Saturday, February 25, 2012


Game Premise
Bad people killing bad people for bad reasons.

The name's Bond. James Bond.” - James Bond

Good, bad, I'm the guy with the gun.”- Ash, the Evil Dead 
I can kill you with my brain” - River Tam, Firefly

Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you've lost. They belong to me now. “ - The Bride, Kill Bill Vol. 1

At the end of the day, as long as there's two people left on the planet, someone is going to want someone dead.” - The Sniper, Meet the Sniper

Game Overview
RPGs are a fairly violent medium in terms of subject matter. Hollowpoint is a celebration of that violence, specifically the kind where the people indulging in it look awesome doing so. It's a tribute to the action heroes who make us wish that we too could be idolised for having pack-a-day smoking habits and triple figure body counts instead of seen as dangers to society that need to be put down. It doesn't really have a default setting premise (apart from a loose idea of 'the agency', a group of modern agents who keep the world's biggest illicit organisations in check) thus the use of quotes in the beginning.

One thing I quite like about how Hollowpoint approaches genre emulation (or probably more accurately 'concept emulation') is that is acknowledges the difficulty of reconciling what appears to be a cool idea for a game on paper while noting disconnects with the realities of gaming. In terms of source material it points out that the overwhelmingly vast majority of stone-cold badasses work far better alone, while teams of ultra-competent professionals don't quite have that lust for the kill. Considering that RPGs are by-and-large co-operative this is an important point to address. Honestly, my go-to example would be the bad guys in Metal Gear Solid, the teams like FOXHOUND and COBRA could be perfectly modelled for games like this.

Hollowpoint's system is actually very much like ORE's system, using d6s instead of d10s. You will have a set of dice, roll the set and look for matches, the more dice in the set and the higher the number the better. The general aim is to wipe out your opponent's sets and have at least one set break through to damage them. Do that twice and you've taken them out of the encounter. This might be killing or wounding them, successfully browbeating them or exposing their shady dealings to the media.

If you look at the tags you'll notice that Hollowpoint is the first Voluntary Death game I've covered. This means that a character can't be taken out of the game without the player's express permission. They can be temporarily removed from the action, but they'll always come back unless you say so. This is to help create the right atmosphere with the game, having your character not be taken out like a chump until the right dramatic moment.

The Character
Step 1) Rank
I'm going to be making my character within the context of the very loose default setting. So, my character is an operative of The Agency, a shadowy conspiracy that keeps the world's biggest and potentially most destructive criminal groups, warlords and terrorist organisations in check.

Characters all start off at the rank of Agent, which means they don't have any rank-based special abilities. Later they might become Operatives or Handlers, but starting characters are always agents.

Step 2) Skills
These are the only hard mechanical stats your agent will have. They're actions you will be able to perform and your rank in them is how many dice you get to your pool while performing those actions. The default six are Kill, used when straight up murdering dudes, Take, used for stealing things, Terror, used for putting the fear of you into folks, Con, used to tricking people, Dig, used for finding info and finally Cool, used for pure awesome things like disarming a bomb at the last second or walking away from explosions.

You can add skills to the game or even replace them outright, depending on what you want the game to do. So, a game might have Seduction where that sort of thing is important or Magic in some kind of fantasy setting.

I have a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and 0 to assign to each of these stats. I want my character to be the ultimate master of disguise, on the level of Metal Gear Solid's Decoy Octopus. This suggests my highest skill should be Con, so I'll put the 5 there. Dig and Take should probably come next, since being able to get into places is fairly handy, so 4 and 3 there. Kill will be next for 2 and Terror will be where the 1 goes. As saddened as I am by this, I'm going to put the 0 in Cool, because while my character is awesome it's the subtle kind of awesome that doesn't lend itself to mind-blowing bravado. Don't worry, having a 0 doesn't mean you'll always fail as there are a couple of other ways to grab dice, one of which I'll address below.

Step 3) Name
Apparently if I haven't given my character a name I'll do so here. So, my character is always in disguise and no one bar maybe one or two folks actual knows their name or even their original appearance. Thus, my character's best-known pseudonym is KC, the initials of their call sign, Karma Chameleon.

Step 4) Traits
Every character gets five Traits, items, skills, attributes or anecdotes that make your character stand out amongst the riff-raff. In game, these traits can be sacrificed in order to give you an extra two dice to a pool or protect you from a successful hit. You have to explain how it relates in order for it to apply. In the case of a physical thing, like a favourite hat or a gadget, that thing has been used or destroyed. In the case of something like an anecdote or a scar, you're 'using up' the moment, because let's face it, nobody wants to hear the same story about how you got that scar twice. You get new traits to replace used ones every session.

The usual way in which a characters generate their traits for the first session is by answering five questions. I've done so below, with my answers/traits bolded.

1. I wear a black suit over a clean white shirt and a skinny black tie. No hat and well groomed. Nothing to make me stand out except chewing gum
2. I don't have a lot of scruples but I would never hurt children
3. That one time in Utah I took a souvenir. It was a monogrammed lighter
4. This is a hard job, but I love it because I'm the last person you expect.
5. I'm a pro and I know I'm a pro because I always have a cover story

Step 5) Complications
You might choose to have a Complication that ties your character into the story. Something like being related to the crime boss you're supposed to be taking down, or having massive gambling debts that the stash you guys are going to take sure would help fix. Generally these should be mission specific and can be vetoed by the GM.

For KC, I think a good, mission-neutral one would be My lost twin is working with the bad guys. Turns out there are two masters of disguise out there and considering no-one can tell them apart, having one of them secretly insert themselves into the team while KC is out performing a mission could be good drama.

The Finished Product
KC, Agent
Kill 2
Take 3
Terror 1
Con 5
Dig 4
Cool 0

Chewing Gum
Never Hurt Children
Monogrammed Lighter
I'm the Last Person You Expect
Have a Cover Story

KC's evil twin is working with the enemy.

How I'd Run It
This concept I'm giving the working title 'Music to Die to'. Step 1: Come up with a stock set of pre-generated PCs with basic stats and personalities (the mysterious loner, the hotheaded youngster on a quest for vengeance, the joker who enjoys this whole killing business way too much) and two or three basic scenario outlines and major NPCs. Step 2: Find an interesting song. Step 3: Tailor the setting, genre and all the other scenario colour based so that if the game were a movie or TV series then you could use that song as the opening theme or trailer soundtrack.

I've been thinking a lot about music in gaming and how it can be used as a tool to both evoke and inspire. There are a few approaches where the steps I've outlined above could work, but I particularly like applying it to Hollowpoint because the basic idea of 'killing lots of people and looking awesome while doing it' is about as setting and genre neutral as you can get. Besides, any good action movie or TV series needs a great soundtrack. Imagine the difference between a game that opened with the Beastie Boys' Sabotage, Nero's Doomsday, Nine Inch Nails' Just Like You Imagined or Adele's Rolling in the Deep.

No comments:

Post a Comment