21 August 2011

Introducing One Lost Pipe

A wonderful website that goes by the name of RPG Geek recently held a 48 hour RPG contest. What this means is that the contestants have to design, write, and submit a complete RPG in 48 hours without any help. I decided to try my luck and see what happened.

The contest, this time, had each contestant randomly generate 3 words which were to become elements that had to be included in the game. The three words I generated were rat, pipe, and tavern. I came up with a number of different ideas, each one becoming increasingly more bizarre. I thought of a game were the characters were trapped in a hallucination brought on by a hallucinogenic plant that is smoked and a rat is their spirit guide. I thought of a game where an evil rat was driving people insane in the public washroom of a bar. I have a strange mind.

I eventually settled on an a game inspired by the tale of The Pied Piper. In my game the piper is long gone, but he had left his pipe behind as a kind of folkloric artifact. It became nothing more than a myth capitalized on by a pub owner, that is, until it was stolen. That’s when a plague of rats fell upon the city and the pub owner hired you (the player) to get it back. I decided to call this game One Lost Pipe. That is kind of interesting, right?

Mechanically I decided that I wanted to use playing cards. I’m not sure why exactly, maybe I was just sick of dice when I wrote it. Cards also fit nicely with the pub theme, so there is that. I had initially been trying to turn this into a kind of basic tarot system, but after outlining all the cards and looking at it I realized it just didn’t mesh with the private investigator vibe I was getting from the game. I switched directions and went for a mechanic inspired by blackjack/21. It was simple, fast, and matched the theme much better than tarot.

With this game I wanted to experiment with different ideas. That’s one reason for using the cards, but another thing I wanted to play around with was seeing if I could make an RPG that could be played by just one person. I built the game around that, but then I decided that I wanted the ability to scale the game up to more players. I decided to accomplish this by adding a pseudo-GM position called Fate. Fate is essentially the blackjack dealer and when he is included the resolution gets a little bit more crunchy. This was great, but I decided it would be fun if the two players would switch roles back and forth, so I made that the default. Any players that are happy with their roles can just choose to ignore that rule. I also added two additional roles to the game so that it can be played with anywhere from 1-4 people. The additional roles were that of the Rat King and the Reporter. Each has their own goals in the game. The Rat King wants the rat swarm to overrun the city and The Reporter wants to get the scoop from the person that stole the pipe. Adding either of these roles adds some interesting twists to the way the game is played.

Speaking of the Rat Swarm, that’s another mechanic I added to the game to play around with. It is kind of a built-in timer. The game ends if it gets high enough so this game is definitely a single session kind of thing. The rat swarm also doubles as a currency for both Fate and the Rat King as a way to mess with the detective or reporter.

The only other interesting thing to say about the game is that I included a random pub name generator table at the end. I’m not sure why exactly. I just thought it would be fun.

I’ll be adding my game, One Lost Pipe, to this website in the near future. For now, you can get it at its RPG Geek Page. If you like the game then consider voting for it, but please read at least a few of the other entries before you do so. I’m currently in the process of writing a mini-review for each of the game submissions for the contest. I’m posting them on RPG Geek as I go, but I’ll do a round up here when I’m finished.

8 August 2011

I really like the title. I don’t really have a reason to like it, I just do.

Another game I reviewed for Game Chef this year. All’s Well That Ends As You Like It is an unusual mashup of board game and RPG elements.

Everything about this game just screams out at me with style. It looks like fun. It looks like a lot of fun. I don’t have too much to comment on as far as the rules go. I like that there are two win conditions for each player character. It drives home the Shakespearean theme, but I do think that even the tragic endings lean more towards the comedic. That’s okay, this game is obviously meant to be played manically and with booze.

While I like the game and truly think I would have a blast with it, I think that it might do better as a board game than as an RPG. I can picture a beautiful game board, little character pieces, and fully illustrated character cards complete with role play guidelines. I think with some tweaking to the role play elements that this could become quite the little boxed product. On the other hand, I can also picture you going in more of a How to Host a Murder direction. Keep the character cards with role play elements and add masks or other props. Declare sections of the house as the different rooms and have a couple of people take on the role of GM and you have a game that I would go to the driest cocktail party to try.

