28 October, 2012

Plans after NaGa DeMon

I'll be spending most of November frantically split between rewriting Walkabout (from an incoherent bunch of word documents, scraps of paper into a format ready to be playtested), creating sculptures, etching metal for the purposes of fine art prints, painting WW2 style bomber art on sheets of metal, and tasting more varieties of alcoholic beverage than most people get through in a lifetime (while getting paid to do so).

If I survive November, the aim is to get a pre-production copy of Hell on Eight Wheels printed, get a bit more refinement and playtesting happening on Walkabout, and then to start work on the first "Pocketmod Playbooks" game.

General feedback from G+ indicates that I should produce this first game based around the concept of scavengers in the fallen cities of the Walkabout world. (several people commented and virtually all of their comments pointed the same way). I think a follow up game might explore the Goblins from last year's tarot deck.

27 October, 2012

Get Over It!!

Warning: This could get controversial, I'm basically in "Rant Mode".

I thought about the "Conan" news this week, Arnold Swarzenegger reprising the role. Ignoring the sequel "Conan the Destroyer", ignoring the Jason Momoa remake. I liked the newest movie version of Conan, I've encountered people in extended circles of social-media friends who worked on it, both script-wise and effect-wise. I heard that these fans behind the scenes had planned to stick as close to the source material as possible, but had some "suggestions" from studios and producers. They didn't quite get the movie they wanted, but it was probably closer to what they expected.

This reminded me of the "John Carter" debacle earlier in the year. When I heard that the movie was finally in production, after decades of circling the drain in development hell, I was interested. I was one of the peoplewho went to see the movie in 3D in a virtually empty theatre. I enjoyed it because I didn't know a lot about the milieu, thought the six legged dog thing was fun, and thought it depicted a great setting for an RPG.  I know a few people who are die-hard fans of Barsoom, so I checked with them to see how close the movie stuck to the source material. These fans claimed that it did well, perhaps the Princess of Mars was dressed a bit too much but otherwise it was pretty close to their imagined space for the setting. Apparently the film bombed at the box office, and one of the most common theories for this was a botched promotional effort from Disney. They just didn't know how to handle it, so they made a few half-arsed attempts...It's little wonder that this movie didn't do well, if I didn't know it was coming, and hadn't been anticipating it, I probably would have missed it as well.

The X-Men movies have done great at the box office, despite everyone I know complaining about some aspect of them. My wife hates the fact that Gambit didn't really appear until the Wolverine prequel, my brother-in-law generally hates everything that has been twisted about the X-Men mythos for the movies, heaps of people complained about the casting choice of Hugh Jackman for Wolverine...like the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider and other comic movies based on Marvel properties, the more the producers get involved, the more the fanboys rage against them. Marvel did the right thing, starting to make movies for themselves, starting with Iron Man and moving through to The Avengers. Most fan boys have been awfully happy with the Avengers, but even this movie has it's complainers. I'll get back to Marvel later.

I know some girls who love the Twilight Books, but they writhe with impassioned hatred against the movies which simply haven't done the books justice. I even read a few days ago, that the studio behind the Twilight movies is considering a reboot, or perhaps some movies sequels that aren't based on the books or some other way to milk the franchise. I similarly know people who felt that key elements of the Harry Potter books were left out of the movies...others who really wish that Tom Bombadil had been left in The Fellowship of the Ring. "I am Legend" probably came closer to the original stories than many other tales, but the ending just left it as a let-down.

Game movies haven't fared much better; I didn't like the Mutant Chronicles movie that was released a few years ago, but it's certainly better than the piles of drivel we've had to put up with under the name of a "Dungeons and Dragons" movie.

But for all the bile and vitriol aimed toward the big studios, people seem to forget; It's all a business.

Movie executives and producers just want to make money. Plundering "geek culture" is currently seen as a good way to make money, but the executives want to make money from more than just the die-hard fans who've loved these intellectual properties for years/decades. They want to make these properties more familiar to the general public, they want their mark on it. In the process, the quirky stuff that we love about the original source material often gets left behind, blown out of proportion or otherwise turned into something we hate. Producers change things in a way that they think will make more money...the source material is just one of the first steps on their path to turn a dollar (regardless of whether they actually appreciate the original or not). I know of script writers who had their projects bought and green-lit, only to see edits of their work through a series of writers...perhaps only ending up with the name of the script as a reminder of the pages they first submitted. It's human nature, everyone wants their little piece of the action, and they see all the other people's accumulated efforts as a monstrous machine against them.

I considered joining the screams again, with people saying "it'll never work" or "awesome, that's what I want to see". But really, there's not much point.

Hollywood will continue to rape our loved intellectual properties, and die had fanboys (and girls) will continue to hate them or it. The general public will wonder what the fuss is about, or simply be confused by the output from the big movie studios (often turning that misunderstanding toward the original "geek culture", unwilling to believe that they've been spoon-fed something that has been dramatically corrupted from the original).

But for every intellectual property that finally makes it into a parody of its former self on the big screen, there are a dozen similar properties that simply don't get anywhere. Two comics I used to love, "Shi" and "Kabuki"  were scheduled to get movies into production the late 90s...but they've never gotten out of development stages. A new version of "Red Sonja" has been touted as the "next project" of Robert Rodriguez so many times that it's become a joke. Look at the issues that DC has faced with numerous attempts to get a Justice League movie happening...and every couple of years we hear some new story about how "Game X" is going to hit the mainstream because James Cameron, Ridley Scott, or some other big name director likes the property and wants to turn it into a movie.

It's only rarely that a company run by fans has the motivation and the money to do something about it, that's where I bring my rant back to Marvel, who actually seem to have done the right thing with their movies leading up to (and including) The Avengers. They're making some of the most profitable comic-book movies of all time, and actually getting the public interested in comics to some degree by avoiding the middle men of third-party studio production houses and producer yes-man. Some die hard fans might still have quibbles with certain parts of the mythology, but you're never going to please all of the people all of the time.

As a community, we need to just live with the fact that movie studios don't exist to pay homage to our games, our comics and our novels. They exist to make money. If our games, comics and novels happen to be one of the flavours of the months, then why shouldn't we just sit back and enjoy the ride. It's not like we can make much change to the minds of those people who have the money and make the decisions. If we really don't like it, we should get up off our collective arses and start making our own entertainment.

Hell, isn't that what we do when we roleplay.

Just don't get me started on the "Evil Dead" remake.

26 October, 2012

Variable Availability Pocketmod

While I'm on my Pocketmod kick, I've had another idea.

It basically draws from Apocalypse World, where a number of character playbooks are only available through specific channels (monsterhearts also did this by including a limited edition skin for those who participated in the crowdfunding).

The idea is to produce a range of Pocketmod Playbooks that are only available through certain means, or at certain times of the year.

Since each Pocketmod Playbook is a self contained character or scenario, there could be seasonal items (eg. a Halloween scenario available only during October each year), or items only available at specific online stores or forums (eg. a specific character type only available at my RPGNow store, another one only available at my website). A limited character only available one day of the year, a specific promotional scenario that is limited to fifty downloads (once it's gone, it's gone). This might tie into long term gaming continuity.

Then I'd be more than willing to have other people write up Pocketmod Playbooks available on their own websites.

Just an idea at the moment.

25 October, 2012

NaGaDeMon draws closer

This year NaGaDeMon seems to be getting a decent crowd of participants.

I've already put my hand up with the intention of getting a finalised second edition of Walkabout into people's hands (the first edition was created for Game Chef 2010). I'm hearing a few good things about some of the other games that people are intending to produce.

For everyone who is participating, good luck.

For those who aren't, go and have a look at the Google plus page or the Facebook group. They seem to be the two places where the action is focused.

24 October, 2012

Animation of the Walkabout Globe

Just thought I'd share the spinning globe for the walkabout world. Hopefully it will be a part of an upcoming promotional video for the project

Pocketmod Playbook Tactics

In the pocketmod, there is a front page, a back page and three double page spreads in the middle of the booklet. This offers some great opportunities for formatting...stuff that you just don't get when you're stuck with a single page.

Here's an idea I had for formatting the centre double page spreads...

It's based off an idea I've been toying with for a while...a way to speed up combat while giving it a strategic edge.

The first double page spread would probably have some flavour text about the character type, the middle and last double page spreads would provide a range of abilities (some of which might be granted automatically, others bought with XP).

The fun bit is the formatting in the top and bottom margins.

Whether you hold the page right way up, or upside down, there is a defence matrix on the left and an attack matrix on the right. With three double page spreads, you get six different combat strategies you could use.

For example...

This might be pretty typical of an adventurer. A seasoned warrior might have more points filled in, a magic user might have less (but this is offset by access to interesting spells), an exotic traveller from a far off land might have a very different range of points filled in to reflect their unusual combat style.

With these points filled in, a combat would work by simply picking a page border that matches your character's combat tactic for the round. Your opponent does likewise. 

Then you simply line up the booklets and see if any of your attacks made it through to hit the opponent.

For example, the top character here has taken a "balanced stance", while the bottom character has gone "defensive low". Each character has an attack point that has not been matched by a defense point. Each applies damage to their opponent.
As another example, when two characters take a "balanced stance" their actions are deadlocked with every attack point matched by a defence point. There are no opportunities to apply damage.

If both character's had engaged a "low defensive" tactic, they'd also find that no attacks got through.

I haven't gotten much further beyond the basic concepts yet. I haven't decided how damage might be applied  (but I'm thinking about something simple like paperclips on the edge of the pocketmod to highlight certain character states...injured, dazed, cursed, etc.), and I haven't worked out a good coherent system to tie all of this into.

I'm just beginning to touch on the potential uses for pocketmods.

So many ideas...so little time.

23 October, 2012

Pocketmod Playbooks

There seems to be a growing community of game designers working on the Pocketmod platform. A single sheet, folded and cut in such a way that it produces a tiny eight page booklet that can fit in a pocket or a wallet.

It's similar to the ideas that have been floating around the roleplaying community for at least two decades now...an entire game on a single sheet of paper.

I've been thinking about the concept, and taking my own spin on it.

How about a game in three parts.

Part 1: Core rules that everyone uses. These are the basics of the game divided into eight small pages.

Part 2: Character booklets. Everyone gets their own character booklet based on their character's specific type or class. The front page is a title, the back page is statistics, and the middle is an explanation of powers and abilities specific to this character.

Part 3: Scenario booklets. For each game, a random scenario booklet is chosen (or maybe a progression of scenario booklets for an ongoing story over several sessions). Each scenario booklet has a few twists on the rules specific to the events unfolding.

A single session for two players would take 4 pages to print (folded down into 4 booklets). Every additional player or session only adds one additional page to the game (each folded down again into a single booklet).

I've got a few ideas for the style of game where this publishing format might work...but I've got a few too many other things on my plate to start developing yet another new concept.

21 October, 2012

A further bit about labels, relationships and stereotyping

I’ve thought a bit more deeply about my last post. All of the examples I’ve given have related to a single axis. The “Redneck” example was a single linear axis, so was the WW2 “Jewish” example; a single axis of relationship gives the idea of one-dimensional characters.

The relationship system is far more than this.

A simple expansion of the examples shows how the relationship system could be much more complex and richer for the purposes of character exploration.

I’ll pick a new example for this…something that fits better with the themes of Walkabout.

A scattering of neighbouring local communities have developed their own opinions about the dangers in the world and the best ways to deal with them. Some individuals are fanatical about their opinions; others are more reasonable and willing to listen to helpful suggestions from their fellow survivors.

Generally, three belief systems have emerged.
Science – The only way to understand the spirits is by understanding their place in the natural order.
Religion – The spirits are otherworldly creatures that have fallen from the divine order.
Spirituality – The spirits must be respected.

Each group has a place where it gathers (Scientists in workshops, Religious types in churches/temples, Spiritualists in sacred groves), and each has a community of adherents and loosely affiliated individuals. Taken loosely, each of these ideologies can work with the others, but if taken to a fanatical degree they could be considered exclusive of one another.

First we can examine each individual axis to see where someone might fit on the scale.

Strong Positive (++) – You know the ways of science. If you don’t know solid theories as to why something happens, you either know people who do, or you know ways to construct and test these theories.
Weak Positive (+) – You have a bit of scientific understanding. You know that many answers can be found in science, but you often aren’t sure of the best way to proceed. Luckily you know a few people who could help.  
Weak Neutral (0) – You know of science, but don’t really care about it. You might even know a couple of scientists.
No Relationship ( ) – You don’t really know anything about science, and don’t associate with people who claim to be scientists.
Weak Negative (-) – You are suspicious of science. After all, it was probably the meddling of scientists who caused the current problems in the world. You can spot a scientist by the way they talk.
Strong Negative (--) – You hate science and scientists, perhaps even believing that they should be burned at the stake for their dangerous and heretical ideas. You have learned many of their ways to catch them out and bring them down.

Strong Positive (++) – Your faith in a divine power is unshakeable, you know that questioning the ways of the world is a path away from the divine. You may or may not be one of the messengers of the divine in this world, but you certainly know people who are. You regularly attend religious gatherings.
Weak Positive (+) – You are quite certain that there is a divine power at work in the world. You often attend religious gatherings. Sometimes you may have doubts, but things usually work out according to some unknowable plan.
Weak Neutral (0) – You know of strongly religious people, and you know where the religious gatherings are typically held. Sometimes it triggers your curiosity.
No Relationship ( ) – Religion means nothing to you. You might even go out of your way to avoid it.
Weak Negative (-) – You think that those who follow religions are sometimes kind hearted, and sometimes a bit fanatical, but generally they’re just deluded. You know what phrases to look out for when someone is about to bring up religious topics of conversation.
Strong Negative (--) – You hate the zealots and their followers. You have learnt enough of their ways to shoot holes in their dogma, and you make this a sport.

