It’s been a long time since we’ve updated our site. That doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy! In fact, we’ve been working on quite a few different things, including some brand-new stuff that we’re excited to show off.
For starters, The Plagued Crypt of Helvete, our third-party module for the award-winning dark fantasy game Mӧrk Borg, has finally been released! This is a one-shot adventure for starting characters that’s fully compatible with any other Mӧrk Borg products. We’ve been working hard to make sure this project was up to our standards, and we’re thrilled with how the final version looks and feels. Kickstarter backers should have all received their pledges by now.
Speaking of Kickstarters, our sci-fi game Nebula Chaos has also funded on Kickstarter! This space opera inspired sci-fi RPG features all the phasers, laser swords, dogfighting starships, and space pirates you can handle, all wrapped up in a quick-playing and easy-to-use rules system. The book includes everything you need to play, from character creation to an introductory adventure to help you orient yourself to the Voluspa Galaxy. Check out the project here!
Nebula Chaos is the second product using our Polyhedra Core Engine, previously seen in Justice Velocity. Accordingly we’ve updated the site with information on our license (found here). Our goal is to ensure that anyone can pick up one of our products and make something of their own using our core ruleset. We believe strongly that this is an important step for Polyhedra Games, so we’re looking forward to seeing how people build on our foundation to create something truly unique.
Lastly, we haven’t forgotten about that Justice Velocity variant cover, which is coming out soon! We’ll have more information soon on what that will look like and how to get it.
The beginning of any journey starts with the first step. After you’ve read all your books, gathered friends, and created characters, it’s time to get into the action. Though, where is best to begin your epic tale?
You typically want to establish a scene with a sense of dynamism, give characters a chance to get acquainted if they haven’t yet met, and help quickly establish a “why?” for them all to join forces. Crossing all those bases can be a bit precarious. That is of course, unless they all happen to stumble into:
There’s a time-honored custom of beginning fantasy RPGs in a dimly lit tavern, often with a mysterious hooded stranger granting a quest to a party of adventurers. A boisterous cast of bar patrons and wildcard bartenders are also often a must.
Having played TTRPGs for the better part of two decades, I’ve played many games which began with this basic premise. Sometimes the heroes are urged to rid the goblin scourge in the nearby forest or dungeon. Oftentimes there is a ridiculous bar fight featuring grappling and broken glasses. On more than one occasion there’s been dice gambling or darts games like you might find at an actual tavern. Sometimes there is a problem to be solved with dire rats in the basement, or a mysterious source of poison in the ale. Whatever the case, just like in real life, the allure of a bar can often be the start of a great adventure.
And truthfully, this is a great starting point. There’s a reason many choose to tread the well-trodden path. A trope so ubiquitous has many interpretations and directions to go based on the DM and the synergy of the players. It’s like a folk tale or myth that changes with each re-telling. And this particular one may have originated from a particular scene in the original Lord of the Rings books, where the hobbits first encounter Strider at The Prancing Pony.
The Space Bar
But what if your game isn’t in a fantasy setting? What if it’s a sci-fi game in space? Easy. You can adapt the “you all walk into a tavern” opener to be about a bar on a floating satellite in the middle of a neutral zone. Instead of darts they have space pinball. Instead of drunken dwarfs there are weird aliens. Instead of beer there is … uh … space beer! Which is basically the same but spacier: a neon green or purple liquid adorned with psychedelic garnish. Carousing in space is always cooler anyway.
In fact, the cantina scene from the first Star Wars movie is basically just this if you think about it. It’s a way to establish and acquaint new characters in a chaotic environment before they join forces on a shared quest. Attack of the Clones also essentially opens with a bar scene as well.
You can add space truckers, space princesses in disguise with lost puppies, imperial businessmen, traders, and dangerous bounty hunters as well. I actually ran a space bar opener as one of my Session 0s in Nebula Chaos playtesting. I let the players shape the narrative by interacting with various NPCs, which ultimately helped develop into one of several paths to pursue.
Basically the point is that you can adapt the tavern paradigm to any particular setting. For instance, in an urban fantasy game which was more modern and slightly goofy, we had paranormal detectives visiting a hip coffee shop which had some demonic patrons. Players sighted a mysterious local occurrence in a newspaper and decided to pull the thread.
In Media Res
If you’re not gonna go with the classic beverage-based tactic, however, you might as well start with a bang. Literally. Forget the backstories for now and let the PCs prove their worth right off the bat in a trial by fire.
