Friday, December 22, 2017

Tenth Game of Christmas 2017

Previous Games of Christmas: Traveller, Heavy Gear, Exalted, Mutants & Masterminds, Rifts, Hunters of Alexandria, Stars Without Number, Monster of the Week, Rules Cyclopedia

Today's game is the smallest game I have done in the series so far. It is only 16 pages long. However it is a fun and unique experience. If you like Steampunk, Firefly, a solid campaign, Magic, or loads of fun adventure this game might be for you. Lets dig into...

Lady Blackbird

I ran into this game a number of years ago. For a while it was all the rage online. It was short, but boy howdy is it evocative. It was interesting as you didn't play classes or make a character, instead you chose from a number of premade characters and played out a very specific scenario, yet somehow it was often very unique. You could play through the game in a few hours or extend it out  to take up a massive campaign that takes months. The best part is it is free.

Peritextual Elements
This is a striking book(er...booklet?), excellent formatting and even a couple of solid bits of art. There is a nice rendered image of the character's ship as well as silhouettes letting you see how big it is in comparison to the enemies ship, or a sky squid(yes its exactly as terrifying as that sounds). There is also a really spiffy map of the game world. The art and layout is pretty simple, but its simplicity is one of elegance rather than a lack of ability. The fonts are clear and easy to read and the rules are placed at the bottom of each play sheet, which is handy. It has solidly designed character sheets as well.

Mechanics
The mechanics of the game are very fluid and kind of fun to play around with. Your character is defined by Traits and tags. Each trait defines an area of competence and each trait has a bunch of tags listed within it. When you wish to accomplish some dramatic action you build a dice pool of D6s. You roll one die automatically and can add another die if you have an appropriate trait and another die if you have an appropriate tag. You also have a pool of free dice you may use to enhance any roll you want, it starts at seven dice. Any die that comes up as a 4 or better is a hit, and success is measured by number of hits(2 easy, 3 difficult, 4 challenging, 5 extreme). If you fail the roll you mark off a condition, which is a negative repercussion that the GM will use against you in the game.  Your character also has keys and secrets. Secrets add special abilities and areas f expertise. Basically they are small little rules exceptions that apply only to your character. Keys are just fantastic I originally ran into them in The Shadow of Yesterday, and ever since I knew they were one of the most interesting and innovative pieces f game design in decades. I might be exaggerating...a little. Keys are a method for creating drama and putting experience rewards in the players hands rather than in the GMs. Each key give you a specific circumstance that triggers the key, if you do what the key wants you gain an experience point or gain an additional die to your free pool, double that if doing what the key wants leads to danger. when you have gained 5 XP you gain an advance, which allows you to add new traits, tags, keys, or secrets. Each key also has a buyoff which, if the situation hits and you go with the buy off you lose the key and gain two advances. This makes the game very much about facing your true desires and fears and choosing whether to follow them or go against them. Its super fun.  The game mechanics are super simple, but pretty fun, and they have a lot of room for advancement.

Setting
The setting is spread throughout the whole book, each character is tied to it and defines it in some way. And due to the loose definitions of everything, you can have vastly different settings with different groups. The basics take up only half a page. The world is called the Wild Blue, a vast expanse of breathable void with island and the like floating in it. The lower depths are filled with corrosive gasses and dangerous creatures. You play crew members, or passengers, of the Sky Ship, the Owl. You are on the run from Imperial Forces, as the Lady Blackbird has run away t join up with her lover the pirate king...who she only met, like once. There is magic and guns, and all sorts of other cool steampunk stuff. I like the setting, but I think I like it most because I get to define a lot of it in play.  Check it out, give it a read, give it a try. Worst case scenario you will wast no money and a little time.

Now that we got those Lords a Leaping out of the way, we can call this game of Christmas complete. Tomorrow...

The Black Hack