The Book Club

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23 responses

20 09 2009
Dave M

OK,
Steampunk Crescendo
http://docs.google.com/View?id=dd2cfjrt_303ns628gq
So, here is where I am at:
Mechanics are like 90% done. It has done playtesting and it is fun. I just have to figure out how to make “Say Yes or roll the dice” work and I am done.
Setting is like 75% done, I need to add some details, but it is all mapped out, nothing major will be added.
CharGen is lie 90% done. I still have to polish up the writing but it is finished.
GM section is like 50% done, I need to add a ton of material and re-write some of what I already have.
Players’ Section is like 25% done. all the mechanical meat is there, but there are no details or explanation as to why it is that way or how the characters are supposed to interact with them.

I suggest that everyone reviews a different game and we just round robin it until everyone has seen everyone’s game at least once. That will help everyone meet the Sep 30th deadline.
What do you guys think?
Dave M

20 09 2009
noahtrammell

That sounds good. I was envisioning it as something a bit more organized, but with so little time left more in-depth discussion can probably wait.
I’ll get started on reading SC, and in the meanwhile I might go and post on Talysman’s page so he knows where this page is and what’s going on.

22 09 2009
noahtrammell

Well, I’ve only skimmed over the game with an eye more toward themes and trends than for basic mechanics, but I’m starting in on my more thorough reading. I guess I’ll do Thorns and Roses on this.
Thorns
The layout of the game makes it hard to read, but I really don’t think that’s a very big problem since this version of any game is written to be revised.
I really like the ideas behind the setting. The Victorian Era is one of my favorite eras of history. However, I’m having a problem meshing all of the various information on Factions, Vampires, and Rom into one whole. What are the Roms’ goal? Why should they care what the factions are doing if they’re just in tiny towns? Why should they care about Vampires? I think this problem will be corrected by an example of play.

Roses
I really like the setting. Lately I’ve been throwing around a game idea about a mythological version of Biblical superheroes like Samson. I’ve been thinking about how to mesh the extremely rigid aspects of Jewish culture with the game. I was excited when I started reading because the Rom live such a Jewish life. I assume that’s what you drew your inspiration from. At the moment, I’ve seen a few paragraphs on the rules of living in the community, and the idea of being thrown out of the community. I wanted to see a lot more about this. Why would someone become a vampire? Why would they care about being thrown out of their tribe?
Another aspect of the Victorian Era I like is the Romantic Movement, which rejected the pragmatic outlook of their society and instead sought a return to what they saw as the ideal of Nature. Are the Rom in some way a reflection of this movement? Are the Vampires?

These are first impressions, and overall I think the setting is great and has the possibility of creating cool, off-the-wall stories.
I have yet to really dig into the rules, but I’ll get to them in future posts.

22 09 2009
mappamundorum

Mappa Mundorum is in a state of more-or-less done-ness. I’m still working on tools for the on-line version, and the flavor bits could be expanded for a revision, but the basic concepts of the mechanics are complete. They may need some tweaking here and there, especially in the areas of how long trips take relative to how long bidding time delays an incident and the relative scoring of incidents versus agents-in-place. (If they work at all. I’m not completely confident just yet there.)

From my first gloss of SC, one question: how often are weaknesses supposed to actually come up? At first I thought the costs were vaguely balanced against rarity or difficulty to narrate, but is it really just as hard for a mastermind to introduce a lemon into a scene as it is for him to have a PC drawn and quartered?

23 09 2009
Dave M

OK,
There is a lot here, I’ll do it in one big post:
What are the Roms’ goal?
Each Rom has their own goal. There are a few Rom-only factions, they have group goals. Really, the idea is they want to succeed during and after the world changes in response to the industrial revolution.

Why should they care what the factions are doing if they’re just in tiny towns?
Well, they live in caravans, not towns, normally. The factions are just supposed to be plot hooks, setting details that players can react to or focus on if they want.

Why should they care about Vampires?
Well, a small sector of the Romani population are cursed to become vampire if they break their marhime code. Not only that, but being a vampire is a lasting symbol that they have broken that code and are spiritually impure.

