Twittertop RPG

Twittertop RPG LogoI’m pretty active on Twitter. For the longest time I thought a 140 character blog was the dumbest idea ever. After some odd circumstances led me to join it, though, I discovered that it’s less of a blogging service, and more of a giant instant messenger conversation. And while I’m not a huge fan of the kind of self-centric social media which prompts people to write about every mundane event occurring in their lives, I am quite fond of finding new ways to connect with people. I’ve made a number of friends on twitter. Several of whom I would even call very close friends!

One of my Twitter friends is a Scottish kid named @Mocharaid. He’s been a supporter of my writing ever since I first started Comma, Blank_, and often served as a source of encouragement for me in those first few months when my readership was much smaller. He’s never played a tabletop RPG himself, and often pesters me to run one for him. Its become something of a joke between us, but I know he’s really quite anxious to give this type of gaming a try. So the other night, when he was taunting me about how the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are going to be aliens in the next film, I asked him if he wanted me to GM for him. My intent was to crush him with falling rocks the moment he accepted, but then I got to thinking: just how hard wo0uld it be to run a tabletop role playing game on Twitter?

Two or three hours of typing later, I had produced this. It’s completely unrefined, and hasn’t been through a single playtest yet, but I think it could prove fun.

TWITTERTOP RPG

By @LS_GM

Twittertop RPG is a simple adventure role playing game–like Dungeons & Dragons, or Pathfinder, designed to be played on Twitter. Given the extreme limitations of tweets (140 characters) the game is minimalistic in the extreme. But don’t let that fool you into thinking the game lacks options. With a good Game Master, and spirited players, endless amounts of fun is possible.

The Primary Rule of Twittertop RPG is that all game-related actions must fit within a single 140 character tweet, and must begin by being directed at the GM. In my case, that would mean that all tweets relevant to a game session (excepting my own) must begin with “@LS_GM” which is 6 characters long, leaving 134 characters for any actions to be described.

CHARACTERS

Like everything in the game, the character sheet must fit within 140 characters, minus the GM’s name. They should be formatted thusly:

@GM’s_Name [Character Name],Class[Level]([Current Experience Points]);HP[# of max HP],AC[Current AC];ATK+[Attack Roll Modifer]/[# of Damage Points];[Profession];GP[# of gold](SP[Spells[# of times spell may be cast]])[Inventory]

Here is an example:

@LS_GM Magar,Mage0(4);HP2,AC6;ATK+0/1;Carpenter;GP100(SP:Fball3)ProtRing1

This is Magar, a level 0 Mage with 4 experience points. He can take 2 points of damage before death, and an enemy must roll a 6 or above to hurt him. When attacking physically, he does not get to add anything to his roll, and deals one point of damage. He was a carpenter, and has skills related to that field. He currently carries 100 gold pieces. He can cast the spell of Fireball 5 times, and wears a ring of protection +1 which increases his armor class–which is 6, but would normally be 5.

CLASSES

When beginning play, a player must select a class for their character. At level 0, the character gains all of the abilities listed under “First Level,” and “Each level.” At subsequent levels, characters gain only the abilities listed under “Each level.”

Warrior
First Level: +1 AC, +1 attack, can wear armor, attack roll of 10 is a crit.
Each Level: +8 HP, +2 dmg

Rogue
First Level: Can pick locks, can hide in shadows, can attack a distracted or unaware foe with +1 atk, and double damage, attack roll of 10 is a crit.
Each level: +4HP, +1 dmg

Mage
Each Level: +2 HP, can select one spell

Cleric
First Level: Can wear armor
Each Level: +6 HP, can select one spell

LEVELS

All characters start at level 0. The maximum level in Twittertop RPG is 9.

EXPERIENCE POINTS

Each time a character starts a new level, they begin with 0 experience points. As they overcome challenges, the Game Master will grant them experience points. When they recieve their 10th experience point, their level goes up, and their XP returns to 0. This means that experience points should always be represented by only a single digit.

HP

A character sheet always reflects that character’s current max amount of hit points, and their hit points return to max at the start of each new play session. Any time a character takes damage, their hit points will be reduced. If their hit points reach 0, the character is dead.

AC

AC stands for Armor Class. When a character is being attacked, their attacker must roll one 10 sided die, and add their ATK number. If the result equals or exceeds the target’s AC, then the attack is successful and damage is dealt. If the result is lower than the target’s AC, then the attack fails.

Base armor class is 5, and that number can be raised by class abilities, armor, or magic items.

ATTACK

The first number is your attack bonus. When you attempt to physically attack a creature, the GM will roll one 10 sided die, and add this number to see if your attack overcome’s the target’s Armor Class. The second number is the amount of damage the target takes if your attack is successful.

Characters begin play with +0/1, and these numbers are modified by the player’s class, and by any items they hold. A roll of 10 is always successful. For Warriors and Rogues, a roll of 10 also doubles their damage.

PROFESSION

Each character may have one simple profession. When the character attempts a to perform an action which has a chance of failure, and is not related to the character’s class, the GM should judge the effectiveness of the action based on the character’s profession. For example, if a character’s profession is Sailor, then they will be more successful in tying knots, navigating by the stars, or swimming. If a player so pleases, a non-human racial selection can be substituted for their profession, such as Dwarf, Elf, or Kobold. The selection of a profession or race has no effect on mechanics defined elsewhere in this document.

Some possible professions include: Carpenter, Bricklayer, Miner, Sailor, Scribe, Tailor, Blacksmith, Steward, Architect

GP

This is the character’s current gold. All characters start with 0 gold pieces, and may carry may carry up to 999 gold pieces, and use these gold pieces to purchase items.

SPELLS

Only Wizards and Clerics may learn spells. Since spells take up space on their character sheet, this reduces the amount of space which these classes have available for equipment in their inventory.

Both classes learn only one spell per level. The spell must be written on their character sheet the same way it is written here, followed by a number. The number indicates the number of times per day a spell may be cast. A spell may be selected multiple times to increase the number of times per day it can be cast. The first time a spell is selected it may be cast 3 times, the second time it is selected it may be cast 6 times, and the thired time it is selected it may be cast 9 times.

WIZARD SPELLS
Fball – A ball of fire envelops a 10ft radius, dealing 10 damage to all within its area. Caster is immune.
Necro – Raise a dead body as a skeleton under your command.
Tport – Teleport you and any of your allies up to 100ft to a location you can see, or have been to.
Mbolt – Magical bolts of energy fly from your fingertips, dealing 15 damage to a single target. Can be cast from 30ft away.
Ice – Freeze enemies in place for 3 rounds. Target cannot move, but can otherwise act normally.
Haste – Your allies may act twice in this round. You do not gain a second action.
Illus – Create silent illusions.
XRay – See through one wall or door to what is on the other side.

CLERIC SPELLS
Cure – Restore a number of hit points equal to your level.
Heal – Remove diseases, poisons, and other harmful effects.
Turn – Cause undead to cower for 3 rounds.
Smite – Call down the wrath of your god, dealing 15 damage. Must touch foe to accomplish this.
Fear – Foes flee in terror for 1 round.

INVENTORY

Characters begin play with nothing but the clothes on their back. They have no weapons, and no armor. They attack with their fists, and defend by dodging. When a character finds an item, they may add it to their inventory. At the end of each ession of play, the GM should ask for everyone’s character sheets. At this time the player must drop any items which cannot fit into the tweet.

All items must be written into the inventory in the same way they are written when the GM gives them to the player. Some example items include:

ProtRing+1 – A ring which adds 1 to the Armor Class of any who wear it.
Sword+1 – A sword which adds 1 to both attack, and to damage.
Armor+1 – Armor which adds 1 to the Armor Class of any who wear it.
Wand+1 – May cast 1 spell which has already been expended for the day.

GAME MASTER SECTION

Twittertop RPG is a game which relies heavily on the game master. Lacking mechancis for many situations, a Twittertop GM must be able to arbitrate situations liberally. Simple actions should be able to be performed by anyone, while more complex actions should be judged based on the character’s class, profession, or race.

COMBAT

At the start of combat, roll 1d10. If the die is 6 or above, then the players go first. If the die is 5 or below, the player’s foes act first. Allow all members of a given “side” to act before switching to the other group. Each individual within a group is allowed three actions on each turn:

Move: The character can move throughout the battlefield.
Fight: The player may attack or cast spells.
Prepare: The player may prepare a simple non-Fight action, which they will perform on the enemy’s turn IF the enemy meets certain conditions. For example, a Warrior’s prepared action might be “If the zombie tries to move to the Mage, I block him.” while a Mage’s prepared action might be “If the zombie tris to move to me, I run!”

Lacking a visual grid on which to do battle, Twittertop GMs must rely on description to communicate positioning to their players. This means that the tactical combat style found in games like Pathfinder won’t be found here. Instead, allow players to describe how they would like to position themselves relative to an enemy. Warriors will want to stand close, while Mages will want to stand far away. Rogues will want to get behind a foe, and clerics will likely want to move close to whoever needs to be healed. Allow players to move anywhere in the current arena of battle as a “Move” action.

