Nov 302012

As people may be aware from a previous article, I’m currently running a Cyberpunk 2020 game set in The City of Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan series of comic books. Last week, every one of my players sent me a write up from the point of view of their characters. I’m going to share the links below, not to highlight how awesome a GM I am, or well I’ve weaved together a narrative, but to show how taking the time to look back at the events and write them up is time well spent. Each person has done such a good job of finding the voice of their characters, and has approached the story in a unique way. Take a look below clicking on the character name, and remember; they’re all writing this after the same session.

Flux. A slightly mentally frail demolitions expert.

Tom ‘Buck’ Rackham. A comic book loving used to be accountant with a slight fetish for comic book hero ‘Buck Steele’

Ed Winchester. Local anchorman and reporter.

Leo‘. Technological savant suffering from selective amnesia.

2d Lt Aaron Walker. A USAF pilot with a slight drinking problem

Vaughn Donovan. Stage magician extraordinaire.

I hope you enjoyed that little interlude, and if you want to keep up on events, my players tend to post their stuff roughly once a week.

Nov 262012

This post comes on the back of an entertaining little read that can be found over here by The Warden. I liked it a lot. So much so that I chucked a link to it up on Reddit so a lot more people could take a look at it. The Warden seems unhappy with money in his games, and I can’t really blame him for that. I’ve seen games get bogged down by the time and effort it can take to allocate treasure and wealth, and then sell it off, and spend the profits.

I have also played games with a basic ‘wealth’ mechanic. The World of darkness manages this pretty well, with ‘Resources’ acting very much like a skill; the more points you put into it, the more money you have. It still doesn’t do away with money however, and most GMs (in my experience) just set a minimum level of Resources that are required to buy an item, rather than allowing it to be used as a skill. I think it could instead be rolled, with success granting more than expected, failure meaning possibly losing points in it for the session as you catastrophically mismanage your finances. So, a possible solution is making money a bit of an abstract, but for the most part, I would be happy leaving it as is, or maybe with some kind of middle ground.

It’s quite odd for me to say that, as I usually prefer to keep things abstract and almost movie like in a lot of the games I run. True, I run a realistic combat, but that comes from an appreciation of biology and a rather worrying knowledge about what weapons can do to the human body. For pretty much everything else though, I tend to go with what feels right for the game, and for maintaining the mood my players are comfortable with. As long as they don’t push it too far, I tend to let realism take a back seat, and keep all its charts and modifiers back there, while I take the wheel and have a lot of fun. Money though? I like my players to keep a good track of it.

In a lot of games I run, it can be just as important to the character’s survival as their skills or other equipment, and it’s worth knowing if they only have 25 bucks, or the 30 they’ll need to bribe their way past a guard. I also will admit to being practically unique amongst the gamers I know, and say that I love the bit at the end of character creation where you’re handed a rule book and told to spend your money. Cyberpunk still remains a firm favourite for this, with four Chrome books, and Blackhand’s along with a good few pages of cool stuff in the main book, I can spend longer equipping my character than creating them.

Don’t get me wrong, during game play there are plenty of times when it is unnecessary to keep track of each copper coin; if the players are buying a meal, along with getting rooms for the night, and having some drinks, I find myself often just coming up with an appropriate amount of money, and asking them to pony up a bit more if they’re planning on getting drunker than usual. This kind of thing just makes game play quicker.

It’s the same for reloading a gun. I expect that the characters will know that once a fight is over, they will need to replace spent casings, or replenish the rounds in a magazine/clip. I don’t worry too much that the players might forget, as I have no problem seeing that they have different priorities than their characters. Just like I don’t worry that they haven’t kept me up to date on their latest bowel movements…

So, I love having money to spend as a player, and I like my players to keep track of this when I’m running a game, but I’m not a fan of endless book-keeping. Is there a way to keep  me happy on both fronts? I’m glad you asked, as I think there is. I’ve mentioned on here in the past that a couple of my friends are working on a game of their own. Well, it’s getting remarkably close to completion now, and they’re seriously considering Kickstarting it to get the funding for the first print run. Well, I have no money to invest in such a venture, even though I really wish I could, so I’m doing something a bit different, I’m talking about their game whenever I get the chance, and talking up some of their finer ideas as I do so.

