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Deathmatch!

September 13, 2011

Here’s a new setting for the Team Event: Deathmatch – A post-apocalyptic-Vegas-reality-TV-show!

The setting booklet can be printed out booklet style and fits on two sheets front and back. The Star Quality cards show off our new means of explaining and visualizing how powers work in the Team Event. The player sheets are “Explosive Collars” that are just too much fun not to share!

We wrote this setting for Tacticon 2011 in Denver. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the requisite number of teams to play (three). But we’re putting together a run of the Team Event in Denver for the fall, so keep watching here for more info!

On the bright side of Tacticon, I had good time catching up with friends in my brief time there and team Enduring Peace came to the event in costume!

I think they are totally post-apocalyptic-Vegas-reality-TV-show! Their fearless leader Wendy actually chose that setting for us so we multiple reasons to praise team Enduring Peace.

Off and Running!

August 3, 2011

Sorry the posting has been a bit scarce here lately. But rest assured that it’s not from a lack of activity for the Team Event! This past Saturday we ran our first competition and had a great time doing it. But don’t take my word for it, watch us have fun instead:

Once I get back from Gen Con (my first time!) I’ll get back to a regular posting schedule. We’ve got a lot of changes to make to the game text from the two playtests and more competitions on the horizon to prepare for.

And congrats to team Ludus Magnus for winning the very first Team Event!

Playtest 1: The Power of Brains!

July 5, 2011

[This post contains no zombies, sorry.] On Saturday we playtested the Team Event for the first time. This was a small-scale experiment, like in Mythbusters and with equally explosive results! There were five of us – RP, Adam, John, my wife, and me – and each of us played a whole team rather than one character. That was very useful to the goal of actually doing a playtest for a game that is supposed to have a minimum of 12 players, but it did cause some complications and some of the aspects of the game just can’t be tested that way. The most important one was scarcity of the white tokens – the currency of the game system. Without having to share the pool of tokens with two or three other players, it was a bit too easy to solve some problems by throwing money at them.

But what I think this scale test did well was demonstrate the feel of the game. While the game is fun to play, there is a feeling that there are many separate stories going on and an uncertainty as to whether or not they are connected. The quick question/response mechanics at the end help with that, but we’re going to copy those mechanics forward so that the entire group feels part of the same story throughout. So at each half-hour break in the action when the teams total up and post their assets, the refs will ask a question of one of the teams (or maybe two if there are a lot of teams). The answers to these questions will give a bit of insight into what’s going on with that team at that moment and hopefully that will serve to keep everyone connected to the story.

We’re also adding some direct teaching of the rules through demonstrations. One of these additions is to create relationships between team captains in front of the groups as whole. This will also serve to better introduce the teams and what they stand for – again another opportunity to connect the whole group to the fiction they’re creating together.

I went in to the playtest expecting to find a few things, but mostly wanting to verify the economy doesn’t crater in some unanticipated way (it doesn’t). But I underestimated the power of brains – specifically the brains of the three people that weren’t the co-authors. Thanks to them we’re going to have a much stronger game when we first do a full run. Of course, that means a bit of a rewrite – but I’m actually looking forward to that.

Team Building and Rivalries

July 1, 2011

So I’ve been confronting the question lately of how to build teams and how to form rivalries. Well the rivalries won’t happen without teams, but what kind of incentive is there to get going in this community of competitive team roleplaying if you don’t have someone you want to compete against? That’s what a good rival is; someone you want to beat because you like them and know their good (even if you don’t admit to either).

I didn’t have to do this part 10 years ago. The RPGA had a system of gaming clubs and there were frequent competitive events for them to participate in. I was just picking up the ball that RPGA had dropped in 2002. The old event deteriorated because it was a lot of work for little payoff on the part of the people running it and because – in 2011 – you can’t get a critical mass of traditional gamers to play the same version of D&D let alone anything else like Savage Worlds or FATE. It wasn’t easy to get the critical mass of players for D&D 3.x before 4E, but it was possible and that made the team event in the old style possible. The last several years of trying to run the event in the wake of competing D&D versions is what ultimately killed it. That’s one of the key factors to me in making my own system – if I’m going to fight to get 20 to 40 people to play the same game system I need to make it something I love and believe in.

But most of those old RPGA “clubs” were really just gaming groups that took on the club identity to play these games. I’m reaching out to all the gaming group leaders I know to try and talk them into putting together a team for our first run; I’ve had some very positive and encouraging responses. I know there are a lot more roleplaying groups out there that I don’t know how to reach. This is the way it’s always been; a roleplaying group forms, gets comfortable playing together, and no longer needs to maintain contact with the larger, local gaming community. So it will take time and word of mouth to reach these “silent” groups.

