Indie RPGs and other Oddities

Hi,
being really fond of Indie RPGs :nerd:
I often buy some of them just for reading^^
thankfully from time to time I can playtest some of them

If some of you tried some indie rpgs (or some other oddity), I would love to hear your experiences with the system/setting :ugeek:

I already played those listed below (each one several times),
so if someone is interested in some of those, I could post a short review

Barbarians of Lemuria
Dungeons the Dragoning 7th Ed. 40K
Eclipse Phase
MAID Rpg [Japanese]
Monsters & Other Childish Things (and other One Roll Engine games, like REIGN)
Nechronica - The Long, Long Sequel [Japanese]
Unknown Armies

some rpgs I played only once

Dogs in the Vineyard
Dungeonslayers
Golden Sky Stories [Japanese]
My Life With Master
Sorcerer
Technoir RPG

I want to run (or if someone else wants to DM one of these - count me in)

Cold & Dark
Corporation RPG
Hellas - Worlds of Sun & Stone
Kuro
Yggdrasill
Numenera
Tenra Bansho Zero [Japanese]

especially the last two ; )

maybe I could put a one-shot or two together,
if enough people are interested

cu

I’d curious in trying Unknown Armies, in particular…

[size=150]Unknown Armies[/size]

Dice Used: d100 (2d10)

System:
You try to roll < your Skill Level, the higher the better (so a 53 beats a 42, as long as both would succeed on their tasks)
if you roll 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, or 99 it will be “exceptional” (“success” if successful, or “failure” if not);
a 100 (00), is always a “critical failure”;
a 01, is always a “critical success”;

Players can define their own Skills for their characters (there are even encouraged to do so); the corebook gives some suggestions;

Setting:
UA is a modern “occult underground” RPG, populated by loose networks of shadowy cabals and practitioners of magic, who are walking a thin line between enlightment and insanity.

Madness:
UA’s insanity system distinguishes between several types of trauma (violence, unnatural, helplessness, isolation and self). Additionally, as opposed to other Horror RPGs e.g. Call of Cthulhu, a character will be able to become hardened against Sanity-Loss, if she succeeds on her Sanity-Test.
E.g. If a character has seen much violence in her life (and succeeded on a lot of Violence-Sanity Tests), she will start to treat the sight of torturing innocents to death as a “non-shocking event”.
This of course will affect the personality of that character!

In my opinion this is the gem of this roleplaying system.

Guns Are Powerful:
Firarms deal an enourmous amount of damage;
DMs should think, if they want that in their game
(maybe make some house rules; or leave it that way, if the story wants to show, or emphasise the “deadlyness of guns”);

What we did with it:

  • one one-shot in the UA’s “occult underground” setting with premade characters;

  • and one dark & gritty Robin Hood-esque horror campaign (~9 sessions);

especially in the latter the madness-mechanic of UA shined
(and in 1195 AD there was no “firearms-problem” mentioned above :wink: );

@Simon

did you every played one of LE SEPTIÉME CERCLE’s games
such as Qin, Kuro or Yggdrasill?

I’m always up for (indie) one shots.

I reckon the whole indie game group here on the board would like to play some of these games if you suggest them in (one of) the ‘Drinks, conversation and …’ thread(s)

No, I haven’t played any of these. But I read quickly through the manual from UA once, looking for a rule system to base a campaign idea I had, and it seemed interesting…

hey, noticed this a bit late :sunglasses: let’s compare notes, then :mrgreen:

indies i ran in the past include:

City of Birds (GM-less collective narration building exercise meets roleplaying game. A very funny, cool and satisfying one-shot was had. This game seems to be a precurser for later GM-less games such as Shock, Fiasco, Polaris etc… All of which sound promising (or at keast intriguing) but I regrettably never had the chance to try any of those yet.)

Life with Master
(started it and got as far as three sessions in before it fell apart due to both in-game and RL reasons, sadly. Feel we didn’t quite “do it right” enough on that first attempt. Never got a chance to run or play it again since then. What are your experiences with it?)

Dogs in the Vineyard
(ran a pretty successful one-shot (that was intended to be a short campaign, but again fell flat due to RL conditions sadly). Four players can be abit much. The system itself is imho especially notable for its “colour-first” approach, its “escalation” mechanic, and its incredibly focussed approach - everything in this game, from the very setting to the smallest rule tidbits, is laser-guided to make it deliver just the game experience that its supposed to. Again, interested to hear your opinions on it!)

