A second peak? That’s right, if you’re not part of our ScreenPlayers Guild G+ community, you missed out on seeing this two days ago. And if you’re one of High Plains Samurai‘s growing fanbase, you could have already heard back from your players confirming they’re ready to enter the One Land.
As layout continues and the public playtest release of HPS gets ready to launch next month, we wanted to give people a heads up of what they can expect by releasing the first of three chapters within the first Volume of the complete game we’re looking to produce with the help of Kickstarter and backers like you, we hope.
You can download this 14-page PDF right here. Enjoy!
If there’s one guarantee when preparing a Kickstarter launch, it’s that nothing will work out as you planned. Surviving the ups and downs requires a willingness to adapt and adjust as needed.
In light of some recent events, the release dates for both High Plains Samurai: The Rehearsal Edition and the HPS Kickstarter have been modified. See below to learn more about how Chaos has already begun to thwart our well-laid plans by attacking the home of its creator.
Just as the other Elemental Spirits did not give in to their father’s wrath, neither shall we. Therefore, we are announcing revised launch dates.The Rehearsal Editionwill now launch in February 2017 and the Kickstarter has been pushed back until May 2017 to allow additional time and effort to ensure all of you receive the best possible version of the game and its possibilities. But that does not mean you are going to wait. As mentioned in the Facebook post, you can now download a text-only PDF copy of High Plains Samurai’s playtest copy… TODAY!
Everything you need to discover the One Land, its plights and people, and start playing (including a playtest scene titled “To Catch A Train”) is here and ready for you. In the coming week, a complete PDF version with full layout and artwork will be launched to start the public playtest, so stay tuned for that.
What a good question. What exactly is High Plains Samurai (or HPS, as we call it around here)? With a little over a month before the public playtest/preview and four months until the Kickstarter launch, now seems like just as good a time as ever to divulge what makes this game tick. And there are many more questions to answer in the coming weeks.
What genre is High Plains Samurai?
What is the One Land, the Five Cities, and the Wastes?
Who are the people calling them home?
How do you play these characters?
What is qi and how does it give some of these people incredible powers?
What are the Elemental Spirits and how do they interact with the One Land?
Who is this Black Scorpion threatening to destroy the One Land and finish what Chaos started?
Plus so many more. That’s where posts like this will begin to answer those question, tease you of the infinite possibilities, and prepare you to band together to save this world and its people from ultimate destruction.
For those of you new to this site (and Broken Ruler in general), my name is Todd Crapper (yes, that’s right) and I’m the creator of HPS and the figurehead of Broken Ruler Games. With this long gestating project approaching these two major milestones, I want to share with you the process of creating this game, its setting, and what is so magical about this game.
Let’s begin with perhaps the first lesson: What genre is HPS?
The Ultimate Mash-Up
Cutting straight to the chase, HPS isn’t about one or two genres. When it first started four years ago in my kitchen, it was a spin-off based on The Good, The Bad, and The Weird involving a train robbery merging westerns with wild and crazy wire-fu sword fighting. As time went on and as this game grew in potential, it also became apparent publishing this project faced an obvious hurdle: there were already a few western/samurai mash-ups in the RPG community. This one needed something unique to truly stand out in the crowd.
Building up the setting, I started experimenting with additional genres adapted to suit each of the major locations in the place called the One Land. Each of the Five Cities – the major communities fortified within unique geographical locations and home to vast majority of survivors from Chaos’ Wrath, a near apocalyptic event that has scarred the landscape and its people for generations – became its own stand alone setting. Merged into one cohesive whole, there are near endless possibilities for the make-up of any group of heroes (though anti-heroes may be a better word).
What began as a wester/samurai/wire-fu concept has now become a western/samurai/gangster/barbarian/steampunk/post-apocalyptic/superpowered quest of gods fighting over the fate of their homeland. Phew!
Imagine the possibilities. Your group can consist of a young, insulate gangster who rose from poverty to a position of power within one of the gangs from Yung Zhi, enforcing his boss’ orders with a Tommy gun; a bounty hunter and her double-barrelled shotgun who calls the rugged, sandstorm streets of Hunan home; a banished warrior from the snow capped mountains of Khar’tep with nothing but the desire for revenge, his axes, and the ability to turn flesh to stone; a noble warrior from the poisonous jungle surrounding the fortress of Monsoon tasked with discovering a lost tome by her General, blade and armour at the ready to battle anyone who gets in her way; and a genius inventor from the underground city of Rust, who happens to make his way across the One Land riding atop a warmech and its twin machine guns.
