Hey all,

Well, I´ve been doing some work with the game. Regarding my last problem (the sanity attribute and dice mechanics) I decided to go the easy and most obvious way as recommended by Adam. Same ammount of points for all human characters, no change in the dice. I am saving that one for a (hopefully) next design, where it makes some sense (the random die difficulty roll mechanic, that is)

Now, about “human characters,” I decided to have a little more variety. This means playing around with the setting. I´m thinking about alien characters. Nothing extreme though, kind of star trek-ish. It will give some differing dice in attributes and sanity points though. The game´s scope is limited and simple enough. No need to save text on this.

And speaking of setting, I´m trying to find that balance between interesting and non-intrusive. This game is definetly based heavily on the setting, and that´s why I want to leave a lot to the player´s imagination and the GM´s choice. Not easy, but it´s nice to leave all the strange names to the players :)

The development is taking form in spanish for the moment, so the next english version will probably be quite polished and playable (hopefully)

This really needs to be a game by the time next GC begins!


Rob: No worries. How went Schizonauts testing?

me: Kinda fantastic.

Endgame is improved but not fixed.

My players had huge, huge buy-in.

Oh, and remember the story from GenCon, about the girl and guy, where the guy didn’t game, and the guy out-RP’ed her playing Jimmy Hoffa when they were demoing DRYH?

She was at my table.

Small freaking world.

Rob: laughs

me: Anyway, yeah, the guy I picked to be the starter (I semi-GMed it, basically facilitating and knowing the rules) was fantastic.

His agent had some nasty backhistory that came out real early on — wife who poisoned herself and may have killed one of the gatekeepers for Palace

And then we switch to his thief

with the memory trigger “I shot her dog.”

Rob: Oh geez

me: And it’s TOTALLY a hilarious/dark Pulp Fiction moment

Rob: That rocks

me: Yeah.

It set the tone and made the game fantastic from there on out

We had a tight schedule, 3.5 hours

Because Rachel (the girl) had to go at 10

But we got character creation, one full round of Flashback (so everyone had only one card, one bleed), then full endgame, then final resolution with EVERYONE doing identity crisis

Rob: Oh man

me: Came out three agents to one… the funny thing is:

The guy who had the agent card but went into identity crisis — my starter — did his Who Am I conflict and won narration

And chose to be thief

It was hot

Because he had this FAT STACK of coins on thief

Rob: Dizzam

me: So everyone else went through crisis and for whatever reason came out agent

And just barely beat his stack

8 to 5 i think

Oh, and with everyone dead

(I said “you can shoot people but they can’t die until Final Resolution”, btw. Worked out reasonably well, but felt a little strained after the bullets started flying early in Endgame)

(So I may need to upgrade to a prohibition on PC-on-PC lethal violence until Final Res)

Rob: nods

me: I think at least one player lost narration on Who Am I

So that was great

And I think one player won both narrator and judge on it, and I used my new rule of “you have to give one of those away if you win both” in this running of it, so had to give up narrator or judge on Who Am I…

… and gave away narrator

And I’m all HELLS YES

Rob: Oh, that’s a nice rule.

me: Yes.

Oh best of all

You give it away to a contributor, never your direct opposition

So we had at least one conflict in the game where this happened

Actor invites visitor. Visitor wins both.  Visitor gives away narrator to a contributor.  Actor has scene decided by two different people that AREN’T HIM.

That’s kind of exactly what I want to see happen on occasion, and it’s part of why the narrator/judge split really excites me.

Regardless of where Schizonauts heads, I feel like that’s a mechanic I want to port the hell out of.

Rob: Indeed

It also proves soemthing I like

That peopel don’t need to tell their own stories allt he time

me: (btw, I’m probably going to post this section of the chat somewhere, since I don’t figure I’m going to find time for a full writeup of AP)

Yep. In fact Schizonauts is founded on the idea that it’s better when they don’t.

Which is why the “you can’t have both” rule.

Rob: Ayup

me: Which on retrospect is so obvious to my design goals that I don’t know why it wasn’t in there to start.

Rob: Like you need more proof of th eutility of actual play? [smile]

me: Oh, I’ve known that the only way Schizo gets to publication is by me running several of these things, minimum.

I just hope it becomes a game that other people can run without having a problem. It’s very rules-dense, hard to explain in text in a way that gets across that it’s actually pretty straightforward on-the-ground.

Hell, I’m coming to realize that this is essentially my shtick

Rob: Yep

me: Stuff that looks a lot more complicated than it actually is (cf DRYH)

Rob: Well, it’s all about “Hey, this thing worked awesomely. Now to actually describe how it happened.” and it’s a lot like trying to teach drawing from a book

me: Yeah.

okay, time to take this over to Headquarters Unicron and post. [nose grin]

Tomorrow I’ll be running a playtest of Schizonauts up at a local apartment con “AdamCon”. A week later, I’ll be running another one at DexCon (on Thursday, I think).

As a part of this, I’ve been putting together a rules summary “sheet” for the game. Yep, it’s official — my game is very rules-y. I could probably pare this thing down, but it’s already looking to be three pages and change — not shocking that a 38 page game with several structured phases might need 3-4 pages to summarize, but all the same I still worry that it’s too rules-y. That said, I don’t know entirely how to achieve the effects I want to achieve without the “strong rules” implementation.

Playtests will have to be what teach me whether this is an unresolvable gut feeling, a gut feeling in error, or something that I need to spend a few years working on to get into a lighter but still successful form.

