Showing posts from 2019

Making it accessible

I think I need to write a comic-form RPG again. I tried it a while ago with one of my iterations of Walkabout, but it was getting a bit confusing because there were a lot of elements of the game that still weren't quite right. The current project, Familiar, feels like it might be a good fit for this idea... that might be next year's big concept.

The Balance

Balance plays a part in so many games. It might be the balance between characters to ensure that one player's opportunities in the story don't overshadow those of other players. It might be the balance between game elements and story elements. It might be the balance of maintaining interest in the narrative compared to the drive to continually improve the character. At the moment, the balance I'm considering is far more vague, and potentially controversial, but it's one of the core elements of the game, so it's one of the elements that I have to make sure is right. Familiar is intended to be a game about people who see the injustice in the world, who feel the desire to change things for the better, and who are capable of manipulating reality to achieve their goals. It's a game about people who care about the world around them, but who have been marginalised by society in a way that limit their ability to do anthing about it. In this setting, the familiars re

Almost ready to Playtest

I've reached the point where the character generation system is pretty much able to produce starting characters. That means I can make some starting characters who will be compatible with the system going forward, and those characters can be used by people who want to understand and play with the system. Since the majority of the game works reasonably well in the format of "The Law", the main things that need testing are the magic system, and a system where characters gain power from encountering the situations that they want to see changed in the world. That's where I'll be heading next.


I've made it to Silver on one of my products at DrivethruRPG , which is nice. I've got a decent range of games sitting at Bronze level too. Maybe this whole game design thing is working after all. In unrelated news, there will be a few less posts on the blog over the new years period as I move house again. I've just finished up a year as a woodwork/metalwork teacher on the border of NSW and Victoria, and am now heading a few hours northeast to a little town near Griffith ( here's a map for those unfamiliar with the area ). I'm still going to be working away on the Familiar project when I get the chance, but the updates won't be coming through every day or two like they have been.

Making it easy

There's a concept in industrial design where every iteration of a technology becomes more complicated. I can't remember the specific name of the concept, and that's a really stripped back interpretation of the theory. Take for example a car. The simplest engines have external combustion, but a safer and more efficient engine uses internal combustion, while being more complicated to build, repair, or service. Similarly, the earliest cars were empowered by a single piston engine, but in order to get smoother output from engine to wheels, multi-piston engines were created with the added complications of camshafts, drive belts, timing chains, etc. The same process can be seen in steering systems, braking, fuel injection, and virtually every other part of the car. The crude interpretation of an idea gets th job done, but the improvements come with iterations of complication. Consumer electronics and software programming works the same way. A basic program capable of doing si

Interfacing the Narrative

I was reading something the other day... it might have just been yesterday, time can get a bit fuzzy. It was a reading of the first edition of Mage: the Ascension. Here's the link. It raises a couple of great points. One of which is really pertinent to where I'm going with Familiar... Oh, there are possibly people reading this who haven't been squabbling over Mage rules for the last couple of decades. Short version - in Mage you run the risk of Paradox if your magic is too obvious and disruptive, but it's possible to avoid Paradox by shrouding your spells in coincidence. Instead of hitting someone with a lightning bolt, you divert electricity from a power outlet to shock someone, you find a twenty dollar bill in your pocket, who's to say anything happened at all - that sort of thing. Simple enough, but over the years, there have been many arguments about what counts as a "coincidence." Arguments that have a whole raft of abbreviations associated

On the edges

So, I've already established that I'm going with the notion of an elemental cube, where the faces of the cube represent the respective elements air <=> earth, fire <=> water, metal <=> wood. The inside of the cube is the fundmental energy that forges creation, while the outside of the cube is the infinite void of primordial chaos beyond reality. This is something that has sat on the edges of my design space for quite some time, but it makes sense to use it as a unifying agent for a number of concepts in this game. I've already considered using it as a basis for a pseudo-alignment system, a method to determine what effects might mutate the mystics when they are unable to control certain forces flowing through their souls, and have basically divided the core magical "verbs". The next step is to link the ways that magical effects can be augmented into the cube. For this I'm not using the faces of the cube, instead I'm using the edg

The Bond

Tying the familiars to their mystics is a fundamental part of this game. If we know wht mystics can do, and since the other half of the bond is the familiar, then we really should start determining what the familiars can do (and why the bond is important to them). An idea I keep coming back to is the notion of the elemental realm, orbiting reality like an electron orbiting it's nucleus. I touched on this idea back in my post about places to see in the spirit realms  (now going back almost 4 years). It was an idea at the time that different chracters could have different elemental realms as their homes, and this might impact on their abilities as a character... almost like the alignment relms in Planescape, but orbiting in a three dimensional space rather than a two-dimensional circular disc. That post was written back when the SNAFU system was still gestating, and before it had solidified into the current incarnation found in "The Law", but a lot of the principle


