Foresworn Confessions — Week One

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve commited myself to: Reporting on my progress week after week. It brings flashbacks of my Catholic boyhood. And thus:

Forgive me, Foresworn, for I have slacked. This is my first confession.

In the past week I have:

  • Announced my intention to design and publish Foresworn
  • Devised a schedule of writing, playtesting, editing, layout, and printing that will enable me to complete the game.
  • Felt my way through some preliminary explanatory text about the rules
  • Narrowed the list of potential resources and sketched out brief definitions

In the coming week I intend to:

  • Settle on a list of resources and stats (i.e., be able to write up game stats for a character)
  • Stat out two example characters
  • Self-test the die-rolling mechanic with said characters

I had to put in five hours today, and work looks worse for the coming week, so we’ll see how well reality matches up with my intentions. But I’ve got less than a month to start internal playtesting!
See ya in 7!

Foresworn Development Schedule

I heard so many exciting little bits of stuff at GenCon. One that stuck with me was someone (I forget who) complimenting Luke on how good Dictionary of Mu looks. Luke’s response was something like this: “I didn’t do anything. All I did was send Judd an e-mail every week asking how it was going. Eventually, he started sending me the e-mail about how it was going.” That’s it. A little nag about a little progress. Those small measures of progress add up.

I thought to myself “I could do that. I don’t even have to single out one of my friends to nag me about it. I can just use my blog.” So that’s what I’m going to do. Every Sunday, I’ll be posting what progress I’ve made in the previous week on Foresworn, my game-in-development. It’s not as big and involved as John Wick’s excellent Game Designer’s Journal from the days when he was developing Orkworld. However, I hope it can generate some of the same enthusiasm that column did. It will also keep me moving. It’s one thing to let yourself down. It’s another to let yourself down and tell all your friends about it.

That said, I’m sure that there will be weeks when my only report will be: “Worked an insane number of hours this week. Didn’t work on the game at all.” I hope those weeks will be at a minimum and that I’ve left enough room in my schedule for them.

Let me fill you in on some of my goals for Foresworn. I want this game to create and play out multi-player, conflict-ridden situations. In watching my wife write her Everway LARP, in playing Luke’s BW convention games, in watching a lot of Shakespeare, I’ve found that I like the excitement that comes from everyone having their own agenda and pushing hard to achieve it. I also know that setting up such conflict-intense situations is a skill. I want to make a game out of it. I see the game working in two phases. The Setup Phase is where you create the characters, their interrelationships, their resources, and their agendas. By the end of Setup Phase, you’ll have a situation primed to blow with juicy conflict. Then, in Resolution Phase you play out the results of that setup.

Since Resolution Phase will play more like a traditional RPG/resource management game, I’m going to playtest that part first. Once that is pretty well set, then I’ll move into the relatively-uncharted territory of the situation Setup Phase.

Oh, and I’d like to have it out by Origins. Why? Less new hotness hits the shelves at Origins, so my game would get more notice. It would have a few weeks to get played and discussed before GenCon. Plus, if I do end up missing my deadlines, I can still make a GenCon release.

Foresworn Tentative Schedule:

June 26, 2007: Finished books due back from printer
May 28, 2007: Complete interior & cover due to printer
May 1, 2007: Complete text & art due to layout
April 15, 2007: Final draft text due to editing
April 15, 2007: Final art due
March 31, 2007: Complete external playtesting feedback due
February 15, 2007: Complete external playtesting document out to playtesters
February 1, 2007: Complete internal playtesting feedback due
January 1, 2007: Begin Complete internal playtesting
November 15, 2006: Begin Setup Phase internal playtesting-Setup Phase first draft due
November 1, 2006: Complete Resolution Phase internal playtesting
September 15, 2006: Begin Resolution Phase internal playtesting-Resolution Phase first draft due

What I’ve Got

I’ve got 200 freshly-printed copies of With Great Power… in the trunk of my car.

I’ve got between 2 and 3 dozen boxes of IPR game books in my garage.

I’ve got a reservation for a rental minivan to pick up tomorrow evening.

I’ve got an feeling in my gut that’s a mix of excitement and nervousness.

I’ve got an awesome wife who’s got her own excitement and nervousness.

I’ve got an awesome daughter who’s none too sure about this whole “game convention” thing.

I’ve got about thirty-six and a half hours before I hit the road for GenCon….

…and counting.

DexCon 2006: Silliness Afoot!

