Dream Quest of the Unknown RPG

Faolyn

(she/her)
I had a weird dream this morning, about searching for the rules to specific very old RPG that I don't think actually existed.

The game was super rules-light, unusual for the time (the 80s, in the dream). You wrote up a sentence or two for your character, including both good and bad elements. "Bob is a woodsman and a hunter, excelling at bringing down game. Despite spending most of his time in the woods, Bob is a shrewd haggler when it comes to selling his hides. However, despite his excellence with a bow, he's a coward at heart and has no skill with a sword."

You would then roll a die--my dream-self couldn't figure out what type, but I assumed d6s--for each bolded phrase that was applicable, and if you rolled above a certain number (I think a 4) on any of the dice, you succeeded. Otherwise, you failed; the game predated partial successes. If a negative trait was bolded, you removed a die. At this point, a friend of mine popped into the dream and said that he had read that at the end of each adventure, you were supposed to add another sentence or two to your description, based on the events of that adventure, and therefore gain more possible phrases to use to roll. He had also read a supplement (yes, this game had a supplement) where the more difficult the task, the more target numbers needed to be rolled.

Thus began the dream-quest for this game. I knew I had seen it in old magazines, possibly advertised next to TWERPS. I was sure it had been reprinted in the back of some an issue of Pyramid magazine, where it was treated as a normal fantasy game; or had been reproduced in the forward of an old edition of Call of Cthulhu, where it was suggested for use in horror games. In this dream, I had to search in the cheap bins at comic stores, because the game had also been mentioned in a comic; wander through a mall, looking for the book store that contained the original book; and infiltrate a secret nazi breeding ground so I could gain access to their databases. I could tell these were nazis from the 30s and 40s both because of their clothing and because their computers used Windows 3.1 and had CRT monitors. It was on those old computers I discovered old websites that in turn referenced older USENET posts that discussed the still-unnamed game.

Then my alarm went off, the true origins of this game yet to be discovered.

So... did this game, or something like it, ever actually exist?
Was I just subconsciously inspired by Morrus's thread about dice pools?
Does it have any potential?
Why do so many of my dreams wind up in malls?
Why nazis?
What even is my brain?
 

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Autumnal

Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
This has oddly familiar ring. Either I saw it at the time, or it got mentioned as a predecessor to Robin Laws’ 100-word option for HeroQuest chargen. (Write a hundred-word paragraph, pick out a specific number or words or phrases to become traits would be assigned ratings.)
 

soviet

Hero
Made me think of HeroQuest too. Could it be Over the Edge? I don't remember how that works mechanically but that's the oldest RPG I can think of that had player generated traits.
 


GMMichael

Guide of Modos
The game was super rules-light, unusual for the time (the 80s, in the dream).
Jealous.

You wrote up a sentence or two for your character, including both good and bad elements . . . did this game, or something like it, ever actually exist?
I can think of one, but the elements add a d6 to your d20. And it was written about 30 years after the dream game so...

Why do so many of my dreams wind up in malls?
Why nazis?
What even is my brain?
There may have been a surplus of Nazi movies in the '80s. I doubt they used Windows, though.
 



aramis erak

Legend
Sounds a touch more like Castle Falkenstein to me, and CF is 1994. But CF used cards (tho' the supplement Comme il Faut adds a dice option, using 1d10 vs TN by difficulty.).

It uses specific keywords for levels, however... not too far from the Fudge/Fate ladders
PoorAverageGoodGreatExceptionalExtraordinary
Value in card play¹24681012
Interlock d10 variant3568910
¹: Castle Falkenstein p 182
²: Comme il Faut p 82

CF also requires mentioning of a career, while I don't recall that from HW/HQ.

So, the mode is right for both HQ and CF, but the method of task resolution is not. And neither is far enough back.

Reading it in CF terms...
his required poor: Fencing
1 Great: Marksman
4 good: Woodsman, Haggling, Hunting, and I'd assume Physique.
Noting that of those, only fencing and Marksman are on the skill list; woodsman would be reasonable to add, or to replace with athletics; Haggling easily could go into either Charisma or Exchequer; Hunting likewise would be a reasonable add to the list, but could also be Perception or stealth.

