Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Five or So Questions on Amazing Tales

Hi all! Today I have an interview with Martin Lloyd on Amazing Tales, a roleplaying game that's maybe a little more approachable for the kiddos of my readers than my normal fare! Feel free to check out some of the actual plays that exist for the game and the website, and check out Martin's responses below!

--

A black femme person using a keyboard and high tech tools and interfaces

Tell me a little about Amazing Tales. What excites you about it?

Amazing Tales is a role-playing game for kids aged four and up. I wrote it to play with my daughter five years ago when she was four, and introduced my son to it at about the same age. We had so much fun playing it that I wanted to get it out there so other people could do the same. My first thoughts were to do it as a simple PDF download in the style of Lady Blackbird or Lasers and Feelings. But I was lucky enough to get a sabbatical from my job, and I decided to use that time to turn it into a full fledged book. I had a huge slice of luck when Iris Maertens agreed to do the artwork, that let me create the book I always wanted to make, packed with illustrations so kids can get inspired by it, and feel like it's a book for them, even if they can't read it.

Now 8 months have passed since release and I'm loving watching what happens as the game gets out into the real world. It is a huge kick to see people sharing pictures of themselves playing their first role-playing game with their kids, or pictures of their child's first character sheet. One of my thoughts when I was writing the game is that as soon as role-players have kids they want to play role-playing games with them, but anticipate a wait of maybe ten years before they can. Amazing Tales gets that waiting period down to about four years, and that seems to be making a lot of parents very happy.

I am also delighted that Studio 2 have picked Amazing Tales up for distribution and an offset print run is happening. Amazing Tales is going to be in shops! For something that started out as a way to fill a rainy day it's come a very long way.

a fantastical scene with mushrooms, a squirrel, a fairy, and a tower in the background, all very curvy and colorful

What are the mechanics like for conflict resolution in Amazing Tales? How did you make them approachable for kids?

I chose conflict resolution rather than task resolution for Amazing Tales, so unless you deliberately want to stretch stuff out to make it dramatic or climactic everything is handled by one roll, be it flying a spaceship, making friends with a talking monkey or exchanging cannon fire with a rival pirate ship. Characters in Amazing Tales are defined by four skills, and each skill has an associated dice. Either a D6, D8, D10 or D12. To use a skill you roll the relevant dice against a target number of three. The target number never varies. The only thing that changes is the size of the dice used.

Tests have two possible results, if you succeed, you succeed. If you fail, things get worse, but they don't end. So the monster might catch you, but it won't eat you. The GM - typically the parent - never rolls dice, which means they're never playing 'against' their child.

I picked three as a target number because kids like succeeding, and I picked conflict rather than task resolution because it keeps the story moving. Watch how much stuff happens in the first two minutes of a kids' cartoon show, that's the attention span kids have. And that's the kind of storytelling pace Amazing Tales aspires to. Tell some story, pose a challenge, choose an action, roll the dice, resolve and repeat.

What I've just described is a very very simple system and that simplicity is the key to making a game approachable for kids. I firmly believe that anyone's enjoyment of a game increases when they know what they're doing. We've all played games where we didn't know the rules, someone told us to roll some dice, modified the result for reasons we couldn't follow and then told us what happened. That sucks when you're an adult, and it definitely sucks when you're four. So Amazing Tales can be boiled down to 'roll the dice for the thing you're trying to do, if the result is three or more you succeeded'. Four year olds can understand that, they can repeat it back to you, or explain it to their grandparents and their friends.

In the early days of playing Amazing Tales I tried things like modifying the target number; providing magic items that gave +1 bonuses; or requiring multiple successes for difficult tasks, but I quickly realised that it made no difference to how much fun the kids were having. Young kids don't understand probability, so why bring in things like modifiers? The only reasons for having different dice sizes for different skills are that one; kids love rolling dice, two; they like dice with interesting shapes and three; role-player parents can't wait to introduce their kids to polyhedrals. To adults it's clear that changing the dice size changes the odds, but that's not why they're there.

I have been pleasantly surprised by how happy older kids have been with these very simple rules. In my mind Amazing Tales was a game for kids aged about four to eight. In practice it turns out to be a game for kids aged between 3 and a half and ten. Seeing how well Amazing Tales works has also convinced me that most games for adults are unnecessarily complex.

A pirate on a ship with another ship in a distance, with an octopus on their arm that is holding a bottle

How did you approach providing a fictional background for the game that is welcoming to a diverse audience of children?

First off, Amazing Tales is absolutely a game for everyone. Iris and I worked hard to make sure that whatever your kid's background there should be someone in the artwork that your they can recognise as relating to them. I don't know if we nailed that, but it matters to us and we'll keep trying in future projects.

The other way to look at this question is to think about what kids want in a game beyond a confirmation that it's for them. Young kids don't have the same breadth of cultural references to draw on that grown ups do. So when I was thinking about the settings to include in the book I tried to pick things that small kids would be familiar with from a very young age. I ended up with four settings, the Deep Dark Wood (think talking animals and fairies), Magical Kingdoms Long Ago (think King Arthur), The Pirate Seas (pirates) and Adventures Beyond the Stars (space). I thought about doing super-heroes, but left it out because my kids knew the names of super heroes, but had no idea what kind of stories they might appear in. In retrospect I think that was a mistake, there are plenty of kids out there playing Amazing Tales as super-heroes.

