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Messages - James Mullen

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brainstorming & development / Re: Alternative death rule
« on: September 08, 2016, 03:25:36 AM »
Is this intended for a specific game, like Dungeon World? Or is it more of a generic addition/replacement for fatality rules in PbtA games?

What can I say except, this looks awesome :-D

I play-tested a non-AW game last year about ordinary people being transported to a strange land, because I also like that theme of 'going native' and exploring how much 'civilisation' people will give up in order to survive, until it becomes a question of whether they can ever truly return to what they knew before or will their experience forever set them apart?

The role's system sounds great, I'd love to play a game that did that, and I like the split stats idea too: Dead of Night does something like that, but with more of an emphasis of having your character be weak half the time, as it is a horror movie emulator. Your thematic split between civilised & uncivilised actions should provide some really strong character motivations and hard choices.

I'd say you can do this, if it's only the game plot that you want to have a predetermined ending for and you allow each character to have their own personal story against that backdrop: just make sure that the outcomes of your moves are pointed at the characters, so that it is their story that changes and thus effects the condition they will be in when they reach the end-point. It sounds like the question this story asks is not can the kids overcome this horror? It sounds more like what will it cost the kids to overcome this horror?

On the other hand, trying to predetermine the ending for a game becomes more difficult the more precise you are: if the ending is just the kids overcome the horror, then you're fine to go ahead, but if the ending you have in mind is more like the kids overcome the horror by confining it in the Hall of Mirrors and burning the ancient painting of it while each sacrificing the thing they treasure the most, then you should prepare for disappointment. You will almost certainly have to compromise some parts of this vision as the game unfolds, not least because the players are likely to come up with ideas that you like better than your own.

brainstorming & development / Re: Ordinary World, AK 'hood
« on: June 30, 2016, 10:21:13 AM »
Thanks to Richard Rogers for interviewing me about PbtA games in general and The 'Hood in particular; there's also a short actual play scene here if you've ever wondered what the game would be like in play. You can listen to the +1 Forward podcast here and there are several other PbtA nuggets to be found on The Gauntlet website.

I'd say, get your work-in-progress document hosted somewhere (I always use Google Drive for mine) and then ask for critique, questions and feedback; at the moment, it's more like you're saying "I'm making a game," so all I can say is "Sounds good, can't wait to see it!" :-D

I've just added a page of advice relating to the moves for giving badges to other kids:

This is a heroic move, where one kid steps in to take the rap for another or save them from immediate danger: when you protect another kid, you swap places with them and face whatever fate was about to befall them. This circumvents the need to roll any dice to save them, so you don’t need to pull a stunt, play a trick or tell a lie to get them out of trouble, you just give them a badge and it happens automatically from there. The downside is that the trouble still occurs, it just happens to you instead of them, but hopefully they’ll remember what you did for them and return the favour in the future.

Kids will stick up for each other and work together to get what they want: a team of two or three kids may succeed where one would fail on their own. As with spending will, giving a badge to another kid only makes a little difference, but if a little difference is all you need, then that’s enough. By grouping together, though, kids can push way beyond what they might otherwise be capable of and this move is very useful for ganging up together to overcome your adversaries, whether they be rivals at school, desperate criminals or eerie monsters.

Scolding & Daring
These moves are two sides of the same coin and amount to the same thing: do as you’re told or face the consequences. Whether you are scolded or dared, you mark experience when you do what the other kid says you should, so you want other kids to give you those badges, but why should you scold or dare them? What’s in it for you?
  • Narratively, you can cut through an argument and this is the most powerful & effective use of these moves in the story: instead of a long back and forth between two characters over what to do now, either of you can short-cut the debate by giving a badge to the other. When someone gives you a badge, in one sense they’re flagging this as something they really want to happen and are offering you a reward for going along with them; you can still choose to turn them down if you don’t mind the penalty, but you might trigger a falling out.
  • Mechanically, those badges you’ve got aren’t doing you any good: they only help you when they are in the hands of the other kids, so you should be looking for any opportunity to give them away. When another kid has a badge with you, that’s a resource they can use to protect or support you, so you want them to have your back as much as possible. Scolding or daring another kid is a good way to put that resource in their hands where they can use it to assist you; or they can just scold or dare you back, which gives you a chance to score more experience.

