Master Mines

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Paradigm of success & failure

I just wrote up some text on Mythender’s success/failure paradigm on my draft. I had another great good playtest last Friday, and we got into a conversation about my take on “success” as an introduction to the game. I know I have problems explaining it, because I’m not sure where to start, so here’s my rough way of trying to. I, of course, welcome any feedback on the idea or the presentation.

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December 31, 2007 Posted by | Mythender | 13 Comments


I’ve actually gotten a fair bit of the skeleton done for NGHB.  Way more than I figured I would, though its still pretty sketchy.

One thing that is really starting to hit me is that until I started to write I had unknowningly been designing the game to be played in the setting of Gundam Wing.  When conceptualizing the game, I never paused to think about the world in which the characters would find themselves.    I just assumed there would be at least two sides to the conflict, mecha would be basically high tech, and that would be that.  But if I do that, I pretty much rule out a whole bunch of other types of mecha anime that the game could probably support.  Perhaps steampunk mecha, animal bones mecha, mecha grown from plants, etc.

I think I’ve made the decision to take a fiat.  I am going to include a set of questions and guidelines for building setting and provide some boilerplate mecha models and character archetypes, but let GMs and players willing to put in some effort go wild with their bad selves.  I think this will take the sting out of setting creation.

The other option is that I craft a setting, sort of a setting which is to Gundam Wing what Burning Jihad (I think that’s the name) was to Dune.

Thoughts?  Is a settingless game good, bad or indiffernet?

December 29, 2007 Posted by | Mecha | 8 Comments

Failing Big = Awesome Later?

I’ve been chewing over the concept of failure in Mythender, and while failure is (ideally) rare, I wonder if the gamer instinct to mitigate failure will crop up still.  Along with that, I’m thinking that failure needs to *do* something.  I have an idea in mind about the GM giving out “Failure Points” (for lack of a better term) to Heroes who Fail Big.

“Fail Big” is something I’m not completely sure about.  I’m not sure if I want to handle it like getting Hero Points in PDQ (total GM fiat) or Compels in SOTC (up-front GM offering). In typing this, I think I’ll lean towards a hybrid — a “yes, and…” offering, building on how the Hero failed, with a caveat that if the Hero Fails Big on his own, you could just reward without the “yes, and…” offering.  Failing Big means taking even more damage or losing more than you risked.  It is the Hero who Fails Big who is driven stronger by something inside him — mechanically, that’s what Failure Points are.

“Failure Points” (man, I do need a better name) are like super-potent versions of Mythic Power.  Think about activating a Limit Break in Final Fantasy — after taking so much damage, your next attack is freakishly powerful.  That’s kinda what I want Failure Points to do, but am I devaluing the concept of “Heroic Failure” here by making it a vehicle for future empowerment?

That’s the question I have to ask my fellow Master Miners.

December 21, 2007 Posted by | Mythender | 12 Comments

Progress on Draft Zero

So, with my challenge to myself to get Mythender Draft Zero done by tomorrow (or, uh, this being early Friday morning, later today), and I suspect being only, at best, half-way done, I think I’m going to fail on that. But, I have some progress, and I’ve published it to the document:

[Edit 22-Dec-07: Rather than repost, I’ll just edit here. I have as much of the Character Creation chapter does as will get before I finish the rest of the document. I was shooting to also finish up the Convincing chapter before going to bed, since I have a weekend trip to leave for, but such is life. Enjoy! I’m particularly curious on how people read my Lost to Myth idea.  The draft clocks in at just shy of 6000 words, according to Google.]

There are a lot of holes and places where I have noted I need to talk about something but haven’t. Still, it’ll hopefully show you what I’m thinking, and I’ll periodically re-publish with updates tomorrow. I have a potential playtest while I’m out of town this coming weekend, so I want to get it done as much as possible by then. (That, and I want to talk about first drafts and “zeroth drafts” on Master Plan soon, using this as one example.) That said, I’ve detailed a lot about the Convincing system and am working on the Challenge system right now (because I can’t sleep).

I settled on a name for the world: Mythic Norden. I settled on that for a number of reasons — it’s something an English-speaker can identify with (yes, this is a consideration, for a few reasons on its own), it’s an actual Swedish word for the real region (which is why I originall said “Mythic Scandinavia” — I wanted to refer to the land), and it’s something I can shout in the same guttural Nathan Explosion voice I use to pronounce Mythender. (I’m not kidding, this really is a reason. I want talking about my game to be fun to me.) The other suggestions will probably make their way into future chapters, though.

Also, I had my first successful playtest:

December 21, 2007 Posted by | Mythender | 1 Comment

Change Sought

So it’s been a while since I’ve done anything with Grand Tour, and at this moment I don’t see that changing. I like the idea, and I think using PTA as a springboard for hacking out a system for me to use is a good thing to do, but it seems every time I sit down to lay down plans I draw a blank. I think I need to let this one simmer for a while in the dark corners of my mind, let it solidify some more before I can handle it and mold it. That leaves me, though, with a void to be filled.

I’ve two projects that I could tackle now:

  1.  Eldritch Rangers – this is a setting-like thing that I am developing with a co-writer as a project for Highmoon Media Productions. The basic idea is “Power Rangers vs. Cthulhu (if the Power Rangers had been created in the 1920’s by Nikolai Tesla, Alister Crowley and the Maharal of Prague, creator of the Golem).” It’s Pulp-Anime and it’s supposed to make you cringe the way you did when you read that description. We originally were going to work it as a mini-setting for d20 Modern, but after a chat with Fred, I will also be doing it as a setting for Spirit of the Century. The d20 Modern part is cake for me, and my co-writer, Scott Carter, has that part down pat for the most part. The FATE part is what I would focus on here, because, as light a system as FATE is, it is still crunchy enough to demand serious attention when creating new rules and fiddly bits.
  2. Unnamed Ancients Project – Anyone who knows me or follows my HMP product releases knows I am very much into historical gaming, and especially into Ancient World games/settings. I publish Targum Magazine, and through that I get to indulge my love for the ancient world, albeit in someone else’s sandbox, be it Green Ronin’s Mythic Vistas settings, or general d20. For a long time now I have had the itch to put out my own Ancients RPG, and while for a time I though to do it d20, then I also considered True20 (not an option I have yet tossed aside), I now also consider doing a new system. Or parts of a system. Because the thing is that aside from the cool Ancient World ass-kicking-adventure parts that would be a part of the game, one of the concepts I am most interested in developing is the idea of Civilization as a game mechanic, that not only would this game allow you to play a warrior in Biblical Israel, Mythical Greece or Imperial Rome (almost like 3 separate games in one), but also allow the option of creating a Family that starts in, say, Mesopotamia, where you play this one character, go and have awesome sword-and-sandal adventures with him, then you can flip into a macrocosmic level, trace the character’s Family through a couple of centuries until you reach a new era where you want to drop down into the microcosmic level, and play there again, and so forth. So, to give an example, you could play this guy named Abram/Abraham that starts in Ur-kasdim in Ancient Mesopotamia, go on a few adventures with him in the micro level, flip up to the macro level, develop the Family for a few generations until you reach the Hellenistic era, flip down to the micro again, and play this other character, Judah Maccabee (a descendant of your previous character), in a new series of adventures.

By sheer word count above, one might be inclined to think option #2 seems to excite me more, but they both excite me equally; it’s just option #1 is a lot more defined in my head than #2, and I needed to explain more here to share the idea.

So, I will think about this and make a decision. But I also would welcome very much your input.

December 17, 2007 Posted by | Games in Development, Grand Tour | 10 Comments

Misspent Youth, files uploaded

I have edited the main Misspent Youth page and added a link to the most recent rules outline document, as well as the Misspent Youth data round up, a page where I have a bunch of old files, playtest reports, and where I will put up a draft text when I have one.

At this point I’m not necessarily seeking feedback on these (though it would be welcome). Rather, my intent is to put info out there for people to look at if they’d like to.

December 17, 2007 Posted by | Misspent Youth | 2 Comments

Mythender Draft Zero

Well, I didn’t get the overview chapter done, but I got a rough draft of the introduction — well, at least notes for an introduction (since the entire Draft Zero is really just the notes for a future draft). I’m trying to set the tone for the game, where I talk about the Mythenders and the world & beasts of Mythic Scandinavia in broad strokes.  I’m not sure how to endcap the intro, but I’m not going to concern myself with that right now.

I definitely feel like I bit off more than I can chew by saying I’d get it done by Friday, but, well, that’s the point of making such a brash declaration, right? Here’s to getting the overview done by Monday night.

December 17, 2007 Posted by | Mythender | 8 Comments

Mythender…the beginning

So, I’m talking with Robert Bohl right now about Mythender, and I’m working on the draft right now. I said I would have a first draft up by Friday on the Story Games thread, Festival of Flawless Victory. I’ve been hesitant to post about it here before I had a first draft up, but I have talked about it a bit here and there with people, and I did post a tidbit about it on a friend’s journal. Here’s the bit that Robert asked me to post up:

What I can say without turning this comment into an exercise in “talking about a project to avoid working on it” is the following:
(1) small Challenges have an implicit contract that the PCs will succeed. However, if that’s the case, why do them at all? Let’s unpack some of those reasons:
* Because not doing them would cost time — like how taking that shortcut through the dangerous woods is faster, if not more perilous, than going around on the road.
* Because it must be done, like having to defeat the blackguards who have come here to kill you.
* For glory, training, practice, or some other reason where avoidance isn’t in the PC’s mind.

So, if we accept a game where the PCs only risk dying during climatic scenes (which isn’t right for every game, but is for mine as it’s inspired by anime & epics), then the PC will always win these issues. Why even bother with them in your game? Because while PCs win, they don’t always come out completely unscathed. This mechanic involves a Risk — either damage, an artifact lost, something like that; a Challenge Test — rolling once or more than once to attempt the challenge unscathed; and Rewards/Consequences — where XP is earned depending on stats used, and consequences, positive and negative, happen (including losing what’s risked, if you failed).

For climatic battles, well, that’s a long, long subject in this game that I can only boil down to phrases like “tactical narration” (in short, you know how in most games you do something, and then you talk about what you did? in Mythender — the name of my game — you talk about what you’re doing, and then you do it. It sounds like an insignificant change until that change is leveraged to produce a different style of play…at least, that’s my goal with this currently-untested system), and “Final Fantasy limit break-style XP system” (which, uh, is a topic I haven’t completely unpacked to myself yet).

The premise of the game: You are badass warriors from all across Europe who have come to the frozen north, to mythic Scandinavia, during the beginning of Christendom’s influence in the land to slay its pagan beasts. My primary influences are: Beowulf, D&D, GURPS Vikings and playing Final Fantasy VII with Beast Hunters. I told Christian Griffen that I’m making a BH heartbreaker here.

Here’s my rough outline for my rough draft:

I. Intro
II. Overview
III. The Challenge System
IV. The Battle System
V. The Social Conflict System
VI. Heroic Characters — Making them and pre-gens
VII. Mythic Scandinavia — Adventures & Monsters (a full-on setting & GM chapter)

I’m only committing to chapters I to V in my rough draft, maybe parts of VI. By the end of today, I want I & II done up and posted here. I want you to ping me if that hasn’t happened by Monday, December 17th.

December 16, 2007 Posted by | Mythender | 5 Comments

locations, tiered plot and going overboard

In the ‘coming back to the kingdom’ post, I mentioned a location creation system that I worked into the Chargen. Basically, a sheet of paper is passed around along with the secrets sheets and players each create a location. I’ve refined this system a bit in order to make the locations matter to the narrative as much as the secrets do.Basically, players answer three questions about the location:

-What/where is the the location?
-Why is it/will it be important to the gathering?
-What is the conflict surrounding the location?

So as an example, an abandoned subway station (#1) that harbors a powerful Ragpenny (ragpennys are magical artifacts) the players will need to defeat a cobweb (#2) but is inhabited by a Gathering of mad religious zealots (#3)

So here’s the issue:

I’m getting concerned that I’m overdefining the creation process, but on the other hand, given the playtests I’ve run and listened to, people seem confused as how to get the game rolling. My hope is that by creating places that the characters will want/need to get to, but have some conflict surrounding them, it encourages exploration of the game world and gives them something to focus on as they work towards their goal of self discovery.

As it stands now there are three tiers to the plot:

The first tier is the subplot. This is the immediate threats and resolutions that would make up the substance of the individual games. Subplots are created by the locations, minor cobwebs, etc. In general, they’re introduced and resolved within a session or two, but they feed into the larger (more important) tiers, metaplot andpersonal plot.

Metaplot I talked about a few months ago, but just to quickly recap, it’s the larger story that lasts through the entirety of the game. It’s an amagamation of the conflicts and antagonists the characters faced in their previous lives, only with a different face. The purpose of the metaplot is to give everyone a reason to stick together and keep moving.
The final tier, and by far the most important, is the personal plot, the journeys of the individual characters to find out who they were. This is the point of the game, and at no point should the subplot or metaplot interfere with the personal plot. Which brings me to my worry.

I’ve had this sinking feeling I’m overdefining too much. Everything I’ve come up with in recent weeks I think makes the game work better, but it’s also kind of tough to get perspective on it as a whole. I may need to do an overhaul and see if there’s anything I can simplify or make cleaner.

December 13, 2007 Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing | 3 Comments


So I was driving today and thinking of ways to tinker with Misspent Youth, and one of the ideas I had was this: to have as part of character creation a step where the players1 make up a victim of The Authority that they care about, someone who has been (or is being) directly hurt by it. This motivates the characters, and gives The Authority player more tools to play with in scenario and scene creation.

For this post I’m not necessarily looking for any feedback or help, just wanting to record this idea I had and share it with you. However, if you do have any suggestions or if this touched off any questions for you about the game, I’d be happy to answer them.

1Perhaps even The Authority player.

December 9, 2007 Posted by | Misspent Youth | 4 Comments