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Topics - James Mullen

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brainstorming & development / Apps: Mates, Dates & Spooky Fates
« on: February 26, 2016, 03:55:03 PM »
This is a little backburner game I've been tinkering with for the past few years; I put it aside because there were so many other AW hacks paddling the same stream, I decided to prioritise other projects.

Recently though, I decided to resurrect it as something I could practice my design & presentation skills on, so here's what I've got so far: a set of nine playbooks for a game that's largely inspired by Misfits and The Fades but has other influences as well.

There's still an amount of work to be done on the rules and the other half of the playbooks, but I'll post updates as and when I complete the various parts.

brainstorming & development / Just Heroes: 2015
« on: September 29, 2015, 12:50:23 PM »
Should I be calling this Just Heroes Reborn? ;)

Anyway, I've been inspired to write and rewrite a whole bunch more for this superheroic hack, so here's a preview of the style sheets as they stand.

Seth Harris & Ariana Ramos, who were brave enough to try playing The Hood and appear to have emerged from the experience unscathed, expressed a desire to see an AW hack for playing childhood adventures, like The Goonies, The Monster Squad and Eerie, Indiana.

I can't wait too see what they've come up with... so much so that I've had a go at this myself: the MC's chapter needs more work on it, it' barely scratching the surface, but the Players' Section is more or less ready to play, supported by 14 playbooks. Follow this link if you're hankering to play a Knuckle, Kook, Shrimp, Punk or even a Dog, and please let me know what you think.

brainstorming & development / The 'Hood is Open for Business
« on: April 04, 2014, 06:29:13 PM »
My first properly published book is now available through Lulu: The 'Hood is an Apocalypse World supplement about ordinary people living on the fringes of law and society, looking for ways to make a buck no matter what it takes. It's suitable for games in the style of The Wire, The Shield, Breaking Bad and many others.

A big shout out to Tommy Rayburn, who's given his own free time to design the layout and made my words look good; also to Rhona Robson, Ben Cole, Helen Garvey and Nick Townsend for being willing guinea pigs.

brainstorming & development / [Just Heroes] Synergy for Superheroes
« on: March 27, 2014, 07:29:58 PM »
I'm currently working on another new draft of Just Heroes, but this time taking it back to the idea of having separate playbooks for Origins (why you have superpowers) and Styles (what your superpowers are). One of the other changes I'm thinking of making, is to replace the current respect rules with synergy instead: respect is similar to Hx, but it just doesn't feel like that good a fit for a superheroes game, so I'm tending towards something more like strings as in Monsterhearts.

The synergy idea is that you understand more about the other heroes on your team, so you can better support them when they make a move, by spending your synergy with them to give them a bonus to a move you suggest or enable them to make an advanced move. The catch is, deciding how you earn synergy in play: as a late change to the rules, it doesn't really fit in as a consequence of the basic moves, so I was thinking of giving each Origin a move that determines when the other heroes in the team gain synergy with them.

For example, the Accident (the Origin for heroes who gained their powers unintentionally, by chance) might award synergy to another hero who saves a bystander from a fatal accident, whereas the Adept (anyone who has gained their powers through practice and discipline) could award synergy to a hero who saves the day through words rather than deeds... anyway, those are just the rough thoughts.

How would you feel about that? Do you want triggers for awarding synergy that are specific to your playbook? Or a general trigger like 'choose one hero at the end of each session and award  1 synergy to them'? Do you prefer a passive trigger, where you have to wait for someone else to do something? Or an active trigger, where you get to decide when you award synergy?

brainstorming & development / Monster Force Terra
« on: November 05, 2013, 04:36:59 PM »
An idea I've been playing around with for a few years, playing giant monsters who battle it out in human cities around the world but might just be saving it in the process, took a big leap forward today. I've begun a very basic AW hack with some stripped down rules: there's still a lot more to be done, but see what you think.

Monster Force Terra pdf.

brainstorming & development / [Just Heroes: Redrawn]
« on: October 31, 2013, 06:30:47 AM »
Reflecting upon the feedback I received from some very kind playtesters, I've come up with an alternative version of Just Heroes , my superhero hack, in which I've made a lot of significant changes:

  • First and foremost, I've dropped the separate Origin and Style playsheets and gone for one unified playsheet for both; this was because the separate Origin sheet wasn't adding enough to the game to justify having it on a separate sheet. The stats make more sense if connected to the Style, as that's where the moves that use them are, and the rest of it was just a colour questionnaire about the sort of character you wanted to play, which can be done less formally within the group.
  • I changed the stats and moves around in favour of something easier to relate to, instead of the more abstract stats (Law, Mercy, etc.) I was using before.
  • I've downplayed the use of power points: most of the feedback I received mentioned that players didn't like having to beg for points the whole time and the power points were sometimes being handed out instead of experience, which wasn't the intent behind them.

