All posts by cabalgames

World Fiction – Cloudy Skies

Here’s the So Below story, courtesy of Amber E. Scott, who has achieved some level of infamy.

Don’t forget to check out our Kickstarter if this is the kind of game you want to play!

The week had started out bad and was about to get worse. As Megan knocked on the condo door, she mentally braced herself for the confrontation to come.

Tiny needles dug into her left shoulder. “Ow! Bojan! Loosen up.”

The pinprick claws eased their grip. A dry chuckle tickled her ear.

Meg didn’t know if it was rare to have such a small daemon that it could perch on her shoulder. She tried not to look at other people’s daemons. One was enough for her.

Gore opened the door, his eyes already dark with disapproval. Meg ignored his glare as she walked past him through the shiny steel-and-granite condo and into the dining room.

She heard the veritable slam of the door and Gore’s heavy footsteps as he followed her. “Do you have any idea how much rent is here?” he said. Meg nodded to the three other subdued-looking individuals around the table. Fragile sheets of paper covered in pencil drawings lay flat on the table, their edges carefully matched. Weapon schematics. “Would it have killed you to put on some decent clothes? My neighbors are going to think I hired a cut-rate cleaning service.”

Continue reading World Fiction – Cloudy Skies


Word Fiction – G-Man

Here’s the As Above story by the amazing Amber E. Scott, who you might recognize from all kinds of places.

Don’t forget to check out our Kickstarter if this is the kind of game you want to play!

“The Beltway’s backed up. Find another route and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get there before SWAT does.”

            Connor’s nasal voice blared through the Bluetooth. Diallo winced and stabbed at the smartphone wired up to the dash, trying to lower the volume. “Trust me. I’ll be there.”

            Connor ended the call and Diallo yanked the Bluetooth out of his ear. The John Hanson Highway it was, then. He pulled into a cul-de-sac and reversed direction, heading back past the ATF building.

            Sometimes, Diallo thought wryly, he wondered if the ATF had kept him on mainly for his ability to manipulate traffic. Continue reading Word Fiction – G-Man

Halfway Day – Contest!

Hi, everyone!

It’s time to unveil our big Halfway Day contest! It’s opening right now, and it’ll last for the next 24 hours, closing tomorrow at 1 PM Mountain Time.

We’re confident that Mod is the most customizable universal you’ve ever seen, and we’re going to prove it. So, take to twitter! We want to hear your dream setting, the world you’ve always wanted to have a good game in, the one your group keeps daydreaming about between encounters.

Tweet your answer using #CBGHalfwayday and we’ll draw five winners from the people who submit!

Four winners will receive dice sets and character sheet notepads, so they don’t have to ask whose printer is working for at least ten more adventures!

Our grand prize winner, however, will receive:

  • A print version of the Mod Basic Manual, coil-bound for easy reference.
  • A notepad of character sheets
  • A set of 4d6, so you can leave the unlucky one out
  • The custom setting of your choice

That’s right. We’ll build a ruleset for the game setting of your dreams, including traits, abilities, and spell parameters. Just tell us what it is!

Halfway Day – Mod Basic Manual Now Available!

Mod Basic Manual , free PDF.

To officially start off Halfway Day, we’re unveiling the core ruleset as a free easy-to-use PDF! It’s just the right size for scrolling through on mobile, so you can take it anywhere.

That PDF contains the full rules of the base game; character creation, spells, combat techniques, abilities, you name it! It’s just the bones of the game, but we’ve included a robust GM chapter including advice on building whatever settings or magic systems you like. It’s the backbone for City Limits and every other setting we put together.

It’s the most customizable universal we’ve ever tried, bar none. How customizable is it? Well, remember what I asked you before: if you could play in any world, what would it be?


Halfway Day – Get Ready!

We’re officially halfway through our Kickstarter campaign! Thanks so much to everyone who’s participated so far, and especially to those of you who’ve passed the campaign on to others!

To celebrate Halfway Day, we’re going to party hard tomorrow. Like we’ve traveled back to 1999! When we’re officially in the Kickstarter’s second half, we’re going to have a ton going on here for you!

Like what?

  • A major announcement about the game
  • Some staggering world fiction by an equally staggering author
  • A contest!
  • Unveiling the covers of As Above and So Below
  • The addition of some swag to the Kickstarter!

A contest, you say? I can’t tell you too much about it just yet, but think about this:

If you could set your game anywhere, in any world, what would it be?

(Our answer, as a team, is pretty much always Silent Hill. )

See you all tomorrow!

