Forbeck & Schwalb have worked closely to finish the first of the S&S RPG manuscript. With around 180,000 words and a little over 300 pages long it seems it’ll be one of the biggest game books of the year.
Let’s find out what they’ve exactly been up to while working for the upcoming Roleplaying Game based on Forbeck’s IP Shotguns & Sorcery.
How was it to integrate the Cypher System™ seamlessly with the S&S setting?
It was a whole lot of fun to be honest! As my fourth RPG adaptation of fiction to game material, the process was really comfortable and made easier having Matt just an email a way to answer all my finicky questions. Plus, Cypher is a flexible game engine and can handle a wide range of stories, so that was a benefit.
Was it an organic process?
To some extent, yes. The novels have a some strong world-building elements, but they are short, so we inferred a lot about the world from the books and Matt filled in a lot of the blanks. As far as adapting the game system, we didn’t have to make many significant changes. Cypher uses a universal mechanic for dealing with narrative complications, regardless of what those complications are.
Was it more difficult to adapt an already existing IP into the rules of the RPG universe or is it the same as when you start a game from scratch?
I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult. Rather, it’s a different kind of difficult. Building a game from the ground up presents its own challenges—you have to nail down the kinds of stories you want to tell, the stakes involved, and build the system to meet the story’s needs or build the story to match the game system as in the case of original creations bolted on to an existing game system. With fiction adaptation, the author creates a world without thought given to game balance or telling stories outside the story involving the protagonists. So the challenge really is to look at the world around the protagonists and find stories and characters that could exist within the same story and then building the game for them.
System work is also tricky since the objective is to match the mechanics to the narrative. For example, the novels show a wide range of magical effects, from enchanted bullets to nets of blue magical energy that catch falling people to astral projection. The characters in the book don’t “grow” into these things. Rather, they just have them. While Cypher does not place an emphasis on growing one’s individual power, it does feature a system of Tier advancement and from those tiers, characters gain additional benefits and options. It was a bit difficult pinning certain effects found in the story to particular tiers and/or character building blocks such as focus and descriptor, but it wasn’t an insurmountable difficulty.
What exactly was your job on this specific part of this big venture?
It was my job to put the Cypher System through its paces, bending and adapting the core rules to fit the needs of the game and to create new mechanical content to help players and GMs express the story in play. Sometimes, I took existing mechanical content from the Cypher System rulebook and embedded them in new story wrappers. Others, I rebuilt certain rules to make them more suitable for Shotguns & Sorcery. And I also spent a great deal of time creating new content for the game, such as new horrible creature, descriptors, cyphers, and more.
What was the biggest challenge or even obstacle you found?
Shotguns & Sorcery places a considerable amount of importance on race and the tensions of disparate peoples forced to live together under the tyrannical reign of the Dragon Emperor. As the Cypher System doesn’t sweat race/ancestry/people/whatever too much—though there are guidelines in the Cypher System Rulebook—I had to find a way to make the race choice important within the system’s framework. After four or five attempts, I finally settled on extracting a few game elements granted by type and presenting them in a second adjectival choice point called race. This approach allows race a greater impact on how characters take shape and helps differentiate characters who share the same type.
Did the results so far assume the form you wanted?
Oh yes! I’m quite happy with how the game turned out and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing it in its final form.
What is it that you’re most looking forward to show the audience as soon as the RPG is available?
Fans of the novels are going to find out so much more information in this game and Matt added a lot of detail to Dragon City, which really brings the place to life. I’m just excited to get this game in the hands of the customers so they can start playing!
Can you give us any scoop on a favorite character, magic, cypher…?
So many things! But let’s talk about magic. Spells operate as benefits gained from your Type choice. You can access spells from one of two types, the Wizard or, if you want to be a dabbler, the Freelance. Now, anyone can pick up additional spells too by selecting a magical focus such as Conjures Monsters or Commands the Dead. And then there are cyphers. We introduce a subcategory of cyphers called Words, which are spells in written form. They can be written on pages in books, on scrolls, etched onto tablets, or painted on the walls of an ancient, ruined building. Magic is fully integrated into the game, so it’s pretty easy for most characters to have a bit of mojo.
People are already wondering about GM advice you could give them. What’s the one recommendation you would share?
Make Dragon City your own. While we go into detail about the city, there’s plenty of room to add your own creations and characters. Don’t feel locked into the story told in the novels. This is your city now and you can do with it whatever you like!