“Whether you are planning an action-packed adventure, a journey to exotic lands or a sordid tale of murder and intrigue, the Blackwind System will support you through every step of the process.”
When the core rulebook came out, Elisa Mignemi, one of the authors, gave me a copy. I was talking with my RPG buddy, Wolf, about doing a one-shot session with our group and I sent him the Blackwind Core Rulebook to see if it would work. In response, Wolf wrote a review that I’m sharing here with his permission.
Insofar as using this as a one-shot is concerned, its very foundation rules that out. The first session would be the group sitting around and creating the campaign by committee. Following the book’s rules, going into the first session we do not know who the Director will be, what campaign we’ll be playing, or even what genre we’ll be playing. Step one, once everyone has seated themselves at the gaming table, is to select a Secretary. The Secretary is not the Director (although the Secretary might end up being the Director). The Secretary is the person who will be organizing the creation of the campaign’s foundations. The Director is not selected until the end of the campaign foundations creation session. After selecting a Secretary (if no one volunteers to do this job, dice are tossed and the winner gets the honors) the group must then decide upon a Genre (and possibly Sub-Genre, though the group must also decide if that is something they want to have or not have), a Context, a Group, a Theme, Enemies, the Type of Plot, an Antagonist, and a Structure Type. Note that each and every one of these campaign aspects must be unanimously accepted by the group before proceeding to the next aspect; any hold-outs must be bribed or beaten into acquiescence (or else excommunicated from the group, which is given as a viable option in the book).
Only after all of this has been set in stone (the first rule of Blackwind is that choices, once made and finalized, are irrevocable–unless the group unanimously agrees that changing something would improve the dramatic narrative) does the subject of who the Director will be get broached. Again, if no one volunteers, a die roll will forcibly volunteer someone. With that settled, the Director can get on with the business of having the group tell him what they want him to Direct them toward, and at what speed, and in what fashion.
The Director gets to decide, at this point, what the overall Mission should be (and also possibly whether there is a Fake Mission) as well as the Thesis for the campaign (because what it a good role playing campaign without a solid morality lesson or social message baked into it, right?). Then he gets to “choose” between High- and Low-Concept Adventure plots (but not really choose, because the group actually chose that before by whether they selected a Genre or a Context first back while the Secretary was still organizing things) before going on to structure said Concept into a series of Sections, Episodes and Steps using a series of simple mathematical formulae: where N is the number of players, the SETUP (including a possible sub-climax, with or without a BOARD) should contain N Steps of which the ASCENT should contain N +/- [N / 3] Steps, the MIDDLE (including the main climax or a sub-climax, with or without a BOARD) should contain 0 to [N / 2] Steps, the FALL should contain N +/- [N / 3] Steps, and the RESOLUTION (including the main climax, if not used during the MIDDLE, or a secondary-climax, with or without a BOARD) should contain [N / 2] Steps plus any Steps saved from preceding sections. Then there can also be an AFTERMATH of 1 to N Steps.
Once all of that in place, the Director submits his campaign Concept to the group for voting (the Director can receive up to 30 points from the players if they feel he’s created an “exceptionally well-developed” Concept!).
And that would be the first session. I think you get the picture as to why this will never be suitable for use as a pick-up-and-play one-shot generator.
Oh, and maybe you’ve noticed something missing from the above activities? Right. Character creation. Or, in the Blackwind lexicon “Casting.”
As you can tell from the terminology within, Blackwind is someone’s attempt to gamify an improv acting class. There’s even a whole section about the use of props and costumes (and the bonus points players receive for the use of them) “similar to film prop or theatrical property.”
But what about using it for an ongoing campaign? Well, it might work for certain types of groups.
First, because the game is essentially run by committee and the Director lacks authority in most matters (and the fact that the Director doesn’t effectively even exist for the first session), it becomes incumbent upon each and every member of the group to be thoroughly familiar with the book and systems laid out therein.
Second, and related, Blackwind relies upon proactive group participation in every step of the game as well as between-session preparation. While a small amount of points are awarded for what characters achieve in-game, as many or more points are awarded for what the players do out-of-game in order to enrich the experience. And while it is possible to gain a handful of points for creating maps or introducing physical props for the group’s use, Blackwind wants to encourage players to really go that extra mile. It assumes, for example, a group member composing, scoring, performing, recording, editing and arranging a complete OST for the adventure, for which said player would receive 3 points per track plus 4 points for having created an album from scratch (or possibly just a straight 7 points per track; the rules are a bit fuzzy for that).