Strong Positive (++) – You may feel the presence of the spirits, you may simply know how to contact them. You have utmost respect for the spirits and treat them as trusted allies, often going out of yor way to help them; you know many people who feel the same way.
Weak Positive (+) – You have strong positive feelings toward the spirits and know many people who feel this way. You know what could harm them and prevent this happening if it isn’t too much inconvenience.
Weak Neutral (0) – You know that spirits exist in the world. You’ve seen what they can do for the good or bad. You know a few places where they congregate and typically avoid these areas.
No Relationship ( ) – You don’t really believe in spirits. They may exist, or they may just be hoaxes perpetrated by troublemaking humans.
Weak Negative (-) – You know of spirits and those who consort with them. You don’t particularly like either of them, and occasionally you’ll help out someone who is looking to do them harm.
Strong Negative (--) – You might think that spirits are the spawn of evil and the humans who deal with them are no better than witches; or maybe you think that the spirits are quantum xenomorphs or aliens and those who deal with them are under some kind of hypnosis or mind control. You actively seek to destroy spirits wherever they may be found, and ether persecute or convert their followes to your way of thinking.

You’ll note that none of these scales follows the spectrum from “Good” to “Evil”, instead they follow more of a “fanatical” to “moderate” to “fanatical” progression.

The same could be applied to almost anything in the setting, as long as someone in the group thinks it could make an interesting focal point to a story.

Strong Positive – You have at least one gun and you know how to use it. This gun might be a signature weapon for you, you might be known for talking about shooting and ammunition grades as regular topics of conversation. You can see the look of a steady marksman in someone’s eyes.
Weak Positive – You see the virtue of a gun as a tool of survival, you probably even have one. You look after your gun and know the places where tools and accessories for it might be found.
Weak Neutral – You know of people with guns, you might even have one. You know that a gun can be dangerous in the wrong hands and hope that you’ll never be on the wrong end of one.
No Relationship – You honestly don’t care one way or the other about guns.
Weak Negative – You don’t like guns. This might be because you’re a pacifist, or it might be due to preferring knives or some other kind of weapon. You know the drawbacks of guns (low ammo), and how this can be used against a marksman.
Strong Negative – You hate guns. As a result of this hatred you’ve learnt how to disable them, possibly using tricks that explode their cartridges in erratic ways or cause backfires that seriously damage the weapons. If a gun wielder comes near you, you don’t treat them well.

Using the relationship categories that we’ve allocated so far, we can vaguely define the motivations for a huge range of people and give a rough impression of how they’re likely to react toward one another (at least as detailed as the typical character we see presented on screen at the start of a TV series).

The blatant stereotypes might use a strong positive, a strong negative and a weak neutral relationship.

The Atheist (Science (++), Religion (--), Spirituality (0) ) – Believes strongly that science is right and religion is wrong, doesn’t know what to make of the spirits.
The Xenophobe (Science (++), Spirituality (--), Religion (0) ) – Believes strongly that science will find a way to destroy the spirits and doesn’t care about religion.
The Fundamentalist (Religion (++), Science (--), Spirituality (0) ) – Believes strongly that when science toppled the power of religion, that’s when things went wrong.
The Witch-hunter (Religion (++), Spirituality (--), Science (0) ) – Believes strongly that the spirits are evil and only the power of the divine can destroy them.
The Shaman (Spirituality (++), Science (--), Religion (0) ) – Believes strongly that the spirits have suffered at the hands of science and it is time to bring back magic.
The Infernalist (Spirituality (++), Religion (--), Science (0) ) – Believes that organised religion has persecuted spirits for too long, and now it’s the time for the spirits to take revenge.

Wider complexity comes from two strong positives or two strong negatives

The Freemason (Science (++), Religion (++), Spirituality (0) ) – Believes in a greater power that brings order through understanding. If this character had a negative “Spirituality”, they might believe that the spirits are tools to be used in their quest for knowledge, or demons distracting them from the true path.
The Prophet (Religion (++), Spirituality (++), Science (0) ) – Believes that the spirits are divine messengers with words for the religious masses. If this character had a negative “Science”, they might drive the others believers toward acts of frenzied rioting against “scientific heresy”.
The Parapsychologist (Spirituality (++), Science (++), Religion (0) ) – Believes that the spirits bring a wider perspective to the truths of science. If this character had a negative “Religion”, they might be more inclined toward psychic research akin to the rumoured work of the Soviet Union.
The Anarch (Science (--), Religion (--), Spirituality (0) ) – Believes that organised institutions have destroyed the world and must be taken down. If this character had a positive “Spirituality”, they might aspire to become a spirit to transcend the traps of science and religion in the physical world.
The Hater (Religion (--), Spirituality (--), Science (0) ) – Believes that anything they can’t understand is evil and a threat (especially if other people believe it. If this character had a positive “Science”, they might be an active skeptic wandering the world to reveal the hoaxes of religion and mysticism.
The Firebrand (Spirituality (--), Science (--), Religion (0) ) – Believes that the mysteries of the world must remain mysteries, because that is what the divine intended. If this character had a positive “Religion”, they might be a travelling tent-show revivalist preacher.

This range of possibilities is just the tip of the iceberg. More subtle character motivations are possible when weak positive and negative relationships are mixed together.

A typical community minded tradesman, plying their craft in exchange for some food and favours from other members of the community (occasionally going to church because that’s simply what’s done in his local community). (Science (+), Religion (+), Spirituality ( ) )

A local publican/bartender from the same town who hears strange things at night, and has a few superstitions that he believes will keep him safe. (Spirituality (+), Religion (0), Science ( ) )

And this is just from the three scales provided. If you were to include four or five, the options spread out even wider. But remember that providing too many options has the potential to dilute the story. Each character starts with a minimum of three relationships (to their people, their edge, and their dance), and most characters will have different relationships to one another.

When a Walkabout story is developed, it helps to set the events around two or three specific relationships, and let the others fall into place around these…relationships to specific types of people or places, relationships to one another.

The breaking down and reforging of these relationships is one of the game’s key themes. 

20 October, 2012

Stereotypes, Labelling and Relationships

I’ve been thinking about the notion of relationships within the mechanisms of Walkabout. All characters are defined by a series of traits that define their ability to impact the world around them using the forces within. All characters also have a range of relationships that provide a more powerful ability to transform the world using allied forces linked spiritually to concepts that they identify with.

Someone calling themselves a “warrior”, who does the leg work to become a “warrior” and who acts as a “warrior” gains a bonus when performing the actions traditionally associate with a “warrior”.

Similarly, someone calling themselves a “drug dealer”, who does the leg work to become a “drug dealer” and who acts as a “drug dealer” gains a bonus when performing the actions traditionally associate with a “drug dealer”.

A person known for carrying a “surgical kit”, who regularly uses their “surgical kit” and who works regularly to maintain their “surgical kit” gains a bonus when performing actions involving the “surgical kit”.

