This Blog 2019, Goals and Grommets

Inspired by the 2019 goals post over at Charles's Dragons Never Forget Blog, I figured I would do the same thing. 2018 right around ...

Friday, November 29, 2013

I wish I could play in a campaign of (....)

Friday the RPG discussion day of the week.
Are there any games that you have wanted to play a campaign in but have never had the chance?
There are so many games out there! The pool  of games to select from is broad and deep, with the RPG industry 30 plus years old (depending on what yard stick you wield.) Add to that long history the current small press renaissance that we are in the middle of it seems there are more great games popping out every time a guy turns around. Each of us must have at least a few games that make us say, “Damn! I wish I could get a game of that rolling.”

I put the question to the group I game with and one of the guys gave back, “GURPS discworld.”
Unsurprisingly I have never read any of the Discworld books. And with all respect to Mr. Pratchett, I don’t plan on starting in on it right away, simply because all told I think there are like 40+ novels to chew through.  As an RPG however the discworld RPG powered by GURPS light and written as a standalone by Phil Masters and the series author Terry Pratchett, looks fun as all get out. I think my lack of setting knowledge would relegate me to “bungling player” status, but any game with a cover image of the grim reaper, standing on a mountain top, jamming out on a flying V, has a tiny bit of my heart already.

What was striking to me was yet another friend also answered emphatically GURPS as a game he had never played in a campaign and would love to try.
GURPS again.
I have mixed feelings about GURPS and here is what it stems from, NOTHING. My opinion is based only on internet reading and hear-say.  I have been lead to believe that GURPS is very, very crunchy and difficult to get into, but a good system once every one gets the hang of it. Roll under skill on 3d6 modified by the GM does not seem “super Crunchy” to me (I know there is a ton more to it.) Considering the game came out in 1986 and is still around, It has held up really well. (Better than the Palladium’s RIFTS? From 1990, yeah I think so.) Still, system crunch is not normally something popular with our group, so to see GURPS come up twice from two separate guys was kind of surprising.
 I think I should revisit GURPS and just see what is being offered lately and look in on the system. I have no qualms in saying that Steve Jackson as an individual and Steve Jackson Games as a company have been one of the most influential entities in the gaming industry over the past 30 years. I also know for a fact that SJ games were a HUGE part of my early gaming life. (Car-wars old school style baby) This makes me have even less of a clue about how I could have missed out on SJ games flagship RPG for all this time.

Another game or games I guess that came up were the Apocalypse / Dungeon World systems.
I have a great deal of respect for the designers of Apocalypse world, and the writers of Dungeon World. So much so I dedicated a blog post to how influential the text of Dungeon world has been in how I am approaching Shards of Thimbral.
I agree these games look like they would be great fun to run campaigns in. I am not sure how well the system handles long running story arcs, (considering the GM is not supposed to bring those kinds of plans to the table.) I do know that the fiction created while moving the story along would be awesome, and that’s always for me anyway, the point.
I think along the same system lines and yet another Apacolypse world powered effort, I would love to try an arc of Nanoworld (a game of clones) by Fine mess games. It just looks fun and interesting.
Also, one of my friends mentioned Savage worlds Deadlands.
Deadlands is pretty awesome, those blokes over at Pinnacle Entertainment Group have won something like eight origins awards for this sucker and managed to port the setting in to several game systems (GURPS, D20, . The mix of Horror, western, steam, and a bit of pulpy adventure make Deadlands pretty much jump off the page when you read it. To put it mildly, the setting is tough to beat. Team that up with a tweaked Savage Worlds system where in combat is a bit harsher and deadlier, I think I would also like to get in on a few games of this. Let you in on a secret (shhhhh!) I really like westerns, so I have a bit of a soft spot or the Weird West setting.
Related to the above, keep an eye out for Deadlands Noir. It looks pretty awesome as well.

OK so that covers what My friends said now it’s my turn and I’m going to get a bit out of type for this answer.
I would love to play a campaign using the HERO game system. Yeah I know that’s more crunch than GURPS which I just complained about a few seconds ago. I know, but there is something about the system I enjoy. It might be that 5th edition character creation is slammed into a HUGE book all its own, or that it has been around since 1989 and I have just never gotten to play it. Something about that system has a draw for me as a player. I am honestly not sure I would want to run the darn thing, that’s just me being honest. There is a lot to HERO; I think a GM experienced with the Hero system is a must.  As a player though, having this over grown RPG sandbox / toolkit at my disposal is just so appealing.  I can ignore the math and the huge books and all the other HERO strangeness, just to say I built my own lightning bolt attack from the ground up. Add to this the options of like a billion splat books ofver the years and yeah the HERO system is  an old , clunky mess of a system with completely limitless possibilities.
Also a player does not have to go the crazy huge stack of $60 books approach. I have the PDF’s for champions complete and Fantasy Hero, they are both relatively compact, Champions is I think 240 pages or there about, and are fully playable, good stuff.
Let me also say that as a quick aside, my second choice is DUNGEON CRAWL CLASICS (or DCC.) I love everything about this game and would love to play it in a long campaign. However, when it came time for me to start running an old school fantasy game, even though I own DCC and think it is AWESOME, we ended up playing AD&D2ed. This came to pass both out of nostalgia and also because everyone in the group (pretty much) already knew the game, and owned some books. (I was the only one with a copy of DCC.) In a perfect world however, I think I would be playing in a DCC game at the table with friends and my wizard would be slowly creeping toward a depraved end consumed by mutation, power, and madness.

So that’s my “I wish I could play in a campaign using this game,” Game.  HERO system is very much an out of character choice for me, game for me true enough, but one that has been dancing around the edges of my  gaming experience for as long as I can remember. I think I even have an old copy of champions floating around my addict, that I never talked anyone into playing…HMMMMM….?!

So what are yours?
Question, Comments and Shenanigans welcome.
As always thank you for reading.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Adding Layers to the Shards of Thimbral RPG system.

RPG Games are like onions
“they make you cry?”
“they stink?”

Getting ready for the next Shards of Thimbral Playtests session.
I have a few changes and additions to make based on the first two playtests, out line in these earlier posts.

So I am starting to add layers to the  “Shards of Thimbral RPG.” I have what I feel is a decent enough  mechanic for the  telling of stories which I outlined it in  long winded detail here:

I still need to play-test the ever loving stuffing out of it, but I feel that it works and I think I can move forward with the layering of other system details.

The first detail is structure.

Each session is set up by the players looking at each others character sheets, and picking two goals from those character sheets to pursue. This is a tool that makes sure the Gm runs a game that the player’s are invested in. In testing it made a pretty big difference between game on e and game 2, in fact the difference was so profound that for me the idea was an instant keeper.

