Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

Ancients Project

So there has been some development since my last post. I am definitely going to be doing the Ancients project, but there’s a small twist. I probably be doing an Ancients product for a big third-party publisher (waiting for details to be finalized) and that means two things for me:

  1. A big project for Highmoon Media which will suck a lot of my time (I am bringing in another freelancer to help);
  2. A chance to merge the Generational mechanic idea I had for this into the other larger project.

Personally, I like the idea of grabbing the Generational core of the idea I presented last time and designing it as a mechanic that can be inserted into the other game, which uses its own rules system. This would not disuade me from later on pursuing the design of an original game focusing on the Ancients and that incorporates centrally the Generational mechanic (heck, an original game would probably feature the Generational mechanic at its center, sort of like in Hero’s Banner), but I find the idea of bringing this mechanic to a pretty large audience via this project.

It’s gonna take some mental muscle to figure out how to mesh these ideas with the core system in question (which I’ll say by name as soon as I can), but I look forward to it.


January 31, 2008 Posted by | Ancients Project, Games in Development | 2 Comments

Revealing Secrets

Last one for the day, I promise!

*cross-posted from Story-games*

The most fun aspect about the game right now is character creation. Players take on the roles of people living on the street who’ve lost their identities and memories and gain them back through the course of the game. In the first phase of character creation, players invent who they are now; what they look like, what they do to survive, where they stay, what they have, any sicknesses, injuries, etc. They also each have a “Light at the End of the Tunnel,” a driving motivation for wanting to get out of the situation they’re in. Nothing is explained at this point, as that will come later. Here’s an example from a playtest:

Lady Grey

During the second phase, the character sheet is passed around along with a “Secrets Sheet.” Each player gets the secrets sheet and writes a sentence or two about that character’s past that explains something on the character sheet. Each time someone gets ahold of the sheet, they can either build upon what’s already written or start a new thread and work on that one. Again, here’s an example:

Lady Grey’s Secrets Sheet

As you can see, her mother was always pushing her into living a life of luxury, which explains her Light at the End of the Tunnel and how she dresses. All the other secrets explain what the player came up with in a similar way. One important thing to note is that the player of Lady Grey doesn’t see the secrets sheet. They get revealed in play.

I’m not looking for help with this part, because pretty much every time I’ve run the game everyone’s loved it. Not only does everyone want to play to find out what happened to their characters, but they have a lot of buy-in with everyone else’s characters. They want the other players to find out all the cool/f***ed up stuff they wrote in their backstory.

This brings me to my problem; how do the secrets get revealed? I’ve tried a couple of different methods, but I haven’t hit anything out of the park yet.

In the first incarnation of the rules, the GM was responsible for revealing the secrets when it became dramatically appropriate. Though this was the way that led to the most coherent storyline, it was frustrating for the players to have to wait for the GM to find out their own backstories. Also the GM is responsible for sitting on a ton of secrets (if there’s 5 players, there’s 25 secrets), which is a ton of stuff to keep track of.

In order to give the players more authority to get their own backstories, I let players buy revelations with XP. It sort of works to give the players more power to learn their backstories, but it completely screws up the coherence of the plot. Sometimes it makes sense for a secret to be revealed in the story but the player doesn’t have enough XP, and sometimes the player has the XP but buys it in a completely inappropriate time, making the revelation a lot less impactful than it could be.

I’m playing around with a couple incarnations of giving the other players at the table control of each other’s secrets…like someone has Lady Grey’s Secret Sheet and she has someone else’s, and the players are responsible for that player’s revelations, but I’m not convinced that’s the way to go. I want the players to get into exploring their own stories, and in my experience they can’t do that as much if they’re also worried about running someone else’s story.

My thought is that my answer lies somewhere in aggressive scene framing, focusing on one character at a time but still working the other characters in with a supporting role. Scene framing is a fairly new concept for me however, and I wanted to get some opinions from you guys so I can point myself in the right direction before I drop too much time into developing it.

Thanks guys!

January 28, 2008 Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing | 2 Comments

Get Other People To Solve Your Problems For You

That’s the real reason to go to Dreamation, as it turns out. Ryan ran two playtests of APFMT, and when there were problems with the first one, I sat around talking about it with experienced game designers until we came up with a solution I was happy with.

The big tweak is that APFMT will use a “ground rules” document to establish certain facts about the world before play begins. This will help prevent the unexpected shifts in genre that occasionally derail the playtests. There will be a default document that comes with the game, but there will also be options to create your own or to play without one.

Along those same lines, I’m considering a change that allows Guides to raise the possibility of veto over the “Yes, And” questions. Basically, I don’t want the Traveler to be able to weasel out of questions that he or she doesn’t want to answer. But if one of the other Guides thinks the question is breaking genre/expectations, he or she can suggest the question is incorrect, which the Traveler has the option to confirm. (This works sort of like Moon suggestions in Polaris). We’ll see about this.

Finally, Ryan suggested reworking the third question and asking “Do you want to remember?” as a separate capstone question. That seems to make sense.

Any comments from folks were there?

January 28, 2008 Posted by | A Penny For My Thoughts | 6 Comments

KoN googlegroup

Three posts in a row…I love days off 🙂

Anyway, I got a lot of people who said they’d be interested in playtesting the game. To facilitate this I created a googlegroup I’m going to post it up to the NYC larp troupe, story-games and nerd nyc.

the group is going to be at

January 28, 2008 Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing | Leave a comment

MY Dreamation roundup

(D’you like the double entendre there? I do!)

I ran Misspent Youth three times and it went extremely well each time. Each one went to a full game, from exposition scene to deneumont. Revelations:

  1. The game works. It’s hella fun.
  2. The three-act structure scene economy works very well. We had definite stories in every game.
  3. Writing it such that people do it “right” as GMs is going to be tough.
  4. The first trait that Youthful Offenders have, Mistreatment, may be too passive and focused on the past. I may have to come up with a more active and present-focused trait.
  5. Despite what came up at the indie roundtable, I’ve got to make conflicts a bit easier for YOs. Right now, they are winning at a vanishingly small degree. Mendel confirmed this for me with some rough supermath in the final moments of the con. I don’t want to make it too easy, but I’m hoping that the YOs will come out of conflicts winning somewhere between 25% and 40% of the time. Right now it’s something like 8%.
  6. I’m not going to try to have a final book for Gen Con 2008. I am going to have an ashcan, however. To that end I’m downloading free (and maybe one cheap) layout programs. As to why I’m editing my expectations, I came away feeling that I won’t really know what the game does until and unless I’ve released it into the wild and gotten feedback
    1. I want to give people a price break for buying the ashcan when they buy the final book. I think I’m going to stamp each one with a unique “citizen identification number” or something similarly creepy.
  7. Jennifer Rogers is going to do art for me, for reals now. At minimum, I’m going to get a cover and some motif images that I’ll reuse as chapter stops or page markers.
  8. I am not going to write any part of it in-voice. I am going to do layout and stuff as though it were a magazine, though.
  9. I want to make it comic-book sized.
  10. The following quote will be on the cover: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” — George Orwell

January 28, 2008 Posted by | Misspent Youth | , , , , , | 5 Comments

An Odds Question

So I’m diving into a coins driven resolution mechanic. The maximum number of pennies UnderWorld uses is five and I’d like to go higher than that and maybe also use nickels and dimes (possibly quarters), but they did have a nifty little table breaking down the odds of throwing coins:


I can’t figure out what formula they’re using. I’ll more than likely need more than five coins so I need to know what the odds are. Then I need to figure out how nickels and dimes factor in. Let me know if you’ve got some spare time to help a brotha out

January 28, 2008 Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing | 5 Comments

Back from Dreamation with a whole bunch of broken game mechanics

Great seeing everyone this past weekend! Here’s a quick list of edits that will be going into the next draft of KoN while they’re still fresh in my head. For the most part I know what changes need to be made, but the stuff in red I still need to figure out how to do:

~SECRET REVELATION: This one is the most important thing to fix. If this sucks play sucks (and right now that’s the case). As it stands, lets say there’s five players (the optimal number in my experience)…the GM is responsible for pushing along 25 secrets. That’s a lot to keep track of. In my third playtest at dreamation, I tried doling out one secret to each player. It was their responsibility to bring it across to the player it belonged to. It fell apart because we were still figuring out how to make it work, but my plan is to push that idea a little further. I’m simply going to hand out secrets sheets to other players at the table and tell them that they’re responsible for one character. My reservation about this is that it’s not going to be fun because people my have a hard time playing their character to the extent they want to while essentially running a personal plot for another character. I’m pretty stumped with this one, but I’m going to push ahead and try a few things instead of standing still and scratching my head.

I also think this game would strongly benefit from some aggressive scene framing around secrets

~CONFLICT MECHANICS: I’m getting rid of dice. It hurts my heart that I’m simply throwing out a system that I dropped so much damn time into, but I’m moving to a randomizer that fits the idea behind the game better: coins. From what I understand UnderWorld (not related to the movie of the same title) has a similar mechanic. I’ve known about it for a while, but I’ve been a little wary of using a coin based system because I’m already fairly similar in genre to the game. I’m different enough though that I’m comfortable with exploring the idea. The concept is that a player shakes some coins in a cup and only counts the heads-up ones. I’m still keeping the cooperative aspect in here and I have a few ideas about how to work it in. Obviously I’ll post more as I figure it out.

~THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL: Characters need motivation to get themselves out of their situation. A Light at the end of the tunnel is replacing Longings as the driving motivations for the character…it’s why the characters work so hard to pull themselves out of the nothing.

~RELATIONSHIP MAPS: Two relationship maps are created in phase three of character creation: one by the players and one by the GM (need a new name for the judge). The players invent how they know each other and their relationships currently. They have to have a strong connection with at least one other person at the table. The GM figures out how they were connected in their past life.

~WRITING SECRETS: I’m going to need to focus on writing effective secrets. I’m going to type up a lot of sample secrets, and include a section where I make some bad secrets and tell players how to improve them.

~LINER BACKSTORIES: Throwing out the web, making all the backstories have some kind of chronological order or at least build on each other

Thanks for all the feedback I got from you guys at the con!

January 27, 2008 Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing | 5 Comments

Taking the ‘zine aesthetic further

I think I’ve hit on a way to do the text in my book that will be fun and interesting. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write the text so it is both clear and flavorful, and tinkering around with the idea of the zine aesthetic I mentioned earlier, and it hit me.

I think I’m going to try to write the game text in the format of a ‘zine. Try and make the whole thing an artifact of the world, a near-future ‘zine written from the voice of the rebellious youth of that era. I may even do it as a straight-up “roleplaying ‘zine,” I’m not sure. At the very least I intend to ask some of my friends to help me and write “articles” in the GM advice “chapter,” perhaps from certain characters’ voices.

January 23, 2008 Posted by | Misspent Youth | | 2 Comments

KoN: Dreamation 2008 edition

The illustration needs a bit more work, but here’s a mock up of the cover for the Dreamation Ashcan. I’m not selling it, but this may or may not end up going to color for the final cover…I haven’t decided yet.

EDIT: WordPress wasn’t cooperating with me, but I fixed it:


January 18, 2008 Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing | 4 Comments

Misspent Youth Rules, Mark 10

I’ve just uploaded the 10th edition of Misspent Youth’s rules outline. This version contains some of the new innovations, like a much stronger GM role and an improved version of the three-act-structure scene economy. This is the version I’ll be using at Dreamation 2008. I don’t know how comprehensible it’ll be to people who are not me, but I invite you to review it and offer feedback/ask questions if you’d like.

Assuming the Dreamation playtests go well, this is the version of the rules I’ll be writing rules text from.

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Misspent Youth | Leave a comment