Monday, August 21, 2017

Dead Wizards: Playtest #3 in Session

A few years ago I started thinking about a sword & sorcery game and I called it Dead Wizards. It began as an OSR idea, specifically a Swords & Wizardry setting/variant. My idea was to get down and dirty with the idea of heroic fantasy as it existed in my own mind. It had a few elements:

-Characters are larger-than-life heroes.
-"Heroes" means characters that rise above the world in which they live.
-Magic is weird, not scientific.
-The only rule of magic is that magic is never free.
-The gods are not benevolent and life is not fair.

I ran a session wherein I had some S&W houserules in play, such as spending hit points to cast spells. It worked ok. But it wasn't what I really wanted.

Another playtest happened a few months ago but was interrupted by life stuff. So now I've revised the rules again, stripping away even more of the OD&D elements and leaving only the bits that I felt were necessary to convey the point.

This is a game about telling a yarn. The players create characters with needs and deeds and special traits that make them larger-than-life... like any good sword and sorcery hero. The yarn is the events in-game that lead to the fulfillment of the various quests that the PCs have. Their needs must be satisfied, or they must somehow fail to satisfy them. In other words, the play creates a story.

Now, this is not necessarily a good story. Good stories are told by authors speaking from a top down voice whereas most RPGs, including this one, produce "stories" that are bottom up, albeit with some top down pressure from the GM. A Dead Wizards yarn is not meant to be a publishable, compelling tale. it is simply the story that emerges from play - for better or worse.

In that sense, this game occupies a gray area between a classic RPG and a story-based RPG.

Tonight is session two of the playtest. The needs of the heroes should begin to be invoked and the links between their quests should start to be hinted at or revealed. That is the secret to Dead Wizards. Though each player may create disparate characters, the play and the cunning of the Judge and the players working together will weave the characters together in a fantastic yarn.

At least that's the plan.

For more on Dead Wizards, particularly the system, check out this post.