30 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Epilogue

Well, it's two hours until the end of the month for me.

I've written a game. It wasn't quite the game I intended to write, but it links in with the ideas that have been floating around in my head for the past year. I've played the game a few times, I've talked about it, I've heard feedback reports from other people who've played the game and I've modified the game according to the experiences it has provided so far.

This blog has seen increased traffic over the course of the month.

The degree of increased exposure almost makes me think that there should be a NaGa DeMon every month.

I'm pretty fired up about way to present the game, whether that comes in the form of downloadable pocketmod playbooks, or pre-printed dry-erase pocketmod playbooks that could be used over and over. The containers for such things, possible custom USB sticks containing the pdfs necessary to play, or some kind of tin to house the physical components of the game.

I'm thinking about miniature manufacturers to get in contact with for the game's figurines, printing companies to produce dry-erase hard copies, local artisans who might be able to decorate the boxes in interesting ways (or create custom bags to hold them).

And I'm not only excited about my own game, I'm also fascinated to see where other participants will end up taking their projects. I'd like to highlight a few of these over the next couple of days.

I think that overall it's been a fun experience and a great community building exercise for game designers around the world.

To those who followed me along for the design journey, thanks for the support and feedback...hell thanks for just watching, the increased number of pageviews was a good motivator in itself. There's a bit more work to do, but I'm pretty sure I'm on the right track...now to start sourcing some illustration commissions.

NaGa DeMon: Day 30 (really early in the morning)

I can't sleep, so I've created one more scavenger type for Ghost City Raiders.

The Urbanites are people who had power and influence in the old world, they buried themselves in bunkers to remain pure when the cataclysm hit the world...and even now they keep a distance from the lowly survivors who have become impure through their contact with spirits and their lack of old technologies.

This new character is one of the young urbanites, someone who wants to see the world outside for themselves. Some might be slumming it, others might be rebelling against their parents, and a few might be legitimate scholars trying to understand the truth beyond their glass and steel domes.

This character probably has errors in it and needs some more work...it's just after 3 in the morning as I write this. But sometimes you just need to get the ideas out...so here it is.

29 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 29

I've slowed down a bit with a whole heap of other things starting to take priority, but I've managed to throw together another scenario for Ghost City Raiders. This will probably be the last one for the month.

In this scenario, I've decided to play with the way cards are laid out on the table to form the danger zone. It makes sense to me because I've done this sort of thing in the past, but it might be a bit complicated for someone else (and I'm not sure if I've explained myself the best when giving details for the layout).

Ghost Train

While I've been working on this, I've been clarifying a few things on some of the earlier scenarios.

Gold Rush

Hopefully I'll manage to throw together another scavenger (or two) tomorrow.

Anyway...thanks for reading during the month.

28 November, 2012

Bribing Feedback

Like every game designer, I'd love to have a fanatical core of players who champion my game on various forums, in their local game stores, at conventions or among their regular gaming clubs. Not a huge number of people, but enough people paying attention to my design work and spreading their love for it more than I could do alone.

I've thought about way to do this...but I'm not one of the "hipster elite" on certain forums, I don't live in striking dstance of any major "globally signficant" convention, and it seems that many other designers are struggling just as hard a I am in these difficult financial times.

To these ends, I've offered free games, I've given away physical copies of games at local conventions, I've done game trades with other designers I respect. I've shared my design methodology.

I'm now thinking about upping the ante.It might not be enough to have a few core fanatics, it might be more worthwhile to cast a wider net.

To these ends I'm thinking of a few things to boost the profile of Ghost City Raiders...

First, I'll be putting together the starter kit for Ghost City Raiders on RPGNow(and DrivethruRPG), using a whole heap of my accumulated "Publisher Promotion Points" to get the product as advertised as possible. This will probably be a series of the core rules along with 10 characters and 10 scenarios for $10. It'll be the highest cost thing that I've put onto the site, but hopefully the advertising will pay off.

Secondly, I'll be starting up a crowdfunded campaign to create a series of game hardcopies (each in a hand customised tin). These tins will have a slightly different range of characters and scenarios so that they retain some value as a collectible for those people who might have already purchased the downloadable PDFs. After the issues I faced with producing the Goblin Tarot Deck, I'm in two minds about producing a custom deck of cards for this project.

Finally, I'll be offering a special bonus character and scenario free of charge to anyone who blogs about their experiences with the game or posts about it on a forum (such a person would have to get in contact with me regarding their entry, post or comment).

It's this last bit that I'm hoping will generate a bit more of a community around the game.

We'll see how things go.

NaGa DeMon: Day 28

Something has struck me over the course of the playtesting sessions (both my own and the feedback I've received from other people)...the notion of variable game length based on the number of players.

It links in well with the themes and the setting of the game, so it makes sense to include this sort of thing. The setting is a desolate and decaying city where the nightmares of a bygone age linger in the shadows striking out at the unwary. The scavenger communities exist on the edges of the ancient ruined cities, if these communities grow too big they attract the presence of quantum manifestations (typically known as spirits), their combined observance collapses quantum probability waves at a level that is felt through the subatomic flux (Powerful spirits used this to their advantage in ancient times, inspiring rituals among mortals that would cause collective belief to collapse quantum probability waves into pre-defined patterns...thus manifesting miracles in the physical world). If a community grows too small, it becomes easy prey for the spirits that have managed to manifest in our reality.

Lone wanderers in the wilderness are often reported missing as the boundaries between the natural and supernatural worlds prove begin to blur.

Travel between cities is dangerous, successful travel by those unaccustomed to the road is rare. That's why the scavenger communities send their brave ones into the midst of the cities. There may be monsters within the ruined rusted canyons, but at least they are monsters that can be dealt with. People have been at this for a while and they've learnt the tricks necessary to confront the nightmares, cryptids, mutants and beasts.

When a few scavengers go into the cities, they can often do so quietly and without too many problems; their dreams and unconscious throughts barely register above the background static of ghostly echoes. When a lot of scavengers go into the one place at the one time, and when their emotions are tense, the beasts and spirits are alerted far more quickly.

