Plans for MinnLoCo 2019

In just a few days, I and my partner will be traveling to MN. For me, it’s to attend MinnLoCo (Minnesota Long Con). For her, it’s to be a tourist. I think we’re both excited in an understated way. It will be nice to get away from things here. And I usually get recharged after playing RPGs.

I won’t know until Wednesday if my game filled or not, but I’ve volunteered to run some games. Here’s my submission.

Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears a Crown (Custom Blend) – Questlandia, The King Is Dead, For the Queen, and maybe also Kingdom) – We will play through a handful of GM-less indie RPGs that explore themes and stories about aspects of monarchy.

This will be fun to try out some new-to-me games in the same theme.

Putting the Pieces Together

As time permits, I’m pulling together my content for the two games I’m bringing with me to Metatopia: Dark Well and Vigilance.

Along with that comes the return to inspiration sources applied with some recent studies on writing: Steering the Craft, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I especially enjoyed chapters 9 and 10 that directly discussed her take on story and plot.

For Vigilance, I’ve been collecting books about and watching a BBC series on ancient civilizations. As a result, I’m probably going to include the Olmec. I just learned that the height of their civilization was at about the same as the others who fell suddenly at the end of the Late Bronze Age. And I just heard about the Sanxingdui civilization which was likely a contemporary group to the Shang Dynasty in China.

For Dark Well, I’ll be catching up on tv shows, such as Dark, Fringe, and Millennium. Maybe start reading about conspiracies again in between some other projects. It’ll be nice to have the company of ideas as I sift and edit content down to a portable and consumable version to share with others in NJ come November. And oh yes, there will be character sheet revisions!

Axe on stump

Chop, Chop!

I find that cutting content and ideas are always the most difficult to do as a designer.

Part of my struggle with cutting is that I’m never 100% certain I’ve made the best decision at that moment. Sometimes I have to live with the decision for a while and try to test the revised version. Sometimes the changes result in immediate improvements for clarity, and at other times it takes the project into an unexpected direction requiring further changes.

What helps me make and cope with the cuts is having a separate file with the chopped content saved as a backup. Should I ever consider a project finished I can delete this stored file of random bits. More likely I’ll keep it in a misc folder for future ideas. This reassurance helps me to manage my progress and expectations.

For my recent work with Space Station Omega, given the scope of the game, I’ve broken chapters into their own files, and then have used versions.

For the smaller NightMirror content, I’ve only needed a few different full version and now a bits file as I slowly write my way to a finished first draft.

For the two games I’m planning to take with me to Metatopia this November, I’ll be working to identify what I want to have playtested for each. At this point, I’m planning to take Dark Well and Vigilance. I’ll be weighing the strengths and weaknesses as a designer in September and perhaps (re)writing parts of the game as well.

NightMirror preview

Updates Since June, 2019

I’ve been very busy with RL commitments this summer so gaming has had to take a backseat until recently.

That being said, I did participate in Game Chef 2019 and will share more details about my experience with the game design competition in a future post.

Other than Game Chef, Corridor Games on Demand has started its relationship with the Cedar Rapids Public Library where we are running our Playing in Public events in one of the library’s meeting rooms once per month. If we have the resources we’ll try to scale our efforts. We’ll be part of an intro to gaming event this September. I’m looking forward to that.

I also had a strange obsession to work through an idea about mutant animals using a combination of DOGS and Powered by the Apocalypse. Don’t worry, it’s only 4-pages and scratched a sudden itch. If I do more with it, I’ll need to file off some serial numbers and flesh it out to make it playable.

Later in September, I’m planning to attend MinnLoCo to game with some amazing friends in MN. I’m considering running three separate yet connected RPGs during the event with the same group of players. The games are Questlandia (the world-building part), The King Is Dead, For the Queen, and then end with Queslandia (with characters). It’s an experiment of related narrative collaboration RPGs with a monarchy. We’ll see how this goes.

In November, I’m attending Metatopia for the first time. Metatopia is a game convention for playtesting and networking in the game industry. I’ll be bringing two games to have playtested.

Regarding my own game design projects:

  • I’m waiting for the next version of the Cortex Prime System Reference Guide before updating Space Station Omega.
  • I’ve returned to write and edit NightMirror in between other projects.
SSO mockup

Space Station Omega Progress Update: June, 2019

Now that the Cortex Prime System Reference is out I’ve been working my way through revisions to match up with it as time permits. I’ve gotten feedback and hope that the next version will be ready for a more thorough test of the rules and content. Just have to keep writing and editing.

