Town Creation for Lawmen v Outlaws

Here are some simple rules to create a town for Lawmen v Outlaws (or any other wild west roleplaying game) collaboratively. The advantage of creating the setting collaboratively is that you start off with a setting the players are already familiar with, interested in and connected by virtue of being co-creators. Also, it cuts down on the GM’s prep and that can’t be bad. The full, free rules for Lawmen v Outlaws can be downloaded here: https://ukrpdc.wordpress.com/2018/12/30/lawmen-v-outlaws/

The following Lawmen v Outlaws town, Badger’s Bluff, was created using a Google Jamboard with the group playing over the Internet, as one has to do these days, The virtual Post-Its work pretty well for this excercise from a practical point of view, though it’s not extactly pretty.

For reference, the light blue area is the town, the yellow circles locations outside town.

Rules:

  1. Each person in turn picks a location (including the GM)
  2. Two locations should be in town, one location out of town
  3. For each location create a Tag – a short descriptor
  4. One of the Tags should be a personal connection (including working at, owning or being friends with the owner)

The end result is not a list of all the locations of the town, just some of the more important ones.

Badgers Bluff Map

For inspiration, some typical wild west locactions include:

Town Locations
Assay / Claims Office (implies mines)
Bank
Barber Shop / Bathhouse
Blacksmith
Boarding House
Boot Hill
Cafe
Church / School
Cigar Shop
Corral
County Courthouse (larger town)
Dance Hall / Theatre
Doctor / Dentist
General Store (or other)
Gunsmith
Hotel
Jeweller / Watchmaker
Laundry
Lawyer
Livery / Stable
Newspaper
Opium Den
Photographic Studio
Post Office
Railroad Station (implies railway)
Restaurant
Saloon (often more than one)
Sheriff’s Office & Jail
Stables
Telegraph Office
Undertaker

Out of town locations
Farm
Ferry station
Fort
Lumber camp
Mill
Mine
Native encampment
Natural feature (mountain, river, etc…)
Open range
Prison
Ranch
Roadhouse / Way station
Trapper cabin


More than just rules?

Some games just give you a cool world and rules to resolve actions within it. Like a large box of generic Lego, how exactly they are to be used is left to the GM and the players.  Other games are more structured. The game might  provide clear guidance regarding what the player characters are expected to do, instructions on how and when to transition between scenes, a default framework for how adventures unfold or even subsystems to manage and track longer term goals.  

Looking at the games released as Polar Blues Press, I can see I flip-flopped a fair bit on this issue.

Of these games, Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands clearly has the most complete structure of play of the lot. Bounty hunting, as a core activity, provides a clear role for the party and a built in framework for inserting adventure hooks. The gradual deterioration of players’ equipment, the vehicle upgrades and Mad Max roadwar encounters provide an additional framework with alternate goals and rewards for play. And the way these two frameworks interact is significant.

I was pleased with the design but from watching other GMs run Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wasteland and odd bits of feedback, these frameworks largely seemed to get ignored. Most GMs seemed happy with the action resolution rules, but in practice already had their own way of running games. They didn’t need or want the extra layer.

So when it came to Cyberblues City I changed my approach. Initially I just provided the bare bones action resolution rules. There were a few suggested concepts for the party, but no hard and fast instructions about what the characters do in the game. It was very much a box of Lego kind of game.

That might have been the end of the story, but a year or so later, I came up with a setting idea for Cyberblues City. It was a gonzo future London ruled by a cyborg queen Victoria. This could have been packaged as an expansion for Cyberblues City; making it clear it was a possible setting for the game rather than the setting. But, in a free PDF,  it seemed to make little sense to split the rulebook from the setting, so I bundled them together in Cyberblues City Deluxe. To this day, I still don’t know if that was the right call. It makes the product both better and worse at the same time. At least the illustrations are better in the new edition and it is still the funniest thing I’ve ever written.

The point being, Cyberblues City really has no inbuilt framework for play at all. That makes it bit harder to just pick up and play, even for me. To run it I need to sit back, come up with a fresh premise and some sort of adventure all by myself.

Which leads us to Lawmen v Outlaws. I wanted to do a Western. At first I found it a bit daunting because it is such a broad genre. The key for me was to narrow it down to stories of lawmen chasing outlaws and of outlaws evading lawmen.That instantly provided a clear answer to the question “What do the characters do in this game?”.

I still didn’t have much of a framework for how Lawmen v Outlaw adventures were meant to unfold. I tinkered with some town creation rules to support play, but that wasn’t going anywhere (though I may revisit it). 

In the end I landed a very ridiculously simple formula around which to structure lawmen style adventures. And it all hinged on these two  simple sentences.