A player character in their game will of course have access to money, and it is expected that they keep track of it throughout the game. But in terms of small purchases like food and drink, as well as keeping a roof over their heads, this is handled differently. At any point during the game, the player can take money from their character’s purse, and put it to one side as a living maintenance. At the end of game month, the GM just checks how much you have in the fund, and checks what standard of living this has afforded you. Too little spent, and you run the risk of contracting a disease due to poor living conditions and a sub-standard diet. Hit the average  an everything is good, but you can spend more than that if you have it, and could end up with a bonus. And all this means that there will be no more tracking every small coin denomination as you buy drinks and meals, leaving you to spend money on interesting things, like weapons and armour. Even the state of repair of your clothing, and how fancy they are is covered by this ”Lifestyle Level”.

If anyone else has their own ways of handling in game finances, then I’d love to hear about them; post below as always.

Nov 192012

Not in real life, in real life I do kind of frown on evil. In RPGs though, it can be possible to have a great session, or even campaign, while playing a character whose actions are demonstrably evil. We’re not talking about anti-heroes here, or characters that skirt round some of life’s moral grey areas, we’re talking about terrible people and the things they do. I know it might seem counter-intuitive, but I hope that by the end of this article, you’ll see what I mean.

One of my favourite characters from literature is a total bastard. A liar, a thief, an adulterer, a coward and a bully. He mistreats everyone in his life if he can get away with it, and would do pretty much anything if there’s a way he could turn it to his advantage. The person to whom I refer is Harry Paget Flashman. Not everyone will have heard of him, but he is the star of over a dozen novels, and first appeared in the classic ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’. Everything I just attributed to him is true, and he has done a whole lot more besides, but he’s still a great character to read about. On top of his multitude of character flaws, he was also charming and polite, knew how to seduce women, and flatter those who were his social betters. He had a gift for languages, was a skilled horseman and a great cricketer. And from a story point of view, his life was never made that much easier because of his deplorable nature.

True, he rose to lofty heights because he was often the sole survivor of high profile exploits, but he hated every moment of it until then, and suffered greatly at the hands of his enemies. The stories he were part of were filled with him being terrified for his life and in constant danger, but you ended up routing for the swine. So much of what happened was his own fault, and he made it worse with almost every action he took, but you still wanted him to survive, just to see what the hell he’d get himself into – and try and talk his way out of – next. I have read all of the Flashman papers, and if it wasn’t for the fact that the author sadly passed away a few years back, I would be excitedly looking forward to the next installment.

This kind of character can work wonderfully in role playing games too. Just think about being a GM of a game that involved a player whose character was actively antagonising the NPCs they met, always trying to get ahead, or just wanting to enjoy being in a position of power so they could bully those beneath them. As long as they understood that there would be consequences of their actions – if they don’t understand that, you might want to have a word – then you get to keep pushing them deeper into your intrigue and plots as people stronger and more capable then the PC keep getting their revenge on the braggart.

As a player it can also be great fun, and a challenging role playing experience all at the same time. Only once have I played what could be considered a true evil character, and that was mostly due to playing in a game which used alignments  I want to go on record as saying that I’m not usually a fan of this kind of thing, much preferring to play characters that adapt their opinion easily based on a changing world. But my Lawful Evil cleric was a blast to play.

It was a world created by the DM, and all the PCs were playing dwarves. It was an insular monotheistic society, and as a culture we were realising we were not alone for the very first time. If you’re curious, we were being invaded by the elves. I had been wanting to play a cleric for a while, going down a battle preacher kind of route. When I was told it would be a monotheistic culture, I couldn’t resist. A stayed true to the letter of the law in everything I did, but made sure it benefited me without caring at all what it would mean to others. The poor were subjugated under my ministering, and I even took one of the other player characters as a slave because she had acted in an un-Godly fashion and sought redemption from her sins. All in all he was a nasty piece of work, but the other players put up with him, and were happy to have him on side.

There were two reasons for this. First, he was fighting on the side of his God, as were all the other players; if they towed the line, then they avoided my holy wrath. Secondly, I was charming as all hell. Offering praise where I thought it would serve me later on down the line, and making sure I was seen to be generous, as long as it didn’t actually cost me anything to do so. I would buff and heal the rest of the party when needed, just because it meant I had a better chance to survive. Come the final battle however, when all looked very grim indeed, I legged it. Just turned my back on the rest of them, and left them to their fates, cementing my place as the bad guy of the entire plot, as they died to a man dwarf jack of them.

So you see, played right – and neither hammed up or just going for a pure psychopath - it can be great fun playing an evil character. Just be prepared to suffer the consequences of your actions, unless you’re very good indeed at covering your back. Very very good indeed.

Nov 182012

Just over a month ago, I rolled past the 10,000 hit mark on this blog, and if you missed it, I offered anyone of my readers an NPC that I would write for them. Just a description and a background, but no stats, and let them use it in their games.

Well, over the course of the month, 34 of you wonderful people took me up on my offer, meaning there are now 34 more free range organic Shortymonster official NPCs in the world. You can check them out by clicking this link and scrolling down through them. For now that is. I’m about to start work on getting them down onto a pdf document – with images and everything – each character tagged for its primary genre, and others that it could work in with a little tweak. Some of them are setting specific, so I will also be tagging those too.

This wouldn’t have been as successful without some support from stars of the RPG online community, a few of them I have already thanked here. A couple of others are also worth mentioning, so check them out too.

The Tower of Archmage has opened up the chance to contribute to one of their latest design ideas on their blog. With the NPC I created for them being one of several star port merchants, if you have any other ideas, head on over and get in touch.

The Dragon’s Flagon is another blog with a distinctly OSR feel to it. That being said, those amongst you like myself who find themselves somewhere between old school and new school can still take a lot from his writing.

So, was this a good idea? I ruddy loved it! It was a great way to stretch some creative muscles, and I’ve heard back from a lot of people that they loved the ideas I gave them. Not only did the NPCs have a bit of background information about them, I also tried to include at least one hook in each too, as a little bit of inspiration for plots. I actually found out this morning that a friend of mine has taken the NPC I created for him and used it to get a lot of his plot ideas tied together. I had so much in fact, that I think I will do this again.

That means that each November will be free NPC month here at Shortymonster. The same deal as before; you don’t have to ‘Like’ my Facebook page, or subscribe to the blog, just drop a comment bellow the article in question, with as much or as little info as you think I’ll need, and I’ll write something up for you.

In terms of what it did for the blog – and I can’t stress enough that it wasn’t just this – A little over a month ago I had 10,000 views in just over four months of blogging. As I write this, that number is over 18,000. That’s a hell of a climb in one month.

Once more then, thanks to everyone who has helped out with this, either through sharing my offer with your own readers, asking for an NPC for me to write, or just heading on over to see what all the fuss was about. I’ll keep on blogging as long you lot keep on reading, and once a year – to let you know how much I appreciate you all – I’ll do this all over again.

Nov 162012

This blog isn’t even six months old, but I’ve already learnt a whole bunch about the hobby I love, that playing games in it for over 17 years never taught me. Most of these are just odd little words and phrases, but I thought I would put them down for other people who want to get involved in this awesome online community, but have no idea what a whole bunch of the stuff that gets talked about even means. The headings will link out to larger articles on the subject, if people want to delve deeper than this list dares to go.

OSR: Old School Renaissance. Basically it boils down a gamers who have a preference for old school RPGs. What constitutes an old school RPG? That’s a little harder to pin down, but the basic ethos seems to story over rules, and the freedom to make the game the way you want to play. I admire the movement, but I cut my teeth on more modern games, and haven’t really played anything old school bar a short delve into Hackmaster. A great game which quite rightly gets a fair bit of praise from the OSR folks.

Grognard. At its most literal, it means ‘old guard’ or old soldier. In my time gaming, I’ve recently been referred to as a member of the old guard of the gaming society I’ve been a member of for almost two decades. In RPG terms though, it can mean someone who has a fondness for older editions of games who have been playing for a long time, and who would probably think of themselves as being part of the OSR.

GrognardlingAt first I thought this was some kind of Grgnard/halfling husbandry incident, but it turns out, it’s actually a name for people who love old school gaming, but are fairly new to the hobby.

Flail Snail. More than just a rather peculiar fantasy RPG monster, it’s also a way of gaming that allows for cross system characters to end up in the same party. I really like the sound of this and might give it a go at some point.

Murder Hobo. This is something I had experienced, but had no idea that there was a name for it! Imagine a bunch of player characters who see the world as their own playground, and the most fun games involve killing anyone who looks at them funny, and moving on before they have to face the consequences. What you have there is a pack of murder hobos.

Hex Crawling. This is actually a old way to game, but one that had managed to completely pass me by, apart from a vague understanding of it being like a dungeon crawl, but above ground. I can’t really do it justice, here, so please follow the link. Suffice to say, it has interested me a lot recently, and I think as way of running an RPG it has a whole heap of benefits.

The Secret Santicore. Sadly, this has closed for the year, but it’s a great little idea. Everyone asks the Secret Santicore for something RPG related, and offers something back. magic then happens, and people get what they asked for! I’m sure there’s more than that, but i don’t want to spoil the magic for the kidlings. Seriously though, this is such a great idea, and sums very effectively what I love so much about the role playing community online. people creating things for other people, just for the joy of creating it.

So there we go. A far from exhaustive list, but feel free to add anything else you like to the comments below, or even correct me if I have misunderstood anything.

Nov 132012

You read that right blog fans! I’m finally ready to release my Steampunk card game to other people who will play it and everything! Links will pop up throughout this post as I talk about the various components, but there will be one link at the end that should take you through to everything you need to get started in your very first game of Excitement and Adventure: The Race for Glory!

First thing you might want is the Rule Book. This was formatted to be printed off as a booklet, rather than just creating the document and then printing it off as a booklet, as my printer didn’t do a great job of that. Print off pages one and three, then two and four on their reverse side. A fold down the middle and you’re done. On the back cover, you’ll see a few names of people who’ve helped out in the early stages. If you do play the game and provide some feedback, then your name will be added to this list.

Next up is the Play Mat. In a finalised version of the game, I would love to see this as a world map, with boxed out tables for each continent. For now, it’s just the tables, but it means it will work easily on an A4 sheet with a font big enough for everyone to read.

Characters next, and there is two sheets of these. Each has three characters on. Although at the moment the game only really supports 2-4 players, I like the idea of giving the players a bit more choice about who they control. It also means a larger number of possible character combinations. These cards really do highlight the fact that I have no artwork as yet, since most of the card is white space. I will get something down on them later, but right now I just need to know if the game works at all.

This is the big bit I’m afraid, as the next thing you’re going to need are the two decks; Excitement and Adventure. Quite a few pages of these, with 9 cards per page. Just cut them out and stack them up. Male sure your printer is set up to do the whole sheet, as I have extended the margins somewhat. This was done to make the cards fit snuggly in basic CCG sleeves. I didn’t want to print the whole lot on card stock, so this seemed like an easy option. I picked up 300 sleeves on ebay for less than £3 including shipping if you decide to pick some up. You will need over 200. Sorry about that, but it just kind of got away from me.

Each deck also has a back available too. Adventure and Excitement denoted by a big capital letter. If you want to keep printing costs down, you can just write this on yourself, but since there are over 200 cards, I thought I’d make it easier if people didn’t fancy spending that long with a pen. You’ll notice that there are no lines on the back of card sheet. This was because getting the lines to sync up with my printer was a bit of a pain in the rear. These are just a single sheet, so you’ll need to print off enough to back all of the cards in each deck.

Finally, one more thing that you’re going to need is the Time Slider. Just print off and cut out. Folding the un-numbered side between the others for stability, then taping it closed. A paper clip should suffice to track the turns, which I hope you can find about your home.

I am also trusting that most of the people who will be interested in playing this game will have access to a pile of things that they can use for tokens. I’ve been using poker chips for Renown, as the different colours can denote differing points, meaning smaller piles of tokens come the end of the game. Other than that you’ll need a handful of other tokens/beads to represent Trophies and Malfunctions picked up as you Adventure.

If you have all that, and you’re ready to go, then I hope you have fun, and I have just one more thing to ask. I need feedback. It’s why I’m opening this up for people to play. The basic stuff such as game balance and spelling mistakes would be great to hear about, but there’s a whole host of stuff that I would like to know to help the game improve. If you’re playing a game, I would love it if you could keep track of which Explorers were being played, how many players there were, the final point tally and how long the game lasted. And of course, if the game makes sense and you have fun.

And also, thank you. I know that this month a lot of people are designing their own games, so if you get the chance to take a shot at this, I want you to now how much I appreciate it. If you need play testers of your own, ask away, and if I can fit it in, then I will happily reciprocate the favour.

Link to all items. There are some sample sheets in there too, feel free to ignore those, as they exist just to give people an idea of the cards.

Nov 122012

I almost didn’t write about this topic because of some slightly flawed logic. I reasoned that if this was a good idea, someone else must have had it already. So either the work had already been done by someone else, or it just wasn’t a good idea. In the end though I figured that even if it had been touched on in the past, other writers could have gotten to this point by following a different path. Also, if there are people who don’t like the idea, then at the least, I should explain to them why I like it based on my own experience.

This comes on the back of the first couple of sessions of my current campaign. The characters were all created in a vacuum because of the way the game was going to start. Details are through the previous link, but short story is that the characters don’t have a clue about the world they exist in. This meant that it was totally possible for someone to lovingly craft a character, and after two sessions realise that it is almost totally untenable based on the world they now find themselves in. I knew this could be an issue so I have offered everyone the option for a bit of a rebuild after the next game, just in case they’re unhappy.

I know from reading other blogs and opinions that there are people out there who might think I’m being a bit soft on my players. I’ve created “3d6 in order” characters in the past and had to struggle through with crappy stats. I know that sometimes these can be the most fun characters, but they can also be a total pain if you really don’t want to play a certain type of character. It’s why I always prefer the point build to the dice rolled character. My reasons for offering this concession are simple; running this game the way I am doing is a bit of an experiment for me, and if bits of it don’t go the way I want them to, then there’s no reason that the players should suffer. I want them to have fun, and if shunting a skill point or two round is going to help that happen, and as long as it does nothing to mess with the game for anyone else, then I say go for it.

The other way I could have done it, and this idea sadly came to me a week and a half too late, was to let them play the first game with just a character idea, and a few notes about what they would like to be. Any dice rolls would be random ways of determining things where a cut and dried yes or no wouldn’t make much sense, or I just didn’t want to assume automatic success on something plot related. Everything else would be up to the story each person wanted to tell about who their character was. The next week they turn up and we start putting points down for stats and skills, but would almost certainly carry on some light role playing as we did this to give everyone more chance to decide what direction they wanted their character build to go in. I would like to think that my players wouldn’t push their luck on this, and would see it as a fun way to end up with a character they were happy with.

Now, a few weeks back I said that this blog wouldn’t become just a vehicle to talk about my Cyberpunk campaign, so I thought I would try and apply this to a game I’m thinking about running in the future. Deadlands. If that word means nothing to you, click this link and read all about it. The time will not be wasted, trust me.

The plan is to run a military style campaign, with the player characters on one side of the civil war, fighting against the other. I’m not going to decide which side they’re on, as I think they should be able to pick that for themselves as a group. The game would start a little in the thick of it. The players’ unit already in trouble, in the middle of a fight, either trying to break through to an objective, or fleeing as their own lines have been shattered. Everyone would have a rough idea of the type of character they would like to play, but have no character sheets in front of them. Taking it a little for granted that they all survive – and since dice rolling will be to a minimum and the action more story based, it shouldn’t be too much a problem – then the week after, we start character creation. This has several positives; for the players it means they won’t be screwed by a character build that they loved before the campaign started but has no where to go in-game. There is even a bonus for me; in a military game, the chain of command will be important, and if I choose to let someone have an NCO rank, I will be able to pick that character after watching them in action. It’s much easier to asses who has any leadership ability after you’ve seen them under fire.

So, that’s the basic idea. Have any of my readers tried this? Did it work? Am I taking a huge risk? Do you think I’m an idiot? All comments welcomed, but keep the name calling to a minimum.

Nov 112012

For November, Triple Crit is taking the reigns for the RPG Blog Carnival, and their topic of choice is about how the writing process affects, or is affected by the game. I have stated in previous blogs how little I actually write down when I’m GMing. This has lead to a separate writing project stalling pretty much completely. When I ran a long campaign that I recently considering turning into a published adventure, it was very hard indeed to get down in words the choices that the players made, as I had so little to do with most of them. This is because I ran a lot of the game on the fly, and knew that if I had stuff written down I could end up getting bogged down in following my own plot. I think I would like to get back round to the project once I have a bit more writing experience under my belt, but at the moment I have a few other projects up my sleeve that are taking up time, and have a higher chance of baring fruit, creatively  and when it comes to them seeing the light of day.

Today then, I want to talk about writing done as a player. In the balance of things I think I have spent more time on the player’s side of the screen, and this has done me a lot of favours when it comes to GMing. I tend to run the kind of game I would like to play, and people seem to respond to that in a highly positive way. When I’m playing a character that I can sink my teeth into, the notes I take during play – that usually exist only as a reminder of names and places to me as a player – end up being the basis for longer prose pieces that I write up just for the fun of it. Until recently, I never entertained any idea of them seeing print in any format other than a thread on a forum. But right now, with the blog and a few other writing projects, my confidence as a writer is growing. A big obstacle to publishing adventures from a game though is that you own so little of the intellectual property you’re writing about.

If I was to include any of the adventure, the GM takes credit for creating the basic plot. If I write about a published game world, all of that belongs to other people. Even the other player characters were the creation of other minds. My latest shot at this though could actually work. A couple of friends of mine are in the final stages of writing their own system and game world, and have given me permission to use characters/places/kitchen sink from the world they have created. I need to get the rest of the players on board to letting me put words in their character’s mouths, as one thing i didn’t do was record the session to recreate the conversations verbatim.

This here is what I’m currently thinking about turning into a real bit of writing. Please don’t judge it too harshly, as it was written just for fun. The character who narrates this is actually illiterate. The idea eventually became he was telling the story to journalist after the end of the adventure. Within a few months of game play, it became pretty obvious that we were involved in something big, and that people would want to know what actually happened.

As a bit of practice I have in mind a basic little story of the character’s past, his time spent in the army. This way I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes and the other players can take a look at what I’ve got and see if they’re comfortable with me writing about their creations. For now, this little tease will have to do, but I promise to share anything I write up with all of you.

Nov 092012

When I last left you I had completed the Excitement deck and shared a few choice samples with you, along with the rule book so you know what the heck it all means. Or at least, that was the plan. Go and take a look if you missed it…

Since then I’ve mainly been working on the Adventure deck. I say mainly, I also came down with a pretty bad man flu and spent an evening watching a Google+ hangout as some great people play tested an awesome game. But mainly the Adventure deck. This took a lot longer to square away than the Excitement deck, even though it’s smaller. The reason for this is that I wanted a whole bunch of unique Adventures, where as a lot of the Excitement cards made more sense as duplicates. In the original idea, I did have duplicates of Adventures, with the plan being the players would ‘race’ to be the first to finish each one. You know the drill, once someone has mapped the source of the Nile, doing it again later just isn’t as impressive. Sure, they could still head out there, and might even discover something new and shiny, but the main work has already been done and the achievement celebrated.

I had worked out ways for people coming along after the fact to have an easier time of it, but reap less rewards, but it just seemed a needlessly complicated way of dealing with exploration. Instead I have created nine unique Adventures per continent and then nine other open Adventures than can be completed anywhere but with less rewards and a slightly higher difficulty. Not only did this take time as it stretched my creative muscles a bit more, but the Adventure cards have a bit more information on them, and a few more numbers that need to be balanced. Click this link, and you’ll see what I mean.

It also gave me a few opportunities to try out some extra ideas, such as differing rewards or individual difficulties depending on the nature of the Adventure. All in all it was time well spent, and I hope that the changes I made – including simplifying the language and doing away with often repeated sentences in favour of basic terms – will speed up the game play. The last thing I need before I can try it out though is a set of characters.

I decided to keep it to the six I had in mind originally, but worked out differently based on the rules revisions. A lot of this is the same as I did to the Adventure cards. removing full sentences in favour of modifiers to a game effect. This mean they should be smaller cards – three to a sheet instead of two – without looking cluttered. I’m hoping the balance issues will be swifter to work out now I have a better handle on it, so with any luck, I should have a Monday update that includes some files to download that will allow people to actually print and play the game themselves.

