By The Stars — The Jump to Lightspeed — Week Thirty-Two

We did it! We playtested By The Stars for the first time yesterday. My most heartfelt thanks to Kat, Bruce, Bill, Michele, Stefan, Don, and Jo for taking a chance, helping me out, and having a fun time in the process.

Yes, that’s right. Not only did the playtest happen, and not only was it successful, it was also fun! I have pages of notes in my cramped little handwriting for mistakes that were made, ways to fix them, suggestions for improving the game overall. It was the best session I’ve played in a long time.

From a story standpoint, the resource-rich, gas giant planet Illyria was thoroughly conquered by the forces of the Singularity, killing the rebellious Prince in the process. The Singularity Admiral died in making this, her greatest victory, possible. Her son, the hotshot pilot, ran off to find his own way enlightment. The Stalwart of the Glaive (my space knights), his reputation tarnished, went his own way. The former Singularity Overlord, the Illyrian Princess, and the first Self-Aware Robot joined the crew of the fearsome Space Pirate in search of freedom, adventure, and booty!

I’ve got lots of revision to do between now and the second playtest on April 22. But the basic token-trading system has a lot of promise and the game is well on its way to something great.

By The Stars — Danger! Danger! — Week Thirty-One

My playtest is in six days and I’m not ready. It’s going to be extremely rough and my little panic-voice is screaming “Cancel the whole thing and take up something simple, like gardening or photography.” But I shall persevere. No matter how rough the game is this Sunday, WE WILL PLAYTEST.

One of the bits I did work on was a brief setting intro. Initially, I tried to mimic the setting-free approach I had done for WGP…, but science fiction (even space fantasy) is so much bigger than superheroes that I don’t feel it could work. The finished product will have details on crafting your own setting, but for starters, I have this. I hate writing setting stuff.

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By The Stars — Sickness & Health — Week Thirty

It’s Monday morning and I should be recovering from a too-full day of too-much gaming fun at NYC’s RECESS yesterday. Instead, I’m recovering from a nasty stomach flu that filched most of my weekend from me. I’m frustrated for not being able to go to RECESS, confer w/ the NYC nerds, actually play some games. But it’s times like these when it’s hardest–and most important–to remember:

Falling down isn’t important. Standing up is.

I’ve got less than two weeks to prepare for my first open playtest. I’ll be using the WGP… enrichment process for the core resolution mechanic, but I need something that will force players to take actions that betray their Oaths. But it can’t be linked to a random event or a flip of a certain card. It must be clearly caused by their early decisions. I’m thinking of a sort of “favor” exchange system, where you can avoid the consequences of a failed conflict by giving your opponent one of your favor tokens. You’ll have a number of favor tokens, and can keep on dodging repercussions, until one of the other players amasses more of your favor tokens than you have and decides to cash them in. Then, you need to do what they ask of you, or destroy part of your own character to get out of it.


By The Stars — Punch It! — Week Twenty-Nine

In the realm of concrete words-on-a-page progress, I’ve got only a handful of scribbled notes to report. I spent a decent bit of the weekend fretting, cying, bellyaching, and tearing my hair out over this latest creative drought. Just yesterday morning I was ready to hang the whole thing up again.

Then I thought, to hell with all that! It’s wasted energy I could be using for a dozen better things, particularly in shoving By The Stars into playtesting. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ve got no rules draft. I’ve got no scenario. I’ve got no characters. I’ve got no regular players lined up and committed. But there is one thing I do got: my spine. I’m not sure how I found it, and I’m not sure how long I’m gonna be able to hold onto it, but I’d better use it while I got it.

Therefore, I’ve just sent a bunch of local (and not-so-local) folks the following e-mail (if you didn’t get one and want one, I apologize for the oversight, let me know and I’ll put you on the list):

Hey, All!
As you may know, I’ve been working on designing a space fantasy game called By The Stars. For close to a year I’ve been struggling with it, often spinning my wheels fruitlessly. To get this game done, I need to revamp my methods. To that end, I’m going to be holding open playtesting of By The Stars. I’d appreciate if you could come and help me out.
We’ll be playing at my house. I’ll hold the playtests every other Sunday afternoon, starting at 1:00 pm. We’ll play with whomever shows up–there’s no pressure to make it to every single session. We’ll play for a few hours, discuss what works about the game, what doesn’t work, and what can be improved. We’ll finish up with ordering dinner from a local restaurant, and possibly a board game or two. The first time you show up for a session, I’ll buy you dinner as a way of saying “Thank you!”
Although I want to start this RIGHT NOW, I have previous commitments. The first session will be Sunday, March 25. We’ll skip April 8 because it’s Easter and continue on April 22.

That gives me a bit over two weeks to come up with something actually playtestable. I can do that. I swear by the stars that I will!