Monday, December 5, 2011

Monsters and Other Childish Things

Game Premise

A distressingly fun roleplaying game about kids and the relationship-devouring horrors from beyond time and space who love them.

Remember when you were little and had a best friend in the whole wide world? No, not those other kids. I mean unicorns from other dimensions, the unspeakable thing living in the closet or under the bed or invisible aliens from outer space. Good news, turns out those friends are real and are totally kickass. OK, sometimes they are a bit clingy. You also would probably get sent to counselling if you drew a picture of them and showed an adult. And there have been one or two incidents where they tried to 'help', like trashing the teacher's car after they gave you a bad grade or eating that kid who picks on you at lunchtime.

But most of the time you couldn't ask for a better friend. And guess what, you know other people with monster friends too! Sometimes you go on adventures to the meat dimension, explore the world of dreams or break into Area 51 (“That thing? Oh that's totally a Saturnian Urinal”). Other times you'll just watch as your monster friends beat up other kids' monster friends. After all, yours are totally more awesome.

Game Overview

Monsters and Other Childish Things is a game about childhood and that vital component of every sane child's world, their imaginary friend (mine didn't have a name but it lived inside the walls and shadows of my old house in Japan. I left it behind when I left the house). It is slightly darker than your average childhood fantasy, really emphasising the monster part of the title. Think Calvin and Hobbes meets Call of Cthulhu. Kids get up to all kinds of crazy shenanigans with their imaginations and what better way to help enable them than a drooling slime-beast with a stupid grin from the 5th layer of Tartarus. 'Darkly comical' is how I'd describe the game, in that the action that takes place is light hearted but your partner in crime is quite willing to resolve all of your problems in quite a messy fashion if you don't keep them under control.

Monsters uses the ORE system which I first explained the basics of in Godlike. Quick recap, roll a pool of up to 10 dice, look for matches (eg, pair of threes), the more dice in the set and the higher the number, the better you've succeeded. There aren't any special die types in this iteration, but you do have a few familiar ability modifiers with different names (Go First becomes Wicked Fast and so on). It's one of the few games where you control two characters (although sometimes your monster friend gets controlled by the GM, particularly when they are up to no good).

Monsters is great not just for its accessible premise and use of the ORE ruleset but also for the fantastic way in which it is written. It's a bit hard to explain, but there's a whole lot of exuberant light-heartedness and everything from discussing the base system to the NPC section is humorous, weird and awesome. Despite this, it can be used to run darker games that tackle issues involving the vulnerability of childhood with the caveat of having friends that can hit back. So, it's quite versatile. Also, it has the distinction of being the only RPG that's made me tear up, specifically with the piece of game fiction on page 61.

The Character

Step 1) Name and Stuff

This is where we come up with my character's general concept. I think I want to go back to an Australian character, a young girl who once lived in regional Australia only to move to Sydney with her aunt and uncle at the insistence of her parents, for educational reasons. First up, we have Name. I'm going to go with Angela Macarthur. Next up is Age. Characters need to be under 18 because their Bond with their monsters disintegrate upon entering adulthood. I think I want my character to be young, but not too young, so I'm assigning her age as 11. Now we have Favourite Thing, pretty self explanatory, and for Angela I've decided it's Climbing. She used to love scaling the trees at her old property, climbing to the tallest branches and staring at the sky for ages.

Now we have A Good Thing You Did and A Bad Thing You Did, again, pretty self explanatory. For her good thing, she once Helped a Stranded Driver stuck out near her property on the motorway, running back to her house to fetch her dad and a working phone. For the bad thing, I think that when she was told she'd be moving away to live with her aunt and uncle, she Smashed Mum's Favourite Family Portrait while having a tantrum.

Step 2) Stats

Monsters has five different stats, each point in them giving a die you can roll when using the stat. I start off with 1 in each and have 10 more dice to split between them. I've established that she's a bit of an outdoorsy sort, so I'm going to go straight ahead and put 3 dice in Feet, the stat for being able to move generally, giving her a total of 4. I think I'll also put 3 in Guts, the stat governing both physical and mental toughness. 2 will go into Hands, which covers anything you'd use your hands for and also for Brains, the skill for thinking because she's both clever and practical. That leaves me with no dice for Face, this game's version of charisma, for a total of 1, probably because she's a bit of a loner and standoffish.

Step 3) Skills

Each stat has three Skills tied to it and I have 15 dice to put wherever I want. Straight off the bat I'm going to put 4 of those in P.E. (physical education, of course), because she's an athletic sort and loves climbing. 2 each will go into Courage, Dodge and Wind (fitness), because those are also strong areas for her. 2 each will also go to Remember and Out-think, because while she's no nerd she's quite a bright young girl. Finally, 1 point will go into Kick, because she tends to lash out with her feet when she's angry.

