Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dreadsands Alpha Test is Here!


I am very excited to announce that my first full RPG based on the G.A.M.E. System is ready for outside playtesting! I have two versions available- both have exactly the same content:

-Dreadsands: With cover and interior layout

-Dreadsands: formatted text only

I am craving feedback on this game. Is the game readable? Understandable? What about the Setting do you like or not like? Feel free to pelt me with any questions you've got. I'd love to talk about my game.



Friday, March 4, 2011

GAME Playtest #1 part 2


As I mentioned in the previous post, we were using a stock fantasy world of no particular origin. Just one we would make up as we went. Brian's starting Faction was The Tower- an organization of wizards and sages seeking knowledge of all magical arts.

So after character creation was done and we discussed our goals for the game, we started playing. Brian's Bang was, "My wife was just killed by a disease. I'm a wandering widower memoralizing her in a bar over some warm ale." That worked. It made me realize, though, that the language around Bangs needed to be clearer. I wanted something more urgent and immediate. But it was enough to get the ball rolling.

I introduced a low level undead attack on one of the patrons at the bar. He was a sailor and the undead were some of his shipmates who had drowned a few weeks earlier. Brian's character fended them off and stuck up a conversation with the drunk. The drunk said there had been all this bizaar magical stuff happening in the North. People disapearing. Strange black mists coming out at night. Rumors of an ancient evil returning to the land. The normal sort of think, you know.

As a member of The Tower, Aehlowen (Brian's Character) was interested in finding out more. He comissioned the owner of the drunk's boat to take him north, upriver. Before they left, Aehlowen did some research at the local Tower affiliate in town. He made his Research roll easialy and earned an extra AP when he was able to hold back from using 3 of his dice. He asked me what he found, and I answered, "Evidentally, there is a rather infamous wizard who once lived in the north named Dasiteesimo. He was consumed with researching birth and death. One day though, he vanished." That suited Brian and he was off to the boat.

This all happened before I caught myself. I really should have turned the question around and asked Brian what his charcter found. Oh well. Brian was happy with the answer and it has supported our play well enough. It was a missed opportunity, though. I fault on my part, not the game's.

He arrived at the next town. He asked around about Dasiteesimo and it led him to a grave marker where his body was buried. One of the wizard's friends came by and told Brian a story about a cave in a swamp full of treasure and magic items. Dasiteesimo wanted to claim it, but the monster's inside killed him and much of his adventuring party instead. The friend then directed Brian's character to another person's house in the town who also knew the wizard.

This person I played as rude and idignant. It forced Brian to use his Pesuade skill against the NPC's Influence Barrier (a 1 at the time). The point of play is to force rolls often. So NPCs necessarily have to be confrontational in this game. Since Brian made his roll, it was easier to ask him what he learned from the man. Brian said, "He says that Dasiteesimo was interested in Undead and getting the power from whoever was at the bottom of the cave." Worked for me. But I think things stalled. Briand didn't really know where to go to next. And honestly, neither did it. Brian decided to go back to the orignal friend asn ask if there was anyone else who knew the old wizard. Sensing Brian was searching, I said yes. There was an old druid lady who went with him to the cave. She ran an apothecary now in the town. So, Brian when to visit her.

And that's where we ended the first night. It was awkward at times. Using iTabletop was a new experience. I have a camera and microphone, but Brian does not. He uses the chat window. It took some getting used to, but we both liked the features the software offers. I wasn't sure how the campaign would go from there, but we made a date to meet back in a week. He emailed me later that he was really excited about his character, so that made me feel better.

And I'll continue my story next time



Monday, February 28, 2011

GAME System Playtest 1, Part 1


In the last entry on this blog I talked about Low Power Fantasy. That game has now morphed into the GAME System. I'll be discussing my work on that system and its offspring here rather than on Socratic Design.

My friend Brian and I have started playtesting the mechanics for my CC License G.A.M.E. System. This playtest occurred about 4 weeks ago, but I am just now getting around to writing about it. I'm calling this version of the game Solo, since it's meant for one player and one GM. I think that the name will have to change since I believe people will confuse it for a Solitaire game, which it is not.

