Designing Again

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


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.

Bulldogs: Psionics

Posted on : 03-01-2008 | By : Brian | In : Gamecrafting, Links, Self-Promotion


I wrote this supplement for Brennan Taylor’s sci-fi space opera game, Bulldogs, a few years back, and now Bulldogs: Psionics has been published! Huzzah!

Saga gets press

Posted on : 23-10-2007 | By : Brian | In : Links, Saga, Self-Promotion


This threw me for a loop last night. Apparently, Saga has been deemed one of the top five free RPGs by Associated Content. Cool.

A quick update

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


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.

Saga on Lulu

Posted on : 07-05-2007 | By : Brian | In : Downloads, Links, Saga, Self-Promotion


I’ve just finished posting Saga as a free PDF on It’s the same file you can get on this site, except that it’s got a cover.

Shopping for Publishers

Posted on : 05-05-2007 | By : Brian | In : Self-Promotion, Skullduggery


On the off-chance that there are publishers looking for a new card game reading this blog, I just thought I’d mention that I’m now shopping around for a publisher for Skullduggery. For those who don’t know, here’s the skinny on the game, straight from my proposal:

Skullduggery is a card game in which the players assume the roles of thieves in a medieval city. Their job is to collect the tools that they need in order to perform heists of varying difficulty, while simultaneously making life more difficult for their rivals. The goal of the game is to become the most infamous thief in the city by performing the most heists (or the most daring heists) and fencing the most (or best) loot by the time the game ends.

In short, it’s a heist-based card game, it’s got a total of 204 cards divided amongst four decks, and it takes about an hour to play with three or four players (or about 15-30 minutes with only two). I have a prototype, and I’ve been playtesting and tinkering with it intermittently for the last eight months or so. If you’re a publisher, and you’re interested, feel free to respond to this shameless self-promotion for further information. My email is on the sidebar to the right.

Addendum: I just got done with a back-and-forth email conversation with Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games. He liked my proposal, but is unfortunately booked for the foreseeable future. He encouraged me to keep trying, and to check back with him in a year or two if I hadn’t already found another publisher. He also gave a lot of really good advice, and was generally just an awesome, really nice guy. If their games weren’t enough reason for me to like the company already, Mr. Jackson certainly just gave me several.