29 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 34)

Maybe it's just the sessions that I've been involved in, but it doesn't seem very often that religious characters go out of their way to evangelise their belief to others. I've seen it in a few games, usually on the part of a player who just wants to get in a bit of roleplaying through exposition with NPCs. Religion is just a surface coating on a character, maybe it provides certain spheres (or domains) of clerical magic, or restricts access to certain weapons, but it's rarely a functioning belief system.

The prayers of these characters are simply another form of magic, sometimes they even use the same spells as traditional hermetic magic users or instinctive sorcerers, but they acquire them in different ways (according to their domains or spheres, rather than through schools or mentors).

I'd like to develop a system that relies on belief, something that will apply to mages (who use their own belief to fuel their mystical effects) and religious types (who rely on the beliefs of those around them to empower their effects). Let's give some name to the two opposing classes of mystical characters; there are mages who weave magic, and there are clerics who channel miracles.

Put simply, a mage will often work alone and may actively avoid religious types who are inclined to use their beliefs as a form of countermagic. Religious types need to spread the word of their faith to make it easier to work their miracles, they may seek to wage war on other faiths to reduce the power of opposing miracles. Theurgists would gain the power of their own faith and augment it with the beliefs of those around them, working miracles empowered by their own energies and the energies around them.

Places of power might exist (which is pretty common in most fantasy settings), such places of power may be claimed by a mage (especially in the wilderness, or on lost islands), or may be the location of a temple and through the congregation of followers their power might be channelled to a cleric. Some places of power might remain hidden, simply seeping their energies to the outside world around them until someone claims them (perhaps a hidden glen, grove of sacred trees or spring of water).

Such places naturally become the focal points for adventures and eventually towns are built around them because people feel the energies at an instinctive level. Factions would work to claim such locations, but it takes numbers of people, regular rituals and consensual belief to anchor their power.

If places become significant in the game, then that leads us back to one of the favourite topics of this blog...maps.

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 33)

Something I find common to many RPGs is a definitive quasi-supernatural meta-history for the setting. Quite often it has vague parallels to the Judaeo-Christian myth, with a single god creating the world, then creating a host of lesser gods (or angels) to look after specific aspects of the world. The dominant race (or at least "the race of men") typically worships the great creator while other races worship the lesser gods.

In a postmodern age, some might say that this notion is inherently racist. It draws strong parallels to the Christian belief that there is no other correct worship than their own. It reeks of religious imperialism. It basically fits the general feel of most RPGs with their setting in a pseudo-Europe during a late dark age or early renaissance, but when RPGs strive for something a bit more exotic, it just doesn't feel right in my mind.

If I'm developing a setting with seven different core cultures, and seven different core races, I want there to be a few different creation myths. If there is a dominant "Church" culture then they would have a very specific idea about their theology and cosmology, if there are "Natives" then they would have developed their own religious beliefs independently, and it there is a "Cult" they might follow a specific heresy of their own that incorporates theological ideas from the main church while subverting such ideas to their own agenda. I'd imagine most other groups would be fairly agnostic about their religions, their beliefs don't define their lives, they're more focused on things like the physical world, wealth, and just surviving everyday...they might pay lip service to the other religions, but this isn't their life. Similarly, there could be members of the "Imperial/Colonial" forces who simply follo the faith of the church, and there might be some who follow the "old ways". Settlers might have a hybrid religion picking elements of native beliefs with the superstitions of the "church" culture.

I think this touches on a whole lot of new points to consider, certainly moving beyond the core structure of a Boffer LARP.

28 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 32)

Now that the system incorporates so much, we can start exploring how to expand it a bit.

The "Clans of Elgardt" group that I've just joined up with runs fortnightly, with ne fortnight focused on war sessions and the other fortnight focused on scenarios and roleplaying.

There's no reason why this system couldn't follow the same general structure, and with the set-up we've got, we can add some fun scenarios to the "off week" war session.

The game includes characters who have offsiders and followers, it also includes factions of multiple characters who might come into conflict against one another.

The war sessions might be used to resolve these conflicts. A faction might pool together their funds, to hire mercenaries or build fortifications for opposing teams to negotiate. If a player has characters belonging to two opposing factions, they'd have to favour their primary character over their secondary (and they'd get to choose which character becomes involved if they have secondary characters on each side). But the fun comes with the pool of funds.

Characters who aren't involved in either side of the conflict directly might have to opportunity to join the fight as mercenaries. They could ask for a fee in exchange for their services, and this would come out of the faction's pool of funds. Any players who chose not to offer their services as mercenaries might be able to join up on one side of the conflict as a "mook".

A "mook" under this premise is a nameless character with a single hit point. They represent the sheer numbers faced on a mass battlefield, but they aren't named and detailed characters...these are not their stories, they are like the majority of characters who makeup the economic ecosystem. Perhaps if enough mooks get taken out in a battle, then certain elements of the economy suffer due to lack of workers. It all connects together.

Mooks are also the allies, employees, followers, and swabbies. They don't have special abilities, they might wear crude armour (capable of absorbing a single point of damage), they fall quickly and probably have low morale, and can't achieve battle objectives (but can certaily make it easier for named characters to do so). When a character possesses an ability that says they have one of these, a mook might be called into a battle scenario "free of charge"...but the character doing the calling might be owing the called mook a favour to be repaid at a later date (either through coinage, or fulfilling some kind of quest). A mook linked to a character might be required to stay within a few metres of their "owner", I'm thinking of this in the same manner as miniatures games, where lesser members of the squad might stay in range of the battle standard. If the mook doesn't survive, then the character either loses their relevant ability, or they might pay compensation to the mook's family/clan (or might make the necessary contrition) and a new mook will show up to fill the place of the old one.
Why would someone play a mook? Simple, they get the opportunity to acquire Destiny Points that could be used to advance any of their characters at a later time.

Just something I've been thinking about today.

26 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 31)

Time to do some graphical design for this project.

I discussed earlier the concept of placing key character information on name badges, maybe not the names of characters, but things that could be picked up by spending a bit of time conversing with someone or interacting with them. I deliberately wouldn't include names on these badges because I've been in many LARPs where people go out of their way to conceal their true names as a part of deeper storylines...presenting a name on a badge would defeat the whole purpose in this.

Instead, here's where I'm thinking of heading with a simple round badge.

Vital information comes in each sector. At the bottom and fairly prominent we see hit points, maybe a number, maybe an number of illustrations of blood drops (one per hit point).

Race and culture would be similarly printed on everyone's badge, but there might be a few variants for each of these, with a few red-herring variations to keep players on their toes.

Reputation would be common, and would give a general idea of what people know this character for, if they know the fields where the characters has gained prestige. Many characters wouldn't have done enough of anything to develop this type of prestige, and would thus have nothing marked in their reputation sector. 

Enchantments would only be filled in when a character is under some kind of magical influence that leaves a trace that might be noticeable to certain character types. This would certainly be another part of the badge where plenty of red herrings are used to confuse players. It would be fairly rare for non-mystic characters to have this section filled in.

