Thursday, May 7, 2015

Third Life Thoughts - Fate of Skills

So Cam Banks was having a conversation on twitter about Fate and it hit a lot of points that I've been thinking about in regards to Fate, and in particular the Skills of Fate.

I personally think that Fate is a great game, I just also think that the definitions of the skills is probably the worst thing about it. Attack, Defend, Overcome an obstacle, Create an advantage seem perfectly fine but then you get into "well, this skill doesn't defend, or that skill doesn't attack" and it gets into a bit of a chart to remind you what can and can't be used in certain ways.

It's a big part of what makes the system go clunk for me. Attack and Defend are easily defined. Create an advantage makes sense too. Overcome an obstacle just seems to be the kind of "well, if it isn't one of those other three things then ..." use for skills.

When it comes time to Third Life, I want to change that up. The idea behind what I want to do is that the core of any skill is change. You want to create a type of change to the environment or situation. I was going to use to the word change, but something that Rob Donoghue said made me change that. It's all about the push, how are you pushing on the situation?

Right now the break down is here are your skills, or we may use FAE and go with aspects who knows, and how do you want to push.

Is it a Physical Push?
Is it a Social Push?
Is it an Emotional Push?

What is the result? Does it create a new aspect? Does it get rid of an aspect? Does it reveal something in the scene that was already there? Does it create stress?

The answer to that is, whatever works best.

Anyway, bare bones thoughts on my monster game.

Hitting the corners - Making your best pitch

Ha! Sportsball references! ^_^

Anyway, I was at the local monthly board game designer meetup and we got to talking and one of the things we talked about was how to pitch your game. I'm not going to go into all the details of the pitch but one of the things that struck me was that someone said that he felt like a pitch is misrepresenting your game.

I disagree. I think a bad bitch misrepresents your game.

Also, if you lie in your pitch you're fucked. Honestly and truly.

What a good pitch does is take the essence of your game down to a solid nugget of awesomeness. What is the thing that your game does that makes it a special snowflake among all the other snowflakes. It's important because it's how you get people interested in your game, you're giving them a reason to care about your game.

Once you get people hooked on the awesome premise of your game, you can go into more detail. This doesn't mean that you will now explain the rules of your game. This is where you can talk about the awesome things in your game that make your pitch true. Each one of these should be it's own pitch, you don't have to go into the nitty gritty details of the how it's awesome, just mention why it's awesome.

Then, if they're interested in the game and ready to play the game then you can go into the nitty gritty details of how everything works.

Before then? Don't bother because you'll lose them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

GREAT GAME EXCHANGE - Feedback for Headspace

I talk a fair bit about THE GREAT GAME EXCHANGE because I think it's awesome, and I've gotten some great feedback on my projects and hopefully given out some feedback that people can use. Recently I was asked to read over Headspace which is a great cyberpunk RPG that uses the Apocalypse World engine. It's great, you should check it out because the quick start guide is available at the link. What's below is part of a review I sent, republished with permission. It's just missing some of the direct feedback that I had sent.



There is nothing more wonderful than a well written love letter. There’s a certain way the references work, they point but doing copy. There’s a certain turn of phrase that shows the care about the material, and design decisions that show nothing but the utmost consideration for what they mean. That’s Headspace.

You have to understand I come at gaming kind of sideways. I didn’t get the love of Dungeon World when it came out. I get it now, but I didn’t at the time because I didn’t start playing RPGs with Dungeons and Dragons. I started with CyberGenration, Cyberpunk 2020, and Shadowrun in varying degrees. I get nostalgic for those kind of games, and what you’ve done with Headspace is so great that I can’t wait to see more of what’s happening. Now I’ll have general comments, because that’s what I do, but I’m going to stick to the the two things you asked me to do which is clarity and impact.

For clarity, there is really only one thing. You need to drive the point home that baggage has an associated emotion with it. Currently, it’s just one line and when I printed out the game to read it on the subway I missed it because the paragraph started on one page and ended up on another. I know that in a book that’s probably not going to happen, but the fact that baggage is tied to an emotion is so important, and I’d argue the crux of the game, that it should be at least distinguished by its own paragraph. I say this because this was where I spent time going back and forth wondering what the hell I wasn’t getting when I started reading Professional Moves. I scrawled everything everywhere on that page and it wasn’t until I went back and re-read baggage that I came across the information I missed. The fact that baggage is associated to an emotion just needs to be a bit more obvious.

When it comes to impact, the one place where I felt it could use a little more oomph was in the emotional complication section. I read it the first time and was fine with it, but then I went back to what you were looking for and felt that there were sections that could be better. Maybe it was the case of going down the list and there was some exhaustion with having to come up with complications, but the ones for Fear, Grief and Fear were right one and wonderful. When it came time for Need and Ego I felt that there could be better complications. The main thing was that the complications that were great were the ones that impacted the situation, or put strain on the character’s relationships, while the ones that weren’t tended to kind of be self centered with no direction.

But those two spots were really the only things that I felt could use anything. I know how hard you’ve been working on this, and I know that it’s seen a lot of eyes and that kind of polish shows with everything in here. There are just so many things to love about this game, even the fact that it finally gives me a cyberpunk game where the “fighting the man” portion of it doens’t feel forced. I love Cyberpunk 2020 but boy does that part of the game really feel like it’s not even there. They talk about how Cyberpunks are fighting “the man” but in reality they’re not and it’s every person for themselves, which is a reason why I loved CyberGen a bit more. But here, you give us that moment of conscience, where someone has done something that they regret and are trying to deal with it. Out of all the things that this game does well, that little bit of motivation might be the best bit in there for me.

There are other things that are great in here too. The Corporate Fronts bit is just perfect for a Cyberpunk game, where you get the public and shadow motivations for corporations. Maybe even including public and shadow assets (because you currently only have assets) might be fun, but it might also be a needless bit of complication. Though I will admit I think I love the Initial project line, because that’s really what will drive the story along. You know what’s the current goal for the corporation and it will help the GM decide what they’re going to do.

That’s why this is a love letter. It takes all the great things that we’ve loved in other cyberpunk games and puts it to the forefront. It provides the feelings that we want in a sleeker, streamlined package. It makes things more interesting for the players, and the GM, to tell awesome cyberpunk filled stories.

Which is what we’ve always wanted chombatta.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Veronica Monsterhearts - Playtesting Notes

Well, got some Veronica Monsterhearts playtesting done. Little playtesting done, but the character creation stuff gave me some thoughts.

1. Need to make everything immediate to the players. You just don't make it up and go, you have to make the city and I have to come up with that. Everything that's coming up is heavily influenced by 5 Fires, but I really don't want to just cut and paste that. It needs to fit this game, and not that one. However, that's the city creation that I'm enamoured with so it's going to be there.

2. Need to look at the scenes and how to frame them. There was a bit of panic about setting scenes with little or no direction on how to start them. I kind of did that in Geasa but I think this might be something that needs a little bit more direction since it's using AW.

I was directed to look at Murderous Ghosts but I didn't enjoy it too much when I read it the first time, but I'm sure that there is something there but I really don't want to do that.

3. I think I'll have to revisit the casefiles again, mainly because they need to be cleaned up a little bit and try to think about how to incorporate scene setting moves into them. No clue how I'm going to do that but that's there.

I think those are the three things I need to look over again, and then give it another playtest.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gen Con 2014 - The Good, The Bad, and The Other

Everyone is already done with their Gen Con write-ups so I figured it would be time to get around writing mine. It was a great convention on the whole personally, professionally it was just kind of okay but I didn't really push for any kind of interaction in that way so that's way more on me than it was on the convention.

Anyway, onto the events that I ran!

1. Critical!: Go Westerly: Growling Door Gates

We had a great little time here running this scenario. The idea is that they're trapped inside a White Griffon Tavern that has been sucked into a different dimension, a demonic dimension. They end up finding out that it's a demon reform school and have to stop the graduation ceremony before it rips into the fabric of reality.

The Good:

It was a funny game. There was a bit where one of the players is like "I'm going to steal gold from another player" and I usually let that go the first few times around. If they keep it up I tend to give them something else to worry about, and if they can still find a way to get a gold steal in then it just makes it actually funny.

They got stuck on the language that the demon gave them. The demon, Gog, kept telling the players that Gog was a bad demon. It was a great moment because I didn't elaborate and they had to spend time figuring out if Gog meant evil or just bad at being a demon.

The Bad:

Again, it devolved a little bit into the "I'm going to steal from you, no I'm going to steal from you" which is fine because it was contained and we moved on.

The Other:

I had the same father daughter team who has played one game of Critical at least once every year. It's always great to see them, and they always bring something fun to the table. This time the daughter ran head long into a large battle with demons and was the first person to ever actually get knocked out in a con game of Critical ever.

But it was a glorious way to get it.

2. Dime Stories: Varmit

Well, I had written about 7k words for this encounter for Joe and then when I tried to access it my phone, which was supposed to have unlimited data, had no data and I couldn't get to it. Thankfully I had an understanding of the highlights of the module and so I just kind of ran with it. I'm sure I ran it wrong but as long as we keep the story moving and kind of get it right then all for it.

The story is about a small town named Varmit and the module is supposed to give you a couple of options. I ran with the corrupt mine foreman, with the local law enforcement having an issue with an escaped convict brother out in the wilderness.

Another moment of awesomeness was that I got to play a game with Matt and Michelle for the first time in quite a few years. There were always attempts but this is the first one we managed to have happen in a while. You can read what Matt thought about the game on his blog.

The Good: 

The story flowed well. The players were good, for the most part, at keeping the story going and understanding that RPGs kind of need the players to bite on some hooks. They did, and the ending really wasn't the easy one which is good because they could have forced the issue. Hell, one player did try to backstab them all and got away with no one the wiser.

The Bad: 

Look, if you're upset because the game is getting off topic there are ways to do it that are both friendly and polite. We all understand being in a game where it goes kind of sideways for a bit. We just had a player who was leaving the game because of time and so we had that "after player leaves conversation" and one guy really soured the mood for everyone at the table.

Seriously, you can be like "Hey folks. I get the conversation is good, but could we get back to playing the game?" That works just fine.

The Other: 

You reckon'?

The problem with any type of western is that you'll end up trying to do "that" accent. I tried hard not to go too deep into it, mainly because I'm a french canadian with a raspy Gencon voice even by this stage of the game, but also because it's really easy to turn it into a "making fun of" voice which I don't want to do.

The aforementioned guy who soured the mood once said the words "you reckon'" at least five to six times in a single sentence.

3. Daedalus - Icarus Falls - When the Wax Melts

There isn't going to be a section here because the game didn't go off.

However, I was the only person sitting at an empty table in a room full of people with full tables. As far as a feeling goes, that sucks a hell of a lot.

I had people show up like 35-45 minutes after the game started but at that point I was dealing with the whole impostor syndrome that shows its ugly head at times like that.

4. Daedalus - Icarus Falls - Tribute

I told myself that this game, I was going to run it no matter how many people showed up, or how late they showed up. I ended up with one person and you know what? Ended up being a damned good time.

Basically we worked out that he had been working for Crime Boss Zidane, and his contact was a young Zenedine. A bunch of children had been taken by a local gang called the Bangers. They had cobbled together enough tech to give them a kind of cybernetics. It was all exoskeletal, because cyberwear isn't a thing in Daedalus and I had a single Ninja Tech who was busy trying to figure out what was going on.

The Good:

Man, the Alarm thing worked wonderfully. I threw it up in a situation with a lot of tension, and it just raked it up a little bit more.

The Bad:

One player made it hard to really see how anything would go in a group.

