Designing Again

Posted on : 22-02-2008 | By : Brian | In : Design Diaries, Gamecrafting, Links, Self-Promotion, Wild Blue

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I don’t believe I’ve shared this yet, but I’ve sort of been on an unofficial hiatus from game design. As in, I’ve just been too lazy to do it. At any rate, I’ve been bitten by the bug again, so I’m going back to designing Wild Blue. I’ve had some ideas regarding mechanics recently, ideas that have really excited me, and I’m starting to put pen to paper again, in a mostly digital, metaphorical sense. These ideas incorporate some elements of Saga, but many of the ideas are wholly new (though I’ll admit to some influence from other RPGs, most notably Dogs in the Vineyard. At any rate, I’ve decided that, as I design Wild Blue, I’m going to document the process, if only to give myself an outlet for some of the things going through my head. This will be the first of my design diaries.

This first diary will focus on what is effectively my mission statement for the mechanics that will provide the foundation for Wild Blue. I have a number of goals in mind, and I’m going to outline them here.

1. The mechanics will be easy to learn and use. A lesson I learned with Saga was not to overcomplicate things. In one particular playtest, one of my testers was a novice gamer; he had never played a role-playing game before, and had limited experience with board games, too. Throughout the entire four-hour playtest, I had to repeatedly explain what he should do, how many dice he should roll, and why. I don’t in any way consider this to be a failing on the part of the tester; far from it, it was clearly a failing on the part of myself and the system I designed. Despite my broad-strokes approach in Saga, I had made the basic mechanics a little too complicated, and while experienced role-players and board gamers seemed able to grasp them with relative ease, a novice gamer had considerable difficulty. This is a problem I aim to avoid in Wild Blue.

2. The mechanics will allow for narrative control for the players. This is a big one. Saga had leanings in this direction, but didn’t go quite far enough. In Wild Blue, successfully resolving an action means that you get to narrate its resolution. This means that you get to decide how you succeed, and describe it. On the flip side, it also means that you can choose to fail, and if you do so, there will be some form of compensation, and not just the fact that you can choose how you fail; I mean mechanical compensation, an incentive of some sort.

3. The mechanics will allow for a wide array of character options. Saga, I think, succeeded fairly well in this regard. The skills were broad enough that you could create specialties that described your character fairly well, and traits allowed you to do this even more so. But I want to go a little bit further with this idea. There will be certain aspects of your character that are chosen from pre-defined lists, that do pre-defined things. However, the most important aspects of your character will be wholly player-created, and will be descriptive of your character. I also want drives to be a more central, more important aspect of your character.

4. The setting will inform the mechanics. Saga was deliberately generic. While I want Wild Blue’s system to have some aspect of wide applicability (I’d still like the system to be open-source), I want to have mechanics that reinforce, and are reinforced by, the setting. I don’t want to create a generic system and try to shoe-horn my setting into it, I want to create a system and a setting that are intertwined and designed with each other in mind. If the system can be used for other settings regardless, that’s just a bonus.

5. The mechanics will make it easy to be the GM. I tried to do this with Saga, and to some extent I think I succeeded, but I didn’t define things well enough for the GM. During my playtests, it was easy for me to adapt on the fly to what the players did, and to improvise challenges for them quickly and seamlessly. However, I always felt that I was fudging things to some extent. There weren’t any well-defined difficulty scales, so it was never clear how hard a given challenge should be. I want to change that in Wild Blue, and define things better so that there’s less guess-work involved in being the GM.

Viking culture in RPGs

Posted on : 25-10-2007 | By : Brian | In : Gamecrafting, Links, Musings, Wild Blue

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My buddy Dean just posted this really interesting explanation of how Viking culture can be applied to the ‘points of light’ model that I discussed earlier. Some of this I’m not sure I can reconcile with what I have in place right now (such as it is), but other things intrigue me.

The idea of “Sea Kings” (or, in Wild Blue’s case, “Sky Kings”) is a good one. I like the idea that, while the Demesne is the major power, there may be a number of nomadic pirate lords, or even warlords in control of entire city-states, outside the purview of either the Demesne or the Folk. This could even feed into the concept of one people selling high-quality weapons to another, only to have them used against them somewhere else. Perhaps some of the border towns manufacture high-end swords or guns, sell them to a neighboring city-state in order to appease their warlord, and said warlord sends out pirate ships to raid the Demesne’s merchant vessels. Along these same lines, Dean inquired about the relationship between the Demesne and the Folk, and whether or not it would be conducive to trade in border areas. The answer is, probably not. The issue isn’t necessarily one of animosity (though there’s no shortage of that), but of the fundamental differences between the two peoples. The people of the Demesne are human. The Folk are very much not. Many of them are ageless, a number of them have vast amounts of power at their disposal, and they are almost universally inscrutable and unknowable by human beings. They are the Other, in every aspect of the term. Some trade might be possible on an individual basis, but such trade would likely make no sense to humans, with the Folk offering bits of worthless junk (toadstools, bits of string) for valuable tools, or vice versa.

Points of Light

Posted on : 22-10-2007 | By : Brian | In : 4th Edition, Gamecrafting, Wild Blue

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Recently I read an article in the electronic version of Dungeon Magazine that talked about a new philosophy present in 4th Edition: Points of Light. This is not a mechanical idea, but an idea that affects story and theme. It goes like this: the world is a dark place. Civilization is comprised of tiny settlements and the occasional large city, mostly isolated from each other and separated by vast expanses of wilderness. They are, effectively, points of light in a sea of darkness. This philosophy is present, they say, to provide more opportunities for adventure, and to make creating your own setting, one point at a time, easier.

It’s an idea that speaks to me, largely because I’m using a similar philosophy in Wild Blue. The Demasne is a new territory, and most of it is unsettled. The capital, Bastion, is a sprawling metropolis, a point of light that burns particularly brightly. There are a few other smallish cities, as well, but most settlements are villages, towns, hamlets, isolated from all but their closest neighbors. The presence of the Folk, a mysterious and frightening race of beings, enhances the feeling of isolation, because a trip through the wilderness is that much more dangerous. The only reasonably safe ways to get from place to place are with a merchant caravan (strength in numbers) or on a skyship (fast, and high above most of the danger).

A quick update

Posted on : 05-10-2007 | By : Brian | In : News, Self-Promotion, Wild Blue

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Wow, it has been a long time since I’ve posted, hasn’t it. Alright, a quick update as far as thing that you can look forward to seeing on my site in the near future.

1. HeroCard Orc Wars: TableStar sent me the Ranger and Sorceress expansion packs a little while back so I could more thoroughly review the multiplayer aspects of the game. I’m going to do this, but I just moved to a new area about a month ago, and I don’t know very many gamers in the area. I’m going to try to get something going in the next few weeks, and if I can, this will be on the menu. Suffice it to say, the artwork is just as good on these cards as in the core game, and I’m excited to try it out.

2. HeroCard Nightmare: TableStar also sent me this game for review. This will happen, with the same provisos as above: time, location, et cetera. The mechanics in this one look interesting, and it’ll be neat to see how the card battle system interacts with the deduction mechanic at the core of the game.

3. Three-Dragon Ante: I just picked this up a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve played a couple of two-player games with my wife and really enjoyed them (though I lost both times). I’m anxious to get a larger game going, as it supports up to six players.

4. Wild Blue: Things are still progressing here. I have some mechanics ideas that I really want to fiddle around with before I put too much of the setting on paper, but I’m still pretty excited about this project, and I fully intend for it to see the light of day. I may ask if people want to do some playtesting sometime down the road, but that’s a bit premature at the moment.

Working on something new

Posted on : 01-08-2007 | By : Brian | In : Gamecrafting, Saga, Wild Blue

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I’ve been working on something new lately. I don’t want to say too much about it, but I’ll tell you a few things, if you’re interested. First, it’s based on Saga, in a loose sense. Some of the mechanical ideas are similar, and many of the goals are the same, but I’m going about it in a different way. For one thing, I’m using playing cards instead of dice. I’m trying to simplify and streamline wherever I can, too. Also, I’m designing it with a setting in mind (Wild Blue), so it’s not really a generic system like Saga is intended to be.

One thing that this has shown me is that the simple decision to use cards instead of dice opens up a lot of interesting possibilities. Concepts like face cards and suits create lots of gameplay mechanics that dice simply don’t allow for.

At any rate, I’m having fun creating the system, and hopefully it’ll give me the kick in the ass I need to finish Wild Blue, finally. Time will tell.