Keep at it. I’d like to see this one after it has had a few layers of polish on it.

I ended up recommending this one as a finalist for this year’s competition. Out of all the games I looked at this was the one I wanted to play most. I wasn’t the only one that liked it. AWTEAYLI ended up winning Game Chef 2011.

The Gentlefae of Cremona (Game Chef 2011 Review)

This is the last one of these and then I’m done posting my thoughts. It was one of the harder ones to review because of the density of the rules.

I enjoy seeing the few games that borrow the fairy elements from Shakespeare’s work. It’s a nice change from all of the tragedies and romantic comedies.

I didn’t get stuck anywhere reading through the rules, but I did have to read through twice before I really wrapped my head around everything that is going on. This is a game that would really benefit with a page dedicated to showing the player how it should play out.

The overall mechanics seem like they should work and I like how responsibility is spread out among several different players for everything that happens. I also can’t help but feel that the game would be more fun if only the Major Arcana cards were used. Of course, that would require reworking the entire game so please don’t consider that a criticism; it’s more an observation that drawing named cards is more fun for me.

The glossary was a nice touch. It’s not something you see often in any RPGs. I do think it’s a bit odd you would include a glossary and not a table of contents, though.

My only criticism is that I think the game might be a little bit too finicky. This game seems to be intended for one-off play, but it requires a tarot deck, beads, created characters (although not difficult to create) and index cards/scrap paper. That’s a lot of things. To top all that off the rules take a few passes to sink in. I don’t think that is very conductive for a one-shot style game where players may not have even planned to play the game and have fallen back on it because someone couldn’t make it or as a break from whatever their regular game is. My earlier suggestion of including an example of play could help alleviate that, as could including some of the necessary components in the document to be cut out. My group usually plays indies as a break or as fall back, which is where this is coming from, and I fear that we would likely pass over this game in favour of something lazier.

This is a solid entry with an interesting system and an engaging theme. I think it is a little rough around the edges, but that’s the nature of Game Chef titles.

1 August 2011

My Daughter, The Queen (Game Chef Review)

Here is the second game that I reviewed during the reviewing stage of Game Chef 2011.

This one has a very nice and simple format. It’s unfair of me to take that into consideration, but I do. It is just more enjoyable for me to read when some thought has been put into the presentation.

Let’s get to the meat of it. Right from the start I’m interested. I like the idea of a father going over the minutia of where he went wrong with his daughter. There is room to explore. I also like that it really comes off more like it’s his friends analyzing what happened and telling him the truth of it rather than the fiction he has built for himself over the years.

System wise, I don’t really have any complaints. It looks like it should work with a minimum of fuss and do what it sets out to do. I think there could be a little more room for throwing curve balls at the players, but it otherwise looks solid to me. I think I would need to sit down and play it with some friends to know if there are any spots that need more attention.

The biggest, possibly only, problem I see with this game is that I’m not feeling the Shakespeare. Sure, Shakespeare is in it, but as is noted in the game he could easily be replaced with anyone. This game could just as easily be a post-mortem of a messy breakup. I aam by no means a Shakespeare expert, but this kind of examination of one’s life just doesn’t feel like Shakespeare. Maybe one or two of Hamlet’s soliloquies are as introspective, but that’s it.

I think the designer has hit on something good here. Replaying events and looking at them from different angles could work with so many different stories. I’d love to see this idea taken and applied to a variety of tales. I’m also strangely reminded of the film Big Fish and the novel Ireland. Both are stories about fathers trying to relate to their estranged children (sons in this case). The difference is that they try to do it through their own fictions. I think that’s an angle that really could have brought Shakespeare into this story. If, after all the introspection, he writes a final play which is played out in a similar way as the other scenes with the players building off his ideas. It could be his final attempt at reconciliation or maybe just something for the daughter to find one day after he has died.


Web Analytics