Monday, July 28, 2014

First Playtest for High Strung

 
So last night I ran my first alpha playtest of High Strung. We had a great time, but there were problems with the Hope mechanic. After the game we sat around and analyzed what was going wrong and threw out ideas to fix it. There were small problems which compounded to throw off the balance of the Hope mechanic.  Other than that, we all thought the game was a blast.

What happened was that in releasing their demo tape after only two gigs,  the PCs A: threw large amounts of Hope into the song to generate large dice pools after B: generating very high Target Numbers because they  were C: so super skilled, which resulted in ultra high scores on the Demo release chart.

We decided on several fixes:

A: Instead of allowing characters to gain 1 die per Hope invested, we decided to ramp up the Hope cost of dice. Up to three dice, the cost is 1 Hope per die. Then the cost escalates rapidly by one Hope per die, so the fourth die costs two Hope, the fifth costs three Hope, the sixth costs four Hope, etc.

B: We decided to prorate the TN generated by the status of the band. A band at Fledgeling Status would have its TN multiplied by 0.25. A band at Struggling Status would have its TN multiplied by 0.50, etc. This simulates the beneficial effect of experience and emphasizes the importance of gigging.

C: Skills for PCs would be capped at three ranks for characters under 24. This prevents young characters from egregiously loading up on performance skills at the expense of other skills important to other aspects of the game.

We think these tweaks will result in a game sustainable for longer periods, better simulating the experience.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Alpha Testing Commences for High Strung

Yesterday, in preparation for Saturday's marathon one shot, Klax read through High Strung and made some excellent suggestions.

In High Strung, to make a character you put together two templates, a background and an age. The background tells you what you did previously, and gives you a list of 5 skills to pick from, a musical Style, and a +1 to one attribute. The age gives you how many points you can put into skills, what kind of job you have, and how many Hope you start with.

Klax noted that there was only one pure vocalist and one pure instrumentalist background. He also noted that it would be great to have a background with neither Play Instrument nor Sing skills available. So we hammered out three new backgrounds - Acapella, Instrumental Wiz, and Roadie Plus.

A second suggestion was to include an Improv skill, usable not only in performing, but when unexpected emergencies happen - which they do with alarming regularity in this game! - so you can work around them. Since there are a set number of skills - 2 per Attribute - this necessitated removal of one. We decided on replacing Repair, a skill of limited use, which could be subsumed in Improv anyway. We also had to go back into the backgrounds and change the skill lists to reflect this new skill - a simple substitution for repair would not be right.

So the game currently sits at 28 pages, with little if anything left to add to extend that. A fairly light game, with little to no prep, fast characters, and lots of strangeness.

Tomorrow I am running a day-long one shot of High Strung, from 1-10 PM, with breaks for dinner and dessert. joining our usual band of playtesters are three ex-players, two of whom are musicians, so the game has some added depth for them!

Friday, July 18, 2014

"Yer After Me Lucky Charms!" The RPG

I wrote this RPG last November. It took me a day or two, and it was on a dare. :D

"Yer After Me Lucky Charms!" The RPG

Setting is Ireland during the English Occupation.

Player Character Types: (Choose 1 skill at 3, and one at 1, with the rest at 2)
All PCs may use Magic and have 3 life points

Aes Sidhe
Legendary elf from under the hill
Attributes: Pluck 2, Luck 1, Power 5, Faith 4, Smarts 3
Allowed Skills: Fight, Recover, Bless, Maneuver, Survive

Leprechaun
Mischevious magical shoemaker
Attributes: Pluck 1, Luck 5, Power 2, Faith 3, Smarts 4
Allowed Skills: Fight, Notice, Heal, Fool, Escape

Selkie
Shape-changing seal
Attributes: Pluck 3, Luck 4, Power 3, Faith 5, Smarts 1
Allowed Skills: Fist, Recover, Heal, Maneuver, Survive

Kelpie
Malevolent water-horse
Attributes: Pluck 5, Luck 2, Power 4, Faith 1, Smarts 2
Allowed Skills: Fight, Recover, Bless, Fool, Survive

Pooka
Trickster sublime
Attributes: Pluck 4, Luck 3, Power 1, Faith 2, Smarts 5
Allowed Skills: Fist, Notice, Bless, Fool, Escape

Non-Player Character Types:
NPCs do not use Magic and have 3 Life Points

Sassenachs
Attributes: Pluck 3, Luck 3, Power 3, Faith 3, Smarts 3
Allowed Skills: All at 3

The World - used to oppose skills checks without NPCs
No Attribute or Skill, but always equals seven, bits added mean additional difficulty.

