Okay, so I’ve had an idea. Not sure if it’s good yet.
I’ve recently been looking at the Dragon Age RPG and the AGE rules system it uses, which is a solid, simple mechanic; 3d6 + ability score + skill focus, trying to beat a target number. Anyone familiar with D&D knows it; the only thing that’s different is that 3d6 gives you a “clumped” bell-curve; you’re more likely to roll between the range of 7 – 13 than you are to get the extremes of 3 or 18, unlike D20 systems, where every number has a 5% chance of showing up.
So, the rules are fairly simple, and it also has a cool little stunt point mechanic which lets you do cool stuff with attacks like stun, knockdown, and free movement, without having to resort to a D&D 4th Edition-esque list of “Noun Strike” and “Adjective Shot”. It’s also a system that uses armour as damage reduction, which I’ve always liked more than D&D’s weird Armour Class mechanic; how does wearing a big suit of plate armour make a character harder to hit?
In short, I like the AGE system. However I’m not wild on the Dragon Age setting. Yes, I could just use the AGE system and run a generic fantasy RPG, but where’s the fun in that? I want a setting that has some depth, that players would be excited to play as characters in. A dark fantasy setting like Dragon Age, with plenty of horror, and moral crisis, and the decay of trust and hope as valiant champions try and survive when assailed by unstoppable, undying malevolence.
And sexy dark magician queens. That’s always good too.
Innistrad is probably my absolute goddamn favourite Magic the Gathering set in terms of story and atmosphere. The final instalment in an unofficial “horror” trilogy for Magic (the previous two sets culminating respectively in Lovecraftian horror Rise of the Eldrazi, and alien invasion/infection New Phyrexia), Innistrad is the gothic horror set; we got our vampires, our Frankenstein monster zombies, our wolfmen, our devil-worshipping witches… and plucky humans, who just got on with their lives in this utter crapsack world. It was beautiful; not an elf, goblin, or merfolk in sight. It was the “Humanity, Fuck Yeah!” set, as normal townsfolk fought back against the predators of the night, armed with silver knifes, wooden stakes, and sweet tricorn hats. Yeah, those townsfolk may have believed the old story that the lunarchs told about the ancient angel guardian Avacyn, and how she was destined to return, but Innistrad humans were tough bastards, and they weren’t going to just lie down and let the creatures of the night have their way while they waited for a magical crystal-dragon-Jesus saviour.
Now tell me you wouldn’t want to play a game of that.
It’s all rough scribbles at the moment, but I’ve got ideas of classes, which I’m calling “Vocations”, because every RPG needs some obnoxious terminology.
Militants are fighters, first, last, and only. You need a dude who’s tough and strong? Militant. Need a guy to go toe-to-toe with a rabid werewolf and not afraid of anything? Militant. Who’s the archetypal dumb brawler class? Duh, Militant.
Rogues are what they always are; fast and lightly-armoured, with a penchant for being sneaky, stealing stuff, and stabbing people in the face. You know the drill.
Priests are pretty much the only humans on Innistrad who can still use magic, and what they can do is still very limited. They can do a bit of healing, remove curses, and repel weak undead creatures, but if you’re expecting smiting abominations with eye lasers of burning faith, you may be disappointed; Innistrad is a low-magic setting.
Rangers are the guys and girls who wander the wilds, hunting down werewolves and the other nasty beasts of the deep, dark forests. Your usual array of archery, tracking, beast killing, and nature lore abilities. May end up with an animal companion option like a hawk or dog; haven’t decided yet.
Occultists have delved into forbidden lore to better understand the supernatural creatures of the night. Most townsfolk are suspicious of them, but the smart people have realised that it’s probably a good idea to be friends with the guy who can give the middle finger to witches and that has powers of clairvoyance.
Alchemists are men and women of SCIENCE! They’ve seen that the clergy’s powers are failing, and instead of Avacyn, they’ve put their faith in their strange concoctions, that provide healing and buffs, or that can be thrown as grenades. When some Lestat ripoff is making trouble for you, sometimes the best solution is magical napalm.
Backgrounds are an additional character-building element that give heroes additional skills and help flesh them out; for example, a Militant may be a Noble, Criminal, or Urban, and each of those choices will grant different benefits.
Academics are clever, obviously. They’ve attended one of Innistrad’s non-haunted schools, and have greater access to all those knowledge skills that players never really take.
Criminals are good at sneaking around where they’re not wanted, and generally excel at swindling, lying, stealing, and being a detriment to society (though not as much so as the horde of 15-foot tall zombie goliaths)
Characters from a Martial background have received training from some grizzled veteran, and are thus super-good at hitting things with other things.
Nobles are natural leaders, and the common folk usually look to them for guidance. There aren’t any useless upper-class twits on Innistrad though; the human aristocracy is a bit more hands-on. Also, money; lots of money.
Characters from a Rural background are at home in the wilds, and have picked up all sorts of useful survival tricks and knowledge of the natural world.
And finally, Urban characters have been lucky enough to be born in a protected city like Thraben. They’ve benefitted from things like libraries, pubs, and internal plumbing, and are thus they are witty, clean, rich, and insufferably smug.
So that’s the thoughts so far. Like all my projects, it may wither and die on the vine, but hopefully I can keep some momentum going on this bad boy.