Saturday, December 22, 2012

Volant - A Description

Volant – Kingdoms of Air and Stone is in final Beta test. It’s a game set in a world where, at the conclusion of a world wide war between the Wizards of Stone and the Wizards of Living Things, the Wizards of Stone wrought a titanic spell which changed the nature of the world, tearing the mountains and plateaus free of the earth and sending them flying into the air as refuges for civilization when the monsters created by the Wizards of Living Things threatened to destroy it.

In the process, magic was destroyed in human beings, though still available in the stone – in the form of floating stone ships and skylands – and plants and monsters – in the form of alchemical potions. They sail these ships through the air, and ride giant birds and bats down to the surface, where they gather alchemical ingredients and search for ruined vestiges of temples and cities.

In Volant, you design an association the PCs belong to – and run – and allocate resources, before creating characters. Characters are created by stacking templates together, to quickly get variegated characters with histories. Like most of my newer games, various resolution mechanics can be dropped in and used on the fly – there are seven different mechanics available currently, with more coming.

You can create new birds and bats, new alchemical potions, new religions, and new monsters. There are mini-games for dog-fighting birds and for fighting ships. You can explore the lands below, find new skylands, scrounge for ancient relics or new alchemical ingredients, fight other skylands, be holy assassins or wily thieves, play games of espionage or intrigue in the cities, and many other things.

Evolve or Die

On a forum, I was asked whether or not I thought RPGs had evolved, or just fragmented. This was my reply:

Evolved does not mean objectively better. It means better suited to current conditions. With that caveat, I submit that RPGs have evolved, and it is necessary - and this necessity becomes more acute as the main lines of development radiate into more and more instantiation - that they evolve and continue evolving.

Fragmentation may be compared to speciation, wherein a stem RPG radiates out into more and more instantiations, through the mechanisms of adaptation and drift. This radiation promotes competition, which winnows out unfit specimens because no-one is interested enough to drift and adapt them.


Charater Creation

In Volant, I introduced a new kind character generation. In this scheme, you are given a number of build points based on the character's age, and with these points may purchase Templates, which each have a number of Skill ranks, and possibly Edges and/or Attribute improvements. You add up all these ranks given by the Templates, assign 7 points to Personality traits, and the character is complete, with personality, history, Skills, and Edges. It takes about 5 minutes to create a character of moderate (mid-30s) age - longer to create older characters. This compares very favorably time-wise with the usual year-by-year generation the StarCluster system requires, at a small cost in flexibility. Volant also has a much smaller number of skills - though they are still center-defined, just broader - than typical StarCluster games, which also helps a bit.

I haven't yet released Volant - it's due for release early next year - but I am considering using it for upcoming projects as well. My Alpha group has really liked using it, and the results are compatible with other StarCluster games. What do you all think?


Friday, December 7, 2012


I have an idea for a mini-game for handling negotiations, which would work for most any task-based game system. As usual, I look edat the systems people actually use in negotiation, and abstracted the concepts. I'm putting this up for comment!

I. Set the Range

Both sides decide how many demands are involved in the discussion, and how many of these demands are non-negotiable. The non-negotiable bits are important, because both sides have to eventually accept the others' non-negotiable items if a deal is to be made. Examble: Eight demands each, with three of them being non-negotiable. Generally, whoever has the most demands sets the number, and the other side increases its demands to match.

2. Set the Demands

Each side writes down its numbered list of demands. Take a sheet of paper, and divide it into five areas - a non-negotiable area for each side, a negotiable area for each side, and a common discussion area. Put a die in the appropriate area and turn it so that the right number is up - non-negotiable demand seven should show a seven up, and be in that side's non-negotiable area.

3. Pushing Demands

Flip a coin to start. Winner of the coin toss (or die roll) pushes one demand die over the line into the common discussion area. Say the demand aloud - i.e. "We demand industry standard safety conditions in the mine!" - and explain why it would benefit both sides if this demand were met. The other side can rebut this demand with an explanation of why denying this demand would benefit both sides - i.e. "Matching industry standard safety conditions would cost too much, and we'd have to let a number of miners go to afford it." The GM is free to give a bonus to either or both sides appropriate to the resolution system for effective argument.

4. Resolving Demands

Both sides roll as appropriate to the system.

A. If both fail, this demand is locked in discussion, and the other side may go.

B. If the side which advanced this demand succeeds and the other side fails, this demand is accepted and goes into the agreement.

C. If the side which denied this demand succeeds and the other side fails, this demand is rejected and off the table.

D. If both sides succeed, the demand is withdrawn and must be modified in a direction more suitable for the other side before being advanced again.

E. On any critical success, one rejected demand may also be brought back onto the table by the winning side.

F. On a critical failure, the loser must also push one non-negotiable demand into the negotiable area.

5. Resolving the Dispute

Play proceeds, alternating sides, until there are no more demands in negotiation. All currently non-negotiable demands are accepted and written into the agreement.