Judging the Game

Composer of the interactive symphony of imagination that is a role-playing game, its Judge performs several duties necessary for play to proceed. A Judge codifies the scenario in which the game will occur, acts out the role of every character as they appear, aside from those controlled by the other players, and serves as a referee when actions are required while the game is afoot.

Players wishing to serve as Judge require a willingness to entertain their fellows. Sure, the other players' characters get center stage, but someone has to adjudicate what happens when they act, describing these results in vivid detail. These are the masterminds that set events in motion, move the plot forward based on the actions of other players, and provide the very personality of the unfolding adventure.

While every game requires a Judge, it is vital to note that the Judge is not the most important person at the table. Everyone playing the game is participating for the express purpose of having fun, not necessarily to stroke someone else's ego. Furthermore, most of what one needs to serve as Judge is available elsewhere in the rules, as they are presented such that anyone who wishes to can know precisely how everything works.

Thus, all the material presented in Judging the Game can be considered recommendations, not guidelines. The rest of the text for the Costumed Adventurer Simulation Engine covers all the mechanics, so the goal of this work is to provide enough information for the aspiring Judge to plan an adventure for their fellow players - and then to enjoy it with them once play begins!

Judging the Game may be read by all of its players. Sure, it's primarily useful for those who wish to take on the role of Judge, and some players may not get a lot out of it, but there's nothing 'secret' included that would prompt Judges to forbid non-Judges from peeking. If anything, it might help non-Judges understand the effort their Judge must exert to help make their game night go!

On The Structure of Reality

A CASE Judge's first job is to determine the scenario he or she is staging for their fellows' costumed adventurers to play through. The CASE is designed such that its players can engage in adventure literally anywhere in existence, given enough thought and preparation. Narrowing down exactly when, where, and how it will occur, though, requires a basic understanding of the structure of reality the CASE recognizes.

An Infinity of Infinities

...or Even More Than Anyyone Can Imagine

Characters in the Costumed Adventurer Simulation Engine experience reality in the same basic fashion as the players behind them. They typically perceive the universe around them as one comprised of three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension. This is generally more than enough to quantify one's basic, continuing existence, not to mention that of everyone and everything they interact with.

However, there are more facets to our actuality than most can readily account for in their day-to-day life. This primarily comes into play when one considers the nature of causality, which is comprised of an infinitely large probability field that represents every possible outcome of every possible event. This boundless field forms an impossibly complex matrix of possibilities that sums up the here and now.

This infinitely large collection of previous results, present states, and future probabilities are what comprise a timeline. And for every possible outcome of every possible event at every given moment of time, a divergent timeline buds off from this first sequence, where one or more of those events transpired differently. In other words, an infinite amount of variant timelines are generated every single moment.

Over billions and billions of years, this process has continued unabated, generating a transfinite array of universes both hauntingly familiar and frighteningly alien. Known to ancient philosophers as the Aperion, this 'absolute everything' is a ceaseless divergence of timelines that occurs in a second temporal dimension, what we would consider the fifth.

This would be enough, if not for links between timelines being forged after travelers bridge the vast gulf separating them. This occurs in a third temporal dimension, an axis where the probability fields of two or more timelines interact and become inextricably linked to one another. But this axis also provides a structure for additional universes to exist within a single timeline.

These other universes occupying a timeline are often adjacent to our own reality, but have their own crosstime variations just as 'we' do. Every timeline where people find themselves worshiping the Aesir will have an associated Asgard, for example. And this can lead to numerous instances where the only difference between two timelines is how events transpire in one of these earth-adjacent planes.

Finally, there is an even further dimension we experience - or, more accurately, countless more - that defy classification by mere human logic. Consider this (these) to be the seventh dimension, a coordinate of concept whose vast reaches overlap with all others in one way or another. This is where 'locations' such as the astral plane and the mindscape occur, and events there can touch all times and spaces.


...or What To Do With All Of That

The grand tapestry of existence as described above offers a truly boundless playground within which to adventure. After all, an infinite number of timelines branching off an already infinite number of timelines upon the elapsing of each Planck unit of time means one can set up stakes and act out scenarious literally anywhere or anywhen they can imagine!

But for the most part, players aren't going to visit literally everywhere possible, and Judges shouldn't have to plan for a countless number of possibilities. They literally can't! So, when pondering their use of the CASE, prospective Judges need to figure out what it is they intend to do with it. Once this is determined, the when and where one's scenario will play out typically falls into place by itself.

This starts by determining the genre of the game the Judge wishes to indulge in. Genres are categories of performance, literature, or other art that primarily conforms to a series of conventions that define it in comparison to its counterparts. In other words, genres are a sort of big tent within which one's adventures will take place, a few of which are vastly more popular than others to roleplay within.

A few of the major genres explored in role-playing games include the following:

Adventure: "Professor Zaccardi had emphatically assured you that she had disarmed all the traps in the room, but she was an unrepentant drunk while afield, today more so than usual. Assuming her sullen indifference to your personal safety was at play, you cautiously poked the chest with your walking stick, narrowly avoiding a rusty dart trap as a result. Who says you don't pay attention to your peers?"

It doesn't matter if the protagonists have special abilities, equipment, or even knowledge. What matters is the journey, whatever manner of such is being undertaken, and how those undertaking it avoid the many pitfalls eager to waylay them. And those pitfalls are always laying in wait, because those who adventure for a living tempt fate as a general matter of course!

Fantasy: "As awareness of the world slowly returned, you felt the stinging burns from the explosion that unhorsed you. Before long, the blunt force trauma caused by your fall from Old Bitey reminded you of the bruised ribs and cracked teeth. Getting back on your feet, you eyed the source of that ruinous blast, the mad wizard cackling in the middle of her firenado, and pulled a knife."

Fantasy tales hinge on magical elements, whether they be enchanted objects, fantastic creatures, and/or literal sorcery. They can occur on present-day earth or at any moment in the past, or perhaps on entirely different worlds (or universes) entirely! These mystic elements shape the larger than life adventures of the larger than life characters trafficking in one or more larger than life matters.

Heroics: "Having failed to step out of the way, you saw stars as the hulking brute uppercut you several stories into the air, barely getting a handle on the situation before your ascent finally ceased. Falling face-first towards your assailant, you smiled while charging up your own attack, hoping to take her with you when your electrified body eventually collides with her."

Performing flashy deeds with flashy super powers while wearing flashy ensembles, the life of a hero usually seems great from the outside. Whether doing so as legally authorized operatives, marginally tolerated crime fighters, or even distrusted vigilante outlaws, heroes fight to their fullest to support their cause, whether that be justice, vengeance, or anything else!

Horror: "The zombies skulked about the warehouse floor, scattering at random in seeming disdain. Hiding in the rafters above the shelves was the right idea, considering the sheer number of the monstrosities that invaded the store after you pried the door open, but now there were thirty of them between you and what you came for: the last pallet of Slim Jims ™ on earth!"

The best way to describe horror is humans having an encounter with a malevolent something or other that comfortably rests above them on the food chain. Unlike heroics, these stories showcase the frailty of humanity in the face of overwhelming terror, and such tales rarely have a happy ending. The ultimate reward of horror stories is survival, often on the backs of one's fellows.

Science Fiction: "Steadily stalking up the pitted starboard hull of the smugglers' craft, your magnetized boots keep you from spinning off into the inky black void of space. Intent on breaching the criminals' mobile base of operations, you fail to notice it making the leap into hyperspace until it's too late, and barely avoid being peeled off its pock-marked surface and forever lost across countless dimensions."

Forward-looking in nature, science fiction tends to speculate about one or more concepts of the future, taking place anywhere between the current day and age to the end of time. Its characters invariably have to deal with conceptual innovations to come, most often involving technology and the changes wrought by it, whether it has been freshly introduced to their world or has shaped society for countless eons.

