28 July 2011

Blood Tragedy (Game Chef Review)

This year’s Game Chef requires the participants to review 4 of the other games and recommend one for advancement. So far I’ve reviewed 3 of 4 and have posted my thoughts on the Game Chef website. I’ll be copying my thoughts here as well. This is the first one.

Blood Tragedy. Okay, definitely going for a Tragedy here. That seems Shakespearean. Like all good tragedies we know that most everyone is going to die by the end. Everyone decides how they will die ahead of time. I really like this angle. It’s neat to decide what your ending is going to be and steer events towards it.

Reading on I see that characters can “dominate” a scene and this gives the player more control over the framing of the game. At first I was really turned off with the idea of scoring in each scene. “Get your points outta my rpg”, I thought to myself. That was a gut reaction and the idea of earning points did grow on me as I read on, but that initial reaction is something to keep in mind.

I’m torn over the Exile and Soliloquy rules. I really like the way that a soliloquy as been worked into the normal play of the game. It’s very Shakespearean. What I really don’t like is that a player can be “written out” of the game until the last act. That just doesn’t agree with me. I’d like to find some way to keep them included during the down time. In practice this might not be an issue at all, but it’s definitely a place where I could see myself adding a house rule.

I like the level of freedom that you are trying to give the players. In some games I think everyone will know exactly where they want to take things, but there isn’t much to fall back on if players get stuck. For this reason I think it might be nice to have some kind of central plot element that helps carry the plot forward.

I think it might be interesting to experiement with giving the different roles (rules, servant, etc.) different narrative powers that they could use at the cost of nature.

Overall, an interesting game. I think there is a lot of potential for a great game of tragedies to be made of it. With some expansion and tweaks to the midgame to help push players along and some more attention given to the scoring rules and I think you will be on to something good with Blood Tragedy.

If you’d like to play Blood Tragedy then you can find it here.

24 July 2011

The Daughter of Padua (Game Chef 2011)

I’m participating in Game Chef again this year. You couldn’t keep me away after how much fun I had with it last year. This year’s theme was Shakespeare and we had to pick 3 of the 4 ingredients (Daughter, Exile, Forsworn, Nature).

My entry this year is titled The Daughter of Padua. It’s a game where one person plays as a sickeningly rich man’s daughter that has been put up for marriage. The twist is that she gets to pick her groom and the other players are her suitors.

I used the Daughter, Forsworn, and Nature ingredients for TDoP. The daughter one should be obvious, but the other two aren’t nearly as easy to figure out. For the Forsworn ingredient I have set each of the Suitors to have a secret Oath. This is a negative thing (for the Daughter), it’s an ambition or goal that the suitor has that is the true reason he seeks her marriage. Through the course of the game he will have the option to forswear that oath for the sake of true love. To satisfy nature I went with nature as in “human nature”. Each character has natures which are hidden aspects of their character. In the case of The Daughter there are 10 of these which The Suitors will need to figure out if they want to win her heart. For The Suitors, they each have one nature which The Daughter’s brothers will try to reveal (if they enter the game). All of these natures are taken into account in the epilogue of the game, which the losing suitors narrate.

One thing that I really wanted to work into a game about Shakespeare was the use of direct quotes from his works. I thought this would be a lot of fun and it was a mechanic I’ve seen used in another RPG called The Dying Earth. In that case they used Jack Vance quotes. The mechanic I used was pretty basic. Players draw random quotes and if they can work them into the game they get bonus dice.

The overall concept for this year’s game came to me pretty easily. I knew that I wanted to do a comedy because I’ve always liked Shakespeare’s sense of humour. I also thought that most of the other contestants would be going the tragedy route with their games. Daughter really stuck out at me and I thought it would be pretty Shakespearean to do a comedy about social climbing suitors competing to win the heart of a very rich heiress. For a while I had thought about going a little bit meta and making a play on words with players (as in actors) and players (as in the people playing the game). I couldn’t really make this work, but it still amuses me when reading the rules that the terms can be used interchangeably.

