I started my Harder Than Granite 24 hour RPG entry today. I’m mostly done with it. I’d like to get a playtest in before submitting it. My entry this year is called Star Punk. A narrative game about insanely powerful space opera characters.
I’m always trying to chip away at what I don’t know. One of the things I have a difficult time with is understanding things that are ascetically pleasing. I know it when I see it but I’m not terribly good at producing pleasing reliably. Another thing is trying to connect with people emotionally through a story or a game.
To improve on this, I’m looking into product design. I’m taking some tutorials that I hope will prove useful. Unfortunately so far, design is a collection of vague ideas that may or may not adequately guide me. It’s possible that these ideas are just building up a vocabulary to get me thinking in a different way. So far I don’t see a clear path to enlightenment.
So far the clearest information I’ve seen on design, is the book Made to Stick. There’s also a really useful document The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads that reaches the fascinating conclusion that the most creative ads are based off six templates. Almost saying that by limiting an ad designer’s options to ones that are already effective, the designer is more free to explore more interesting options than the ones that don’t work.
The part that worries me is that knowledge can limit the designer’s ability to communicate. I listen to conversations between designers or talks by them and they seem to be talking about intangibles that they can’t fully define. It worries me that I might gain a language about design but not the ability to design. In the mean time, the new language cuts me off from the average person.
I’m unlikely to know if I don’t try learning. I hope that by keeping the worry in mind, I remember what it was like to lack the knowledge. That way I’d retain the ability to communicate the problem to non-experts.
Next month it’s 24 contest time at 1KM1KT! The challenge? Oh, just to write a complete RPG in 24 hours, fit it in a pocketmod format and don’t use any numbers. Should be easy right?
The “no numbers” part was my idea. 🙂
Whisperers is a game that centers around finding someone that either doesn’t know they’re being looked for or doesn’t want to be found. In the end, that’s a mystery. I know games like Gumshoe and others have systems for handling mystery but I need to figure out the system that fits exceptionally well with what Whisperers is all about.
Each player will start out with strategies that they use to find a Whisperer. Because this is likely to be the first part of every game, it has to be a fun part of the game and not just drudgery that you have to do to get to the good stuff.
One of the problems with most mystery games I’ve seen is that they center around clues. That works for novels but in a lot of games clues fail you. The problem with this approach is that you’re giving the players a fact, not an event. The clues have no depth to them and if interpreted wrong can lead to dead ends.
What I’m thinking of is defining anomalies that the clues come from. These are weak points in the secret that you’re trying to discover. They’re the bit of hair on the floor, or a chance sighting in a grocery store that the witness didn’t know was significant until later.
I’m not sure how to approach this yet. Would it make sense for a GM to define the secret and then build the defenses that obscure the secret around it or just assume that the defenses are there and define the anomalies that would allow the secret to be discovered? The latter seems easier to me but maybe there’s a hybrid that would make the structure more rich in detail and allow the GM to think on their feet about the player’s investigation.
That’s the goal though, a way to make the player experience of investigating fun. I’m also thinking about time shifting the events that are being investigated, so that the attempts to obscure are rolled for by the NPC and the PCs get to roll against that. This way there’s more of a head to head competition going on between the NPC and the PCs. The players will get a flavor of what they’re up against before they ever meet the NPC they’re looking for. That sounds good to me because an investigator can learn a lot about the person they’re looking for by the clues they find and I think that would help encourage that feeling.
I just have to effectively communicate all that and put it in a structure that’s simple and fun. No problem, right?
The newest project in the works is a FUDGE based RPG called Whisperers. I’m still working on how much I want to nail the setting down and how much I want the players to fudge it. Once I work that out, I’m aiming for a lite game that should be easy to pick up by anyone who’s ever played FUDGE.
Here’s an excerpt.
“I tell ya’ I thought I was the only one that knew about them before I met you. They took my son and then my husband before I knew what they were up to. At first I just thought my son was getting moody going through puberty but then when he disappeared and Aiden started to act the same way. Well then I put it all together.
I actually found the cocoon that they put Aiden in. What was left of it anyway. “ She wiped away a tear. “I mean, he wasn’t the best husband, but.”
I found the thing that killed Josh. You know, my son? I found it. It had been using his identity for months. I mean, it looked like Josh, only it wasn’t. It even called me ‘mom’. But it wasn’t him. I wasn’t sure at first. It put on a good show but then it’s eye’s rolled up and it started whispering. It nearly got me, I could smell that sweet metallic smell. It almost put me in one of those cocoons.
I’m just glad I had brought my .357 because the last thing I remember thinking was to pull the trigger.
I’ve killed five of those things now. I track them down. I hunt them.”
In the past , I’ve made my RPGs available for free. In this case I think I’m moving away from that model. I’m anticipating something low cost but the free RPG market has the disadvantage that once a book is downloaded, it’s often forgotten. I know, I’ve done it too. I imagine that if a person has a small investment in the game, they’re more likely to actually get the game to the table, which is my main goal for publishing games.
For the longest time, the store32.net url and theartifact.net url have pointed to the same place. Over time, we’ve been working on projects other than The Artifact but haven’t moved the focus off The Artifact. Now that’s changing.
Although we’ll continue to work on The Artifact and Steampunkfitters, we’ve also created two board games with game crafter, Bubs The Robot children’s book about non-verbal learning disabilities and we’re looking at several more projects.
Clearly Store32 is getting bigger than just The Artifact and RPGs. In the future there will be even more diversification and that’s okay. Maybe one day it’ll be mobile games. Maybe one day it’ll be short stories. We’ll have to find out and it’ll be fun!
So check back periodically and find out where we’re headed.