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Posts Tagged ‘delve’

Delve Complete Bundle updated!

Delve Complete Bundle updated!

Same game, same price, even more content than before! Grab the entirely of the line still for just $5 at the link.

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I’ve been buckling down and doing a lot of writing, and in between juggling a lot of ideas (some old, some new), I hadn’t really popped in to discuss what’s going on. So here’s what’s going on!

  • As I rewrite Corona, it occurs to me that I might want to not release it ahead of some of the other spin-off games I have in mind for it: rather, it might be served to put the weird hybrid-style game out after the IP has had a chance to get some traction in other forms. What those other forms are remains nebulous, but I think there may be a good game set among the nomads on the causeways, outside the reach of the autarchies and subject to their own interesting cultural dynamics. (Out there, there’s much less shell-hopping, so people are more attached to their bodies of origin, moreso when you consider that they’re subject to time dilation for so much of their existence that a nomad who looks young might be much older than they appear. Also, despite the perception by autarchy dwellers that nomads are bumpkins, they’re likely to be quite cosmopolitan, since they come into contact with so many distinct ‘bubble cultures’ in their travels.)
  • I’m planning a rather significant Delve supplement in the mega-dungeon vein, while being aware that the underlying premise of the mega-dungeon kind of flies in the face of what Delve is about. 🙂 My intention is to provide an example of what the Delve equivalent of a mega-dungeon would look like, as well as framework rules for how to devise your own.
  • I think the mini-games I did in October will be released as pay-what-you-want when I have them cleaned up and suitable for showing.
  • Ghosts of Atlantis hasn’t come out of its fallow period yet. I think I may cannibalize an idea or two from it for another idea that’s burgeoning – ironically, a revisit of the idea behind Daisho, from which I took a mechanical idea or two for Atlantis in the first place.
  • The horror game is out for playtesting, and I’m waiting to hear back. (And, as the sages tell us, the waiting is the hardest part.)

So that’s what’s up, apart from one or two things that are so sketchy at this point that they’re not even worth blogging about yet. Stay tuned.

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The message is the medium, Marshall McLuhan said, and for a game design, the format it comes in contributes to how it feels. The days of issuing everything in a boxed set of multiple 64-page booklets were superceded by the single-volume 8.5″x11″ hardback running hundreds of pages, and if you look at those games, there is an intriguing chicken-and-egg effect, in which the games themselves became more sprawling to fill that page space, while at the same time the content of the games had to escalate to match, leading to ever thicker core books. (Remember that the original D&D boxes didn’t individually cover everything you’d need: they progressed in stages, teaching you at first how to explore dungeons in Basic, then the wilderness in between dungeons in Expert, the cities you would eventually encounter in Companion, and so on.)

Now, we have a surfeit of options for publishing: games can be completely ephemeral, existing solely as data files that can be in whatever format we desire, but with the expectation of print-and-play, they still conform largely to one or more of the extant output options – but there are still dozens of those, from playing-card sized reference tools to the upper ends of the European A- or B-series sheets.

The way a game is formatted affects the way it feels and says something about what the game is like, or at least it does if the designer puts any thought into that (and indeed if he or she has any input into that end of things). I laid out Delve at half-letter pages so it could be printed conveniently on four sheets of paper, folded into a booklet, and stowed for quick play, because that’s the sort of game it is; House of Cards, meanwhile, is in digest format, not only because it’s the size in which one would most commonly find Victorian compilations of fairy tales or children’s stories, but because it’s also become associated with the indie story game movement, and the game attempts to convey those influences. (Grace Palmer‘s amazing page borders and Sara Otterstaeter’s woodcut chapter illustrations certainly don’t hurt, either. They’re still some of my favorite art ever.)

Now that the October games are approaching completion, I’m starting to consider the form they would take, in order to best fit the feel of each project. I like the idea of the “quantum jumping” RPG mimicking the spiral-bound presentation booklets one would get at a motivational seminar, written as if it actually were the introductory manual for a New Age self-help program. Meanwhile, the “agents of fate” game would be best packaged in a traditional RPG format, but with small page dimensions to easily pack it with the playing cards that would be necessary. (I considered whether actually making it the same size as playing cards would be a possibility, but I imagine the lists of powers for each office would inflate the size of the text to a degree that makes that untenable.)

My first instinct for the quest-giving game is to make it a digest-sized hardback like my copy of Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but that might be a little bit on the nose! It should be portable, of course, to facilitate play, and the rules are relatively short. (Note that, if one chops out the purely narrative portions of Baron Munchausen, it is likewise only several pages long. But the Baron loves to talk, as we all know!) I’m planning to prepare playmats for adventurers to set in front of them, as an organizational tool and quick reminder; one is tempted at first to perhaps print the rules on the back of the playmat, but with tokens arranged on top of them, you don’t want to be lifting the mats during a game. Depending on the size of the mat (which only needs three “compartments” – one for your level tokens, one for the tokens wagered for someone else’s quest, and one for the spoils of a successful quest) one could format the book at the same size, putting the playmat on one page of the centerfold spread next to a quick summary.

