Patchwork World: The Playbooks

I’ve been slowly putting together a collage/remix game powered by the apocalypse. It’s meant to be an entire collage of a game: characters mutate and gain pieces from other playbooks, the rules are put together from other PbtA games, and the setting itself is a collection of chunks torn from other worlds.

A big(ish) part of the game is randomly rolling your character’s looks, starting moves, and advancement. This is a major part of many games, especially OSR-style games. It hasn’t made it into many “story” games, though, and I understand why; complete stories or powerful moods rely on controlled input, and randomness can be a threat to that.

However, I wanted to create a place where randomness is an expected and vital part of the game. Part of that is because I’m thrown off by unexpected things in real life; I hate it when plans change, and I have trouble adapting to unexpected things. I thought (probably a little romantically) that this game could serve as a place where I could “immunize” myself against the unexpected.

Here are the (1d)6 playbook descriptions and their accompanying collages (plus a bonus playbook requested by a friend.)

Fighting Folk
You might believe that violence is inevitable, or you might practice the infliction of violence as a form of self-discipline, or you might just think it’s fun.

Look
Roll 1d6.
1. Humanish: well-muscled, scarred, attractive
2. Elfin: lithe, compound eyes, bald
3. Dwarfish: hairy, pale, tattooed
4. Gith: sharp-toothed, lanky, limping
5. Monstrous: furry, scowling, one-eyed
6. Discarded: scratched steel, immobile face, bulky

fightingfolk

Diplomat
Whether you work for the Heartless Princess or a someone else, you’re searching the Patchwork World for political alliances, potential enemies, and useful information.

Look
Roll 1d6.
1. Humanish: well-dressed, alert, antsy
2. Elfin: sumptuously dressed, made-up, antennae
3. Dwarfish: flawless posture, gold-dusted eyes, dirty fingernails
4. Gith: long-limbed, sharp-toothed, crowned
5. Monstrous: scaled, lilting voice, luscious hair
6. Discarded: decorated porcelain, wrapped in scarves, posing

diplomat2

Doomster
You’ve made a pact with a powerful extradimensional being: god, demon, fae, spirit, or directed energy. It’s bound by the old ways; it might be trapped by the Heartless Princess. You are its servant out in the Patchwork World. It might ask you to perform a specific duty or merely spread its word. In return, you have worlds of your own. It’s all based on promises.

Look
Roll 1d6.
1. Humanish: concealing robe, strict hair, mirror-like eyes
2. Elfin: dusty exhalations, tiny mandibles, imposing hat
3. Dwarfish: protective beard-plate, tattoos, hint of smile
4. Gith: wrapped ankles and wrists, minimal clothing, vestigial tail
5. Monstrous: ritual scarring, horns + halo, six small wings
6. Discarded: rough wooden form, studded with nails, crown of iron

Die Serben an der Adria. Ihre Typen und Trachten. [By Louis Salv

Goodwalker
Four nights a year, the demons come. Like hateful locusts, they attack the fields and livelihoods of mortals. The goodwalkers ride out on stalks of fennel to stop them. Born of caul and witchcraft, they fight against the Pall in defense of the common folk.

Look
Roll 1d6.
1. Humanish: peasant-ish clothes, blocky face, strange amulet
2. Elfin: leather straps, crusty body paint, pincer hand
3. Dwarfish: large feet, angular face, loincloth
4. Gith: immaculate & complicated hair, broom-sized paintbrush, stone-faced jewelry
5. Monstrous: hump or lump or cyst, oversized broom, ragged clothes
6. Discarded: spiky straw hair, dessicated leather form, cat eyes

goodwalker

Chimera
While many rightfully fear the Pall and its Hex, some choose to embrace it and even manipulate it. You collect the strange curses and mutations of the Patchwork World, incorporating them into yourself.

Look
Roll 1d6.
1. Humanish: pointed ears, vitiligo, piercings
2. Elfin: chitinous forearms & shins, green or blue skin, petrichor scent
3. Dwarfish: gem-spiked joints, granite-colored skin, secret gender
4. Gith: smoky exhalations, leathery skin, extra fingers
5. Monstrous: tail, spots or stripes, animal head
6. Discarded: mismatched limbs, hollow torso, eyes that cry milk, wine, or honey

chimera2

Pythian
The Pall can be entered, it can be explored, and it can be bound. Pythians (named after an ancient summoner) use the Pall to see past human barriers and bring strange things to them.

Look
Roll 1d6.
1. Humanish: strained skin, frumpy toga, white eyes
2. Elfin: spider silk clothes, sooty flesh, long fingers
3. Dwarfish: chemical humours, facial piercings, wooden jewelry
4. Gith: widow’s peak, claw-like fingernails, purple clothing
5. Monstrous: striped fur, long pipe, reverse hands
6. Discarded: twisted sticks, burning head, iron teeth

pythian

Dracula Cowboy
Drive the herds at night to better protect them from their predators. Sleep in covered wagons during the day. Drink the blood of strong oxen and bulls.

