The goal of the Incarnate System is to enable game masters to quickly respond to their players going off script. It looks forward to the day when a game master will be able to respond to their players doing crazy things and going out on unpredictable adventures without being cordoned off to a predefined script. The more of the burden we can take off the game master's shoulder the more game masters we will have and the faster this community can grow.
The Big Dark Castle
GM: "After trudging through miles of marshes you finally come upon a giant stone castle which appears to be fashioned from one piece of obsidian."
Player 1: "I look up at the castle and vote to go back into the marshes and see if we find something cool."
Player 2: "I second that. Miles of marshland has to have some interesting monsters. Maybe there is even a hidden cave somewhere? A dwarven ruin?"
GM scratches his head and says... "Frankly I have not really planned out the marshes. We can do that next week, but for now can you please focus on the castle?"
Player 1 roles his eyes then says. "I cast Move Earth digging out the soft marsh dirt from around and under one of the towers until the weight of the obsidian stone causes it to collapse."
The GM looks at his pre-done map and realizes that tower is the treasure vault. If he lets this happen the quest is over already. He starts madly rolling dice behind the blind just trying to think up something, anything to stop this... finally he says. "The one piece of obsidian the castle is fashioned out of goes down into the swamp at least a mile deep. You cannot dig under it."
Player 2: "So you are telling me that they somehow moved a mile long piece of obsidian out into a marsh sinking most of it and carved a castle in the top?"
We have all been there. Your players love using their creativity and sometimes come up with solutions that make session long quests end in minutes, especially if the dice are in their favor. I had one group that recruited a random guy in a tavern to go with them on a quest... and had to come up with stats and a roleplaying background for this throwaway character in 30 seconds. I had another group that walked up to the bandit chief and asked him to leave... with a natural 20 Persuasion. I gave him three saving throws with a high roll of 4. He packed up and left... now what to do with the rest of the session?
My solution has been to build thousands of tables that let me respond to virtually anything I can imagine them doing. From needing a new npc, dungeon, location (plain, valley, etc.), even to an entire city, our content of over 3,000+ tables can spawn a lot. And no you don't have to roll each table individually. We originally built it to be executed by one Virtual Table Top and are now working on a system that will make it available on all virtual table tops. This allows the VTTs to roll thousands of calls on tables with a single click.
This is a living project though. Our list of future content grows faster than we can code it in. This is a project we can imagine working on for years to come, and it is something we want a growing team to accomplish. From a word of encouragement, to those who have crazy brilliant ideas, even to those who are willing to help pick up the bill we need a team to stand with us.
What we have written so far is a great start and can stand on its own. We have dreams for the future, but the future is never certain. We dream of getting lots of usage data back from play-test leagues that show us when one type of character build is more common or less common than others. We want to be able to tweak outliers that are either too powerful or too weak to bring them back into balance. We want to be able to re-release these versions. The current plan is to have the Amazon release be by year (so buying it once will get you free updates through the end of the year of the version you buy, not a year from purchase date). The current plan for Patreon is for you to get included updates for as long as you are partnered with us.
We dream of making enough money to re-invest a lot of it back into the company to license artwork and eventually hire additional authors. These are goals for the future, but they are goals that cannot be done alone.
Piracy is not a victim-less crime
The biggest threat to these dreams is digital piracy. We do not even pretend to be able to protect our data against hackers. We do not pretend to be using sophisticated Digital Rights Management. Hackers can hack in and extract all the data, and it will be child's play for them. Anyone can illegally email the content they bought to their friends. We humbly ask you not to. If you like our content, please buy it and encourage your friends to buy it. We intentionally keep our prices really low to make it affordable. If you want to contribute more you can through our Patreon https://www.patreon.com/incarnategaming
My dad taught me that whenever you are new to a job you need to find the biggest problems, then solve them. Since Incarnate Gaming was founded in 2017, it has sought to solve the biggest problems in the role-playing genre.
Table top games are incredibly difficult to get started with. Either you have to learn a huge amount of rules, or use a Virtual Table Top which takes a while to learn. When the Incarnate System is executed in a Virtual Table Top it is most powerful. In this mode it can automate everything from attacks, to wildshape transformations. The goal was to get the player into combat and comfortable with fighting in the first 15 minutes by using the power of the Virtual Table Top and pre-generated characters.