Incidentally, have you noticed we haven’t yet touch upon game mechanics? Depending upon the Role to which you are Cast, your character is assigned a die. Checks of any sort are made by rolling and attempting to get a low number (ideally below 6 for most things). If you are the Main Protagonist (Spades career) than you roll a d6 for anything related to your Role, thus nearly guaranteeing success. Less important party members get to roll a d8, d10, or d12, giving them less and less certainty of success. Anybody rolling for checks unrelated to their Role rolls a d20.
If you succeed thrice in a row on any particular check, even across sessions, your character suddenly reveals they have that skill, and the character’s player must then retcon that skill into the character’s backstory in some fashion. You can have a maximum of eight skills at any time, though, so if you gain a new one you must also (if you have achieved that cap number) lose an old one.
During play, each character gets three “actions” per round, but only one of those actions may require a die roll or have any mechanical weight. So, for example, a character may walk, show a facial expression, and hum; or sit, beckon a waiter, and make an order; or wake up, run a hand on their face, and mutter something.
And the book points out that “[o]bject and environment descriptions are not counted within the three-action rule, as long as they do not lengthen the dialogue excessively.” Thus “He raises the sword to the sky, screaming, ‘Victory!'” is counted the same as “He raises his sword: it is an old, blood-drenched blade, with two golden dragons damasked over the hilt and a handle wrapped in worn red leather. He raises it to the sky, screaming, ‘Victory!’ while the wind ruffles his blonde hair and sends his red cloak fluttering in the wind.” are counted the same (though the latter might gain the player a bonus point for role playing). A direct example from the book.
So, if we pull out the pages dealing with character creation and in-session game mechanics we end up with about 20 pages (including several full-page artworks and a number of other pages that are largely or mostly art with some text). The remaining 140 pages (excluding covers and TOC) are dedicated to the rules surrounding the creation of the campaign.
Who is this book written for?
They assume their audience has an interest in stage or film production and desire to know all the intricacies that go into the pre-production of shows and/or movies. Further, they assume their audience wants fairness and equality in all things, with an absolute flat power structure, and a guarantee of equitable outcome. Their audience wants rules that prevent anyone from telling them what they can do, but also rules to let them have a say in what everyone else can do. So… This book was written for actors both professional and amateur as well as gamers more interested in proactively shaping organic narratives than in responding to mechanically-imposed challenges.
Officially, these are not four cyberpunk RPGs on Kickstarter… I mean, three of them are, but the fourth is a looser connection to that genre. That said, here’s four cyberpunk RPGs using everything from Fate to original systems to share their tales of future rebellion.
“A detailed sourcebook for artificial life in Warsong: Second Edition!
It started with an idea.
“What are the consequences of our actions?”
The idea that fate was malleable was the founding concept of Warsong 2nd Edition. The idea that our actions really do matter. It was a concept that I felt was neglected in other role-playing games. Fate was something I wanted to explore thoroughly in Warsong. And as the setting grew into its own unique life form, another creature began to emerge.
Artificial Sentient Life.
They are the products of man-made ingenuity and madness. Years of knowledge and sorcery culminating into a tool to be used. What happens, then, when that tool becomes aware of its purpose? What happens when the tools we use to make our lives easier become aware that they are slaves to their creators?
Warsong 2nd Edition explores the infamous Machine War that followed in the wake of The Source, an interconnected web of technology throughout Lemuria, becoming self-aware.
Warsong: The Host explores Lemuria from the artificial eyes of living machines.
The Host includes:
• Rules for creating and playing artificial life such as Awakened machines, living programs and advanced Synths. • New rules, powers and abilities for the machines and cybernetic implants in humans. • New setting information and revelations regarding the Emperor and the Treaty of Parnassus. •Setting information for the City of Kojo – a machine settlement governed by The Source.
• New information regarding The Host, a group of living machines born directly from The Source when it tried to calculate morality.
What Are The Host?
The best way to answer that question is to ask another: “What would happen when a machine tries to calculate human morality?”
The Host are a very small portion of the machine population, but are arguably the most widely known, and rightly feared among their species. They are the seraphim and devils of Lemuria. They can be winged saviors of humanity, or horned corruptors who seek only the desolation and destruction of everything around them.
They are, in a sense, every facet in the spectrum of human morality given life and form.
Why The Host?