The time spent  pursuing the goals picked by the group is referred to as a “chapter.” A chapter could be a whole game session, or part of a game session, depending on how long the players and the GM want to dig into the current set of goals.

So how do you know when the chapter is over?
This is the wrinkle that drives much of the game.

If we go back to that earlier post I wrote about the impasse and the system for players rolling dice back and  gaining narrative power. On the surface it looks like the players can just go off on tangents with no way of the Gm to introduce any elements or complications at all. Mind you, I enjoy that kind of thing, because The Gm is also a player and when unexpected things happen in the fiction, everyone gets to experience them for the first time together, that’s good gravy.

What I will introduce at the next play test is the idea of  response dice, which is a pool of narration dice available to the GM.
The pool may be of any number of D6's, the main function of which is to put a limit on the length of any one chapter. When the response die pool is exhausted the chapter is over and  the goals that group are focusing on  must change.

So OK, how are the response dice used?
At the beginning of the game the group picks the number of  response dice they want to have in play for the current chapter.  The GM rolls them all at once, in front of the players and lays them out in a line in front of the GM's position at the table.  Dice showing a value of oe should be rerolled.
Like this, only I doubt you'll roll them in order, if you do ..bully for you.

When a TEST comes up during an impasse the  Gm selects up to 5d6 from the pool to play along with the players.
Any time the GM wants to respond to something in the  players narration the Gm must dial back a die. When a die gets dialed back to a value of one  it is simply discarded.

For example: Harley is in a bad spot he  has  crashed his schooner on the surface and is being chased by several reforged through a ravine filled with towering  basalt formations. Harley is a great brawler and tough guy but he is outnumbered and things look grim. Just as Harley stops to catch his breath, a rend-forged berserk leaps from the shadows and is looking to split  Harley open with a nasty onyx ax.
Harley's player dials back a die and says, “Harley raises his pressure shotgun and  pulls the trigger. 
The gm stops Harleys narration dial back on of his own dice, “Your pressure gun  lets off a rounding POP and and the shot shatters the Bezerk's ax the  gray fleshed abomination  roars as the onyx fragments rip long wounds up it's arm, but it's still coming at you!” 

Harley's player is now free to dial a die back and continue his narration.
This would go on until the players decide that they have dialed the dice back enough and would like to finish the TEST.
The Gm keeps any unused dice and the game continues.

When there are no more response dice the GM and the players must wrap up the  chapter, experience is distributed and the game can either go on with a new chapter or he game can be over.

This sets us up with the chance / risk  economy detailed in the “under the hood post” that i now being kept on topic and in focus by the structure formed by Chapters using GM response dice.

I see a few benefits to this kind of system.
Players get their goals focused on and in turn get some spotlight time for their characters.
The length of chapters and or games can be easily manipulated.
Want a short game or to cover multiple chapters? Use 5D6 response dice.
Want a longer chapter or game? Use 10D6 or even more response dice.
Want to build an adventure, OSR module style? Great! Set encounters to happen only after a certain number of response dice have been spent. In this way a GM can pace an adventure however they see fit behind the scenes with out jobbing or changing the system.

Want to speed up the game and keep up a high pace? Play fast and loose with the response dice. Want to  Slow the game down and move the spotlight from action to investigation or narrative? The Gm can be a bit more miserly with the response dice.
I hope it will give the GM some degree of  control over the pace of the game.

I would also like to take a second to thank everyone who read and commented on my Kick-starter post from Monday. I make a real effort o try and reply to any and all comments I get if I missed on Monday I apologize, (They were prey wide spread between the Blogg and G+)
It was really great discussion and a lot of good points were brought up on both sides of that crowd sourcing fence. Enough good points were made that I will rethink the whole thing again when I am closer to self publishing Shards of Thimbral.

Lastly, to anyone who celebrates Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy the day!

So that's the system post for this week, as usual Thank you for reading
Any replies , comments, ideas, and shenanigans welcome.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thoughts on Kickstarter from the smallest of fish..

Why you no Kickstart?

Kickstarter and why I'm not going that route, the small fish view:

More than one person as told me, “Hey you should kickstart your game, that would make producing it that much easier!” I paraphrase liberally, but that's the gist.

I love kick starter. I think it is a great idea for groups and start ups who are looking for a boost. The whole Idea of “crowd-sourcing “ has revolutionized the gaming hobby and provided start up funds that have allowed companies to explore original ideas that may not have fit perfectly into other more traditional business plans.

With all that said KickStarter is also not built for the really little guy. 
"Hold on!" you say, "The little guy is the whole point of crowdsourcing!"
I hear ya...and.. I know there have been some success stories in the past.
Here are some of the biggest ones, naturally they have big names attached to them.
I bet if I looked around enough there are some small success stories as well, and to be honest I don't have aims to be as successful as that gang listed above.

When I look at these items however, most of them have a base of interested people already in place. Wasteland is a known property, Mike McVey is known designer, Order of the Stick had a fan base, Amanda Plamer is just plain awesome and people should know her. The only surprises are the ipod nano watch bands which it's self banks on people who dig i-anything, and the e-paper watch, Even ouya had some pretty big names behind it, apparently.

Sure there are small projects on kickstarter, I can't deny that.

My issue is one of my own scope, it's not the “I did not get funded” problem.. It's the “what if I get too funded?” problem.
My project goal is one game, one “manual” to be more exact, to be produced and sold via PDF and Print on demand. I'm giving myself two years to write, test, layout, and “do” everything I have to do to meet my goal.
If I tried to crowd-source via kickstarter for a goal of (spitballing here) three grand to cover every damn expense involved with the project. I say for each $25 or better backer I get, they get the printed copy and a PDF.. woot...

With a kickstarter I would run the risk of over extending. Kickstarter over-extension is a known thing, and a condition that once it starts can be the kiss of death. (the road through Kick-starter is strewn with the burning hulks of dead RPG's and other stuff, dead stuff. )

That point doesn't really apply to these guys:

However just look at that list of “unlocked” products.. yes they have 300+ thousand dollars to work with, they have also have committed themselves to XP cards, Poster maps, short stories, Players kits, bestiaries, god knows what all.
Monte Cook, Bruce Cordell, and the gang will make that happen, they are pros, it's what they do and how they do it. I'm even considering giving them my money, just because the books are so damn pretty.

My point being once a kickstarter gets rolling there is no telling where it will stop. I have seen some smaller RPG companies and individuals reputations take pretty solid hits when they started a Kickstarter and for what ever reasons could not live up to the commitments. I don't want to be on that list.
(Kairn RPG anyone? Great example, From what I understand the problems were not the creators fault, and I feel sorry about that, because I liked the project. I'm still not giving him any of my money any time soon.)