Just got home from DexCon. The con was hectic, but good. And there was a creeping tide of silliness in sundry places.

I wasn’t able to get any time off work, so I didn’t arrive until 7:50pm on Friday. I was scheduled to run With Great Power… at eight. I had three players hungry for four-color goodness so I ran them through “A League of Their Own.” It was probably the silliest game of WGP I’ve ever run. Fun, but in a sort of genre-mocking way. “Prepare to get your buttocks telekinesed, Stalwart!” was a line I recall. The players enjoyed it, and I found the silly a bit relaxing after the hectic of getting there.

After the game I did some chatting to decompress and got to cradle Burning Empires in my hands. It looks like nothing so much a one of those thick hardcover sci-fi novels. I can testify that it’s beautiful. People I trust assure me it plays better. I’m sure I’ll find out sooner or later.

Saturday began with great promise: Judd had a seat available in his Dictionary of Mu game. I love to play anything with Judd and have been anxious to try out Mu for a while. I started out as the prince of these awesome Martian uber-gorillas who had just grew a conscience and released his slaves. He was going to have to face the consequences of it. Oh, and he had this massive Dragon for a demon and I scored a +3 on the binding roll. Sweet. Unfortunately a RL crisis at home reared its head and I had to bow out of the game before actually getting to play. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t much silly in Mu.

Saturday afternoon saw me in an awkward position. Several months back when we were registering events, I thought I might develop my Game Chef game, Play Right!, into a publishable game. I subsequently decided not to, but forgot that I had signed up to playtest it at DexCon. Luckily no one showed up, allowing me the afternoon to reheat the With Great Chili… And, as it turns out, squeeze into a pick up game.

Alexander Newman ran Donjon for six of us. Mayuran suggested we’d be making one of the worst type of Conan movies. I played a wizened old sorcerer called Gu’laag. We were humming along making our characters, coming up with cool abilities and stuff. Then Alexander mentioned that the first part of the game is shopping for gear and you could see the energy level of everyone at the table sink. The rules-inspired slapstick that is the “shopping phase” ate up time and moved neither the adventure, nor our capabilities forward much. After that, people were desperate to do SOMEthing, so Nathan Paoletta summoned an undead wolf to use as a mount and the rest of the group attacked it. Classic dysfunctional player group behavior. Plus with a lot of silly along the way. The game was food for thought, though not for the appetite for role-playing. I hope Alexander writes up an AP.

Six o’clock was the party featuring With Great Chili and a vegetarian rice dish courtesy of Jenn Rodgers & Russ Gaines. The party went pretty well, but come January, we’re going to need a LOT more food.

I was scheduled to run With Great Power again at 8pm, and by 8:10 I had no players and was going to head off and maybe join in Nathan’s game of Carry. Then Eric from pscore.net showed up and said he was really excited to play. So over then next hour he recruited his sister Danae, and his friends Richard and Rob. Together with Kat, they played the Liberty League in a fun rendition of “A League of Their Own.” I don’t know that I’ll every get tired of this scenario, although I should likely retire it. They only got to play one enrichment and one conflict, but they all had fun (Rob even picked up the game the next day.)

Midnight belonged to the Master. I had six minions, three I knew (Fred Hicks, Rob Donahue, Steve-the-really-good-player) and three I didn’t, I had to turn folks away, as well. They made a beast-aspected Master who was a squat military genius of a general who was constructing an infernal war machine out of human parts. There’s a whole AP post here, as well. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of speaking in funny voices and dark silliness. Likely due to the uncomfortable subject matter. But the strength of the game still brought out the intrinsic tragedy.

Four hours of sleep, plus loading up the car, later was the Indie RPG roundtable. Due to scheduling problems, Luke was already gone, so it wasn’t the standard “Luke and Jared show.” I kinda ran things, asking for updates on games we had discussed in January (CUP/One Night has been broken productively and will emerge stronger — Contract Work is developing, but still needs playtesting — Mob Justice/Condemnation has seen a playtest, and a plethora of suggestions, but is waiting for other projects to be finished). The only new design we heard anything about was Rob’s Acts of Confederation-era swashbuckling game. It was a little chaotic, lacking some of that divine fire that motivated the January roundtable, but was a good meeting nonetheless.

A good con. Glad I went. Must sleep now.

A look back at Origins 2006

It’s Sunday night and I’m beat. Origins was quite an enjoyable show. Much less busy, less pressured, less like work than GenCon. There was a bit of time to play, a bit of time to eat (the North Market rules!), a bit of time to shop, a bit of time to chat. Turn, turn, turn.

