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View Full Version : Are "The Change" novel an RPG?



Noedig
2011-04-21, 01:26 PM
I've read them recently and they'd be RPG gold. Just wondering if anyone has printed a system for them.
For any who don't know of them, they're written by S.M. Stirling, and tell the story of what happens when all modern technology stops working the world over in a cataclysmic event known as "The Change".

Mark Hall
2011-04-21, 03:00 PM
Ah. While they're a good series, I don't know that you necessarily need to make a full RPG out of them... you can pretty much take a fantasy RPG, strip out the magic, and use your local map to determine the same sorts of things.

TroubleBrewing
2011-04-21, 05:11 PM
I'm currently using the nWoD ruleset to run a game in the Emberverse. It's going well, but I wish I'd used something a little more true-to-life, like Riddle of Steel.

I wouldn't recommend using a d20 system unless it's the only one you're familiar with.

John Campbell
2011-04-22, 02:08 PM
Could be interesting to start a game on the premise of being a typical modern-era campaign, and then maybe halfway through the first session, -bam-, Change. And see how PCs that weren't designed with the idea in mind that they'd be having to run without tech would handle it.

Everyone in my group has read at least Dies the Fire, though, so I think the period of confusion before the players figured out what was going on would be pretty short.

TroubleBrewing
2011-04-22, 02:45 PM
Yeah, I wish I wasn't the only one who had. That series is incredible.

I blab about it all the time, though. They'd probably catch on quick enough not to have to turn Eater.

Mark Hall
2011-04-22, 09:21 PM
Could be interesting to start a game on the premise of being a typical modern-era campaign, and then maybe halfway through the first session, -bam-, Change.

I run into a few issues with that, from a game design perspective. Mainly, what do you do with the guys who have turned themselves into uber-hackers or gun bunnies? If your players are willing to deal with maybe having created highly useless characters, then it can be worthwhile... but it can also backfire, greatly, if your players get caught up in the awesomeness of their builds.

TroubleBrewing
2011-04-22, 09:34 PM
... what do you do with the guys who have turned themselves into uber-hackers or gun bunnies?

A campaign I was in neatly avoided this issue by having us make versions of ourselves.

He avoided that issue, but all in all, it was a terrible idea. As the only one of the group with anything resembling close-combat training or martial arts, I got taken down by three enemies wielding baseball bats and the rest of the group just kind of... disintegrated.

Bang!
2011-04-23, 03:56 AM
Disclaimer: I've never read the books. My knowledge of the premise comes from a 2-minute wikipedia scan, so feel free to take it lightly. Especially if it's blatantly wrong.

This kind of game might do well with Unisystem (ie. All Flesh Must Be Eaten). If you ask your players to build Norms, they shouldn't have any reason to expect to be the Big Gunslinging Heroes.

This is the important part: don't tell them it's a zombie game. Don't even mention zombies when you're pitching the game. That's important.

Using Unisystem should prompt them to expect a twist, but when The Change comes, it'll be in a completely different direction than they have reason to suspect.

I think this would get your players into the spirit of the thing (normal people in a world where everything just stops) without undermining implicit promises or premises (like Mark's example hacker).

OverdrivePrime
2011-04-23, 06:13 AM
Shadowrun seems great for the setting. Just take out all the supernatural, cyber/bioware, matrix, rigger stuff and guns. I've used Shadowrun for a no-magic Bronze Age campaign and it worked really well. You get highly nuanced characters and combat is messy and exciting.


I've gotta say, I'd love someone else telling the story of the Change through a game. I've always daydreamed about something like that happening and love the setting that Stirling created, but I just cannot force myself to read the third book. I just can't imagine trudging through more Celt/SCA fanboy fappery. Every single time he starts harping on about the flawlessness of being an Irish geek I blush and look around to make sure no one else realizes what I'm reading. :smallsigh:

TroubleBrewing
2011-04-23, 12:28 PM
Just take out all the supernatural, cyber/bioware, matrix, rigger stuff and guns.