The Riddle of Steel (and its newer re-incarnation Blades of the Iron Throne).
(Both the (medieval themed) original game and the (sword-and-sorcery based) newer one have the single most awesome combat system if you’re into hardcore simulationist combat. Apart from combat, both games are almost completely Nar-oriented. An interesting combination, and makes for fun gameplay and incredibly visceral combat action!)

Apocalypse World
(or rather, a bit of a drifted Apoc World combined with elements from Macabre Tales and other influences. The setting was actally the world of Shadowrun… so, probably not represntative of “pure-strain” Apoc World. But I’m jonesing to run/play that as well :wink: )

Notable indies i’ve played in include:

Lady Blackbird
(which was run by Alrik from the forums here, and was immensely fun I found. I later ran it for my other group, and we are currently three sessions in and looking forward to more! This I find a very recommendable game overall. It’s a gem of game design that no one would be amiss for trying at least once, imho.)

I have read (but never tried) several more, notably including from your list:

Sorcerer
REIGN
(which I love the basic premise and mechanical realisation of. Must be awesome controlling your own kingdom/regiment/company… and putting them against others! Care to tell us a bit about your experiences with it??)
Maid (which sounds hilarious, if very much on the “random” side of things :stuck_out_tongue: :wink: )
Dungeons: the Dragoning 7th ed 40K :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:
(an “affectionate parody” rpg if ever there was one)

Also, I’ve been writing on an unholy cross-breed between MLWM’s plot mechanic and Dog’s scene resolution mechanic (“raise and see” with pools of dice), using the “masked avengers” genre for a dark urban setting.

Kinda like Revolucion! if you know that one, but with Batman- and the Watchmen-type characters and plots (masked avengers, but without any actual superpowers) instead of Revolucion!'s “underground revolutionaries against an overpowering regime” angle.

Supposed to allow for reskinnings for all kinds of thematically related stuff from Robin Hood or Zorro to Star Wars or OWoD Werewolves just as well. Hasn’t seen playtest yet, though :wink: Still filing around on that…

Hey, nice thread! :wink:

Here my list of notable indie games I ran and/or played:

Primetime Adventures
Till date my all-time favorite rpg. You collectively create your own TV-Show, play through a season while focusing on the various story-arcs of each protagonist. Think Buffy, Six Feet Under, Sopranos, The Wire etc. I’ve had some of the greatest games with this inconspicuous rpg. The combination of personal issues as the main driving force, cleverly distributed screen presence and fan mail as the reward cycle makes it a very light, but yet powerful system.

Dogs in the Vineyard
After pronouncing it the coolest game evvarrr when I played it for the first time, with time I got disappointed by the general premise. The morality theme did not do well with the easy to abuse game mechanics. After playing it for a couple of times, the admittedly awesome poker-like conflict resolution wore off… and what was left didn’t encourage me that much. Anyway, Auburney wants to run a Dogs game for us soon. It’s been a while and I’d like to be convinced that – with the right towns – it IS a great game.

Polaris
Long ago, the people were dying at the end of the world…
And so it was… that I encountered one of the weirdest games. No dice, the story is told and directed by some key phrases. Being a game for exactly four players (no GM!), each person not only plays his own protagonist, but is also responsible for friends and antagonist, depending on which side of the active player your sitting. Very intriguing story telling in a fantastic northern fairy-tale setting. I’d like to play that again some time.

The Shadow of Yesterday (aka Solar System)
The great little adventure module Lady Blackbird (Auburney already mentioned it) uses a light version of the TSoY system. While Lady Blackbird was designed to be played in very few sessions, in my opinion the core game benefits from being played over the course of 6+ sessions. The keys introduce a nice element of motivation to each character and need to be pursued in order to get XP.

With Great Power…
… comes great storytelling!? Well, this game sure tries to give you the tools to tell some great Marvel-influenced superhero tales. Naturally it’s not that concerned about “realistic” power scaling and letting you settle the evergreen argument: In a fight between Superman and Batman – who would kick the others butt? Each player creates her own character, embedding him in their environment via important relations and morals. Of course you get to chose awesome powerz, too. But in the game the GM tries to tickle the heroes’ egos, destroy their convictions, abduct loved ones till the players can’t bear it anymore and combine their forces to fight the evil villain once and for all.

Breaking the Ice
This just as a side note, cause it’s kind of a special game, not compatible with larger groups. You play two people on a date. It’s beautiful and I always wanted to check out Emily Care Boss’s other games…

My Life with Master, Universalis, Inspectres, Sorcerer, Capes, Shab-al-Hiri Roach
These games I only played once or twice each. Definitely fun games and eye openers for “traditional” gamers who want to play something completely different.