So it makes sense for the setting, but does it make sense for the game?


Taking the first scenario as an example, there are 12 locations that can be visited. In a two player game, if nobody runs, it will take at least six turns for the players to search the whole map...and the whole map must be visited to ensure the highest location card is found...but on turn six, bad things start happening...by the time bad things start happening, one or more of the players probably won't be anywhere near the bank that they are looking for. The game is basically a bust for them. If someone decides to run, they lose valuable fatigue points and it will probably be on turn five that they'll identify the bank location. One extra turn and they'll be weakened in the process.

If there are three players, it will take at least four rounds to search the area (probably more because there will be more obstacles preventing easy passage through the danger zone)...in which case, the scavenging characters get two rounds to get to the bank and start searching.

If there are four characters, it will still probably take at least four rounds to search the area because there will be so many obstacles slowing the scavengers down in their searches.

More player on the table means more chance of characters coming into conflict with each other, but in this scenario (and other fixed term events) the external tensions can become less.

The other factor in play is the time taken to resolve a scenario. Let's say it takes each player an average of one minute to be dealt cards and sort them out, a minute to move their scavenger during the movement phase and two minutes to work out an action to perform then resolve the performance of it (combat probably takes a touch longer). That's four minutes per player per turn, and with these numbers a two-player six-turn game would last 45 to 50 minutes. A three-player six-turn game would last 70 to 75 minutes. A four-player six-turn game would last 90 to 100 minutes.

I think for the purposes of game duration, I'll be modifying this particular scenario making the spirits arrive after "ten turns minus the number of players". This mean that a two player game sees the spirit arrive on turn 8, a three player will see them arrive on turn 7, and a four player game sees them arrive on turn 6.

It extends the length of the game a substantial amount in the case of two-player games (from 45-50 up to 60-65 minutes), and slightly in the case of three player games (from 70-75 up to 80-85 minutes).

It's refinements like these that get highlighted in playtesting...while I've generally finished the design for this game, continual testing will see it improve.

27 November, 2012

Pocketmod Gunslinging

I've just had an idea for an alternate Pocketmod game following the genre conventions of the wild west. A game of this type would need to change the current combat system in Ghost City Raiders to a more projectile oriented system. That is, gunslinging.

The way things currently stand, the system is designed to handle melee and close contact combat. Firearms is a separate skill. I could change Ghost City Raiders to a more firearm oriented system, but that doesn't fit the genre conventions of that setting.

I'm thinking that the changes to make a gunslinging game wouldn't be much, especially if we kept the idea that a combat stance opens certain attack slots and blocks off defended slots.

In close quarters combat, a melee attack would work using the current system (with each undefended opening allowing the chance to inflict damage on a target). A gunshot at close range might work in much the same way, where an attacker sees the openings provided by their victim...the more openings available, the more opportunities there are for the attacker to shoot them (there might be only one shot taken but the more openings available, the better that single shot will be).

A gunshot at medium range (shooting into the next location) reduces the number of openings by 1. If there's only one opening, then you can't shoot them at medium range. If there are two openings, then you can choose which of these body parts is hit, but you don't gain the bonus damage from having two or more openings. If there are three or more openings, then you can choose any of thee to hit and the bonus damage for having multiple locations available once again becomes available.

A gunshot at long range (shooting at a target two locations away) reduces the number of openings by 2. If there's only one or two openings, then you can't shoot the target at long range. If there are three openings, then you can choose which of these body parts is hit, but you don't gain the bonus damage from having two or more openings. If there are four or more openings, then you can choose any of thee to hit and the bonus damage for having multiple locations available once again becomes available.

This whole system makes it possible but harder to hit things at long range, in this set-up we might include abilities like "sniper" which reduce the impact of ranged penalties.

Just some thoughts at this stage...I might get some playtesting on the ideas later (probably next year).

26 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 26

A few more tokens...

The first is for the spirits that will be encountered during a run through a "ghost city"...

The next three token ideas are for objectives that might be encountered...

...first a safe area, or a campsite among the ruins...

 ...then a key location that might unlock the next part of the scenario...

...or the possibility of some mystic site that could prove significant to the scavengers.
Finally, I'm looking at the idea of creating a specific range of tokens to represent the fatigue levels of the characters (and power points for those characters who possess such things).
The next post will be a play report for one of the sessions that has been run, including the lessons that have been gained from the experience.

Game Marketing

I don't usually link to other people's blogs, but with recent thoughts about packaging "Ghost City Raiders", I thought that this blog post by TheBoyd was pertinent...

Boxing a Game

A lot of his comments are things that I've considered already with regard to game packaging. I've touched on them this year with my work on Walkabout, Hell-on-8-Wheels and my recent GCR foray. It's nice to see other people thinking about the same sorts of things.

Ghost City Tokens

Working off the idea that poker chips or glass beads might take up too much room in a game designed to fit in a tin; it might be a good idea to create some printable sheets with all the tokens necessary for play.

That got me back into graphical mode.

First some character tokens...

Followed by a creature token...

...and then an obstacle token...

I'll probably tinker with these a bit more, and add a variety of other tokens, then format them into a single sheet for easy printing (and laminating if you feel that way inclined.

25 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 25

Now that I know it basically works, I've been thinking about the idea of expanding the Pocketmod playbook concept.

Don't worry, I won't be doing it just yet. There's still a lot of great potential to explore in "Ghost City Raiders".

But now I'm certain that this will be a fun way to develop the miniatures/roleplaying game for the Goblin Labyrinth associated with my Goblin Tarot Cards of 2011. That game won't use cards to lay out a map, instead I'll develop a completely different navigation system for the continental maze. I have some moulds for resin cast hexagonal plates that will be interlocked to create a play environment.

