Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Idea Corner - buildyourown World game

In one of those Hey what about this" ideas you get when you're working on something else. The kind of idea you might want to chat about but don't actually have the time to put any effort towards. This is one of those ideas.

It's kind of like a Tabula Rasa World game. You come in, and there's some kind of way to determine what you're going to play. Something to setup the genre, your expectations and what you don't want to see in the game. Then there's going to be some way to define your character, a way describe who they are and what kind of archetype they have. There will probably be some stats too, I think with everything else being so player driven it would be nice to have them done up front so that there is a little less work for the players and the GM, but again it could be nice to have it flexible to be called what you want.

Then you play the game. When it comes time to have someone influence the fiction you come up with the move on the spot. Define it, define the results, and then keep it. If it's a rule you go back to again and again, then it can become a basic move that everyone gets access to. There would also be a way to set it up so that people who go back to using that same move again and again could make it their own move, in their blank playbook.

We could call it *World.

Anyway, it's just a thought.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Veronica Monsterhearts - Back to Work On It

Now that there has been some distance between me and this game, I think I'm going to take a break from Rent's Due and work a little bit more on Veronica Monsterhearts.

What I'm aiming for in v0.3

1. Better wording. I'm going to be looking at all the text and not just the moves and all that.
2. Better move decisions. I do want to look at the moves again, because one of the things that came up during the game that people had some issues with what to do for 7-9, so I've got to clean that up.
3. Keeping the Questions for the City Creation and making that the first session, and making up a first session section.
4. Making some moves that can be used if there's a problem in making a decision.

Or maybe even have that be a 7-9 thing. If you've done messed up, choose one of the moves and roll it. On my second thought it seems a little clunky and fractal (when in doubt refer to a move, which refers to another move, which refers to another move) but it is something to think about.

I think the basic moves are good. I think the handling of the mystery is good. I think I just need to clarify some things.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chill Talk - Tokens

I know that this isn't going to be scheduled, it's going to be a "when I get around to writing them" but I do still want to talk about why I think Chill is a great horror game, and a great game to run period. There's something that a couple of people I've seen online pooh-pooh, and that is the use of Chill Tokens. The few whining conversations were all about the meta game, like this was some kind of bad thing, like it would remove the players from the game. The reality is that it's a great tool to use to increase the horror for the players.

One of the ways that it helps with the horror is that it provides the players with a visual clue to how things are going. If there are a lot of light tokens, then they're going to take a few more risks since they have the safety net underneath them. They'll feel that they need a particular interest clue, or that they don't want to deal with the repercussions of a low success and a token turn will make all the difference between being okay, and being awesome, or even being okay, and failing.

If you do have players who feel the need to try to keep all the tokens to the light at every single point in time, which does require a fair bit of luck because a botch will cause a token to turn dark. Even then, there are ways within the rules that will get the CM some dark tokens. When the big bad notices the players for the first time in a mission, the CM can add a dark token to the pile. This is when they get noticed, not when the players notice the big bad. If they do something noteworthy, something that gets in the way then drop that token down and watch their eyes widen.

Failing that, have the creatures of the Unknown do nasty horrible things to the players. Even without all the powers of the Evil Way, the vast majority of the time the creatures will easily walk away from a face to face fight. They won't even need to bother to flip tokens to do horrible things. The claws, fangs, and other natural abilities that they have are more than enough to take down a few SAVE envoys and put them near death's door. There's always the possibility that they can flip all the light tokens dark in order to save someone, which is delightful if they've been hoarding them and avoiding spending them for any reason. That's not to setup a CM vs player kind of dynamic, but if the players are "trying to metagame" then they're worried more about the tokens than the creatures in front of them, and this is a way to refocus them.

The how you use the tokens is important as well. When using the tokens, you want to make sure that you're flipping the tokens first. That way the players get the sense of dread first, the idea that something bad is going to happen. There's a sense of horrible anticipation, because Evil Way abilities that require you to turn one, or even worse two, tokens are things that will make your players worry about what's going to happen.

Even if you use the tokens in the interesting ways that they can be used. Splitting up the group, or knocking out pieces of technology that they've become dependent on, or allowing the creature to act in unusual ways. This is the one where you flip the token, and let the players see what you're doing. Tell them that you're flipping the token, draw attention to it, and then wait. You shouldn't make them wait too long, but allow the players rooms to do a few things every time wondering what action is going to trigger what the token was for. It's a great way to ratchet up the tension.

