first phase, it is 4D6, in the second 4D8, and once a counter-measure has been developed, 4D10.  If the Watcher is inclined to do so, he/she can track the value of the Doom Pool for a particular dimension, and reset the Doom Pool to that value if the instead of refreshing to the value on the tracker if the heroes return there.  This is most relevant for the "real world" dimension, which the players are likely to pass through multiple times before the Event is over.

Notes for the Watcher
Just to reiterate this point, the player(s) decide on the facts.  Not you, or at least not unless they fail the Progress roll.  As the Watcher, your job is NOT to figure out what the cause of the TDV is, or how to eradicate it.  Your job is to respond to the players as they solve it, and to provide furious opposition to them in the process.  You should be just as surprised as they are where the story leads because you are all creating it together in play.  You'll know you are doing it right when the players state a fact, and your mind is blown by how that fact is totally unexpected and totally right, exactly the right piece of information to move the story on to the next scene.

This can be tough, don't get me wrong.  It will require a lot of improvisation on your part, even with all of the stuff I will posting here in future posts.  That's why Dark Salvation is more of a toolkit for an Event than an event itself. Your players could literally end up going ANYWHERE in the Marvel Universe. So, a few pointers...
  • Liberally throw plot hooks at your players that point in the direction of dimensions where you actually have prepared some opposition.  Throw lots of these, not just one or two, in off hand remarks by other characters and mysterious omens delivered by Odin's ravens and coded transmissions from Kree spies and whatever else strikes your fancy.  They'll pick up on some of them, maybe.
  • Prepare lots of stuff that won't, in the end, actually be used.  Enjoy the process.  
  • If you have a vision of something you do want to introduce, let your Doom Pool get nice and big, so that you can beat them on the Progress roll and introduce a tidbit of that vision.
  • While you'll mostly be reacting, occasionally you should sidetrack the players into something they didn't intend.  Lots of powerful entities in the Marvel Universe know something is going on with the TDV, and sometimes they will be proactive in their interference with or assistance to the heroes.  
  • Don't be afraid to admit to the players you've got nothing for them if they go where they want to go, at least until you have had a chance to prepare for it.  Ask them to consider doing something else to close out this session, and you'll have more ready for the next.  
  • If the players seem unsure where to go next, don't hesitate to throw some nastiness at them to get them moving in some direction, any direction.  To paraphrase Raymond Chandler, when in doubt, have a team of Skrull Mystic Commandos come through the door with guns in their hands.  

Dark Salvation - Niffleheim

I'm going to be posting more stuff about how Dark Salvation is structured in the near future, but I thought I would jump to some actual characters, dimensions and stuff first.  Some of this might not make sense at the moment, but it will.  The characters here use my Large Scale and Mob Affiliation house rules.


One of the Nine Realms, Niffleheim is the realm of the un-honored dead, a cold and forbidding land ruled by Hela, and guarded by Garm.

Distinctions: Mists and Fogs, Rocks and Crags, Gloom and Doom
Border: 2D10 
Gateway: Roots of Yggdrasil

Hooks pointing towards Niffleheim

  • There are rumours that the TDV might have started in Niffleheim.
  • A message from Hela herself, requesting assistance.
  • Warlock remembers visiting this place, and consuming a large dragon to save himself.  Perhaps that is related to the TDV?

Action in Niffleheim

  • Garm is under attack by TDV infected fire demons.  Will he be grateful for help, or just try to eat the heroes.
  • Hela is trying to seal off a portal to some other dimension, but is having some serious trouble. Destabilizing the entire World Tree level trouble.
  • Hela herself has become infected with the TDV.  That is a bad scene.

Hooks out of Niffleheim

  • Hela is willing to help the heroes in some fashion, but only if they perform some task for her.
  • The Undead TDV-infected Dragon, below, has clearly been affected by the magic and/or technology of some other dimension or group.  Who and what?


Affiliations: Large Scale 2D12
Distinctions: Proud, Cold Beauty
Power Set: Goddess of Death
Touch of Death D12, Levitation D8, Mystical Bolts D10, Teleportation D12, Illusions D10, Mystic Resistance D10, Psychic Resistance D10, Curses D12
  • SFX: Area Attack.  Add a D6 for each extra target and keep one extra effect die for each extra target.
  • SFX: “I am a Goddess!”.  Double or step up any Goddess of Death power for one roll.  If that roll fails, step down that power trait.  Activate an Opportunity to recover.  
  • Limit: Cloak of Night.  Add a D6 or step up lowest die in the Doom Pool to step down all Goddess of Death powers.  Activate an Opportunity to recover.
  • Limit: Curse of the Goddess.  Curses can only be used to create complications.
  • Limit: Astral Travel.  Teleportation can only be used to travel between dimensions. 
Power Set: Descendant of Frost Giants
Godlike Stamina D12, Godlike Durability D12, Superhuman Strength D10
  • SFX: Regeneration.  Spend a Doom Pool die to recover physical stress. 
Specialities: Menace Master D10, Combat Expert D8, Mystic Master D10, Covert Expert D8, Cosmic Expert D8, Medical Expert D8