The Host represents a turning point in the setting of Warsong Second Edition and this book will help bring to life an entirely new species of creature within the setting. It will give players a new and valuable outlook of the world from the view of the machines and even give players new revelations directly from The Source itself.
The book will include more detailed information on the Treaty Of Parnassus and what exactly happened when the Emperor and The Source forged peace at the end of a seven year long Machine War. It will also give Game Masters valuable tools to use if they wish to include The Emperor’s whereabouts in their own games.
The book is called The Host because, while The Host themselves comprise only a small part of the machine population, they are arguably the most well-known and feared.”
I completed a review of Warsong 2e that will be published soon. This RPG is an ambitious Fate-based game built around a unique idea/setting – Sengoku Punk. Sengoku Punk combines the ideals (and technology and wardrobe) of cyberpunk with an ancient Asian world. The setting is very stylistic and worth checking out – try out the quickstart rules here if you need some encouragement – and, once you are a convert, you’ll want to add this expansion to increase the world’s depth.
You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPGhere.
“Blackwind brings the plot back in the spotlight with modern rules, dynamic mechanics and unmatched creative freedom.
The Blackwind Core Manual is the foundation of our project: it is a new core system that improves on many aspects of tabletop roleplay, designed to make the game easier to understand, fun to play, and full of exciting adventures. The Blackwind system works with any setting, from classic tabletop to the worlds of games, movies and novels, and allows you to play any concept that fits the tone of the story.
The two main features are plot-making tools and dynamic mechanics. Game Masters (called Directors) assemble the story like a jigsaw, allowing to create complex plots with ease and to keep the story flexible. The strength of characters may vary, sometimes dramatically, depending on their contribution to immersion, general amusement, narrative, beating in-built challenges and interaction with key plot points, keeping their statistics fluid.
Regardless, even the weakest characters will be able to attempt incredible feats, and will be rewarded in case of success. On the other hand not even the strongest characters will be completely immune to failure. Likewise, no character death will be misplaced or pointless as plot armour will apply early in the game, but not even the main protagonists will be completely safe during showdowns.
We balanced out the roles of Directors and Players: the latter will have a greater impact in casting the foundations of the story, as well as shaping it. Players will decide what kind of adventure will be played, the adventure genre, context, theme, plot type, story structure, story ticket, casting list, may introduce their own subplots and NPCs and generally have more narrative wriggle room.
Difficulty checks take into account a few additional things: who is attempting what? What kind of story are you playing? What is the context? Hurling a person-sized boulder across a room will be impossible in a realistic thriller, and ordinary routine in a superhero adventure.
For more information visit https://blackwindrpg.wordpress.com/. You may find out more about the game, articles and additional information: keep checking for updates, articles and previews!
Additionally, you may find the link to download our FREE starter adventure on the main page of our website. Arena is good example of the simplest, most straightforward way to play Blackwind.
The game is ready, the rules are tested, and the largest modules are under development. Then, what do we need your help with? Simple: we want to offer the best modules, expansion rulebooks and quality add-ons we can, as often as possible. Your support would allow us to upgrade our equipment, publish content faster, and to polish the final product to a mirror sheen.
The Treasure of Maracaibo, our first pirate-themed module, is complete. We are working on editing and polishing around 100 pages of scurvy adventures. We planned seven additional modules (Noir, Steampunk, Fantasy, Post Atomic, Thriller, Western, Cyberpunk) and the only reason we decided to remove voting is that some of them are already in an advanced stage of development.”
While this is not just cyberpunk, Blackwind Project is a core rulebook that will include modules that cover Pirates, Noir, Steampunk, Fantasy, Post Atomic, Thriller, Western, and Cyberpunk. This system is meant to be incredibly versatile allowing for a variety of settings and options. With art that is stylistically similar enough to give the entire package a uniform feel that allows you to envision a campaign in one setting that jumps to another genre. If you’re looking for more details, check out Dan Davenport’s Q&A with the creators here. If you’re ready for more cyberpunk (and most genre) options, go on and back it!
“The Starchildren came looking for the home of rock music, only to find it outlawed. Fight back in the RPG of rock & roll revolution!
A century ago, radio transmissions from Earth passed through a strange ripple in space, causing rock music to fall upon the mystified ears of an alien world. For five glorious years, the aliens grew to love the magical planet they believed to be on the other end of that beautiful signal. When the music cut off as mysteriously as it began, the aliens embarked on a generational pilgrimage to discover the source of that music.
