<+NickRobinson> Hello everyone, I am Nick Robinson, creator of the Pilgrims of Rao tabletop roleplaying game.
<+NickRobinson> Pilgrims of Rao is designed to be played without a game master, with the game itself handling enemies, progression, and loot.
<+NickRobinson> I wanted to design a system that would let every player at the table participate in the adventure. While the DM/GM does participate, and I quite enjoy running games for my players of Dungeons & Dragons, it can be a daunting task for new players.
<+NickRobinson> Running a game can be a lot of work and it can be tough to find someone who wants to sit in the hot seat.
<+NickRobinson> Playing without a DM also means that you need fewer players, which hopefully makes it easier to schedule with everyone.
<+NickRobinson> I talk to people about roleplaying games all the time. I usually start with Dungeons & Dragons because it is the one people are most likely to know and we discuss the fun stuff they have done at the table, their character ideas, and so forth.
<+NickRobinson> Scheduling and finding a DM are the two most common issues people have stopping them from getting more into roleplaying games.
<+NickRobinson> In my experience.
<~Dan> (Howdy, Lee!)
<+NickRobinson> Rao handles setup of adventures and encounters much like an adventure path in D&D or Pathfinder or a cooperative board game.
<+NickRobinson> Mice and Mystics and Shadows of Brimstone are two great examples for a game-directed adventure. But Rao needs to pull this off without cards and possibly without miniatures if the players do not own any.
<+NickRobinson> As a side note, we built the prototype before the Kickstarter using hex tiles and miniatures from Heroscape.
<+NickRobinson> The transition to hex-based world and town maps was a natural one.
<+NickRobinson> Rao handles random elements by rolling on a series of tables with modifiers such as the players’ level, enemy level, stage in the adventure, and so on.
<+NickRobinson> At most, the players will make five quick rolls to make any thing in the game. It is usually only two rolls.
<~Dan> (Howdy, OctpusOrbits!)
<+NickRobinson> Enemies in encounters are directed by a sort of “game AI” with actions (named as powers) given a priority order. They usually move and take the first action in priority that they can.
<~Dan> (Howdy, Lassek!)
<+NickRobinson> For instance, if a bandit has a priority 1 action melee attack and a priority 2 action ranged attack, but it is not in range to make a melee attack, it does the next thing that it can.
<+NickRobinson> I also wanted the dice system to be something that any player could pick up and use straight away by giving them familiar dice. Roleplaying has seen a massive surge in popularity these last few years.
<+NickRobinson> Heck, look at the Critical Role campaign going on right now.
<+NickRobinson> But there are still a lot of new players who might not have never used anything but a d6.
<+NickRobinson> So every roll uses a d4, d6, or d8.
<+NickRobinson> Rolls are broken into performance rolls (did you succeed at what you wanted to do?) and effect rolls (how well did you do it?).
<+NickRobinson> In D&D terms this is like the attack and damage roll.
<+NickRobinson> Performance rolls use a “beat 5” system where a result of 5+ is a success. You only ever roll one die for this type of roll.
<+NickRobinson> And apply modifiers.
<+NickRobinson> Effect rolls use 1-3 dice with increasing size corresponding to increasing effectiveness. Daggers roll d4, greatswords roll d8.
<+NickRobinson> You get one die for a hit (5+), one more if you have advantage on your action, and one more if you got a perfect roll.
<+NickRobinson> You get a perfect roll if you rolled a natural 8 on the d8, or if you are making a competing roll where the highest result wins and you beat your opponent by 5+
<+NickRobinson> Players can get a critical success if the results of their effect dice are doubles or triples. Criticals double the total result.
<+NickRobinson> For instance, rolling 2d6 and you get 5 and 5. You also have a +2 modifier. Your total becomes 22.
<+NickRobinson> Players advance in the game by completing mission objectives outlined in the setup. The game follows an act-chapter structure, with each act comprised of several successive chapters.
<+NickRobinson> And the overall game comprised of successive acts.
<+NickRobinson> I also wanted players to think about their characters in the long term. When a character reaches the end of her journey, she retires and receives credits (character building currency) to add to her next character.
<+NickRobinson> Each successive character builds off of the last.
<+NickRobinson> We do also have three systems built for the three encounter types: combat, communication, and exploration.
<+NickRobinson> I think that is everything in a nutshell.
<~Dan> Thanks, NickRobinson! The floor is open to questions!
<~Dan> Can you give us an overview of the setting?
<~Dan> (Howdy, Akyla!)
<+NickRobinson> In Pilgrims of Rao, humans were chosen by the gods to rule the earth. They gave us the Pillar of Sherezaad, an axis mundi, in our stewardship.
<+NickRobinson> Also hello to everyone I missed during the intro!
<+NickRobinson> At the base of the world-pillar we built our greatest city: Rao.
<+NickRobinson> Over time we built a great empire of seven united cities and our people were as gods. Our leaders were the demigod children of angels and even common people possessed celestial power.
<+NickRobinson> But it was not meant to last.
<+NickRobinson> With the construction of teleportation gates, human armies invaded heaven, destroying and supplanting many of the gods.
<+NickRobinson> And in our folly we left the gates open. The armies of the nether realm broke free to besiege heaven and earth.
<+NickRobinson> In our last desperate battle we drove them back but the gods exacted a heavy price for our betrayal. They took our celestial powers and tore Rao out from this world in a swirling maelstrom of magic.
<+NickRobinson> We banded together, one last time, to battle the elven navy but it was a disaster. The alliance broke. Every nation fought for itself. Humanity had lost its power.
<+NickRobinson> To make matters worse, three kings seeking to stop the elven threat and retain their kingdoms made a dark deal to sell their peoples’ souls.
<+NickRobinson> This Black Promise turned a massive swath of the continent into the dark realm of the undead that haunt us to this day.
<+NickRobinson> Humanity fled, and only a scattered few outposts remained. Most people found refuge with the Shere Empire of tiger men to the west.
<+NickRobinson> After centuries of exile we returned to our old lands and began to rebuild.
<+NickRobinson> We built our first new city, Nikoshino, the cit of victory. This is the start of the calendar.
<+NickRobinson> The game takes place in the 13th century after the founding of the first city.
<~Dan> So I’m assuming that this is a fantasy setting?
<+NickRobinson> Humanity has rebuilt, if still a shadow of its former glory, and the celestial spark – a power ripped away from us with the disappearance of Rao – has begun to reemerge in people.
<~Dan> What’s the tech level?
<+NickRobinson> That was probably more of a lore dive than you were looking for, am I right?
<~Dan> No worries. It’s good stuff!
<+ObulusOrcus> I like the Shere/tiger reference
<+NickRobinson> Tech level of the modern day is beyond medieval thanks to the advances of magic and lingering technological marvels.
<~Dan> ObulusOrcus: Do you think it’s Shere genius?
* +eezo golfclaps
<+ObulusOrcus> I do, I do!
* ~Dan bows
<+NickRobinson> The Shere are a fun people to build. Their philosophy of order, chaos, creation and destruction runs their society.
<~Dan> What sorts of technological marvels exist?
<+NickRobinson> Robots exist but we do not remember how to build them and they are not usually friendly.
<+NickRobinson> Kind of like warforged from Eberron.
<+ObulusOrcus> Is “shere” the root word of Sherezaad?
<+NickRobinson> They are autonomous and while not necessarily hostile, they have their own agenda.
<+ObulusOrcus> Sure, but now that I bring it up, you can’t get it out of your mind!
<+NickRobinson> I wanted the setting to reflect the fusion of all cultures on earth.
<+NickRobinson> You are right.
<~Dan> Are there any advanced weapons to be found?
<+NickRobinson> An eagle could fly up the pillar for 1,001 days and never reach the top.
<+NickRobinson> Yes and no to weapons.
<+NickRobinson> Most people still use swords, bows and arrows, and various magic staffs/wands.
<+NickRobinson> But several classes do use specialized materials.
<+NickRobinson> The Gunslinger and Engineer.
<+NickRobinson> The Gunslinger uses wrist-mounted portable fabricators modified to turn matter and mana (magical energy produced over time) into essentially magic darts.
<+NickRobinson> As well as various explosives.
<+NickRobinson> The top level combat ability for the Gunslinger is Devil King’s Gambit, where he shoots cones of explosive shells at the enemy.
<+NickRobinson> The engineer uses a combination of little drones, lasers, and inventions a notch above clockwork level to assist him.
<~Dan> So this is a class-based system?
<+NickRobinson> Some regions replace the engineer’s dominant arm with a cybernetic one to assist in managing their robots. It is a crude science compared to our ancestors.
<+NickRobinson> You select an archetype: Warrior, Rogue, Mage. And then a class from one of three options in each arhectype.
<~Dan> How many classes are there?
<+NickRobinson> Juggernauts are walking siege weapons inspired by Diablo’s barbarian.
<+NickRobinson> Champions are paladins.
<+NickRobinson> Avatars are like monks but they can transform their bodies into flaming serpents and attack their enemies with combos in the air and on the ground.
<+NickRobinson> Duelists control the flow of a fight maneuvering around their foes with precision strikes and magic.
<+NickRobinson> Gunslingers augment their attacks with titular guns.
<+NickRobinson> Specters are ninjas with blood and shadow magic.
<+NickRobinson> Engineers call on their robots for aid.
<+NickRobinson> Overlords pull imps and entities from across the void to serve them.
<+NickRobinson> And finally, Warlocks are a blend of sorcerer and druid.
<~Dan> Do you have a character sheet that we can see?
<+GenoFoxx> are there flying war golems?
<+NickRobinson> Yes! I have a link I can share actually where I post character sheets, adventures, and other free content for the game.
<+NickRobinson> There may be flying war golems. The jury is out on that one.
<~Dan> Cool! Please do!
<+NickRobinson> There are giant shield-wielding robots called rooks that are about as unstoppable moving in a line as the chess piece.
<+GenoFoxx> I hope they’re as agile as a person
<+NickRobinson> (Link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BzkUbss2dIXMdkZmbWNOd0MtNzQ?usp=sharing)https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BzkUbss2dIXMdkZmbWNOd0MtNzQ?usp=sharing
<+NickRobinson> That should be the link.
<+NickRobinson> The character sheet is under “adventures”
<+NickRobinson> next to the tutorial game
<~Dan> Got it. Let me see here…
<+NickRobinson> If you want to see some of the robots, check out the “explore art” folder.
<~Dan> Is this an attribute + skill system?
<+NickRobinson> Those illustrations are done by Lan Wang, the fantastic artist who did art for the main types of enemies you might encounter in the book.
<~Dan> (wb, MageAkyla)
<+NickRobinson> Yes. You have 7 core attributes and 14 skills.
<~Dan> How do they interact?
<+NickRobinson> The skills are next to their modifying attribute in the character sheet.
<+NickRobinson> So for example if you wanted to make an athletics check, you would use d6, plus another if you are trained in that skilled, and another if you have the max skill level.
<+NickRobinson> The check boxes to the right.
<+NickRobinson> And then add the attribute modifier from the circle to the left to the total.
<+NickRobinson> Having it all in one spot keeps the game moving.
<+NickRobinson> Which is very important without a GM to moderate.
<~Dan> So when do you roll d4s or d8s? Just for effects?
* ~Dan nods
<+NickRobinson> d8 is used for the performance rolls as well
<~Dan> What’s the thinking there?
<+NickRobinson> But it can also come up for some tables.
<+NickRobinson> Do you mean why use it for performance rolls?
<+NickRobinson> The prototype used d6 but I found that it did not give me enough wiggle room to apply modifiers and control percentages. I like the incremental changes from a d20 system and this was like that, but with smaller numbers.
<+NickRobinson> The impact is easier for players to read quickly.
<~Dan> Just to be clear, what do you mean by “performance rolls”?
<+NickRobinson> It is easier for them to see how a +3 modifier effects their chances with an 8-sided die.
<+NickRobinson> A performance roll is a roll you make to see if you succeed at an action.
<~Dan> Okay, now I’m confused… Why the d6 for the Athletics check?
<+NickRobinson> So a performance roll will always be a d8 with the goal to beat 5+
<+NickRobinson> But an effect roll has you add up the total with the goal of beating a target DC
<+NickRobinson> So any time you need to beat a DC, it becomes an effect roll.
<+NickRobinson> I used DCs for skill checks because it gave a more natural difficulty curve.
<~Dan> Sorry… DC = ?
<+NickRobinson> Difficulty Class as borrowed from Dungeons & Dragons.
<~Dan> Ah, gotcha.
<+NickRobinson> I believe I call it something different but the idea is the same.
<+NickRobinson> I might just use DC.
<+NickRobinson> I always think of it as DC.
<~Dan> Do NPCs get the same stats as do PCs?
<+NickRobinson> Similar but toned-down stat blocks.
<+NickRobinson> NPCs get about a third of a page up to a half page compared to a PC, depending on how complex they need to be.
<~Dan> Who rolls for the NPCs?
<+NickRobinson> The average goblin or street merchant you pick out at random is fairly simple, while named NPCs have more complexity.
<+NickRobinson> The players can elect one player to roll or take turns doing so each session.
<+NickRobinson> It does not have to be the same player the entire session.
<+NickRobinson> Just whoever has the setup instructions.
<+NickRobinson> The same goes for controlling enemies in combat or other encounters.
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> Who gets the adventure ball rolling? Who’s in charge of the set-up?
<+NickRobinson> That is up to the players. They could pick someone to be party leader, first player, et cetera, or use some other method.
<~Dan> How is that player’s job different from that of a GM/
<+NickRobinson> Some people like a more board game type experience so they might opt for one player to be the “first player” that game, or that adventure, and then pass it to the next player.
<+NickRobinson> The game setup is done using a sort of tile system where players roll from a bank of options to build the world.
<+NickRobinson> Players select the adventure together, each player builds their character, and then all the players become part of the adventuring party.
<+NickRobinson> Or usually you would have characters beforehand.
<+NickRobinson> There is no information that the first player has that is hidden from the other players. They are not working to create conflict or trials for the party like a GM.
<~Dan> So I get that hazards are randomized, but how do you determine when it’s time for a hazard?
<+NickRobinson> So every space on the world map and in a dungeon has an encounter rate.
<+NickRobinson> Whenever you move into an unexplored space, or when making a long move, roll d8 to see if you avoid running into an encounter/obstacle along the way.
<+NickRobinson> This is not always a bad thing, it could be you happened upon a landmark or some other opportunity, but rolling below the encounter rate usually leads to an encounter. This is most likely combat.
<+NickRobinson> The world is big, dangerous, and full of monsters.
<+NickRobinson> But you could sneak around them or maybe talk your way out of it.
<+NickRobinson> With a few strategic choices and good skill checks.
<+NickRobinson> The rules for both of those are in the skills section of the book.
<~Dan> How is general NPC interaction handled?
<+NickRobinson> Generally you want to roll above the encounter rate, just like succeeding at a performance roll, to continue on your journey to your destination.
<+NickRobinson> The general, random citizen on the street is given a few characteristics and a general pool of information. For example, you might be tracking an elf who is also a member of a merchant guild.
<+NickRobinson> So to get that information you would need an NPC that matches as much of those criteria as possible. This is a bit of deduction and random chance.
<+NickRobinson> That would work like the following:
<+NickRobinson> The city is broken into several districts. You know that merchants are more common in the market districts. You know that elves are more common in districts on the north side of town (perhaps an elven museum draws them there).
<+NickRobinson> So when you roll up a random NPC you would be more likely to find the right kind of person in a market district on the north side of town.
<+NickRobinson> That is a very specific example to illustrate demographics.
<+NickRobinson> Matt Colville did a great video on this very idea recently where he discussed majority, minority, and unique NPC generation.
<~Dan> Who does the talking on behalf of the NPCs, though?
<+NickRobinson> In general there might be a few things that they can help with and one player (it could be anyone) steps into their role.
