Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Dusk City Outlaws

I told you I was going to be sporadic for a bit. In a future post, I'll explain what's been going on in my day-to-day life.

I have backed fewer and fewer projects on Kickstarter. There are a ton of reasons for that, but the end result is that a project needs a really good hook to grab my attention.

Early last year, I saw a project on Kickstarter called Dusk City Outlaws. The pitch was good, and the team involved was phenomenal. John Rogers, Scott Lynch, Saladin Ahmed, and Steve Kenson are all people I am familiar with and like.  I wasn't familiar with Susan Morris at the time. The involvement of the Penny Arcade guys gave me pause.

So I dug in, and found that it was definitely interesting. So I dropped $65 in as a Day One Backer.

And then ... I forgot about it.  It funded. It delivered its PDFs.  A week or two ago, I had shipping confirmation.  I told my wife to keep her eyes open for delivery of an RPG boxed set.  I figured it'd be a digest-sized book in a slightly larger box with a couple of dice and some cards.

What I got looked more like a board game than an RPG, and the contents failed to dispel that impression - the Player's Guide was less than 30 pages and looked like an FFG rulebook. The Judge's book was similar. It included all the dice you'll need, a pad of character sheets, some Cartel and Specialty sheets, tokens, and a digest-sized setting book

The form factor was  unique enough that I decided not to just add it to my Pile of Shame. I decided to have a quick read, and I'm really glad I did.  This game is unique, and I expect it'll be a ton of fun, once it hits the table.

Mechanically, it's simple.

At Character Generation, Players choose a faction (Cartel) and then a role within that faction (Specialty). Each combo gives a character a set of skills and knowledges. Just copy that information onto a character sheet (there is a pad of them included). Some Cartels and Specialties are Rare.  You may only have one Rare character per party.

Skills are percentile, and characters have a limited pool of Luck.  Luck functions like Hit Points, but it does more than that - for example, you can spend Luck on failed rolls to turn them into successes.

The GM lays out the Job and its time limit. Players then have that time to do Legwork scenes to set up their success or Drama scenes, in which maybe something goes wrong. Every Day and Night, each player gets to take lead in one scene.

Some things that most games relegate to "background work," this puts front-and-center. One example in the book is that your characters are likely scruffy lower-class folks, so going into the richer parts of town is going to draw attention.  Most games would let you just make a Disguise roll and call it good - in Dusk City Outlaws, you'd need to spend a Legwork scene to get your disguise together. And that eats up time.

As the session goes on, characters generate Heat, which gives the GM a few more toys to play with.

There are (8-sided) Advantage Dice and (10-sided) Challenge Dice that can adjust the outcome of your rolls. Each die only has one symbol (but it appears on multiple faces). Advantages and Challenges cancel one another out. These don't change the numbers on the percentile - or its outcome - but they do other things. So you can succeed but roll a Drawback which delays you enough that the Watch realizes something is up. Or you can fail your roll, but get a Boon (you aren't able to pick the lock, but your being shadowed by the doorway means that the Watch patrol that is strolling by doesn't notice you).

So what got me to write about this one?

It was the packaging. I have a fear that RPG folk will see a board game when they look at the box (despite the words "Role-Playing Game" on the lid), and might overlook it.

I think that this has potential to be a good gateway game. I think that people who have never role-played before will be able to jump into this one with almost no problem(s). It'd be better to have an experienced GM behind the screen, but it's not necessary for this one.

All in all, I think that this game looks fantastic, and I hope to run (or play in) a one-shot sometime in the very near future.

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