RPG a Day – Day 4: Most Recent RPG Purchase

Day 4 of #RPGaDAY, and we move away from D&D for the first time.

4. Most recent RPG purchase.

I’m counting this as “the most recent RPG purchase that I’ve actually read”, as otherwise I’d be discussing the recent Godlike/Wild Talents Bundle of Holding with very little to talk about. At some point I’ll actually get around to reading all of those Bundles of Holding I’ve bought…

So, instead I’ll be talking about Chronos: The Universal LARP System. This was a Kickstarter I backed in November 2013, but the finished product arrived just a few days ago. It’s an attempt at creating a fast paced generic theatre-style LARP system you can use for a wide variety of games. It succeeds to an greater or lesser extent in different areas.

The core concepts of Chronos are Aethers (supernatural energy that seeps into reality from outside our reality) and Skeins, where Aether entering the world has created an alternative timeline branching from our own. These can be as recent as Cold War powers discovering Aether to fuel their espionage efforts or as far in the distant past as to create a world completely unrecognisable to the modern day. This neatly allows for a wide range of potential settings for the game, including full-on sci-fi and fantasy worlds. Aether-based intruders from outside of any given Skein gives a ready source of monsters, and people who become heavily Aether infused can start to take on supernatural traits (and so give you elves, dwarves, demons and so on).

The system is based around cards, which you use to build a Character Deck. These come in five main types – Core Cards which represent your character’s central archetype (the Caregiver, the Guardian, the Trickster, etc.), Specialty Cards which are your character’s areas of training and expertise (Criminal, Journalist, Soldier, etc.), Item Cards which are (unsurprisingly) important items of your character’s equipment, Augment Cards which represent special abilities or powers that your character has access to (and can swap in for Specialty or Item cards), and finally Aether Cards which are your ability to draw on the hidden energies of the world to put a little bit of extra effort into an action or fuel your special abilities.

You resolve challenges by building a Challenge Hand of one Core Card, one Specialty Card and one Item Card (subbing in Augment or Aether Cards in place of Specialty or Item cards as wanted). You then take a sum of whichever of the four core stats – Acumen, Resolve, Dexterity or Brawn – that’s relevant to the action your taking and compare it to either a static target number or an opposing Challenge Hand. There are some resources on the Chronos LARP website that explain it in more (and better) detail than I’ve gone into here.

Building a Challenge Hand.

It seems like it would be a pretty quick and simple system in play, not least for resolving combat. In fact, the combat looks like it’s going to be fairly quick and brutal, and certainly an order of magnitude faster than Mind’s Eye Theatre… For any readers familiar with the Cthulhu Live system, there are definitely some similarities in the core resolution system, although Chronos feels like it’s a lighter system for both good and ill.

It also makes an interesting distinction between two different styles of play – live play where you’re trying to make as immersive an experience as possible, and narrative play which is essentially tabletop roleplaying to tackle scenes that can’t easily be phys repped in a live game environment (car chases, skydiving, battling huge monsters, and so on).  This is followed by advice on how to transition between the two, and how to deal with having both types of play happening simultaneously in a game.  This really does feel like something that MET should recognise and embrace.

So far, so good, and I do like the look of the core system. However, the core game itself feels a bit incomplete. No sample Skeins (worlds) are included in the core book, and the core deck of cards that comes with the Kickstarter package only really covers modern action or occult style games particularly well. While Eschaton Media are planning on releasing a number of Skein supplements and extra decks, the game feels a bit thin without them.

There’s also the issue of the cards themselves. While they’re a very neat idea, I think you’d want at least one deck of cards for every 2-3 players, and one for each Game Organiser (as Chronos calls GMs/STs/DMs) to make NPCs (or “MetaCharacters”) on the fly. At just over £20 per deck from DriveThruRPG once you take shipping into account, that’s not an inconsiderable investment.

Overall, it’s an interesting experiment, and certainly something new to theatre LARPs as far as I’m aware. I’m keen to see some for their future expansions to see if it can grow into its potential, and hopefully DriveThruRPG getting a UK printer for their cards on demand service to bring the costs of decks down for players in the UK like myself.

Links:

If you’re interested in taking a look at the rules, the core rulebook is available for free on DriveThruRPG at the moment.

The Chronos LARP section of the Eschaton Media website has some more details on the system and their future plans for the game.

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