ndpdesign
independent games & design by Nathan D. Paoletta

Heartbreaker

The Heartbreaker

The first game I ever wrote was a total fantasy heartbreaker. It's called Kildarrin: Role-Playing in a Doomed City. From the intro:

Welcome! This volume that you hold in your hands contains an entire city - a city of magic, of technology, of dragons, wizards, street gangs, Cyborgs, mutants and everyday people, of honorable duels and bar brawls. In short, Kildarrin is the city of endless possibility. Taking on the roles of the citizens of this city, you and your friends will explore and help create it...So take the rules as they stand, and go anywhere you want. The lives of your characters are limited only by your imagination.

So, more of a techno-fantasy/Shadowrun/ain't-this-cool heartbreaker.

The Trite Stuff

  • I thought it was the height of innovation to combine d6s and d10s in my resolution system! Also, point-buy and random values for attributes (I borrowed the tiered ranking system from the Storyteller system, but then you rolled dice with a different bonus for each rank).
  • Weird races! To "differentiate" my game from the standard D&D races, I added Angelics, Aquatics and Mutants.
  • Die pool system with floating difficult numbers and modifiers.
  • (from the Combat chapter) This [summary phase] is also an opportunity for the Adjudicator [GM] to indulge in his storyteller skills, making the round fun and exciting. Sigh.
  • List of silly weapons, with costs!
  • List of silly vehicles, with costs!
  • The Golden Rule!
  • Absolutely no guidance on how the game was actually to be played, other than "the GM comes up with a story." What can I say, it's the hardest part of writing a game!

The Cool Stuff

  • Lots of cool powers ("Abilities") that I still like. Each category has it's own progression system, so some stuff was really powerful at first but didn't really grow, while other stuff started off with minor bonuses but with experience you could get awesome powers later. The Ability Categories: Biotech, Combat, Covert, Elemental Magic, Life Magic, Political, Technomagic.
  • Social strata, front-and-center! Which social class you were really mattered (class = money, and money = better stuff), and the "lore" of the game centered mostly around class and racial tension within this bizarre metropolis.
  • Gangs and Guilds, Government, Neighborhoods and Factions - all this good stuff was relegated to the "Setting" chapter.
  • "The Inn" was called Borges Public Hostel, which I still like.
  • Triad physiognomy. Mind, Body and Spirit each had their own stats, of course, but also each generated a power currency, and there were consequences to being "killed" in each area that weren't just character death.

The Redemption

I actually have a binder full of notes I've made about developing this game over the 12 years since I wrote it. I think the gem in the rough was my nod towards social stratification and racial conflict, as un-nuanced as it was in the original text. Now, I would focus on the idea of "race" as an emergent property, and invert the standard RPG approach to the idea. What if, instead of picking a "race" for your character at the beginning, you make your other decisions about the kind of abilities and resources you want to have in the game, and then those tell you what "race" you appear to be in this surreal mish-mash world, where the powers-that-be depend on a strong, and rigorously enforced, caste system in order to keep reality as they know it together? And then, as your abilities grow and change, those outward "tells" change with them - what does that mean for this bizarre city?

That could be a cool game.

This page is part of The Heartbreaker Redemption Project. More links to come.