Wouldn't you know, just after I muster the resolve to post more something comes up that gets in the way, but its not all bad. Brent Newhall put forth a game design contest, and I somehow got it in my head that it might be fun to take some of the tweaks I'd been working on for Krendel and give them a test drive.
Now the contest laid out certain things that your game could not have. Krendel is flexible enough that designing around these elements is pretty darn easy. Let's take a quick look.
Dungeon exploration - I don't think this is actually explicitly stated in Krendel, but easy enough to remove references.
Swords - Hmm. These account for a lot of the "balanced" weapons, which could present a problem, but fortunately, Krendel offers the option to remove expertises. So I would be leveraging that. I've been fiddling with making weapon entries more generic anyhow. So that rather than "short sword" and "broad sword" it would be listed as "light blade" and "medium blade", letting you fill in the details. I just took things a step further. Weapons in this new(ish) game would personal, light, heavy, reach, etc. A little work, and some huge ramifications on item qualities and powers, but totally keen.
Guns of any type - Easy to just toss em out.
Monsters as simple as those in Chainmail. - Krendel didn't have these sorts of damage sponges in the first place. So the only work here really is making sure that there would be monsters that fit the setting.
Women in revealing outfits - Another thing that Krendel already didn't have. This was actually something that briefly came up with my artists. If he wanted to do anything like that, I only required that the men in the picture wore just as little and that it made sense for the piece of art. He laughed, said he had no intention of attempting that, and we were all good.
Barbarians - Well, Krendel not having a setting meant it didn't really have have Barbarians, either in the fantasy sense or in terms of people no speaking Greek. Though I might have to watch out as I built the setting for the new(ish) game.
Vancian magic - The closest thing in Krendel to this is the Alchemist's potions and bombs. So... yeah. again, not a problem.
Elves, dwarves, or halflings (added late, so optional but encouraged) - Modular system, no problem, just delete those entries from the Species chapter. They were only included in the first place so folks would have some points of familiarity.
So it looks like Krendel almost fit all the requirements from the get go. From there it was a question of what did I want to do. No swords? Why replace swords? There needed to be a reason. In Dune, Fremen used a knife for religious and material reasons, which got me thinking.
What is magic if not science in a world where the laws of science work differently? One of the power methods I sketched up was using objects from other universes. If you take something from a universe with scientific principles X, Y, and Z and toss it into a universe that substitutes A, B, and C instead, then stuff's going to be all wonky. Fortunately, built into Krendel is the idea of the dreamscape, which is kind of like the interstitial between universes, which fits right in. This wraps the object in a solidified, indestructible dream-stuff cocoon and all good... except that the dreamscape responds to thoughts. So what happens if you pick one of these items up? That is the basis for the shard method and, consequently, the SHARDS game.
Things grew from that power method. Keep the shards small and give them some special qualities, and suddenly people find dagger fighting with shards to be an acceptable, sometimes preferable alternative to cleaving a bloke with an axe or sword. After all, a sword is just a sword, but a shard dagger could magnify your strength, let you manifest a death field, or protect you from arrows.
Of course, if shards are how magic comes to a world, then why not use our world? Further, if shards are the only magic, no need for all the other non-core methods. Man, that made things easier in terms of conversion. There are definitely shades in there. When I began, the shards method was still just a sketch on the drawing board. So I borrowed a lot of parts, and in the end it came out looking like a fusion of arcane, focus, and imprints. Not a bad thing, but if I had more time, I would split them into three different methods instead, maybe even just use focus and imprints whole cloth and only develop the zappy shard stuff as an independent method. Who knows?!
So we have our world and shards. What does that do to a world? What happens when you drop magic on a populace around, say 500AD? Nothing good really. 500 years later, where are we? I leave exact details up to the end user. Maybe the Toltecs are finishing their conquest of the Americas. Maybe Australia accidentally nuked itself to oblivion. Maybe the undead control vast swaths of Europe with their remnant kings and queens resting on thrones in cities ruined by shard falls. There's a lot that could happen when you starting taking about it with your peers.
Back to mechanics, since I was getting rid of expertises and collapsing all weapons to legitimately avoid mentioning swords (as opposed to just calling them blades), that meant a lot of changes. No swords meant no axes. In fact there would be very little to differentiate weapons. That's OK, but when there's also no artifice or alchemy, it starts you removing a lot of stuff, like all the item qualities that do something on target number. Somewhere in there damage forms disappeared (they were already optional). This of course impacts powers that key off or or differentiate themselves by damage forms.
Wanting to keep things simple, I kicked successes in the shins. Where I'm already working with how I want to stream line them using Krendel's d10, but I also already did that during Krendel's original development when I was playing with using a d6. So in came d6 resolution for simpler success distribution, even though it has a tighter growth scale, which I'm not totally pleased with.
So if I took all of this (and more) out, what got added, other than the shard method, which, lets face it, really could just be an arcane style? Does SHARDS showcase any genuinely new stuff other than the d6? It gives reorganization to motivations, temptation, and relationships, showing the direction (and arguably exact wording) that they will have in the future, but the biggest "new" stuff is probably in the core actions and core powers. I'm trying to reduce the number of success options even further, most some ancillary things to boosts instead. SHARDS does this. The stances also got a complete overhaul.. Each is now given two tiers and more flavor. The powers are also spread out more over the three tiers. I was going to introduce the fourth, but I think that will wait.
I will say that developing SHARDs was a lot fun; though, I certainly regret not having more time (the contest only lasted about two and a half weeks) that I could use to flesh things out a bit more: Shards of lore are embedded in the mechanics, be it a new mutation and mental disorder or new species. I also regret not having the skills or resources to provide proper layout and art for the project. But as it stands, it was still a fun piece of work, and maybe some other folks will like it too.
SHARDS is available for free download in the Products section of this website..