‘Praxis’: an ‘Agon’ home brew variant


So, it all started a few weekends ago… I re-read Guy Davis’ amazing comic book, The Marquis, and re-watched Brotherhood of the Wolf in rapid succession. “Self,” I said to myself, “you should run a swashbuckling game of religious Inquisitors and political intrigue.”

And if I could crowbar skyships into the mix as well, all the better.

I didn’t feel like writing up yet another 21 System variant however… I wanted to just pull something off the shelf. The first thing I pulled off the shelf was Dogs in the Vineyard. Seems like a natural fit, no? Reframe the setting from Wild West kinda-Mormonism to a Renaissance/Enlightment kinda-Catholicism & Gnosticism mash-up. In my usual fashion, I designed a character sheet first… here is the character sheet I came up with for Inquisitors in the Vineyard.

But once I started reading and re-reading the DitV rules, something just wasn’t clicking for me. I think a lot of it was just a visceral reaction to the layout of the rulebook and the style of prose… I just wasn’t grokking the rules, and was dreading trying to actually run a session of the game.

Then Chris recommended Agon, and that I blog about the development of the homebrew here on Claw/Claw/Peck. Turns out going with Agon was a great idea… the blogging? I leave that to you to decide.

Anyways, I was always impressed by the layout and graphic design of Agon. To me, it is the gold standard of indie game graphic design. As far as indie game rules design, I honestly can’t say as I have yet to actually play it or run it. But at the very least, the book is very well written and organized, so I may have a much easier time of attempting to actually use it.

And the conceit of Agon– that the characters are heroes of Greek myth, competing against each other to win immortality in legend– scans so well to this game of religious characters writing the hagiographies of their exploits, as they combat sin and heresy on an inexorable path to martyrdom and possibly sainthood.

And finally, the abstract movement system and positioning band really appeals to me, especially when thinking about naval and skyship combat. Crowbar, thy name is Positioning

Hopefully Agon’s combat rules work out as well for me in practice as they do in theory, and I don’t bring the game to a screeching halt. I should probably go read some APs at Storygames sometime.

So anyways, this past weekend I made a new character sheet, and I started designing the obligatory wiki for the setting and rules. I am calling the game ‘Praxis,’ which is a word from Eastern Orthodox Christianity which means ‘action.’ When I stumbled upon that little gem, I just knew I was on to something.

A few of the changes I made to the Agon rules so far:

  • Changed a lot of the terminology from mythical Greek framing to swashbuckling/Judeo-Christian terminology. I may be stepping into a minefield with the whole works vs. grace framing, but it was too good to pass up. “But, but… It’s syncretic!” hand-waving, activate!
  • I’m stealing the astrology bit from Four Colors al Fresco, and mapping the stats/abilities to planets, and calling the rolling of the dice ‘rolling the planets.’ I just really like this little bit of genre color.
  • Changed the mix of weapons by adding firearms. Including the Marquis’ sweet gatling pistol.
  • I dispensed with armor and shields altogether since this is (nominally) a game set in the 18th century… albeit a very high fantasy 18th century.
  • Lots of changes to the character creation rules– adding origins and religious orders your character belongs to, and this is what determines ‘heroic trait’ bonuses.

So, take a gander at what I’ve got so far, and let me know what you think… I’m hoping to work on the naval/skyship rules later this week. I’ll share those when they’re ready.



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4 Responses to “‘Praxis’: an ‘Agon’ home brew variant”

  1. State of Play « Says:

    […] « ‘Praxis’: an ‘Agon’ home brew variant […]

  2. Christopher Tatro Says:

    I’m a little nervous about dumping armor and shields wholesale. It makes sense from a setting/style perspective but I don’t know what it will do to mechanical balance. It’s been a while since I played Agon but I remember the armor soaking up lots of damage that would otherwise be incapacitating pretty quickly. On the other hand, it felt like combats maybe went a little long so that may well be a GOOD thing.

    Positioning is a really simplified version of doing grid-based miniatures combat. The same GM I had for Agon at Origins also ran Spirit of the Century and used “zones” there as part of an attack on a zeppelin and it worked really well.

    I think this will be a more satisfying mod than DitV would have been. As much as I like the theory of the conflict system with its raising and blocking, I think it breaks down in actual play and yanks you out of the narrative pretty damn forcefully.

    • johnobrien21 Says:

      “On the other hand, it felt like combats maybe went a little long so that may well be a GOOD thing.”

      This is exactly what I am hoping for… make it a little more lethal when the guns come out. Actually, ‘lethal’ is the wrong word, since when you hit your 6th wound box, you are just ‘defeated’ and slink off in failure.

      Basically, I don’t want combat to be exponentially longer than simple contests. Longer, yes. But not *grind to a halt and bore everyone with repetition* slowness.

      I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just treat all combat as a simple contest at first, and then just like with skill challenges, if a player or I wants to ‘invoke hubris’ and zoom in on the action and run the contest as an extended combat, fine, we’ll break out the battle mat.

  3. This and that « Says:

    […] re-reading Agon in prep for John’s Inquisition game, and I’m once again really impressed by the simplicity of it. John Harper very neatly avoided […]

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