Archive for September, 2007


Oh, wow

September 9, 2007

As I’ve been reading the playtest reports and thinking about my own games of The Emperor’s Heart, something occurred to me about Award Tokens as pacing.

They measure how many times someone contributed something awesome that someone else at the table bought into.

So if your group is really good at tossing out things everyone else loves?  Those Award Tokens are going to disappear quickly, and the game will end sooner as you’ve been making completely awesome play for each other.  It will always be short and sweet, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, given how easy it is to simply set up another game right after it.

If your group is bad at hitting each other’s buttons?  Then the game will slow down until someone (or hopefully everyone) figures out how to give each other awesome story.  Then it’ll speed to conclusion.  I’m not sure I could imagine how to help this group out more, between using Drama Cards as Flags, “What if?” as direct input, and Award Tokens to let each other know what they like.

Assuming everyone is awarding honestly, I can at least say some portion of fun has to be had in any given session of play.

This has lots of implications I’m going to be thinking about during playtesting.


The Emperor’s Heart- more playtesting!

September 8, 2007

Last night I finally got to play with 4 people in a game!

It was great to check out the resource economy as well as some fascinating differences in player demographics.  To context- I’ve played with 2 casual roleplayers, 3 traditional roleplayers, and 2 non-gamers who were writers to date.  So far, the traditional players have had the hardest time with setup and rules, the biggest sticking points being Award Token flow, creating scenes, as well as looking to each other’s Flags.  I’m looking forward to more play to really get a better idea on that kind of thing.

That aside, I’m starting to get ideas for how to a) teach the game and b) demo it.

Expect an actual play report some point in the near future, and yes, finally a damn update to the rules!


Siloing vs. Point Builds

September 6, 2007

If anyone wants a clear example of why I generally think point building games lead to unbalance, they can look at David Noonan’s bit on Siloing. Also relevant- the discussion about specialization in Vincent’s Poison’d thread.

Basically, the problem when points are universal is that instead of finding multiple strategies for success, players angle their character builds towards one trick ponies. In terms of actual play, there’s not a lot of “back and forth” or struggle- one trick ponies either dominate at their field or get dominated in another. The only way to get a close struggle is to mirror the build.

Hence why a lot of team based point build games, like many superhero games, involve a lot of fudging or a lot of anti-climatic fights. And if you’re going to fudge it, why bother with points anyway?

A lot of games keep from falling off this edge either by setting low hard caps (“Starting characters can only buy skills up to 3”) or splitting up types of points (Attribute points, skill points, freebie points, etc.)

Of course, this kind of thing only matters where different skills and stats function mechanically different. Stuff like Universalis or The Pool have all things work the same so piling on points in one area doesn’t really make you that much more effective – being “Strong x 3” is actually as powerful as being “Clumsy x 3” etc.


The One Sentence Character Motivator

September 6, 2007

I want to know/find/prove to myself (abstract/emotional thing) by (doing something concrete).

I want to prove to myself that I am truly brave by facing the dragon which is endangering the land.
I want to know if I am worth loving by pushing others away.
I want to find redemption by saving the life of my worst enemy.
I want to find a way to hide my shame by becoming the greatest conqueror in the land.

What’s kind of neat is that this is a sort of like a boating accident between Primetime Adventure’s Issues and Burning Wheel’s Beliefs (or Riddle of Steel’s Spiritual Attributes). You have a general thing tied to a concrete thing which gives us both an angle on your character as well as a solid story hook to work with.



September 2, 2007

They say there is a place for those with no place amongst any. A place in the Wild, at the cost of your very humanity.The deal is simple, and absolute.

Walk beyond the sound of any human voice, the sight of any human structure or even fire. Walk beyond the sight of a single trail, road or footprint.

Walk there with the blood of your kin upon your hands.

The first beast will challenge you, and ask, “Do you hate yourself?”

The second beast will challenge you and ask, “Do you hate your own?”

And finally, the third beast will challenge you and ask, “Do you hate them all?”

Flinching not once, and answering affirmative, you will be escorted to the Queen of the land. A beast wiser and stronger than any. There you will kiss her feet and swear fealty, to serve her and nature against mankind, to never let them bring the world to ruin again. She will give you the chance, the smallest chance to try to make redemption for your crime against all.

She will grant you marvelous powers- to speak to beast and bird, to find food where none should be found, to control elements, and even to escape your form for a time.

In return, you will kill those who trespass sacred ground (everything is sacred). You will destroy their food so they cannot stay, you will attack the vunerable and the weak and the exposed because this is war, and they are the supply train for the neverending two legged beast which ripped open the fabric of the world and let the monsters in.

Though you will not know love or safety or peace, you will have a place, perhaps not in a heaven, but at least not in a hell. And maybe that’s all you deserve.

If there’s one thing I love about reading old history and mythology, is that it inspires better ideas for tired fantasy cliches. I also find that this kind of fits well with the older D&D conception of Druids- with an order that has to fight amongst it’s own for status and eventually leaves their humanity to become elemental beings. That aside, it’s also a simple demonstration of what most people are -really- looking for from setting- something that sparks ideas for wonderful and terrifying stories.