Step 4) Relationships

Relationships are one of the more innovative mechanics of this iteration of ORE. The idea is that you have a certain number of points in a relationships with a person, thing or occasionally an idea and when you're making a roll that relates to them you get to add those points are dice to your roll. So, if I have 2 points in a relationship with my Mother and the local bully is making fun of her, I get two extra dice to my roll to punch him in the face. You can even lend your monsters this bonus, thanks to your Bond with them.

There can be downsides to using a relationship, though. If you still fail, they can take damage, giving reduced temporary bonuses or even being reduced permanently unless you spend some Quality Time with the subject of the relationship.

I get six points to divide into relationships. I'm going to start off by putting two dice in Aunt and Uncle, the folks who now take care of Angela. Two more dice are going to go into Ms Bligh, the Maths Teacher, who thinks that Angela has a real talent for the subject and is always happy to encourage her or lend a kind ear (she's also one of those rare maths teachers who can actually teach). The final two dice will go into Memories of the Old Property, the home she grew up on, had many adventures on and misses dearly. She also has a Bond with her monster, which I'll get to in a bit.

Step 5) The Monster

Yay, the fun part! Your monster is your best friend, protector and resident trouble maker. They can automatically detect other monsters, even while hidden and can survive mundane harm up to and including atom bombs. They aren't invincible, however, and not only can they take damage from supernatural effects but any damage, physical or emotional, that is inflicted on you also gets inflicted on your monster friend.

So, what's my monster going to be. Well, one evening while Angie was sitting atop a tree, gazing at the stars, she saw what seemed to be a falling star shooting towards her with a curious rainbow streak. To her surprise it landed nearby, creating a small and shockingly quiet crater. Going down to investigate, she discovered a strange being there. It seemed to be a feline being, the size of a horse and with a big, multicoloured, doughy mass in the middle. The thing seemed to be weak and hungry, so Angela gave it the chocolate she had in her pocket. The thing quickly became friends with her. It explained that it was called Tacnayn and was the last survivor of its kind from far beyond the stars. Its kind were hunted for their delicious, edible bodies. The two became friends and when Angela moved to Sydney, Tacnayn went with her. No prizes for guessing what it's a reference to.

Here's the basic mechanical deal with monsters. Each monster is composed of Hit Locations, which are a bit like an ordinary person's, covering 1-10. The difference is of course that if you're a squamous fungoid from the 19th dimension you don't have legs or a head. Instead, you'd have something like Lashing Pseudopods, Mounds of Green Slime and 4-Dimensional Maw. Each of these locations has a Quality that describes what it can do, Attacks (body part can be used to hut someone), Defends (body part can be used to defend) and Useful (everything else). Each location starts off with one of these qualities, but can have extra qualities as modifiers, which I'll get to soon.

So, I have 10 hit location numbers, each with five dice that have to be assigned to at least four locations. I'm going to start with assigning 1-2 as Dripping, Sugary Maw. This location is going to have the attacks quality and because it takes up two locations, starts off with 10 dice. These are the number of dice I would use when using the maw to attack someone. However, I want to make it a bit more interesting and that's where Extras come in. Extras are certain bonuses that require you to sacrifice dice. I'm going to give the maw 2 points in the Gnarly extra, which means it deals 2 extra points of damage on attacks (by default, attacks deal a number of damage equal to the dice in the set -1). I'm also going to give it 1 point in Wicked Fast, which increases its position in the turn order by +1 (normally, actions are determined by who rolled the set with the biggest number of dice). So now it's a 7 dice quality with 2xGnarly and 1xWicked Fast.

Next up will be Angular Nose, which will take up locations 3-4. This one will have the quality Useful (Sniff Out Dimensional Gateways, Secrets and Sugar products), which is a little on the broad side for a useful quality but should be fine. I'm going to give it two points in the Awesome extra. One point would let me set one of my dice to a specific number before I rolled, while two points lets me set one after, which guarantees a match. Tacnayn can sniff out these things quite effectively at a range of 1,280 yards, as determined by the Monster Might table.

Now there's the Delicious Multicoloured Body, which will have 5-7 for a total of 15. This location will have the quality Useful (Regenerates Edible, Sweet Flesh) which seems gross but it actually comes off quite easily and tastes oddly of poptarts. I'm also going to sacrifice 1 dice to give it the quality Defends. Since I can have a maximum of 10 dice in a pool, I'm going to need to find 4 more dice worth of extras. I'm going to settle for 4 points in Tough, which reduces damage done by 1 point each, making it a formidable location indeed.

Finally, 8-10 will be Flying Rainbow Feet. These will have the quality Useful (Rainbow Flight), allowing Tacnayn to sail along, the skies, leaving a trail of rainbows behind it. I'm also giving it the quality Defends, representing his ability to dodge while flying. For extras, I'll give the location 2 points of Awesome and 2 points of Wicked Fast. That still leaves it with 10 dice. Tacnayn can fly at up to 1,024 mph or carry up to 12.8 tonnes while flying (he can sacrifice one to improve the other).

