Cedar Rapids Downtown Public Library

Prepped for Corridor Con 2020

It’s Friday, Jan. 17, 2020 and Corridor Con 2020 is tomorrow, baring the snowstorm which started today, so we’ll see how things go.

But I’m as ready as I can be to run the two games that I’m bringing: Space Station Omega and Feudal Fairy World. Both are games that I’m designing and are in playtest, and are scheduled for me to run during Gamicon, which is happening two weeks from today!

 

Prep for Space Station Omega

Space Station Omega (Cortex Prime system): A tabletop roleplaying game about political dramatic action among the stars, as in Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Battlestar Galactica, and The Expanse.

 

Prep for Feudal Fairy World

Feudal Fairy World (Powered by the Apocalypse system): A tabletop roleplaying game about fantasy adventures of honor, romance, and magic in feudal worlds, notably fantasy Sengoku Era, Arthurian, and feudal space.

Printed draft of SSO v2.7.1

ME VS SPACE STATION OMEGA V2.7.1 DRAFT

As mentioned about a year ago, I seriously began work on Space Station Omega (SSO). I just printed out a color version to begin reviewing as I move on to version 2.7.2+.

AREAS OF CONSTERNATION

  • At nearly 300 pages with more to add and finish, the game is moving along. A chunk of this, about 40 pages will depend on the finalized official Cortex Prime System Reference document. Now that Cortex Prime is through Fandom, everyone like me is waiting to see what’s next and what we as designers can and can’t do.
  • I still don’t have the Effect Die in the game and will see if that changes.
  • I have a variety of experience/advancement options to test for the final recommendation.
  • I don’t use Distinctions as they are commonly found in other Cortext games, however, there are some specific traits used like Distinction, such as with Profile and Background.

AREAS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT

While not perfect and a ways to go before it’s ready for a stronger editing pass, I’m pleased with the progress so far. Here are the milestones for me thus far:

  • I spent a lot of time being anxious and creative effort to work on the Talents. Some help was from Tim Bannock and his Head Shot! Cortex Prime Zombie game. Some I found at the Cortex Prime Discord servers. The rest was through revisiting Cortex Plus games and me fumbling around. I currently have seven assigned talents for each role, for a total of 35, plus seven open, and three heritage talents just in case, for a grand total of 45. I’m not against doing more, but the effort—sheesh. 18 pages now.
  • Thanks to talking with Jason Dettman and his comments on an earlier draft I have simplified the specialties closer to that found in Leverage: The Roleplaying Game. So from six to two pages.
  • I’ve gone back and forth about the use of Powers and Abilities in SSO, and have opted to go with the use of them under one thing called the Empowered talent. It costs two talent slots. Instead of having a master list of powers I’m mapping how you can use them similar to the seven basic actions of the game and providing some guidance through the use of Stunt Dice and spending Plot Points. Hopefully, this will allow for something flexible and not become overpowering vs. the rest of the talents, roles, and traits in general. It cuts my page count down from 29 to four pages, which is a good reason to try playtesting it as soon as possible.
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)

 

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

Printed drafts of Space Station Omega

Me vs Space Station Omega v2.5 Draft

And so it continues…

I’ve got a draft of Space Station Omega (SSO) ready to undergo a closer inspection and more ruthless editing after Gamicon, 2019. I already know that there are sections which need cutting—even after adding them in to remind me to not forget about them, but the question for me will be to see how important it is to salvage the essence of those parts for the game.

What I’m attempting to construct is a game that pulls together parts of the Cortex Plus/Prime RPG system to emulate a subgenre of science-fiction television stories, such as Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, and The Expanse.

I’ve reviewed many of the game sourcebooks and the Hacker’s Toolkit. I’ve studied the releases for the Cortex Prime Handbook. For SSO, I feel that I need drama, action, and politics. Cortex Prime uses traits to build out parts of its modular toolkit system, so here are the ones that I’m working with:

  • Drama Traits: Values, Beliefs (value statements), Relationships
  • Action Traits: Roles, Talents, Abilities, Specialties
  • Politics Traits: Backgrounds, Factions, Sectors
  • Other Traits: Signature Assets, Extras, Scene Assets

 

Areas of Consternation

I’m wondering how much of the game I can simplify or leave with more system mastery pieces. The Abilities for one are quite long and serve a game with powers at its core very well. However, in SSO, I feel that Abilities are rarer and should fit into the specific story.