So best case:
What if the gods of the interwebistry like my little game and I get 300 backers. Now I have to do a print run to cover that. Ok so that's what the other $4500 bucks is for. I get that, but I'm also not prepared to set that up (frankly I don't have a clue, yet.) Print on demand takes care of that as long as the orders are not an all at once kind of thing.
I won't have the time to make extra material for stretch goals. I'm one guy. I have a wife, a house, a full time job, This is a hobby, not my source of income. So it would be awful hard to even attract the 120 donations I would need to meet a humble goal of three grand, let alone inspire people to give more.

Yes I love crowd sourcing and kickstarter in particular as a concept, for even semi established brands, licenses, and . However for a one man “heart-breaker” (hate that term) operation the dedication of time and the possibility of over-extension is just too risky.

And as a bonus track here is a great post on another more positive side of Kickstarter / crowd sourcing.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

NExt Gen Video games and what's going to be in it for us,?

This ones not about “The Shards of Thimbral”
Lets Just take an Off topic side trip for a second.
Besides it's Sunday and I'm not due for another post until tomorrow.

I want to talk about the new generation of video game systems.
I am also going to do so with out ever giving an opinion on which I think is better or which one a person should run out and drop their hot $500 plus dollars on. That's up to you.
I have had some thoughts on this recently along the lines of, “Should a 38 year old man even be considering this video game stuff.” with the present crop of games, I'm not 100% sure I should be.

I realize a lot of the gaming industry is trying to find what's going to hold people of my age group, what I call the “original video game generation.” More adult themed games and stories percolate around the surface of gaming every now and then, and designers show that a game system can do more than Call O' Duty. It can also do more involving games and apparently there are a few others out there.
However take a list like this one,
Somewhere down the line I think "mature" has been confused with "Violent and Disturbing."

I think in this next gen of systems with their astounding graphics and processing capabilities there also needs to be an equally astounding revolution in game design.
Game studios, writers, and, producers (we now talk about video games in the terms we used to talk about the motion picture industry, and in reality, in the us video games are a bigger industry now.
Need to remember and embrace that “mature” does not have mean more violence and sexual content. Depth of characters, story and in game player decisions that have realistic in game effects can create a truly mature gaming experience more effectively than “Moar Bewbs.” Heck even More explosions is not going to grab allot folks who are moving into their 40's.
Don't get me wrong a game like "I have no mouth and I must scream" has it's place as an example of how games can push content boundaries. I understand Harlan Ellison is a respected writer with a following and his work is dark and mature in nature. It also should be said his style is not for just anybody, and that game never expected to sell a ton of copies in general release.

I'm not on the games are too violent bandwagon:
But I also can't deny that when I was in my formative years I was playing “Combat” on an atari 2600.
that is a far cry form well … “Far-cry” or “Battlefield 4” for that matter.
(Yeah, that's a lot of animations dedicated to stabbing a guy in HD)

While I will not weigh in on the violence in games debate, I will say there comes a time when you just don't get your jollies shooting at other players as much as you used to. This might be because honestly we start to realize that in this world, there' are places where real people are really shooting at each other, and it's simply not in any way cool. This is also how I feel about Grand Theft auto 5, I don't get a kick out of causing the chaos anymore. Stealing a car and doing drivebys in a virtual city does not make me laugh, because there's somebody right now somewhere stealing a car and doing a driveby in a real city with actual consequences, so it's serious shit. I think that's called "going soft," or "low T", or having some perspective.

Or it might just be because I have been virtually shooting people online since DOOM. (DOOM came out in 1993... that's 20 years...of “damn it, that was LAG!)

Perhaps more relevant to me personally the older I get the worse I get at these kind of things, so yeah I don't like running up a C.O.D. Kill to Death ratio of .23 while some kid named “Blazeaway420” blows my slow ass up 12 times in a match.
I think if I could get half the people I have randomly gamed with on titles such as NBA2k14 and Call of Duty and started this conversation I would be told in less polite terms, “These games are not made for you anymore, that's the problem, your problem.” 

That may be true. I may need to drop this Peter Pan crap and move on, start painting again, mow the lawn, work on the house..MUST SLAY DIABLO!...

I have several friends all around my age who are thinking about buying next generation systems. As they move into their mid-late 30's and 40's what are the game companies going to do to keep their attention and money flowing? A harder question still is what happens when Blazeaway420 and his crew hit 35 or 40 years old?
Do the big game companies focus on the next generation and forget about the one they created? Forget about the folks that just dumped a shit ton of cash in their laps for GTA-V , COD ghosts among other titles?

Time will tell...
For my money the game companies are going to have to start putting out some games with more depth and smart writing, and less gratuitous"mature content."

Until then I need to go get my KDR out of the toilet.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The setting Framework, in other words "The Fun Stuff"

Setting Notes
Setting / Game name
Shards of Thimbral.
Holy cow I actualy have name for this thing!
Yes the game is now known as “Shards Of Thimbral” I hope that is evocative enough to hang my hat on as I move forward.

My last post was all admittedly dry, mechanics and chance this and reward that ~!BAHHHHH!~ That side of game design is only a small percent of what makes a game fun. Today we get to put the meet in the proverbial sandwich .

Setting is difficult, Time consuming and risky.
A good setting can capture an audience's imagination and make people want to play a game.
An uninspiring setting will turn players off and kill even the best designed game system.

What I am offering up here is the original setting design document, the frame on which I'm going to hang the Shards of Thimbral game and fiction on.

I have three goals:
I want to make the setting evocative and fun, with a range of narrative possibilities to satisfy a range of players and play styles.
Secondly, (Though this is going to sound counter to what you just read.) I'm also not trying to create a setting that is everything to everyone. In my view that is a bad trail to start down and I have never had much luck with “catch all” settings. So I am going to work on a game setting that feels solid and real with a history and a running narrative that the players can pick up and add too. That leads me to my third goal.
The players will have a big part in creating this setting as they play. No two Shards of Thimbral settings will or should look exactly alike not even after the first game, not even after character creation. My third goal is to simply leave enough space to grow. In other words If I started trying to define every floating island in the Shards of Thimbral setting I wouldn't only be doing a large chunk of work on the fiction of the game, but I would be doing the game it's self a disservice.

So that's that:
With out further adieu...

“The Shards Of Thimbral” setting notes Version 1.

