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viernes, 19 de agosto de 2016

Crossovers and Shared Universes

In today's post I will talk about a matter which I particularly had seldom seen talk about in role-playing games, but before I begin with it I invite you to see the following videos:




Rather curious, isn't it?. In the first one we see how it's author have mixed the scene of the fumigator plane of the film North by Northwest with many diverse elements of the original Star Wars trilogy and in the second one there are very cleverly mixed scenes of many films which mostly have in common its development in a bar or a party hall.

The situations in both videos allow me to present the theme of this post: crossovers and shared universes.

Fiction works planning crossovers or forming part of a shared universe allow their authors to create plots and stories allowing characters of very diferent origins to share its protagonism, being in the same universe or mixing genres giving birth to creations which can be certainly interesting.

The more evident examples of this trend are those in the comic book, television and cinema industries with examples like the following ones:

Illustration by Walter Simonson and Terry Austin

We also cannot forget examples present in literature like the cases of:

Cthulhu sketch
by H.P. Lovecraft (Public Domain)

And in role-playing games it's possible to find examples like the following ones:

Illustration of the cover of Spelljammer
created by Jeff Easley (Official website | Wikipedia)


While I was thinking about all I had explained before I remembered the post of the blog El Culto de Almas which in April 2015 presented the campaign El mañana nunca muere, translation from French of the campaign appeared in the blog Rôle Grand Sud (devoted to inform of role-playing conventions carried out in South France). This campaign take as a basis the Cthulhu Mythos and presents 3 linked adventures taking place in diferent eras using as rulesets role-playing games based in Lovecraft works: Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green and Cthulhutech. While reading how the campaign plot develops I began to think about diverse ideas and possibilities I believe to be enough interesting to be shared with the blog readers and which I will develop subsequently.

Walküre and Spirit of the Century

The role-playing game Walküre, centered in alternative history and transhumanist science-fiction (which I had reviewed before in this post and you can buy in shops like Tesoros de la Marca and also freely download as a pdf file its official website and Tesoros de la Marca, and to be published in English by Nocturnal Media) is based in a change of the events of the time line of our world ending in a distopy in which the historical development had experiment substantial changes and the Third Reich continue to exist and the technological progress is more accelerated.

The question, of course, are the reasons of this change happening, and in this case two are the main ones: The discovery by Germans of the Enigma cypher machine being compromised by British and the successful Operation Felix meaning the conquest of Gibraltar and the closing of Mediterranean Sea to British Fleet.

You may think that these events were only one of the many possibilities of what could take place in this years, but because the goal of this article are the crossovers you can also imagine that something or someone are responsible of this change, so I noticed one of my other games, Spirit of the Century (which I reviewed here and is published by Nosolorol and conBarba in Spain), and one of the Non Playing Characters of the book: Doctor Methuselah.

Doctor Methuselah is one of the main antagonists appearing in the book of Spirit of the Century and as a mad scientist he is capable of manipulate reality and space-time through his 10 mathemagic equations, something which would allow him to create the alternative temporal stream of Walküre and which could be used by any referee for creating pulp style adventures with both game universes crossing one into the other (and if you take in account that Doctor Methuselah is responsible for the creation of Gorilla Khan, another antagonist of the game, then we have the excuse for introduce another typical pulp element as the kriegaffen appearing in the comic book series of the character Hellboy created by Mike Mignola).

And how this thought can be translated to the gaming table? Spirit of the Century uses as a ruleset Fate, so knowing that Walküre uses the CdB Engine ruleset and this is a derivation of Cacería de Bichos (based also in Fate) this wouldn't be a very difficult task, so here you have the gaming stats of Doctor Methuselah and Gorilla Khan in CdB Engine format (I was unable to test this characters in a gaming session, so if anyone does it I would thank him to give his thoughtds about them with a comment in this post).

DOCTOR METHUSELAH, Mathemagician
Shadow Millennial, Master of Mathematical Reality

Destiny (Aspects): 10 (Ancient, Mathemagical Principles, Strange Formulas, Arcane Equations, Hidden Agenda, Tireless Pursuit, The Fundamentals, Quid Pro Quo, Weight of History, Circumspection).

