Posts Tagged ‘corona’

Corona Ashcan Available

During a recent plumbing of my hard drive, I discovered an old (circa 2012) iteration of the Corona rules. After a little polishing and combining of disparate parts, I have decided to make this artifact available on both itch.io and DriveThruRPG as Pay-What-You-Want. It’s 81 pages, no art, playtested and edited, but just not what I wanted or envisioned for the final Corona product. Still, if you want to support Corona‘s continuing development, or just want a peek into how the proverbial sausage is made, this is for you.

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New Fate tech for Corona

If you haven’t gotten your hands on Uprising: the Dystopian Universe RPG yet, it’s got some great innovations in various facets of the Fate engine (some of which I’m planning to adapt for Corona). Just from a first read-through, here are the highlights:

  • The approaches from Fate Accelerated and the four actions are replaced with means and ends (four of each). This will probably not serve Corona very well, since using the skills puts the hyper-competency of Corona‘s agents at the forefront of players’ minds. It’s an interesting twist, though, that could streamline Fate derivatives even more than FAE already does.
  • The betrayal mechanic, on the other hand, meets a design need that Corona has been looking for for years. Every character has a secret, and some of them are actively opposing the goals and actions of the others. Who is loyal to the cause, and who is an assassin, or mole, or simply self-serving?
  • Augmentations in Paris Nouveau are much more of a double-edged sword than the enhancements agents receive in Corona: they have a shorter lifespan, as well as other drawbacks. This is primarily a setting-driven detail, but an important distinction nonetheless — the Dystopian Universe wants to shine a light on the dysfunctional relationship its inhabitants have with technology, whereas Corona presumes a positive net gain to society from self-improving implants.


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Corona V4 design notes

A few bullet points to bring folks up to speed on the newest (re)incarnation of Corona:

  • The character creation and autarchy creation systems are largely untouched, since they were consistently the most popular features during playtests. One notable change is that the initial deal of cards generates a wider array of strategic assets which are not limited to just locations. This has the side effect of making an agent’s position less important.
  • Dice! I’ve decided to implement a small amount of randomization. This serves several functions. First, it reduces the dependence on huge resource pools in Corona, which was always a sticking point for some playtesters. Second, the inclusion of a die roll possibly lets me include the narrative-control function from Delve into the game. Third, agent rank now means something different – it serves as a bottleneck for access to resources, not the primary determiner of success/failure in dealing with assets.
  • The options for agents and the Void have been codified as moves a la Apocalypse World and its derivatives. The playbook mechanic is not being implemented, though, and agents will have access to what is currently a sizable sheet of options. I’m working on streamlining the options to make for easier entry into the game.


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Corona playtest on Saturday, October 22

I’ll be running an open playtest of Corona on Saturday, October 22, using Google Hangouts. The link to the event is here so you can RSVP to the event. No familiarity required: I’ll be walking everyone through character creation (which takes just minutes), shared world-building of the autarchy, and the first few turns of the game. Come join me!

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Corona returns to Metatopia

After several iterations of the rules text have been built up and torn down again, the current incarnation of Corona will be on the slate for playtesting from 9am-11am on Saturday, November 8, 2014 at Metatopia (see the full convention schedule here). If you’re going to be there, I’ll be looking for intrepid players willing to get into some sci-fi political intrigue. See you in Morristown!

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New design solutions, new writing problems

Hello, dear readers! I haven’t forgotten about you, but my day job has been taking up a lot of time and energy, so all the design work I’ve been doing has been in my head. Admittedly, it’s a bit hard to read there, isn’t it? Corona continues to be a difficult game to translate from the ideal in my head to a published and playable state, so I’ve been pouring the majority of my efforts into finally getting it to a finished version so I can rest!

A long-standing problem with Corona has been capturing the essential elements of both immersive political roleplaying and strategic maneuvering in a way that mesh intuitively together, without too much bookkeeping involved. The prior drafts got close, but there was still a lot of number-crunching going on, particularly for the Void, and that was causing huge disruptions in the flow of play at the end of every span.