Other genres of play could include cold war spies (sometimes working with one another, sometimes working at cross purposes, and at other times directly working against one another), secretive manipulators of a byzantine city (possible the "Baron Xavier" setting that I've visited in a few games), perhaps something like away-teams for a sci-fi setting (akin to Star Trek)...all of these games would probably work with different nuances, but the core mechanisms would stay the same.

If I keep working with the notion of fitting everything for play in a small tin, then the accessories might be the thing that make a difference to the game. Time to do some more thinking.

24 November, 2012

Another Design Contest

It's always nice when a new design contest comes up...especially when that design contest has restrictions on it that perfectly match a current project that you're working on.

Tin Ear Game Design Contest

Here are your design constraints, one Large, 8oz tin, 4 1/4in x 3 1/8in x 1in. 

Whatever you can fit into the container is allowable as part of the base game. 

Jump drives are right out! 

You may use any surface of the container to help play or explain your game as well as the materials that you put in the tin. 

Your game may be of any sort. 

Thematic use of the container is encouraged. 

You have till the end of January to complete your entry and post the results here for us all to marvel over. 

The rules are subject to change as I just came up with this off the top of my head!

Josh Mannon

It's always nice when a new design contest comes up...especially when that design contest has restrictions on  This would work perfectly with Ghost City Raiders, probably allowing room for around ten characters, ten scenarios, a custom deck of cards, dozens of cardboard counters and a pencil or two.

The tin could be suitably weathered to look like a scavenged item.

This could be a great way to merchandise a hardcopy of the final product (rather than just having pdf printable softcopies).

I wonder what people would pay for a complete game in a package like this?

Follow up post to Day 22

I've just struck another idea regarding trait keywords and items.

The Walkabout world is filled with spiritual entities drawn from the dreams and nightmares of humanity.

That means the potential for werewolves, vampires, zombies, etc...

...and if we're going to have these creatures roaming the post apocalyptic cities and wastelands, we'll need methods to deal with them.

The simplest method for this is the traditional weaknesses; silver, wooden stakes, salt, etc...

Adding one or two ingredient keywords to certain items shouldn't add too much complication.

NaGa DeMon: Day 24

I've done a few tests and the "Ghost City Raiders" game seems to be fairly sound. Time to push the envelope a bit when it comes to storytelling.

The basic path to follow would be a cascading set of scenarios, it's the simple railroading method of RPG storytelling.

Scenario 1 (introduction) leads to Scenario 2 (build-up) and then to Scenario 3 (climax).

As an example...(1) the characters find components, (2) the characters combine these components [or fend off attacks from other players while someone else combines the components], (3) the characters test their final products against one another.

This could apply to finding vehicle parts, finding herbs and holistic supplies, healing an important local elder.

Now it's just a case of inserting these concepts into the structures already in place.

23 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 23

So, it's time for a new scenario. This time the scenario is something that brings the character into conflict a bit more directly than those presented previously.

One player acts as a bodyguard to a precocious brat, while the other players make things difficult for him (or try to kill him).

Skybound Escort

Let's consider this a test run for a potential direction that the game might take.

Like most other posts this month...let me know what you think.

22 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 22

One of the things about designing a focused game is that everything needs to feed back in on itself...otherwise it starts to sprawl...and when it starts to sprawl, it starts to lose it's focus.

With the last few characters developed for Ghost City Raiders, I'm starting to see some of that sprawl creeping in.

Don't get me wrong, some games really benefit from a sprawling flow. It allows a variety of play styles, each bringing a depth and richness that a simple focused and streamlined mechanism can't.

I'll point to a couple of examples...

D&D (Sprawling) - There are numerous races and settings, dozens of subsystems that allow specific types of  character to perform tasks that define their niche within the world. Many players consider D&D to be a tool-kit more than a game, taking the aspects they need for the stories they want to tell. The sprawl of D&D is a huge range of options, it takes a player to give those options focus...but the act of focusing D&D can be a mammoth undertaking. The first round of focus comes from the DM who narrows the options for their chronicle, the second round of focus is undertaken by the player, refining the options left into specific characters.

Lady Blackbird (Focused) - The game "Lady Blackbird" gives very few options to it's characters and tells stories starting with a single starting point. Players get to choose a specific character and develop them along specific lines of progress, the story may weave in a variety of directions based on play input, but the tone remains within a fairly narrow beam of creativity.

Malifaux (Sprawling) - As a miniatures game, Malifaux from Wyrd has character options including sorcerors, artificers, gunslingers, netherworld spirits, necromancers, bayou gremlins, lawmen, and all sorts of strange miscreants. The way these characters work together (both cooperatively and competitively) relies on factions, keywords, and a fairly simple set of rules that are tweaked in specific ways by each figure. The key to focusing this game along specific strategic lines comes through identifying which synergies work best between different rule tweaks from different characters. Some figure combinations share a symbiotic effect, creating positive feedback loops that give clever advantages (these are often discussed on fan forums), some figure combinations fall flat.

Warhammer 40K (Focused) - On the other hand, you get a miniatures game like those produced by Games Workshop, where you get specific lists of troops. Within these lists you have minimal ability to customise the play experience or develop specific strategic methods. Sure you can buy the White Dwarf magazine and find some variant lists in it's ages, but there still isn't much chance to develop something truly unique (beyond the paint scheme). Some editions of Warhammer Fantasy and 40K have allowed more customisation than others, but it seems more typical for Games Workshop to sacrifice customisation in favour of easy playability for new converts.

Magic the Gathering (Sprawling) - I remember back in the early 90s when Magic was a total of 300 cards or so. Even then it had so much diversity within it's deck building strategies. Some cards worked really well together, and you could even create entire decks along specifically focused and themed lines...goblin decks, flying creature decks, zombie decks...and then the sprawl became wider. So many options, so many ideas. It has ever verged toward the D&D extreme of anything being possible, and so many ways to modify the rules that it becomes a nightmare to keep track of them all.

The lesson to learn from these examples is the notion of keywords and synergies. Before things get too far out of hand, I've noticed that there are a few areas of creep that could easily be refocused with some simple keywords that are commonly referenced by various cards.