Nearly a century later, the aliens have arrived, but Earth is not what they expected. Humanity has taken a dark turn, silencing music, the arts, literature…any kind of expression they believed could inspire “dangerous” thoughts. The Ministry of Music looms large over the entire world, stamping out rebellious culture with steel-sheathed jackboots.
With nowhere to go but forward, the Starchildren descended, joining the few Earthlings still carrying a spark of rock and roll. They catalyzed a new rock & roll revolution that will break the Ministry’s chains on the soul of humanity.
This is the Velvet Generation.
“One of the most quietly influential card-based RPGs ever…Starchildren: Velvet Generation, is back 1.6 decades after its original publication. And… um, it doesn’t have cards any more, but that’s okay. Regardless, in an age with concentration camps on US soil, it could not be more topical. Check it out.” – Mike Selinker
“I was very impressed with the first edition way back when and it’s only gotten better since then.” – Kenneth Hite
Velvet Generation is the new iteration of 2002’s Starchildren: Velvet Generation, a role-playing game unlike any other. The original 2002 creative team is back with a fresh look at the music-starved dystopia in which the Starchildren find themselves stranded. The new custom rules engine is tightly focused on group collaboration, intra-band relationships and musical performances that will take your band from the garage to global superstardom. The campaign rules let your band use their fame against the oppressive Ministry of Music, while those same authoritarian forces hunt them down for the crime of expression.
The Starchildren came on the scene in the form of dreamlike rock idols: luminescent, androgynous and mysterious beings that seem to float in an electric haze of glamour. They do their best to blend in with the drab creatures Earthlings have become since they lost the gift of music. Their very presence on the planet sent a shockwave through the collective subconscious, awakening something long since buried, and neither species will ever be the the same again.
Players portray the renegade rockers of the Velvet Generation, whether they be the alien Starchildren or the Earthlings pining for their lost rock & roll. Start your campaign out as unknown outlaw rockers, seeking out space to rehearse and play while evading the watchful electric eye of the Ministry of Music and spinning lies to get time off from your day job. Join the revolution by allying with the idealistic visionaries of Velvet or the violent hardliners of the Blue Army. Ascend to the leadership of regional and national cells as your band becomes a household name, finally toppling the Ministry of Music with the power of rock & roll.
This iteration uses a completely new rules engine from the 2002 original. The rules allow your group to riff off of one another onstage and off, and the revolutionary campaign system lets you build from game session to game session to fight back against the Ministry of Music to carry out a global rock and roll revolution.
A Little Help From Your Friends
In Velvet Generation, whenever your band is together, they’re collaborating on their goals, whether that’s to play a solid show, to sneak past a security guard or fighting off a gang of anti-rock yahoos. Each player rolls a pool of six-sided dice for themselves, trying to find matched sets (two, three or more dice with the same number showing). But every time you go, you either get to leave one of your dice on the table for your comrades, or you get to pick up dice that match the ones you’re playing to do even better. If that’s not enough, the social relations between band members help more. Give a die to your lover or your friend; steal a die from your rival…develop these relationships within your group to work together even better.
Hazy Cosmic Jive
The real action in Velvet Generation happens in front of crowds of underground fans, getting their rock fix wherever they can hide away from the Ministry’s prying eyes. Your band taking the stage is the focus here as much as fighting or kicking down doors is in a lot of other games. Use the full range of your talents to create the show: vocals and instruments of course, but also dance, stage presence and the roadie’s skills at setting up and running the tech. Everyone in the group has a part to play in the show; while the crowd may go home remembering the lead singer’s wail or a shredding guitar solo, your rhythm section makes that possible by giving the leads something to build off of, and the techs are there to cover the occasional screw-up. Every show gives you a shot at hitting the next level of fame, until you really take off.
It’s a dangerous game, though. There’s always the temptation to grab a little more of that glory for yourself by upstaging your bandmates. While you’re all working together onstage, someone is always the Star of the Show, even if different characters spend their own time in the spotlight. Rep-hungry rockers might build themselves up at the expense of the group itself. That can breed jealousy among the group, and that’s a force that can tear apart the greatest of bands.
Rock the Planet
The Ministry of Music has plenty of ways to keep you down. They alienate you from the safe and sterile society of everyday life. They push propaganda against rockers and marginalized people. They use the full surveillance state to keep a close watch on dissidents. They try to subvert your allies and contacts. And there is always the threat of violence at the hands of the regime. But as your band grows in fame and recognition, you can strike back against the Ministry of Music with the new revolutionary campaign system.