The settings themselves are quite vague. They're really collections of prompts and ideas to get parents and kids making up worlds together. It's up to you whether the deep dark wood is full of monsters or full of friendly animals, but the setting gives you a jumping off point to get started. What's important is that parent and child can start from a shared idea of a wood, fairies that are small, have wings and can do magic, and animals that can talk. The settings include suggested skills, suggested plots and lots of ideas for parents to work with and artwork to inspire the kids. From there it's up to the parents to work with their child to create something that will work for both of them.

I also wanted to write a game where that made good on role-playing games' key promise - that you can be anything and do anything. That's one of the reasons there's a picture of King Tyrannosneak in the book even though he doesn't fit in any of the settings. He's a character my son came up with when he was five. He's a giant robot t-rex, with four arms, which he needs because he has two swords and two shields. He's also a ninja. When you tell kids their characters can be anything they want they take you at your word, and Amazing Tales supports that.

A winged archer in a sparkling wood

How did you play-test the game to make sure kids could understand it? Were there any specific experiences you had that you learned from?

Making sure kids could understand it wasn't the hard part. Kids seem to get the game very quickly indeed. The character generation section includes a quick script - a list of questions to ask your child to walk them through the process. By the end of that kids are usually completely into the game, and it only takes a few minutes.

I was more concerned about making the game easy for parents to understand. I'd love non-gamer parents to consider Amazing Tales as something for their kids, so I tried to get as much advice for first time gamers and first time GMs into the book as I could. It's also why I shot some actual play videos, just so people can see how it's done. Amazing Tales also suggests that you don't do much (or any) preparation for a game, it works well if you just improvise as you go. That's a challenge for parents who haven't done any kind of improvisational story telling before, so again I tried to pack in the advice.

A few experiences from play-tests do stand out though. One was with a friend of my daughter, a lovely five year old girl who elected to play a princess. At the first sign of trouble she announced 'I stab it in the face with my dagger', which was both fair enough, and rather jarring. Kids, it turns out, come out with this kind of thing all the time. This led to my including a section in the book on non bloodthirsty ways of resolving combats. I'm not a fan of my kids describing graphic violence, so I try to keep lethal encounters to a minimum when I run games. There are plenty of other ways to have fights end, with enemies running away, surrendering, begging for mercy, bursting into tears and so on. Evil robots, animated shadows, skeletons, those kinds of things are also great for heroes to fight their way through without having to worry too much about the morality of the situation.

Another thing that stands out happened when I was testing out the space setting. I had vaguely assumed that kids who want to play aliens would want some kind of star-trek kind of alien, a humanoid, with weird coloured skin and one or two distinguishing features. But no. At least in the test games I ran kids who played aliens launched into a competition to be the weirdest, most out there alien they could be. Tentacles galore, mouths on their feet, dozens of eyes...

And one last thing I noticed across a lot of the play-tests was that kids often like to copy each other's characters. They'll want to be the same kind of hero, then they'll pick the same skills, describe their characters in the same way and so on. It's doesn't create a problem the way having a party of three wizards would in D&D, it's just what they like to do. 

A t-rex with two shields and two swords and armor in a desert wasteland
King Tyrannosneak!
I love King Tyrannosneak! As a designer, what are the important parts of those kind of imagined characters that you see across the age range - what do you see when people get to be creative with your game that you treasure knowing about? 

I love that kids get to live out their fantasies, and that they get to do it at an age before their fantasies have been neatly organised into recognisable tropes by mass media. I can see in my own kids that as they consume more media their characters start to reflect that. My son loved Reepicheep in the Narnia books, and suddenly he's playing a Pirate Mouse. But before that starts to happen kids come up with the most incredible stuff, hang glider piloting gnomes with poisonous noses, pirates with laser eyes and pet tigers, that kind of thing. A few years back my kids came up with a pair of knights/super heroes called 'Key-man' and 'Crasher Girl'. Key-man had a sword which fired keys at things, which was obviously a useful weapon but also instantly unlocked doors. Crasher Girl was just great at crashing through things, I think she had rocket boots too.

So I hope that one of the things kids will get out of playing Amazing Tales is the idea that they can create new stuff and colour outside the lines.

Not that there's anything wrong with more derivative characters. I know of a little girl who's out there fighting the Clone Wars with a character who's skills are 'being a queen', 'shooting blasters', 'knowing things' and 'piloting spaceships'. I loved hearing about her, because her idea of being a queen involves saving the galaxy with laser guns, brains and charisma, which sounds like a good thing to learn when you're growing up.