Given how simple it is to create Twittertop RPG characters, combat can be very deadly. If a player reaches 0 hit points, the player is dead, and should create another character to join the party after the combat has ended. Any players who survive combat should be given either 1 or 2 experience points, depending on how difficult the combat was.

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6 thoughts on “Twittertop RPG”

  1. This certainly seems workable.

    One thing that occurs to me is that it would be relatively simple to create a Twitterbot to deal with dice rolls. (This keeps the action on Twitter and keeps both sides – player and GM – honest, or, rather, makes sure each side KNOWS the other is being kept honest. :) Let me know if you’re interested in this and I can whip up a demo.

    Substituting race for profession feels very D&D1e.

    It may be worthwhile to draw up a loot table, with cell and row identifiers. (Column A could be Rings, column B tunics, column C swords, etc.) That allows character sheets to include multiple items without being excessively verbose; instead of writing ProtRing+1Sword+1Armor+1, the player could write A1B1C1 (Column A, Row 1 / Column B, Row 1 / Column C, Row 1). Allows GMs to assign loot without putting as much emphasis on counting characters in the character’s existing character sheet and prevents GMs from nuking someone’s inventory by giving them RingOfExcessivelyWordyProtectionPlusOne.

    The above approach also allows GMs to assign weights to items and then use encumbrance (based on level, class, race, etc.), which feels more RPGlike and less meta than “the longer its name is, the harder it is to carry”.

    1. My first choice was to find some manner of “twitter dice roller.” I only went with “GM rolls all the dice” because I couldn’t find a better alternative. So yes, if you can set one up, that would be remarkably helpful for the game.

      1e was certainly my inspiration in the Race/Profession idea. It makes good sense, I think. The idea is to replace all non-class based abilities with a single catch-all term that can be interpreted during play. And since everybody has a good idea of what dwarfs are good at (metalworking, mining, finding treasure, being gruff, drinking, etc) it serves the same kind of purpose.

      My primary concern with a reference sheet for items is that it would mean the character sheets are not self-contained. As it stands, the only thing which can’t be easily memorized is the spells, and even those are of limited enough selection that memorization probably wouldn’t take long. Though I wouldn’t be strictly opposed to a document which listed a comprehensive selection of items whose names had been shortened as reasonably as possible.

      The idea that the longer something’s name is, the more difficult it is to carry, is certainly an abstraction. But it’s one which (I think) works to the game’s advantage. It creates a de facto encumbrance system, keeps character sheets simple and easy to read, and utilizes Twitter’s limitations as a feature.

      But I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea. There’s a lot of different ways this game could be developed going forward.

  2. Things move too fast on twitter for me to ever be able to use it reliably. I always feel like I have to be clicking refresh constantly, just to use it, haha!

    That being said, these rules look pretty solid for what they’re designed to do, and I love how the shortened spell and item names remind me of old console RPGs.

    If you ever run this for anyone, I hope you post a transcript!

    1. How fast things move depends largely on how many people you follow. I don’t personally follow that many people, so I find it pretty easy to keep up. Particularly because I only really pay attention to anyone who is currently talking about something I find interesting.

      You know, I originally had the spells fully written out, but I worried about restricting spell lists too much. However, at present, every spell on the Wizard’s spell list can be taken at least once, so I think the shortened names are great. And they do have that old-school console RPG vibe, which I love as well.

      Transcripts will be forthcoming after I have the opportunity to playtest a few times.

  3. Maybe include a campaign hashtag too? Though that would cut down the available characters even more.

    Any single one of my stat blocks or area descriptions could probably fit within a tweet. In fact, that might be a good heuristic for referee prep (it’s almost required for using the one page dungeon format anyways). It kind of breaks down for PCs though, which I think need to be able to accumulate more treasure and other details, even in rules-lite systems.

    This recent game transcript could almost work as a twitter conversation too:

    http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2012/04/on-transcript-unfortunate-death.html

    1. I considered a hashtag. However, my primary concern was in bothering people who were not involved in the game.

      Obviously, even a small dungeon-delving game would produce a lot of tweets. And if the game was designated using Hashtags, then everyone who followed me / my players would have their twitter feed filled up with dozens upon dozens of game related messages. That would be a little rude, I think, which is why I made the secondary account (@LS_GM, my main account is @linkskywalker). That way, only people who want to participate in the game see any game-related messages. (That’s also part of why the rules insist all game-related tweets must be directed at the GM)

      And yes, the more I worked on testing the rules, the more I realized that with a rules-lite game, 140 characters is more than enough for anything. And it’s good practice in brevity.

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