May 01, 2012

RPG Play: Monkey Pirates Intro

So, I was thinking a while back that it's time to expand our horizons in the hobby - with role-playing games!  I've mentioned a few times before on this blog that my kids have a great imagination.  Now and then, I'll catch a bit of their creative leisure time around the house, and one day it dawned on me: essentially, they're role-playing.  They create their own environment like a zoo, or a Pokémon world, or a cruise ship and then assume a character identity with which to play out that world.  Tabletop role-playing would merely provide a structure and some mechanics to exploit that natural creativity.  I have never participated in rpg's before, but have always been interested in getting my feet wet.  The problem is that the genre can be overwhelming.  By design, the rules in role-playing can be quite ambiguous, there are dozens of mechanical systems to choose from, and the popular franchises have such enormously developed worlds that you don't know where to begin.  However, after a good deal of research, I eventually discovered a game with a compact system and manageable world that is accessible to both kids and adults: Mouse Guard.

Still, wanting to test and see if rpg's were something that my kids would enjoy and get into, I decided to try some free ones prior to doling out the cash for the Mouse Guard Box Set.  Our first foray into the genre is a very basic, unfinished home brew game.  There is no official web site, .pdf, or download for this simple system, and I discovered it only in a forum over at  I copied the rough outline, which was merely an idea posted by a forum member, and then fleshed them out with concepts I read about with Mouse Guard.  The resulting rules are below.  As I said, it is very basic and simple, but will do the job in introducing the principles of role playing to my kids - and even me, for that matter!  And this will be our documented misadventures...

Monkey Pirates

Overview:  In Monkey Pirates, you play either a piratical monkey or a pirate who monkeys around!  Your characters will have stronger stats in either the Pirate categories of Swords and Sailing; or in the Monkey categories of Climbing and Chatter.  Swords represents your skill in all kinds of combat, from cannons to fists.  Sailing denotes your ability in navigating and finding things.  Climbing illustrates your general athletics skills.  Chatter is used to impress others in getting information and debating.

Mechanics:  Resolving tests involves rolling 2d6 of two different colors (1d6 for the Pirate/Monkey die; 1d6 for the sub-category die).  Your player stats tell you what you're shooting for (or higher), number-wise.  Both die must beat the stats for both their main and sub categories.  If one roll succeeds with a ‘6’ and the other roll fails, you are allowed to re-roll the fail.  In all tests, roll first.  If the player succeeds, he/she describes the action.  Otherwise the game master narrates the results.  In opposed tests, the game master will roll for the non-player character.  If both fail, then it is a stalemate due to mutual incompetence; if one success is rolled, whoever rolled it wins; if both succeed, then the higher of both successes wins.  Failures do not necessarily mean the intended goal is not met, but instead indicate that something else went wrong that will hinder the player as he/she continues.

Luck:  In the game, players can accumulate Luck points which they can use to pass failed tests.  If a player rolls poorly and wants to avoid the consequences, he/she may instead spend a Luck point to make something cool and very lucky happen, that wouldn't have happened otherwise.  The player will describe the lucky event and the sky is the limit.  The more wild and outlandish, the better.  Stick to things that would be totally random.

Treasure:  In the game, players will also get Treasure points.  Treasure is used to acquire nifty objects that can help in their adventures and follies.  Spending a Treasure point will get something awesome or silly, like a compass to aid in Sailing or a parrot to increase your Chatter.  Players can carry up to three items.  Items are specific to a sub-category and can be used to re-roll one failed Pirate/Monkey die or sub-category die once per each test of appropriate nature.

Important Combat Rule:  No one ever dies unless everyone thinks they should.  A loser in combat could be driven off or humiliated, but should always be given the chance to come back wetter and madder.  This rule goes triple for player characters.

Experience:  At the end of a session, the game master can reward those players that were particularly good monkeys or good pirates.  Good monkeys receive a Luck point, while good pirates are awarded a Treasure point.

Next post: character creation...

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