Kalyr RPG Blog

RPG plotting by Prog!

My online game, KLR has reached a point where I need to introduce some new plot elements. We’ve just seen a major villain taken down in a battle with exploding airships and artillery duels across the city.  While there’s some mileage in dealing with the aftermath and fallout of this, the game needs a but more than that to keep the game going.

So, to try and get the creative juices flowing, I decided to select half-a-dozen random songs, and seek inspiration from the lyrics.  Since I haven’t ripped most of my CD collection onto my PC, I selected the songs by rolling assorted oddly-shaped dice to determine shelf, CD on shelf and track within CD.

This gave me the following six songs:

Rush – Red Lenses

Here we have a lot of imagery associated with the colour red; sunsets, blood, dancing shoes, the Soviet Union. The nearest analogue to the Soviet Union in Kalyr is probably the Konaic Empire.  They are the morally unambiguous villains of the setting.

Iommi/Hughes – Don’t You Tell Me

Am I a sacrifice?
Am I too blind to see?
I’m not a vagabond
I know what is, is meant to be
There is a better way
There comes a time I do believe
There’s a price to pay
I know where you’ve been

Don’t you tell me you don’t know

Seems to be about a betrayal, the exact nature of which isn’t specified. There’s definitely some plot potential there.

Marillion – Easter

The original song, written in 1989, is about the troubles in Northern Ireland.  Made more general, a pointless death in a long-running conflict which needs to be resolved.

Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2

OK, so I can’t really fit teachers and education very well, but ‘We don’t need no thought control’ works in a setting where telepathy and mind control are common powers.

Breathing Space – Shades of Grey

There’s no need to pretend now
We all come in different shades of grey

Moral ambiguity – the protagonists of the story arc aren’t flawless, and the bad guys aren’t necessarily irredeemably bad either. But when I’ve got Nicki Jett as a player character, the first bit of that goes without saying, really.

And finally:
Uriah Heep – Time to Live (from Salisbury)

Well I spent twenty long years
In a dirty old prison cell
I never saw the light of day

They say I killed a man
But I never told them why
So you can guess what I’ve been through
So for twenty long years
I’ve been thinking of that other man
What I saw him do to you

There’s definitely an NPC with a significant back-story in that song.

Let’s see what I can come up with with that lot.  To go into any more detail would be entering into spoiler territory!

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PBeM Players Wanted!

Within the ancient stone walls of Ardryr House, the kandar overlord Zartheyn Tyr has summoned his chief of security.

“So, Valneth”, said Zartheyn, “It is six days since we last spoke. Please update me on the security situation”.

“The rebels attacked us again last night”, the knight replied.

“And?”, Zartheyn asked, “What damage this time?”.

“My militia gave a good account of themselves”, said Valneth.

“You have not answered my question”. Zartheyn tried to suppress his rising anger.

“They.. attacked the village at Gavius Hill”, the knight replied, “Set fire to the barns using flamelances. And some farm workers are missing. My men extinguished the fires, and saw the rebels off”.

“Flamelances again?”, said Zartheyn, “We’re not up against regular feral humans, are we? They sound like legion deserters to me. Or worse”.

Zartheyn let out an audible sigh. Valneth was his half-brother, after all, and ties of blood within the clan are supposed to run strong. He’d be in trouble with the elders if he dismissed him without good cause. But Valneth was so clearly not up to the job.

And the rebels did have to attack Gavuis Hill, of all places. It was almost as if they *knew*.

“It is probably fortunate that I have persuaded the legion to step up their border patrols”, Zartheyn continued, “I am expecting reinforcements to arrive tomorrow, and expect your full co-operation”.

“Will there be humans in the patrols they send”, asked the knight.

“They’re from Calbeyn, so that is to be expected”, Zartheyn responded, “And don’t look so disgusted. They tell me they’re sending veterans from the Zughru wars, so they’re men, kandar and human, who know how to fight. And I’m summoning their commanding officer her as soon as he arrives so that you and I can brief then on the situation. Understood? Good?”

“Yes, brother”, Valneth replied, as he turned to leave.

“So, what have we learned?”, Brogan asked his fellow across round the campfire, “Are the Academy of Life just growing bigger and better turnips, or is there something more sinister going on?”