Talents: Doctoratr (Any), Investigator.

Gifts: Weird Science and Mad Scientist (Special)(*), The Ten Mathmagics Equations(**)

Skills: Agility 5, Attention 4, Science (Any) 7, Knowledge (Mysteries) 6(***), Knowledge (Any) 6, Any Social Skill 3, Any Other Skill 2, Vigour 5, Will 5.

(*) Can access to or invent any technology regardless of its Tech Level
(**) Work as gadgets of Spirit of the Century (see pages 207 to 221 of the book of that game).
(***) Skill used as a wildcard for any question related to mystical or paranormal issues.

Doctor Methuselah is to be considered as a plot element rather than an enemy to be directly confronted, also his knowledge and skills exceed so much those of the most common characters as he is said to exist for a thousand years...

Illustration by Christian N. St. Pierre 

GORILLA KHAN, Conqueror Ape
Sentient Simian, Rogue Experiment

Destiny (Aspects): 10 (Raging Ape, Gorilla Strength, Simian Stamina, Legacy of Khan, Teachings of Methuselah, Animal Cunning, Military Genius, Savage Beast, Natural Leader, Jungle Law).

Talents: Martial Artist (Boxing), Perfect Balance, Tireless, Fists of Steel, Quick Reflexes, Damage Resistance 2, Pain Tolerance.

Skills: Agility 4, Hand to Hand Weapons 2, Attention 5, Science (Choose) 2 (*), Knowledge (Choose) 2 (*), Knowledge (Mysteries) 2 (**), Intimidate 3, Leadership 3, Fight 4, Stealth 2, Survival 2, Vigour 5, Will 2.

(*) To be chosen by the referee.
(**) Skill used as a wildcard for any question related to mystical or paranormal issues.

He always has a personal retinue of three minions with combat skill 3 and three other ones with with combat skill 0 (if he is inside of his own kingdom he will have an entire army).

Illustration by Christian N. St. Pierre 


Walküre and La Puerta de Ishtar

Illustrations by Antonio José Manzanedo (Blog | DeviantArt),
Biagio D'Alessandro, Ivan Cordero Hernández and Diego Pérez Galindo

Another interesting crossover may take as a basis the Nazi archeological expeditions and investigations carried out by Ahnenerbe, like the travel by Franz Altheim and Erika Trautmann to Middle East in 1938 wich included a visit to South Irak lands and Babylon, which unavoidable leads to another of the games I own: La Puerta de Ishtar (which I reviewd in this post and right now is available in pdf format at RPGNow, DrivethruRPG and Lektu).

Its true that the authors of Walküre haven't chosen to introduce magic and terror elements like those of Lovecraft in their game but nothing stops that players and referees willing to do it to carry out the necessary adaptations (and in fact it's not the first time that something like this is made in role-playing games, and if not see Achtung! Cthulhu).

If you decide to create a crossover between Walküre and La Puerta de Ishtar you may trat the question in two forms:

  • Use characters and creatures of one and other game converting its characteristics to the ruleset you may had chosen, implying a time travel (according actual theories or science-fiction) or visiting a parallel universe (also according to actual theories or science-fiction).
  • Characters of Walküre discovering how to use the ancient knowledge of La Puerta de Ishtar (magical objects and witchcraft) in their era.

Clock by Tomas Mykolajczyk (Public Domain)

Using together Walküre and La Puerta de Ishtar

In this first case it will be necessary to study the equivalences at ruleset level between both games as you will see in the following notes (which, all told, I couldn't test them in a gaming table yet, so these can be considered as an advice regarding the theme).

To begin with it's necessary to take account that La Puerta de Ishtar takes place in a version of Mesopotamia of Bronze Age which mmanifest Sword and Sorcery genre topics and its technological level compared to Walküre is very far in time, this implies that will be cases in which the referee will have the las word regarding which skills of each ruleset characters will have access (for instance, it could be very difficult, or right impossible for a character of La Puerta de Ishtar to know how to use a computer, although if the refereee and the player have a good reason for it then go on, in the end it's their adventure or campaign).

