In the absence of an official tabletop game...

I’ve been working on an unofficial one.
I crunched some numbers, and borrowed heavily from certain other storytelling systems (coughCastleFalkensteincough) and this is what I’ve come up with so far.
I’d be interested to know what you gentlefolk think.

I hope you’ll forgive me if a few things are over-explained. I wrote out these rules elsewhere first and copied them here.

There are four attributes: Watchful, Dangerous, Shadowy, and Persuasive. Everything you do falls under the purview of one of these four attributes. Your attributes progress in numerical value from 20 (being the worst score you can posess) and 1 (being the best score you can posess.)

The variable aspect of the system is determined with playing cards, including all four standard suits from ace to king, and the two jokers. Each attribute corresponds to a particular suit. Watchful = Diamonds, Dangerous = Clubs, Shadowy = Spades, and Persuasive = Hearts.

The level of a particular challenge is set on a scale from 13 (being the easiest sort of challenge) and 0 (being the most difficult.)

To attempt a challenge, the player draws a card and subtracts its numerical value from the appropriate attribute.

So, if you had a Shadowy skill of 13 and you are attempting a challenge which has a rank of 9, you draw a card. Theoretically, let’s say that card is a five of diamonds. You subtract five from thirteen, and the resulting number is 8, which is less than 9, so you succeed the challenge. If you had drawn a four, you also would have succeeded because you would have equaled the challenge rank.
At the end of the attribute challenge, your attribute score is NOT permanently altered. Your Shadowy is still 13. It has not permanently changed to 8.

If the card you draw happens to be in the same suit as the attribute of the challenge, then subtract one additional point from your attribute. Which would mean that in the above example, a 3 of Spades would also have succeeded the challenge, but not a 3 of any other suit.

If you draw a joker, you fail the challenge automatically. Draw an additional card and place it face up. If that card is the same suit as the challenge, then something disastrous happens, inflicting one point of Menace appropriate to the challenge.

There are four Menaces, just as there are four Attributes. The Menaces correspond to the attributes and also to suits.
Suspicion = Spades = Shadowy
Wounds = Clubs = Dangerous
Scandal = Hearts = Persuasive
Nightmares = Diamonds = Watchful

( I haven’t quite worked out the mechanical or story effects of having high Menace yet. )

Aces are wild. If you draw an ace, set the ace aside and re-draw for the challenge. You may, in a future challenge, discard the ace in order to draw again after a failed draw for a challenge corresponding to the suit of the ace. (Or a successful draw, I suppose, if you are keen on trying to fail for some reason.)
So, for example, you are drawing for a Shadowy challenge and you draw an Ace of Clubs. You set it aside and re-draw. It doesn’t matter to the example, but let’s say you succeed that draw, just to boost your self-esteem. Good on you!
Later, you are drawing for a Dangerous challenge. You fail. Poor fellow! But you may discard your ace in order to re-draw for that challenge. This time you succeed! Blimey, you’re good at this!

If the Storyteller (or DM, or GM, or whatever-the-devil you’d care to call him) decides that a particular challenge has dire consequences for failure, He or She or It may declare a particular challenge to be a Risky Proposition. A Risky Proposition functions identically to a normal challenge, except that failure means that the character is inflicted with one point of Menace corresponding to the suit of the challenge. Or, if the Storyteller so decides, one to two points of any Menace he she or it deems appropriate.
If you fail a Risky Proposition by drawing a joker, and then draw a card of the same suit when testing to see if the joker applies a point of Menace, then those points of Menace DO stack. You can be inflicted with up to three points of Menace in a single challenge in this way, if you are particularly unlucky.

Character creation proceeds as thusly:
Each character begins play with a rank of 20 in each attribute. They recieve four points which they may apply to lower these starting attributes by one per point.
So you could opt to start with 19 in each attribute, or 16 in one attribute and 20 in the rest. Or any combination you see fit.
Then the player may apply a racial template to their character (which is not strictly divided on racial lines, but I shall not quibble.)
Human: No change
Rubbery Man: -1 Watchful, +1 Persuasion
Devil: -1 Persuasion, +1 Shadowy
Tomb Colonist: -1 Dangerous, +1 Persuasion
Urchin: +1 Dangerous, -1 Shadowy

Please note that negative modifiers are good, whereas positive modifiers are bad.
Characters may be Male, Female, or Of Indistinct Gender. Because there are men with squid faces down here in fallen London! No one will bother to question too greatly should you chose to be vague about your sex.

