Not-So-Secret Project

So, yeah. I'm starting a not-so-secret project. Some of you may have an idea of it already.

But it's got something to do with the number 3. Or something

So we'll call it Project Gamma.

Want more info? Ask!

Much ado about advancement?

In my Exalted game, a few comments were made about the lack of character advancement.
Now, first of all, I feel that character advancement is not entirely necessary, but that's not the main point here.

The point is that it does have advancement. It may be a bit more subtle and/or non-traditional, but it's there.

Advancement comes in the form of
A) Building up Relationships. This shows a story gain, while also creating a bank of dice to be drawn from.
B) Lowering Drives. This decreases penalties taken, and also creates a bank of points to be used.
C) Creating beneficial Locks with excess dice.

There may even be one or two more ways, but these are they main ones. They are forms of advancement. They are, I admit, not in the standard model of 1) Get XP - 2) Level Up / Spend XP... But they're there.


The Death of RPGs as an Industry

So, WotC is laying off some pretty big names...
I've heard 4E sales aren't where they should be.
And GenCon is filing for bankruptcy, and may be taken over by a shadowy collective of investors.
Game stores aren't really what they used to be (at least numbers wise)...

Omens seem pretty dim. But, there's hope. My understanding is that many smaller publishers are doing ok. Even if the "industry", that is to say the stores and large companies, falls... roleplaying will still survive... and dare I say thrive?

People will still make amazing games. And play them. And what else matters?


Color and Game Issues

Greg Costikyan wrote I Have No Words & I Must Design way back in '94. Now, this is pretty old, but I imagine some of the people reading this haven't read it. In particular, I think the color and simulation sections.

"The rules do nothing to evoke the Burroughsian wonders, the pulp action thrills, the Kiplingesque Victorian charms to be gained from the game's setting. Despite a clean system and a detailed world, it is curiously colorless, and suffers for it."

I've said it before, but your game should support the color of what you're doing.

"Or take Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, which I designed. I could have taken Gygax & Arneson's Dungeons & Dragons and changed it around, calling swords blasters and the like. But instead, I set out to simulate the movies, to encourage the players to attempt far-fetched cinematic stunts, to use the system itself to reflect something about the atmosphere and ethos of the films."

This is pretty funny, because after WotC got control of the Star Wars license... They pretty much did exactly this. Which ties into my point: Using one thing to do something else sucks. It's not a good idea. Sometimes you don't have any other options, but...

It should be avoided. I don't agree with the trend of using D20 to do everything. I also think it'll pass.

Any comments on this? Feel free!

Been a while...

Since I've posted. I'm not really sure it's worth it. Is anyone actually reading any of this or getting anything from it?
There's no way to know for sure, but there's no point if this's just going into thin air...


The Ruins - Basics?

Ok, so here's some more. The most important points?

-TIME: You need to go in. And get out. The longer you're in there, the less power you have (and more you need) and the lower your community's power sources get.

-CHALLENGE: There needs to be a clear challenge, probably on both a player level and character level. Failure should have clear consequences, and the GM should not be afraid to push. If there is a GM. I'm still not sold on the GM.

-LOSS & TRAGEDY: Every time you go down, there's a chance that someone you care about will be hurt by the miasma or the monsters while you're gone. But if you don't go, they'll be hurt anyway. And every time you go, it's riskier.

I'm not quite sure how to actually achieve these points, yet.


Some may wonder about my user logo.
Guess what? I'm not telling here.

But if anyone really wants to know, ask me.


The Ruins and Thematic Power Balance

I forgot to mention another cool thing: The Ruins flips the old 3.0/3.5 power balance on it's head (at least thematically). Instead of mages being weak and getting strong and fighters being strong and getting weak, it'll be the opposite.

Magic will get weaker as people move further down, leaving the mages unprepared. While everyone else can find gadgets and such that accentuate the skills they already have.

The Ruins - Steampunk Fantasy

So, here's a pretty cool idea.

A sort of fantasy DnD setting, right, except the dungeons are a system of underground tunnels from an ancient civilization. Magic comes from the Dragons, who live in the sky. Great machine-treasures lie underground.

