An Introduction to the 4C System: Edition 13
A long, long time ago, back in 1985, I began to tinker with the idea of role-playing games. My introduction to such entertainment was the old-style Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game (or MSH RPG, for short). It was a pretty fun pastime, and me and a couple of friends would get together to stage adventures where everyone beat up on whatever imaginary villain had launched whatever ridiculous plot each week.
In the beginning, I was not very good at this sort of thing. I do believe our original adventure involved Thor and Wolverine hanging out in a bar, seeing who could get drunk first, when a 'giant radioactive dinosaur' suddenly attacked the city. Of course, by this point both heroes had managed to get rather tipsy through sheer volume, and chaos (and staggering property damage) quickly ensued.
I eventually got better at the whole storytelling thing, though, and we managed to keep our game going for over a decade. After that, our group drifted into other things, a lot of them succumbing to the 'Vampire' chain of games while I instead started running a Planescape campaign. I subsequently experimented with numerous other systems, such as Cyberpunk and Rifts, but MSH always felt like 'home' to me.
It's just one of those things, I suppose. Over those years of gaming, I cooked up an inordinate amount of characters, along with a plethora of customized rule systems. I was always tinkering with things, either streamlining the actual rules themselves, or vastly improving on the character generation options by making all-new paths of power for players to walk their characters through.
Having since discovered the Internets, I thought that it would be great to share my original (and some not-so original) creations with the world, doing so mostly through an e mail list dedicated to the MSH RPG. It died a horrible death when it was absorbed by topica.com (the jerks), and with the subsequent release of the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (MSHAG), a role-playing game based on the Saga card system.
So I thought 'Why not put all this work on my own site'? Thus, on April 9th, 1998, 'Technohol 13: the Atomic Drink' was born! I use the site to house some of the characters and rule sets I've concocted over the years and put online, though there's still a lot of work to do in that regard. The ultimate goal is to rebuild the MSH RPG on my own terms, and in my own way, a goal that continues to this very day.
However, I apparently wasn't the only one that was doing so.
I recently tripped over the 4C System, which has the goal of producing an 'open source' version of the old-style MSH RPG. They have a bevy of downloads available for your gaming use, as well as a forum with which to discuss their nascent system. I find I like this idea a whole lot, a system using the same essential mechanics whilst using its own terminology and such to technically be a different game.
It's something that various systems have done over the years to varying degrees of success, and I think it could catch on here. I don't have any illusions about my favorite system taking over the universe or whatever, but I think this is something that could use some support. Or at least more than I've seen the online world manufacturing since the 4C System went 'public' a good long while back.
So I pondered all of this. I've got oodles and oodles of original rules stuff that is built for the MSH RPG. It's not really all that difficult for me to transform the stuff I've written for the MSH RPG into product for the 4C System. I've gone out of my way to invent a lot of my own terminology anyway, and what little isn't 'unique' to my own stuff is pretty common to RPGs overall, not just the MSH RPG.
So I figure, why not go ahead and do so?
Enter: Edition 13. The 4C System was released into the public domain (their original art notwithstanding), so I can quite legally pick up their ball and run with it. Edition 13 is a version of the 4C System of my own devising, greatly expanding the rules provided by the core 4C 'kernel'. The 'big idea' is to alter it slightly by adding enough 'crunchy' rules goodness so that it can function with all my custom products.
Now, I could just fashion my work into a sexy .pdf file and sell it online at the various sites available for just such purposes. And I may do so, once I get my hands on a copy of Acrobat and an artist or two to produce pretty imagery for my use (as much as I would like to, I can't draw very well). But the core materials, Edition 13 and all of its various expansions and whatnot, will remain here free of charge.
I offer my Edition 13 work under the Creative Commons Attribution license. What this means is that if you wish, you may use the Edition 13 material in any way you see fit, whether copying, distributing, or displaying all or part of this text, as long as you credit my work in your own derivative texts or products. If you would like more information about me for attribution, you can contact me via e mail.
Other than that, I hope you enjoy Edition 13, and can make use of some (or all) of it!
The Big Idea Behind 4C System: Edition 13
Now you know why Edition 13 exists, but in the event that you've never enjoyed a role-playing game before, you may find yourself asking just what the heck you do with this thing. Simply put, the idea behind Edition 13 is to allow players to assume the identity of at least one character, and play out his, her, or their activities in a setting decided upon by all the players involved.
Most players of Edition 13 assume the role of just one character. This character is referred to as a Player Character (or PC). This is the player's avatar in the setting, the means by which they interact with it. Keep in mind that a player character should talk and behave as that character would, not as the player managing them might... unless the player character is some version of their 'real' self.
On the other hand, one player must assume the role of the Gamemaster. He or she adjudicates the rules during play, and handles the roles of every character encountered that isn't managed by the other players. A Gamemaster's characters are referred to as Non-Player Characters (or NPCs). It is the Gamemaster's job to present a scenario for the other players to operate within, as well as to manage all of the action.
Therein lies the beauty of a role-playing game: it is not inflexible fiction, but instead a collaborative effort. The Gamemaster sets the stage for events, and all the other players act out their roles, taking their characters wherever their personas would dictate - for good or ill. It is a truly active form of entertainment, one which draws all its participants into the limelight, and lets everyone influence the story.
And that story can take place almost anywhere! From ancient realms lost to legend to distant planets in the deepest reaches of space, Edition 13 allows its players to adventure wherever they wish, limited only by their imagination! Furthermore, these stories can take the form of solitary tales, a one-shot sort of thing, or instead expand into an entire campaign, a series of adventures that tells a much larger tale.
While the former can be good fun, the latter allows a group to fully explore their characters and the setting presented to them by their Gamemaster. But either is an acceptable use of Edition 13, for both can be equally entertaining. This is just a choice that a group of players needs to make beforehand - though they can surely mix and match between the two as is desired!
But what is required to play Edition 13, you ask?
Not much, really. All that's essentially necessary are these rules - and a set of percentile dice. Percentile dice are two ten sided dice, which can be used to generate a number ranging from one to one hundred, though these dice can be hard to come by outside of professional gaming stores. To this end, here is a simple d100 number generator, if you need it.
Other than that, all you need is a tiny bit of creativity - and the desire to have fun!