That’s it for now. There are some missing (forgot names, too minor/uninteresting) but this should cover all the “mainstream-indie” games I played… :wink: Indie games I desperately want to play amnong others include Shock, Fiasco, Love Letters

btw: I LOVE Eclipse Phase. Easily the greatest setting I’ve read in my life. I even GMed a couple of sessions and will again this year (I hope).

All right, I’ll join the fun and add a couple. But since I’m our resident indie grouch, best take these with a grain of salt…

Dread: The most interesting RPG of the last 15 years. Takes a handful of elements that, pretty much by consensus, are bad game design, and combines them to make something new, brilliant, beautiful and simply fun. This is what indie design should be.

Parsely Games: Love 'em. It’s impossible to play these without having a great time. One of the very rare systems that can consistently make jaws drop.

Sherpa: Love this one, too. Its hard to resist the enthusiasm of the premise, but its simplicity has me turning to Sherpa more and more often when in need of a generic system.

Inspectres: Quite a fun game, but I’m not sure it really adds much to the RPG canon.

Mouse Guard: Yuck. A bad system married to a bad setting. Sit me down in a comfy seat and keep the drinks coming, and you’ll be surprised by the number of hours straight I can vilify Mouse Guard. And I actually like the premise of mice with swords…

Fiasco: It’s fun … once. After that, there’s no reason to ever play it again. A game about tension with no tension.

Some additional thoughts on some of the games already mentioned:

Reign:
the idea of being able to manage large scale battles, political intrigues with the same mechanics you use for you’re character is truely awesome. The character creation via dice roll and then buy events/aspectsin from a lifepath like shelf is pretty sweet too. But for some reason I still didn’t have the motivation to run it yet. It’s probably the setting it comes with. I think it’s rather boring and unimaginative. But with a homebrew scenario…

Dread:
super fun! Basically what -H- said, although i’d be interested to hear why in principal it shouldn’t work.

Auburney’s unholy creation:
you have my interest! More! :smiley:

Fiasco:
i still need to play this: -H- not even one more time? :stuck_out_tongue:

The kickstarter breed:
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to follow the tons of games that were funded with kickstarter&Co in the last years… What are the must reads? Can you briefly sum the most interesting ones for us?

[quote=“Alrik”]Dread:
super fun! Basically what -H- said, although i’d be interested to hear why in principal it shouldn’t work.[/quote]
OK, let’s design a game. How are we going to handle skill checks? Hey, let’s conflate player skill with character skill! Because people have only been complaining about that for a couple decades… And why not just use one player skill for all checks? Yeah, that’s perfect. Character wants to pick a pocket? Player makes a dexterity check. Player wants to translate hieroglyphics? Player also makes a dexterity check!

And now that we’ve solved that, let’s add player elimination! Everybody loves player elimination!

If that isn’t enough, try thinking of the Jenga tower in terms of math. Yeah, that makes all kinds of sense…

But it works. There’s no way it should, but it all comes together. It’s even winds up being elegant. I think that’s simply amazing.

awesome … a lot of RPGs I never heard about
(especially Blades of the Iron Throne & Dread sound promising)

thanks a lot :slight_smile:

i will post more details soon
but here is a short preview:

@Eclipse Phase
Posthuman Hard-SciFi; the setting is gorgeous … a must love
We played a one shot & finished one campaign (13 sessions) recently

  1. you really need to limit starting money & rep;
  2. everyone needs one excel character sheet (there are really good ones out there) - else, things could get a bit messy, especially in a campaign
  3. we added some house rules (not to many) that fit our playstyle
    (i will go into detail “what & why” later)

@Dogs in the Vineyard
I played it only once (joined an existing campaign as a guest character for one evening); the system was completely new to me back then and/but felt good;
The others totally digged the “Mormon-Theme” so it was a little bit hard for me to get into it; On a side note, I really liked the DM’s style - although this has nothing to do with the system :slight_smile:

@REIGN
I have more experience with Monsters & Other Childish Things.
We played a REIGN one-shot (were everyone was a minister of the Empire - so we only used the rules for organisations; was fun). We wanted to play a hidden cult - mini-campaign too, but we never passed the point of character creation and having megalomaniac dreams ^_^.
The Setting felt un-Tolkeen-like, which is a plus for me. The “Directional Gravity-Thing” was too much for us - so we skipped that thing
(later I will post what this means in detail; so you have no idea what I am talking about - do not worry).

