Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why My Games Won't Ever Be Kickstarted

There are several important things a successful kickstarter needs,and I have none of them!

A kickstarted game needs lots of incedental rewards to be successful, like t-shirts, special dice, posters, and the like. I don't do those things. Like, at all.

A kickstarter requires a principal who can actively solicit attention on the various media. I couldn't get attention giving away free beer.

The more well known the principal is, the more likely the kickstarter will be successful. I am effectively invisible.

A kickstarter needs a principal who is comfortable talking up the product. I feel the need to apologize for bothering people.

Kickstarted games which have strong genre centers while individualizing the genre tend to be more successful. I have trouble even naming the genre of most of my games.

A game with a principal who has a vocal fanbase is more successful. My loyal customers understand the first rule of Flying Mice Games is no one talks about Flying Mice Games.

Kickstarters with videos and music and the like tend to be more successful. Doing this would require taking attention away from my games. I'm in this because I like to design games, not because I like to produce videos.

Kickstarted games which reward supporters with mention of them in the product tend to garner more attention. This just seems so distateful...

Kickstarted games which use standard systems which people already know tend to be more successful. Well, I'm right out there!

Kickstarted games whose designers belong to a recognized group of like-minded designers - like OSR or Story Games - are more successful. Like Groucho, I wouldn't join any group that would have me as a member!

So, any kickstarter I initiated would just... pretty much fall flat on its face. Not only that, it would suck away time and effort from doing the thing I actually want to do, which is design games.

Monday, April 28, 2014

What Building a Player Character Association Tells the GM!

Friday night, our nascent On Her Majesty's Arcane Service IRC game kicked off with a Session Zero Association Building session. Really interesting results ensued:

1: They decided to make the Association as "Courtier's Henchmen". In the Elizabethan model, courtiers were generally given enough rope to hang themselves, and several did. The courtier in question may very well end up being a player character, as we have not yet created Player Characters.

2: They located their HQ in a manor house and fishing village near Gravesend on the Thames estuary. This is an odd location, but there were reasons for it, as we shall see.

3: For security, the opted for a platoon of Elite Musketeers. An early indication of the way this game will go...

4: They built Standard Spy Rings in France, Spain, Portugal, and The Netherlands, and recruited 4 Poor Double Agents. They will have political information flowing from each of the queen's enemies and friends, obviously, but the double agents are interesting. Poor Double Agents are minor functionaries, junior officers, and the like. they have not named them, so any time one of these types turns up in play, they may name that character as a double agent. This is a moderate espionage capability, so espionage will be in a supporting role rather than front and center in this game.

5: They purchased a squadron of six armed pinnaces - in Elizabethan times, a pinnace was a small ship, not a boat, about 100 feet long and with two or three masts. It could be lateen or square rigged, with between 8 and 12 guns. This is some serious muscle. Pinaces are sturdy anough to cross the Atlantic, but of relatively shallow draft. This shows they are thinking of private armed forces as a measure of how they will go. Fascinating!

6: For their Arcane Library, they purchased a series of books aimed at covering the most anticipated situations - Common and Rare Bestiaries, Folk Tales, and Mythologies. This is moderate for moster hunting - enough to cover their asses but not really specialized. They also hired a Master Librarian and purchased some common Grimoires - these are spell books covering moderately powerful charms that affect the power or size of various things. Again, covering basics, and useful, but not very specialized.

7: They purchased a common Portolan covering the Channel, and 4 unnamed Uncommon Portolans. They obviously anticipate going to interesting places on their missions! Perhaps the coast of Virginia, or Africa, or maybe even Asia!

8: They hired a company of Elite Mercenary Infantry. This not only is a lot of people, but very expensive, and Elite Mercs are extremely loyal for mercs. It's a small  private army - or, given their squadron of pinnaces, Marines. They obviously expect the type of trouble where having a powerful but compact armed force will be really handy!

