24 hour rpg

The challenge
Write a complete role-playing game in a twenty-four hour period. No preparation, no outside help, no time for playtest. Would it be possible to complete a full role-playing game in just twenty-four hours?

I did it in fourteen.

The games

So far, I've done two. In 2004, I did Scene Stealers: The New Generation, a game where you're playing one character in an ensemble cast that's being played by an actor on a science-fiction television series. During the game, you and the crew of the HMSS Xerxes try to make it through an episode while each of you tries to upstage the other actors. Your actor only has three attributes: Acting!, Action!, and Hot!. To do something that might be difficult, you roll a number of six-sided dice equal to the appropriate attribute. You get star points for outshining the other actors, and you can play special abilities during the game to gain or steal star points from each other. This was completed in fourteen hours.

In 2006, I decided to participate in Bully Pulpit Games' Owlbear Challenge. Take three of the following four items and make them into a role-playing game. You have twenty-four hours. Go. I came up with Winnie-the-Owl-Pooh: Adventures in d100 Acre Wood, a game heavily influenced by A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh. The challenge called for the following ingredients: Owlbears, Apiculture (the raising of honey bees), Mark Twain, and Owlbears (again). You're one of the Owl-Pooh's friends -- one of those goofy first edition D&D monsters that make no sense -- and you go with him on an Adventure, but you are more likely to get into trouble. This is a storytelling game. This was completed in a twenty-two hour period.

The process

Scene Stealers: The New Generation is an all-text, bare-bones role-playing game. There are a few flaws in the entry: the occasional word is repeated, there's a reference to the "plot deck" that was scrapped from the game, and I didn't get a chance to go back and proofread the manuscript. There's more I'd like to do with the game: clean up the manuscript, add artwork, create actual script cards. But there's a reason why it isn't called "7 day rpg".

The game started out as a role-playing game idea, then became a card game, then became a role-playing game again. By that time, I realized I was actually working on the game and thought to make it my entry into the 24 hour rpg challenge. About eight hours after the work began, I took a break, went to work out, watched an episode of Lost (it was Tivoed, so we skipped the commercials). After that, I went back in and formatted everything in OpenOffice, added some more text, and saved it as a pdf. Fourteen hours (and a few minutes) after I first started work on the game, it was done. Or at least done-ish.

Winnie-the-Owl-Pooh: Adventures in d100 Acre Wood started after reading Mike Sugarbaker's entry, in which his owlbears were honey gatherers in a forest, and Stuart Robinson's entry, which is written in the manner of an enthusiastic child excited about going on Adventures. I began by drawing Owl-Pooh holding onto the balloon while the bees are suspicious and liked it. A quick fiction piece came next, based on the introduction to Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Pooh (a fascinating book -- much better than the sequel The Te of Piglet). Sudden bursts of how the game could be played hit me and I wrote for about an hour before bed.

A. A. Milne's stories are based off of Christopher Robin Milne's stuffed animal toys. In some thoughts that night, I thought of having the friends of the d100 Acre Wood not just be based off of stuffed animal toys that were really the toys that "Robin Christopher" had that were stuffed animal toys from the first edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, but they could be all that, plus a Batman action figure. Batman rules are in the supplement titled The Cave at Owl-Pooh Corner

The next day, I ran some errands, drew and wrote, applied a texturing surface to our back wall, did laundry, read the first two chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh top my daughter, and finished up the game. Then I realized I had two and a half more hours left, so I drew the map.

The game uses Owlbears, Apiculture (the rule that if you get stuck, have Owl-Pooh go get Honey; plus the Bee Holder), and Mark Twain (several references to his work are in the game; he's also hidden in the game). If you count the tracks that Owl-Pooh follows in a circle and suddenly there's another set of Owl-Pooh tracks and then another, there's more owlbears, too.

The downloads

Download Scene Stealers: The New Generation now!
Play as a member of an ensemble cast on a science-fiction television show. Survive the episode and upstage the other actors! An RPG where you can actually win. In Scene Stealers, you're playing a member of an ensemble cast of a science fiction action show that's primarily watched by teenage boys. Teenage boys that belong to the science club. Each game takes place during one episode of the show. During the episode the cast members are not only trying to overcome obstacles, they're also trying to steal the spotlight from the other cast members.

Download Winnie-the-Owl-Pooh: Adventures in d100 Acre Wood now!
Winnie-the-Owl-Pooh wants you and all his d100 Acre Wood friends to join him in a grand Adventure. However, you know that when the Owl-Pooh wants to have an Adventure, it really means you're going to get into Troubles. But that's okay, he's such a Silly old Owlbear that nobody really can stay mad at him for long.

Download The Cave at Owl-Pooh Corner now!
One of Winnie-the-Owl-Pooh's friends is Batman. Read how Winnie-the-Owl-Pooh leads a rust monster, a gelatinous cube, and Batman on a merry adventure to whitewash a fence.

The math

This section is about Scene Stealers. The way task resolution is done in the system is to roll a number of six-sided dice, remove everything that is a three or higher, and sum the dice you've got left. Compare this to a difficulty number chart. Good friend Ross provided some code that shows test results of a thousand die rolls and what it means to reach certain success thresholds. Based on playing with that, I have to recommend that the task resolution rule should be replaced with the following:

When rolling dice, remove all dice that shows a four, five, or six. Sum up the total on the remaining dice; this is the number of successes your character has achieved. [Example: You roll a 1, 3, 5, and 6. Remove the 5 and 6. The dice remaining total 4, so you have 4 successes.]

Basically, a character with a 3 in an ability, which is intended to be average, only had about a .5% chance of completing a Hard task. With the new, larger success range, that ability 3 character has a 12.5% chance of completing a Hard task. That same character can now attempt Difficult tasks (succedding about 2% of the time). The ability 4 character now gets a 26.6% chance of completing a Hard task instead of a 2% chance. She can succeed in Difficult tasks 7.25% of the time instead of .1% and they actually have a 1% shot of succeeding at something Insane.

Speaking of Insane, another friend provided this formula to calculate the probability of successes based on die sides, number of dice, and success ranges: P(X0=x0, X1=x1, ... Xk=xk) = n! * p0x[0]/(x0!) * p1x[1]/(x1!) * ... * pkx[k]/(xk!) , where x[k] is really xk as HTML apparently won't let one place subscripts in superscripts.

The linkage

24 Hour RPG started the craze.
1km1kt hosts the entries for Game Chef and 24 Hour RPG.
The Owlbear Challenge goes forth.
Story Games for Everybody was where I found the BPG Owlbear Challenge.