I’ve already given the gist of Crystal Heart as a setting constructed for a specific play style, and also provided some thoughts about how to keep it this way. These are, by themselves, system-neutral – they can be used with any RPG. So how would I set a CH game with a different system?
I’m spitballing here, but here are some ideas:
Dungeons & Dragons
Set the level cap at around 7, you can’t level up further. No spell caster classes, no magic items. Crystals give you 3-4 “spells”, some of them are at-will, others return after a short rest or are available a few times per day. Alternatively, check Incarnate, it has some mechanics inspired by Avatar the Last Airbender for using a basic ability and improvising on it. When a Crystal’s disposition (its emotional influence) is roleplayed, it awards inspiration – just like any other type of Background details.
Crystals have two Aspects: a Theme (“Probe minds” for Muna’s Crystal, let’s say), and a Disposition (“Distracting like— ooh, what’s that?” for Muna’s Crystal). During character and party creation, you should all invent some locations and faces around the Five Lands, a-la Dresden Files.
Each Crystal is its own Custom Move, or perhaps two: One for its emotional effect, that’s more passive (“When you’re rolling to Discern Realities, take -1. On a 7-9, you’re also distracted by something”, for Muna), and a more complicated one you can activate for its powers. No spell caster classes, and perhaps have a mechanic for reputation and/or position with Syn; there must be something cool in one of the dozens of DW expansions out there.
I am a curious Crystal that read minds. Just kidding, you shouldn’t treat Crystals as characters. Even though it’s tempting. It’s a very open system, so both powers and disposition can be easily represented within the rules. However, there really aren’t any cyphers in the world of Crystal Heart, so the GM might want to allow the use of memories and training as a form of one-time abilities; I’ve discussed the idea here (Patrons, I remind you there’s a link on our Patreon page to download this for free).
I’ve just finished reading Conan, and it has tons of good stuff to use with a Crystal Heart campaign for players who are looking for a more crunchy experience. The skills are great, just keep them all as they are – and add a new one, instead of sorcery (and also based on Willpower) to activate Crystals. Every Crystal have a pretty simple ability – and you can use Momentum to shape it however you want! Create a little Momentum table for each Crystal. The emotional disposition of Crystals should be used as a type of Complications.
Kind of like with 2d20, create a Stunt table for each Crystal. You should add a talent that represents mastery over Crystal Channeling (a Focus under Willpower), and gives you free Stunt points if you make the check; that means a practiced user will have more finesse with the exact results when they create an effect using a Crystal. You can’t play Mages, but use the current spells as the basis for Crystal powers; the three-tier approach already complements Crystal Heart very well.
I would love to find a way to represent Crystals in 13th Age. Which class mechanic should be the basis for that? Also, what should we do with the Icons? Perhaps we should re-name them Organizations, and it’s obvious Syn is one, but what about others? (There are a few, but shhhh, spoilers). If you have any ideas, do share.
No new podcast this week (Aviv is in Japan!), so instead, a few clarifications.
Over at the Savage Worlds subreddit, Toboe Lonewolf further explains how Test of Wills works (because we were intentionally ambiguous on the details), and makes it clear that one should never rely on Raises as an ongoing strategy. Someone tell that to Lily please.
PhasmaFelist clarifies how Shaken works, and re-emphasizes something many Savage Worlds player forget – you can still move while Shaken, which can be used, for example, to retreat. (Simply being stunned and losing your turn completely just isn’t fun, in any game).
And Ruben gives a suggestion: invest in your d4.