Sunday, January 13, 2013

Game Idea: Adventure Time Advanced

Adventure Time
The Advanced Table Top RPG system*
by Tobie Abad

Here are the more advanced rules for those who want to play an Adventure Time inspired Role-playing Game system!  I'm certain there will be those who might feel the game isn't that system crunchy still, but I personally feel this game should accomplish the goals I set out when making this game:  to be fun and easy to learn,  and to have a mechanic that supports the internal insanity that Adventure Time is infamous for having!

Adventure Time!  is fun for the wacky characters, the insane concepts, the awesome action sequences and the consistent internal history that is both mysterious and profound without losing the humor.   This game system is an attempt to allow people to play without losing those very things.

Just like the Simplified version, you will need six-sided dice to play this game.  The game pretty much still follows the simplified version of the rules in that each player will portray two characters of their choosing from the show.  One play might opt to play Jake and Finn.   Another might opt to play the Ice King and Gunter.  Another might opt for Hero Billy and Treetrunks.   There will be no singular game master/dungeon master in the game, instead every player get's an opportunity to be the Narrator and help build the narrative.    And just like in the simplified version, you choose key traits for each character, assigning them to numbers which you hope to roll, and using  catchphrases gives you a bonus to your roll.  However, the system is more advanced in this manner:

Character Creation (with new rules)
Each player chooses two characters to portray.  These two characters should be from the show (unless your group opts to allow new characters to be added.)    Using the sheet, you write the names of the characters, and under #1, #2, and #3, write three descriptive short phrases that represent things the character is good at which you want to portray in the game.  While yes, the characters have much more skills than the three listed, you are expected to simply write the top three you want to portray IN THE GAME SESSION (which we call "the Episode") you are playing.    Yes, each game session you play, you can change the three listed things.  These three things must always be consistent with the show (or at least with the concept if you are using a new unique character instead.)  So in one Episode, you might want to focus on Finn's sword fighting, singing and unwillingness to give up.  Another Episode might have you focusing on his Climbing skills, mad dance steps and courage.

Click for full-sized version.
Under #4 and #5, you are to put two things your character is not good at, whether it is not good at resisting, defeating, dealing with or working with.    Finn, for example, has phobias.   Jake, on the other hand, tends to have trouble lying.  These two things, just like the first three can be changed at the start of every game session.  These are the two things you are also willing to portray your character as having trouble or difficulty with.

Finally, under #6, bear in mind you will need a catchphrase or two for each character to say to avail this bonus.

Afterwards, you have three new sections in the sheet:  Cool Stuff, Awesome Stuff and Mathematical Stuff.  These three sections are for any items or objects that your characters gain access to.   These items give you bonuses to your dice rolls (as explained further below under Dice System).  Players start with one Cool Stuff item for each character they play.  During play, any new items you gain can be added here, so long as the item was something another player added to the game (so no declaring "Finn finds a magical shield" if you are the one playing Finn.)

At the start of every game session, you can replace a written item here with another so long as it is of the same section.  You can get a new Awesome Stuff item by losing two Cool Stuff items, or by losing a Mathematical stuff item (and get an extra Cool stuff item in the process.)  Basically, the total bonus must remain the same if you switch items.  Items switched thus are not erased immediately from the sheet.  Instead, during the Episode, these should be items that are either declared lost, given away or stolen.

Don't worry about struggling to define whether one item is more powerful/useful than the other.  Just decide where you think the item should be and reflect the bonus appropriately in the narrative.  The Enchiridion, for example, might only be Cool Stuff since it doesn't play much of a part.  But in an Episode where it becomes a vital plot item, you might opt to have it as Mathematical Stuff.  This is cleared in the section below entitled, Starting an Episode.

Finally, there are no health levels or hit points in this game.  Instead, during any conflicts, if a character fails in an action that will hurt the character, the players present all immediately vote if the character is knocked out, or still active.    Death, while present in Adventure Time!, is best left as an event which a player intentionally plans.

Starting an Episode

Each player portrays two characters from the show.  Just like in the Simplified system, after players have created characters, the players determine who starts the Episode.    That can be determined by asking who most recently watched an episode of Adventure Time! If by any odd chance that is tied, the tie can be broken by both players doing a fist bump and the first one to yell out, "What Time Is It?" gets to start the Episode.

An Episode is determined by rolling on the following table.  Each player rolls once, and chooses a key word they like, starting with the one who starts the Episode.  The player who starts the Episode automatically has his or her keyword as a theme of the Episode.  That player will then share the title of the episode, and the basic premise of the episode based on the keyword.  Each player then shares their keyword and how it will interact with the episode.  Finally, the game begins.   Yes, no voting is made.  Because each player now has the option to use the suggested interactions they mentioned or others mentioned.  But no one has to agree on it before hand.  This is intentional.