The last thing, and perhaps the thing that makes me happiest is all the stories from people who've found playing games with their kids to be a fulfilling experience. Because Amazing Tales puts most of the cognitive load on the parent everyone playing is really engaged. Anyone who's tried to spend lots of time with small children knows how tedious it can get. They can play snakes and ladders twenty times in a row, they don't get bored of the same (very short) story book again and again, and they value your attention so highly that getting you to read that book again is the most important thing in their world. Amazing Tales is different because it makes the parents do some brain work, and then it becomes a real joint activity. I think kids can tell when their parents are really engaged, and I think parents find that rewarding too. So seeing all these parents find a new activity that they can do with their kids that they both genuinely enjoy - that's been great.

--

Awesome, thanks so much Martin for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed the interview and that you'll check out Amazing Tales on DriveThru!
 

Thoughty is supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs. Tell your friends!

To leave some cash in the tip jar, go to http://paypal.me/thoughty.

If you'd like to be interviewed for Thoughty, or have a project featured, follow the instructions on the Contact page.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Five or So Questions on Something is Wrong Here

Today I have an interview with Kira Magrann, talking about her new live action game Something Is Wrong Here, which is currently on Kickstarter! It's a very different game, from what I can tell, and that makes it all the more interesting to me. I hope you like reading Kira's responses!

--

Kira, a dark haired nonbinary person with hair and clothing styled after a quintessential David Lynch character.

Tell me a little about Something is Wrong Here. What excites you about it?

Something Is Wrong Here is a roleplaying game inspired by the dark and uncanny work of David Lynch. It's atmospheric, emotional, and personal, and THOSE are the things I'm most excited about in the game! A lot of Twin Peaks style games have been more like small town murder mysteries, which is great and fine, but my love of character relationships, dopplegangers, and personal horror is bleeding like, all over this game. I designed it to FEEL like a David Lynch gig more than follow the PLOT of one of his things. So its a pretty emotional experience, and I love that about it.


You talk about following David Lynch's creative process in the Kickstarter video. What was the creative process? How did it affect the game in comparison to other processes you've used?

David Lynch's creative process is very fine art and drawn from his subconscious. It's so weird I love it, especially the fine art stuff. I'm a sucker for surrealist painters like Francis Bacon, who David Lynch's uncanny films have often been compared to! He was a painter before a filmmaker, and he sees films like moving paintings. I see roleplaying games like fine art experiences, immersive and social performance art, so I really connect with this correlation of the cross contamination of art media. His ideas are drawn from meditation and dream images. He often says "Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you've got to go deeper." 

I thought I would experiment with this process while making a game inspired by his work, draw from my background as a fine artist as well as my own dreams and subconscious. I thought, what scares me the most in David Lynch things? What do I connect to the most? How can I make the narrative more from my queer non-binary perspective? I thought and dreamed and meditated on it for awhile. From there it was easy to focus on the identity issues that are so relevant in his work that I also deeply relate to. Issues that focus on multiple selves, and what we really need emotionally from relationships with people, and of course that feeling of creeping dread that I really do enjoy (I love being scared and always have).

Small cards with descriptive text on them, one titled "Optimistic innocent"
Character cards!
What is the structure of the game like, and how do players mechanically interact with the narrative?

The game's structure is somewhat fluid in the plot sense, in that the plot isn't the most important thing about the game. The characters are the focus, and the scenes that unfold are there just to focus on the each character's personal feelings, and how their relationships with the other characters might influence their decisions in the final act. There are two acts basically, and the mechanics are card based, in addition to a Facilitator who helps frame scenes, keep time, and play music. The cards change and serve different functions as the game goes on. At first they are emotional prompts, then they are acting prompts that happen in scenes, and then finally they are cues to how to make decisions in a suddenly uncanny environment. The players are encouraged to dive deep into their character's minds, and perhaps see correlations between those minds and their own. This, in addition to atmospheric props like a box and a mirror, create some deep emotional play. 


How did you playtest and develop a game with this kind of complexity - and how replayable is it, with playtest experience in mind?

I actually just playtested it as normal! It played excellent both at home, and at a convention. It's oddly simple once it gets going actually, as the rules are easy and repetitive, like a ritual, and the facilitator really just needs to guide the scenes and the timing. It's reasonably replayable, because the spoiler doesn't reaaaaaaaally matter to the story, its more what happens to the characters and the decisions the players make that are the heart of the game. People could play different characters, or you could end up spending more or less time in different setting options, and I bet it would present a different emotional journey each time. Although it is designed to be a unique, one night experience!


How is Something is Wrong Here different from the works it reflects? I think you address this a little with looking for queer, nonbinary aspects - how do you think that shows most in the game?

Hahahaha well, I love David Lynch but he is an old white guy with some problematic ideas about gender and hardly represents people of color in his work, etc etc problematic faves. My work obviously attempts to diverge from those problematic aspects of his. This game doesn't have representation in it per se... the character archetypes are very flexible and undefined so you can make them whatever you want them to be. The clearest setting elements are "America" and "a forest, a living room, a diner, a roadhouse" so you could imagine perhaps a small American town, but it doesn't say where. SO really, the queerest and most non-binary parts of this game are about questioning dualities and pre-determined endings. Like, at the end, each character has a choice when they're confronted by themselves. How can you confront yourself? Are parts of your identity different than other parts? Those are pretty essential to my personal non-binary thinking. My identity is complex, and made of fluid moving parts, and sometimes I analyze different parts of myself like different parts of a big whole, right. So those themes about the complexness of identity are really central to Something Is Wrong Here.

