Smash it up, Smash it up!

So, a recent trend I’ve been reading about at the cool kid forums is a sort of game where you say “need book X to play”. Basically people put out more or less detailed conversion notes for using one set of rules with material from another game (whether just the fluff or some of the actual rules). Shadowrun is a popular target, as it’s a pretty universally loved world, with a pretty poorly regarded system. Another popular thing is to take Old Skool D&D and mash it up with a more modern rulesset, like the upcoming Apocalypse World (that one dubbed “Apocalypse D&D”). Basically, this notion excites me, as I’ve been discovering recently that a) a lot of the rules I’ve “grown up with” are pretty dumb, but b) I still love the worlds that they’re made for.

So, right now I’ve got two main ideas for my own approach to this trend. The first one involves an old favorite and a new discovery: Ninja Burger and InSpectres. For those that don’t know, Ninja Burger is a wacky little game available as an RPG or a card game by Steve Jackson games that revolves around, well, Ninjas delivering hamburgers. Anywhere. Anytime. In 30 minutes or less, or we commit suppuku! Inspectres is a Ghostbusters flavored game that uses both wacky paranormal activity and start up company stereotypes to good and humorous effect.

I picked up the Ninja Burger RPG rules and gave them a read through, and, well, I was less than thrilled. I haven’t had a chance to play them, so maybe they’re more fun than they look, or maybe right now I just have too much of a bug up my ass about hippy-dippy new fangled games, but reading through them they seemed to be rules for serious simulation of fighting and infiltration and such for a supremely silly game. They don’t seem to fit!

On the other hand, Inspectres has a franchise and mission based structure, good but flexible rules that support humor, and very little ‘overhead’ or prep for running it. So I was struck by the idea of running Ninja Burger with the Inspectres rules. I’m going to make sure it’s okay to post such a conversion from the publishers before I pursue it too far, though. But it’s something I’d love to play sometime.

The other idea I have is to run a dark horror/madness type game (like Call of Cthulhu or Dark Heresy) using the Otherkind Dice rules I posted below. Dark Heresy has loads of evocative source material, and I think does an excellent job of expanding the 40k universe into its dark corners and really playing up the madness and horror of confronting Chaos and demons and aliens and what not. But the rules do a few things I don’t like.

For one, percentile systems rub me the wrong way for some reason. Sure, they’re imminently logical, and easy to tune, but they just seem so dry and boring. Secondly, your goal is to roll under your score (which makes sense), and rolling low to do well just strikes me as counter-intuitive. That’s mostly silly, but still real.

More seriously, the game is, well, super crunchy. It has very detailed stats and combat systems and you keep track of your rounds of ammunition and take a half action to reload and yadda yadda yadda. If I want tactical combat in the 40k universe with characters I care about, I’ll play Necromunda! (or the alternate rules I’m working on that allow more ‘roleplaying’ like elements). I feel like all of that stuff will tend to detract from the focus on investigation and horror and madness.

So right now I’m debating between two ways to make the Otherkind system work with such a setting. I have some reservations, fearing that perhaps the inherent control of the narrative that this system gives players will take away from some of the horror, but I do like how *very* story focused it is.

At any rate, the two ways. One would be to allow “dangers” that you risk with a roll to be discrete things like a phobia or “going insane” or whatever. Unfortunately, this would take away the “death spiral” that you get with lowering insanity making your more likely to lose sanity, and it might take away the gradual erosion of sanity.

The other way would be to just import the sanity/corruption tracks from those games and their effects, and make it a ‘danger’ associated with rolls to lose X number of points. The main downside here is that you lose the feedback from the sanity/corruption points into the main rules, since the resolution mechanic would still function separately from these things. One of the cool things in Call of Cthulhu is that the more “Cthulhu Mythos” you know, the less sane you are, but the more effective at battling monsters. So there’s an incentive to do stuff that drives your character mad. One feature/issue of Otherkind dice is that “character effectiveness” can’t really be reflected manually, at least not with any degree of precision (basically you either get to roll an extra die or you don’t).

At any rate, my goal with any sort of mash up like this is to find a set of rules that not only don’t get in the way of the world you’re playing in, but actually expose new things about it and make it more fun to play. I’m pretty confident InSpectres will do that for Ninja Burger, less so for Otherkind dice playing CoC or Dark Heresy.

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