Past life
Untold Secret

For example:  Adam, who was chosen to start the Episode, might roll a five, and choose "Untold Secret."  Bill rolls a four and likes "Meta".   Charlie rolls a five as well, but chooses "Letter."  Finally Dan rolls a one and decides to go for "Past Life."

Adam then declares, "This Episode is called 'Finn Admits At Last' and here, Finn tells Princess Bubblegum his feelings."  Bill shares, "The Episode can be Meta by having the characters talk to the viewers for advice."  Charlie shares, "Finn writes a letter to tell his feelings.  But he isn't sure if he can deliver it."  Dan goes for something different and declares, "The two used to be together.  In a past life."  And the game starts.

The players have an idea of what the story is about, and have options on what direction the story can head, but since they do not actually vote, the random element of each one trying to tell the story and fit in with the others will be part of what will give the game the feeling of the madness Adventure Time! episodes contain.  But as the game progresses, the stories begin to solidify as intentions seem clearer, and should nicely wrap up towards a seemingly coherent plot.  Or at least one which sort of makes sense.  Just like some episodes.

Who Do You Play
While you do portray two characters in the show, whenever other characters who were NOT chosen by present players make an appearance, any other player currently NOT in the scene are free to portray that character.  These moments, however, should be kept at a minimum, if not brief, as the main cast should as much as possible have the key roles in the story.

So just like in the Simplified Version, the narrative starts with the selected person declaring the opening scene and which characters are involved.  The selected player becomes the first Narrator, who starts the game by describing the scene, and choosing a character who is in the scene. The character may or may not be one of the player's two choices. But each time another player's character is mentioned, that player should join the "scene" as per the story. If the player narrating the story has to portray the character, the Narrator automatically becomes whoever is on that player's right. The Narrator can always add characters, monsters, and other things that are not represented by the player's choices.  (It would be advisable to have an extra sheet of paper to keep track of these other characters.  Or index cards can be used, one for each name, which are kept by the player who opts to portray them for the Episode.)  If two players want to play the extra characters, whoever does not have a selected character in that scene gets first dibs.

For example:
Adam, Bill and Charlie are playing. Adam is playing Jake and Finn. Bill is playing Marceline and Princess Bubblegum. Charlie is playing Treetrunks and the Lich King. Dan has opted to play Lumpy Space Princess and Marceline's Father.  Adam, having most recently seen an episode, starts, "Finn is in the tree house and has just finished writing his letter for Princess Bubblegum. "Oh Peebee, I wonder if you'll find this weird."  Enter, Marceline who just flies into the room without knocking."   Bill replies as Marceline, "Hey Finn, what you up to?" (Remembering his Episode keyword, he decides to slide it in.)  He faces the other players and in Marceline's voice says, "I've always wondered what Finn does when Jake isn't around.  Don't you?"
Adam continues, without missing a beat, "Who are you talking to, Marceline?"
Bill smiles, "No one." Then throws a glance at the others and winks at them.
With both players active, Charlie is now the Narrator.  He continues the scene by adding Dan's suggestion.  "Scene shifts.  Same characters.  But this time, Finn is Finnegan the Bard.  Marceline is Marcy the Dark Nun.  We are in an ancient medieval hideout carved from inside a tree.  Not too far away, a sassy buxom barmaid approaches you two, "Hey there you two want any of our newly baked apple pies?  Tis a dark night after all.  Not wise to be wasting them candle to write yourself a letter."
Adam realizes what Charlie is up to and plays along, "Well barmaid, serve us another round of ale and we'll bother you no more."  Finn.. I mean Finnegan the Bard rolls the letter up and tucks it into his sleeve."  Bill is amused and rides along, "You still haven't answered my question, Bard." and turns to the viewers and mutters, "Is this strange?  It is kinda strange for me too."
Dan is the Narrator now that all three of them are in the game.  He, however seems to be enjoying it, so just motions them to continue the scene.  He quiets maps out how else to spin the tale, as he races to imagine how LSP would be in such a setting.

New Characters
Whenever you introduce new characters who are meant to be important new cast members, rather than background people (such as the Gnome Ruler, or the Earclops, or Fat Villagers) if you can't come up quickly with a weird or crazy trait for them, you can opt to roll here.  Just mix and match and see what you decide to use.  I recommend rolling a number of times equal to the number of players in the game.

