Thursday, February 17, 2011

Secret Confessions

You know, after all the hoopla about making a d20 compatible system , I don't really have a lot of d20 resource materials kicking around in my library.  The thing is that I never wanted to buy any because when D&D v3 and all that d20 stuff actually came out I was pretty set against buying any of it.  I was still soured from my experience with the upgrade from AD&D to AD&D second edition and all the reprinting and splat books.  Now I always liked buying interesting systems (after dropping 2nd Edition I was dipping my toes into stuff like RoleMaster, DragonQuest, and Marvel Superheroes) and game accessories, but this all seemed more directed marketing than system building and frankly I was a broke student.  Long story short I seem to have gone and built something to be compatible with d20 in lieu of actually buying any d20 stuff.  And I'm not really too sad about that, I mean I wouldn't throw out any Pathfinder or 3rd edition source books if they came my way but I wouldn't spend any money on them either.  I'm not a fan of skills and powers and prestige classes and all the complexity and scope creep they engender, I am however wondering what little wonderful tidbits in d20 I am missing out on or in fact just missed.

In fact I have my eye on one particular item which I think is very interesting - the GameMastery Plot Twist Cards.

Ohh, Plot Twisty!

I read about these on the Stargazer's World and this is the sort of thing that really appeals to me.  I am not a stranger to player 'bennies' or a token redeemable point system to reward good play with mechanical advantage, in fact spending XP to increase successes was a mechanic in my old homebrew that I lifted from the Marvel Superheroes karma system.  Also, back in the day I had the thought to use Tarot cards to introduce a mechanic to generate random plot directions in my campaign.  Kind of like the weather but all cool with fate and shit.  But what I didn't have was the idea of having the players use a game mechanic to drive the plot.

This past fall I had a chance to play the Atomic Highway RPG, and this system has an interesting twist on the 'bennies' approach - having players use 'Fortune' to create plot twists in addition to the usual re-rolls and success bumps.  This was awesome.  I actually got to spend my accumulated Fortune on things like making two NPCs be related to each other, finding batteries in the dark, and creating small situations to nudge along a romance between two PCs.  This was much more rewarding than simply re-rolling dice in combat.  Now it could be hard to manage this kind of thing in the kind of game I like- for example I think I wouldn't let players have more than one card at a time and I wouldn't give the cards out very often, but I can certainly see the appeal in having a player drop an "Unexpected Assistance" or "Gastric Distress" event into the middle of things to stir the plot a bit.

Now don't panic, I'm not going to build in any mechanics in Beacon for Fortune or Bennies or card systems like the GameMastery Plot Twist cards (and especially nothing like a CCG travesty).  I like to keep things lean.  But I do think I will be picking up a deck of these funky plot twist cards and looking at using them or something similar in my own games.


  1. I am going to build WTNW Soldiers and Superspies with a point system based on skills and abilities and NOT classes.

  2. Um ok. I don't have anything against skills per/se and I sure think they especially work well in a modern or future setting.