Posts Tagged ‘horror’

Public playtest for horror rpg now open

I’ve compiled the basic elements of the horror game into a single document and made it available for download here. Playtesting is encouraged, and feedback is very welcome!

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Checking in

So how have you been?

I’ve been away for a bit due to illness, and while I’m happy to report that I’m feeling better, I haven’t been able to do a lot of work lately other than scribbling in my notebook to revisit later. Sadly, as a result, I missed the deadline for NGDM completion with a half-completed Yūgen set that never got to see playtesting. The game will still be completed, because initial focus group response was highly positive, but I apologize for not getting it out the door sooner.

The other main iron in the fire is the still-untitled horror game, which is getting some flesh on the bones in the form of guidelines and optional rules for emulating specific horror sub-genres like slasher films or the Cthulhu Mythos. A bevy of “dashboards” will be provided in the deluxe version game for those who want to customize their play experience, while the basic rules will be available as a stand-alone unit. Essentially, you can get the bare-bones version and do the tinkering themselves, or pay a little more and get a lot of that work done for you already.

Corona and Ghosts of Atlantis will probably lay fallow until those other projects are out of the way, and I have the mental space to revisit them. Corona in particular may be resurrected in a significantly different form due to some feedback; players are at least as interested in the IP itself as in the game I created as a vehicle for it, which is both unexpected and welcome.

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Metatopia continues to grow both in size and energy. The show was tremendously instructive, as usual, and I’m going to revise the priorities of many of the projects on my agenda currently to reflect the feedback received:

  • During the first Ghosts of Atlantis session, I made a spontaneous change to the rules that went over smashingly, and then took that change to the second session, which was disastrous. While I continue to mull over the disconnect between the two experiences, the game goes into the drawer for later work.
  • The horror game was a hit with the focus group, and we also came up with ideas regarding what form factor the game will ultimately take. I think that’s going to move to the top of the queue.
  • The card game idea (tentatively titled Yūgen) will serve as an interesting complement to other development, and gives me a nominal NGDM project, so that is going alongside the horror game in the development queue. 
  • Pitches for the quest-giving game received modest but positive response. I think it’s more salable if I find a stronger hook. I’ll give that one some attention this month between working on the other games.

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Which is both a relief and a stressor, because it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to meet my self-imposed challenge. I’ll have perhaps four games out of the experience (thanks to an idea I stumbled into a couple of days ago), which is half of what I had set out to do, but at the same time, I also acknowledge that it was a pretty difficult bar to set for myself to create eight fully-functional games in 31 days, particularly since I knew that this month was going to have some other very important tasks to complete outside of my game design work.

For the final week of the month, I’m going to focus on refining these games, as well as Ghosts of Atlantis and the new horror game, so that they’ll be showable next week. Tomorrow, I hope to have an initial post on the fourth (and ostensibly final) game design, a card game of abstract expression.

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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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As I work the currently untitled horror game into a workable playtesters draft, a thought occurs to me: one of the assumptions is that players being able to see the dice pool and its current ratio of black and white dice creates anxiety, as they can see how close they may be to failure. But it might be better, it seems, to keep the dice pool hidden instead.

Two reasons come to mind. First, it prevents meta-game analysis. Such analysis breaks or at least weakens immersion: I not normally a staunch immersionist, but for horror being caught up in the scenario’s more crucial to the experience. Players psychologically distance themselves from the fiction when their attention turns to calculating the odds on the next die roll. Second, and relatedly, horror works well when threats are obscure and unknowable. (See also: Alien.) Choosing how many dice to throw at a risky action becomes more fraught if you don’t know how many bad results you are from losing. This is tempered by the current set-up in which the GM-like narrator role rotates around the table, so I have to decide which is more important if I can’t find a way to keep both.

The playtesters draft should be cobbled together sometime this week; email if you’re interested in participating.

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Sorry for the long silence, but things have been going on behind the curtain. Hopefully fun and interesting things!

One of the more intriguing horror RPG designs of late has been Dread: in attempting to solve the perennial problem in horror gaming of conveying actual tension to players who are at a remove from their characters, Dread creates a growing anxiety in players by tying task resolution to pulls from a stack of Jenga-like blocks. It also implicitly captures one of the essences of good horror, in my opinion, in that eventually there will be catastrophe. Although it’s not always a popular design choice with players these days, I’m of the opinion that having characters fail in a game can be more fun than unending success – and in the horror genre, that’s doubly important. Characters, and players, should be able to lose.

With that in mind, I’m playing around with the basics of a possible horror game that promises to be flexible enough to cover different variations of the horror genre: with a few adjustments, I think this could be used for everything from Universal monster movies to Japanese horror. At the core of the game, just like in Dread, is an attempt to make the impending doom in the fiction manifest at the table for the players. In this case, though, it’s a visual track of the progress of the evil you face, as your dice pool grows ever consumed in shadow…

That’s enough of a tease for now. I’m planning to bring the playtest version to Metatopia in a couple of months, though, so look for more soon.

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