Thursday, February 25, 2010

Simian Circle Design Blog #2

Now that we've done some brainstorming, it's time to see how it turns into a game.

Since Rainbow-signers embody change, that will probably lead in to our magic system (because every game has to have things players can't do in real life, whether it's psychic powers, magic, or the ability to pull of really crazy stunts). But I've established Rainbows as pariahs, so it should be as much a curse as it is a blessing. And since it's about change, there are no "something from nothing" effects, like fireballs or pulling rabbits out of hats. It should play a little bit more like manipulating luck, creating blessing or curses.

What comes to mind is a boiler. If you just let it boil, it will continue to build pressure until it explodes. So you have to keep an eye on it, releasing pressure as needed to make sure that doesn't happen. Turning this into a game mechanic, we have a number (call it Change) that continually rises as game time passes. 1 point per day, let's say. When the player wants to cause a change, they roll a d10 (because the contest rules say I have to use d10s) and adds the die roll and the current Change score together. If this total is 10 (a nice round number) or higher, the effect happens and pressure is relieved (Change points are reduced).

Now for the curse part. Anytime a player rolls a natural 1 (a 1 is showing on the d10) on any die roll, they must roll a Chaos check. This is just like the Change roll, adding a ten-sided die to the current Change score and seeing if the result is 10 or higher. But if this check is successful, it bleeds off a number of Change points equal to the roll result -10 (so a roll of 12 would bleed off 2 Change points). These Change points then manifest in a manner determined by the GM (spoiling milk, turn straw into gold, and so on depending on the amount of Change).

This also does a nice job of suggesting a core mechanic. Roll 1d10, add stat, get 10 or higher to succeed.

But what stats will characters have? How does the rest of the weather-based astrology fit into this? It took some Mountain Dew-induced insomnia to answer that one.

Weather is made of three basic elements: Rain, Sun, and Wind. A typical day's weather consists of some measure of each of these things. There are days where the clouds and rain keep the sun away, or that are perfectly sunny without a could in the sky, but these are more exceptions that rule.

Thinking metaphorically, someone with a lot of Sun-aspect would be very noticeable and vibrant. But also, they would have a hard time avoiding being noticed, even if they were trying to stay hidden. So how sunny it was on the day of their birth would add to social ability, but subtract from stealth actions.

Extending this idea to the other elements, Rain would add to persistence, as rain eventually erodes everything that it falls on, but penalizes perception, as rain is indiscriminate. Wind aids movement, but spends so much time acting that it doesn't think.

To chart it out:

Rain helps Endurance and hinders Perception
Sun helps Presence and hinders Stealth
Wind helps Athletics and hinders Intellect

Sounds like the Basic Skills I used in Adventures in Oz, doesn't it? That's at least partly intentional. As much as I want the mechanics to support my themes, it needs a certain level of robustness. The game needs to be able to support a variety of actions that players might attempt. The AiO list was short and sweet and meshed with my current project in at least a few points and only minor stretching was required to make the rest fit.

The big thing we can say about this list is that it's not totally fair. Some things are helped and some things are hindered, but there's no element that helps the hindered things or hinders the helped things. I'm sure if I took a more in-depth approach, I could come up with a interlocking trait scheme, but it might not be as robust or have a satisfactory payoff in terms of serving my themes. We'll see.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How I spent my Winter Vacation

I wound up not sleeping Thursday night. I got home from work at 3 AM (normal, regrettably) and wanted to make sure everything got packed and squared away before we left at 9 AM. One thing I have learned is to pack light for these things. Especially in terms of games to bring. I've seen multiple luggage carts full of games and entertainment electronics being carted into the hotel by people who would never be able to use it all over the space of the weekend. So I brought my rulebooks for GURPS, D&D, and World of Darkness, three games that are likely to come up.

This is me and the girl getting ready to go. Neither of us is driving. That would be our friend Mike, who was kind enough to take this picture before we headed out.

The trip itself was pretty uneventful, though I'm sure at least part of that was the fact that I wound up napping in the car. We got to the hotel at around 3 PM, and checked in with no major hassles.

It was at this time that I discovered an interesting glitch. I had planned to run my game "The Jaded City of Oz" on Sunday, and had printed up fliers to that effect before I left. But when I arrived, I found that references to the game being placed on Saturday. After conferring with con officials, it was basically decided that I would run the game both days. Since it did not require extra scheduling or other effort on their part and just a little bit more time on my part (and got more people to play my game), I was perfectly fine with that. After posting some hastily revised fliers, I went straight to bed and got some much needed rest.

My first run of the adventure went pretty well. I was a little nervous, since this was my first time running this particular scenario and it was also my first time running a game for kids. I was pleased to discover that all of them had some experience with RPGs, a little surprising because I think they were all under 10 years old. The surprising thing was that some of them had no familiarity with Oz at all. They hadn't even seen the MGM movie.

I failed to get pictures of the kids gaming, but I did get pictures of some of the props I used. One part of the story takes place in Fuddlecimjig (for those who have read The Emerald City of Oz) and involves a pair of mismatched Fuddles. So I went out and bought some blank puzzles and had a friend draw the characters on the puzzles. It may have been a reflection on how young they were, but they complained that the puzzles were too difficult to solve. I was actually afraid they'd be too easy.

The kids really enjoyed the story, but found the final encounter (the Jaded City itself) to be too hard. But then, I found that it was very easy to make that challenge too difficult. Although I had reserved the space for 6 hours, we played through the scenario in about 2 hours.

The Sunday session wound up not happening. Only 2 people showed up (both grownups) including a fellow who tried to build his own character. (Anton, if you're reading this, please get in touch with me. I don't know where I packed your email address.)