Look
Roll 1d6.
1. Humanish: pale skin, leather boots, sharp canines
2. Elfin: unfurling straw tongue, all-red eyes, silk handkerchief
3. Dwarfish: ten-gallon hat, topless head full of sloshing blood, cold and shining skin
4. Gith: dry gray skin, intricate headdress, hemp piping
5. Monstrous: lamprey face, rubbery skin, minimal clothing
6. Discarded: needle fingers, permanent spurs, straw-stuffed body

vampirecowboy

At this point, the first drafts of the playbooks are entirely done, and so are the mechanics and most of the text. I still have layout to do, and I want to add vehicles (?!). I’d love to get it done by the summer.

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Theo Ellsworth

[Originally written as part of a comic library blog/fundraiser.]

On the surface, Ellsworth’s comics are surreal fantasy, full of monsters and machines like some sort of woodcut Richard Scarry. But they’re more: they’re intensely personal self-help books and vehicles for interdimensional, inner-brain travel. Ellsworth visualizes his anxieties and his dreams and uses his comics to transmute and make peace with the bad things in his brain. And the reader is invited to watch and learn and, in the end, use the same magic on their own problems.

55b690e7eb070_191369b

From Birthday.

Nick Bertozzi

[Originally written as part of a comic library blog/fundraiser.]

Cartoonist and educator Bertozzi does all sorts of work: surreal ecology, fantastical histories, historical biography, and more. His figure work is clear and fluid, his lettering is impeccable, and despite pushing some formal boundaries, his books are always easy to read; it’s obvious that puts a lot of thought into each page. I’m always surprised that more people aren’t talking about his work. Maybe it’s because of the breadth of genres in his work?

It also seems like a lot of his work is unfairly branded as young adult. Which is not to say that YA is bad or any way lesser; I just feel that people who might be looking for the kind of books Bertozzi makes might not look in the YA section.

Take Lewis & Clark, for instance. It’s a well-researched look at the famed explorers, but more than that, it’s a sympathetic and stark look at bipolar disorder: how it can drive people to amazing heights, how it drops them off the edge, and how people from other places and times define and struggle with mental illness.

Young adults can and should read books like this, but that’s not because it’s a young adult topic; it’s because young adults deal with the same things adults do.

Lewis-Clark_Page30

HERBIE POPNECKER

[Originally written as part of a comic library blog/fundraiser.]

Most of these entries are about a single cartoonist; some are about formats or publishers. This is the only one that’s about a character. That’s because he’s the greatest character of the comic book genre, Herbie Popnecker.

He’s a “little fat nothing” who attracts lovers without even trying; however, his only care is lollipops. His speech pattern inspired Watchmen‘s Rorschach, and he spends time hanging out with Dracula and Fidel Castro. And his short comic existence owes itself to two people, Richard Hughes and Ogden Whitney. Hughes supplied the scripts—terse, non-sequiteur, madcap—while Whitney played the “straight man,” rendering everything in a plain, almost bland style. Did they work together on the plots? Or was this just another job for Whitney? Whatever the case, it’s the perfect comic for today’s meme culture.

HERBIE20-18

William Messner-Loebs

[Originally written as part of a comic library blog/fundraiser.]

For many cartoonists, self-published or small press work is a stepping stone. For whatever reason (financial security, fame, love), they have their eyes on bigger things. In the last decade or two, “bigger things” has included movie deals and publishers like Scholastic, but in the ’80s and ’90s, the goal many cartoonists worked toward was publication by Marvel and DC. (This is a very collapsed view of things, so please forgive the cutting of corners.)

Messner-Loebs was a writer-artist who made a strange historical fiction comic called Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlistair. His drawings are energetic and bulbous, and Journey is evocatively lonely at times. But when Messner-Loebs went to DC to work on Flash and Wonder Woman, it was merely fine; just journeyman superhero work.

Luckily, Messner-Loebs went back to doing his own thing, often with Sam Kieth. They worked together on Epicurus the Sage, a hedonistic treatise on myths and philosophy, and The Maxx, perhaps most well-remembered from MTV’s Liquid Television.

I don’t mean to moralize here, especially when it comes to strangers’ life choices, and I don’t want to wax romantic about work made by struggling artists. I just want to take a moment to admire the strange works that crop up in the corners of comics history.

n-AnythingGoes-05-30

Tiny Comics

[Originally written as part of a comic library blog/fundraiser.]

I already wrote about big comics, but I’m in no way size-ist. Where oversize comics can zoom out or shatter time, minicomics provide a sense of intimacy and allow images to own the confines of a page. Their minimal length often forces a cartoonist to leave out any chaff or bloat, focusing on the moments most important to the limited size of the narrative.

Also, they’re really easy to make! Here’s a video, and here’s a longer explanation by cartoonist & educator Jessica Abel. If someone’s interested in starting to make comics but can’t figure out where to start, making a couple minicomics is always a great catalyst.

DNznTKZVQAA78a9.jpg-large

Jeremy Sorese

[Originally written as part of a comic library blog/fundraiser.]

Sorese’s Curveball is a neon sherbet future where people love as they please. It’s one of the frankest looks at nonbinary and genderqueer relationships I’ve seen in a comic. That same measured eye is brought to technology; Curveball is a story about how tech brings us together, makes us lonely, and everything in between.

curveball

Also, Sorese writes Steven Universe comics! Which is a perfect fit since it’s a show about queer romance and friendship and vulnerability.

In the library:
Curveball
Steven Universe