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The roughest of the three games I submitted to the Iron Game Chef - Fantasy competition, Albraxas (originally called Dawnstorm) was literally designed over the course of four hours. Of course, it needed a lot of revision, some of which you can already find below. Nonetheless, I'm happy with the game.

Albraxas - Storming the Dawn

Intro Text

Imagine time as a river covered in ice, a rampaging current pushing everything from past to future without the thought of resistance, without any alternative. Now pretend that something had, somehow, poked holes through the cover - something strong enough to crack the ice of time.

In certain times and places, there are holes in the ice - small islands where things don't work like they should, where the world itself is not-quite-normal. For centuries, they've been considered curiousities and nuisances - periods where magic is dead, and even the power of the gods can't pierce. Various superstitions have surrounded them, and scholars have often debated their origin and meaning. Whole schools of math were creatd by wizards to predict where these islands will arrive next... so they won't be taken unaware. The gods themselves aren't talking.

But that's all changed. A thousand years from now, the Magus Albraxas will use the islands to conquer the world. He will teach himself how to use them as stepping stones to carry him on the ice, and skitter across the surface of time to another hole, another island. Moving from time to time, place to place, using dark magics to keep himself young, Albraxas has gathered thousands of soldiers, loyal followers with this same talent - plucking them out of time before they affect history on their own.

But some of those with the talent saw the sort of tyranny he wanted, and managed to escape. These rebels gathered their own soldiers across the ice - the ones Albraxas never thought to look for, or ones that slipped through his grasp. They have nipped at Albraxas's flanks as they've grown in power. The storm has been brewing across eons - but the war will finally be waged in the largest island in the icy sheet of time - the one at the dawn of the world.

Pre-Game Preparation

In Albraxas, the war isn't coming - it's already started. Your characters are the guerillas, the rebels fighting against Albraxas and his soldiers. The island at the dawn of the world is the largest known dead zone - so this will be an old fashioned war, without the support of wizards or the healing magic of priests - no charms, talismans, or enchanted swords. Nothing that any sort of experienced warrior would want to fight without. It is also the most isolated island - if you fall on the field of battle, or you can't ice out in time, you'll live half a lifetime before you can ice again. Assuming you live that long.

One player takes on the role of Albraxas - all the other players must create a character, one of the rebels fighting against the Mad Magus.

All character have three attributes - Backbone, Battle, and Blitz. Backbone indicates how well they can burden the attacks of the soldiers of Albraxas and recover; Battle determines the effectiveness of their offensive maneuvers; and Blitz tells us how quickly the character can act and react. Rebels have 13 points to distribute between these 3 attributes. The character of Albraxas has 20.

The most important part of any character, however, is Dynamism - which determines how well they can maneuver, and how much energy they can put into their special abilities. Starting Dynamism is the product of Battle and Backbone, and is spent to perform actions in each juncture of a phase. Without Dynamism, a character can only hole up and hope nothing comes at him before he recuperates.

After the characters are created, just make sure you have a bunch of dice, all with the same number of sides. How many sides doesn't matter too much - although the more sides you have, the less likely a conflict will result in a tie.

The Battle of the Beginning

If you think a normal battlefield is chaotic, imagine a battlefield where all the participants are traversing the length of the battle in an instant, both in space and in time - a battlefield where the participants can start at the end, go to the beginning, and end in the middle - a battlefield where the same soldier can appear in the same event multiple times, each time adding a new spin to the result. That's the Battle of the Beginning.

For ease of bookkeeping, The Battle of the Beginning is divided into a phases - numbered from 1, at the beginning, to 100 at the end. The length can be changed for longer or shorter games, but it's recommended that it always be a perfect square. Each rebel may only have their character visit a phase but once; additional visits drain more dynamism. Albraxas travels a set path, starting at phase 100, and moving backwards until he reaches phase 1.

Each Phase has two values which measures the strength of the battle - Tide and Ebb. Tide measures the tide of battle - the strength of Albraxas' forces. Ebb, in turn, is the strength of the resistance. Both values are cumulative. At the start of the game, each phase that's a perfect square has a Tide of 1 - along with the last phase, if that phase isn't a square. No phase has any Ebb - Albraxas picked the battlefield, and has the advantage.