Finally, the "special" sector which is simply used to cover anything else I haven't thought of.

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 30)

I’ve stated a few times in my posts that I like coherent and consistent systems across a game. I don’t particularly like game where there is one system for a certain type of action which might be modified by a range of subsystems depending on specific circumstances, and then completely different systems for other types of actions.

As a hypothetical example…I wouldn’t like a game where melee combat is handled with a strike based on a derived attribute followed by a random hit point loss, while grappling/wrestling is handled with a non-derived attribute followed by a modifier on the next round…meanwhile etiquette checks are simply a situation of rolling under a “social” attribute for a flat success.

I can understand why it’s done, a system might be really good at one thing and not so good at something else, so you pick and choose the optimal systems for each situation, but it strikes me as lazy game design. It can be hard for new players to pick up when they have to work out which system to apply, and which subsystems to plug into it. Some “Old School Gamers” like this style of game design because it basically gives a toolkit to GMs, allowing them to choose the systems they want to apply into their game…but personally I think it is often a case of the designer offloading their design responsibility to the GMs and players at the table.

Where am I going with this rant?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

I thought about the post yesterday, about focusing on the non-combat design actions and how they work. Combat in a boffer LARP is so elegant, you swing a rubber sword, if it connects with your opponent (rather than being deflected by a weapon or shield), you deal a point of damage. Sure you can argue about the “realism” of it, but it’s intuitive. We can apply rules to it, determining what types of weapons may be used, what additional damage may be dealt (or absorbed), and special actions that might be performed in the midst of a conflict; but these rules don’t change the fundamental visceral structure of swinging and hitting.

A type of task resolution that I didn’t mention in yesterday’s post was fait accompli. If you’ve got the skill, you can do it…if you don’t have the skill, you can’t. This fits in better with the directness of the combat action, it also fits with the ability system we’re generating for the weapons. If you’ve got the skill relevant ability level (or technique), you can wield the weapon…if the skill says you can pick simple locks, you can pick simple locks.

If we look at battle healing in most boffer LARP systems, a healer can simply heal. It might take an uninterrupted ten second count during the middle of a tense battle for the healing to occur, but as long as that 10 second count has run its course, the healing effect takes place. There is no randomness in this.

It reminds me of certain elements from the Vector Gaming Theory, that I used to define my understanding of roleplaying a few years back. A roleplaying game is defined by straight lines of narrative between decision nodes, game devision nodes typically deviate the story according to choices made by players, by hard rule decisions by the GM, or by randomised outcomes as determined by the game’s rule systems. The favoured method of resolving game node outcomes says a lot about the game.

These new thoughts link more closely back to the notions of Australian Freeform, but I still think there needs to be some kind of dramatic tension in the resolution of an action. Will she succeed or won’t she?

An interesting compromise was proposed in one of the Steampunk LARPs I linked to earlier (I can’t remember which, but I’ll add the link in here when I find it). It used a more nuanced system than a simple binary ‘Yes’ (you can do it), or ‘No’ (you can’t). Instead it offered a system where you compared your skill to a difficulty (or to an opponent’s skill); if your level beat the opposition by 2 you automatically succeeded, and if you’re level was 2 or more levels lower you automatically failed. If your skill level was roughly equal, that where chance played a role (one level higher has a better chance of succeeding, equal levels = 50/50 outcome, one level lower has a lower chance of succeeding).

But, I’m not really using numbers in this game, and certainly not for the task resolution systems. So this system isn’t the best fit.

We do have keywords in place, so maybe they can be linked to the system. Different cultures and races would do things in slightly different ways, this is already defined within the crafts and magic elements of the game. There isn’t much of a stretch to pull this across to general task resolution.

Crafts and magic already have instrinsic systems where there are simple items/spells and complex items/spells. Typically, a basic ability allows creation of a simple effect at a higher cost, an intermediate ability reduces the cost of simple effects, an advanced ability allows creation of complex effects at a higher cost, and specific techniques allow the creation of complex effects at a reduced cost (or allow specialised effects to occur).

Why not handle most non-combat abilities the same way?

To use an example:

Basic healing restores up to half of a character’s hit points after a fifteen second count (and the expenditure of healing herbs or a healing kit).
Intermediate healing restores up to half a character’s hit points after a ten second count (and the expenditure of healing herbs or a healing kit).
Advanced healing restores all hit points after a fifteen second count (and the expenditure of healing herbs or a healing kit).
Technique 1 (requires intermediate healing): Reduce the count by five seconds when healing members of a specific race.
Technique 2 (requires intermediate healing): Restore a damaged limb in addition to any hit points healed.  
Technique 3 (requires intermediate healing and crafts): Craft healing kits
Technique 4 (require advanced healing and mysticism): Bring back a character from the brink of death.

Larceny is a general ability whose practitioners are adept in causing mischief and underhanded deeds. It's more about the techniques than the general abilities (mostly because I'm not happy with the general abilities I've worked up for it so far).
Technique 1 (requires basic larceny and crafts): Pick a simple lock after a ten second count.
Technique 2 (requires intemerdiate larceny and crafts): Pick a complex lock after a fifteen second count.
Technique 3 (requires intermediate larceny and bureaucracy): Expend an appropriate piece of paper and use a writing kit to forge a simple document (takes ten minutes...so you probably wouldn't be doing this in the heat of combat).
I've come up with more than a dozen Larceny techniques, it's the core functions of the ability that are giving me grief.

I’m still not sure I’ve got this part of the system nailed, but I get the feeling that I’m getting close. 

25 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 29)

This series has touched on all sorts of elements relating to a LARP system.

From the basic mechanisms of hit points and actually hitting people with foam latex weaponry, through to character development, gathering people into factions, rules that bring a degree of safety and interact between the physical world and the fictional narrative.

The one thing we really haven't touched on at all is the system of performing actions outside the confines of combat. Since we're focusing on a game akin to an Australian Freeform, then dice are undesirable, but I'd still like there to be some kind of failure chance when actions are attempted, especially when it comes to things like picking locks, crafting items or concocting potions, tracking or trying to research occult and arcane forms of lore.

On the other hand, I'd like there to be some kind of economy where players can choose to invest extra effort into specific tasks that are more meaningful and dramatic to their stories.

But here's where we start getting into that whole can-of-worms about creative agendas in role-playing experience. One of those revolutionary concepts that seems to have become a source of much controversy in some circles and hatred in others. It also poses a few questions...

Does a purely random action system really reflect reality? Does it produce a dynamic narrative, or simply increase the chances of disrupting a building tension (either by allowing certain tasks to succeed early, or preventing other actions from occurring when they should)?

Can a certain system be "gamed"? Is it a good thing to allow a player to manipulate the system to gain advantages for their character, or a bad thing?

Regular readers of the blog will know that I'm a big fan of the "otherkind dice" system, where you simultaneously determine two or more results (typically by rolling dice, but possibly by drawing cards), then allocate those results between different elements that determine the outcome of the action. If there are three elements to the task, you invoke three randomisers then distribute the results according to the parts of the task you think are most important.

I used this system in FUBAR, but I'm womdering how well it would translate to a live context.

I've been thinking of the *-World engine as well, I guess the whole notion of live play suits this. You set up a situation where you can invoke a set of rules, and as long as the GM agrees, you go into a mini-game that will in turn reflect the narrative.

This can be worked into the existing system of techniques, where a player simply works the narrative toward a specific scene where the technique becomes suitable and the mini-game occurs.

More to think about...

24 October, 2014

New Character Colours

The scavenger's mostly done...time to start colouring the next character for the book.

22 October, 2014

Sneak preview for my 1000th post

I've been doing this now for a few years, and have finally reached 1000 posts. There have been a few good sequences of ideas in that time, and I've released plenty of different games using a variety of game engines. I've reviewed stuff, I've thrown ideas out there, I've provided mapping tutorials, I've explained my methodology of game design and critiqued the design methodologies of others, I've thrown random stuff in here and there just to break things up a bit.

I've gone from less than a dozen views on a typical day, to an average of a couple of hundred views. I'm certainly not huge in the grand scheme of things, but enough people are interested in my work to keep me plugging away at it. I've been through bouts of depression, worked at keeping my mind active to avoid it, and have had moments of manic inspiration.

As a thankyou to everyone for watching me over the past couple of years, here's a sneak preview of my upcoming children's book project (linked in with my Walkabout stuff). At the end of it all is a link to the Google Drive folder where higher res versions of these images are found.

The Google Drive 

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 28)

Some of the things that have been mentioned earlier in the series relate to long term playability of a campaign. In part 8 I mentioned the idea of campaign resets, and how I don't like them (see the section in italics at the bottom).

Generally, the system proposed overcomes these issues by taking more powerful out of the day-to-day activities of a game (pulling their players into more administrative roles within the organisation), and ensuring powerful characters are never so far above the new players that they can't be threatened.

But, these ideas could dampen a player's motivation to keep playing. If a player has defined their play experience based on the growth of their character, what happens when this growth plateaus and their definition of play is no longer relevant.

The easy answer comes through secondary characters, and giving the player the opportunity to renew their pattern of growth with a new story.

That's a key part of the experience for me.

Here's a tangent...

If you go through movie news websites, there have been some recent articles about the shift in long-form movie narrative. Mostly due to Marvel's recent work. There are cries that "the sequel is dead, the movie universe is the new direction in film". Iron Man exists as a part of a wider continuity, other stories go on around him, and eventually he may be phased out of the films altogether (along with the core original avengers) to make room for a new generation of heroes.

Sometimes you've just got to learn to let go. Sometimes a character has told their story and it's time to move on.

Some players might not want to retire their characters within a wider game, once they become powerful figures within the narrative they might want to remain in that role.

A game system might apply a carrot or a stick at this point. The stick (penalty) for long term characters might come in the form of degradation, perhaps in the form of a rapidly compressed timeline for game events. Each game occurs on a fortnightly (or monthly) basis in the real world but represents an annual event in the game world, if we assume that characters start adventuring in their late teens, then after 20-30 games (around two years of game play) a character might start to lose physical abilities (one every second game thereafter), or may find regeneration after battle harder to succeed. This doesn't really work for the system currently in development, because it has a "real-time" downtime element for gathering resources/money and crafting goods. Another option might include increased chances of character death when a figure reaches a certain degree of prominence in the setting...better known characters have a higher price on their head and more assassins willing to take on that job.

A carrot (reward) might be a better approach. Maybe a player can voluntarily retire their character as an NPC, or sacrifice the character as a plot device. This would probably incorporate the Destiny Points mentioned in earlier posts. If a transition to NPC occurs, the player might "cash in" experience points invested into the character, maybe gaining 5% of the character's total experience as destiny points (round down)...the player would still get the chance to portray this character if the NPC is required for later storylines, but this character would only appear once or twice a year and wouldn't develop any further. If the player instead chooses to sacrifice their character for a wider story element, they might reclaim 10% of the character's total experience as destiny points, but this would have to be negotiated with event organisers. A player couldn't simply lose their character in battle then say..."Oh, that was a sacrifice, can I have my points now?"

A few more ideas using Destiny Points as a link between in-game narrative and out-of-game responsibilities will come in later posts.

21 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 27)

For those of you who don't know what Boffer LARPs look like, here's a few images from the session I attended on the weekend.

On a vaguely related note, an interesting rule was adapted by this group after contact witth a Canberra based LARP group. The rule is certainly something I might consider for the pirate/steampunk LARP in development, it goes like this.

Players who show up without costume have 3 hit points for their characters.
Players who show up with partial costume have 4 hit points for their characters.
Players who show up with full costume have 5 hit points for their characters.

The rules didn't take into account quality of armour, or extra damage for magic/character-strength/two-handed-weapons...but it was a day of battles and combat practice more than anything else. This group runs alternate fortnights of battle days such as these, and quest/scenario days.

The idea of rules that link the in-game and out-of-game worlds is interesting. To keep things legitimate in parts of the world with over-zealous legeal/litigation systems, such rules might become an integral part of the game. In this part of the world, an organised gathering of a certain size requires the presence of qualified first aid officers, a formal requirement to be run by a non-profit entity is a grey area when the transfer of money is involved (it's typically safer to set one up). But these are out-of-game concerns.

When I talk of rules that link game and reality, I mean things like quizzes that people might need to sit out of game, and if the quiz is passed, the player is now permitted to access higher level classes that are expected to possess this knowledge in game. It basically helps to counter the situations when a player would say "I don't know that, but my character would". The World of Darkness LARP group, the Camarilla, had tests called "ordeals" which players would neeed to sit before they could take on the roles of storytellers or coordinators. This way the people in power actually had the knowledge necessary to wield that power correctly (if not the morals to do so). In a boffer LARP you might also have a couple of quizzes/ordeals to ensure a player fights safely before allowing their characters to access larger/more-dangerous weapons. Once the player passes such an ordeal once, all of their characters gain access to the wider versatility. Some groups might even require regular annual refresher courses on weapon safety (especially with regards to ranged weapons).

Just a few more ideas to make sure everything is good.

18 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 26)

We have a pretty robust system developing.

It allows scope for numerous character types within an ecosystem of communal storytelling, so that basically matches with the intended design goals.

It doesn't allow everyone to play everything that they could imagine, because that would dilute the focus of the game and basically water it down to an incoherent mess. Instead of this, it uses a chunky point system to channel players into preferred character types.

It allows players to gather their characters into meaningful factions with some kind of mechanical benefit for doing so.

With a definition of cultures, races and occupations, we can even combine existing systems to develop subcultures within the setting. You want a specific farming caste within the settlers, then maybe you can define this through a faction that limits itself to settlers who have held the farmer occupation at some stage in their lives. You want a group of freebooting swashbucklers who regularly interact with pirates and privateers, maybe define a faction that includes characters from both of these cultures.

We have the scope for career development, as players take their characters through a number of different narrowly defined occupations, This tends to increase the versatility of the characters through the course of play, rather than specifically increasing their power level...so new characters have a chance of confronting experienced characters successfully, but experienced characters are more desired in quests for their range of skills, and they have a wider variety of activities to engage in during the "down time" between games. There is still a progression of skills and a progression of advanced occupation types, allowing more experienced character to have an edge, but the emphasis is on rounding out characters over the course of play.

There hasn't been a post over the last couple of days, because I've been working on University assignments, and also because I've been writing up a fairly comprehensive spreadsheet of occupations, culture and races, assigning abilities to them, and trying to come up with some interesting techniques for each. I'm trying to make sure all of the abilities are shared by at least half a dozen different occupation types, and where they aren't I'm adding in a couple of occupations to cover the shortfall.

Belonging to an occupation allows a character to improve their related skills by a single level, getting to level two (intermediate) requires learning the ability from two different occupations because you gain a different perspective on the ability when you perform it in a different job. To get to level three (advanced) requires learning the ability from three different occupational perspectives. When there's half a dozen different occupations sharing the ability this allows a variety of occupational progressions on the path to ability mastery. Everyone gains an edge in specific abilities because they can learn a level from their culture or race.

I'm currently up to about 150 occupations, maybe 40 of which are allowable to starting characters.

We have a well rounded economy that makes sense, it might be a bit overly complicated and intimidating to new players, but new players don't really need to worry about that side of things to enjoy the game. The economy is in place to facilitate the construction of special items without resorting to GM fiat (which is important in a game where there may not be a centralised GM).

When it comes to a magic system, I really haven't touched on that at all. I love the magic system in Mage: the Ascension (I've stated this time and again), but it needs a good GM and is probably too open ended for LARP play. I've seen it fall apart during the previously mentioned World of Darkness live campaigns I've been a part of. Instead we have some good anchor points for a magic system in place; there are abilities for Mysticism, Ritual, Faith, Negation and Transformation, and a system of techniques which could be rewritten as "Spells" and easily slotted into the existing mechanisms of play.

In a miniatures game like Confrontation, magic spells become available to characters who possess mastery over specific schools of magical training (necromancy, enchantment, theurgy, sorcery, etc.) I'm thinking of something similar for mages in this game. Perhaps a school of magical training grants a simple pocketmod booklet filled with a range of 6 spells, of which a character starts with one (such a book might have a front cover depicting the school's name and a suitable sigil, while the back cover gives a brief description of the school's tenets, or maybe offers some kind of quest to gain experience points for new spells in the book).

Confrontation actually uses a deck of cards, with a dozen or more spells belonging to each school (packs of school spells purchased seperately), and some spells belonging to two or more schools of magic, but I'm not sure if this is the way to go. I think a cluster of related spells makes more sense, where many spells might have a more powerful effect if you possess a certain synergistic ability at an intermediate level. You might have a range of animal spells, a range of plant spells, a range of enchantments or curses, a spirit set...you get the idea. If you want to have a different set of spells available, you need to follow the right occupation (which might require a few shifts of occupation before you can open up that class).

Crafting techniques would work the same way. Smiths might be able to use metal to produce basic farm implements and tools...Swordsmiths gain a more advanced group of items such as weaponry that they can now produce...Glassblowers might be able to produce bottles, vials, glass windows, etc...Boilermakers might be good with pipes, boilers, and the necessarily componentry for building steam engines...Alchemists might stride the gap between crafting and magic, with the ability to produce an assortment of potions and elixirs. Every set of spells or crafted items is intrinsically linked to a specific occupation, and both groups might require components consumed (or a specifically built workshop environment) before their effects become manifest in the game.

The versatility of spell and crafting books is offset by the requirements necessary for these effects.

15 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 25)

Now that we’ve reached the advantages of gathering characters into factions, it’s probably a good time to look at how those factions might form and what limitations might be placed on factions.

Since factions can start from 3 players, and could theoretically expand to cover any number of players, the variations possible are endless. Personally, I think the narrower the definition of the faction, the more focused it will be, and the stronger the relationships between the characters in that faction. More inclusive factions, on the other hand, then to have a wider focus and looser relationships.

The first thing that could define a faction is race; whether that comes in the form of specific races being permitted to join or specific races being denied entry to the faction. There’s an inherent racism and prejudice when saying a faction may only possess members of a single race; I’m not includes applying moral judgement to that choice of racism/prejudice, I’m just saying that it’s a thing. If a specific faction decides to only welcome members of the Dhampyr race, then it might be justified as a Dhampyr supremacist group, or maybe an alliance of like minded individuals who work together to explore the Dhampyr condition. Such a group wouldn’t make sense to have non-Dhampyr’s present, but it might loosely affiliate with other races outside the faction. A single race faction has a simple intrinsic weakness, since magic will be keyword related, and all members of a single race share a specific keyword, then an area effect targeting a specific keyword will target all members of the faction (for better or worse).

If a faction is defined as an anti-Wyldkin hate group, they might invite members of all races to join…except Wyldkin. There’s an inherent racism/prejudice in that as well. But when a group is so open, with so many options for its members, it becomes necessary to create additional defining aspects for the group if it wants to retain a level of focus and not just devolve into a beige blurred mess of incoherence. Naturally, this particular group might require its members to have been attacked by a Wyldkin (or have lost a family member to them). The drawback with this type of group comes from the defining races not permitted; what does an anti-Wyldkin group do when there are no Wyldkin in the game to fight against?

Personally, I think that if you want direction in a faction, but don’t want to narrow the focus too far, then a grouping of two races is probably a good starting point. Maybe a third if you’re using the more obscure race options.

This is exactly the same for cultures. One culture becomes a narrow focus, all but one culture becomes very nebulous and vague unless there are other defining factors.

Occupations could be an interesting way to define a faction, but since occupations are so transient in this game it would be pretty debilitating for a faction if it only allowed members who were current members of a specific profession. We are a faction based on a ship anchored on the north side of the harbour, we will only allow people who are sailors to join us. Instead, every character who follows an occupation gains access to certain abilities and techniques, before they move on to new occupations. If a group were pondering this as the criteria for membership, it would make far more sense to restrict characters based on the possession of a specific ability level, or the possession of a certain technique.

A final way to define a faction might be through the completion of a specific task or quest. This kind of quest should probably work as something than can be done on the side while other activities are engaged, rather than something that requires a dedicated GM and story. This might be a better way to define a faction for characters who are already in the game, rather than allowing players to write in their backstories “Oh, yeah, a couple of years ago I completed the Trial of the Red Lotus, so now I’m a member of the Blood Coven”.

Now that I’m looking at it, the defining factors for factions are starting to look like the suggested methodology for defining prestige classes in D&D 3.0/3.5. The kinds of advantages I have in mind are vaguely similar too.

Other options for defining a faction could include the requirement to wear a specific uniform item (“a red shield”, “a black bandana”, “a surcoat emblazoned with a specific emblem”) to identify the members during the course of game, or maybe an in-game membership fee (“spend a gold coin every month to retain membership in the Colonial Gentleman’s Club”, “donate 2 units of timber or metal each month to the craftsman’s guild to gain access to their workshop”). There are dozens of ways a faction could restrict its entry, but if it ends up being too restrictive then many players will just look for other factions to join with their characters.

On the other hand, too many members may mean that the founders of a faction are suddenly swarmed by new members and lose control of the group they started. It’s all about balance.

(EDIT: I'v just reaslised that yesterday I mentioned that all faction members will be spending a minimum of one risked story XP into their faction each session. This is definitely a criteria for factional membership, some factions might define themselves by asking for public declarations of XP invested [within the faction anyway]. Some might evenrequire their members to use two of their story XP in this manner just to show the commitment of members.)

14 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 24)

LARP is a social activity. That’s why I’m involved in it. Sure there are social aspects in an MMORPG, but everything is moderated through a screen. Some people like that, there’s always the stereotypical slobby gamer who inhabits avatars of hot chicks wielding oversized swords or guns, and wearing skimpy armour…but LARP isn’t about them (for the most part… let me tell you a story about a trip to Melbourne one time).

Following up on the last post about “doll-housing”, there is a great way to use this technique to expand the game for everyone. I touched on it at the end of that last post, it’s the point where a few players get together and develop a tight knit group that acts as a self-contained unit for storytelling.

I hate to say it, but one of my regular commenters was among the first group of players I saw do this well. +Klaus Teufel, was a part of a secretive group containing a pair of vampires and a mage (which I became embroiled in later), I think it’s safe to say now that the game has been dead for 15 years that these characters were bound by the fact that they were all secretive infernalists (I’m sure he’ll be able to correct me on this if I’m wrong).

Using this group, they infiltrated vampire communities, mage communities, and various other groups through their influence. Most people seemed to know out of character that they were up to something, and many translated that meta-game knowledge into their characters (but that’s another point entirely)… very few actually knew what was going on.

Individually, these characters might not have had the influence to make a lot of difference in the story, but as an unholy trinity they could combine their forces to overcome the vast majority of characters who operated independently as “lone-wolf moody stalkers of the night”. Rarely did other characters unite their forces unless facing a specific one-off threat provided by the GMs, after which they’d go their separate ways again.

In the interests of pushing the concept of player driven storyline, it makes sense for this game to formalise the relationships between characters, especially in small factional groups that might struggle for power in the shadows.

Let’s start with the fact that I’m a big fan of the triangular number progression sequence
1T = 1 = 1
2T = 1+2 = 3
3T = 1+2+3 = 6
4T = 1+2+3+4 = 10
5T = 1+2+3+4+5 = 15

The one player unit is 1T, a single player. A pair of players can work together, but they get access to a new level of power (or something special) once they add a third character to their mix. Three characters becomes the minimum number for a small faction.

Since we talked about primary characters and secondary characters in earlier instalments of this series, we can discuss their implications here as well. I would suggest that a player may not have primary and secondary characters belonging to the same faction (because this could be abused to artificially boost factional numbers), but then we run into the problem of players knowing what is happening behind the scenes in two separate factions. This causes a problem when dealing with immature players who would use this meta-game knowledge to their advantage, but let’s assume most of our players are mature. A second rule that would help curtail this problem might state that only a primary character may hold a leadership role within a faction (and thus know what is truly going on within the faction).

What are the bonuses for working as a faction?

Here I’m thinking prestige, access to a secure stronghold/storage-facility, access to resources, training in special abilities, and factional secrecy. Players in the faction would be able to choose which options their faction possesses, and would be able to lure new players to their faction with promises of rewards from those options.

Let’s link this into the story point system where players risk their experience points by linking it to a specific storyline. This way when the faction gains power, everyone gains a benefit, when the faction loses power they suffer. It’s in their best interests to push the factional agenda.

This means every character has one to three points invested in their faction, and in turn, this gives the faction leaders a pool of points that may be spent to empower factional benefits. Faction leaders don’t necessarily know who is contributing what number of points, they just know the overall total.

As an idea, these points might be spent in the following ways.

Secluded Meeting Place = 1pt (Maximum for a 2T faction)
Secure Meeting Place = 3pts (Maximum for a 3T faction)
Stronghold = 5pts (Maximum for a 4T faction)
Fortress = 7pts (Maximum for a 5T faction)
Employ a minor mentor (capable of training a basic level ability) = 1pt (Max. 2T)
Employ a competent mentor (capable of training an intermediate level ability) = 3pts (Max. 3T)
Employ a master mentor (capable of training an advanced level ability) = 5pts (Max. 4T)
Regular income of a small amount in some common material = 1pt (Max. 2T)
Regular income of a moderate amount in some common material = 2pts (Max. 3T)
Regular income of a large amount in some common material = 3pts (Max. 4T)
Regular income of a small amount in some uncommon material = 2pt (Max. 3T)
Regular income of a moderate amount in some uncommon material = 4pts (Max. 4T)
Regular income of a large amount in some uncommon material = 6pts (Max. 5T)
Access to bodyguards / workers = 1pt per pair of bodyguards/workers
Factional secrecy = total number of points to be spent must be greater than half the number of characters in the faction (rounding down).

You get the idea.

Factional prestige would purely be measured by the number of characters publicly swearing allegiance to the group.

I think that this bit of the game might be one of the defining systems that sets it apart from other LARPs. So we might need a bit more work to get this part right.

13 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 23)

There is a concept in some forms of roleplaying that hasn’t really had a name. It’s where a single player creates a magnificent back story which doesn’t actually enter play. A few years ago on Story Games, this idea was described as “Doll Housing”.

The basic idea states that a player creates an elaborate “doll-house” for their character background. A unique snowflake of intricacy, carefully linked into everything it means to “BE” this character. But in many cases, this is such a carefully crafted and delicate thing, that they don’t allow other players to play with it.

There lies the problem.

Roleplaying is about portraying a role, if your backstory isn’t going to come into play through your portrayal of the role, why have it? I’ve played with hundreds of people in live-roleplaying contexts over the years, and I’ve seen my fair share of players who come to their role with no background thoughts what-so-ever, I’ve seen just as many elaborate backstories that just don’t enter play at all… characters with backgrounds as elite assassins, but who fumble and fail once the character actually starts interacting with the outside world… characters who are master courtiers possessed of cunning and deft in the world of intrigue, but who possess the diplomacy and tact of your stereotypical orc once they are actually played.

In a tabletop game, a player is concealing their “dollhouse” from a couple of other people on the table. Over time they might “open a dollhouse window” to allow another player to peer into their carefully constructed world, some players might even allow a little access to other characters, as long as they don’t “move the furniture too much” and disrupt the intricate backstory. In a LARP game, players are concealing their dollhouse from a dozen or more other players. Unless the “dollhouse” has been created by a group of players to share their backstories, it’s generally a pretty selfish way to play a game.