La Puerta de Ishtar is comparatively easier than Walküre and studying the rules of boths games there are many connection points between them which could ease the caracteristics' conversions and use of elements from both of them, beginning with both using six-sided rolls (3D in the case of La Puerta de Ishtar and 2D in the case of Walküre) adding up the outcome of them and summing the level of the skills used along with numerical ranges marking the difficulty to overcome in those rolls, casually this ranges (better not to see the names used) are very equal as you can see in the next table.

Equivalence of Difficulty Ranges
Walküre
(CdB Engine)
La Puerta de Ishtar
(Motor de Emociones)
2D rolls 3D rolls
Difficulty
level
Outcome
to obtain
Difficulty
degree
Nedded
outcome
Not trained 3 Routine 9
Easy 5
Trivial 7
Medium 9
Challenging 11 Easy 11
Difficult 13 Medium difficulty 13
Very difficult 15 Difficult 15
Striking 17 Very difficult 17
Legendary 19 Extremely difficult 19
Impossible 21 Nearly imposible 21

Regarding the equivalence of skill ranges here we have some discrepancies, because in La Puerta de Ishtar there's no skill set as such, instead there are the Professions (it's understood that a character will know all he needs to carry out his profession) ranging from a level of 1 (Newbie) to 3 (Master), and the combat skills (Hand to Hand, Distance, Defense and Maneuver) ranging from levels 1 to 6.

To see the equivalences I propose the next table.

Equivalence of Skills and Professions ranges
Walküre
(CdB Engine)
La Puerta de Ishtar
(Motor de Emociones)
Profession Combat Skill
Not Trained N / A N / A
Level Mastering Level
0 1 Newbie 1 – 2
1
2
3 2 Experimented 3 – 4
4
5
6 3 Master 5 – 6
7
8
N / A: Not Applicable

As you will see I have considered that the chance of having a not trained skill of Walküre not to be used in La Puerta de Ishtar to ease the conversions, regarding which number to use if you have the chance of many options the referee may want to use the maximum possible number or randomly decide.

Following with the equivalences of both games now it's time to see hao to make the conversion of characteristics and skills and in these case we continue to see discrepances tetween them, because if La Puerta de Ishtar follows the typical model of having atributes on one side and skills in the other in Walküre there's a no clear distinction between both, so what I propose you in the next table are the equivalences I believe to be more adequate (I will not go into secondary and combat attributes because it's better to calculate them according to the ruleset of each game).

Equivalence of Skills and Characteristics
Walküre
(CdB Engine)
La Puerta de Ishtar
(Motor de Emociones)
Skills Characteristics
Agility Dexterity
Vigour Strength
Wit (1) Wit
Attention Perception
Charm (2) Charisma
Will Will
(1) Because Walküre doesn't have a skill to directly measure the intelligence and wits of characters may be it's necessary to create a new skill to consider this characteristic.
(2) To not confound the Charisma talent of Walküre with the characteristic Charisma of La Puerta de Ishtar I have created a new skill I have named Charm.

Regarding a direct correspondence between skills ans professions in this case I will advise the referee to include the skills of Walküre in the more adequate professions (creating if needed professions for more technologically advanced environments than those of La Puerta de Ishtar) or design a mixed system of skills and professions if he believes that there are skills that aren't easy to put in a given profession.

Another interesting game mechanic present in both games is the use of the emotional qualities of the characters, manifesting with Personality Traits in La Puerta de Ishtar and personality Aspects of Walküre, both are perfectly interchangeable and its use can affect characters psitively or negatively with the corresponding gain or loss of Character Points in La Puerta de Ishtar and Destiny Points in Walküre (in both games characters have initially 3 of such points) as is summarized in the next table.

