Krendel - Gamer Contract Explained

I’ve been asked to do a series that helps explain how to play/use Krendel, and, yes, it’s needed. My current situation doesn’t lend itself to doing real play videos or similar, but I can try to provide a series of blog posts that can help.

So why is this series needed? A couple of reasons. One is that Krendel plays a bit differently. Another is that Krendel is a print book in digital format. We ran into issues trying to get the print version approved. We kept getting “B1 - 37 - Insufficient bleed on Color Book interior PDF file”, and nothing we tried fixed the issue. If you flip to the end of the file, you’ll find Appendix A (Quick Start) and B (Action Primer) that were intended as a place you could quickly flip to for reference. Plus there’s an index. Each of those is less helpful in a digital format than a print format, but those appendices have been put in the Resources section of the website as separate files to improve accessibility. Still, the book isn’t optimized for digital reading, and that doesn’t help. A third reason is that the tone is rather clinical. Some of my friends might call it uptight.

Enough about the problems, lets focus on solutions! The plan is to start with four posts and then do spin-offs to address more attenuated subjects and issues that folks may raise. I’ll start with a couple of softer subjects and then work towards harder mechanics. The first two at least are also the order in which you should prepare and perform them (followed by Character Creation). Here’s the initial list. I will update it with links as the posts get written and new subjects get added.

  • Gamer Contract
  • Settings
  • The Core Mechanic
  • Skills
  • Actions & Powers
  • Character Creation - Expect this to be longwinded with a couple of examples
  • Encounters
  • Faith - spin-off

What a second. Why are The Core Mechanic, Skills, and Actions & Powers placed where they are? I like to understand how a game plays before I make my character. So I’m going to address those bits of crunch and then we’ll get to character creation. Though, I’ll happily switch things up if there’s a request to do so.

The Gamer Contract

Where it’s not always mentioned, I consider this step to be at least implicit in all games. This step is done before anything else. This is where you talk to each other as people just looking to maybe play a game together and set out the ground rules and expectations for all the participants. Most of what goes on in discussing your gamer contract is just that: discussion.

If you have a copy of Krendel handy, flip open to page 6 in the Getting Started chapter. You can see a number of topics that I suggest you broach, including maturity, theme, schedule, setting, intoxicants, food, and the like. You’re not rolling any dice, so what does this do for you? It helps make sure that all of the participants (players and game master) are on the same page. It helps set the expectations for your game. If your game goes in a different direction than your expectations set for you, then it can quickly stop being fun. Ever play with drunk people? I have. Its only fun for the drunks, and after that we said no more alcohol at the table. Ever make a political character only to discover that the only politics in your game are thug-inomics? The gamer contract helps ensure that doesn’t happen. In addition to the general topics, there’s some Krendel specific topics you should address.

Game setting is a big one, and we’ll discuss it more in the post about Building Your Game. Krendel can fit pretty much any setting. So its important to agree on what you're doing. When talking setting for your gamer contract, start in broad strokes: medieval fantasy, cyberpunk noir, space opera, etc. A couple of words get you started; you can expand with a couple of sentences describing what the basic expectations are, but don’t make it too long.

The discussion of setting immediately gets to powers. I’ll expand on powers in a later post, but for now, here’s what you need to know. If you want to do something special, like deliver a shout that crumbles a wall, then you need a power. Powers are divided into methods, these are broad categories, like Alchemy, Core, Faith, and Implants. You should decide what power methods your setting will have. If you’re going with cyberpunk noir, then you definitely want implants, but you may also include Alchemy, Artifice, Focus, Nanoswarm, and/or Psychic depending on the flavor. All settings have the Core method. Again, keep it broad at this point. Don’t worry about styles too much. When you get to Building Your Game you'll hammer out these details.

Loosely tied to setting, you need to decide on the Campaign Level and Relative Experience for your game. Campaign Level (low, average, high, and epic) is the natural talent you will possess. It potentially gives you extra traits (which includes what you may think of as attributes in other games) and extra Health. Relative Experience (novice, green, practiced, seasoned, regular, and veteran) is a measure of where you are at in your careers. This sets your starting skills and powers. Both of these will be expanded upon in Character Creation, I mention them now because you should discuss and set them at the outset. I personally recommend high and either green or practiced.

Lastly, you should settle on which optional rules you want to use. Krendel offers around 50 examples of optional rules, ways you can tweak the base line, and you are more than free to make up your own.  Krendel is totally playable without using any of the options, but so is every other game. How many times did that stop us from making house rules? I can't think of any. The main options I would consider include Keepsakes, Passive Defenses, Personal Goals, and Temptation & Motivation in Conversations. Technically, each power method is an optional rule, but we already covered those.

So, by way of example, let’s make a quick Gamer Contract.

  • Game: To Serve in Heaven
  • Player Maturity: Be Excellent to Each Other
  • Game Maturity: Mainly PG-13. It will steer clear of explicit sexual content, but you can expect violence and drug use. 
  • Schedule: Every other Saturday from 5pm to whenever we crawl home (aka 10pm, we’re not so young anymore).
  • Food: Rotating schedule of who is in charge of bringing/cooking food. The host and GM do not have to provide. BYOB.
  • Intoxicants: Not allowed.
  • Health: One member has a peanut allergy, so no peanuts in the food. Another has a mild cat allergy, but he'll bring Claritin as needed.
  • Devices: Laptops and tablets are cool for having rules, but not for playing games. Other distractions should be put away when in scene.
  • Themes: Mystery, Humanity, and Action.
  • Game Setting: Cyberpunk dystopia. Space based transhuman database society separated itself from the rest of Earth but still tries to control things. Characters will be agents downloaded into bodies and sent to Earth to protect their society’s interests.
  • Powers: Alchemy, Artifice, Core, Implants, and Nanoswarm
  • Campaign Level: High
  • Relative Experience: Green
  • Optional Rules: Temptation & Motivation in Conversations

Looking that over, I like to think that it sets up some pretty clear expectations for what to expect in and out of game. We’ll leverage this when we do Building Your Game and Character Creation, which may not be until Sunday.