15 generations ago, the lands of Thimbral were a prosperous holding bordering the great assure sea to the west and the Kings-Throne mountains to the north, the people enjoyed great comfort and wealth brought to them by skilled merchants, a strong fleet and a powerful monarch.
The Thimbral family had ruled the kingdom for many years, and they did so through exploration of and experimentation with the natural forces of magic. The Thimbral employed and trained a large school of wizards, and the Royal family Thimbrals were themselves said to be accomplished in the magical arts.
If the merchant fleet needed good weather, the school of magic would make it happen, if the army need support defending the kingdoms boarders the war mages provided. How far their dealings into magic went no one knew.

When the first small earth quakes shook the forests north of the mountains only the elven kings took note. They spoke to the woods and the winds and learned of the great amount of magical energy the Thimbral kingdom was drawing. The elves sent spies.
When the first fissures began to open up in the mountain passes the elves sent assassins, but none returned. The elves retreated deep into their forests and began to prepare for what they felt was coming.

The mages of Thimbral had initiated a program of energy projection, or the process of sending raw magical energy through the air to power their ships and industry, even amenities in their homes.
Magic however is and was a force for and of the land , and the land resented the magic being cast through the air, the mages of Thimbral had ignored their own basic principles and a price would need to be paid.

There used to be 300 days in the calendar of Thimbral, now there are only 299, the day of the Cataclysm is a day unrecognized even now, a day out side of time not spoken of, non-existent.
The name of Thimbral is used to identify the world as the mages left it. Man calls his world Thimbral as a constant reminder of the cataclysm.
In the capital the mages of Thimbral had created a great nexus of magical ley lines in order to cast more magic to far off receivers. The nation was fulled by magic, drawing more and more each day as the people of Thimbral found more and more uses for the seemingly free power.
On the 300th day of the calendar, the land and the air came together to bring the world back into a new balance.
The earth was rent, opened along the lay lines, the cities were struck by huge earth quakes, lava poured fourth from, the sun blotted out by he clouds of steam and ash.
The striking horror of the quakes has come to be known as the rending , what came next reshaped the world forever.

The Rising.
After the rending huge slabs of land some miles crossed, others much smaller began to rise into the sky.
For miles they floated some crumbling apart and crashing g back to a new scared land below. Others crashed violently into other floating islands, creating masses of loose floating debris.
Towns, homes, people, forests, mountains, lakes, all of the old world floating to the sky.
Vensie The capital city of Thimbral was rent along the four main ley lines and each quarter met a separate fate. One rose then crashed back to the ground creating a massive tower of rubble. Two other quarters rose swiftly buildings still intact some rent in half, the population struck dumb with fear. The fourth quarter spun off and rose much higher, lost to the clouds and the thinness of the air.

The land below was left scared beyond recognition. In the mountains the dwarfs deepest delving were laid bare, their small but stubborn population all but whipped out. The sea rolled into the land, finding deep places and hot pools of lava, huge gout’s of steam erupted, some engulfing the floating land, others forming huge permanent steam banks, hot walls of huge broiling clouds.

The Now:
Thimbral is far from the only land effected by the Rending and the Rising. It was soon after learned that other nations some very far flung had suffered the same fate.
The land had joined with the air and man was caught in the middle, but man is resilient and found ways to survive, rebuild an even start over.

Thee miles is a long way from the surface world and man always resilient has found ways to prosper. The Earth and the air have taken back their magic and locked it away, the golden mages lost their sway, and in the dark early days were cruelly prosecuted, none of their kind are known to still exist.
There are however, still points of magic in the world, islands of stone that have running springs, as if attached to some deep place far below. Buildings floating in the clouds mysteriously held together as if built in the sky, islands that seemingly hold an atmospheres of their own, constantly under rain, or snow, some even holding still air while quickly orbiting larger land masses, and many other mysterious sights. Mas has had to learn to adapt to his new seemingly impossible reality, so in the years since the rising he has turned to his natural inventiveness.

Age of steam:
The inventors among men began to experiment with the heat that could be harvested from the massive steam banks that rise from the sundered earth below. The first experiments were slow, but soon balloon flight was helping the islands of man reunite into small clusters of aligned communities. Ships were built with massive steam powered oars and hydrogen filled ballasts making trade and travel among the clouds a possibility.

Steam now powers an industry of gears and grease, with harvesting steam banks a big business, and finding floating chunks of land containing veins of ore an equally profitable venture.

The lost earth.
The earth below is a land of massive scars, bare stones, massive pools of lava, and ruined cities. The old land is not dead however. Survivors of the rending have scraped out an existence in the ruins, their minds and bodies twisted by the wild magic that still rips at the world below the risen lands. They are known as the rendforgged or the un-risen and they live a life of savagery competing with the other twisted surface creatures for what is left. The rendforged resent any incursions and are a constant threat, going as far as to pirate any airships that land on the surface so that they can strike upward on raids and sprees of seemingly blind violence.

Explorers and retrievers.
As there is no new magic in the lands, remnants of the old magic can be very valuable, so some brave souls will venture to the surface and search the rubble for old artifacts, weapons, treasures, and even simple raw materials like iron and bronze.

Bullet Points (sans Bullets):
As an aesthetic.
A mix of steam punk and low fantasy aesthetic
The risen lands of Thimbral are a industrial revolution level industry, with no gunpowder.
Steam has been used in very ingenious even technically impossible ways (this is a game after all).
Adventurer types are generally very swashbuckling, using airships to go from floating land to floating land and sometimes even to the surface.

Humans generally.

Dwarves are extremely rare in the risen lands, the ones that are seem detached form dealings with man preferring not to interact but just to mine where they can.

Elves are also extremely rare, but not unheard of, They are not friends to humans at all as they blame them for the rending.

with literally thousands of floating islands both stationary and moving out there, almost any race could pop up.

Magic items are a hot black market commodity but using them openly is frowned on by the general populous who no longer trust magic.

There are no spell casters it does not work any more.

The rendforged and a threat like orcs or revers ore barbarian hordes would be in other settings.

With all these islands floating around there can be vast differences in folkways and mores, climate, culture, and people for island to island. Some societies have become very sheltered from the outside world. Other islands can become extremely xenophobic.

Magic events in nature happen, they are not common, but there are amazing sights to be seen.

Some terms:
If two floating islands slam into each other it is called a “LandFall”

If an island for some reason plummets from the sky it is called “Casting” It is rare but it does happen.

People who harvest hot vapors from steam banks are called “Skimmers.”

The rare magical or that can be chipped repeatedly to create great heat is called “Flare-Stone”

Slang for an abandon surface city is “Bone Yard” or simply “Yard”

A repairman or an inventor is a “Tinker” or a “Tink”


There you have it. The skeleton of the new setting. After the first two play tests the players seem to have taken to the new world in swashbuckling style. New islands have been described, races uncovered, gambling houses built, and dwarfs, well O.K. I have to be honest the dwarfs just ignore every thing.
I think it will be a fun place to find adventure.
I know this was a lot to read in one shot the old wall of text syndrome sets in pretty fast.