A box of cards labeled "Something is wrong here" with thematic art.
The mockup for the cards and box!

--

Thanks, Kira, for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed the interview and that you'll check out Something Is Wrong Here on Kickstarter today!



Thoughty is supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs. Tell your friends!

To leave some cash in the tip jar, go to http://paypal.me/thoughty.

If you'd like to be interviewed for Thoughty, or have a project featured, follow the instructions on the Contact page.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Quick Shot on Legacy: Life Among the Ruins - The Next World

Hi all! Today I have a brief interview with Jay Iles about Legacy: Lift Among the Ruins - The Next World, a three book supplement for Legacy that's currently on Kickstarter. Check it out!

--

A group of people of varying sizes, genders, and identities in post-apocalyptically styled clothing crossing the frame.

What is Legacy: Life Among the Ruins - The Next World, both as a product and as your vision?

At its most basic, the new campaign is a collection of three supplement books for Legacy. Two of them - Engine of Life and End Game - combine new rules and options for Legacy with backer-created content made as part of the first kickstarter, while the third - Free From the Yoke - is a standalone setting hack of the original game transposing it into political fantasy rooted in Slavic folklore.

At a higher level, it's our opportunity to really stretch our wings with the 2nd edition of the game. While we're very proud of what we achieved with the 2e corebook, a lot of it was a revision and restatement of things created for 1e. With these new books, we're bringing completely new options to the game that change up some key assumptions to the game: the Timestream Refugees don't use standard stats but instead get better at moves the more they've helped others, while the Herald isn't defined by their role in their Family but instead by the pre-apocalypse cultural icon they're emulating. Free From the Yoke completely rewrites many of Legacy's core systems, bringing in magic and chains of fealty and nation-scale logistics.

Beyond even that, these books give you the tools to decide the trajectory of your campaign: The Engine of Life gives ways to guide the wasteland towards a new flourishing and an eventual peace, while End Game presents final threats that might finish the world off for good and offers sacrifices you might make to push it back.

Finally, Free From the Yoke presents players with a newborn nation feeling the after-effects of generations of foreign occupation, and asks them how much they prize the communal health of the nation over their own wealth, prosperity and independence. It's an opportunity for us to explore a more measured, large-scale kind of storytelling, and a way to return to some of Legacy's inspirations - Reign and Birthright.

A person wearing armor with various badges and sigils who has an augmented prosthetic leg.
I love this picture so much.

What are some of the ways Timestream Refugees become better, more advanced? 

The Timestream Refugees are focused on stopping the future calamity they fled from, and to do that they need to guide the actions of others while avoiding being tied down by obligations. This is core, and so instead of the standard stats of Reach, Grasp and Sleight that have Momentum and Balance. They roll Momentum for most family moves, but it reduces by 1 each time they do. They get a point back each time they successfully help another family, but in addition you secretly write down your vision for each family at the start of each Age. If your vision comes to pass you gain more momentum, but otherwise the world slips closer to ruin. Depending on the player’s choices, they could gain Momentum from characters reaching a satisfying end to their arc, from great projects being completed, or from resolving systemic problems with the homeland. And building on that, their other moves let them do things like uplift a generic NPC into a legendary hero, predicting that a new age would provide a bounty of resources, appear when other players roll double-1s or double-6s to share in the glory or mitigate tragedy, or help other players better understand the world. They’re a playbook all about ‘striving to put right what once went wrong’, drawing on Quantum Leap, Terminator and Travellers, and I really enjoy how we’ve managed to make that work and draw you into the other Families’ stories.


Tell me about the magic in Free From the Yoke - how does it work? How does it change the way Legacy works?

Technology in Legacy is materialistic - it’s disposable, and self-powered, and tied to the physical device. In contrast, magic in Free From the Yoke is a story you tell the land to get it to help you. All magic needs a tutor - either a more learned sage, or the land itself. When you learn a ritual it triggers a new core move where you and your tutor negotiate what obligations you accept in return for power. Maybe you’re not allowed to teach the ritual to others, or must act virtuously to retain access to it, or must regularly perform a particular observance. 

Then, when you enact the ritual, that’s another negotiation - depending on how well you performed it, you can call on the land for extra power, control, healing, or insight into your tutor’s current state. In return, the GM picks costs, with more costs if you’ve broken any of those obligations you agreed to. These downsides might include a small sacrifice, a change in the weather, strange behaviour from animals and plants, or a cost to your health.

Finally, this is still a Legacy game, so this all shapes your family over generations. Every time the ages turn and you retire an old character, you may add one ritual they know to your House's lore - gradually building up a corpus of knowledge that future characters will be able to call on as they adventure, but tying your House closer to the Land's waxing and waning health in the process.


People in post-apocalyptic styled clothing on varying levels of tall structures and stairwells, carrying weapons and resources.