I’ve seen sessions start with players riding atop motorcycles in Korea trying to outrun a bunch of bounty hunters. Or the town square was under attack from an evil cult or a group of brigands and the players needed to quickly pick up their bows and fight. I also maintain that the beginning of The Witcher 2 is one of the best in media res openers in video games I’ve seen. You’re instantly slinging swords and running away from a dragon blowing up a bridge with its flame breath all within the first 10 minutes. This opener’s all about hitting hard and fast.
One of my favorite openers I’ve personally ran with this was at the start of a mecha RPG using The Mecha Hack. The game was basically a retelling of important events of the French Revolution, but in space and with mecha. The revolutionary flagship was called The Guillotine, for example, and the campaign began with revolutionaries storming the prison planet Bastille. The players were prisoners on the inside for one reason or another, and their first session was basically a prison break. They had to escape their cell block, locate their mechs, and take on imperial guard mecha in a hail of explosive fire before joining the revolution.
The appeal of kicking it into action right off the jump is that players can quickly start tossing dice and get some cheap exciting adrenaline thrills pretty immediately after pulling up to the table, rather than waiting to suss out the lore, world, and various narrative elements. You get to experience the narrative in effect as it’s unfolding and smacking you in the face, and players’ characters, backstories, and reasons for being end up being quickly demonstrated, developed or fall into place.
Alternatively, you can open with a brief moment of action and have the pieces fall back into place. This one can be tricky to pull off, but is intriguing.
We started a Shadowrun campaign once with players being handcuffed and held in the back of a police vehicle. One of the cops started saying, “I can’t believe you did all that and got away with it for so long,” before it faded back to them sitting at an apartment and getting a mysterious phone call. Honestly, sometimes the pieces don’t always add up to that moment in the narrative, but it can still read as a fortune that can someday come true; making for an interesting opener.
Gathered to Do a Job
This is actually one of the more standard openers, but it can be tough to get right. One of the biggest problems to crack with any RPG opener is getting PCs together for a shared purpose. And, one of the easiest outs is, of course, that various people from different walks of life often gather in order to collect a paycheck.
In fantasy games, PCs can often begin the game as heroes-for-hire after responding to a guild, noble person, or town council’s quest bulletin. In Shadowrun, a mysterious employer (“Mr. Johnson”) often gathers a group of gnarly mercenaries to do a tough job. In a sci-fi setting, you can assemble a ship of bounty hunters to take out a bad guy or recover a stolen object.
Yeah, some characters thrive on the thrill of adventure, being part of team, or relishing an opportunity to excel at what they do best, but ultimately, all the characters in this opener are pretty much unified as freelancers looking to stab things in exchange for cold hard cash or shiny gold coins. And that’s cool. Semi-ruthless mercenaries, bounty hunters, and smugglers are great tabletop RPG characters for this type of thing.
This is a good opener for a quick and dirty roleplaying when you don’t have a Session 0 and just want to get players right to the quest. Ideally, however, you want to flesh it out or give it a twist if you can. Session 0s can be instrumental for detailing out how characters know each other and their reason for being in the group. If one of the PCs isn’t a treasure-hungry brigand, for example, maybe he’s a partner of his brother who is; or maybe they both need to raise funds in order to heal a dying relative. Sometimes money alone isn’t enough to motivate and keep a campaign going, especially if your characters are commanding a high enough price to retire after a big job!
Alternatively, doing a job or gathering for a shared task doesn’t necessarily need to be money-driven either. Characters can be assigned a task after coming together to join the ranks of revolutionaries or a military. Maybe they’ve been assembled to protect their town, or to prevent a horrible apocalyptic scenario and they’re the only team with the stuff to get it done (or the only heroes available).
One of the ways in which I would typically start Justice Velocity previously is that player characters are black-bagged and taken to a secret location of a shadowy government agency. A guy in a suit claims he has dirt on all the characters and can put them away for life unless they’re willing to take on a special mission.
This side-steps the money-driven component, which can be difficult to assign a workable and replicable value to in modern or futuristic settings for something beyond the scope of a one-shot mission. However, it also takes a certain degree of choice away from players, as well as the agency to define their own characters’ collective purpose in the narrative.
Again, developing complex motivations and shared purpose is important for this opener, as with all the rest. Sometimes you can get that from a Session 0 or sometimes it develops from the course of play. And players who rake in a bunch of gold from a few dungeons might need more of a reason to exist. Overall, these are some quick excuses to get the PCs together and acquainted before getting onto their larger narrative.
