Category Archives: Generator

Index Card Situation

This is not technically part of Index Card Tactics, though it’s related, in that another part of ICT is that it uses situation generators like Two Guys With Swords. This is another such tool (and don’t worry, I’ll be getting onto classes and equipment and so on).

This trick works best for a group of 4 or 5 who either have some sense of their character or who are willing to make things up enthusiastically.

  1. Hand each player an index card. Have them write the name of one NPC who is very important to their character, with perhaps a single sentence description of who they are and why they matter. Broad strokes.  
  2. Pass the card to the player on your left (not the GM).
  3. On the card they have received, the player now writes down something bad that might happen to the person named. This should not have a lot of details outside of the character, so “Stripped of their title”  is good but “Stripped of their title by the Cardinal” is not.
  4. Pass the card to the player on your left (not the GM).
  5. On the card received, the player now writes down a good outcome, flavored by the bad one.  It should not merely be “The bad thing doesn’t happen” but rather an outcome that might be hoped for over and above mere nullification. To continue the example of stripped of title, “Be honored by the king” would work well.
  6. Pass the card to the player on your left (not the GM).
  7. On the card received, the player now writes down who wants the bad outcome to happen.
  8. Pass cards back to the first player.
  9. Player looks at the situation as presented and – privately – writes their rating on the card, representing their interest in seeing this in play. Ratings are from 0 (I actively hate this, and never want it to see the light of day) to 5 (This is AWESOME, I totally want this) .
  10. Cards are handed over to the GM.
  11. GM looks through the cards and, based on interest level, puts them in motion.
Notes and Variations
  • Step one assumes a friendly NPC.  It’s possible to allow it to be a hated NPC, in which case that should be noted on the card, and the logic of step 7 inverts to “Who wants the good outcome for this character?”
  • It is possible for Step 1 to be something other than a character, such as a town or organization.  For certain games (conspiracy oriented one, frex) that might be apt, but go easy on it.
  • Step 7 is fre-form as presented, but if you’re using a game with an existing cast of characters “in play” (like a Dresden Files City, a tech Noir playset, or even something like Apocalypse World’s fronts) then the character selected should be drawn from that list, or tied to that element.
  • In step 11, Player rating is important to determining plot relevance but it’s also a useful yardstick for difficulty. That is, a low-interest situation should also be one that is reasonably easy to resolve. 
  • In step 11, one challenge to the GM is how to tie things together when player interest is high.  This is, to my mind, one of the fun things about bing a GM.
  • In Step 11, If interest is across the board low, then that may be a reason to check your table.  Is it that your players have radically different tastes and they’re spilling on each other? Are they looking for more of a monster smash this evening? Do the NPCs really not grab them?  Only you can really know your table, but take it as a cue to think about it. 

An Idea

Not sure if this is a handout or just a placeholder, but it fell onto my screen tonight.

Additional thoughts
  • Make sure to keep the NPC cards. If you do this more than once, you can start adding them to the table beforehand and changing the number of new vs existing NPCs used.
  • If you’re going for a specific type of game (nobility-driven, for example) you are free to mandate one or two connection types (such as, everyone must have at least one parent)

