Posts Tagged ‘Black Clover’

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The Story Behind Black Clover

January 11, 2010

Concept art for the Black Clover character, "The Organist." Yes, that's a mechanized arm.

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?

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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. 😀

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The gaming update

October 6, 2009

So, I should make a post to you guys about the status of the two games I’m currently spearheading.  Yes, I said two.  Most of you have probably guessed at this point that I’m going to make Wildfire Industries, thanks mostly due to the comments on my last post being so undeniably positive.  Thanks you guys for being honest, and I’m working on making this game work.

Black Clover, my first love and major Pen and Paper Roleplaying Project, is currently sitting in a ditch and going back and forth to get itself out.  The problem is that if this game was a car, then the outside would look awesome while the engine would be a complete complex unworking joke.  Simply put — the lore and world is fantastic.  Everyone I talk to regarding this project has nothing but happy smiles, raised eyebrows, and a wish to know more.  I’m really excited to be putting all of these thoughts and concepts down on to paper and make a gothic steampunk game.  If this game could be completely lore driven, it would be great, but sadly that’s not the case.  The game is a game first and a world second, which leads me to saying…

The system sucks.

Perhaps it’s me, the author, just being overly critical but I don’t think I am.  Every time I try to sit down and work the kinks out of combat or work with the system, I either feel I’m cutting off roleplay by being too strict or not putting enough meat on the bones of the combat system to make it unique and original.  I feel as if combat should be a good portion of this game, especially as each “class” is limited to one “mythic weapon.” (Oh snap, I just revealed something, oh well.)  That weapon should provide a really wonderful and multi-talented use, as it’s the only weapon the heroes will get.  Why did I make that decision?  Well, it simply seems to fit another system in the game, which some people could potentially guess at but I’m going to leave out of this conversation for now.

Skill checks seem to work well in the context, but those too seem to be too reliant on the branching pathways of the classes.  Plus, I don’t want to put things out of order and make something too strong or too weak.  I need to bite the bullet and get cracking on at least getting things together in some working order so I can test for these types of power issues, but every time I start working on it I feel uncomfortable.  Perhaps I just need a break.

To make up for the problems with Black Clover, I have an awesome wallpaper to give out to you guys here on mah blog.  The art is done by my good friend Melissa, who is spearheading most (if not all) of the game’s artwork.  All in her spare time.  Throw your kudos to here on here, please, and let her feel some love for all of the work she is doing — especially if you use the wallpaper below.

Widescreen Version

Widescreen Version (1600x900)

Fullscreen Wallpaper (1200x1024)

Fullscreen Version (1200x1024)

Now, as for Wildfire Industries… well… things went together damn easy.  The system is insanely modular, and in the span of 2 hours I figured out a way to play the game as a traditional RPG, a cutthroat game of roleplaying where one person is declared the winner in one session and, interestingly enough, an expandable version that can hold up to 5 teams all playing against one another in either a one shot mission or a running campaign.  Now, you need one hell of a team of GMs for the 5 teams version, but it’s possible — especially if you can play it together on the internet.

This is thanks mostly due to the fact that skill checks are easily variable and not dependent on item use, simply on stat use.  If you want to be better at X skill check, spend points on it.  Or, you could spend the company’s money, which is a discussion for another time.  Checks are easily modifiable to either accomidate one player or a team of players working together (as some checks force players to team up to make them, which depending on the game type they may or may not want to do, resulting in hilarity.)  The game also supports secretive undermining right in the checks system, and that’s not even adding in the “traits” system which are the character’s publicly known and secretly hidden abilities.

Either way, the rules are done.  The game is simple, and I think it’s better for it because it leaves oh-so-much-room for sheer insanity on the parts of the players, much like Paranoia does. (Although I think Paranoia is much more complicated when it’s put next to my system.)  Now all I have to do is complete writing up the abilities that each character type has.  Then, it’s going out for a test run with my gaming group.  If it succeeds there, it goes for a test run at the local gaming club at the University of Pittsburgh.  Hopefully all of this will allow me to refine the rules and abilities, and then I’ll ask for testers here on line.

Then, with luck, I’ll get some inspiration and move forward on Black Clover.  Mmmm… Black Clover… *drools*

Anyway, sorry for the HUGE post, but I hope you guys enjoyed it!

~Sera

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I need some help from mah peeps

May 22, 2009

Okies readers, question for you:  Would you like to see the concept of hit points totally revisited to include injuries, or would you like hit points to remain just hit points — the number that goes down to show exactly how injured you are.

I ask this because I’m currently working on designing HP for my own pen and paper roleplaying game, and have two different concepts lying on the table.  One is the HP & Injury idea, where HP exists, but the focus is instead on injuries that can plague the character for long amounts of time.  This system makes the game much more complex, including different penalities for different types of injuries.

On the other side, my vision statement preaches simplicity and ease of access.  System 1 does not provide that, but instead provides an innovative mechanic that is innovative for the sake of being innovative.  Not the best reason to include something.  So, System 2 is just HP.  No other fancy additions, just some straight HP.  Perhaps injury can still be counted in this sytem, but it’s nowhere near as complex as the first system.
Comment away guys… I’m really interested in hearing your personal opinions on this one.