I've replaced the whole chow down move with something new: each playbook now gives a special end of session move where you award another player 1 will for being the most [something] in that session, with each playbook making this award on a different criterion.  That means every player has a chance to get at least 1 will at the end of every session, though this might need some tweaking, as it's possible that some kids could get 2 or 3 will per session whilst others get none.

However... there is also an alternative version of respect, where you mark it and then take your reward when it reaches 3: the playbooks that follow this design are here. I'm open to opinions about which method people prefer, though in either case, the actual triggers need some tweaking.

brainstorming & development / Re: Apps: Mates, Dates & Spooky Fates
« on: June 27, 2016, 03:49:50 AM »
It's still WiP: I have done some more work on it, but other projects (finalising my Blood & Water game, putting a couple of games out on DriveThruRPG, updating my blog, etc) have pushed it back a little bit. Rest assured, it is still something I want to complete and get out there, but the next stage is to playtest it and take feedback from that into the game's further development.

The tighter definition of make a wish in the current version, along with the extended guidance on that move in particular and the presence of the magical & wondrous in the game in general seem to have done the trick. The Will rules also seem to have made a difference, but I'm wondering if they need a small tweak: most players seem to spend their Will quite quickly on turning misses into near misses, so when it comes time that they are desperate enough to make a wish, they sometimes have no Will left to spend to trigger the move. On the other hand, that matches nicely with the idea of make a wish being a rarely used move and there are a few methods to get a point of Will quickly when in dire need.

Thanks Paul: still WiP, but I now have a mental roadmap for the way ahead.

  • I've started a piece that i think will now evolve into advice for creating fronts or their equivalent, by using the playbooks chosen by the players to assign points to various themes.
  • There will be a stealth/sneak move as a peripheral move, that uses a roll+trouble and looks for a low result to avoid being caught/seen.
  • I've got a template for creating MC moves that I can apply to a number of responses the MC can choose to make, which I've taken directly from my experience of running the game.

Past Bedtime at the Haunted Roller Disco!

This was the second of my online playtests of my PbtA hack for childhood adventures, testing not only the game but my online GMing skills: I'm happy to say that both have improved!

For this game, we first agreed to a British 80s setting, settling on a Cornish town during the summer holidays: from this, Declan & Robin played brothers, a Goth & Kook respectively, while Lloyd was an Australian All-Star who had been moved to Britian when his mother married the father of Symon's Shrimp.

We opened with a quick scene around the local newsagents, which was also where the Goth got all his comics from, but a crazy shoplifting stunt got him barred in front of his brother & friends; they finally got the comics they wanted with the All-Star's help, scoring a vintage EC 'Vault of Horror' to go with the Argos catalogue covered in weird ramblings left to the Kook by his uncle. The Kook persuaded/dared the others to come with him to the Haunted Roller Disco that night, where he intended to catch real footage of a ghost on his Super 8 camera, so they all made arrangements to sneak out of their houses after dinner and meet at the seafront for an adventure!

Come 9pm at the Roller Disco, the Kook consulted his divinatory Argos catalogue for guidance (Robin was going for a bit of a Gravity Falls vibe here, but more British & understated, obviously) when a freak sea breeze blew the book out of his hands and through an open window of the Roller Disco building; while the other kids argued a little about getting it back, the Shrimp just slipped through the small window after it, whereupon he was confronted with a 7' tall, gaunt figure swathed in a black robe. His screams brought the Kook & All-Star in after him, while the Goth went around the back to where he knew of another way in.

The Phantom of the Store Cupboard was chased off in short order, disappearing into the shadows: a search revealed a locked service panel in one wall, but they knew from a prior encounter that the Roller Disco manager, Mr. Grimthorpe, had a jangling ring of keys on his belt. The Goth made his way in from the back of the building, entering the Roller Disco Arena to see that all the patrons were wearing black robes as part of a themed evening: everyone was due to disrobe at midnight (which due to licensing issues was 11pm for the Roller Disco).

Mr. Grimthorpe returned to the cupboard, so to divert his attention, the Kook surprised the All-Star with a kiss (also a good use of daring another kid to get her to play along); while she gulped like a fish, the Shrimp effortlessly lifted the ring of keys from the manager's belt (well, with the help of the distraction provided by the other tow kids: a good use of giving badges to give support there) but then all the kids were taken out of the cupboard to the roller rink to find their parents...

