Skree and Thrum is it’s own game! I’m using the energy system for the mechanics and the results so far are really interesting. I’ve done a lot of refinements to the system and we did some play testing. So far that went really well, but I think I need a play example in the book to make things more clear.
The Energy System has a neat way of letting mechanics guide the story and then let the players tell it. It took some getting used to at first but the playtesters got into it later. A new feature in the system is that it ties story telling to mechanical advantages and advancement.
The setting of Skree and Thrum still needs a little something. It’s cool to go up against the aliens and challenges from the environment are dead simple to handle so that’s all cool. But the story needs more depth. More accurately, it needs the feeling of depth, because I like that the whole book is only 17 pages so far. No need for equipment lists or even skill lists. Just story and a few very open stat blocks.
I need something that really communicates to the players that they can go off in their own direction but guiding the world inside the vision of the story. I don’t think people want a “do whatever you want” statement but they’d like “there possibilities like this, this and this that you can use in your game”.
A lot of times this kind of thing gets hammered out in play testing. For example, one playtester wanted a huge eagle as a companion. It didn’t fit in the story to have giant eagles but we imagined it as some kind of modified animal. Not a natural born eagle but some kind of altered beast. I don’t know what that means yet but I have ideas.
I have a problem. When I GM, I’d love to have rich detailed notes that breath life into my game. The problem is that every time I set out to really prep for a game, we never finish it. The game seems to go reasonably well. The players may even appreciate the maps or interesting NPCs that I came up with. They may even be really happy about the game. We just never pick that game up again.
I used to put it off as a fluke. After all, there are a few off the cuff games that we didn’t continue with. Maybe it’s just the odds that these games were the ones we didn’t continue.
As I intensified my efforts to prep more, I got more games that stalled. What is causing this? Does my presentation change? Do my players think they’re being railroaded because of the extra material? Do I over think puzzles and make them too hard? To all of those, I don’t really think so. I haven’t seen any evidence that says so. So what’s the deal?
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.
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.