This also means going up against some equally versatile and dangerous enemies. Your lead characters will face others who have tapped into their qi powers, wield legendary weapons capable of slicing through stone or summoning a swarm of locusts, and so much more. Like I said, the possibilities are endless.
How The Hell Are You Making All These Genres Work?
If you’ve ever heard of (or better yet, played) ScreenPlay, you have a very good idea of how HPS works. If not, well, it uses story game mechanics allowing a wide range of genres, styles of play, and more. More importantly, the players are the ones driving the story forward with the Director (aka the GM) keeping the plot moving forward and challenging the lead characters in a true improv style game where anything can happen.
By stripping away the mechanics associated with genres, tropes, and other standards of any specific emulation, the rules allow everyone to simply describe their characters as they see fit. Without guidelines or mechanics forcing your hand in how you act and guiding your behaviour using pre-determined reward systems, you can play HPS however you want to play it. Even in whatever storytelling style floats your boat: scripts, novels, anime, the sky’s the limit.
But HPS is not exactly a ScreenPlay product. It applies a few new mechanics specifically designed to maximize your potentials as your story unfolds, such as building your potentials rather than default to its dice value, legendary weapons, teachings… don’t worry, we’ll get there soon. What continues from its predecessor is a free flowing storytelling experience driven by its players to create their own version of a world filled with characters like Grandfather Tom, the Council of Iron, the Desert Sun Gang, Xang the Mother of All Gangsters, and the unstoppable cataclysmic force known as the Black Scorpion.
The Doors Have Begun To Open…
Over the next few months, you’re going to have the opportunity to learn a lot more about HPS and how you can help shape the game that will hit Kickstarter in March 2017. For our next lesson in tapping into your inner qi, we’ll get into that dreaded day when Chaos – the very creator of the universe – took revenge on the One Land to punish his children.
I’m happy to say the alpha-phase playtesting for both ScreenPlay and High Plains Samurai is well underway and so far banging out all the kinks in the mechanics and smoothing out the presentation. At this phase, we’re really testing out ScreenPlay and using HPS as an excuse to dive into this setting my Development Team and I created two years ago – it doesn’t take much arm twisting to get us diving into the dusty plains of the One Land. But that’s not what I’m writing about today.
With playtesting underway, it’s time to start shooting some holes in the walls keeping this game shrouded in darkness and expose it to some sunlight. In other words, it’s time for you to start learning more about what makes ScreenPlay… well, ScreenPlay. I put it that way because this game is unlike other roleplaying games. It’s built on a foundation of everything that is an RPG, but there is one major facet turned on its head for a dynamic and refreshing change of pace. Maybe I’m a bit biased (that happens when you design a game – it’s always the greatest achievement in game design as far as you’re concerned), but let’s allow the features of the game to speak for itself.
Here are the 4 key features of ScreenPlay and why you should be chomping at the bit to play. It’s also why you should be eager to discover more about High Plains Samurai too, seeing as the ScreenPlay engine will be powering this post-apocalyptic/western/wushu/super-powered mash-up. Whenever you see anything written in blue italics, that means it’s an important term in the game.
#1) It’s A Story Game Where The Players Are The Storytellers
If you’re familiar with the concept of story games, you already know what I’m talking about. If not, there’s a fine line between these and your traditional roleplaying games. While differences of opinion exist on the exact definition, a story game allows greater control to the players using loose fitting mechanics and provides a more co-operative creative experience. If your traditional RPG has the Gamemaster dictating all the events in the story with players simply reacting through their characters, story games break from this aspect and allow the players to invest their own ideas into the story. Perhaps one of the best known story games on the market is Fate and I encourage you to check it out if you’ve never heard of it before.
ScreenPlay takes this a step further and places equal creative duties on both the players and the Director (AKA the Gamemaster, or GM). Each player is assigned the role of a Writer and creates a variety of characters (starting with at least one lead character with room to create as many supporting characters as they can handle) to tell a story. On their turns, each Writer provides a description for one character, an active account of how that particular individual propels the story forward. This is followed by an outcome from the Director, reacting to the description and rewarding the Writer with surrounding details, events, and reactions from other characters involved in the scene. The key difference between this and other games is that there are no point exchanges required for a Writer to insert their own ideas into the story – if she decides this story needs a fight scene, she can simply describe her character witnessing four shadow-cloaked ninjas leaping down from the rooftops with swords drawn. It’s now up to the Director to make this fight go down.