So... Use Shadowrun, but without the Shadowrun? :smallamused:

Daftendirekt
2011-04-23, 01:02 PM
Never heard of these before, but upon investigation, they sound awesome. I love post-apocalyptic/world change stuff of any kind, and this definitely falls into that category.

Seb Wiers
2011-04-23, 01:22 PM
I was introduced to the series because a guy in our gaming group wanted to GM a game. He was gonna do Firefly, but then decided to run a game based on the DTF series. We'd been playing in another setting (Elder Scrolls / Morrowind) using the Hârnmaster rules, so he adapted that ruleset (similar to BRP).

The setup was that we had to create characters who had an excuse to all be on a charter flight over the USA. We decided to be mebers of a film production crew; we had a couple fight coreographers, a balloon pilot, a medical nurse, and my character, a specil effects technician nemad "Jamie Hyneman".

Yes, I actually played Jamie Hyneman as a PC who survived "the change". Not only that, but I contacted him by e-mail (via mc5) and he wrote back to answer some questions about what he'd do in that situation (the mountain-top hunter-gather militarist camp we set up is actually a bit TO sociable by his standards).

The main problem we faced was the game tended to get bogged down in details of survival and politics, and didn't easily lend itself to the adventuring the GM wanted to run. Eventually we just abandoned it. At that point I;d even given up on playing Jamie, and made a more adventure-oriented character.

One of the most fun things about the game was that we found all sorts of cool info n the internet. For example, we got all our gear stats from REI, and used Googol Earth for our maps. We even discovered there were 20+ mile long 10' diameter tunnels running under the mountains where our characters settled, originally used to pump water over the continental divide...

John Campbell
2011-04-24, 01:46 PM
I run into a few issues with that, from a game design perspective. Mainly, what do you do with the guys who have turned themselves into uber-hackers or gun bunnies? If your players are willing to deal with maybe having created highly useless characters, then it can be worthwhile... but it can also backfire, greatly, if your players get caught up in the awesomeness of their builds.

Yeah, it's potentially problematic. I'm pretty sure my current group would handle it gracefully - especially since they're almost all big fans of the series - but I've certainly played with guys who wouldn't. I think as long as everybody's primary trick suddenly becomes useless, and the opposition is also having to deal with their tricks suddenly becoming useless, it should be manageable.

It avoids the weirdness where the group of PCs all just mysteriously have archaic skills and abilities that give them no benefit in the modern world, but would be very useful post-Change. With good players, you can avoid that just by telling them to build plausible characters, of course, but you still lose the, "Wait, WTF?" factor when the Change hits and they have to figure out what's going on. (Of course, I'd have lost a lot of that anyway just by virtue of the whole group having read DtF.)

The real problem is when the gunbunny is a survivalist bowhunter on the side, and the hacker put all his spare skill points into WoW-Playing.

I'd probably adapt Shadowrun, or a similar skill-based system (I like SR3). Certainly not D&D or anything d20-based.

Seb Wiers
2011-04-24, 06:47 PM
I don't see any problem with the players designing their characters with an eye towards post-change survivability. The author designed pretty much all of his protagonists (and antagonists) that way. It even gets lamp shaded (multiple times) in the books, when they are all sitting around comparing notes on how unlikely a lot of people they are, and then somebody points out that if they WEREN'T such unlikely and lucky folk, they would be dead. Plus, in at least a few cases, "divine intervention" is used to justify skilled people ending up in positions where they can have maximum effect.

If it really bugs you, just start your game 10 years post change. IMO, that's really where the series starts to get interesting in RPG terms; all the same adventure hooks remain, and you have full justification for the characters being either the survivors of the change who had useful skills, or (probably young) people who acquired skills after the change.

John Campbell
2011-04-24, 08:58 PM
Basically, I figure the game would be more immersive if the players are as surprised by the Change as their characters - or the characters in the books - and more interesting if the PCs are making do with what they've got, not optimized for a situation that none of them have any legitimate reason to expect.

