Thursday, February 27, 2020

Storifying Stormbringer

My first love was the Stormbringer RPG. I had the green book 4th edition.

In my old age, the thought comes to me to remake it, to storify it.

I suppose the best thing would be to change it to some story game such as Gumshoe's Swords of the Serpentine. Kevin Kulp's play reports sound like something out of a Moorcock novel.


I still love the bones of the old Chaosium system. So here is a stab at Storified Stormbringer.

First and foremost, how can we give narrative agency to players?

The underused Power attribute seems a good bet. Not only are high POW characters likely to be sorcerers with access to world changing magic, all players now can use POW points to influence the story and game world. This also means that these story game rule additions can be easily ported to other literary inspired Chaosium games (ie Call fo Cthulhu, Ringwolrd, or Elfquest) with little work.


Players can choose to use their pool of POW points to invoke Minor or Major Boons. Minor Boons are small advantages to rolls, and POW points used in this way can be regained fairly easily. Major Boons can change something about the scene, the story, or the entire game world, and replenishing POW points used in this way becomes a major undertaking.

POW thus becomes also a pool of points that can be used for various story effects, giving agency to the player much like other story mechanics.


Minor boons are simply bonuses to rolls. Players should declare they are invoking a Minor Boon, then narrate how the bonus is justified - do they have special knowledge, or are they motivated to make a greater effect? Don't just say "I want +1 to damage," instead, narrate the event, "I remember my slain friends' faces and slash hard into the Duke of Hell! Can I get +1 to damage?"

Per 1 POW point spent

+5% to a d100 roll
+1 to a damage roof
-1 to damage taken
-5% to an opponent's d100% roll

Remember, these bonuses are available if the player declares they are spending points BEFORE the roll. If the player wants to invoke a Minor Boon AFTER the roll has already been made, they must pay DOUBLE (ie 2 POW points per plus or minus 5% or 1 damage). This lets players strategically decide to take a risk at low cost declaring before, or pay a higher price to change fate after the die have been cast.


1) Players may only invoke Minor Boons for their own character - they may not use POW points to alter rolls for other PCs.
2) POW used for Minor Boons reduces the POW score for magic purposes, so any summoning should wait until POW points are replenished as outlined below.
3) Each character can invoke one Minor Boon per session.


Major Boons don't give mechanical bonuses or penalties, rather they change the narrative flow of events in myriad tangible and intangible ways. Only one Major Boon per session is allowed, and the GM should keep scrupulous track of its repercussions.

Change the scene = 1 POW point
Change the story (scenario or adventure) = 2 POW points
Change the game world = 3 POW points

Major Boons should be narrated eloquently, matching the tone of the game and the theme of the story. They shouldn't be game breaking non-sequitur Get Out of Jail Cards. The GM is free to deny any Boons, minor or major, that make no sense in the world or story.

Major Boons can be deployed before or after events, within reason.


Scene Change - If players are fighting on a ship's deck, a player character can ask that a rogue wave comes and either reduces the number of foes or gives the PCs time to escape.
Story Change - Players can turn an NPC jailer into an ally because they were childhood friends or fall in love at first sight, or find a clue to the MacGuffin from an old beggar man, or stumble onto a magic weapon while running from ghouls in a forgotten tomb.
World Change - A PC can suddenly remember that Melniboneans are scared of cats, or that Isle of Purple Town ships all carry rum that can be turned into fiery cocktails to repel pirates.


1) Players may invoke Major Boons for any character - they may use POW points to alter circumstances for other PCs, if it is well thought out and entertainingly narrated.
2) POW used for Major Boons does not reduce the POW score for magic purposes, but does reduce it in terms of Boons, Minor as well as Major, that can be used in future. Basically, this models a character's luck running out as they call in favours from fate. You should start keeping track of POW for magic and POW for Boons separately. A minor inconvenience, but worth the effort.
3) Only one character can invoke a Major Boon per session, period. Major Boons are to be used sparingly and only in times of great need.


POW points used in Minor Boons are all replenished after a short scenario or part of a longer adventure. Basically, if the PC has some downtime, POW is regained at a rate of 1 per day not adventuring.

For POW lost in Major Boons, the PC must do something that furthers the story, at the guidance of the GM. This could either be something in the PCs backstory (ie return to their ancestral village and face down the enemy tribe that harangue them), or the larger story of the adventure (ie sneak into the harem of the Pan Tang emperor to free the winged folk princess kept there).


When I ran Stormbringer back in the day, the biggest complaint from my D&D players was the high chance of critical attacks and, more alarmingly, the high change of a devastating roll on the Wounding & Maiming tables. Here is a way to give agency back to players and increase tension when criticals are rolled.

When a critical (1/10th of weapon skill) is rolled and not parried or dodged, there are three options:

1 Roll double damage. If this does over half HP damage, roll on the Critical Damage chart.
2 Roll normal damage, ignore armour. If this does over half HP damage, roll on the Critical Damage chart.
3 Roll no damage, instead roll on the Critical Damage chart.

(Note: A critical attack can only be completely avoided by a critical defence. If a critical attack is met with a successful parry, damage is halved, and major wounds are only temporary, healing are 1d6+1 days of rest)

When fighting NPCs, the player gets to choose which effect whenever they hit or are hit with a critical attack. This gives them some advantage both to end fights quickly and survive an unlucky roll.

When PCs are fighting each other, both the attacker and defender secretly write their preferred number on a slip of paper, then at the GM's sign, show their choice. If both have written the same number, that effect is applied and play continues. If attacker and defender have written different numbers, they then play Scissors Paper Rock, with the winner's preferred number effect being applied.

Seems like a bit of a laugh, can't wait to test it!


You could also steal my Call of Cthulhu encumbrance and reaction rules HERE.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Boys RPG and This Undying Blog

I'm watching The Boys now on Netflix and loving it. I read the comics a while back, and it was a great gonzo deconstruction of the genre by Garth Ennis. I was worried how these characters and concepts would translate to the small screen, but Netflix has made enough changes to story and events to suit TV and its need for episodic drama.

Which got me thinking about a The Boys (or The Girls) roleplaying game. Use whatever ruleset you prefer and try these setting conventions.


The comic and TV versions operate on two different levels of power. This will result in two different types of game.


If you want to emulate the gonzo action of the comics, this is the way to go. There are a few precepts:

  • All supes start with super toughness and strength. They can heal quickly, shrug off bullets.
  • Supes and the Boys know about Compound V
  • All Supe killers have taken Compound V and have super toughness and strength.


If you prefer the TV version, try this.

  • Supers still start with super toughness and strength, but can be taken out with enough bullets or explosives.
  • Compound V is still unknown
  • Supe killers start out with normal human limitations, but can acquire the Compound. This might be a good adventure seed.


All supers have a kink, a pervision that would wreck their career if found out, and which they feel compelled to do. Also, any kink involving physical damage gives them immunity to it.

1 Bodily Fluids
2 Apotemnophilia - sexual arousal caused by the idea of having one of your limbs cut off, or being made to look like an amputee.
3 Urolagnia - sexual attraction to urine
4 Galactophilia - sexual attraction to human milk or lactating women
5 Emetophilia - sexual attraction to vomit
6 Ursusagalmatophilia - aroused by teddy bears
7 Klismaphilia - sexual pleasure from enemas
8 Coprophilia - aroused by fecal matter
9 Dacryphilia - getting off by watching someone cry, with implications for violent behavior
10 Formicophilia - sexual desire to be covered by (and sometimes eaten by) insects
11 Harpaxophilia - sexual arousal at the thought of being a robbery victim
12 Paraphilic infantilism - sexual excitement from dressing up like a baby, as well as being treated like a baby.
13 Furries are people who dress up in animal costumes and take on the persona of that animal. 
14 Beastiality - sex with real live animals.
15 Necrophilia - intense sexual attraction felt by some people towards corpses.
16 Sex with Puppets
17 Pony play - BDSM fetish where people are dressed up in leather pony costumes, complete with hooves, bits, bridles, and saddles. 
18 Autoerotic asphyxiation - getting off while choking yourself. 
19 Vorarephilia - sexual attraction to being eaten by or eating another person, often in a single bite
20 Multiple Personality Disorder – Roll on this table 2 times.


In addition to the starting super toughness and strength, roll extra powers randomly depending on the level of super you are making.

Top Tier (the 7) - 4 super powers
B lister (teenage kid, etc) - 2 super powers
C rank (local hero) - 1 super power
Super loser (Mesmer) - 1 power, no super toughness or strength


In a comic level game, Compound V is known about by both sides and easily obtainable. For a TV game, the supers know it, but The Boys and government don't.

However, to put some mystery in your game, you could change up the origin of the Compound. Here are some ideas of its origin.

1 Blood of an alien kept in some secret Voigt compound in Antartica.
2 Industrial runoff from the production of weird science technology used by super science heroes.
3 Ooze from a natural spring hidden deep in the Amazonian jungle, protected by tribes of headhunters. Expect lots of natural super animals as well.
4 The mutant gene for super powers exists in 1% of the population, the Compound merely activates it.
5 V is actually nanobots that improve the subject. This opens possibilities for bot jamming tech and a nefarious plot to nanobot the whole world.
6 V is a vaccine for the disease that causes super powers, smoothing out the transformation. In an outbreak, the infected are turned into freakish monsters, so expect having to deal with that at some point.


All supe killers have some secret trauma that has set them on their mission. Roll on the following table to see what it was.

1 Your squad was wiped by a super. You get extra police or military training.
2 You are a compound V baby. Roll for one super power.
3 Your lover was killed by a super. Get a bonus to rolls when fighting the killer.
4 You were an ex fan who was spurned at a comic convention. Get a bonus to rolls when fighting the spurner.
5 You were molested or raped by a super. Get a bonus to rolls when fighting the aggressor.
6 It is your mission from the NSA. Get spy training.
7 You stumbled onto the cover up. Get extra computer and information tech skills.
8 Your father or mother works for Vought, and you resent them. Get knowledge about Vought company secrets.
9 You are a prohuman, anti super activist. get contacts from like minded people.
10 You were injured during a staged super fight. Get a bonus to rolls when fighting the combatants.


After the busiest semester of my life, I am back at it till school starts in April. Unless the virus puts that back a few weeks...

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Why Mechs Indeed....


The other day, I read the blogpost 'Why Mechas?' on Monsters and Manuals (available HERE). The blogger ascribes it to elite pride, like the retention of calvary for so long after they were made redundant.

Yesterday, a new anime series called Obsolete popped up in my YouTube feed HERE. Although the CG art makes for somewhat wooden performances, action scenes are stellar. There are jungle fights, underwater conflicts, and mech ski chases in the Himalayas, with a pounding soundtrack by Skillrex.

'OBSOLETE - We cannot resist'

All in all, it was an inspiring new setting for anyone interested in RPGs such as Mekton, Mechwarrior, or Heavy Gear.


The premise is that mysterious aliens called 'Peddlars' have shown up and started selling mech exoskeletons to humans for rockbottom prices. Poor peoples buy them en masse to give their workforces much needed boosts in productivity.

It is this cheap alien sources (more machina ex deus than deus ex machina) that allows for the popularity of mechs, and their ultimate weaponization.

In the 2nd episode, we see a UN peacekeeping tank brigade driving around an African country, supposedly peacekeeping. Two crewmen are discussing geopolitics, one musing on whether the mechs (called 'exoframes') will be used in war, the other laughing it off because, unlike the gas guzzling, multimillion dollar kickback machine tank they are riding, there is no money in it. Within minutes, guerrillas riding agricultural mechs, using RPGs (the other kind) to take out the tank-riding NATO troops.

Over the series we see the escalation of mech warfare, from mercenary companies to Palestinian-inspired kid soldiers and suicide bombers. We also get hints of the nefarious plans behind this sweeping change, when a scientists remarks that the expos are pitted with damage from previous use, and muses how many other planets they have been used to destroy.

All in all, a great sci-fi with social commentary, kick ass action, and tons of sealable ideas for RPGS.

The trailer for Part II is HERE.