This has been dealt with in a few of the posts regarding Walkabout.

But I’ve been thinking about the deeper implications of the core concept.
Stereotypes are controversial things. This has become especially noticeable in recent game related discussions about “cultural appropriation” and gender equality in “geek culture”. A number of people have commented about these two ideas in regard to Walkabout, and I guess it doesn’t help when the game includes notions of spirituality, groups of people desperately clinging to shattered fragments of lost cultures, and a reinterpretation of religious concepts in a twisted reflection of our world.

But I think a roleplaying game is a “safe zone” to explore these types of concepts; a shared imaginary space where the consensual beliefs of the players can be used to push envelopes. Novelists have been using their mediums to push the agenda of a single voice to their readers; roleplaying games (and story games) have the unique opportunity to share the voices of several participants to explore a world within a paradigm constructed by the game’s designer.

Walkabout’s focus on “relationships as a game mechanism” is a deliberate paradigm choice. If you don’t like it, then Walkabout simply might not be the game for you. This has sat in the back of my mind since reading some of the comments from Angelus Morningstar when discussing his game “Eidolon”. In a few places he has stated his uncompromising artistic integrity, especially when people have told him that the poetic voice of the game’s narrative might make it unapproachable to some players.

I respect artistic integrity, and despise design by committee or the compromise of principles just to appease the lowest denominator. The place of artists is to open vistas of the mind, sometimes people like their work and have their minds expanded, sometimes people don’t like their work but find the underlying themes insidious in their transformation of the viewer’s mind, and sometimes a closed minded individual will perceive an artwork and instinctively rebel against the underlying concepts…sometimes closing their mind further as a response.

The problem is that human nature often makes it easier to close your mind than to open it. It’s easier to troll, claiming things like “that’s not how real life works”, “what about this obscure situation where the rules don’t seem to work”, or “back up your fictional world with facts otherwise I won’t take it seriously”. It’s harder to say… “I see how I could use that in a story”, “that’s an interesting interpretation of the world”, or “I hadn’t considered things that way”.

This brings me back to relationships. Establishing the first relationship is easy. In life we often establish a relationship to the people we grow up with, this may be our families, our local communities or religious groups, or childhood social groups. These set the tone for our future life, we might define ourselves by our fondness for these social circles and belief systems, or we might define ourselves by our rebellion against them. Either way, our relationship with this core element of our being functions as a defining factor of our life. If my skin is white and my genetic descent is generally of the type Caucasoid (and more specifically Scottish with a fraction of Romany), do I declare myself a proud Scot, or do I turn my back on my heritage and get apologetic for the historical actions of the British against the rest of the world in the colonial era?  If I were of dark skin and my genetic descent were generally of the type Australoid (and more specifically of the Tharawal people in the Wollondilly shire), do I claim the ancestry of my people dating back tens of millennia in this region, or do I focus on the cultural disconnect that occurred when recent generations were forcibly removed from the land and had the ways of “civilisation” thrust upon them?

It’s a culturally charged issue. It’s the kind of thing that can be explored through roleplaying, the choices made can form the basis of interesting stories.

In Walkabout, I’ve specifically avoided the notion of racial typology. In the modern world, the Australian government might define aboriginality as a percentage of genetic make-up in a person’s ancestry; but in a post-apocalyptic setting, it doesn’t mean much. Almost everyone in Walkabout has suffered a cultural disconnect with their past…except for those who’ve hidden themselves in underground bunkers for decades, the world has had to start over. Those who have remained secluded in their bunkers have found the world dramatically changed; their educations based on the golden age of the past have rendered them locked in a nostalgic era out of sync with the outside world.

The population of the Walkabout world is less than a hundredth of the current level, and in some parts of the world even less. Discrimination based on skin colour may still exist in the setting, but those who wanted to prolong the human race by bringing new generations into the world often had to put aside those thoughts. Someone who survives the darkness and ice age with a hatred of people outside their race might find themselves with a moral dilemma if they want to raise a new generation but everyone from their race has been killed, turned into a mutant or rendered infertile by radiation.

It is also said that stressful situations cause relationships to form or break apart. The drama of a life threatening incident draws people together against the events conspiring against them, or drives a wedge between individuals who may have been close but who share different outlooks or perspectives on the situation.

The problem is, no-one knows how they’ll react until these events occur.

Is it a way to remove the “race” card from the setting? Yes, but it’s also something important about the stories of Walkabout. The cultures of the new world are something familiar, perhaps more akin to class lines than racial typologies. The stereotypes that these groups feel for one another are just as strong as the stereotypes that riddle our world. Groups hate one another due to slights in the past (whether real or imagined), they bear suspicion for groups that have the potential to erode their power base, and they have resentment for others who have gained advantage through luck, heredity or nepotism. Groups like others for the potential opportunities they see in one another, whether trade alliances, or other mutual benefits.

Could you add the “race” card back into the setting? Sure, if you wanted to tell the stories of an ethnic minority who had kept their power when the rest of the world went to hell then there’s nothing to stop you adding in a sutable relationship option for the groups characters. Bvious examples in this setting might be “Jewish” (because the Jewish people have always had a strong sense of cultural identity despite their diaspora across the globe), or “Muslim” (because even if the world gets tilted, all the mosques still point toward Mecca), or even “Redneck” (with all the off-road drivin’, gun-totin’ survivalism you can handle). Note that all of these examples offer more than just skin colour as their identifier.  Yes they are stereotypes, yes they pigeonhole people into a specific category for the sake of shorthand…but the world does this. The world isn’t a perfect place.

Once a relationship category has been identified, the players can determine where they stand in regard to it. Remember that in Walkabout, all relationships are optional with regard to all characters.

If we run with “Redneck” as an example…

Do you consider yourself a true die-hard “redneck”? Do you drive an off-roader, carry a gun with you, speak in a country drawl, live off the land, gather with other folks who consider themselves rednecks” and do all the other things that “rednecks” do? If so, you’ve got a strong positive relationship to the “Redneck” community.

Do you simply have “redneck” leanings? Perhaps only a few of the above examples apply to you, or maybe you try to lead another life outside the redneck community, and consider this to only be a small part of your personality. If so, you’ve got a weak positive relationship to the “Redneck” community.

Do you know of the “rednecks” but haven’t really decided whether you feel comfortable with them? Perhaps you watch the occasional motor race, maybe you know about guns ad might have even fired one, you might have heard “redneck jokes” and laughed at them as a guilty pleasure (or just thought that they were  bit crude). If you know a lot about the community, you might have a weak general relationship toward them; if you don’t know much about them, you don’t really have any relationship to the concept of “Redneck” community at all.

Do you know about the “rednecks” and consider them to be uncivilised hillbillies? Do you prefer your urban life, and even treat those identifying as “rednecks” with mild contempt? If so, you’ve got a weak negative relationship to the “Redneck” community. Your relationship to the “redneck” community is a part of your persona because a part of you identifies as being opposed to the concept.