War: "Corporal Jackson silently signaled back to us with his hands, the point man indicating that he had seen the enemy. As we all crouched in place, his body was riddled with bullets from all around. Though he bought it, and bought it hard, Jackson saved all our lives. Raising our poodle shooters in response, we returned fire to avenge the poor slob - and to save ourselves!"

Everyone has known someone with their fair share of war stories. Games taking place in this genre thrust its characters into such conflicts, whether they are organized or otherwise. When telling the tales of either those fighting such wars or those touched by their consequences, war stories are often brutally realistic and typically feature a high character body count.


...or Narrowing It Down Further

Some games take place entirely within one genre, often one of those described previously. Fantasy in particular holds a massive chunk of mindshare amongst gamers, and actually counting how many role-playing games are completely devoted to fantasy is likely a fool's errand. But fantasy isn't the only game in town, and sometimes even fantasy writers get tired of playing their genre straight.

This is where subgenres come in. A subgenre is a subset of a larger genre, which vary from what folks consider the 'standard' by dint of when or where it takes place, how much it overlaps with another genre, or by the tone of the setting it is used within. Sometimes, the only thing holding a genre together is all the subgenres used to explore its 'parent' themes.

But how a subgenre is explicitly defined doesn't really matter. What makes subgenres great is that they often provide a fresh take on their parent genre, whether for a single foray into the unusual or as an overall facet of one's story. A given genre can house any number of subgenres, some of which hew closer to their base genre than others, only a few examples of which are showcased here:

Crime Wave: "Jimmy Jamboree bypassed the hotel room's door lock, allowing Frankie Five Toes to slip in with the sniper rifle. Frankie didn't have to kill anyone today, but it was his job to pin down the casino guards with indirect fire long enough to let the boys take care of business inside. And they wouldn't see it coming, because usually people try to rob casinos - not blow them up!"

This subgenre (or others like it) turn the typical adventure on its head, by allowing players to serve as the villains in the story. Their aim is to engage in some illicit activity that only they can perform, founding or maintaining a criminal conspiracy or organization, or merely the acquisition of vast amounts of wealth. These player character criminals can be ordinary folks or have fantastic capabilities.

Cyberpunk: "Howling as her foe's robotic fist smashed through her ribcage, Alana's Black Heart implant activated, sending megavolts through the offending appendage on contact. As the first thug flew backwards amidst a blinding electrical discharge, she glared at the other three while collecting herself and clenched her vibroblade, daring the hired goons to come get more of the same."

Set in a nebulous, near-future era, cyberpunk explores the blurring between man and machine as society evolves past respecting either. Both are only as useful as the power and influence they can earn for the powers-that-be, and cyberpunk tales can involve its protagonists navigating the awful realities of such a world, or alternately their efforts to escape its many, many constraints.

Post-Apocalyptica: "Though it filled his mouth with the unique flavor of diesel, Oil Can Ollie managed to coax about a quart of fuel from the abandoned tractor trailer. And just in time, too, because the Fleshrenders were out in force, seeking fresh leather to cover their war chariots' upholstery. Collecting his prize, Ollie hopped into his house bus and raced down the cratered Interstate highway."

The kind of horror that happens when the world ends, post-apocalyptic tales explore the aftermath of whatever it is that ended society as we know it. The cause of the world's demise need not be especially unusual, or even out of the ordinary, because other people are invariably the greatest threat the players will encounter. Everything else is usually just window dressing, whether animate or otherwise.

Space Opera: "Turning on a dime as he passed the tumbling rock, Marvin pulled up against it and powered his ship down. Watching the royal police race past as he drifted through space next to his cover, Marvin saw them warp away upon losing his trail. Thus, the space cops again returned to their system precinct without having captured him, letting him live to seek out his home another day."