“Perhaps the turnips are the sinister goings on?”, asked Qeelu, the solidly-built woman who acted as his second-in command. “Perhaps those rumours really are true”.

Brogan laughed. “What? Turnips that render humans infertile?”

“Don’t dismiss it out of hand”, Qeelu responded, “We don’t really understand the magic of the Academy of Life. Our reconnaissance did pick up a lot of Academy of Life comings and goings to and from the village”

“And the barns we torched were full of turnips”, added Grodd, a small wiry man who acted as the scout for the group. “We all know how the kandar fear the rate at which we breed”.

“You’re both expecting me to believe this nonsense”, snorted Brogan, “Turnips are cover; they have something nastier in the works”.

“Which we’re not going to find out about unless we raid their research complex at Guvil Bridge, Grodd replied, “Which is too well defended, and will bring the legion down on our heads if try a fool stunt like that”.

“And I’m no fool”, Brogan stated firmly, “Guvil Bridge is off-limits; but I know enough about the Academy of Life to know their black projects are never based at their publicly known facilities. There’s something going on at or near Gavuis Hill, that needs a stop putting to. And I intend to find out what it is”.

I could do with a few new players for Kalyr PBeM. As some regular readers will know, it’s set in my own science fantasy setting that owes a lot to the writings of Jack Vance, amongst others.At the moment it’s running on the mailing list at The Phoenyx, but may move to a web forum running on the same site in the future.Anyone interested leave a reply here, or contact me at tim (at) kalyr.com, and I’ll send you a up-to-date .pdf of the Fudge build I’m using, including the character generation rules and an overview of the setting.I’m looking for people who can write well, and are prepared to engage with the setting.

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Actual Play, Continued

A followup to my previous Actual Play post.  As before, this is an actual transcript of the message game on Dreamlyrics.com

“Quick,” Hollis muttered in mild disappointment. But now without the crossbow pointed at her, she could grab the whole person and slam him into the ceiling head first a few times. Which is what she was going to do if he was still visible…

He seems to instinctively understand what Hollis is trying to do; he drops the crossbow and concentrates on trying to avoid being dragged ceilingwards by hanging on to the stair rail. He’s pretty strong, and Hollis doesn’t have quite the right psychokinetic grip on him. But the wooden stair rail begins to creak and splinter.

“Get down here!” he cries, “Mad wizard!”.

“Not mad,” Hollis murmured. “Merely annoyed. I get that way when people try to kill me.” She shifted from trying to yank him skyward, to whipping him back and forth like a rag doll in the hands of an angry child. Since he’d tried to kill her, breaking a couple of wrists or his neck from the whiplash effect didn’t bother her in the slightest.

Sooner or later he would come loose — the sounds from the rail made sooner sound likely — and then he would be *hers*.

“We might think about backing out in just a moment …”

She could use the man to stop up the entryway while they escaped, but they needed to get him loose and get moving.

But he’s not hers just yet; she can feel him struggling, and he’s strong. Somehow he manages to brace himself, and avoids getting twisted around. That handrail isn’t going to last long, though.

Another man, this one small and wiry, appears at the top of the stairs. He’s got another crossbow.

“The woman!”, cries the big man, “Be quick”.

He aims the crossbow. 

With the new arrival Hollis couldn’t wait to wear out the handrail; she had to let go of his — so she could twist the new arrival so that his crossbow was pointed at her first assailant as he released.

“Gath, you can jump in here anythime …”

“Stop!”, says Gath, “I can explain

The man with the crossbow pays no attention.

“This is for Rik, bitch”, he says, as he looses the quarrel.

The big man lets out a strangled gurgle as he rolls down the stairs, to lie sprawled at the foot of the steps with a crossbow bolt sticking out of his neck.

By the time he reaches the bottom, the crossbow man has gone,

This starts out with a couple of opposed rolls between Hollis’ Superb psychokinetics and the unnamed NPC’s Good Strength.  Both rounds ended in ties; my NPC was lucky with the dice; I really hadn’t expected him to live this long.  When the new arrival turned up on the scene, his luck ran out. This was Crossbow vs. Psychokinetics, and the result was Terrible vs. Great. That’s a difference of -5.  Since I’m not using the extended combat rules fo this, that’s a near death, and because he’s an unnamed NPC and mere canon-fodder, it’s game over for the big man.

