We – Chris Taylor and I – have written a new game, and we’re really excited about. It’s called Chronicle, and we’re stupidly excited about it. I want to tell you about it, and I want your help playtesting it, so there’s gonna be a small amount of trumpet-blowing here – but, please, stick with us. We’re buzzed to see what sort of stories you can tell with our game.
TL;DR, IF YOU’RE BUSY
Chronicle is a quick-burn pulpy high-combat RPG that uses playing cards instead of dice. It has player-led world creation and cyclical storytelling, meaning that you’ll bounce around multiple viewpoints as you explore and flesh out your universe. We need playtesters. Maybe you’re one of those playtesters. Drop me a line if you’re interested.
PLAYING CARDS, NOT DICE
Chronicle doesn’t use dice – each player has a stack of playing cards instead, and these represent all their actions and their hitpoints, as well as being a record of your history and permanent injuries. If you do something big enough to make a mark on the world and on your character, you write it on a card – and if that card comes up later in play, your actions come back to haunt you.
Every character gets a fresh deck, and you’ll deface that deck as you play, but you’ll create a lasting record of the stories in an interesting format. And I guess, technically, you could still use the deck to play poker once you’re done.
(I like drawing on cards, too. I was unlucky enough to draw a Jack when I took a lasting spinal injury in a recent game, and had to have my bones replaced with weird mechanical demonic stuff, so now the Jack has spindly limbs coming off his back, and the card is worth half as much as it used to be. So that’s fun.)
NO MORE PARTIES OF RANDOMERS
Characters in Chronicle are built around your core. Your core determines who you are and the flavour of your campaign as well as the sort of things you’ll get up to during play. Our current cores are Warrior, Outlaw, Devout, Magi, Wild and Pact-Bound.
Everyone in the group chooses the same core, so you’ve generally got a reason to hang out together, and you’ll hopefully avoid the common problem of having a ramshackle group of random murderhobos who just so happen to be hanging out with each other because they’re controlled by the players.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE REST OF CHARACTER GENERATION FOR A BIT ACTUALLY
Your SPECIALITIES are defined by your group, and they form a sort of skill list and a selection of approaches to overcoming problems. They’re entirely dependent on your cycle, but you might have “Break, Sneak, Lie, Corrupt, Inspire, and Scare” or “Hunt, Survive, Commune, Camouflage, Sacrifice, and Craft.”
Your ROLE determines what you do in combat – kind of like a class in D&D. Our current roles are Brawler, Deadeye, Dominator, Protector and Warden.
Your TRAIT gives you an additional flavour, a twist, on top of your innate abilities. We have a whole bunch of these, and they range from simple additions like Heavy Weapon and Fire to more complex ones like Unnatural body horror and reality-bending Runes.
Once you pick out these (and any options within) your character is ready to rock. We’ve tried to make character gen as easy as possible so you can focus on the fiction, rather than choosing from hundreds of feats or calculating your defence score.
EVERYONE BUILDS THE WORLD TOGETHER
There’s no default setting for Chronicle – it’s generic, which is a word I don’t especially like using, but it’s apt here. But instead of leaving you hanging in the breeze, we get all the players to create a unique world through a series of questions tied to their identity and abilities – the GM leads the discussion, but the decisions come down to the players.
If you’re playing a Warrior campaign, say, we ask you about who you’re at war with, what you stand to lose, who your allies are, and so on. If you’re playing an Outlaw campaign we get you to talk about the city, the police, the weirdnesses that lurk under the surface of everything, and what crime you’re setting out to get away with tonight.
(We assume that the default setting of the game, the meta-setting, is fantasy – dragons, dungeons, wizards, goblins, etc. But we’ve seen it run in cyberpunk, science fantasy, and whatever genre you call it where you combine the industrial revolution with demons.)
The second questions come from your traits – your special abilities – and ask you to spin their existence into the larger narrative. If you’re a Captain, for example, we want to know where you learned to lead people and what your old battle cries were. If you have control over fire, we want to know how you control it, and whether anyone else can, and who would rather you wouldn’t.
