Raise The Horns

This Game Goes Up To Twelve!

An entry for game-fu 1 by DeeCee
Elements used:
Unique mechanic tied to the setting.
Economic crisis.
Unrest.
Cloning.
Author's Description:
In this game, players take on the role of inspired neo-bards, musicians either talented or delusional. These musicians walk the now mythical lands of the Earth, 'going from place to place, getting in adventures' as it were. They have access to supernatural powers based on their ego-inspired views of their role in both life and the band, and use these abilities to reap glory for themselves.
GavKen's review:

This is a game of Metal bands in after a near apocalypse in the future. This is a fun premise for a game that has not really been seen before (nearest comparison is a small press game called Orbit).

Character Options (12/20)

You are by the nature of the game restricted to play a member of a metal band or an individual Metal bard. However there is a fair bit of scope for playing different band members with different personalities. It kind of reminds me of all the characters in Spinal Tap Ė though being the drummer might be a dangerous job! My main difficulty with character setup is that it doesnít really provide any inspirational ideas beyond the generic Ė your in a band.

I liked the way when you build characters that each point in your traits add a point to your flesh or spirit score. The traits may suffer from overly general traits and there should be a rule to stop abuses of this.

The character sheet could do with a little more work, but I do like the style of it.

Mechanics (13/20)

The mechanics in the game are functional but do rely on quite a bit on the GM making decisions on difficulty. It would perhaps have been useful to provide some guidance to modifiers based on perceived difficulties. I liked the way that damage decreases your effectiveness. The special harmony bonus for different band members was an interesting mechanic that should encourage role-playing.

Setting (17/20)

I really liked this setting. It had a nice explanation of why the world is the way it is and also it described potential bad guys. It gives a nice explanation on why metal bands have absorbed the power and become iconic heroes. The background allows for a great deal of storytelling and as a result is both different enough and flexible enough to tell great stories. I really liked the way that places have warped according to what people in general believe about them as this can give rise to some really great warped places to play.

Integration (15/20)

The setting and the mechanics seem to gel quite well together and there is a certain style about the game that makes things fit. The flesh and spirit relating to the traits and being the only two things a true magician needs. I would have liked to see a better way of channelling the wave than the power chords as implemented. In another revision Iím sure that the author will improve this.

Ingredients (7/20)

Iím struggling a bit with this section to work out where the ingredients are here in this entry. The mechanic tied to the setting Iím assuming is the harmony mechanic I feel is a little weak. Iíd have preferred a musical way to channel the kewl powers that are mentioned in the text (but I suspect the author didnít have time to do). The unrest I can see is tied to the setting fairly well, though I canít see where perpetuity is used. The events revolved around a contested succession I donít see anywhere in the document.

Rating: 64%
King Turnip's review:

Summary

In a near-apocalyptic setting, the players take up the mantle of METAL. A deliciously over-the-top setting filled with METAL SATAN! METAL THOR! and 10,000 JESUSES! ALL ON ONE STAGE! ONE NIGHT ONLY!

Mechanically, the game uses a d12 over set difficulty with the GM having the option to inflict penalties. Traits and appropriate equipment give additional, non-additive dice, to a maximum of three.

Characters are defined by two values, Flesh and Spirit, which are in turn defined by freeform Traits. The base target for conflict rolls is 12, less the appropriate value (Flesh or Spirit.)

Characters gain Harmony Points by being AWESOME in their adventures and exploits, doubled if they gain Harmony in a manner consistent with their role/instrument.

Character Options

Freeform traits are all the rage, and they do give a good deal of variety to characters. This depth is on top of the four band roles given. I would point out that you missed Rhythm Guitar (though that role is often occupied by the Lead Singer in the almost-traditional 4-man band.)
However, because there are optimal choices in the system, there really only seems to be a handful of viable characters.

Justin gives it a 14/20.