[quote=“Alrik”]The kickstarter breed:
What are the must reads? Can you briefly sum the most interesting ones for us?[/quote]I like the Japanese ones (but that is just I being me - I do not know about you) - there were two translation projects on kickstarter:

TENRA BANSHO ZERO
The title is a play on a buddist expression.
This is an “over the top - total war” j-rpg, which mechanics got inspired by kabuki theatre play (e.g. players give each other XP for good acting) and japanese action movie tropes (e.g. wounds give you boni instead of penalties).
Was an interesting read (plus 13$ for almost 700 pages of PDF was a good price).

GOLDEN SKY STORIES
The original title is “Yuuyake (red-sunset-sky) Koyake (after-sunset-orange-sky)” = “Sunset Glow”; additionally this is the title of a famous japanese nursery rhyme
This is a dice-less, heartwarming animal-spirits j-rpg … think of it as My Neighbour Totoro - The Roleplaying Game”.

…continuing

[quote=“Alrik”]The kickstarter breed:
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to follow the tons of games that were funded with kickstarter&Co in the last years… What are the must reads? Can you briefly sum the most interesting ones for us?[/quote]

NUMENERA
This science-fanatsy rpg with by Monte Cook was really successful recently.
Its themes are discovery & mystery.
The Book officially will be available soon (Aug 14th), but kickstarters & preorders (me) already have it.

The setting feels wierd in a positive way (like the old Planescape Box :nerd:).
Earth far into the future - 8 worlds have risen & fallen - Now is the dawn of the 9th (with the tech level of a typical medieval fantasy campaign). The world is full of ancient artefacts ready for discovery and inhabited by the remnants of experiments of long lost civilizations or stranded visitors from strange dimensions.
“Magic” works according to Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
A mage, called “nano” in this setting, activates dormant nanoswarms. :mrgreen:

I do not now anything about rules though - I just have been recently begun reading the book - and I started with the fluff first.

As a side note this setting & rulesystem will be the basics for the upcoming TORMENT: Tides of Numenera CRPG (a spiritual successor to Planescape Torment).

[quote=“Auburney”]Also, I’ve been writing on an unholy cross-breed between MLWM’s plot mechanic and Dog’s scene resolution mechanic (“raise and see” with pools of dice), using the “masked avengers” genre for a dark urban setting.

Kinda like Revolucion! if you know that one, but with Batman- and the Watchmen-type characters and plots (masked avengers, but without any actual superpowers) instead of Revolucion!'s “underground revolutionaries against an overpowering regime” angle.

Supposed to allow for reskinnings for all kinds of thematically related stuff from Robin Hood or Zorro to Star Wars or OWoD Werewolves just as well. Hasn’t seen playtest yet, though :wink: Still filing around on that…[/quote]

Yeah, that sounds nice : )

I am working on my “Blood & Obsidian”: a narrative fantasy RPG, drawing inspiration from pre-columbian mesoamerica, focusing on teamwork, community-growth and ritual sacrifice :smiling_imp:;

[quote=“Alrik”]Fiasco:
i still need to play this: -H- not even one more time? :stuck_out_tongue:[/quote]
Well, maybe. I don’t know - it would probably take some convincing.

The problem I have with Fiasco is one I have with quite a few indie games. One of the primary goals of the indie movement was to increase the narrative aspect of games, right? Yet they do this by … making parts of the narrative not matter?

Take With Great Power (which I liked - thanks again for a great evening!). Yes, you get to choose awesome powers, but that choice is irrelevant. It wouldn’t have made a difference if our characters had the ability to make their farts smell like lemonade instead of the cool powers we actually had, and that feels very odd in a game that’s basically about superpowers and how they affect people.

But anyway, I do like a lot about With Great Power and would happily play another game (hint, hint), but in Fiasco, I have a hard time finding anything that does matter, and that makes for a pretty empty experience.

Again, however, I tend to be grouchier about these things than most people, so do try the game out. A lot of people love it, and I hope you wind up enjoying it more than I do.

That sounds interesting! One, pre-european-invasion South/Middle America is a heavily (and shamefully) underused setting anyways, and two, the focus on teamwork and community sounds promising. A bit of sacrifice is also never amiss, I guess :wink:

I’d be up for a playtest when the time comes!

@ Fiasco: now we’ll have to play it, Alrik, if only just to find out about -H-'s misgivings and what there is to them! :smiley:

[quote=“Auburney”]That sounds interesting! One, pre-european-invasion South/Middle America is a heavily (and shamefully) underused setting anyways, and two, the focus on teamwork and community sounds promising. A bit of sacrifice is also never amiss, I guess :wink:

I’d be up for a playtest when the time comes! [/quote]
my - current - main problem is the question of how I should handle “Status” *
and I need to do another overhaul of all “Duties” ( ~ Classes) afterwards

  • meaning: should “Status” affect social tests, or be a trait (like in L5R), or something else, etc.