<+NickRobinson> It is a collaborative storytelling experience and I recommend letting every player take turns acting as the NPCs.
<+NickRobinson> It can be fun to step into a roll kind of like improv.
<~Dan> How does the player know what the NPC knows, though?
<+NickRobinson> But make sure all players agree going into the game about how much roleplay and what kind is appropriate.
<+NickRobinson> It is essentially like a video game character reacting to prompts, with further directions in the setup guide.
<+NickRobinson> An example!
<+NickRobinson> You want information on a magical artifact that you found. The average citizen is unlikely to know anything about it. But the quest instructions or NPC stat blocks could have special notes on magical items.
<+NickRobinson> There are people who might know people who can get the job done.
<+NickRobinson> Ask around town.
<+NickRobinson> Asking a shady individual might give the players information about a fence for magical items.
<+NickRobinson> Asking in the nice part of town might get them information about a local scholar of magic.
<+NickRobinson> That is all the further information those NPCs would have on the topic, unless they are specifically named.
<+NickRobinson> It is a bit of theater of the mind in that sense.
<+NickRobinson> That does not mean that the outcome is always known to the players beforehand. Certain interactions may lead the players to “read x on page x” to find out what happens next.
<+NickRobinson> It is important that the players get a chance to make choices and face consequences, for good or for ill.
<~Dan> Does the game include a bestiary?
<+NickRobinson> Not in the book but I am working on one as companion content.
<+NickRobinson> We have two companion guides up now, with a third coming up and a few more after that.
<~Dan> Are all of the PCs human?
<+NickRobinson> The story is ultimately about the triumphs of humanity and making humans cool in an RPG.
<+NickRobinson> That last point is more of a goal of mine than a story theme.
<+NickRobinson> Humans can be varied, we can be different, and we can do some awesome things.
<+NickRobinson> You can pick from several races, including full human, half-elven, genarii, and felix.
<+NickRobinson> They are all human but what Shadowrun would call demi-humanity.
<+NickRobinson> The half elves reflect the vibrant colors and passions of their elven ancestors.
<+NickRobinson> Genarii are descendants of people claiming to be the first elves, though they are mostly elven in appearance these days while entirely human.
<+NickRobinson> Their genes are remarkably adaptable, letting their people live on long after they were gone.
<+NickRobinson> The Felix are half-Shere. They are most commonly found in the Shere Empire and among the children of other Felix.
<+NickRobinson> They may all look different, but all four groups are human at their core.
<+NickRobinson> Each group can represent the full swath of humanity, from dark to pale and everything in between.
<+NickRobinson> Are there any other questions I can answer? 🙂
<~Dan> Let’s see….
<~Dan> Well, in the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
<+NickRobinson> I think I covered all the big topics.
<+NickRobinson> So actions in encounters use action points. At the start of your turn you get 3 AP to spend on whatever you want. More complex or more powerful actions typically cost more AP.
<+NickRobinson> You lose any unspent AP at the end of your turn.
<+NickRobinson> There are several small actions that you can perform to help spend remaining AP to do something useful, if you have any left after performing your other actions.
<+NickRobinson> An attack (with a light weapon), a verbal exchange in a communication encounter, or attempting to overcome a hazard through exploration all cost 1AP for example.
<+NickRobinson> The effect die d4-d8 used by an action can be determined by the cost of the action. A greatsword rolls d8 for effect (damage), for instance, while a longsword rolls d6.
<+NickRobinson> Actions on the world map cost time in the day. You can keep questing at night, but it is usually safer to set up camp or get back inside city walls when the monsters come out.
<~Dan> Thanks very much for joining us, NickRobinson!
<+NickRobinson> Thank you for having me, Dan. 🙂
<~Dan> Usual shameless plug: If any of you have enjoyed this Q&A and would like to treat me to a cup of coffee, you can do so here: (Link: https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe)https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe 😀
<+NickRobinson> It was wonderful being able to share my game with everyone.
<~Dan> If you’ll give me just a minute here, I’ll get the log posted and link you!
<+NickRobinson> All right.