Garm, Guardian of Hel
Affiliations: Large Scale 3D10
Distinctions: Massive, Vigilant, Ferocious
Power Set: Hell Hound
Godlike Strength D12, Superhuman Durability D10, Superhuman Stamina D10, Godlike Sense of Smell D12, Massive Jaws and Teeth D12
  • SFX: Regeneration.  Spend a Doom Pool die to remove physical stress.  Spend a D10 doom die to add an Affiliation, up to 5D.
  • SFX: Multipower.  Use two or more powers from the Hell Hound Powerset, step down each one step for each extra power added.
  • SFX: Berserk.  Add a die from the Doom Pool for any number of actions.  Step it up every time it is used until it is a D12.  You may only have one die at a time from the Doom Pool.
  • Limit: Chained. On a successful Action or Reaction Roll, instead, fail that Action or Reaction.  Add two Effect Dice to the Doom Pool.
Specialities: Menace Master D10, Psych Expert D8, Combat Expert D8

Undead TDV Infected Dragon
Affiliations: Large Scale 3D10
Distinctions: Mindless, Once Majestic, One with the Pandemonicon
Power Set: Undead Dragon 
Godlike Strength D12, Superhuman Durability D10, Godlike Stamina D12, Sulfurous Breath D10, Psychic Resistance D12
  • SFX: Regeneration.  Spend a Doom Pool die to remove physical stress.  Spend a D10 doom die to add an Affiliation die, up to 5D10.  
  • SFX: Area Attack.  Add a D6 for each extra target and keep one extra effect die for each extra target.
  • Limit: Huge. Turn an Undead Dragon power into a complication to add a D6 or step up the lowest die in the doom pool.  Activate an Opportunity to recover.
  • Limit: Stupid.  Undead Dragon creates opportunities on 1's and 2's, although only 1's are removed from consideration in the roll.
Power Set: Techno-Demonic Form
Stretching D8, Growth D6, Extruded Weaponry D8, Techno-Demonic Conversion D8
  • SFX: Recharge. Use an Effect Die from an Action or Reaction involving electrical or similar energy sources, or attacks causing physical stress against living creatures, to heal physical stress as long as the Techno-Demonic Conversion power is in the pool.  Either step-back or completely remove the physical stress depending on the relative size of the effect die and the stress die.
  • SFX: Infection . Any dimensional creature stressed out physically by use of Techno-Demonic Conversion steps up the lowest die in the Doom Pool.  This creature loses all physical stress and gains the Techno-Demonic Infection power-set.
  • Limit: No Normal Recovery. The infected cannot recover physical stress normally.
  • Limit: Exhausted. Shutdown any Techno-Organic Form power to gain 1 PP.  Recover with a transition scene or by activating an opportunity.
Specialities: Menace Expert D8, Combat Expert D8
Note: This is the dragon that Warlock "ate" in New Mutants Special Edition #1, should it matter.

Undifferentiated Lost Souls
Affiliations: Mob 7D6
Distinctions: Hopeless, Jealous of the Living, Amorphous
Power Set: Create Horror
Intangibility D10, Terrify and Oppress D10, Mystic Resistance D8
  • SFX: Ghostly Form: Spend a doom die to ignore physical stress, trauma complications, or other effects unless they are mystical in nature.
  • Limit: Phantoms. Earn 1 doom die or step up the lowest to change Intangibility into a complication.  Activate an Opportunity to eliminate the complication.  
Specialities: Menace Expert D8, Covert Master D10

Hopeful Lost Souls
Affiliations: Mob 5D6
Distinctions: Desperate for a Second Chance, Jealous of the Living, Amorphous
Power Set: Create Horror
Intangibility D10, Terrify and Oppress D10, Mystic Resistance D8
  • SFX: Ghostly Form: Spend a plot point to ignore physical stress, trauma complications, or other effects unless they are mystical in nature.
  • Limit: Phantoms. Earn 1 PP and change Intangibility into a complication.  Activate a Watcher Opportunity to recover, or recover in a transition scene.  
Specialities: Menace Expert D8, Covert Master D10
Note: These are some Lost Souls that the player playing Beta-Ray Bill paid XP to make into allies.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dark Salvation - a What if? Event for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

This is the Event I have been running for a while now.  Thanks to +Kel McKay+Chris Sisson+Mikael Andersson, and +Derek Smyk for playing in it and giving such great feedback and fodder for the imagination.  I'll be posting bits of it over time; the Event is still ongoing.