9: They purchased or hired everything possible for item creation! A Master Artificer and four journeymen, An Artificer Laboratory, A Forge and Fountry, a Glass Blower, and a Precious Metalsmith. Their bling with have zing! I expect Bond-esque hardware coming out of these experts, as well as their own cannon for their Pinnaces! Anything that was possible to build in the Elizabethan era can be built on premises!

A wide ranging expeditionary force, with a powerful but small military - think Special Forces - and the finest and most modern equipment, supported by magic, espionage, and knowledge. What we have here is a late Tudor Seal team Six!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Getting Gigs in High Strung

Gigs in High Strung are how the game is paced. Each gig is the center of the adventure, and performing well at a gig means a likelihood of more gigs in the future.

When you create the city your band plays in and around, before starting play, you roll randomly for the number of clubs that want live original music. The more clubs, the more gigs you can possibly get. Small Cities like Syracuse have 1-4 such clubs, while Large Cities like Boston or San Francisco have 2-7, and Megalopolises like New York or Toronto have 3-10. Each club also has a randomly rolled Importance rating - a measure of how important this gig is to the band's reputation. 5 of 11 clubs are of Local Importance, 3 of 11 are of Metropolitan Importance, 2 of 11 are of Regional Importance, and one of 11 are of National Importance.

Of course, the more important the club is, the harder it is to get a gig there! The band's reputation comes into play here, as does the band's Agent. The number of dice the band rolls varies by the band's rep - 3 dice for a Fledgeling band, 4 for Struggling, 5 for Aspiring, 6 for Up And Coming, and 7 for Sizzling. You need 3 successes - at or under your Target Number - to get a gig at that club. Of course, the TN varies by the importance of the club - Local needs 15, Metropolitan needs 13, Regional needs 9, and National needs 5. Agents have "ins" with various clubs, which can get you bonuses on the TNs.

All bands start out at Fledgeling, unless half the members are over 25, in which case some of the older members' reps with previous bands carry over and the band starts out at Struggling. The band can increase their rep by accumulating Notice in several ways: Successful Gigs - with more Notice from more important clubs, Important Songs, Schmoozing at parties with Important People, and Demo Tapes. There are also ways to lose Notice. Notice is an abstract representation of word of mouth, press pieces, gig attendance, and radio play for your Demo Tapes. GMs, let the band know how they are doing by giving feedback by this method. For example, hearing your band's Demo Tape played over the radio, or seeing a gig reviewed in the paper is a huge thing.

Next - Performing at a gig!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nasty Cards and Life Experiences in High Strung

Two mechanics going into High Strung:

Nasty Cards

At the beginning of each session, any player may choose a Nasty Card from the deck. Nasty Cards are a freshly shuffled pack of ordinary playing cards. Picking a Nasty Card is always optional, but if picked it must be done.

Nasty Cards are always a nasty act attempted by the player's character on another player's character. Sometimes, they are turned around so that they affect the original PC, but mostly they affect the second PC, to the first PC's benefit.

The Nasty Card drawn might say: "You attempt to seduce a band mate's S.O. - or steal a groupie right from under a band mate if the band mate has no S.O. - and succeed! You are hereby proven superior. You take two Hope from your band mate for stealing their S.O., or one Hope for a groupie."

This can be a viable method for older PCs to stay in the game.

Life Experiences

After each gig, each character rolls a single 20-sided die vs. a Target Number. This TN varies depending on what the character is looking for: Love/Sex uses the character's CUTE score, Booze uses ENRG, Drugs uses SMRT, and Partying uses DANS.

A roll under or equal to the TN is a success. Any success gains you one Hope.

Hooked: A roll of 20 means you are Hooked. Being Hooked means you cannot look for any other source of Hope, and the thing you are Hooked on must always be to your detriment in any other area. For example, if you are Hooked on Sex, you will begin cheating on your S.O. if you have one, and treat groupies like dirt. Your TN score goes down by one. Each subsequent roll of a 20 reduces your TN by one as well.