Space opera is science fiction that generally plays fast and loose with the 'how' of futuristic gear, emphasizing other elements over the nuts and bolts of their settings' equipment. By avoiding a need to explain every development in exhaustive detail, space opera can focus on a narrative that features the familiar trappings of science fiction, but often emphasizes adventure or war story tropes.

Urban Fantasy: "Jackhammer scowled as he hotwired the lousy elf's box truck. The foolish git lost his keys in that Goblintown warehouse when they were jumped by security, and he didn't have a spare. As a dwarf, he preferred his people's works to this janky human technology, but in a pinch he was happy to run the guards over on his way to safety if they hadn't already got the hint."

Sliding the typical time scale of fantasy to the here and now, one can add the trappings of that genre to tales taking place in the present. It can be fun to play an elf with a gun, after all, especially when they get to use it against similarly armed orcs. This style of story takes place in a near-future time just as often, adding assorted sci-fi tropes to the mix as well as magical beings and spellcasters.

The War on Terror: "Cow Catcher absentmindedly polished his new nametag, having just earned his place in Anti-Terrorist Group Omega, colloquially known as the Bullet Sponges. It was his first mission, and though he'd been fully briefed about the occult terrorists of ABBREVIATION, seeing their half-golems in person gave him pause. Ready to prove his mettle, Cow Catcher charged right at them."

A subgenre of war stories popularized in the 1980s, the war on terror features patriotic soldiers (or possibly mercenaries) mobilizing in a conventional manner against decidedly unconventional foes. And 'unconventional' can mean any number of things, from asymmetric warfare against traitorous revolutionaries to a struggle against cult-like organizations determined to rule the world.

House Rules

...or making it your way.

As written, the Costumed Adventurer Simulation Engine is designed with customization in mind. There are optional rules for the handling of numerous situations in the game, which means that one group of players using the CASE may not be playing precisely the same game as others. And that's fine, because it stands to reason that differing timelines might function under somewhat different physics.

For instance, everyone should know whether their characters only use primary abilities or if they may split those abilities into secondary scores, which fatigue system if any is in use, whether damage is rolled on each attack or assumed to always be the same, and whether or not one or more power paths are not to be allowed when generating characters. You know, all the rules through which their timeline functions.

The choice of customizations a group of players adopt can be made for numerous reasons. Most often this is for the sake of simplicity, as things like split ability scores and damage rolls do add to the complexity of the CASE, to be sure. But these options may be chosen to further a given atmosphere, such as imposing fatigue rules to maintain a 'street-level' vibe.

Perhaps the most important customization that may apply to the CASE is the power level ceiling of one's campaign. This is an upper limit of sorts that the Judge may apply to other players in the game, meaning that their adventurers cannot hold a rank that is higher than this level. And this power level ceiling may be utilized by the Judge in a number of creative fashions.

For one thing, it doesn't apply to their own characters. Non-player characters of all stripes are unbound by a power level ceiling, which allows the Judge to throttle the difficulty of their adventurers based on how much challenge they wish to apply to their plots. If all your foes are of equal or greater prowess, that can make for a desperate struggle from start to finish!

Furthermore, a campaign's power level ceiling can be leveraged in several ways, depending on how much slack a Judge wants to give players. On the more stringent end, player characters can be limited such that they may only have one ability score or power rank at the ceiling, with everything else being lower. Conversely, players can be allowed to bypass their ceiling using limitations.

And all of this, this is just what is provided within the scope of the CASE corpus! The very existence of the CASE is proof positive that gamers will always tinker with the rules of whatever game they're playing, modifying them to better suit their purposes. Some of these changes are minor in scope, while others are so severe that it may feel as though one is playing a different game entirely.

No suggestions for such house rules are provided, as players will invariably find some changes to the CASE that increase their collective enjoyment of the game. And as long as everyone agrees with these changes and enjoys the CASE better with them in it than out, great! After all, the whole point of fiddling around with the CASE is to have fun, so lean into that as much as possible.