Kat and I were scheduled to run 8 sessions of With Great Power… One session only attracted one guy (I ran him through a one-hour system tour), but the other seven had enough folks to actually play. And from nearly each session somebody came to booth to pick up the game.

But, I’d left off at Friday morning….

I did the booth stuff Friday morning, then rushed off to run a noon session of With Great Power… Unfortunately only one guy showed up. His name was James and he was more than happy to sit through a one-hour system tour. I showed him all the basic ins-and-outs of the game and refunded him a generic token for his time. Kat and I managed to get in a little shopping for Dalys & Sohely. It’s nice that you can see the whole exhibit hall in a couple of hours, rather than a whole day like at GenCon.

At 8pm Kat and I each had a session of WGP scheduled. We assumed that between the two tables we’d have enough to make a single game. We joked about drawing the short straw to see who ran the game and who got to scurry off to play in Iskander’s excellently disturbing Consiracy of Shadows Blood Opera scenario. When we showed up, I had 4 players (including James) and Kat had 5. I ran my alien-invasion scenario “They Came From Beyond!” and had a blast! Everyone understood the kind of story we were going for and the game rocked! The alien turncoat and the last remaining supervillain died in order to defeat the alien menace, and the last remaining superhero managed to resurrect the superteam that had died before the story had even started. The three players besides James were New Yorkers Jessica Hammer and her friends Robert Scott (an artist) and, I think, Amy. Excellent players, all.

In a odd bit of synchronicity, both Kat and I had double-ties in enrichment stakes in each of games. What that means is the player and the GM each played the same ranked card in an enrichment scene, so the original Stakes had to go up. Then they tied again, so the Stakes went up again. A great way to drive a game hard.

We were up kinda late with that, and Saturday started off moving slowly. I couldn’t make it to a panel on superheroes and their arch-nemeses because of a scheduled event. But the game went really well, included James again. He brought a friend from home, so I’m pretty sure he liked the game. That game also went really well, with Liberty Belle being arrested for trying to assassinate her father when she had actually subdued the assassin. Good stuff.

The Saturday crowd gave me the feeling of GenCon on Thursday.

Saturday night was something I was anticipating and anxious about for a while. Running Universalis for Peter Adkinson & friends. I brought Kat with me and we ran the game for Peter, his dad Gary, Rennie Arturo, the GenCon programming head, and Rennie’s assistant Jeanette, who had never done any role-playing before. The session was good, if slow. We made this cool fantasy world where the men were dying off because magic caused sterility and the women ran the wars because men were too precious to waste on the battlefield. We probably did too many tenets. It took us three hours before anyone added something to the story that caused an “oooh” at the table. But we did get there. Both Peter and Rennie were thorough and insightful in their questioning. They both said they thought they understood it much better know and could delve into playing it at home.

Didn’t get to bed till nearly two. This morning started early. There was booth stuff in the morning, then a noon panel on “Superhumans or Supersaints.” Morality in superhero stories and RPGs. Fellow panelists were Jim Lowder, Steve Kenson and Steve Long (of Hero Games). It went really well, as we delved into the philosophical aspects of power, responsibility, truth and justice. The bit where I got to show off a little: Don Concoran and Joann were in the audience. Don asked “How do your games address the moral dimension of supers?” Steve Kenson talked about how complications get you hero points in M&M. Steve Long talked about how Disads get you build points in Hero and not using your Disads penalized you xp in Hero. I talked about Suffering and Enrichment scenes and Stakes. Don followed up with “How much of your book is devoted to that moral dimension?” Kenson: “3 pages” Long: “There’s a few sidebars, plus more stuff in the supplements” Me: “Well, if you don’t count the index and stuff, over a hundred pages.”

Ya gotta love a great setup. Thanks, Don.

After that, did some last minute shopping and then some podcasters came to the booth. They were from Fistful of Comics and Games. They played the 10-minute demo, then interviewed me. One of them even bought the game. I may have rambled on, but all this public speaking has to be good for me. Like eating your broccoli, right?

I actually kinda like the press-stuff. Maybe I’ll listen to more podcasts.

Then it was breaking down the booth, loading up the car, and watching everyone else leave. Went to dinner with the hometown crew, caught up with how they’re con experience went, packed things up, and wrote this.

I liked my first Origins. It’s a unique show. It’s got its own flavor. It’s a taste I like. I’ll be back.