While I’m fretting, I’m not actually deeply worried — in part because during the development of Schizonauts, I got a chance to at least run one playtest of it which was actually fairly successful. So this new round of playtests is more a test of tweaks than of major rules … though the major rules still need a work-out beyond the first.It’s possible that what I’m struggling with more is the ability to summarize the rules succinctly, rather than the rules themselves.

Gah. :)

Edit: I’ve now spent the better portion of my evening writing the summary.  That’s the problem when you produce your most rules-intense design to date; condensing the sonofabitch is hard.  It ended up the full four pages long, and not in a big font size either.  Doubtless I could have saved half a page by being a little less wordy, but with two playtests in the next week, I needed to make it go on the page however it would go.  I just wish it hadn’t taken as many hours as it did.

The result is here: http://www.evilhat.com/lab/schizonauts-summary-of-play.pdf

Development on my game, A Penny For My Thoughts, continues over on the Master Mines blog. I’ve just posted a new draft. Feel free to give it a look-see and comment.

Go Team Unicron!

The results are in!

June 4, 2007

Game Chef 07 results

Congrats to Fred for continuing a sweep with Schizonauts taking first place this year!

Home Sweet Home tied for 4th with my own Bone White, Blood Red, so Team Unicron really cleaned up. Woot!

Congrats to Fred Hicks on Schizonauts being named Most Theoryful Game! (Whatever that means! It’s still good, I’m sure!)

Hi everyone,

Here’s a link to the first Actual Play report on playtesting for Bone White, Blood Red.

I know I was wordy…sorry! Hope it’s not too dreadfully long to read.

Well, the week has gone by. A lot of activity here at HQUnicron.

Let´s give a general view of the purpose of Silent Archaea, and then onto my specific problem.

I´ve been reading some stuff since uploading SA to Game Chef.
I read lots of design journals, publishing tips and procedures. I also read some great games like Donjon, Puppetland and My Life With Master. I like the way those games work, and the way they are written.

Now, I´m not seriously considering publication for SA. It just way too early to even think about it. It´s my first design, and I plan on treating it like that.
However, I like the design process. I would like to make the best game possible. This is a hobby for me, so I´m not afraid of spending a decent amount of time on the game. (Hobby time, that is)
Besides, if GC games were published all the time there would be too many games and not enough gamers :) And playing is what´s important, not text and art.

That´s the idea. I will work on it as professionally as possible. In fact, I plan on doing quite an amount of art for it, since art is what I´m trying to do with my life.

Now onto other things.

The original problem:
I won´t ask anyone to read a draft or anything. I´ll try and explain everything here.
The characters on the game have four attributes: Specialization, Martial, Sanity and Health. Every one of those is given a type of die (d6-d8-d10-d12)
Now, the Health and Sanity attributes had points attached to them. The higher the die type, the more points the character got.
The problem was the Sanity roll mechanic. When a character used a dose of drug, he gained an advantage (scene changing mechanic, basically)
After that he would roll his Sanity die against a target number (8)
Passing the roll (equal or higher) carried no consequences. Failing it, the character lost a Sanity point.

As you can see this made the Sanity attribute doubly important. The higher die type meant more points, and also a higher chance of passing the roll. This was the problem, for I didn´t want an attribute to be stronger that the others.

First solution was this: make the character roll the highest number on the die to pass the roll. Two seconds later I could not find a sensible reason for this (higher Sanity characters having a harder time passing the roll) so I discarded it.

Second solution was having a different target number for each die type. For example: 4 for a d6, 5 for a d8, 7 for a d12, etc. This meant more text, confusing target numbers with only metagame reasons, and overall quite inelegant mechanic.

Ok, stay with me. Now comes the fun part.
I needed a way to give every character the same chance of passing the roll. I didn´t want to change the points table, since I wanted characters with different amounts of Sanity points.
So I decided that the player would roll his Sanity die against a variable difficulty. Specifically, a “difficulty die” of the same die type. This means the d6 Sanity character would roll a d6 for his attribute against another d6. Equal or higher roll, he passes the test.
This would give everyone the same chance of succeeding, since a d12 Sanity character would roll against a d12, and so on.

I thought this was what I was looking for. But there was no need for a completely different mechanic, no matter how important Sanity rolls were. So I decided to mutate the whole system from a fixed target number, to a variable target number.
Now every attribute would roll against a difficulty (still set by the GM) that would be another die roll.

Now, I set the attributes to be variations of this die types: d6, d8, d10, and d12. A d20 just went over the charts as far as progression.
The thing is I know crap about probabilities and stuff. I´m thinking of a difficulty die table such as this.

Automatic action – no roll
Easy action – d4
Average difficulty action – d6
Hard action – d8
Very difficult – d10
Almost impossible – d12
Impossible – no roll

This means an attribute with a d12 is actually very powerful. But I made the limitations so it was possible to have a d12 on an attribute, but a d6 was necessary.

So, what do you guys think? You think I should keep this train of thought? Is this system viable. Is the table right or is it too difficult to do stuff? There is a mechanic for tokens which can modify rolls too. It is small now. But maybe I can increase it to give the players more tokens, or something like that.

Thanks for any and all comments. Sorry for the lenght.


Threads :: New Cover

May 5, 2007

Very small update!

Here is the graphics file: ThreadsCover3
Or, the layers seperated out as .tiff files: Layers

On Shreyas’ suggestion I have changed the Font for the Threads cover (in addition to spicing up the background a little bit). Is this any better looking?

Also, if you have time, don’t forget to come commen my game duel submssion “Sad, Sweet, Song” (A Noir RPG) over at my personal blog (View From the Fringe).

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I thought I’d try something new, and conduct this as a kind of interview. That cool with you, Jess? I’ve read and annotated your game, and I await your questions eagerly.