Thank you for reading, and as always questions, comments, and shenanigans welcome.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nitty-Gritty, Open Hood, Game Mechanics Post...

Nitty-Gritty time: Hoods will be opened and tinkering will commence.

AKA: The Dread Theory in motion post:

I have to start with what this game project is not. It is not a world beating, paradigm shifting, new thinking, game changing, never before conceptualized pile of awesome.
I kinda wish it was, but I'm not that guy, I don't have those kind of chops.

What the game is going to be, is a game I would enjoy running or playing. It will also hopefully facilitate the kind of R.P.G. and world building experience I enjoy.
Those are my basic design goals.

As for general game theory, this game is an application of stuff that has been around a while, utilized, explained, and fought over by people a lot smarter and more well spoken than I am. This game is just my take on it.

On to the gears and grease:
What I like to start with is an economy of reward. The reward in my view is narrative control, the right to move the story in a direction you as a player want, through character and party growth and the development of general fiction during play. As I stated it in this blog entry:

I feel that this is the way to go. In my view players really want to put their creative stamp on places, scenes, and situations in the game, and will take risks to do so.

So we know the reward, now what's the risk?

The basic TEST:
Each character has four approaches and a pool of dice related to each approach. When a moment of impasse comes around (the narration stalls or the characters are attempting something where there is a good chance they might fail) the player decides what approach they would like to use and how many dice he or she is going to play.
The players place those dice in front of themselves with the highest possible value facing up (IE 6 on a D6)
The GM places a difficulty number and a success number written on a tab of paper face down in front of him or herself. The players should not know what numbers are written on the tab of paper, that is secret sauce.
The GM then calls on the players to narrate what they are doing. Each action they narrate earns the party one experience. Also each time a player narrates an action they must roll a die back by one in value. When the players are satisfied they have narrated enough and want to stop lowering their dice to earn narrative control they can ask for the TEST.

At this point the GM flips the tab of paper to revel the difficulty and success numbers.
To be successful the Players must have a number of dice in front of them equal or greater than the success number written by the gm, which each show a value equal to or higher than the difficulty number written by the GM.
(whew..what? ..huh? Example time: If the difficulty and success numbers were 4 and 2 respectively the group must have at least two dice still showing a value of four or higher to be successful.)
If successfull the Players can narrate the resolution of the impasse, if they're not successful the GM takes any dice which show a value lower than the difficulty number and the GM narrates the result of the Impasse. (nasty Gm steals our dices) read all that? Holy crap...

There are a few more fiddly bits, but that is the basic die mechanic.

So what does it do?
Here is the gist. If the players fail they loose dice, which lowers their opportunity to talk and steer the narrative during the next impasse. To get dice back they have to spend experience points. That sounds cut and dry, until you remember the experience points are all in a pool that goes to the party at the end of the game. So in effect the player is spending everyone's rewards to get their own dice back.
Players get experience by dialing their dice back, betting that they will stay above the difficulty number set by the GM with enough dice that they will succeed. So why should they ever dial dice back? If a player doesn't they don't get to have any input on how the narrative resolves during an impasse. The player becomes a spectator to the fiction, by choice. While some players may dig that, most will realize pretty quickly that everyone else is doing the awesome while they are playing it safe.

So why value experience so much? Just dial back dice like mad and burn it up, FTW!
Good point.
Experience is used post game to improve characters approaches, buy new skills, improve or buy new connections, progress goals, buy new character descriptors and, add assets or connections to the party. This experience stuff is amazing, the party will want more of it.

In play this seems to work out pretty well.
The key is really the GM setting appropriate success and difficulty numbers for impasses. If the GM sets them too low there is really very little chance of failure so there is no risk. On the other side the Gm could set every difficulty to high and the players will have a hard time holding any experience. The players would still get to narrate if they dial dice back, but they would fail a lot and end up constantly having to spend experience to get dice back. The Gm needs a bit of finesse, but I don't think any more finesse than say setting a target number in any one of a hundred d20 based games.

In our two play-tests the Players have not been shy about dialing back dice and letting loose with crazy fiction, lightning bolts, bashing lizard-men, saving lizard-men, plans involving hookers, and other general madness. This is good, this is the broth I want to make narrative stew out of... Ummm stew....
I was really happy to see players comfortable with rolling back dice and narrating the characters getting up to all sorts of no good. I also recognize that they should at some point think, “I better watch my step, I have no idea what the at difficulty number is.” That's the GM's job to keep the numbers to where there is always risk along with reward.

As the GM. I found my self wanting (mostly based on old habits) to ask for “checks,” spot checks for example. There's no support for that kind of quick check in this game. I need to remember that a test is used for a moment where there is an impasse, and the story can't go forward without some extra input from the players and some kind of resolution. A TEST isn't a quick yes or no kind of check.
Spotting the guard on the tower is not an impasse, the guard is there, the characters are the heroes, they can see him. Shooting the guard out of the tower with a slingshot, that's a bit more of an impasse. Even that example is thin, because the player could dial back a die and say he shoots the guard through the eye in an amazing display of sling shot virtuosity. The Gm would simply have to roll with it and expand the fiction to go with this new reality until the TEST is resolved. Nothing is really cut and dry once the dice come out, not for the players and not for the GM (Because the Gm is also a player, he or she is a times also along for the ride.)

As of now that is the mechanics and the theory behind the game. There are more embellishments and details than what's represented by this overview, however you pretty much have it all right here.

If you are still reading at this point, thank you. If you skipped to here I totally understand, reading about the hows and whys of a game is rarely (if ever) as much fun as playing the game.

Friday I am going to post the setting framework I am playing with, and finally put a name to this game.
After that it will be all about organizing another live play session.
An rewriting... constant rewriting......and more rewriting..............

Thank you for reading
Comments, questions, and shenanigans welcome.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Play test 2, breaking the rules of Playtests, the PASS that FAILS..

Play test number two, breaking the rules of play testing.
The first or second rule of play testing is “don’t test with your regular group, you know them too well.” And while I agree with that, I feel that breaking that rule at this early stage is acceptable.  Better to test early and often with whomever you can get than not to test at all, in my opinion.
With that in mind I broke our normal gaming group up into two groups of two, and ran two separate play tests. This was for two reasons, one the scheduling of it all made breaking the group up just easier. Secondly small groups give fed back in ways that I can digest more easily. Two opinions coming at me is fine, four or five might be  overwhelming all at once, at least it would be right now when everything in the game is still fluid and could be changed. Once the game is ready for bigger groups we will merge the groups and move forward.
So onto the play test:
Importantly this play test featured start to finish character generation, at the table.  This is a part of the game that I feel is extremely important for the rest of the system. The process took about 2 hours to get two characters from blank paper to ready to play including the “party sheet.”
(The party sheet is in effect a character sheet for the party showing the relationships between the characters and their group assets.)
The players seem to like the process and feel the party sheet is a nice piece.  They did feel the  creation might have took a bit too much time , but  also agreed more familiarity and less BS-ing at the table they could have knocked it out faster.   I also know that these players take their time with their characters in general, and are not the types to bring a binder full of fifteen first level characters to the table for a game of D&D.
The players had some great goals and great starting areas that really added a great flavor to the game.
We had Satha a magic using investigator type who carries a think cane and walks with a limp.
The second character was Seven a swashbuckling pirate of the skies, with his own ship and a gold in his eyes.
The players started out in a casino on a floating island that is dedicated to vice and gambling, the island is named Queens Gambit and the casino is The Lady Luck. There is a brief but worried conversation by Satha concerning some money he owes..
(Without going too far into the setting right now (Friday!) think steam punk sword fantasy in the remains of a destroyed world which happens to consist of floating islands..)
We picked two character goals as kickers “pay off my debit to Big Louie” and “Find the treasure of Dar-Quatan.”  This is new. I have decided to make part of the games mechanics using player defined goals at the beginning of each session as kickers. The characters have goals that they can spend earned experience to accomplish. These goals are set at character creation and can be added to, changed or even resolved in play. Starting with this second test they are also used to jump start each session. I feel it helped get us moving in a direction, rather than stumbling about for the first 10 minutes or so.
The session also killed a few ideas right out of the gate.  My resolution system had two parts one called the PASS which was a pure narrative phase where I would ask the players how they are solving problem and give them experience for good answers and then move on to the next phase if they get stumped. The second phase is called a TEST that involves dice, which would only happen if a PASS fails. In both sessions the PASS never worked as I felt it should. It is too loosely defined; it is too, difficult for the GM to know when it starts and when it should end or even remember to use it. The PASS is one of the Keys to the system and I have to admit, it does not work as I intended.  I need to rework the PASS from the ground up so that it is a tighter mechanic or I have to drop it all together.  The Test die mechanic seems to have worked well and was engaging which I was very happy with.
The second DOA concept is magic as player character ability. Found magic items ok, magic casting not so much.  In the setting brief I wrote I stated outright that people no longer can use magic, but One of the players wanted to try it out, so this being a play test why not? We all moved ahead knowing something in the character might be a bit broken but could be fixed for the next game. The issue with magic as an ability is this, the game is a straight up Narrative story building game, so for a guy using magic there are really very few limiters as to what he can do how often and when. I put some social restrictions on the character, and pretty much every time he cast anything something blew up or caught fire, but still it was a bit too much.  It all made for a fun story, and that is the goal, but in the end the  idea of a player character calling lightning, does not fit the setting. (Hookers, flying rickshaws and hydrogen explosions do?) There is also this and it could be a whole separate blog post (and likely will be.)  I refuse to write separate rule framework within the game to address special situations such as spell casters. So if my current frame work is too loose to support spell casting properly, spell casting goes. I truly feel that unless a designer is super careful, subsystems to cover special cases lead to bad design. I don’t want to go down that road.
The concern came up again that perhaps the GM should somehow randomly generate difficulty numbers. Either in a pre-game pool, or as needed. I am still on the fence about that one I want the Gm to have that control of difficulty, but I understand where the players are coming from as well. It is worth giving more though to.
I will be lowering the number of points starting characters have to build their die pools, and limiting the number of starting skills accordingly.
I will also work to bring the role of connections into better focus.
Overall I though t it was an informative and useful session, we talked at length about game design and designers, both players having strong opinions on both topics.   We really hammered the game system, and the idea of producing a game in general around quite a bit. I appreciate everyone’s help deeply.

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday: mechanics a look at what Im working with mechanically, the how’s and whys, of it all..
Friday: Setting, I’m going to revise and post my initial setting document.
As always I might post some randomness in then meanwhile.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Goals .. That's the thing...

The goals, that’s the thing!
Let’s talk about goals in RPG’s.
In my current project each character can set up to three goals for themselves when the character is created.  The option is left open to leave them blank until the player gets their feet wet and has some ideas about where they want their characters to go.
Mechanically the player can spend experience to move their character closer to fulfilling a goal.  Once the goal is fulfilled they get to narrate a section of story that brings closure to the goal, and they can then add something new to their character sheet, this can be anew connection or a new ability and so on.
Our group used this exact system in our group written house game Phase Abandon.  I like it so much I am directly porting it into my latest project.
Having goals for characters allow the group to move in a story arc, even when they are not 100% sure how to start off. The goals also provide a generally pretty natural feeling of character growth.  The player can say that my character has (blank) because he did (blank.)  What’s more the player will have a series of stories in his mind’s eye that (most importantly) happened in play that will lead him to whatever growth his character has experienced.
The goal of the GM in this process is to allow the players to pursue their characters goals. The Gm should not have an agenda in this game; an overriding story arc that may go on around the characters may even touch the characters lives and get them involved naturally would be great. The goals however should be the starting point use them as kickers to get the game moving. Take a second to look over the player’s goals, pick one right out of the gate and hoot the adventure to it. It provides instant investment and takes a bit of the “what do we do now” pressure off of the GM.
Taking this one step further, since the party has to share a connection to start out, I see no reason why there cannot be a subset of goals called “party goals.”  These would be things the group is striving towards.  If one of these goals were to be completed it could be a boon to the party as a whole.
So to tie it up, taking chances in the story earns narration, narration earns experience, experience goes towards goals, goals fuel character growth, and finally character growth gives the characters new ways to take chances.
If I can keep this economy in my mind while developing systems and subsystems, I think that I will end up with a game worth playing.
There is another play test scheduled for Saturday with two new players.  I am hoping to stick to the game plan a bit better for this test and I will let every one know how it went on Monday.
Wednesday I will be doing a post that deals directly with the die mechanic and how I think it is working out.
Thank you for reading.
Comments always welcome!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Live Play-test number 1 (So it begins)

Today two friends of mine and I play tested the game I have been working / blogging about.

This is the first time that the new game has been given a spin, and the first time either of the guys playing h
as seen any of the mechanics or any of the setting, so it was all pretty new and exciting. (For me at least.)

Sitting down for the first time and trying to concisely describe the things that are rattling around in my head is incredibly challenging for me. Not that I am uncomfortable, especially not with the guys involved, it's simply a difficult thing to do. Putting ideas into words is not made any easier when the setting being introduced is so undeveloped that I don't even have solid names for some key items and area yet.