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An Actual Play Example

This is an “actual play” example from my ongoing online game on Dreamlyrics – the actual thread is here. It’s a conflict between Hollis, the psychokinetic human rebel assassin played by Nicki Jett, and an as-yet-unnamed NPC, actually guild security from the Guild of Victuallers. Hollis is searching for clues in the cellar of a tavern – the stakes for the meta-conflict were that Hollis would find a Significant Clue in return for a ‘complication’.

It’s a typical cellar of a tavern; full of beer barrels, some redundant furniture stacked in one corner. Hollis’ eyes are initially drawn to a bloodstain on the floor; enough blood for a nasty wound, not enough for someone to have bled to death.

A little searching reveals two items; a five-glerin coin bearing the head of Sarkan Vorsath of Karmork, and square black object resembling the communicators issued to members of the Karazthan.

“Aha,” Hollis whispered. “A clue. Two of ‘em, in fact.”

She collected the items and after a close perusal, pocketed them, then continued to search. aside for looking for clues, she was also trying to figure out the route the bad guys had employed, as opposed to the one Gath used to escape. She assumed that was they way she’d come in.

“Put you hands where I can see them” comes a male voice from somewhere behind Hollis. “And no funny business from you either, Gath”.

Hollis kept her hands wide and turned toward the voice, taking note of any useful objects in the vicinity as she did so. “No problem,” she said cheerfully.

The voice belongs to a thick-set human with arms and legs resembling tree trunks. Hollis doesn’t recognise the face, but she does notice he’s pointing a seriously large crossbow at her.

“Now, you two are going to explain to me precisely what you are doing grubbing around in this cellar. And that explanation had better be a good one”.

“Just trying to find my cousin Wozzeck,” Hiollis said cheerfully. “He’s not right in the head. Someone told us they’d seen him wandering around down here, so I persuaded this gentleman …” she turned to Gath apologetically, “I didn’t even get his name. Gath, you say? I persuaded Mister Gath to help me look.”

She gave Gath an imperceptible nod, then turned back. “Perhaps you’ve seen him. Stringy brown hair, about forty, with a scar right here … ”

… and with the faintest, harmless-looking flick of her fingertips along side her face, as if demonstrating the scar location, she *snatched* the quarrel right off the top of his crossbow.

Assuming that went as planned, she would flip the quarrel end for end and then drive it right into the big man’s eye.

This is a fight scene. Hollis has Fast-Talk at Fair, and Psychokinetics at Superb. The NPC’s relevant abilities for the encounter are Insight, Perception and Dodge, all at Fair, and Crossbow at Good. This guy is a professional, but nothing like the power level of a typical PC.

I decided to resolve this in two stages – first is Fast-Talk vs. Insight to see if Hollis managed to distract him. If Hollis wins, she can do the PK trick with the quarrel. If she loses, he attempts to shoot her (which would probably be Crossbow vs. PK to actually hit her, so he’d probably miss)

If Hollis wins the first contest, it’s then PK vs both Perception and Dodge – Perception to realise what’s going on, and Dodge to get out of the way.

Fast-Talk vs. Insight goes to Hollis, but only by a narrow margin. For the second contest, Hollis rolls -1 (Great) against the NPCs +3 (Superb) for Perception and 0 (Fair) for Dodge.

“Never heard of him”, he says. His reactions are far quicker than Hollis would have imagined; by the time the crossbow quarrel pierces where his eye would have been, his head is no longer there, leaving the quarrel embedded in the wood.

In the current playtest draft rules, there are two different ways you can combine two skills. In some circumstances you can use either skill, in which case you roll against both and take the best result. In others, you need both skills, so you roll against both skills, and take the worst roll.

I ruled Perception + Dodge as an “either” and used the better of the two rolls. Since his Superb beat Hollis’ Great, that means Hollis missed.

Now, in the context of this fight, I’m wondering if that approach really makes sense. Any opinions?

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Another Iconic NPC

Another iconic NPC presented for comment. This one kills two birds with one stone – he comes from a family of feuding nobles, and hold a high-ranking position in one of the most powerful guilds.