Use of Personality Traits and Personality Aspects
Game Walküre
(CdB Engine)
La Puerta de Ishtar
(Motor de Emociones)
Positive Use Application of a Personality Aspect (gives +3 to the roll) Personality Trait affecting positively (roll 4D and keep the 3 with the higher outcome)
The character spends... 1 Destiny Point 1 Character Point
Negative Use Invocation of a Personality Aspect (implies failing a roll, something complicating character's life or havig him to act in a given way) Personality Trait affecting negatively (roll 4D and keep the 3 with the lowest outcome)
The character obtains... 1 Destiny Point (if the invocaion is done by the referee) 1 Character Point
Notes Invocations can be carried out by referees and players, if the player don't want to be affected by an invocation he can avoid it spending 1 Destiny Point

And speaking of character's psichology and emotions I believe convenient to state that Walküre is a science-fiction game where there's the chance of protagonists easily dying, so it don't have the proper mechanisms of an heroic fantasy game like La Puerta de Ishtar to save them, but without doubt it's possible to implement them in an easy and direct way recalling the following data:

Passion and Determination
Emotion Passion Determination
Represents The character's capability of overcoming himself for the pure desire of achieving his objectives The certainness of the character in his skill at doing something
It's use is indicated Before rolling dice After rolling dice
Game mechanic Allow to roll those dice with an outcome of 6 and add them up to the grand total of player's roll Allow to repeat a roll (the second outcome is kept even if its lower than the previous one)
Maximum number of uses 3 3
Recovering Three ways:
  • Using a Personality Trait in a positive manner and failing the associated roll
  • Saying the character motto (one or two sentences defining the character as an indvidual)
  • Risking his life and surviving
Three ways:
  • Using a Personality Trait in a negative manner and suceeding in the associated roll
  • Achieving a short term objective (in the gaming session)
  • Achieving a long term objective (in the campaign)

Regarding combat there's the circumstance that in both games the mechanics are similar because:
  • Combat initiative is calulated rolling 1D (in Walküre the Initiative is added to the roll outcome).
  • Combat maneuvers and fight styles are used (in Walküre there are more maneuvers and mechanics are more complex because Combat Actions or AC are used to manage combat flux).
  • The damage suffered is calculated:
    • Substracting the success degee of the attack and the damage bonus of the character or weapon used from the resistance to damage of the objective in Walküre.
    • Restant del total de la Tirada d'atac el total de la Tirada de Defensa a La Puerta de Ishtar.
The weapons damage ranges and the resistance of protections can be considered to be quite comparable and its logical that a technologically advanced piece of equipment like a modern gun or a laser would make more damage in combat than a Bronze Age sword or that an armoured exoskeleton will offer more protection than leather armour worn by a warrior of centuries ago.

And beginning to ending this part I'm going to center in some characteristics of Walküre which at first don't seem to be easy to translate to the ruleset of La Puerta de Ishtar.

The characters's creation system of Walküre is based in the distribution of Development Points allowing players to buy Skills for their characters as well as Talents (specific knowledges, innate capabilities and special training), Gifts (capabilities due to technological developments manifesting as implants, biological modifications or equipment used by characters) and Limitations (social or physical disavantages), acquiring them allow to gain more Development Points if players fall short.

Taking into account that point distribution to set character's statistics in La Puerta de Ishtar is something rather sketchy and optional (so it doesn't reach de development level of Walküre) referees desiring to implement Talents, Gifts and Limitations may consider the following:
  • Talents and Gifts describe many beneficial effects for characters and in some cases bonus to the rolls ranging from +1 to +3.
  • Limitations describe many detrimental effests for characters and in some cases penalizations rangong from -1 to -3.
  • Bonus and penalizations ranges fit perfectly inside those established in La Puerta de Ishtar (which range from -4 to +4).
  • Descriptions of the effects of Talents, Gifts and Limitations are indeed descriptive texts which can be easily reinterpreted.
  • To asign Talents it can be considered that for each one the character receives he must choose a Limitation.
  • To asign Gifts it can be considered that for each one he must obtain 2 or even 3 Limitations if the referee decides that it is a very powerful Gift.
So you can see an example of these adaptations I show you up next some conversions I have made of characters and creatures of these games, like the case of spy Dina Savin of Walküre and high priestess Kheba and a Urmahlullu of La Puerta de Ishtar.

