VERSE Quickstart (Playtest)
What Is It?
This game is a player-driven, rules-moderate NSR/OSR game that follows eccentric multi-classed explorers from various dimensions, questing to discover the answers to why the universes are blending together, why they’re some of the only ones who notice, and how to stop it. The setting is intentionally vague and predisposed to multiverse shenanigans because the game’s meant to work with any evolving setting, allowing your group to craft whatever story and world emerge from your adventures, campaign, playstyle, and your motley crew of characters.
Reality keeps changing. Different worlds and times blend and merge as naturally as rain with the ocean, rewriting memories to seamlessly erase or invent places, traditions, and lives. Most are spared this knowledge, but the few whose minds still recall what was see an unending tragedy. They set out to seek the deepest mysteries of this fractured and sutured land, searching for the cause of the Verse.
The game is currently in initial testing (playtest v0.1). The quickstart rules are available here for free, and you can use my two-page adaptation of the famous dungeon Tomb of the Serpent Kings as a sample module, showcasing some of the ways to stretch the approach to adventure design that the game directly supports.
Why Play This Game?
The multiversal setting for VERSE can drive your character’s growing abilities in radical, unexpected directions. Players don’t gain new levels as they advance, instead gaining new powers from their current class or new classes that combine with their previous ones. Each player can advance to the point of blending up to 4 classes together as the Verse’s influence combines them with other beings from any number of other realities, allowing for an eclectic collection of capabilities.
The DNA of VERSE is most similar to games like Cairn/Into the Odd, Knave, and Trophy Gold, with maybe a PbtA sensibility or two thrown in, and development will allow it to grow from there. At this early stage, it seems that its biggest selling points are (or rather, will hopefully be):
standardized system built for multiclassing weird characters from diverse settings who gain new classes instead of levels
engaging but simplified ruleset condensable to a couple (dense) reference sheets
streamlined play without the loss of too much tactical crunch, achieved in part by abstracting dungeon structure, exploration turns, and resource management
three-phase encounter rounds that allow for timing your action more precisely at the risk of decreased effectiveness, without bogging things down with initiative tracking
accelerated character advancement allowing you to experience your character’s full arc in a few months of regular play instead of a few years
mostly setting neutral, using random details to help worldbuilding, and made to play most OSR/NSR modules in a slightly abstracted format (though NPC/monster conversions are necessary)
(eventually, hopefully) over 100 playable classes with 100s of unique powers between them
To the lore and flavor of its whacky, fanciful classes, VERSE tries to add equally peculiar mechanical options, providing a mix of 6 powers each to choose from and a unique 7th power from the class you’ve gained most recently. Currently, the playtest includes a random selection of 10 first-tier classes to try out:
Awakened W.A.R.R.I.O.R.: an injection-molded mercenary made of mechanically separated meat products
Decomp: a zombie from a world where the undead are the best poets
Mountain Freighters Crew: a warm, jovial team of logistics experts, carting their wagon wherever they go
Ovipar & Child: a small parent and its egg, mystically bound as inseparable partners
Park Ranger: part helpful nature guide, part surprisingly capable survivalist
Possessed Orbuculum: a crystal ball with a head stuck inside, with the magic that entails
Postdoc Researcher: stressed, struggling, and scrambling to apply their specialized knowledge
Proxy: a humanoid surrogate device controlled remotely by various unknown operators
Sold JER™: an overbearing, peace-keeping robot, struggling to understand the nuances of justice with only intermittent data from its command center
War Fae: a vicious, agile combatant from the fairy peoples, or perhaps, an insect posing as one
How Do I Get Started?
To play with these quickstart rules, you’ll need a referee (GM), some players, pencils, and:
a copy of the Player Sheet and the Referee Sheet
a character sheet for each player
a module to play (like my adaptation of Tomb of the Serpent Kings) or to convert
at least one set of polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20)
3 index cards per person
*You’ll also need sources for interesting spells, equipment, treasures, and potions, since I’m still working on my own for VERSE. Ben Milton’s Knave can supply the first two, Arnold Kemp’s Goblin Punch blog can provide T1 treasures, Chris McDowall’s Bastionland blog can provide T2 treasures, and Goblin Punch also has a big list of potions.
The quickstart reference sheets are super dense because I needed that 2-page limit to rein in my tendency to write very long, overly wordy rules. I’ll try to provide a more readable, zine-like format for the playtest rules in the near future, and I’m interested in how much the “mutating multiverse” angle can be gamified without adding too much cognitive load, as that aspect’s kind of thin in this version. I intend to eventually include conversion guidelines to adapt material from other game systems, but that probably won’t come until much later, once the core system of VERSE stabilizes through development.
Other than that, there’s obviously tons of general development and content writing work (classes, treasures, spells, gear, etc.) to still be done, and the game will certainly evolve as I continue to work on it. If you play it, please, tell me what’s good and bad about it! You can also check the current progress of the project here or join my mailing list for updates (and free games)!Price: $0.00
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