Give Catchphrase
Four Legs
Hates (name of character/object)
Helps (name of character/object)
Switch body parts
Looks like…

Dice System
With each character having five traits on the sheet, players roll three six-sided dice whenever they need to resolve an action they are undertaking.  Actions require dice-rolls ONLY if there are other players who question whether the character can succeed.  If no one vetoes a player's choice of action, the action can automatically succeed.  If at any time someone vetoes an autosuccess, THAT player declares the number of needed successes (the table below is a good guide).

Basic Actions
Feat of Heroism
Legendary Task
Once in a Lifetime Moment

You are probably wondering how on earth does one achieve Four Successes with three dice!?  Well, Modifying Rolls should explain that for you in a few.

Assuming dice need be rolled, the rules are as before:  Each time you attempt to do something that others vetoes not to be automatic, say have Finn attack a monster, you roll your three six-sided dice, and each die that comes out matching a number you have listed that relates to what you want to do is a good thing (a success).  You must reach the number of successes required by the vetoing person.  Going over the number is fine... no, not fine... Mathematical!

Adam, playing Finn (Finnegan the Bard) is finally standing outside the Lady Phoebe's tower.  He decides to sing a song to draw her out.  The other player call for a roll, wanting to see him try rather than make it automatic.  One success seems appropriate.   He rolls a 1, 3 and 5.  Having failed to roll a 2, he fails to draw her out.  However, he did roll a 3, so he uses it to his advantage.  "Finnegan starts to sing, but his voice vanishes out of sudden fear.  He sees the great Ocean that is spread behind the tower and feels himself tremble.  But he will not give up! "I.... MUST... SING..."
The dice rolls are a random element of chance that are added to give the game more fun, laughs, drama and excitement.  The dice are never intended to be a source of debate or conflict in an Adventure Time!  game.  
What happens when you roll a six? You get a success as well. However, you can only get that success by describing the action with a key catch phrase or statement from the character. So if Adam for example rolled a 1, 3, and 6 in the example above, he can say, "Finnegan drops to his knees and fights the fear in his voice. "Ooooh Lady Phoebe, if you can hear me.. My heart seeks you.. It goes Kerplooop..."

Modifying Rolls
Stuff can alter the results of your dice roll.  Each applicable item in the action can modify one of your dice by a number of values depending on the item's present section.   A die's value cannot go lower than one, or higher than six. Cool Stuff allow you to adjust the value of one die by one point.  Awesome Stuff allow an adjustment of two points.  And Mathematical Stuff, the best stuff there is, allow up to three points of adjustment, making almost all rolls practically a success with a catchphrase.

Another way is through: Catchphrases and Signature Moves
Whenever a player uses a catchphrase or signature move appropriately even before a roll is made, he can adjust a die by value even without any Stuff.  If you do use an appropriate Catchphrase or Signature Move before your roll, AND use applicable Stuff as well, the number of dice you can adjust is increased to two instead of just one.   This means the more your portray your character better, the better your rolls.

Finally, Teamwork can also affect dice rolls.  
Whenever two characters or more are working together to accomplish a task, this is called Teamwork.  Teamwork, also, however, can mean simply one person acting, and the rest saying supportive things.  If it is a physical act of teamwork (such as Marceline and Finn fighting against the horde of demons), both players roll dice and add up their total successes.    If it is merely one player giving moral or verbal support to another, only the acting player rolls dice, but he can roll two additional dice as a bonus.

Gosh, my hands look HUGE here.
Ending an Episode
Adventure Time! is known for its abrupt leave-your-mouth-open endings.  In this game, at any point any of the players feel the key theme of the Episode has been successfully explored enough, that player can end the Episode.   The basic rules to end an Episode are as follows:
a) At least eleven minutes of real time must have passed already since the game started.
b) You must state something in-character as a final statement either relating to one of the keywords used, or in relation to which ever character seemed to have been a focus of the Episode.
c)  You then bring down your right hand in a karate chop motion against your left open palm, as if to say, "And CUT."

After you've done that, NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO CONTINUE THE EPISODE.  It is over. It has ended.  Abrupt and sudden, the Episode has come to a close.  Coherent, or perhaps not completely, it has told its story.    What you can do, however, is call for an immediate Second Episode.  As the person who cut the first one, you can immediately invite people to adjust their sheets, and roll for a new Keyword.

After the second Episode for the day is over, no further Episodes can be run til the next week.   No, that's really a rule.  Respect the show, man.

So there you have it,  The Adventure Time Advanced RPG.  A bit crunchier than the first simplified system, but still easy enough for anyone who loves to show to immediately dive into and play.     I would love to see what character sheets and Episode Keyword Tables you guys can come up with!

Have fun!

*Advanced in relation to the Simplified version of the game.

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