I will send you a pdf, if you want to read it
(2 books - one is setting and one is rules)

(for me) Fiasco felt more like “Let’s tell a story together”, like My Life With Master or the card game Aye Dark Overlord, and not like a roleplaying game

It was fun and I would play it again, but I would play a roleplaying game instead, should I be forced to choose.

[size=150]REIGN[/size]

RPG.net Review
Reign Homepage
Reign Wiki

Dice Used: d10s

System:
One Roll Engine (roll several d10s and look for sets)

As (sadly) with many systems the rules favour one-sided character creation [*], but as a plus-side in REIGN this was done for a reason:
You could either use your XP to get rid of your weaknesses, or you could increase the stats of your organisation (very expensive).
So characters who increase only their stats are not stronger per se (well a little bit maybe :wink:) then other characters, but they have less weaknesses.

[*] The “to increase a high stat” : “to increase a low stat” ratio is the same at character creation, but favours the lower stats afterwards (like in the o/n WoD games).

Synopsis:
A fantasy system for Lords & Leaders with a “Anti-Tolkien” Fantasy Setting.

Pros:
Nice rules for organisations
On the Homepage, there is a lot of setting-material.
This was released under the “ransom method”. (I have written X-words for the setting. If I get Y-money, I would post it online to download for free for everyone.)

If your player character dies, you keep her organisation and you play her successor.
(t.m. You do not loose XP you have invested in your organisation, if your character dies.)

Cons:
The physics of this world:
The two continents are a giant man and a giant woman laying next to each other in the water (the sea).
So far so good - but the world has “Directional Gravity”.
t.m. at every!!! coast the sea rises in π/2 (90°) into the air!!!
(the sun & the moon are fixed in the sky, but that did not hurt as much)
-> so we kinda skipped that thing :wink:

Maybe if the setting had been more weird - like Numenera or Planescape or Dungeons the Dragoning - it would have worked for me.
I guess it is a kind of uncanny valley thing in RPG-World-Design Weirdness :laughing:

Two of the players (of the second one-shot [s.b.]) disliked the One Roll Engine System.

What we did with it:
Two One-shots to try out the system:
First a “minister game” written by the creator of REIGN, that only used the organisation-rules. This one was really nice.
Later we played a pirate fleet one-shot (I forgot about that in my earlier post).
We wanted to start a campaign once, but never surpassed the point of character creation.

Conclusion:
It felt really nice, but it was not the “OMG best thing evaaar” feeling I sometimes get, when trying new RPG stuff :smiley:
We wanted to start a campaign once, but we never succeeded in starting that. [**]

I guess it would be very easy to just use the rules and play something different with it. You have to make up you own magic schools (maybe), but there are enough rules to be able to do that.

[**] Typically I plan (2 or 3, sometimes 4) different campaign-ideas at once and then let the players choose, which one they want to play (and which idea I will flesh out). So there are a lot of discarded campaign-ideas laying around waiting to be played … … in the far future (so probably never^^) … …

yes, please do so - I’d be interested! PM would be good :wink:

whoa, how much have you written for this? Sounds like quite the page count already :wink: Or is “books” more like “chapters” really? :stuck_out_tongue:

I would advice rather not posting your email in a public forum,
unless you are in dire need of spam emails of course :wink:

I will send you a PM with a download link

~ 150 pages

I will send you the Tékumel-Version of the game.
= the the setting is not made by me, but is “The Empire of the Pedal Throne” from M.A.R. Barker
If you familiar with that, you can just skip the “fluff-stuff” :slight_smile:
The “own-unique setting without a name that would stay longer then a month” is too much under construction yet ( = too much updates/month; see the spam problem above :wink:)

@Rules (Version 3.0)
Main inspirations were Scion (although you could hardly can see the influence now), Legend of the 5 Rings, Dresden Files and Houses of the Blooded.
The current version shares similarities with HotB (some, like the Virtues, only accidently), but I twisted the Style Point Mechanic of this PvP-ish game 180° into a teamwork and ritual sacrifice friendly game (but read for your self).

Sorry, that the Rulebook has such a high information-density / sentence ratio and the layout still being pretty bad.
It was written with the intent to be an aid to a GM that already knows the rules & setting (me), so that he could show something to his fellow players, which would make the game, especially character creation, easier.

Please feel free to report/mail/post errors, typos, ideas, etc.
my ego can take that :laughing: