Stonetop

Created by penny lantern

A tabletop fantasy adventure RPG centered on a village community.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Inventory, supplies, and gear
about 1 year ago – Sun, Mar 28, 2021 at 09:11:13 PM

One of the things that sometimes throws off new Stonetop players and GMs is the inventory insert, or this guy:

Click for a visual tutorial (best on a widescreen monitor)

So, I just spent way more time than I probably should have putting together a visual tutorial of the inventory and gear system. Hopefully it helps folks better understand what's going on with all the bips and bobs on this insert.   

My design goals for this inventory system were:

  • Let players get out onto expeditions quickly. They can pick how heavy of a load they want to carry--marking 3, 6, or 9 diamonds--but leave as many as them as they like undefined for now.
  • Make the material wealth and prosperity of the village matter directly to the PCs (and the players). Have it influence the quality and quantity of gear available to them.
  • Communicate the material culture of the setting in general and Stonetop village in particular. For example, notice the lack of swords or steel or lanterns, the presence of whisky (Stonetop's local drink), or how a tinderbox is specifically flagged as slow
  • Inspire players to use setting-appropriate items that they might not otherwise have thought to.
  • Put a constraint on the resources that PCs have available in the field, resulting in hard choices as those resources get depleted. Something as simple as losing your mess kit can put the expedition in dire straights. 
  • Be relatively easy to use. 

While the inventory sheet can be a little overwhelming at first glance, I've found that players warm up to it pretty quickly once play starts. I hope this tutorial helps prospective players and GMs feel more comfortable before they sit down to play.

Happy to answer questions, as always!

-Jeremy


P.S.  It's the home stretch, we're past 1700 backers, and we're spitting distance from $90K.  I'm trying to play this cool, for the most part, but HOLY SMOKES PEOPLE THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT.  

Introducing: the Would-Be Hero
about 1 year ago – Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 08:10:21 PM

The most recent episode of +1 Forward featured Stonetop, and the actual play session featured the Heavy and Anwen, the Would-Be Hero. The previous update introduced the Heavy, so tonight, let's meet...

Click for a PDF of the Would-Be Hero playbook

This is definitely one of my favorite playbooks: thematically, sentimentally, and mechanically.

Thematically, the Would-Be Hero is perhaps the most "hearth fantasy" playbook in the game. It's the playbook that best fits (in my opinion) Taran of Caer Dallben, or Samwise Gamgee, Tom Ward (the Spook's Apprentice), and probably dozens of young adult fiction protagonists who long for more, get swept up into some sort of adventure, find themselves in over their head, and then rise to the occasion. 

Mechanically, the playbook starts with absolute crap for stats: +1, +0, +0, +0, +0, -1 (as opposed to +2, +1, +1, +0, +0, -1).  That's offset by their Potential for Greatness move--once per level, when they roll a 10+ with a stat, they can increase that stat by 1 (up to a +2), or increase their HP, or increase their damage die. In the end, they actually end up with slightly better stats than other PCs can, but it takes about 6 levels to get there.

The moves available to them at character creation are a combination of "not very good at this" moves (Better Part of Valor, In Over Your Head, Inquiring Minds, Underestimated), "resilience" moves (I Get Knocked Down, Iron Will, Resourceful), and "earnest" moves (Speak Truth to Power, Tough Love, Up with People). A 6th level, they can replace with the "not very good at this moves" with some pretty badass moves. So the Would-Be Hero who starts off with In Over Your Head--constantly needing to be saved--eventually swaps that out for Big Damn Hero, becoming one of the best defenders in the game. 

The Would-Be Hero is also the playbook that's best at "multiclassing," able to pick up moves from any other playbook, and more often. That gives them a lot of flexibility to become the Hero that their Stonetop needs.

When I first conceived of the Would-Be Hero, I had those aforementioned characters in mind--young, inexperienced, but full of potential. In play, I've been pleasantly surprised to see players create older, more mature Would-Be Heroes. In one case, an ex-Hillfolk slaver fleeing her clan's ways and trying to live down--and then atone for--her past deeds.  And in another case, a middle-aged woman who fled from her destiny at age 19, spent the next 20 years roving the known world and living a questionable life, only to have her destiny catch up with her in Stonetop. Fictionally, they still end up following that same arc from "struggling" to "badass." While they start out competent (fiction-speaking), the mechanics enforce that initial period of struggling and flailing, leading into a solid competence that often ends up reshaping the game world. 

How about you? What characters from fiction do you see in the Would-Be Hero? Which moves catch your fancy? What questions do you have?

-Jeremy

Introducing: The Heavy
about 1 year ago – Sat, Mar 20, 2021 at 10:44:49 PM

As Jason mentioned in the last update, the most recent episode of +1 Forward featured Stonetop. The actual-play segment featured Rich playing the Heavy, Pleswyn, and Rach playing Anwen the Would-be Hero. I thought it'd be nice to feature those two playbooks next. 

Today, you get to meet...

Click for a PDF of the Heavy playbook

This is the "fighter" analog, the playbook that's best at violence. It's, like, really good at violence. 

It took a lot of tinkering before I settled on the name. I wanted the name to suggest someone who was dangerous, but not like a knight or a champion or soldier. Someone who could be your neighbor.  Not just a violent individual, but our violent individual. I think "The Heavy" hits that mark quite well.  (It also happens to be the name of one of my favorite bands.) 

The next tricky part with The Heavy was picking backgrounds. If you've been reading these updates, you might have noticed a pattern. In each playbook, I try to have:

  • One background that represents a local fixture, someone who grew up here or at least has been here a long time.  (The Patriot for the Seeker, the Auspicious Birth for the Lightbearer, the Natural for the Fox.)
  • One background that represents a newcomer, someone who at least might have arrived somewhat recently.  (The Antiquarian for the Seeker, the Itinerant Mystic for the Lightbearer.)  
  • One background that could represent an NPC "stepping up" into the role of a full-fledged PC. (The Witch Hunter for the Seeker, the Lightbearer with a Soul on Fire.)

The don't always hit that pattern--for example, the Fox has two backgrounds that represent a more-or-less newcomer (Life of Crime and Prodigal Returned).  But the idea is for one background to represent "someone who's always been here" and two backgrounds that can justify adding the PC to a game that's already underway. If a PC dies or a new player joins your game, you don't need to be like "oh, yeah, we've had this very competent warrior around town for years and we just didn't ask for her help in the last three crises." 

Anyhow, picking backgrounds for the Heavy was surprisingly tough. Or rather, picking the local background proved to be tough. The killer laying low and trying to live down their past is a well-worn trope. The storm-markings were an idea that a friend pitched (and a different friend played) way back in the D&D4e version of Stonetop. But for the local, I was stumped. I kept thinking about champions and  folk-heroes, but they never quite felt right. They were too big, too shiny.  When "sheriff" finally came to mind, it was a great big "oh, duh" moment. 

From there, it was a matter of playtesting and tweaking, through multiple iterations.  Seth Zeren commented that the Fox and the Ranger should be able to set themselves up for occasionally "spikes" of damage, but the Heavy should be consistently good at it. That led to the Dangerous move, which might not seem glamorous but is really really potent in play (so much so, that it's barred from any other playbook).

It's hard to pick favorite moves from this playbook. I'm pleased with how Frosty and Situational Awareness reflect keeping calm and sharp in a high-stress situation. I'm quite proud of how Battle Joy and Berserker handle the "barbarian rage" trope, and how Terror on the Field and Bringer of Ruin encourage over-the-top carnage (if that's the sort of thing you're into).  

But also, I'm really happy with how History of Violence makes the Heavy human. Those three questions--one about glory, one about shame, and one about worry--give each Heavy a real weight, and help remind everyone that, yeah, violence has consequences. 

What about you?  Would you be the Sheriff, the newcomer hiding a Blood-Soaked Past, or bear the Storm-Marks?  What would your history of violence be?  What move would take when you first leveled up?

As always, happy to answer questions!

-Jeremy

Final Stretch Goal, Stonetop on +1 Forward
about 1 year ago – Sat, Mar 20, 2021 at 08:58:30 PM

The Last One

We looked at all of our options, seeking to balance something exciting against our existing workload, and this is it! The last thing for which we will reach during this campaign. 

Cover mockup (not final)

"We're gonna make it off this rock, I promise you. But until then, we need to stick together."

Holdfast Station is a role-playing game about a tight-knit community of asteroid miners striving to survive in the far reaches of space.  Play alternates between Events—moments of high drama, calamity and risk—and Cycles, when the station inhabitants rebuild and fortify their outpost against future peril. The game can be played as a one-shot wherein the PCs must save their hardscrabble home from disaster, or as a campaign that charts the fate of their Holdfast over many Cycles.