Now just a few fluff details and we're done! We've already scoped out Appearance, he's a horse-sized cat, grey with a greenish tinge with a bulging, soft, multicoloured mass in the middle. He's slightly sweet-smelling. For Personality, I'm going to go with Curious. Tacnayn loves to explore new places, whether they be a different classroom or another dimension (which he's quite capable of sniffing out). For Way To Hide (after all, monsters can't just be waltzing around in front of adult and the general public), Tacnayn can Turn Into a Tiny Kitten, one small enough to fit into a large jacket pocket, albeit an somewhat oddly green kitten. For Favourite Thing, I'm going with Sugar. He absolutely loves sugar. Mostly Angela keeps him fed on chocolate and skittle packets but god have mercy on us all if he ever discovers a factory of the stuff. Monsters aren't known for their restraint.

The Finished Product

Angela Macarthur

Feet 4 (Dodging +2, Kicking +1, P.E. +4)

Guts 4 (Courage +2, Wind +2, Wrestling +0)

Hands 3 (Blocking +0, Punching +0, Shop +0)

Brains 3 (Notice +0, Out-Think +2, Remember +2)

Face 1 (Charm +0, Connive +0, Put-Down +0)


Aunt and Uncle 2, Memories of the Old Property, Ms Bligh the Maths Teacher 2 , Tacnayn

Angela's Monster: Tacnayn

Locations 1-2: Dripping, Sugary Maw (7 dice, Attacks, Gnarly x2, Wicked Fast x1)

Locations 2-4: Angular Nose (8 dice, Useful (Sniff Out Dimensional Gateways, Secrets and Sugar), Awesome x2)

Locations 5-7: Delicious Multicoloured Body (10 dice, Useful (Regenerates Edible, Sweet Flesh), Defends, Tough x4)

Location 8-10: Flying Rainbow Feet (10 Dice, Useful (Rainbow Flight), Defends, Awesome x2, Wicked Fast x2)

How I'd Run It

I tried running a one shot of this a while back at a university event. Unfortunately it wasn't very successful due to lack of time and the fact that I had a whole bunch of other things to take care of, which is a shame because I love this game.

I definitely want to run the campaign Road Trip someday, a game about travelling across the States with your monster buddy in order to save the world. However, were I to run it I'd totally set it in the past like the book suggests as a possibility, specifically in the 50s. Cruising along in a Cadillac, stopping off at milk bars with Elvis on the jukebox, your ancient Native America demon pal deciding it's taken a liking to Greaser culture? Sounds like a good recipe for shenanigans.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Agents of S.W.I.N.G

Game Premise

It's the 1960s, a turbulent decade in our history to say the least. The winds of change are blowing, from the sexual revolution to the rise of Second Wave feminism to the Civil Rights Movement to Beatlemania and the rise of Rock and Roll. On a far darker note, it's the height of the Cold War. The U.S.A and the Soviet Union stand poised to wipe out the world with their massive nuclear arsenals at the slightest provocation. But now let's talk about the real problems.

Scheming criminal masterminds. Legions of anarchists. Mad scientists with death rays and robot armies. These are the threats that need to be fought by the best of the best. Where the Americans and the Russians are carrying on and mucking about, it's up to the British to save the world by teatime. That's where you come in. You're the vanguards of the 60s revolution, the champions of humanity and simply the folks who make things safe. You're an agent of the Supreme World Intelligence Network Group. It has been around for centuries but in today's fast-paced climate of change the stakes are higher than ever before. Knowing no boundaries and accepting no limits, S.W.I.N.G keeps the wolves from the door.

Game Overview

Agents of S.W.I.N.G is a love letter to British spy media, everything from James Bond to the Avengers, packed to the brim with the eccentricity and psychedelic joy of the 60s. It's also the first FATE game I'm covering and I'm pretty excited about that. It's a game that taps into ideas and themes everyone is at least peripherally aware of (spies vs acronymic organisations of evil, crazy gadgets, British pop culture, the 60s) and slaps it all onto a well-suited system.

With the exception of ORE, FATE is my favourite RPG system. Each iteration has its own quirks and ways of handling things, though so I can't really cover everything here. In Agents of S.W.I.N.G, you roll a positive die and a negative die, subtract the later from the former, add modifiers and you have your result! This is just the core conflict resolution mechanic, however. Aspects, not so much that meat and potatoes of the system as the delicious home-made sauce, are where the game really shines. They're quotes or descriptors for your character along the lines of Large and In Charge, “I'm on to you” and Rock Out with Your Cock Out. These can do all sorts of things from give you bonuses to appropriate rolls, alter the facts of a scene to letting the GM compel certain kinds of behaviour from you. I'll explain more about them in the character creation section.