Alzardol Blerynthar d’n Tardeyn is a noble of Clan Blerynthar, and holds the position of a senior administrator in the Academy of Life, with ambitions to become Guildmaster on retirement of the present incumbent. As a member of the fractious Clan Blerynthar, he hasn’t managed to reach adulthood without making enemies, the most deadly of which is his half-brother Daraseth, with whom he’s feuded since childhood. He’s had to become a good duellist in order to have lived long enough, skilled in both the Nirvork duelling blade, and in unarmed combat. The score for duels with Daraseth stands at one-all; he bears a prominent scar on one cheek as a result of the last one.There are persistent rumours that something deeply unpleasant happened during his late adolescence.

Not that he doesn’t have the requisite skills for his job; by all accounts he’s a good administrator, well-versed in the minutiae of kandar law, and a good diplomat when it comes to resolving messy disputes with other guilds. Not that he isn’t prepared to be ruthless when the occasion demands; the guild will not expect anything less when its interests are directly threatened.

Noble, Guild Administrator

Honour of the Clan, Duty to the Academy of Knowledge, Deadly Enemy: Half-brother, Dark Secret: (The exact nature of which is left for individual GMs to specify)

Principle Abilities:
Administration, Diplomacy, Kandar Law, Kandar Social Graces, Nirvork (all at Good)

Clan Blerynthar: Good
Academy of Knowledge: Good

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Kalyr RPG – An Iconic NPC

In Rob Donoghue’s design blog post what I want from setting, he lists three things he likes to see, one of which is faces:

Faces are what they sound like – NPCs. I am not proposing a need for stat blocks or detailed backgrounds, and most of my needs can be satisfied with a sentence or two of background. The NPCs I’m talking about are not important for who they are but rather for the purpose they serve. I cannot meaningfully interact with a government, nation, ideology or conspiracy, but I can meaningfully interact with a person who represents that group. Maybe they’re a person of authority for the group they represent, maybe they’re just an iconic member of that group, but that character _is_ that organization so far as my game is concerned. If I can put a face on the important ideas of the game, then they will mean more to my players.

Here’s one face for Kalyr. He does have a detailed stat block, at the same power level (four lifepaths) as the default level for PCs, using the current draft of the playtest rules. I’ll most likely drop him (and others like him) into the appropriate section of the settings chapter – in his case it will be the the section entitled “Religion“.

Zarvendol isn’t a very nice person. I would hope that the majority of games would see the likes of him used as a villain.

Name: Zarvendol d’n Areyn
Race: Kandar
Sex: Male
Appearance: 6’6” tall, copper-coloured skin and green eyes, hair dyed in purple and black streaks, prominent scar on cheek.

Guild Background
Knight (three times)

Extra Damage
Talent: Quick Reactions

Duty to Temple of Kardak
Servant of The Guardian
Extremely Intolerant
The Only Good Enemy Is A Dead One

Armed Melee Combat (Broadsword): Superb
Fast-Draw: Good
Kandar Fu: Good
Zarandar Riding: Fair
Dodge: Fair
Strength: Fair
Willpower: Good
Perception: Fair
Endurance: Good
Kandar Religious Lore: Good
Reading and Writing: Fair
Area Knowledge (home city): Mediocre
Streetwise: Mediocre

Temple of Kardak: Good
Guild of Victuallers: Mediocre

Weapons and Equipment
Fine quality Narvork sword +4 damage (includes +1 for Extra Damage Gift)
Hardened Ulsoghir hide armour, +3 armour (includes +1 for Toughness Gift)

Zarvendol is an archetypal Knight of Kardak the Defender. A xenophobic, bloodthirsty religious fanatic, he embodies all the traditional virtues of the holy defenders of the kandar race. To any human that encounters him as an enemy, he represents the very definition of the worst kind of kandar. If there’s a bloody pogrom taking place, expect to find him in the thick of it. When humans get in the way of his Narvork, he doesn’t recognise the concept of ‘innocent bystander’.

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Open Playtest for the Kalyr RPG

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’ve written an RPG based on the setting I’ve been using for my long-running online game. I started a playtest using a yahoogroup about a year ago, but everything got rather put on the back burner due to real life becoming busy.