The fight against the Ministry happens between game sessions over the course of your entire Velvet Generation campaign. As you grow in fame, the authorities target you with more extreme tactics of oppression, but you use your fame against them in revolutionary praxis of your own. Distribute illicit samizdat works of art and music. Build solidarity with allies in other marginalized communities. Create subsistence networks to provide aid and comfort for those outside polite society. Poison the regime’s intelligence networks with disinformation. Or dazzle the public with a brazen spectacle so they can’t ignore you anymore. Every blow you strike against the Ministry leaves the regime a little bit weaker, until the entire thing comes crashing down to the wail of electric guitars.”
Sometimes the reason I check out an RPG on Kickstarter is a creator recommendation. At AndoCon, I played Pugmire with DriveThruRPG’s Chris Tang and his character work was master class level. Chris rarely pushes a specific RPG online (his job with DTRPG likely requires he be more impartial), so when he gave something of a testimonial for Velvet Underground, I stood up and took notice. I’m glad I did. Add the art to the game’s idea – it’s like a wave of music artwork that never was, stylized, fun, and musical – it speaks to the possibilities of this world.
You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPGhere.
“A Role-Playing game in a Cyberpunk setting where corporations have created Superhumans and see them as company property.
The trains don’t run through this part of town anymore. Not since someone stood on the tracks and tried to rob one.
Thirteen years ago, he would’ve just ended up in the obituaries, but instead he melted the engine with an energy blast from his hand and thirty seven people were injured.
Downtown, they have “Peacekeepers” to prevent that. Dressed in their corporate power armor, they stand on every street corner, looming over the pedestrians. Waiting for an excuse.
Here, things work a little differently. People pay their protection money to crooked supers. Folks grumble about it, but when a man who can shoot lighting from his fingers floats down from the sky and demands you call him king, you call him king.
The corporations say they are doing their best to round up the renegade creations they made, but there are a few good Enhanced out there too, caught between the corps and their own kin.
This is the world of Dark Times: a tabletop roleplaying game about superheroes in the corporate slum that has swallowed up most of the United States.
Twenty six years ago a man named Dr. Anton Valasakis changed everything with the discovery of a gene that unlocked superhuman powers. He started his experiments at pharmaceutical supergiant Prometheus Medical, working first on “willing volunteers”, and soon he was sanctioned by the government.
By this time Prometheus Medical was already a powerful corporation and had its hooks deep in controlling many politicians. Many of the first test subjects were prisoner who were on death row. This was a chance for them to gain a chance at life. Many died, and not much is known about this few who survived.
The experiments continued and soon a rash of industrial espionage broke out. Many large corporations, seeing the potential in customized superhuman technology, were now in a race to have their own Enhanced on their payroll. These laboratory creations were treated as slaves and many fled their masters, hiding in the slums. Some of the ones that got away even had kids.
Now there exists a second generation of Enhanced and still the corporations view them as company property. By now the laws had been warped to protect the rights of the corporations and their “investments” and not the people.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
In Dark Times, players work together with their powers, protect their people, and build their community, all under the shadow of a corporation that has replaced the government and seeks to enslave them since they are viewed as “company property”.
With a little bit of cyberpunk, a little bit of noir, and a whole lot of superpowers, Dark Times mixes old-school and new-school design to create a game that is fast, pulpy, immersive, and fun to play.
In addition to the core book for Dark Times, we will also produce the following PDF expansions. These expansions will be available to any backer level that receives them as part of their rewards.
Merc Work – This book is made of up fully detailed scenarios, designed to introduce a gaming group to the world of Dark Times.
Villains, Allies, and Corporate Files – This book will include a variety of people that could be good, bad, or neutral as well as corporation write ups. These characters will have stats, plot hooks, and other ways to use them in your campaign.
Steele City Sourcebook – This book will open up and detail more of Steele City. A valuable resource for many adventures and filled with a lot of information.
Solar System Book – The corporations understood they already have drained a lot of earth’s resources and look to conquer the solar system. This book talks about the colonization and industry that exists in our own solar system.”
I coveredWicked Pactshere (and have a review of it coming up in a future issue of Knights of the Dinner Table) so I’m predisposed to like this. Superheroes and cyberpunk sounds like an interesting combination – the ultimate group that cares about society juxtaposed to the group that cares the least for the status quo. It should be an interesting game as you work within and outside of the system.
You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPGhere.
Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by a variety of companies: