By The Stars Confession — Week Seventeen

The first playtest is scheduled for this Friday and I’m nowhere near prepared enough.

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

I have a draft of a character sheet. I have a skeletal outline of the game procedures. I have a lot of things that I just don’t know how they work.

But I have people coming to my house on Friday to play, so we will muddle our way through whatever I have, come up with rules on the fly to cover what I haven’t anticipated. We’ll find a dozen ways that the game sucks and one or two where it’s brilliant.

Ah, playtesting!

By The Stars Confession–Week Sixteen

I had a bit of a stomach bug this weekend, but it’s still been a banner week.

Forgive me, By The Stars, I have been sick. It’s been seven days since my last confession.

The first playtest has been scheduled! On December 15th we’ll start beating on the system in earnest. And what a system it’s shaping up to be!

Rather than skills, I’m compiling a list of sci-fi tropes (robots, interplanetary travel, psychic powers, etc.). Each character gets 3 tropes, one of which is his primary trope. That player is final authority over what exists in the game world related to that trope.

The conflict resolution mini-game involves capturing one another’s dice. So, after the conflict, I’ve got a pile of your dice (each die linked to one of your Oaths) and you’ve got a pile of mine. What next? Well, we each need to play out scenes to reclaim our dice. The best part about this is that it requires the game to start in media res–you start with a conflict and play it out from there!

I’ve got a pile of writing and thinking and designing to do. I’ll see you in 7!

By The Stars Confession — Week Fifteen

Forgive me, By The Stars, for I am strained. It’s been eight days since my last confession.

The day before Thanksgiving, we had to give back the foster kid we thought we would be able to adopt. That sad event dominated the entire week. I sent out an e-mail about setting up a playtest, but have yet to get any response.

I also watched Revenge of the Sith again. It fulfills nearly every criticism I’ve ever heard of the Star Wars saga. It’s a train wreck of a film, a catastrophic failure of visual storytelling. And while it did get my blood boiling, my anger was all focused on Lucas-bashing and not game-building. So I suppose the experience wasn’t a total loss. It reminded me that anger can only lead to the Dark Side.

By The Stars Confession — Week Fourteen

Forgive me, By The Stars, for I have skipped. It’s been six days since my last confession.

With the exception of a half-page of scribbled notes the game is in the same state it was a week ago. However, I’ve secured a place on the hectic editorial calendar of Thor Olavsrud, to be certain that By The Stars will be clear and understandable. Once I have something for Thor to edit, of course.

I’ve also lined up in advance the services of none other than Keith Senkowski as a cover artist. So the game will look as good as it reads.

Now I’ve just got to figure out how it runs….

Be Kind to the Wii Folk

We went to WalMart today. There were about a dozen college-aged kids camped out in Wii hats, playing Munchkin. Kat turns to me and says “We should bring them some With Great Power…” She’s a marketing genius.

So be kind to your local Wii folk, my indie brothers and sisters! Bring them coffee. They’re gamers, too. While they wait for the cutting edge of the console, consider showing them the cutting edge of the tabletop.

By The Stars Confession — Week Thirteen

Unlucky thirteen? Not around here!

Forgive me, By The Stars, for I am slow. It’s been eight days since my last confession.

I have dice mechanics! On Saturday Kat and I tested them in a single, small conflict. They’re rough and have lots of room for improvement, but they offer decision-making opportunities, they’re interesting in their own right, and they have a lot of what I call “knobs and levers.”

What are “knobs and levers,” you ask? They’re ways you can alter the standard resolution mechanic for special circumstances. For example, in classic Storyteller system, the knobs and levers were: 1) How many dice you rolled (generally associated with your skills and attributes), 2) The target number of what was considered a success (generally associated with the difficulty of the action you were attempting); and 3) How many successes you needed to roll in order to actually succeed (also associated with the task difficulty, IIRC). These allow the same dice mechanics to reflect different situations, something vital for RPGs.

Things are going pretty well, considering all the stress in my life. My dice mechanics currently exist only between my ears, so my primary goal for next week is: Write them out. It will enable playtesting. Which is also on the agenda for next week: Schedule my first playtest session.

See ya in six!

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!