The Goth had been busy at the DJ's mixing desk and had discovered that it really was haunted: the gaunt figure was actually the Phantom of the Roller Disco and was using the spinning records to weave a spell upon the disco's patrons. As Mr. Grimthorpe arrived to make a lost child announcement with the Shrimp firmly in tow, the All-Star and the Kook hatched a cunning plan: hiring getting skates & a robe, they got on one another's shoulders to disguise themselves as an adult! Their plan worked beautifully and the Shrimp was given into their custody, so the Goth used the distraction to grab the microphone and announce that 'midnight' was now! There was bedlam on the arena floor as a hundred patrons tried to remove their robes whilst moving around on skates, so the Shrimp, All-Star and Kook booked it back to the store cupboard, where they used the keys to free the disco's real DJ from behind the service panel!

As order was restored in the roller disco, the Goth was witness to the Phantom taking control of the robed roller-skaters, commanding them to circle the floor forever, giving him more power with each circuit! When the other kids returned with the real DJ, the Kook started reading selected items from the Argos catalogue aloud, interfering with the words of the Phantom's spell, so a horde of possessed skaters were directed towards them! The Goth grabbed the abandoned turn-table and started spinning the record backwards, unwinding the Phantom's magic! The Shrimp then charged the Phantom with his inflatable pool-noodle... and passed right through the spectre, causing the lighting rig to topple over; a heroic effort from the Kook saved the Shrimp from being crushed underneath, so it was down to the All-Star to tackle the phantom! This was their last shot, but she blew it! Somehow though, the Phantom vanished when she struck it, so they called that a victory and snuck back home sort-of triumphantly!

As codas, we found out that the Kook had footage of his kiss with the All-Star on his Super 8 camera, along with his ghost footage of blurry shadows and flashing lights, so he showed it to everyone he knew; the All-Star had other problems though, in the form of a never ending loop of 80s disco tunes going around & around in her head... but that's a story for another time.

I really enjoyed this session, I had much more energy than in the previous one, and I got some good ideas for additional material and a few tweaks to some of the existing rules and playbooks: more work for me to do, but at least I'm enjoying it.

Field Trip to the Museum

Last night I ran my first game via Hangouts, playing Troublemakers with Adam Goldberg, Ben Cole, Elina Gouliou and Helen Garvey as Twins, Goth, Royal and Kook respectively; they divided into two families and two school years, so they all links to each other.

The plot centered around a field trip to the Natural History Museum: the Twins and Royal got cake in their lunchboxes after pleading with their father (a 'professional' online poker player); the Goth lost his toy spider mascot on the bus to the museum and had to be helped out from under the seats by the Twins, whilst the Goth gave the Royal half of her lucky stick...

After getting separated from the rest of their school, the kids made it into the museum in time to be caught in a heist; the Twins ran out to get help and organise an evacuation, but their little sister the Royal almost got taken hostage by the crooks. Luckily, one crook's gun somehow got twisted around in his hand after the Kook stared at him (she couldn't have..? Nah, no way!)

After all getting safely out, they then planned to get back in again so that they could get medals (well, that was the Royal's plan), so with the Twins helping them climb some trellis work, they found the crooks trying to move a big heavy crate down the stairwell; some marbles from the Royal's backpack slowed them down, but the crate dropped, smashed & released an ancient mummy!

The Goth ran for it down the stairs, reaching the basement, where a more well-dressed crook nailed him into a crate; meanwhile, the Royal persuaded the mummy that she was a princess and got him to attack the other crooks, unfortunately, the mummy's presence was starting to Egyptify the museum, with sand appearing everywhere and signs being replaced with hieroglyphs!

One Twin and the Kook rode down to the basement to find the Goth, while the other Twin and the Royal rode the lid of a sarcophagus down the sandy stairwell, losing control at the bottom and crashing through the museum doors into a police cordon! They told their story to the cops quickly, while down in the basement, one Twin humiliated the crook-in-the-suit over how crap his whole plan was and how badly he was carrying it out; this give the kids enough breathing space to allow the cops to come in and arrest all the crooks!

After sending the mummy back home to Egypt (along with a lucky stick!), the kids all later attended a ceremony at the museum at which the were given medals and the Twins gave a speech that saved the museum from closure!