A player’s perspective on Saga and Wild Blue

Posted on : 13-06-2007 | By : Brian | In : Gamecrafting, Saga, Session Reports, Wild Blue

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My friend Rich, who was in my Wild Blue playtest this past Saturday, recently posted a comment summing up his feelings on the playtest. I think it’s important that everyone see the player’s side of things rather than just mine, and I realize that not everybody looks at the comments on this blog; so me of you just subscribe to the feed. As such, I’m re-posting his comment in this news post, and I’ll be replying to the comment throughout. Block quotes are Rich’s comments.

From a player perspective – Overall a very positive gaming session, lots of fun was had, bad jokes were made, the berserker went berserk and possibly ruined all our plans….*@#$&# berserkers. (not that he shouldn’t of played that way, I mean, after all, he’s a berserker.) Oh, and quite possibly the most important side effect – creation of a new gamer. John really enjoyed himself, and wants to be in on future gaming. But now on to some comments on the system.

It’s always really good to hear that the players had fun, and it’s an even bigger stroke to my ego to know that I’ve helped convert a new player. Viva la hobby!

Things to improve upon -
Kind of hard to learn/So much to keep track of – I haven’t actually read through the rules (but I will soon, and post comments for you) so we all learned from Brian’s explanations. Since I’ve playtested the system before and I’m into working on rules systems and such, I didn’t have too hard of a time grasping the mechanics. Mike faired alright with it, but John was pretty well lost in it all. He was getting confused with all the options for activating skills, why traits don’t always apply, how specialization works, etc. In all, I might say that the system is too complex to recommend for beginners. However, as noted before, John did still have a good time.

I’m really glad John had a good time. Interestingly, my friend Chris played an older iteration of this system and thought it was really good for beginning players because of its focus on narrative over rules. Of course, he’s a big gamer (more board games than RPGs), so he’s pretty familiar with mechanics in general. I have tried to simplify things a bit in the current beta, though.

Character specialization – like most point based character systems, you run into the “highly specialized” issue. This is where characters are very good at what they do, and really bad at the rest. While this can make for some better roleplay (characters who are good at everything are so boring), it can make for excessively challenging conflicts. When the BBEG can attack anyone either Physically, Socially, or Mentally, it gets difficult to mount a suitable defense. The broad interpretation of the skill sets helps counter this, since we saw Academia, Subterfuge, and another skill used against mental attacks and even awareness and legerdemain as physical defense. I guess some of the issue may have come from the lack of knowledge that the players had in creating the characters – we were all mainly focused around physical aspects of the world.
Massive quantities of dice – not necessarily a bad thing, but it really starts to bog down play when counting out 27d6 then hunting for the successes. Play is even more bogged when you run into silly dice superstition like rolling one die at a time.

This is more a function of artifacts of the old style of character creation. Saga is not, strictly speaking, a point-based system, though you get some point-buy elements toward the end of character creation. It has elements of point-buy, but it also uses prioritization of assets and skills instead of point buy, and you get a set number of traits to start. Wild Blue works a little differently, using a sort of narrative character creation instead. In some ways it’s a little more free-form, like a point-buy system. Now, I agree that the system does lend itself somewhat to specialized characters, but it is possible to create a generalist in this game; at least, I think it is. I’ve never actually tried, but I did try to make it possible. Now, as to specialization being a bad thing; I think it can be, in the wrong hands, but I also think that (like you said), it’s boring when the PCs are good at everything. I think that the PCs should have to do something that they’re bad at from time to time, or else they become complacent and, even worse, bored. Challenge is good.

As to the massive quantities of dice, I agree that this is a problem. I’ve tried to remedy that in the most recent beta, though it remains to be seen if I succeeded. I did include a rule that allows you to trade in dice for automatic marks, on a 3-for-1 basis.

The fuzzy line – I’m talking about the one between RPing out an interaction and running a social conflict. In your post, you mention that we didn’t actually “win” any social conflicts – I think this stems in part from the habits we may have from other games – roll a gather information check and what you get is what you get vs. this system’s “roll to see if you break down the defenses, nope, try again, nope, try again, ok, you have worn them down” (it wasn’t quite like that, but in a way) Some of this may be settled by stating clearly “You are now in a battle of wills – if you win the battle, you get the info you want. If you don’t, you won’t get the info and you’ll suffer X as consequences.” Or, as players go along they’ll start to understand what the consequences will be and they no longer need to be spelled out. Since each “round” that we played gave us more info and we were talking a lot of it out, finishing the conflict “per the rules” didn’t seem necessary.

