The Mushroom Kingdom is a constitutional Monarchy? Well, It’s Complicated..

4 01 2008

We had a totally great playtest of It’s Complicated tonight in #indierpgs. Players were JR, Liam, Sean (Robostrife from The Forge), and myself. We decided it was an election year in the Mushroom Kingdom, and time to choose a new Prime Minister. This was probably the smoothest, most fun playtest I’ve seen for the game yet! What follows is the In Character log. It’s only about four scenes long, and well worth the read.

Dramatis Personae:

Kara Koopa: Naive, long-suffering aide-de-campe for Dr. Lakitu
Dr. Lakitu: Former rebel leader, currently running against Mario for Prime Minister of the Mushroom Kingdom
Queen Peach: Bitchy monarch figurehead
Luigi: Violently unhinged Minister of Defense

Read all four deliciously dysfunctional scenes after the jump!

Read the rest of this entry »


Coming soon(ish): more It’s Complicated

9 12 2007

I’ve been fortunate enough this week to get a lot of good feedback from David Artman and Ron Edwards at The Forge, as well as some great conversations with friends and playtesters in #indierpgs. After reflection, I’ve decided that I’m not going to revise the current document so much as write an entirely new one. New sections will include:

  • Scene framing tips
  • Framing scenes with multiple relationships
  • Types of scenes
  • Things you can accomplish in scenes besides revelation
  • Expanded definitions of Oddity and Dysfunction
  • An absurd amount of examples
  • Potential scenarios
  • Tips on story arcs vs. scenes

That’s a lot of stuff, and if any of it turns out to be unnecessary, I can cut it. But as of right now, those’re basically things that people who have played the game have requested, and so they seem important.

Someone– I forget who– told me this game was going to have more explanation of how the rules work than of the rules themselves. I’m okay with that. Actually, a big part of the influence for this system was when I was working on the token mechanic for Addict— I had a bunch of little systems going, and Jonathan told me that I should think about having a single elegant system that did everything. Little did he know..

Retrospective: finished; more Complicated matters

6 12 2007

I finished my game for the True Meaning of Friendship design challenge. It’s over in the “Pages” section– look for “Retrospective.” There’s also a PDF link there, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I think I’m okay with the design; it gave me a lot to think about for the Bridge of Birds game that Shreyas and I are working on, and maybe some ideas on how to approach the narration in It’s Complicated.

Speaking of Complicated, I’ve been getting a ridiculous amount of really good, important critique and feedback and playtesting lately. The next version’s probably going to involve nothing less than a total overhaul, with expanded sections on framing scenes which deal with multiple relationships, and scene framing in general. One thing I didn’t realize (and this probably just speaks to the quality of playtesters I’ve had, yay) is that this game really begs for a certain level of skill when it comes to framing, and I’d like to lower the entry level a little.

I’ve also been musing on Jason’s “Little boat theory” of design and how it relates to this game, especially in regards to last night’s playtest. I think I’ve got a lot to say, but it has to gel first, and I’ve also got to finish cleaning up for company.

JiffyCon, arcade gaming, etc.

13 11 2007

So, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be catching a flight to Pennsylvania in the wee hours tomorrow morning. Once there, I’ll be hopping in a car with Shreyas and we’ll road trip it up to western Massachusetts, where we’ll be crashing with the completely awesome Josh and Casey! And then, on Saturday: JiffyCon!

I’m excited, because other than a chargen playtest for Shreyas’ game Skyflower, and the playtest for It’s Complicated (which I’m pretty sure doesn’t even count), I’ve never played a single “indie” RPG. My experience is all WW and TSR (yes, I haven’t played D&D since WotC bought them out.. Man I’m old) and WotC and Palladium. I haven’t even read any published indie games— just stuff in The RPG Bakery’s Oven for critique, and to give feedback on stuff my friends are working on. (Speaking of: Fingers on the Firmament and The Mist-Robed Gate are unspeakable hotness. Dancing lost and alone through the stars and emo wuxia where you stab character sheets with knives? HECK yes.)

Anyway, I digress. I’m really looking forward to getting my feet wet and seeing how all of this innovative game design actually works in play. Plus! Josh has expressed interest in getting a playtest of Addict going, which is super exciting to me. I’d like to get a rough PDF laid out today, but I have so much to do to get ready for tomorrow, I’m not sure I’ll have time.

Also: Jason Petrasko and I are working on a completely awesome project together! If it goes well, it’ll make PDF distribution much slicker– it’ll be easier to find games you’d love to play, and easier for designers to get feedback from people playing said games. I’ll probably talk more about this once the barebones site is actually up– so probably after JiffyCon. If you want to know more and you’re there, though, poke me about it and I’ll be happy to go on a happy ramble.

It’s Complicated: first playtest

11 11 2007

Huge thanks to Shreyas, Tom, Dave, Charlotte, and Liam for helping me take this game out for a spin. It was.. totally indescribable to have people actually following rules I wrote! And frustrating when the rules’ failings became obvious. And amazing when things worked well! Here is what I learned:

  • The R-Map Twister chart was called “genius” three separate times. Everyone loves it. I’m psyched.
  • I thought the first scene might be boring due to exposition? Try almost every scene other than the last few. The first round of Oddity and Dysfunction placement needs to happen before the first scene is ever framed; probably without any lines touching or crossing.
  • I need to emphasise the flow of “Due to [Oddity], I [Dysfunction.]” The Dysfunction is a direct, external expression of an internalized Oddity.
  • Since the game creates  the framework for character development, the main thing the players really have to bring is the action in any given scene– coming up with a strong sense of what the backdrop is for the scene points is vital, otherwise it’s people standing around expositing.
  • Apparently people like the fact that you mold a scene around the different notes you have to hit.
  • Instead of declaring the nature of every Oddity/Dysfunction/Relationship being revealed in a scene before it happens, the player should be free to reveal as much or as little as they want, for surprise reveals if desired.
  • The key to a tight scene is not having more PCs in it than you need.
  • Some of the coolest scenes are when a PC declares their side of a relationship with another PC.. And the second PC is not in the scene.
  • Giving the first player a second turn at the end creates a neat little hook that makes you look forward to the next session.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton– the guys gave me amazing feedback. I hope we can do it again at some point, so I can see if a non-establishing session really cooks!