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SCAB! A (nearly) playable RPG/LARP right here...

Started by hardcoremoose, May 04, 2001, 01:15:00 AM

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SCAB!  A Game of Fantasy Labor Disputes & Strikebusting.


This originally started out as an amusing idea that I posted to RPGnet a few days ago.  I thought quick and dirty RPG, but others were saying LARP.  I know nothing about LARPs, so I wrote it up with both in mind.  I blatantly stole the core mechanic from Jared, so I hope I'm not copying something that already exists, in print or otherwise.

I decided to re-post it here since you folks seem to be a bit more incisive in your criticism.  Have at it!


The setting is a generic fantasy world, filled with Evil Lords doing evil things, and the Heroes who try to stop them.  Such was the way of things for time immemorial.

Recently, though, this simple routine has been thrown into chaos, as all of the Minions of the Evil Lords have Unionized and gone on strike.  Tired of low pay and no gratitude, the Minions take to the picket lines, threatening to bring the Cycle of Good versus Evil to a grinding halt.

This can not be!  With no easy resolution to the labor dispute in sight, the Evil Lords have but one choice.

They turn to the Scabs.

You are a Scab. A nobody, a nothing.  You're not strong enough to be a warrior, not smart enough to be a wizard, and not quick enough to be rogue.  But maybe, just maybe, you might be good enough to fill the shoes of a picketing Goblin.

It's not easy, though.  Every day you have to brave the picket lines, do the evil bidding of the Evil Lords, and not get squashed by the Heroes who keep showing up.  Worst of all, you have to dress and act the part.  But hey, it's job.


Everyone has four Attributes: Physique, Prowess, Savvy and Mettle. Attributes are rated 1-5 (although racial modifications can raise or lower the maximum number). You get ten points to allocate to Attributes. You must allocate at least one point to each Attribute. There are no Attributes for Charisma, since this game will focus on role-playing out social interactions. Savvy doubles for Wisdom and Perception, but there's no real Intelligence Attribute either; let the players solve problems for themselves.

There are five player character races, each with its own modifications to the base Attributes:

Human (no mods),
Elf (+1 Prowess, -1 Physique),
Dwarf (+1 Physique, -1 Savvy),
Halfling (+1 Mettle, -1 Physique),
Gnome (+1 Savvy, -1 Prowess).

Other PC races may be possible, but they should be ones familiar to the fantasy genre.

Characters have Skills, rated 0-5. Skills are fairly basic and self-explanatory: Lie, Steal, Sneak, Hide, Fight, Trail, Climb, Swim, Jump, etc. You start out with 10 points to spend on Skills, and there'll probably be a max you can start out with (2 or 3 most likely). Feel free to make up your own Skills, but keep them simple and intuitive.

Finally, you choose the Union you want to scab out to. There are five Unions (all  basically serving the same function): Goblinoids, Undead, Infernals, Beastmen, and Constructs. Which one you choose will have an important effect on the game (read on to find out why).

Each Union has five Ranks:


Undead (Skeleton, Zombie,Ghoul,Ghost,Wraith)


Succubus/Incubus, Balrog)

Beastmen (Satyr, Goatman, Lizardman, Gnoll, Minotaur)

Constructs(Scarecrow,Clay Golem,Flesh Golem,Stone Golem,Iron Golem)

You progress through the ranks in a Union like you would levels in certain other fantasy games, with each higher Rank providing added bonuses, but also bringing greater responsibility (kind of like military rank). In no way does this indicate that you are actually the creature that Rank is named after, although it is a requirement that you garb yourself in such a way that your Rank is easily recognizable to anyone looking at you (so yeah, you have to dress up like the monster in question). Oh, and your employers are often stodgy and set in their ways; if they're being particularly evil (and they usually are) they may require you to behave like the creature whose Rank you've obtained.

You can choose to earn Ranks in different Unions, allowing you to perform with greater competency for a variety of different employers, at the expense of performing really well for one.

Keep in mind, too, that you are not actually a member of any are merely learning the skills of a Union employee so you can undercut them during their strike. All references to the Unions and their associated Ranks are merely done for comparisons sake so you know how you measure up.

As for a core mechanic, I blatantly stole an idea that Jared posted at RPGnet ( I chose this base mechanic because I think it would work well in a LARP. Heck, it's probably already been done...I don't know anything about LARPS or what's out there for them).

It would be a "Karmic" system, where you simply compare your Attribute+Skill to your opponent's Attribute+Skill (or a GM determined Target Number, in the case of unopposed actions).  Higher number wins. To give it a little variation, you would have a number of "points" (I'm calling them Union Points, at least until I think of something better) which you can spend to augment your Attribute+Skill total. The trick here is that you won't know what your Target Number is before hand, so you'll have to guess how many UPs you need to spend. If you underestimate, you lose those Points (although you may try again).  However, if you guess right on, you get to keep your Points! To help the players, the GM is encouraged to give out vague hints as to how difficult a given activity might be, such as "you think you could jump that cliff with a little effort" or "only a madman would attempt something so foolish!" Of course, when engaged in opposed actions, the players will have to figure out for themselves how tough that opponent will be.