This is probably my favourite bit of any roleplaying game – when the players sit down and build their characters, and you craft a world and a story around them – and we’re making it mandatory to Chronicle. With luck, you’ll never end up in a campaign that you don’t care about.
BRING YOUR OWN FLUFF
We’re very hands-off with the fiction in Chronicle – it’s up to you to add your own. Instead of a weapons list, each attack is defined by your role, and each player determines what they’re doing in fictional terms. In a devout campaign, your ranged attack could be a basic crossbow – or maybe you’re casting bolts of holy light out of your palms. Maybe you’re calling down forks of lightning, or cursing your foes. Maybe you’re lobbing vials of holy water. Maybe you have a bag of sacred rocks with your holy book written on them, and you lob them at your enemies. Maybe you have a seraph with a whacking great sniper rifle hovering overhead. It’s up to you, and what’s more, it’s mandatory – we want you to take stuff that’s normally taken for granted and weave it into your character, and by extension, the world.
And, like, you wanna play humans? Sure. You wanna play an entire party of bears in hats? Make it happen.
Chronicle works a bit differently from your standard campaign set-up. When you make characters, you make them with about four sessions in mind – this is a cycle, and it focuses around one particular challenge or achievement for that group of people. Then, once that’s done, you don’t stick around – you make another cycle set in the same world using different characters, shifting your attention to new stories and fleshing out new details.
So, let’s say you play witch-hunters and your cycle is about tracking down the Prime Witch. You torch up the Prime Witch and your cycle is done – so let’s explore the fallout from that. Maybe your next cycle focuses on the witches struggling to find a new leader, or just fleeing the country to sanctuary in the mountains. Maybe that Prime Witch was the only thing holding back a horde of interdimensional world thieves, and you play the wild men and women who dwell at the south pole where the portal rips open. Maybe you play facets of the Prime Witch, cast backwards in time, looking to recombine themselves and rise once more to power. Maybe you play the founding of the Witch Hunter cabal, hundreds of years before the events of the previous cycle, back when they were a bunch of shysters looking for easy profit and a suitable scapegoat.
Lots of cycles make a chronicle, hence the name of the game. We’re asking you to play all kinds of moralities and motivations, to play both sides in the same war, to play predator and victim, to help flesh out this world you’ve made together. We want you to go at it hard and change the world then switch to a new focus. Crucially, we don’t want you to get bored.
In Chronicle, you get XP when you change your character or you change the world, and you spend XP on new stories (that enhance you in and out of combat) and new abilities. That’s it. If you kill a monster, that doesn’t mean you get better at your job automatically – you have to make an impact with the kill, shake up the status quo. Of course, this means that you can get XP from less violent scenes, too, so long as you change your point of view. Breaking up with your partner can earn you XP if it makes an impact, because we want to encourage a cast of characters who change themselves to overcome adversity.
We’re still pinning down how this works, but we’re excited to see where we go from here, and how we can harness the quick-burn nature of the cycles to get lots of rapid dramatic change in our characters – if we’ve done our jobs properly, people should be willing to put their characters through hell in search of drama.
TOO MANY WONDERFUL CHOICES
Chronicle is, by and large, about fighting stuff: all of your powers are useful in combat, and not useful outside of it. (Your Stories and your Specialities handle out-of-combat stuff.) When we designed Chronicle, we wrote up our mission goals, and one of them was “You should look at the character options and be so excited about all of them you don’t know which one to choose.”
Hopefully, we’ve done that. We’ve tried to make every character option exciting, and we’re still getting everything balanced fairly, which is why we need to get as much playtesting as possible under our belts.
WE NEED YOU!
We’re currently in closed alpha playtest. What this means is that we’re sending out the files to playtesters, even though the game is in a very rough state, and we’re asking for specific feedback from them. While we’re running games ourselves, we want to see what other people do with our game. We want to see what kind of worlds they build, and what stories they tell.
If you’re interested in getting involved in this project as a playtester, we’d love to have you on board. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get started.