Mechanics

Using d12s to bring in the subtitle "this one goes to 12!" was a nice move. I've already mentioned both an overview of the system and hinted about the optimal strategy in the system. This is the part where I lay the cards out. Systematically, the system encourages a certain variety of specialization coupled with teamwork. The dice mechanic has a significant whiff factor built at lower levels. With, at most, 12 points to utilize,specializing in one or the other is important if they want to regularly see the above 70% range.

The optimal strategy is to specialize in one value, and pick as broad and diverse Traits as the GM will allow (expanding the opportunities to bring in the bonus die.) The lead singer and possibly the drummer should specialize in Spirit while everyone else should be a bruiser.

Also, becuase harmony is predicated on others, and the Lead Guitarist gets bonuses for helping themselves, there may be an issue with Harmony as it stands now.

Justin gives it a 12/20.

Setting

I really love the setting, and not just because I like post apocalyptic settings. It felt somewhat sparse, though. This definately wanted to be a bigger game.

Justin gives it a 16/20

Integration

Beautiful job on building mechanics that support the setting. With just the few conscerns I have mentioned, I really feel that the game has come together.
This game, as well as it's setting, really feel like they want to be larger than they are (an understandable issue in a contest game.) Overall, a solid alpha design draft.

Justin gives it a 15/20

Ingredients

The setting-tied mechanics are very well used, with all the mechanics built into the theme. I never saw a succession of any sort, and the use of perpetuity was weak. Unrest was also included, but could be more central in a more complete draft of the game.

Justin gives it a (5+1+2+0) 8/20

Overall, this is a fun idea that does need some tweaking before it's ready for prime time. I look forward to deeing where this project takes you. Oh, and before I forget, I will offer the obligatory advice: Hire an editor if you plan to publish in any capacity. Really, editors are that important.

Total score: 65%
Codex Arcanum's review:

DeeCee brings us on a brutal ride across a world of metal and fantasy, where anything is possible if you rock hard enough.

Character Options - 4

Mechanically, characters are pretty simple. Two stats, a few Traits, and experience points and damage tracks in each stat. Each character also has one of four roles to pick from: Drummer, Bassist, Lead Singer, and Lead Guitar. The only thing affected by role is that certain actions get double experience for success. Still, I give a good score here for a few reasons. First, the characters are simple but each element has a clear mechanical function and all fit well into the rules-lite gameplay being strived for. I feel like Traits are beind devalued a lot here. The only real source of mechanical differentiation between characters and it gets shorted quite a bit.

Suggestions: I'd bring traits more heavily into the fold. And focus more on the "Harmony" (XP rewards) for doing role-related actions. That's a simple but powerful bit, and I like how you enforce a players role in the game through the Harmony rewards. I might add more positions in the band too: keyboardist, harmony, cowbellist, etc.
Note - I applaud the inclusion of a spiffy character sheet, but throw bottles on stage at how unusable the thing looks (no score change regardless, just a note).

Mechanics - 4

I feel like this game has a pretty solid mechanical foundation. I like that DeeCee puts some obvious thought into how mechanics influence the gameplay, such as his notion that there are critical successes but no critical failures (because it's a game about larger than life heroism, not amusing failures.) I think that making the target number 12-Stat would slow the game down, and would likely have gone for the equivilent "Roll against 12, add stat." However, with three dice rolling, that does require 3 additions. It's more of a personal taste issue here, so no penalty because of it, but something to consider.

My main issue is that Harmony can be spent for totally rad actions and for character advancment. I've never liked systems where level up points can be spent for immediate benefit. I think it encourages hoarding instead of big action, and I think it dilutes both mechanics. The problem is circular as well: if a character needs an edge in a contest, they might spend Harmony to get the bonus. By spending Harmony and winning, they hope to earn more Harmony. Savvy players will see when they will most likely get Harmony profit from this, while less savvy players will either hoard all their points or spend them frivilously and never level up.

It's a mechanic that can work, but requires a lot of careful consideration that can be easily swept away by simply adding some kind of "hero point" mechanic alongside the experience point system.

Suggestions: Just that you look into that Harmony issue and consider adding some examples of how much effect different amounts of Harmony can buy. The suggestions in the text are vague and not very helpful at the moment.