I think it’s probably a good idea to set down the parameters of a conflict before it happens, so everyone knows what to expect, and I’ll try to incorporate that into the game at some point in the future, for those who think similarly. Also, I should mention that while you didn’t “win” that social conflict with the old lady, you didn’t “lose” either. It ended prematurely, because John got information through alternative means. Which is fine. It actually worked out quite well, in the long run.

Kismet – What is this Kismet stuff, really? And why should it make damage into a 50/50 good/bad toss-up? I’d consider that every mark on a kismet roll can be spark, but every other result is doom.

I’ve made kismet a little more bad and a little less good. Hitches (1’s and 2’s) are always bad. Marks (5’s and 6’s) are only good if you have no hitches. This still might not be enough. I do like your idea of making everything below a mark a bad result, but that might increase player mortality rate a bit more than I want it to. Originally kismet was always bad, and I found that nobody ever used it. That’s why I made it sometimes good; to make it something of a gamble. You might come out ahead, but you might wind up bringing yourself that much closer to your Doom, too.

Wow, I can really get to typing sometimes, huh?

Yep. Welcome to the club.

What to definitely keep – FUN. We had fun. Therefore it was good. But more specifically -
Character creation – I had some fun with this, especially coming up with new traits and specializations. It’s also cool to see how you can use the traits in new and exciting ways once play has started.
Drives – While we saw very little in the way of mechanical “gain” for the players from the drives, I think it was very helpful for everyone to have these defined on paper, right in front of them. While I initially was opposed to the idea of a mechanical drive aspect that allows players to gain bonuses from the kind of roleplaying that they “should” do anyways, I found that having it there really was encouraging to all of us to try and fulfill those drives.

That was pretty much what I was going for. I wanted traits to be both a way for you to get out of tight spots or to hedge your bet, and a way for you to define your character in both narrative and mechanical terms. Rather than having a list of attributes that describe you physically and mentally, you just say, “this is what I can do.”

Drives came from the idea that I wanted to be able to give characters nudges in specific directions, as well as to give them some direction that they could define and follow themselves. I also wanted the most potent reward structure to be based off of what was important to individual characters. Rather than saying, “you get XP for killing things or completing quests”, I wanted characters to get rewarded for doing things that their characters would find rewarding, and gain confidence from.

“Spark” – used for narrative control and story effect was pretty cool, but might have had less impact than I would have liked. At one point it seemed that we would spend spark to undo things that could have been undone with fortune instead. It may be worthwhile to investigate the possibility of drive-generated spark for storytelling only, and scenario based XP or similar for character improvement.

I see what you mean about spending Spark when fortune would have done the trick, and I think that’s something that players and GMs will have to suss out for themselves. You guys could probably have spent fortune to make the darkness go away. Forcing the BBEG to stay in one form was definitely a job for Spark, though. As far as story-related Spark rewards, I had thought of that. I didn’t want Spark rewards to just be a way for the GM to say “good job”, though. I wanted Spark gain to be somewhat at the players’ control, even if the GM has the ultimate say (though a good GM will pick up on his players’ cues).

Story driven – the ability to run a game that everyone is into despite the lack of “overt conflict” is a real accomplishment. Not sure if this is more a reflection of the GM or the system or both, but whatever it was, it worked, and we’re all looking forward to playing again.

Thank you. Just, thank you. This is high praise, particularly in light of the fact that I ran the game and created the system and setting. Thanks. I’m really glad you had fun; I had a blast.

Skill usage – already been mentioned once or twice, but the ability to use almost any skill that can be made relevant in some way. Another great way that encourages some creative thinking and RP.

What I’ve found is that this particular aspect of the game really encourages players to describe their actions rather than just saying “I attack with my axe,” or whatever. I ran a playtest a while ago that was entirely combat, but there was a lot of description and improvisation going on, and it wound up being really memorable. For me, at least.

What to rattle around in your head -
Magic system – magic systems are tricky to nail down. I liked the broad, sweeping definitions vs. specific spells and effects. I like the idea of resonance. I didn’t like the seeming lack of effect that magic had (and some of that may have been that I wasn’t applying it to skills appropriately). I didn’t like the way resonance works – almost too arbitrary, and with more than one magic user, a GM would have to be painstakingly careful not to invoke resonance on one more that the others. May I suggest – Whenever a magic ability is used, a character gains resonance – For a discreet use, one resonance token is gained; Continued use in a conflict situation accumulates 1 resonance per round; Using a gift for an entire scene causes a character to gain 3 resonance. Whenever a character gains resonance, they make a resonance roll. Each mark causes the character to lose one resonance token. Each 1 or 2 invokes one of their drawbacks and causes them to lose a resonance token. A 3 or 4 has no effect. A character automatically loses 1 resonance at the end of each scene, but must make a resonance roll at the start of the next scene. As an option for GMs, each time a character gets a 1 or 2 on their roll, instead of immediately activating a drawback, they can pool those dice for use at an appropriate time in the game.