Do you actively hate them? If so, you’ve got a strong negative relationship to them. Once again, a part of your persona has identified with the “Redneck” community as a staunch opponent of them.

Let’s play the blatant stereotype game…

Nazis versus Jews, World War 2.

In a simplistic and stereotypical story, each is defined by their relationship to the “Jewish” community.

A naturally born Jewish character might retain their strong connections to their Jewish heritage.

Another might sacrifice their heritage in the hope for survival.

A typical German citizen might not have any relationship to the Jews at all. They might feel sympathy for their plight, they might simply ignore the situation, they might have a life that is so caught up in other events that they don’t have time to think about what is happening.

A lowly soldier or officer might be forced into contact with the Jewish people and the events unfolding around them. If this were to happen enough times they’d automatically gain a connection to the Jewish people, but they’d have to decide for themselves whether to advocate for the rights of their charges, take on the mentality of the Nazi party, or remain coldly detached.

Higher ranking officers would find it much harder to stay detached from the situation as they are the ones being forced to sign the death warrants. Their relationship to the Jews goes up to a strong connection, but will they be known for the positive or the negative? Both of these options can have serious ramifications in a story.     

A more complex version of this story might include “Romany”, “Homosexual” and other “minority” relationships. With characters pulled into conflict determined by their relationships to each of the respective groups.

The aim of relationships in Walkabout is a single linear axis of belief. It’s not just “Good/Evil” or “Lawful/Chaotic”, there is something deeper here.

Relationships like this could easily be brought into other games (Apply up to 3 relationships to a task, positive modifier to a die roll if the action works with your relationship, negative modifier to a die roll if the action goes against your relationship). It’s not for everyone, because it actually makes you think about the character’s motivations and agendas. For every opportunity opened, another is closed and impetus is applied to the character within the story.  

I could write plenty more, but that’s enough thoughts for the moment.

14 October, 2012

Gender Roles

In many of the Aboriginal tribes across Australia, there are traditional gender roles. Some things are simply designated as men's business, while others are designated as women's business.

Modern anthropologists might look back on these groups and find the cultural dynamic sexist, perhaps the men went out and hunted and the women did work around the hearth. Modern feminists might be offended by the notion that women were relegated to certain roles within the community, but men were similarly relegated to predetermined communal roles.

If you were a man, you would undertake men's business. If you were a woman, you would undertake women's business. Men didn't talk about women's business, and women didn't talk about men's business. Some groups may have had strict taboos, but in most cases the roles were simply ingrained cultural mores. It wouldn't cross a man's mind to engage in women's business, it's just not what is done.

In Walkabout, the spirits derive their strength from universal constants. Some spirits hunt, others protect; some spirits deal with vast forces on a cosmic scale, others are far more intimate and personal. Often the most innocuous looking spirit may be the lynch-pin in events far more dramatic than first appearances might indicate. 

The spirits of the setting derive from the ancient ways, stretching further back into history than modern notions of gender equality or equal opportunity. These concepts are a tiny blip on the radar of recorded history (and recorded history itself is a tiny blip on the cosmic scale). With this in mind, it makes sense that many spirits would still be linked to the concepts of men's and women's business.

For less attuned spirits, this might manifest in the form of a bias or persuasion (a bonus to deal with characters of one gender, and a penalty when dealing with characters of the other gender). For spirits closely linked to this concept, one gender might be completely banned from working with the spirit. A when you consider that these spirits are intrinsically linked to the concept of gender (rather than the appearances of clothes and make-up), a male character can't simply put on drag to deal with a female aligned spirit. 

This raised fascinating questions about gender identity. What do the spirits think of a male who identifies as a female, or a female who identifies as a male. In certain Polynesian cultures there is a "third gender", comprising males who are taught the female duties (and more rarely females who are taught male duties). In a post-apocalyptic setting, the option for gender reassignment surgery isn’t really an option, and in the outback you could easily see the scenes portrayed in the movie “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert”. Being transsexual in the outback has complications of its own. It’s not a sexist outlook, it’s just the ways things are. People are too focused on surviving with what they’ve got to fantasize about the body parts they don’t have. The people from the glass and steel arcologies and secluded military bunkers of the ancient past might have the option for gender reassignment, but these people have their own issues in the outback.

The thoughts here are one of the reasons why I’ve deliberately included both male and female versions of the character sheet. Some characters may deem themselves asexual (or a member of a “third gender”), but no character may consider themselves both male and female. A player deliberately choosing to play a “third gender” role would find themselves with a reduced penalty against spirits aligned to both males and females, and would find a penalty dealing with any society who doesn’t understand the character’s ways (only the “outcastes” and the “primitives” would be likely to accept them).

Far more easily, a circle of wayfarers would contain both male and female characters.

The second issue here is the discussion of male and female business. As a male, I can’t respectfully write about women’s business. Even if I were a female (or had my wife write the women’s business parts of the book), I couldn’t include these aspects of gender business because a woman’s business shouldn’t be read by males, and conversely a man’s business shouldn’t be read by a female. I’d love to get into specifics to really help define the world, but every tribe defines men’s and women’s business differently…and the definition of these respective businesses often goes against their oral traditions. The easy option is to loosely allude to men’s and women’s business, use the spiritual bonuses and penalties bring these effects into the game mechanisms, and allow specific groups of players to define the specifics of gender business.

The problem is that I’ve seen this sort of stuff done so badly in the past, and I really want to get this right.