I assume that’s what you drew your inspiration from.
Hm, actually, no. This is an actual culture, I took it from their culture. In fact, some people have made the mistake that the Rom are a lost tribe of Isreal or something (they are not, they migrated from India originally).

Why would they care about being thrown out of their tribe?
Well, there are mechanics around purity and impurity. The narrative of that might be a change in actual spiritual power and/or their influence in their community.

Are the Rom in some way a reflection of this movement?
Well, there are some that see the Rom as some sort of nature spirits, really each Rom makes their own way. But since they live on the road and often make camp in wilderness areas near towns, they do have a knack for wilderness survival.

Are the Vampires?
The vampires are a tool in the game. I really wanted to emphasize the “punk” in steampunk and give the PCs tools to fight the man, that’s what Vampire powers are for.

Is it really just as hard for a mastermind to introduce a lemon into a scene as it is for him to have a PC drawn and quartered?
So, the factors in the cost are:
1) Can they be used in a physical conflict?
2) Can they be used in a mental conflict?
3) Can they be used in a social conflict?
4) What is the general power level (mechanics used)?
5) How often could it come up?
BUT, activating a Weakness is a player action. So, if the player spends their action on activating a Weakness, it is active, no? That is how I WANT the rules to work. So far, it has worked in Playtest, but, powers and weaknesses have not been fully explored.

Jeff, which version of your book should I read, the 14-day version, or do you have a more up to date version I should read?
Dave M

23 09 2009
noahtrammell

OK, that clears up my questions about the setting a bit. The Rom sound really interesting, and I could see how people mistake them as having roots in Jewish culture.
You mentioned playtests. Could you put up a playtest summary to give us an idea of how the game actually plays when you put it in the hands of players?

23 09 2009
mappamundorum

The 14-day version is the newest.

Okay, getting weaknesses a bit more. but I still think there’s an unhelpful tension between the point-balancing business, which seems like it belongs to a more trad. design, and the actual mechanics. (And it’s compounded by the handful of weaknesses that are ‘always on’, like Funeral attire and mute. Or things like ‘secret name’, which apparently is so secret that it only takes one action for anyone important to pluck out of the air and say)

Do players have access to one another’s character sheets, and/or those of antagonists? Because without that, exploiting looks like a stab in the dark that’s not going to pay off often enough to be worth doing…

23 09 2009
Dave M

Jeff,
Cool, I’ll start reading it tonight!

Here are some AP reports:
http://dindenver-gc2k9.blogspot.com/2009/09/ap-early-playtest.html
http://dindenver-gc2k9.blogspot.com/2009/09/ap-newer-playtest.html

This is only like the third time I have done AP reports, ever. So let me know if it is not clear or if you need any more details.
Dave M

24 09 2009
Dave M

Jeff,
Trading Posts (any) – You use this notation before you describe it. I don’t know what “(any)” means.

“While the Mystics show disinterest in the ancient ruins long the habitable ring, most other powers find them fascinating.”
“long” should be “along” I think…

“and the surface outside of the ring more dangerous,”
I think you mean “and the surface outside of the ring is more dangerous,”

Monestary (Order of Hotep) – lol, this is the most interesting entry on Horus and it has no description…

Why have tou made travel time so long? It seems like the fun of it all is on the planets.

Have you run the numbers on the economy?
It seems like Secrets are Trump on most planets. This has the advantage of driving play towards incidents on Horus. But, it also has the risk of reducing replay-ability. I mean, how many original Horus-based incidents can one group come up with?
I don’t know, I will have to look at the numbers more closely, but that is my first impression.
Dave M

24 09 2009
mappamundorum

(any) means that site can be used with any Power as site controller.

Travel time may need to be tweaked a bit, although with three Agents per player that should help work against that issue.

I’d really like to see some play to prove it, but I expect incidents to be driven largely by agents being sent to disrupt one or two other players scoring points on a planet, not by competition for resources. You only need to spend a single turn to load up, after all, but once you’re in place and scoring, you can keep doing that until somebody stops you.

I made Secrets are trump on two planets, but they’re also the hardest to get/replace. An empty Agent (such as are likely to be around after Baal incidents) needs to make two trips to get Secrets, and if one of those trips was to Osiris, they may be better off not trading their Luck but instead using it to score/help win Incidents.

