24 April, 2018

#AprilTTRPGMaker 23: People who've helped you

Still waiting on that elusive help...


No, actually, there have been a few people around the design scene who've been useful contacts and friends. It's just that none of them have led to regular work in the industry, often providing plans that never eventuated, one-off commissions, or occasion feedback.

One of the driving forces in the local gaming scene, who has offered me more work through his game Relics... Steve Dee

A dynamo of energy in the Blue Mountains, who set up his own twice-annual convention and has always been supportive... Matt Horam

An owner of a comic shop in Melbourne who has offered to be the first Brick-&-mortar store to sell my gaming products (I really need to get back to him about that)... Jim Vinton

An assortment of game design locals who I've met and have discussed game related things with on several occasions... Jez Gordon, Benjamin Davis, Nathan Roberts, Keiran Sparksman, Nathan Russell, Andrew Smith

One of the driving forces behind the free gaming website 1km1kt, and who was always supportive as I started developing my own games publicly... Rob Lang

The Norwegians who were willing to stop at my house for Kangaroo steak and to share a game night... Matthijs Holter, Ole-Peder Giaever, (and I'm sorry but I can't remember our third visitor that night)

The people around the world who I've never met, but who I interact with regularly here on G+... (in no particular order)... Emmett O'Brian, Tore Neilsen, Fern Kali, Ian Borchardt, Sandy J-T, Tony Demetriou, Gremlin Legions (Michael Wight), Eva Schiffer, Matt Widmann, Craig Vial, Gennifer Bone, Justin Halliday, Brie Sheldon, Dan Maruschak, Jaye Foster, Josh T Jordan, Keith J Davies, Kyrinn S. Eis, Kira Magrann... I'm sure there are many more I've forgotten to add at this point.


All in all, the community has been great. But there feel like so many of us struggling together to make sense of the whole thing, occasionally one or two of us might rise out of obscurity for a while, but there are so many things going on that we all seem to get drowned out in the noise.

#AprilTTRPGMaker 22: How do you document ideas?

Too much uni work, falling behind.

Notebooks, scraps of paper, memo files on tablets and laptops.


When the muse strikes, I have to get the ideas out of my head while I can.

Often the notes sit and fester for a while before they get integrated into a project, at which point a word document is used to compile ideas into a semi-logical state.

It might be easy to say that for every 100 scribblings on paper and in memo files, I get 10 semi-logical games or settings, and a single final product. But it's more like 50 crude ideas getting mixed and matched into 20 half complete ideas, which then become 4-5 more specific ideas, of which 1 might get published... I documented my process back on day 9. 

22 April, 2018

A Game of Variable Pocketmods

Here's my current thoughts on Apocalypse Diaries.

Pocketmod 1... the basic rules.
Pocketmod 2... the specific variations to the rules for the character you've chosen (including character sheet on the back page)
Pocketmod 3... the specific apocalypse for this character's story.

To play the game, a player will need:

  1. three pocketmods
  2. a diary (with plenty of space to write in... probably a page per day)
  3. a pen
  4. a standard deck of cards

(I envision players purchasing diaries that embody the lives of the character's before the apocalypse hits... girl character's being written in the cutest diaries that can be found, jocks writing their entries into diaries depicting their favourite sporting teams, business people writing into formal planners, etc.)

Basic play procedure follows the Texas Hold 'Am procedure.

Before you write anything, draw three cards. The highest of the three cards will describe either the person involved in the incident you are describing, or the location where it occurs; the lowest will give a thematic prompt, for the diary entry.

Each day you should write a minimum of 3 sentences. Included in these sentences must be a person you either observed or interacted with, the place where this occurred, at least something alluding to the events around this incident. You may choose to include more than one person in the incident, but only one person will be the focus of the activities described. You may choose to write about two or more events during the day if you feel it appropriate, but try to write at least two sentences to set up each incident.

After writing the first two sentences describing the incident setup, underline the focal person of the incident and the location where the incident occurred. Draw a fourth card for the day to see how this event is twisted.

A fifth card determines the potential risks and rewards inherent in the incident.


The player draws 1 to 4 cards based on what their character can bring to bear in the situation, the opposition draws 1 to 4 cards based on what difficulties are faced by the character. The best hand from the cards available to the player, or the opposition, determines the outcome.

I suspect this might end up being a bit too complicated, but we'll just have to try it in a series of playtests.

21 April, 2018

#AprilTTRPGMaker 21: How many playtests?

The answer to this is always "one more"... but if I waited until enough playtests were completed, I'd never get things done. Perfect is the enemy of good.


I usually try to test my games at least three times. Write, initial private testing (either running through the mechanisms myself, or spitballing with one or two others), then rewrite or refine. Second test is usually done in a more formal game set up, among friends or perhaps online. With the feedback from that wider community, a second revision is done. If I had the resources, here's where I'd add in more tests and refinements. Instead the final test is usually done at a convention, with random strangers playing the game... I'd love to get blind playtesting happening with strangers both running and playing things, but if anyone has a reliable way to get that happening I really want to hear it.

Usually, by this stage, I either put the game aside, letting it sit and mature for a while, or start working on layout.


20 April, 2018

#AprilTTRPGMaker 20: Favourite design tools

Lots of people seem to be saying "pencil and paper", "pencil and notebook", or "word processor", as a response to this question. While it may be a valid response, or even a good answer to a question about the most commonly used design tool, I don't think I could really call any of these my "favourite".

I think my favourite design tool is the ad-lib. When I say this, I mean modifying a situation on the fly, getting players to do something on the edge of their comfort zone and using rulings that twist the existing rules to fit a situation they haven't specifically been designed to handle. The process of archiving that situation and  modifying the rules to accomodate things in future comes later... it's the moment of critical thought, reaction, and design by instinct that is my favorite moment, and it's  subconscious design tools from studying numerous games and just grokking the situation with modifications that just feel right, where my favourite design occurs. 

#AprilTTRPGMaker 19: Game that's most essential to your design

No one game is essential to my design. I've voiced my disdain for hacks time and again, and I certainly don't make my game design life focused on redesigning the one game over and over. Anything I make might be a blend of components from three or four games, with an idea or two of my own thrown in for good measure.

Yet, despite this, I do admit that there are a few games that contribute their components more often than not.


Mage: the Ascension
Completely divorced from the clunky core mechanisms of the Storyteller system, the magic system of Mage is brilliant, but then again the game is called Mage, so it would want to be. Actually, there are a few great game ideas that set the tone for the various games in the World of Darkness once you strip them away from the core system. Those are the elements that give me inspiration.


Warhammer Fantasy Role-playing
The career system in WFRP has been a strong influence in many of my designs. The low magic grim fantasy has also been a strong aesthetic when I've produced non-modern settings.


Cyberpunk2020
The lifepath system in CP2020 has been a strong design inspiration in much of my work.

For most of the rest of my design practice, I believe it's important to experience and understand as many different designs as possible, see what they're trying to do, see what they actually manage to do, where they work, where they fail, where unexpected serendipity brings alternative effects to the table.


19 April, 2018

#AprilTTRPGMaker 18: Current Inspirations

So many...in no particular order.

Mad Max
Judge Dredd
The assorted folklore of various local Indigenous groups
The ferrets we share our house with (Red Sonja, Agent Brodie, Agent Ellie Bartowski, Machete, Monroe, Rosalie, Lucifer, Mazikeen, and Chloe)
The other animals in our house (Okami, Inari, Rhubarb, and Peking)
My wife, Leah.
The animations of Ralph Bakshi
Getting magic "right" by way of John Constantine, Newt Scamander, Dr. Stephen Strange, Aleister Crowley, Taoist alchemy, and assorted indigenous folklore.


...that'll do for now.