The Analog Gamer: Stories Untold
Along with the resurrection of the site.. we’ll be bringing back out regular editorial content as well. To kick off our first weekend back I thought I’d get The Analog Gamer back up and running quickly as well. First out of the box I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight a game I’m sure many of the mainstream RPG players have never heard of – Untold.
I’ll let the following interview with one of the game’s creators explain exactly what Untold is but lets just say this is not your normal pen and paper RPG concept. Click through to the jump to read through my interview with Brannon Hollingsworth, Untold’s co-creator and one of the talented folks from The Wandering Men Studios. You can also find out more about Untold itself on its official website.
Shawn Sines, Gaming Today(SS): So.. first question… the boilerplate one of course.. tell us a little about Untold and the concept behind the game itself.
Brannon Hollingsworth(BH): Untold is a brand new game from Wandering Men Studios – the guys that brought you the novel Skein of Shadows (published by Dark Quest Games). The game itself is what we’re calling a CBRGP – a Card Based Role Playing Game. The concept is exactly the same as any other RPG on the market, with one critical difference – all of the tools of the game are cards – there are no character sheets, rulebooks, or pamphlets needed once you understand the rules – just the cards!
SS: Do you still need dice? How are you doing conflict resolution?
BH: Yes – a d20 – we like to say that all you need is a deck and a die!
SS: Interesting, so the cards replace the character sheet and all resolution is done with a single d20?
BH: Correct, but the cards ALSO replace all of the rulebooks as well.
SS: Does that mean that the game cards are generic.. for instance you would have a “Strength: 20″ card, an “Endurance: 15″ card, I know that might not be what you call them in Untold but I think you understand what I mean right?
BH: It depends on which cards you’re talking about – the ABS cards are somewhat generic, as you state, so we have Strength 1, or Agility 9 cards, for instance, but even those cards have some interesting tweaks to make them more valuable and a better value for the customer.
SS: Do you have different cards to represent different abilities or powers or skills? How does one build a character using the Untold system to represent their character?
BH: Yes, every combat maneuver, spell, item, weapon, magical device, or cool move (a la feat) is its own, modular card. So, you can use these cards to build and customize your character however you want. In terms of abilities and skills, we’ve rolled those into a single card type: called ABS (Ability Based Skills) and they handle all of your skill checks (Listen, Spot, etc.) as well as any Ability-related check on might have (smashing down a door, leaping across a ravine, etc).
Building a character is very easy and very fast: select your race card, select your ABS cards (if you like), select your Path cards (if you like), and then your Power cards (if you like) – then you’re done!
SS: Since this is a card based does that mean players and storytellers will be forced to buy packs of random powers?
BH: Not at all! First of all, Untold has NO randomization at all. That’s one of the things that we knew we DID NOT want as an element of Untold – while it might be great for making money, it’s horrible on players, and players are the reason we created the game in the first place.
When you purchase decks or packs of Untold, you’re going to know exactly what you’re getting – the contents will be detailed on the website and on the packages. This way. if a player or GM (storyteller) wants more Power cards, they’ll know what they need and can get exactly what they want.
SS: Lets talk a little about the broader concept, Untold is not just a system right? Isn’t it also a setting? How would you describe the game world to a new player?
BH: Great question – Untold is much more than just a system – the underlying story of Untold is one that lends itself to endless expansion and customization. The basic story is three universes – not worlds, but universes have collided and what happens as a result becomes the backdrop of your game.
This way, players and GMs can elect to play in our “default” campaign setting, which is called Splintered Serenity, or create their own campaign setting based on the races we offer. Alternatively, they can simply integrate our races, powers, sites and concepts into their existing games.
SS: Does that mean that the initial game will include not just the setting specific races/abilities/tech but also more generic conceits like elves, orcs, aliens, etc?
BH: One of the things WMS has planned is additional “genre” expansions, so we will eventually have a “Wild West” deck, for instance, with cowboys and Indians, or a “Far East” deck with samurai and ninja, or even a “Space Opera” deck with aliens, blasters and odd-looking aliens.
As we bring in the new decks, we’ll have those races – one of the things we want players to be able to do is play in the worlds they already have, but use Untold cards to do so. For instance, I’m a long-time GM and I have thousands of dollars of “Setting Books” on my shelves that I would love to play, but I can’t because my players dislike the mechanics, or don’t want to learn a new system, or whatever. Untold could correct this problem – you have a single system that works anywhere and anytime – you just nab the cards that match your setting and you’re off to the races!
SS: Can you describe a bit about the races players will find in the “default” setting? What sorts of creatures/characters can you make out of the box?
BH: We have a number of new and interesting races in the Splintered Serenity setting.
There are the L’na, a race that comes from a world where where magic is the basic building block of life, the L’na are a mystical race generally given to the tenants of subtle balance and harmony with the world around them. Physically, L’na resemble animals, but they are far from simple beasts: they are, in fact, highly intelligent and spiritual beings that are the apex of magical “evolution” on Ai, their home-world. The L’na also represent two different aspects – Dawn and Twilight which helps determine their role in the game.
We have a mechanical race called the Klik. They are beings of metal and steam, gears and gyros, pistons and pulleys, the Klik at first glance appear to be nothing more than strange conglomerations of odd, physics-defying gadgetry. Yet, once one spends any amount of time in the presence of these assertive and driven beings, they are sure to redefine their perceptions of them. While the Klik could not be considered individuals by any means, as they continually strive to perform their part in the service of their Great Machine, they are anything but random collections of parts and pieces. They also have two forms – the Rollers and the Tripods, which generally reflect their locomotion as well as their class in Klik society.
The most human-like of the races are the Apoc. Apocs are the last surviving remnants of the world’s armies after an apocalyptic event has left the planet as they know it completely shattered. Designed long before this world-shattering event, but with it in mind, Apocs are genetically engineered to be the ultimate survivalists – they’re enhanced physical powers honed to cope with any form of external stress. With powers bordering on (and some far surpassing) the supernatural, the Apoc are truly the next stage in human evolution. They break down into High-breeds and Churls representing the relative culture of the character and resources at their disposal. The High-bred are clean and ordered while the Churl are savage survivors.
Of course we’re planning on expanding the races in future decks as I mentions to include traditional RPG character races but we think the Splintered Serenity setting offers some new and interesting concepts that you don’t see in every game.
SS: Where would one of our readers go to find out more about Untold? Are you selling it online or is it available at retail yet?
BH: We’ve already been approached by several stores in the Birmingham, Alabama are, just in response to our release at this year’s Imagicon (http://www.imagicon.org), and are furiously working to ink deals with them! We’re definitely looking to branch out into more FLGS’es and would love to hear from anyone who would like to carry Untold, receive in-store demos of Untold, or both! But for those who can’t wait to get their hands on Untold – you can purchase directly from our website.
SS: Thanks Brannon, best of luck to you and the Wandering Men with Untold. It looks like it is already beginning to get some attention. I notice you’re sponsoring an upcoming convention?
BH: Thanks, Shawn! Yes, we are – we’ll be at KWAKCON this weekend (April 24-26) in lovely Kokomo, IN! We’ll also be Guests at Mobicon (May 15-17) and more than likely at Play-On Con and DragonCon – the jury’s still out on those last two.