I like your ideas a lot. The magic system is still in its infancy. Saga, itself, doesn’t have a magic system, since it’s meant to be generic. The magic system I used was something I hammered out for Wild Blue specifically, and I’ll be the first to admit that it really does need some work. On paper, I thought the idea of building up a pool of tokens that the GM could use to hamper you with weirdness was a cool idea, but in play I think it creates an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between GM and magic-using players, and I often avoided using Resonance for just that reason. There’s a similar problem with traits in that I can invert them to hamper you, but you at least get a fortune token out of the deal if I do that. I’m thinking about putting that more in the players’ hands, allowing you to voluntarily invert a trait in order to get a fortune token (though I think I’ll retain the GM’s ability to do it, too).

Lastly, inverted traits – Allowing inverted traits to be bought off by fortune points is fine, but it’s also good to offer an alternative method – “I need a drink” should be able to be bought off by taking a round of conflict to do nothing but get out the bottle and take a swig. Lawman could be uninverted by intentionally commiting a crime (in view of those for whom lawman was a negative quality)

Yeah, that’s a good idea. I might pilfer that.

Thanks, Rich, for all the feedback; I think it’ll ultimately be very helpful. Go ahead and shoot me an email about the other stuff you wanted to talk about.

Thinking versus Doing

Posted on : 12-06-2007 | By : Brian | In : Links, Musings, Wild Blue

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I agree with this post up to a point. I think that story fudging can be a lot of fun. I did a lot of that in my Wild Blue playtest on Saturday, in fact. There were a number of points during the story when I had one thing planned but, whether it was because the PCs came up with a better idea or because something occurred to me that something else would be more fun, I changed things. Of course, Saga and, by extension, Wild Blue is sort of intended to be played that way.

But that’s not really what I’m talking about when I infer that there are things about this post that I disagree with. I do not disagree that a simple dungeon crawl done in broad strokes can be extremely fun. It can, and I’ve had lots of fun in the past in those exact kinds of sessions. I do disagree that there’s something inherently more fun about them than more involved, intricate storylines with deep characterization and rich plots. Again, in the Wild Blue playtest, there was really only one battle (at the end), but the game was a blast because the players were really into their characters and were playing them to the hilt, and they were really into the story, too. If I had played it more like a simple point-a-to-point-b slugfest, it would have suffered considerably for it.

I think that, fundamentally, it depends on the mood of the group and their preferences. I think that a melding of both is, ultimately, my preferred style of play. And I do realize that Mearls is simply stating his preference in this post; that’s not lost on me. I just thought I’d counter with mine.

My Saga playtest, and another rules update

Posted on : 11-06-2007 | By : Brian | In : Downloads, Gamecrafting, Saga, Session Reports, Wild Blue

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On Saturday, I got together with my friends Mike and Rich, and Rich’s friend John, and we played some Saga/Wild Blue. All three players were Wardens (a sort of jurisdiction-transcending lawman), and were sent to investigate a series of murders in a tiny village called Tom’s Crossing. Mike played Thor, a hulking berserker formally of the Tribes of the Dragon but now a Warden. He didn’t say much, but what he said carried a lot of weight with those he talked to. Rich played Cristof, a nobleman’s son with some magical powers who wanted nothing more than to redeem his family’s tarnished name. John played Mason, a cunning thief-turned-Warden whose primary goals were sex, greed, and proving himself (probably in that order).

There was a lot (and I do mean a lot) of talking and investigating, and only one big fight at the end. There were a few minor social conflicts throughout, but overall I think I could have made the game more challenging, rules-wise; most of the NPCs were pushovers (though the PCs never actually won one of the social conflicts; it ended in a stalemate, but they found information through . . . alternative means). The final, climactic battle went pretty well, I think. There was some physical combat and one big push of mental combat toward the end that did some serious damage to the PCs. They wound up winning, but I think they doubted that they would for a second there.