For example, what if my group decides that they don’t want telepaths, but do want genetically engineered super soldiers? And the next one wants mystical space magic but not teleportation? How much of the Ability structure needs to remain to give a group enough content to confidently build their own without requiring a significant number of pages to read and understand or to see enough examples to understand how it would play out in your particular situation?

Also, I’ve dropped the use of the Effect Die and it’s raising alarms specifically for the Abilities. I don’t want to break something that would work normally out of the sake of wanting to simplify the game.

Another long-ish area that I like and want to simplify is the use of Events. Similarly to dropping the Effect Die I’ve dropped the use of Milestones and XP, again to make things easier so I’m not certain how Events will play out mechanically at this point.

The Expanse Season 4 Promo

Space Station Omega Version 2.5

Since Cortex Prime updated mid-January, 2019, I’ve worked to do extensive writing and editing on Space Station Omega (SSO). Version 2.5 is coming along nicely and I’m getting a better sense for how the whole system hangs together, as well as how it differs for SSO.

> Space Station Omega RPG

Today I created a new bare-bones character sheet based on the revisions and have a version that I feel confident to use with the next round of playtests. I went ahead and made it landscape, double-sided with the front hosting the following categories: Profile (Background trait), Views (for The War, The Alliance, Homeworld), Values and Beliefs, Stress and Trauma Tracks, Roles and Specialties, and a space to list Plot Points. For the back, the categories include Talents, Resources (Factions, Sectors, Relationships, Signature Assets, Extras, and Scene Assets), and Growth (Callbacks and Challenges).

> Space Station Omega Personnel Datafile 02-09-2019

The next step is to have a mostly done first draft ready for review by late winter or early spring for friends to read and comment on regarding obvious issues and provide feedback related to the Cortex Prime RPG experience. Depending on how well this step goes it will either be a fair amount of rewriting and/or revisions for clarity and crafting examples specific to SSO.

Hopefully, with a new round of robust playtesting on the way this year, it will shake out remaining stumbling points and provide a next draft which I can share with other GMs to run and report back to me for improvements.

On a side note, I can’t wait to watch season 5 of KillJoys and season 4 of The Expanse later this year. Bring on the Sci-Fi shows!

Photo: Promo piece from The Expanse TV show, now hosted on Amazon Prime.

Gamehole Con 2018 My Little Scythe

Gamehole Con 2018

I attended Gamehole Con in Madison, Wisconsin, for the first time in 2018, where I got to hang out and play a few board games with my friends, such as My Little Scythe.

Additionally, I was able to playtest several games which I have in development. See below:

Friday, 1-4PM – Dark Well: Ground Zero

The game began with an overview of related genres and influences, and introducing the four players to the eerie world of Dark Well. This was the first time that I had tested the diceless / random token-based system.

Friday, 7-10PM – Armageddon Accelerated: Miami Viceroy

The game began with an overview of the setting and with Fate Accelerated. Two had experience with Fate Accelerated; one had familiarity; one had none, but had just purchased Fate Dice.

Saturday, 1-4PM – Blood & Violence: The Road Not Taken

The game began with an overview of influences and the concept of magical realism at the heart of the game with the four players.

Saturday, 7-10PM – NightMirror: Walking Over Our Graves

The game began with an overview of the genre of gothic horror and influences with the five players.

Sunday, 1-4PM – Games on Demand Indie Grab Bag

I had table tents for six games for the four players to choose from: Armageddon Accelerated, Blood & Violence, Dark Well, NightMirror, Space Station Omega, and Vigilance. The group selected Space Station Omega (SSO).

Gamehole Con 2018 Space Station OmegaSetup: The players leaned heavily into their love for The Expanse and we built an exciting story involving space miners, a space religion, and an Earth-centric military power, with a mafia-like sub-organization and in-laws generated from the character relationships.

Story: There were a number of nice character moments in between the larger scenes and actions. Ultimately, all major factions put aside their differences, coming together and locating the terrorist cell. The game closed in a wonderful final scene the characters all contributed to dealing with the threat in their own way.

System: SSO is currently somewhere between Cortex Plus and Cortex Prime. The goal is to embrace Cortex Prime once it is more done and then tweak for the needs of the game. The creation of our Space and Station continues to really get the players excited and invested in the game. We made heavy use of complications and opportunities generated, and mostly used simple actions.