Fort example, the Artisan of Steel has an ability that lets them copy other people's items; but only certain types of items. When I wrote this character I had some specific items types in mind, then I developed the Mutagenic Spectre who instantly possessed items that didn't fit the scheme I had developed for the Artisan.

I've already devised seven general cultures for the Walkabout world (in which Ghost City Raiders is based), and there will be seven basic power types. I might sprawl a bit further later, but not just yet; there will be a dozen or so common characters for the game (once I write them up), and another twenty less common characters...but the seven cultures and the seven powers will be frequently visited among them all. Even among the rare character types later, they will probably share either a culture or a power type from the standard set.

Traits and keywords are also a part of the game with regard to action types, with each type of action specifically linked to an attribute or given the generic term "Standard Action". So it's not much of a stretch to incorporate them more heavily into the game mechanisms.

To do this, we need to categorise things in such a way that they cover wide chunks of the possibilities. Some things may fit two (or more) catgeories, it's always possible to apply multiple keywords to something...but nothing should slip through the cracks without a keyword.

I know that there will be people who complain that "labelling individuals is just a form of racism or prejudice, much like stereotyping", but honestly, this is just a game designed to fit in someone's pocket. We don't need a 1000 page tome on anthropology or cultural interactions to play a 15-minute pick up game.

Just as characters are defined by a cultural identity and a power focus, I'm thinking that the best keywords for items will be based on a technological manufacturing technique and a functionality (some items may may more than one manufacturing technique, others may have more than one functionality).

Manufacturing Keywords (10 should do, and note that these are general terms, not specific techniques):
Scavenged - made from assorted bits and pieces
Forged - subjected to heat and physical force
Grown - created by methods biological and organic
Crafted - built using trained methods of handicraft
Enchanted - created from mundane things with magical influence
Distilled - chemically modified from base fluids
Summoned - brought into existence by purely magical means
Replicated - manufactured by nanotechnology or other high-tech means
Ephemeral - object of spiritual manifestation or quantum causality
Antique - you can't make one of these, they're old...you've just got to be lucky and find one

Functionality Keywords (again, no more than 10 of these):
Weapon - Something designed to deal damage
Armour - Something designed to prevent damage (typically assigned a body part that it protects)
Tool - Something that assists with a specific action (typically assigned an action type or attribute)
Valuable - Beyond it's other purposes, this item can be used as a trade commodity
Mount - This item can be ridden
Electronic - This item generates low radio frequencies when used (and disturbs spirits)
Powered - This item needs an energy source to be used in a scenario
Ammo -  This item needs ammunition to be used in a scenario
Reputation - The bearer of this item gains notoriety or honour
Skilled (X) - The bearer of this item needs ability "X" to use it properly

With these in place:
most knives and swords are "Forged", "Scavenged" or "Antique" (often a combination of these)
the Nomad Brave's motorcycle becomes "Scavenged", "Crafted", "Fueled" and  a "Mount"
the Artisan of Steel can copy only items with the "Scavenged", "Crafted" or "Forged" traits
the Mutagenic Spectre's items are typically "Grown", "Distilled" and "Enchanted"; they may count as a "Weapon", "Armour" or "Tool"

These categories might end up getting tweaked as the final versions of the game develop, but the current keywords seem fairly encompassing for the game set-up as it currently stands.

21 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 21

Time to introduce something a bit more exotic to the world of Ghost City Raiders.

The Mutagenic Spectre

This character isn't so much dangerous, because all of the Raider types are potentially lethal in their own ways, but it does bring a new set of play options to the table. Notably, mutations and a touch of psychic powers.

The character seems pretty well balanced, but allows for some really different play options. The use of the "mutagenic" keyword on various aspects of the character mean that if the Mutagenic spectre does get out of hand as a character type, we can always include a "Purifier" or "Heretic Hunter" who gains a bonus against abilities or items bearing this trait.  

20 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 20

I'm working on a few new character types for Ghost City Raiders, but a few things are bugging me.

I like games where different characters bring new strategies and play styles to the table.

The miniatures game "Malifaux" does this with certain heroic characters possessing abilities that flip core rule concepts on their heads to make wildly different play experiences...this means that some of the heroes are much harder to wrap your head around when you first start to play them, but it adds a quirky strategic element to play.

The different teams in "Blood Bowl" do this as well, but at a simpler level. One team might have better stats for throwing the ball, and thus they become more strategically adapted toward a throwing game, while another team might have stats (and abilities) that lend themselves to a running game.

I'm a bit worries that my first batch of characters for this game are all a bit vanilla. None of them really flip the game around in any dramatic way, none seem to open up the possibilities for new play styles.

Maybe as starting characters they don't need to. Maybe I'm just over-analysing things.

It's probably better to make sure the basics run well before moving on to the twists and turns of complex game-changing mechanisms.

With that in mind, here's the Artisan of Steel.

19 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 19

A new scenario for Ghost City Raiders.

Mall Run

It's not a whole lot different to the last one. I'll hopefully be throwing together a few more different scenarios in the near future.

A cover for "Hell on Eight Wheels"

It's been a while since my last update on the roller derby game, "Hell on Eight Wheels".

In my recent creative fury I've come up with a potential cover image for the box.

NaGa DeMon: Day 19

It's early on day 19. I've barely woken up and I've passed a milestone in my sleep.

Paul Thornton has just played Ghost City Raiders with his wife and has provided me with valuable play-test feedback. This sort of thing rarely happens with my games. Especially during the game development phase.

This valuable feedback has prompted me to revise and clarify a few parts of the text, but it's good to know that the game is basically sound and plays blindly the way I had hoped it to.

Thankyou Paul.

