Have you seen the new quick start rules for Valiant Universe RPG? I have. They made me reminisce on some of my early RPG days. In high school we role-played like it was our life. I can’t tell you how much D&D we played. We also played Marvel Super Heroes, Rifts, and even a little bit of DC mingled its way in. We had countless night where we would sneak out of our respective houses and meet up to play in a tent. Yes, I said a tent. Which didn’t do so well in the winter, but we managed to find a barn. There wasn’t any heat at first but we made it work.
I was and I still am very fond of the Marvel Super Heroes Game. It was the first RPG that expanded my vision of what RPG’s could encompass. The game also had a unique flair to it with karma and and power shifts. Valiant is going to be a game that does that same exact thing. Catalyst has introduced some very unique concepts that might just influence the future of story telling games. Two of these are the cue system and the introduction of a lead narrator, at least I have never seen it before.
The Cue system in a nutshell is this; character definition. On each character sheet there is a series of sentences that depict the characters personality. Some of these reflect the hidden identity of the character while others display attitude of the hero, and some exemplify the approach taken in combat. Basically, they are a guideline to influence the players decision making while attempting to stay in character.
Probably the most unique concept introduce is the idea of a Lead Narrator (LN). A LN is the player that currently tells the story. Lets talk a little more about the responsibilities of the lead narrator. He has to do the following:
- Narrates the scene
- Makes Die rolls for the enemies and encounter that the heroes encounter.
- Important to not the the LN’s character is the last to act.
All of those are pretty normal for a GM. As you can see, Valiant doesn’t use a traditional GM like other RPG’s. The players take turns narrating scenes. If the game was a play everyone would describe one act. During each act the LN is responsible for all gm style roles, creating the tests, and of course communicating the story to the players. It is more like a group writing project where somebody startrs the story and every one else takes turns adding to it until it’s finished. What does this do to role playing game? I haven’t totally figured out all the consequences of such a system, but I can tell you it raises the social interaction a few bars. This is a great beer and pretzels rpg. I mean everyone is working together to tell the story and I do mean everyone.
They also have plot points which allow players and characters to interrupt/alter another players narration, change a die roll, heal, add a plot twist, and change play order. Plot points can be earned by both players and the LN’s. The Lead Narrators have a pool of points that they share. Points are earned by exquisite narrations, awarded by the LN. Narrators earn a point when players spend a point. Players may only have a max of five points, while the LN pool has no limit. From my brief experience I can tell you that it works well.
The core mechanics of the game use an opposed die roll system. Hooray. The basic roll is D12 + stat die VS D20 + modifiers. Each stat has a die (4,6,8, 10, and 12) associated with it. The higher the die the more effective the stat is. I should note that one stat, Luck, is a static number. That is probably becusae of it’s unique game mechanic. Anytime a player rolls the dice and one die number matches his Luck it is a critical or automatic success.
Outside of that the many game mechanics are what you would expect. For example when one is wounded they get weaker.
I have managed to play the sample scenario four times. I can tell you that the cue system quickly allows a player to relate to the character. The story will never be the same twice. The mechanics are smooth and balanced.
With that all said I had more fun listening to my teenagers try and narrate a story than I did anything else. Valiant universe RPG isn’t storytelling, it’s dating the story.
You can get the free download at DriveThru.
Check out the release schedule at Catalyst Game Labs.