I sent Brian the rules over email and a character sheet. He had to make his character totally in isolation from me. I was so busy during the week that I couldn't call him or email him about the rules. Much to my great pleasure, when we started playing that Friday night, he had made the character exactly according to the rules. Awesome!

We decided to use a stock fantasy world for the Setting. I'm still in the midst of adapting my Blasted Sands setting to the GAME System (more on that later), so we couldn't use that. He chose to play a Human Sage named Aehlowen. I was expecting something like a firght or ranger or theif. I wasn't sure what to do with a Sage character. Aehlowen is the only character, so it would be challenging for me as a GM and Brian as a player to find conflicts for Aehlowen both engaging and challenging. Unlike a wizard or sorcerer type character, a Sage is interested in knowledge and lore, not blasting and burning everything in sight.

Anyway, Brian creates a really facinating Destiny for his character. He asked me not to reveal it publically, but I'll describe it in generalities. There once was a kingdom made up of two distinct cultures that split many years ago when the king was kidnapped. Aeholwen's destiny is to find the king and mend the rift. That's exactly what I had in mind when I created the Destiny mechanic for this game.

Brian chose to have exploding potions be Aehlowen's main weapon rather than a staff or sword of some kind. Again, this is a great challenge to GM. I designed my system to really support tactical and creative combat. Lobbing potions never really entered my thinking. I knew Brian's character would challenge the system to see if it could support such a unique and creative character. But if it can support this, I know it can support just about anything someone would like to play.

We talk about his character for a while and practice using the resolution system. He catches on pretty fast and we start playing. And I'll get to that in part 2 of this play test, which I'll post later this week (hopefully).



Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Power 19 for Low Power Fantasy

1.) What is your game about?**

The game us about taking the power away from the system and putting it on the player. Almost everyone has played a fantasy RPG before. More and more, it is my feeling that systems have added in so many shortcuts to “uberness.” Feats, spells, powerz and so on IMO really rob players of the chance to really show how clever and awesome they can be during play. Instead, all these shortcuts just encourage them to look for the pre-defined optimal sequence of bonuses. “Choose feat X because it’s clearly the best at that level. Choose spell Y because at that phase in the game, it’s by far the most versatile.” Or even worse in cases where something like a longsword is vastly superior to a broadsword and therefore there is zero incentive to ever pick anything else. This sort of mentality bugs me. I got tired of DnD because once I found the optimum Feat, Stat, Spell, and bonuses for the type of character I wanted to play, the challenge was over. Low Power Fantasy puts the challenge totally on me. It’s about forcing the players to use their creativity in each and every contest.

2.) What do the characters do?**

Characters work toward a their destinies. Players choose a destiny for their character during chargen. It could be anything from “find my father” to “become king of my country.” The actions of the character drive toward that destiny during player-determined intervals of the game. When a character reaches their destiny, they retire.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?**

Players focus on strategy and tactics during contests. In combat, they have an array of options that can change and morph each time they are faced with a new enemy. The characters are limited only by the player’s imagination and ability to communicate what he wants the character to do. Check out the fight scene between Jonny Depp and Orlando Bloom in the smithy in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Or checkout practically anything Legolas does in any of the LotR movies. Everything you see going on there is tested and proven possible during play for Low Power Fantasy. In parlay, they are options are just as varied. Interrogation, diplomacy, debating, all take on a swashbuckling flair as players go back and forth trying to get what they want. But without players actively challenging themselves to be original and maximize the basic actions and abilities of their characters, it’s all just dice and empty numbers. For the game to be fun, the players have to narrate and they have to think.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

Setting is totally up in the air now. I’m on my third setting in as many playtests. The problem I’m having is the very one targeted by this question. I want the setting to reinforce the system. I’ve got some ideas, but they just are taking a very long time to bake. I’m not sure what to do here yet.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