You get 10 such Union Points when you start the game (plus any Points you may have Banked from earlier sessions), and gain additional UPs based on your Union Rank (10 points per Rank earned).  The catch is that you can only use Points garnered from your Union Rank if the job you're currently working calls for members of that Union (for example, you have earned the Rank of Hobgoblin, so you would get 30 UPs - base 10+20 for your Rank - when employed by Warlords or Sorcerors, but only the nominal 10 starting Points when working for Necromancers, Daemonologists, Mad Scientists, or Summoners). This is why it's good to diversify.

If you manage to save some Union Points until the end of the game, you can bank these for the next adventure. If you manage to save a bunch without spending them, you can trade them in for increases to Skill, Rank, or Attributes (a Skill Point costs 10 DPs, a Rank costs 25, and an Attribute costs 50). You never get Union Points at any other time; the GM does not give you bonus Points ever (except possibly for really cool RP'ing - I haven't decided yet). This effectively makes the game Experience-less (or if that doesn't set well with you, think of it as a game where you get your EXPs at the beginning, and it's up to you to make it through the adventure with some left).

I've mentioned certain NPC types by name already; these are the Lords of Evil (your erstwhile employers).
Each of these Lords favors a particular type of worker; if you can fulfill that employer's preference, you are at a major advantage when compared to someone who can not (namely, you get extra Union Points for each Rank you have in that employer's preferred Union). The types of Lords and their preferred type of employee are: Warlord (Goblinoids), Necromancer (Undead), Daemonologist (Infernals), Summoner (Beastmen), Mad Scientist (Constructs), and Sorceror (any/all). Before running an adventure, the GM should know what type of Lord the PCs will be working for. If he has no particular reason for choosing one over another (and usually it shouldn't matter), he should - just to be fair to everyone - randomly determine the type of Lord.

Note that Scabs are not loyal to one Lord...with laborers in such high demand among the legions of Evil, Scabs often go to where ever/whomever needs their services most. This does not (usually) cause animosity between Lords, as professional courtesy allows for them to share employees during a strike.


That's it, sans any kind of real background material.  So what I have I missed?  What does it need to be a functional (and fun) LARP?  

Jared A. Sorensen


I think this is a great idea for a RPG/LARP (characters playing characters is my new favorite thing, I guess!) but I don't think the system reflects the premise of the game all that well.

I would focus on the relationship between the fantasy SCAB character and their position as a monster in the dungeon.  Of course, these poor schmucks are undertrained and they don't want to diefor minimum wage (and no benefits!) so a lot of the fun of the game would be in role-playing the character trying to weasel out of life-threatening situations while still doing his or her job for their Dahrk Lohrd.

Maybe use "gold coins" as points and allow players to bribe each other?

Another thing...for the Beastman Union -- a goatman and satyr are more or less the same, right?  I'd include kobold as the lowest beastman and I'd also put werewolf in there (probably right before Minotaur).

- J
jared a. sorensen /


Yo J...How did one person become so learned in the ways of game mechanic design? :smile:

A question for you Jared:
Are you merely suggesting a switch in terminology, from the use of "Union Points" (a term I expected to be temporary at best) to "Gold Coins".  

Aesthetically and thematically that would make characters advance in Rank (getting promoted within their job) more Gold will become available to them, which they can save or spend as they will.  It doesn't really make a lot of sense for Gold to increase a person's Attribute/Skill totals, but maybe the explanation isn't that it's increasing your ability, so much as it is a "bribe" to the GM to lower your Target Number.  In the case of opposed rolls, the character you give the Gold to would get to keep it! (although you'd win whatever contest you were having with him)

This also brings to mind several other possible game mechanics.  Can treasure found by the PCs be translated into game mechanic Gold Coins?  Can the characters steal from their employers?  Can players freely trade their Gold back and forth?  Can they become loansharks and lend out their Gold at a steep interest rate?  I think I know the answers to these questions, but what does everyone else think?

As far as the Kobolds go, I originally had them over in the Goblinoid Union, but I ditched them in favor of the current ranks.  I imagine they would fit well in the Beastman Union too (perhaps they were once part of the Goblinoid Union, but were squeezed out).  I didn't really like Satyrs anyway; the're not really evil, just mischievous, so their inclusion was somewhat suspect.  The subject of werewolves came up over at RPGnet too, but I had kind of ruled them out.  I considered making an entire Union out of Lycanthropes, but I didn't really like the idea of monsters that were only distinguishable as monsters part of the time, and the rest of the time they looked like normal humans.  But hey, people can do with it what they will...and if enough of you really wanted to play people pretending to be lycanthropes, I guess I could write that up. :smile:

Oh, and just so you guys know, the proper way to refer to your SCAB! character is Rank-Race-Union, such as "I'm playing an Ogre-Halfling-Goblinoid" (this is the equivalent in D&D speak as saying "I'm a 4th level Halfling Fighter"). :smile:

[ This Message was edited by: hardcoremoose on 2001-05-04 02:49 ]