--

Thanks so much Jay! I hope you all enjoyed learning some about Legacy: Life Among the Ruins: The Next World and that you'll check it out on Kickstarter!



Thoughty is supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs. Tell your friends!

To leave some cash in the tip jar, go to http://paypal.me/thoughty.

If you'd like to be interviewed for Thoughty, or have a project featured, follow the instructions on the Contact page.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Five or So Questions on Entromancy

Hi all, today I have an interview with M.S. Farzan about Entromancy: A Cyberpunk Fantasy RPG, which is currently on Kickstarter! I hope you'll find something interesting in the responses below!

--

An illustrated masculine appearing person with facial hair holding a gun


Tell me a little about Entromancy. What excites you about it?

I am super excited about Entromancy because it represents the realization of a dream: participating in a shared cyberpunk fantasy world with other fans of d20 tabletop games. When I wrote the first novel in the Entromancy series a couple of years ago, I was inspired by my experience playing and GMing for tabletop RPGs, and it's been an amazing process translating that enthusiasm from the novel back into a game that we can all play.

How did you translate the novel into a mechanical structure like a game without sacrificing the narrative or overcomplicating things?

Great question! Building the world for the novel was a four-year process of scribbling notes, creating characters, and revising systems, in much the same way that one would approach making a game. It was important to me to have, for example, a magic system that was not only internally consistent, but that would also be plausible within the framework of a roleplaying game. Creating the RPG from the novel hasn't exactly been "easy," but a lot of things have translated well into mechanics because of that early structural decision. The core concept of magic, for instance, still draws from the same resource, a renewable element called "ceridium," as in the book, but we've had to reconfigure most of the iconic spells that appear in the book (while building out a ton more) so that they make sense in a balanced, TTRPG imagining of the world.

character archetypes from the game in sketched illustration with bright colors overlaid

I love the idea of the Terramancer. What are they like in play? How do they function?

The Terramancer is based on Alina Hadzic, one of the main characters of the novel series and an all-around all-star. She's a former baseball relief pitcher with powerful earth magic to boot, and represents another area in which we've had to work to build mechanics that make sense for a game, rather than just a book.

Like all other character classes in Entromancy, the Terramancer has two archetypes to choose from, which are specific advancement paths for their talents or spells. When you play as a Terramancer, you can choose to be either an Arcane Pitcher or a Nature's Harbinger, and can add spells from your chosen archetype to suit your play style. The Arcane Pitcher is formidable at range and has spells to empower its returning projectile weapon, the ceridium orb, while the Nature's Harbinger can support the group with buff spells, healing, and the ability to summon beasts. Both archetypes benefit from a shared Terramancer feat list that allows you to further enhance your character's abilities and combat prowess.

a character dressed in heavy gear, carrying and reading a gadget shaped like a handheld system

What's magic like in the narrative, and how do you make it happen mechanically? Is either particularly explosive, or can it be sly?

In the 2020s, green researchers discovered the ability to synthesize ceridium, a renewable energy source that, over time, was found to also power burgeoning schools of magic. These schools are collectively known as "mancy," and ceridium, while stable, has been proven to expose a genetic mutation among certain populations. This mutation - the "underrace gene" - results in phenotypic variation among carriers of the gene, giving rise to new races of people known colloquially as "underraces" or "aurics."

It's posited that ceridium is a synthesization of "blue orichalcum," a once naturally-occurring element that was depleted by humankind centuries ago. The connection between ceridium and blue orichalcum is unproven, but would explain why most civilizations have a cultural memory of things like magic, spellcasting, and fantastic races and creatures.

In Entromancy, most spells are dependent upon the availability and use of ceridium, and range from the infiltration-focused shadowmancy of the NIGHT Agent to the utility-enhancing spells of the Technomancer.

a character dressed in a cowboy hat and longcoat

What does a d20 system bring to the table to make this specific setting and playstyle flourish?

We love 5th Edition, and find it to be a wonderful springboard for the type of game that we want to share with everyone. We've done a lot to streamline the game systems to place an emphasis on meaningful action and storytelling, while building out other systems to support a cyberpunk world that incorporates intrigue, espionage, hacking, and cybernetics. So anyone who's familiar with 5th Edition or other d20 systems will be instantly familiar with how the core mechanic works, and will also notice the areas in which Entromancy is different, in terms of character creation and progression, spellcasting, equipment, and more.

There are a lot of great game systems out there, and in fact, the first few iterations of Entromancy were based on a proprietary game system that we were developing. Early in the game's development, we decided instead to utilize 5th Edition as a framework as it felt a natural fit for the game that we wanted to make. Over time, Entromancy grew into the d20 core mechanic and, through development and playtesting, we have been able to identify more and more areas where we've been able to streamline, make adjustments, and create our own game that feels authentic to the original fiction.

the Entromancy logo of a neon colored outline of a structure an the text "Entromancy: A Cyberpunk Fantasy RPG" above the text "funded in the first two days" and "available now on Kickstarter

--

Thank you to M.S. Farzan for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed the interview and that you'll check out Entromancy: A Cyberpunk Fantasy RPG on Kickstarter today!


Thoughty is supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs. Tell your friends!

To leave some cash in the tip jar, go to http://paypal.me/thoughty.

If you'd like to be interviewed for Thoughty, or have a project featured, follow the instructions on the Contact page.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Five or So Questions on Domina Magica

Get to twirling, everyone! I have an interview today with Emily Reinhart on Domina Magica, a magical girl game that's currently on Kickstarter! Check out the magic below!

--
a magical girl spinning with bright lights, wearing a pink and white dress, surrounded by a colorful illustrated border
Tell me about Domina Magica. What excites you about it?

Hey!!! Domina Magica is magical girl RPG that myself and my team Third Act Publishing created!! It is an episodic game that emulates an episode of a Magical Girl Anime. It has a ton of unique mechanics to help facilitate the feel of some of the iconic anime tropes. There is the "cootie catcher" or "fortune teller" that allows you and your group of players to set the scene and tone of your game by filling out the "flaps," it also allows the players to fill in "secret trials" that will activate later in the game. There is also a dual sided Character Sheet that allows you to build a School Girl character first and then when you transform your physically flip the sheet over and build your "Magical Girl!!!"

We are really excited for this Game!!! Our Kickstarter funded in 15 hours and we are sending out Slap Bracelets to backers as we speak!!! If you are in the US and fund at any level, even the $1 level we will send you a purple "Fight like a Magical Girl Bracelet" right away. Not when it is over, not when the books comes out.....now!!! Sending hundreds of Slap Bracelets in the mail and seeing them pop up all over social media is something we are super excited about!!!!


I LOVE the character sheet idea! Clever character sheets can make games more fun! So can transformation - is that a big aspect of Domina Magica?

Transformation was and still is a huge part of Domina Magica. The dual character sheets was a game mechanic that I wanted to implement from the very beginning and one of the very few things that have changed. I liked the idea that your magical girl, and your school girl would have different identities and I wanted to represent that at the game table. Double Sided character sheets fit that mechanic perfectly. We also created a way that the character sheets build off of each other so that what you do in your school girl person directly impacts what your Magical Girl looks like!!

The book and associated goodies including a wristband in purple and yellow.
Goodies!
How does the game work mechanically - what do players use to resolve conflicts, or to interact with each other and non-player characters?

The Game works off a "roll low" system. Your school girl will have 5 traits, and you as the player will have 5 die, D4 through D12. Your traits are Friendship, Strength, Honesty, Kindness and Persistence. Since it is a "roll low" system you want to roll as close to 1 as possible so your D4 is your highest die. You get to assign the 5 die to the five traits, picking what trait is your highest (d4) and what trait you still need to work on (d12.) When the transformation happens and you flip over your character sheet, you get to reassign your die to the same 5 stats, so your Magical Girl might not have the same strengths as your school girl persona. To confront a "bully" or "dark enemy" you will simply pick a trait you think represents what you are doing and it will be a contested roll against the target, whoever rolls closer to 1 succeeds the check.

After all she is the 1 Sailor Moon!!! After hearing that song for years I really wanted a system that made '1' the best number and not 20. 

A winged heart with stars inside.

Tell me about the magical girls and school girls you play. What are they like? How are they presented? What do they do?

Ok, I will start with the School Girl because you build her first. At this point you can play any school girl you want. Schoolboy? Thats fine! Transgender? Great! You get to decide on her traits, stats and characteristics! The character sheet has the typical Likes/Dislikes and Blood type portions for you to fill out. You give her a name and then assign the dice to her stats. After you have filled all of that out, you get to present her and tell the table a bit more about your character. So the players get to choose literally everything about the School Girl!

Once the party has transformed you physically turn your character sheet over to reveal the Magical Girl Side. Here you can reassign her dice, and give her a name. Since she is a part of a team, the players have to decide what type of Magical Girls they are playing and describe the transformation process. So some of the Magical Girl traits are filled in by the table and some are filled in by the player! Then they fight the Boss that has been building throughout the course of the "episode."


Share some of the highlights and challenges of this project. What has it been like playtesting and creating a game so femme focused? 

There were several challenges that we have run into even in the early stages of the game. I wanted this game to be Everything!!! I wanted it to have every theme, troupe, cliche and mechanic that I could cram in, but after playtesting it and looking back at it.......the game was a hot mess. We had to get rid of a few mechanics and tweak others to make play more smooth and the concepts to flow better.
Play testing has been a huge help! Most of my players are men who are so excited to get to play magical Girls!! Playtesting with different groups of people helped me see different things i could do to appeal to a wider audience as well. I changed the character sheets to include all body types and not just the stereotypical "Skinny Anime Girl" If we get to print off full color character sheets I would love to do different skin tones as well!!!

the Domina Magica cover with stylized metal and gold, a winged heart with stars inside, and the appearance of being chained.

--

Awesome, thank you so much Emily for answering my questions! I hope you all enjoyed the interview and that you'll check out Domina Magica on Kickstarter today!


Thoughty is supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs. Tell your friends!

To leave some cash in the tip jar, go to http://paypal.me/thoughty.

If you'd like to be interviewed for Thoughty, or have a project featured, follow the instructions on the Contact page.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Turn, Bigness, Mental Health, and "Different"

First off, I'm going to make a damn #TurnRPG hashtag, then we're gonna talk about this precious gift of a game I have been working on since December 2013. And have I got some WORDS for you this evening, my friends, about Turn, and about large design projects, mental health, & "different."

a yellow bird on a branch with its beak open with a bunch of As in the background like yelling

Turn is a slice-of-life supernatural roleplaying game about shapeshifters in small, rural towns who must find balance in their shifter identity and community with their fellows. I'm planning to Kickstart it at the end of October. tinyurl.com/turn-rpg-beta-2018

I've been really digging into it and I'm in the expand and explain part - I think the mechanics are solid, but trying to ensure people understand the mechanics is hard. I've been struggling through recovering from a brain injury, & until recently, sometimes my work was nonsense.


So a lot of this is revisiting old text, making sure it makes sense, revising it, and adding as much as I can to make it approachable to people who aren't me. John helps with this - he's my dev editor - but he can only do so much when I'm struggling personally with the work.

Turn is the biggest thing I've made and a large part of me *needs* it to succeed, to be appreciated. So I want everything to be perfect! Like, everything has to be exactly how it's supposed to be written in my head. And that's a pain in the ass, and doesn't guarantee perfection.

A picture of Diana as a child in Wonder Woman with a tumblr post posted over it that says "me, logically: it's never gonna happen. the tiny hopeful goblin in my brain: but what if it did"

So like today I've been asking for help figuring out a new title for the facilitator role because facilitator sounds boring and what I was using, Storyteller, is too associated with White Wolf (not why I was using it, but no one cares) and also doesn't describe the role well.

Now I'm trying out Meddler, because I tried a whole bunch in text and it's the only one I like next to Busybody but is slightly more teasing than mean like Busybody tends to be. And I listened to a bunch of people's input, too, and felt kind of "eh yeah?" and like COME ON.


See, one thing that I need to really tell you here is that the longer your project, the more likely you are to hit a wall of mental health issues, new or old. They will fuck you UP. I love this game. I love it SO much. And I find myself poking at it all like "I should trash it."

I'm working on this big, meaningful project and I'm getting engagement with input from people and all my big stupid brain can say is "Well I dunno, people haven't said it's visionary or anything, and these other people aren't interested, so maybe it's just awful." This project!

Keegan Key saying "I mean, I spent the majority of it in a deep fog, in a profound depression."

And part of it is because it's a big project, a lot of time and energy with (to date) little to no returns. Most of my projects seem futile because I don't exactly swim in recognition, reviews, or funds as a result of them. But I still do them, and I'm still doing this. I'm especially still doing this.

If I was working on something smaller I could be done and stop torturing myself with the maybes and the whys. But it's big. It matters. And mental illness just wants to dig in its claws and remind me that I'm not doing good enough. But I also know it's because Turn is different.

Jaylah from Star Trek Beyond yelling in preparation of a fight.

I said it, I mean it. When I play Turn, it always feels different than other games. When I've been designing it, it feels different than other games. I haven't played all games, and I'm not fucking gonna, but I do know that compared to the games I have played, Turn is different.

Maybe it's because of the angle? Or because it's quiet drama? Maybe it's because I took away failure, and focused on consequences? Maybe it's because this game isn't designed to play like an adventure, but instead like everyday life that gets hard and troublesome but also loving?

Mad Max pointing towards one of the bikers in recognition.

And like, the biggest thing I struggle with while designing this game is that I want to maintain that "different." Some people have looked at the mechanics without playing the game and said it was just copied from a bunch of places, but it's not. It's different. So it's rough!

How do I keep my snowflake of a game from melting or getting mushed together and ruined? How do I present it to people in a way that highlights the difference? Worst of all, what if I AM wrong and my game's actually just a boring facsimile of other games I don't want it to be?


It's a lot. I just want this game to be good and succeed and I want this weird experience I have when I play it to be replicable for people. I want to do a Kickstarter and not have it fail because I want people to be interested in it and excited for it. But I'm also very tired.

If it was smaller, maybe I'd care less. I didn't have a mental illness, maybe I'd struggle less. If it felt samey, maybe it would matter less. But none of those things are so. It's a mattering struggling caring mess. I'm mulling over every design decision like it's life & death.


My final real point, I suppose, is that all of these things: bigness, mental health, difference, they are important to the game and the design process I'm experiencing, and I have to overcome the challenges. I love Turn so much, and I can't let it fade away, I can't risk that.

So if I kind of sound like a pain in the ass a lot right now, & for the foreseeable future, I want you to know that it's only because I'm trying my best. I want to do my best. I want the game that I put out to be one you can pick up & have an amazing experience with. I'm trying.

Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta on Brooklyn 99, in workout clothes. Someone asks " Are you crying?" and he responds "No. That's eyeball sweat."



Thoughty is supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs. Tell your friends!

