Thursday, May 28, 2009
This is the second part of my blog about rewriting A+ Fantasy and following the guidelines for organizing your RPG as put forth by Rob Lang. You can read the first part: HERE.
Okay... step 5 ... The section on Character Creation ... Things are getting sketchy now... a huge part of A+'s character design is all the skills ... ones which I haven't written yet. And character creation will be the biggest change for this version of the game when compared to the last. Getting rid of attributes and the grade structure has really freed things up and blown character creation and advancement wide open.
This part of my game is the most changed and so it's also the least written or developed. Rob's guide says to start by just listing the steps... it turns out, it not only helps to read things this way... apparently it helps to write things this way too. Not sure exactly what character creation was going to look like ... I just started listing some steps... 1, 2, 3.
At first I only had like 4 steps... then as I began detailing those, I realized that I needed to add another... so I did... and another. The thing is, listing the steps for the reader before trying to describe allowed me to organize my thoughts ahead of time and find my footing before I jumped full force into the muckity-muck details of it all ... and sure I had to go back a few times. (Ultimately, I ended up with 9 steps.) But the thing is, following this structure, this process ... it is not only organizing my game, it's organizing my creative process, and making my job as a creator/designer/author easier.
Maybe every one has a tightly defined process they work under and I'm the only creative scatter brain that jumps into the middle of my projects blind and trying to do too much at once... I don't know. But for me, so far this experiment has been enlightening. Following this process as it has been dictated by Rob has proven to be almost like working with an editor. I'll start to go off in some random direction, but then that internal voice will say, "No, Rob's guidelines say do this..." and I'll listen to the editor, and I'm back on task.
The process is not only helping me creatively and productively, but it's catching things that I might otherwise have missed. It's funny what you'll forget when doing something like this... like, "Choose a Name for your character." I didn't catch that one until I was writing the final part of the character creation example ... an example that doesn't exist in the original A+ Fantasy, but that Rob's guidelines say I should include. So I included it, and realized a basic step like "name your character" was missing. It may not seem like a big deal, but I am glad that I caught it and added a little bit into the game about naming your character, because that's about setting tone during play and a name can be very useful to role-play.
So, I'm done with the Character Creation part of the rules for now, and I know that I'll be going back to look at them again. I want to flesh things out some more so that my examples reflect the mechanics of the game properly... mechanics that I haven't entirely written...
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
There's this great "contest" / exercise in self discipline called the "24 Hour RPG." The basic idea is to create an RPG containing all the vital elements (see Rob Lang's free guide to Organizing your RPG for a excellent example of just what those elements are and how to pull them together) complete and ready to play in just 24 hours.
The thing about this is that such a challenge is a great way to force yourself to get your ideas "out there." It doesn't matter if you manage to complete the challenge or if the material you end up with is sketchy or incomplete. The trick is to try your best and produce the best product you can with a very small investment in time. The end result might surprise you. I have attempted the 24 hour RPG a few times and each of those attempts ultimately resulted in the production of a new RPG project. A project that was born because the 24 hour brainstorm allowed me to realize that I could make that game project a reality. It gave it life. The 24 hour RPG is a great way to boost your creativity and evolve your current RPG project beyond staring at a blank sheet of white computer screen.
My first 24 hour RPG was "Sky Ace" ... an attempt to create an RPG that combined cards and miniatures to form a sort of board game resolution mechanic. In playtest later it didn't work very well. But, there were some very good ideas hidden in there ... and they allowed new game concepts to evolve. I eventually wrote an updated version and later a game called Royal Battles that I think has a lot of interesting ideas about making a board game from standard playing cards. More 24 hour RPG's followed, I wrote EZ Supers and that lead to Hi/Lo Heroes; then Duel Blade, which lead to Prometheus Blade, which lead to Powers-Brawl. All games born of the 24 Hour RPG, because a spark was started that created the impetus to build and grow an idea.
Go to 1km1kt and check out the 24 Hour RPG Challenge... you'll be glad you did!
So, after yesterday's post regarding "A+ Fantasy" I got a bee in my bonnet about revising and rewriting that game. I'm still going to call it "A+ Fantasy" because that's its name. But, the actual "letter grade" aspects of the game (which were its greatest weakness) are gone. So, I start thinking about how to begin the task of rebuilding "A+ Fantasy" and it occurs to me that I have a great opportunity to try a little experiment here.
A couple of weeks ago Rob Lang posted on the Free RPG Blog an article on organizing your RPG. It was a very specific set of guidelines and suggestions for structuring game rules and information to make things as functional and friendly as possible. In looking back at the article, I have decided that this would be the perfect oportunity to put Rob's guide to the test.
The first thing was the cover ... okay, easy ... done moving on ... next Table of Contents ... hmmm, I usually use a title page of somekind and put my copyright and version information there. I like it that way because in printing "facing pages" style it puts that little bit of info on the inside front cover out of the way. Maybe Rob just forgot about that stuff and I can go ahead and add it ... hmmm ... nope, Rob mentions a dedication page after the TOC that includes version information and stuff of that nature, so he didn't forget ... he just believes it belongs after the TOC. Okay, I resisted at first ... did it my way, but added the seperate dedication page where Rob had recommended it as well. Then eventually, after a long internal conversation about staying true to the spirit of this little experiment, I went back and changed things to make it just as Rob had dictated.