Inspired by their playtesting of Stonetop, Moe Poplar and Michael Low began to develop Holdfast Station (formerly known as Holdfast Outpost) in 2020. Like Stonetop, Holdfast Station is "Powered by the Apocalypse," but employs flexible "tags" to define characters instead of the usual stats and bespoke playbooks. Robust tools for online play are being developed alongside the game itself. We estimate the final book will be much more compact than Stonetop, at between 48 and 64 digest-size (5.5"x8.5") pages. And as with all L&B titles, the creators will be paid an advance against a profit share of sales over the publication's lifetime.

If our funding level hits 85K, Lampblack & Brimstone will publish Holdfast Station as a fully-illustrated, standalone RPG in PDF and print-on-demand forms, with Jason on board as editor and art director.

All backers at the $25 level and above will receive a free PDF of Holdfast Station upon its release. Our goal is to have the game ready for action shortly after Stonetop ships in October.

There you have it. I hope you're as excited as we are about the possibility of playing riggers, diggers, and bot jocks on some Earthforsaken extrasolar ore deposit!

Stonetop on +1 Forward

This week on the stalwart PbtA podcast +1 Forward, Rachel Shelkey and Rich Rogers chat with Jeremy about Stonetop! Jeremy discusses how asking questions during play in any game can enrich the setting and characters, describes the premise and structure of the game, and GMs a brief segment for Rach and Rich. Click here to give it a listen. 

Introducing: The Marshal
about 1 year ago – Thu, Mar 18, 2021 at 07:48:30 PM

Folks continue to heed the call to muster at Stonetop, so I think it's time we met...

Click for a PDF of the Marshal playbook

The Marshal is in charge of the Stonetop's defenses. Maybe its a formal position, maybe it's just something that falls on them naturally. Regardless, this playbook deals with violence and battle, but also with diplomacy, leadership, authority, and the responsibilities that come with it. It's one of my favorites, and the playbook that I've personally spent the most time playing (as opposed to GMing for). 

It's hard to pick a favorite move. I particularly like how Read the Land prompts the player and GM to consider the terrain. I love how Take the Measure subtly has you asking 2 questions every time you use it (because you're effectively asking "do they fear or respect me" to see if you get your bonus question). I always smile at the names of both We Happy Few and Sir, Permission to Die, Sir

To be honest, though? My favorite move as a player has been Stentorian. The ability to grant others advantage twice during each fight is nice, but really just being very loud is the best part.  

Of course, I've been ignoring the biggest move that the Marshal has: their Crew


Followers

When I first started working on the Marshal, I knew I wanted them to have a crew of followers, similar to how the Chopper or Hardholder in Apocalypse World have their gangs. But the hireling rules in Dungeon World didn't cut it: they treat hirelings as expendable, and my experience with those rules reliably led to rather dark-but-comic ends. 

For Stonetop, I wanted to treat followers with a more respect. After all, these folks were going to be your friends and neighbors, not some chumps you recruited in the last village you passed through. I also wanted a system that could encompass any sort of "companion" that joined PCs on expeditions: a Ranger's animal companion, the town's horses, a bound spirit, etc. This led to the Follower rules that were first published in The Perilous Wilds

Those rules work pretty well, but once I got the chance to be a player in a Stonetop game (specifically, playing a Marshal, in a game that also featured 2-3 other followers), I realized that they were more complex than they needed to be.  So these followers are simpler. The biggest differences are:

  • Followers no longer have a Quality stat.  
  • If a player has a follower do something that would trigger a PC move, it triggers. The player rolls the move for the follower.  But followers don't have stats, so: if the follower has at least one relevant tag, add +1 to the roll (or +2 if they also have the exceptional tag, which is uncommon).  Otherwise,  they roll at +0. 
  • Tags are more free-form. There's no set list, and they have no specific mechanical impact (beyond exceptional and group).
  • Loyalty caps at +2 / -2.
  • The trigger for Order Followers now takes both tags and instinct into consideration. And on a 7-9, the player makes the choice instead of the GM, which cuts down on having to pass the GM the moves sheet. 

I've found that this newer, slimmer approach works very well in play. We don't have to remember to use a different move for followers than everyone else, and we don't have to reference a follower's tags to see which moves they can possibly use.  

Plus, it's even easier than it was to convert a monster into a follower. Just give them a cost and starting Loyalty, maybe tweak their instinct, and you're good. For example:

Thoughts?  What sort of a Marshal would you play? What would your crew be like?  What moves do you want to try out at the table?  

As always, happy to answer questions!