So, for many of you, I’ve talked about this random game — Black Clover — and you’re confused as to what it is. You may have seen it on my Twitter background, you may have heard me talk about it in tweets, and you may have read some of my random descriptions in my blog. You’ve been introduced to one of my characters — Xavier Guldstein — but you don’t really know much about this world or what this game really is.
Well, now that Black Clover is coming closer and closer to being a reality instead of one of my ludicrous fantasies, I feel that I can talk a bit more freely about this project, this pen and paper roleplaying game.
Black Clover is my first professional attempt at a pen and paper roleplaying system. For a while, the game was going to be nothing more than a modification of Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition, running off of Wizard’s new open gaming license. However, when that brand new OGL never came through with the release of 4th Edition, I turned away from using the new D&D as a base and began experimenting with my own, deciding to take advantage of the moment and really craft a game that suits my world.
Black Clover is set in what I like to call Gothic fantasy steampunk, where it’s really a dark mishmash of steampunk values with punk/rock/emo/Victorian fashion. It’s a bloody world full of the wonder of invention, the intrigue of a fledgling nation recovering after the destruction caused by a great plague, and a society where heroes barely exist. It’s luscious, it’s twisted, it’s dark, it’s gory, and it flirts with the inappropriate constantly. While it’s one of my newer fantasy worlds, it’s quickly risen to be one of my favorites.
The world took off centered around two thoughts in my head one day when I was eating lunch: One question was, “What would a world that was obsessed with death be like?” while the other one was, “What would be the most powerful weapon in existence?” The answers came quickly — the world would be dark, corrupted, and the center stage for a few heroes taking on all of the wrongs in the world in a bitter, weak struggle to make things right while the most powerful weapon would be the human soul.
So created was the Black Clover Rifle, a mythical wonder of technology that had the power to distill the essence of the human spirit by siphoning it out of the person through six sharp, wicked hooks attached to the back of the gun. The energy would be routed through a central chamber containing an odd, onyx gem shaped like a four-leaved clover, where the energy was then dispersed into the barrel of the gun. Black Clover had two firing options: pulse the trigger quickly to only fire a part of your soul, or hold the trigger down to siphon your soul until you let go… letting the whole thing fire in one gigantic burst.
This was the weapon that finished a war by creating a two-mile wide canyon down the center of the continent for four hundred miles. This was the gun that destroyed an entire army for the cost of one human life. This was my world’s atomic bomb. Of course, after firing the gun, the weapon and it’s holder disappeared. Some say that he and the gun were consumed by the force of the blast, while others still believe the gun survived… hidden out there in Clover Canyon. If a full burst could obliterate an army, then how powerful could a person be if they only pulled the trigger for a fraction of a second?
So, with this world had to come a brand new way to play roleplaying games. Carbon copying rules wouldn’t cut it for this universe (in addition to being illegal.) However, I did not want to innovate for the sake of innovation (and legal reasons.) Innovating to be innovative gets you nowhere fast — this system had to solve a problem in roleplaying. Lo and behold, after just one brainstorming session and a suggestion from a few friends, I stumbled over the idea of dynamic statistics instead of the usual static physical characteristics, like strength, dexterity, etc. With that, the Personality Drive system was born.
Personality Drive is how Black Clover solves a fundamental flaw of pen and paper roleplaying games: rewarding roleplay in a truly meaningful way. While many games support roleplaying, and we all know how great D&D can be when the people sitting at the table are dedicated to not dicking over the game… some people like to dick over the game. It’s hard to roleplay when power gamers are being jerks at the table, rules lawyers are shoving errata down the GM’s throat, and some people refuse to roleplay — preferring to play the whole game as one giant statistics fest.
How does Black Clover fix this? Quite simply — it ties your statistics to your roleplay. Each stat represents one of the aspects of the personality of your character. Utilize these aspects in positive ways that your GM believes to be true to your character, and your stats rise. Act like a dick… and well… you get statistics worthy of being a dick. The only person you can blame is yourself. Black Clover rewards you greatly for playing your character by offering you new abilities, new weapon upgrades (yes, you heard me, you build your weapon from the ground up), and better dice rolls. Character improvement isn’t measured by scores of experience or level — character improvement is measured by character improvement. As you explore who you are as a character, your abilities increase as you become more sure of what and who you are. Act in contradicting manners, you’ll have memories that will haunt you.
This system, while it sounds limiting, really offers a more unique experience by making the player understand that some choices ARE hard decisions. Heroes don’t make cavalier decisions when lives are on the line. Or, will you break your morals to do the right thing, even if it means doing the wrong thing initially? Will this power in personality lift you up or smack you down?
That’s just one aspect of how this game is very different from your standard roleplaying experience. Hopefully I’ve made some of you excited or curious to see more. Some of you… well you might be a little miffed right now, or baffled as to why I’d do such a thing with my core statistics. Trust me when I say that it works out. 🙂 But, I won’t be completely sure of that until I enter playtesting… which isn’t for a bit yet. But, in my initial runs… things look dandy. 😀