When used as a book the Incarnate System is still powerful. When something is referenced, you can click on it and a hyperlink will take you to it. The entire thing loads at once allowing for quick searches. These formats tend to be used in a browser so you even have quick access to the table of contents and a back button! We have even added the Player Quick Sheet to give players quick access to the rules that they will be using most often. It may not be automated like a Virtual Table Top, but at least you don't have to flip through a three 400 page books every time you forget a rule.
Game Masters often struggle with how open the world is. Players can de-rail a campaign in seconds. The GM then has to make a decision, do I force the players back on, or do we go in this new direction? Great story tellers can come up with intriguing worlds on demand, but most of us struggle with that. The idea that we have to be able to respond to anything is so terrifying that the genre is always hungry for GMs.
The Incarnate System is designed to place a lot of idea generators at the GMs finger tips. In a Virtual Table Top, a single click can roll thousands of dice to generate an entire city, dungeon, or numerous other options as displayed from the GMs Blind. When viewed in a book, we recommend focusing on what you want to know about a location instead of rolling everything. Start with just a Non Player Characters personality, or just their race, or just their occupation. If that jogs an idea, run with it. If you are still scratching your head then roll the next thing you want to know about them. Use the tables to inspire you. Remember the tables were made for you, not you for the tables. That means that if you don't like a result, you don't have to use it. Pick one you like, or write your own.
Probably the strongest evidence that we have solved this issue, is that the average game in our play-test league has two or three game masters as players. The league frequently ends up "upside down". We end up with more active GMs than active players and have to cancel games due to lack of players. I have never seen this dynamic in any other role-playing league. As such, I believe we have solved this issue.
The role play genre has come to a crossroads. Just like cameras had to choose between smoother transitions of film and the edit-ability of digital pixels, so our genre has to choose between the feel of paper in a book, and the ease of use of a computer. Statistics released by Roll20 and Smiteworks shows that the online market is doubling every two to three years. Further, when I met with employees of Paizo at GenCon 2018 they were shocked at how few basic Pathfinder 2.0 rule-books they were selling. Many of the people coming through line "mentioned already having the PDF" and were only buying minis, battle maps, and other accessories.
I believe that this is not a problem, but an opportunity. Amazon allows publication for a "distribution cost" of $0.05 per megabyte. With a megabyte being close to 1,000 pages of text, I challenge you to find any printer who will come even close. This leaves a lot more money on the table for the publisher to invest in content creation.
Unfortunately, there is not one format which can be used by all digital distribution formats. Nor is there any "save as" feature to export what they need. Workers at Smiteworks have estimated it takes 200+ hours per book they convert. The guys I met at Lonewolf estimates that it takes 400+ hours per book. Add in Roll20, D20Pro, DnDBeyond, DungeonFog, TableTop Simulator, Kindle, Nook, and the PDF needed for a physical printing. That means that publishers now need 10 typeset formats that all take 100+ hours of skilled typesetting, per book. I have not seen any publisher choose to publish to all 10 formats at least partially because of the time it would take.
That is where Incarnate Gaming's Universal Gaming Format (UGF) will come in. We have created a Table Top neutral XSD that governs our XML and are actively writing export scripts to PDF, HTML, and Kindle formats. We plan to eventually write export scripts to each of the Virtual Table Tops willing to work with us. Although UGF could be directly executed by a VTT we don't expect any of the existing VTTs to change to meet the new standard, rather we are working on export scripts that will allow their old systems to be able to continue to work with minimal editing. We also hope to eventually have a sleek Graphic User Interface that will make it easy for Content Creators to enter their data into UGF. UGF and its export scripts should solve the biggest problem for publishers. Unlike the other two problems that we believe we have solved, we fully know that this project has a long way to go to be fully operational. There is also the strong likelihood that some VTTs will be different enough as to not be fully compatible even with advanced export scripts. We hope to be able to write an export script that will make the publisher's content executable by the VTT, but many VTTs will probably want to spend more time on optimization to make things even easier for their users.