The Other:

Hilariously, he only failed a single roll. Everything else was either 7+ on the rolls let alone the bonuses.

Anyway, it gets me excited for that project when it comes down the pipe. I still have to go over the document, because I know for a fact that I'm probably missing a section on the revolutionary groups but that said it's looking like a fun game.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fan Expo 2014 - Panels and Game a Go Go

Gen Con is behind us, and Fax Expo is in front of us. If you're going to be in the downtown Toronto area next weekend you'll be able to hang out and talk about things because there are plenty of panels here.

Friday
11:00 am - Room 709 - Finding Your RPG Style Panel
12:00 pm - Room 709 - Kicking Off your Campaign Panel
03:00 pm - Room 703 - Publishing your RPG

07:00 pm - Room 709 - Geasa: An Evening of Curses

Saturday
11:00 am - Room 709 - Finding Your RPG Style Workshop
12:00 pm - Room 709 - Kicking Off your Campaign Workshop
12:45 pm - Room 705 - In the Game of Boards you roll or you lose

02:00 pm - Room 709 - Gaming by Storm (1 hour blocks, I'm running 2 games of Critical! and 2 games of Marvel)

Sunday
11:00 am - Room 703 - Pathos and Probability Curves: Writing Adventures
04:45 pm - Room 705 - State of the Industry

01:00 pm - Room 709 - Critical!: Go Westerly: Growling Door Gates

Thursday, August 21, 2014

RPG Book Club - How We Came To Live Here

A few weeks ago, after months of planning, we had our first RPG book club meeting in June. I know it's late to the game for this, and I'll have more to write about later but I need to play catch up for now.

Basically a bunch of friends decided that we had a whole shit-tonne (that would make them metric, for the record) of games that we didn't play and wanted to at least try them once. That lead us to listing a bunch of games that we had and talking about which ones we wanted to play. We really only had 2-3 hours to play them so we knew we weren't going to get a whole session done but we wanted to try it out anyway.

The first game we played was How We Came To Live Here by Brennan Taylor from Galileo Games.

The game is set in a fictional land set using First Nations in the South West of the US as the foundation, and personally, with my limited knowledge of the American South West, I think it's probably the best example of what you can try to do as not a member of a community and try to make a game of it. Let me explain why:

1. The game is about people:
You play people who are living their lives and trying to carve out their existence. None of this stoic warrior nonsense, none of this weird saying magic person crap. It's about the cultural norms and how people deal with them. It's about love and relationships.

2. The game is only about the people:
Very explicitly it says that you should not, at any point in time, play the game where white people show up and try to settle the land. There are monsters in the outskirts of the world but they aren't the focus, the people are and that's great because that's where the center is.

3. The game admits that it might fuck up:
Right at the beginning, and you get a sense that there was an effort of understanding, research, and an admittance that there might be something that was missed and an understanding that there is a level of respect needed for the game.

That said, we ended up playing a pre-set up adventure. I think it went well, though it's been long enough that I don't remember too much about it. There were Snake Outsiders, and a love triangle, and some people trying to get what they wanted by letting others get taken out by the Snake People.

I was playing the Outside GM, Kate was playing the Inside GM and Rachelle, Rob and Erik were all playing their characters.

What I thought was awesome about the game.

1. No matter what you do, win or lose a conflict, you get something to spend on having an effect on the game. You can spend your conflict dice to change rules of the world, affect other people positively or negatively, change your relationships, or even upgrade your social standing. It's fucking brilliant and after one round of it I love the idea behind it because it made every single conflict meaningful. You were doing something, well there were immediate consequences that you had to deal with.

2. It felt immersive an familiar at the same time. There were conflicts between parents and children, quite little moments where others were trying to subtly affect things so that they could get the relationship that they wanted. It was great because there was a lot of things going on, and they felt really important to the story.

I'll try to get these done faster, it's been a busy few months all around.

Firestorm Ink's Fan Box