And people are dying. There's a great miasma, a poisonous atmosphere, that makes people deteriorate at rapid rates. And monsters live in the miasma.

The good news? The cities and towns have machines that fight off the miasma and defense systems that can attack the monsters.

The bad news? Nobody knows how these machines work. And they eat through power. Quickly.

Your character is an adventurer. You go into the ruins and look for power sources. You arm yourself with half-usable devices because the deeper you go the weaker the magic you relied on topside gets. And you have to move really quickly. Because the power's running out, so you've got to find more. NOW!

So, any ideas? Comments, etc... welcome.


More about Memories

Ok, so I'm envisioning a cross between "Apocalypse Girl" and "Bliss Stage"...
Here's what I mean: In Apocalypse Girl, there's something called "The Gun"... The only true superpower. Anybody can use The Gun, but it always damages other things.

In Bliss Stage, your relationships can be hurt, but only if they are in the battle.

So I'm thinking something like The Gun for superpowers, except it's limited to what it can affect. Like Bliss Stage, it may be based on what's been used in the battle so far. Or maybe there'll be some other determining factor. I'm not sure.

Apocalypse Girl is available for free at 1KM1KT.
Bliss Stage can be purchased at Indie Press Revolution.

They are both great games, yo.

Any ideas on Memories? Let me hear 'em.



Down towards the bottom of the page here, JCunkle mentions having the other players define and activate your character's traits. Now, that's an interesting thought in that context...

But more relevant here is the idea it sparked in my head... Of how to actually use such a system.

And here it is: A secret government project creates groups of supers, than deactivates their powers and wipes their memories, leaving them dormant. And then re-integrates them with normal society.

Except... they aren't as dormant as the G-men think. Their powers activate uncontrollably, and often with damaging backlashes or side-effects... Or simply a blast radius that's too wide.

The other players control your powers. They decide when and how much they activate for. Or maybe you decide when, but they still decide what power and how much strength to put behind it. The more powerful, the more it'll help you... but also the more chance of backlash... and that's something nobody wants... or can control.

The second idea to come of this is "Memories". These are bad memories... real bad... memories of the other people from the project. Everybody would pitch these memories into a hat, and then mix them up. Under certain conditions, you could choose to (or would have to) draw a memory. Memories create conflict, as they paint your fellow neighbors, friends, and family members in an extremely negative light.

Even worse is when those people start having bad memories of you. So it's a game about things better left unremembered... A game about nobody being as innocent as they seem... A game about consequences, and what happens when things get out of your control... and a game about either overcoming or falling to the sins of the past.

Any thoughts, folks?


More SSBB Stuff

So I had this great idea at work.
In SSBB Cards, the main focus of your turn will be "Exchanges" of attacks.

In an exchange, each player has a number of dice. Characters with faster attacks get more, but deal less damage.

So you roll your dice (d6s), and so does your opponent. 1s are lost and give you Risk, 2s-5s are rerolled, and 6s remove a die from your opponent's roll and are rerolled. Keep track of 6s, as most special attacks and such require a running count.

Keep going until one or the other runs out of dice. The remaining dice on the winner's side translates into Damage (based on how strong VS fast the character is).

In addition to Damage, there's also Knockback. But regular attacks don't deal Knockback, special attacks do. And this is where the cards come in.

Unlike most cardgames, there won't be turns. Well, there'll be turns, but not "Jake's Turn" then "Alex's Turn". Instead, players will act more-or-less simultaneously. Turns will be structered into "Phases" in which players take turns doing... stuff. This'll be determined by passing Priority (who can do something right now).

When all players pass in a Phase, move to the next Phase. On each turn, a single player has "Initiative". This mainly states that he gets first Priority in each Phase. It may also affect quick attacks and movement things and such, or maybe who gets items. I'm not sure.

So, the Phases:
Setup (Draw cards, and deal out items and environmental hazards.)
Pre-Exchange (Use Pre-Exchange items and special abilities to prepare for the Exchange.)
Post-Exchange (Use Post-Exchange items and abilities. Deal with any consequences of the Exchange (especially potentially getting knocked out of the ring (or potentially recovering).)
Clean Up (Discard cards, items, and environmental hazards.)