18 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 18

There were a few things I really enjoyed about the miniatures game "Confrontation" from Rackham, before they really went downhill with pre-painted plastic miniatures, generally ignoring their fans, and going bankrupt. One was the elegant combat system, another was the way that certain character had specific storylines they could follow. These storylines typically consisted of three or more battle scenarios unique to the character. By engaging in these scenarios, a character could gain advantages and develop into a more advanced version of themselves. It blurred the line between rpg and miniatures battle-game in an interesting way.

I'm thinking about doing something similar for Ghost City Raiders.

In this case, all of the characters have a range of traits. The possession of specific traits will allow specific storyline quests to be followed. For example, a "nomad" might have a series of quests where they find plans for a new vehicle, gather parts and then build the vehicle. Engaging in the quest gives motivation and back-story to the events unfolding through the scenarios, completion of the full quest series would provide some kind of bonus beyond the normal scope of skills or attributes.

Still a general thought at this point. Needs more specific thought before I go further.

17 November, 2012

WW2 Bomber Art Completed.

For those who are interested, here's the painting I've been working on over the last couple of weeks. I'm not 100% happy with it (so many little changes I could keep making), but sometimes you've just got to know when to stop and move on.

Status among Game Designers

I've been considering status among the design community for a while...How certain game designers can pump out half finished crap and be praised for innovation, while others plug away at truly polished products only to be ignored. Matthijs Holter has set up a thread over on Story-Games to discuss status as it relates to designers within that community.
(I find it fascinating that this thread, of all threads, is bringing out so many observers and lurkers! Why is that?) 
Excellent question! While high-profile posters mostly stay away. 
Huh.  My first thought was that maybe it's a little embarrassing to acknowledge that you're one of the highest-status people. 
These are just my theories, and I'm deliberately avoiding the use of specific names of people or games... 
I think it's the whole notion of the privileged few versus the unprivileged masses. The few have power far beyond their numbers and either don't know how they got their power or don't want to reveal how it came their way (like most aspects of life). Whenever you get a high enough number of people gathered together, the human instincts of establishing a hierarchy start to develop. The hierarchy fluctuates, with valuable people ascending as their ideas come into vogue, and descending as new ideas are brought to the table. The problem lies in how these new ideas are brought to into the ecosystem. A person with high status will probably like the exposure they've received so far, and would often like more (or at least they'd like their status not to crumble)...they want to be known as the person who identified the "new hotness", or hope to identify concepts that might lead the flow of ideas back in their direction again some time in the near future.  
In this community, that often means the high status folks telling the community about their friends (who will in turn tell us about the high status folks, thus reinforcing the cycle)...at other times it means moderate and high status folks jumping on a bandwagon established by a particular high status person. In a lot of cases, these high status people dislike the ideas of nebulous theory, crying for real-life examples. It's hard to shoot down a nebulous theory, it's far easier to take shots at a specific example (either using it to reinforce your own status or using it to prevent someone you don't like from getting status). Since I haven't used the names of specific people or games in this post it will be easier for those with status to simply ignore this post. 
With this in mind, we get plenty of games decried as the "new hotness", because they were penned by someone with moderate to high status, with other folks of moderate to high status declaring them as masterpieces because they want to be hipsters who "saw it first". Once there is a groundswell behind such a game, the designer reinforces their status within the community, it's only months later when the hype dies down that the game actually gets assessed on it's merits.  
For every one of these games that is hyped due to the status of it's creator, there are at least another dozen games that are probably just as good (if not better)...yet these other games don't get the exposure and thus don't get the chance to be properly compared or recognised. Some of these unrecognised games show innovations in game design months before a "high profile designer revolutionises the gaming world" by presenting the same concepts, in many cases they will have drawn on the same wellspring of ideas gathered from the wider gaming community.   
Those who make claims that "there is no status in this community" are typically the ones who haven't seen the down side of possessing low status (If I was going to get political, I'd call them the "Mitt Romney"s of the game design world...but let's leave it at that for the moment).  
It's cliquey, like many aspects of society. To get high status in the game design field, you aren't born into it (we haven't really had enough generations for that), but you need to have your status bestowed by someone who is already a part of the elite...they need to like your game (often hoping that they can hack it to gain a bit more status of their own), or they need to like you as a person (often meeting you at one or more conventions).  
Getting high status is one part hard work (and making sure you've always got something out there for people to see), one part luck (and having the right people bestow a bit of their status on you) and one part toadying (just playing politics for the sake of status). Some rare people get ahead performing one of these three sides really well (designing awesome stuff, being really lucky, or being an A-grade arse-kisser), some get ahead by being moderately good at all three.  
Most people don't get ahead because the folks with high status love the exposure and status doesn't mean a thing if everyone has it in equal quantities. When someone tells you that they got to the top of the pile by all their hard work, they're either lying to you, or they've forgotten that lucky break (or politicking) when someone with high status deemed them worthy of joining the elite. 
That's enough of my rant for the moment. I expect most community members here to ignore it, so I'll repost it on my blog, and feed it across to some of the other game design social network groups where people might be willing to view it with more open eyes and hopefully generate some feedback and discussion.
More of the thread can be found here. 

16 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 16b

Just a quick note to show everyone the updated format for the first Ghost City Raiders scenario

Gold Fever Scenario Update

NaGa DeMon: Day 16

I've been working on a new character booklet layout.

It's almost right. The last thing I see a need to change in the foreseeable future is the insertion of quickly recognizable glyphs for different types of actions and attributes, and a character image on the front page...I've been busy working on study over the past week or so (end of the course, setting up my parts of the exhibition gallery for student works), which has meant my NaGa DeMon work has taken a bit of a back seat.

Over on the NaGa DeMon facebook group, I made an offer to provide illustrations to NaGa DeMon competitors...that holds true, and if you're not on the Facebook group, let me know here if you're interested.

14 November, 2012

Pocketmod Goblins

This Pocketmod things really seems to be working, and it seems to run a smooth game (I'd love to get some blind playtest feeback, but the local sessions seem to be working pretty well).

I'm thinking that at some stage I might revise the concept slightly and revisit the world of the goblin tarot.