By the way, here’s what a winning team looks like (from the RP-Artisans.org website). These folks game together regularly and they’ve competed in the old style of the team event for the last 10 years:

Waterdeep Boys Club win the 2011 Colorado Team Roleplaying Championship!

Work Log w/e 26 June

June 26, 2011

Had a busy work week and was out of town for most of it. Main accomplishments are sending emails to schedule a couple of playtests – one small and one large. Sent a rather lengthy email that I’m going to break into a couple of blog posts and make even longer. Also, I’ve been working on a new podcast called “New Style” that is partially about building the community for game designers.

Getting Stabby

June 20, 2011

A friend gave me some interesting feedback yesterday. He said that in every game he plays he wants a mechanic to just try and kill someone. He feels that this is missing from the Team Event. This was actually quite perplexing to me and took a while to understand. He might just want to throw down…but this primarily a strategic, political game! And most importantly, everyone you’re going to want to kill is a player from another team. We just can’t have players eliminated from the game – that’s guaranteed not to be fun for that player. But he still wants a straight up attack option. So where does that leave me?

Well, I could just say “no”. He’s a good friend; he’d understand and it wouldn’t be a big deal. But maybe he’s not the only one with this perspective. So maybe the problem is real? Well there’s lots of resource trading games that aren’t RPGs where you never get to attack someone directly – it’s just not part of the rules. And many of these games are very popular and successful. But these aren’t usually set in medieval kingdoms (the example setting for the Team Event), so maybe it’s just a genre problem? No, he still wants to kick some ass in other settings. So maybe it’s just an RPG expectation? “If I have a character that character must get stabby.” How many times did your 1st-level AD&D wizard run out of spells and have to pull out the dagger to fight for his life? I can think of lots of RPGs now that you might never get into a fight, but I can’t think of any others where there’s no option for a direct attack. Even when that option is crazy-dangerous, like in Burning Empire’s “I Corner Him and Stab Him in the Face” mechanic, it’s still there.

But there is an option in the Team Event – narration. You can’t use it to do lasting damage to a fellow player character, but you can kill his guards, stab his mother, and kick his dog if that’s what you want. Whoever you’re up against might counter-narrate your attack failing or might walk away from the transaction if the stabbiness was part of your counter-narration, but maybe that’s the outcome you want? Or maybe they think it’s cool and ramp it up a notch? You’re creating a big story here and maybe lots of people need to get hurt in order to make the omelet. And maybe I’m looking at this wrong. Maybe the Team Event does have straight up attacks in the one-on-one abilities – you get to go right at one other team and those are focused on your character’s personal strengths. Perhaps all it will take is pointing this out clearly in the game text or modifying the example of the one-on-one ability use to be more stabby and the problem will be solved.

But will narrating your badassery be enough? I think so, but I won’t really know until we run the event. In fact, I’m not yet certain this is an actual problem that will ever come up in play. But now, if it does, I’ll have a quick answer. Lots of new style RPGs have limited or different roles for the characters that don’t encompass the full range of all possible actions – at least not from a mechanics perspective. Sometimes those other things you might want to do just aren’t relevant to the story or experience the game is trying to create. Sometimes it’s about balancing the options in the absence of a GM. For the team event it’s a bit of both.

So what do I think I learned here? Well, any feedback is valuable even when you don’t agree with it and every piece of feedback can lead to some kind of improvement in the game even if it isn’t what the person who offered the feedback expected or intended. Agreement isn’t nearly as valuable as clarity and only you know your game well enough to make that call.

Work Log w/e 19 Jun 11

June 19, 2011

This week was a mess in a lot of ways. I had to give up my work laptop on Monday and didn’t get it back until Friday. I had all my important files on a thumb drive and everything else on a backup drive, but my wife’s Netbook is too small and the other computer upstairs – the ones the kids have to use – is too slow (I’m replacing it ASAP). Also, my work schedule was rather much this week and I wasn’t feeling too hot during the early part of the week. [When I make excuses, I really go all out.] So I was off the air most of the time, which is not where I wanted to be going into the first run of the Team Event. As a result, I didn’t see the short version of the rules RP had crafted until a couple of days after he sent them.

Then I had to cancel the first run of the Team Event. I think I’ve honed my instincts for game days and attendance over the years and I could feel that this wasn’t going to come together. Getting ready and getting pumped and then not having the game go off would’ve take a lot of wind out of my sails. I need that wind! And while a few folks were planning to come and were perhaps a bit disappointed by the cancellation, I think it’s better to disappoint them in advance when they can find another use for their valuable gaming time than to risk disappointing them at the event when it’s likely too late. The bright side is that I’ve actually learned about a few people that were interested and couldn’t attend that date. Hopefully the prospects are good for rescheduling.

So most of the week was spent struggling to get online to get the word out about the cancellation. I also sent the game text to a friend that wants to take a look at it and yesterday I got some good feedback from a another friend which I’ll be talking about that in the next post.

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