13 October, 2012

Book Layouts - 3 : Cyberpunk 2020

Cyberpunk 2020
256 pages
Page 00 – Title Splash Page
Page 0 – Credits
Page 1 – Contents
Page 2 – Roles Splash Page (Section 1)
Pages 3 to 5 – Overview of the Setting and the Roles
Pages 6 to 23 – Two pages each on the games roles (classes)
Page 24 – Characters Splash Page (Section 2)
Pages 25 to 29 – Character Generation (including a double sided full page character sheet on pages 27-28)
Page 30 – Quick method of character generation for GMs to rapidly create NPCs
Page 31 – Four-to-a-page character sheets for GM use with NPCs
Page 32 – Lifepath Splash Page (Section 3)
Page 33 – Lifepath Preamble
Pages 34 to 39 – A series of flowcharts used for describing the events in a characters life before play
Page 40 – Tasks and Skills Splash Page (Section 4)
Pages 41 to 43 – Descriptions of the base mechanisms and how skills work
Page 44 – A list of skills categorised by Role
Page 45 – Master skill list (categorised by relevant attribute)
Pages 46 to most of 53 – Detailed listing of the skills and what they do
The rest of 53 through to 55 – Experience system for improving skills, creating new skills and a system for reputation (I don’t remember seeing the reputation system before this analysis, and certainly never saw it in use)
Page 56 – Weapons, Armour, Gear Splash Page (Section 5)
Page 57 to the top of 58 – Overview of items in the setting
Bottom of 58 – Standard income for roles based on their specific skill
Page 59 – Are you employed? And some simple encumbrance rules
Page 60 – How weapon statistics work
Page 61 – Table of weapons
Pages 62 to 66 – Weapon statistics and images
Page 67 – Body Armour
Page 68 – Table of other equipment
Pages 69 to 71 – Descriptions of other equipment
Page 72 – Cyberware Half Splash Page (Section 6)
Other half of page 72 to 75 – Effects of cyberware on fashion, society and soul
Pages 76 to 79 – Table of cyberware
Pages 80 to half of 93 – Descriptions of cyberware
The rest of page 93 to 94 – Ways to earn extra money to pay for cyberware
Page 95 – Combat Splash Page (Section 7)
Pages 96 to 112 – Description of combat mechanisms (including plenty of tables, varying bold or italic text and an illustration showing how cover works)
Page 113 – Modifications to combat due to vehicles
Page 114 – Medical Splash Page (Section 8)
Pages 115 to most of 120 – Healing (including chances of death after combat, as well as surgery)
The rest of 120 and 121 – Cosmetic surgery
Page 122 – Drugs (Section 9 – no splash page) through to page 125
Page 126 – Netrunning Splash Page (Section 10)
Page 127 to 131 – Overview of the Net
Pages 132 to 134 – Equpment used to access the Net
Pages 135 to 136 – Double sided equipment sheet for Net interface devices (Two devices per side, for four total)
Pages 137 to most of 141 – Programs to implant into your net access device
The rest of 141 to 145 – Specifics on accessing the net (broken by a listing of the programs from 137-141, this time taking one-and-a-half pages)
Pages 146 to 148 – Maps of the Net
Pages 149 to half of 151 – Continued specifics on Net access
The rest of 151 to 153 – Combat in the Net
Pages 154 to 166 – Designing data fortresses to raid in the Net (including plenty of maps, illustrations, and information reference sheets for GMs to use during play)
Pages 167 to 174 – Designing new programs and virtual realities
Page 175 – Background Splash Page (Section 11)
Pages 176 to 179 – Timeline of the Cyberpunk “Future”and history of the setting
Pages 180 to 183 – Continued history of the setting and further background information
Pages 184 to 185 – Illustrations of common devices and items in the setting
Pages 186 to 189 – Running Cyberpunk (Section 12) No Splash Page
Pages 190 to 203 – Sample Game (Section 13) No Splash Page
Page 204 – Megcorporations Splash Page (Section 14)
Pages 205 to 214 – Descriptions of the dark corporate world
Pages 215 – Night City Splash Page (Section 15)
Pages 216 to 231 – Description of the default setting for Cyberpunk (including maps and random encounter tables)
Page 232 – A description of screamsheets (story impetus handouts)
Pages 233 to 250 – Sample screamsheets and adventure ideas
Pages 251 to 254 – A compilation of the character sheets scattered through the book.
(Note that the numbering starting with 00 and 0 to complete the 256 pages)
Total page count – 256
Table of Contents – Yes
Index – No (not even a quick find table, but the table of contents is very comprehensive)
Steps to create a character – An introductory overview of the classes for new players, then eleven pages of basic rules spread over two sections, followed by a separate section for skills, then equipment, and most characters will need to reference the cyberware or net sections of the book (possibly both). These are scattered throughout the book.
The way skills work – Three pages
The way combat works – Seventeen pages (sixteen for personal combat, and one for combat in vehicles)
World setting – Generally Thirty-three pages (split over four sections; two at the start, seven in the timeline/background, nine in megacorporations and fifteen in the Night City section). Plus an extra four pages generally describing the Net.
What do the characters do? – Each of the classes has a basic description of their day to day lives (and the money they earn through this), but nothing specifies whether this game is about their daily lives or the events that happen behind the scenes. Characters are preloaded with a bunch of background information and issues that might need to be resolved; I guess this is a good start.
What do the players do? – Nothing specific, not even the common “What is a roleplaying game?” section found in many games of the era.
What does the GM do? – Thirty-four pages (split over three sections: four pages on running the game, a sample game to give the GM ideas, then screamsheets as further idea prompts).

For years I had only seen fantasy games, my eyes were opened to the greater potential of RPGs when I started seeing modern and sci-fi settings creep into the hobby. I had seen “Dark Conspiracies” on the lone spinning rack of RPGs in the corner of a toy store near y home, but the first non-fantasy game I played was “TMNT and Other Strangeness”, since TMNT used basically the same system as D&D it felt like more of the same but with a fun new surface gloss. Cyberpunk was the second “sci-fi” game I played and it used a very different system.

In retrospect, Cyberpunk 2020 seems to have been one of those games that was struggling to do something more than just throw characters into a sequence of combat scenarios. It fed from the ethos of “Style over substance”, giving us numerous ways to look cool with gadgets, implants and cosmetic surgery (many of the sourcebooks took this even further), but it also started to integrate the characters into their community (through the lifepath tool). 

The two biggest chunks of the book (and most well-worn as I flick through it), are the combat section and the net section. These are obviously the sections that saw the most use when the book was mine and when it belonged to a friend before me. Not far behind them in size and usage are the character generation and cyberware sections.

Like RIFTS, and many other games of the era, it was a toolkit designed to provide you with everything necessary to run a variety of games, in this case they stretched from combat, to virtual reality infiltration, and corporate espionage. That’s basically the trinity of the cyberpunk setting, so it makes sense that the game would focus on these three. Everything else in the game is basically about looking good while you do these things (with the reputation system reflecting the fallout from missions, and the medical section reflecting the fallout from combat).

It covers the setting, it covers the way things are done, but it only barely touches on why you’d want to do things in the setting. The simple answer for the time was probably “because it’s cool, and you can look cool doing it”, we have cool weapons and cool cyberware with cool sounding names. You just want to use it somehow, and the GM just gives you excuses to do so (while offering you some money so that you can buy new cool stuff).

There’s nothing much in the way of drama or social interaction (some of the skills touch on this, and some of the lifepath results hint at ways that social complexity can be brought into the stories), but if you just want a shoot-em-up with high tech gadgets in a glass-and-steel metropolis, then why bother with all that melodrama. For the time, the combat system was pretty streamlined, roll to hit, and if you hit then roll for damage (reduce damage by armour); the combat system even manage to vaguely fit the same system as the skills.

The book was basically laid out in a coherent order. Especially with the early chapters and their splash pages on the even page count (this means the early chapters open with a two page spread with an image on the left, while the title and starting text begin on the right). This starts to get a bit more erratic toward the end of the book, arguably making the tail end of the book seem a bit rushed and not as well considered as the earlier parts of the book. As an example, the drugs section doesn’t have a splash page, and it’s not as fleshed out as many other sections of the book. If feels like an addendum to the medical section just before it (and probably should have been left as such).

All in all, I can see steps being made in the hobby at this time, there were lessons being learnt, but there was still a long way to go when it came to user friendliness in RPGs.