The core rules would comprise a booklet, as would the scenarios (just like the system already established). Heroes would start with a basic booklet, they'd get a second booklet to describe the kinds of ways they can motivate the goblin hordes around them. The whole system would be modified from regular playing cards and would shift toward using the goblin tarot deck as the basis of it's play.

It would be interesting to see how mass combat might occur using this type of system.

Ghost City Raiders - New Character Types

If you've had a look at my work in progress "Ghost City Raiders", or if you've even been kind enough to download the components...you'll find two basic character types. One is meant to be pretty fast, while the other one is mean in combat.

What other types of characters would you like to see?



Secretive masters of ancient technologies?

Barbaric savages?

Stealthy Assassins?

Dieselpunk tinkerers?

Anything else?

12 November, 2012

Not everything around here is game design.

We're also working on some fun art.

Colours haven't turned out as vibrant as I'd hoped in this photo.

11 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 11b

These pages form the new layout for Ghost City Raiders.

I'm working on a few glyphs that will be used to quickly identify things like "Attack", "Defence", "Skill", "Modifier", as well as glyphs for the various attributes.

The front page will have the same general outline without the combat openings at top and bottom, and some kind of illustration depicting a stereotypical character if this type. The back page will be statted up with the character attributes.

I'm thinking about generating up twin versions of each character, one male and one female (with suitable illustrations on each relevant front cover). I'm not sure about the style of illustrations yet.

NaGa DeMon: Day 11

Armistice Day...the 11th of November. Time to talk about non violent stuff.

Actually, on that reasoning I should have talked about explosives on the 5th of November.

There are a few skills in Ghost City Raiders that just didn't feel right.

Notably, "Honour" and "Splendour".

I gave Honour a nebulous ability that gives an "Honourable" trait...but outside a specific scenario where this might be important, it doesn't really do anything. Splendour, which was meant to represent someone beautiful, didn't get a skill write-up at all because I just couldn't think of something good for it.

At work last night, a new idea struck...

Maybe honour can work based off something that you don't do.

If you go into combat against someone, and get an opening (where your attack isn't met by an opponent's defence), you can choose not to exploit that opening for potential damage. If you hold back, rather than testing for damage, you gain an honour chip. These honour chips would convert to potential victory points at the end of the game. Being honourable might give you the edge when the debris falls and the dust clears...or maybe your noble efforts have been for nothing.

Splendour might work in a similar way. If you don't attack someone, they might suffer a penalty; they just don't want to hit you because you're too pretty (especially not in the face).  

Cosmology was another tricky one...since this is basically a deeper understanding of the universe and metaphysics. I'm not happy with how it currently sits as a skill, perhaps any spirits in a scenario see the character as a kindred spirit and won't attack first if the character has cosmology.

Maybe I'm just thinking too hard.

10 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 10

I'm not afraid to admit it, some changes need to be made to the system.


At the simplest level, the current set-up for combat seems to favour those who take an offensive stance over those who take a defensive one.

I was working off the theory that the same number of combat openings would be covered in each stance...for example; 4 attack, 2 defence for an offensive stance, 3 each for a balanced stance, 2 attack, 4 defence for a defensive stance. This means you cover the same number of strategic openings no matter what you do, but if you act offensively you have more chances to damage your opponent.

I've considered a few ways to remedy this. With the first option to introduce an energy system into the game...big attack stances have a high energy cost to activate, small attack stances have a low energy cost, and acting defensively costs nothing. Energy points would be accumulated slowly during end-of-turn refresh phase. If you played defensively, you could  build up the points for a big strike, or you could keep hitting away with small strikes. While I think this idea is cool (and I might implement it for magic/psychic powers), it doesn't fit into the core game; I might work on another Pocketmod Playbook game later, based on Street-Fighter/Mortal-Kombat/Tekken/etc...adding these ideas into it. For the moment in Ghost City raiders it feels like a needless overall complication.

The second way to remedy this seems a bit more elegant. I simply reduce the defences at a higher rate than I improve the offences. Let's say 2 to 1.

2 attack vs 4 defence
3 attack vs 2 defence
4 attack vs 0 defence

Do you go in cautiously, trying to cover yourself from any injury? Do you try to tactically take advantage of the combat? Or, do you just go in to hit as much of your opponent as possible with no regard for self preservation?

It seems pretty simple, and everything can be integrated straight into the existing matrix of hit openings.


With this in mind, I'm considering changing a couple of the abilities. The first change applies to the "combat-type" abilities (eg. melee, brawl). Instead of making these abilities improve attributes in certain combat circumstances, why not make them activate new points of the combat grid. Perhaps "Melee" might grant an extra defensive slot in each, which is only activated if the scavenger is carrying a melee weapon.

Other Changes

I'll also be playing around with the ways equipment can create advantages for a character. I'm tempted to put a cost on ammunition for guns (it'll cost 1 pt per game to buy ammo for your gun), but maybe make them a bit more dangerous to counterbalance this. The general game seems pretty sound, running quicker and more strategically than many of the miniatures games I've played, with a far faster combat system than most of the RPGs I've played.

08 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 8b

Now we have everything ready to run a playtest.

All you need is four sheets of standard international A4 paper to run off some "pocketmod playbooks", a deck of cards, some paperclips and an assortment of tokens.

Here are the playbooks...

Core Rules
Character 1: the Nomad Brave
Character 2: the Shadow Blade
Scenario 1: Gold Fever

I'll be running a playtest shortly, but if anyone else would like to run through the rules to let me know where it works and where it doesn't, any feedback would be much appreciated.

I'll work on a few more slowly over the month...but for now it's back to work on Walkabout.

(Note: Image not mine. Image not indicative of final artwork for the game...just the first thing that popped up when I did an image search for "Post Apocalyptic Scavenger". For more, have a look here).

NaGa DeMon: Day 8

It's actually pretty early on day 8 here in Oz. But I'm awake and I've finished the second prototype character type for Ghost City Raiders.