As I stated before, I intend to publish the game, probably as a .PDF, but there might be a dead-tree version if I think there’s enough demand. The system is based on a customised version of the Fudge rules, and the setting is my own, with a lot of the flavour of some of Jack Vance’s baroque SF worlds.

I’ve decided to move the playtest discussion to The Phoenyx, where the game already has it’s own forum. The ongoing game “KLR” on Dreamlyrics is also considered to be part of the playtest.

I previously had the entire game as a closed playtest, with the playtest drafts only visible to those that signed up to the yahoogroup. I’ve decided to make the mechanics-heavy part of the game an open playtest, so I’ve posted the first four chapters free for anyone to download and comment on.

Yes, they are static pages in WordPress, and do currently use the same template as the blog, which means the sidebar is still full of adverts for prog-rock albums.

If you’ve got any comments on them, or want the actually try out playing the game, please sign up to the discussion forum!

The remaining chapters cover the game setting in more detail, and will probably be done in a semi-closed playtest (only available to those who sign up to the playtest forum).

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Kalyr RPG Playtest Drafts

I’ve been running a playtest discussion for the Kalyr RPG running for a while. While I’ve had some useful feedback from a few people, I could really do with opinions from a few more people

So I’ve posted the playtest drafts of the first four chapters online. These chapters focus on the Fudge-based game mechanics rather than the details of the setting. Much of this is going to end up as Open Content, so there’s not really that much to lose by making it public now. Format is HTML as exported from Open Office. I think this is a lot cleaner than the bloated mess you get if you do the same thing in MSWord.

We’ll probably be shifting the playtest discussion from the existing YahooGroup to a forum on The Phoenyx in the the near future. In the meantime, give them a read, and let me know what you think.

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Restarting the PBeM

My Kalyr PBeM game has rather ground to a halt a few months back, which is mostly my fault, due to real life getting a bit hectic. All those gigs eating up my free time have something to do with it, I’m afraid.

We had rather reached the end of the plot cycle anyway. We’d concluding with a riot outside the Calbeyn Citadel and a jailbreak inside, and I was at a bit of a loss as to where to take things next.

So I’m proposing to relaunch the game, but what I’d like to do is make the PBeM an official part of the Kalyr RPG playtest. That means we’ll be using the playtest draft rules, especially the character generation stuff, using a variant of Fudge rather than GURPS. The game itself will continue on The Phoenyx mail server as before, rather than the playtest discussion list on Yahoogroups.

I don’t know how many of the original players are still interested in playing, so I’m putting out a call for both existing players and anyone new that wants to join. I’d like existing players to ‘re-imagine’ their characters using the new system. New players can build interesting new PCs from scratch.

I’d like to treat it as if it’s the start of a brand new game. That doesn’t mean that I’m rebooting the game; what’s happened in the game so far is still part of the continuity, and part of the history of any existing PCs. So we’ll advance the timeline a few months. Existing players, tell me what your PC has been up to in the intervening time.

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Game Fiction

In the tradition of a great many games, I’m going to include bits of game fiction to introduce each chapter of the Kalyr RPG. I’m tempted to recycle some of the introductory vignettes I wrote ten years ago when I first started the online campaign, but I’m also intending to use some ‘actual play’ examples extracted from ten year’s worth of game logs.

Most of them will be short, just a page or so, but for the introduction I’ve looking at an recent thread involving MikeD’s and Nicki Jett’s characters, Marlith and Hollis, which culminates in Hollis using her telekinetic powers to fly across the city, while the Academy of Knowledge tries to shoot her down with a laser artillery piece.

It’s reminding me how hard work it is editing game logs to read like fiction, and why I stopped doing it. The whole thing is a mix of different tenses, mixed British and US spelling, and conflicting POVs.

The Point of View issue is the knottiest one. I’d like tell the whole story from a single POV, but I keep running into sub-scenes that only make sense from the other POV from the previous bit. While third-person-omniscient is the default for online message gaming, it feels awkward in fiction. I think I’m stuck with the POV moving back and forth.

Other issue is the length. I’d originally intended to include just the dramatic action scene at the end. But there were two many references back to the previous scene, an information-gathering scene set in a gambling house. That’s actually quite a entertaining colour scene in it’s own right, but it results in the whole thing running to about eight pages. Is this too long?

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