12 December, 2012

Fluidity and Rigidity

You start with a blank slate. Things can go anywhere.

Almost like the board at the start of a game of Go.

You place the first idea, this instantly sets a point of reference for future ideas.

Is this new idea better than the first one? Is it worse?

Does it seamlessly work with the first idea? Does it require an additional idea to make it work?

With the analogy of the go board, each idea is the placement of an additional stone...and with every stone placed, there are strategic options that rise to prominence and others that fall away.

These are the dilemmas faced with game design.

A crunchy game usually has a plethora of intricate ideas working with one another in a complex system, a loose game has only a few broad ideas hoping to capture the vastness of the play experience through their elegant simplicity.

The more rules you have, the more specific the total mechanism can be when it attempts to emulate a specific genre or story element. This is where games went in the 80s...lots of rules, lots of tables...subsystems to handle one type of action in a specific way, while other subsystems kicked in when another type of action was the focus of the scene. More recent games have culled out the subsystems, either providing broad systems applicable to a variety of situations...or maintaining the subsystem angle, but narrowing down their premise to a specific type of story and scene.

A half dozen times I've written up the starting elements for the goblin labyrinth game. I've got fragmentary text files filled with ideas that I've wanted from the play experience over the past few years, some of those ideas have remained constant, other ideas have morphed and evolved.

Why am I writing this again? I'm sure I've written about it on the blog before.

I've just started trying to format some of the goblin labyrinth game ideas into the pocketmod format. Starting with different species of goblins, then considering the notion of different goblin cultures as an overlay effect, and specific occupations as an additional overlay. These three aspects would ground a character's starting position before they follow on paths of advancement toward the hallowed roles of legendary heroes (if they survive that long).

But trying to fit these ideas into the pocketmod format is proving tricky.

I love the idea of career progression in the various Warhammer RPGs. Using this is a goblin context, you might start as a boot-scraper, and gradually work through a series of careers until you become a "Crimson Inquisitor of the Holy Order of St Fungalstench"...or some such goblin nonsense. Each career provides a few key skills, abilities and attribute advances that allow you to move up the hierarchy step by step.

I'm imagining teeming hordes of goblin plebs, unable to transcend their roles in society as farmers, charcoal-burners and rat catchers, while certain motivated (and lucky) individuals achieve what is necessary to gain positions of greatness.

Here's where I've gotten so far...


The core rules fit into a pocketmod, the core character race is a pocketmod. Occupations come as index cards which fit inside the Pocketmod. Categories of equipment and categories of magical effects exist as pocketmod sized recipe booklets which provide components necessary for construction and effect of the items/spells produced. Actual items exist as index cards (you don’t file these into the pocketmod because they are often traded, used. Broken, etc.).

Scenario objectives fit onto an index card, they rely on the ecosystem of players to provide their complexity. Objectives have a specific goal condition and a benefit gained by meeting it.

Core Rules (8 pages)
1.       Title and introduction
2.       Attributes and basic mechanism
3.       Complicated and resisted actions
4.       Combat pt 1
5.       Combat pt 2
6.       Followers, Items, Spells and other Bonuses
7.       Honour and Status
8.       Scenarios and character Improvement

Character Booklet (8 pages)
1.       Title, Image and Starting Traits
2.       Species Backstory
3.       Species Benefit, thoughts on other species
4.       Species Advances
5.       Species Advances
6.       Advance Path 1
7.       Advance Path 2
8.       Character Statistics

Item/Spell Recipe Booklet (8 pages)
1.       Category Title, Image and Backstory
2.       Typical Components (and where to find them)
3.       Basic Items (2 components)
4.       Moderate Items (3-4 components)
5.       Moderate Items (3-4 components)
6.       Complex Items (5+ components)
7.       Complex Items (5+ components)
8.       Quick Index of items

Occupation Index Card
Front: Title, Backstory, Requirements, Entry Path, Exit Path
Back: Occupational Advances, Special Occupational Benefit
 Item Index Card
Front: Title, Image, Backstory, Requirements to make
Back: Requirements to use, Item Benefit



But this doesn't even touch on the cultures, and as I start the process of detailing the occupations, it's al starting to look a bit monotonous and meaningless.

I'm probably just starting to over-think and over-analyse this...time to take a step back again. Get back to work on finishing off Ghost City Raiders for formal publication.
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