12 October, 2012

Book Layouts - 2 : Monsterhearts

For the next book layout, I'll examine one of the most recent games in my library...

160 pages
Page 1 – Preamble
Page 2 – Credits
Page 3 – Contents
Pages 4 to 6 – Introduction, designer’s notes and requirements for play
Page 7 – Chapter one splash page
Pages 8 to 15 – Character creation
Page 16 – Chapter two splash page
Pages 17 to 19 – Basics of play (Framing Scenes, Roleplaying, Rolling Dice)
Pages 20 to 24 – Basic moves (“skills” anyone can use)
Page 25 to 44 – Development of characters
Page 45 – Chapter three splash page
Pages 46 to 47 – General list of character types
Pages 48 to 99 – Specific character type details
Page 100 – Chapter four splash page
Pages 101 to 127 – Guide notes for the GM
Page 128 – Chapter five splash page
Pages 129 to 137 – How to set up the story
Page 138 – Chapter six splash page
Pages 139 to 144 – Developing the threats in the character’s lives
Page 145 – Chapter seven splash page
Pages 146 to 149 – Ways to modify the game
Pages 150 to 155 – Long example of play
Page 156 – Media inspirations
Page 157 – Final example
Pages 158 to 160 – Index

Total page count – 160
Table of Contents – Yes
Index – Yes
Steps to create a character – Eight pages of basic rules (with ), then a separate section for character types.
The way skills work – One page generally, but each “move” works differently and each character type gains access to different moves, so in total each player needs the five basic pages of moves and another four (or so) pages.
The way combat works – Two pages in the section of character development (pages 30-11).
World setting – Nothing. This is developed by the players or drawn from a popular culture reference. Maybe 20 or so pages describing how to develop a world for the stories to take place in
What do the characters do? – Many aspects of the game revolve around the character’s lives. There is nothing really directing the characters toward a specific agenda, this is developed through the evolving story rather than the written rules.  
What do the players do? – Four pages (the introductory description about the game and the three pages of the basics of play), and the tight linking of game mechanisms with the story throughout the moves and the character descriptions.
What does the GM do? – Forty-two pages describing how to generally run the game, and another four describing ways to adapt the game.

Monsterhearts is one of the new generation of “story games”, it’s still a tool kit for telling stories, but unlike traditional RPGs, it tells a specific type of story and hones it’s rules toward telling that type of story.  It doesn’t try to simulate realistic combat (the combat rules are only a single page), because the stories it tells are more about adolescent angst and feeling like an outsider.

A high proportion of the rules in Monsterhearts directly push characters toward conflict with one another (or with the other characters portrayed by the GM), these conflicts may be resolved by discussion, accepting sacrifices or engaging in “moves” that might be available to a character.

Creating characters in this game is a straightforward process; it gives a few key methods for characters to manipulate their stories, and a few specific ways that characters have their stories interlinked with the stories of other characters involved.

With so many rules focused on a specific type of story revolving around adolescent intrigue, Monsterhearts seems very focused. I don’t know whether it can be diverted to tell other stories, but in the “story game” genre this doesn’t seem to matter. As long as it tells the stories it was designed to, and as long as it tells these stories well, then it’s successful.  

10 October, 2012

Book Layouts - 1 : Rifts

Interspersed through the rest of the year, I’m going to look at a couple of core rulebooks to see how they are laid out. With pros, cons and some critique about the game based purely on the layout, and the things presented in the rules. I'm doing this because I'm interested in the way different games present their systems and settings, in the hope that I'll be able to learn something from them and get things right with the games released by Vulpinoid Studios. 

RIFTS (typical of most Palladium stuff)
256 pages
Page 1 – Disclaimer about the supernatural
Pages 2 to 6 – Credits, Contents and Quick Find Table
Pages 7 and a bit at the top of 8 – A bit of a designer note and a glossary of terms.
The Rest of 8 to 10 – Start of character generation
Page 11 – Optional Damage rules (WTF? Why here?)
Pages 12 through to most of 15 – The next bit of character generation
The last bit of 15 to 17 – The experience system
Page 18 – Optional rules for rounding out your character
Pages 19 through to the top of 22 – Rules for character insanity
Most of the rest of 22 – Information about who the characters are and what they do
The last bit of 22 through to 24 – What are skills, how to use them and a general list of them
Pages 25 through to most of 33 – A list of what the skills actually do  
The bottom of 33 through to the top of 38 – Pretty much everything you need to know about basic combat (including a glossary of terms, combat procedure, details on the combat styles and a brief bit about psychic combat)
The rest of 38 through to 46 – How the combat system is different when you’re in a vehicle or armoured suit
Pages 47 to the top bit of 97 – Occupational Character Classes: it’s implied you can only have one of these. Some classes get a single page, others are spread out over a few pages (like the Technowizard who gets an 8 page spread)
The rest of 97 through to the top of 113 – Racial Character Classes: Again it’s implied that you have either one occupational class OR one racial class (later sourcebooks confuse this issue dramatically), psychics are considered separate from “normal” humans, except that normal humans can have psychic power.
The rest of 113 through to 127 – Descriptions of Psychic Powers
Page 128 – Overview of the world before the setting came into effect
Pages 129 to 136 – Evocative colour plates depicting the world
Pages 137 to 152 – Descriptions of places across the new transformed world (where 13 of the pages basically describe the USA, 1 describes Canada and 2 describe the rest of the world)
Pages 153 to 160 – Further colour plates including four maps (2 of the Americas, 1 of the USA specifically, and a small one of the United Kingdom)
Pages 161 to the top of 166 – A description of how magic works in the setting
The rest of 166 – An alphabetical index of spells
Page 167 – A listing of spells by level (this becomes irrelevant in later sourcebooks as different types of magic user can access various spells at different levels)
Pages 168 to 190 – A complete listing of spells, costs and effects in order by level as shown on page 167.
Page 191 – A background on the dominant power in the USA, the Coalition
Pages 192 (full page image) through to a chunk of 205 – High tech equipment, armour and vehicles of the Coalition
The rest of 205 through to a chunk of 209 – The workings of the black market
The rest of 209 through to the top of 248 – Other weapons and equipment found in North America (including 14 pages of cybernetics and bionics)
The rest of 248 through to the end (Page 256) – The 8 page GM section, including 4 pages of charts on how to roll up a supernatural antagonist, 2 pages describing a few specific supernatural monsters and a page at the end for human antagonists.       

Total page count – 256
Table of Contents – Yes
Index – No (it has a quick find table, but this only lists the combat character classes, combat rules, weapons, armour and cybernetic combat enhancements…do you think this tells you something about the game?)
Steps to create a character – Seven pages of basic rules spread over two section (split by damage rules), then a separate section for character classes, another section for equipment/weapons/armour, and finally a magic or psionics section if the character is that way inclined. These are scattered throughout the book.
The way skills work – Half a page
The way combat works – Thirteen pages (five for personal combat, eight for combat in vehicles/power-armour)
World setting – Sixteen pages
What do the characters do? – One page (with scatterings of character motivations hidden in flavour text occasionally mentioned in certain types of character classes, but certainly not all of them)
What do the players do? – Nothing specific, not even the common “What is a roleplaying game?” section found in many games of the era.
What does the GM do? – A page and a half (scattered as half a page in the GM section, half a page in the experience section, a few paragraphs ad sentences here-and-there and the bit in the glossary describing the GM as “the person who controls the game world”.)

