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Thursday, August 9, 2012

PDQ Week Pt 4: PDQ# and Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies

Now we come to the latest PDQ offering. Technically speaking both of these are really the same game but I'm splitting the info up for reasons that should become apparent. 

PDQ# is the newest "edition" of PDQ. It's not a 2nd edition or a revised edition so much as it's an...alternate edition. Basically when working on Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies Chad incorporated a lot of ideas introduced in various other PDQ books along with several new concepts and by the end of it the final result was something different enough to be considered a new version of PDQ. He made the results of this new "core" system available on his website as PDQ# (or PDQ "Sharp").

Why doesn't this count as a 2nd edition of PDQ? Mostly because PDQ# is very focused on the genre of swashbucklers (of the Seven Skies). Swashes and the buckling thereof are threaded throughout the system. The system introduce a different form of Conflicts called Duels designed to be played out as one-on-one contests between characters as well as Techniques, special tricks or conditions that grant a bonus when using a Quality in a specific manner. 

However, despite the swashbuckling focus PDQ# introduces a ton of ideas that fit perfectly in other PDQ games, so perfectly that it's common for PDQ gamers to incorporate many of these new ideas when playing games designed for the original PDQ. Techniques especially are an incredibly flexible and useful tool to give PDQ characters a few more interesting tricks without really increasing their complexity. 

In addition to swashbuckling PDQ# likes to play around with new ways to get players involved in the action and storytelling. For example, the results of dice rolls (whether success or failure) are normally narrated by the player (although they can always pass the narration off to the GM or another player if they're out of ideas). The other major innovation of PDQ# is Style Dice. Fate/Fortune/Karma points are a very common thing to see in PDQ games, but Style Dice are a new breed, namely because of how they are spent and earned. GMs have two sources of Style Dice to hand out to players. The Bowl is the first and it's for rewarding creativity, flair and coolness but it is also limited by quantity. The Box is the second and it's unlimited, but only used for "mechanical" rewards such as being affected by your Weakness (called Quirks now) or similar misfortunes. However, any dice spent go back into the bowl, encouraging players to spend freely to ensure that the Style Dice economy flows smoothly. 

So even if you're not necessarily interested in running a swashbuckling game, PDQ# is practically required reading (fortunately it's free) for PDQ GMs so they can mine it for new ideas and mechanics. 

That's a cool cover right there. Now I talked about PDQ# earlier partially because if you want you can check it out separate from Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies (what is with PDQ games and the long names?) but also so I could get the mechanical stuff out of the way and jumping into the setting here. Because the setting deserves a lot of attention. 

It's not the first "complete" setting for PDQ (that honor probably goes to Dead Inside) but it's certainly the most fleshed out and robust. Since PDQ games are so player-driven and DIY-oriented mechanically it's no surprise that they have a lot of DIY when it comes to the setting. Most PDQ books are more like toolkits geared towards a certain genre sometimes with a light setting draped around to give things context and provide inspiration. That's not a criticism, it gives a lot of opportunity for freedom and inspiration in a light, compact form. However, at the same time a great setting can be a draw regardless of the system (just look at games like Exalted).

S7S is definitely an interesting and very well-thought-out setting. The magic, the history and the "geography" (areography?) are all well detailed and thorough without being just a massive fantasy atlas. So if you're looking for an original and well-written swashbuckling fantasy setting then I strongly suggest S7S. 

And while most of the game's system innovations can be found in the PDQ# document there are a few original ideas that you can only get in the full version. The most remarkable is the rules for ship-to-ship conflicts. It's a really great mechanic for teamwork and works equally well when taken into different settings (whether it's commanding a starfleet or soldiers on a battlefield). 

My only regret is that I don't currently have much in the way to offer with house rules (so sadly no bonus material today) because I frankly haven't actually had a chance to play a full game, this being the most recent addition to the PDQ family. However, I've made extensive use of the PDQ# rules already by incorporating them into other PDQ games. 

Battle Royale Preview

Since I don't have anything strictly new to add today I'll instead take the opportunity to talk a bit about my own upcoming PDQ game, Battle Royale. It's a game of the "toolkit" variety designed for playing martial arts themed games at a wide range of power levels. 

So with the addition of PDQ# there are now two primary forms of PDQ combat. You've got the traditional Conflicts from regular PDQ and the new Dueling rules from PDQ#. Now the Duel rules are great for adding extra tactical flair to PDQ but they suffer from one major problem...they're designed almost exclusively for one-on-one conflicts (or one PC against a group of Minions) and they aren't nearly as elegant when used in a situation where a larger group gangs up on one or two powerful foes (such as the classic "boss fight" scenario). 

So, while I wanted to keep the new ideas and strategy introduced by Dueling but I didn't want to limit how the players might want to engage their opponents. So I went with the simplest and most obvious solution: use both. Battle Royale will feature both standard PDQ Conflicts but also Bouts, one-on-one battles based on PDQ#'s Dueling rules.

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