Experimenting with DC Game Day III

Oct 21 2008

I spent Saturday at DC Game Day, a full-day tabletop roleplaying experience. I normally don’t go out much, to be honest, and I knew nobody there. But I wanted to meet some local tabletop RPG players, and get a feel for games I haven’t played before.

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The first game involved 1936, Nazis on jetpacks, a temple in the jungle, lizard men, a mind-controlling wizard, and Excalibur. It used the Hollow Earth setting and system, which was pretty cool: You typically add together a few simple stats (points in some attribute plus points in some skill), and roll that number of special dice. If you meet or beat a small number, such as 4, you succeed; if not, you fail. Simple.

The DM clearly loved the adventure and the setting, and he understood pulp. I was playing the Pompous Professor archetype, and as soon as I yelled to the evil Nazi doctor, “You’ve befouled the name of science!” he laughed and threw me a Fate Chip (which I could turn in later to force a better die roll). I had great fun.

The latter session was also fun, though I felt more tired and thus didn’t enjoy myself as much. It was a space pulp adventure using I think a variant on the Fudge rules, in which a group of U.S. Rocket Corps fellows crash on Jupiter, and have to face the Iron Lords, Mole Men, Mind Spiders, and Living Mountains.

Character creation used the idea of your character’s novel. The back of the character sheet had five spaces: in the first you described your character’s childhood, and in the second his or her role in the Great War. In the third, you summarized the plot of a grand pulp adventure novel starring your character. You then randomly pick two other player-characters, who guest-star in your novel, while you fill in the fourth and fifth sections with how you guest-starred in other player-character’s novels. And for each of these sections, you list a few aspects of your personality that were formed by these adventures.

And the system had a fascinating mechanic: when attempting to use a skill, you simply compare your skill value to your opponent’s skill value (or a difficulty number), similarly to the Hollow Earth setting. However, you (and your opponent, if applicable) also roll “Fudge dice,” which simply have +1 on two sides, -1 on two sides, and 0 on two sides. You add the result to your total. If you’re trying to hit something, then if your final result is over the opponent’s final result, you subtract the difference from their health, armor, etc.

It’s elegant. Your stats are directly equivalent to your enemy’s, but the Fudge dice can, um, fudge the comparison in interesting ways.

I met a bunch of great guys (and some girls), many of whom I’d enjoy playing with again. Even better, I won at the raffle (twice!) netting me a bunch of old roleplaying source books (Shadowrun, Dread, Colonial Gothic, Steal Away Jordan, and many others).

I’m definitely going again in six months, if I can.

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