Characters recieve experience points for each challenge they undergo. They recieve experience based on both the difficulty of the challenge, and their success or failure in that challenge.
Straightforward (1/0)
Low-Risk (2/1)
Modest (3/1)
Chancy (4/1)
High Risk (5/2)
Almost Impossible (6/3)
Additionally, a character recieves +1 experience for succeeding a Risky Proposition of any challenge level.

The Challenge Level of a challenge is determined by its difficulty relative to the character’s Attribute rank.
Straightforward: Attribute -3
Low-Risk: Attribute -4 to attribute -5
Modest: Attribute -6 to attribute -8
Chancy: Attribute -9 to attribute -10
High-Risk: Attribute -11 to attribute -12
Almost Impossible Attribute -13 or greater.

So if you have a Shadowy attribute of 11 and you are attempting a challenge of rank 7, this constitutes a Low-Risk challenge.
If you have a Shadowy attribute of 11 and you are attempting a challenge of rank 10, then you succeed automatically unless you draw a joker. You do not, however, recieve experience points for such an easy challenge. (Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh wot?)
If you have a Shadowy attribute of 20 and you are attempting a challenge of rank 0, then you cannot succeed. The challenge is beyond your abilities. You do not recieve experience for attempting such a challenge. (Knowing one’s limitations is a virtue!)

The only thing I haven’t worked out in strict terms so far is the use of items.
I think what I’ll do with them is that I’ll basically allow each character to use one item per game session. The function of an item will be that they give you a “hand” of cards, kept face down, which can be used and discarded in place of a challenge draw that you do not like.
So if you attempt a Dangerous challenge, and you fail it, but you happen to possess a Derringer, then you may use one of the cards from your Derringer hand to replace the original challenge draw.

Items will probably correspond to one or more specific attributes as well.

Also, I haven’t worked out a few specifics, like how long you go before reshuffling the deck. And does everyone use the same deck?
I just haven’t decided yet.

So, gentlefolk and whatnot, any input?
Feel free to modify to your liking. It’s a simple system, and should take to modification pretty easily. I haven’t playtested it at all, so if you do play it and find something lacking, please relay your findings herein!

Oh, and I nearly forgot the experience cost chart!

(Attribute Rank / Experience Cost )

20 / -
19/ 4
18/ 5
17/ 5
16/ 6
15/ 6
14/ 7
13/ 7
12/ 8
11/ 8
10/ 9
9/ 9
8/ 10
7/ 10
6/ 11
5/ 11
4/ 12
3/ 12
2/ 13
1/ 13

( So if you would like to increase your rank from 20 to 19, you must spend 4 experience points. And then, if you would like to increase your rank from 19 to 18, you must spend an additional five, for a total of 9 experience points. )

Anyway, thank you for your consideration. See you in the 'Neath.


It’s been over a year, but there’s no evidence it was actually cancelled.

Actually, I did some digging before I embarked on this endeavor…

"D. Vincent Baker has mentioned at Burning Con that the Knife & Candle RPG is no longer happening, or is at least on long-term development hiatus. K&C was to be a tabletop RPG verison of Echo Bazaar, the much loved Choose Your Own Adventure browser game. Baker was working on the game with Elizabeth Shoemaker and John Harper."

So, while there is still a minute glimmer of hope that Knife and Candle could happen, I just don’t find it likely. And who wants to wait that long anyway? What if it’s rubbish?
Anyway, it’s absent.
So I designed this, and I have posted it for people’s enjoyment.
edited by Diabolical_jazz on 1/22/2012

Fair enough, then. More power to you.

Thank you, good sir!

Would anyone like to actually try it out on Skype? This could be fun!