To leave some cash in the tip jar, go to http://paypal.me/thoughty.

If you'd like to be interviewed for Thoughty, or have a project featured, follow the instructions on the Contact page.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Five or So Questions on Free Spacer

Hi all, I have an interview today with Christoph Sapinsky, talking about his game on Kickstarter, Free Spacer. You can check out the Free Spacer website, or find info on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+, and I hope you also dig the responses to my questions that Christoph shared below!

--


an image of a burning sun in space with the text Free Spacer: A starship tabletop RPG.


Tell me about Free Spacer. What excites you about it?

Free Spacer is a sci-fi starship roleplaying game. You play the crew of a contracted starship. The Exploration Wars have recently ended due to outside intervention and a cold war has replaced it. Free Spacers are the tool of choice in this new conflict. You take contracts, perform operations, and hope that you can retire to rejoin society... someday.

To me, the most exciting aspect of Free Spacer is that is it feels like sci-fi. Everything from the way you modify rolls to the core setting stem from the science fiction. For example, while the tasks you perform depend on your crewmember’s skills and specialities, you can gain advantage from the situation and route additional charge to your tools to gain additional dice. In play, this feels like tweaking levels to get the output you want.

Character sheets with six and ten sided dice.

How do you take action in Free Spacer? What does an average resolution look like?

Free Spacer uses a task system, every task is a set of related actions that includes the appropriate movement. For each task, you as the player roll a pool of dice we call a Salvo. The Salvo is made up of d10s opposing d6s. 
  • The d10s are task dice primarily from your appropriate skill and specialty plus situational advantage; additionally, you can spend a Charge resource on a tool to gain its rating in dice. 
  • The d6s represent the threat faced, beginning with its difficulty and disadvantages. The Gamemaster can also spend their complication resource to add more threat dice.
When you roll the Salvo, you minus the number of d6s that roll 1-3 from the number of dies that roll 5-9 (0 is worth 2). The results determine the Outcome of the task, which the Gamemaster, uses to determine how you alter the scene.
  • 1 = a partial success
  • 2 = a complete success
  • 3 = critical, which gives you a charge resource and 5 a double crit!
  • 0 = a fail
  • -3 = Consequences


The bust of an alien with spiked brow and jawline and large eyes, and a protrusion of the back of their skull, and tan skin.

Tell me more about the science fiction. What's different about Free Spacer from other media, and how does it remind us of sci fi we love?
  • Together, you and friends decide what sort of game you want to play by choosing a ship flag, each flag refers to a type of play:
  • Agent are social; think spies, negotiators, com artists, and assassins
  • Bounty Hunter bring rough justice to a frontier, like Killjoys or Cowboy Bebop
  • Courier is the rogue trader, they smuggle, speculatively trade, and run blockades. Think Firefly or Traveller.
  • Mercenary are military sci-fi. Your crew are space marines and fly combat ship. This is like Dark Matter or Space Above and Beyond
  • Scout is the exploration flag. You chart new systems and discover new worlds. The flag that is the most Star Trek.
  • Technicians are scavengers and tech experts. Think Farscape or shadowrunning. 
Free Spacer is my attempt to speculate on the future based on contemporary science. This future has the internet, biotechnology, and space-time folds. The societies of this future are unequal mixing of different alien Sophonts with many factions that struggle to control each sector of space. You have to deal with the difficulties of space, alien worlds, and the situations that come from faction conflict. Your most potent way to deal with these situations are projects. Projects are the advanced mechanics of the game, which use science to enable your crew to work together and get outcomes that you cannot get alone.


character sheets and a grid patterned map with some six and ten sided dice.


Beyond the type of flag you fly, what kind of characters do you play in Free Spacer? How do they fit into the world?

As the title implies, you play Free Spacers. Free Spacers are outsiders, they are set apart, above, and beyond the ordinary people. You are above the people—distant in space, advanced in technology, and legally superior. Conversely, this also separates you from local worlds; you do not fit on any world, you cannot participate in local culture, invest in a business, run for government, or live a normal life. Before you were a Free Spacer, you might have been anyone living through the Exploration Wars from an ordinary citizen, a drifter refugee, veteran soldier, or even a powerful leader.


How is space represented in game - narratively, mechanically, both? I'm curious how players interact with it.

Space is the central motif of Free Spacer. Space divides worlds from one another, isolates the crew from support, and delays communications. Conversely, space grants you independence for operations and self determination to distant settlements. Scientifically, Zero-point technology manipulates spacetime to forms shields, project blaster pulses, and fold space to travel between systems. Space is a danger, an empty void of exposure. Finally, Spaceflight is a type of Encounter in which you and your crew work together to operate your starship.



two body harnesses and radio headsets, 3-D modeled


--

Thanks so much to Christoph for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed hearing a little about Free Spacer and that you'll check it out on Kickstarter today!






Thoughty is supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs. Tell your friends!

To leave some cash in the tip jar, go to http://paypal.me/thoughty.

If you'd like to be interviewed for Thoughty, or have a project featured, follow the instructions on the Contact page.