Escape: A roll of 1 means you found some way to get away from being Hooked - but you are more susceptible to getting Hooked again. Your Hooked Target increases by one - if it was 20, that number now changes to 19-20. Get Hooked and Escape yet again, and it will change from 19-20 to 18-20.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Star Wars-ish Fun and Games!

Last night we ran Star Wars-ish again. The group were on Isis, looking for force crystals, when G2S4 informed the captain there was a large ship approaching the planet. The Isis system is a crossroads of trade routes, and the planet is hidden in thick asteroid belts. The PCs had found it by going up above the ecliptic and noticing the path the planet had carved through the asteroids. The planet had been a rebel base before Yavin IV, but it had been long abandoned.

The ship turned out to be a Manelorean frigate, and while the captain argued with them over comm, she flew the ship - and the little scout they had captured - into a bombproof hangar left over from the rebel base. The captain of the Mandelorean ship sent down 12 troopers in six modified escape pods, in full Mandelorean armor. They handed in a circle around the hangar and worked their way inward.

The three Jedi and two Padawans - Daycon had made the ship's Engineer, Lyssia, a Padawan when she tested high in Force potential - set out to take down the Mandeloreans, along with the rest of the crew.  The Captain, Sheraska, and Delilah, her number two, sneak killed three; Duke, Padawan Torota, and Hosea took down five between them, Dindar and G2 downed two, and Daykon and Padawan Lyssia took down the last two. Seven were dead, and five badly wounded. Torota and Daykon were lightly wounded, and were able to heal themselves.

The Mandelorean armor was tough - the energy weapons had a -5 to their TN - but the Jedi and crew still kicked ass.

The Mandelorean captain contacted Sheraska again, and they made a deal on comm. The Manedeloreans would give her 50% of the take from the salvage of the abandoned fortifications in trade for their dead and wounded and their weapons and armor, and a cessation of hostilities. When she asked where they were going next, the Mandeloreans implied they were staying right there, on Isis.

The captain put down her comm and said "We can't let them stay here. this trade route will be closed down." "How can we stop them?" "Any ideas?" Hosea thought, and suggested the Jedi and Padawans dump the dead Mandeloreans naked into the tunnels, and put on the armor and play dead. "Nobody watches dead men."

So they brought the dead into the hangar, away from the wounded, and put on the armor. They kept their light sabers inside their armor, and played dead while the crew carried them out.

A shuttle from the frigate landed, and twenty four troopers left is along with their captain, second, and third officer. They had the deal all set up on a pad, and both Sheraska and the Captain signed it. Mandeloreans are big on honor, and keeping their word. Hosea realized that the third officer was a highly trained dark Force user, and managed to pass word to Sheraska through Daykon, who was a better telepath.

The dead and wounded were loaded aboard the shuttle, and the Captain and second left with it, back to the frigate, leaving the third officer, the dark force user, behind with the troopers. The "dead" Mandeloreans were brought down to the bowels of the frigate, to be taken out of their armors and put in a freezer for later disposal.

The two crew assigned to this duty - probably as a punishment detail - were very surprised when the 'dead" woke up and killed them. All except Torota kept their armor, just taking out the light sabers, but because Torota was not human - she is an otter like alien with a strong tail she couldn't actually wear the armor, though being small and roughly humanoid she could fit inside it.

Torota became "the prisoner", and they cast subtle Jedi Mind Tricks to bolster this assumption. Lyssia said "Take me to the drives, and I can rig them to blow. I spent years in the Imperial Navy as an engineer." so they headed out towards the rear of the ship.

They passed by a couple of guards with their Mind Tricks, but when they got to the Engineering section, they were caught on camera, which showed them for what they were, and an alarm went off. Lyssia shorted the lock, and they poured into Engineering, taking out the crew while Lyssia rigged the drives to blow in five minutes, after looking up a schematic of the ship.

Lyssia led them up a different passageway, which brought them to a side corridor. With the alarm going, there were troopers in pursuit, and the door was closed, but Lyssia opened the door with a masterwork of electronic engineering - she stabbed the controls with her light saber in exactly the right place. They went into three empty escape pods, and jetted out, just as the frigate's drives exploded.