Ultimately, these are all just some cool ideas and inspiration to get your session going. There’s no real right or wrong way to do things as long as everyone’s having a good time.
And, by and large, most PCs will be willing to play nice and find a reason to get along if you point them in the direction of a quest or task to accomplish. These are just a few thoughts on how to make that process more cool, believable, interesting, and fun.
Whether it begins in a bar, with a bang, with a bounty, or mixture of all, or something else entirely, beginning a campaign is always exciting and an opportunity to try out a fresh opening sequence. How you begin can certainly impact the journey and the tone of a campaign, but remember it all starts with the first step.
In case you missed it, our Mork Borg Kickstarter has blown past expectations with over 1700% funded at the time of writing! We’re smashing through stretch goals and figuring out what comes next. A huge thank you to everyone here who has supported us so far, and a huge heads up for those who are interested and have thus far missed out.
A plagued beast has invaded the city of Galgenbeck, and a bounty has been placed on its head. The Plagued Crypt of Helvete is a one-shot adventure that can either introduce new players to MÖRK BORG, or be incorporated into an existing campaign. Take on horrid beasts, investigate a diseased crypt, and face down the demon at the heart of this entire matter.
That’s not all!
We also have a brand new variant cover for Justice Velocity coming soon. Whether you’re a collector of all things awesome or just love the cover, this is the same awesome Justice Velocity in a brand new cover. Coming soon to DriveThruRPG in both hardcover (29.99 USD) and softcover (19.99 USD).
Justice Velocity is an RPG that lets you be the action hero from your favorite movies, whether they be action comedies like Rush Hour or the modern madcap of The Fast & The Furious franchise.
We are working on an upcoming Mörk Borg module titled The Plagued Crypt of Helvete. Mörk Borg is an Ennie-award-winning rules-lite OSR-inspired tabletop RPG. It’s a dark and grim fantasy world with stunning design sensibilities cast against a black metal backdrop. It’s aesthetically brilliant and easy to play… perhaps needless to say, but we’re big fans.
The Plagued Crypt of Helvete will get a digital release both on our webstore and on DriveThruRPG. It is a three act adventure module meant to jumpstart any new Mörk Borg campaign. Players begin in Galgenbeck, where a plagued boar has been ravaging the town. They accept a bounty to explore the northern forests for the cause of the mayhem, and happen upon a crypt that may be more trouble than they’ve bargained for.
We’re happy to share that the official Mörk Borg twitter account also retweeted this comic:
Download and extract the .rar at the link above, and create an infinite amount of action heroes for use in the Justice Velocity role-playing game. Select stats, abilities, skills, and more. Write notes and keep track of items! Share with players and newcomers to help them leap even quicker into the action movie universe.
I’ve been playing sessions of Justice Velocity on Discord with friends over the past few months. Our game is a rotating GM session between 5 players (plus guests) that meets about once every week or so. We’re 10 sessions deep, and the campaign has been a lot of fun.
Playing a Rotating GM Game
Having only experienced Justice Velocity from a creator, game designer, and GM perspective, it’s been pretty exhilarating to turn the table and see others set up the narratives they’d like to tell in the action movie universe. And — I’ve finally gotten a chance to play the game from a player perspective. My takeaways are more or less what you might anticipate, though worth underscoring nonetheless:
1. Treat the rules as guidelines, keep the action going, and have fun.
I don’t really feel the need to interrupt if another GM has a different interpretation of the rules. The game is in their hands, and as long as everyone’s having fun and rolling dice, that’s what it’s all about.
2. Every session doesn’t require a race or car combat sequence to have that high-octane action movie™ flavor.
Given that the game rules deal heavily with vehicles and car combat sequences, I feel people might be compelled to incorporate these elements into their campaigns for fear of missing out on the action.
The truth is, a couple of sessions of heists and hijinks sans-vehicles can be just as satisfying as chasing down bad guys at a justifiable velocity. Though, these things are nice to pepper in whenever you get the excuse. They say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I feel this is especially the case whenever you get to unleash a bit of adrenaline-pumping tabletop car fu.
3. GM prep can be hard to find time for, but the more prepared you are, the more satisfying it becomes.
Okay, so session #1 was largely improvised on my behalf, though it seems to have turned out just fine. Trading off games with other GMs and accommodating a variety of styles, however, has given me the opportunity to write and plan out quite a bit more for the other sessions I’ve run in this campaign. One of the challenges has been picking up from sparse notes where the last person left off, but that’s definitely a part of the appeal.
