By The Stars Confession — Week Twelve

Twelve Weeks? That’s 3 months! And I don’t have dice mechanics that will make it out of self-testing yet. Why not? Well, there was Halloween to observe, a birthday to commemorate, and family medical situations to address.

Forgive me, By The Stars, I have celebrated. It’s been one week since my last confession.

My only goal for this week was: Try out some new dice mechanics–at least 2 different versions. I statted out two characters and tried out one version of dice mechanics, by myself. It seems promising, but so did the ones that ended up being no fun, so only playtesting will tell for certain.

Perhaps I’m a little too fussy about my dice mechanics. I like it when there are tactical choices in how you play the dice that mirror the thematic choices in what’s happening in the game fiction. I don’t want all the choices front-loaded. I don’t there to always be one ideal strategy. It may be too much to ask. I’ll be honest: I’ve occasionally seen it detract from play of With Great Power… when certain players focus solely on the card game aspects and forget that they’re creating a story at the same time.

Do I appease these people with simpler mechanics that allow for fewer decisions? My gut says “No way.” But my head can’t help but wonder…

Anyway, in the next week I will do a simple mechanics-only playtest with Kat. And I will finish the working outline, including the mechanics section. See you in seven!

Yes, I know I’m wierd.

Some people get all worked up about turning 30. For me, it came and went without incident. But today I turn 33. And for the past week, I’ve had these niggling, gnawing thoughts in the back of my brain.

Jesus Christ had planted the seeds of a world religion by the time he was thirty-three. Alexander the Great had forged the greatest empire the world had ever seen by the time he was thirty-three. What have you done with your time here?

How do I answer that? Why do I even ask it of myself? I don’t know. But my birthday was fairly decent on the whole. Even if I haven’t conquered the known world.

By The Stars Confessions — Week Eleven

This has been one of the best gaming weeks I’ve had in a while! Don Corcoran (eruditus) was in the area on business and stopped in for a few nights of game-talk, a bit of card-playing, and plans for a Burning Artesia campaign! Woo-hoo!

Plus, I got to run some Dogs in the Vineyard for Kat and a fellow named Stefan we met over FindPlay. So my Actual Play life is looking up. On top of all that, I got some great work done on By The Stars this morning.

And, you may have noticed the new title. “By The Stars” is the new title of the game. Thanks, Kat.

Forgive me, By The Stars, for I have sidestepped. It’s been one week since my last confession.

Here’s what I mean by sidestep. My goals for last week were:

  • Consolidate my thoughts-to-date on the game. There should be at least a working outline by next week.
  • Stat out two characters.
  • Self-test the mechanics with those characters.

I statted out one character, and started on the working outline. However, instead of focusing on my resolution mechanics, the anatomy of Oaths opened themselves to me.

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Foresworn Confessions — Week Ten

Ten weeks already? Time sure does fly. And oh, what a stressful time it’s been, both at home and at work. My apologies if I’ve been neglecting anyone online. I haven’t been to the Forge in weeks. However, the nature of the stress has changed, I have actually been able to make some notes this week!

Forgive me, Foresworn, for I suffer fools too readily. It’s been one week since my last confession.

One of the positive side effects of all this stress came about during a somewhat heated interchange. I was talking forcefully, but controlled. The person I was confronting rolled their eyes and my anger instantly went white-hot and I found myself yelling at the top of my considerable voice. Everyone got quiet, and I could have very easily seized that anger and continued raving. But I didn’t. But it was there, in an instant. And it was powerful.

Here’s how I intend to capture that little incident to make my game better. One die of your pool will be a different color. If it rolls its maximum result, something has ignited your rage. You can roll a big, bonus rage die (kinda like The Roach), but you must describe how you’re lashing out in anger. You can keep your Rage die in the next round if you describe how you’re continuing to lash out. Every time you use your Rage, the lashing out must be more extreme than the last time. Plus, there’s a price to pay for using your Rage. After the conflict, there’s a roll to see how well you further the goals of your Oaths. The number of rounds you used Rage is a penalty to this roll–it makes you more likely to hinder and damage that which you love and value.

The search for a new name continues. Just now Kat suggested “By The Stars,” which is the front runner at the moment. It suggests the Oaths that the characters have sworn. It’s somewhat evocative of Space Opera. It’s got a bit of zing, but it doesn’t reach up, grab me by the throat and say “This is the only name your game could possibly have!” the way “With Great Power…” did when Chris Weeks suggested it.

