Category: Making

Articles in this category are about tools and ideas about making things, and my belief that you can make things.

Thinking In Two Directions

Some notes about writing and notebooking in the
body of a book as it pertains to fluid thinking
once you get into the habit of thinking of ‘who
told me that,’ you’ll start verifying ideas, of ‘to
me, this makes sense,’ becoming less common.
The problem with much of us these days, with the
world, is a feeling of emotional certainty about what
is not necessarily true or even scrutinised. I’m
gunna admit my own habit of accepting ideas that
roll with how I already think, ideas that tell
me, ‘you are doing okay’ and to be honest
I don’t think that’s necessarily an evil. You
ain’t going to stop your brain doing it, so
the next best thing is to refine your responses to the
sharpest point possible to look at reflection as a
tool for critical self-engagement to make it
in an otherwise unexamind and uncritical world.
The next thing to do is examine the first word on each
shed.


this was originally written at MOAB, hand on paper

Project: Strange Days

The Pitch: It’s an asymmetrical multiplayer game where one player is an evil entity organising a plan while the other players are low-tech hackers trying to avert the end of the world.

Details

This is one of the more elaborate board-card games, where you get a fairly large number of cards in a number of sets:

  • Player cards, indicating what the players can do
  • Player action cards, indicating a loadout of skills each individual player can have
  • Scar cards, which are status effects that can be imposed on the players
  • The threat deck, which is full of cards that build out and form the encounter players deal with
  • Resource cards, indicating things you earn for success
  • The threat identity cards, which when revealed give the threat some sort of drawback or weakness

In this game, there are a handful of deck sets; the monster has a deck of cards they get to rearrange every turn to construct a type of challenge they want people to fight through. There’s a deck of cards, known as Scar cards that represent the way players are affected by the experiences of being a hunter of this terrible force.

The game has a very VHS Fuzz Aesthetic:

This is an example of a Threat card face, showing a card that gives you 2 cultists and 1 reinforcement. Players need to bust through reinforcements, while cultists are swarming them.

This is an identity set showing what the player action cards are like.

Needs

Interest! Right now while I like Strange Days, it’s an idea that’s overlapping elements of horror and cyberpunk, it’s also a game that needs tokens and cards, which means it’s going to live, like Skulk on Gamecrafter – a format I haven’t yet tested and proven as a possible avenue for selling games. Basically, this game is interesting to work on but I’d need to know people cared a lot more than I know they do.

Also, I cannot currently afford to actively comission this game project! I do not know if my state of money will change or how your relationship to the potential payment would work out! Do you think you have the skills for this? Are you interested in the idea? Feel free to contact me, either via the Twitter DMs or by emailing me!

Project: Bunny Field!

The Pitch: It’s a build-out game like our game C-QNS, but instead of abstract numbers and shapes, you’re building a meadow of lovely flowers.

Details

Each player is drawing cards off a single deck of cards to add to their own hand of cards. Then, each turn you can place a card in the grid around the deck that represent the growing spread of flowers in the field. Each card sets rules about what cards can be placed around it – flowers grow in patches that decrease and increase in density.

You’ll also have cards in the mix that let you flip cards face down, or layer cards atop others, with cards like bees (that help flip cards face up) or butterflies (that improve the value of cards they’re atop) or bunnies (that flip cards face down).

Cards would be mostly, representing a simple standard back of a grassy meadow, with the other face showing flowers in a number, with some mechanical signifiers. Cards would not explain what they do on them, so as to make the art very prominent.

The game would not need to be particularly large, and probably only about 52-70 cards, with a single deck that grows outwards. Players might start with a card that indicates the type of flower they want to play, or their last card in hand might indicate the flower type they score off.

Needs

Right now I have no art to start with with this idea. This project needs a fairly holistic artistic vision of showing a location and things in that location; it needs images of flowers, of bees, of butterflies, and of a nice, pastoral background as well.

Also, I cannot currently afford to actively comission this game project! I do not know if my state of money will change or how your relationship to the potential payment would work out! Do you think you have the skills for this? Are you interested in the idea? Feel free to contact me, either via the Twitter DMs or by emailing me!

Amerimanga Covers II

Project: Asylum Jam 2017 Game!

The Pitch: It’s a drafting game where you’re all trapped in nightmares rent by guilt, and only one of you can escape into wakefulness. Or maybe you’r assembling a demonic rune so you can consume the souls of the other players. Or maybe you’re making deals in a demonic market. Or maybe you’re escaping a slasher movie villain.

Details

The game is played in an open rochester draft from a grid of 3×3 cards. Players each on their turn get to draw a card from each stack.

