Houses of the Blooded

Sep 16 2008

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Saalon and I have talked before about the future of tabletop roleplaying. It started with the fantasy hack-and-slash of Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970’s, followed by the introduction of generic systems like GURPS and FUDGE in the 1980’s (allowing for modern games, science fiction games, etc.), and the explosion of more open and acting-driven systems with White Wolf’s World of Darkness in the 1990’s.

What’s next? I think I may have found it.

I spent much of the weekend devouring a 400-page PDF for Houses of the Blooded, a new tabletop RPG system.

Very roughly, it’s World of Darkness in the Dune universe. It’s focused on helping you to play a role more than kill goblins.

In particular, players can temporarily take over as referee.

As with many tabletop games, whenever you attempt something tough and outside your character’s normal abilities, you roll dice. But the dice don’t determine whether you succeed; if you roll high enough, you as the player get to decide if you succeed or fail. If you don’t roll high enough, the Narrator (Game Master/referee) decides if you succeed or fail.

So, no matter what you roll, you may still succeed. But there’s more to it than even that. You roll a number of dice at a time, which may be more dice than you need. You can reserve any number of dice as your “wager,” and roll the rest. If you roll high enough, not only do you succeed, you get to add one fact to the success for every die you reserved in your wager. So, if you’re leaping out of a bedroom, and you wagered three dice, you might say “Yes, I succeeded. And there’s a balcony outside, and I land on it, and it goes all the way along the building.” Three facts added for the three dice wagered.

This is revolutionary. It provides a simple way for players to control the progress of the game. They’re not inventing super-powerful weapons out of thin air; they’re influencing the game to make it more fun.

Can it be abused? Well, anything can be abused, but the system makes it clear that 1) each fact must agree with the story so far, and 2) if you try to add a fact that helps you and hurts the other players, you’re not welcome in the game. Simple as that.

It’s hard to describe why I find this so exciting. It just feels right to me, and it feels like something that will help the roleplaying industry move forward.

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