And that's it for tonight.


On the RP side of things, I'm envisioning a competitive, Gamist game. The GM maps out levels on graph paper (right to left, up and down) similiar to those shown in SSBB. He then buys Enemies and Hazards out of a point budget. And then the characters run through the gauntlet.

And characters don't level up. Instead, based on the diffuculty of the challenges over come, they get some sort of currency. They spend these to get Stickers. These Stickers are either limited use abilities, at will abilities, or static bonuses.

In addition, GMs can put certain Stickers up for stake for defeating challenges above and beyond the normal.

Think Beast Hunters, kind of, with Stickers instead of Tattoos. Maybe...

Anyhow, tell me what you think!


Basic System for Maker's Mark

Ok, so here's how it works. At the beginning of the, collectively decide on 4 resources that everyone wants and map them to suites.

These are your stats. In addition, you have a "Jack Rank". This represents the number of times you've used underhanded tactics. After each hand, there's a chance one of your acts is discovered.

Each of these stats starts at 0 and increases during play.

You also have another stat, called "Judging Rank", but it is just an average of your Club, Diamond, Heart, and Spade Ranks.

At the start of each hand, each player draws 7 cards. Play 7 rounds, and then discard all cards in your hand. Each player gets one "Point" (needs a name) for every card discarded. These'll be spent between rounds to do stuff.

Each round, each player plays a single card into a small pile in front of him or passes. They lowest card showing is discarded (leaving one player cardless).

The players then repeat until their hands are empty.

The players then choose a single suite and add the appropriate numbers to their rank in each suite.

Face cards do different things.

Jack: Deceit. Using subterfuge, stealth, thievery, blackmail, and so on, your character manages
to hamper another character's efforts and improve his own. Remove any one previously
played card from any pile and add it's rank to your "Judging Score". Add 1 to your Jack Rank.

Queen: Luck. A sudden burst of luck leaves your character in an advantageous position. Shuffle
your remaining hand into the deck and draw that many cards plus one, and then play a card.

King: Cache. You (may) find a sudden boost of a certain resource. Name a resource, then draw a
card and reveal it. If it's a numbered card, add that number to the chosen resource. If it's a
face card, nothing happens. Either way, put the card in the discard pile.

Ace: Disaster. A disaster leaves harms everyone in the contest, but you are not as disturbed as
your companions. Skip the next player's turn. Each other player discards a card.

After each hand, describe your efforts and the events that happened during the hand. Keep the way the cards were played in mind (refer to your pile if necessary) and also pay attention to any face cards you've played.

SSBB: Cards and Risk

So... what I'm thinking of doing in SSBB: Cards, and maybe in the RPG too, is to have a stat like "Risk" to represent going into dangerous positions for items, attacks, etc...

You can willingly raise Risk to increase attacks, damage, or defense (temporarily), or to grab an item.
But high Risk makes you easier to attack, and a high enough Risk can leave you out of the ring completely (forcing you to recover or die).

In addition, Risk affects who gets hit by bombs and so on.

Some attacks leave you open or are otherwise risky. These raise Risk either temporarily or permanently.


SSBB: The Games

I want to make not one, but two games based on SSBB.

One: A card game, using the established characters. Sort of risk-VS-reward, some resource management, and just enough luck. Each character has a different deck (all hopefully balanced). There's also a deck for the stage (differing) or maybe just set rules for each stage. Also an item deck. And maybe an "other stuff" deck. 2+ players.

Two: A gamist RPG using new characters. Maybe use some established characters as samples or cameos or something. Not too sure rules wise, but I may end up taking inspiration from GRiM, as I really like what's happening there. I may also use some aspects of the card game, but it'll be an almost completly different game. I'm thinking something based on SSBB's story mode. Sort of dungeon crawling-ish type deal. But I've gotta think of some way to make it interesting, not just a rehash of DnD with funny characters and items.

Any thoughts on either one are welcome.

Story When?

