Master Mines

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Realization about Mythender

I posted this up on my blog, and I’m reposting here. Only, in this case I have a question for our new overlords.

So, I have a bit of an interesting turn of events — at least, interesting to me. In chewing over what I’m doing for Mythender, I’m realizing the amount of work involved. I have a couple sub-systems to write & test, and I have to hammer out the game’s overall structure. I have quite a bit of work ahead of me, which any game designer will tell you.

But, here’s the thing — what I’ve been testing so far as a free-standing war game involving “tactical narration.” I’ve done the “rest of the game” a touch, but the combat system mostly. And it works well by itself — provided that that’s all your expecting to play. I have several playtests that indicate there’s lots of awesome by itself here.

So, for next weekend’s Nerdly Beach Party, I’ll be running Mythender-the-RPG (as it only takes notes in my head). But after that, I’ll be working on writing Mythender-the-wargame (which I’m calling “Mythender Battles”). My idea is to get the war game done, and then grow the RPG from that.

I’ll admit that this is a touch scary to say publicly. I’m worried about losing what little audience I’ve gained for Mythender by saying “yeah, the RPG will have to be later.” But then, I’m also afraid of losing it by saying “Yeah, I’m so stupid busy it’s not even funny, so I haven’t been able to work on Mythender much.” But, I gotta do what’s right for the game, and it’s not like I’m shelving the RPG — I’m just prioritizing development based on what’s in my head and have been working on.

Or, as Fred put it: I make my Battletech first, and grow my Mechwarrior from that.

I’m not saying I’m going to try and make two commercially-viable products. I’m unsure of my publication goals — I have had some ideas on that front that I’ve been shelving in order to just making a fun game right now. I put a little cart-before-the-horse a couple months back, thinking about such things. (That, and there’s a temptation to go the Jonathan Walton route with my own games,)

So, I’m not focusing on an RPG right now. Does that mean it’s no longer an MM project? That’s cool if it’s not — I have other places to talk about this and maybe this site shouldn’t lose its focus just because it’s me.

April 7, 2008 Posted by | Mythender | 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.

Thanks!

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

Continue reading

March 19, 2008 Posted by | Mythender | 3 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:
http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/mythender/
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

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

Building a Character, not just stats

So, one of the big issues that came up in the OrcCon playtests is that here was little character beyond “dude, I’m awesome fighter guy!” So, in chewing over that, I thought about a lifepath-esque idea blended with FATE-style chargen. Here’s my initial outline:

I. Birth of a Hero

  • Where are you from?
  • Are you a paragon? Create a Trait that is iconic of your people
  • Or are you a rebel? Create a Trait that represents how you are not of your people.
  • Define your first Relic — an heirloom, something found, something you have had (or your family has had) this since your childhood

II. Trial of a Hero

  • You have come of age, and the world of Mortal Europe is trying on Heroes
  • What was your trial?
  • Did you succeed? Create a Trait based on your success
  • Did you fail? Create a Trait based on your reaction to that failure
  • Define one of your Convictions

III. Call of a Hero

  • The world as it stands is never good enough for a Hero.
  • What is your grand Ambition?
  • Create a Trait based on your need for this, or how you seek to accomplish this
  • Define one of your Convictions

IV. Journey of a Hero

  • This is about your hard journey to Mythic Norden. This journey is the first step to becoming a Mythender, and your first taste of Mythic Power.
  • What was the hardest moment in your journey? How did it change you?
  • Create a Trait based on how you handled yourself in that moment
  • Create your first Signature Move

V. Mantle of a Hero

  • Upon stepping onto the land of Mythic Norden, all around you know, without a doubt, that you are a true Hero
  • The other players at the table describe what it is the people see when they see you — it’s not overt, yet, but it almost feels visible
  • Create a Trait based on that

VI. Fate of a Hero

  • This is filled out at the end of your story

Any initial thoughts? I’ve had it suggested that I get with a bit more of a concrete lifepath system, like out of Cyberpunk 2020 (which I haven’t played in ages). I’m thinking about codifying this up a little bit, with lifepath options that you can socket into each of the slots (aside form slot VI, which is there on the character sheet so you are reminded that your character has an ending — hopefully). Or, that is to say that you’re playing out the game in order to find out what happens at the end, which lifepath slot you get to take at the end.

For this lifepath idea, I’m thinking about taking some of the options where I have a split, and turning them into individual paths — like with “Birth of a Hero,” options like “Royalty,” “Prophet,” “Peasant,” “Cursed at Birth,” etc. They have their own questions, but they’re more leading based on what path you took. They also narrow down the sort of Trait you should take. At least, at the moment that’s where I’m headed with this lifepath idea. I won’t intend it to be exhaustive, that’s for sure. My audience is definitely more creative than I am, if by sheer numbers alone. 🙂

February 23, 2008 Posted by | Mythender | 6 Comments

Battle as Character Generation

So, last night I ran a wicked playtest of Mythender. I had my home group make up characters, and then we dove into a battle because that’s what I wanted to test. The battle ran damned well, and upon thinking about it, I was struck with an idea: after characters are made, they battle a creature. The act of battling together cements them as a party, which I think helps given the idea that these heroes can come from all over Europe for their own reasons.

I think it’ll have the following advantages:

  • Gives a chance to see if your Traits and whatnot work out the way you think
  • Gives you a chance to see how you and the other PCs work together effectively.
  • Start the game off with a bit of a bang

Now, there are effects and benefits to battling monsters, and I don’t want this “initiation” battle to have any of those. So, I had this follow-up idea: the battle is a dream the PCs share. Not only does it allow for characters to change stuff around, not have any permanent effects, etc., but it’ll also I think add a bit of a surreal, mysterious sense with the world of Mythic Norden.

That said, like in Dogs, I want the initiation to give some benefit, so there’ll be a minor boon after an initiation. But that’s in a future post about how I’m looking to do character advancement.

Edit: I have been convinced that my dream idea is poor, and have been given some suitable alternatives which will expand the game as a whole.  I would type more about it, but my time is limited this week.  But I did want to share that there is still good fruit born from bad ideas! 🙂

February 12, 2008 Posted by | Mythender | 5 Comments

Using actual play to explain the game

So, I’m about to get back to Mythender’s text, as I have one playtest on the books at OrcCon weekend after next. I’ve been thinking about how to go about drafting the instructions to play, and it occurred to me that I’m doing something in my text different than what I’m doing when I’m running a game.

In the former I’m writing and instruction text and in the latter I’m having a teaching-oriented conversation. So, there’s a translation there between “I instruct people individually who read the book” and “people tell others how to play the game” that always happens.

Here’s the idea: for the purposes of explaining my idea in a way that will bear fruit to my fellow Master Mines, I’m not going to post up rules. I’m going to write up idealized actual play with a heavy teaching subtext. That way, I more clearly communicate the intent and goal of the rules, rather than just explain how they should work. I’m not saying that’ll be the final text, but I think that’s the best way for me to approach designing this particular, slightly thought-breaking format of a game.

That’s to say you’ll see some fake, teaching-oriented play examples about Mythender in the coming days, as other things clear off my plate.

February 5, 2008 Posted by | Mythender | Leave a comment

Third Playtest “Blues”

Well, okay, not really “blues” in the classic sense, but the title felt nice. Anyway, I did my third playtest of Mythender on Friday night, and we’ve finally hit the big flaws of the system:

Continue reading

January 14, 2008 Posted by | Mythender | 2 Comments

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

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