> Space Station Omega

I’ve created a mockup cover for fun (see the featured image above in a graphic novel form factor for about 300 pages) to help keep the motivation going as I work on sections, one paragraph at a time.

Playtesting

Welcome to the AquaVertigo Playtesting post.

The following games are in playtest:

If you are interested in participating in a playtest of one or more of the above games, please let me know in the contact form below.

Games I'm Interested In (required)

 

Dark Well playtest at Forge Midwest 2019

Forge Midwest 2019 Recap

Forge Midwest 2019 was fantastic thanks to the organizers and participants. I even brought a couple new people from Eastern Iowa to the convention.

> About Forge Midwest

Friday

  1. Masks: A New Generation RPG – Masks: A New Generation is a superhero roleplaying game in which a team of young heroes fights villains, saves lives, and tries to figure out who they are. And kick some butt along the way. After all, what’s the point of being a hero if you can’t fight for the things you believe in?
    • I finally got to play this game and I was not disappointed. Thank you Jim for GMing and to all of the wonderful other players. I’ve run Masks once before at a Corridor Games on Demand: Playing in Public event and enjoyed it, but didn’t have a full grasp of it at the time. I can’t wait to play more and then run the game for a mini-campaign.
  2. Vigilance RPG playtest – Vigilance is a late bronze age post-apocalyptic fantasy roleplaying game about justice in an unjust world.
    • I ran a playtest of Vigilance with three players, one of whom had played in a prior iteration a few years ago at Gamicon. She brought her friend with her into this game. For much of Friday, I wasn’t feeling well and was low energy so I know that I didn’t run the game at its full potential. Also, I made the mistake of changing a mechanics rule a third of the way through the game and it wasn’t working for me. I should have stopped the game and changed it back but didn’t have the mental capacity at the time. The story and much of the flow of the game mostly worked. Enough to get us to a cathartic ending considering all of the things in flux. I was surprised that we were able to finish up within three hours, including the debrief and I was glad as I needed sleep. In the debrief we talked about the rule change with chaos dice and an alternate to it that may prove to be a good design compromise. I will need to test it out soon.

Saturday

  1. 5-Minute Dungeon card game – In this game, you’ll join forces with your friends to fight your way through five dungeons filled with deadly obstacles and dangerous monsters! You’ll choose to play as one of ten heroes, each with their own special cards and abilities. In 5-Minute Dungeon, there are no turns. Everybody will be racing against the clock to slap down symbols that match the current card from the Dungeon. You’re all in it together—either your party defeats the dungeon and moves onto the next one, or you all perish!
    • Willow and Tim introduced this to Robyn, Bryan, and myself and it was fun. We made it all the way to the final boss: The Game Master and lost! It was amusing to play. I would not buy, but would play again if need be.
  2. Clash of Steel card game – A competitive, low-luck, 15-minute card game for two players, focusing on the tactical nuance of a medieval duel.
    • Eli convinced me to give this game a try and it was okay for a strategy duel game, but not my thing. I would not buy, but I would play again if need be.
  3. FFG Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG – Participate in grim and gritty adventures in places where morality is gray and nothing is certain. Ply your trade as a smuggler in the Outer Rim, collect bounties on the scum that live in the shadows of Coruscant, or try to establish a new colony on a planet beneath the Empire’s notice… The Star Wars®: Edge of the Empire™ Core Rulebook provides everything you and your friends need to experience life in the shadiest and most remote locations in the Star Wars universe.
    • Jason ran a fun game with all of the players as bounty hunters. Fights were had. Stuff was blown up. Quips were made. Innocents were stunned. And we got our targets for a big payout.
  4. Dark Well RPG playtest – Dark Well is a science-fantasy thriller roleplaying game about exploring the unknown.
    • I pitched this game, including the word “conspiracy” somewhere in there and that got a lot of players interested, so much so that I had to turn some away. The playtest was great, in part due to the fact that I had more energy and all five players were engaged from start to finish. I used the conspiracy pool of headlines for the first time and that helped us drive things home through the scenes. The tokens from the Well worked surprisingly well–people outside of the game stopped by to see what we were doing and took pictures. This was perhaps the strangest playtest of Dark Well in that it really fed itself again and again in a creepy way. Less horror than usual. Closer to Unknown Armies perhaps?!? We played late. It took us four hours to get to the final dramatic scene, paused for the 11PM game pitches and then finished the game with epilogues and a feedback session, for which I am very grateful. It was a wonderful experience and I am looking forward to reviewing the notes ahead of the next playtest.

Sunday

  1. Feng Shui 2 RPG – In Feng Shui, the action movie roleplaying game, you play heroes of the Chi War, protecting humankind’s destiny in a titanic struggle across space and time. Victory depends on your gravity-defying kung fu powers, your ancient magics, your post-apocalyptic survival instincts, or your plain old-fashioned trigger finger. You might be a maverick cop, a cranky kung fu fighting master, an everyday hero, a masked avenger, or an enigmatic drifter from a post-apocalyptic future. In battle you are forced to face off against a legion of fearsome foes. This conflict rages between four key time periods, confronting sinister eunuch magicians of the past, imperialist oppressors of the colonial era, secretive conspirators of the present, and cyborg rebels–turned-tyrants whose excesses collapsed the future. This is Feng Shui 2!
    • I can cross off Feng Shui from my bucket list of game thanks to the one-shot game. Jim was a great GM and the other players were fun, but the fighting took forever and the story was too unimportant for my style. While I enjoyed our play of it, I don’t think that I need to play this game again and have no interest in owning or running the game. Robyn embraced the horrible dice rolls that she had for her character and the mantle of comedy relief, taking out the cyber-gorilla with an epic head-butt. Lots of laughs.

Space Station Omega Personnel Datafile Version 3

The feedback is coming in and it’s great to hear that people are reading and thinking about how Space Station Omega can be improved. It’s making me feel like the spirit of great sci-fi shows lives on through the game.

> Space Station Omega

Version 1 was very much influenced by the Leverage Roleplaying Game. Version 2 was me rethinking everything after going through the Cortex Prime handbook with many concepts on the brain. Version 3 is me thinking about feedback from the draft with the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game in the background as a result of listening to many MHR actual play games online.

Here’s a look at the most recent character sheet design (front), version 3. It includes the list of actions for this version of SSO. [Edited: even newer version listed below.]

 

> PDF version

Pool time with Vigilance

Tonight I had the good fortune to run through some core dice pool tests with a fellow designer for my alternate fall of the Bronze Age game, Vigilance, and it was amazing.

> Vigilance RPG

I feel as though the game mechanics are taking a while to mature due to the lack of consistent critical testing and after tonight’s run through I am more confident about trying a face-to-face and an online playtest group.

Tonight we ran through the 7th of 12 chapters and the 7th is the Debate between Laws. As it was a playtest focused mostly on the mechanics, I quickly filled in details about the province (formerly called precinct in earlier versions) and the story circumstances of the conflict filled themselves in as the combat developed. This was the first use of chapter 7 and we cut right to the battle between the PC Law and the NPC Law. This game only has the players roll the dice, but there are a few escalation features as well–most notably Chaos. The more Chaos the more d10s and things get worse.

Since we had two versions of the dice pool to test we opted to run through the same fight with the A/B pool use. Things started out more or less the same and then it happened when the second option seemed to really make the player be more engaged and as a result I was more invested with each choice the player made. The Chaos definitely escalated more in the second case and the complication stacked resulting in bitter victory for the PC Law, winning the Debate and losing the respect of his province in the process for doing what he was made to do.
 

Photo: Detail of the Laws of Conflict sheet for the Vigilance RPG.
Dark Well One on One Playtest

One on one with Dark Well

Last night, a friend of mine agreed to do a one on one playtest of Dark Well and it went surprisingly well. We set the game in South America in the 1970s with my friend playing a mercenary archeologist who locates and sells rare artifacts to the highest bidder.

> Dark Well RPG

Dark Well has gone through a number of changes in recent time. The most recent evolution was tested at Gamehole Con, 2018, and proved to be a big hit with the group. Since then I’ve been working to refine the game. I playtested the game with two friends during a Corridor Games on Demand Playing in Public event not too long ago and they both really enjoyed both the system and the story setting.

The core of the token system works well. It’s the character + conspiramid changes that I’m still working to test and I feel that it will require more than one-shots to do this properly.

In the playtest that we ran last night, the archeologist’s greed seemed to get the better of him and neither the player nor me as the GM were certain which was “real” to the PC and which was a hallucination. This line between the two was exactly what was needed and we both played to it, even into the epilogue.

Now I just need to test the game’s setting and tone with more people I don’t know as well and then write up the prompts and structure that reinforces how this is done.