Games Design - [Contenders] Magpie Lords & Magpie Ladies

Posted by: Joe Murphy On: May 17th 2010 edited

I'm writing up a hack for Contenders and bumped into an interesting problem.

The characters are dungeon-exploring gang-bosses. Vain and petty outsiders, they breeze into town with their gangs, raise funds and tool up, unseal a dungeon and nick what they can. Status games among the Lords and Ladies are bitter - inspirations include Steptoe & Son and Only Fools and Horses rather than a lot of Tolkien. So your traits deal with things like Cruelty rather than Pain, your gang is as big as your Reputation, and their in-ring traits are the tactics they use to deal with dungeons, like Thugs or Traps or Illicit Magic. Work scenes become Funding, Fights are Underground, and there's a couple of actual rules tweaks here and there.

The writing's going well apart from one thing. Contenders does best IMHO when it's PC vs PC. NPC fighters are inevitably underdeveloped and we don't root for them. But in this hack, the characters aren't competing solely against each other, strictly speaking. If a Lord is racing to get all the treasure in a dungeon, the dungeon has to be a sort of NPC fighter. But who wants to watch a somewhat masturbatory, five round exploration where we just wait for a PC to win or lose against this 'NPC'?

As I see it, there could either be a system where we pitch a Lord against a dungeon (the aforementioned wank), or where two Lords compete against a dungeon simultaneously. So has anyone explored the possibiliy of three-way fights in Contenders?

Or am I missing some other way to look at the contest involved?

Posted by: Rich Stokes On: May 18th 2010 edited

How has this worked when you've tested it? Did it seem fun, or did it seem tedious for the players not directly involved? If it was fun, it's a non-issue, right?

Is it actually relevant to play? As in, do we really care about a player conflicting with a dungeon enough to want to play it out like this? Could a Work scene be a replacement? As in, one quick draw of the cards. If it's not an interesting conflict, lets just use quick resolution and get on to something interesting.

If you want to make it interesting, I figure you might want to consider some kind of system where all the other players take on the role of the dungeon. That way I think it'll feel a little less voyeuristic and more involving perhaps?

The hack sounds like a lot of fun! Are you expecting a serious tone, or something more light hearted?

Posted by: Joe Prince On: May 19th 2010

I have penned the rules you talk of Joe, for We, the Warriors: Eternal Contenders.

I'll send them on to you under one condition – you play at least one game of Labyrinths & Lycanthropes before you finish your Magpie Lords and Ladies.

I will even let you refer to it as a l337 HAXXOR LOL ROFL LMAO YMMV IMHO.


Posted by: Joe Murphy On: May 20th 2010

@Joe Ooh. You drive a hard bargain. Lemme see if I can persuade any of the Dublin bunch to give it a shot. (And is We, the Warriors the cardgame?)

@Rich Oh no, this hasn't been tested. Most of what I'm preparing for is based on various Contenders games in the past.

The way I see the game running is the usual Contenders bathos and soap, particularly focusing on status games (via Threats) and funding (Work), climaxing in breakneck dungeon delves. A Work scene wouldn't carry enough oomph, as I do want to riff on D&D and make the delves substantial. But pitching one PC against, effectively, an NPC dungeon is dull in the same way watching a PC vs NPC boxer is dull. So I figured it could be a three-way competition, with multiple PCs vs a dungeon. Something like that, anyway.

There's a couple of areas where I think I'm designing towards unnecessary complexity that's a bit like the complexity of bands in Umlaut, (which I've found difficult to keep track of) and that will come out in testing. That is, everything's mapping to Contenders' mechanics just fine, but there's more story elements to keep track of.

And tonally, I see it as competitive and cutthroat, but more the fantasy of Discworld than Tolkien. Grubby, vain and pompous.

Cheers for the responses!

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: May 20th 2010

When I played a game of "We, The Warriors: Eternal Contenders" (it taps that Soul Edge, etc. vibe) at Conflagration last year it was an RPG, very much like a generalized Contenders (but with Cervantes de Leon and his ilk). I think that is the one that Joe is kicking around as a card game.

I found it immensely fun as did Cat, who was the other player. You can go on "Quests" and share loot. and with the usual Contenders crosses stories were soon intermixed.

Soothe scenes first showed up there too.

Labyrinths & Lycanthropes can do the Discworld-style dungeoneering very well I think.

Posted by: Joe Murphy On: May 20th 2010

That's a vibe I could really enjoy. Played the hell out of Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast.

Posted by: Joe Prince On: May 20th 2010

Dreamcast - that takes me back.

Ah Contenders confusion ensues…

We, the Warriors is a RPG book, how pedestrian (probably with a Paul Bourne cover - de rigueur dontcha know). The main rules will focus on duellists but there will be an extensive section on how best to modify Contenders to your own nefarious ends. Probably put a couple of example haxx in there too.

Golden Age Contenders is a card game or RPG in card game format to be precise. Golden Age is essentially Contenders 2nd ed, with few changes from the original.

Posted by: SquidLord On: Jun 18th 2010

Joe, how goes the development on We, the Warriors? I noticed that this hasn't been updated since May, and frankly it sounds exactly like something I would love to run at AWA this year, so this is me probing gently to find out what the status is.

Posted by: Joe Prince On: Jun 19th 2010

Hi Squidlord

Well after Joe M posted this in May I've tightened up We, the Warriors and it's ready for some more playtesting. If you (or anyone else) would like to check it out, or even better run a playtest then drop me a line (joe[at]princeofdarknessgames[dot]com).

My gut feeling is that it's 90% there - I'm not sure about the threat level in quest scenes.

I'm hoping to hear some more on Magpie Fords & Magpie Ladies too!

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