The timeline section is an absolute boon and gives readers everything they need to know about key events and social/technological innovations, everything from the moon landing and Woodstock to Led Zeppelin's first performance and the French Winter Olympics of '68. I must admit I haven't watched much of the inspiration material (note: the book also cites modern stuff like Fringe and Alias but notes they lack the same carefree spirit), but I have played a bunch of Evil Genius and Impossible Creatures, which seems to very much be in the same vein. You could probably also get away with reading something like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier. By the way, one of the NPCs statted up is totally the Doctor. He has a magnetic wrench rather than a sonic screwdriver, but they're not even trying to hide it and I'm OK with that.

The Character

Step 1) Come Up With a Concept For Your Character

I've been making a lot of combat focused characters recently, so I think I'm going to go for something a bit different. I want my character to be a scientific genius. But I also want my character to be a true 60s icon. So, my scientist is going to spend less time in laboratories and more time at music festivals. He's the kind of guy who truly believes that the increase of scientific knowledge will bring humanity to a peaceful and glorious future where we all live in harmony. So, I guess my concept will be Hippy Scientist.

Step 2) Name

While my character is going to be a total hippy, he's not a complete flower child and I reckon his parents were fairly normal British folks. I'm going to go with Dr Cornelius Jaybridge, Dr Jay to his friends.

Step 3) Select Your Aspects

Yay, Aspects! As I described above, aspects is the big feature of FATE and it tends to be one of those love them, hate them mechanics. The idea is that you have short descriptions, personality traits or quotes that depict your character. These can then be used for a variety of purposes in play, in conjunction with a resource called FATE Points. You can gain a +2 bonus to one of your actions or a -2 penalty to someone else's, such as someone who is Large and in Charge getting a +2 to a check to break down a door. They can be used to make a Declaration to alter a scene, an example in the book being a guy spending a FATE point to ensure his car has a minibar because I Always Travel First Class.

But they also have downsides, and can be used to Compel certain behaviours or give you penalties. A GM might decide that the witness refuses to talk to the Most Dangerous Man Alive and the Ladies Man might get a -2 to resist a seduction attempt. However, even these downsides come with a silver lining. PCs that accept a setback receive FATE points which can later be used to turn scenes to your favour.

Dr Jay, like all starting S.W.I.N.G characters, gets eight aspects to start with. His first aspect has to be related to his Section. S.W.I.N.G is divided into 12 sections (there is quite pointedly no Section 13), each of which handles a different part of running the organisation, from Section 1: Command to Section 7: Deadly Force to Section 12: Espionage. At first I think the good Dr belongs in Section 3: Quartermaster, combination supply depot and R&D, where someone like Q might find a good home. However, on further consideration, I'm going to put him in Section 8: Uncanny Affairs. These are the guys who deal with the weird stuff like psychic powers, extraterrestrials and time travel. The Professor, the Doctor Who tribute, belongs to this section. Dr Jaybridge was assigned to these guys because of his extensive expertise in alternate theories and highly experimental physics. My aspect here is going to be I Have a Theory for That.

Next up is an aspect for his Past, his time before working in S.W.I.N.G, the place where everyone comes from and in some way shapes who they are. I'm going to go with A Lifetime of Experimentation, meaning Dr Jay has experience with a whole bunch of different ideas, people and substances.

The last specific aspect is one that is for my Cover Identity. As a top-secret agency, all S.W.I.N.G agents are required to maintain some kind of cover identity, even if it's something they're already renowned for. Dr Jay is going to stick with his reputation as a Scientific Maverick. This means he's well known for his work, but might bring up complications among more established scientists who are proponents of traditional theories. It also means he's lucky if a politician will do anything other than sneer at him.

Now I get to define five aspects for whatever I want. The first one is going to be “Wicked Album, Man”, reflecting both his love of contemporary music and his ability to bond with people over it. Scientist, Not a Weaponsmith means he's good at coming up with solutions to problems that don't involve killing people. Because he's a Casual Dresser he's more appealing to those who appreciate that sort of thing and not taken seriously by those who don't. He's a Human Calculator, capable of holding big numbers in his head and analysing statistics quickly. Finally, he's Too Curious for Fear, meaning he'll often head into dangerous situations just to find out what happens (sometimes to his detriment).

Step 4) Select Skills

Skills in S.W.I.N.G describe what you can do rather than who you are, adding a modifier to your checks. Because there are no ability scores or some kind of analogue, having the relevant skill is incredibly important, not only massively increasing chances of success, but also increasing the margin, which at times can be important. Because of the 60s theme, each skill ranking has a description, from -3 Bummer to +8 Out of Sight. I have twenty points to spend on skills. I'm going to start off by grabbing a Fab (+6) rating in Science and Mysteries (mysteries covers paranormal stuff and folklore, because that makes sense considering my focus. For similar reasons I'm going to take a Solid (+3) rating in Academics and Engineering. My final two points are going to go into a Hip (+2) rating for Rapport, because Dr Jay loves dealing with people. Mt rating in academics gives me three additional languages, which I'm going to list as Russian (the Russians love paranormal lore), German (same reason) and Ancient Egyptian (a veritable hotbed of crazy stuff).