“It was an ordinary day like any other when…” followed by  “Turns out that…”

What this captures is the simple universal truth of a lawman adventure – there is a status quo and then something happens to disrupt it. Thus the initial call to action is set.

The “Turns out that…” part is a reminder that what is introduced in the call to action, isn’t the whole story. There needs to be a twist or complication otherwise all one is left with is a very short and predictable adventure. 

There is more to Lawmen v Outlaws adventure framework of course. All this illustrates is that , flimsy as it is, this is still a functional framework which, for the time being at least, seems like a happy halfway house between the comprehensive structure of play in Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands and the absence of any such thing in Cyberblues City, especially in the context of rule light, pick up and play style of games.

Fudge – Expanded Situational Roll

One of the GM tools in Fudge is the Situational Roll. This a way to randomly determine aspects of a situation that aren’t based on any character or haven’t been already established by the fiction like “Is it raining?” or “Is there a gas station nearby?”. It all there in the Fudge SRD if anyone is interest.

The following expands on the concept, taking into account the of the event likelihood of the event while still leaving it to chance. After all. the odds to the question “Is it raining?” being “yes” might vary depending if the setting is Seattle or Dubai.

The way this is done is by arranging a set of probabilities as if they were Fudge ranks as in the table below.

Virtually
Impossible
(0)

Unlikely

(1)

Doubtful

(2)

Possible

(3)

Plausible

(4)

Likely

(5)

Almost
Certain
(6)

To make a situational roll, make a quick judgement on the base likelihood, roll 4dF and the result to the chosen likelihood. If the result is Possible or better (Green) the answer is “yes”, otherwise it is “no”.

So for instance, if a player asked “Is there a gas station nearby?”, the GM might mike an initial judgement that it is Doubtful. The GM roll 4dF and gets +1 which is enough to turn Doubtful into Possible. The player character is in luck!

FUDGEZOR – An Early Preview

According the sites stats, this here should be our 100th post. That might not be very impressive for a site that has been around 5 odd years but I still felt I should make it a bit special.  So what I have here is a first draft of FUDGEZOR, my mutant strain of Fudge. It’s a further elaboration of the Fudge build I used inLawmen v Outlaws turned into a more freeform, generic engine.  The aim is to make it the sort of game the GM never need to read more than once. As such the pre-defined Gifts are gone, as is the “players only roll” approach. In their place there is some stuff, like the weapons and initiative rules.

This is still all experimental and untested, even the name might change.I haven’t included my section for supernornal power and other exotic effects as that is still very, very rought. But I figured I’d put it out here what I have so far. If you have any comments, please post them below.

FUDGEZOR – Early Draft

As with standard Fudge everything that matters is measured on an adjective-based scale consisting of the eight sequential ranks listed below. Each rank has a corresponding numeric value.

Terrible

Mediocre

Fair

Good

Great

Superb

Amazing

Legendary

-1

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

Tests
Actions are resolved with Tests. In a Test the gamemaster (GM) assigns a Difficulty Rating (DR) to a task ranging from TERRIBLE to LEGENDARY. Players roll the dice and add the result to their most relevant Trait. The task succeeds if this total meets or beats the DR. The degree by which the result beats its DR is called Margin of Success (MoS) and can be important. Results from Tests are capped. The outcome from a Test cannot be worse than TERRIBLE or better than LEGENDARY.

The Dice
FUDGEZOR uses Fudge dice for Tests. If you don’t have Fudge dice you can use regular six-sided dice, referred to as ‘d6’s, instead. Roll 2 differently coloured dice designating one colour as positive and one as negative. The result will be between -5 and +5 which isn’t the same as with Fudge dice but it is close enough.

Character Creation

Character Creation Summary

1. Traits – Assign the following ranks to your Traits; 1 GREAT, 2 GOOD, 1 MEDIOCRE. All other Traits are FAIR
2 Gifts and Flaws – Choose 4 Gift and 2 Flaws so that each Trait has at least one Gift or Flaw.
3. Secondary Traits – Set Hit Points to 5 and Fate Points to 3
4. Gear Up

Traits
All characters have the six Traits listed below. When creating a character set one Trait to GREAT, two to GOOD and one to MEDIOCRE. All other Traits default to FAIR. The Traits are:

  • Think – intelligence and education. Use for Tests involving knowledge, logic or when performing highly technical tasks.
  • Move – physical strength, agility and fitness. Use for running, sneaking and lifting.
  • Talk – interacting with people. Use to persuade, intimidate or gather information.
  • Focus – willpower and awareness. Use for perception, tracking, bravery.
  • Fix – manual dexterity and mechanical aptitude. Use for lock picking or repairing things.
  • Fight – all combat related abilities.