DINA SAVIN (Version for La Puerta de Ishtar)
Soviet spy
Sex: Woman  Age: 31 (born in 2044)

Characteristics:
Dexterity: 4
Wit: 4
Charisma: 3
Strength: 4
Perception: 4
Will: 2

Professions:
Spy 3
Engineer 1
Pilot 1

Traits:
Double Agent (3 Character Points)

Goals:
Short-term: Act as a double agent to obtain more data about the whereabouts of agent Fearman
Long-term: Free agent Fearman the claws of the SD

Motto:
All people have two faces
Combat:
Hand to Hand 2
Distance 4
Defence 2
Maneuver 1

Stamina 16

Weapons:
Handgun H&K G14 4mm (Damage 4, VA 5 VD 2 VM 1)
Fight (VA 2 VD 2 VM 1)

Armour:
None

Talents:
Gun Kata (*)

Gifts:
Bionic Eye (Nocturnal Vision + Absolute Darkness) (**)
Respiratory Filters (**)

Limitations:
Dependence (Maintenance) (***)


(*) See how this Talent works in the book of Walküre.
(**) See how this Gift in the book of Walküre.
(***) Loses 1 Stamina pt each week if the maintenance of her implants is not performed.
Illustration by Jara López


KHEBA (Version for Walküre)
Ensi of Kish, High priestess of Shuk-Nippurash and Sharuru-Ullu, Highest Interrogator of the Niggina of her city

Destiny (Aspects): 5 (Get the Rose of Winds to conquer Nippur, Proud, Seducer, Manipulative)

Talents: Glamour 2 (+2 to Persuade and Deceive rolls with persons attracted to her)

Skills: Agility 5, Attention 8, Charm 8, Deceive 2, Detect Intentions 2, Evade 6, Fight 5, Knowledge (Theology) 8, Knowledge (Witchery) 8, Persuade 2, Survival 5, Throwable Weapons 6, Vigour 5, Will 8, Wit 8

Illustration by Luis Miguez (Blog | Web


URMAHLULLU (Version for Walküre)
Centaur lions, protectors of Sumer

Destiny (Aspects): 3 (Honor Code - Protectors, Enemy - Mukil-resh-lemuti, Roar)

Talents: Martial Artist, Scale (Positive) +1, Resistance to Damage 2, Iron Will 3

Skills: Agility 8, Attention 5, Charm 8, Evade 7, Fight 8, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (Art) 4, Survival 6, Throwable Weapons 7, Vigour 8, Will 8, Wit 5

Illustration by Victor Guerra 


Using spells of La Puerta de Ishtar in Walküre

After the previous long analisis (which I hope you may found useful or interesting) I go on with the other option I had commented at the beginning consisting in using the spells of La Puerta de Ishtar as a basic component to offer adventures with the intervention of a knowledge given by creatures beyond time and space and which the Ahnenerbe and other power hungry organisations ready to get them at any cost.

these spells are very simple regarding its implementation as a game mechanic because the only needed conditions to carry out them are to have the needed level of the profession Witchery (see the relevant table of the previous explanation for a range correspondence between both games), be willing to follow the needed steps to learn its use as established in the description of everyone of them and carry out its execution as prescribed, although, of course, its nature often is more akin to the darkest witchery and what it involves (like human sacrifice sometimes), therefore is usually recommended only for really dangerous and unscrupulous opponents.

Any group or individual of the game universe of Walküre willing to obtain and use this knowledge should be part of an archeological excavation or have access to its results, which usually will be clay tablets written with cuneiform symbols needing to be correctly translated and interpreted with the aid of the necessary Knowledge skills and at the difficulty the referee deems appropriate.

Conclusions

And up to here this article in which I have given you some ideas and information so you can create a crossover of Walküre with Spirit of the Century and La Puerta de Ishtar.

What do you think? You liked it? Have you found it interesting? I would like to know your opinion and you can leave it to me as comments in this post.

This entry it's also available in the following languages:
Castellano Català

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