Step 5) Select Stunts

Stunts are cool little abilities, maneuvers or tricks available to your character, from special equipment to combat moves to social tricks to paranormal abilities. Starting characters get four of these. The problem with this section is that you end up very much like a kid in a candy store, spoilt for choice. I'm really sad I can't take Master of Disguise, the most awesome stunt, which lets you disappear from the game session and then at an appropriately dramatic moment reveal that some random henchmen was in fact you in disguise all along! Straight off the bat I'm picking SCIENCE!, which allows me to whip out gadgets beyond the boundaries of scientific norms and substitute that skill for any other at the cost of a FATE point. In a similar vein I'm picking up Scientific Invention which lets me build or upgrade existing scientific equipment. Next up is Alien Mysteries, which means I know about aliens and can make Mystery rolls to deduce stuff about them (Dr Jay's ability to do this by his lonesome was what made S.W.I.N.G notice him in the first place). My final stunt will be Doctor, which gives me a +2 to use the science skill to heal.

Step 6) Finish Off any Details

This is where I add the finishing touches, things like appearance, equipment and personality traits as well as anything else to round off my character. I can't really think of much equipment I want for Dr Jay beyond misc science tools, but perhaps also a Dart Gun and knock-out poison for self defense. Oh, and some Beatles albums

When coming up with Dr Jay in terms of appearance I had in mind The Tick-Tock Doc from the Mutants and Masterminds sourcebook Freedom's Most Wanted. To elaborate, imagine a thin man with long, auburn hair, bespectacled eyes and decked out in your standard casual hippy-wear including tie-die shirts, baggy trousers and a peace medallion. When he's in a formal mood, he sometimes throws a lab-coat over this.

Dr Jay is incredibly, sometimes annoyingly friendly, excitable and curious. He peppers his speech with proverbs from famous thinkers and thinks nothing of applying, something said by Confucius to a situation involving death lasers on the moon. He's accepting of pretty much anyone regardless of colour, gender, sexuality or creed because “We're all just atoms, man”, the one exception being folks out to harsh the world's mellow. He tries not to get involved in the violent aspects of S.W.I.N.G operations and often tries to find a peaceful solution.

Because there's no other space for them, I might as well describe a couple of other stats here. I have three Stress Tracks, which track my three kinds of health. The Physical Track represents how much bodily damage I've taken, the Mental Track how much emotional damage and Social Track my standing in society. Having these tracks fill up is detrimental in different ways, the physical track meaning I'm knocked out at the mercy of my opponents, mental meaning I'm insane or too stressed to function and social meaning I lack any form of respectability or social capital. The default for these is 5 each and I have no skills that modify them, so 5 they stay. I also start with a number of FATE points and a Refresh score (the number of FATE points I refresh after a period of rest) equal to 10-the number of stunts I have, so 6.

The Finished Product

Dr Cornelius Jaybridge

Concept: Hippy Scientist

Section: Section 8 (Uncanny Affairs)

Section: I Have a Theory for That

Past: A Lifetime of Experimentation

Cover: Scientific Maverick

Wicked Album, Man”

Scientist, Not a Weaponsmith

Casual Dresser

Human Calculator

Too Curious for Fear

+6 Fab: Mysteries, Science

+3 Solid: Academics, Engineering

+2 Hip: Rapport

Alien Mysteries: Familiar with alien technology/existence.

Doctor: +2 to use the science skill to heal others.

SCIENCE!:Spend a FATE point to substitute Science for any other skill.

Scientific Invention: Build or upgrade scientific devices.

Toolkit, Dart Gun, Rock albums

Physical Stress: OOOOO

Mental Stress: OOOOO

Social Stress: OOOOO

FATE Points: 6

Refresh: 6

How I'd Run It

Considering my background in this sort of thing I'd want to shoot the weird straight up. Moon lasers, alien artefacts and armies of robots would be the call of the day and unless you've got a conspiracy that completely destabilises an entire political region you get no mention. Some kind of team up of various criminal conspiracies would also make a feature.

S.W.I.N.G could also be the perfect 'suicide squad' style game. Take a bunch of expert henchmen with extraordinary capabilities who are sick of serving evil masterminds and like the various vices of the world too much to see it destroyed or taken over by one of their idiot bosses. Imagine if Oddjob, Gobina, Jaws and Miranda Frost teamed up against S.P.E.C.T.R.E and you have the idea.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chav: The Knifing

Game Premise

Most people don't realise that the world around us is practically infested by supernatural beings. Melodramatic goths with dark powers and a thirst for blood. Ordinary looking people who can suddenly turn into a doberman or a chihuahua. Nerds who have somehow managed to turn an obsession with Harry Potter and Sabrina the Teenage Witch into a working magical philosophy. Most people don't realise these things exist. But the poor, downtrodden, vagrant youth of British society, better know as Chavs, do. They know it's out there and when they're not busy engaging in petty crimes, sex, parties, not so petty crimes and drinking, they're going to stomp the heads of any weird bastard freak they come across.

