Last day for Ascendant

Ascendant is a superhero RPG system that provides the mechanical basis for the upcoming Alt-Hero RPG. I backed its Kickstarter campaign, and if you’re into RPGs, you will probably want to do so as well.

Comic book RPGs tend to be sub-divided into “descriptor-based” and “effect-based” games. “Bolt of Fire” is a descriptor, while “Ranged Attack that deals 50 points of damage to one target” is an effect. A descriptor-based game prioritizes the descriptor over the effects. An effect-based game prioritizes the effects over the descriptor.

Ascendant strives to be neither a descriptor-based nor effect-based game. It is, rather, a physics-based game. The game mechanics are intended to be the physics engine of the game world. Powers have both descriptors and effects. Some effects are precluded by the logic of the descriptor, and some descriptors inevitably entail certain effects. The mechanics are elaborate and detailed (as in an effect-based game) but they are also broad and universalized (as in a descriptor-based game). Players are expected and encouraged to use their powers in whatever manner makes sense within the physics of a comic-book world, but not in ways that don’t make sense.

If a descriptor-based system aims to let players experience a comic-book story, and an effect-based system aims to let players play a superhero game, our physics-based system aims to let players simulate a comic book world. To do so, we have created logarithmic chart-based universal mechanics, a style of design that has not been widely used in the last two decades.

The designer is not only a personal friend, he is one of the best in the role-playing business. Which, of course, is why I asked him to design the Alt-Hero RPG.