There are some other minor changes here and there, largely resulting from the above changes, and I'm open to feedback on all aspects of the revised form.

brainstorming & development / Supers: Trust & Reputation?
« on: April 01, 2013, 06:42:56 AM »
Further to the discussion here, I'm wondering whether a Trust stat of some description is worth including in my Just Heroes hack. In a world that might contain heroes like Superman, Batman, Spider-man and The Punisher, having a blanket treatment of all heroes doesn't seem quite honest. They should be perceived differently by the public, the media, the authorities and the underworld, but is it worth having a mechanic that does so?

The big question is, as I'm keeping the harm rules more or less as they are in AW, what happens when 'Superman' kills someone? And does the same thing happen to The Punisher?  Should heroes have to choose alignments? Or is it better to keep track of their actions and have the public respond to them accordingly?

Monsterhearts / Another Skin: The Oracle
« on: July 04, 2012, 06:38:33 AM »
Another new skin I've been thinking of is a seer/medium-type, with a heft does of Chloe Sullivan from Smallville. Here's what I've got so far:

The Truth isn’t out there, it’s in here: you know, you’ve seen it, just beneath the skin. The world is more beautiful and terrible than anyone but you suspects. That will change. You’ll expose everything and change how people see the world forever. Nothing will stand between you and the Truth, no matter how much it hurts.

Choose one from each list:
intellectual, preppy, shadowy, one of the crowd, pariah

roaming eyes, trustworthy eyes, lying eyes, seeking eyes, wide-open eyes

Circle one:
born different, medical intervention, near-death experience, vision quest, mysterious encounter

Start with Hot-1, Cold 1, Volatile-1, Dark 1

You’ve seen someone’s supernatural form in action and will expose them to the world. Take 2 Strings on them.

You once let someone else close enough to learn your deepest desire. They gain a String on you.

Oracle Moves
Choose two:
True Sight: If a character has a non-human nature, you can learn it and they take 1 String against you.

Hold the Front Page: When you make public something you were told in confidence, mark experience and the person whose trust you abused gains 1 String on you.

Be My Eyes: When appropriate, you may take someone’s name as a condition; they become your eyes. As long as anyone is your eyes, they get +1 on all moves they make against you, but you may see & hear through their senses at any time.

Prophecy: When you tell another PC what their destiny is, they take -1 on all moves to fight their destiny. Every time they get 10+ when fighting their destiny, you take 1 harm. This continues until they meet their destiny, overcome it or you withdraw your prophecy.

Medium: When you gaze into the Abyss, you can contact a specific person who has passed over and take +2 to your roll but your question is answered by that person, who may not know or may give a self-serving answer.

Insightful: Gain 1 String on any NPC when meeting them for the first time.

Sex Move
When you have sex, you must reveal to them a secret you know about someone else.

Darkest Self
They’re all blind, pulled by the web of forces they cannot even comprehend which ensnares everyone of them, but not you. You’ll sit apart from them, unseen and isolated, pulling their strings and playing with them from a distance like a master puppeteer. You escape your Darkest Self when someone physically comes and takes you from your self-imposed exile.

Monsterhearts / AP: Clearwater Bay
« on: June 26, 2012, 06:53:19 PM »
We started our first MH Season at the MKRPG tonight; I was initially leaning towards playing the Mortal or Chosen, but then one of the other players commented on how he didn't like the Vampire's sex move, which amounts to not having sex. The conversation then went onto the idea of a geek who couldn't get laid and I suddenly saw what character I wanted to play...

So, the cast is:
Adrielle, a Witch drawing her power from her Native Amercian ancestry.
Samael, an Infernal whose parents were killed in a fire and is now brought up by a pastor.
Serena, a Selkie who has taken on the form of a drowned girl, but Samael has stolen her pelt under orders from his patron, the Burning Man.
And Samson, a Vampire who was turned in the 1950s, but then spent several decades underground (literally) and has only recently been reawoken.

Samson's schtick is his geek chic: he's smart and wants to learn everything about the modern world. All that enthusiasm to learn comes across as passion for the one he's learning from, and of course 'nerd' is the new sexy in the 21st century, so he has a number of admirers. Oh, and he's also a huge comic buff, with a deep paassion for Batman...

So, all the characters are seniors at St. Sebastian's, a high school in Clearwater Bay, Louisana, a town that is coping with some environmental pollution. We ran a few short scenes about a morning at the school: Samael planted his flick knife on one of the teachers, Adrielle and Serena discovered a dealer's stash in Samael's locker and Samson's powerpoint presentation about the history of NASA was spoiled by his rival Neil, the president of the chess club. Hopefully our MC now has some time to cook up a few threats before the next session. :-)

Monsterhearts / Super Hollow?
« on: June 25, 2012, 06:01:58 PM »
The last MH game I played in, one of the other characters was a Hollow and I found something vaguely off-putting about the Skin. I think it's too over powered, especially compared to some of the other Skins, but then again it could just be sour grapes because the Hollow was walking over the rest of us! ;-)

Looking at the unique moves for the Hollow though, they do seem to build up into a major advantage. For everyone else, conditions are a slight disadvantage: having them lets other characters get an advantage when acting against you, until you can find a narrative reason for getting rid of them. For the Hollow though, conditions are the path to incredible power!