Phase are divided into junctures - points in the battle where the player can make decisions potentially crucial to the outcome. The number of junctures varies by character - each character has a number of junctures per phase equal to their Blitz.

The Battle at the Beginning is played in simultaneous turns. First each rebel decides what phase they're going to be in (remember, Albraxas's path is fixed). After they're all agreed on their location, each player, including Albraxas, declare and write down what they're doing for each of their junctures, and how much Dynamism is being spent. Once set in stone, each juncture is resolved in order. The available actions are:

  • Recover - This action costs no Dynamism, and restores a number of Dynamism points equal to the character's Backbone, although it can never go over their starting value. However, there's a chance that, while recovering, the character will be injured or caught up in a fray. Roll Blitz vs. the effective Tide. If Blitz wins, the character recovers. If it loses, the character is caught up in the fray and must perform a Battle action (for free). On a tie, the character expends the entire phase trying to find a hidey-hole, and fails. He regains no Dynamism.
  • Convalesce - An extended form of Recover, it requires the player sit out an entire Phase. It heals one point of Backbone, and refills the Dynamism pool entirely. Unlike Recover, it is an automatic action.
  • Battle - This costs one Dynamism, and pits the character's Battle vs. the effective Tide. If Battle wins, Ebb is increased by one; if Tide wins, it goes up by one. On a tie, nothing changes.
  • Backbone - This also costs one Dynamism, and pits the character's Backbone vs. the effective Tide. If the Backbone wins, the Tide is reduced by one; if the Tide wins, the character's Backbone is reduced by one. On a tie, neither changes.
  • Blitz - Blitz costs one Dynamism for each die the character wishes to roll, up to his Blitz score. Roll those dice vs. the effective Tide - if Blitz wins, the Ebb is increased by the # of successes rolled. If the Tide wins, Ebb is reduced by the # of successes rolled. On a tie, the character's Backbone is reduced by one.
Effective Tide is calculated by taking all the Tide values from phase 1 through the current phase, summing them, and subtracting them from the sum of all the Ebb values from phase 100 backwards through the current phase. Minimum one die. Albraxas, obviously, switches the words Ebb and Tide in all these actions. Effective Ebb is the sum of Ebb from phase 1 through the current phase, minus the sum of all Tide from phase 100 through the current phase. In any case, neither Tide nor Ebb for the current phase can be reduced below zero.

To determine the result of die rolls, look for the highest die on each side. The higher die wins, and the number of successes determined are equal to the number of dice that the winner has, which are higher than the highest die of the loser. If the highest dice are equal, it's a tie. Players may spend Dynamism to knock out pairs of tied highest dice - 1 point to knock out the first pair, 2 points for the second pair, etc. Players may NEVER knock out the last die for a side, however - if that die is still tied, then it's just a tie.

Between turns, there are several additional opportunities to spend Dynamism for rebels. Albraxas has no opportunity to use these, as his trip is fixed.

  • Travel - Travel may only be done between phases, and is the only way to travel between phases other than just living through them. If a player doesn't use Travel, his only destination may be the Phase after the one he just visited. Otherwise, Travel's cost is equal to the square root of the difference between the Phase he's leaving, and the phase he wants to arrive in. Always round up.
  • Clone - Characters visiting the same phase multiple times are said to have cloned themselves. Cloning costs nothing by itself, but has a number of effects. First, it reduces the # of junctures by 1 for each clone. Second, it increases the Dynamism cost of all actions by 1 for each clone (yes, including Recover and Convalesce). Third, it increases the effect of each of the clone's actions by 1, success or failure.

If a character's Backbone falls to zero, he's out of the game.

The goal is for the players to get the total Tide across all phases to be lower than the total Ebb before Albraxas reaches Phase 1, or loses all his Backbone, whichever comes first. If they do, Albraxas is defeated and the world is free. If not, he reigns forevermore.

Last modified: Thursday January 01 1970 00:00:00, by Alexander Cherry