I finished the last post in a kind of limbo... I described where I was aiming, then when I got to the point, I sort of left things hanging. I've been looking over Russell Davis's "Sigil & Shadow" playtest copy, and since it's another game about modern urban magic, it's obviously going to be critically compared to what I'm writing. Generally I like it, I like where it's heading. The characters have magical legacies that grant them automatic abilities and drawbacks, the magic system has powers which cause passive effects that may be transformed into active effects by the expenditure of a meta-game currency... it also has a more freeform magic system using keywords, so that plays in some of the same territory that I've been playing with. What I'm more interested in at this stage is the way "Sigil & Shadow" defines the morality of the characters. Kind or Cruel Focused or Unfocused Selfish or Selfless Honourable o

Pulling things together

I like the idea of the triad dynamic, where each facet pulls away from the other two, but no particular facet is directly opposed to another. It's more interesting than the regular option where there might be two forces opposed to one another (good and evil, law and chaos, light and dark), or a two way pair of axes (such as the D&D alignment grid). Some triads get it wrong... ... often because they set up a false third element.  Some try to shoehorn ideas into the triad that vaguely make sense on the surface... ...but when you start to dig into them with a bit of meaningful research, they start to fall apart. Some versions don't even try to be a real triad, but exist more as a continuum with three focal points along the length... ...and that's really not what I'm after at all. We might as well go back to the idea of the linear-two point tension. Then there are the complications of triads within triads... ...which all gets a bit complicate


As I keep saying, this project is inspired by Mage: the Ascension, like many of my attempts over the years. Like many of the elements used to define characters in Mage, Essence didn't really get a solid set of mechanisms attached to it until later iterations of the rules (a bit like alignment in almost every incarnation of D&D). There were generally four types of essence... Dynamic essences seek change in the world, because they feel that things need to be introduced into the world to bring positivity.  Pattern essences seek stability, because they feel certain changes are causing negativity and need to be neutralised. Primordial essences think things have already gone too far, and it's time to break some of the existing reality to start anew. Questing essences seek something more, pushing beyond the world to greater heights. The "personalities" at the beginning of this post could easily be a way to define essence in the setting I'm aiming for. The


One of the things that was touched apon in Mage: the Ascension but not really adequately explained in the first few editions was the idea of a paradigm. Everyone has a paradigm, it's basically the underlying set of beliefs that define your interpretation of reality. A Christian paradigm generally believes in an all powerful God who made the universe and who constantly guides it (but then you get into numerous sub-paradigms depending on the specific denomination followed). A geocentric paradigm believing that the earth is the centre of the universe stands in direct constrast to a heliocentric paradigm believing that the sun is the centre. A paradigm defines a world view, and sometimes these views come into conflict. The thing about a paradigm is that it's more than just a belief. It's informed by reality. Science is a paradigm, a belief that through measurement, research, and hypothesis, a greater understanding of the universe will be achieved, and eventually all the secre


I've divided the various verb words in the magic system into the six elements that comprise much of the cosmology in the various games I've developed over the years. The idea is fairly kaballistic, with a light at the centre of creation, and darkness toward the edges. At the interface between light and darkness is a mateaphysical cube.  For simplicity, let's say... North = Water South = Fire East = Air West = Earth Top = Wood Bottom = Metal Western mystical traditions look at the cube from the top down, they see a square bounded by air, earth, fire, the centre, they see a fusion of life and mystical essence.  Eastern traditions look at the cube from the east, they see a square bounded by fire, water, wood, and metal... at the centre, they see a balancing force of earth, and don't really see the air as a separate element at all.  The hybrid of these cosmologies is depicted by the cube. It's not perfect, but it adds a depth n

Other Powers to Draw From

I've gone back and edited yesterday's post, and now present some of the other sources of power that mystics will be able to draw from in the game. At this stage many of the prerequisite abilities are subject to change, especially since there are a few sources that share abilities, and there are a few sources where I've chosen abilities that kind of made sense, but don't quite feel 100% right. Note that these are just the sources of energy, and they serve a purpose of flavouring the type of magic engaged by the different mystics in the game... they have very little to do with the actual effects that the mystics are capable of invoking. Destruction Sometimes the act of creation requires a balancing act of destruction, and sometimes destroying something is symbolic of destroying something else. Either way, those who open a Destruction conduit are required to deliberately destroy a specific item; where the actions associated with the task involve damaging the ta

Drawing Power

For each connection, a character starts with a single level. This limits them to drawing a single point of energy from that source. When characters improve their connection to the world around them, they may gain the first level in a new connection or may gain an extra level in one of their existing connections and thus improve their ability to draw energy from that source. A character may purchase up to three levels in any connection type. When a character draws energy from a source, they are still limited by the number of conduit paths they open. Juliana is a veteran mystic with 7 connection, 4 conduit, and 3 capacity. Her connections include three levels to her community, two levels to the belief of others, a level to her bonded familiar, and a level to words. There are a number of ways she can completely open her conduit potential; one of which might occur if she utters an incantation (words 1) when she sees trouble heading to a group of people she identifies with (commun