My own expectation is that there’ll be more incidents on Astarte than the other planets, especially early on when Money is plentiful. If that turns out to be a problem, I’ll consider a more random/distributed initial game state.

26 09 2009
Dave M

Jeff,
I did bust out Excel. I didn’t really need it. But while I was crunching the numbers, I noticed a weird relationship between Resources. You get Money for free for standing around on Earth. And Astarte is just one hop away, where it is Trump. You get Starlight for free for just standing around on Astarte. And Earth is just one hop away, where it is Trump. I am not sure why you would go anywhere else.
So, it would seem that the optimum play would be to land on Astarte, get your fill of Starlight, then get points, until an Incident breaks out. Then go to Earth, get your fill of Money, get points until an Incident breaks out and head to Astarte. Rinse and Repeat. Am I missing something?
Don’t get me wrong, this seems like a really cool game. That’s why I am trying so hard to help you iron it out.

Noah,
Is your 14-day submission the latest version? I’ll take a look at that this weekend.
Dave M

26 09 2009
Dave M

Noah,
I just read the pdf you posted on your last blog entry. Here is what I saw:
I think one of these is a typo.
“Jayden decides his visiting youth will be named Danie Nel.”
vs.
“Jayden decides that the Storm was a disaster for Daniel, who is now cut off from his parents, friends, and old haunts.”

Maybe this character is too generic/specialized?
“He adds “Farming” to his Methods. He also decides the continuous work on the farm has made him strong and tough. He adds “Strappin’ Farm Boy” to his Methods.”
Maybe his Methods should be “Hard Work” and “Determination”? something with not so much overlap? I dunno, you know your game better than me, but in keyword-style mechanics, have similar words generally leads to trouble…

This seems contradictory to me:
“Breath represents your ability to keep going strong in non-lethal physical conflicts, whether you’re fleeing from an angry sheriff or trying to punch that thug unconscious without being battered yourself. Breath’s important for those guys that can keep on running mile after mile, or who just don’t seem to go down no matter how little they sleep or they get punched.”
Non-lethal physical conflicts vs. fighting. I think you are trying to say punching is non-lethal and that running is a non-lethal physical conflict as well. But I am not too sure.

Can a player do something like Cool 1, Breath 1, Blood 8? What would be the downside?

Seems pretty cool. Some of this stuff is pretty vague, but it has a cool vibe to it. Can;t wait to see more.
Dave M

27 09 2009
noahtrammell

Actually, I’ve decided to scrap cool, breath, and blood. As much as I liked the feel of them, I’ve decided to abandon them because they weren’t really effective when it came to social conflicts and persuasion. Instead, I’ve decided to go with a little bit more general “Issues.” Issues could be “Wounded,” “Out of Breath,” etc. Once an Issue gets high enough, your character may be removed from the game temporarily or even permanently.

What about the game seems vague? This is one thing I’ve been really worried about. Is it in terms of the mechanics or the actual images the game evokes?

27 09 2009
noahtrammell

Also, I don’t actually have a submitted entry yet thanks to my busy schedule. I’ll hopefully have a full version up by tomorrow.

27 09 2009
Dave M

Noah,
I just figured it is due to the early nature of the copy I am reading. But you haven’t actually said what the evil is or what the Storm has done. I kept expecting you to say Zombies! But it never happened. The stuff you have actually written seems pretty solid, but it is like early episodes of Lost or something, where everything is all nebulous. What is it, I don’t know…
Since so much of the content is player generated, I guess that’s fine, but I like to have a little something to riff off of rather than make the whole thing from scratch.
Or, maybe you just haven’t written that bit yet, I dunno.
Dave M

27 09 2009
noahtrammell

In some ways, that nebulousness is what I’m going for. My idea is that I don’t even know what happened really. I’d like to have a more narrative-style example of play later on after I’ve stopped rushing to hit the deadline.
Your comparison to an early episode of Lost is kinda what I’m going for, something that players can start with and go anywhere they want, whether it be post-apocalyptic or a war between ancient forces. I am working on the “Settings” chapter which has a list of possible opponents. Due to the really lite nature of the game I’m not statting anything out, just giving ideas. This might clear up a little bit of the haze, but hopefully not so much you actually know what’s going on during your first read-through.

