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.
You can learn more about ScreenPlay right here.
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.