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to play many games myself, or see many seminars. I did get a couple of fun shots from around the convention, though.

I got pictures of both the SCA and Amtgard combat demos this year, so you can see the difference between the two. As we see in this first picture, the SCA fighter is wearing something that looks actually protective. The weapons look like they have a heft to them.

The Amtgard fighter, on the other hand, is not wearing significant armor and the weapon is actually very light. One of the people there was wearing a silver lamé shirt which I'm sure counted as chainmail under their rules. I'm reminded of a friend of mine who actually had a chainmail shirt. He would play in a boffer LARP similar to Amtgard around here and was frequently disappointed that his authenticity went unappreciated. His chain shirt only counted as chain armor, while some guy wearing foam pads wrapped in duct tape or something equally silly was considered to be wearing plate armor.

Speaking of chainmail, here's something particularly interesting that I found in the Dealer's Room. Unfortunately, neither her nor her chainmail bikini were for sale, or else I might have tried to take her home with me. We did wind up supporting her booth by buying a World of Warcraft t-shirt. You can too!

Some things I did wind up buying were quite exciting, though. The stack of books is a little bit smaller this year. Blame the econony, or something.

Spirit of the Century: A two-fisted pulp RPG using the popular FATE system. FATE is a variant of the FUDGE system, so I might actually get some use out of the set of FUDGE dice that I bought a few years ago. Based on what I've read of the book so far, FATE seems like it would do Oz rather well.

Changeling: The Lost: A World of Darkness game in which the characters are all people who have been abducted by the fae and managed to escape. I have yet to read this one, but I hear much good about it.

Pathfinder RPG and Bestiary: One of the contenders to fill the gap left when the latest version of D&D wasn't what people really expected it to be. Looks like it could be fun, with a more heroic and epic bent than classic D&D. Though with all the other games out there, along with my own design efforts, it will be a while before I have time for another D&D-style game.

Battlestar Galactica RPG: While I grew up on classic Galactica and have seen any of the new stuff, this game and the underlying Cortex rules have gotten some pretty good press, so I thought I'd check it out. Overall looks good, with a much more established setting than the old show. The rules look serviceable, like a good house system should.

Robotech RPG: This is based on the classic Robotech cartoons from back when I was a kid. While I am not a fan of Palladium, I picked this up to help me out with a project I'm working tentatively titled Project BTR.

Castles and Crusades: Old-school strikes again with this one. An attempt to replicate the old-school feel with a more intuitive rules system borrowed from more modern versions of D&D (where a good Armor Class is high rather than low).

GURPS: It's becoming harder and harder to find GURPS book that I don't already have, but I was able to score some winners this year. Notably GURPS Conan and GURPS The Prisoner. I think Mongoose Publishing currently has the Conan license, but I have been sufficiently unimpressed with Mongoose that I will not be picking up anything from them. The Prisoner was based off of an old British show from the '60s that developed something of a cult following. I remember watching it on the SciFi Channel back when it was new (the channel, not the show. I'm not that old).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

First Look: Me!

One of the things I've had to do as I'm getting ready for DunDraCon is to buy a new digital camera. The one that I used last year died soon after we got back. And there were no pictures of me taken at the con last year because I was in dire need of a haircut. So as I'm playing with the camera and admiring my hair, I'm realizing that you guys haven't seen what I actually look like. Here I am:
Some of you may have seen the little icon that I use which looks kind of like this, but with a goatee. The thing is: for many years, I did indeed have a goatee and it was dead sexy. But I was forced to change jobs a couple of years ago and my new job didn't allow facial hair. As I had to feed myself and my fiancee, and pay for my publishing dream, I bit the bullet and shaved. I'm actually going to try to grow it back a bit over the weekend, so watch as I get progressively scruffier and sexier.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Oz Character of the Month: The Woozy

The last two months, I've been somewhat accidentally posting character stats for Adventures in Oz. In December, I posted stats for Santa (in homage to something Wizards of the Coast did a number of years ago for D&D). Then in January, I tried to encourage you all to make characters of your own for Adventures in Oz, and wound up writing up the Tin Soldier.

This month, I'm doing it intentionally. If it goes over well, I may even make this a regular feature of the blog.
Name: The Woozy
First Appearance: The Patchwork Girl of Oz
Template: Large Animal
Size: 4

Athletics: 4
Awareness: 3
Brains: 1
Presence: 2 (Eyes that flash fire)
Sneaking: 2
Wits: 2

Traits: Crafted, No Arms

Friends List

Ojo the Lucky

Description: The Woozy is a curious creature that seems to be made of blue building blocks. He used to think he had a fierce growl, but later discovered that he was mistaken. His hide is remarkably tough and his eyes flash real (not artificial) fire when he is angry. The easiest way to make him angry is to shout "Krizzle-kroo!" because he has no idea what it means. His favorite food is honeybees. This got him into some trouble with some Munchkin beekeepers who were quite upset at having their bees eaten. So they built a fence and trapped the Woozy within it.

He would have been there forever if it wasn't for Ojo (then "the Unlucky") discovering him and helping him get free from his cage. In exchange for this freedom, Ojo demanded the three hairs on the Woozy's tail to save his Unc Nunkie, who had been petrified in marble. Since the hairs refused to come out of his impervious hide, Ojo offered to take the Woozy as a traveling companion. When the party arrived in the Emerald City, the Woozy chose to remain there while Ojo gathered the other magical ingredients needed to reverse Unc Nunkie's spell.

(I realize that the Woozy does not fit the typical definition of a Crafted character. I gave him that trait to represent his impenetrable hide.)
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