Skree and Thrum Coming Soon!

I stopped working on Skree and Thrum for a bit, but I’ve returned to it now and fixed up the setting and the instructions on how to play it. In all, the setting is a jump off point. I would really like to see how players might take it in wildly different directions.

So far reactions to the Energy System that the game uses has been very positive. It plays quickly but also has a lot of visual and tactile appeal because you get to roll a ton of polyhedrons. You feel awesome when you can fill your hand with d20s and chuck them because it’s an accomplishment.

The system deals with a lot of difficult situations very smoothly. Things like, fatigue (obviously, it’s the Energy System), healing, encouraging role play and allows the players to very organically build a character they really want to play.

So on the whole, I’m really happy with the game. It’s short, easy to read and get started on and offers a lot. I’d like to do a Supers game with the Energy System, along with a space opera but I’d like it to be something with a cool twist.

I have the cover to do. The other artwork is already done. It’s not much, but the book is only 20 pages so I don’t need dozens of pieces. The cover is about a quarter done. If I can sit down and get some time, I should be able to put it up on DriveThru soon.

Game of Draws

Over on theartifact.net, I wrote about a social conflict system that used draws for mechanical advantages over an opponent.

Then I thought, what if you made that the central resolution mechanic of a game?

I imagined two swordsmen looking for an advantage over the other.  Each character has their own draws, things that they want. They can be an advantage to them, or a disadvantage depending on the circumstance.  For instance “Has to win”, “Loves to make money” and “Wants to be a tough guy” could be some of a character’s draws.

Now what I’m thinking of for a resolution system is a system of offers that the characters can make to each other to get the advantage. For instance I’m going up against the character described above, I could offer him something like “First move” that plays on his “Has to win” draw and I can offer “Wait for my move” which means he can’t use his draw for this turn. The idea is that taking my “First move” offer is a trick that I can use to spring a trap with. Maybe my character has some kind of counter move that uses his attack to harm him.

The core idea is that each turn, a player has to choose between offers. I’d like to see multiple kinds of offers that would allow for a wide range of tactics.

My Self Inflicted 24hr Game System

I’ve been in a writing doldrums for a month or so. Then yesterday I had a few thoughts suddenly start buzzing around in my head and wrote them down.

The Energy System is a generic game meant to be applied to different settings. I’m shooting for something that can be played in a half hour. Because of that, the game doesn’t focus on individual actions by the characters. It focuses on the results. So rolling the dice isn’t about throwing a punch, it’s about the whole fight.

I have a setting in mind for the system where I’ll have more character generation, skill and equipment examples.

Energy System

More Thoughts On Solo RPGs

Still thinking about a solo RPG engine, I keep resorting to randomizers which tend to produce a mish mash of results. Sometimes a randomizer is brilliant, most times it just isn’t. The other element that I’ve been working off of is standard story tropes and trying to create a choose your own adventure on the fly but the engine still is to vague to guide a player.

What I have so far is to set the classic three act structure and then split those acts into two scenes each. The player could add scenes for a longer game but the idea is to start at two. Each scene gets a classic motivation that will be dominant. Here’s the structure I posted over on 1KM1KT a little while back.

Act 1 
Scene 1 Character generation. Get familiar with the character and set up a nice cushy life for them. Maybe they just got married. Maybe they just started a business and it's booming. Give them something nice.

Scene 2 A call to action. Roll against the motivations and use it to create the quest. If it's a positive motivation, then the character may have to leave the good life to take up the quest. The character taking up the quest could be reluctant if the call is from a positive source. If it was negative then something the character loved is destroyed. This should be played out in your rules but keep in mind that the odds are stacked in the favor of the motivation rolled. Maybe the character's business is saved but they realize that this kind of thing will keep happening unless they do something about it.

Act 2
Scene 1 Set up for the fall. The events of this scene set the player up for failure. If the scene is positive, the character thought they were doing the right thing but finds out it was all a trap, or he hurts the wrong people and has now made enemies. For motives like "Someone that helps" perhaps a mentor informs the character that they will have to accomplish some extraordinary task to succeed.

Scene 2 Put them in the worst position you can imagine. This is where the character is brought as low as they can go. (I'd have to work up ways of using the positive motivations to do this.)

Act 3
Scene 1 Get them out of it. The character must escape from jail, beat back the robot hordes, whatever.

Scene 2 Resolution. The final showdown. Will this be a comedy or a tragedy?

In each scene other than character generation roll on the following table.

Roll 1d20
1 Someone to pursue a goal (the Protagonist)
2-3 Someone to avoid the goal (the Antagonist)
4 Someone that helps (like a mentor)
5-7 Someone that hinders
8 Someone encouraging to consider a plan
9 Someone encouraging to reconsider a plan
10 Someone encouraging logic or reason
11 Someone encouraging feeling or emotional fulfillment
12 Someone encouraging excersizing control
13 Someone encouraging being uncontrolled
14 Someone to appeal to conscience
15-16 Someone to appeal to temptation
17 Someone who supports (speaks for) efforts
18 Someone who opposes (speaks against) efforts
19 Someone to express faith
20 Someone to disbelieve

The next piece of the puzzle is to give the player goal posts to reach in the story. This might be randomly generated, something to the effect of, “The main character is pressed by enemies until a resource is used up.” Which would be followed up by specific guidance that this could mean health, meaning the character is severely wounded, ammunition, fuel, food, water or whatever resource the player might target. Pick a target and then play the scene out until they’ve reached that low point.  Others might be “Trapped on all sides” or “Outmatched in skill” with the idea of having a healthy list to work off of.

Lastly, I wanted to think about classic solo games and what they use to entertain the player. There are only a few general strategies that I’m aware of.

First is the puzzle, games like solitaire create a puzzle to solve by restricting the type of moves available and then scrambling the resources the player needs. I haven’t worked out how to do this in an RPG yet.

Next is the mob, a lot of games have a number of pieces that automatically move toward the player’s pieces and the player must avoid or defend against the mob. This is more native to an RPG but one of the things that most games of this type focus on is strategic movement. For RPGs that use miniatures and grids to play, this is slightly easier to emulate but there are a large number of games that do not handle tactical movement. I have to resist the temptation to create additional rules to fill in the blanks. There needs to be a way to use existing rules, even when they’re not well developed for this kind of challenge.

The third is the stronghold, where the players must out maneuver defenses to gain access to a specified point. This at first looks easy but is one of the hardest to accomplish since the defenses have to be well arranged and the underlaying pattern should be difficult for the player to unravel. Only, the player is the one setting up the defenses so already has intimate knowledge of them. Still, using something like the Tech Challenges in The Artifact could simulate this.

The fourth is spending resources, here the player has what he needs to accomplish the task and can apply the resources in many different ways but only a small subset of approaches will actually work.

I think these structures could flesh out how the player builds a scene but there needs to be specific instructions on how they’re implemented. That’s what I’ll be working on next, adapting these structures to RPGs so that using them is a connect the dots for the player.

Solo RPG Engine

I’m thinking of developing a system for playing RPGs by yourself. There are a number of challenges to this. Mainly, how do you generate an interesting story without resorting to a load of random tables. My thought is to use the classic story structure to make this engine work. The player would roll on a table of the classic motivations for each scene. That would tell them if they were playing the Protagonist or the Antagonist in this scene. Other elements, possibly a deck of cards, could be used to flesh out what the type of challenge is.

Another element is that RPGs are inherently social. They are stories. If a story is not shared, then it feels empty. So I think there should be a healthy dose of structure as to how to record the game. Posting the story on a forum or a blog would suddenly make the game a shared story again.

The important thing that I want to shoot for is to make this system independent. There are a few solo RPGs out there already but they depend on custom systems to play. I’d prefer one that makes any RPG playable by one person.

Star Punk

Star Punk

Star Punk

For 2013 24hr contest entry, my game is a space opera without limits. In Star Punk the players get to collectively define major technologies of the game setting. There’s no limits to what the players are able to choose as their traits. Go munchkin on it or create some kind of balance to your abilities. It’s up to you where the game goes.

To create the pocketmod, print out the page and then fold it according to these instructions.

This is my first game to include a full index! Only the rest of the game is only seven (actually 6) pages. Hey, it was part of the contest to have an index.

My 2013 24 Hour RPG Attempt

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.

Mysteries

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?

Whisperers

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.