Posts Tagged ‘project atlantis’

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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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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A peek at Ghosts of Atlantis

Those who followed the design posts for Ghosts of Atlantis may recall some of the basic mechanical components: keyword-based traits, and investing dice and/or elemental energy in actions. I’ve put together a rough partial character sheet to demonstrate how these would work.


Starting at the top, we have basic character premise info, along with a general note about how the character’s particular magical approach functions. Remember, every character in Ghosts of Atlantis uses magic, but their styles vary significantly from practical, tool-like magic to grand ritual workings. This example, a Stone-Born noble, has inherent physical magic that enhances her physical attributes and actions, with the advantage of being immune to suppression or countering by another character, but with the disadvantage of functioning on a limited scale. This character will have to change the world with her deeds, not her spells!

The three traits on the left side, Ethos, Logos, and Pathos, are most important for personal interaction and internal matters such as a character’s emotional or intellectual aptitudes. Each form of magic derives from one of these traits. Our Stone-Born is best at personal conviction and integrity (Ethos), which also projects well as leadership, but has a rather limited range of education (Logos) which she makes up for with an average emotional perceptivity and empathy (Pathos).

Next to those are her personality and social traits: whenever the player can benefit from one of these, they can be charged, either with a die (for effort and skill) or an elemental token (for magical enhancement) and provide an automatic margin of success to the relevant action. These traits come from several different categories – Stoic is a Personality trait, Stone-Born is a Heritage, and Noble is a Status trait. Just know for now that there are limits on how many traits characters can have from each category.

The defense shields are each marked with the player’s assigned choices: the number of sides on the shield indicates the additional threshold to affect the character in that way while the shield is charged. For instance, her social defense is highest at 7, as her high status and unwavering demeanor make it difficult to assail her socially when she’s trying to hold fast.

At the bottom is the character’s elemental pentacle, naturally highest in Stone, as befits her Heritage. Taking actions aligned with an element, magical or not, may allow the character to include the corresponding element to their action result.   Each character gets two Talent traits, in different elements, that represent minor elementally-related abilities. Our noble took the Ethereal trait Aegis, which can grant an additional measure of magical defense, and the Stone trait Rooted, which allows her to bond with the earth below her feet and become temporarily immovable.

Want to see more? There will be playtesting at Metatopia next week!

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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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Whenever one game is nearly finished, I double back and pick up other projects that I put into “cold storage” for a while. In this case, now that Corona‘s getting nearly ready to release, I’m revisiting Project Atlantis, and finding that the idea of Paths I had previously discussed for Daisho might be a better fit here.

Because I want to encourage a dramatic structure – particularly echoing classical tragedy – I want scenes to be logically structured together. They should build deterministically, where the results of prior scenes have a hard mechanical influence on what follows, which I had previously wanted to implement through investing dice ahead in time toward the final outcome of the plot.

I have since introduced a second currency into the game system – elemental tokens – that can be used to charge traits just like dice, with the differentiation that dice count as mundane applications of concentration and skill when used to charge traits, whereas using a token is overtly magical.

But that’s neither here nor there! What’s important is that I now have a viable method of letting players both contribute to and steer the course of events. Five Paths (one per element) contain different rewards for following them. You follow a Path by behaving in line with its elemental affiliation: go into a scene with high emotions and lots of energy, for instance, and you’re said to be walking on the Fire Path. If the scene resolves in a way commensurate with Fire’s ideals, then you get a reward for having a hand in that. You also then nudge the final scene closer to a Fire-based resolution. (I’ll explain more on how that works mechanically later, but the general principle is that scenes’ “dispositions” are based on elemental tokens that have been banked in the scene ahead of time.)

I’m still working on how to balance an ever-increasing dominant element against the others in order to prevent one or two early scenes from “steamrolling” everyone into having to walk one specific Path if they want any rewards at all, but the fundamental idea seems sound. I have the inkling that rotating the power of narrator through the players, and allowing them to populate scenes before they start with tokens that can be acquired, used, or saved might help mitigate an overpowering reward spiral for those who get early scenes to go in their favor. There will also be counterweight to using tokens for long-term benefit by making them really useful in the moment to affect scenes as they play out. I’m hoping to actually test out a brief three-act structure sometime in the near future and see if it actually holds up.

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