Master Mines

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Useless But Not Dead

It’s been far too long since I commented on anything, but I’m going to fix that today. Sorry for letting you guys down. As far as A Penny For My Thoughts goes, I’m working on layout for the Ashcan Edition for GenCon. It’s going to be pretty simple, as my layout skills are fairly meager, and because I don’t want it to look like a game. So, no art, fixed-width font, very plain. I need to figure out how to toss in the marginalia I want to include, and I need to write that (though I suspect I’ve got a bunch of it already), but things are looking good. Hopefully I’ll have time to put together a prototype this weekend.


July 20, 2007 Posted by | A Penny For My Thoughts | 2 Comments

Draft update & pitch

I was talking with Daniel Solis today about working on Know Thyself. He asked me for the pitch. Here was my response (editing some):

Know Thyself is a game about being an amnesiac, running around inside of your hell of a fever dream, trying to figure out if you’ve just lost your memories because you had the worst possible thing happen to you or if you still have a chance to change your fate. Oh, and it takes the “one GM, many PCs” idea on its head: “one PC, many GMs”

It’s about time I had a clue as to what my game was about. Now maybe a better name will come to me (though, it’ll still be “Know Thyself” for the ashcan.)

Draft count: 3,624 (from 3,098 words with I posted this an hour or so ago)
Recent topics: Minor restructuring as as figure out parts that fit better in “Game Overview” or “Game Setup”, The Chorus’ role, Setting up the Amnesiac, Play overview, began writing section on Dream Scenes.

I’m so looking forward to turning this draft loose on ya’ll.

July 19, 2007 Posted by | Know Thyself | 2 Comments

NGHB Power 19

Here’s my first stab at the Power 19.

I was also thinking about a way to show growth.  The darn click and lock system keeps popping in my head, as did the link misuba gave me about archetypes.

I think a character starts off with (to use round numbers) 20 descriptors.  Some come from his/her archetype, some from backgrounds, some are player authored (maybe a few from the GM and a few from other players.)  As play goes on, two descriptors come into conflict (say good hearted vs. egotistical.)  The character does something that is good hearted over egotistical, good hearted gets a point.  At a certain time, one descriptor is culled from the group (perhaps at the end of a session or 2-3 scenes, something…)  At the end of play, there is a group of descriptors.

It’s just an idea.  Thoughts?  Is there something similiar.

July 19, 2007 Posted by | Mecha | 10 Comments

A pile of notes

I carry a small note book with me so that when I get an idea in my head I can write it down.  Needless to say it is filled with Giants stuff as of late.  My problem now is finding the time to look over the notes and put it into the text of the game.

I am planning one day this weekend where I get to sit down and do nothing but write.

Oh, and here is a question for you other masterminds.  Where should I post a copy of the game text for you all to look at?  Should it be a PDF, can anyone look at it or just the masterminds?

July 18, 2007 Posted by | Giants | 4 Comments

Know Thyself draft count

So, I didn’t playtest KT yesterday, because I was utterly wiped from the Endgame Minicon this weekend. On Sunday, I sat down and started turning the outline into a draft. I’ve done some mental rearranging of the outline based on where I think the content should go now that I’m writing it — I’m following the same general structure, but (for instance) talking about the roles of the Amnesiac & Chorus are being moved to Game Setup rather than Game Play since putting yourself in the right frame of mine and creating the Amnesiac is part of Game Setup.

I didn’t get any writing done yesterday, but I’m getting back on the ball today. I need a full draft done by this Friday so I can spent Sunday doing some first-round editing and have it for Monday’s playtest (probably the last one before GenCon).

Draft word count: 1074
Recently written topics: Contents of the cards, Roles of players

July 17, 2007 Posted by | Know Thyself | Leave a comment

Mental musings for NGHB

The following post is long, winding, and should not be read by anyone. 🙂

So I took the boy on a long work tonight and got to really thinking about NGHB, some of the stuff I read on the link misuba sent me, and a random comment made by Paul Czege and so now I am going to throw some mental vomit on the post and see what sticks.

First, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want from NGHB and why I wanted to write the game in the first place. Like I said in my initial post, I want to have a game that contributes in a meaningful way to the mecha anime genre and so that means I need to have certain things like invincible robots piloted by very vulnerable humans.

And I keep coming back to this idea that the mecha are largely window dressing to the larger story line. That in no way detracts the coolness factor for me because there are times when the mecha combat is a central tenet for pushing the story along and well…frankly…because it’s giant robot combat. I feel like anyone who picks up NGHB will come to the game because they like mecha anime first and likes any other mechanics second in the same way that one plays Capes or With Great Power because they like superheroes first and those games unique look second. So mecha combat in.