It’s also tough finding time to put some ideas down in a notebook once a week, but spacing it out and sharing that task has yielded pretty interesting results. Leaving room for improvisation in your games will always be important, but planning and being able to pull together crucial details will always help move the story along in a fun and interesting direction.
We also will typically do a bit of an impromptu GM discussion at the end of our sessions (i.e. “Did you plan this part or make it up?” or “Where were you going with this?” etc.) that has been pretty fun and enlightening. At first I thought a GM should never reveal their secrets, but we’re all in the same boat — so we might as well discuss the precarious nature of our narratives.
The Campaign and Characters
Throughout the course of play, games have focused on an elaborate luxury yacht deathtrap set by an international crime family, weapons programs and cultists in Antarctica, supply drops in the middle of Yemeni war zones, and combat simulations inside of LG smart fridges with wi-fi capabilities. I’d like to elaborate on these sessions in later blog posts, but first, I’d like to introduce the cast of characters:
Jack Wolfe (played by Clipper) – A hard-boiled mercenary from the heartland. It’s safe to say he’s seen more war than peace in his years as a private military foot soldier. He’s kind of dumb, but buff as hell. He likes to relax by listening to early 2000s nu-metal on his Zune, detailing his motorcycle, or adding ink to his growing collection of American Traditional-style tattoos.
Jack is essentially the grunt of the group. If we were playing D&D, he might be a barbarian. He’s based around the quintessential meathead action movie hero, but has a touch of nuanced emotion that undergirds his rough exterior. Game-wise, he’s most useful to the team when he’s swinging a machete, leaping through passenger windows, or unloading lead. His poor INT score and perception make for some good bits as well in terms of balancing out his hand-to-hand and ranged combat prowess.
Paul G. Walker (played by Dean) – An undercover cop who believes himself to be possessed by the ghost of Paul Walker. An accomplished driver who drives a replica Mitsubishi Eclipse modeled after the one driven by Paul Walker in the first Fast & Furious film.
Paul is the go-to driver of the group. He’s a bit goofy and vapid, and Dean plays him well. A few sessions have involved a group of cultist super-fans who buy into his clearly fabricated narrative about being the reincarnation of Paul Walker, which is always fun. For all his swagger and wise-cracks, however, he knows when to spend the juice on a Mega Drift.
The Lone Stranger (played by Nathan) – A trick shooter and carnival performer. He has a burgeoning social media presence, but would rather be left alone to his gun-slinging. Reluctantly wears a cowboy hat and has a *mysterious past.*
Nathan’s character is definitely the most shoot-y and dexterous of the bunch. He has an affinity for antique firearms and is careful about revealing salacious details regarding his past.
Yoko Oh-No (played by Emily) – An idiosyncratic avant-pop artist with a knack for computer hacking and experimental music. She’s just about as handy with a crossbow as she is with a keyboard. Yoko is a Grammy-award-winning artist who’s always focused on hacking into 1) the mainframe and 2) her next source of creative inspiration.
Emily’s character is certainly the designated hacker of the group. She’s also a bit of a wildcard in terms of her reserved pop acclaim and off-kilter artistic quirks. She’s saved the group with her technical know-how and indie pop fame countless times.
Arlington “Chex” Davenport (played by Dane) – A purveyor of ‘lightly used and pre-owned home appliances.’ Chex has outstanding warrants for his arrest in Florida and Ohio for racketeering. He’s a well-connected face with sleazy used car salesman vibes.
Chex is the bona fide face of the group. He’s just as entertaining as he is peculiar, however, in that his intentions always seem to be lathered in the unsavory lacquer of personal advancement. He’s often running from gunfire, posing as John Chrysler of Chrysler Motors, or saying something just incredulous enough to be believable. He’s the best face a party could hope for.
It’s been an amazing game. I can’t wait to tell you all more about it in coming posts.
” Over-the-top, hi-octane racing and explosions! If that statement will ignite your gaming table then you’re looking for Justice Velocity. If you want to tell stories of dramatized street racing, Justice Velocity is ready to roll. If you want to be the crew that steals the show and gets away in slick rides, JV is equally at home adjudicating those narratives. If you’re gaming to save the world from the driver’s seat of a muscle car, that’s Justice Velocity! “
Cluster Cove is running a Justice Velocity actual play series over on their YouTube channel. The games feature simulated tabletop gameplay and all of the high octane intensity and hijinks one would expect from a JV game. Check out the first three of their videos below: