Archive for November, 2013


Tenra Bansho Zero – Design Tricks

November 12, 2013

Got to play my first game of TBZ and had a great time.  TBZ manages to take a lot of smart design and combine it to hit the core premise of anime-action game.  Here’s kind of a run down of what it does and why it works.

Flags (Fates)

Fates are the ideas or themes that your character’s story or conflict will revolve around.    “Fate” itself is kind of a not great word for this, since we tend to think of fate as an immutable thing that MUST happen, whereas mechanically, these are more like either relationships, goals and drives for your character, and less like a destiny thrust upon you.

That said, if I want to know what’s interesting about your character and where to frame the scenes around?  I look at your Fates – which ones you’ve added, and which ones you’ve raised up.

Like any Flag mechanics, this helps the group get RIGHT to the action of what’s interesting for the players instead of futzing around.

Creative Springboards (Emotion Matrix)

Anytime you meet a major NPC, you roll on the Emotion Matrix to get an initial “vibe” or relationship between the characters.  This skips past the whole “let’s feel each other out as characters” and gives players and the GM a great starting direction and momentum to work with.

What keeps this from being random and out of place is that if it seems like a bad fit, the GM or any player can easily spend points to bounce that result around a bit – to pick something more suitable and probably more entertaining.   Assuming you end up with less new major characters as the scenario plays out, the Emotion Matrix falls to the background, having successfully “boosted” the initial play into some fun directions.

Fan Mail (Aiki)

Aiki tokens can be rewarded anytime anyone does anything cool or fun that they add to the game.

These form the basis of the resource economy in this game, and there’s only two ways to earn them – either great input that other people enjoy OR accepting input from other players (there’s places where you can bribe other players and give them Aiki for adding certain aspects to their characters – new Fates, or, bumping them around the Emotion Matrix).

Hardcore “Trying to win” gamers will note that Aiki becomes Kiai points, which become bonus dice, which basically can allow you to win ANY conflict if you amass and spend enough.  What those folks may miss is the key point: difficulty is not the issue, entertainment is.  And, if you want those Aiki to do just that, you will have to entertain the HELL out of the group.

Director Stance

Director Stance allows a player to create or input on things in the game world beyond/outside of their character.  In TBZ, it does this in a pretty clever fashion – you have limited ways of doing this but they’re also potent.

You can spend Aiki to:

– Bring a character into a scene

– Bribe another player to add an extra Fate to their character

– Bribe another player to take a different result on the Emotion Matrix

You can spend Kiai to:

– Bounce yourself around on the Emotion Matrix

Beyond pulling characters into scenes, this is amazingly powerful because it allows players to a) suggest and shape each other’s characters in ways they find interesting and b) change the nature of initial relationships among the characters, and often, which direction the story can go.

You’ll notice the amount of player control from Flags, to the Emotion Matrix to Director Stance means that things like trying to pre-plan what will happen exactly is going to fail – your super villain might end up being “True Love” on the Emotion Matrix or all the players might choose Fates to ally with them…  Although TBZ appears traditional in having a GM/player setup, the fact that players can easily take the wheel of the overall direction of play means the classic “branching path” adventure set up will not work at all.


Quinn Murphy’s Five Fires

November 6, 2013

I remember this started, almost a year ago, when Quinn asked the very cool question, “What if the mythology of the world of the Wu-Tang Clan was real?” – we ended up geeking on everything from Jeru to Deltron to Blokhedz and more.  Mage + hiphop.  (Yes, also Wyrd is Bond… and it’s problematic presentations…) and it looks like it’s finally coming together:

In Five Fires, you play members of a hiphop crew of MCS, graffiti writers, breakers, and DJs. You deal with problems of your life, and use art to cope with your stress. When your art gets out into the world, you get a chance to make it big. You can increase your status or wealth, or maybe change the community around you.  

Five Fires has just seen alpha-testing at Metatopia, and I’m working on the alpha docs now. If you back me on Patreon, you’ll have access this before anyone else. In addition, you’ll have access to any tabletop project I’m working on before anyone else. Five Fires is in my sites now, but it won’t be long before I’m working on an Afrocentric fantasy game, or building a game about Double Dragon.

You can back this on Patreon.


Shadowrun via Inspectres

November 1, 2013

Picked up the Shadowrun Returns videogame since, hardcore chemotherapy leaves you with a lot of time on your hands.  The game starts with a crew breaking up because of stress and betrayal.  It struck me that this was basically an Inspectres game – small start-up, sent in to deal with high stress high danger jobs, and basically burns out the people involved.  And Inspectres plays a lot smoother than Shadowrun ever did, so…

Shadowrun using the Inspectres rules

Character Creation

1. Pick Race – Human, Dwarf, Elf, Orc, Troll

Humans: Pick a Talent per the normal rules

Dwarves +1 Technology, Elves +1 Contact, Orcs, +1 Athletics, Trolls +2 Athletics -1 Contact

2. Pick Archetype

Archetype works like a Talent as far as the Inspectres rules works.

Street Samurai, Rigger, Shaman, Mage, Adept, Decker


Franchise Dice becomes “Crew Dice”.  Pretty much all that happens is a renaming:

Library = Datafeed, Gym = Enhancers, Credit Card = Hardware Suppliers, Bank = Stash.

You could choose to hand out titles, though I’m guessing after everyone has picked Archetypes players will have a good idea of what their character does compared to another – the Decker or the Rigger will be your techies, etc.  Crews tend to either make decisions by votes or by having a leader, and if you go with someone in charge, good idea to pick that person now.


Stress for Shadowrunners is obviously inclined towards more serious stuff than the wacky hijinks of Inspectres.  

Stress Rolls

1  – Mundane hassles – going hungry from lack of creds, lack of sleep from neighbors yelling, having to take the long way around because a neighborhood is on police lockdown, finding your stuff stolen, etc.

2 – Mundane hassles w/some danger or consequence – being betrayed, getting arrested for minor things, facing a mugging or minor street altercation, surviving a non-targeted driveby shooting, catching a wound that you or your friends can patch up, finding the body of a friend.

3 – Real Heat – being ambushed or under serious assault from other runners or professionals, Having a SWAT team after you, surviving a bombing or organized terrorist attack, being seriously wounded where you should see a street doc soon, finding the body of a friend or relative you thought would live safe and never see the shadows.

4 – Outgunned – being under attack from assault vehicles while on foot, going up against a cyber or magical being that you probably need a rocket launcher for, having several special forces teams after you, getting hurt bad enough someone better take you to the hospital or top end street doc now.

5 – Fuck Me – Finding out the last 10 years of your life were engineered to happen the way they did by a megacorp, discovering a plan to forcibly alter everyone’s DNA but having no way of stopping it, finding out all those close friends you thought betrayed you so you killed them first in a giant vendetta – didn’t, etc.

Cool Dice

Cool Dice work pretty much the same way.  The only difference is that Shadowrunners aren’t normal folks dealing with ghosts – they’re a little more inured to the madness around them.  

Once per session, a Shadowrunner can spend 2 from a Crew Dice type to buy a single Cool die before a Stress roll.  This might be something like “Adrenal Control Chip”, “A Spell of Calming”, “Pills, lots of fucking pills”, or whatever explanation works.  The Cool die remains (provided you didn’t roll so bad as to lose it).


Confessionals work the same way.  For extra fun, each player might want to declare what their character’s usual way of having a confessional works for them – one person might have a blog, another might sit in VR space talking to their favorite program, another guy drinks and talks to the portrait of his dead partner, someone else maybe literally goes to the church and has a confession with the priest.  These all set up fun ways of coloring how you might be having those confessionals.

Personality traits apply just like in Inspectres.