Well, obviously, I want the game to be about action, strategy, destiny, and stepping up. Destiny is covered explicitly in the chargen. It can be anything the player wants that he thinks he can achieve. Action and strategy are covered in the way contests are run. Players generate dice pools from one of six character stats, the character’s heritage, trade, and equipment. This pool can grant the player several options during each of his turns. If he rolls high enough, his character could get 3-5 actions that turn. The player can use them to defeat his foe, or save them for character advancement points instead. Each time he rolls, the player is faced with the choice, “do I win now, or do I stock up points for the future.” Stepping up comes from the “win now” choice. You’ve got 3-5 actions. Will you use them all on a full out attack? Will you use them all to get yourself in a better position next turn? Will you use some to attack and some to defend yourself? How will you balance your actions with your character’s motivation to achieve his destiny and your motivation as a player to win?

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?

Technically, the mechanics reward showing up to play and rolling dice, but the real rewards in this game aren’t mechanical- they’re social. Players are encouraged to step up in conflicts and show off their skills and strategies. Teamwork is highly prized, in fact, winning a combat is almost impossible alone. So in reality, the behaviors that are rewarded are stepping up, teamwork, and creative strategy.

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?

There are two types of rewards- social and mechanical. Mechanical rewards are called Advancement Points. They are awarded at the beginning of each session and potentially given each time a player makes a roll. If a player chooses not to use 3 or more dice from his pool after rolling them, he may “bank” them. Those unused dice convert over into an Advancement Point which he can spend later, after the session. The social rewards will vary from group to group. The game provides ample opportunity to show off and be awesome. For those that consistently “turtle” during play, it is my hope they are needled by their playmates for being a “wuss” or whatever. For those who take advantage of what the system has to offer, it’s my hope they are heralded by their compatriots for being a hero.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?

Whoever is rolling dice has narrational authority over everything. They control the environment, NPCs, and PCs. The object of play during the rolling dice times is to tell a badass story of what is happening. When dice aren’t being rolled, the players control their characters and the GM controls the environment.

9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)

Because each time players roll the dice there is potential for them to take and narrate multiple actions by their characters, player attentiveness to what is happening is key to making the game work at any level. Each roll brings with it the responsibility and opportunity for narration and stepping up. Outside of the rolls, players have to be conscious of their character’s destiny and how they plan to achieve that. It’s one of the beigest flags in the game. So, its part of the player’s vision for what he wants. Therefore, every conflict has potential to advance his character’s destiny.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

For lack of a better word, each character has an array of Flags that help build the player’s dice pool. The most common Flags include a character’s stats, heritage, trade, gear, and relationships. Each of these is worth a certain die number and die size. Any time a player needs to roll, this is where he draws dice to create his pool. Once his pool is ready, he rolls the dice. He must arrange the dice in groups that add up to at least 8. For each group that adds up to 8 or more, the character gets one success. After the number of successes are determined, the player narrates what the character does.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

By giving players multiple opportunities to take multiple actions in a turn, the onus is put on the player to use those actions to step up and be heroic. In games where certain values dictate how much or how well a character can do something or in games where certain feats or spells are so obviously superior it would be stupid to not to choose them, this sort of thing is not possible. The emphasis is put on what players do with their actions, not how well they studied the manual to discover which number, feat, spell, magic item, or whatever is most broken.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?

Yes, characters advance. Whenever a player chooses to use 3 or more dice after achieving at least one success on a roll, he can bank them to add 1 advancement point to his character sheet. Advancement points can be used to improve the dice pools for his various flags, buy new passions, new relationships, abilities, or advantages.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

Advancement merely opens up more opportunities for the players to get more actions during contests. The higher the dice pools, the more actions he is likely to get. All spells, abilities, advantages, and relationships serve to make those actions more potent, they don’t dictate, suggest, or imply what actions the players should take to achieve whatever goal they are after.

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?