And note that, even in the books, in a lot of cases, it's not the main characters that have the mad skills. Juney's main skill, in particular, is gathering the people who have the skills around her and turning them into a mutually supporting community. Mike's more personally competent, but, again, his big survival skill isn't being decent at getting around in the wilderness and pretty handy in a brawl, but gathering together and leading - and learning from - the people that have the skills. Norman Arminger's a SCAdian knight, and personally has skills and gear, but the reason that Portland's successful is because he uses those to grab control of a bunch of other people with skills and/or gear... and because of Sandra Arminger, whose skills are purely political.

That's one of the reasons I'd use a skill-based system, not something d20ish. The class/level system is too narrow and locks you into your initial concept too tightly, whereas something like SR3, it's cheap and easy to learn new skills and raise low ones, but you get diminishing returns on sinking Karma into skills that are already high, so characters that started out incompetent would pretty soon be not far behind the ones that started out good.

OverdrivePrime
2011-04-24, 09:07 PM
So... Use Shadowrun, but without the Shadowrun? :smallamused:

Well, yeah. It works great - particularly with the armor rules for stacking and such with piecemeal equipment.



That's one of the reasons I'd use a skill-based system, not something d20ish. The class/level system is too narrow and locks you into your initial concept too tightly, whereas something like SR3, it's cheap and easy to learn new skills and raise low ones, but you get diminishing returns on sinking Karma into skills that are already high, so characters that started out incompetent would pretty soon be not far behind the ones that started out good.
Exactly this. SR4 works just fine too.

Seb Wiers
2011-04-24, 11:13 PM
Mike Havel - trained military leader, grew up on a semi-ludite farm, access to defended farmstead @ change time

Armiger- History professor, SCA member, active group of gonzoid semi-ludite friends pre-change (not ALL his SCA friends got on board, but a lot did)

Juney- has the "luck" edge in huge doses, via divine intervention. Access to a decently stocked homestead, active group of semi-ludite friends

See a common thread here? Yeah, they don't ALL have to be backwoods ludite heros, but the ones on the top won't be normal city folk.

The main problem I see starting the game without telling folks its Emberverse pre-change is the "bait and switch" effect. If you can get around that, more power to yah! One way might be to let people build modern day characters for something like a cop game, and then rebate the points spent on useless skills / gear in some fashion. A fun way to do that might be to mix some minor psionic / divine powers into the game...

Anyhow, you totally right about using a skill based system. Hârnmaster worked well for us for that very reason- and because it has built in (and nasty) rules for diseases (plague was SCARY) and wounds / infection.

Noedig
2011-04-25, 09:24 AM
Im unfamiliar with Harnmaster, but SR3 does sound like a good match for the game, minus the tech of course. Combat would be dirty and lethal, and the karma system I feel sort of illustrates the improbable luck of the people in the Emberverse.

Mark Hall
2011-04-25, 07:10 PM
An alternative which is a little bit less bait-and-switchy might be to go with the "other side" of the Change... the Event from the Nantucket trilogy. While some people would still be rendered useless (there's not much call for computer hacking), the higher tech level lets them be useful, and you can play Clarkian magic for all it's worth.

Seb Wiers
2011-04-25, 07:27 PM
Im unfamiliar with Harnmaster, but SR3 does sound like a good match for the game, minus the tech of course. Combat would be dirty and lethal, and the karma system I feel sort of illustrates the improbable luck of the people in the Emberverse.

Neodig - I've played a good lot of shadowrun and... meh, maybe. I'd personally find it a bit dull with nothing but uncybered mundanes, and other games do lethal & dirty low tech combat as well or better.
Hârnmaster is from Columbia games. Its d100 skill based, a lot like BRP. You could proably do as well with BRP or Gurps, but our group knows the system, and likes it for some things. Combat can be very decisive; much like Shadowrun, the defender can (try to) strike back, but unlike Shadowrun, that often results in BOTH people getting hit. (The defender has a few other options as well- blocking, dodging, etc.)
The Fate system might also work well for DTF. Unlike any of the above games, it focuses more on the mechanics of story telling, which might help preserve the feelings of the novels better than a more detail-oriented system. It also can use the exact same mechanics for combat, social contests, and pretty much anything else, so can allow a wider range of characters / situations without requiring a ton of special rules / tables.