About a year ago, I posted a roleplaying game based on my story, Lover of Jet & Gold about the Namedealers of the setting: those who speak the secret Language of Names to all the phenomena of the demon-haunted world in which they live. For the most part, they’re the “sorcerers” of the Sword & Sorcery setting.
This game, now called The Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze, is now available to subscribers to the xenoglyph Patreon and is for sale in the xenoglyph store!
You might want to read Drash, before you play, too!
Namedealers are like Mosheh, Thetis, and Merlin. But they’re also not all that far from Bugs Bunny and Cugel, all of whose power comes from their ability to perceive and tell truths, but whose weakness in overestimating their importance to rather more direct individuals at the wrong moment. In a recent game, the inestimable Quinn Murphy equated his namedealer to Wile E. Coyote, fleeing the consequence of each overreach by putting himself in a slightly more desperate debt.
It was, and I quote a player at PAX East 2015 here, “The most fun I’ve ever had being eaten by a crocodile.”*
Their greatest wish is to die with such glory that the Great Names fear their entry into the Waters of the Underworld and allow them to return to procreate.Then, about six months ago, I did a tiny print run of the similarly-sized Heart of Bronze to experiment with at Metatopia 2015. Where Lover of Jet & Gold discusses the “sorcerers”, Heart of Bronze makes room for the “swords”: culture heroes like Shimshon, Achilles, Boudicca and Gilgamesh. They follow their outsized passions, lead their followers to their deaths with oft-fulfilled promises of glory, and spray the world with the blood of their enemies at the behest of the Great Name that commands them.
At Metatopia, I got some phenomenal feedback from my intrepid dream team playtesters and churned that into The Apocrypha, the Name of Bronze, which corrects several pieces from the previous two.
When you play, read The Name of Bronze: the apocrypha first. Make sure everyone has all three on hand.
I’ve got some refinements in my notebook that I’ll integrate as it gets ready for its first out-of-playtest debut in the pages of Worlds Without Master. The biggest flaw with it at this point is that it’s very, very much a draft. Some rules assume that you have only the one book in front of you. There’s a place where I apparently changed my mind about how headings work.
If you have doubts about how to use a rule, remember:
- Namedealers are on the run. Answer their initial questions with that in mind. They might appear to be in control, but that’s because the big thing that’s after them to collect on its debt was last seen long enough ago, that the namedealer’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Their objective is to escape the consequences of their previous arrangements.
- Heroes dive toward glory. Answer their initial questions with that in mind. They are driven by the Great Name that dominates them, but they’re not necessarily happy with that. Their objective is to die well, which is defined by the number of destiny dice they can roll. The benefit of further destiny dice starts to drop off after about a dozen.
- Provide challenges by giving players dice of gold, not withholding them. If a name isn’t holding back and sulking or something, let the player roll the dice, because that’s the way the name can coerce the namedealer or hero.
- If a namedealer directly faces those whom they flee, make them roll the dice of gold for that name! It seems counterintuitive, perhaps, but remember that dice of gold are to the namedealer’s benefit only when the names are on their side.
- That’s the root of this game: play the will of the characters for which you’re responsible. If you know the will of the names of the world, ask yourself what that name wants at all times and have it pursue its desires. Don’t just try to make trouble for the players. That’ll happen on its own. Just play the will of each name as a character with quirks appropriate to its nature.
Download here and play them!
(Not working? Try to Download The Name of Bronze from my Dropbox.)
New Stuff Cooking
Incidentally, I’m strongly considering starting a podcast about creative process, likely focusing on game design. It’ll be about everything from designing creatively fruitful interchanges to probability to dealing with impostor syndrome and depression. It’s a lot of work, though (episode 0 of the xenoglyph podcast is 20 minutes long and took 8 hours of recording and production), so it will have its own, separate Patreon with a pretty high minimum. Keep an eye open as I move toward doing the first episode by following me on Twitter and by backing my Patreon!
*I can’t clearly remember who this was, and I’m terrible about remembering names! If this was you, I’d love to give you credit for this quote. It’s really funny and perfectly sums up the game.