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Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Unnamed Card Based RPG Part 1

TUCBR? Can't be much worse than GURPS or TORG...no, who am I kidding. It's a lot worse. Really need to get better at naming things.

Anyway TUCBR is a...wait. Wait. Wait. I've got it. Cards And Roleplaying Drama System. CARDS. I'm a genius.

So, CARDS is a simplistic, dungeon-crawly style rpg in the beer-n-pretzels style. To start with I'll go for the simple, four-class (warrior, rogue, mage, priest) game. Something you can pull out and play with a group of friends without a big fuss. By the way, I know that sort of thing is a dime-a-dozen (heck I'm already working on a different one myself). This fantasy game isn't a heartbreaker, it's more like one of those one-night stands that you know is a terrible idea but it happens anyway.

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The Basics

CARDS is meant to be played using a deck of playing cards. At least one deck per player, jokers in. The GM will need at least one deck himself (he may need more, I haven't quite worked it out). The gameplay is inspired a bit by games like Puzzle Quest and 10,000,000. I've always found the combination of RPG elements and puzzle gaming both addictive and intriguing. The "flow" of action produced by the accumulation of themed gems or squares or whatever is interesting, but extremely difficult to replicate outside of the computer environment.

The closest equivalent seems like it would be a set of playing cards. You've got four suits that can be used for thematic "elements" and the mechanics of drawing, holding and discarding card. My first thought was was actual elemental-style effects. Earth (clubs), Air (spades), Fire (diamonds) and Water (hearts). The cards being used for literal (water for a water-breathing spell) or figurative (earth for actions related to endurance, etc) invocations of the element. That's a pretty cool idea but I think I'll try and keep things a bit simpler and divide things by action.

*Clubs: Brute force. This covers inflicting damage, breaking stuff, moving objects, being scary, etc.
*Spades: Finesse. So, this would be evading attacks, sneaking about, disabling traps/locks and general trickery.
*Diamonds: Smarts. Being clever or cunning, noticing stuff, solving puzzles and riddles. Also generally things related to magic.
*Hearts: Fortitude. Resisting damage/poison/disease, courage, faith ,willpower.

So, how are they used. Well, I figure that action can be broken down into two general categories, you've got Tasks, which are challenges that involve a PC attempting to overcome passive or unthinking resistance. That's things like breaking objects, dealing with traps, finding a needle in a haystack, etc. Tasks have a set Target Number (2-10) based on how tough they are to handle and a suit (determining the appropriate card suite to handle the Task). So a lock might be rated 6 (S). To overcome the challenge the player must be able to play a Spade of 6 or higher to overcome the Task. Generally a player is not aware of the TN of a task ahead of time, but examination and description from the GM should usually give them at least a vague sense. Once they've attempted the task once, let them know the TN. Remember, players can always choose to simply fail a task and play nothing.

Then there are Struggles. A Struggle is a battle or contest involving active resistance and possible damage. In this case the opposing forces play cards of the appropriate suits (so the attacker might play a Club to try and harm their opponent, and the opponent may play a Heart or Spade to endure or evade the attack). If the attacker's card is higher they inflict damage equal to the difference in the card value. If the defender wins then obviously nothing happens. The "active" party in a Struggle (ie the attacker) always plays their cards first and the defender is allowed to see them before playing their own.

Now, that's a bit harsh in some ways. After all, out of 54 cards there's only 13 of a given suit and it'd be pretty easy to find yourself completely unable to play anything of the appropriate suit. Well, nothing says that the only way to attack is with brute force...you could always try a clever trick or a swift kick.  So, if you're trying to take an action using inappropriate suited cards it's possible but more difficult.

That brings up a new concept: Difficulty. Difficulty is separate from a Task's Target #. A TN is based on the inherent challenge of a Task, while Difficulty is caused by outside factors. Attempting to shoot a small target is a challenging Task no matter the situation, but doing it while blind drunk makes it Difficult. When something becomes Difficult you have to play two cards of the same suit capable of beating the TN. Only the highest card counts for determining the value of the action. If more than one factor is causing the situation to be Difficult then it adds an extra card to the minimum number. However, every complicating factor can only increase Difficulty by one card, no matter how severe.

Example: Bob has a hand full of Clubs: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Great for fighting, but not so good for much else. Bob is trying to get into the Tomb of Domb. The front gates are sealed, but made of rotting wood, a 4 (C) task. Bob decides to play his 7 of Clubs, beating the task's TN and smashing through the door. The room beyond is guarded by a glowing Watch Orb, a giant crystal eye that casts it's gaze back and forth, searching for intruders and ready to alert the tomb's guardians. Sneaking past the eye is a 6 (S) task, but of course bob doesn't know that. He plays his 6 and a 5, but it turns out to be a failure (since both cards did not succeed). 

Now, you may be wondering...how can brute force help you be sneaky? Really...it doesn't matter. When using inappropriate suits if you can come up with a good explanation for how it works then that's fine but if not then just go ahead. It's really just a way to get out of an automatic failure or a bad roll.

If you're attempting a Difficult task and you can't produce enough winning Cards, but you don't want to automatically fail (typically when attempting to evade an attack or similar threat) then you treat the highest losing card as the Card Value.

Example: Now alerted the watch orb sprays the room with deadly beams. Bob is trying to dodge out of the way but the cards are still not liking him. The watch orb's attack is a 7, Bob plays a 5 and a 4 of clubs. Both are failures, but since the 5 was the highest failure, it's used for the final card value. If bob had played a 5 and an 8 then the card value would remain the same...the 5 is the highest card that failed to beat the TN.  

So, now we've got the barest bones of a system. Next update I'll be thinking about making yourself a character and what you can bring to the table other than a bunch of cards.

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