The Chavs think they're the only normal ones around, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Chavthulu, the God of bus stops, has imbued the Chavs with bile which lets them perform feats far beyond any ordinary human being and notice all the supernatural stuff going on in the world around them. The vast majority don't realise this, but hey, anything that makes them better at crime and general violence can't be a bad thing, innit?

Game Overview

The Shadow World series of games are Postmortem Studio's parody of the World of Darkness gameline, with the various supernaturals riffing off both WoD staples and subcultures. As it stands there are currently three games (although supposedly more are on their way), Bloodsucker: the Angst, a jab at Vampire and goths, Wizkid: The Cheapening, focusing on Mage and nerds and finally Chav: The Knifing, making fun of both Hunter and everyone's favourite hooligans the Chavs. Engage in petty crime and not so petty violence while occasionally tangling with the supernatural.

While the Shadow World games originally were OGL (that's short for Open Gaming License, where games could use elements of Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition) with class levels and a D20 based system, Ian Warner has since changed them to using the original Xpress System. This system makes exclusive use of d6s and is pool based. Your Statistics determine how many dice you get to roll, which your Skill determines what count as a success. If you have the skill you're rolling for, you get to re-roll 6s.

What I found surprising about this game was the combat system. It's...surprisingly brilliant. You have two sets of Health Tracks, with the Lethal Track running along the x-axis and Non-Lethal Track running along the y-axis (if you can't picture it, imagine a chessboard). You'' have about three points of non-lethal health per lethal health. When you damage someone, the weapon's Attack Strength is cross-referenced with your successes to determine the amount of pain you've inflicted and it's weighted such that a gun shot will definitely ruin your day. Combined with healing rates that slow dramatically the more damage you've taken, it's definitely on the lethal side, but that's what you want in a dark game, right? Seriously, if I ever find myself running a World of Darkness game again, I'm going to find a way to port it over. It seems pretty much perfect in enforcing grim combats you'd rather avoid, which from what I've heard is the intent of World of Darkness combat.

According to Ian Warner himself, Chav is one of his earlier ideas before he developed a style of his own, but if that's true he's not a bad writer at all because it's a fun read and looks like a fun game. I'm definitely going to grab Bloodsucker at some point and maybe Wizkid and I hope he gets around to writing Dogboy and Pixie. I will say though, that while appropriate, pluralising almost everything with a z can get a little grating.

The Character

Step 1) Shtick and Credo

Two parts to this step, first coming up with two aspects that define who my character is and picking their Credo, the caste of Chav society that my character belongs to. I've been watching Misfits recently, so I think I want a character based at least somewhat off Kelly, in that she's often the group's muscle despite being the lady. So, my first shtick is going to be Give me respect, or I'll deck ya. Make fun of her being a woman, her dress sense, her intelligence, her accent or cast aspersions on her parentage and you're in for a world of hurt. The second is Impenetrable Derby Accent, so people get exposed to that first shtick quite a bit.

As I said before, Credoz are the various social groups of the Chav, the equivalent of Tribes, Courts or Clans in WoD. From the kleptomaniacal Pikeyz to the parkour-skilled Muppetz to the drugged up, voodoo practicing Chemistz to the dominating Yardiez to the hopelessly clueless Walliez, they all contribute some skill to Chavdom (well, except maybe the Walliez). Each Credo has a strength (usually a price break to purchasing a statistic) and some kind of weakness. For my lady I'm going to pick the Hoodiez, the muscle and footsoldiers who enjoy resorting to violence and are named after their fairly pervasive attire. The Hoodiez' strength is that purchasing the Strength statistic is halved, while due to their easiness to lead they do not get to roll again on Resistance checks.

Step 2) Check with your GM that the concept is alright

Yo, mythical GM, is my concept acceptable?”

Sure is dude! In fact, I like it so much you can have a dollar.”

Wow, thanks GM!”

Step 3) Buy Statistics

Chav is one of the stat heaviest RPGs I've seen, possessing 10 of them. They're ranked 1-5. Each stat comes in a pairing, a Passive Stat and an Active Stat. Passive stats are those which you use in reaction to stuff around you while active stats are what you use to accomplish goals. While two stats in a pairing can be different, they cannot have a difference of greater than 2. So, if I have a Charm of 4, I can't have a Control of 1. I get 60 points to spend on statistics, starting at 1 point for a stat of 1 and cost progressing in a Triangular Sequence of 3,6,10,15 (see, I discovered the name of a number sequence. RPGs are educational!).