Lucky for me my friends are a patient bunch , and we got moving pretty smoothly.

I'm not going to get into the minutia of the story, however I will write brief portions and relate them back to the test..
without outt writing it all out , it's magical fantasy, steam punk with innumerable flying landmasses dirigibles, and a worlds surface ravaged by a magical catastrophe.
Harley Burk, former member of the military, big brawling steam punk biker type. When asked for an impression of Harley, Bernard's player wrote “Bad Mother Fucker”
Bernard Octavious O'Holleran, a bookish and stylish investigator and inventor. When asked for an impression of Bernard Harley's player wrote “upper class”

One of the player characters (Harley Burk,) owner of a bar known as The Portal was having a chat with his friend Bernard (another player character.) Bernard and Harley know each other because Bernard Built Harley a steam powered motorcycle and from that exchange they had become friends.

These items and relationships were set up in character generation. I am placing a great deal of importance on the party as a concept and as a construction in the game. In fact I think I need to nail down this emphasis in a more solid way than I already have. For this play test, Harley and Bernard laid out the past relation ship as their party connection. This connection works for a two player game, If there were more players I would have asked for a more general connection between them. Something like all members of the same guild or all mates on the same ship. The connection as it is is a personal connection between them, but again that's fine by me for a two player game.

During the game the players faced two difficult situations that called for dice. The first involved convincing a rather inept ships first mate to accompany them into a mine to find the ships commander. The base of the scene really had Bernard scheming to take the ship all together, and Harley just wanted to sue the portly first mate whom he had known in the past as a human shield somewhere down the line.
Harley used two social dice.
Bernard used 2 social dice and a skill dice based off his negotiation skill.
Bernard chatted up the ships guard, telling him unappreciated the crew is by the first mate and how the crew should be running the ship while the captain was gone. And Harley bribed the first mate to go with him by feeding him fine scotch that Harley carries.

Any time a group is playing a new game and using a new die mechanic for the first time it can be a bit iffy. When it is a game you are writing and no one has ever tried it before it is nerve wracking.

The players took to dialing back dice and earning experience for it pretty well. The mistakes in execution were generally mine.

I found my self getting caught up and not asking enough questions of the players during the PASS phase of the impasse. This did not allow the players to earn enough chips and made me go to the dice more quickly than I would have liked. In the future in play and in the text I need to define more precisely how the PASS phase has to go.

That's just one example of some execution issues that could have been avoided how I been more concise. I will work on sharpening up those rules for the next pass through.

Points that came up.
When the dice come out the GM has to be very careful to cut off the player narrating once he has narrated something. Otherwise the player can just talk and talk while only turning the die back once.

We are not sure the PASS phase is even necessary. In this phase the players get experience for narrating their way out of an impasse before the dice are ever even used. It might simply not be necessary.

If the Pass phase is left in the GM must do it right , declare what is going on , place a secrete difficulty number on the table and ask the players very direct questions and reward them for answers that move the impasse forward. The process sounds simple but in play I messed it up.

At the start of the game there needs to be a mechanical push to get players going . I think I am going to address this by using player goals as kickers. The group should choose a goal to pursue for the session.

In character generation I need to really drill into the game that the “one thing the character is best at” must MUST be specific and colorful, not general.

A measurable method for determining when a payer has to stop narrating after he or she dials a die back during a TEST would be really helpful.

All in all I think it was a good test. 
Nothing crashed and burned so badly that I don't think the game can work. The players liked the system of having a difficulty and a success number placed on the table hidden from the players, and the players playing dice against those numbers. 
We managed to create a fun story with some nice high spots. Scenes including surly dwarfs, exploding-cave entrances, a full on brawl with lizard men, steam-driven shotgun blasts, a collapsing elevator, and even a two man flying rickshaw. These kind of shenanigans lead me to believe the system can work and can be fun.

I think a lot of the real issues we had were my nerves, less than a concise grasp of exactly what we were doign,  and simple inexperience with the game.

Play-test number two with two different people is set for this Saturday so I will have more information and a better idea of what works and what has to go then.

Thank you for reading !

Monday, November 11, 2013

Game development: Hitting some bumps, bumps of self confidence, or is that a hive?

Game development: Hitting some bumps, bumps of self confidence, or is that a hive?
(Subtitle: this is why they call these things “Heartbreakers”)
With my first play test in 2 days, yesterday I printed my first very basic play test copy of the rules so far.
I have not even named this damn game yet.
Here are my lumps and bumps moving forward:
I am working with Scribus to do my lay out, I know that in design would be easier particularly because I know a bit about how to use it, but Scribus is free. I find it ok, though I am not steady with everything it can do yet. Putting in Text and lining up margins is easy enough, I look forward to delving deeper as the project moves forward.
What I don’t know much about is proper lay out and text flow and all those other chunks of know how a lay out professional has at their fingertips. I can learn the program, but that does not make me an expert or even a neophyte at making a text easy on the eyes. That is going to be hit or miss.  
My plan is to study a lot of the small press games I own in paper form or in PDF and asking, what works on this page? How is the publisher making this text easier to read? What iconography works here? What does not work? Why does Champions 2nd Edition instantly give me a headache whenever I open it ?(Just kidding I like Champions…)
Right now I have a bare bones layout, just the rules in single column and a few side bars, black and white, nothing fancy. I have left white space for future art and a wide margin for me to take note on as we play test.
As I am sure you have noticed I am also not a writer, and though I have written a bunch of game text over the years, I still sometimes suffer from lack of clarity. I either make things too conversational or I write them a bit like a VCR instruction manual. I have a hard time hitting that middle tone that’s fun and easy to read and also very clear.
 I think I can overcome this hurdle just by testing and revising a great deal. Once a game gets played a few times the important material rises to the surface and I can concentrate on honing those areas, while unessiairy fat will get trimmed away. I’m not too worried about it just yet.
Lastly it’s art.
I’m a fair artist, not great just fair. I want to add a few pieces to this game to break up the pages. I don’t doubt that I can do a couple of quality pieces given the time, and since I don’t have a development schedule of any kind, I have the time.
My main issue is technical. My style is very sketchy line art; I like monochrome so color is not an issue, but the style is not conducive to scanning and manipulating via computer. It’s just not “clean” enough. In order to make the images look decent on a PDF or for printing I will need a pretty high resolution scanner and I’m afraid my home scanner is just not up to the task. Buying a better scanner is just not in the cards right now.
So I will have to go somewhere to scan in my art assets, it’s just kind of a pain. As much as I would love to just buy art (as much to support artists as to save the time.) I never plan on making any money off of this project so that is also out of the question right now.
This is why they call these self written self produced games heartbreakers.
There are people out there who have the range of skills to “do it all.” I am applauding those folks, I’m amazed by them. When I was writing back and forth with the  guys at **Cobweb games** I was very impressed by the amount of work and effort and attention to detail they were putting into the layout for “Hell For Leather.”  And it has to be that way if an author wants to create a product he or she can be proud of. It’s a lot of time and work and can break your heart a bit once you look at everything that has to be done to create a small press game.
This week I start the process of working out the rules in real y play.
Once that is sorted I will start smoothing out all the bumps. No heartbreaker here I will finish this sucker ugly lay out or not...
Also Happy Veterans Day to any Vets who might stumble on this post. Thank you.
And thank you for reading.