I use to love RIFTS. Its author, Kevin Siembieda, described it as “a thinking man’s game” (yes, he used the masculine noun, because at that point in time the notion of female gamers was a novelty…they existed, but I guess they were considered in much the same way that DC comics currently treats female comic readers now).

Looking back on the book now, it’s a mess.

To create a basic character you often need to cross reference at three parts of the book (and that’s before you get to quirky characters that you generate using sourcebooks).

It really doesn’t tell you what the game is about. It’s a tool kit for play, providing you with combat systems and combat equipment, and a few basic percentile skills that use a completely simplistic system so that they don’t get in the way of a good combat.

I guess that a quick breakdown of the numbers, does tell us what the game is truly about…256 pages,  (13 pages on combat rules, 61 pages for combat items and combat vehicles, 20 pages of combat oriented character classes, a page of optional damage rules, a quick-find table that only shows where the combat stuff is). And that’s just mundane combat stuff. Once you break down the spells and psychic powers it compounds the effects. There are 58 base psionic powers, and maybe eight of them don’t have an immediate combat effect to cause, prevent or heal damage (but even these eight could be used creatively in combat if the right situation arose). There are 146 spells, and over two thirds of them can be used to cause, prevent or heal harm in some way, and many of the rest are great tools to move you from one combat to another by circumventing distance or puzzles that prevent you from getting to the next combat scene. Over half of the book describes ways to fight in some way.

Even at the time, this game was a throwback to the wargames from 2 decades earlier.

It’s little wonder that most of the people I know who played RIFTS had a very similar play experience from the game…Scene 1: Combat against villain A, Scene 2: Combat against villain B, Scene 3: Use magic to do some healing or find someone to repair your armour, Scene 4: Combat against villain C…repeat ad infinitum.

The only thing that really stops a player from getting into combat is the sheer frustration and time involved in creating a new character if they should happen to die.

09 October, 2012

Walkabout Novella and Boxed Set

80 pages – Novella of a Journey

I’m envisioning this third part of the boxed set to be a travelling novella. The whole thing will be framed by the journey of a single person across the beautifully desolate landscape…it will be illustrated in colour (using a combination of techniques), and I’m thinking that it should weave the tale of a woman journeying in this exotically familiar world. I’m aiming toward something akin to a post-apocalyptic version of “The Canterbury Tales” or “1001 Nights”.

The Heroine will meet people on her journey, and these chance encounters will tell her their stories. The stories are designed to bring a personal perspective to the savagery and esoteric mystery, providing ideas for players and GMs to insert into their stories. Each of these stories would be about ten pages long (probably four or five of these), interspersed with the framing narrative of a character completing her journey along one side of the Australian coast.

The most dramatic journey for this type of narrative would be the voyage from Cairns (in the new alliance of city states known as Capricornia), along the former Queensland coast to the shanty towns outside the ruined Brisbane, into NSW and toward the savage nuclear wastelands of Sydney, onward along the coast to the Mornington Peninsula avoiding the similarly desolate nuclear wasteland of Melbourne (but probably hearing a survivor’s tale from that part of the world). A trip across Bass Straight, where the rusting hulks of oil rigs house independent colonies of isolationist survivors; then finally to the deceptively peaceful farmlands of the Thylacine Kingdom (where Tasmanian tigers and other cryptids are spoken about in hushed whispers).

Just a series of embryonic thoughts at this stage.

I know there are people who don't like the amateur ramblings of a game designer who think's that they are  novelist. That's why I'm keeping this short, and trying to make sure it gives as much opportunity for play ideas as possible. It will probably only be a bonus item available in the boxed set. 

The full boxed set is intended to carry the three books described so far (Rules, Almanac/Survival Guide, Novella), a series of dry erase play sheets, a pad of trait cards, five pouches and a 200 glass beads (40 each: White, Black, Red, Blue, Green). Besides a few pencils, pens and scrap paper or notebooks, that's everything you'd need for five people to play. I'm working out costings now.

07 October, 2012

Walkabout World Guide Contents

Since Walkabout will be divided into a series of books, some with rules and some without, I'll be writing up the non-rule books in the form of a travel guide to the new world.

This is a tentative outline for the second book, I can certainly see that some parts of the book could easily blow out to twice their size (or more), but the aim is to keep the book fairly concise. This book is meant to be the kind of thing that a novice adventurer might actually carry around with them while they are coming to grips with the strange world outside of the city where they grew up.  

112 pages – World Almanac/Atlas/Survival Guide

Important Things to Know (16 pages)
Introduction (2 pages)
History (4 pages)
Global Geography (4 pages)
Australian Geography (4 pages)
General Customs (2 pages)

Customs and Rituals of the New World (32 pages)
The Northern Alliance (4 pages)
Capricornia (4 pages)
Thylacine Kingdom (4 pages)
Independent Territories (4 pages)
The Nomads (4 pages)
The New Aboriginal Nations (4 pages)
(Each of these describes a quick history of the group, some of the general customs that differ from the rest of the nations, community demographics, significant days, thoughts on neighbouring communities, maps of the region, and points of interest)
The Skyfarers (2 pages)
Shattered Lands (2 pages)
The Wilderness (2 pages)
Wayfarers (2 pages)
(Each of these has far less detail, with basic maps and places of interest, a few general customs and community demographics, and thoughts on the “civilised” parts of the country)
Spirit Nations (4 pages)
(Very little is specifically known about the rumoured “nations” of spirits that have established themselves, this section is full of rumours, conjecture, myths and legends)

General Bush Survival Tips (36 pages)
Driving the Old Highways (4 pages) – Nomad signs, Common hazards, Law of the Road.  
Following the Rails (4 pages) – Common hazards, the rail Nomads, Rail map.
Alternate Paths (8 pages) – Skyfarer flying, Merchant flights, Travel by Sea, Offroad and Horseback.
Finding Bush Tucker (8 pages) – Tips on what is edible, Finding and purifying water, a few bush tucker recipes.
First Aid (8 pages) – Requirements for a good First Aid Kit, Attending to common injuries, Herbal recipes to cure poisons and toxins, symptoms of ills and diseases from travel.
Dealing with Animals (8 pages) – Images of the typical animals encountered, which are good to eat, which are best to avoid, and how to best utilise them (riding, hunting, etc.).

Lore of the Spirit World (24 pages)
Legends (8 pages) – The general types of spirits historically
Places of Power (4 pages) – Where spirits tend to be encountered
The Spirit Field Guide (12 pages) – Specific data that has been ascertained about spirits so far

Index (4 pages)