A far more elegant solution finally emerged earlier this week (just before sleep, as some of the best ideas often do), but with it came a new problem: Corona would have to be gutted and rewritten for a fourth time, because the new solution completely obsolesces the basic resolution system. It also moves further away from the most board-game-like aspects of the game, which is probably welcome news to some players but a sad loss for others. Corona is very much in the vein of “new Braunsteins” currently popping up all over the indie tabletop game scene, and this new form of intrigue development/resolution removes some of the appealing strategic crunch. I’ll see about restoring some of that style of play – it’s something that I consider crucial to the essence of what Corona is – but it will be tricky to accomplish without seeming “bolted on”. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share a new version with playtesters very soon; I’m also aiming to have a draft to take to Metatopia, which is just over two months away.

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Fiddling with codifying conflict

One of the central gears in the machine that is Corona is that the agents are (ostensibly) facing off against a threat that destabilizes their autarchy. The exact mechanism for dealing with that has continued to evolve throughout the playtesting and redesign process, but it’s one of the most ludic aspects of the experience, to the point that it defines agents’ actions – everything they do that is not strictly interpersonal (agent vs. agent) is in terms of how it affects the overshadowing threat, and it’s possible to win the game, either as a loyalist by dismantling that threat and any complications that spin off from it, or as a traitor by evading detection while escalating it until the state collapses.

So far, the systems I’ve implemented have all worked, but not satisfyingly so with regard to one of my design goals, which is offer at least a taste of really complicated diplomatic and political maneuvering. I want to give players the feeling that they are the upper echelons of governance of a solar-system-wide state perched at the twilight end of a millennium, with all the attendant stress of managing the fine line between peace and disaster.

The most recent incarnation placed three defined threat elements into an interconnected matrix, where actions taken to affect one element ripple out to raise or lower their others. It was an idea that literally happened overnight at Gen Con between two days of playtesting; it serviced, but inelegantly. Ideas for replacing it haven’t really been forthcoming, though, until a brainstorm today. There are four types of threat, corresponding to the four ministries to which agents belong, so perhaps a graph. A crisis point is established at the beginning of the game, and agent actions move this point around the plane in different directions, putting new spins on the situation as it evolves. What starts out as a relatively simple problem can turn into a more nuanced crisis in the wake of the repercussions of agents’ interference for good or ill. The axes (or quadrants, perhaps) correspond to those ministries and provide players with a narrative background against which to frame what’s happening.

To test it out, I ran a dry simulation of how it might work, starting with the simplest possible starting condition. One card was drawn from a deck of playing cards to determine the nature and severity of the crisis point: 10 of Clubs means a comparatively serious issue in the Church of the Autarch. I assumed four players, none of whom were acting overtly treasonous (yet), because I need to see how this plays when things are relatively quiet before worrying about the really heated plots that will come up later. Let’s say a 10 Hearts and 3 Spades are among the cards played: the net change vertically is 7 spaces up toward Hearts. Three other cards move the crisis horizontally: none of the hypothetical players have decided to tip their hands by increasing the crisis at this time, but they all play mid- to low-level Diamonds (2, 4, and 5) for a net shift of 11 points toward Diamonds.

corona crisis graph example start

Players would decide exactly what the narrative dimension of that problem is, which we’ll leave aside for now. Agents play their actions as cards from hand, and as I picture it now, those cards move the crisis point. The specific procedure may take a little bit of tinkering, but in the example span I tried out,

corona crisis graph example move

As you can see, the problem is already pretty migratory. A blatant traitor or very powerful individual actions in any direction can make the crisis pretty swingy. I want volatile crises, but not quite this much. What started as a Church affair is now a Bloodline crisis (Hearts) with a slight Economic component (Diamonds). Also, it occurs to me that without further elaboration, there’s only one way each card will send the crisis, and I’d like there to be an option for e.g. a loyalist to play Clubs to decrease the crisis. Agents are currently required to write down action reports that reveal their real activities for a span as distinct from what they say they’re doing, but streamlining that process seems desirable.

Ultimately, the process is still fiddly. Not all brainstorms yield immediate success: I think there’s still merit in some application of this procedure, but it doesn’t quite solve the problem either. Even though tracking a game state on a Cartesian graph may in some ways evoke the aesthetic of deep political analysis I want, it doesn’t do so in a way that feels like the players are engaging in super-competent high-stakes duels of wits on the fly. The best solution in my opinion is the one that gets players doing this kind of analysis (or feeling like they are) in their heads.

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