First, the Hollow marks experience everytime they gain a condition.

Second, they can use a condtion in their own favour, after which it gets erased!

So, with those first two moves, conditions are turned from being a minor inconvenience into a powerful dual-advantage. That's before even getting to the stuff like reducing harm when an opponent doesn't use one of your condtions against you. I suppose players might stop taking the option to give conditions to a Hollow, but that seems very meta-gamey and still acts in the Hollows favour, though not as much.

What am I missing that balances this skin? Where is the price for this power?

Monsterhearts / New Skin: The Chrysalis
« on: May 23, 2012, 05:45:12 AM »
This is an idea that's been rattling around in my head since I first saw the alpha draft of Monsterhearts and now that I've played the game a couple of times, I thought I'd  have a go at putting the idea into words. It's still pretty raw and unfinished, but the basic idea is to a play a character whilst flagging up the idea that their destiny is to become one of the other skins. I'm thinking of certain characters who you just know are going to end up as vampires as soon as they get introduced into the narrative.

The Chrysalis
You could be anything. You’re full of potential, a whole life of opportunities opening up in front of you. The fire of youth burns in your veins: let it flow and you could forge yourself into something unique and special.

There’s a shadow over your future though and a price to be paid for becoming the most you could be. Change isn’t easy and making yourself anew means sacrificing everything that you are right now. When the time comes, what will you be?

bright, fragile, withdrawn, child-like, plain
intense eyes, curious eyes, distant eyes, sparkling eyes, confident eyes

honour student, track star, computer geek, born victim, hanger-on

Agree with someone that you are BFFs. Take 2 Strings on each other.

Someone likes to make you the butt of all their jokes. They gain 1 String on you.

Chrysalis Moves:
You get this one and choose one more.
Talent: Choose one skill you excel at. Take +1 to your roll when using your Talent in any move.
Pliable: You may give a String to a character who has no Strings on you in order to get any of the same benefits as spending a String on them.
Social Network: Whenever you meet an NPC for the first time, choose: take 1 String on them or give them a String against you and mark experience.
Fast Learner: Take +1 forward whenever anyone uses a condition on you to give themselves a bonus.

Sex Move:
When you have sex with someone, they select one skin that you cannot become.

Darkest Self:
You die but you are reborn as something else. Choose another skin that you now become; do whatever is necessary to start playing that skin. The Sex Move and Darkest Self of the skin you become replace The Chrysalis’, but you retain all Strings and conditions and may still choose moves from The Chrysalis when you advance.

brainstorming & development / Ordinary World, AK 'hood
« on: September 26, 2011, 05:29:53 AM »
'hood is all about holding on: all the player-characters are small fish in a big pond, chancers and petty criminals looking for ways to make ends meet without becoming of interest to the authorities, who might send them to prison, or the real villains, who might send them to the graveyard. The PCs are part of a network, or better still, a network of networks: families, friends, colleagues at their day job, suppliers, customers, rivals and more. Surviving is all about avoiding upsetting the people in your networks; prospering is all about taking advantage of them.

Currently, I'd appreciate any ideas and feedback for this game, particularly suggestions for unique moves to go in the 12 playbooks; it's early days for this project, so there's plenty of room for contributions.

Here's a taster of what I'm working on: there's more detail on my website.

Name: being respected, being reliable, being connected.
Hush: being discreet, being subtle, being close-mouthed.
Brass: being bold, being determined, being pragmatic.
Wise: being prepared, being cunning, being aware.
Straight: being clean, being lawful, being a citizen.

When another PC gets one over on you or makes use of your services without paying for them upfront, they owe you a debt. This hack uses debt instead of Hx to represent the relationships between the player-characters: it’s not about how well you know each other but how much you owe to each other.

When your life gets loud and messy, it bring the heat down on you; heat can come from the police, who start investigating things you’ve done, or other authorities who poke their nose into your life, such as the Department of Social Security or the Trading Standards Authority. Heat can also come from the bigger fish in your pond, the real villains who sit at the centre of all the nets and pull on them: upset them and you’ll be looking at the daisies from the wrong side.

The Bastion - There are sharks circling this 'hood, ready to eat it whole and spit out the bones; maybe if you give them what they want, they’ll leave some of it alone.
The Blur - It can’t have been you, because officially, you don’t even exist.
The Fallen - You took an oath to uphold the law, but you had your fingers crossed behind your back.
The Feelgood - If you can smoke it, sniff or stick it into yourself, you sell it to those who need it.
The Go-Between - Everyone’s looking for something; you bring together those with a demand and those who can supply.
The Heavy - You provide manual labour on the wrong side of the law: moving crates, guarding doors, breaking arms.
The Ice - You’re a killer.
The Lever - Once you know what they’re most afraid of, you’ve got them in the palm of your hand.
The Merchant - It’s all about buying low and selling high; the commodity doesn’t matter, only the money.
The Mover - When it positively, absolutely has to **** get there tomorrow.
The Thief - All property is theft, so on balance you’re not really doing anything wrong.
The Trickster - Black is white, up is down, hot is cold... all it takes is a word to change the world.

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