I'm envisioning the wandering sword-wielding zombie slayer for this one. Someone who lives by a code of ethics that they've picked up from martial arts movies, or maybe they've actually studied under a sword sensei who in turn learned from someone who survived from the old days.

The first one was more of a mover who gets around the board quickly to accomplish missions, this ones more of an honourable killing machine capable of bringing "great vengeance and furious anger" to the danger zone.

The Shadow Blade

As a side note, here's a full listing of the abilities that I've generated up for the game so far:

Academics (Smarts - boost): +2 to smarts
Acrobatics (Speed - action): Test speed. If successful, move to an adjacent location. This action is considered complicated if there is a barrier in the way.
Athletics (Speed - boost): +2 to Speed
Awareness (Modifier): You never consider it complicated when searching for someone (this overrides the stealth bonus). You may defend against an additional attack in combat without sacrificing your action.
Brawl (Strength - boost): +2 to Strength in unarmed Combat
Bureaucracy (Modifier): You may draw an additional card when searching for loot in an “Archive” location (choose which one to use).
Connection * (Standard action): Choose a specific location trait when this action is first acquired. While in a location with this trait, test with a rank of 6. Gain a “Blessed” token (+1 to all attributes) until you move from this location. You may have up to three “Blessed” tokens.
Cosmology (Modifier): You may draw an additional card when trying to gain a benefit from a “spiritual” location (choose which one to use).
Crafts (Smarts - action): Sacrifice two pieces of loot and test smarts. If successful, gain the prepared trait.
Discipline (Modifier): As long as you have not moved this turn, any attribute used in an action is considered one rank higher.
Endurance (Survival  - boost): +2 to Survival
Firearms (Smarts - action): Test your smarts to shoot a target in an adjacent location with your gun. This is considered complicated if the target’s location has either the “overgrown” or “covered” trait. If successful, target is hit in a single random location (this hit is considered heavy damage, injuring the location and attribute if damage is successful). Some firearms are capable of multiple damage to the one location; thus instantly incapacitating the target.
Fortitude (Stamina - boost): +2 to Stamina
Focus (Modifier): You may attempt to restore a fatigue point at the end of a turn even if you have moved and acted during the turn (this is still considered a complicated action).
Gift * (Standard action): Choose a specific character trait when this action is first acquired. When first dealing with a character possessing this trait, test with a rank of 6. Gain +1 to all attributes for the rest of the game in all actions dealing with this character.
Haggling (Modifier): At the end of the game, you earn a point for every nine or higher drawn when trading loot.
Honour (Standard action): Test with a rank of 9. If successful, gain the honourable trait. Lose the honourable trait if you declare combat against any target.
Hunting (Modifier): +2 to Strength in combat during the first combat against a specific opponent.
Intimidation (Survival - action): Test Survival against target. If successful, force target to move to an adjacent location, or take a piece of loot from them.
Investigation (Modifier): You may draw an additional card when searching for a scenario clue (choose which one to use).
Medicine (Smarts - action): Test Smarts. If successful, remove a single degree of injury from a target.
Melee (Strength - boost): +2 to strength when in melee combat
Navigation (Smarts - action): Test Smarts instead of Speed when making an extra move with the Run action.
Occult (Modifier): You may draw an additional card when performing an action on a target possessing the “spirit” or “possessed” trait (choose which one to use).
Repair (Smarts - action):  Sacrifice a number of pieces of loot and test smarts. If successful, restore a piece of equipment you started the game with. Loot sacrificed must equal the cost of the equipment item.
Reputation (Modifier): You may draw an additional card when performing an action on a target who shares one of your traits (choose which one to use).
Research (Modifier): After a failed “search” action, [STILL THINKING ABOUT THIS ONE]
Riding (Modifier): If you move into a location with the “open” trait and you possess a mount, you may automatically move again.
Ritual (Modifier): You may draw an additional card when someone is performing a supernatural action (marked with a *), give it to them and they choose which one to use.
Spirit Lore (Modifier): The presence of spirits and spiritual activity does not make things complicated for you.
Splendour (Standard action): Test with a rank of 6. If successful, [STILL THINKING ABOUT THIS ONE]
Stealth (Modifier): Hiding is never considered a complicated action for someone with Stealth. It is considered a complicated action when a character tries to “search” for someone with Stealth.
Tactics (Modifier): Once per turn, if another character in your location is engaged in an action where you have a higher attribute. You may offer them the use of your higher attribute level for this action.
Theology (Smarts - action): Test Smarts against target possessing the “spirit” or “possessed” trait. If successful, force target to move to an adjacent location, or take a piece of loot from them.
Totem * (Stamina - action): Sacrifice a fatigue point and test Stamina. If successful, increase all attributes by 1 and gain the “possessed” trait until the next joker is revealed.
Visions * (Standard action): Test with a rank of 6. If successful, draw a face down card and place it to one side (you may look at this card). At any stage of the game, you may substitute this card for a card you are using or someone else is using. You may have one card set aside in this manner at a time. 

Note that these are all abilities that exist as a part of the Walkabout game, to allow for easy crossover potential between the two settings within the tilted world.

I realise that there is probably an imbalance between the benefits of different skills/abilities, that's the kind of thing that can only be assessed through ongoing playtesting. Where some skills prove less useful than others, I'll be trying to counterbalance this by creating scenarios where the less beneficial abilities provide scenario specific benefits (for example; Perform action "X", if you have skill "Y" gain +1 to relevant attribute).

Time to move on to one of those scenarios.

06 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 6

Time to reveal the first scavenger for Ghost City Raiders...

The Nomad Brave

I've pulled the abilities for this character from the range of skills that I've developed for walkabout.

In Walkabout, each heroic character has three defining archetypes (regular folks have two archetypes), the archetypes have six skills associated with them. This gives the average character twelve possible skills some characters might find themselves with less options if the six skills from each archetype include some overlap. When this happens, some other bonus will probably become available.

In the next few days, hopefully another character type, and a scenario. That will be enough to actually play some playtest sessions.