I dream of Incarnate Gaming LLC not just being a publishing house, but being a company engaged with transforming lives. From investing in existing charities to founding new ones, I dream and pray for the opportunity to impact my generation in a powerful way. Below are some of the ideas I have had, I don't know if they will work or if we will have the money to launch them, but I pray for the opportunity to do so. I put these dreams in writing now to server as a reminder later. I know that many of these goals are way beyond what Incarnate Gaming LLC can be reasonably expected to make for many years. I have seen other companies start with the best of intentions, but loose their vision as they grow. These prayers for the future are here to serve as a reminder of the direction we started in, especially if we stray from that path.
- Philip Lawrence, Managing Member of Incarnate Gaming LLC 2019
I have a strong history with a church camp. I started going there in early elementary and have found it to be a home away from home. The events at this camp had a huge impact on my upbringing. That being said, it is now an older camp and could use some capital investment so that it can continue to invest in the next generation of kids. There are some small improvements like new hammocks, tents, mattresses, fresh paint. If the company becomes greatly profitable, it will also be possible to tackle some of the large investments like a high ropes course designed to both accessible to those with only upper body strength (the camp specializes in full accessibility and has a number of campers in wheelchairs) and those who prefer to use their legs, and a new pool (which provides a tremendous freeing experience to those normally trapped in wheelchairs).
As a Christian, I believe that it is our sacred duty to take care of the orphans among us. With several friends who are social workers, I know how great the need is for loving homes to take care of orphaned and neglected children. Unfortunately, many group homes can fall into the same traps as the family homes the kids are brought from. I dream of building a group home with a large women's wing, and a large men's wing. Each wing would have individual bed rooms that the kids would have keys to lock their doors. Each room should have a bed, desk, window, closet space, and enough floor space for the kids to be able to do personal exercise in private (such as push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, etc.). There should be a large common meeting room/dinning room and a large kitchen. There should be at least 4 master bedrooms in the main area. This will provide us space to bring in 4 units of either adult singles or married couples to provide both parenting and counseling. There should be security cameras everywhere other than the bedrooms and bathrooms. Any man who enters the women's wing will be removed and prosecuted, same for any woman entering the man's wing. Ideally we would also strike a deal with YouTube to have the kids make video blogs. Ideally, these videos would only be available to a group of "sensitive access" YouTube users (social workers, pastors, judges, law enforcement, etc.) and there would be features to 1) flag a video for further review by sensitive access users 2) vote for censoring (protect a kid from releasing something that could damage a future political career) 3) submit to law enforcement. The goal here would be to have the group home be fully transparent. I believe that removing secrecy from the group home will help protect the kids from abuse both from staff and from other kids.
There are lots of great schools that teach how to pass a test. The teach the basics of math and science. You learn to read and write. All these skills are great, but I believe that school can be so much more.
I dream of a school that designs a curriculum to train students not only in the traditional topics but also in trouble shooting, teamwork, leadership, and other skills that are tough to even name and tend to get described as "soft skills". Regardless of the field, these are the skills that employers are looking for. I believe that a large reason why the US government struggles to get anything done is that it is filled with individual's trained in how to work as individual's instead of being trained to work as a group. I dream of building a school that prepares movers and shakers of the next generation.
Some of this training will likely include role playing games like the one described in this book. These games form a great platform where we can experiment and practice our team skills with minimal risk. We will also need to come up with "real life" scenarios for students to hone their skills in higher pressure environments.
Unfortunately there are many requirements placed on schools inside the US by politicians. Worse these requirements change on a regular basis. I remember learning about the "American Indians" three years in a row because some politician kept changing what year that topic was going to be on the standardized test. What did I miss because of that?
I don't know where would be a good location for this, and it would be very very expensive to launch. It would require building a state of the art boarding school with excellent facilities in a country willing to let us try something different and new.
As a Christian, I believe that my yes needs to mean yes and my no needs to mean no. A man is only as good as his word, and I will do my best to maintain mine. As the managing member of Incarnate Gaming LLC that means that our stance on ethics will almost always be far stricter than the law. I believe that many of the "good business" practices that help ensure the "bottom line of profitability" have no home within Incarnate Gaming LLC. We do hope to make a profit, but insist on making a profit by making content that is 1) good for our contributors 2) good for our consumers 3) good for the nations we live in.
"A worker is worthy of his wages."