**dead link removed Edit 3/19/15

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to not steal from your friends, GM needs to be a player, talk it out!

How to not steal from your friends, GM needs to be a player, talk it out!
Preface, I consider everyone who plays RPGs just a friend I have not met yet. Perhaps this outlook is a bit strange, but that’s how I trip though life.
I don’t want to steal from my friends, so I need to talk about some of the concepts in my newest game.
The Game Dungeon World has been pollinating my new game with ideas.
Not so much in the nuts and bolts, there are things love about dungeon world and things I don’t. I’m not sold on the system of GM “moves” though I do think it ties the whole game together eloquently. I’m not sure if the game can be played with a running narrative, as it seems fit to generating bursts of fiction. (Like watching the middle 30 minutes of Conan the Barbarian, nice fight, but what, why?)
What I love and what has really stuck with me are the principles for GM’s. What the fine folks working on Dungeon World have done is put into words more concisely than I ever could a lot of the things I feel are true about running games.
One of the GM principles that stand out to me is “Be a fan of the characters.”
I am totally on board with this. I am a fan of the characters that players play in the games that I GM. I don’t want them to fail, I am not out to wipe the party off the map, and I really want the characters to do cool things and enjoy the game world. I really dislike the GM vs. Player paradigm that may have been perpetuated in the past. I have zero interest in getting a total party kill with a giant rock trap in the center of “Ye Ole Dungeon of DOOMETH  tm
For my game I’m squeezing the concept just a bit, to become “The GM is also a Player.” What I hope to convey is that the GM has the same investment towards and right to have fun with the game at the table. This also means the same right to enjoy the unfolding story and the action taking place in game world.
That reads kind of like a, “Duh naturally the GM is there to have fun why else would she play?”  
However I think it is a different way to look at the GM player relationship. For many years the biggest RPG’S clearly drew a line. Here is your player’s book; here is your GM’s book, “do not read past this chapter if you don’t plan on running the game.” This kind of separation is a holdover from a more competitive war gamming background. The Gm and the players need to be on the same page as far as a creative agenda is concerned. For me that creative agenda is “let’s make the most kick ass story together that we can.” (Cue the Splosions!)
The idea of having a set of solid rules by which the game is run (as compared to rules about how things are resolved within the framework of the game) is very appealing to me.
The other principle that stands out is “Ask Questions use the answers”
The game that I am writing revolves around this concept, which I don’t think is new, but is defined nicely by the dungeon world text. The players have what they want to be doing in their minds eye, and usually with incredible detail. Most details in a scene or most results of actions are already there if the GM takes the time to ask. I’m looking for a resolution mechanic based on conversation and the exchange of information. To not complicate it really is as simple as if the GM and players can talk it out, do it.
That’s two ways in which I have found another games design ideas inspiring as I work on my own concept.
I don’t honestly thing I’m stealing anything, but I do think it is important to recognize inspiration and credit it appropriately.

Here is a link to a Dungeon world resource that outlines the subjects I just wrote about.
As usual thank you for reading, and sharing.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Play test: like brushing your teeth.

Before I start, Happy November 1st.. Damn...The year is just clicking by.

Play test: like brushing your teeth
As often as possible, after every meal if you can, and do it early….rinse ..repeat..
I am planning a quick and dirty play test of mechanics for my new game with some friends that I have been gaming with for a long time.
It’s very early in the development cycle for me to even think about playing a ”real” game, but I have to kick the tires.
So what are my thoughts on play testing?
I think that the only way to get a feel for a game is to play it. Not only to play it but at least for the first few times play it with people whose opinions you trust and play styles you know. It makes for a good barometer of your system if you know the players starting points.
For example if you have a player who likes crunch in his games and you are making a less than crunchy system you already know they might say “I never felt satisfied during the fights.” You as the designer could translate that to, “for a gameist player it could use more of a frame for combat” and you know where they are coming from. As the designer you can then make informed decisions about the system, without having to guess the players perspective coming in.
This being my most ambitious project system wise, (ambitious meaning the most outside of the box game I have worked on.) Knowing the normal perspectives and tastes of the players will really help me know if I have crawled too far out on a limb or not.

This Limb

I absolutely think open play testing is the way to go once a system is more mature. Nothing is as effective as getting real opinions from players who have no stake in your game, your feelings, or your time.  The feedback from such play testing will inform every aspect of a games design.
Speaking of game design, what exactly have I designed to play test?
In effect nothing.
Well ok, not nothing, I have a design document with the general narrative system written out, a brief character creation document, and a sketch of the setting I want to build around.
Every game is nothing until someone plays it. I have pages and pages of nothing on a thumb-drive in the very spooky “graveyard of dead game ideas.”
In my eyes this is enough to run some play tests that will be admittedly rough.
What I expect to have happen is things will stumble into the “how do we handle this?” and I will have to see if the system can accommodate. If it does great, if it pops like a balloon, I have some work to do.

Formatting the Play test:
Here I have a MacGuffin, the table.
I think every game should be play tested face to face at the table. That’s my thing, my hang up.
If I am gaming and one of my friends raises his eyebrows in a certain way, I know I just did something that does not jive with his sense of the game. That kind of feedback is invaluable, as a designer and as a GM.
If I am playing on Roll20 and Skype as we often do, I don’t get all those little visual cues and body language feed backs.  In fact half the time I can’t even get a good Skype call.  (WHO THE HELL IS RUNNING A DOT MATRIX PRINTER IN THE BACKGROUND! It’s 2013 damn it!)
On top of that I have no idea how I am going to work my new games system on a service like Roll20. No clue. None. Nada. Which as a design is limiting. With such a large amount of gaming going on via the internet these days, the internet really is something I have to consider carefully when creating a final design.
(Table vs. online will be another post for another day, but for now that I always vote table should be enough.)

I have dragged this out enough, I hope to get a game set up pretty soon and share the results on this blogg.

Expect a play test report here as soon as I can run the test done, digest the information, and get things typed out.

Untill next time, enjoy.