While it is recommended that all rule customizations be in place before the start of play, whether they come in the form of official options or home-brewed changes, this isn't always practical. Something might otherwise be missing or malfunctioning over the course of play, and an upgrade is required to keep things rolling. And if everyone is cool with this running change, run with it!

Genre Rules

...or Legislating Flavor

Perhaps the easiest way to emphasize the narrative style of a group's chosen setting is through the use of genre rules. Genre rules are additions to or mutations of the Costumed Adventurer Simulation Engine's mechanics that work to enforce the essential tenets of a milieu. Think of them as guardrails that keep players from veering too far out of character for the game they're in.

Designed as an open-ended role-playing system, the base state of the CASE lacks genre rules altogether. However, as the system readily welcomes modifications to itself, rules to induce narrative cohesion when desired are perfectly reasonable. One system option that can be repurposed into a genre rule involves Mental Health, which is described more fully in the Life and Death portion of the rules.

As an aside, the game the CASE was based upon featured its own genre rule. Sure, it was removed as part of the process of making the CASE genre-neutral, but there's no reason one couldn't make use of it still, should a group appreciate that game's tropes. As such, should you wish to more closely emulate the experience of the old system, here is the Four Color Comics Code genre rules.

Sample Genre Rule: The Four Color Comics Code

(workin' on it)

(this is basically going to be the Karma rules from the old game, you know where you always lose Karma for committing a crime, and then all of it if you bump someone off. valid for that game and/or setting, but not necessarily for whatever someone else is doing with the CASE. I'll get this finalized once I also finalize the Karma rules at the end of this thing you're reading here)

On The Generation of Characters

(workin' on it)

On The Nature of Adventure

Once a group of Costumed Adventurer Simulation Engine players settle on a setting within which they will enjoy the game, it's up to the Judge to determine what they'll actually be doing. This involves plotting an adventure for the others, through which they can explore the chosen setting. What this plot entails depends entirely on the type of story a Judge wishes to lay out for their fellows.

Duration of Sessions

...or How Long A Given Story Lasts

Depending on how grand a tale the Judge has in mind, it may unfold over one play session or several. A tale that can be completed in one sitting is often called a one-shot, and can be likened to a movie in scope. The characters and setting are introduced, the plot unfolds from beginning to end, and then everything should be tied up in a nice bow once everything is settled, for good or ill.

On the other hand, a story which will unfold over several play sessions is usually considered a campaign. Whether it takes place over two nights of play or two hundred, a campaign should include the exact same components that a one-shot would. The benefit of additional time allows the story to breathe, however, providing the opportunity to explore the Judge's story in much greater detail.

(benefits of each)

something something use somewhere

"His eyes lingering skyward as long as he could tolerate the soul-crushing gray haze, Enrique returned his eyes to the subjects of his watch, the silicone supermodels of Generation 666. Having averted his gaze while they beat their quarry into a pulp, Enrique waited for the signal to open up with his nailgun. And after being forced to witness their brutality, he was more than ready for it."

Of all the tools a Judge has to conduct a game session, creative description is possibly the most important. Sure, a short-hand description of a situation or environ can be used in a pinch, especially when everyone present is genre-savvy. But the more details a Judge reveals with even a sentence of flavorful text generally trumps "the suprisingly pretty cyborg gangsters are across the street."

That's not to say a Judge needs to prepare a wall of text to read at people. There's nothing quite so immersion-breaking as one pausing for a short speech before resuming play, after all. But making copious notes of the details you want to mention when setting a specific scene to players is a good middle ground. This way, a seemingly adlibbed encounter was, in fact, planned in some detail!

On The Consequences of Adventure

...you know, karma rewards, advancement, popularity changes, all that jazz.

(workin' on it)


It may not shock you to realize that I am nowhere near completing this work. I'm still bending my head around everything I want to describe, which is a lot more in depth than the ten or whatever pages the old books provided. The trick is to include everything without losing everyone, which is, you know, tricksy. Here's hoping I can actually pull this keystone of the rules off!

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