I believe that it is our duty to protect the interests of our contributors. I have several artists lined up who want to contribute artwork to this project. Unfortunately, the tradition of the industry is that because artists love doing what they do, and many are willing to work very cheaply, that it is okay to pay them the little they are willing to work for. I want to do things differently. I desire to be able to pay them enough to live off of (cheaply), AND let them maintain most rights to their intellectual property. Our embedded content license includes the phrase "a perpetual, royalty free, non-exclusive right and license to digitally and/or electronically reproduce, distribute, and use the Copyright Material it whatever electronic form it desires". This automatically preserves the artist's rights to sell printed merchandise using their image. We plan to amend this license with each contribution to include a one time payment. The goal is to pay them enough to survive as a guaranteed "base pay", but then allow their side sales (full sized posters, T-shirts, etc.) to enhance their payment up to "skilled labor". It also means that whenever we want to do a merchandise run, we will go back to those artists and ask permission to use their image for it, giving them a cut of the profits.
Why don't you just give them a cut of the base sale?
The logistics of giving them a cut of the base sale of a book including contributions from numerous authors/artists all of which have put in lots and lots of hours of work would soon become a nightmare. We want artists to be significantly down stepping the size of their images for what we release digitally. This helps us by keeping our data size down, it also helps the artists by making it so that although the images are good enough for display on a phone or tablet to a group around a table, it won't make a very good poster or T-shirt for any criminals who decide to pirate the image.
Piracy is NOT a Victim-less Crime
You have heard it countless times about DVDs, but it is true here too. All of our contributors work long hard hours to make this content. I do not claim to have the ability to encrypt it and secure it to the point where you cannot steal it. This really rests on the honor system. It may be far easier to buy one copy of our content and email it to all your friends than it is to break the window at a book store and run off with a bag with 50 books, but it is just as illegal. If you are reading this, then you have bought a personal copy for your own use. This does include showing images and text on a screen with your buddies as you gather around a table, but it does not include emailing it or otherwise transmitting it to them (except through a VTT that has an independent license to do so). You will notice that we keep our prices far lower than our competitors. Part of why we have done this is to make it easier for each player to own a copy. At the end of the day, you may be thinking "They probably won't prosecute us for this" and you might be right, but the question is how much is your integrity worth? Also, remember that if we don't make money, we will eventually walk away. If you think that this content makes it easier to play and you want to see more updates in the future, the easiest way to help us succeed is to encourage your friends to buy their own copies and enjoy that same ease of use.
Any great product will improve the lives of those who use it. Normally the entertainment industry seeks to only distract you from your troubles. This is a benefit to the individual, but only a very limited benefit. Often times spending a large amount of time in entertainment causes negligence in daily life. In turn, that negligence causes more suffering. The suffering increases the desire to escape. That leads to greater consumption of entertainment and a downward spiral. We know that not everyone enters that spiral and it is possible to avoid, but we are dreaming of entertainment designed to create an upward spiral.
What if the game passively taught social skills like those described in How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Google's Project Oxygen (the first being the leading book on how to interact with people since 1936 and Google Project Oxygen was Google's research project that found that these skills are still the most valuable in the world). If you could learn those skills while "escaping" from a bad environment, then when you returned you would be better equipped to change the environment you had fled. You would be able to start to diffuse arguments by seeing things from other perspectives and more able to find compromises where everyone wins.
I would argue that the best place to learn social skills is inside of a fantasy world where the stakes are low. With the pressure removed, we can focus on working with our team to accomplish the impossible. The biggest problem with most fantasy worlds is that they are limited by the creativity of the game designers. They program a lot of possibilities in, but if you think of something outside of the scope of their creativity you hit a ceiling of impossibility. The beauty of the table top role playing games is the human component. In our genre, our only limitation is our imagination.
If your game teaches skills to make real life better, why would people ever come back to it?
Because it is first and foremost fun! Yes there is an element of training, but it is the natural training of personal growth over the course of a grand adventure. Also, try thinking long term. If this game equips people to have the skills to be a leader in any industry, then it is also the perfect place to passively network. You may be starting playing with broke college kids with no resources, but in 10, 20 years they just might be the CEOs of companies still hanging out with their old buddies. The game will continue to provide a low risk environment for their friendship to grow and blossom. During the day there may be millions of dollars hanging in a delicate balance of maneuvers between their companies, but after hours they are fighting side by side to take down fierce monsters and dragons. The rewards from there are split with the goal of taking on the next monster, not on who gets the most out of that one negotiation. I suspect that a lot of businesses will find that applying that forward looking skill to be more profitable than fancy maneuvers to make a killing in one quarter.