28 09 2009
noahtrammell

FYI, I just posted up the first edition of the game, complete with Conflict rules and all that stuff. You can read it here. I’m looking forward to getting feedback on my first complete game!

28 09 2009
mappamundorum

Dave:
The idea is for simple strategies like that to be self limiting. First, each player has three agents and you can only score points for agents-with-trump-resource on a planet once per planet no matter how many such agents are around. (And also having multiple agents on the same planet is not all that useful in Incidents). And second, if everybody does it, then you get a series of incidents instead of scoring agents. Which means you’re either getting nothing, losing 3 points, or gaining 5 every so often and having the Agents in flight the rest of the time, while someone else’s agent sitting on a less popular planet is scoring points every turn.

Finally, adjacent-orbiting planets are necessarily all that close to each other. (Earth and Astarte are in the mock-up map, but in a a generated map that distance is usually going to be much more.)

Any comment on the Incident rules?

28 09 2009
Dave M

Jeff,
That’s the trick though. Because Trump is a double win (incident and non-incident points), there is no reason not to do it. Multiple agents means you always have one on Earth and one on Venus. If an Incident pops up, you are prepared with a Trump resource. And you still have a 3rd agent to cover the other 3 planets or if the travel time is long, he is always on route to replace one or the other.
The mechanics seemed alright. The positive and negative bidding is awesome. I wonder if there are enough Resources in play for there to always be a single solution?
Still, it looks pretty tight. Maybe the Want Resource (for Trade) is a Trump Resource for standing there and getting points? So that a character in place to get points may not necessarily have the trump resource.
Or maybe force an agent to trade in Resource for points in a non-incident move?

I dunno, just spitballing. I am not sure if this is a real issue or just something I think I see.
Dave M

28 09 2009
mappamundorum

Again, I hope that this is a bit self-limiting. If four players are using that strategy, they’re never/rarely going to be earning non-incident points, the advantages of trump in incidents will equalize, and meanwhile the fifth player will get set up on the other three planets earning steadily and, as Site Controller, dragging each incident out that extra five turns (at least).

If not, I can always switch the trump for Earth and Horus around and make that a three-cycle, which might make things better. Or randomize/let either the planet’s narrator or the Site Controller decide where all agents go after an incident.

I have the ‘incident on hold for five turns if everyone passes a round’ rule in case Resources run out. Eventually someone will presumably get another agent by to free the first one and try for the points…

28 09 2009
mappamundorum

Actually, if it’s necessary, I think the person who makes the final bid should be the one to decide where the Agents are sent. With the rule that he can’t send two agents to the same planet unless he’s already sent agents to all four other planets.

And, now that I think on it, I probably need some sort of fix for the case in which all fifteen agents simultaneously get locked in delayed incidents with no Resources remaining. Not that it’s likely to happen often, but some kind of fix would still be nice for that edge case.

29 09 2009
noahtrammell

Sorry I haven’t been able to keep up with all the mechanics talk. It’s been a crazy week. I have however been able to skim over Mappa Mundorum, and one of the first things I thought was: what if the Agents were named? For some reason, this game reminded me a bit of Dune, where the actions of two or three people can change the destiny of the universe.
I guess my question is whether you want to go for a board game with a story-telling feel (i.e. Settlers of Catan or Munchkin), or go for a roleplaying game with strategic elements. I know that naming Agents starts to get hairy in terms of what their motivations are and how they interact with the world, but I think it would be interesting even if the writing in the game had more of an emphasis on the story.
I don’t know, these are first impressions, and I look forward to digging into the real meat of the game later on after I’m done with all my homework. Looks like a fun game so far!

30 09 2009
noahtrammell

OK, I now ‘get’ the game, and realize I’ve passed many early judgements on the game. On a closer reading, I realized that the game’s focus is on creating as story, not just “victory.”

Right now I’m thinking of maybe starting to playtest these games? Even if we just ran through a quick succession of Conflicts or Incidents, I think that even if they are short playtests are the next logical steps. Would either of you be interested in running a brief scenario over a period of a week, a few weeks, even a month on this blog?

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