For the first pair, Strength (physical power) and Resilience (health and fortitude) I'm going to start off at 4, which costs me 5 and 10 points respectively (remember, as a Hoodie, the cost of strength is halved for me). My lady is tough and ready for anything. Dexterity (fine motor control) is going to be 2 because she's not very delicate and Speed (reflexes) is going to be an average of 3, costing 3 and 6 points each. Charm (ability to persuade others) is going to be 2 because she's fairly direct, while Control is going to be 3, for pretty much the same reason, costing me another 8 points combined. Intelligence (book smarts) and Perception (sensing things in the world around) are again going to be average at 3 each, another 12 (she's not overly bright but she's not dumb muscle either). Finally, Resolve (ability to set mind on something) is going to be 3 and Resistance (ability to resist the control of others) is 4, because she's fairly strong-willed for a Hoodie.

I can also note my Initiative score now, which is the total of my Speed and Perception scores or 6.

Step 4) Buy Skills

Thanks to the Xpress System, even if you don't have a very high stat, you can still succeed in certain tasks quite often if you have a high Skill. While stats determine how many dice you roll, your skill rank determines what you need to roll to succeed. Someone with no skill in say, Computer Use has to roll a 6 on their intelligence pool while trying to hack someone and doesn't get to re-roll, while not only does the guy with Computer Use 3 get to re-roll, he succeeds on 4 and over. Skills cost the same as stats and I have 70 points to spend on them.

You can also purchase a Focus in a skill, which works pretty much the same as the equivalent mechanic in WoD. A focus gives you an extra die when rolling for that skill while performing a specific action, like Tracking for Survival, for example.

There is one major, glaring flaw in skills here. Despite this being a game where the protagonists are notorious for petty crime, there is no break and enter, lockpicking or equivalent skill. How is that supposed to work?

I'm going to start off with buying both a Brawl and Intimidation of 4, snapping up 20 of my points. I'm not going to have much luck being the muscle if I'm not good at those, am I? I'm also going to drop 3 points in the Focus Physical Threats, because she's really good at cowing people by threatening to smash their face in. I want to have 3s in all of Bitching, Streetwise and Party Hardy, which are all necessary skills to have. For a nice unexpected skill I'm going to spend 15 points to get a 5 in Business, because it's the one class she ever paid attention to (also, she's impressed how much bastardry businessmen can get away with). I'm going to put 3 points into grabbing a 2 in Looking Good, because while she isn't a Slag (yes, that's one of the Credoz), she still takes a little pride in her appearance. Athletics of 3 and Stealth of 2 are both skills she developed by running and hiding from the cops. Finally I'm going to put 1 point each into Observation and Melee because they're good, generally useful skills to have.

Step 5) Talentz

Chavs may think they're normal, but the Bile of Chavthulu, god of bus stops runs through their veins, granting them powers no ordinary human being could ever possess. Among other things, Bile fuels the Chavs powers, or Talentz.

Every Chav has the talent Chav Sight, which lets them perceive supernatural creatures for what they are. They can look at someone and immediately tell that they're a Bloodsucker or Pixie etc. It doesn't let them know anything beyond that, however, so most Chavs will generally respond to a supernatural creature the same way they do to anything they don't really understand, beating the shit out of it.

Chavs get a further 9 points to spend in Talentz, with each level in a talent costing 3 points to a maximum of three levels. I'm going to be dead simple and put all the points into three levels of Chav Toughness, which gives me a bonus of +3 to resilience rolls when I spend a Bile Point (a bonus is the same as having more ranks in a skill).

Step 6) Merits and Flaws

A Merit is some kind of background bonus while a Flaw is the opposite. Each costs a different amount of points depending on how much they benefit or impede you and the total cost of Merits-Flaws can be no higher than 0.

I'm going to pick a simple, but expensive Merit, Never Scared, which means I never have to make Resistance rolls to resist fear effects. I now need to find 9 points worth of flaws. I'm going to start off by picking Anthem of Command, which means that whenever a song of my choice is playing I have to dance to it. I'm going to pick Closer by Nine Inch Nails and no, she doesn't understand what the song is actually about. Secondly, I'm going to pick the 8 point version of Dangerous Shtick, where my bile infusion went horribly wrong, giving me a supernatural weakness. The first one I'll pick is that she takes an extra point of lethal damage when hit by silver, much like a Dogboy and she suffers a -3 penalty to all skill whenever she can hear the voice of Cliff Richard, whose presence is anathema to Chavness (this is actually a weakness). I might as well also point out that all Chavs have a weakness to old things (anything older than 70 years), which do extra damage to them, whether it be an ancient sword or getting punched by a war vet.

Step 7) Record Bile Capacity

Like I said before, Bile is the fuel for a Chav's supernatural powers. It also lets them absorb damage, reducing 1 level of lethal damage per point spent. It can be regained a number of ways, from hanging around at bus stops to engaging in petty acts of vandalism to having a really good orgasm.