Gifts & Flaws
Characters get 4 Gifts and 2 Flaws. A Gift grants +2 to a narrow aspect of a Trait, for example: Scout (Focus +2 for tracking ), Ninja Stealth (Move +2 to move quietly), Master swordsman (Fight +2 using a sword). A Flaw imposes a -2 penalty to a narrow aspect of a Trait, for examples: Clumsy (Move -2 to balance), No head for numbers (Think -2 for calculations), Slowest Gun in the West (Fight -2 with pistols).

Assign Gifts and Flaws so that each Trait has 1 of either.

Players should created their own Gifts and Flaws. They should be very specific. They do not need to have fancy names “Good at X” or “Bad at Y” are perfectly valid Gift or Flaw names.

Hit Points
Hit Points are a measure of how much abuse you can take in a scrap before things get serious. Damage taken temporarily reduces your current number of Hit Points. You start each session with 5 Hit Points.

Fate Points
Fate Points are a resource you can spend when you need an extra boost. Spend a Fate Point to:

  • Get a +2 bonus to a Test even after the dice are rolled; this can only be done once per Test

  • Attempt something usual not specifically covered by the rules.

You can earn Fate Points during play. Gain 1 Fate Point whenever:

  • Your character does something really cool

  • Something totally not-cool is done to your character

  • You roll +4 (+5 if you are using d6s) on a Test

  • Your character get a hot meal and a good night’s sleep (once per session).

You start each session with 3 Fate Points. Unspent Fate Points are not carried over between sessions.

Weapons & Other Gear
Characters are equipment with whatever makes sense for them to have. There are no special rules for most gear. Weapons are defined by a Type and Rank. The Type (pistol, sword, kung fu, etc…) determines properties like range or whether it makes noise. Unarmed fighting styles count as weapons if you want them to more than +0 damage.

The Rank ( FAIR, GOOD and GREAT) determine damage and initiative.

FAIR weapons do +1 damage and act first in combat.
GOOD weapons do +2 damage and act next.
GREAT weapons do +3 damage but act last.

The total value of the weapons carried should not exceed 4 (for instance 1 GREAT Shotgun and 1 FAIR Knife, or 1 GOOD pistol and 1 GOOD punching). There are no provision in the Basic rules for attacks striking multiple targets or that have more exotic effects.

Initiative
Initiative in combat is determined by weapon Rank (low to high) and within the same weapon Rank character act before NPCs. Repeat until one side is defeated, driven off or both sides come to an amicable understanding.

Combat Tests
To make an attack, roll against your Fight. The DR is the target’s Fight score. The attack succeeds if it meets or beats the DR. Likewise to attack characters the GM will roll the attacks using the NPC’s Fight and try to meet the character Fight score.

A Gift that applies to Fight can add+2 to a character’s attack roll, but not to the Fight score for defence purposes.

On a successful attack, add the MoS turns to the weapon damage a deduct it from the target’s Hit Points.

Wounds and Healing
Damage sustained in combat or from other hazards is temporarily taken off the target’s Hit Points. Characters whose Hit Points are reduced to zero are Wounded. They are knocked unconscious and can take no further action that scene. Wounded characters that receive a second wound are Seriously Wounded. A third wound is fatal. Non-lethal attacks do not cause characters to become Wounded when knocked out.

At the end of the scene, characters recover Hit Points as follows:

Not Wounded – Regain full Hit Points
Wounded – Regain half Hit Points (rounded up)
Seriously Wounded – Regain 1 Hit Point
Dead – Regain no Hit Points. Also, dead.

Healing
Given sufficient time, wounds heal up naturally. Typically “sufficient time” means “between adventures” but going to see a doctor and resting a while works too.

Some Polar Figures

Some Polar Numbers

As a fun end of year exercise I collated the all-time download figures from this site of the various Polar Blues Press products

The totals look something like this:

Complete Systems
Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands   2911
Cyberblues City   1591
Mutant Bikers of the Atomic Wastelands   318
Lawmen v Outlaws   97

Adventures
Cyberblues City – Going the Distance   135
Cyberblues City – A Very Cyber Christmas   119
BHAW – The Ballad of Bad Bob Mcklusky   75
BHAW – Night of the Atomic Snowmen   124

Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands is way ahead in downloads, partly because it was based on Fate which is always popular but also because it’s been out longer. The numbers for Cyberblues City aren’t too bad either for a Fudge based game; I suspect the review at http://www.thefreerpgblog.com/2016/02/mellow-cyberblues-city-by-polar-blues.html helped. Lawmen v Outlaw hasn’t got a lot of traction, which is a shame because I think it’s a really good design. The figures for Mutant Bikers of the Atomic Wastelands are a bit misleading because the game the game predates this site by a couple of decades. It remains the game of mine that mostly frequently quoted on gaming forums, but it still nice to see people keep discovering it.

The purpose of posting this is help any hobbyist game designer to get a feel of what can be achieved without much fuss or fanfare. The thing to consider is that if these were commercial games rather than free pdfs, the actual number of copies in circulation would be just a tiny fraction. There is no way I woulud have sold nearly 3000 copies of BHAW, for small publishers, games sales into the 100s are considered a success. As such there is clearly a trade-off between reaching many more gamers with your creations and trying to make get a return for your efforts. I am happy with my choice, but it’s a very personal choice to make.

And while I’m, I’ll leave you with one of the illustrations from Lawmen v Outlaws.

Lawmen v Outlaws

Merry Christmas from Polar Blues Press.

Lawmen v Outlaws

cover Free to download  >>  Lawmen v Outlaws

Lawmen v Outlaws is a simple Western themed roleplaying game about… erm… lawmen and outlaws. The game uses a variant of the Fudge roleplaying system, designed to be easy to learn and fast in play. New rules including the Minion Machine and Complex Tests will help you create interesting and varied challenges with little or no advance preparation. Adventure seeds for both lawmen and outlaws are also included. These things combined make Lawmen V Outlaw ideally suited for pick-up games.

 

sample character

Cyberblues City Deluxe

Cyberblues City Deluxe is out! It is the same simple and fast, Fudge-based game but now with an whole new off-the-wall, London-based setting and so, so much new, full-colour artwork. And it is still absolutely free. Click on the link or image below to download.

>> Download Cyberblues City

Cyberblues City cover

And here is quick gallery of some on the new artwork.
cyborg queenThe Cyborg Queen Victoria Perpetua waves to the crowds from Buckingham palace.

A security patrol

lobster peopleLobster People on the prowl

arrestA Tax Inspector robot arresting an anarchist

Polar Plans for 2018

It is customary at this time of year to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. 2017 was pretty quite for Polar Blues Press, I just got a short new adventure out for Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands called The Ballad of Bad Bob McKlusky. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t busy.

Over the course of the year I’ve been working on something called provisionally Cyberblues London. The blurb goes something like this:

It’s the future. The cyborg Queen Victoria Perpetua rules with an iron grip but her control is slipping over an increasingly divided and rebellious London. Crime is out of control, corporations act with impunity and the people rage against the Queen’s crippling taxes. London Bridge has fallen down. Large parts of London are flooded, the river Thames itself is now the setting for a three-way battle between Royal Navy, pirate crews and mutated river creatures.

But the tourists.. they still come in large numbers.

Cyberblues London started as a spin-off from Cyberblues City but it has grown in something bigger. I quite excited about it. The text is written, I am currently finishing the illustrations of which I’ve included a couple of examples below and I looking forward to sharing this with everyone in the first quarter of 2018.

Cyberblues London 1

Another possible candidate for 2018 is Fudgezilla (name to be confirmed). Fudgezilla would basically just be a lightweight, generic and  pre-configured adaptation of Fudge optimised for pick up and play sort of gaming. “Pre-configured” is the important word here. It would draw on Fudge implementation I used for from Cyberblues City.

I have mixed feeling about this project in that to some extent I am not sure about generic rules; the fun mechanics to creaete are usually those closely tied to the desired the setting, genre or tone. On the other hand I can see a use for it and it’s like I have it all in my head already, so I might just write a first draft and see how I feel about it afterwards. Should I choose to proceed I could be a reasonably quick job.

Incidentally, if the idea of a lightweight Fudge variant for pickup game is something you’re interested in you might want to keep tabs on the developments at the Fudge Gamer’s Blog https://fudgegamer.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Other than that, merry Christmas and happy New Year to everyone.

Cyberblues London 1

BHAW – The Ballad of Bad Bob McKlusky

The Ballad of Bad Bob McKlusky is a free adventure for Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands. The Bounty Hunters are on the trail of a notorious cattle rustler but in the Atomic Wastelands things are never quite that simple.

The adventure is presented in a non-linear fashion as a collection of Clues, Locations and Complications for the GM to assemble as he or she sees fit.

>  Download the Ballad of Bad Bob McKlusky today!

More free stuff from Polar Blues Press here: https://ukrpdc.wordpress.com/category/polar-blues-press/

Polar Blues Press Downloads

A collection of free games and adventures to download from Polar Blues Press. More product specific information can be found at https://ukrpdc.wordpress.com/category/polar-blues-press/.

Full Games

>  Lawmen v Outlaws (Fudge)
Cyberblues City Deluxe (Fudge)
Bounty Hunters of the Atomic (Fate)
Mutant Bikers of the Atomic Wastelands (Fudge)

Adventures For Cyberblues City

>  Going The Distance
A Very Cyber Christmas

 Adventures for BHAW

Night of the Atomic Snowmen
> The Ballad of Bad Bob McKlusky