Don’t get me wrong, I used to love reading these as a LARP campaign GM. It was fascinating when a player would do something in game, something that just didn’t make sense to most of the players but which made perfect sense in the context of their backstory. But more often than not, players would create these backstories purely to justify why their character had some quirky power that wasn’t normally associated with their character type. I’ve read thirty page histories, just to discover how a “formerly psychic werewolf-kinfolk now embraced by the Tremere vampires” could justify possessing the shapeshifting discipline of Protean without being linked to the Gangrel clan.

Histories in game should be far more than justifications, they should provide impetus and direction to characters. That’s one of the places where linking characters to stories becomes an advantage. Setting up a game like this, I’d throw in a dozen key storylines for players to link to (let’s say half as many background storylines as there are players). If a player wants to write a background for their character, they might offer a single paragraph of narrative for each storyline they want to link to. If a player has a bunch of points to throw into a character (to make them enter play at a more prestigious/experienced level), they might add in a paragraph for each of the occupations they’ve passed through on the way to reaching their current position… No more than a page in total (maybe two pages in the case of really experienced characters). I'm thinking of writing something like this formally into the rules, but maybe it might be better as a sidebar.

The point is that characters only come into their own once they start interacting with others. Dollhousing is great if you want to share your backstory with a variety of people, otherwise it’s just window dressing with no real effect. A character’s true story begins the moment they enter play.

Besides, who want to write a 30 page story for a character who dies five minutes into the game?

11 October, 2014

Random post of 2014

He is coming.

I'm so happy about this. I guess the avatar stays in place for a few more years.

10 October, 2014

A Map of a Place that Some People might find Familiar

The Scavenger's Tale takes place in the post apocalyptic world of Walkabout. Which means that it occurs somewhere in a twisted future version of our world.

So I drew a map of a city that I know pretty well, laid waste by war and ecological apocalypse...then added a few place names derived by twisting the current titles, or using socio-geographic features and other interesting trivia to rename them.

Here's the current work in progress.

(...and here's a link to a larger version of the map)

In related news, I'll definitely be getting stuck back into the full Walkabout game project before the end of the year. My Indigenous Studies course at university (and specific discussions with lecturers) have told me that I'm basically on the right track with making sure everything is portrayed honestly and openly. The key is to avoid pigeon-holing, and allow everyone a variety of meaningful options.

08 October, 2014

Colour Blocking Samples

For some reason, my erratic internet connection isn't allowing me to upload images on to G+, but it is allowing me to upload images to the blog.

So, here's a pair of different colour treatments for the scavenger.

Both use a cloak colour that's more likely to blend in with sandstone and dusty post-apocalyptic deserts, and other colours closer to an assortment of tanned leathers.

07 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 22)

In the last post we looked at the economy of the fictional world, and how the NPCs of the world link in to that economy. We also saw how it's possible to trace the harvesting of raw materials into finished materials and then into usable products. We even touched on the ways player characters might influence that system.

But there's more to it than that, this background economy can be used to generate story.

The aim of this game is not to tell the stories of grinding (I think that's the term), where players work away at some menial and tedious tasks for hours on end, all in the hopes of generating low risk experience points or a few resources that might be traded for something better further down the track. This is a Boffer LARP, it's about hitting things, it's about intrigue and mystery, it's about heroic (and nefarious) deeds at critical moments.

Characters go on "AWESOME!!" quests during their game sessions, but in the down times they have a few options. Characters can plug into the economy through their occupations (thus gaining money, resources or status for the next session), they can conduct their own research or training (thus gaining new abilities or techniques), or they can pursue other options (that might get defined later if I think of them).

Regardless of whether they gain income from a occupation or spend their days engaging in their own pursuits, a character needs to eat and needs lodgings for the duration between sessions. This costs money, consumes rations (which may be bought, stolen, or grown) and generally pulls the character back into contact with the world around them. Very few characters in this setting are independently wealthy, most have to work in some way at some stage.

Engaging in an occupation doesn't only offer the resources necessary for ongoing survival, it also offers a specific set of abilities and techniques. These abilities and techniques are instinctively developed as a result of engaging in the activities common to that job. A miner might develop "strength" and "resilience" abilities, and techniques that help them identify the differences between valuable ore and worthless rock. A sailor might learn "teamwork" and "dexterity" abilities, and techniques linked to knot tying or weather prediction. Every occupation has a range of three abilities that slowly trickle into the psyche of the character, a character might automatically earn a point toward developing one of these abilities each month (the player may choose which ability develops), and they are able to spend additional experience points toward these abilities to make them improve faster. Occupations also provide keyword traits that may be necessary for progression to more interesting occupations (with different abilities and techniques) further down the track. During an actual game session, an occupation doesn't mean anything. It just provides a path to learn the specific abilities and techniques associated with that job.

In the same way that occupations provide access to abilities and techniques, so do races and cultures. Simply living among the people of your race and culture, you pick up the things that people around you do, it becomes easy to learn their mannerisms through mimicry. Unlike an occupation, a player doesn't earn an automatic point toward their racial or cultural abilities, but they may spend their experience points on these. As mentioned in an earlier post, if you link to the stories associated with your race or culture (by investing your experience points into them), you may earn bonus points over the course of play.

I'm hoping that these ideas ground the backstories of the characters, anchoring them into the community. This is an issue that I've seen unresolved in many LARP campaigns I've been a part of.

As for stories during play, I'd like to think that occupations bring characters together here as well. A vein of rich ore has been discovered...perhaps the miner's skills will be necessary to dig it out, maybe they'll have to defend their mine from invaders, or possibly the miners knowledge will be put to good use for the placement of explosives to make sure no-one gets access to the ore. Either way, different groups are struggling to gain the miner's affiliation. Another story might require a group of sailors (or ex-sailors now in other occupations) to pilot a ship somewhere. Notices are posed for characters with the right range of abilities (or characters who've worked in the right occupations), eventually if enough characters take up the offer then this particular story can be told.

To follow up with another connection to the occupations in the Warhammer Fantasy RPG, career progression occurs when a character decides to move on from their current role to a new one but doing so isn't an instant occurrence. A miner might progress to a foreman (with higher pay), a demolitions expert (who can now access TNT), or a surveyor (who may not sound that interesting, but might offer traits allowing progress to occupations who can build strongholds and fortifications).

During the course of play, a character would have to fulfill certain requirements to make the jump from one occupation to another (they might have to spend a number of months as a miner before they can advance to foreman, or might need a certain level of awareness before they could become a surveyor). At character creation, a player would be able to spend a string of experience points on a primary character to follow a career progression, thus allowing them to enter play with one of the more interesting and prestigious occupations (or allowing access to specific abilities and techniques), and allowing them to avoid the story requirements necessary to advance (any mechanical requirements such as possession of an "awareness" ability would still need to be purchased). Any secondary characters would be forced to work their way up from the bottom,

I guess it might be time to start looking at point costs.

06 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP (Part 21)

+Klaus Teufel mentioned that I might be over-thinking things with regard to this game economy. I'll admit it, this is something I'm commonly prone to doing.

