Colored bricks

Updates on Game Design

Armageddon Accelerated

  • Start over as a second-chance soul bonded to an angelic host in this urban supernatural roleplaying game of dealing with unfinished prior life business while working for HALO to prevent the End Times.
  • System: Dresden Files Accelerated

I’ve managed a handful of playtest sessions online in 2021. The game feels about 65-85% there mechanically and 95% there thematically/narratively. A few rounds of testing should guide further refinements.

Blood & Violence

  • A traveler’s tale wrapped in magical realism storytelling and a map-making roleplaying game between truth and reality, beauty and danger along the road.
  • System: In-house tokens and dice

I have run this game a couple of times and it’s not there mechanically yet. Part of my mind wants there to be a token economy for the Blood and a dice economy for the Violence. I feel like spending dice as tokens and rolling dice as dice would accommodate that but I’ll need to test it. In my head and heart, this game is a mixture of written and visual poetry that flows out on the map panels and the rules and during play with the journal as an artifact for players and for in-game potential. The game needs more playtesting.

Dark Well

  • “Explore the Unknown” in this modern-day paranormal conspiracy thriller roleplaying game.
  • System: In-house tokens

I was fortunate to get some wonderful feedback from a couple of great people and have implemented changes from that and the game is better for it. The recent online playtesting has confirmed some issues with probability for results and so I have a new version to test at some point.

Division Hex (formerly Shadow Hunters)

  • Join up and fight side by side with other paranormal agents in this thriller roleplaying game to counter paranormal terrorism in the world.
  • System: Genesys

Changing the name from Shadow Hunters mostly because there are a lot of things called Shadow Hunters already. Shifting the focus away from strictly hunting mutants to something wider in scope or similar to Ghost in the Shell but for the paranormal. Need to continue with Talents and scoping out the content for playtesting.

LEGENDS (formerly Feudal Fairy World)

  • Explore relationships between heroes and their world in this fantasy roleplaying game inspired by ancient myths and Arthurian Legends.
  • System: PbtA

I revisited this game to have it reviewed for an online design event. The feedback from Magpie Games was well articulated and useful. Since then I have made several changes, including the name from Feudal Fairy World to LEGENDS. We’ll see if it works or not as a brand. What’s taking the longest for me is in my revision of the game from almost completely the ground up with playbook moves and other mechanics that reinforce the themes, arcs, and point back to the world. This version is more rooted in Arthurian legends than previously and so I’ve been listening to courses and audiobooks about them for insights.

Found

  • Science fiction thriller roleplaying game about belonging.
  • System: In-house to Cortex Prime

After getting the primer done, converted over from a prior ruleset, I’m ready to playtest this game.

NetWhere

  • A science fiction roleplaying game of adventure between truth and reality with you as hackers on the run.
  • System: Psi*Run modified

This game is pretty much done for now, but I need to finalize it and then put it up on itch.io — I feel some anxiety about it, and that’s why I really should move forward on it.

NightMirror

  • A Gothic Horror game about the search for humanity and salvation through a world of monsters and madness through the lives of seekers like you and your companions.
  • System: Psi*Run with tarot cards

I have started work to create an alternate version of the rules on cards. In either case, the game is doing well in its rough form.

Secret Strike Force

  • Pulp military action roleplaying game about combating BADD and defending the world.
  • System: Cortex Prime

Due to revisiting some nostalgia, I decided to create this as a love letter to myself. I hope to run it as a one- to five-shot at some point.

Space Station Omega

  • Sci-fi roleplaying game of political dramatic action among the stars.
  • System: Cortex Prime

I’ve edited a fair amount of this game and playtested it for 10-sessions online. When I have time I will review the recordings and notes for more edits. However, I’m really more concerned about the terms of the Cortex Creator and the Cortex Codex as that will impact how far I continue to work on this game.

StarFall

  • A sci-fi post-terraforming of Earth roleplaying game about a community surviving on the unforgiving frontier of the unknown.
  • System: PbtA

I’ve done some editing on this but it’s a long way off in development.

Time & Tempus

  • Sail through time and space with Captain Tempus as one of their Crew.
  • System: For the Queen

I playtested this a few times and have feedback to contemplate before further revisions.

Vigilance

  • You are reborn as Living Laws to a community mythic fantasy roleplaying game about loss, humanity, and justice in a fallen world.
  • System: In-house dice

One group suggested a name change that was more referential to the time period around the Bronze Age. I haven’t examined this yet but will try to remain open to it should development proceed. I need to rework the mechanics. Players love the character sheets.

Within Reach

  • Exploring solitary confinement with the hand you’re dealt.
  • System: LARP with cards

Nothing new on this game recently.

Space Station Omega Campaign Playtest 1

SSO Campaign Playtest Updates

Twitter Posts

Feb. 14, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 10 (finale): Kesh, Deegan, and Hesper get the psychic-imprinted Hesper clones under control. Dr. Smith and company visit the Hidden Planet to discover an empire in the making and cripple it. Epilogues are shared.

Feb. 6, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 9: Dr. Smith convinces Vox to take the Key with them to the Forbidden Planet (+Corrin+Bill), while Trine change into Hesper copies. Key group rescues Sgt. and use the Key at a ruined temple—getting Hidden Planet coords.

Jan. 30, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 8: Peace was made with terrorists. The Trine failed to steal the Key of the Ancients. Then Dr. Kesh woke the Trine, Sgt. Dedra is KO’ed as her ship plummets towards the Forbidden Planet, and Vox sees the cosmic past.

Jan. 23, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 7: With the combined efforts of the Omega Prepper Army, a courageous commando team, and decisive action, 2 of the 3 co-masterminds were defeated. Will the 3rd escape with the prized alien artifact?

Jan. 17, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 6: PCs saved Sgt. Smith’s parents and 430+ others held ransom by bandits on a starliner just as the Kracken Gang was released—taking charge of C&C in 1 swift move. Can the PCs take back the station?

Jan. 9, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 5: The PCs saved the friendly alien probe from being dissected, destroyed, or returned to its homeworld and side-stepped starting another galactic War in the process.

Jan. 2, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 4: We added a PC to the group (Sec. Chief Deegan, @JMichaelMahr) and pushed the fight over the alien probe into space-court. No one’s happy—I can’t wait for the PCs to take matters into their hands!

Dec. 27, 2020: We are beginning with our first session of play for SSO. #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 3: We began with 2 shipping complications. An incorrect smuggled supply of a telepathy-coping drug and an ancient alien probe afraid of returning home, and 7th yr anniversary of the War in 3 days!

Dec. 21, 2020: We are continuing with character creation for the short season of play for SSO. #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 2: We finished character creation and followed the PCs around for a slice of life. I can’t wait to play with this great cast.

Dec. 13, 2020: We are creating setting and characters for the short season of play for SSO. #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 1: Setting creation done; character creation 70%+ done. 6 players online take a lot more time.

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.