About this project
You're a 19-year-old runaway in an unfamiliar city. You have superpowers--but you can only use them when you're happy. So yeah... you might be screwed.
Jump into a superhero RPG unlike any other, where your character's powers can only be accessed through a specific emotion. Lift cars over your head, heal your friends, punch holes in the Moon, but only if you're sad, or sickened, or surprised.
For years, various agencies have been experimenting on young people who exhibit an unusual ability known as 'sensational manifest.' This ability was once relegated to anecdotal accounts of saying mean things to plants to get them to wither and die, or, like, 'The Secret'. But whatever experiments these guys have been running clearly took, because in 2017, things start to explode (and I don't mean figuratively).
Whether you were the guinea pig for an ethically questionable Silicon Valley start-up, or an ethically questionable government lab, or perhaps you were just the result of a happy (or sad) accident... you have discovered that you have POWERS. But powers that you only seem capable of using when you feel a very specific way...
Welcome to Sensational. You and your friends could save the world, if you could only figure out how to feel about it.
Character creation will be a familiar process for many of you. Right now, this is designed to exist in a world not unlike our own. You're human. You have feelings. Those are basically the only prerequisites. Where it gets complicated is choosing your Power Sets and your Emotion Keys.
Power Sets are easy to imagine. This is standard fare to anyone who's ever played Mutants & Masterminds (or watched a Marvel movie). Your character translates emotions into manifestations that alter reality, so just about anything should be possible. There will be rules for super-strength, super-speed, healing factors, mind-control, flight, invincibility, time-dilation, energy beams, etc. It gets interesting because the potency of these powers will be determined by your character's emotional state...
This is Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions, and no -- it's not a game show. These 8 'primary' emotions (and later, the 8 'secondary' emotions) serve as keys into your character's powers. Each emotion will have certain benefits and drawbacks inherent to it, but there are no restrictions on how your character's emotion will manifest. Therefore, your power could be 'hulking' out with super-strength whenever you feel happy, or becoming an invincible juggernaut when you're afraid.
How do you decide how your character is feeling? Well, you just decide... kind of. That's the beauty of role playing games. You get to make decisions about how your character acts, but up until this point, there hasn't been a system of rules that governs their success in feeling a certain way, as well as their success in doing something.
Finally, an RPG where 'Empathy' matters
If you've ever played a White Wolf game, you'll know that Empathy is a core skill. Boy, I love it when someone can actually justify using it, but it's just not very well supported by the system. At least in D&D, Diplomacy is a useful catch-all, but White Wolf spends a lot of ink trying to justify the existence of its Social skill tree without much mechanical payoff.
In Sensational, since your powers are limited by your ability to feel, Empathy, Sympathy, and basically being in touch with yourself are skills that could literally mean the difference between life and death. If you don't know how to get sad yourself, you better hope one of your team-mates knows how to make you cry.
Your power set will always be limited based on the current emotional depth of your key feeling. That means that the more worked up you get, the more powerful your abilities. Take a look at Plutchik's Wheel again. If the baseline is the middle ring, you'll be able to use a weakened version of your power when you're just not quite there, and an augmented version when you are exceptionally in it.
Okay, but what dice do I roll?
D6s. Regular six-sided dice, for the uninitiated. One of my goals with this game is to make it as easy to learn as possible, so there will be fewer core attributes, more intuitive skills, and dice that you probably already have at home.
But let's get nitty-gritty. You'll have attributes. And skills. Your attribute and skill rank will combine to give you a dice pool. All of this may be subject to change, but right now:
A 5 or a 6 is a success.
A 2, 3, or 4, is neutral.
A 1 is only dangerous if you roll more 1s than successes. That's a critical failure.
I need more 'drama'
No fear. Being a teenager is traumatizing as it is, even before you toss in superpowers and violence. Your characters will see some Grade A Messed Up Stuff--and that has a tendency to put your emotions on the fritz.
There are two factors that introduce chaos and challenge to the game:
Apathy is a score that ranks your character's emotional deadness. The higher your apathy, the harder it will be to access your powers. And the more bad stuff you see, the more likely your apathy is to rise.
Stability is a score that ranks your character's ability to maintain an emotional state from moment to moment. The higher your stability, the longer you'll be able to use your powers without re-rolling. If your stability is low, you might end up suddenly in a totally different emotional state.
This is one of those things that's ultimately up to your group, and your Game Master. Sadly, a lot of campaigns end because everyone gets busy, or someone moves away. So instead of talking about how a game of Sensational should literally end, I'm going to talk about tone.
This is a game about emotions. Yeah, it's also about people with superpowers, but the goal here is to create an RPG focused on how you feel.
So while your characters will undoubtedly go on some amazing adventures, the ultimate goal is is to just be okay. Life is hard. Even when you're not on the run from mad scientists and psychopaths. So this is a game where you're not trying to win... you're trying to find balance.
As part of Kickstarter's '1s and 0s' Event, all rewards are digital deliverables, with the exception of the Live Playtest, which I really hope doesn't disqualify me.
Digital Shout-Out: We'll ask for your name and Twitter handle and tweet a Thank You at you from @SensationalRPG
PDF of Core Rulebook: You will receive a digital PDF of the Sensational RPG Core Rulebook and character sheet. This will include rules for Character Creation, Attributes, Skills, Emotion Keys, Power Sets, Combat, and Ghosts. (Just kidding about the Ghosts--that's World of Darkness.) There will be Example Characters, Villains and Factions for the Core Setting, and guidelines for Game Mastering a Sensational Campaign.
Backer Credit: Your name will be listed under a Backers section towards the end of the Rulebook.
Exclusive Audio of Digital Playtesting: We will record at least one of our online playtesting sessions and cut the audio into something that's fun to listen to and gives you an idea about the flow of gameplay.
Name an Example Character in Rulebook: You can choose the name of an example character, as well as request a particular power set or emotion to go with it. This could be your name, or a friend's name, or really anything, as long as I approve it. The character will appear in either the Character Creation chapter or the Setting chapter of the Core Rulebook, and you will be credited by it. This includes a half-hour video chat meeting with me to discuss your character's design, probably in June.
Name and Design a Canon Villain in the Core Setting: You can choose the name of a villain, as well as their power set, background, characterization, etc. The villain will appear in the Setting chapter of the Core Rulebook, and you will be credited by it. This includes a half-hour video chat meeting with me to discuss your villain's design, probably in June.
Name and Design a Canon Faction in the Core Setting: You can choose the name of a faction, as well as its purpose, notable members, power structure, and logo. The faction will appear in the the Setting chapter of the Core Rulebook, and you will be credited by it. This includes a half-hour video chat meeting with me to discuss your faction's design, probably in June.
Digital Playtest with Game Designer: Join me and my friends on a two-hour video chat playtesting session where we will make characters and play through a short encounter, and follow up with a discussion of game mechanics.
Live Playtest with Game Designer: Join me and my friends LIVE in Brooklyn to play a longer three to five hour playtesting session. We'll go through character creation and a short adventure. There will be pizza and your preferred libations, followed by a discussion of game mechanics. You must live in the New York area to take advantage of this reward.
Original Empath Credit: Your name will be listed under an Original Empaths section with a special thank you in this, and every future edition of the game (if there are future editions).
The goal for this project is based on a (very) rough estimate of the opportunity cost of working on this project, i.e. it's enough that I won't feel like I made a dumb financial decision when I'm up at 3am thinking about sensitive superheroes.
In addition to keeping me sane, the funds acquired from this Kickstarter will be used to pay for pizza and drinks at the play-testing sessions, as well as more exciting things if we hit our STRETCH GOALS (see below).
Art is time consuming! So good art is expensive. Most of the stretch goals have to do with paying artists to do what they do.
$850 - Quick Reference
For just an extra $100, I'll develop a card-sized printable player-cheat sheet that will be included in the back of the Core Rulebook.
$1000 - Cover Art
I will commission some bad-ass cover art for the Core Rulebook. All art and illustrations will be included in the digital PDF.
$1500 - Character Illustrations
I will commission illustrations of all the example characters. If you chose the "Your Ex's Favorite Pet-Name" Pledge Level, you can send us a picture and we'll base the character illustration off of you!
$2000 - Villain Illustrations
I will commission illustrations of all the canon villains as well. Same deal if you chose the "The Hole You Punched in Your Wall" Pledge Level.
$2500 - Fiasco Style Mod
I will add a Fiasco-style modified ruleset for one-off games with no Game Master. If you have trouble getting a group together on a regular basis, setups like these are perfect--everyone gets to play, and you take turns determining the outcomes of scenes based on who wins control of a given encounter.
More than anything else, contributing to this campaign just shows me you're interested. That's what's ultimately most exciting about doing this--the idea that other people would like to play a game like this. Thanks for checking us out! And follow us on Twitter at @SensationalRPG
Risks and challenges
Honestly, the biggest risk with this project is my own schedule. I have a fairly demanding full-time job, and a part-time job, and a part-time part-time job. I can't promise that this will be my #1 priority, but it can definitely be my #2 or #3 priority over the next few months, and the more people seem excited about this, the more motivated I will be to devote time to it. THAT SAID, there's a reason I've set the price target where it is. Even if we only make EXACTLY $750, I will guarantee that this rulebook makes it to your emails in September. And I will do my darndest to make it a really fun game. I love this idea, and I have loved it for a really long time, so the idea of seeing it come to life in this way is very exciting.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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