Dirty Princesses

A Game about Expectations and Danger

Read my PDF January 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 9:17 am


Seriously. Please?


The Name and A Realisation January 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 4:48 pm

I was thinking about the settings and styles that could be applied to Dirty Princesses tonight and I realised that it could be used for a straight-up drama about a group of sisters leaving home and dealing with their mother. The Retinue becomes their group of friends and their ‘Perilous Quest’ is surviving college or getting a job. It’s interesting to see where the concept can get taken.

That’s what led me onto the second thought. Does the name work? It started out like a little joke that then became the name. I’m somewhat used to it now and I don’t really want to change it, but… it’s a bit suggestive. The real question is, what would I change it to?


A few more things… January 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 11:15 am


Part One: Adversity

What is Adversity?
It’s a resource that the GM spends to make things more interesting and challenging for the players. It represents all those messy complications that get between the characters and their goals.

Where does it come from?
Well the GM starts with a certain amount of Adversity per player. At this point I’m thinking a number between 5 and 10 per player. Adversity also comes from winning conflicts as the GM and playing certain cards. I haven’t put those methods into the main rules yet but that’s something I need to integrate. This is a bit vague but I need to sit back and look at the main rules on a screen bigger than my phone.

Part Two: The Queen

By the time you start the game, the players will have given you a list of Positive and Negative traits of the Queen. This list does a few different things for you. It sets the pacing of the campaign at pretty much sessions equal to double the number of players (although you can increase this number if you wish). It also gives you a big list of issues that the players want to deal with and things that they hope their Princess embodies (for the positive traits) or avoids being (for the negative traits).

The way you use them is that you keep aside each players list of two traits and you work them into Challenge scenes. So one scene will be where perhaps their opponent or obstacle is symbolic of their mother’s negative trait, or to succeed they need to embody her positive trait. It doesn’t have to be strictly in there, but treat it as a guideline. You also have to choose a trait to associate with each particular Challenge and depending on the outcome of that scene and the roleplaying therein, decide whether the Princess Embodies or Denies that particular trait. This is mostly going to be used during the endgame narration, to let the player know whether their Princess has turned out like their mother and whether that’s good or bad. Make sense? This brings us to

Part Three: Endgame

This one is kind of simple. Once every Princess has had one Challenge scene per Trait they chose for their mother, the endgame begins. There are two ways it can all turn out. Either the Queen has died and they all need to rush home, or they have completed their quests and return home to glory. Here’s how you figure it out; Basically start at zero. Every Embodied positive trait and every Denied negative trait is a +1. Every Denied positive trait and every Embodied negative trait is a -1. If you end up with a positive number, a return to glory and all the Princesses completed their quests. If you end up with a negative number it zero, the Queen has died and you all must head home. Then everybody describes a scene for their Princess and how things turn out. If they really want, then can narrate endings for their Retinue as well. It’s all up to them. Thy just can’t interfere with the stories of the other Princesses or other Retinue.

Part Four: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

There is another thing that I forgot to include in the core rules. Basically whenever a Princess completes a Challenge scene, she gains a new trait at a value of 5. Trait should reflect the nature of the Challenge and her success or failure. That’s it. Characters otherwise don’t change much.

So I feel those few issues round out what I’d previously written and make it a little bit more complete.


Progress?!? January 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 6:59 am

Ok here we go. The point of this is to sketch out a very very rough draft of Dirty Princesses as it sits at the moment, which I will refine before Arcanacon this month. I want all of you to ask me questions and discuss anything that you find weird.

Part One: Character Creation

Character creation is a pretty simple process that’s slightly different for Princess characters and Retinue characters. Obviously the Princesses are the focus of the game, but don’t skimp on making the Retinue characters interesting. Usually in the first session, you’ll make all of your Princess characters first (because Princess creation is kind of interdependent) and once you know which Princess will be in the spotlight for this session, you’ll then make her Retinue. I’m still considering whether or not this model is boring for the Retinue players, but hopefully not. Hopefully they enjoy helping out their Princess and pursuing their own little agendas!

How to create a Princess:

1. Stats

There are four stats in this game, and stats are representative of the Princess’ most fundamental characteristics. These stats are Mind, Body, Heart and Soul.

Mind: Her mental characteristics, intelligence and wit and memory, ability to think through a situation. Represented by the suit of Diamonds.

