More dice for Dark Well

More Dice for Playtesting

Yes. More dice to use as tokens for playtesting Dark Well.

Due to having one block of small smokey d6 dice being stolen while at Metatopia I had to buy at least one replacement block. So I now have a block of opaque black dice. But in thinking about a comment that someone made about racial stereotyping with white as beneficial and black as dangerous I decided to buy three new blocks of small d6 as well which includes a green, orange, and purple set.

 

Dice Order 1

Recently I also ordered some new dice for Vigilance as I’ve noticed some people having trouble finding and replacing the dice when they are all black. So I’m switching the red d10s to black d10 (to be ordered when available) and the former five to their classical elemental color so to speak. The company did not have translucent d4s for Soul, but I was able to get green translucent d6s for Skin, yellow translucent d8s for Words, purple translucent d12s for Starlight, and blue translucent d20s for Blood.

 

 

Metatopia 2019 Dark Well session 2 with conspiracy wall

Post-Metatopia 2019

Metatopia 2019 was a great experience. As I have time I will post thoughts and feelings about the convention. I’m already working on some revisions for the two games I brought with me: Dark Well and Vigilance.

Schedule

The convention started Thursday evening with a social event. My partner and I were exhausted from the trip in so I checked in but didn’t have enough energy to really participate so we went across the street and had delicious Persian food for dinner. And there were a lot of great food places nearby!

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were a mixture of panels–many for first-timers to Metatopia, and playtesting. I’ll get into some of the panels later on. There were several that I attended which were a good fit for where I am in the game design industry.

I did get in a quick chat with Phil Vecchione about our love of conspiracies. His writings on Gnome Stew are an inspiration for what I’m doing with Dark Well.

Sunday afternoon was spent wrapping up my last playtest and then heading out asap to continue our trip to Philadelphia and then Washington, D.C.

Playtests

Dark Well: I’ve got a fair amount of redesign to consider for the character sheet to make it easier to understand and I’m hoping to simplify things considerably. The playtesters really enjoyed the conspiracy-generation and setting, with the Well part in second place, and character creation in last for ease of understanding. The suspense of drawing from the Well was consistent. The tags could be useful but were cumbersome. The differences between the derived traits under Life, Power, and Truth need to be easier to grasp and engage with since I modified them, though I have to figure out how to get the Change/Grow/Conditions part to work from scene to scene. In the short playtest sessions I don’t have enough time to use the pool of tokens to work with the game as the GM yet so I’m looking forward to doing that again at some point. Comparing the tokens to the chart works once people wrap their heads around it as it’s a novel approach. In the second group test of Dark Well, I was able to use some kindly donated yarn to make an impromptu conspiracy wall on the table (see the featured image above). We had a six-PC group for this one. I took the advice from the first group and used a completed character sheet to share visually with the second group and it helped immensely. While we didn’t get very far in the game I could see how the prop could be fun. It would likely be easier to maintain on a wall or dedicated surface–the group loved it so I’m glad I tried it and will see about testing it more location permitting. In particular, I’m redesigning the Conspiramap for Dark Well for the next playtest. These conspiracies freakin’ build themselves. More iterations to come, with half-baked Dwellers and conspiracies to get the players into the thick of things faster.

Vigilance: The playtesters loved the spreadsheet character creation and world creation and setting, with the dice mechanics being too easy-for-success. 1s for generating Chaos/injustice complications rarely came up which was very unusual and led to deflated anticipation and missed expectations for all. I definitely need to revisit to get more risk in the dice and possibly reduce or remove the Arena Dice pool. We didn’t get to test things at length, but I did have one of the groups do scenes that were non-combat to see how things flowed rather than worry about collaborative world-building, which definitely affected player investment and cohesion like never before. I think it also suffered from a late Sunday slot and me messing up a basic mechanics roll. We had a cool blessing scene and engaged with the constellations! The first group where we did build things together was a tighter fit but we weren’t able to engage as much with the mechanics with the time. Need lots more dice-rolling and tweaking to be more complicating/dangerous. Great suggestions on branding from the first group and I appreciate them throwing themselves into the game with heart and soul. Overall, there are a lot of strong pieces that I can skip over moving ahead with half-baked characters and precinct to get to play quicker.

Rebels of the Outlaw Waste: This is NOT a game that I’m designing, but rather one that I playtested Saturday evening and it was a hoot. Gonzo post-apocalyptic to 11. What sold me in the description was that it included stickers as part of the advancement system. The designer, Michael Addison of Nerdy Pup Games, has a fun rules-light RPG with potential and I hope that he continues to develop the game and share it with others.

Thanks

Thanks to all the playtesters who participated in my games and who make Metatopia a conversation rather than lonely fun–you are valued. I want to thank Avie Wing and all of the amazing people who help to make Metatopia be as successful as it is. I wasn’t very talkative as I was taking everything in, but I did appreciate the hard work and fun experience learning and sharing our love of games.

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.

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)

 

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.
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.

Vigilance

Part mortal. Part god. All justice. As a Living Law, you were created to right the wrongs and restore that which the Wildstorm took from your people before it strikes again. Vigilance is a Late Bronze Age mythic fantasy tabletop roleplaying game that explores legends of loss, humanity, and justice both in a home community and in the wider fallen world ripe with Chaos.

System: Dice pools.