There is a goal in this game of keeping things easy and approachable for new players, and basically it does look like my economic structure is needlessly complicated...but bear with me for a moment as I explain my thought process.

I figure that an easy user experience can come from two directions. The first easy user experience comes from something simple, the mechanisms providing the experience are plain, basic, they simply do what they do, independent of one another...you only need to worry about one thing at a time. The second easy user experience is harder to pull off from a back end perspective, it comes from complex components working in harmony, with numerous systems synchronising seamlessly...but the user only needs to deal with one part of the system to interact with the whole.

The first user experience can easily come from a minimalist rule set, a lot of GM fiat, and a hefty dose of hand-waving to ignore the complicated bits. Personally I think that goes against more of the tenets of game design that I originally set for myself. It does keep things simple for the players, but requires a lot more work from the GMs, it also opens them up to accusations of favouritism if they're forced to make decisions without a good rule structure to back them up.

The second user experience has a lot of back end work to set up, but I'm aiming toward a database or spreadsheet that could allow players to submit their "turns" each month, and then when the next game hits, they can see the results of their between-game actions.

"I spend my next month cutting wood"
"I spend 50% of my next month smelting ore into metal, then 50% making metal horseshoes and farm implements."
"I need someone to spend the next month watching my stills, because I need to leave town, and the rum stills can explode if they aren't watched"

Suddenly we start getting people needing people, and a community develops.

I think that the game systems need to directly interface with the players in a logical way, anything that simply complicates things is an unwanted deviation, but if it pulls things into line in another way then it might be worth exploring.

As stated previously, this part of the game is generally handled by NPCs, but allows player characters to slot into the ecosystem at any point. Every action by a player character makes a contribution to the ecosystem and disrupts the equilibrium in some way. Too many people chopping wood, then the value of that work decreases. Too many people smelting ore, then ore becomes a scarce commodity and it goes up in price, All of these aspects are handled by a simple database where standardised orders handle the daily activities of the mundane NPCs, and custom orders can be entered by players at the end of each game session, then press the button and the output is generated (in the form of little information sheets noting relevant information that might be pertinent to each character's perspective in the grand scheme).

What I'm working through here is the back end of things, then I'll get stuck into the user interface.

So yes, I'm basically plunging ahead with this complexity. I just thought I'd take the chance to explain why I'm doing this and how it should fit together in the end game.

05 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP (Part 20)

Magic the Gathering has 5 general resources, all the different things that can be brought into the game can be purchased through these. Other games have different numbers of resource types, some functioning on a single resource (typically monetary), others bringing dozens of possible resources into the game economy.

How many resources should we use in this game?

It's a tough question that really alters the way the game economy works. A limited number of resource types simplify the game, but this comes at the cost of realism. A high number of resource types make it harder to keep track of economic flows...who has influence in what fields?...does anyone hold a monopoly on a specific resource type?...can a monopoly be circumvented by other means?

Personally, I think there needs to be a fundamental infrastructure in place for the game economy to work. Since we've already established that this is a game about heroes, we don't need players to take on the role of shopkeepers, farmers, and similar drudge positions. That doesn't mean players couldn't find meaningful storylines in such positions, it just means we don't need to force a certain percentage of our players to take on these roles to keep the game economy working.

Let's work on a basic town infrastructure, the general minimums to support bands of heroes. With this, we can probably work out the resources that would inter-relate these people.

(For the purposes of this post, I'll write all of the occupations in bold and I'll underline all of the resource types.)

Let's star with a merchant, a farmer, and a craftsman.

The merchant focuses on money, and trades things with this as their primary resource. They get food (crops and meat) from the farmer to live. They get trade goods from the craftsman. The merchant keeps these in stock, and generally makes trade easier because they are able to move around while farmers and craftsmen are able to keep working with the skills they've mastered in the locations where such skills are put to best use (ie. the farm and the workshop).

The farmer focuses on crops and meat, and generally spends their life growing these. They trade these foodstuffs with the merchant for money (or directly barter for other goods), they might trade directly with the craftsman for tools necessary for farming (and other things to make their lives easier, more comfortable, or more prestigious), or they might trade with other farmers (herders trading with crop farmers for the cereals to feed their animals, maybe trading manure as fertiliser). 

The craftsman makes things, sometimes using tools made by another craftsman. They trade these things they make, sometimes directly to the farmer in exchange for the foodstuffs they need to continue surviving, sometimes to other craftsmen, but most often to a centralized merchant using the currency of the realm.

This gives us...

Money (From: Merchant/Everyone, To: Merchant/Everyone) - The general resource of the realm.
Crops (From: Crop Farmer, To: Herder/Everyone) - Used as a general food staple
Meat (From: Herder, To: Everyone) - A more premium foodstuff
Fertiliser (From: Herder, To: Crop Farmer) - This also gives us a source for explosives.

It doesn't really give us specific resources for the craftsman, but it generally feeds everyone, so we can expand this group to add a bit more support structure.

Miners might dig up the raw ore that one craftsman (Smelter) refines into usable metal (of one or more types), and another craftsman then turns into useful metal goods. The more interesting characters here would probably be the final craftsmen (Smith) who produce those useful goods. 

Woodcutters might chop down trees to produce raw wood, which can then be finished into timber (by Millers), and from there to useful wooden goods (or combined with metal to other useful goods by Woodcrafters).   

This adds...

Ore (From: Miner, To: Smelter) - These could be simple rocks to someone who doesn't know better.
Metal (From: Smelter, To: Smith) - Definitely valuable, but not incredibly useful.
Wood (From: Woodcutter, To: Miller) - Useful for starting fires, needs milling for most other tasks.
Timber (From: Miller, To: Woodcrafter) - Useful as a building material, or in many crafts.
Useful Goods (From: Smiths/Woodcrafters, To: Merchants/Everyone) - Useful goods aren't typically defined as a trade resource because they are finished items in their own right capble of providing skill bonuses or other direct benefits. 

But it might be useful to add a few specific types of metals (and respective ores...which always move from Miners to Smelters), and then pen up a few additional types of craftsmen.

Gold/Silver (From: Smelter, To: Jeweler and the local Imperial/Colonial Mint) - Metal(s) for precious pieces such as jewelry and noble goods.
Iron (From: Smelter, To: Blacksmith) - Used for weaponry and sturdy goods.
Copper (From: Smelter, To: Boilermaker) - Needed to make stills.

So we're starting to get quite a variety of people in our chain and can even start linking people in other ways.

Brewers might deal with Boilermakers to get their stills and Crop Farmers to get their regular supplies, to produce beers, spirits or the perennial pirate favourite "Rum" (generally alcohol).

Butchers might buy meat from Herders, to improve it's quality.

Innkeepers might buy their improved meats from Butchers, then crops from Crop Farmers, and drinks from Brewers. They combine the ingredients into meals (or get Cooks to do it) and selling space in their inns as lodgings.

