3 December 2012

The Pale Forest (My 2012 RPG Geek 24 RPG)

The dust has settled and this year's 24 Hour RPG Competition at RPG Geek is now over. I threw my hat into the ring this time around with a game called The Pale Forest, but with 37 other great entries I didn't expect to win (and I didn't). That honour goes to the much more popular (and presumably handsome) RPG blogger Lowell Francis.

If you are unfamiliar with the special kind of "fun" that is the 24 hour RPG, let me explain it to you. A bunch of crazy game designers get together and decide that it would be a good idea to create a game with no prior work and no outside help in just 24 hours. There is no stopping the clock, once you start you have exactly 24 hours to finish the thing. It's a mad dash and a lot of fun provided you have a masochistic streak.

This was my first time entering a 24 hour RPG competition and I really didn't put as much of the 24 hours into it as I would have liked. I think my break down was 1-2 hours brainstorming, 3 hours designing and then throwing away my first idea, 3 hours on my second idea and 1 hour layout. Then probably another 1-2 hours of  hanging out in the official thread and otherwise procrastinating when I should have been working. All things said, I probably spent 10 of my 24 hours actually at my computer "working" on the game.

You can view/download The Pale Forest here.

My cover design skills aren't great, but this
one was terrible even by my standards.

Now that the contest is over I'm allowed to talk about my game a little. It's not actually against the rules to do so, but there's a kind of gentleman's agreement not to for fear of influencing voters. Here are some rapid-fire thoughts on The Pale Forest:

  • I went with a kind of mad-libs style of character creation, mainly because I couldn't think of a way to marry character creation with game play. I'm not particularly happy with it.
  • The big mechanical idea I wanted to play with was a built in time limit and a mechanical resources that run out. I accomplished this with a spindown die that represents health/gear/sanity and so on. It decreases with each scene and action and players gamble it to overcome obstacles. I think there is more that can be done with the idea, but I'd need more than 24 hours to truly make it work. I'm really interested in the feedback on this one.
  • I was also interested in experimenting with gambling as a mechanic and I tried to tie that with the resources. I like the idea that players set their own risk/reward as it frees things for the GM and makes for an unpredictable game.
  • When the aforementioned resource runs out something bad happens. I think the game is going to be rather CoC-esque in that there is rarely a happy ending.
  • The game is very freeform with the only guidance being in random tables and a few paragraphs of exposition. With the mad-lib character creation someone should be able to get it up and playing in less than 10 minutes. I'm worried that there might not be enough guidance, but an experienced GM should be able to accomplish a lot with just the random tables and the way the gambling/resource mechanic works.
I don't think that I will be returning to this game to flesh it out and otherwise improve it. The reason? I don't really like it. I like the setting and I like the ideas that birthed the game, but I don't really like the result. I will continue to experiment with gambling mechanics with Rollplay Engine and I'm not convinced that a limited resource really works in an RPG without giving it more teeth and turning it into a competitive or very short game.

If you do end up reading or trying The Pale Forest please let me know how it goes. I am always curious about people's experiences and I haven't even had a chance to play the game myself.

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