I hope there’s at least one of you out there who is interested enough – and can fit it into their own busy NaGa DeMon schedule – to take a look and let me know what they think. Without play impartial play testing I’ll never know if this works as well as it does in my head.

Nov 062012

People who read this blog – welcome back, you beautiful people – will know I have spoken about this game before. The reason I’m taking a crack at it for the NaGa DeMon (national game design month, for the uninitiated) is that after a couple of play tests, I knew that the game needed a substantial re-write.  Each time it was played, with different numbers of players, the game got bogged down and would have taken hours to play, even taking into account the fact that it was going slowly due to note taking and rules clarifications. Luckily, the people who offered to help were all game players and knew what I wanted to achieve, and they offered some great suggestions for streamlining and simplification. First though; what the heck is this game?

Excitement and Adventure (no longer a working title, it’s actually grown on me), The Race for Glory is a Steampunk themed game of exploration and fame. Each of the players take on the role of one of six members of a Neo-Victorian London based members only club called the Explorer’s Repose. They have each put their name forward to engage in a once in a lifetime race to as many exciting places around the globe as they can get to in a set period of time. At the end of that time, the Explorer who has gained the most renown for the club is declared the winner. To help them on their way, they put together an Expedition of fantastical Gadgets and stalwart Retainers, then pick an Adventure, and away they go. On their travels, the other Explorers will be trying to hinder them, and vice-versa. But there are also cards that can be played to their own advantage.

I’ve tried to keep the mechanics simple to stop the game dragging on to long. The rule book is now available for download, but bear in mind that it is formatted to be printed off as an eight page booklet. Basically though, the players buy things, play cards and go on Adventures. Most of the cards are fairly self explanatory, but the problem has been in showing the passage of time and incorporating how the explorers use that time. I eventually settled on a ‘time slider’. A simple count down of 20 to 0, which drops a point at the end of each turn. When it hits zero, renown is totaled up, and the winner is declared. Once a turn the players who have characters on an Adventure may make an Exploration roll to see how much progress they make on their current venture, with Exploration tokens showing how well they’re doing. Once they feel confident that they’ve explored enough they can make their Adventure roll to see if they’ve found what they were looking for. Each token gives a plus one to this roll, but every Adventure has a difficulty that takes away from it. So the players have a choice to spend more time exploring to increase the odds, or take a gamble and possibly end up getting more lost or returning to London in shame.

The Expedition cards are designed to help in this, with action cards played by all explorers that can also hinder. This was a big part of the game for me, as I didn’t want each player to take their actions in vacuum, preferring the idea of player interaction. Successfully completing Adventures not only gains renown, but also means the Explorer gets an extra revenue source with which to buy better things or fund more rewarding Adventures. For people lagging behind – due to bad luck with regard to card draws or dice rolls – there are ways for them to get back into the game through certain options and an increased chance of drawing extra cards. This is a totally new mechanic for the game, and I’m hoping that after a few more play tests I’ll get to see how well it works.

That’s the basics of the game then. At the moment, I’ve managed to complete the Excitement deck; containing the resources needed to go on Adventures and ways of helping/hindering those who are also on one. I’ve also worked out a first draft of a play mat to show the differing results to exploration rolls one would expect on different continents, and as mentioned above, the rule book. At the moment I’m working on the Adventure deck. This is separate from the Excitement deck and can only be drawn from if the player skips their normal draw phase. When they do so, they take the top three cards and select one that they would like to attempt. when it is complete I hope to have nine different Adventures per continent, with a few extras that can be attempted on any land mass with appropriate modifiers.

After that I need to go back and revisit the characters. I like all the original ideas I had for the basic archetypes, but since the rules have changed so dramatically, I think that only the basic idea and the character names will stay the same.

As an aside, the reason I’ve kept the working title – and added a subtitle – is that I’ve been thinking that basic mechanic of this game would work well in other settings, and currently have an idea for a sci-fi exploration game too.

Linked here is a sample of a few different types of Excitement cards, just to give you an idea as you check out the rule book. If that looks interesting to you, please let me know; I don;t want to spend a month on something that no one cares about. And if you fancy playing the game, then keep an eye out – maybe even join the Facebook page for this blog – as I will be opening it up to more play testing over the next week or so.