Archive for the ‘Emperor’s Heart’ Category


Emperor’s Heart: Rethinking some things

July 17, 2009

Looking at Project Vanguard and Danger Patrol made me realize two things I need to implement with the next draft.

First, nailing down more details- gamers will hack/reskin anything any which way if they’re inspired, you don’t need to leave it blank for them to do it.

Second, conflict resolution right now is… barely functional. It does the job of encouraging people to use resources, and gives a back-and-forth pacing, but it doesn’t contribute anything to the process itself. I’m going to apply more thought and work towards both what happens when you draw on traits, how that affects the Outlaw Faction or local community you’re pulling from, and also what happens in the resolution with each sub-roll.

All of this will have to wait until after the Summit, but I’m excited.


The Emperor’s Heart: Cards

May 31, 2009

As I’m grinding through the major rewrite and talking to friends I know, I’m realizing how much I had to sort through the playtest feedback I got from before – how much was about the actual procedures in play vs. what people want my game to do (whether it matches my vision or not) vs. game geek design wankery questions.

Since the last bit is actually the least useful towards game play, though clearly a hangup for folks, and since explaining it all ended up in my head whether I wanted to or not, I figured I’d better spill some of it out here on my blog and point to it when the next round of playtesting starts and I get those same questions. I’m going to try not to do this too often, since I don’t want to end up spending more time writing about the game than writing the game itself.

Why Cards?

The practical function of cards is this: they sit on the table in front of everyone, so everyone can look around the table and remember what’s going on- who’s character has what happening, what the situation is, etc. It’s designed for group reference.

It makes it easy to tie your characters’ Drama with other characters’ Drama (“Hey, you’ve got a Romantic Triangle, how about I take Unrequited Love?”). (And, I wanted a GM-less game, so it became crucial for everyone to be able to see this info. I’m probably switching over to a GM based scene framing, since I haven’t found a workable solution thus far).

Second, it changes character creation from “look in the book, write something down” to something where players pass along the Hero cards and the Drama cards and it gets people talking. “Maybe I’ll play the Cynical Maverick… Oh! What’s that? Assassin? Let me see!”

Even though most games now advise players to share character ideas as they’re building them, it’s still a 50/50 case from what I’ve seen- better to just set up your game so players interact from get go and start the conversation that way.

The final thing behind cards is that it makes things really easy to add or remove elements. I still need to find some way to train gamers to GIVE NAMES to their characters, but overall I’m happy with the cards as a design element.


A good gaming weekend

May 12, 2008

Kicked it with good folks this weekend. We got playtest Emperor’s Heart with 6 people. I’m seeing better where I need to tighten things up, especially in the initial set up and the scene framing aspects, since those both seem to be where people need guidance.

The best part about lots of experience roleplaying is that you have a lot of tricks up your sleeve, the worst part is that you have internalized it to the point where you forget how to articulate them.

Getting the game to fly stronger is going to be important, especially as I get folks together to play more than just one-shots here and there, but an actual campaign, both to see what happens in terms of the way play shapes larger scale story development, as well as what happens as players become more familiar with the system.

We also played a giant game of 3 player Mechaton, which included using squads of Tyranid from Warhammer 40,000 as the third side. Mechaton is superawesome, though I think I’d want to make a bunch of numbered, colored little flags to put next to the mechs in order to speed up play and make it easier to track defense and spotting.


The Unillusionist

February 18, 2008

This year has been all about intention- about dropping things that don’t pay me back in terms of energy or time, for things that do.  I’ve had a couple great discussions in the last couple of days, which cleared up a lot for me.

1.  Kuei Con

Odds are good that KueiCon is going to get rolled into a larger, broader geek convention for it to be what I want it to be.  It has to meet the three requirements of a) sane space, one in which deeply problematic behavior is not “accepted as part of the scene” b) mixing of new blood, not pulling from the same people c) a culture where critical analysis is expected as part of the geekery, not anathema to it.  Since a bunch of friends are looking for the same (underserved) things out of their related geek hobbies, we’re talking about doing our own convention.

2.  Community?

On that note, nor do the gaming communities I operate in serve what I’m looking for.  I could keep hoping that changes will happen, or that, given the same people, the results will change, or I can stop being a fool and stop fishing in the desert.  I’m going to think of it as starting fresh.