Then again, I don’t want the system to be overly tactical combat with combat rounds taking 30 minutes over a battle map with multiple copies of the rulebook open and debates about what exactly an attack of opportunity it is.

That being said, what is it about combat that makes it such a key compontent of mecha anime and anime in general. I think it serves two purposes. One, most of the time the characters in anime are awesome combantants, but usuall have a mess of personal issues. Combat both illustrates that contract and gives us a breather from the emotional stuff to watch stuff get blowed up. (In fact, one thing I noticed in Gundam Wing is that there is far less nonessential combat later in the series than in the beginning where perhaps the big robots are needed to keep things interested before we care about the characters.)

The other thing that combat does is force the characters to choose. In the end, I think that the key dramatic currency of any game is the choices characters make and combat is an area where choices really have an immediate impact (do I kill the enemy trying to surrender? Do I use a dishonorable attack? Do I go after Dr. Evil or do I save Mary Jane?) So then the body of choices that the character makes and other people’s reaction to those choices is how a character grows via anime. Hiro’s decision to sacrifice his Gundam to stop the base from being destroyed was a choice he made, but it also radically altered the way the other Gundam pilots felt about him…as well as his enemies and Relena.

So all this I have decided two things:

1. Combat GOOD!
2. Choice and the reaction to choice may need to play a huge mechanical part in the game.

Of course, I just got done reading Capes Lite and it got me to thinking about choice so I may decide something else tomorrow.

July 15, 2007 Posted by | Mecha | 5 Comments


Alrighty, I’ve got some very loose ideas on what I want my system to do, and I’d like to get some thoughts down to get some feedback.

I think I achieved the “the only ones who can help you are the people just as bad off as you are” vibe. I was happy with it, because it encouraged a real feeling of community at the table. At this point I’m having a hard time figuring out how the system is going to get across the other experiences I’m trying to get the players to feel, like being lost. Not knowing who you are or what happened to you is a start, but not enough at this point. The other problem I ran into was the players were kind of enjoying the fact that no one could see them. I need to work a little harder to drive home the lonliness of existing in a world where no one knows you’re there. I’m not sure how to do this right now, but it’s one of my top priorities.
Here’s what I’m thinking for the system so far:

  • Hope and Despair still determine die steps, from d4 to d12; you still have a hope die and a despair die
  • We’re now working with Conflict resolution instead of Task resolution
  • You get a token for each point of hope and despair
  • When determining the stakes for a conflict, the GM says how many tokens you will have to wager. If your character is willing to go through with it, he has to put the chips down.
  • if the player wins the roll, they get back double the amount of chips they put down. If they lose, they lose the chips (with it they lose the survival or lucidity they wagered)

The problems/things I want to work in are as follows:

  • Players need to be able to bet on other players
  • need to figure out how skills are going to work now
  • I want the characters to be betting something…not just poker chips. What I mean is that when a character loses a conflict, they’re losing more than just that conflict. They’re investing a part of themselves in every wager they make. There may be a way to connect conflicts to the characters secrets, which is something I’ve been wrapping my mind around.

Sorry I keep posting with these random thought fragments, but find it helps solidify ideas in my own head when I post them to a open forum like this, so it ends up being really helpful


I thought it might be helpful to post up the betting system I was using last playtest.  Even though it didn’t work *quite* the way I wanted it to, it was something I wanted to keep working with.


Character advancement in Kingdom of Nothing is based on two distinct elements: a players ability to make the game more fun or impactful for the other players at the table and    pushing along one’s own personal plot.  Tokens are awarded for achievement in either of these two areas, which can then be spent to raise stats and buy abilities.  At the beginning of game session the Judge takes a stack of 15 tokens and adds one for each player at the table.  They are divided evenly among the players.  If there’s an extra, the judge takes it back.  These are called Drama Tokens.  The Judge will also have his own stack, which isn’t limited to any number.  These are called Story Tokens.

drama tokens

Any time a player does something clever with their character, roleplays a scene particularly well or does anything else to make the play session more meaningful, other players can award him with drama tokens.  The group should come up with circumstances beyond just ‘good roleplaying’ that would merit giving a token.  They should decide what kind of game they’re going for, whether it’s an intense psychological horror, epic fantasy or some other genre.  Once this is decided, players should have a conversation about what elements they all think contribute to this style of play.  For example, an epic fantasy game may want to encourage acts of heroism or surviving great danger.  One of the purposes of Drama Tokens is to encourage actions that other players would like to see more of in their game.

story tokens

The Judge gives out story tokens when a player takes a step towards finding out their Secrets.  This can be anything from meeting someone from their past, finding clues about who they were or defeating a personal cobweb; whatever the Judge deems appropriate.