#2) The Director Keeps The Plot Moving Without Taking Control
There’s more to being a Director in ScreenPlay than simply reacting to anything the Writers want, oh no. Each story – whether it’s conceived by everyone in the group or using a pre-purchased treatment (AKA adventure) – has a basic plot for the Director to use as a guideline. As an example, High Plains Samurai is a large scale treatment providing a setting (the One Land), history, a cast of supporting characters and extras, and a series of markers (key story moments) all designed to provide a working platform for the Writers to remain on track. While the Writers are telling the story, the Director uses his tools to integrate the treatment, facilitate the story and package it all together to reveal what wonderful outcomes the Writers are creating. During our playtests, I’ve been inclined to use camera angles and moviemaking terminology as a means of detailing our particular version of High Plains Samurai as if you were watching it on the big screen or as part of an awesome ongoing HBO drama.
One of the Director’s key tools for keeping it all together are triggers, pre-determined or instant reactions to descriptions. For example, the lead characters ride up towards the main gates of the City of Rust in the hopes of entering this rancid metropolis. What the Writers do not know and the Director does is that snipers line the walls looking for this posse with orders to shoot. As a Writer describes her character riding along the main road, the Director applies the trigger and cuts into the description by rolling dice as the crack of a rifle cuts through the dusty plains. A trigger can be avoided, even without the Writers knowing there was a trigger, if their characters learned about these snipers in advance and snuck into the city under cover of night. A Director can also devise triggers on the fly as a means of helping to keep the story moving along, like having the barkeep intervene when the lead characters become preoccupied with them surly buggers giving them the dirty eye from the back of the bar.
Think of it as improvised storytelling and the Director is there to make sure no one falls off stage. Just like directors of stage and cinema, the Director helps keep the story exciting and engaging through the outcomes they provide and the triggers they set to keep the Writers on their toes. What results is a fresh and exciting storytelling experience where the Director gets to experience the same thrill of discovery as your typical RPG player does every game.
#3) Conflict Is As Easy As Knowing Odds vs. Evens
Are there dice rolls in ScreenPlay? You betcha – I wouldn’t design a game without them. I’m a sucker for dice rolls and the goal with creating ScreenPlay was to allow a simple, fast-paced resolution system where the dice did not blow up in your face. Here’s how it works: certain moments in the story, as told by the Writers, will trigger a conflict roll. That means whoever wants to achieve an action with a risk of consequences must roll against a Difficulty and that target number can be based on the opponent or the task at hand. Each character has a list of Potentials ranging from a d4 to a d12 (along with other modifiers and provisions to increase their odds, but we’ll save that for another day). Choosing an appropriate Potential, the dice are rolled and if the result is equal to or higher than the Difficulty, it’s a success.
But there’s more! You can use that roll to determine how much damage you cause or what effects occur as as result of your conflict roll. These effects are known as complications and range from minor (your gun is out of ammo, being knocked prone) to major (intimidated, acidic sand kicked in your face). Knowing the type of complication is simply a matter of whether or not you rolled an even number (major complications) or an odd number (minor complication). Failure works on the same principle: if you fail with an even number, nothing bad happens to the character, but an odd number results in the character suffering a minor complication of their own. Basically, even numbers are good, odd numbers not so much. Damage works on the same principle with a successful conflict roll: an even number yields major damage (the difference between your roll and the Difficulty plus any damage modifiers) or minor damage (only the damage modifier).
#4) Stamina Is The Ultimate Dealbreaker
All characters in ScreenPlay are assigned an amount of Stamina based on their character type (leads, supporting, extras). When a character runs out of Stamina, they’re removed from the story for the scene or permanently. More than just hit points, they also allow characters to break the rules and do things otherwise impossible to your average individual.
For example, most of our lead characters in the High Plains Samurai playtest have unlocked qi (pronounced chi) powers, such as the Jade Palm’s supernatural sense or Ronin’s incredible speed. Each qi power is clearly defined and faces normal limitations, but those can be broken by spending 1 Stamina. Characters can also spend Stamina to interrupt an outcome, retaliate against an opponent, increase/decrease the die roll by 1 (even if it’s not theirs), and so forth. While these applications create a variety of possible outcomes, you must judge your Stamina wisely because too many uses followed by a katana chop to the kidneys will result in 0 Stamina.
Just The Beginning…
Of course, all I’m doing right now is teasing you and that’s the entire point of this. As the Development Team and myself continues to work on banging out the kinks, we get closer and closer to revealing more about how this exciting game can come to life at your next session. And while I’ve been a big tease about it, I’d like to take things a little further. Think of it as spending 1 Stamina to break the rules.