Over the past two weeks, I have played two sessions of the freeform science-fiction/steampunk roleplaying game Lady Blackbird over Skype with some friends. This was my first experience with true “freeform” roleplaying, and it was a blast.
If you haven’t heard of it, Lady Blackbird is a free RPG available online. It is very light on rules (each character sheet includes all of the information required for a player, and the referee’s book is only 16 pages long, most of which is back story), mostly emphasizing improvisation and imagination over fleshed out adventures pre-written by the referee.
And indeed, the term referee is perfect for the role of the game master in Blackbird: the players are largely responsible for which adventures they want to dive into, and the ease of creating encounters means that the game is free to roam about the Wild Blue setting with little or no effort. Yes, the game includes a ‘starting scenario,’ but it would be just as easy to veer off course in search of adventure.
In our game, we have largely stuck to the established plot, but I think that if we play another campaign it will be with different characters–perhaps characters on the periphery of the plot, or perhaps simply a whole new adventure in the Blue.
Skype, by the way, has been invaluable in coordinating players in Northern California, Southern California, and Texas–if you have been hesitant to try role playing over a conference call, I would give it a shot. It works wonders. We use IRC in a different window for the random dice rolls, since you can’t (to my knowledge) use video on Skype for conference calls.
Anyway, try out Blackbird when your group is looking for a change of pace. It’s great fun, requires little or no preparation (we have now played two sessions with nothing prepared, and it worked out fine–just make sure everyone has read about the setting and their characters), and it seems like the ‘main’ plotline can be finished in just three-five sessions, depending on your group’s pace.
It’s a magical item day today! The Waxing Sun is a paladin’s sword found in a ruined abbey in my Greyfeather Downs campaign.
This +1 Longsword is a paladin’s weapon. It shines with bright sunlight (and all the effects that sunlight has) out to 15′, and deals an extra d6 damage against undead and hellish enemies.
Any Chaotic character taking the sword must make a Save -1 check. If they fail, they take d6 + [level] damage and drop the blade. If they succeed, the blade transforms into the Daylight’s End.
The Daylight’s End is a +2 Longsword, and it glows with a dim green flame out to 30′ (enough to see and navigate, but not to read). The fire in the Daylight’s End is a hellish fire, and does not create heat.
The Daylight’s End is a dark knight’s blade. If an Order character tries to wield it, he must make a Save check or take d8 + [level] damage and drop the blade. If he succeeds, it transforms into the Waxing Sun.
The Fetish of Eddermung is a sentient demon skull connected to a living demon corpse in the astral plane. The physical skull has been encased in a thin layer of living stone and, when placed atop a staff or spear, is used by the Eddermung tribe of hobgoblins as a watchdog. As hate incarnate, the skull both envies and despises all true life, cursing and demeaning them in every living language and ten thousand forgotten ones.
Superstitious, relatively unintelligent species (they must be sentient) can often be kept at bay simply by posting the Fetish outside a room or cave. It can see perfectly well in utter darkness or blinding light, and its half-phased body exists in the astral plane. This splice is what makes it immobile, but allows it to attack any beings that attempt to pass by it while phasing. More than one magic user has met his end by accidentally transporting himself while carrying the Fetish in his pack.
An adventuring party could make use of the Fetish as a sentry or a ward against wandering monsters reclaiming a dungeon that they are in the process of claiming. By carrying the Fetish in a sealed sack, or by securing its eyes with a blindfold, the Fetish can be transported in silence. If it catches sight of your party, however, its screaching could alert several hundred feet of dungeon to your presence.