"You can't tell the story you want to tell, you have to tell the story you're telling."
"Nobody sacrifices the integrity of his or her character for the sake of staying together as a party or solving the GM's mystery - the action comes right out of the characters' passions."

This might not be a surprise to some people, but I figure some folks might not know. So here's the big thing for me: The majority of what's going on in a game should, in fact, go on during the game.

We need to start spending less time before and after a game making stories and enjoying it. We need to focus our fun and attention and creativity on the game.

This is nothing new, folks. Vincent Baker wrote an excellent (in my opinion) article entitled "Pre-Play / Play / Post-Play" in '04, and I think I first read it in... I dunno, '06 maybe? You can read it yourself; I won't retype it all. But the point is, we (my gaming group) have been doing pre-play and post-play for a long time now. And... I think it's time to change. And I'm trying to do that.

This small thought was provoked by Have Games, Will Travel: For A Few Games More #4, which mentions improv and story now, for a good few minutes. It is in turn sparked by an interview with Ron Edwards where he mentions "Story Now", in Theory From The Closet #8 (which I have not listened to, yet).

I'm just trying to spread awareness, here.


Maker's Mark???

So, check this out. A more game-y game, right, but with some storytelling/roleplaying aspects.

All the character's a competetors in a crafting contest. Maybe they're master blacksmiths trying to make the finest sword for the captain of the king's knights. Or maybe they are farmers in a "largest vegetable" contest at the county fair. Or maybe, I don't know, maybe they are old ladies knitting blankets for a competition at the nursing home. I don't know, whatever floats yer boat.

Anyhow, there would be a list of resources (fine iron, a perfect patch of land with excellent sunlight, or a rare yarn, as examples). So, there would be a race to get the choice resources. There would also be ways to sabotage the others or advance your own efforts, or maybe a way to influence the judge-figure. Anything too underhanded would be risky, though.

Anyhow, this is very rough now, but it might be interesting.

Edit (11/29/08, 1:02 AM): Or, you know, space fantasy? You're character is the head of a spaceship design buerau... And the "Galactic Federation" or whatever is putting out a contract for a new starfighter. You can race to get access to the best engines, shield systems, the most brilliant young designers, etc...


Visits and Hits (Work the Line)

Ok, so here's how it'll work. After any hand in which Prestige drops by 1 or more, every PC gets a "visit" from an enforcer. If that PC's Respect is above 1, the visit is non-life-threatening, it's just stressful. Increase Exhaustion by 1.

On the other hand, if a player's Respect is at 1, it's a "hit". Increase Exhaustion by 1 (The PC pushed himself and managed to escape), and then, if Exhaustion is at the max (undecided now) the PC dies (He's too tired to run anymore).

When a PC dies, split his money equally amongst all other PCs. Some PCs may wish to force down another PC's Exhaustion and Respect and then force a loss of Prestige, in order to get that player killed (and thus make more money). Cool, huh?


Dragon's Tears (A New Spring)

Vincent Baker says it's a new spring for game theory and design, here. I hope, maybe, that the tears of the Red Dragon as he mourns will be roses upon the newly warmed ground.

In other words, I'm gonna try some things here, and I appreciate anyone who takes the ride with me (and especially those who help me along the way).

I've played around before, but I'm gonna try to get serious.

About the Title

The Red Dragon in the title is the same Red Dragon on the cover of the 4th Edition DMG. People who know about RPGs and my opinion of games might be able to guess why he'd be mourning, and also why gamers should take warning.

Also, it's a play on the old saying "Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.".

Just sayin'.

Basic Mechanics for Work the Line

Here's some basic ideas for Work the Line.

Play should be relatively simple and hopefully portable. No dice. Two decks of Game Cards and a deck of regular playing cards, and a few coins. Easily remembered rules, perhaps with a reminder card or two.

So people can play whenever or wherever, even in (say) a restaurant.

What do you think?


Clubs: +Prestige -Exhaustion

Diamonds: +Money -Respect

Hearts: +Respect -Prestige

Spades: +Exhaustion -Money

Each player draws 10 cards.

Flip a card off the deck face up.