Body: This is how tough and fast and strong she is, how generally physically fit. Represented by the suit of Clubs

Heart: This is something like charisma and measures how likeable and charming she is. Represented, shockingly, by the suit of Hearts.

Soul: A measure of luck, willpower and spirit, something of an undefinable quality. Represented by the suit of Spades.

As a Princess, you have ten points to divide between these stats, with a minimum of one in each.

Oh and you have a stat called Composure. That starts at 8.

2. Traits

Where stats define broad characteristics (of your broads), traits define what makes your character unique and special. These traits will have numerical values associated with them, just like stats.

The way you come up with these traits is by answering a few questions, then writing the answers down as your traits. I’ll list the questions and after each one, the numerical value that the trait will have.

Q1. What does my Mother the Queen want me to be? This is an important one, as it defines the purpose that your mother has guided your life towards from an early age. It is worth 5 points.
Q2. What did my Father (who is not a part of your life, you choose why) leave me? This can be anything, it can be a magic sword or a personal retainer or even an important lesson. This is worth 3 points.
Q3. What have my sisters taught me? To answer this question, you need to pick one of your sisters (another Princess character) and choose something that she taught you. You get that Trait at 3 and she gets it at 5.
Q4. What did I teach my sister? This goes the opposite of the previous question, you choose a sister you taught the trait to and you get it at 5 and she gets it at 3.

Now that’s the basics of the traits. You’ll end up with plenty more than four as the other Princesses teach and are taught things by your character. And you may not end up with them all balanced, but it doesn’t really matter because the Princesses never come up against each other.

3. The Rest

Your Princess needs a name appropriate to the setting you’re using, and feel free to give her any equipment that you think a Princess setting out on s perilous quest. At the very least she likely has a weapon and some armour, a fine steed and some smaller items.

4. The Queen

I’ll be the first to admit this section is still a bit vague and I’m still figuring out how it should work. Basically, in long term play, what your mother The Queen is like matters. So simply, each player chooses one positive trait their mother has, and one negative trait she has. That’s pretty much it, that stuff is more important to the GM.

How to Create a Retinue Character:

Creating a Retinue character is similar to creating a Princess, but a little bit simpler.

1. Stats

You have the same stats and you have 10 points to divide between them.

2. Traits

Again, similar. You answer questions to get your traits and their values. The questions are:
– What does my Princess rely on me to do? This is yor main duty in the retinue. It’s worth 5 points
– What did I do before this? Something like your past experiences. It’s worth 3 points.
– What doesn’t my Princess know about me? This one is a little tricky. It has a value of 4 if you’re using it in such a way that your Princess won’t find out about it. But if you use it blatantly, in the open, it’s only worth 1 point.

3. The Rest

All Retinue characters have a stat called Loyalty that starts at 8.

Part Two: How the Game Works

First I’ll just talk a little bit about the premise of the game and what it’s about, even though that might not be strictly necessary at this point.

Dirty Princesses is a game about a land ruled by a Queen, and it’s about how each Generation of Princesses has to leave the safety of the court to go out into the world to prove they have what it takes to rule eventually. There are a few points I need to make here.

The first is that it’s not a competition. The Princesses genuinely want the best and most appropriate one of them to rule. They know that if that isn’t them, they will still have positions of power and influence and wealth and responsibility. They will still help the land. So the game isn’t about competition or treachery or backstabbing. Not yet anyway.

Secondly, despite the terms of Queen and Princess and the medieval setting that they tend to evoke, the game isn’t inherently tied to a medieval setting. It could be a space opera, or steampunk. The playtest campaign I’m planning on starting is a modern urban setting inspired by Sin City, Saints Row and The Wire. So you definitely aren’t constrained in the setting.

Now, what is the game about thematically? For me, it’s all about the difference between the person your parents expect you to be, and the person you are. It’s about how you can never really tell who you’ll end up being. I hope the rules convey that theme, but I just don’t know yet.

1. The Rules Themselves

So the game uses cards. There is one deck between all players, with the Jokers and Kings taken out. The Queen is the highest card, because in the setting the Queen is the highest authority.

Essentially, a game session is made up of scenes and there are a few different kinds of scenes. Usually, the GM will go around the table and give each player a scene of the type of their choosing. The player whose ‘turn’ it is is considered to have their character in the spotlight, front and centre. That’s not to say that the other characters can’t be in the scene and do cool stuff, but the spotlight character gets the lion’s share of attention.

At this exact moment, the scenes are a bit vague. Here is how I see them though:

Action Scene: Call for an Action Scene when you want a bit of excitement. The purpose of an action scene is to blow off some steam, plus you’ll earn resources to help you deal with the big challenge at the end of the session.

Drama Scenes: Like Action Scenes, but obviously focused on Dramatic events more than, well, Action. I probably need a better name for them. Like Action Scenes, they give you resources towards the end of the game.

Composure Scenes: These are scenes where the Princess is doing something to restore her Composure. A Composure Scene will restore a certain amount of Composure but I haven’t decided how much yet. Two points seems ok in my head, but I don’t know.

Support Scene: These are where the Retinue characters really get to shine. I’m thinking, but haven’t decided for certain, that these have to leave the Princess out, to represent the fact that they are ‘behind the scenes’. These will give the Princess bonuses in future scenes and conflicts.

Challenge Scene: There is one of these per session and it’s a big deal. Essentially, each session is a sub-quest on the Princess’ main quest. What the Challenge Scene represents is the climax of this sub-quest. It’s difficult and the Princess won’t necessarily win. What also happens in a Challenge Scene is that either the conflict itself or the outcome will relate in some way to the traits of The Queen, and no matter what happens it will change the Princess’ relationship with her mother and make her a different person. Challenge Scenes, afterward, also change the traits of the Princess a bit. They’re a big deal.

Now when you set up a scene, the GM will describe the situation and set up a situation for the players to deal with. Roleplaying occurs, people describe what their characters are doing. At some point during the scene though, you’ll reach a moment where you aren’t sure what should happen next. This is the point of conflict and this is where you pull out the cards to see what happens.

Here’s how it works in brief, I’ll explain it more fully afterwards.

1. Everybody declares what they, roughly, want to achieve in this conflict and how they are going to achieve it. Their method will be connected to one of their stats and therefore one of the suits of cards.

2. Everybody draws a hand of cards. Princesses draw cards equal to their Composure. Retinue draw cards equal to their Loyalty. The GM draws one card for every other player and may spend as many Adversity points as they wish to draw one extra card per point spent. Also, if you have a trait appropriate to the conflict and can describe its use, draw cards equal to its value.

3. Everybody looks at their cards. First of all, find the highest card of the suit that you’re using in this conflict. Then, add your Stat value to its value. Then look for any other cards of a matching suit. Each one adds one to the value of the highest card.

I should note that Jacks are worth 10 and Queens are worth 12.

4. Queens and Jacks have special effects.

Queens can:
– Be put aside and are worth one Composure or Loyalty after the conflict, but they don’t add value to your hand or have any other effect if you do this.
– Played on someone else to make them discard their highest value card of the same suit
– Played as if they matched the suit you’re using, but add 2 points of value instead of 1.

Jacks can:
– Act as any card of any suit and equal or lower value.
– You can discard them to swap one card of your choice with one other player’s card of their choice.

5. For every card of a different suit that is higher than your highest value card of the suit you’re using, subtract one from your total value.

6. The highest total value wins, and then gets to decide the outcome of the conflict, describe how it all goes and generally win and make yourself look good.

That’s the basics of it, for an Action, Drama and Challenge scene. A Challenge scene will have a few extra things tacked onto it due to the important nature of it.

Now depending on who wins, different things will happen.

GM Wins: The Princess loses Composure equal to their lowest card. All the Retinue characters lose Loyalty equal to their lowest card.

Princess Wins: She takes the highest card that wasn’t the main suit and puts it aside, keeping it for the Challenge Scene.

Retinue Wins: Gains Loyalty equal to their lowest card.

Now if we’re talking about a Support Scene it’s a little different. It isn’t really a conflict. What happens is that the Retinue character descibes how they’re helping the Princess behind the scenes and they can lose one Loyalty to give the Princess +1 to one stat or trait for the next conflict. They cannot go below 1 Loyalty.

Composure Scenes are different again.

That’s a summary of the system. I feel like I’m tinkering with some unknown machine and digging into it’s guts here because a lot of this is getting made up as I go, getting rewritten as I figure out how it all fits together. So if something doesn’t make sense, tell me and make me explain it.

There are a few items of GMing that are yet to be included in this, partly because I want to wrap it up while it’s still making sense and partly because I haven’t figured them out yet.

So that’s it. If you read all of this I thank you. I would really appreciate any questions, queries, comments or criticisms you have.


Some Definite Things December 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 10:32 am

At this point, character creation is locked down (more-or-less). I definitely want to stick with the Questions that give you traits and I definitely want four Stats (Physical, Mental, Social and Spiritual/Luck) and I want them bound to the suits. The numbers themselves, the points you get from the traits and how many you have are all likely to change at this point once I see how they actually bounce around in play.

The core system as I rambled about in my last post will be sticking around. Players and GMs try to one-up each other by playing higher cards and declaring actions associated with those cards, and the Retinue characters get to manipulate the cards the Princess has. Composure is a stat that can be burned to get more cards and can be won back through a particular flavour of scenes.

The Queen will get a set of traits, and those traits will affect the nature of the Challenge scenes that the Princesses face. Also, facing those Challenge scenes will change both the Princesses and their relationships with the Queen, as well as leading towards the inevitable endgame of the Queen’s death.

Now at this point I’m more or less just swimming in circles around the same pool. So here are are some of the goals I have for the immediate to short-term future:

– Get everything down on paper in such a way that it makes sense to me and I feel I could run it

– Try to run a game session of this for some of my friends. Preferably several game sessions of this.

– Rework the text and come up with something like a bare-bones basic playtest document by the end of January. Ideally, I can even give people a few copies at Arcanacon.

– Look at getting stickers done, to hand out and to raise some interest maybe.


An Exciting Update ;) December 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 10:39 am

I’ve decided on how the conflict system works, as opposed to ‘maybe it could be…’

Each conflict centers around one person (who is often but not always the Princess).

That person draws a hand of cards equal to their value in the stat that the conflict involves (physical, mental or social). Well actually, everybody does. Except for the GM who spends some Adversity and draws that many.

Then they take turns. Whoever initiates the conflict and takes the first action plays a card and describes what they’re doing with that action. Now, something I want to include but haven’t quite figured yet is that each suit matches a stat (which is problematic since there are four suits and three stats) and when you play a card of a particular suit you’re taking that kind of action and you add your stat value to value of the card. But that then negates the ‘draw cards of an appropriate stat’ idea.

Anyway, the initiator plays a card and describes an action. I should mention at this point that all conflicts are essentially between one player and the GM, with the other players supporting. So let’s say Player 1 plays a card and describes an action, the GM needs to describe an action that the NPCs or opposition are taking to oppose Player 1’s action and play a card to equal or beat Player 1’s card.

But traits come into it (and stats could too, now that I think about it) by doing two different things.

When it’s your turn to play a card (not in response to someone else’s card) you can activate a Trait, by describing how that Trait is useful and comes into play. Then you can do one of two things with it. You can either add the Trait’s value to the next card you play or you can draw a number of cards equal to the Trait’s value then play a card as normal.

I need to throw in a little bit about order and sequence first. When the primary player plays a card in a conflict, only the GM can respond in any way to that card. When the GM plays a card, the supporting players first get a chance to so something and then the primary player gets to play a card to respond.

The supporting players can do something by describing what they do to assist the primary player and activating a Trait (or probably a Stat too). When they do, they can either draw cards equal to the Trait value or they can give the Primary player cards equal to the Trait value.

Jacks are kind of like wild cards. They have a value of 10 and can be any Trait or Stat you want. Normally you can only use each Trait and Stat once in a conflict, but if you play a Jack, you get to add it’s value even if you’ve activated it once.

Queens have a value of 12 and if you play a Queen to the table, put it aside and you get to add it to your hand in a Challenge scene.

Ok… that’s probably confusing and rambling, but it lays down the basics of it.

My questions:

– Is it boring for the supporting players?
– Is it balanced
– How do I fix the four suits/three stats problem?


Be Careful December 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 1:38 pm

Composure is more important than I realised.

it comes down to the Princess player getting to draw a hand of cards equal to Composure plus an appropriate Stat. oh and they can narrate traits in as well.

The GM has a set pool of points/cards that they spend throughout the session.

The Retinue get cards too, but mostly use them to manipulate the cards on the table.

In a conflict, each side (Princess/Retinue and GM) lays out three cards face down. These are then flipped, compared and the highest wins. The person who wins gets to describe how they gain an advantage over their opponent. Whoever wins the majority of these wins the conflict and gets to describe how things go.

Queens, Jacks and Aces will have special effects yet to be determined.

Composure can be burned to gain additional benefits.