But, that suggestion came after a playtest of the game. So that’s really what I have to do. I looked at my original schedule, which was based on a two-phase game. Having downgraded that priority when I switched back to space opera, I can hold to my original schedule if I start playtesting in earnest by November 15. Thus, my goals for the coming week:

  • Consolidate my thoughts-to-date on the game. There should be at least a working outline by next week.
  • Stat out two characters.
  • Self-test the mechanics with those characters.

I’ve got a busy week coming up. But that’s par for the course, really. I don’t recall the last time I worked a regular week, so I might as well get used to it. I’ll be back in seven stress-filled days!

Foresworn Confessions — Week Nine

Another week without progress. Last week I said that the foster care system had been treating us like a yo-yo. This week the string broke and the yo-yo shattered on the ground. We’re not going to be able to adopt the little girl we expected to. We were stunned and depressed and game design seemed such a small, insignificant thing this week.

Forgive me, Foresworn, for I am sad. It’s been one week since my last confession.

This news hit on Thursday, so Friday found us in absolutely no shape to go to Camp Nerdly, so we didn’t. Hope everyone had fun.

Sometimes I can find solace from my real life problems in my game design. Other times (like now) my RL stuff robs me of the focus I need in order to do game design. The focus will return in time, I know. And thanks to these weekly Confessions, I’m sure it will return to this game, taking it the next step. Because I’ll still be here in 7.

Foresworn Confessions — Week Eight

Those of you following from the beginning will recall me saying that there’d be some weeks when I reported absolutely no progress. This week’s free time took its blows from work and family obligations. Kat’s been sick and the foster care system has been playing with us like a yo-yo, increasing the general level of background stress. Thus:

Forgive me, Foresworn, for I have served other masters! It’s been one week since my last confession.

The only one of my goals from last week that I didn’t completely blow off was the search for a new name. In a few spare minutes I made a list of words evocative of the genre that might become the raw materials of a new title. Other than that, I did squat.

Camp Nerdly is next weekend. I’ll be running the Sorcerer/Foresworn hybrid like I did last weekend. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ll also revise that Production schedule I made in August into something I might be able to keep.

Due to the Nerdly trip, I probably won’t post until next Monday. I hope to have more to report.

Seasons

I’m looking out my office window at the turning leaves. Autumn has come. There’s a chill in the air. Soon we’ll be carving pumpkins and before too long, shoveling snow.

I’m a big fan of seasons. One of my college roommates used to wish the world could be 70°F all year-round. Not me. I love the biting cold of winter, the crisp greenness of spring. Even the oppressive humidity of summer has its place.

Looking at the leaves, I picture the stark emptiness the branches will display in another month or so. And then the snow-dusted brown of winter. And then the dewy green of new buds come April. And when I come to thinking of the vibrance of summer leaves, I find myself wondering “Weren’t they just here a month ago? Didn’t you notice them then?”

Which leads me to a glance back at my summer of 2006. Where did it go? May was completely consumed with OT at work. June was rife with birthdays, family get-togethers, and then Origins. July was the family reunion, then Dexcon. August saw GenCon and more OT. No wonder I feel like I missed summer, I was inside or hectically busy for all of it! We even changed our annual camping trip this year away from our normal state park, so I saw less summer than usual. I’m a bit bummed about that.

What do I want to do for next year? Well, back to the state park for certain. I’d like to do a day-trip to the beach. And while the Origins-DexCon-GenCon triple-play is great for both play and promotion, I’m not sure if it’s best for my soul. I will have to think hard about that …

… while I watch the leaves turn red and yellow.

Foresworn Confessions — Week Seven

It’s been a heck of a week here in my head! I feel more like crowing than confessing today. Nevertheless:

Forgive me, Foresworn, for I am psyched! It’s been one week since my last confession.

My goals for last week were to prep and run the playtest session at Southern Exposure. To prep for that I tried out the mini-scenario I had with Kat & Michele on Monday. It exposed a lot of flaws that needed exposing, as I talk about here. The ever-energetic Luke Crane pointed me in the right direction the very same night and a more concrete, more vibrant game will certainly result. However, I needed more than promising leads and an energetic sense of purpose to run the scheduled game. So I went for a slightly unortodox approach: I ran some of my setting ideas in an established game system to test them out, and help clarify and ground my thinking about the genre.