All in all, that was a pretty good game, though I was a bit rough in places: I found it a big adjustment from face-to-face gaming, but I'm getting there. I made one adjustment to The Twins playbook in the wake of this after agreeing that there were too many moves on it that covered more or less the same ground, so I took out the most confusing one (about the twins physically switching places) and replaced it with something inspired by a moment in the game.?

brainstorming & development / Re: Just Heroes: 2015
« on: June 08, 2016, 04:59:11 PM »
New Gods for an Old Town is my taster playset for Just Heroes (a superheroic hack of Apocalypse World), having been thoroughly playtested at Concrete Cow & Games Expo, it is now available on DriveThruRPG at the suggested price of £1.00, or whatever you think it is worth. The download incudes:

  • New Gods for an Old Town: a brief version of the rules, containing all the Basic & Peripheral moves for Just Heroes, plus leading questions to ask the PCs and tips on weaving a story from their contributions; this is in both print & digital format.
  • Dr. Dusk: A PC playbook for a tortured defender of the street, using stealth as his weapon.
  • Lady Smoke: A PC playbook for an other-dimensional princess searching our world for her lost treasures but still living a life of privilege amongst us.
  • Steel Spring: A PC playbook for an urban warrior whose super-suit gives her greatly enhanced speed & agility.
  • The Snowdrop: A PC playbook for a fun-loving guy cursed with a cold heart, who uses his icy powers to freeze crime in it's tracks.

brainstorming & development / Re: tweaking the resolution and ranges?
« on: March 09, 2016, 02:39:35 AM »
The short range of outcomes can be limiting in terms of differentiating between character abilities, e.g. anything more than a +3 bonus is almost a guarantee of non-failure. If you're really keen on extending the range, try upping the dice size first, replacing the d6s with d12s for example: that gives you a lot more room in which to play around with the results and have larger bonuses as you describe.

The downside is that it drastically waters down character competence: a +1 bonus is only @25% as significant if you're rolling 2d12 instead of 2d6, so stat increments are less of a reward than new moves.

The alternative to extending the range of outcomes is to give the characters tactical options to change one type of success into another, e.g. if they accept a lesser result in advance, then any miss becomes a 7-9 instead. I think one of the hacks uses this option to add skills to the system, so that when you are using a skill, you never miss, you just get a 7-9 result instead. If that seems too effective, then a skill could extend the mid-range when used, making it 6-9, 5-9, 6-10 or whatever.

brainstorming & development / Re: Apps: Mates, Dates & Spooky Fates
« on: March 04, 2016, 04:04:06 AM »
As you will, so mote it be:

Avoid Conflict
This is what you do when you want to sneak past people, bluff your way through trouble or just try to defuse a potentially troublesome situation. When you avoid conflict, roll+fear. On a hit, you evade any trouble. On a 7-9, choose 1.
o   You only just make it; take +1 pain.
o   You’ve only delayed the inevitable; you can’t avoid this conflict the next time it comes up.
o   You leave in haste; leave behind anything you were carrying or anyone you were bringing with you.

Charge Through
This is what you do when you want to just push through obstacles, using physical force or strong language to overcome resistance. When you charge through, roll+anger. On a hit, you clear any obstacle; barriers are broken, characters are stunned. On a 7-9, choose 1.
o   You can’t control your temper; your target or someone near them takes +1 pain.
o   You destroy something in the process; smash a valuable object you are carrying or which is in the scene.
o   You’ve shown your dark side to your friends; take -1 Hx with another character who saw this.
o   You’ve made a scene; anyone nearby or searching for you is alerted to your presence.

Lash Out
This is what you do when you get in a fight and you want to hurt someone or at least stop them from hurting you. When you lash out, roll+anger. On a 10+, choose one. On a 7-9, your target must choose one.
o   They take pain.
o   They’re rendered harmless.
o   They shut up.

Make Demands
This is what you do when you tell someone what you expect of them or try to secure their co-operation. When you make demands, roll+desire. On a 10+, hold 2 against them if they don’t give you what you want. On a 7-9, hold 1 against them if they don’t give you what you want, but if they do, they take +1Hx with you. You may spend hold 1-for-1 to give you +1 now when you make a move against or interfere with that character.

Stir Trouble
This is what you do when you tell someone what’s what or try to provoke them with the uncomfortable truth or a nasty lie. When you stir trouble, roll+envy. On a hit, they believe what you say for now, until they find out otherwise. On a 7-9, you’ve got no control over what happens next, take -1 ongoing against them until they’ve calmed down.

Stick Your Nose In
This is what you do when you want answers from someone and get all up in their business. When you stick your nose in, roll+envy. On a 10+, both. On a 7-9, choose 1 or they may take +1 Hx with you and you get both.
o   They have to tell you what’s on their mind.
o   They have to involve you in what they’re doing.

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