CF also notes the skill list is incomplete, so players wanting something not on it was extremely common.

The mode for play in CF: players have a hand of (IIRC) 4 cards; if you play the trump suit for the skill, you get to count the full value; you can play as many as you want; off-suit count 1 rather than face, and Ace is high at 14 in suit, jokers being 15 and always trump.

CF also is reign of Ludwig II "The Mad"... around 1886. It was kind of riding the coat-tails of Space 1889 and the rise of steampunk as a genre. But it's on a different earth, with various fantasy races as well as most of our historical figures.

The game is presented as if written by someone from our earth, who found his way across via the efforts of some wizards, finding the year some 100 years earlier... and knows that there are others in the other direction. He taught the court of Ludwig to RP, and these rules are what he developed...
 



aramis erak

Legend
Teenagers from Outer Space had player-designed traits in 1987. I can't remember the dice mechanics, but character creation could be done as per the OP.
TFOS is a 1d6 variant of Interlock (CP, Mekton); Star Riders is the collegiate age sequel to TFOS, using the same variant. There may be another Interlock game or two I don't remember, and a few of the Fuzion titles hewed pretty close to Interlock (tho' most were back door licenses to HSR 4, and aimed at bypassing the negative image of Hero System).
 

aramis erak

Legend
So basically, I dreamed up a game similar to a bunch of other games I've never actually read, much less played.
It's quite likely you encountered some discussion of one or more of them.
Less likely, but still plausible, is that you came up with the core concept the same way that Mike Pondsmith did... by thinking outside the box. I don't know if Robin Laws was familiar with CF.

Steffan O'Sullivan also had a similar option for FUDGE back before it was published commercially by Grey Ghost. I don't recall if it hits GGP's edition. (and am too lazy to check the storage for my dead tree). He's mentioned the open paragraph mode on RPGG a couple times.
Oh, and fudge uses 6-sided dice... with one of several rolling methods
4df (+, +, =, =, - -), essentially read numerically as (+1, +1, +0, +0, -1, -1) (-4 to +4, bell-curved.)
2d6-7 (-5 to +5 bilinear) or 1d6-1d6 (same -5 to +5 bilinear)
2 good and 2 bad dice, keeping the lowest, 6's read as 0, and matches of good to bad die are discarded. (convoluted, bell curved, strongly zero centric)

Note also: Fate uses fudge as a baseline, but adds aspects from IIRC Polaris. Fudge was online in the early 90's, including posted as a .ps file on alt.rec.frp.misc ... this was before PDF had caught on at all, and it was a proprietary format, so page-layout docs circulated in TeX and in .ps formats for windows and mac.
 


Faolyn

(she/her)
It's quite likely you encountered some discussion of one or more of them.
Less likely, but still plausible, is that you came up with the core concept the same way that Mike Pondsmith did... by thinking outside the box. I don't know if Robin Laws was familiar with CF.

Steffan O'Sullivan also had a similar option for FUDGE back before it was published commercially by Grey Ghost. I don't recall if it hits GGP's edition. (and am too lazy to check the storage for my dead tree). He's mentioned the open paragraph mode on RPGG a couple times.
Oh, and fudge uses 6-sided dice... with one of several rolling methods
4df (+, +, =, =, - -), essentially read numerically as (+1, +1, +0, +0, -1, -1) (-4 to +4, bell-curved.)
2d6-7 (-5 to +5 bilinear) or 1d6-1d6 (same -5 to +5 bilinear)
2 good and 2 bad dice, keeping the lowest, 6's read as 0, and matches of good to bad die are discarded. (convoluted, bell curved, strongly zero centric)

Note also: Fate uses fudge as a baseline, but adds aspects from IIRC Polaris. Fudge was online in the early 90's, including posted as a .ps file on alt.rec.frp.misc ... this was before PDF had caught on at all, and it was a proprietary format, so page-layout docs circulated in TeX and in .ps formats for windows and mac.
One of my friends did say it was similar to FUDGE. I quite like Fate but it's been forever since I read the original FUDGE. It could be that my brain called a memory of it up.
 

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