Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Free Hump Day - Lady Blackbird
To inaugurate Free Hump Day I want to talk about a game and proto-setting that has me really excited. I know it's not exactly new, but still, I want to see more people playing and talking about it. Lady Blackbird is a 16 page pdf that contains a brand new setting, pre-generated characters, an original rule system, and an outline for a mega-adventure. If that doesn't grab your attention, the setting is a clever, original mish-mash of steampunk, Firefly, and Star Wars. Take a look at the Owl up there to the right. That's your Millennium Falcon, and the pre-generated characters do a great job of replicating some great pulpy space opera tropes while also addressing the needs of a basic skyship fantasy setting. There's magic and goblins, but there's also an evil empire with huge capital ships and guns 'n' stuff.
Why Should I Care? That's the big question with every free item out there. Lady Blackbird offers, in the very least, a solid adventure in a setting with enough specifics to dig your teeth into but enough freedom to really make your own. The real appeal here, however, lies in the game engine. I'm quite taken with its simple and elegant design that evokes the players to really play to and engage with the pre-generated characters. There's a very concrete reward system for interacting with the other player characters. What's really exciting is how simple and intuitive the system is.
Each character has their own unique set of attributes and special skills that are far more descriptive than your standard constitution/intellect/dexterity etc. For example, Natasha Syri, the eponymous Lady Blackbird herself has traits of Imperial Noble and Master Sorcerer to compliment her Athletic, Charm, and Cunning traits. Within each trait are further tags giving more personality to the traits such as Etiquette and Dance for the Imperial trait or Deception and Codes for Cunning. The real trick here is that each tag - every one belonging to a major a trait - may be used in a trait test.
Beyond that, the rules are literally half a page long and fit on every pre-generated character sheet. From the GM's perspective, not only does this make it very easy to be the rules arbitrator, but the NPCs and general challenges are very simple and defined almost entirely by the single target number needed to overcome them and how a character can do so. The only complain I have about the whole package is that I want more, and like every good free product out there, it's whetted my appetite to the point where I would gladly pay money to get it.