The Mint deals with smelters for it's raw metal (or might melt down the coins of other realms), then passes the coin of the realm to Soldiers who pay Merchants for goods, and Innkeepers for food and drink.

Soldiers (under the auspices of the local authorities) might sell their services to local herders and crop farmers to protect the lands from natives and merchant ships from pirates. They might buy weapons for their jobs from the local Blacksmith

Other people selling relevant services might include Healers (selling medical services), Scribes (selling formal documentation), Messengers (selling information), Priests (selling hope), and more illicit services made available by their respective sellers. Services and items that could be found in their final form (healing herbs, fish, water, etc.) might not need to pass through an economy of transformation before appearing for sale to characters.

Then we might look at things like sand, smelted into glass (possibly by a specialised Smelter), then refined into final products by a Glassblower.

Workshops, Inns, general houses and other structures might be built by Stonemasons and Carpenters (using wood or timber depending on the quality of the building desired).

That's around a dozen resources already, linking together almost twenty core occupations (that could be learnt by player characters, or simply filled in by generic NPCs). Since I'm choosing to follow the Warhammer Fantasy model with the available occupations (dozens of interconnected jobs and career progressions, each with their own specific niche in society), this seems to fit that goal. 

In our game, there is also an ability called "Investments" which could easily represent the profits gained from being associated from any business in this ecosystem, or perhaps a character could take a more hands-on approach by actually earning the trades associated with these occupations. There will probably be a few techniques linked to this ability, these might allow characters to gather specific resources from various parts of the game economy (depending on occupations they may have, or contacts they may have made).  

Still more to think about...  

04 October, 2014

Local Conventions

We've got a pretty active convention scene in Sydney, whether that's roleplaying conventions, comic conventions, miniature gaming conventions, or anime/cosplay events. Then you get the special weekend events focused on some particular fandom (such as Dr Who, Star Trek, etc.) typically put on by one of the many fan clubs across the city.

A few weeks ago we had OzComicCon, a generic pop culture event where we saw William Shatner, Orlando Bloom (and a bunch of other actors portraying dwarves in The Hobbit), Jason Momoa, the two leads from Warehouse 13 (who Leah and I had long chats with), and numerous other actors who were the primary drawcards, while comic artists also attended and drew smaller groups of fans.

(Yes, I'm Batman)

This current weekend it's a "long weekend" with a public holiday Monday, so we've got Sydcon (Roleplaying) and MOAB (Mother of All Battlegames) as the big gaming events, and a few fan club events scattered across the city.

Often I run games at Sydcon, but the last year or two have been too busy. This year we dropped in to MOAB to see how things are progressing in the world of miniatures. The convention is small compared to a pop-culture event like OzComicCon (which draws tens of thousands of patrons), this is because it's a smaller niche hobby, but getting a few hundred people along consistently for two decades is nothing to complain about. Every year they fill this sporting hall, with stallholders from across the country, scores of tables playing Warhammer and Warhammer 40K, a dozen or more tables dedicated to each of the other big games filling the hive of rooms scattered across the complex (Warmachine/Hordes, Flames of War, Infinity, etc.).

Beyond these games that I know from the shelves of the local stores there was plenty of local independent stuff...some very interesting games with interesting game mechanisms. These independent games are typically written by a single person who has no desire to really spread their rule set to a wider community, they just have a set of rules they like to use and they like to run games for people.

It's great to see.

03 October, 2014

The Weird Dome

For those wondering what the weird dome was in my last image post...

...here's a bit more information.

02 October, 2014

Work in Progress: The Scavenger's Tale

Just thought I'd share the page stylesheet I'm using for my current project, The Scavenger's Tale.

The character needs some shading, but this is generally the direction we're heading.

01 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 19)

It's always a good idea to do a bit of research. When I made the claim that I didn't think there were many "steampunk boffer" games, I really hadn't looked into it much. I'd only encountered pseudo-medieval fantasy boffer LARPs, so that's what I assumed the majority were. It appears that there are a few steampunk options in existence.

That's not a bad thing, it just means that this game being designed needs a good point of differentiation. I think we've got that with the communal storytelling ecosystem (regardless of what genre it's applied to), but, now that we know of other games vaguely fitting the intended theme, we can actually use this to our advantage by researching their merits and flaws compared to what we're developing.,

Here's a few that I've found so far...

The Vorydian Chronicles - lots of numbers in this one, exactly the kind of system I'm NOT going for. Still, it looks like there are some interesting ideas that could be adapted to the direction where I'm heading. There's also abilities requiring prerequisites that require prerequisites abilities and minimum levels and complexity and...and stuff. I thought I was being a bit needlessly complicated with races, cultures, and occupations, looking at this makes me feel a bit better (hey, some people like games of this nature, and more power to them, it's just not me, and I don't find it very accommodating for new players.

Rise of Aester - an interesting system with finer gain of skill levels, where characters separated by two levels of skill automatically see wins going to the higher participant, but closer skill differences see a randomising mechanic used. Theres a bit more complexity thrown in, but I've seen this sort of system work really well with players who know what they're doing.

The Steampunk LARP - This looked alright until a couple of hours ago, and now it looks dead. (The site anyway). It did use that curious system where XP costs on skills vary based on attribute values, and played with other numbers in a way that asked to be metagamed. Lots of numbers doing all sorts of strange things. Hopefully this will pop up again later.

Dark Passages - another one that fits into the pattern of "old-school" Boffer LARP. Lots of numbers, but the more I look at this, the more I see good reasoning behind those numbers. It uses races, cultures and callings, and a more open ended character progression system. It also seems to have an interesting system for manufacture of goods within the game.

From each of these established systems, I've looked at the available list of skills for characters, then used it to flesh out the range of abilities in the game being designed.

General Ability List
Animal Husbandry 1
Athletics 1
Appraisal 1
Crafts 2
Dexterity 1
Etiquette 2
Firearms 3
Investments 2
Knowledge 1
Larceny 2
Mechanics 3
Medicine 3
Melee 2
Mysticism 3
Navigation 2
Projectiles 2
Repairs 2
Resilience 1
Rituals 2
Shield Use 1
Strength 1
Survival 1
Swimming 1
Teamwork 2

Obscure Ability List (each has a racial/cultural/advanced-skill requirement)
Bureaucracy (Imperial/Settlers) 2
Dream (faeblood/Incarnate) 3
Negation (Pureblood) 4
Rage (Dhampyr/Wyldling) 3
Theology (Church/Cult) 2
Transformation (Wyldling/Avatar) 4
Trade (Freebooters) 2
Local lore (Natives) 2

Each of these abilities has been allocated a number, purely for my own purposes at this stage, these numbers are a rough measure of how common the ability should be, they'll have no measure on experience costs or anything like that. 1 is common, 2 less common, 3 uncommon, 4 rare.

Each of these abilities grants three innate abilities to a character (one each at basic, intermediate and advanced), combining these abilities provides "techniques" which are special advantages. I'd like every race and culture to have at least one "obscure" ability, but for those that don't I might add a few more techniques to their repertoire.