This post is an overview of the thing.  In the future, you should be able to click on the "Dark Salvation" tag and see all the posts related to it.

Dark Salvation related posts can be found through the Dark Salvation label.  They are also itemized in a list at the bottom of this post.

Dark Salvation - a What if? Event for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

"In every life there are moments when possibilities crystallize - after which nothing can ever be the same again!  This life, for example...
"A lost child in a very strange place makes a choice, to feed itself.  But what if that choice had had very different consequences?  What if forces were conspiring already, to make use of the raw materials this lost child, and his angry father, might provide?  Who can say?  Who can know what might have happened?  I can..."
"for I am the Watcher!"

Dark Salvation is an Event that focuses on the consequences of several things that were going on in the mid 1980's in Marvel comics, specifically:

  • Warlock's visit to Asgard in New Mutant's Special Edition #1
  • the interaction of Magus and Limbo described around New Mutants #50
  • the invasion of Midgard by Surtur and the Fire Demons shown in Thor 351-353.

the basics of the plot could probably be moved to another time period, but the premise would probably not make as much sense outside the context of the three events mentioned above.  Its an Event for people eager to delve into the more obscure and dark corners Marvel Universe, and at the same time to go all-out cosmic and Kirby-esque making connections between diverse dimensions, dimensional beings, space empires, evil masterminds, and whatever else might strike the players and Watcher's fancies.

The premise is that the Techno Organic Virus that is part of Warlock (and his father Magus's) biology has somehow mutated into the Techno-Demonic Virus (TDV).  This virus can infect dimensional beings of all varieties, but primarily demons, devils and all the other nasties that lurk in the dark corners of the Marvel Universe.   This is it...

Techno-Demonic Infection
Distinctions: Replace a Distinction on the creature with "One with the Pandemonicon".
Power Set:  Techno-Demonic Form
Stretching D8, Growth D6, Extruded Weaponry D8, Techno-Demonic Conversion D8
  • SFX: Recharge. Use an Effect Die from an Action or Reaction involving electrical or similar energy sources, or attacks causing physical stress against living creatures, to heal physical stress as long as the Techno-Demonic Conversion power is in the pool. Either step-back or completely remove the physical stress depending on the relative size of the effect die and the stress die.
  • SFX: Infection.  Any dimensional creature stressed out physically by use of Techno-Demonic Conversion steps up the lowest die in the Doom Pool. This creature loses all physical stress and gains the Techno-Demonic Infection power-set.
  • Limit: No Normal Recovery.  The infected cannot recover physical stress normally.
  • Limit: Exhausted. Shutdown any Techno-Organic Form power to gain 1 doom die/plot point. Recover with a transition scene or by activating an opportunity.

Dimensional creatures infected with the TDV take on traits very similar to Warlock's Technarch species.  They can shapeshift, stretch, grow, and shrink and have a similar, "Sienkiewiczian" quality.  However, this is NOT the same virus; it has mutated, altered, or otherwise shifted in a fashion that makes all those infected with it part of some greater, mysterious force called the "Pandemonicon" (note the Distinction).  Learning what the Pandemonicon is, and how to stop it, are the goals of playing the Event.

The Event was originally played with the following as player characters:
  • Warlock
  • Beta-Ray Bill 
  • Reed Richards (aka Mr. Fantastic) 
  • Doctor Stephen Strange
It could probably be played with other characters except for Warlock, who is a necessity.  However you will need at least one character to fill each of the roles of Richards and Strange.  That is, you need a scientific and a mystical expert.  You also need at least one character, preferably two, who can transport the group from dimension to dimension.

The basic plot-line is that, after being introduced to the problem of the TDV, the heroes have to figure out how to stop it.  To do this, they will wander across the Marvel Universe and it's many dimensions in three phases.
  1. Investigate, determine, and discover the origin of the infection, both scientific and mystical.
  2. Invent, locate, and/or identify some counter-measure(s) to the infection, both technical and occult.
  3. Implement this/these counter-measure(s).
There is no pre-determined plot beyond that, and there is no "secret" that the Watcher knows that the players are trying to find out about.  The causes of the infection and the means to eliminate it are completely in the hands of the players, through the use of the TDV Objective Tracker, which will be described in another post very soon.  There are no pre-set scenes, or particular events that are expected to happen.  Rather, the Event is presented as a Toolkit for travel among the Dimensions and across the cosmos directed almost entirely by the players.  

Knowledge of the Marvel Universe
While one or two players out of four with very little knowledge of the Marvel Universe would be just fine, this Event is really intended for players and Watcher who have a fairly deep knowledge of the cosmology and various dimensions of the Marvel Universe and its inhabitants.  Both the players and the Watcher will be asked to come up with all kinds of creative stuff, so the more they know, the richer the library of detail they have to draw upon and the more they will be excited about the details others are bringing in.

Dark Salvation related posts

Friday, February 14, 2014

Weird Dust Devils

I wrote this probably 6 years ago, and it was playtested two or three times, and a lot of fun.  Enjoy!

Weird Dust Devils
An explictly magical hack of Dust Devils.
Dust Devils was created by +Matt Snyder is available through DriveThruRPG; you should really buy a copy, because it is fantastic.

First of all, let’s be clear.  The existing rules of Dust Devils are really all you need to bring a weird, supernatural, or magical feel to your game.  The limits on the Dealer’s power in setting up situations, and the Narrator’s power in describing resolution, are really consensual limit, and thus as long as everyone at the table agrees that weird stuff is in bounds, it is.

However, many people might wish to have a bit more system to help them integrate weirdness into a Dust Devil’s game.  These rules are written to help those people out.

The Deck
The first major change in Weird Dust Devils is the deck of cards used; WDD is played with a tarot deck, not a normal playing card deck.  Don't tell me you are surprised this uses a tarot deck, what else would it use?
Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died. - Steven Wright
As Dust Devils, except –
  • The existing scores are associated with the Tarot suits in the following way: Heart (Cups), Guts (Wands), Eye (Coins) and Hand (Swords). 
  • Characters have an extra Score called Power, and represents the characters overall familiarity with, capacity for, and resistance to, magical stuff.  
  • Characters have 16 points to spend on scores, not 13.  NOTE: This isn’t quite right, because 13 is the perfect number for the other four scores.  However, it seems to work in practice.  Maybe just let people pick Power from 1-4, with some kind of trade off (ala the Devil)?
  • Any character with a non-Zero Power score must also have a Weird, a single phrase description of the way in which the character interacts with, uses, or avoids magic.  Examples: "Voodoo Houngan", "Aztec Mummy", "Jesuit Exorcist", "God of War", etc.
Conflict occurs as described in Ch 2 of Dust Devils Revenged, except as follows.
  1. Any player may choose to add in their Power to the two Scores selected by the Dealer as relevant to the current conflict, thus giving them more cards in the initial deal.
  2. If a player uses their Power in a conflict, then they may only beat another hand with an Arcane hand. An Arcane hand is a hand where at least one of the five selected cards is a Trump.  If they do not play an Arcane hand, then regardless of how good their hand is, they lose the conflict and their hand ranks lower than all other hands.  In the event of two or more players in this situation, all are considered equal low hands.    Note, if you draw a Straight Flush having used your Power, it's pretty clear evidence that the universe hates you.
  3. If a player uses their Power in a conflict, then the Narrator MUST use that Character’s Weird in some way to describe the conflict’s resolution.
  4. The harm caused by an Arcane hand is always distributed as desired by the player taking the Harm, regardless of the suits it contains.
  5. Only harm from an Arcane hand can be applied to a character’s Power score.
  6. The player who plays the LOWEST ranked card in their hand may, at their discretion, choose a Twist.  They select from the available cards played in the conflict one card.  The Narrator must use this card somehow in the narration of the conflict.  It could be by using the name itself, some concept associated with the name, some element or aspect of the picture on the card, etc.  There is no standard meaning to any card.  Thus, the Twist is VERY dependent on the exact deck of cards you are using.  Typically, this card will be a Trump, but in some decks all the cards may have evocative symbology that might be worth using.
NOTE: The combination of points 1 and 4 means that, while using your Power will give you more cards, it also means that your opponent can spread the harm around more freely if they lose.  This seems like a good trade off to me.


  • Trump – one of 21 cards, numbered 1 to 21, often called the Major Arcana in tarot decks designed for divinatory or occult purposes.  
  • Non-Trumps – One of the 56 cards, ranked from Ace (A), then 2 to 10, then Page (P), Knight (N), Queen (Q), King (K), in four suits (Swords, Cups, Clubs, Coins), that are not Trumps.
  • Run - A set of three or more Trumps in numerical order; a set of two Trumps in order do NOT form a run.   
  • Rank Order – All Trumps, rank above all non-Trumps.  Among the Trumps, the higher number ranks above the lower.  The suits of non-Trumps rank as follows, highest to lowest: Swords, Cups, Wands, Coins.  Within a suit, non-Trumps are ordered, highest to lowest: A (high), K, Q, N, P, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A (low).   
During conflict, the following are the possible hands that can be constructed, in order of precedence.  The ones marked in blue are always Arcane hands; that is, they require Trumps.  The ones marked in green are Mundane hands; that is, they cannot contain any Trumps.  Other hands can be either Arcane or Mundane depending on the extra cards included in them.  Note that hands of higher precedence can incorporate lower precedence hands; always consider a hand to be of the highest possible precedence it can be.   This order of precedence is based on the probability of getting that hand with five randomly drawn cards.

Tie-breaking rule
Ordered Five
Any five Trumps in a run.
Highest ranked Trump in hand.
Straight Flush
Any five non-Trumps in sequence of rank order, all in the same suit.
Highest ranked non-Trump in hand.
Four of a Kind
Any four non-Trumps of the same rank, plus any other card.
Highest ranked non-Trump of the four matched Plains.
Ordered Four
Any four Trumps, in a run, plus any other card.
Highest ranked Trump in the run.
Balanced Three
Any three Trumps in a run, plus two Plains of the same rank.
Highest ranked Trump in the run.
Full House
Any three non-Trumps of the same rank, plus any two non-Trumps of a different rank.
Highest ranked non-Trump in the three matched non-Trumps.
Any five non-Trumps in the same suit.
Highest ranked non-Trump in the hand, followed by second ranked, and so on, with the Higher ranked Suit winning if all non-Trumps are of identical rank.
Any five non-Trumps in sequence of rank order.
Highest ranked non-Trump in the hand. Higher ranked Suit of highest ranked non-Trump if they are identical.
Chaotic Five
Any five Trumps that form no run.
Highest ranked Trump in the hand.
Ordered Three
Any three Trumps that form a run, plus two other cards.
Highest ranked Trump in the hand.
Three of a Kind
Any three non-Trumps of the same rank, plus any two other cards.
Highest ranked non-Trumps in the three of matched Plains.
Two Pair
Any two non-Trumps of the same rank, plus any two non-Trumps of the same rank different from the first set, plus any other card.
Highest ranked non-Trump in the highest ranked pair, followed by highest ranked non-Trump in the second pair, followed by the rank of the fifth card.
Chaotic Four
Any four Trumps that form no run, plus any one non-Trump.
Highest ranked Trump.
Chaotic Three
Any three Trumps that form no run, plus any two non-Trumps.
Highest ranked Trump.
Any two non-Trumps of the same rank, plus three other cards.
Highest ranked plain in the pair, followed by ranks of the remaining cards.
High Card
Any hand that cannot be formed into a higher precedence hand.
Highest ranked card.

The Fool is always wild, and has no value of its own; it is neither Trump nor non-Trump in and of itself.  The Wheel of Fortune is wild but can only count as another Trump, not as a non-Trump.  In any case where a hand with a wild card is being compared to an otherwise identical hand without a wild card, the hand without the wild card wins.  In any case where two hands are identical, and one has a Fool and the other a Wheel of Fortune, the hand with the Wheel of Fortune wins.

Tarot Decks
Your basic Rider-Waite deck from your local bookstore will do, but sort of sucks for a number of reasons for a Weird West theme:  the imagery is off, the cards are difficult to read when in a hand, etc.  You can probably do better if you are willing to shop around.
The Tarot decks from Europe designed for actually playing games, instead of divination, would be very good for Weird Dust Devils.  For example, this is a picture of some cards from an Austrian deck. Also, I think any of these Piatnik Tarock decks would work.  Be careful, though, some of these decks have different numbers of cards because they are designed for very specific games.  The order of precedence, above, is based on a 78 card deck (21 Trumps, Fool, 56 non-Trump).  You can certainly play with a different (usually smaller) deck with trumps, but this will make the order of precedence of the hands go squirrelly.
The suits on Tarot decks can be all over the map, depending on exactly which deck you use. See Wikipedia's article on suits for more information.  Just make sure you clearly map your deck’s suits to the four Attributes (Heart, Guts, Hand, Eye) and you will be fine.
There are some cool old school historical reproductions of decks from the 1800’s that seem to me to be a good match for a Weird West themed game, see…

Here are some other decks that aren’t historical, but might be cool…

Thursday, February 13, 2014

30 years...

That's how long I've been playing role-playing games.  30 years.  

I decided that there are probably a few things I have done over the years that others might find interesting.  Also, I wouldn't mind just having a place to put everything.  So, this is it.

We'll see how long it lasts...