Using the tokens in the wide variety of ways that you can the Chill Tokens allows you to get the most horror out of this fun little mechanic. It's one of the many ways that Chill allows the CM to create an excellent horror experience. Use this tool when playing Chill well, and your players will love you for it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fan Expo 2015 - Panel Schedule

Wow, so Fan Expo this year is all full of panels which I really appreciate. I like con games, but sometimes in Toronto it feels like it's the same people playing the games at Fan Expo. I'll still be around, but not officially running any games. I will have games there though, in case anyone wants to see what's new and what's coming down the pipe.

Panel: Humour in Swords & Sorcery
Time: Friday, 4:45 PM
Location: 705
Description: Can mighty thews and sinister sorcerors be funny?  By
Crom, they certainly can!
Fellow Panelists: Jonathan Lavallee, Jim Zub, Jason Anarchy, Rachel Kahn.

I AM SO LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS AND IT'S THE FIRST PANEL! Seriously you need to check out who is there. We've got a lot of people who have put time effort and energy into thinking about comedy and fantasy. Seriously, By Crom! is one of the best things I have ever read. Even checking out the panels on the site made me laugh and tear up at the same time.

Panel: Publishing your own tabletop game
Time: Friday, 5:45 PM
Location: 705
Description: Do you have a concept for publishing a game? How to get
your game into the hands of customers from prototyping to playtesting
to publishing and distribution.
Panelists: Phil Reed, Jonathan Lavallee, Jason Anarchy

This is one of those standard ones that we do every year. It's a good one to go if you're looking to ask questions about making a tabletop game. We do have all sorts of experience here for analog games, and a little bit on the video side but that's why it's called tabletop games in the panel title.. ^_^

Panel: Pathos and probability curves: Writing tabletop Games
Time: Saturday, 1:15 PM
Location: 703
Description: Do you want to create your own adventure games? Do you
want to help expand existing worlds and ways with your own unique
touches? These panelists will help you learn the secrets of great
game design
Panelists: Jonathan Lavallee, Malcolm Sheppard, Ed Greenwood, Andrew Valkauskas

This is another standard we do every year, it's a fun panel where we get to talk about the weird way we make stuff.

Panel: Getting Started with Tabletop Roleplaying Games
Time: Sunday, 12:15 PM
Location: 703
Description: Wait, do we all need to buy a player's guide? Do I need
miniatures? What's the deal with these dice?  You've wanted to try
tabletop RPGs but don't know where to start! Our panel of experts will
give you the guidance you need.
Panelists: Robin Laws, Jonathan Lavallee, Andrew Hackard, Sara McMillen

Sunday is the day where I don't shut up on panels, as opposed to the days where I just don't shut up in general. This is a good kind of intro panel, how do I deal with all this stuff going on with RPGs? I hope we get a chance to talk about the awesome stuff and the pitfalls that come with the social aspect of the hobby, because that's what it is.

Panel: Step Right Up: Promoting your game
Time: Sunday, 1:45 PM
Location: 705
Description: Making games is fun, but a huge part of games is selling
them to other people. From game publishers to the general public how
do you get people interested in the fun times that you've created.
We'll discuss things from elevator pitches, to demos, to various tools
that you can use to help make sure you generate excitement for your
Fellow Panelists: Jonathan Lavallee, Jason Anarchy

This one was one of the panels that I requested. We haven't had a "business" panel at Fan Expo yet and after some conversations with some people at some local events I think having a discussion about sales and demo work. Making people excited about your product is just as important as being able to make the product itself. Anyway, it's just Jason and me so it should have plenty of opportunities for people to bring up their questions.

Panel: State of the Game Industry
Time: Sunday, 3:45 PM
Location: 705
Description: Another year has passed, and the industry remains. What
new releases wowed the market? Are stores & distributors still
relevant in the age of Print on Demand and PDF sales?
Panelists: Robin Laws, Jonathan Lavallee, Phil Reed, Kate Bullock

This is the panel we have at the end of the con every year. I'll give the same spoiler alert. It's both going really well, and at the same time still has plenty of places that it needs to improve in order to grow and be even better than it is.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chill Talk - Weapons

This may seem to be a weird place to start, considering I'm a person who hates weapon lists because I find them immensely boring like only a block of stats can be. However, this is a great place to start with a discussion about why  but trust me this is one of the things I love the most about this game.

