The Stone of Ashirai—said to contain power over life itself—is rumored to lie within the tomb of the goddess Ashirai, the Death Queen. Can you be the first to reach her tomb, find the stone, and survive to tell the tale?
Gareth was kind enough to send me a review copy of the game, so let’s take a look…
KARMA looks great. While it isn’t image heavy, the layout is clean and readable. What I especially like, and what I think is so important these days, is that it will read well on your device, even a smart phone (I tested it and it does).
KARMA is also meaty for the $10 price tag. From the Table of Contents it looks like you get just under 40 pages of rules, another 40 or so pages for the 8 modules included so far (with more coming, dependent on stretch goals), and then your cheat sheet and character sheet.
Now let’s dig a little deeper.
KARMA uses standard six-sided dice — ten of them — in two colors. You’ll also need some pencils, paper, and tokens to track KARMA.
You also don’t need one of those pesky GM people.
The rules are straight forward and easy to follow, making this a very easy read.
Character creation is simply a matter of creating a concept, selecting a Vice and Virtue, and determining your relationship with the other characters. And that’s where the fun begins. Character creation is very much a part of the game, which is a big plus in our opinion.
Follow that is a series of world building questions, both open to the group and exclusive to your character. Ah, the sweet smell of conflict brewing. What’s nice about this is that a game of KARMA requires 0 prep — the only “prep” you need to do is a fun part of the game that is done collaboratively.
From here on out you play through a number of scenes, culminating in an action packed finale, and there are rules for all of this that make sense and keep things fair and open.
Critical to the game is the Karma system, which I’ll leave for you to discover for yourself, but I will say that it’s a great system that adds loads of fun to the game.
KARMA looks perfect for a 2–3 hour session with friends. I’m keen to play this with my non-roleplayer friends actually, as a way to introduce them to the hobby.
My regular gaming groups would give this a go between campaigns, especially for any group that focuses strongly on narrative. BUT, get this… KARMA is setting neutral, but there’s no reason you couldn’t integrate the game into an existing campaign with existing characters — even from a very different system. Want to take a break from the dungeon in your D&D 5e campaign, but not from your characters? KARMA would give you a great way to explore your characters more deeply, flesh out their motivations, and make them matter more.
So overall, KARMA is a very cool addition to the hobby. I recommend it. You can order your copy (PDF or Print) via the Indiegogo campaign page.
Welcome to part 4 in this series focused on solo and GMless infiltration games. Check out part 1, part 2 and part 3 if you missed out.
“The secret of success in battle lies often not so much in the use of one’s own strength but in the exploitation of the other side’s weaknesses.” John Christopher, When the Tripods Came
I like those little snippets of monster tactics you sometimes find in published adventures. They give you a better idea of why the monster is in the adventure, and they provide you with a framework for making play decisions.
In a solo game, it’s just as helpful to have a plan for the monsters, otherwise I tend to fudge their decisions in my favour. “Oh, I know I could easily kill the hero with my sneaky attack. But I’ll come out of hiding, being the brave goblin that I am. I’ll even let Hero-Man have the first swing.” If the goblin has a plan, many of my choices are made, I can focus on playing the star of the show, my optimized and much loved character with the dog eared character sheet.
I came up with the following simple strategy sheet to help me out:
Here’s a brief description of each entry:
Role: a word to describe the monster’s tactics, such as sniper, assassin, wrestler, commander or artillery.
Morale: If the creature tends to be brave, cowardly, or something in-between.
Ease: How the monster acts when there is no threat.
Alert: What the monster does when they become aware of any danger or enemies.
Melee: What the monster does when engaged in, or within range for melee combat.
Range: What the monster does when engaged in, or within range for missile combat.
Blood: What the monster does when they have taken significant damage. You can decide what “significant damage” means, but I usually go with 50% and below of their HP as the crossover mark.
Playing, you will have some idea of how a given monster will react to your actions, eliminating some of the surprise; a problem I’d still like to solve. Furthermore, you have to play as the GM, especially during setup. But this turns setup into a game on its own; how do the goblins think?What are they fighting for? Would they rather fight from far or up close with a sharp blade? These questions bring story and tactics together, giving you a chance to add to your narrative, as discussed in part 2.
Have you tried something similar? I’d love to know what you think. I’ll leave you with a quote from Mr Tzu:
“Conform to the enemy’s tactics until a favorable opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in a battle that shall prove decisive.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War
This is Part 3 of the Daggers at Dusk Series. Check out part 1 and part 2 for more on playing solo infiltration games.
Last week I ventured into the Goblin Caves, had fun and got captured. Now I’m going to show you a simple system I use to make my games even more interesting. You never know what’s around the next corner, and this system is all about adding that kind of uncertainty back into the game.
First, decide on the monsters for your map and add a couple extra. With the Goblin Caves from last week, there might be an orc or two hanging around, so I set aside two orcs with the rest of the miniatures.
We added two orcs, so we’ll set them aside with two goblins, but place everything else on the map: a goblin boss on the throne and two goblin guards to watch the prisoners.
Now place counters for the unknown enemies. These counters might turn out to be the orcs or just plain goblins. They might even turn out to be nothing at all. Place one counter for each goblin/orc pair (the minis still in our pool).
Now play the game as usual. The counters move 20 feet per turn using the system I described in part 1. Since the counters are most likely to be goblins, they have the same perception scores.
If your character lays eyes on the token roll a D4 and consult the table below, replacing the token with the appropriate miniature.
Once the creature has been identified, play with its regular stats. You can also use random monster tables from published sources, but building your own from the ground up keeps the game more manageable. Play around with the table to get more variety for your games, for example:
(D8) Random Monster Table (MK2)
5: Dire rat
6: Goblin Boss
7: Goblin Dog or Warg
8: Goblin riding a Goblin Dog or Warg.
If you’ve played Lunatic Labyrinth then you’ve seen this system in action before. The unknown really raises the game, demanding more of you as a solo player. Scouting missions make more sense too, while intelligence gathering becomes paramount to carrying out a successful mission.
Last week I told you about a simple infiltration game I played many years back. Today I’m breaking out the minis to do it again. Let’s go kill some gobbos.
For this game I used the Pathfinder Beginners Box, but you could just as easily use the full Pathfinder Role-Playing Game, Dungeons and Dragons of any vintage, or some other system.
I’ll be playing Grunni, a human sell-sword (fighter) of level 1. I’m out to rescue a friend who fell foul of goblins in the early hours of the morning. I’ve been tracking the goblins and found their cave, which I’m watching from an outcrop of rocks as the evening sets in.
In the caves are four goblins, each by a fire, and one goblin boss, who sits on a stone throne. In the prison is a wounded and bound halfling by the name of Ranna Lightleap. She’s fast asleep on the hard stone floor.
Swimming around in the lake is a gray ooze, which feeds off fishes and the waste the goblins throw into the stream. It’s important to have the odds stacked against you; two goblins may be a challenge, but with the boss and an ooze to fall foul of, I’ll have to watch my step.
My mission is to free Ranna. My secondary missions are to kill the goblin boss, kill or drive off the goblins or to reconnoitre the caves so I can come back with a stronger force armed with some knowledge. Four different objectives will give me options when goblin poop starts flying.
Because the forces I’m dealing with are goblins, I don’t want much order to their defences. I want the grunts to move at random. They’re not patrolling or on watch for danger, so they’ll use the system I defined last week.
The boss will stay put in his chair. I’ll roll for him in the same way, but he’ll only change the direction he’s facing. If a roll would mean he’s left staring at the wall, I’ll keeping him facing as he is instead. This way he’s a kind of sentry, and harder to sneak up on.
The ooze will move at random, but will stick to the river (and the lakes that he’s used to). If anyone comes within striking distance (10 foot), he’ll attack. This way he’s a manageable threat, but could cause problems if there’s fighting near the river.
Now, a little more back story, to set the mood. Ranna is a skilled ranger who has been helping me track bandits in the area. Lone travellers have gone missing recently, which is strange this close to the safety of South Fort. We’d been tracking the bandits for days, eager to claim the sizeable bounty on their heads. Then a tribe of goblins attacked us while we slept one night. I (Grunni the sell-sword) feel like I got Ranna into this mess, so I better get her out again.
