Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The CAS RPG

Quite a few people seem interested in the RPG I wrote based on the works of Clark Ashton Smith. I am sorry to say that, of the parts that were written before I abandoned the project, very little has survived, thanks to several computer deaths and general stupidity on my part. That said, I recall pretty well what I intended to do and could probably rebuild the thing with relative ease, if I wanted to do so.

As I said, it was a D20-variant game, as that was all the rage at the time, but most of its ideas would work just as well under, say, Labyrinth Lord. It was class based, but with only three classes: warrior, rogue, and scholar. None of them had any magical abilities by default, as magic could only be learned through play and at great effort, expense, and danger.

As humans were the only playable race, I decided to go with an unusual approach, dividing them into personality archetypes, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. These advantages/disadvantages had several facets. One facet came into play regardless of one's chosen class, while the others only mattered depending on one's class. So, for example, choosing "Jaded" as one's personality archetype gave your character certain benefits and drawbacks overall, but also specific ones depending on whether you chose to make the character a Jaded Warrior, a Jaded Rogue, or a Jaded Scholar. And a Jaded character would be different in significant ways from, say, an Amorous one or an Esthete.

These archetypes thus took the place of races and allowed for a fair degree of character customization without downplaying the importance of classes. I was fairly pleased with the results, although I fretted over how many personality archetypes to include and how finely to divide them. However, beginning characters felt as if they could be CAS characters without too much effort, either mechanically or in terms of player choice at the start. The other game rules were pretty standard fare, although there were some wrinkles here and there, like a "mental balance" system (I hated the name but never came up with a better one) that was similar to traditional sanity systems but tailored for settings where becoming bored was as dire as becoming insane.

Given all the interest this topic has generated, maybe I should return to it at some point. I guess we'll see.

23 comments:

  1. Given all the interest this topic has generated, maybe I should return to it at some point.

    Count this as one strong "yes." :)

    Security word: "litur." How an illiterate orc writes the metric system.

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  2. Yes. You definitely must do it.

    But you must do it for BRP. A CAS game just asks for BRP, or, if you want it to be really rules light OpenQuest.

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  3. Sounds interesting. My only reservation is that setting-inspired RPGs are really only worth the work if the mechanics strongly influence the play of the game, as in Pendragon or the Dying Earth RPG. Otherwise, I'd just as soon pick a standard RPG, such as OD&D, d20 or RQ, that works best for the setting. (e.g., for Zothique I would absolutely use B/X D&D, and if I were doing the Hyborian Age, no question but it would be RuneQuest).

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  5. This would be a very nice way to handle things. Jung's work suggests a nice/elegant approach, so does the Enneagram with it's Nine types, and of course there are others. I'd very much like to see what you do with this idea. If the game itself remains dormant, why not do adventures/modules that cross-over into Zothique, etc. as I recall at least one of the Dreamlands supplements from Chaosium has done in the past? Each unchallenged precedent erodes the stranglehold of the AH-cabal...

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  6. The Amorous Rogue must live - in Zothique or any other world!

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  7. Although I've not been a huge fan of CAS, I think this sounds interesting. I'm always interested in new mechanics that I can borrow for my own games, and the personality types instead of races sounds like a great mechanic.

    If nothing else, could you expand on that idea and put something together for LL or BRP/GORE? It might help some more of us break away from Tolkien's dwarves, elves, and halflings at least.

    As far as how many/what kinds of personality types to use, I would shy away from anything that ties to a specific psychology model, with the possible exception of Jungian archetypes. I love reading about different "typing" models, but it would be very difficult to describe the model without turning the descriptions into a textbook-style definition. More general types like you suggested work just fine for me.

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  8. If I recall, GB over at Eiglophian Press was at one time working on a Zothique setting. I'm still very much in favor of seeing something similar. Maybe something akin to Carcosa?

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  9. Another vote for "Yes, please!"
    The three class system sounds like it would also work well for True20.