Attributes:
Pluck (Tree) Ability to keep going - Skills relying on Pluck use the Tree Oat Bit
Luck (Clover) Ability to survive - Skills relying on Pluck use the Clover Oat Bit
Power (Cross) Ability to deal harm - Skills relying on Pluck use the Cross Oat Bit
Faith (Fish) Ability to heal body and mind - Skills relying on Pluck use the Fish Oat Bit
Smarts (Bell) Ability to think - Skills relying on Pluck use the Bell Oat Bit

Skills:
Fist [Power] Punching and wrestling - non-lethal combat
Fight [Power] Shooting and stabbing - lethal combat
Recover [Pluck] Natural self-healing - heals 1 life point to self if injured and not dead
Notice [Pluck] Spotting hidden things - each additional point of success is something else spotted.
Bless [Faith] Healing minds - heals 1 life point to self or others if Confused
Heal [Faith] Healing bodies - heals 1 life point to others if injured and not dead
Maneuver [Smarts] Getting the better position - success means +3 to next Skill Check
Fool [Smarts] Misdirection and duping - mental combat
Escape [Luck] Getting out of Dodge - May break the encounter and flee if successful
Survive [Luck] A slip in time can save your life - A success avoids 1 Life Point otherwise lost

Magic Marshmallow Bits
Hearts - Confer healing so intense, they can even bring dead characters back to life.
Shooting Stars - Allow the caster to fly for one round.
Horseshoes - Allow the caster to act three times in the next round.
Clovers - Allow the caster to be invulnerable for that round.
Blue Moons - Make the caster invisible.
Rainbows - Teleport the caster anywhere and back.
Balloons - Make any three human targets weightless and floaty.
Hourglass - Allow the caster to turn back time to the previous round.

Play Setup

Players pick one PC type character at a time in any order established, but only one of each character type may be chosen. Players apportion skill points, and name their characters.
GM only plays Sassenachs.
Each player and the GM grabs a blind handful of Lucky Charms from the box. This only happens once, before play begins for the session. The GM may nominate a single person to grab handfuls, to avoid hand size disparities.
Since the GM has no use for Marshmallow Bits - Magic - he or she may auction them off to the highest bidder for Oat Bits of a particular type, and the GM may set a minimum bid. i.e. "I have here a Rainbow! I'm taking only Crosses for this, and minimum bid is three!" If the minimum bid is not met - or just on a whim - the GM may eat unsold Marshmallow Bits. If the minimum bid is met and paid, however, the GM must hand over the Marshmallow Bit bid for.

Resolution

All skill checks are opposed. Skills unopposed by NPCs are opposed by The World.
Players add together Attribute and Skill, plus from zero to three Oat Bits of the proper type, and compare them to the NPCs - or other player character's - Attribute+Skill+Bits, or to The World.
Highest total wins. Any points over the loser 's total may be used to remove Life Points for Fist, Fight, or Fool.
At Zero Life Points, the character is either Unconscious (Fist) Dead (Fight) or Confused (Fool). Confused characters are unable to take any action, even to save themselves.
When you run out of the proper Oat Bits, you can only use Skill + Attribute
When you run out of Magic Marshmallows, no more can Magic be performed.
Bits added to actions of the World are shown openly - Players know how difficult a task is. Bits added to character - PC or NPC - actions are revealed simultaneously.


This game is not copyrighted, and may be used freely for whatever you want. Add stuff, take away stuff, change stuff - it's all cool.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wrangling High Strung Into Playable Shape

I've committed to running High Strung Saturday the 26th. Three ex- players are returning to the fold for this game, two of whom are musicians. It's going to be a day-long one shot - 12 hours of play with breaks for meals and dessert. I anticipate much hilarity and vicious undercutting!

So I have to get High Strung into playable shape. Flesh out the tables. Find a fun consequence for all the Nasty Cards. Make sure I've covered everything. This will be an Alpha test - I need to make sure everything I need is there. If something arises in play that's not covered, I have to improvise, and note it down - "Need a frazzen in case the PCs decide to janx the ribby." or "Forgot to include Smapping in the Crozen interactions! Need Done ASAP! Used averaging with Dasking - worked OK?" - which is what my development notes generally look like...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Restarting Beginner's Luck

Next Sunday, I am restarting my long running IRC StarCluster game, the Beginner's Luck. I started it in 2003, and this will be the 10th season. The game was started under the StarCluster 1E rules, shifted to 2E the next year, and is now running under StarCluster 3E rules.

Here are the logs from the first two seasons:

Season 1: http://www.flyingmice.com/Cry-in-the-Dark.pdf

This is the raw, unedited logs, put together into a pdf.

Season 2:  http://www.flyingmice.com/Beginner'sLuck.pdf

This is edited, with an intro, and comments after.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Traditional Roleplaying and Doing The Same Old Thing

I have been, for a long while, struggling against a certain odd assumption. This is, bluntly, that there is no innovation possible/being done within the traditional RPG envelope. It seems to be a fairly common assumption - traditional RPGs are dead, they just don't know it yet - but it is also unconscious and for the most part unvoiced, showing itself mainly in circumstantial ways.

Here is the thing I keep hitting in a nutshell: _All traditional RPG designers are doing is what has been done before, either purposefully, as in the OSR, or blindly, in all other cases. All real innovation is coming from story oriented games or from 'the challenge is the game' games._

As a designer who does his best to push the envelope while still remaining within the traditional framework, this is crippling. It is akin to the "I read a game you wrote back in 2004 and it wasn't for me, so nothing you do could ever be of interest" put down - like one can't ever get better, or learn from one's mistakes, or even just change. This assumption makes every day a salmon day - I'm swimming upstream, against the current, so I can spawn and die.

What is funny is I never feel this from other designers. Never. They design the games they design because they are interested in exploring this way, and they assume other designers are doing the same thing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

First Review for Lowell Was Right!

Lowell Was Right! got its first review -
http://www.rpgnow.com/product_reviews_info.php?products_id=130161&reviews_id=112819

My favorite line was the first - "I've yet to play this game but based on my first cursory read through I'm kind of in love with it."