Setting - 5

I could make many requests of these little games for more setting and more hooks and so on, but I don't think in the limited time frame you could do much better than Raise the Horns. If anything, there's too much setting here! DeeCee rambles for a bit on the general nature of the world before even getting to the real heart of the game. I can see how it was all setting up: adding antagonists and allies and establishing the order of things so that once we see the heroes, we know what kind of place they're operating in. Still, for the finished product I would try to jump into "Who are you playing?" and "What do they do?" a lot faster before really elaborating on the setting itself. Still, a really phenominal setting effort, very good job DeeCee.

Suggestions: Aside from getting to the point a bit quicker, the usual suggestions apply here. More hooks, more little bits. I understand this is a short time frame to operate in, but any little hints that can be used to make villains, stories, or other things is essential. Who do our rock gods battle against? Why do they do it? Add into this the need for an example of play: maybe "What does an encounter with Metal Satan look like?" That's my suggestions for final product/next version, as I think you've done about the most one can expect for a one week contest.

Integration - 4

I think the mechanics tie in pretty well. I have to give credit for the way Roles influence Harmony gain. That's a solid idea right there. The d12 mechanic is pretty good, combat is standard RPG stuff (initiative, hit rolls, giving up attacks for full defense, etc). Nothing terribly inspiring about that, but very good all around. I will give a bit of bonus points for using really evocative naming on the mechanical bits though: Power Chords, Harmony, and the role names all add a nice touch to the game and help bring out the right mood.

Suggestions: See if you can't think of a better way to do conflicts than Initiative, then Attack roll. We're talking a game where Metallica and Kiss fight Satan and David Bowie for control of the souls of earth's music fans. Am I supposed to picture Gene swinging a literal axe at Ziggy Stardust, or couldn't there be something more melodic and metal about the whole idea? Even just that example of play I mentioned above, showing off how Power Chords are supposed to work, might help a lot here.

Ingrediants - 2

Raise the Horns uses a Setting-Tied Mechanic, a Succession, Unrest, and Perpetuity. Ahh, this is where the game falters. At least in my eyes. I see the game mechanics: Harmony ties in very well to the setting, and the roles are good too. For Succession... what? I guess in the abstract you have the idea of a new earth succeeding the old one, but I really don't see the tie in here. Unrest, I kind of get, but these phrases aren't a free pass to just throw in as "yeah, I used that one." Sure, the setting is full of unrest, but how does that tie into the game itself, where is it showing? Same with Perpetuity. I can derive an implied idea of "Myth and legends rock on forever!" but you only use the word itself once, in the introduction. There's also some hints about how a band can put on a performance that will be remembered for all time. Still, I don't see that perpetuity is really central to the game.

Suggestions: No suggestions, as such. I don't think you should go into the next draft looking to add to the game based on the ingrediants now. There's a very solid game here, just one that doesn't adhere as closely to the contest as other entrants. Lose the battle, win the war? Who knows. I rated a bit higher here than I normally would, as I'm being lenient on Ingrediants for everyone. I realize my ideas about them may be stricter than the other judges intended.

Final Thoughts and Suggestions

DeeCee, you've got a very solid roleplaying game here. It's got good mechanics, a great setting, and group play is the default mode to which the rules were written. I think it needs a bit of clarification, some polish, and maybe a few changes to the rules. I definately encourage you to take this game and finish it. I like your writing style in general, and think you could sell a game on that even if the game isn't as "indie" or cutting-edge as some other things out there.

Side note - I love how you put designer's thoughts all over the game. I like reading that kind of stuff, and I encourage RPG designers to put their notes into their games. It really, really helps fans to do houserules and fan-materials when they understand not just the rules as written, but the intention behind those rules. That said, do put your notes into a side bar, foot note, or appendix. Having them intermixed into the text is fun for a fellow designer, but muddies the rules and adds very little for the typical reader. It would be like if you got a DVD movie and couldn't turn director's commentary off.

All told, an excellent submission to be proud off, good work!

Best Setting
Rating: 78%