By default these cards have a face that represents some sort of virtue or ability you have for yourself. The cards have a visual element on them to make them easily sorted from one another, and each card has room for a basic symbol that sets them apart from their others, allowing them to collect into sets or protect one another. These cards are cards that make up the bulk of what you want to do, and they are also your personal resolution and protection as the trauma of the night shakes each player.

At the start of the game these stacks are seeded so that each stack features a single marked red gem card. These gem cards represent the game ending: Each time such a card is revealed, you take it off the stack immediately, and secretly flip it over, shuffle it into one of the other stacks, and then reveal the card beneath it.

Face-up ruby cards (and let’s face it this asset will change) when revealed by taking a new card inflict a penalty on the player who takes them, and when a certain number of these cards are revealed, doom has grown too great, and the players are suffocated in the darkness. Only one player has a chance to escape this – and it depends on what they’ve drafted up to that point.

So play is about building a defensive bulwark, a way to protect yourself, and trying to lay landmines for your opponents.

Needs

Well if this idea only goes up until the end of Sunday Night (the 48th hour of the time I assigned to work on this), we’ll have to see how close we get to it. I’m still not sold on the theme either: I want this game to be a one-deck wonder and I don’t want to play with horror themes, but if it’s about escaping/surviving a slasher movie monster, isn’t that preying on fears of mental health as well? Is any horror trope borne out of mental health concerns when they come from someone who’s the survivor of mental and emotional abuse? Can I write a horror that is not tainted by the horror in my own mind?

There’s also some choices for aesthetics. We’ll have to see.

Anyway, if you want to play this game, or have ideas for aesthetics or ways to add to this game, let me know! Feel free to contact me, either via the Twitter DMs or by emailing me!

Bad Balance: Why Balance?

Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 was absolute nonsense balance-wise, but it was remarkable because it was imbalanced in a whole variety of different ways that are good object lessons for designers to take on board when making your own RPG content.  So, rather than one huge master-post explaining it, here’s one example:

Why Balance?

Inevitably, in this kind of conversation, someone will sit back, stroke their chin and say Yes Well, But Why Do We Need Balance Anyway? and then deliver a smug, eye-raised look as if they’ve just next-levelled the entire conversation. And sure, they’re kind of right – you don’t need things to be fair. You don’t. Heck, you don’t even need a rules system, man.

Setting aside the obvious Let’s Take It Too Far And Show The Point Is Ridiculous, the question of balancing 3.5 D&D seems to always bring up someone who, weirdly, echoes the arguments of 2ed D&D before them. It usually comes down to it’s a cooperative game and there aren’t any winners or losers and therefore, balance is a phantom that need not be pursued, as if somehow, the game’s function is inhibited by balance, and that balanced things impose themselves between fun and the players.

Problem is, someone has to run the game.

Balanced characters aren’t balanced against one another to meet some arbitary philosophical goal. They’re balanced against one another so the person running the game has a reasonable, handleable piece of information about things they can present to the party. Big deal, the response comes: the DM can just tailor-make the experience for the party, every time. All they need to do is know what those characters can do, how good they are at it, how resistant they are, any rare abilities they might not use often, and how well they hit things, what they attack.

Which is to say: You don’t need balance. You don’t! Knock yourself out. You do you.

But there’s a virtue to having characters with roughly comparable ranges of power and utility, because it means that the people running the game aren’t faced with an enormous different task of challenge construction. That means that when someone wants to run a D&D game, they’re not presented with a cliff face of learning. It means that there are going to be fewer situations where the players try a thing they’re meant to succeed at and fail because it so happens that the enemy’s abilities fall into a venn diagram of specialised, obtuse weaknesses.

If you’re playing D&D 3.5, a game primarily designed around tactical movement and combat, and you think it doesn’t matter that it has a decent tactical movement and combat system that is reliably testable, provable, and functional, then maybe you want to play a different game? There are a lot of great games out there!

That’s the next lesson: Balance can be valuable for games, even cooperative ones, because it allows the person or people making the challenge to construct meaningful challenges.

Term: Drafting

A draft refers to when players make exclusionary choices from a common pool; you’ll see this sort of thing in professional sports to determine where players wind up. In card games, however, a draft usually refers to a mechanism where players each are given a handful of cards, choose one card, and remove it from the hand, then pass their hand on to the next player.

Utility

Draft based on cards can put complexity on the cards themselves, rather than in the fundamental structure of the game; the game has a really simple rule of Take A Card, Pass Everything Else Along. That means players can focus on just the cards in their hand, that they can select from, and not need to worry about what else is going on at the table (though they might).

Draft is also simultaneous: Players will all be taking their turn at the same time, meaning that even if one player is markedly slower than the others, players won’t be waiting the entirety of their decision making process, since they have to do some of their own decision making process.