I want the game itself to be a challenge for the players. I want the option it presents on every roll to make player stop, think, plan, then act. I want them to feel challenged, and then to enjoy beating the challenge and learning how to better assess a tactical situation. I want them to feel freedom- the freedom to have their character do anything they want in a contest. If they want him to leap to a beam, grab a rope, then swing down and lop off the head of their foe, then I want to provide them the chance to do that.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?

Right now, color is pretty sparse. I’d say there’s maybe three dozen abilities, perhaps 10 relationship options, and just a handful of spells. The lack of color is really the point of the game’s mechanics. I don’t want players distracted by the rules’ color. I want them focused on their play. When the setting comes along, I imagine it will have a great deal of color.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?

The resolution system. I think, and playtesting has proven, that it really does open up the playspace for real creativity.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?

The players add the power to the system, not the mechanics. Unlike most other adventure fantasy RPGs, there’s no real optimum option to buy, it all comes down to the players and what they want. Do they want a boring, toe-to-toe combat? Meh, okay. They can do that. Do they want to outflank, slide past, and cut their foes down from behind, above, and every-which-way? Sweet! They can do that too, and get socially rewarded for it by their gaming buddies.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?

PDF download within the next year.

19.) Who is your target audience?

Gamists who really like to do a lot of things when it’s their turn to act. Fans of fantasy who are tired of the overpowered rules and options in games like DnD or in MMORPGs like EQ and WoW. Fans of LotR and Pirates, since the actions of the actors is what I based the mechanics off of.

Comments welcome! :)



Monday, January 28, 2008

And They're Off!


Finally, despite all the production delays, The Holmes and Watson Committee is off to its customers. I am SO glad to finally have gotten them in the mail. I received them late Saturday afternoon from the USPS. I was pumped. Whew. There was so much I learned from the first year of DL-Quarterly. I'll be sharing some of that over at Socratic Design. Look for new posts there soon! :)



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Naw Duh, Sherlock!


My proof copy for The Holmes and Watson Committee is on its way. Getting used to the way my new printer does things took me a while. It's very different from my old one. That, and I always have trouble with technology. Anyway, I hope to have the proof by the end of the week and to send the game out by the end of the month. I'll be glad when I do.



Monday, December 3, 2007

So What Now?


So where do I go from here? I've got several things to do. I'm hammering out stuff with the Holmes and Watson Committee and a printer. It **should** be taken care of this week. It probably won't be, give my history with printers. We'll see. There's also the next generation of DL-Quarterly. I've gotten the games written and initially playtested, but honestly... they're crap right now.

I really feel I may have cheated my subscribers a little bit with the first DL-Quarterly. I mean, I didn't know any better at the time. I've grown, learned, and matured a lot since I first put forth the idea of a subscription. They're ashcans. I didn't say ashcan when I first started talkinb about it because "ashcan" wasn't even in my vocabulary at the time. I had no idea what it was. Now I do. I also thought, at the time, that if you wrote a game and playtested it a bit, that meant it was fit to publish. Sillyness. I wish I could take some of what I've done back, but what's done is done. Now it's time to learn from my mistakes. So, DL-Quarterly 2 will come out when the games are good and ready, not before. That means getting them to real Ashcan status, not just written and played. It means getting them almost ready for the big time.

And then there's Socratic Design. Of all the things I've done with regard to RPGs, it's the one I am the most proud of. There's nothing that brings me more happiness than helping novice designers with their games. SD still gets a decent number of hits each day even though I haven't posted there in months! That tells me people still use it, and that makes me glad. I'm looking at it now, and it looks good to me... really good. The fourth anthology really sums up everything I thought about RPGs up to that point. So am I going to add more articles to it? I'm not sure. I need to get Holmes and Watson out before I do anything like that. I need the experience of carrying through on a promise before I can talk about design, theory, and publication again. So for now, Socratic Design is resting. Maybe permanently. I'm just updating the links and doing other maintance on it so it's more useable and looks nice. We'll see in another month or two where I go with it.

BTW, thanks to all those who've been sending my your support. I really do appreciate it. :)


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