Chavs start off with a Bile Capacity of 10 and they start off with 5 bile. My character is no different.

Step 8) Record Corruption Level

Again, like WoD, Shadow World games have a morality system. However, for Chavs, this morality is reversed. Chavs get more Corruption by doing evil things and get less for doing good things. Both have benefits and drawbacks. Each point of corruption above 5 gives a +1 bonus when interacting with Chavs and a -1 penalty interacting with non-Chavs and vice versa for each point below 5.

All Chavs start off with a Corruption score of 5. She'll have to roll to see if it reduces if she declines to commit an act of criminal damage.

Step 9) Equipment

All Chavs have a Pay Grade, an abstract rating of their purchasing power which ranks from -3 to +3. Because I didn't buy it as a merit or flaw, my pay scale is 0, which is average. All Chavs start off with a knife, because otherwise it wouldn't be an amazing game of The Knifing, would it?

I don't really want to buy any other weapons, but I should look at clothing. Clothing affects your Cred Rating, which we'll get to a bit later. At the start of each new sessions an item of clothing can degrade on a roll of 5-6 which reduces its cred rating by 1 Unfortunately my pay grade isn't enough that I can get any with bonuses, so I'll just stick with a Normal Hoodie (note that hoodies are special and their cred bonus never drops below +0), Normal Sneakers (sneakers stay cooler for longer and only degrade on a roll of 6) and a Normal Jewellery Ensemble (a few sets of earrings and a necklace or two).

Step 10) Work Out Cred

Cred is a measure of standing within Chav society. If you have a higher Cred than someone, you get a +1 to Control rolls against them, while a lower Cred gives you -1. Your base Cred is equal to the number of talentz you have plus your Charm, so my Cred starts off at 5. It's then further modified by various other factors, including merits, flaws, clothing, credo and so on, none of which affect me. Were my character a Boss (crew leader) or Main Man (local Credo leader), that would give her a bonus, but I'm neither of those. My final Cred score is 5, but that would get added to my Crew Cred, which unfortunately I can't work out without a crew.

Step 11) Check Everything

Going back over all my numbers, everything seems to be ship-shape, leaving me with my final step...

Step 12) Details

...Background and roleplaying info! Let's start with a name. Chantelle is a good, stereotypical Chav name, so I'll stick with that. Chantelle comes from your average Chav background, poor family, fighting parents, squalid neighbourhood somewhere in London and no future. She has vague dreams of becoming a successful businesswoman, but her penchant for vandalism and eagerness to resort to violence to solve her problems is doing a good job stymieing those ambitions. She eventually fell in with a crew of guys who seemed to be more thankful to have someone tough watching their back instead of endlessly trying to hit on her and as long as she has plenty of opportunity to smash heads in (particularly the heads of dead boys, undead who are single-minded about a single activity. They piss her off for reasons she can't quite fathom.) she's pretty happy.

The Finished Product


Strength 4/Resilience 4

Dexterity 2/Speed 3

Intelligence 3/Perception 3

Charm 2/Control 4

Resolve 3/Resistance 4

Initiative: 6

Skills: Athletics 3, Bitching 3, Brawl 4, Business 5, Intimidation (Physical Threats) 4, Looking Good 2, Melee 1, Observation 1, Party Hardy 3, Streetwise 3

Special Abilities: Chav Sight Can notice supernatural creatures; Chav Tougness 3 Can spend a Bile point to get +3 to Resilience rolls; No Fear Never needs to roll Resistance against fear effects.

Bile Capacity/Points: 10/5

Corruption: 5

Personal Cred: 5

Equipment: Knife, Normal Hoodie, Normal Sneakers, Normal Jewellery Ensemble

How I'd Run It

Let me set the scene for you. Long ago the Chavs abided by the rule of Arry, Boss of the Firestarter crew and Main Man of the Yardiez. This went on until the other main men and crew bosses got sick of his bullshit (there were rumours he was getting with a cousin and that's just nasty) and his entire crew was wiped out. The big celebrations afterwards have started to die down and the crews look to be getting back to the business of beating the shit out of each other. The PCs are all members of the Nightboyz, one of the more level-headed crews who tend to ignore Chav politics and just enjoy curb-stomping Goth twats. Lately, they can't help but notice those whiny tossers are starting to get organised and maybe the crews should focus a bit more on keeping the weirdos in check instead of infighting? What's even worse is that one of the Firestarters is still alive and they've headed back to Kent, the ancestral home of Chavdom, to assemble the biggest, nastiest crew you've ever seen.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 'A Game of Chavs'.

I came up with this idea after I came to the conclusion that 'innit' was the Chav version of the Dothraki's 'it is known' and what started as a minor joke became a mostly-fledged game idea. I know a lot of people who love Game of Thrones and think Chavs are hilarious, so it wouldn't be hard to find players. The fact that the emblem of Kent is a horse is a happy coincidence.