Some better formatting will be applied to the character booklets in the final version, but this current style should be good enough to give an idea of how the game plays out.

Something every wayfarer needs

In a post apocalyptic world, you need your survival gear to be small and easily portable.

I'm definitely thinking of including a modified version of this in the Wayfarer's survival guide.

Details Here

05 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 5

It appears that I made a mistake in the first version of the core pocketmod playbook rules for Ghost City Raiders.

I didn't include the end of turn sequence for refreshment and rejuvenation.

While I was adding this in, I decided to add a bit of formatting to the project.

Ghost City Raiders (version 2)

Some time in the next couple of days I hope to have a couple of sample characters to send raiding in the rusted cities of a fallen world.

04 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 4

I've been on a bit of a Pocketmod Kick lately...it seems a few people have, especially on G+.

I've also been trying to get my head into gear for the development of Walkabout, but it's been a slow slog.

As a result, I've decided to kick out a game for NaGa DeMon a bit early...it will be the first part of my Pocketmod Playbook series.

Ghost City Raiders

Hopefully there's enough here to give an inquisitive player the basic gist of the game. I'll be putting together a couple of scenario books and character books for the game over the next week while I work on the other Walkabout materials. I don't know how much of this booklet makes sense without the other playbooks to complete the rule set.

Let me know what you think.

03 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 3

So, three days in, and I've had house-guests for the entire month so far.

We were intending to have a Halloween party tonight...but that looks like a bit of a bomb.

So I'm now working away on game design again. I've found an interesting template for a technical manual which will form the basis for the "Guide to Outback Survival". Once I plug the necessary titles in place and generate up a bunch of place-holder paragraphs, the guide expands out to 70 pages or so, and that's before images are put it.

I'm gradually working through the place-holder paragraphs now. Trying to find the inspiration necessary to turn the random strings of "lorem ispum" text into intelligible phrases that make sense for the book. I joked over on the facebook page that I create games by doing the layout first...and this time I've actually done that for the survival guide.

The catch is that the survival guide seems to be turning into more of a "Lonely Planet Guide to Australia in a Tilted World". I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. It will probably blow out to 120 pages or so by the time I'm finished with it, but I'm still hoping it might be representative of the books that might be carried by wayfarers in their backpacks, or bundled into their saddlebags, as they travel across the desolate lands far from civilisation.

Hopefully I'll have something to show the world by the end of the week to give some indication of were the project is heading.

01 November, 2012

NaGa DeMon: Day 1

After a great start this morning, I didn't realise that my laptop wasn't plugged in and I couldn't get close to a power point (everything had appliances already plugged in). As a result, I let the computer run down, went out into the garden and did some work (assuming that the auto-save functions would allow me to continue work in the afternoon).

When I finally finished work in the garden, tending to home grown potatoes, herbs, lawns, and a few walls that needed some work, it was late afternoon. I found a free power outlet and recommenced work on the game.

Only to find that the auto-saves didn't kick in.

All my work from this morning was gone.

I started again, this time looking at a version history for the Walkabout survival guide, and using this as a method to help construct the table of contents for a pseudo-living document.

I'm working on the notion that the survival guide is set 62 years after the Walkabout world tilts it's axis (where each year of our time will correspond to a year of advance in the game world).

Here's the fabricated history of the survival guide so far...

Version History (including major change notes and version page counts)
1.0 (June, 6 PT) – Descriptions of Independent Territories, Shattered Lands and the Bush, Survival sections on Roads and Bush Tucker (40 pages)
1.1 (May, 8 PT) – Updated section on road survival to include etiquette for dealing with travelling folk (44 pages)
1.2 (July, 9 PT) – Updated to include survival section on spirits (48 pages)
2.0 (August, 12 PT) – Added Description Sections for Capricornia and the New North, Added survival sections on Rails and First Aid (60 pages)
2.1 (November, 13 PT) – Updated to include new independent territories (60 pages)
2.2 (March, 15 PT) – Updated to expand survival section on spirits into two sections, one on Ghost Towns, one on Animal Spirits (64 pages)
2.3 (October, 17 PT) – Updated to expand sections on Shattered Lands and New North with new eyewitness accounts (updated ruler of New North)  (64 pages)
3.0 (January, 20 PT) – Added Description Sections for Thylacine Kingdom and Nomads, Expanded spirit section to Part 4 “Lore of the Spirit World” (72 pages)
3.1 (March, 22 PT) – Updated to include basic history of the world before tilt and post tilt (72 pages)
4.0 (February, 25 PT) – Added Description Sections for New Aboriginal Nations and Dealing with Animals (76 pages)
4.1 (January, 27 PT) – Updated to include common customs for established nations (76 pages)
4.2 (October, 30 PT) – Updated Spirit sections to include historical and mythical references (80 pages)
4.3 (September, 36 PT) – Updated to expand section on Places of Power (80 pages)
5.0 (April, 42 PT) – Added Description Sections for Skyfarers, Added survival section on Alternate Paths, Added Spirit Field Guide (88 pages)
5.1 (December, 45 PT) – Updated and expanded to include known festivities and community demographics (92 pages)
5.2 (October, 47 PT) – Updated to Expand Spirit Field Guide (96 pages)
5.3 (March, 49 PT) – Upgraded section on Ghost Towns to a full description section on the Spirit Nations (104 pages)
5.4 (September, 53 PT) – Updated New North to include the Northern War and the Awakening of the Geraldton Arcology (104 pages)
5.5 (July, 57 PT) – Updated to Expand Spirit Field Guide (108 pages)
5.6 (December, 59 PT) – Updated New North to Narrogin Alliance, and added the end of the Northern War (108 pages)
6.0 (February, 62PT) – Added Description Section for Wayfarers (112 pages)

With this in mind, I've also started filling in the details for the survival guide.

There's maybe ten pages written up already (general intro, and some details on each of the nations).

I hope the rest of the month goes a bit better, but I managed to salvage the first day pretty well.