Master Mines

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Neoborn: The Second Playtest

So I got the chance to follow up on my less than successful playtest with a far more successful playtest.

Before I get into it, though, I wanted to share my playtesting methodoly.  I find that my approach to testing my game is the same way I test software.  In software, you write code and then you test just that piece of code to make sure it functions properly.  These tests are more controlled and more limited in scope.

 Once you are reasonably sure that the code works, then you move to integration testing where you see if the code functions within the scope of the entire program.  The code may do fine with the test cases that you give it, but once it is part of the software, it can be exposed to different test data which may or may not conform the expectations upon which the first tests were based.  The code must continue to work reliably given all kinds of crazy inputs.

That’s kind of what I am doing.

I want to make sure that the subsystems are all functional and that they stand on their own.  Once I am fairly sure that they work, I will test the entire game as a whole.

So in my latest playtest, we gave the combat system another going over.  I had an idea for the way combat should work and what I found was that I was almost there.  I had an inspiration where I took my basic range mechanic and tweaked it to be more tactical.  Clint took that idea and hammered out what I think is going to be the the range and movement mechanic for Neoborn.  That was good.

The playtest also exposed some issues with the way range affects weapons.  That, too, was good.  Though for largely different reasons.   I think, though, that if I get that part working, the combat subsystem will be ready for the next phase of testing.

So…I am either really close to testing the full game or just kidding myself.

March 25, 2008 Posted by | Mecha | 2 Comments

Starting the Conversation…

So, on my most recent episode of Master Plan, I talk about how many texts don’t “start the conversation” about their games. Now, I’ve heard from quite a few people the following: “I’m really interested in Mythender.” When I ask why (in order to gauge where their interest is in the project), I normally get a response like “I am intrigued by your idea of everyone always succeeding” or the like. But no one really knows what the game’s about, outside of some sound bites and random notes online.

Here’s my attempt to start the conversation about Mythender. Attached to this post is the introduction to Mythender (47K, 8 pg PDF), in it’s current, unedited, maybe-it-needs-more form. What I’m trying to do is to tell you what Mythender’s going to be about, to tell you why you might (or why you might not) be interested in the game, and let you know what to expect.

(Incidentally — Mike, I totally took you up on that suggested in an earlier post, about how my reply about the game needed to be in the text. That spawned the first couple pages of this eight page chapter. Thank you again for that.)

For those interested, I’d like to know if this text helps answer any questions about the game. I’d like to know if it raises any more questions. I’d also like to know if, upon reading it, your interest level changes at all — for good or ill — and why.


To make things easier, here are the first two pages in HTML form:

Continue reading

March 19, 2008 Posted by | Mythender | 3 Comments

Back to the outside

Let’s leave game aside for a bit and, inspired by all y’all’s recent talk about the importance of setting, dig into some story.

Here’s all of the extant background material for Outside Men. (Be not afraid; it ought to fit in your browser window without scrolling.) This is the game I came into Master Mines with, and I’ve switched projects like eighty dozen hundred times, but it’s okay; we’re doing light duty today.

What I want to know from you is: what kind of stories come to mind when you think of the Outside Men setting? Lovecraftian ones, I hope, but which ones? (My grounding in the actual literature is woefully thin.) Maybe The Road by Cormac McCarthy? Been meaning to look at that. The Thing, probably? What else should I put on my reading/consuming list? (Please do not say a whole lot of technothrillers okthxbye)

And, for extra credit: based on the sketch on the Outside Men page, how do you think playing the game might feel, in terms of interactions between people? I’m looking for wild blue-ocean speculation here.

March 18, 2008 Posted by | Games in Development, Outside Men | 3 Comments

The Song Remains The Same

I just tossed the latest draft of Penny over the fence to Ryan, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. This draft includes the heart of the game: the rules and the rest of the material you need to learn and teach it. We’re shooting to have the the remaining two chapters we need for the beta playtest (AP transcripts and alternate rules/designer’s notes) done by the end of the month, and I think that’s doable. It’s fascinating to watch this document, which started almost exactly a year ago, morph over time. Last night I cut two sentences that I think were in the Game Chef draft. Despite the changes, the game is still conceptually the same as what I came up with in the back of a bus on the way to go skiing.

Speaking of which, I’m off to do that now.

March 14, 2008 Posted by | A Penny For My Thoughts | Leave a comment

NGHB: First Playtest

I did the first playtest of NGHB (still it’s title, for now) using the Godblind SRS.  Here is what I took away:

The Good

  1. The Godbling SRS had enough situation in it to create characters the players seemed interested in.
  2. The interplay between pilot and mecha appears to be working well.  The fact that things in a mecha are easier (more dice) appears to be working well.
  3. A few of the mechanics I was iffy on appeared to elicit what I wanted.
  4. The Conflict Resolution system looks to be doing its job.

The Bad

  1. There’s too much in chargen.  During chargen, I was naming off what happens and there was some concern over the number of things that can happen.  In fact, I skipped one whole section that I don’t think will mechanically make much difference.
  2. Ineffiencies and optimizations aren’t working for mecha.  Basically, the rule in the book is that for each atttribute, the player decides a situation in which the mecha excels (optimization) and does poorly (inefficiency.)  This works well for the pilots, but not for the mecha.  In fact, for the mecha it just is a way to power up a few more mecha.
  3. I am going to file this under “The Bad” but it’s really a good thing I know.   I need more rules.  For instance, one of the characters attacked a building last night and I literally wrote the rules for attacking inanimate objects on the fly.  Which is probalby one reason why I need to revise them.

The Ugly

Fortunately the only ugly (so far) was the way I GMed.  😦  Sadly, I got so fixated on watching the conflict mechanic work that I forgot about silly things like stakes and story.  I shall try not to let that happen again.

At least I think that was the only ugly.

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Mecha | 2 Comments

Mythender alpha playtest list

Hey, gang,

So, based on multiple people wanting to see Mythender, I’ve decided that instead of trying to managing that as a number of individuals, I’d make a Yahoo group for it.  Here’s what I posted on my journal:

Yesterday, I got an email from someone who was curious about Mythender. I joked that I should make a mailing list for alpha playtesters.

A couple hours later, I got another email from someone who was curious about Mythender. It stopped being a joke and started being a good idea starring me in the face.

So, for those interested in the alpha playtest, I give you:
If you join, please tell me why what about Mythender interests you.

Character Generation chapter should be up by next week. Ideally, the rest of the alpha documents up by the end of the month. There’s a lot that won’t be in the alpha — writing in detail about Mythic Norden & Mortal Europe (essentially primers to the worlds), hack notes for making Mythender your own game, things like that. This is extremely like watching sausage get made, and you’ll be dealing with some new ideas about how to put a game text together in the middle of that.

I’ll still be posting [on my journal] and Master Mines about development. But the People have made it clear that I need to have playtest stuffs out, so I’d damned well better get on the ball with getting it to ’em. 🙂

March 4, 2008 Posted by | Mythender | Leave a comment

Why the Name Neoborn Genesis Honor Blade?

Someone asked me why Neoborn Genesis Honor Blade.

Here’s the short explanation.  I thought is sounded cool.

In a longer explanation, I was reading about the various Robotech series and their original titles: Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and Genesis Climber Mospeida.  (Not sure if Mospeida is spelled right.)  I was also thinking about Neon Genesis Evangelion and started to realize there was a pattern.  Mecha anime titles largely seemed to be composed a few real words and a word that was utter nonsense (macross, mospedia, evangelion.)

So I got to thinking about what words I wanted and came across avalon and genesis.  Battle, honor, and blade soon followed.  Then it was merely a process of combining those words together to see which ones evoked the proper feeling.

I thought about Avalon Battle Blade, Genesis Battle Slave (slave being a slave both to battle and destiny, but it just seemed like a choice that would largely backfire.)  Also, I was missing the nonsense word.  Avalon Honor Blade and Avalon Honor Slave were also considered.  At one point, I thought I might just call it Boomers.

So I started thinking about NeoGenesis Avalon Battle Blade.  NeoGenesis didn’t seem right somehow.  In my mind genesis (birth of a universe) and born (birth of a human) seemed to make some amount of sense.  And before long, Neoborn was … born.

I’m interested in getting feedback on this naming scheme because I don’t think NGHB is going to make it to publication because it is too close to Neon Genesis Evangelion and admittedly I had NGE on my brain when I came up with NGHB.  I am looking for something which evocative of mecha badassery and would not mind suggestions at all.

March 3, 2008 Posted by | Mecha | 9 Comments

Teaching a Game

So, I’ve just hit 5300 words on the new Mythender character creation chapter. It’s only at around 50%, since I haven’t finished talking about the pieces of character yet and still need to unpack the various Paths in character creation. That said, I’m really proud of the first 200 words, though (in concept; I’m sure the need proper editing, but that’s later). I want to share them with you:

GM Advice: Look, Teaching Advice!

This chapter will be full of boxes like this one, which will give you suggestions as a GM on how to teach this game to your group. Recognizing that many GMs have to teach new games to their group orally and through demonstration, rather than have the benefit of everyone playing the game owning and familiar with the book, I’ve set it as a goal to empower you to teach this game to others.

You’ll find plenty of times where I’ll say “Don’t say this part yet.” This book has multiple purposes: as a teaching text, as a reference text, as entertainment itself. I’ve done my best to organize it so that one of more common uses of game books, as a reference, is not hampered. That means sometimes an idea is introduced in the text at the right place for referencing, but not at the right time if you’re teaching to your group how to play. That’s when you’ll see boxes like this one, where I’ll suggest a better time to tell the players about a concept.

That said, read this section (or have the players read it themselves) before they start making a character.  [Editor’s note:  “this section” refers to the first section of the chargen chapter, “Who are Mythender Heroes?”]

Now you know my text’s agenda. I’m constantly recording myself every time I explain the game, because I’m always doing it orally while characters are being generated of a battle is being played. I’ve learned when to hold off mentioning a concept because it wasn’t relevant at the time, or because I didn’t want to trip up people part-way through the process. I’ve done this with lots of games, through a process of trial & error. I want to bring that knowledge into Mythender so that you don’t have to deal with the same errors I do. This is very much in the spirit of “I want to put all my knowledge of the game as the designer into the text.”

To this end I ask my fellow Master Miners: what tricks have you learned as GM when teaching the game to players who haven’t played it or even read it before? What stumbling blocks have you hit? Help me learn what I should put into my book that would help you, as a GM, teach my game. (Specific bits will, of course, be welcome. But for that, I suspect you’ll need some sort of text on Mythender. Heh.)

March 3, 2008 Posted by | Mythender | 2 Comments