28 December 2010

Quick mock-up of a Role Playing Card Game card.

I know I said that I wouldn’t play around with my role playing card game (RPCG) until I finished up my revision of In Between, but I just couldn’t help myself.

Here is a mock-up of what one of the Persona Cards might look like.

I think I’ve missed my true calling in life: art. 
Apart from the terrible art and questionable graphic design skills what’s going on here exactly? Well, let’s start from the top and work our way down.

First off you’ll notice that the card is red. Various colors represent different attributes. In this case that attribute is STRENGTH. Don’t worry, I’ve considered colourblind players. You see that tiny little icon at the top? It’s supposed to look like a muscely bicep. It’s there as a secondary way of telling what attribute the card is linked to. I’ll talk more about attributes at some later point in time. For now, just know that they exist.

Next up is the title of the card. That would be Orc Hatred. That’s pretty straightforward, as is the the stick-art below.

Now we reach the good stuff. In the text box you’ll see the bolded word ANCESTRY on the right. That’s to tell us that it is an Ancestry TYPE card. That’s important for random character creation and also for any other cards that might affect Ancestry cards. There are other Types as well. Right now they are limited to 3 types for Persona cards. That is Ancestry, Ability, and Equipment. As an aside, Persona cards are those that make up a player’s character . Character cards just sounded kind of boring so I decided to use Persona instead.

Beneath the TYPE is the RULES TEXT. This is the meat of a card. It has some role playing information which I think is really important to help drive home that this is a RPG and not a competitive card game. Following that is the actual mechanics aspect. In this case it talks about TRUMPS. Trumps are going to be a major part of the resolution system. Everything has a trump, think of it like rock-paper-scissors. Rock trumps paper which trumps scissors which trumps rock. Only in this case everything has a positive and negative trump which for the sake of simplicity we will equate to Critical Success and Critical Failure. Essentially what this card is saying is that if you’re fighting an orc and you roll a 1 you treat it like a 10 OR if you are negotiating with an orc and you roll a 20 then you treat it like a 10. Trumping and resolution is a bit more complicated than that, but this post isn’t about that. I’ll talk about the resolution system some other time.

That’s everything that is on this card. There is room for more information and some of the non-persona cards do have other stuff on them. Monster/NPC/Challenge cards, for example, require attribute information as they aren’t built out of 9 separate cards. This will be represented by colored symbols.

That’s enough about this game for now. If you’ve got a (relevant) opinion I’d love to hear it.

20 December 2010

Combining card games and RPGs

Gamma World relaunched as a D&D 4E based game a couple of months ago. I picked it up since I’ve always been a fan of randomly generated character creation and the wacky universe that Gamma World is set in. We only played it once and it could only be described as a failure. I had intended it as a pickup and play kind of game when our regular games get waylaid for one reason or another; that's how we use Icons. It doesn't work too well for that. 4E is too heavy a ruleset and none of us are particularly familiar with it, which amplified the problem. We did, however, somewhat enjoy playing with the cards.
I didn't really think the cards were used as well as they could have been. They really were not used to any better of an effect than a table in the rulebook. Still, an interesting experiment.

Not long after our disastrous Gamma Worlds game, when I was poking around on the ‘net, I discovered an odd game called Dragon Storm. Dragon Storm is a mashup of RPGs and CCGs. I took a look at some of the cards and art and decided that it wasn't really for me, but it did get me thinking. How would I put together a mashup of RPGs and CCGs?

I’m not really looking to take on another project right now, at least not until In Between has been rewritten, but here are a few ideas I have bouncing around.
  • Character cards are split into 3 types: Ancestry, Ability, and Equipment. For random character creation these are split into 3 seperate piles and 3 from each are drawn.
  • Player Characters are built out of 9 card loadouts. They do not necessarily require 3 of each character card type, but randomly created ones will.
  • Ability cards may be changed through retraining and Equipment cards can be changed at any time.
  • A communal “Hit Deck” is utilized. This deck would consist of numbers on different suits as well as a few other special cards.
  • Cards from this deck are drawn instead of rolling dice.
  • Every card is assigned a suit. This is used when determining critical success and fumbles and may be important for abilities and other things.
  • There should be at least one GM only deck. This could be split into two. One containing monsters/npcs and another containing adventure seeds. These could be drawn from to create random adventures and other such factors, but would be by no means mandatory for play. The GM may or may not utilize their own Hit Deck, although its purpose would be the same.
That's all I’ve got for now. It should make for quick and dirty games right now, but maybe one day I’ll flesh it out some more.

I’m actually aware of two other RPGs that use cards as a core mechanic. The first is the StoryCards system, which is really more of a tarot deck. The second is the 6d6 Fireball RPG in progress. I don’t know much about it yet, but they seem to be playing around with some similar ideas.

26 October 2010

A New Version of Seedfall + More In Between News

As promised, I’ve put together another version of Seedfall that contains a number of changes and (I hope) improvements. I’ve added quite a bit more background information to the setting, mostly because people wanted to know a bit more about what kind of technology they have at their disposal. There has also been some major changes to The Seed, specifically puppeteers. I’ve made them significantly scarier at the cost of the overall viciousness of being impaled by a vine. Still, the change is for the best and I think making them inhalable so that they might fill your lungs and then squirm their way out of your mouth more than makes up for it. I also added an entire section on role playing as a colonist or puppet along with specific rules related to becoming a puppet, cures, and other puppet features. There are quite a bit more changes since the game grew by quite a few pages, but the changes are escaping me at this time.

