Koveras' Korner

My RPG fandoms.

Ever since I have discovered Blades in the Dark, I have been struggling with the question of why, even in a role-playing game (RPG) that does so much to facilitate a group identity for the player characters (PCs), almost none of my campaigns saw them come together as a fully integrated group. While the kind of players I usually got definitely contributed to this, I also found was that while many tabletop RPGs suggest setting-appropriate explanations of why the PCs spend time with each other, almost all assume by default that their party is a secondary group, joining forces temporarily, until they accomplish a specific task. What I was looking for instead were primary groups, and having found little advice on how to facilitate their emergence in-play, I have come up my own system-agnostic conceptual framework to help role-playing groups think of their characters in terms of holistic group concepts and primary identities.

Scum and Villainy is a fiction-first role-playing game in the space western genre. While its game system is based on Blades in the Dark, its setting is inspired by every notable work of science fiction from Star Wars and Firefly to Cowboy Bebop and Dune. Having already expressed my thoughts on the game system a year ago, I now want to discuss its setting. While doing the prep for my first SaV mini-campaign, it struck me how poorly structured its setting descriptions are, compared to the rules or even to the corresponding section in the original Blades. Many details that should go together are instead spread out across different chapters, and I had to start my own wiki just to bring them all into a structure I could easily reference. The excerpt below represents the "public" (spoiler-free) knowledge about the setting that every player (character) should have when starting the game and is primarily for the benefit of new players and those interested in the game.

Blades in the Dark has been my role-playing obsession for close to two years now – so long, in fact, that I am beginning to wonder whether it is time to move on. And what better thing is there to move on to than the same game, but IN SPACE?! More seriously, though, Scum and Villainy is the first commercial Forged in the Dark product, published in late 2018 by Evil Hat. It transplants the mechanics of Blades (which I consider the pinnacle of role-playing game design to date) from the Gothic steampunk of Duskwall to the Standard Sci-Fi Setting™ of the Procyon Sector, inspired by everything "space" – from the Westerns like Firefly and Cowboy Bebop to the operas like Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars. Because I am a conservative weirdo, I have no interest in explaining the game to you, so I will assume familiarity with Blades on your part and cover mainly what SaV does differently and how it affects actual play.

A while ago, I have read Vincent Baker's blog post "Things on Character Sheets", where he makes a convincing argument that things most pen-and-paper role-playing games (including, by extension, his own) put on their character sheets, in fact, have very little to do with those characters' character. This has inspired me to develop an alternative, system-agnostic character sheet that focuses on who the character is, rather than what they can do, inspired by (and liberally borrowing ideas from) several indie RPGs. This was back in 2017, and I have since used it to help create several characters for my self and for my friends, but this is the first time I share the document with the public.

Having discovered Fiasco – an amazing narrativist pen-and-paper RPG – a while back via Tabletop, I have played more than a few games in the meantime and had some thoughts on how to improve the RP experience, particularly with inexperienced players at the table.