I’m a child of the 80s, raised on a steady diet of romantic comedies and high school movies, king among them being The Breakfast Club. Movieland High School is as mythical a land for me as is Middle Earth or A Galaxy Far, Far Away; it bears little to no resemblance to my own high school experience, but it captures my imagination as if there were dragons or lightsabers. Naturally, it has always seemed to me to be a perfect setting for a roleplaying game.
I’ve been aware of fellow blogger Michael Wolf (Stargazer’s World) has a free game called Warrior, Rogue & Mage in which those three words are the characters’ stats as opposed to their class. MWP’s Leverage also does this with the roles of Hacker, Hitter, Grifter, Thief & Mastermind being also character stats. Given how in Breakfast Club the whole point of the movie is that the characters are/are not the stereotypes of a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal, it seemed riffing off the roles-as-stats idea in these two games was the way to go.
Thus I came up with Princess, Jock & Nerd.
I fired off a barrage of ideas on Twitter and there was one of those awesome moments when my Replies column lights up with a bunch of people replying and shooting their own ideas. Based on that initial quick brainstorming session, here are the design goals I have for putting together Princess, Jock & Nerd.
- A short game: I want this to be short both in word count and play time. If I can make it fit into a pocketmod format, even better. I’m also aiming for a one-shot, couple-hours quickplay experience.
- Easy to play: I want it to be a game that you can play with anyone, not just hardcore gamers. That means using only six-sided dice and keeping the mechanics as simple as possible. Basically, I want this to be a game my non-gamer wife will want to play.
- Versatile: It should be able to handle different styles of high school adventures, from Breakfast Club to Glee to any of those high school anime series.
Here are the basic design ideas I stared off with.
- 3 Roles/Stats: Princess, Jock and Nerd. In general they correspond to Social, Physical and Mental areas, but ideally any of them can be used to handle any situation (e.g. use Jock to handle asking a girl out to the prom, use Nerd to survive PE without the coach yelling at you).
- Cliques:Everyone belongs to a group, even if that is group of one. Students (the player characters) choose one clique to which they belong (e.g. Goths, Varsity, Cheerleaders, Glee Club, Stoners, Gamers, Loner, etc.). This should grant bonuses and penalties when dealing with other groups and defines the student’s position in the social hierarchy of the school, for better or worse.
- Talents: Everyone is good at something. Students define a skill they have attached to one of the roles/stats. To which role/stat it is attached says something about that student (e.g. Glee’s Finn would have Singing (Jock) as a skill).
- Questions: Everyone has a story. There are 3 or 4 leading questions each student must answer that help establish the group’s dynamic and kickstarts the story, things like “I secretly/openly love _____” or “I want to be like _____” or “_____ and I have a shared moment in our past: _____.”
- Situations: I want the adventures to be handled as situations, not pre-planned stories. To that end I want to create a situation generator for high school drama; a couple rolls of the dice and we have our starting situation: go! This, I think, will be the hardest part for me to come up with.
I’ve already been given some extra ideas, like having certain locations inside the school give bonuses to different cliques (thanks @GeekyLyndsay!), been given research material in the form of Smallville and the Smallville High School Yearbook (thanks @Boymonster!) and been offered to playtest it (thanks @FrostKat!), so it’s on. I want to make this game quickly, not dwell on it too much, and put it out there.
If you’re on Twitter, you can follow anything I say about the game (or add your own comments) using the hashtag #PJNRPG.