I chose Sorcerer and wrote up 5 character and 5 demons, set Humanity as Idealism, with demons being forces of pragmatism, including Generals and Diplomats. The PCs were all related by blood, to touch on the family issues that I want to touch on with Foresworn. I want to thank Shawn, Mel, and Rich for the great game! I stretched some of the demon powers to encompass planet-wide events, marching armies and the like. That worked particularly well, added to the feel I want for sweeping space opera epic. My skill at naming things is still really weak. But schizophrenic planet-spanning computers, loyalty brain implants, loyalists in the forest, crises of succession, and family back from the dead make for great, fun, melodramatic awesome! I’m finding out more and more what pleases and excites me about this stuff. There is no substitute for Actual Play!

Camp Nerdly is coming up in two weeks and I’d be a fool not to use it. I’m not sure if I want to test the new mechanics there, but I’ll certainly be running either Foresworn/Sorcerer or Foresworn/something else to get at more goodness. Perhaps I’ll take it on a tour of different systems to pick up a wide range of tricks.

One other thing is sure, though. I need to change the name soon. Working titles can only remain working for so long before they become just plain titles, and I do not want to be stuck with a GURPS or a TORG.

My goals for the coming week:

  • Describe, as specifically as possible, the positive aspects of the Foresworn/Sorcerer playtest, as well as the directed writing assignments. This will become the core of my design checklist.
  • Brainstorm other possible names.
  • Describe, as specifically as possible, the positive potential in the Foresworn mechanics I tested last week, and write up one way I might develop that potential.
  • Decide whether I’ll be running nascent-Foresworn at Camp Nerdly. If not, decide on a game system to use. Do the prep work.

The future’s looking bright. See you next week!

Lessons

I took Foresworn’s resolution system for a little spin with Kat and Michele last night. It was … insightful.

The parts I thought would be fun weren’t. There was a tiny glimmer of potential fun in a part I never suspected. The whole thing crashed and burned in less than an hour. For an initial playtest, it was very productive. That’s what initial playtests are supposed to do.

But it certainly wasn’t “fun.”

Afterward I figured I commisserate w/ Luke over IM. Luke never lets one rest in self-criticism or resignation, though. Within he had me writing a mission statement for my game without realizing I was writing a mission statement. Tricksy abzu!

So, with regard to preparing the game for release at Origins, I’m in really, really good shape. I have continually reinvigorated purpose. I’ve discovered some ideas that don’t work and some ideas that might work with more development. This is a good place to be.

However, with regard to running the scheduled game at Southern Exposure this Saturday, I’ve got nothin’! No way am I going to be able to cobble this together into something that will entertain a group of strangers for four hours. But I’ve committed to run and I’m not about to throw in the towel and quit! So what do I do?

I cheat, that’s what. I grab an already-designed-and-published game, write up a scenario for some of my setting ideas, and run that. I’ll tell any players that “Foresworn isn’t ready for playtest, but I’ve prepped this other game to run instead.”

My first instinct is TSoY, due to its similarity of tone, but I’ve never actually run nor played it, just read it. I’ll go with something I know a little better: Sorcerer. Humanity = Idealism. Demons = Pragmatists, things of the world. I’m sure I’ll learn a great deal by adapting my character concepts to Sorcerer in any case.

Foresworn Confessions — Week Six

Work is bad. What else is new? Several poor nights’ sleep have also taken their toll. Although it’s not progressing fast, it is progressing.

Forgive me, Foresworn, for I am a snail. It has been one week since my last confession.

My goal for the previous week was:

  • Write up a five-character space opera scenario. Don’t worry about game stats nearly as much as conflict-rich possibilities and interrelationships.

I have indeed sketched out 5 character concepts in a plot pulled right out of The Maltese Falcon. I ran them past Kat and she infused them with her trademark dramatic punch.

I appealed to Paul Czege, the patron saint of emotional mechanics, for some suggestions on my emotional mechanics. I don’t quite have a playtestable framework, but I have a plan for that framework, so I’m happy with that. I’m scheduled to run the game in six days. So, I’ve got only one goal for next week:

  • Be ready to run the playtest at Southern Exposure. If folks actually show up, run it.

Doesn’t that look so simple? Sixteen words. How hard can it be? Well, in order to do that, I need:

  • Five character sheets, plus NPCs.
  • An overview of the system, as specific as possible.
  • A self-test of said system.

It will be quite a week. And work will be heinous this week as well. But no one ever said doing what you love would be easy, right?