I picked Padua because it was a pretty large Italian city around Shakespeare’s time and, to my knowledge it wasn’t used in one his plays. I thought that it was just the location that Shakespeare could have used and would make a great setting for my game. I later realized, while collecting Shakespeare quotes, that it was where The Taming of the Shrew is set. Oops. I guess I don’t know my Shakespeare as well as I should. I should earn points by correctly guessing a setting he would use though, right?

My original draft of the game ended up being dangerously close to a Fiasco rip-off. My main mechanic in the game is that The Daughter rates her suitor’s seduction attempts with either a flirty smile or an evil scowl. To represent this she hands out different coloured dice. Originally these were rolled against a chart at the end of the game exactly like you do in Fiasco. Not only was this too close for comfort, but I realized it just didn’t work. I needed a flat happy or sad ending and no scale. I kept the dice roll but ditched the chart. All the dice are used for is determining the winning suitor and whether it is going to be a good (read happy) marriage or not. The rest comes down to interpretation from the losing suitors. They use the natures of the bride and groom as well as how high the dice roll was and whether the oath was broken or not to narrate an epilogue. I’m confident that the final game is different enough from Fiasco to be its own game, but there is definitely a similarity in using two different dice for good and bad scenes.

If there is a weakness (that I can see) in my entry this year it will be in the lack of play examples and the suitor oaths. We’ll see what the reviewers have to say.

Speaking of reviewers, this year each contestant must review 4 of the other entries and recommend one to the next round. Watch this space for my own thoughts on 4 other games.

If you’d like to play The Daughter of Padua then you can find it on the Games page or just click this link. I also made a character sheet for this game which you can find here.

20 July 2011

A Dwarf loadout for a game that doesn’t exist.

Just as the topic says. Remember that role playing card game I mused about several months ago? I kept thinking about it and produced enough cards to make a sample character loadout. What you see above is a loadout for a stereotypical Dwarf character.

Based on the card layout for this character our dwarf has:
  • 2 Strength
  • 3 Toughness
  • 1 Dexterity
  • 1 Wisdom
  • 1 Intelligence
  • 1 Charisma
If you’ve read those previous posts you would know that these stats are derived from the colour of the cards used in the loadout. That means that if you add up all of the values it should equal 9. Thus, all characters must have a value between 0 and 9 for each attribute. That’s pretty straightforward, I think.

The question is, what are these attributes used for? In a nutshell, they relate to the Hit Deck. A communal deck of cards made up of 9 suits, each matching an attribute. Depending on what your character is doing their attribute could affect anything to the number of cards they get to draw to a bonus to the card value. Typically it’s going to be card draw. If our dwarf wanted to kick down a door, for example, the GM would have them draw a number of cards equal to their Strength attribute +1 (since you can’t draw 0 cards). They get to use the card with the highest value for their attempt to knock down the door. To further complicate things, there is a system of trumps. Basically, every attribute has one other attribute that trumps it and counts as a straight up failure if used. I haven’t figured out the trump relationships at this point.

If you look through the cards you might notice a few other things I haven’t previously talked about. I make reference to wound types on some of those cards. The way I envision injuries working in this game would be that the GM has a stack of wound cards of different types. He tosses those out to characters/monsters as needed. I feel that this is one of the strengths of using a card-based system. You can have the granularity of different types of injuries without having to look rarely used rules. What you need is printed on the card that has handily been placed next to your character.

I don’t believe I’ve spent much time talking about the difference between Ancestry, Ability, and Equipment cards either. Mechanically, it comes down to how they are swapped in and out of your character loadout. Ancestry cards can never be swapped out unless something drastic happens like a polymorph spell or disownment. Ability cards require retraining of some kind to change and Equipment cards can be moved in and out on a character’s turn. Fluff wise there are some differences, but I’m sure you can work those details out on your own.

I think the cards are pretty self-explanatory and give an idea of how I imagine this game playing out. I think it’s worth noting that a player could easily mix and match cards from different loadouts to quickly and easily create all kinds of different characters.

That pretty much does it for now. I don’t know how much further I’ll pursue this idea. It seems like fun to me, but I’m not sure if it really appeals to anyone other than me. I might post up some card templates so that anyone could make their own cards. If you want to see more of this then let me know.


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