It is unlikely that any of these games will actually have a print run, being released electronically for players to print, or not, as they wish. But the impact of layout decisions on a game’s overall feel can’t really be ignored in that case either, because the possibility of players printing them remains on the table. (We have not yet achieved a fully electronic universal gaming environment, nor do I think we will at any point soon.)

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Metatopia draws nigh, and so I’m scrambling to get everything into a showable state with less than two weeks to prepare. The October Challenge games aren’t on the event schedule, but will be present in very rough form for pick-up play (the quest-giving game will probably see the biggest workout, since it’s the most robust design out of the three). I’m also bringing Delve, with a new dungeon sheet, and will be testing Ghosts of Atlantis (it finally has a working name!) and running a focus group for the nascent untitled horror game system.

The gaming event schedule doesn’t go live until a couple of days before the show, but the panel and seminar schedule is up for perusal.

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Delve illustrator Chris Clouser

Delve will be out soon! Besides a few exciting tweaks from play test feedback (new Specials! better movement rules!), the game also features a new set of icons by artist Chris Clouser. They give the game a more cohesive visual appeal as well as facilitating play. Take a look at Chris’ other work over at DeviantArt: http://holymonkey.deviantart.com/ Also, start signal boosting: Delve comes out Friday, February 15, if the dungeon doesn’t kill us first!

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The dungeon crawl game playtest is progressing, and I’m thinking about parts that need expansion. (There’s a potential name in discussion, too. Finally!)

The question of the moment: what happens when adventurers exit the dungeon?

Some mechanical parts of that have already been written, naturally: adventurers can heal up to full Health, and have the option to buy a point of Level. But beyond the mechanics (or, perhaps, things that are not yet modeled by the mechanics), there’s more afoot. Presumably, time passes, which is important. It may not be a lot of time, but it’s important to remember that the game world is progressing at the same rate as the characters, of course. For game balance purposes, if nothing else, the adventurers’ benefit from exiting the dungeon should be mollified by a shift of some sort in the dungeon as well. This is not “game-changer” material a la hitting the Danger Level, but the adventurers should not expect that everything in the dungeon has “paused” to allow them to replenish their resources without escalating in response – otherwise, the challenge of the dungeon diminishes as it stays the same while the adventurers improve.

The most basic use of exiting the dungeon is to heal at a faster rate than camping. Health is of course a useful resource, and it stands to reason that the “Health” of the dungeon replenishes as well – not just that of monsters, but of traps and other hazards. Essentially, if the party gets to heal back to full, so should the dungeon. That doesn’t mean all plot advances have been reset, or that destroyed doors reform and chasms shrug off improvised rope bridges, but the dungeon is now aware of the adventurers and the threat they pose, and will respond appropriately: the denizens of the dungeon might bring a new threat to bear in a dangerous area previously cleared, such as weakening the rope bridge so that the adventurers must make a test to cross it safely. Some traps can be reset, but others can be replaced; monsters can wander in from previously unexplored areas (there’s always at least one new  corridor to follow, as the rules point out); et cetera.

This replenishment rate should scale to the party’s gain from exiting: if one or more characters decide to buy Level, for instance, there should be correspondingly greater pushback from the dungeon, so to speak.

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A lesson from the Gen Con dungeon crawl playtest

One of the morning sessions in the First Exposure hall with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Delve! (as I’m currently referring to it) had a great moment that I wanted to share, because it’s at the core of what I want the game to accomplish. It was a completely spontaneous decision, but it was so neat that I had to write it into the gamemaster’s guide as soon as I got back to the computer.

One of the players, selecting the Knight, immediately started digging into interesting descriptive details about his character. He created a “steel angel” theme, describing how his armor had two metal wing-like plates on the back: one was a sword, albeit a strange-looking one, while the other was his shield. I leapt in, GM reflexes cued up, and did a “yes, and”: the gauntlets of the armor had strips of magnetite running down the back and magnet clamps holding the wings on the back. In a tight situation, the Knight could quick-draw by just slapping the magnet gauntlets back against the wings and then drawing them forward. The player, and everyone else at the table, immediately lit up, rolling with the idea.

It was a minor detail, but it ended up spiraling out into the whole session. It suggested a world with a certain amount of technological savvy, and so in conjunction with the other lead questions at the start of the session, I started riffing details as the dungeon developed about how it started out rather naturally cavernous but became more advanced as the party went deeper. When they hit the game-changer, they encountered a mechanical guardian construct. The twist wasn’t the machine itself: it was that, when it selected the Knight to attack, it immediately broke off combat, saying something cryptic about ‘the harbinger’s arrival’ and departing deeper into the complex.

The plot that was developing during this short session so engaged the players – because they all had some kind of hook into what was going on – that they started filling in the gaps and sketching out a rough idea for what kind of setting it inhabited as they walked from the table afterward. I had started going in one direction based on the answer to a different lead question, but the other detail reacted in an unpredictable and fruitful way with it, and pareidolia set in: because all details are true, the imaginations of all of the players had to dig in to reconcile them.

As a result, the current playtest version makes more explicit mention of the validity of player-created details (so long as they don’t interfere with the Big Three – which one of the lead answers actually almost did!). What it doesn’t do, but which this article points to, is the implied “fruitful void,” to steal Vincent Baker’s term, of what comes out of accepting and empowering the contribution of every player to the story cumulatively.

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