3.  Writing

This blog is going to change from mostly musings, sometimes articles, to just articles.  That also means posting will drop a lot, since, well, I have a lot more half-formed ideas than full ideas, and, full ideas I can articulate clearly, and in the space of a readable article.

4.  Games

A couple of the fun discussions online has totally led me to reevaluate how I was coming at the idea of publishing, and, most importantly, who I’d be publishing for.

Part of contributing online was the idea of keeping up a presence, of “proving” some kind of worth or value to the community with vague sense that it would pay back in terms of sales or at least design input.  But then again, if these communities aren’t my markets, and deep commericial success is not primary, what is the value in investing time or energy towards them?


The Emperor’s Heart update

December 22, 2007

I’ve finally updated the playtest documents for The Emperor’s Heart.

I still have a fat stack of feedback notes sitting at home I need to incorporate, but honestly, I’m just happy to clean it up from it’s initial mindspew stage. I think the rules part is actually readable at this point. I will forewarn you though, I did this all on my friend’s outdated PC, so I had to save the rules themselves as a Word document instead of my usual PDF methods.

The big changes instituted thus far include an “icebreaker” technique to help tie together the Heroes with each others’ Drama cards, more fiddling the numbers to make better opposition on the part of Villains and Supporting characters, advice on conflicts with more than 2 sides, more setting bits, and hopefully just clear writing all around.

I’d love for folks to play it and give feedback.

The Emperor’s Heart playtest rules (12.20.07)

Drama Cards, set 1

Drama Cards, set 2

Outlaw Faction Cards

Hero Archetype Cards

Scenario Cards

Villain Cards

Things still on the to-do list: Examples, a name list, and updated cards. Hopefully this upcoming year I won’t be scrambling as much and have a little more time to set that all up.


Shifts and changes

September 29, 2007

It’s going to be a rough month for The Emperor’s Heart.  I’ve got a friend’s wedding coming up, full time work and school on top of it.  Plus working on the Asian Pacific Islander Spoken Word Summit for 2008.  Aiyah.

Anyway, I’ve got a lot of good playtesting feedback over the last couple of weeks, along with a couple of extra games.  I’ve got a lot of changes to add to the game, hopefully smoothing out rough edges, connecting the dots, and making elegance where I can.   Good feedback is about bad play.  That is, where the game goes bad is what you need to know about.

The end goal is a game that consistently produces fun, but maybe the average player can’t tell you why, as much as a movie with good cinematography makes the camera tricks invisible- natural and not disruptive to the entertainment.

Anyway, it looks like The Emperor’s Heart rides or dies on two factors: group dynamics and setup.  (All the resource funkiness can be worked out through trial and error until you hit the Goldilocks’ just right).

Currently, I’m looking at:

1) Adding Supporting Cast cards, which basically serve as mental cues as much as Drama cards do.  Plus to make that part easier.  I gues it doesn’t make sense to have all of setup be cards and then leave one part out as the exception.

2) Changing the Endgame timer.  I do like the minimum required Awards and buy-in before Endgame, but for low Awarding groups, there has to be options too.  (Hmm, another game extending idea, maybe more tokens are put in the bowl and Villains have Traits refreshed?… thinky think)

3) Character names before picking cards.  Heroes need names dammit.   I mean, you can do it for D&D, even though you don’t have to (see: Gauntlet “Elf needs food badly” etc.).

4) Should there be explicit “What if?” steps added to Setup?  How about a round of Awards?  This might stretch setup more, but might also a) increase buy-in and b) train people to use both What if and Awards ala Dogs in the Vineyard Initiation…

5) Dice economies- conflicts need to be a tinge shorter.

Anyway, that’s hella stuff on my plate.  I wanted to have it all done in 2 weeks, but probably more realistically a month, month and a half?  Aiyah.


The Playtesting, it continues

September 20, 2007

I’m starting to get more feedback, including the negative- which is good. The point of playtesting is to find the holes and weaknesses and fix them.

Things I already know I want to work on (though input always welcome):

– Unmurking “who controls who”, more than 2 way conflicts, and narration of ties

– Resources! Too much, too little- just right is hard to find.

– The fragile circle- Award Tokens drive so much- no awards, the game stalls out, very similar to PTA when people don’t give fan mail.

Anyway, more kicking at the tires! Let me know how your games are going so I can get to it.