using tokens

Tokens can be spent at any point during game to increase Survival and Lucidity on a one-for-one basis.  When both stats go up to seven, players will add one to their hope and bring their Survival and Lucidity back down to their base.  If a player’s Hope is already at five, maxing out on Survival and Lucidity will lower Despair by one.
Players may also buy new skills for three tokens if they can explain why it would make sense for them to have that skill.

new echoes

Players can work with their judge to create new echoes as they raise their Hope.  Echoes can provide benefits to the characters they belong to.  How powerful these benefits are will depend on how much hope is invested into them.  If a player has three Hope, they can have three echoes with one Hope in each, two Echoes at two and one hope, or one powerful Echo with three hope invested.
Investing one Hope into an Echo allows the player to raise one of their base stats in Survival or Lucidity.  Investing two allows the player to learn a new knack in the category their current knack is already in.  One Echo can have more than one ability attributed to it.  Players should work with the GM to decide what form the Echo takes.  If a character loses the Hope invested into the Echo, than it disappears along with it’s benefits.

evening the odds

if the Despair modifier and the despair die are higher than the hope modifier and hope die, other players can bet tokens on the roll.  It adds a +1 modifier up until the modifier is even with despair, thus canceling out both modifiers.  If the player wins their roll, everyone who bet get double the tokens they put down.  If the player loses the roll, everyone who bet loses their tokens.

July 15, 2007 Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing | 3 Comments

Staying home to brood about British schoolboys

Just some status updates:

1) not going to Gen Con after all. Apologies to anyone who was hoping to see me there and do master-miney things. I’m going to try to make Dreamation in February.

2) I am officially changing projects, from Outside Men over to Bloody Subjects, my previously discussed game that really did, incidentally, come to me in the form of a game board I scrawled in a dream. Outside Men feels really resoundingly stuck, and I think it’s because I don’t feel very passionate about it right now. It gives me really good movies in my head, but that’s not the same thing as compelling play. In fact it might be the opposite.

3) Staying Dormant for another week or so though.

4) Apropos of my new project, the new Harry Potter movie is excellent. I am hoping brown corduroy jackets become a fashion craze as a result of this film, seeing as how I own one.

July 15, 2007 Posted by | Outside Men | 2 Comments

Staying Dormant

First of all, I am very excited to see both Chris and Jeff here at Master Mines. I think it will be a great addition to the group both in terms of the games they bring to the mix and the opinions they’ll dish out. That we’re all podcasters is just so funny; mark my words, this will eventually turn into a podcast as well.  🙂 

I wanted to give you all a quick update: My mom has been diagnosed with early-stage endomitrioid cancer, and although I am in Miami and she is in Puerto Rico, I intend to fly over, as I did this past week, probably a couple more times before Gen Con. She is fine and in high spirits, which helps a lot, and I am hoping she can begin treatment this week.

For the time being, I will request to remain Dormant in this group; I like Master Mines and what we do here, and I don’t want to leave, but obviously my time will be otherwise spent for the next couple of weeks. I have been taking notes and I have a good idea of the format my first draft will take. If all goes well, I may have a first draft completed by Gen Con.

I will continue to monitor the group and comment as time permits; I may miss a few things here and there, but I am here to stay – I’m just taking a short break.

July 14, 2007 Posted by | News & Updates | 4 Comments


So I ran a playtest last night which went pretty horribly. In general having a bad playtest is a good thing because it calls your attention to areas that need work, but it’s always tough reexamining so many things you thought were solid.

Character creation worked really well as always. I don’t need to touch that.

The system, which has worked up to this point, fell apart. I’ve come to see how clunky and overcomplicated it is. I need to tear it down and rebuild it almost from scratch.

The specific problems I encountered were:

-It’s waaaaay to easy to gain despair. Combat is stupid lethal.
-the craps and naturals thing needs to go. It’s an unnecessary complication and it’s gimmicky
-people didn’t gain tokens fast enough
-I don’t think die-steps are working out. I want to try to do everything with 2d6.

There are a few things I’m looking to salvage:

-I like rolling your despair vs hope
-I liked how betting worked, but I wanted it to happen more often

That’s about it. I need to seriously think about how to fix this system. I want to tie it in to my design goals a little more.

The other thing the game is screaming for is a chapter on framing the game. Breaking things into scenes or chapters where specific things occur. The game follows a pretty strict arc, and I want to define that a little further.

All in all, I’m pretty bummed that things were as rocky as they were, but I’d rather deal with it now than later on in the process

July 14, 2007 Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing | 2 Comments