I start inching my way towards the cave mouth, using boulders for cover. I can see movement within and a goblin appears at the cave exit, looking out. He turns away, so I inch out of hiding, my bow ready if he should spot me. Suddenly he turns. I don’t see his face, silhouetted by the firelight within, but I see him raise an arm to point at me. I loose my arrow, but my shot goes wide, clattering off the stone wall. He shouts something in his guttural tongue and all hell breaks loose. Another gobbo runs out, bow in hand, I fire again and drop my bow. My blade comes free of my scabbard and glints in the moon light. “So much for stealth”, I mutter as two more goblins appear. In the storm of arrows I take one in the shoulder. It’s a solid hit, but I’m not going down yet.
The fourth goblin levels his bow; a hideous creature with a baboon like face. The arrow flies straight and true, punching through my armor and flesh, sending out a black cloud of my life blood. He rolled a 20 to hit and confirms to take me to -3 health. I slump to the floor and my world goes black.
When I awake, I’m roped and lying next to Ranna.
“Good morning. I trust the rescue attempt is going well?” She smirks.
Next time I’ll be more patient.
Short, I know, but the whole game played out with the rules I’ve laid down and no GM. It was fun, challenging and I’ve since replayed the mission again, trying out a more stealthy rogue. Why not give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Did you ever play Metal Gear Solid or a similar game where it was you against a ton of bad guys? You, and you alone, had to sneak in and bring the mayhem. There are plenty of examples out there, but two of my favorite PC games of all time are Ghost Recon and Operation Flashpoint. Both have strong stealth elements to the game that I loved. I didn’t mind taking hours to carefully play through a mission, avoiding detection and taking out the enemy, silently and one by one.
I also love special forces stories, such as Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab and Pathfinder, a book I just finished reading, by David Blakeley. Both books involve elite teams of British soldiers on missions behind enemy lines, with the odds stacked heavily against them. I’ve read loads of similar books, which you’ll find listed at the end of this post.
I think these kinds of games and stories would make great solo RPG games. They’re tense and feeling totally alone and out gunned is part of the fun. Sadly, I’ve yet to see any fantasy stuff that gives you a good taste of this. Sure, there are rogues in most fantasy RPG’s, but how often do they get to be truly sneaky? How often is everything geared towards covert operations?
When I was in high school I collected Blood Angle Space Marines and Orks for Warhammer 40,000. I didn’t get to play much, so sometimes I’d set up a small scenario and play both sides of the fight. These solo games weren’t always challenging, but as I progressed they became more interesting: “How many gretchin does it take to bring down a Terminator Space Marine?” Or “how many turns can an Ork army survive against a cloud of vortex grenades?” And so on.
Then I came up with a great covert mission. One Space Marine Scout versus an encampment of Orks. He’d have to go in unseen and take the green bloods out silently, one at a time. I sure as hell didn’t want to control the Orks; that scout was me and I was going to do everything in my power to win through. So I built my own AI.
The “AI” was a simple set of rules. Each round I would roll a D6 for each Ork:
Continue in the direction the figure is facing.
Stop (Do nothing).
The simple options worked well with the grid-like Ork camp I’d set up (they must have been Freebooters). And it was easy to imagine any Ork facing a wall as having a pee or rummaging through some unseen stores. No long tables to consult, just six options that were easy to memorize.
I also added stealth rules, since 40K only had rules for hiding. My rules covered things like sneaking, hiding in shadows or long grass, silent kills (which were auto kills if you managed to sneak up behind your target) and rules for hiding bodies. Nothing complex, the only thing you needed to roll for was if you were hiding in open ground and an Ork was staring in your direction (a 5 or 6 on a D6 would mean he’d spotted you.) Most of the rules I made up as I needed them, so I pretty much dived right in.
I’ve spoken about solo games a few times on this blog, and it’s become a bit of an obsession for me. That probably all started with that game, which was a really exciting, memorable session and the most fun I had with 40K. It had everything I wanted: tension, unpredictable enemies, a need for tactics, atmosphere and fuel for my imagination. I was that scout, and I was in that camp to break those Orks once and for all. I could feel the shadows, they were my comfort. I knew the heft of my silenced pistol, it was my strength.
Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook Especially see the section related to the ninja. Although the facts surrounding the ninja are debatable, this book is an interesting read, especially if you’re playing an Asian campaign or a ninja character.
SoloNexus by JF An excellent blog devoted to solo play.