More Guys With Swords

For a friend’s birthday this weekend, a request was made for a game to be run, and given a combination of short notice and assessment of the taste of all players involved, I ran Two Guys With Swords.
2GwS has a somewhat fantastic self-selection process. It is run (at least by me) with a certain tone that combines high action with no small amount of tongue in cheek. Thankfully, the random tables do a fantastic job of conveying the tone of the game – if you see the tables and they make you smile, then it’s probably the right game for you.
Anyway, this was interesting since it was a full table, and we ended up playing Five Guys with Swords (insert obligatory hamburger joke here), which required a little tweaking of things. There were also a few decisions made on the fly that might be useful for folks looking to do interesting things with C+, so I figure I’ll run through them.
First, the big change for chargen was to allow every player to write something down on everyone else’s sheet, so it went something like this – write a distinction, pass the sheet left, write another distinction, pass the sheet left, and keep repeating this until there were 5 distinctions on the sheet. It worked startlingly well, and because distinctions are entirely subject to player interpretation, it was less inhibiting than doing the same thing with aspects might have been. it also gave everyone a little bit more of an investment in everyone else’s character, which was a good way to establish quick cameraderie.
Second: Magic rules. So, 2GwS technically includes magic, but it’s totally the magic in the same way that Gray Mouser technically knew some magic. That is to say, badly – often to the point of disaster. When a player uses a gonzo distinction for a gonzo effect, they roll both the d8 and the d4 (and do not get a plot point) but in return there’s a lot more narrative leeway in the outcome (and I am also more shameless in my willingness to explicitly pull out crazy-ass consequences as a result).
Third: Multi-sided conflicts. At one point in the first fight, one of the players started a small avalanche (d8) which I shamelessly spent complications on to turn into a d12 + d8, and it became a third side in the fights. Mechanically, this proved staggeringly easy to adjudicate, at leas tin part because the avalanche wasn’t doing anything terribly complicated: if it wins, it puts a “Buried” complication on the opponent, and it was an equal-opportunity threat (one fight ended with both sides getting whomped by the Avalanche and taken out of the fight)
Fourth: Fixed and transient play elements. It totally helps to have 2 colors of post-its, so transient declarations are a different color. Makes table management much easier. Similarly handy – I’ve been experimenting with all-caps handwriting lately, and while I’m still undecided on it, it _absolutely_ helps with the post-its.
So, given those rule hacks, the thing I found I need to add are a few more tools for the GM for handling his threat budget and drawing inspiration in a manner similar to the generation tables. In the absence of that, I was very ad hoc in my threat numbers. I think it would probably be easy to standardize it, and I have at least one good idea for a hack (turning any cleaned up elements into complications). All of which is to say, I suspect I may have to do a proper 2GwS writeup, including some explanation of what actually happens at the table for those who don’t quite get some of the statements I’m making about the game.

Two Guys With Swords

My friend Clark was contemplating a one shot, but was hesitant to use Leverage because he knows it well (Clark wrote a big chunk of it). That got me thinking about how to do speedy starts for other Leverage-derived games, which in turn lead to some thoughts on the “Two Guys With Swords” game, which is intensely derivative in a way that is goofy and fun. Guys, in this case, is intended as gender neutral, as it encompasses both men and women, but certainly not gentlemen or ladies.

Chargen for a 2 player game

  • Both Guys get Hitter d10
  • Hacker is now Tinkerer. It covers gadgets, alchemy and locks.
  • Each player picks one more d10 role for himself
  • Each player picks on d4 role for the other guy
  • Each player then assigns a d6 and a d8 to the remaining roles
  • No stats.
  • Characters get 6 distinctions, at least 3 of which must be chosen now, others can be chosen in play.
  • Swords are d6 assets, unless they have names, in which case they are d8s. A named sword does not always need to be the same sword. All that matters is the name.
  • Pick 2 talents for your guy, one talent for the other guy.

Next, Get Into Trouble
Where you Are Now

  1. A caravan camp at an oasis
  2. At a crossroads far from civilization
  3. Atop an icy mountain peak
  4. Strapped to the altar of something best unnamed
  5. Wretched hive of scum and villainy (small)
  6. Wretched hive of scum and villainy (large)
  7. At sea, in a lifeboat
  8. Miles underground
  9. Falling from an unreasonable height
  10. Surrounded by fire on three sides

What Brought You to This

  1. The alternative was getting married
  2. Treasure turns out to have been fake
  3. The guild’s assassin’s are in pursuit
  4. Angry husbands are entirely unreasonable
  5. A terrible curse haunts you
  6. The gods demanded, wheedled and pushed
  7. Swore an oath while drunk
  8. Temple apparently objected to you doing that with their matriarch
  9. Still hungover, the rest is a blur
  10. Snakes

How It Is About To Get Worse

  1. Woke something that should stay slumbering
  2. Reasonably sure those men with curved swords have taken offense
  3. Wizard who, for no apparent reason, lives in that tower
  4. Gods are miffed
  5. Assassins have found you
  6. Currently naked
  7. These people aren’t speaking any kind of recognizable language. And may not be people.
  8. You’re bait
  9. Someone has just been scorned.
  10. Tremendous success attracts unwanted attention.

Ok, yes, this is kind of minimalistic, but I admit, I have a strong temptation to take it for a spin.