I firmly believe that my home country is so focused on training us up to be successful individuals, that we have forgotten to teach how to be productive members of society. I plan to pay taxes off of the top without using fancy maneuvers to shelter the companies money. I understand that many businesses would go bankrupt if they tried this, and we may too. That being said, I believe that I live in a great country and that it is my responsibility to invest in it. Some of those investments will be directly through our Prayers for the Future, but much of the investment will also be by faithfully paying taxes. I hope to create a game that encourages us to look beyond ourselves and see how our actions effect others. Something may be legal, but how will it effect the our companies, communities, states, and country? Something may be legal, but is it ethical? I love putting my players in morally ambiguous situations and have them discuss what the "right" thing to do is. Often times I have no clue what the "right" thing is, I just want them to dig in and discuss it. One time they broke into a prison slaughtering the guards to save one of their comrades. All the prisoners were going to escape if left their unattended, so they had decide which ones to let go (assuming they were as unjustly imprisoned as their comrade) and which deserved to die (pretty much the only other option as they were not equipped to imprison them anywhere else). The managed to figure out that one of the prisoners was a serial killer and chose to kill him instead of releasing him back on the streets.
I still don't know if they made the right call. Maybe there was a third option that we did not see? Maybe they were right on. The thing I enjoyed was getting them talking. They also had to think back on the guards they slaughtered to get there and realize that their job was to contain problems like that serial killer, but they also had to contain those who displeased the unjust ruler. Did such a guard deserve to die?
These are tough questions that we answer quickly and with low stakes in role playing games, but they get us thinking and they get us prepared for other situations. Is it okay to fire a custodian caught stealing $5 from petty cash to buy beans and rice for his family to get them through till the next pay check? What if he does not know how to cook beans and rice so he steals $50 for pre-made meals? How many other times has he stolen? What if you just notice how thin and hungry looking one of your co-workers are?
I choose this particular example as it is something a lot of my friends serving as missionaries in 3rd world countries face. In American culture it may seem silly, but these are serious questions that I have friends who face. We have our own questions ranging on "When is a baby alive?", "When does a lifestyle choice begin to affect the integrity of a business?", and many many others which get to be very controversial and I don't want to discuss outside of fantasy.
The Incarnate System is a reference book. We highly recommend not trying to read straight through the book. If you are a player, start with the Player Quick Reference. If you are a Game Master, start with the Game Master's Blind.
The tables were designed for execution by a Virtual Table Top (VTT). Some will use odd die types that a computer can handle, but do not exist in physical formats. Some of the features rely on numerous rolls integrated together. Although such systems are best in a VTT, those who love dice will find it is possible to still use those features, with patience and a dab of creativity. Remember that the table is made for the GM, not the GM for the table. If you don't like the odds assigned for the computer, use your own. Unlike a computer, you have an intelligent mind that can shape the data as you go. Roll until you have inspiration, then run with your inspiration.
If there is a single asterisk (*) after an items name, then it is canonical to 5e and will be accepted by 99% of Game Masters. We can legally include these pieces of information as they are released in the System Reference Document under the Open Gaming License. You can find a Copy Left version of this data on our website. This information was released by the largest publisher in genre to form the definition of 5th Edition.
The main publishers are very very focused on the design of the best book possible. That means that they sometimes have information more compact than we desire it to be in electronic format. We have made some alterations that we believe to be in the spirit of 5e even if not perfectly in alignment with the SRD (the definition of what it means to be 5e). This content will be accepted by some Game Masters and rejected by others. It is accepted in any of our Partnered Leagues.
We have written and converted a huge amount of data. This data is play-tested through our Partnered Leagues and then we strive to re-balance it to keep all character options even with each other and monsters even within a CR level. Please let us know about balance issues through our Discord server: https://discord.gg/pqkeFYc That being said, a lot of balance issues are highly subjective. We do our best, but we are sure that there will be objections. As always with this genre, the final word is with the Game Master. Some will accept our content. Some will tweak it to fit their tastes. Some will reject it.