    Either way, I do hope that this comes to fruition one day.

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  10. I would have to jump on this particular bandwagon. It sounds emminently cool. I could see it as either BRP or True20 (given your original d20 draft).

    I really like the idea of using psychological profile as character race.

    Do it!

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  11. To follow up on what Andrea wrote, Stormbringer might provide a good model: older versions provided templates with bonuses and penalties for stats (and, I think, skills) based on one's country of birth. You could do something similar for your personality types, then craft skill packages to fit the "classes," so that an amorous rogue would be significantly different from a jaded rogue or an amorous scholar.

    Security word: "cubegon," the magic word for dismissing a quadrone modron.

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  12. You know reading this post and your earlier one I got to thinking.

    Why not just make the James Maliszewski RPG? I know you have done a lot of research and respect older authors like CAS, Howard, Lovecraft, etc. But I think you done enough to do original work with their themes.

    I would look forward to such a game myself.

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  13. I am a big fan of getting away from "race" as a character-typing mechanic. "Race" as a concept is both cliche (in fantasy fiction) and odious (in reality).

    Nations or tribes (as in Stormbriger) is a small step removed, but does a lot to lend a different perspective. The "personality type" approach has great potential for stimulating genre-specific play, but could also be a big of a straightjacket for role-playing in much the same way as the AD&D alignment system. Still, I like the idea that (personality x profession) yields (p x b) number of different character types: so a fighter profession yields e.g. paladins, rangers, mercenaries, etc. depending on the character's personality type.

    In the vein of the Jungian archetypes and other suggestions above: how about something a bit more nebulous, like Zodiac signs? They could suggest personality types or traits without being completely prescriptive, and of course the Zodiac has a wonderful classical pedigree. There are some games that do this already, I think.

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  14. Another "yes" howsoever it's done.

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  15. The other game rules were pretty standard fare, although there were some wrinkles here and there, like a "mental balance" system (I hated the name but never came up with a better one) that was similar to traditional sanity systems but tailored for settings where becoming bored was as dire as becoming insane.

    How about tying such a system to the four humours? Roll a yellow bile check for d6 choler points!

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  16. Do it, please. Seeing that I'm A) a huge CAS fan, B) a huge Labyrinth Lord fan, and C) in Toronto, I would absolutely love to playtest this if you get back into developing it.

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  17. Awesome concepts. I'd love to see it come into print.

    I think licensed games/settings appeal to many of us. They may or may not require an entire game system, but I like it when they provide rules changes to an existing system, in order to customize for the setting. As Chaosium did.

    Oh dear, I mentioned Chaosium, didn't I? Well, since I did, I'll add my vote to writing the CAS thing up for BRP. ;)

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  18. Picador: Fantasy Roleplaying used astrological signs to modify a character's attributes, among other things.

    Scallop Skulled Skald: I might have to steal that idea about the humours...

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  19. I too support the mob which demands ink being spilled!

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  20. Did the personality types replace alignments, or were they in addition?

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  21. Rob Conley: I believe that our gracious host has already said that he'll be publishing a version of Dwimmermount, which seems to fill the criterion of being the James M RPG.

    James M: I would love to see this game in some form. It sounds fascinating.

    Scallop Skulled Skald: The idea of using humours is a good one. I'd been playing with something like that idea for a game set in Elizabethan England, as a basis of character design along with astrological considerations.

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  22. some of your thoughts on this went into the Cursed Chateau right? and for me, that's the way it should be-- new adventures not new games. I was at the bookstore yesterday looking at various sourcebooks (4e, pathfinder, WoD, mouse guard) and some of the were very imaginitive and innovative, but they painted with the kind of broad strokes that make for good reading, but shirked the detail-work necessary for play.

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  23. Swordbearer used humours, although it didn't really tie them to personality or any game mechanics other than magic. That always seemed a shame to me.

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