Each player must play a card of the same suit or a cards totaling a higher amount (aces equal 1).

The player that plays the last card (or the first king played) gains and loses Stats as shown above. Exhaustion and Respect affect only the player, while Money and Prestige affect the whole Restaurant.

A player who ends the hand with a face card or ace gains the benefit but takes no penalty from the hand.

Each player who has cards left in his or her hand must reveal that hand and determine which suit he has the most of. He flips a coin. On a result of tails, he loses a point from that suit.

The rank of the top card at the end of a hand must equal or exceed the difficulty of the meal. On a success the restaurant gains Money, but on failure they lose Prestige.

Players get game cards (not playing cards, special cards yet to be designed for the game) to create events and change things in a hand. They also get abilities to use during a hand. In addition, each position in the Kitchen has a

different special ability.

If Prestige gets too low, the PCs get "visits" from musclemen to "encourage" them to work harder.

At the end of each session, subtract (undetermined) Money from the Restaurant's pool of Money. This is the Family's cut. The rest (if any) is split by the PCs. This is used to pay off debt or otherwise work towards the Character's goals.

If Respect gets too low, there might be an argument or fight. If Exhaustion gets too low, the PC either Faints, Gets Sick, or Snaps. If Respect gets high enough he can gain more abilities. If Prestige gets high enough, all the players get more Game Cards.

The "GM-Figure" is The Don. He gets his own deck of Game Cards.

Cool Work the Line Idea

Get this: They aren't just chefs. They're members of the Mafia, fallen out of favor (or into debt). Now they need to work in the Family's restaurant to work their way back up (in favor) or make enough money (to get out of debt).

This allows for side missions from the family, as well as a source of inter-character drama.

Whatdya think?

We're really lucky.

I was watching Blue Harvest, the Family Guy Star Wars special today. I had the DVD and watched one of the special features, Seth MacFarlane interviewed George Lucas.

I can't recall exactly what Lucas said, but it was something along the lines of "I just think of a movie I'd like to watch, and I say 'Well, nobody's made that movie, so... I'll make it'.".

We, as roleplaying / story gamers and game designers, are really lucky. We get to make the books, comics, movies, and television shows we want to read or watch. And we get to do it with our friends. There's nothing quite like the games we play, and I think we should really appreciate them.

That's all.

Work the Line (Or, Put the Pan on the Ring of Fire)

Crazy idea for a game. Every player is a chef in a busy restaurant. They work long hours in difficult conditions, requiring skill and speed under pressure.

Players would have stats like Exhaustion (The effects of heat, stress, and sleep deprivation. Goes down at breaks, end of shift, and when positive things (?) happen.) and Respect (How the other employees and PCs view your character. Higher amounts lead to better positions/raises and better teamwork, while low amounts can lead to arguments, fights, and trouble working as a team.).

In addition, the Restaurant would have stats of it's own.

I'm thinking of a fast paced, easy to use system... Maybe using cards in a trick-based game. The suit of the winning card determines what stats go up or down. Chefs would have stations or positions, and each one would have a special ability that could be used once a game...

Maybe money is required for the PCs. PCs have debts or goals that can be accomplished with more money. This ties into different dishes. More complex dishes give more money, but require more work and are harder to complete (and thus risky).

Character interaction would happen mostly off duty or on breaks, but occasionally could happen in the kitchen.

Go to Chef on Wikipedia for more information on chefs and the different positions. There are fancy titles and everything. Also, my apologies to the ghost of Johnny Cash.

Anyhow, this is very rough but... All ideas are welcome, I think this could be cool!


The Basics, maybe?

Theory is a complex mother-. It's that simple. Here are a few basic things I might mention soon, so...

D/F/K: Drama, Fortune, Karma. Three resolution styles. Drama uses description and talking to resolve things. It seems pretty rare to me, but Polaris is the first that comes to mind. Also free-form roleplaying. Fortune is some random element. Dice, cards, whatever. Karma is "the biggest guy wins the fight". Fortune is the most common that I know of, but it's not the only one. Games can also use some combination of the three.