Wherever there has been Product Identity we have replaced it with ****. We would love to advertise for publishers that do great things, however thanks to paragraph 7 of the OGL, such advertisements end up sounding like "**** makes great products. We especially recommend **** and **** as they add a lot of really cool features that you can use with the Incarnate System." We respect their wishes and will follow their policies as they wrote them in the OGL, even if there are countless examples of others not doing so.
We have a great team that has been working really really hard on both compiling content we can legally use, and writing new content. Here is a little bit about them.
Philip Lawrence first discovered traditional table top games in the summer of 2017. He had been raised in a conservative background where the genre was described as inherently evil. What he discovered though, was a genre where you continually move from challenge to challenge learning to work as a team. Some of these challenges also pose moral questions about what is right and wrong. He became fascinated with the similarities to live role playing activities done at church camps to prepare kids for real life. Seeing the possibility for a game that was not only fun, but also trans-formative he set out to enter the genre. He started, as his father had taught him, by trying to solve The Biggest Problems in the Genre. He was repeatedly told by workers at the big VTTs that many of his goals were impossible, but he persevered and he prayed. Each time he got stuck, God gave him the inspiration to keep going. The code kept evolving and has effectively solved two of the top three problems in the genre, and he has set his eyes on the last.
Philip is the managing member of Incarnate Gaming LLC. He started with less than $10,000 in capital and had to spend a large chunk of that creating a limited liability company and setting up the legal paperwork needed to operate as a publishing house. He chose to do this after looking at many of the publishers and finding clauses in their legal work that he could not accept. He dreamed of building a company that looked out not only for a profit, but also tried to protect its employees rights, even when it was not convenient. It has not been an easy journey. Even with the tiny starting capital, he managed to put in 40+ hours a week for more than 18 months before starting on commercializing the Incarnate System. He has become great friends with beans and rice, and learned what it is like to be content with almost nothing. He hopes that such experience has taught him to be a good steward of resources and will allow him to remain faithful even as the company does become more profitable.
Some leagues have chosen to pick up our content and play-test it. The following have told us that they are play-testing our content:
They specialize in "sequential one-shots". Each of their Game Masters (GMs) has a persistent world where events from one session affect future sessions. Characters from within the league can jump from one GM to another in pick up games. Each game is self-contained but can bump into existing lore from that GM's world.
There are many many many virtual table tops out there. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses. We will try to report just the facts on these VTTs, but have experience with very few of them. As such the facts will be highly incomplete and possibly inaccurate, especially on the VTTs we have not personally tested.
The virtual table tops are presented in alphabetical order.
We have not used Astral Tabletop. You can find their website at https://www.astraltabletop.com/
We have not used Beyond Tabletop. You can find their website at https://www.beyondtabletop.com/
We have not used D20Pro. You can find their website at https://d20pro.com/
We have not used D&D Beyond. You can find their website at https://www.dndbeyond.com/
We have not used Dungeon Fog. You can find their website at https://www.dungeonfog.com/
Although someone recommended it to us as a VTT, its website makes it look like it is only a map-making tool. We have not used it, and have not done significant research into it.
We have not used Epic Table. You can find their website at http://www.epictable.com/
We have used Fantasy Grounds. You can find their website at https://www.fantasygrounds.com/home/home.php
Foundry is currently our prime focus where we not only custimize our data to run there, but also are writing a mod to add advanced features. You can find their website at http://foundryvtt.com/
We have not used The Lone Wolf Suite. You can find their website at https://www.wolflair.com/
We have not used Roll20. You can find their website at https://roll20.net/
We have not used Role Gate. You can find their website at https://www.rolegate.com/
We have not used RPG Tools You can find their website at http://www.rptools.net/
We have not used Table Top Simulator. You can find their website at https://store.steampowered.com/app/286160/Tabletop_Simulator/
We have not used Table Top Simulator. You can find their website at https://talespire.com/
We have not used Vassal. You can find their website at http://www.vassalengine.org/
We have not used Table Top Simulator. You can find their website at https://store.steampowered.com/app/736420/Yag/