Meanwhile, the third officer, a twisted, repellent creature, decided to question Sheraska - he noticed there were no Jedi unlike the reports from the troopers. He took her aside to do so privately - he intended to use force lightning on her. The Captain told G2 and the Wookie to get the Albireo and scout ship ready to lift, and went off with him to some trees off to the side. Being fore-warned, she was ready for him, and when he raised his hands to apply the Force Lightning, she triggered her jet boots and soared up into the sky. The troopers grew alert and tracked her trajectory, and Delilah - taking advantage of the distraction - disappeared. Delilah is deadly when she sneaks.

The third officer ran towards the entrance to the hangar, calling on his men to "Stop her before she gets away!" They fired, but did not hit Sheraska. Delilah stood aside, hiding in a shrub, and sneak killed the officer as he ran by. Sheraska used a Luck, and the top hatch was open on the Albireo, so she dropped into it, telling G2 to get the ship lifting. Delilah then Force Jumped into the hangar and ran up the ramp as it closed. The Albireo and the little scout ship blasted off out of the hangar, with the trooper's blaster bolts ringing off the hull.

They located the three escape pods coming out of the exploding frigate, and the Albireo lowered it's cargo ramp and scooped up Hosea and Torota, and the lone Duke. Daykon and Lyssia, still in Mandelorean armor, were able to force jump from their pod to the scout ship. The Captain sent an anonymous message that there were twenty four Mandelorean troopers stuck on the planet, and the session ended.

Woot! Lots of fun was had by all, and this game is sooo freaking Star Wars like we are just loving it!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Songs In High Strung

This is for my upcoming roleplaying game High Strung, where you play the part of musicians in a wannabe band in the Seventies. In High Strung, Hope is your Hit Points, and daily life slowly erodes your Hope. Songs cost Hope to write, but they are the only way out of the slow draining loss of Hope.

When a band writes an Important Song - filler songs can be written with no investment, and give no return - each band member has to secretly invest in with Hope. The Hope invested is then revealed all at once by the band members, and cannot be changed.
For example:

The band decides to write a song called "Some Girls Are Like That."

Joey Sinatra, the singer, puts in two Hope in for the vocals. He writes it down and turns the paper face down.

Carolann Cannon, the guitarist, writes down three Hope for Hot licks and riffs and turns the paper over. She iis young and can afford it.

Bison, the bassist, writes down 1 Hope for the Bottom, then covers his note.

Jonny Lumber, the drummer, writes down 0 Hope for the rhythm and quickly turns the paper over. Jonny is older, and on a losing skid, and decides not to risk it.

The band reveals the numbers, and notes the result - Some Girls Are Like That:  2 Vocal, 3 Riff, 1 Bottom, 0 Rhythm. The other three are pissed at Jonny Lumber for being a parasite, and talk about finding a new drummer.

The Song can be used twice.

The first time is when it is played for the first time at a gig. Each musician makes a performance check, and each success is added up to form a total. This total becomes the TN for the Song's roll. Each band member rolls one d20 + one d20 per Hope invested by that member - so for Some Girls Are Like That , Joey Sinatra rolls 3 dice, Carolann Cannon rolls 4 dice, Bison rolls 2 dice, and Jonny Lumber rolls 1 die. Each roll at or under the TN is a success, and the total successes is the amount of Hope each member gains, in addition to the Hope gained from the gig itself.

The second time is if the band decide to record and release the song as a Demo. The process is the same as the debut procedure, but this time, the total is compared to the chart, which may boost gig interest, gain a bonus for a future demo, or interest a local or national record company. In other words, the bands' Songs are the only way up and out.

If the membership of the band changes - say Jonny Lumber is dumped, and the new drummer is Lauren Styx - the new musician can change the hope invested in each song in the gig list ONCE. This can be done over time, as the new musician becomes used to the band's music.

Comments? Does this look workable?