Playing the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game is a shared storytelling experience powered by your imagination and that of everyone else playing the game. At its heart, this game is about players taking on the role of the Writers telling their version of the One Land, its people, and the events that will become legends for generations to come. With the co-operation of the Director (the GM), all Writers will be the driving force of the tales told during play with the mechanics acting as a structured form of play to facilitate the storytelling process and the dice throwing in a random curveball to keep everyone on their creative toes.
Stories in the One Land are about surviving the deadliest events and unforeseen consequences against a fantastic backdrop of diverse backgrounds, abilities, and violence. As a Writer, this is about telling your version of a story set against the backdrop of the One Land. The Director is there to help everyone keep everything moving in the direction desired by all players during that first session and to challenge the Writers and their characters. In a world where characters can conduct electricity from within or race past the speed of sound, there is a lot of room to try out some ideas and come up with a story all your own.
While the complete rules to play HPS are provided in the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game core rulebook and High Plains Samurai: Legends, a summary of the mechanics are below.
In the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game, you are a Writer and that means you get to drive the story forward while the Director reacts and presents the world based on your descriptions. Don’t ask if something happens, tell us! The only time the Director will block anything you create is if it conflicts with an existing element in the story, known as an initiative. If someone has already initiated something into the story, they can ask for a rewrite. Anything defined in the rules, including the material provided in the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game core rulebook (releasing late 2018) and High Plains Samurai: Legends, are part of the Director’s initiatives.
On your turn, you will provide a description from your character’s POV. Think of a description as a paragraph in a story where the character gets the spotlight to move the plot forward.
Within your description are a number of details, individual actions that provide something interesting about your character or help move the action forward. Think of a detail as a sentence in your paragraph. Only those sentences that add something to the story count as a detail. You can always add extra fluff into your description. Use your details to build up the action and allow you to roll the maximum dice against your opponents.
Once a player has provide a description on their turn, another character will provide the outcome. They are the resulting consequences, reactions, and events that occur as a result of the description.
If a Writer provides a description, the Director will give the outcome. If the Director provides a description, a Writer will give the outcome. After each outcome, another character will be able to provide a description until all characters have gone in a round.
All characters have stats known as potentials, measurements of what makes them unique in this world. At the start of each turn, you will choose which potential will shape your description. Each potential demonstrates three key features you’ll need to tell your character’s story.
Ranging from a d4 to a d12, these are the dice you’ll use for complication rolls (see below). To roll this value, you must max out your details in the description.
What you use to prevent a complication roll against your character. Defence values range from 1 (automatic) to 9 and are always odd numbers.
The maximum number of details you can use in your description. Only by applying your maximum number of details can you roll your full potential’s dice value.
Whenever a character attempts to complicate something for another character, these are known as complications and you must use a full description to remove them. Each one is unique and does one of four things.
Restriction: It blocks a character from doing or using something.
Inception: It forces a character to believe something that’s not true.
Penalty: The character takes a step penalty. This reduces the potential’s dice value by one level, such as a d8 to a d6.
Damage: The character takes damage and loses some Vitality (see below).
When the Director determines an attempt at a complication, they will call for a complication roll using your potential’s dice value against your opponent’s Defence. (The Defence does not need to be determined by a potential in advance.) If you decide to make a complication roll, there is a chance you will receive a complication so choose your rolls wisely.
Roll your dice. If you meet or exceed the Defence, it is effective and the opponent will take a complication. If it is less than the Defence, it is ineffective and you will take a complication instead.
If you roll an even number, you get to set the complication. If you roll an odd number, your opponent sets the complication.
All characters have Vitality to track their impact on the story. When a character reaches 0 Vitality, they are removed from the scene or the story. Whoever brings a character to 0 Vitality makes that choice. At the end of each scene, you will receive more Vitality. You can also spend your Vitality to do the following.
Change the complication roll up or down by 1 (including your opponent’s roll). You can only do this once per roll and some opponents can also shift the same roll.
Remove A Complication
Spend 1 Vitality to remove a complication with 1 detail. Otherwise, you must use the full description.
You can re-roll your dice. This costs 1 Vitality the first time in a scene and +1 Vitality for every additional re-roll.
Now you know the basics to play the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game. As the Director guides you through the mysteries of the One Land, you’ll discover additional features of this game.
Can your character fly, shoot fire, or use telekinesis? Many characters are known as qi warriors and have tapped into the chaotic energies that afflict everyone in the One Land.
Whether it’s your favourite weapon, the teachings of an Elemental Spirit, or a hard learned lesson you never forgot, there’s always something to help boost your chances. Use gear, skills, and other devices to gain step or damage bonuses to complication rolls.
Motivations, Connections, and Hindrances
What drives your character? What haunts them? What connects them? These can help you gain additional Vitality in each scene and also give the Director something personal to make a scene more challenging.