Next came the Introduction ... no problem, except that Rob had stated that the Introduction should be an overview of the contents of the book ... which I haven't written yet. Like the TOC section I found myself fudging quite a bit with the intention of coming back to clean things up later. The interesting thing about tackling this whole thing in a linear fashion as I was doing is that in writing this introduction which touches on all the things yet to come (things I hadn't written yet) I had actually managed to create for myself a workable outline of what I was going to be doing and how I wanted to present it. My Introduction has become a blueprint to guide me through my creative process as I move forward. Brilliant!
So here I am, 3 pages in and feeling pretty good about this little experiment. I will continue to blog about my progress as the new 2009 Edition of A+ Fantasy continues to evolve.
Check out Rob's article on RPG design HERE.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
This was my first RPG submitted to 1km1kt. It was only the second game I had ever provided for online review... (The first was a game called Xerospace. This was around 1997 and I have since lost all copies of that game. If anyone has a copy of the Xerospace PDF file laying around on a disused harddrive I would be eternally grateful to recieve a copy.) Anyway, looking back on A+ Fantasy ... this game's not half bad.
It uses a simple d6 mechanic where the goal is to roll a d6 apply a modifier and (hopefully) get a six. This is made a little more interesting because instead of rolling just 1d6 you roll 2 ... and you apply any modifiers equally between the two dice. Each six counts as a success and while most tasks can be achieved through a single success some more difficult tasks (and many special abilities) will require success on both dice (called a critical success.)
The game has a combat and spell system all focused on weapon types that integrate nicely and the spell system doesn't feel tacked on. In reading this now I find myself wondering ... "Why aren't I playing this?" Initial character creation is a bit limiting, but the purchasing of skills and weapons techniques opens everything up nicely. Still there is a clear problem with the attributes and character advancement.
In reviewing it now, A+'s greatest weakness is its gimmicky letter grade system (which is where it got its name) and in the limiting nature of the four basic attributes of Agility, Brawn, Cognition, and Determination. In looking at this now, I can see a way to improve this game exponentially simply by pulling those gimmicky aspects out (I'll have to change the name ... LOL) and just letting the system stand on its skills set and Weapons techniques alone.
Maybe it's time I took a close look at A+ Fantasy (or whatever I might eventually call it.) So far I have maintained a strong trend of writing a game and then upon giving birth, simply leaving the game alone to gather dust. A+ deserves another look, and a thoughtful rewrite. Maybe it's time to start a new trend.
Monday, May 25, 2009
In looking back at my designs, I realize one common theme ... "The Many Uses of the D6." You see, the thing is ... when I was first introduced to this hobby, I was a high-school kid in a tiny backwater town ... and I was poor. Maybe that's why I like making (and playing) free RPG's now.
The game was AD&D ... Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (then the first and only edition) but I didn't have books, and I didn't have dice, both of which the true AD&D enthusiast collected in abundance. I quickly compensated for the lack of books by transcribing the game rules in my school notebook (and making my own modifications of course.) But, the absence of dice was more difficult to circumvent and made me an AD&D heretic, shunned by my peers. (I even tried to make a set of dice as a project in wood shop... the d4 came out okay... but the rest... well, never mind.)
This was before the days of internet and convenient online shopping. The nearest gaming store was almost 100 miles away ... I was doomed. I did however, manage to gather every D6 in the house and then some. Before long I had a gym sock (my first dice bag) full of 6 sided dice ... and I was good to go.
I sat down and figured out the best way to make a throw of a few d6's emulate a d20 ... I created charts that changed the way the dice were read to eliminate or at least minimize the bell curve. I made the d6 my bitch... she would do anything for me. And so, I suppose began my obsession with the six-sided dice. And this obsession holds to this day ... all my games use a d6. Because I don't want anyone else to struggle with the dicevation (like "starvation" ... only with dice - uh, that doesn't make sense ... people who are starving aren't suffering from an absence of "stars" ... oh, well ... ) Where was I? Oh, yes ... I don't want anyone to struggle with the dicevation that I had to. I want my games to be as accessible as they can be.
However, my obsession with manipulation of the d6 has also limited my design options quite a bit. To circumvent these limitations without loosing accessibility, I have experimented with playing cards, and briefly even entertained creating a task resolution mechanic around a game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors." Ultimately, though ... I am obsessed with the D6 and will continue to design in it's shadow.
I have been playing around with the design or manipulation of RPG mechanics pretty much from the moment I was first introduced to the concept about 30 years ago. In recent years this tinkering has lead to a handful of compact (hopefully workable game systems) that express some of the things I like about RPG's.
This blog-space will be a place for me to look at those games that I have authored and revisit them for myself. Moving forward as a designer, I am finding looking back at these games a second time to be incredibly useful and more than a little entertaining.
Most of these games (and a few more of my works as well as the wonderful accomplishments of hundreds of other authors) can be found at http://www.1km1kt.net. Please visit the site, it is an incredible depository of free downloadable RPG resources that is nothing less than completely awesome! Also the site owner Keeton Harrington has been incredibly supportive and encouraging of all my endeavors and I really like everything he stands for. So give it a look.