Thursday, August 2, 2012

some more thoughts on 'Baseballs & Basements'

So here are my scribbly thoughts about Baseballs & Basements, the game of childhood adventures. Will I ever make this a real thing? I don't know, but I wrote all this crap so I might as well show it to the internet.

- Superhero is like your Fighter-equivalent. Get a progressive bonus to combat ability (and AC?) and perhaps some agility/stealth stuff. So you aren't a supernatural hero, just a guy in a mask.
- Sports Star is also not bad at fighting but your main things are feats of athleticism and leadership. Kids will flock to you because you're so great at sport. (Btw, hirelings in this game are young children who piss their pants and run away when they fall below 0hp.)
- Princess is the social character, with some sort of charm ability. But this shouldn't be overwhelmingly good because it sucks when one player is The Face and everyone else has to just sit around and watch them talk to NPCs.
- Beastmaster/Imaginary Friend is the toughest one to conceive of, really. I figure the kid just has generic stats and no abilities, but the imaginary friend has something special. Maybe roll on a table and your I.F. has two traits? The problem is what if the actual PC becomes redundant and they are essentially playing as the imaginary friend? Could the DM exert a certain amount of control?
- Gadget Kid is more or less the M-U equivalent. As a stopgap it would be ok to say "you can make a gadget that replicates any MU spell of level (blah)" but it would be better to have a proper list of gadgetry.

Other classes that could be:
Basically any class is possible; I mean you could be a Magic-User because you're just a kid who think's he's a wizard. Or you could be a cowboy, King Kong, Spaceman Spiff, whatever. That's just going to be bloated though so I'd rather focus on things that have some connection to the real world the children are in.
Maybe a Movie Star class? c.f. Son of Rambow, a kid who's like the reincarnation of Stallone or Schwarzenegger or whoever was an action movie star in the '70s. But what would they do, besides firing guns?
OK so how about a Pet class. Either they are attached to another PC or they are a stray dog or cat. In reality they are just a pet (but hssst! everything is real ok!) but the kids imagine (hsst! it's real!) they can talk and maybe have magic powers. I like the idea that the only way to be a proper Magic-User in this game is if you're a dog.
A kid who plays with action figures and they come alive and help him? Sounds too fiddly.
A Bookworm class who can summon things out of books to help him? Or casts spells from different paperbacks? Sounds maybe ok but you are descending swiftly into the realm of reflexive wankery once the kid starts casting spells from books by Tolkien, Howard and Lovecraft. Or in the other direction, you could be all pretentious and have a spell cast from To Kill A Mockingbird, but what kid wants to read that book anyway? And what spell would it be?

Domain Management:
Superheroes can build a treehouse. (Yeah this character class is basically "You play as Bartman." Well guess what, a Magic-User is just "You play as Rhialto" so there.)
Sports Stars assemble a team of their chosen sport.
Princesses discover a fantasy kingdom in the woods. Just a little one. See this book: Bridge to Terabithia (I wept and wept as a small child from reading this book)
Beastmasters I dunno. Maybe the imaginary friend has to rediscover his lost tribe/family?
Gadget Kids build a secret underground workshop.
Wizards (pets) build a secret wizard lair. Because what cat doesn't want an arcane laboratory for their experiments?
Movie Stars get to make their own movie, or swede movies that already exist. Not sure how that one's gonna work really

Levelling up
Experience is a funny word that's disassociated from its regular connotations when we use it in the RPG context. I want there to be a separate stat called 'Innocence' so it's like a play on 'Songs of Innocence and Experience' but who knows what an 'Innocence' stat would do. Sounds like something out of Burning Wheel.

Anyway you don't have levels in Baseballs & Basements, you just have your age. You grow older by getting experience. Level 1 = 6 years old. Level 7 = 12 years old and that's the highest you can go. After you turn 13 you have to grow up and put away childish things. Your domains linger on, like "Oh, that kid's gone away to college now but his treehouse is still there, you can play in it if you like." "Whoa awesome!" In a box at the back of the treehouse they find an old mask and cape... and the neighbourhood echoes with stories of what this kid did when he was young...

In the last post I was like, let's not have the kids actually get killed because that would be too depressing. But I thought about it some more and what I thought was why not? Sure, let's have kids getting killed. If you go down into the sewers you might literally get eaten by a dragondog, and then there'll be posters all around town with your face on them. Adventuring is serious business, kids.

If you get caught by your parents or the principal or something, then you will be disciplined and probably grounded. Depending on your offenses and how many times you've been caught before, you may get grounded for a few weeks or for the whole summer. Now, even if you're grounded you can still sneak out. However, if you get caught one more time then you are sent away to boarding school (for rich kids) or a relative in another state (for poor kids).

So this is a system I've always wanted to try out and it would fit very well into B&B. If you roll very low on any of your ability scores (say 6 or less) you have a disability. But something about this disability gives you a special advantage, so it's like a consolation for having bad stats. For example:
Low STR - you are Asthmatic. You can't run for very long without losing your breath. ??? What is an advantage of having asthma though??
Low DEX - you are a Cripple (the doctor would say you are Paraplegic) and you have to go around in a wheelchair. Fortunately it is a ROCKET WHEELCHAIR that can travel 150'/round.
Low CON - you have Diabetes. You require regular doses of delicious candy in order to live. Fortunately you have massive amounts of candy and can usually convince adults to give you more. And candy is almost like a secondary currency among children, so...
Low INT - you are Simple (the doctor says you have a Learning Disorder). You can't speak or write good but you have a warm soul. Your parents don't think they should blame you for getting into trouble, thus you can never be grounded.
Low WIS - you are Strange (the doctor says you have Synaesthesia). You can experience things with all your senses at once i.e. you know the taste of the colour red, the sound of a papercut, and even the personality of the number three. In fact, you can talk to letters and numbers and ask them questions.
Low CHA - you are a Super Dweeb (the doctor says you are Autistic). The world of social interaction is strange and confusing to you, but on the upside you have a photographic memory. Even if you glance at a scene for a second you can take everything in and remember it forever.

Well it still needs to be developed a bit. But basically I like it because it enables you to play characters like Timmy and Jimmy from South Park. Is it offensive or insensitive to disabled people? I don't think so, because it would be a happy story for them, an idealised story even. PCs tend to always look out for each other, regardless of what they think 'in-character'. So the other kids will always support their disabled friend and also appreciate his/her abilities. Maybe sometimes you will meet a bully who will be like "Haw haw! Look at that cripple!" but then the party will ambush him and run him over with the rocket wheelchair.

Weapons can be just about anything you want to pick up and whack people with. Armour doesn't really fit with the tone, except maybe wearing a colander for a helmet. Possibly at high levels a Princess could kit herself out in full plate for the Joan of Arc look.
Small weapons: Plastic cutlass, yo-yo, hammer,
Large weapons: Baseball bat, lead pipe, shovel, tennis racket, cricket bat
Ranged weapons: Slingshot, football, baseball, rock, BB gun, air rifle, fire extinguisher, frisbee
Deadly weapons: pistol, flick knife
 Deadly weapons deal extra damage, and against bullies and the like even drawing a Deadly Weapon will cause them to make a saving throw or flee in terror. However, the consequences for being caught with a Deadly Weapon, let alone using one, can be severe.
Rake: A large weapon that can also be laid down in the grass as a trap for the unwary.
Water Pistol: Useful against certain types of aliens who are vulnerable to water.
Marbles: Can be placed underfoot to trip the enemy.
Caps: Small explosives that go off when crushed; can be used like caltrops.
Skipping rope: Can be used to trip or clothesline enemies.

Bicycle: A fast and useful transport.
Magnifying Glass: For magnifying things and, more importantly, burning them.
RC Car: Useful for distraction, infiltration, etc.

Potentially magical items: Spinning top, deck of cards, LP record, hula hoop

Magic items would be less common than in D&D, but there's still room for them: a Princess could wield a magical wand with a star on the end, a Sports Star could quest for a golden baseball bat, a Gadget Kid could reverse engineer alien technology. 

Who knows... ? I'm thinking maybe each class just gets a flat bonus to AC, or one that goes up by level. Furthermore your AC would no longer be called 'AC' because it's purely a matter of dodging rather than being armoured up. That is a bit dull; I like the intuitive tradeoff in D&D of "how good is your defense vs. how fast can you run". But that subsystem is not really aesthetically compatible with BASEBALLS & BASEMENTS.

FLAILSNAILS compatibility
Us kids know there are other worlds out there beyond this one. Sometimes you can find a way through to them. It might be in the cupboard under the stairs or it might be two trees forming an archway in the forest. Sometimes you get there by diving into a book, or by sneaking downstairs after your bedtime to watch the creepy movie that your older brother rented from the video store. Most of these worlds are full of wizards and knights who explore dungeons, although sometimes there are spacemen or it's the 1920s or something like that. So if you go through the portal you can have an adventure there, but it can be scary and you might never come back. Other times people will come through the portal and have an adventure with you, but adults can't really see they're there.

So like, from the B&B point of view all D&D campaigns are just in the kid's imagination. From New Feierland's point of view, a kid with a baseball bat appeared from somewhere.

Likewise from B&B's point of view, a FLAILSNAILS immigrant is a type of imaginary friend. But from the D&D character's point of view he's walked into this fucked up world where children, goddamn children are fighting dragons and they think it's a fun adventure!

When it's set
You could get a lot of different flavours depending on when exactly you wanted the Eternal Summer to be. 1950s would be Stand By Me - boys' own adventures, 1980s/90s would have more influence from saturday morning cartoons and cereal boxes; 1970s seems like a good medium between the two. 1960s would have more of a vibe of social change going on above the kids' heads. Or hell you could jump back to the previous century and do Huckleberry Finn... maybe... but you would need different character classes.

On the other hand, you could also look at it this way: the Eternal Summer is every summer, everywhere and when, that kids got a break and were left to their own devices. The setting is definitely rooted in a particular year (let's say 1972) but other summers sometimes creep in at the edges. If you go down to the riverbank you might see Huck and Jim floating past on their raft; or you might meet a weirdly-dressed kid who invites you back to his house to watch a show called 'Street Sharks'.

Appendix N part 2

 (maybe? am I just mixing up 'childhood adventure material' with 'things from my childhood' ?)

(people need to get on this movie. has a great dungeoncrawl at the end of it.)

only seen clips of this but you can just tell it's made with love, you know?

(yeah yeah, real original I know)

(for reference on basements as dungeons)
 Is it weird to wish that you were younger so you could legitimately feel nostalgic for a show that you never actually watched as a kid?
If there are any children reading this and Codename: KND is still on the TV, I'm telling you to get on that shit right away before you become old and jaded.


  1. could go in your new Appendix N

  2. Hmmm...
    You could replace the "insanity" stuff with "Don't want to play anymore".
    I like the tension of "is it real"? I think it should never really be spelled out, but the answer should totally be yes. I'd like to think that anybody over 12 has a sort of "reality-dampening field" that filters out the strangeness- banishing it into temporary nonexistence. That could make hanging near adults situationally advantageous.