High Plains Samurai

Created by The Warden

An action-heavy tabletop RPG of gunslingers, samurai, gangsters, barbarians, steampunk, and superpowers on the brink of destruction.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Ballad of a High Plains Samurai - Chapter 1: Born A Dog
almost 2 years ago – Fri, Jun 02, 2017 at 07:16:59 AM

First off, we hit a major milestone today (and not the kind featured in HPS). Yes, when I woke up this morning, High Plains Samurai officially funded!! I've said it before and I'll say it again... wow! 

Now that brings us to the task of hitting our first stretch goal and today's update is directly related to that. At $5,000 CDN, Fraser Ronald will write an origin story for Black Scorpion, the main villain of the trilogy's first instalment, Black Scorpion's Revenge. Each Thursday of this Kickstarter, we'll post one of the first four chapters he's written so far to give everyone a preview of what made this bandit leader such a threat to the warlords of the Five Cities. 

Today, we're pleased to bring you Chapter One: Born A Dog on the Broken Ruler Games website. Enjoy! 

Details & Narrative Combat
almost 2 years ago – Wed, May 31, 2017 at 07:01:38 AM

Before I get started with the first of an ongoing series on what makes High Plains Samurai work, huuuuuuge thanks to the Misdirected Mark podcast for the fantastic opportunity to talk about this topic in greater detail. To hear me ramble about it in great detail with Chris, Phil, and Bob, check it out. 

I'm a game mechanics junkie. Building a game from scratch has become an obsession of mine for a few years now and it's a process that takes years to lock down. For example, this game has been in the works for four years with significantly different systems. If I nailed down one major goal in creating the mechanics for High Plains Samurai, it would be creating crazy, martial arts scenes played out with an incredibly simple, yet versatile, dice resolution system. One of the ways this happens is by creating a game driven entirely by a shared player narrative and that bleeds into the action by using narrative combat.

Narrative combat is when players translate the game's mechanics to create a series of detailed, blow-by-blow accounts of an action sequence. This style of play is very common in story games, such as Dungeon World, but can be applied in any roleplaying game. It's about using the dice as a kind of shout-out from the audience during an improv game; the rest is up to the players' imaginations. You may only roll your dice once per turn but narrative combat is when you turn it into a sweeping kick to knock some of your opponents aside before pivoting your body into a spinning handstand with your feet clocking the rest of those goons across the face!

In the early playtests, combat was always loads of fun. Lots of imagination went into the exciting fight scenes to allow the lead characters to come across as heroic, as they appear in countless action films, while allowing for some tense moments. (If you haven't listened to the Comic Strip AP of HPS, there's a perfect example in the final episode where Lu is hovering at 1 Stamina when he defeats the BBG.) What was needed to fit what I had envisioned for this system was a little extra flourish in the descriptions. Everyone cut straight to the chase and only provided one punch, kick, or shot to the chest with each description. Nothing wrong with that, it just wasn't quite what I was hoping for. Then I dug through the original notes for the ScreenPlay system and discovered a long deleted optional rule. A rule that is now a fundamental part of this game.

Direct from the Kickstarter Edition of HPS, it's Table 3: Potentials.
Direct from the Kickstarter Edition of HPS, it's Table 3: Potentials.

In High Plains Samurai, all characters have to use a potential to shape their description. Each potential has a maximum number of details to go with their dice value and Defense. The only way to use their potential's maximum dice value is to use their maximum number of details. Think of these as the number of actions built into an individual description (or turn). They are moments that actively move the character/story/action forward. So if your character has 3 details with their No One Gets In My Way potential, that means you can only roll the d8 if you incorporate that many details into your description. If you only provide 2 details, you can only roll a d6. This is known as building your potential and has solved that “short-and-sweet” style in game play ever since. By restricting the die type you can roll based on how much narration you add to your description, players have really embraced this intended style of play and made their fights all the better for it.

In addition to those recommendations and guidelines discussed on Misdirected Mark, these are some ways you can build that into your group's rendition of High Plains Samurai.

  • Play up on the “wire-fu” style of play. By that, I mean tell gravity to take the night off. The ultimate reference to this is, was, and always shall be Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This is not something you need a qi power to do – everyone in the One Land can do it! 
  • Frame your details off your chosen potential. All descriptions require a potential, so this is important when creating yours. You want to have potentials that can handle a wide range of problems, character quirks, and more, but a good frame of reference is to look at them as ways your character approaches combat. HPS is a combat-heavy game and your potentials should always be able to help you out in a fight. 
  • You can incorporate elements into your description that may sound like complications so long as they are not your key detail. For example, you could describe pushing your opponent back a few feet as you perform a barrel roll into a kick to their torso as one of your details. Because dice were not rolled, your opponent can easily step back into Melee range without applying one of their details.

There's no wrong way to apply narration into your combat descriptions. Players never need to know the exact names of a type of backwards spin kick or have any specific references to martial arts movies when describing your characters in a fight scene. Do what feels natural and work off the material provided earlier. Everyone else at the table will do the same and these descriptions will flow faster and wilder as the game progresses. Have fun with it! It's the best part of playing HPS.

For more advice on incorporating narrative combat into your story, listen to episode 260 of the Misdirected Mark podcast. 

Beyond My Wildest Dreams
almost 2 years ago – Wed, May 31, 2017 at 02:47:13 AM

As I write this, it is just shy of 12 hours since this Kickstarter launched and it's already passed the 50% mark. If Kicktraq's projections are accurate, I'm gonna need some more stretch goals. 

I'm gonna let myself get a little unprofessional for a moment and type from the heart. That'll happen when you've been working on a project for four years and discover that not only can it happen but there's a crowd of people who want to see it just as much as you. Wow! Just... wow! 

This rather improvised post is my meagre attempt to say thank you to everyone who has already decided to fight for the One Land and help make HPS something bigger than possible on my own. It's also a reminder if you haven't downloaded your copy of High Plains Samurai: The Kickstarter Edition, check out the 1st update (for backers only) and enjoy. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through this Kickstarter or any of the other channels provided in that previously mentioned update. 

Tomorrow, I'll post an update on how narrative combat works in High Plains Samurai and be sure to listen to the Misdirected Mark podcast for a general view on this style of play and hear me ramble on about this game in a way no Kickstarter video would allow.  On Thursday, the first chapter of Fraser Ronald's Ballad of a High Plains Samurai will be available for everyone to read. If you like what Fraser's put together so far, our first stretch goal will allow him to finish the job (much like Black Scorpion herself). 

Now I'm off to run around the room like a kid hyped up on candy. If anyone needs me, I'll be defying gravity. 

And remember to share this Kickstarter with #SaveTheOneLand


Todd Crapper
High Plains Samurai Creator/Owner of Broken Ruler Games