Design Corner – Misaligned

Welcome to Design Corner, where we talk a little bit about game design and the reasons we’ve made some of the choices we did. This time, we’re talking about a pet subject of mine: alignment.
Alignment is how a game codifies your character’s moral standing. In other words, some games need to have a way to translate the concept of morality into their own structure. Once it’s been translated, it can be the basis for clear, objective rules. Without an alignment system, any rules that have to deal with moral standing become subjective and hazy; lots of games, especially rules-light story games, have no problem with this approach because they don’t require hard numbers at every turn.
Why include rules based on morality? Well, for starters, they can be immensely satisfying – rewarding characters for moral actions makes the game feel more like a story, where there are clear lines between good guys and bad guys. Whether or not we want a story where the good guys always triumph, encoding morality in a game lets us bring the game’s story a bit closer to the classic stories we treasure. It lets us play in a world where a person’s moral choices are always meaningful in concrete ways.
Encoding morality also lets us re-create some of the important images of our mythology. Angels and demons are only possible in a world where morality has a concrete presence and power of its own, and the same goes for the holy knights and evil priests in their service. Being able to use, say, Smite Evil, tells the player that the battle between good and evil exists in your game just as it exists in countless timeless stories.
But it’s not a simple proposition. When you make an alignment system, you’re trying to take something without any concrete form and give it solid rules, numbers, and categories. How do you make it objective enough to be part of the rules and still keep some semblance of complexity? If it’s too basic, it will ring hollow, but too many shades of gray will be difficult to navigate. A good alignment system has to be clear, reasonably nuanced, and supported in the gameplay with interesting mechanics. It should give more to the players than it takes away, making up for the loss of freedom with satisfying game moments.
When we started out back in the day, we had “Scruples and Method” – basically, D&D’s good/evil and law/chaos axes, but on a 12-point scale. Like most of our teenage designs, this was out of frustration with the only system we knew at the time. It was nuanced, yes, but it wasn’t exactly clear because it was based on a somewhat unclear system to begin with, and we never made benchmarks. Worst of all, though, we never designed mechanics around it, so we had a system for regulating and quantifying player behavior – and exactly zero payoff. Not exactly a triumph of design.
But, we were lucky enough to have a head playtester who got into so many fights over alignment that he completely hated the entire concept. Tired of GMs telling him what his character would or wouldn’t do, he pushed for us to abandon the alignment system entirely. For all the reasons above, I wanted us to keep one, but because of Shawn’s insistence on being the only one to determine his character’s values, we came up with Code.

So, Design Corner! Assuming we’re still making a universal system (From the Design Corner on classes), do we need an alignment system? It’ll expand the archetypes players can recreate, but it will also provide limits. If we’re building a universal, then it had better work just as well in the far reaches of space as it does in 1928 Chicago. If we do decide on an alignment system, how do we minimize inconsistencies and arguments, and maximize the rewards?
Honestly, if I were to design another game, alignment would probably be the part that killed me.

Remember to check out the City Limits Kickstarter and to check us out on twitter at @TeamCabalGames for more updates!

Book of Daemons – The Gidim Irkalla

Jeanne of the Gidim Irkalla is perhaps too patient with her host, Marc.

The last of the Gidim to awaken, the Irkalla daemons are deeply involved with the threads of fate. More than any other build in the setting, an Irkalla host makes use of Luck, both to augment rolls and as a cost to spells. Between their ability to modify rolls with Luck Points, and their Atropos Whisper – the ability to ask the GM for specific numbers once per session – Irkalla hosts are more involved with the mechanics of the game itself than anyone. Built for players who like to meld their roleplay to their rollplay, Irkalla rewards careful mathematics and resource use.

Blessed One (11)(1)
Irkalla 21
Transfer 1 Luck Point
Barrier (Toughness Will+1)

Most Irkalla parameters are decidedly metaphysical, with supernatural polymorphs, luck transfers, and curses. This one creates a barrier, a magic shield that re-routes damage to the caster’s mana supply.

Where can you use Atropos Whisper? Well, you can do the obvious thing and ask the result of a roll, or ask a value from an opponent’s character sheet. For example, if you know your opponent barely made a roll, you can cast something like this:

Irritation (10)
Irkalla 20
Polymorph Quirk

Quirk is a catch-all trait meant to encompass any time a character would be distracted, irritated, sick, or otherwise not at their best. It gives the character -1 to all rolls in the presence of a certain trigger. If you know that your opponent is barely scraping by, guaranteeing them -1 by picking something nearby as a trigger can mean a lot.

But there are more numbers in the game than the ones you roll. How many people are in this room? How much is he willing to pay us to betray the organization? What time will the reinforcements arrive?

What is the opponent’s MCS designation?

Remember to check out the City Limits Kickstarter and to check us out on twitter at @TeamCabalGames for more updates!