Things I took away from the game were that the rules on pushing needed to be revised, clarified, and made more useful (which I did in Beta 3, yesterday). I also looked at kismet damage and how it works, and revised it to make it a little more deadly. I also noticed that the PCs tended to roll huge handfuls of dice when they were playing to their strengths. As in, 20 or more. A few too many, in my opinion. So, I’ve done two things in Beta 4 to combat this issue. First, I’ve made a few changes to the way assets work that, I think, will make them easier to use, will reduce the number of dice rolled somewhat, and will make conflicts a little more challenging for the PCs (all goals I had in mind when I made the change). I also added a rule whereby you can trade in three dice for an automatic mark.

At any rate, here’s Beta 4. Hope you like it. Really, these changes should have been in Beta 3, yesterday, but I didn’t think of them then. It was 1am, after all.

Saga, Version Beta 4

Saga Update

Posted on : 10-06-2007 | By : Brian | In : Downloads, News, Saga, Wild Blue

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Following a largely successful and very fun playtest of Saga using the Wild Blue setting on Saturday, I’ve made some minor updates to the core system. Of note is the fact that I changed the way pushing works in the game; rather than being based off of spending additional tokens, it’s based on how many net marks you roll. Pushing also has more specific effects, and is generally (I think) more useful. I also removed the concept of burning a token from the game to eliminate confusion; you now always spend tokens, but you regain tokens at different rates in and out of a conflict. Also, since the version on Lulu is free, too, I’m just going to point you there (after all, you get cover art that way).

At any rate, here’s the new revision:

Saga, Version Beta 3

Wild Blue Playtest

Posted on : 10-04-2007 | By : Brian | In : Gamecraft 2.0, Gamecrafting, Session Reports, Wild Blue

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On Saturday, I went to my friend Mike’s house and ran a Wild Blue session with him and my friend Rich. I thought it was awesome. This was the first time that either of them had been introduced to either Gamecraft 2.0 or Wild Blue (aside from what I’ve shared on this website), so I had to take about forty minutes to explain both before we actually got down to playing. We didn’t finish the scenario I wrote up, but we did get to do a few short, non-combat conflicts, as well as a number of out-of-conflict skill rolls.

I’m pretty happy with the way the system is shaping up, and I got some good suggestions from them. I’m working on allowing assets to scale better (that probably sounds like gibberish to those who haven’t actually played this system with me, and for that I apologize), and I realized one other thing: Gamecraft 2.0 is kind of hard to teach people. Not necessarily time-consuming, and not necessarily that hard to learn or play, but hard to teach, to some extent. I think a lot of this is going to get easier as I explain it more and more; the problem is that virtually everything in the system is interconnected, and it’s kind of difficult to explain one thing without first explaining another. What I need to do is get the system written down in a sequence that makes it easy to pick up, read, and learn; right now it’s sort of mish-mashed, reflective of my thoughts while creating the system, and that’s not necessarily conducive to learning or explaining the system. Once I find a logical starting point, I’m sure it’ll flow easily from there.

As for the session itself, it was a lot of fun. Mike and Rich played a couple of lawmen, big-time lawmen in a small town, investigating recent murders. Mike’s character was a gunslinger, a trained killer, but one with a lot of faith and a deep belief in doing the right thing. Think of the mentality that the Operative had in Serenity: building a better world, but one that he has no place in. That sort of approaches his way of thinking. He knows he’s a killer, and he doesn’t really like killing all that much, but he does it anyway because he believes it’s a necessary evil. Rich’s character was much less moral; he was a rogue and con-man turned lawman, the classic example of using a thief to catch a thief. He drank, he caroused, he insulted people, and generally had a good time, but he also did his fair share of investigating (though a lot of it involved breaking into peoples’ houses to snoop around). They both played their characters to the hilt, and I tried to reward them for that using the mechanics of the game (which is a design goal of mine).

I did more prep work than I have in the past for Gamecraft 2.0, largely because this was a mystery, and I wanted to keep everything straight and not get caught mixing things up. Basically, I figured out what had happened before the players got there, and I came up with short bios on all of the important inhabitants of the town, as well as on important locales. I was careful not to plan out anything that was going to happen though; I let Mike and Rich determine that, and I reacted to what they did, dropping breadcrumbs only very occasionally. It worked really, really well.

I plan on running this scenario again with another group, so I won’t share any specifics until afterward. Expect to hear more about that later.