You can get the latest version here.

I’ve discovered another quick review of In Between, this one is quite a bit more favourable than the official Game Chef one, but also not as in depth. It's short, so I'm going to quote it entirely:

The Good: Stuck between worlds trying to atone for sins? I love the concept and I like how the bidding system works with the dice and your power pools. It gets harder the more you accomplish because you lose power.
The Bad: Dice, lots and lots of dice. You need at least 15d6 per person. If one theme this year is maps, the other one would be dice.
The Other: I love how striking the title page is. It’s simple black and white, but it really made me interested in the game.
Would I play it? Yes, several times because apparently like a cat I have nine lives.

Thanks to Jonathan for his quick thoughts. He has also gone through and done the rest of the 58 Game Chef entries. What a job! Check out his blog.

25 October 2010

A review from Poland.

I also got a very cool email last night from a group of people that had played my Game Chef entry. The neat thing is that they're all the way in Poland! They liked the game but had many of the same problems that came up in the Game Chef judging. Looks like I'm going to be hard at work getting a better ruleset put together.

If you can read Polish then go ahead and check out their review. I found Google Translate did a good enough job to get the general idea across.

24 October 2010

In Between didn’t make the Game Chef cut.

Not everyone can win and I'm glad I wasn't the person that did. There are many games better than mine that were submitted to Game Chef. I liked In Between, but I knew that it was a mess mechanically when I submitted it. That's what slapping a game together in just a few days will do if you aren't careful.

Here are the judge's comments:
Concept: Players take the roles of dead souls traveling back into the mortal world through reflective pools in the Wasteland, a purgatory-like afterlife, and attempting to make amends for their crimes and regrets. The first player who removes all their fetters to the living world can enter the Golden City, a different and hopefully better afterlife.
Execution: This author was nice enough to include a very simple, sketchy layout, but it does wonders for the ease of reading and understanding the text. Nested subheadings, woohoo! I feel spoiled, almost. Overall, this game takes a couple steps forward compared to some of the other abstract and setting-free games in terms of providing a attractive premise that is substantially more provocative. The Wasteland, its silver pools, and the Golden City all sound pretty awesome. Plus, seeking to make amends and fulfill regrets is both emotionally and narratively powerful. However, this game continues an apparent trend of taking a GMless game of personal exploration and structuring it by having the players (if not necessarily the characters) compete directly with each other using limited mechanical resources. This trend is especially striking to me because it does not seem very natural to match the mechanics of inter-player competition to the theme of individual exploration, yeah? When you watch The Fountain or American Beauty, is Universalis the first game that comes to mind? Probably not. And yet several designers have made just that connection, which suggests that inter-player competition may be the sort of dynamic they feel most comfortable designing around. But there are other ways – Polaris, Great Ork Gods, Geiger Counter, Fiasco, Montsegur 1244, etc. – to design GMless games and encourage other players to take on NPC or antagonist roles without putting the players themselves in direct competition to win. I feel like this game and several others may have been more successful if they’d taken a different route and created a more cooperative GMless dynamic between the players, which might have also led to more innovative mechanics. I don’t mean to pick on this game overly much in this regard, but just wanted to point this out explicitly since it’s at least the third or fourth game to do it.
Completeness: There is some missing text between pages 5-6, describing demons. Otherwise, there are some places where the “power” token economy seems to have issues. For example, there doesn’t appear to be any incentive to spend tokens on narrative control if players are ultimately trying to spend them on winning control of possessed mortals and resolving their issues. I also wish there were more guidelines for what was supposed to happen either in the Wasteland or the mortal world, because right now that’s entirely open-ended, even though it comprises the vast majority of play. Additionally, as with some of these other GMless games of personal exploration, I wonder if the game could be strengthened if the various characters could actually meet each other in the Wasteland or mortal world and interact directly. That seems possible according to the premise and maybe even the rules, but isn’t discussed at all. Finally, what’s the point of having these different classes of dead souls – wanderers, unmarked, and demons – if they players don’t get to choose or explore which one their character ultimately is? Seems like a wasted opportunity.
Cookery: The theme is definitely here, and the ingredients are well included. The author did a clever and evocative job with the requirements here. Very impressive.
Conclusion: The solid premise of this game makes it at least as strong as the World Riddle, perhaps more so, and ultimately more narratively compelling than Symbolon and If Wishes Were Horses, I think. However, like the other games mentioned, which all operate in similar thematic space, this game needs a bit more work if the rules are truly going to support the potential of the premise. I really want to see a game in this vein make the playoffs, but I haven’t quite found one yet.

As you can see, they aren't all bad. It looks like they quite liked the premise. That's good because I’d thought the setting was the strong point and my actual game mechanics were the stumbling block. All of the judge's criticisms are valid and I’m already working on putting together a version of the game that does away with competitive structure. No idea when that will be done.

Speaking of games that will eventually get some work done on them; a new version of Seedfall is forthcoming. It should see the light of day sometime in the next week.


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