If you've read the book, you may have gone over to look for a list of weapons to see what they might do. You might have done this as a player looking for weapons, or as a GM trying to remember what kind of damage each weapon does. You're not going to find it, the closest you're going to find for that is on page 223 and 224 of the Chill 3rd edition book. It won't give you "this weapon does this and this weapon does that" but what it's going to give you is a base default for what weapons do. You punch someone it's going to start at superficial, melee starts at minor, ballistic weapons start at serious and it kind of works its way up from there.

This is something beautiful with the game, because weapons are still incredibly effective. A colossal success with a gun can be a lethal shot killing someone instantly. But what's great is that you aren't bogged down with having to look up the precise stats of what everything does. Instead, what the game says you should do is apply what situational modifiers you think are appropriate. Someone goes for a chop to the throat, they make their roll maybe start their damage at serious and then apply any benefits from the roll. A monster on the ground, and thrashing about in a trap while an envoy has a pistol at point blank range. Good planning, that's stats at Critical. That pistol shooting through a door, well the damage might start at minor rather than serious, but if it's got special ammo maybe not.

Instead of dealing with a hard mechanical solution to a problem, that's the text that ends up being like 1343987aoshj;l09739 pages in a book where the writers try to come up with how the rules will apply to this situation. It's also one of those spots in games where you get a lot of people going, "Well this doesn't make sense" or where you get the arguments from rules lawyers going "well according to this page, because I'm behind wood it counts as halving the damage so I only take X from the bazooka." These kinds of things happen because there isn't any way to predict every situation.

With Chill we've removed all that kind of worry. If your players have planned well and their trap has gone off, rewards them by making their attacks automatically better. If your players have though things out poorly, then they're going to be in for a long night, or put themselves at a greater disadvantage. You can do all of this as the CM on the fly, because you can understand that this situation would create a specific type of advantage (either by increasing the TN, having it deal more damage or ... just working) or disadvantage without the rules telling you exactly what that kind of explicit advantage it its.

That's not to say that the game doesn't have general penalties for doing actions. Targeted Strike/Shot does have a listed -40 to the TN penalty on page 191, or that we don't have our own Counterattack modifiers (pg. 192) but this is the minority. What the game is really trying to tell you is have fun, make the game scary for your players and while we give you the framework for that, you are good enough to look at the situation and apply your own modifiers for the best effect because it's great, and faster that way. Which leaves you more brain power to think about how you can terrify your players.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Gen Con 2015 - Convention Games in Review

Gen Con this year was kind of amazing. I say that as someone who spends most of his time running between a booth and events and not someone who attends the convention. What I'm going to talk about are the two games of Chill that I ran this year.

Both games were Cold Dark Earth, which was a module that Matt created and was hoping to have on the website soon. I'm not going to spoil it too much, but it involves a nasty thing coming back from the dead.

My first group plotted, and planned and tried to figure out what to do and with some great thinking, great research and an "aha" moment they managed to defeat the creature without taking too much damage. Of course, they put the target at risk and almost lost her. In the end she survived but with dirty hand prints forever etched on her throat, and both of one of the SAVE envoy's arms aged 40 years from the fight.

The second group, did some research found the second body and was like "Screw it, we have to kill this thing." They tried their best, and they got some good shots in (a couple of colossal successes) but the creature had basically managed to Critically Injure two players before they decided to back off. That's when the person playing Jenny, one of the characters without combat skills, tried to hit the creature with a car. She knew that she was basically screwing her character over, but was like "this is horror, let's do it."

Finally they managed to get to the target, but since time was running short I flipped a chip and had the monster hitch a ride with them on top of the van. There was a great fight at the end, when they decided to try to find ways to damage the creature. It worked, and then they took the next mental jump to figure out how to stop the creature.

There were more things that happened, and I'll try to get some of it covered in another post but that's a quick run down of the games that I ended up running. Chill runs beautifully, there are so many things that I'm probably going to pick up and talk about because I really do think that this is a great game, and a great horror game. If you haven't gotten it you really should.

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.

Firestorm Ink's Fan Box