Limitations

Draft is a super duper complicated way to design your game. In the case of a bigger game where draft is used as a component, like Magic: the Gathering there are thousands of words written every month or so about ways to do it well, strategies for repeating the same game, things you can do to handle the variance and things you can do to capitalise on it.

Players get to see a bunch of the cards in front of them; they get to know what they’re passing, and that can mean that players seeking an edge may feel obligated to remember everything going around the table. You can find this a bit paralysing.

You can make drafts open, where everyone makes it clear what they’re taking each turn, which gives players even more information, and may be even more paralysing. If you do this it’s often best to have a common pool that everyone takes one thing from at a time. I’m less fan of this but it can be a good way to make players hold grudges against one another.

Examples

Some drafting games include Magic: The Gathering’s limited format (known as draft, helpfully), 7 Wonders, and Inis.

 

Project: Wrestling VHS Game

The Pitch: It’s a roll-and-write VHS game where you’re trying to get last-minute preparation ready for a big wrestling match. While you’re doing this, though, there’s a prima donna wrestler favoured by the company who randomly interrupts you to make your life difficult!

Details

The genre for this game, VHS Board Games is something you might recognise as modelled on Nightmare, the Video Board Game.  To play these, you sat down and played a movie and tried to play a board game as you did it. The video would interrupt the play with occasional tasks that made your life harder, slowed you down or wasted everyone’s time, but could also award you bonuses.

In this game, the video provides interjections not from a gatekeeper or anything, but from an INCREDIBLY well-financed prima donna wrestler who, for this event at least, has WAY TOO MUCH CLOUT. They can BOX YOU INCONTRACTUALLY or THROW YOU OUT OF A BOOKING MEETING or want you to PRACTICE A PROMO WITH THEM and you HAVE TO DO WHAT THEY SAY!

We have a means to get this video to people digitally; we can just put the videos on Youtube. We have means to get them made, casually – any webcam fan who wants to cut a bunch of wrestle promos can do it with an even vaguely appropriate background. We can make it then, so the whole game distributes online, and you can just change the game by using a different video to set a different tone. Each wrestler can introduce their own mechanics – dice-rolling mechanics, inflicting penalties on people,  making fast choices and so on. We can even make the components print-and-play!

 

Needs

We’re now looking for people who can be The Prima Donna, or who are interested in recording 10ish (??) minutes of video of themselves as a wrestler mugging for the camera, cutting the silliest promos and setting ridiculous, arbitrary rules while everyone else is trying to finish a roll-and-write game. We have an actual example of a roll-and-write sheet for the players who want an idea of how the game’ll work!So, if you want to be a goofy wrestlersperson…? Maybe get in contact? At the moment this project makes Zero Dollars and probably only ever will… but if you’ve ever wanted an excuse to cut wrestling promos and roleplay being a total butthead to randoms, well… it’s an opportunity!

Also, I cannot currently afford to actively comission this game project! I do not know if my state of money will change or how your relationship to the potential payment would work out! Do you think you have the skills for this? Are you interested in the idea? Feel free to contact me, either via the Twitter DMs or by emailing me!

Player Currency

Players play for something. There is an emotional reaction they are pursuing. Some players want to play with the cool toys and interactions of a game. Some want to play with the high-wire moments of excitement as they take a gamble and go for it. Some want to hear a story, some want to tell a story. Some players love that moment where they push a button and things all go wrong.

This is the concept of player currency – a way that a game can generate a way to buy player attention, a way to invest them. Many games can generate different varieties of currency all at once. Look into this, look at why people play, and listen to the things people use to describe the experiences they enjoy.

Everyone plays for a reason.

Project: Spook Street!

The Pitch: It’s a tiny deck-builder game about playing cute monster girls trying to decide if they want to spook houses or be cute at them.

Details

Every player starts with a small deck of cards, 4-5 large, which show your monster girl character making a variety of faces in her costume. There’s a grid of cards representing a neighbourhood, showing a door, and flipped over they show a number of candy cards to be distributed amongst the trick-or-treaters.

There’s a _plan file available for this, that you can read here.

The aim for this game is around 70 cards and a tuck box. Also, if it was being produced with a fast artist in the united states, it might be available to launch on Halloween (pfft, good luck for that). If not for this Halloween, maybe a future Halloween?

 

Needs

While I have a vision in mind for this game, with icons of a small group of monster girls pulling various cute or silly faces, I don’t have any art assets, and the variety involved would require a fairly coherent artist.While it’s one thing to want a bunch of face icons of cute girls pulling faces and having happy fun, it’s a lot of art assets, and not as simple as commissioning art of a character that can be reused.

Also, I cannot currently afford to actively commission this game project! I do not know if my state of money will change or how your relationship to the potential payment would work out! Do you think you have the skills for this? Are you interested in the idea? Feel free to contact me, either via the Twitter DMs or by emailing me!