G/N/S: Gamist, Narrativist, Simulationist. Three play styles or stances. Games can encourage or discourage any of the three. It might or might not be clear what each means, so ask if you're curious.

Lumpley Principle: Nobody definitively knows who came up with this. Some say it was Ron Edwards. Or Emily Care Boss. Or Vincent Baker (Lumpley himself). In any case, it basically says "Everything in any role-playing game system exists for the purpose of telling you who can say what and when.".

Narrative Control: Having control over the description of a scene. Traditionally monopolized by the GM-figure.

Scene Framing: The power of any person to set the beggining of a scene.

Stake Setting: Explicitly stating what's at stake in a given conflict.

There's probably a lot more I'm missing here, so feel free to ask. I might not know, but I might be able to point you in the right direction.

Half-Baked Ideas

I thought I might begin to explain some of my works-in-progress. I'm in no hurry to actually finish any of them, but if I get enough interest... well, who knows what'll happen.

Dossier: A game of spies and saboteurs infiltrating an enemy facility. They don't know who or what to trust.

Thunder, Smoke, and Steel: A card-based game of mystical martial artists.

Blade Dancers: An odd little game about mystical warriors. I really like the mechanics on this one, but I'm sure it needs work.

COord: I'm not even sure what this is. It's more of a framework than anything, and a rough one at that.

Dragons in the Dungeon: A DnD themed hack for Dogs in the Vineyard. I'm not sure it's not crap.

Elder Age: An odd game where your actions are based on why you're doing something as much as how. Some interesting ideas, but I think the mechanics might be broken.

Elflings: A rough fantasy Dogs hack about magic using elven warriors. Jedi VS Sith and all.

Fantasy D10: A game based on the colors of magic from Magic: The Gathering. Not sure what else to say. It's meh.

Fighting Card Game: A game based on fighting games, in particular Soul Caliber. Meant to be gamist and weird, but it's very half-baked.

Gargantuans: A game about climbing up giant beasts and killing them. See Shadow of the Collosus.

Legend: A game where symbols relating to your character, and legends about your character, give you power. Very rough.

Legends: Zelda-based episodic game, also called "The Legendary Heroes".

Monsters in the Night: Another Dogs hack, this one World of Darkness themed.

Opposites: A game about opposite extremes and internal conflict. Very, very rough.

Peril: A game about characters that are guaranteed to get worse. Meant to be tragic, maybe? I remember it was interesting when I wrote it.

Pirates: A game about pirates in a politically fractured world. Uses dice for character actions, cards for special effects / scene shaping, and a board gamish-sub game for the political factions on the islands.

Rememberance: A supremely rough game about flashbacks.

Sigil of Heaven: A very rough card game. Not nearly near done.

Skeletons: A Shield-based Poison'd hack.

Swords of Ganeride: A very rough fantasy game. Not sure what the hell I was thinking.

Smoke and Mirrors: A spy game. Some potential, but WTF was I thinking???

The Duelists: A game about, of all things, Duelists. Mechanics are almost non-existant, but there are some cool ideas and some flavor.

The Grid: A game. Not sure what else to say. Started out as a unique character sheet/development idea, but... I don't know anymore.

Immortals: A Polaris hack about people who've extended their life somehow.

Tattooed Monks: A gamist game about monks. With tattoos. Wuxia style.

Monk Card Game: Very rough card game about animal-style monks.

Engines: Essentially Apocalypse Girl with flavor removed. Rough right now.

Tesselate: A game about repititions and patterns.

Words: Scrabble + Baron Munchausen + Bedlam. Very rough right now. Needs a name.

In the beginning

There was a networking class!

Seriously, though, go here for my general purpose blog. This one's just for games. Roleplaying, usually, but I might talk about card games, board games, and video/computer games.

Posts'll be divided into a few categories: Games: for me talking about other people's games, Design: for games I'm attempting to design, Theory: for roleplaying theory and discussion, Links: Posts which are mostly links to other places and my ideas on them, and Misc: Everything else.

Some categories may overlap. Also, posts will be subdivided. For example, Design will be labeled as to which game I'm talking about.

Thanks for reading, all! Questions, comments, etc... welcome!